18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark ) took the chair At 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I read in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald a report of the proceedings in this House last night. In the course of that report-
– The Minister is not making a personal explanation.
– Order ! Does the Minister claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– Yes. According to that report, an interjection was allegedly made by the honorable member for Henty, as follows: -
Was that when you were talking about sixbobaday murderers?
If that remark is intended as a reflection upon myself or any member of the Labour ‘ party,, it is grossly offensive. It is an outrageous lie and a shocking exhibition of bad taste in every way.
– The Minister is not making a personal explanation.
– The remark was reprehensible, in every way.
-Order! Has the Minister concluded ?
– Yes ; I have finished my personal explanation.
-I rise to make a personal explanation. It is true that last night I made the interjection that is reported in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald. It was my intention to imply that the Minister had made those remarks. I find however that my information was without foundation, and that the Minister did not in fact make those remarks. I desire therefore to withdraw the imputation and to apologize. The fact is that the Minister made a number of derogatory remarks about servicemen during the war.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to add anything to his explanation.
– “Very well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but-
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask for the withdrawal of the remark that I made a number of derogatory statements about servicemen during the war.
-Order! That was . not an unparliamentary statement.
– I seek the guidance of the Chair on my point of order. The honorable member said that I had made derogatory remarks about ‘servicemen during the war, and I ask that he withdraw and apologize. The remark is offensive to me.
– The Chair’s interpretation of the Standing Orders is that an honorable member may only ask for the withdrawal of and an apology for remarks that reflect upon him. The Minister for Information has his redress in this instance by making a personal explanation, but his redress does not extend to the asking for the withdrawal of and apology for remarks of the honorable member for Henty which are not unparliamentary. He may refute the remarks of the honorable member by making a personal explanation, but not otherwise.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration1 been directed to a British United Press message from Malta that the Maltese Minister for Migration, Mr. Cole, had strongly criticized the Maltese Settlers Association, which is promoting migration to Australia ? Is he aware of tho Maltese Minister’s allegation that senior officers of the association had connexion with the Communists, and financial interests in Communist commercial enterprises? Will the Minister inform the House how many of the 500 Maltese migrants on Misr. now in Australian waters, had their passages arranged through the Maltese Settlers Association? Were steps- taken, prior to the departure “ of the vessel, to make certain that Communists were not included among the migrants who were being accepted from Malta? Is membership of the Communist party regarded as a ground for refusing landing permits to migrants from Malta or any European country ?
– The Maltese Settlers. Association is an insignificant little body that functions only in Sydney. I believe that nearly all the persons associated with it were members of the Lang party at one time, and- 1 have had no dealings with them. I deal only with the Commissioner for Malta in Australia, Captain Curmi in matters affecting . the migration of Maltese to this country. The Maltese Minister for Immigration, Mr. Cole, visited Australia last year, and was accorded the privilege of a seat on the floor of this chamber. 1 had many discussions with Mr. Cole about the types and trade qualifications of Maltese who should come to Australia. Security and all other relevant matters were discussed. The Maltese who desire to come to Australia are nominated by their relatives and friends. No nominations are made through the Maltese Settlers Association. I am perfectly satisfied that the security measures taken by this Government in respect of Communists, non-Communists or any other person coming to this country are all that can be desired. No Communist is allowed to enter Australia if there is the slightest justification for believing that he might engage in subversive activities that would endanger the security of the country.
– In view of the unfounded and malicious charges made against my character by the Minister for Information in the House last night, will the Prime Minister appoint a select committee of the House to take evidence on oath concerning those charges?
– I am not aware of the matter to which the honorable member has ‘referred, but I assume that it relates to some exchanges between himself and. the Minister for Information. 1 have no intention of appointing a select committee to inquire into any such matter. The House has rules for the maintenance of its dignity, and I should think that they afford ample opportunity to honorable members to ‘ air any grievances.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service announce the total number of persons employed in industry in Australia in each of the financial years 1938-39 and 1948-49, and the number of persons who received unemployment benefits in those periods?
– Off-hand I can furnish only approximate figures. The official statistics show that in 1938-39 the number of persons employed in industry, excluding rural, domestic and defence workers, was 1,730,000. The comparative statistics for last month show that the number of persons similarly employed was 2,436,000. Although unemployment benefits were not paid in 1939, statistics show that in December, 1939, 290,000 trade unionists were registered as unemployed. The latest figures available to me of unemployment during the current year were supplied about three weeks ago, and they indicate that 1.296 people are at present receiving unemployment benefit.
– Because the public of South Australia contributed largely to the H.M.A.S. Sydney replacement fund, and 1’ personally raised £150 among the employees of General Motors-Holden Limited, Woodville, South Australia, I ask the Minister for the Navy whether Australia’s new aircraft carrier, ELM.A.S. Sydney, will visit South Australia, and, if so, when ?
– I congratulate the honorable gentleman and the employees of General Motors-Holden Limited, Woodville, upon the very valuable contribution that they made to the H.M.A.S. Sydney replacement fund. As an exnaval man, the honorable gentleman is very interested in a visit to Adelaide by the nev? aircraft carrier. I shall cause inquiries to be made to ascertain the date on which the vessel will be able to visit South Australia. All I can say at the moment is that the visit should take place about the end of the year.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, concerns the decision of the combined mining unions to postpone their threatened stoppage of work in the coalmining industry. In view of the decision of the unions to postpone but not to abandon the stoppage, and of the right honorable gentleman’s statement that at this juncture a cessation of coal production would be “ complete and absolute folly, and perhaps something worse than folly “, will the Government introduce a measure to amend the Coal Industry Act with a view to removing the industry from the authority of its independent tribunals and bringing it within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration so that coalminers shall be subjected to the full rigour of our arbitration laws?
– I have always believed that the tribunals established under the arbitration laws are intended to ‘be impartial tribunals for the determination of the rights or wrongs of any case. The use of the words “ full rigour of our arbitration laws “ by the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition is most unfortunate and is certainly not likely to commend those laws to the workers of this country. The Government has not considered the abolition of either the Joint Coal Board or the Coal Industry Tribunal. We believe that ultimately the work of the Joint Coal Board will result in a re-organization of the coal industry, and that sooner or later the miners, however reluctant they may be to recognize at the moment the benefits that they derive from the Joint Coal Board and the efficiency of the Coal Industry Tribunal in redressing grievances as soon as they are raised instead of after the lapse of a considerable period of time they will ultimately do so.
– Will the Minister for Air say whether technical officers of the Department of Air are located abroad in order that the department may be kept fully informed of the latest technical developments in aviation? Has the honorable gentleman seen reports of the use of a combination of gas turbines and propellors in a new British airliner that is considered in American flying circles to be likely to revolutionize and greatly cheapen flying? Is there a possibility of technical officers of the Department of Air making inquiries in Great Britain with a view to the introduction of this type of aircraft into Australia?
– Technical officers of the Department of Air are continually in touch with experts who are developing the latest methods of aircraft propulsion and the latest types of aircraft for service purposes. There is always a team of highly qualified technical men engaged in that work. The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Jones., recently visited Great Britain in order to inform his mind fully of what has been accomplished there. I have seen an article dealing with the use of a combination of gas turbines and propellors in aircraft. That development is being examined. I can assure the honorable gentleman that these matters are constantly under review. If any development occurs that is of particular interest to Australia, attention is directed to it by the experts who are overseas or by the Air Board. The fullest information regarding new developments is made available to the department. I have not yet had a report from, nor have I yet seen, the air marshal since his return from overseas, but I have no doubt that he will be able to furnish me with a great deal of data about the matters raised by the honorable gentleman.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question that is prompted by the remarks regarding the supply of farm machinery made by Government members during the debate, that we have been engaged in for the last few days. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to the acute shortage of farm implements and machinery and other farm requisites in Western Australia? Will the Minister inform the House of the number or quantity, as the case may be, of the following items available for distribution in Western Australia and in Australia as a whole : - Tractors, headers, harvesters, seed drills, combines, fencing wire, rabbit netting, sheep netting, steel post, galvanized iron, galvanized piping and 5-in. ball-case piping? Can the Minister give any assurance of an improvement in the immediate future of the supply position, regarding those farm requisites?
– I am unable to inform the honorable member of the number or quantity,, as the case may be, of tractors’ and other agricultural machinery, wire netting, wire and other fanning requisites available to farmers in Western Australia, for the reason that, due to the desire of the Government to eliminate regimentation and war-time regulations, and to reduce the number of people whom the honorable member would be pleased to term “ bureaucrats “, the Commonwealth long ago relinquished control of the distribution of tractors and other machinery, and of wire, wire netting and steel products. The distribution of locally-manufactured and imported tractors is entirely in the hands of the -manufacturers and importing and other agents, who decide how many will be distributed in each S’tate. That is in contrast to the position during the period when the Commonwealth allocated a substantial number of tractors among the respective States. The situation as far as the manufacturers are concerned is that in their wisdom or otherwise - and I think that it is wisdom - they endeavour to apportion their output fairly and equitably among the respective States.
– Will the Minister foi Information assist the publication and broadcasting of Australian songs? Such songs are part of the stuff of nationhood as well as being an excellent national advertisement, but we hear songs about Tennessee and California when we should be hearing songs about Narooma, Moruya, Bega, ‘Cooma and other Australian places. Can the Minister do anything to encourage the composition and publication of Australian songs by making provision for substantial payments for popular Australian songs, and by arranging for people to have an opportunity of hearing them over both the national and commercial radio stations, as well ‘as over the shortwave radio stations that his department controls ?
– The question raised by the honorable member is not a new one. The urgency of the problem has always been great. The matter of providing Australia with its own songs and folklore is an important part of nationbuilding, as the honorable member has observed. The Australian Broadcasting Commission some years ago conducted a competition for Australian songs, but, I am sorry to say, very few people submitted entries and the prize offered was not awarded. I shall take up the matter with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, commercial stations and other interested bodies to see whether I can find sufficient enthusiasm among them to encourage the production of Australian songs. The Australian people themselves, of course, must play a part by composing and submitting songs. I shall refer the matter to Cabinet.
– “Will the Minister examine the possibility of overseas monopolies preventing any such songs from being published?
– Yes, I shall do that. If there is any combine which operates to prevent the publication or singing of Australian songs, I shall do my best to break it, as I would try to break any other monopoly, insofar as the constitutional powers of this Parliament - limited as they are - will allow that to be done. In this connexion, my withers are unwrung. I have done my best to popularize Australian songs, and have not always obtained full credit for my action when I tried to popularize the singing of Advance Australia Fair. I am consoled by the fact that the royalties paid in respect of Advance Australia Fair have gone to the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales, of which the honorable member is an elder. One of these days, I may apply to be made a canonized saint of that church.
Sickness Benefit - Payment op Local Government Rates by Pensioners.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services say whether it is a fact that, under the Social Services Consolidation Act, introduced by this Government, the amount received by a contributor from a friendly society sick fund is taken into consideration when determining the amount of sickness benefit payable under the act? If so, does not the Minister regard this as unfair to members of friendly societies who contribute to sickness funds, while also contributing to the National Welfare Fund?
– The act provides that a contributor may receive £1 a week from a friendly society without its affecting the amount he is entitled to draw from the National Welfare Fund. The figure was fixed at £1 a week because that was regarded as the average amount that members of friendly societies drew as sickness benefit. Thus a contributor may draw the full sickness benefit under the act in addition to £1 a week from a friendly society.
– The Local Govern ment Act of New South Wales provides that shire councils may waive the payment of rates owing by invalid and age pensioners, but local bodies are insisting on the payment of such rates, although some pensioners are in very poor circumstances. The Government of New South Wales claims that, as pensioners are the responsibility of the Commonwealth, the Australian Government should subsidize shire councils to compensate them for the loss of rates owing by pensioners. Will the Prime Minister discuss the matter with State authorities in New South Wales with a view to ensuring that pensioners obtain the relief that should be available to them under State legislation ?
– It is true that an act was passed some time ago by the Parliament of New South Wales authorizing local government bodies to waive the payment of rates due by invalid and age pensioners. I understand, however, that in most instances local bodies have insisted on the payment of such rates. The honorable member has asked me to discuss the matter with the New South Wales State authorities, which have suggested that the Commonwealth should make up to local bodies the amount of the rates which they would forgo. This proposal has been discussed on several occasions, and rejected. It is not the responsibility of this Government any more than it is of any other government. The Parliament of New South Wales legislated to permit local bodies to grant relief to pensioners. I am not prepared to say that further consideration will be given to the matter ; however, I will examine it again.
– In view of the desirability of developing commerce and industry in the Territories of Papua’ and New Guinea, can the Minister for the Army say whether Australian industrial awards apply in those territories,? To what degree does their industrial legislation differ from that of the mainland? How many skilled displaced person migrants will be available for work in the territories in the near future?
– At present, no displaced person migrants are working in the Territory of New Guinea. I shall examine the honorable member’s question and supply a complete answer to him early next week.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration relating to material which I received in my mail this morning. Enclosed with a letter which I received from a member of one Melbourne church were cuttings from the Melbourne Herald of the 31st May. I am advised that these reports give an official statement, word for word, as it was issued by the responsible body. Has the Minister read the report in the Melbourne Herald that the State executive of the Presbyterian Young Men’s Fellowship has absolved Mr. Raymond Jenkins of the Minister’s charge that he was the “ dupe “ of another organization ? Has the Minister read the detailed explanation which states that the Christian Social Order Committee of the Fellowship had deputed Mr. Jenkins to proceed to Canberra to place before the Minister a particular point of view on the White Australia policy! Has the Minister learned that this point of view waa in accordance with the decision of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Victoria?
– I read in the Melbourne Herald on the 31st May the statement to which the honorable member has referred. I was entirely unimpressed. I thought that the committee was trying to whitewash Mr. Jenkins. In any event, I think that it waa scant courtesy to pay to the General Assembly of that body to have a minor subsidiary organization bringing along a resolution of the General Assembly to present it to me in Canberra. I would expect to hear in due course from the leaders of that church. I do not regard the people who came here the other day any differently from the way in which I regarded them yesterday. I think that Mr. Jenkins is a member of the Communist party and the other man, who also claimed to be a representative of a body of the Christian faith in Melbourne, are, in common with all Eureka .(League delegates and all the rest of them, just a bunch of “ Corns “.
– In view of the political position in China can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate what will be the attitude toward? China as a guaranteed purchaser of over 7,000,000 bushels of wheat annually under the International Wheat Agreement?
– I understand that the position of China as a purchaser under the International Wheat Agreement has yet to be clarified by consultation between the Australian Government and the authority, whichever it may be, that is competent to deal with the matter on behalf of China. I am not able to give a conclusive answer to the honorable gentleman on that point. If he read the bill which has been circulated, he will see that under the International Wheat Agreement a Wheat Council is to be set up. Should China be a contracting party when the council is set up, I have no doubt that that body will make recommendations in an endeavour to overcome any situation which may arise as the result of unsettled conditions in China. At this juncture, however, it i# impossible for me to say what will happen ultimately in respect of an obligation which has been entered into by a government in China which may have lost its authority and whose functions may have been taken over by another government which may repudiate, or honour, that obligation.
– Has the Minister for Information seen in this morning’s press certain strictures upon the News and Information Bureau of his department in New York, including allegations of inefficiency and lack of scope, by Mr. J. L. Miller? Is the Minister able to tell the House who Mr. Miller is, when he went to New York, and who employs him there ?
– -The article to which the honorable member has referred appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. It gives no indication that the Australian News and Information Bureau in New York is falling down on its job. That is the reply I make to the strictures made by Mr. Miller and published in the Daily Telegraph this morning. The article merely states the bald and unsupported opinion of Mr. Miller that the bureau needs a shake-up. If Mr. Miller or anybody else likes to indicate bow the bureau is failing in its task, I shall be glad to answer him with abundant facts and figures to prove that it is doing a first-class national publicity job for Australia on an extremely small dollar allocation. The article in the Daily Telegraph refers to a very good news item which appeared in the Christian Science Monitor in America sent by its Sydney correspondent. We are always glad to be associated with the work of the Christian Science Monitor, which gives factual information about Australia with great regularity. In the item in the Christian Science Monitor there was no criticism of the Department of Information. Any criticism which appears in the Daily Telegraph article is included in Mr. Miller’s observations which are printed at the top of a reprint of the item from the Christian Science Monitor. The honorable member has asked who Mr. Miller is. Mr. Miller works for the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Sis employers found it convenient to transfer him to New York because of hia unpopularity among his journalistic and printing colleagues after the newspaper lockout of 1944 in which he was one of the only two “ scabs “ amongst the journalists employed by Consolidated Press Limited.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. A few days ago the theft took place from the quartermaster’s store of the Essendon High School Cadet Corps, of a considerable quantity of military equipment, including two austen sub-machine guns and eleven service rifles. Has the Minister caused an investigation to be made to ascertain how the theft took place and the ultimate destination of the stolen goods? If so, what was the result of the investigation? What special precautions are being taken to ensure that the property of the Department of the Army is properly safeguarded and is not allowed to fall into unauthorized hands?
– In common with the general public and honorable members of this House I view with alarm the number of thefts of ammunition and military equipment that have taken place in recent months from ammunition and training depots. I have discussed the matter with the Military Board and certain steps are now about to be taken to tighten up security measures. Yesterday, the Military Board decided to appoint Commonwealth police to guard military property in certain areas because they have greater authority than Army watchmen employed under the Defence Act. I have asked the Military Board to investigate thoroughly the theft referred to by the honorable member. If it is found that arms and ammunition cannot be properly safeguarded at training depots, they will be removed to areas where they can be adequately guarded. I can assure the honorable member that the fullest investigation is being made, and although I am not able to indicate its result at present, I have every reason to believe that from now on, following action by the Military Board, stores of ammunition and arms will be much more secure than they have been in the past.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Repatriation to a pressing need at the Repatriation Hospital in Hobart. A patient at that institution has drawn my attention to the fact that the food prepared there is not always suitable for certain types of illnesses. Will the Minister investigate this matter, and ascertain whether a fulltime dietitian can be appointed to the hospital.
– The food provided for patients at the Hobart Repatriation Hospital has been investigated by myself and the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in Hobart on a couple of occasions following complaints. There are some difficulties in connexion with the food at the hospital. During the last parliamentary recess, I made certain inquiries and found that some improvement had been effected. However, I shall again investigate the matter, and if the appointment of a dietitian would help one will be appointed.
– In to-day’s press appears a report indicating that £4,000,000 is being made available by the British Admiralty as prize money to be distributed amongst naval and air force personnel who participated in the capture of prizes on the high seas during the war. The distribution of this money is to be made according to rank, individual amounts ranging from £4 to £40. I understand that each dominion is to share in this disbursement and I should like to know what sum will be made available to Australia and when payments will be made.
– It is true that prize money will be available for distribution in Australia. I believe that I made a statement some time ago either in this House or, in the press during a recess, and explained the method by which the money would be distributed. That has been a matter for discussion between the three service Ministers and myself. I shall obtain further information on the matter, and advise the honorable member of the exact position.
– by leave - The Government’s arguments in support of the need to continue petrol rationing in Australia are unconvincing and unrealistic. Every Australian petrol user is vitally interested in being given uptodate and authentic information upon which he himself may decide whether petrol rationing should be retained in Australia, four years after the war has ended. The responsibility of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to the Australian people is not discharged merely because he decides, on confidential information, that rationing should continue. The latest excuse is that the need for the con tinuance of petrol rationing is solely because of the shortage of dollars. But many other excuses, all equally unsound, have been given in the last few months.
– I rise to order. The Leader of the Australian. Country party obtained leave to make a statement on petrol, but so far he has not made a statement about petrol. He has only attacked the Prime Minister and the Government. I ask that the Chair rule that he must confine his statements to petrol.
– The procedure is that an honorable member may ask for leave to make a statement. The Chair has no knowledge of the subject of the statement. The Leader of the Australian Country party has been given leave to make a statement and he may proceed with it.
– What about the recent excuses of Government spokesmen that there was a world shortage of crude oil, that refinery capacity was inadequate, that there were not sufficient tankers, that there was insufficient crude oil within the sterling bloc, and that the Haifa pipeline had been closed? In .September, 1948, the Treasurer stated that the closing of the Haifa pipe-line meant an annual loss of petrol, not crude oil, of between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 tons a year. Even on the Prime Minister’s greatly exaggerated figures of 88,000,000 gallons, which is one-third of a million tons a year, to end rationing, Australia needs only a fraction of the petrol output of the Haifa refinery, which re-commenced operations in May, 1949, after having been out of action for more than a year. It can now be classed as an additional sterling source. There is a sterling surplus of oil and a large annual increase of the production of sterling oil. England is exporting everincreasing sterling oil tonnages to Europe, including Italy. How then could it be harmful to Britain if we were given a fraction of the petrol available from the newly re-opened Haifa pipe-line? If the Haifa pipe-line closure was the excuse for not giving us relief from rationing last September, why can it not, now that it is again operating, provide that relief? One excuse after another has been offered as a so-called reason for the continuance of petrol rationing, and, as each is nullified by changing world conditions, a new excuse is invented.
I am not prepared to accept, without considerable reserve, the Prime Minister’s assertion that i£ rationing were terminated petrol consumption would increase by about 20 per cent, in Australia. He might be convinced by his rationing officers’ reports, but I am not. A very senior and experienced man, Mr. A. Date, who resigned as secretary of the Liquid Fuel Control Board after six years, has made a very different estimate that 2,000,000 to 3,000,000 gallons extra a month would be required. He, surely, must have been a most experienced officer, as no inefficient officer should have held his position for so long. Mr. Date’s arguments are open to investigation. They were published extensively in the press, and they allow for the present inefficiency in the policing of petrol rationing by black marketing and otherwise, the fact that essential users at present are getting their full requirements and would not want to buy more, and the extent to which kerosene and solvents are now used illicitly and would reduce the present imports of these items into Australia with a consequent saving of exchange. Since the Prime Minister’s statement was made. Mr. Date has again checked his April, 1949, estimates, and he contends that Government advisers are grossly exaggerating the probable increased use. It would show up their inefficiency too much if rationing officers admitted the extent of the petrol blackmarket.
In England, the Vick report on the black marketing of petrol estimated that the unauthorized use of petrol accounted for 36,000,000 gallons a month, but when transport and essential-user petrol was coloured red, it was discovered that 114,000,000 gallons a month had been black marketed. Does the Prime Minister know, or can he or his advisers hazard even a guess at, the amount of unauthorized gallonage used in Australia? Has the Prime Minister allowed for this factor and for the present use of substitute fuel in suggesting that petrol sales will increase by 88,000,000 gallons a year if rationing is lifted? The only way in which an unbiased decision can be reached by the
Australian public is for it to be given the information on which the Government relies. Petrol rationing has been abandoned in Belgium, France and Portugal. There is no rationing, in the accepted sense, in Holland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Ten European countries have no restriction whatsoever for foreign tourists. Token rationing only exists in Eire, where sixteen gallons a month is allowed for an 8 horse-power private car and that is almost four times the Australian ration. Marshall aid countries still rationed are Great Britain, Iceland, and Italy. The British ration approximates that of Australia, without regard to the large distance factor in our country areas. Turning to the British Commonwealth, Canada abolished rationing the day after V-J day. The Union of South Africa has no petrol rationing. These countries use twice the amount of petrol for each vehicle that Australian petrol users consume.
Reference to authoritative British and American trade journals published this year, many of which have reviewed the sterling and dollar oil position, will establish beyond any doubt that the proauction of sterling oil is in excess of sterling area requirements. For the past six months, this has been known and published in these journals, but it has not yet been realized by the Government, which is probably relying on information at .least six months old. The official case for the continuation of rationing is that the sterling area is not producing enough petrol for its requirements, and that if Australia gets more, the United Kingdom will either have to get correspondingly less or spend more dollars. I shall prove that that is a complete misconception, because the Government has not taken into full consideration the fact that oil supplied from the so-called sterling area is only portion of the sterling oil available. Care must be taken not to confuse sterling oil with oil supplied from a sterling area. The term “ sterling area “ is a definition used in financial circles to describe those parts of the British Commonwealth which transact international settlements with one another on the basis of sterling, using London as their common banking centre. The sterling area, however, excludes many sources of sterling oil. The logical definition of these terms, generally accepted by the petroleum industry, is as follows : -
Petroleum, entering into international trade, can, in general, be defined as sterling oil if it is produced outside the United States of America or Canada by any company whose central control or ownership lies within the sterling area. The production from Dutch and other non-dollar areas is also deemed to be sterling oil as a result of certain financial arrangements.
Britain’s sterling oil production in 1948 has been estimated authoritatively at 64,000,000 tons, according to reports in reputable British trade journals.. A greatly increased sterling oil production is estimated for 1949. Of that 64,000,000 tons, the sterling area consumes 45,000,000 tons a year, according to a statement by Mr. Ian Hamilton, M.A., F.R.G.S., in a recent issue of the Imperial Review. In 1948, this left 19,000,000 tons a year to be sold elsewhere and clearly established that there is a surplus of sterling oil. That is obviously the reason why Britain, according to a news item in to-day’s press, is able to supply Argentina with 5,700,000 tons, or approximately 1,700,000,000 gallons of liquid fuel during the next twelve months, in return for meat. The Prime Minister has estimated that 88,000,000 gallons will be required annually to end rationing of petrol in Australia. Britain is to supply Argentina with nineteen times that quantity in twelve months. My contention is that the surplus oil available should be distributed so that the Australian producer may participate more equitably. In that way, Australia could be put on equal terms with Argentina, our greatest competitor on the normal British meat market.
The unrestricted availability of bunker oil for foreign ships in British ports also tends to prove my contention that petrol rationing may be lifted in Australia without detriment to Britain. The sales of sterling oil to European countries receiving Marshall aid increased from 18,000.000 tons in 1947 to 26,000,000 tons in 1948-49, with planned sales of 30,000,000 tons in 1949-50. Those figures are given in a statement issued by the London Petroleum Press Bureau for April, 1949. The Prime Minister and the
Minister for Shipping and Fuel seem to be unable to get their heads together on the petrol story. In answer to a question last Friday, the Prime Minister gave the honorable member for Wide Bay the following information: -
Shipments of seamless steel tubing, which was surplus to Australian requirements, were also made to Borneo and Singapore. The piping was required for rehabilitation of the oil wells in Borneo. Oil from that locality is exported to Australia and other sterling areas, which obviates the expenditure of dollars.
Yet, speaking in the Senate on the 10th March last, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel stated as follows: -
The production of petrol in Borneo or any other “soft” currency area will not improve the position, because any demands made by Australia upon such sources will result in reduced supplies being available to Great Britain.
The Government would have us believe that we get little sterling benefit from sterling oil produced outside the British Common-wealth. This notion, however, overlooks the fact that the dollar expenditure for oil exploration, drilling, erection of refineries and related equipment, for existing sterling oil production was incurred years ago and was included in earlier United Kingdom balance of trade figures. It is not a current dollar expenditure. So far as the future position is concerned, the United Kingdom has developed the manufacture and production of oil drilling and refinery equipment and expects to sell this equipment to English, continental and American oil companies, thus reducing this dollar component in future sterling oil. If petrol rationing cannot be relaxed or abandoned because of extra sterling and soft currency production, which, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel says, will not improve the position, when and for what reason will rationing ever be lifted?
Many of the excuses that have been previously advanced by the Government for continuing petrol rationing have been abandoned by the Treasurer, no doubt because I have successively disproved each of them by up-to-date evidence. So the Prime Minister, driven to the last ditch, now relies on the dollar shortage, based on confidential information which he will not disclose for general scrutiny. He hopes that petrol users will be unable to find out whether that excuse is as flimsy as have been the other government arguments which I have successively disproved. After my experience of the grave financial errors in the last three budgets, I am not prepared to accept any assurance from the Prime Minister or his advisers on blind faith alone. In the absence of detailed information, I shall have to deal with the latest assertions in the light of information gathered from other sources.
In a nutshell, as it were, the Prime Minister bases his latest case on the shortage of dollars. However, I am informed that in New Zealand, within the last few weeks, the Finance Minister, Mr. Nash, when replying to a deputation from motoring interests who sought the abolition of petrol rationing, agreed that dollars were no longer the reason for continuation of rationing. He is also stated to have agreed with the deputation that petrol rationing should now be abandoned, but as New Zealand had agreed to comply with a request of the British Oil Trade Advisory Committee to continue rationing, he would now seek to have New Zealand released from that agreement. Surely Mr. Nash has access to financial information similar to that available to the Treasurer on petrol supplies related to the overall dollar position. Yet, according to my information, he agrees that it is not a question of dollar shortage. The Treasurer’s confidential information obviously refers to the general dollar position and not particularly to the various dollar-sterling manipulations with respect to oil.
The confidential information which has evidently convinced the Prime Minister might not stand up to the close scrutiny of open debate. For instance, it might give the dollar drain through increased imports of fuel oil into Britain, but it might not disclose certain dollar or foreign exchange profits and benefits arising therefrom. These overall gains arise from the sale of British coal, which dollar fuel oil imports release for profitable export. It might disclose the dollar losses from the imports of Virginian tobacco into Britain, but it might not allow for the profitable re-export of high-priced
Virginian cigarettes of British manufacture which are at present flooding the Australian market. In the same way, I was not prepared to accept blindly the Prime Minister’s decision that the latest offer to him of sterling petrol, made on the 24th May, this year, was not acceptable because the sterling would ultimately be converted into dollars. I was not convinced that he had had sufficient time to make proper inquiries about this new offer from a new company, so I made certain inquiries myself, and learned that the letter of the 24th May was handed to the Treasurer at 10 p.m. on that date, and yet the next day, at 4 p.m., he was able to give an involved prepared statement to the House. It appears most unlikely that he made a sufficiently detailed verification or investigation of that current offer, and it may well be that the information which he disclosed on convertibility related to the offer in August last year from a different company.
The offer of the 24th May was made by Ampol Petroleum Limited, an allAustralian company, and it was to import 30,000,000 gallons of petrol in sterling tankers in the next twelve months. I am advised by Mr. W. G. Walkley, the managing director, that the morning after the Prime Minister’s rejection speech, Mr. Walkley telephoned New York to confer with the American suppliers of petrol from Bahrein Island in the Persian Gulf. The New York office of the supplying company, which offered to sell Australia sufficient petrol in non-convertible sterling to end rationing in Australia, stated that sterling currency earned from its sales in Australia is placed into its resident London account. There, are no tags or dollar convertibility conditions relating to this account. If at any future date the company desired to convert some of its sterling to dollars, it would have to apply to the British exchange control authorities for permission to do so. The company would take the full risk of convertibility and the British exchange control authorities would have full and complete power either to grant or reject such an application. The supplying company sells large quantities of oil elsewhere within the sterling area and also in the United Kingdom, where it has a marketing organization. Because of Great Britain’s own increasing fuel oil consumption, some of its applications to convert sterling to dollars would be made to permit expansion of the United Kingdom policy in order to sell coal at a foreign currency profit. The company is erecting refineries in Europe and elsewhere, and is spending large sums, of sterling to purchase its stores and equipment and for sterling tanker freights. Because of the vital evidence which I have produced in rebuttal of the Prime Minister’s contention, I am not prepared to accept the arbitrary decision that he has made which was based on information of which he will not give the details.
The Prime Minister has not even made it clear whether he accepts the story prepared for him without reservation and without inquiring whether it contains any bias in the interests of any particular group. I am strengthened in my “ doubting Thomas “ attitude by certain assurances repeated in this House last year on vital Australian defence matters, which I knew to be incorrect, and which I had to dispel by disclosing documentary evidence. Because of that experience, I do not regard as sacrosanct any assurances based on details, the ultimate values of which cannot be probed by frank discussion and open argument. All the arguments which the Government has advanced so far have been disproved, by conclusive evidence to the contrary, and I have no doubt that the dollar argument, if the details were made available freely to the House, could be as easily dispelled.
SUPPLY. (“ Grievance Day.”)
Mk. A. A. Calwell, M.P.- Me. C. F. Adermann.. M.P. - Mk. R. T. POLLARD M.P. - Co-operative S Societies - Peanuts - Farmers’ Motor Vehicles - Proposed Aerodrome foe Naracoorte - Land Settlement of EXSERVICEMEN - Electricity Shortages - Alleged DISCOVERY of Noah’s ARK
Question proposed -
That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
– In this country we have long been accustomed to fight for freedom of speech whenever that freedom has been threatened. Any attempt to stifle freedom of speech is regarded as a catastrophe in a democratic country, and the tradition of all democratic peoples is to resist any such attempts. However, it is clear that the present Government has not the same regard for freedom of speech. Through its mouthpiece, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), it has resorted to victimization in an effort to stifle criticism of its actions or its members, however much that criticism may be justified. Of course, the actions of the Minister for Information himself have provoked almost continuous criticism. When I took part in the debate on the Appropriation Bill last night I criticized the Government for its decision to increase postal charges. In no part of my speech did I make any criticism of the Minister. However, the Minister, who followed me in the debate, opened his speech on a note of malice. Referring to me, he said: “I have been waiting for him for quite a while”. Then, shielding behind a letter that he alleged he had received, he attacked me. I do not know whether he wrote that letter to himself or whether some one of like mind who was afraid to reveal his name to the public or to substantiate the allegation contained in the letter wrote it. In any event, the Minister stated that since he regarded it as a confidential document he did not propose to reveal the writer’s name. In reply to the serious charges made against me in that document, I say unhesitatingly that my character and record of activities are on public view and have never been challenged. I am not afraid to answer before a committee of the House, or before any other responsible body, to the charges contained in the document. In the House this morning I invited the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to appoint a committee of the House to investigate those charges, but the right honorable gentleman declined to do so. By adopting that attitude he has condoned the unprovoked attack made upon my character by his Minister. It is clear that the Prime Minister is not concerned a-bout the character of any member of the Opposition, and that he is quite unperturbed that his Ministers and supporters should make such attacks upon honorable members who criticize his Government. I asked the Prime Minister this afternoon whether he would appoint a select committee to investigate the charges made against me by the Minister for Information and he said, in effect : “ I know that the honorable member had some controversy with the Minister for Information last night, but I am not concerned about that “. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the attack made upon me by the Minister was absolutely unprovoked, and for his benefit I shall repeat the charges made against me so that he may realize their seriousness. The Minister alleged that I had used my office in the Federal Members’ Rooms, and used the services of my official secretary to organize a co-operative body in my electorate. The Minister also alleged that I organized that body shortly before a general election, that I subsequently “ dumped “ it, and that the shareholders lost their money. That is a tissue of lies.
– The honorable member ought to talk about lies !
– The facts are that two co-operative bodies were formed recently and operate in Kingaroy, Queensland. One is a maizegrowers’ association, and the other wa? formed to engage in trade. I believe ir. co-operative effort, and I am a member of one co-operative society. That particular society was formed about 1920 by the local peanut-growers and is a subsidiary of the Queensland Peanut Board. The assets of the society are vested in that board. Neither of the co-operative societies has been disbanded, noT has any money been lost by their shareholders. I attended meetings of each of those bodies by invitation as a member of Parliament. Naturally the controllers of those organizations thought that I would be interested in their efforts. On behalf of the Maize Growers Association and growers I put up a fight to get the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), who interjected a few moments ago, to grant a licence for the export of their surplus grain, and subsequently he authorized the issue of an export licence. To return to the co operative associations, I point out that both bodies are still in existence, and that their shareholders have not lost any money. I had nothing to do with the formation of either organization, so that I could not have used my official office or my secretary for that purpose. Had either of the organizations concerned approached me, or my secretary in my absence, for assistance, I would have given them the courteous attention that any other honorable member would accord to his constituents.
After the Minister for Information had made his attack upon me last night I challenged the Government to appoint a committee of inquiry or to table the letter on which the Minister’s attack upon me was alleged to have been based. Had he done so we could have discovered who the writer of the letter was - that is, of course, assuming that the Minister had not written the letter himself. Alternatively, I challenged the Minister to repeat his allegations outside the House so that I would have an opportunity to take action. Such statements as that alleged to be contained in the letter must be either true or false, and if the allegations are not true, they must be lies.
So much for the allegations that I formed a co-operative organization in my electorate in order to win votes, and that I subsequently “ dumped “ the shareholders, who lost their money. I propose to say a few words now concerning another aspect of the Minister’s allegations. The Minister coupled the firm of Dalgety and Company Limited with the allegations that he made against me. As far as I know that firm has always enjoyed an honorable reputation. Why the Minister used its name, I do not know. I have had no association with Dalgety and Company Limited, and so far as I have been able to ascertain that firm has not been associated with either of the co-operative bodies to which I have referred. The Minister attributed ulterior motives to that worthy firm when he said that, at its instigation, I disbanded a cooperative trading society, with the result that the shareholders of the society lost their money. I have not yet seen a Hansard “ flat “ containing a report of the speech that the Minister made last. night. Therefore, I must rely upon my memory of what was said. The honorable gentleman does not deny that he made such a statement, or that that is the inference to be drawn from his remarks. To attack a man’s character and a firm’s reputation under the cover of parliamentary privilege is a mean action. The Minister would not be game enough to repeat his remarks outside the House.
The Minister criticized my activities, as chairman of the Peanut Board in relation to the grading of peanuts. He said, in effect, that I had approached the foreman who was in charge of the grading and had asked him to accept third grade peanuts as first grade nuts. I nailed that lie last night when I said that no grading of peanuts has been done since 1942. I was asked later by an honorable member whether I had made a mistake about that, because an application by the Australian Workers Union for a variation of graders’ wages is now before the Arbitration Court. That is not the kind of grading that the Minister for Information or his anonymous correspondent had in mind. Until 1942 payments to growers were made on the basis of the percentage of each load of peanuts that was suitable for marketing in the shell. The price paid for nuts suitable for marketing in that form was slightly higher than that which was paid in respect of those that were not so suitable. There was no need to classify peanuts as first or third grade. A fool-proof system was developed. Each load of peanuts that was delivered by a grower was given a number, put through a cleaning machine and weighed. Four per cent, of the nuts were then removed from the consignment. The small parcel of peanuts, which bore the same number as the entire load, was then taken to a shed in which approximately 50 women and girls worked. If 60 per cent, of the nuts in the small parcel were classified as being fit for sale in shell, the grower received a slightly higher price for 60 per cent, of the total quantity, than he received for the remaining 40 per cent. Tt would have been necessary to bribe almost every one in the peanut industry to secure an alteration of the decision of the gradera, The grading was done mostly by women. The sample from each consignment of peanuts examined by the graders was held for about three months after the completion of the grading so that a grower could, if he so desired, have it re-examined in his presence. The system was almost fool-proof. I do not know the date that is mentioned in the letter from which the Minister read. I repeat that since 1942 no system of grading which would affect the payments made to growers has been in existence. We now take all of the peanuts as they come from the thrasher. They are not classified as first or third grade nuts. The Minister has accused me of acting dishonestly and of using my position as chairman of a marketing board to obtain a financial advantage.
– The honorable gentleman accused the Government of dishonesty.
– In the speech that I made at Gympie I was talking of the Queensland Government and not of the Australian Government. It is playing a low game to use a confidential document in order to launch an attack upon a man’* character that is quite without foundation. When I appealed to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and said that the Minister’s remarks were offensive to me, no action was taken. The Minister was allowed to get away with it. I am not questioning your ruling. 1 have perforce to accept it. I am quite unable to understand the reference in the letter to the sacking of a grader. The wi-iter could not have been referring to the foreman who was in charge of the work prior to the war, because that foreman is still with us. I do not know what part of the Minister’s statement is true. All that I can say is that if the honorable gentleman is a man and if he has regard to the facts that I have been able to place before the House, he will play the game and withdraw his remarks. The Prime Minister has refused my request that a select committee consisting of honorable members of this House be appointed to investigate the Minister’s allegations. If such a committee were appointed, the members could go to Kingaroy and question whomsoever they liked to question. I should make no prior arrangements, because I know that truth will prevail.
I do not withdraw the statement that [ made at Gympie. When I used the words “ dishonest government I was referring to the Queensland Government, because the last electoral re-distribution in Queensland was so arranged that the value of a vote in some electorates is three times the value of a vote in others. So far as the number of electors is concerned, the present Queensland Government is a minority government. From memory, I think it polled approximately 15,000 votes less than the Opposition. If it secures the votes of approximately 40 per cent, of the Queensland electors, it will remain in office. That is not honest in a democracy. I believe in the principle of one vote, one value. I do not wish to alter the statement that I made at Gympie, but I do wish to correct the Minister’s statement that I was referring to the Australian Government.
To what use is the Department of Information being put? Has the Minister nothing better to do than to use the department, as apparently he is using it, to produce fabricated statements upon which to make attacks on members of the Opposition ? Some people call such statements dossiers, but they are only lying statements designed to defame the char,acters of those who seek to oppose Ministers politically. I am prepared to accept any criticism that is made on political grounds. We are all jealous of our own characters, as we have a right to be. Some one once wrote -
If wealth is lost, nothing is lost; if health is lost something is lost; but if character is lost, all is lost.
Never, in all the criticism that I have voiced in this House, have I, as far as I can recall, deliberately attacked the personal character of any honorable member and I do not intend to do so. I desire to keep my criticism clean, but I intend to make it nonetheless hard, because the Minister for Information attacked me in an abusive way last night. I shall make it hard where I feel that it should be hard, just as I try to be fair when I feel that the Government is entitled to commendation. I do not seek to condemn the Government for everything it does, nor does the Opposition generally. There are some bills to which we give our approval and which we do not challenge, because they are essential for the welfare of the community. I ask the Minister for Information, who attacked me in such a callous way under cover of parliamentary privilege and with no specific evidence of any kind, in an attempt to defame my character and victimize me, to play the man and apologize.
– I have listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Maranoa and I can quite well understand the objection that the honorable gentleman might take, or that might be taken by any other honorable member, to remarks quoted from a letter written from somewhere in Australia by someone unknown. The honorable gentleman, to my mind, during the course of his speech has attempted to convey that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said that he was guilty of the practices referred to in the letter that the Minister had simply mentioned.
Honorable members interjecting,
– What was the Minister trying to convey if not that?
– Notice has been given to-day of a motion that has some reference to the deprivation of the rights of honorable members of this House. When I endeavour to make a speech that contains something unpalatable to honorable members opposite there is immediately a howl of protest from them, which they raise in an endeavour to interrupt me. The honorable member for Maranoa has waxed righteously indignant to-day at some reference made to him in a letter that was quoted by the Minister for Information last night Not once at any stage of the Minister’s speech did the Minister state that he concurred in the allegations that were made in that letter. Not once did he state or imply that he concurred in the allegations made.
– He just threw them out, he did not make them.
– He just read the letter for pleasure.
– I repeat that not once did the Minister say that he concurred in the allegations or believed them to be true. The honorable member for Maranoa takes very great exception to the allegations. I do not blame him for that. He is perfectly justified in denying the accusations made in the letter.
– Sit down!
– Those allegations were not made by the Minister. Let us have a look at the lily-white honorable member for Maranoa.
Honorable members interjecting.
– The Minister will resume his seat for a moment. The Chair is in charge of the House and intends to see that the debate is conducted in an orderly manner.
– Let ns have a look, I repeat, at this lily-white honorable member for Maranoa.
– I rise to order ! As you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, know better than I do that under Standing Orders personally offensive attacks are out of order, I ask you to check the Minister if he continues with his outrageous attack on the honorable member for Maranoa.
– The honorable member .concerned may ask for a ruling.
– I have referred to Standing Orders.
– The honorable member will not have an opportunity of quoting any Standing Order unless he is careful. The Chair is listening to the Minister. Honorable members are responsible for what they 3ay to the House, but the Chair is responsible for ensuring that unparliamentary language is not used. The Chair, other than that, has no control.
– I rise to order! I refer you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to Standing Order 272, which states in part - !Nb Member shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member thereof . . . and all imputations of improper motives and nil personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
That is irrespective of whether such reflections are couched in parliamentary terms or not. If they are offensive, or impute improper motives, they are highly disorderly and I ask you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to apply Standing Orders accordingly.
– The Chair has listened to the Minister and the Minister has said, “Let us have a look at this lily-white honorable member for Maranoa “. In the opinion of the Chair that is not unparliamentary language. Any honorable member who dis-‘ agrees with the ruling of the Chair may take a point of order.
– I take the point of order that an honorable member should be referred to as “ the honorable member for Maranoa “ or whatever his constituency may be, and if it is your interpretation, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that “ lily-white “ can be substituted for “ honorable member “ we shall have various other substitutions. I suggest, therefore, that you confine the Minister to the rules of the House and to the Standing Orders in respect of the manner in which he refers to honorable members.
– The point of order is valid, and the Minister must refer to an honorable member in correct manner.
– Very well. I shall defer to your ruling, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. Let us have a look at this purist, the honorable member for Maranoa. Surely the honorable member would take that description-
– Order! The Minister must refer to the honorable member in the proper manner.
– Let us have a look at the honorable member for Maranoa in all his purity. He protests that he has been badly dealt with and states that never, as far as he can recall, has he attacked an honorable member’s character. Perhaps he has not done so, but he has gone so far as to deliberately misquote
Honorable members interjecting,
– DEPUTY SPEAKER. - Order! Honorable members will do better if they wait to bear what the Minister has to say before interrupting him.
– The honorable member deliberately misquoted another honorable member of this chamber and attributed to him-
– I rise to order. I ask for your ruling, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. I take exception to the words “ deliberately misquoted “. That expression is offensive to me, because I am never guilty of deliberately misquoting. I ask that the Minister be directed to withdraw his remark.
– The Chair cannot order the withdrawal of that remark. The honorable member for Maranoa is entitled to make a personal explanation at a later stage. The Chair does not require assistance from any honorable member in conducting the business of the House.
– This very sensitive honorable member for Maranoa endeavours to prevent me from saying what should be said. I do not know that the honorable gentleman ever did attack anybody’s character, but when an honorable member of this House, speaking to the electors and the people of Australia over the air, deliberately attributes to another honorable member something that he did not say, and which it is subsequently proved beyond a shadow of doubt that that honorable member did not say, and then fails to retract or correct his statement, he is infinitely more guilty of a misdemeanour than was the Minister for Information. I propose to quote from a speech that I made on the 10th June, 1948, in this Parliament on a Supply Bill.
– Is the Minister entitled to quote from the Hansard record of the current session?
– This was .said in 1948.
– But it is the same session.
– The Minister is not entitled to quote from the Hansard record of the current session, and the proceedings, of the 10th June were part of the present session.
– It is not necessary for me to quote from Hansard. I recall that, on the 10th June, 1948, when speaking in this chamber, I said that in the era when Opposition parties were the government, the economic position of the primary producers was so bad that most of them had to drive in jinkers. Even those who had motor cars had obtained them on the hire-purchase system, and the cars were old and shabby. I asked honorable members to contrast that situation with the situation in 1948, when a majority of the farmers were driving around the country in cars of a decent type - and rightly so, I, said. The honorable member for Maranoa followed me in the debate, and claimed that I had said that the farmers had no right to be driving around the country in limousines. I protested that his statement was a lie, and declared that- 1 had not said what he attributed to me. He forced me to withdraw my statement that what he had said was a lie. I challenged him to check what I had said with the Hansard proof of my speech. He never did so, and allowed his statement charging me with something I did not say to be published throughout the length and breadth of the country. I now challenge him to examine the Hansard record of my speech and then, if he is a man, to retract his statement, even at this late stage. The honorable member for Maranoa, who prattles over the radio to Sunday School children, and talks of ethics in this House, and charges the Minister for Information with a misdemeanour, had no hesitation in charging me with making a statement that I did not make, and never intended to make. It is time that there was an end to such humbug and hypocrisy from an elected representative of the people, particularly from an honorable member who puts himself forward as a righteous person. I am not a righteous person. T do my best, but I do not think that the honorable member for Maranoa has ever attempted to do his best.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I remember the incident in this House to which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has referred. I do not object to bis quoting from Hansard, even if it be from the record of the current session, but I believe that the Standing Orders prevent that from being done. However, I object to the Minister saying that I deliberately misquoted him, because I did not do that.
– Why not be a man, and retract now?
– I did not have much chance, because the Minister waxed
– The issue cannot be debated now. If the honorable member has been misrepresented, he may explain his position.
– I attempted at the time to say that if I had misquoted the Minister I would willingly withdraw my statement, but there was a scene in the chamber at the time. If I have misrepresented the Minister, I have no wish to persist in that misrepresentation, and I am prepared to withdraw the statement to which the Minister has objected. I believe that in a democracy we should all be prepared to play the game. I had no opportunity to get the Hansard “ flats “ on that occasion, as the Minister did, in order to check what was said in time to make a withdrawal.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has just concluded one of the lamest defences of a colleague that I have ever heard from a Minister in this House. He said that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) did not make allegations against the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), but had merely quoted 3ome information which he had received Heaven knows how. If that is to be accepted as a defence there is nothing to stop me from saying that I received an anonymous letter in which it is stated that a Minister of the Crown committed a burglary. Afterwards, I could deny that I had made any charge against the Minister, and was merely repeating what some one had written. Such behaviour could not be defended. If the Minister for Information has the information upon which he based his statement last night he should be prepared to submit it to the investigation of a select committee of the House, which would be empowered toexamine witnesses on oath and to call for papers. I was surprised when the Minister for Information attacked the honorable member as he did, because I did not expect him to go to the limit. I know that he has a strong antipathy to certain persons, but I had not previously suspected that the honorable member for Maranoa was one of them. I am sure that an overwhelming majority of the members of this House agree that the honorable member for Maranoa is one of the most gentlemanly and best conducted members here. Why, he has never even been named yet! I believe that the Minister for Information will, upon reflection, realize that if he used a document last night, the authenticity of which he cannot guarantee, for the purpose of maligning the honorable member for Maranoa, the proper thing for him to do is admit as much. Further, it is the duty of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to protect the honour of the Government, and one of his Ministers is silent to-day because of action that the Prime Minister took with that end in view. Since so grave an allegation has been made against the honorable member for Maranoa, who is a public figure, the responsibility rests upon the Prime Minister to ensure that his case is properly investigated. Matters cannot be left where they are. If it comes to a matter of getting down on to certain transactions of the Ministry, then I ask the Ministry what was Mr. J ustice Ligertwood doing in Sydnry lately but inquiring into certain allegations made by a former member of this House who, as I said on the day after he was sworn in, was of such a character that he should be expelled from the Parliament for treason and blasphemy. As the result of that man’s allegations, Mr. Justice Ligertwood has sat for over 50 days to decide whether any imputation should rest upon a Minister of this Government. The Government had sound grounds for instituting an inquiry into those allegations. I was one of those who spoke in this chamber a long time ago, I believe, in opposition to my own party-
– That is nothing new.
– Perhaps not; but it would be something new for honorable members opposite to do so, except the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser), who seems to enjoy some sort of poetic licence to oppose the Labour party outside so long as he votes for it inside ‘this chamber. Some years ago I took the stand in this House that the Prime Minister should take that course in order to have matters of this kind cleared up. What was my reason? I am not concerned about the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) ; I do not worry about him. He is not in my close circle of friends. But every one of us has an obligation to see that the public reputation of this chamber and of the Government is maintained at the highest possible standard and that no imputation against the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) should be made by members, or Ministers, without having it cleared up. If the statement made about the honorable member for Maranoa is founded on fact, he would be the first to admit that he was not entitled to remain a member of this House. But the statement is not founded on fact. I do not believe that there is an atom of truth in it ; nor, I think, does the Minister believe that there is. In this matter, I say emphatically that an apology is called for from the Minister.
I now wish to discuss a matter about which T received a. letter yesterday from the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), the windy Minister. For some time I have been attempting to negotiate for the establishment of an aerodrome at Naracoorte in my electorate. Everything seemed to be going perfectly and beautifully. Engineers visited the locality. A survey was made, although it was not exactly a theodolite survey. At any rate a reconnaissance in force was made by some of the heads of the Department of Civil Aviation. In addition, I received very encouraging letters on the subject. However, yesterday I received a letter from the Minister which was so long and windy that he would be able easily to fly a fortress in it. This is the gem of the letter -
Ft is regretted that this means a revision of my advice to you on the 11th September, 1947, but the circumstances now are such that, with the many immediate needs for development of aerodromes regularly used by airline services, it is not possible for my department to undertake the development of an aerodrome at Naracoorte at the present time.
I say, emphatically, that it is about time that the Ministry ceased leading people in various districts up the garden path and then dropping them. Naracoorte is in the centre of a growing district. It is situated on an air route, and should be catered for by the establishment of an aerodrome. I leave the matter there. I believe that the Minister, upon reflection, may have occasion to consider the subject further.
The next matter with which I wish te deal relates to soldier settlement. Here, again, we come up against the difficulty that service personnel who enlisted in the forces at an early stage and were honorably discharged because of wounds, injuries or other causes, are told to-day that because they were out of the forces at a certain date they are not eligible for any benefits under the Commonwealth soldier settlement scheme. That is a rank injustice which upon reflection the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) should decide shall not continue. I am sure thai other honorable members have made certain .representations on this matter. It should be investigated thoroughly. ] shall despatch a letter to the Minister giving details of certain cases which were raised by a member of the Parliament of South Australia, who, in the course of his remarks, used this very good Biblical illustration -
Why, even the workers in the vineyard in the Biblical parable at least all got the same reward, those who toiled all day getting like payment with those who came only at the eleventh hour.
In this instance, those who came early in the morning are not to receive anything at all.
– They did not work all day.
– No ; but. according to the Biblical story, those who did not work all day received the full reward. When those who had worked all day complained, the householder said to one of them, “Friend, I do thee no wrong; didst not thou agree with me for a penny “. That should be the attitude of the Minister in this matter.
I am told that because of the shortage of electricity in Sydney, where there were 21 blackouts yesterday - I believe the practice is spreading to Melbourne - when private invitations are sent out to friends to attend social functions, the letters “BYOC” are shown on the invitations in addition to the letters “RSVP”. The latter letters are an abbreviation of a French phrase the meaning of which is generally known. Upon inquiry I found that the letters “BYOC” stood for the phrase “Bring your own candle “. That is because people in Sydney never know at what time the suburb in which they attend a function may be blacked out. Persons who are prepared to take part in any conviviality after dark must provide their own illumination.
The last matter to which I shall refer relates to a press report regarding Noah’s Ark. It is reported in the cable news from overseas that some Russian fellow some years ago on the slopes of Mount Ararat, a high prominence situated on tie border of present-day Russia and present-day Turkey, discovered what he believed to be the remains of Noah’s Ark. Wo should take a deep interest in this matter just as other people are doing. Expeditions of archeologists and scientists have been fitted out in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, and a similar expedition is being fitted out in the Netherlands to go to Mount Ararat to see if there is anything to justify the claim made by that Russian. The Turkish Government,’ is whose territory Mount Ararat is, has refused permission to those expeditions to visit Mount Ararat because of representations which havebeen made to it by the Soviet Government. The latter government suspects that those expeditions may include people who may take views inimical to the interests of Soviet Russia, and, therefore, it does not want Dutch, British and Americans at Mount Ararat at all. A matter of this kind should receive the closest attention of the Australian Government. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) is at present overseas. Recently he presided at a meeting at Lake Success, the occupants of which, compared with those of Noah’s
Ark, are a great improvement in variety and miscellany. Before the Minister returns he should be sent to Mount Ararat to investigate this discovery, because no one can say that in any circumstances he could be looked upon as being even remotely harmful to the interests of the Soviet Union, whilst, as President of the United Nations General Assembly, there is no doubt that he needs to have the backing of all the information he can get from the remains of Noah’s Ark in order to keep that useless hulk afloat.
Motion (by Mr. Fuller) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 431), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- During the debate on this bill honorable members have taken the opportunity to touch on a wide range of subjects. It is my intention to deal with one or two of the matters that have occupied the attention of honorable members. At the outset I wish to refer to certain comments made last night by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) about the peanut industry. The honorable member said that no graders were employed in the industry. I do not want it to be thought that I have a personal interest in this matter. I do not know any graders or foremen in the industry, nor do I know any one who is interested in it, except the honorable member for Maranoa, who is chairman of the Peanut Board. In fairness to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who w.as attacked on this subject by the honorable member for Maranoa last night, I think that I should state what I know of the industry. In 1945’, prior to my election to this Parliament, I was State President of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Workers Union, and in my official capacity I prepared a log of claims for submission to the Arbitration Court covering workers in the peanut industry, which is the only industry of any magnitude in Queensland not covered by an award of the court. All endeavours by the union to obtain an award have been viciously opposed and rejected by the Peanut Board. That log, which was also bitterly opposed by the board and by the growers, included the designation of grader and a rate of wage to be paid to persons of that designation. There seems to be some confusion about the kind of graders mentioned in the debate last night. I do not know to what kind of graders either the Minister for Information or the honorable member for Maranoa referred. I am referring to a person who grades peanuts and upon whose grading the price of the crop is determined. It is unfortunate that an honorable member opposite, who poses as a believer in trade unionism, should offer such strong resistance to the granting of an award to an industry of the magnitude of the peanut industry.
– How many employees are involved?
– Hundreds are involved. The attack on the Government launched by honorable members opposite during this debate appears to have been principally directed against the Minister for Immigration- (Mr. Calwell). The Minister’s work has been of outstanding value. If anybody has done a good job to secure the future of Australia that person is. the Minister for Immigration. I do not adopt the role of his defender because I believe that of all the members of this House the Minister is perhaps the best able to defend himself. He certainly does not need assistance from me. Whilst I have no wish to resort to the parish pump, I have no hesitation in saying that m the district which I represent in Queensland, the work of the Minister for Immigration has been of tremendous assistance. 1 invite honorable members opposite who seem to find great delight in criticizing the Minister and the Government’s immigration policy, to come to Queensland and to say in front of the sugar-cane growers of that State, the things that they say about the Minister in this chamber. In only three districts of north Queensland, Herbert River, Tully and Innisfail, Bait workers out approximately -130,000 tons of sugar-cane last season. Members of the Australian Country party in this chamber who claim to be the champions of the man on the land, will have some understanding of what that means. Without immigrant labour, that cane would have remained unharvested, and its value would have been lost to the industry and to the country.
I was interested to read an article on immigration in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day. I am not one of those who believe that everything that appears in the press must be true. My experience has taught me that many press reports are completely without foundation, but I know that there is truth in this article.
It has a direct bearing on Australia’s immigration policy, and upon the administration of that policy by the Minister for Immigration. It was written by Sir Frederic Eggleston, a former Australian Minister to China, in reply to an article on the immigration policy of the United States of America written by Dr. C. E. W. Bean and published on the 26th May. The article states -
Sir Frederic Eggleston, former Australian Minister to China and to the United States, has submitted the following statements in reply to an article on United States immigration policy by Dr.C. E. W. Bean, published on May 20 : -
I suppose all discerning readers have -ecu that the article by . Dr. C. E. W. Bean dealing with U.S. immigration policy does not justify the title it hears. The impression given to Dr. Bean’s article, namely, that our policy is more harsh or more insulting than that of the United States, is not correct. America’s exclusion of Orientals was always ruthless before the establishment of the quota systemand now, outside the quotas, it is still ruthless for all migrants. Few exceptions are made, and deportation follows any violation of temporary permits. Notwithstanding the trifling quota given to Orientals by the United States, Australia has always been, and still is, more lenient in her policy than America.
The difference is that American action is taken as a matter of course by the people of that country and is not ventilated in the press, whereas, in Australia, criticism has a political basis and is made without a knowledge of the circumstances of each case, in ignorance of Australian policy, and in ignorance of the policy of other countries.
That is the very root of the trouble in this country. The article continues -
In addition, the liaison between the Australian Associated Press and Reuters is used to ventilate cases in Asiatic countries in order to get an additional stick tobeat the political tom-tom. The result is that grave damage is done to Australian interests without any real cause whatever.
The U.S.S.R. totally excludes all migration. Malaya, Siam, the Philippines, and Indonesia all have exclusion policies with small quotas or none at all. Most of these countries have internal discriminations against foreigners, while there are practically none in Australia. Canada and New Zealand, I understand, have a passport system of entry by which complete control is retained over admissions. These countries escape criticism while we, by the action of the Australian Press, are made the Aunt Sally for attack in South-East Asia.
It must be obvious to the meanest intelligence that nobody can say whether we are unjust to the Filipinos in the person of SergeantGamboa unless the treatment of Filipinios generally is known, nor can he say whether Indonesia has been treated badly in the case of Mrs. O’Keefe unless he understands that thousands of Indonesians, who were given sanctuary here during the war on a solemn promise to return, have gone back in pursuance of the promise given.
It is also clear that the leniency of the Australian Government in extending permits for long periods enables some people to make “ hard cases “, and this is one of the main causes of the outcry against Australia’s policy. Readers of my article in “ Pacific Affairs , quoted by Dr. Bean, will know that I am not in favour of a completely exclusive policy, but the transition to the policy whichI advocate will be a difficult one and will be made almost impossible by the press campaign.
When it is realized that no Australian party proposes any change in the immigration policy at the next election, the futility of the press campaign can be realized.
That is the answer to all the fuss that has been made about our immigration laws. I am sure that all Opposition members, whether they be members of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party, will, if they forget party politics, agree with the writer of that article.
This debate reached a climax last night with a discussion on communism. I have something to say about that matter. It is quite easy for people to make general statements and broad accusations about the alleged failure of somebody or other to take a certain course of action. It is much more difficult to make concrete suggestions for the solution of the problem. I say at once, in spite of what may be said to the contrary, that communism is a menace. I for one disagree with the statement by my leader that communism is only another political philosophy. I say that communism is a menace. Its growth must be arrested, and the problem that it presents must be tackled by somebody sooner or later.
– Has the honorable member bought a few shares in Allan Fraser’s newspaper?
– I have notbought shares in any newspaper. I hate newspapers. It is one thing for members of Parliament and other people to talk about industrial disturbances caused by Communists, but it is another for them to suggest how we shall overcome the trouble. The only suggestion that we have had so far is that the Communist party should be banned. I give credit to the Australian Country party that at least its members have been united for some time in advocating that the Communist party should be banned, but the Liberal party cannot claim to have been united in similar advocacy for long. It is commonly known, not only in this House and its environs but also throughout Australia, that until quite recently there were two groups in the Liberal party holding different views regarding communism. There was the “ ban “ group, led by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), and the “ anti-ban “ group, led by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Where did the honorable member get that information?
– Probably from a source similar to that from which the press gets information about what happens at our party meetings. These things leak out.
– The honorable gentleman’s information is wrong.
– It is not, because the Leader of the Opposition made a public statement about the Liberal party’s new policy. I do not propose to argue about details, but the attitude of the right honorable gentleman on the banning of the Communist party has changed. What does the placing of a ban on the Communist party mean? Do honorable members of the Opposition claim that, by legislating to declare the Communist party an illegal organization, the problem of what to do about the Communists would be solved?
– We say that it would restrict their activities.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), who knows more about rabbits than Communists, says “We say that it would restrict their activities “. Let us examine that statement. The Menzies Government banned the Communist party. While the ban was on, I was an official of the Australian Workers Union in north Queensland. I say without hesitation and without fear of successful contradiction that thu Communists made greater progress then than at any other stage of their history. I know what I am talking about. I have always been fighting the “ roosters “. While honorable gentlemen opposite were on the platform with the Communists and waving flags with them, the Australian Workers Union continued to fight the Communists. Immediately after the party had been banned, the only Communist ever elected to a parliament in Australia was elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly. I refer to Mr. F. W. Paterson. Notwithstanding the ban, Communist-inspired industrial turmoil took place in New South Wales. The honorable member for Wimmera said that the banning of the Communist party would restrict its members’ activities. I suppose, therefore, that one could reasonably assume that more coal would be produced if the party were banned. Yet, during the period in which it was banned, instead of more coal being produced, less was produced, owing to industrial disturbances on the coal-fields. The coal industry is one industry that is dominated by the Communists, and so effective was the ban, thai it was necessary for the government of the day to bribe the president of the miners federation to prevent strikes. I have the report of the royal commissioner, and not the slightest doubt exists that money was paid to the leader of the coal-miners for that purpose. Despite the ban and despite the bribe, the country still did not get enough coal. The Leader of the Opposition could tell a lovely story about what happened. He said, “ If the hill will not come to Mahomet. Mahomet will go to the hill “, and when the coal-miners would not go to the advertised place to hear him, he went to them, but they still would not hear him. When that sort of thing happened during the period of the ban, what on earth is the good of talking about banning the Communists again, unless we are prepared to reinforce the ban ? The banning of the Communist party would be only the first step. Once the ban was imposed, it would have to be made effective. The next step would be to hound down every Communist, every person with the slightest pretentions of being a Communist and every one who supported the Communists in any shape or form. Then what would the advocates of the ban do? They could not say to them, “ You must not do that again, naughty; don’t do that any more “. They would have to build political prisons and put the Communists and their sympathizers behind barbed wire. Banning of the Communists would be only the first step; the next .and final step would be to place them in concentration camps or political prisons. If any one else in the Parliament wants to be a party to that, I do not.
– What did the Australian Workers Union do?
– I shall tell the honorable member the story about that later. A man named Goebbels did that and then, instead of being the hunter, he became the hunted, and that will be the position of any one who does it in Australia.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said last night that the Australian Government employed Communists. Of course it employs them and so do the tory governments of Victoria. South Australia and Western Australia, and Communists are employed also by private enterprise. When Concrete Constructions Limited, the company that is building the administrative block at Canberra, installed the sewerage at Townsville, it always promoted any man whom it found to be a Communist and whom it regarded as likely to create dissension among the workers. The company made him a ganger and boasted about doing so. Its attitude can be summed up in these words, “ The Communist is the best ganger we ever had, for, having been appointed a ganger, he becomes almost a slave driver “. So, what on earth is the good of talking about the Government employing Communists? My mind flies back to 1945, immediately before I was elected to the House. The Communists staged a strike in the pastoral industry in New South Wales and Queensland. The Australian Workers Union had filed applications in both the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the Queensland Arbitration Court for increased shearing rates. There was a good chance of the union’s being successful, and the Communists did not want it to get the credit. As a matter of fact, they did not want the increase, because they did not want contentment and harmony; for they thrive on discontent and discord. They formed themselves into bogus committees all over the country and told the shearers to reject the instructions of the federal executive and the State executives of the Australian Workers Union not to join in the strike. The only way in which a man could then get work in the pastoral industry was by going to the Communist bogus organizations and paying them a fee. In Queensland, the fee was £1. The Communists described it as a “ clearance fee “. Our advice to the members of the Australian Workers Union was to ignore the Communists, to refuse to pay the fee and to tell the graziers that they were willing to shear. Many of our members tried to follow that advice, but they were not successful, because, when they went to a grazier, the response was, “Show me your clearance “. When a shearer replied, “My union has told me not to pay the clearance fee because it is illegally charged by a bogus body”, he was told, “I do not want any trouble, and, until you pay your fi to the ‘ Communistshow ‘ and bring me your clearance, I cannot employ you”. Mr. Tom Dougherty, the general secretary of the Australian Workers Union, has a letter at his head office in Sydney from a grazier in New South Wales stating exactly the same thing. Honorable members opposite condemn the Communists now, but the only men whom the graziers would employ were Communists or dupes who had fallen into the trap and paid fees to their illegal organization. Incidentally, those funds were afterwards used to defend Communist enemies of the Australian Workers Union in Queensland courts. The money was paid to Max Julius, a Communist barrister who practises in Brisbane. What did honorable members opposite expect the members of the Australian Workers Union to do when the graziers of New South Wales and Queensland refused point-blank to employ them because, in effect, they were not Communists or had not subscribed to the bogus organization established by the Communists ?
– Did not the Labour governments of Queensland and New South Wales allow the Communists “to intimidate graziers by burning their woolsheds and pastures?
– Certainly not, as the honorable member is well aware. There is no greater distorter of facts in this House than the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). The suggestion is absolutely untrue, and he knows that it is. Even yet members of the Liberal party are not unanimous on the subject of the proposed Communist ban. It is time that they made up their minds. Only about two weeks ago, on the 20th May, delegates to a Liberal party convention at Hobart expressed varying opinions about the desirability of banning the Communist party. Mr. G. T. Wright, a delegate from Burnie, said -
I put Communists in the same category as the rabbit menace in Australia. We ought to drive them underground and fill in the hole after them.
Mr. Wright was speaking to the following motion, not an amendment, that had been submitted to the convention : -
It is the opinion of this convention that it would be an unwise move to ban the Communist party, but that justice could be better served by prosecuting in the courts of law all persons charged with seditious or treasonable crimes, whatever their political party.
Honorable members opposite ought to examine the credentials of that fellow, because he was expressing Labour policy. Mr. D. Gunn, of Launceston, said -
Banning the Communist party would not rid the country of its members, but would simply drive them underground.
The move to ban the Communist party was defeated by the conference, but delegates decided to urge the Commonwealth Government and State governments to prosecute according to the law all persons guilty of seditious and treasonable crimes. That is exactly what the Australian Government is doing. What does the Liberal party really want? I suppose that its members are entitled to change their minds, but they ought to make a. final decision soon because an election is looming, and, unless they do so, people will be wondering what on earth they really intend to do about communism. My attention was attracted recently to a statement made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). When somebody asked him whether he would provide ships to send Communists to Russia, the gallant old gentleman said. “ No. Let ‘em swim.” Nobody knows better than the right honorable member that, whether the Government provided ships, planes, trains or billygoat carts, or let them swim, it would have no right to deport them anyhow because a majority, if not all, of the people operating in Australia as Communists are Australian born. So what on earth is the good of talking about deporting them? Such talk only gives people something to laugh at, unless they happen to be fanatics, because it is very amusing. There was a time when the right honorable member for North Sydney did not want to deport Communists. He was a great mate of the “ Corns “ then. After Russia entered World War II., organizations known as “ aid to Russia committees “ were established throughout Australia. Everybody remembers that, until circumstances suddenly, compelled Russia to join the Allies, the Communists had decried the conflict as an “imperialistic war”. However, when Germany invaded Russia there was a tremendous stampede by antiLabour flag-wavers to join the aid to Russia committees alongside the Communists. At that time, the federal conference of the Australian Labour party was placed in the position of having to declare its attitude towards aid to Russia committees. It had to decide whether they were, in fact, patriotic bodies designed to assist the war effort or merely another means for the Communists to disseminate their filthy propaganda. The conference arrived at the conclusion that the committees were, in fact, subsidiaries of the Communist party. Each State executive of the party, and each branch within each State, was notified of the decision and informed that any member of the party then taking part in the work of aid to Russia committees must be withdrawn from such activities. We were fighting communism then, when many people who now accuse us of being either Communists or associates of Communists were working alongside Communists on those committees. They thought that the Communists were a great team of chaps in those days! One of ‘the most ardent of those flag-wavers was the right honorable member for North Sydney, who said, when he shook hands with no less an identity than Jack
Sharkey, “ The sins that you have committed in the past do not matter, comrade. We are pals now. Good on you J ack Sharkey ! “ Yet the right honorable gentleman and his. colleagues now have the indecent temerity to accuse members of the Australian Labour party of being Communists or Communist sympathizers! In Queensland, the Australian Labour party organization was torn to shredsbecause it refused to allow its members to take part in the activities of aid to Russia committees. Members of the party, and even entire branches, were expelled in the fight against the Communists, while the people who now point the finger of scorn at good Labour men actually helped them. The truth behind the Opposition’s present antiCommunist campaign is that it is devoid of any constructive proposals to submit to the people in its efforts to defeat the Government. It is obliged to use any sort of propaganda, honest or otherwise, and it has chosen communism as its catch-cry. Only a short time ago, hopes ran high in the Opposition camp. When the campaign against the Government’s banking legislation was at its height, honorable members opposite thought they were home and dried. They could not see how they could possibly lose the forthcoming election. But their prospects are not so favorable to-day. They are like many of the race-horses that I have backed. They go very hard, but they do not go fast enough. They go up and down in the one spot. They race too hard for the first two furlongs, forgetting that they must travel another six or eight furlongs, and, consequently, they have no breath for a finishing burst.
When a sick person is going to die, he sometimes suffers great pain for a period, then the pain passes and he becomes delirious. Members of the Opposition, particularly the supporters of the Liberal party, are now in a similar position. They have had a number of discussions about the allotment of portfolios after the next election. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) may invite me to state where I have obtained that news. If he desires to know how the news gets out from the Opposition party room, he should seek the leak, in the same way as members of the Labour party must seek to discover how news gets out from caucus. However, honorable members opposite have lined up the allotment of portfolios. The only difficulty is that three or four honorable gentleman believe that they will make a better Prime Minister than the right honorable member for Kooyong will. There will be a terrific scrap for that position. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) does not want to be Minister for the Army again, because it is just too silly to make oneself a lieutenant-colonel in peace-time when no honour and glory are associated with the rank.
– There is great safety, though.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is a perfect “sitter “ for the job of Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Nobody would know better than he how to grow cabbages and beans, and, furthermore, his department would be run cheaply, because court records disclose that, sometimes, he forgets to pay his employees. So, if he does not have a wages bill, the cost of running the department will be infinitely less. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is home and dried for the position of Treasurer, because his great knowledge of finance and figures would make Sir Stafford Cripps, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, look like an auditor of petty cash. The portfolio of Treasurer cannot be taken from him. The graceful and athletic figure of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) will not adorn the Australian Country party benches in this chamber next year, because he has a nice little spot picked out for himself. The Australian Country party will throw him into the Senate. That will make it easier for the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen).I believe that the honorable member should be a member of the Cabinet, because he is ideally suited to control the gestapo that will hound down every man in industry who is prepared to claim and defend his industrial and social rights. Australians will be called upon to defend their industrial and social rights if the Opposition parties impose the ban that they have forecast. The only member of the Opposition whose job is assured in the new Parliament, always provided the Opposition parties win the next election, is the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who will be Mr. Speaker. I offer honorable members one guess as to why the honorable member for Barker will be elected Mr. Speaker. I believe that such a placid and agreeable person as he is should be retained in the Cabinet, even if his function is only to maintain peace and harmony there. That is the kind of talk that is heard in the party room.
However, like a dying man, honorable members opposite suddenly open their eyes in their delirium, and say, “ Before we can form a government, we must remove these terrible engine-drivers, clerks, union officials and farmers from the treasury bench. How can we do that?” They have set themselves an impossible task. They cannot tell the wheat-grower that they have paid him a better price for his product than the Labour Government has paid him. They cannot convince the wool-grower that, when they were in office, he received a better price for wool than he receives under the Labour Government. They cannot tell the dairy-farmer, who lived in a. state of semi-starvation under antiLabour rule, that his conditions have not improved since the Labour Government has been in office. They cannot satisfy the workers that they had a greater degree of social security under their administration than they have under the Labour Government. And they cannot tell the pensioners that 17s. 6d. or 21s. a week is as much as £2 2s. a week, which they receive from the Labour Government. They cannot even claim that the means test is comparable now with what it was when they were in office. The plain truth is that the Opposition parties have no means of convincing the people that they should be returned to office, and, therefore, they grab at communism as a popular catchcry and will continue to bark it until the next election. However, honorable members opposite have run their race. The people are sick and tired of hearing the two political parties that could not govern this country in wartime, when they had a majority in both chambers, tell the successful Labour Go vernment how it should administer the affairs of the Commonwealth. How on earth do honorable members opposite expect the people to believe anything that they say about the Communists, or any other subject? I hope that they will continue to tell the people stupid lies about decent and honorable Labour men being tied up with communism, because such talk will not get them anywhere. Honorable members opposite know that they are doomed to political defeat. As a man dies, the breath leaves his body. In the same way, the political breath has left the Opposition. I warn honorable members opposite to heed the words of Abraham Lincoln, “ You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”.
.- The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) has two qualities which I admire. In common with some other honorable members opposite, he does not like communism. He is also a great believer in fairy tales. People who believe in fairy tales have good cause for satisfaction.
– They live in a dream world.
– They believe that the phantasies which please them are real. They are far removed from the realities of life. The honorable member for Herbert has spoken at some length about communism, and I agree with many of the views that he has expressed. However, he has also criticized the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and derided our promise to deal with communism when we return to office after the next election. It is well known to the whole country, if not to the honorable member himself, that we have decided to ban the Communist party. The honorable member believes that the Communist party should not be banned, because he considers that such an act would merely strengthen them. I have heard that argument many times. Some members on this side of the House hold that view, and, I have no doubt, some members of the Labour party also share that belief. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) himself is of opinion that the Communist party should not be banned. At least he has not taken any action against that organization. After having carefully considered the whole subject, I have come to the conclusion that banning the Communist party will deprive that organization of a great deal of its strength and its power to disseminate propaganda. The argument against banning the Communist party is that such an act will drive the organization underground. That view is weakened by the fact that the real leaders of the Communist party are already underground. The Communists who are the nominal leaders are not those who really matter.
– Those who want to get rid of rabbits must dig them out.
– They can also poison rabbits. The real leaders of the Communist party are unknown, and whether the Communist party is banned or not, those people will remain in charge of the organization.
Members of the Opposition have repeatedly attacked “the Government because it employs well known and notorious Communists. The honorable member for Herbert has pointed out, in reply, that Communists are employed in many other avenues, including industry, banks, and the Army and Navy. That is perfectly true. The object of banning the Communist party is not to deprive a human being of his means of livelihood but to prevent him from endangering the safety of this country. He should not be allowed to work in places where he is able to learn defence secrets, and to influence those people who have the conduct of important affairs here. Members of the Opposition are concerned about the employment of Communists, not in unimportant organizations, but in such concerns as the Post Office and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
– What about the employment of Communists in State education departments ?
– We are equally opposed to the employment of Communists in schools where they may use their opportunity to inflict anti-social views on our children. However, I propose to deal with the remarks made by the honorable member for Herbert, who began his speech by defending the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). That Minister certainly needs a great deal of defence. He is a living example of a “split personality”. He is at once a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. As “Dr. Jekyll” he administers the Department of Immigration very ably, although even his administration of that department has not been free from serious criticism. But in the main he has done a good joh in endeavouring to bring large numbers of migrants to this unpopulated country. When the Minister enters this chamber he throws off the mantle of “Dr. Jekyll” and becomes a devilish “ Mr. Hyde “. During my membership of the Parliament I have taken part in a large number of debates and have listened to countless speeches, and when I listened to the contribution to the Supply debate that he made last night I felt that it would have been far better left unsaid. I have often wondered to whom I should give the prize for misstatement in the House, and I confess that I have been undecided as to whom it should be awarded. However, after listening to the Minister last night, I have no doubt whatever that the laureate should go to him. His contribution was a veritable tour de force of buffoonery, and was characterized by the grossest misstatements, not only concerning the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) but also concerning the other matters to which he referred. Take, for example, his remarks about Communism and members of the Liberal party. The Minister looked straight at members of the Opposition and accused them of having done nothing to suppress communism. In his extravagant efforts to make a case against us he referred to political events that occurred in 1928, and even so long ago as 1921. Then he proceeded to contrast our alleged inactivity with the splendid efforts to defeat communism of the Government led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). Since the Minister chose, to refer particularly to the part played by the Prime Minister in suppressing communism, I invite honorable members to ask themselves honestly just what the Prime Minister has done to deal with the menace of communism.
After years of hesitation he was at last prodded and pushed, largely by the Opposition parties, the trade unions and other bodies, into taking some action against them. What did he do? The net result of his efforts was the prosecution of one or two Communists, not for a breach of the Commonwealth Crimes Act or for some offence connected with their attempts to disrupt industry, but for n breach of the ordinary common law of the realm by which all citizens are bound. The Minister for Information accused the Liberal party of being unwilling to attack communism. That allegation was very ably disposed of by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) in his speech last night, and it is not necessary for me to repeat his remarks. The action taken by the Liberal party to deal with the Communist menace is well known, and we have explained very clearly the action that we propose to take when our party is returned to power. I regret that the Minister is not present in the chamber at the moment because I should like him to be here while I deal with some of the absurd allegations that he made concerning the Liberal party’s attitude towards socialism. Honorable members will recall that the Minister alleged that we were socialists. I say to him now : “ If we are socialists why not come across the floor of the House and join us?” He would certainly find himself in better political company than be is at present. The Minister referred to certain State enterprises that are conducted by Liberal governments in some States, and he sought to establish from that fact that we were socialists. I often wonder where the honorable gentleman obtained his ideas on political thought, and just how much he understands of the principles of liberalism. His conception of Liberal policy seems to be synonymous with that which was entertained in the seventies of last century, when the Liberals of England advocated a policy of laisser-faire.
– That policy pretty well characterizes the Liberal party to-day.
– It is obvious that the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) is of the same state of mind as is the Minister. Apparently neither of them realizes that political thought has moved on since the ‘seventies, that people generally are more enlightened to-day, and that the old conception of liberalism is about as discredited as are the socialist principles which the Australian Labour party is trying to implement to-day. If the Prime Minister and his socialist followers are capable of learning from experience - which I doubt - they ought to realize that the socialist principles which they are espousing are as outmoded as is the doctrine of laisserfaire. No honorable member on this side of the House now believes in the application of the cruder principles of laisser-faire. We believe in free enterprise, which does not exclude the operation of State enterprises, which have operated in this country for many years under both Labour and non-Labour administrations. State enterprises have been extended and will be extended still further. Enterprises such as the coal mines in South Australia and the electricity undertaking in Victoria are examples of the efficient and prosperous operation of State enterprises under nonLabour governments. However, the difference between members of the Liberal party and members of the Labour party is that the former do not want to stifle all enterprise in favour of the States, whereas the latter are most anxious to do so. Honorable members opposite are obsessed by the idea that they must bring every undertaking under the control of the State.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– Why, the platform of the Australian Labour party has as one of its foremost planks the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. A few days ago I read an article in a local newspaper that had been written by the prospective Labour candidate for the electorate of Deakin, in which he wrote, “I am a believer in free enterprise “. Would any sensible person in the community suggest that honorable members opposite believe in free enterprise? The difference between members of the Liberal party and those of the Australian Labour party is that we believe in free enterprise and initiative as the backbone of our economy whilst they advocate that all enterprise should be socialized. It is clear, therefore, that when the Minister for Information asserted that members of the Liberal party were socialists, he was merely indulging in buffoonery. He certainly provoked a great deal of laughter in supporters of the Government by his sallies,, although I could not perceive any real reason for amusement in many of the absurdly exaggerated statements that he made. In fact, I thought that for a Minister his conduct was unbecoming, and detracted from the dignity of the Parliament. I have referred to the Minister for Information at some length because last night I was appalled by his misstatements, to put it mildly, and the very stupid deductions that he tried to make from them. The honorable gentleman is not the only offender. During the course of this debate I have listened- to some good and reasoned speeches by honorable members opposite. I have not agreed with their remarks, but at least they have provided food for thought. However, the majority of the speeches that have been made by Government supporters were full of misstatements of what the Labour party has done. Almost every honorable member opposite who has spoken has told us of the wonderful things that the Government has done. Their remarks are reminiscent of those that were made by the Prime Minister when he talked of the “ golden age “. Perhaps the right honorable gentleman is beginning to realize that the gold is really gilt, and that the gilt is beginning to wear off rapidly.
-. - I am one who never loses faith in the future of this country.
– The right honorable gentleman really cannot believe everything that he says. He has too much common sense for that. Surely the Government is aware of the true position in this country. When we talk to our constituents and other people, do we find happiness, contentment, and all the things that make life worth living? Wherever I go, I find nothing but a sense of frustration and ill-being. People are nervous and fearful of the present and the future. In Melbourne there is practically no gas and electricity is available only at odd moments. Housewives in Melbourne never know whether they will be able to get a tram to take them to the shops or when their milk or bread will be delivered. They freeze because they cannot heat their houses. Those are not exaggerations but statements of fact, as every one who lives in Melbourne knows. The same kind of thing is happening in Sydney, where the electricity shortage is causing unemployment. Those are the conditions that obtain in what the Government regards as a prosperous and happy country. We are reverting to the conditions that existed in the middle of last century, when people lived in houses with leaky roofs and used rooms that were badly lit because there were not proper lights to use. To-day, the roofs of many houses in Australia are leaking because the materials to repair them cannot be obtained, and during electricity black-outs makeshift lighting appliances are used. The difference between the present time and the middle of last century is that 100 years ago the highest possible level of production was being maintained, whereas to-day we arc only scratching the surface of our productive capacity. The blame for that lies largely, but not entirely, upon this Government. Figures have been produced by the Government which show that the production of timber, tiles, cement, coal, and other materials has increased. It is true that the manufacture of many articles has increased by 5 per cent, or 10 per cent., but between 1939 and a few months ago the number of persons in private employment rose from 1,325,200 to 1,S27,300. Although employment has increased by 38 per cent, and, in addition, hundreds of modern machines which are in use now were not available in 1939, the production of some articles has increased only slightly or has actually decreased. The Government has acted wrongly by not giving the people an encouragement to produce. That is not surprising, because its policy is based on the old socialist doctrine that there should be the greatest possible equality of income and that the cake should be divided among all. No thought ever has been given to increasing the size of the cake so that the people may have more to share out among them. What positive action has the Government taken to increase production? Last night I heard honorable members opposite talk of the schemes that the Government has in mind. The Snowy Mountains project is one of them. That scheme is only in the blue-print stage and will not materialize for years. I do not propose to argue now whether the scheme for the production of aluminium in Tasmania is a good or a bad one, but we are still as far from producing aluminium in Tasmania as we were four or five years ago. Such schemes may be useful ten or fifteen years hence, but we need increased production now. We require a government that will give a lead to the people. If production is to be increased, the people must have incentives and discipline. That is recognized in the United Kingdom, where the Government is more advanced socialistically than is this Government. Mr. Horner, a Communist and the general secretary of the Mineworkers Union, has made the following statement: -
Miners will not dig more coal until they are given sufficient financial enticement.
In the journal of the Amalgamated En’gineering Union, one of the largest and most influential trade unions in the world, the following statement appeared : -
We shall get increased production -when we satisfy the people generally that it is worth their while to work hard. The ordinary man needs a kick or a carrot.
This Government is providing neither kicks nor carrots. We are living on the wealth that has been accumulated over the years, and that wealth is dwindling. I fear that unless some positive action is taken, the chances of achieving real prosperity in this country will vanish.
– The House is debating two appropriation measures and two Supply bills, and the Opposition has taken advantage of the debate to try to make of it something in the nature of an unofficial censure motion on the Government. Honorable members opposite have alleged that all the sins of commission and omission in this country are the fault of the Government. In postulating that theory they have left themselves wide open to criti cism, because if a government is responsible for the defects of a country it must also be responsible for the economic conditions that prevail in the country, and should receive credit for the good that flows from those conditions. But according to the burden of the song sung by the Opposition during this debate, anything that is good in this country reflects no credit on the Government. Honorable members opposite have concentrated on a number of alleged shortcomings and deficiencies; they have magnified incidentals and ignored fundamentals. They have attempted to paint a picture of the economic conditions in other parts of the world. We have heard one theory that the United States of America is economically ideal. They have also attempted to paint an adverse picture of the position in Great Britain, intending to draw a parallel with the Australian Government because the Government of the United Kingdom is also a Labour Government. I am certain that a statement that appeared on the financial page of the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday of last week will at least give some cause for concern to honorable members opposite, and provide a true test of the comparative worth of the Government of this country. Honorable members opposite never cease their encomiums of the United States of America, because that country is the home of private enterprise and individualism.
– The United States of America has helped the rest of the world out of its difficulties.
– -Honorable members opposite, who are at all times trying to present a contrast between the United States of America and other countries, ignore completely what has happened in America. The article in the Sydney Morning Herald, to which I have justreferred, said, among other things, that the experts whose duty it was to pay attention to economic trends were hoping that the present economic trend in the United States of America would be held short of a major catastrophe. We have seen what has happened in the United States of America as a result of the economic trend there. The story of that country is briefly that, after World War I. it emerged as a world power, and that after World War II. its position was consolidated, not merely as a world power but as the predominant world power. If it is within the bounds of government action to tate steps that affect a country’s economy, surely the United States of America has the resources to make its people the most fortunate in the world. But that is not so, for America has unsettled economic conditions, and many of its people are far from happy. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) stated that a policy of full employment meant nothing unless it followed certain principles. I made a similar statement some years ago, and therefore I agree that unless full employment is accompanied by certain conditions it is riot worth much to the workers or the people. However, I believe that the honorable member’s statement is not applicable to Australia at the present time because the Government does not merely boast of the effect of its policy of full employment, but it has also ensured that that policy is attended by benefits to the workers that they have never before enjoyed. That is itself one of the tests of the value of this Government.
– We are unable to achieve sufficient production.
– .Australia is not different from any other country in the world as far as production shortages are concerned, but I shall deal with that matter later. The question of the fall in world prices for export goods is of some concern to us, as to other countries. The honorable member for Fawkner, in attempting to prove that the economic condition of the United States of America was sound, tried to chide the Australian Government for not selling more wool to America. We cannot sell our goods to countries that are not willing to buy them. About twelve months ago the United States Senate adopted a measure that was intended to impose a heavy tariff on the import of fine wool from Australia, and only the President’s veto prevented that measure from becoming law. We could sell more wool to the United States and earn more dollars if that country were willing to take it, but because of a prohibition on the unlimited importation of wool into America-
– I did not mention wool at any stage of my speech.
– If I am not mistaken, the honorable member did mention wool.
– There is no prohibition against the importation of wool to the United States.
– About twelve months ago the American Senate tried to raise the tariff on wool and its action was vetoed by the President. It is not merely a question of desiring to sell goods, but also of what can be obtained in exchange for them, and whether the best markets are willing to accept them. When considering Australia’s economic position we are apt to forget that the Australian Government is only one of seven governments in Australia. All of the six State governments possess sovereign powers and some of them have far greater powers than are vested in the Australian Government. It must be borne in mind always that no matter what government is in power in the federal sphere it is limited by a written constitution, and all its acts are contestable before the High Court of Australia and the Privy Council. The Australian Government’s powers are clearly defined in the Constitution, and any government that acts outside the Constitution may find itself haled before the High Court of Australia or the Privy Council and have its actions declared unconstitutional.
– There are 48 States in the United States of America.
– I am talking about Australia, and if the honorable member can deny my assertions about the Government’s constitutional position I shall be pleased to hear it. When considering the economic condition of this country, it is as well to remember that some time last year a referendum was held and also to recall the attitude that was then taken up by the Opposition in relation to it. I believe that, even if nothing else could be said for this Government, it at least has always been forthright and honest in its approach to problems. The relations between the Commonwealth and States were made perfectly clear by the Prime Minister, not once but several times. He told the people what would happen if the Government’s referendum proposals were defeated, but the Opposition, seeking a political advantage, ignored the effect which the defeat of the proposals would have upon Australia’s economy, and advised the people to vote “No”. The defeat of the proposals was one of the worst blows that any Government ‘ has suffered. As a matter of fact, now that the States have had restored to them the powers which the Commonwealth exercised during the war, they are not very happy about it. A few weeks ago, there was a conference in Western Australia of State Premiers, and the suggestion was put forward that another referendum should be held on the proposal that greater powers should be granted to the Commonwealth. The States, in the short period that they have been exercising the powers relinquished by the Commonwealth, have found that they can be exercised effectively only on a Commonwealth-wide basis, and now they are quite willing to hand the powers back to the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the opportunity has passed. Prominent among the many sins of omission and commission which lie at the door of the Opposition is the fact that it advised the people to reject the Government’s referendum proposals. The policy of the Labour Government, in submitting the proposals, has been abundantly vindicated by events.
During this debate, the Opposition has been critical of many things, but it has studiously refrained from criticizing the British Medical Association for its attitude towards the Government’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Why members of the Opposition should have remained silent on this issue is probably best known to themselves, but the fact remains that the scheme has been rendered ineffective by the refusal of the Federal Council of the British Medic.il Association to cooperate. The members of the council call themselves medical practitioners and scientists, but they persist in playing politics, and in using their position to mislead the people, and to obstruct legislation. The result is that the people are being denied social services benefits. It seems to be impossible to pin down the council. The Government has found that as soon as one difficulty is removed spokesmen for the British Medical Association discover another. They claim that if the Government were to allocate money for the building of hospitals and the provision of medical facilities it would make a greater contribution to public health than by insisting upon a national medical scheme. They ignore the fact that even if the Government were to allocate £50,000,000 for the building of hospitals it would be physically impossible, because of prevailing industrial conditions, to do very much about providing the hospitals, so that those who now have to go without hospital treatment for lack of facilities, would be no better off. It should not be overlooked that the middle class is losing most by the delay in the introduction of a national medical scheme. Members of the middle class, who are expected to pay all their own medical costs when they or members of their family fall sick, are sometimes reduced to penury by having to meet medical expenses after a protracted illness. Under the Government’s proposals, such people would obtain relief, but that makes no appeal to the Opposition. The Federal Council of the British Medical Association is withholding from the people the medical service to which they are entitled. The Government has displayed monumental patience in its negotiations with the British Medical Association. The negotiations have been protracted and wearisome, but the patience of the Government has never been exhausted. On every occasion, it was the British Medical Association that slammed the door. The Federal Council of the British Medical Association, when it has not been telling the Government to build more hospitals, has been arguing about the pharmaceutical formulary. I maintain that the formulary is the concern of the Government, not of the British Medical Association, and the decision of the Government is based on the experience of other countries where national medical schemes are in operation. A few months ago, the Leader of the Opposition in New Zealand, Mr. Holland, visited Australia and, when asked for his opinion on the free medical scheme in New Zealand, replied that its weakness lay in the fact that those controlling it seemed to be more concerned with quality than quantity. In New Zealand, there is au open formulary under the medical scheme, and the Australian formulary has been drawn up in the light of the experience gained in that country. The statement of Mr. Holland, whose political outlook is the same as that of the Opposition in this Parliament, supports the attitude of the Australian Government in regard to the formulary.
The Labour Government in Australia has a record of achievement for which there is no need to apologize. During the last eight years, the country has enjoyed prosperity of a kind never known before. We have witnessed remarkable developments in not only our secondary but also our primary industries. To-day the people of this country are enjoying unprecedented prosperity. As 1 said in my opening remarks, the conditions obtaining in any country must in a large measure be credited, or debited, to the government of that country. It is axiomatic that conditions in a country do not exist merely accidentally. Our present prosperity is direct evidence of the vigorous policy being implemented by the National Government. This Government has envisaged not merely the development of any State, or part of a State, but the development of the nation as a whole. At the same time, due to its wise administration. Australia’s prestige has never stood higher in the eyes of the world. Most Australians are proud of the part that this country is playing in the international sphere. Although we are a nation of only about 7,000.000 people, our representatives and spokesmen abroad are held in the highest esteem. That is not. accidental; Australia has done some-‘ thing tangible to earn that esteem. Thus, the Government’s policy is being vindicated, not only by the prosperity which Australians themselves enjoy, but also by the fact that Australia now occupies a position in the international sphere which no other country with so small a population has previously achieved.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 P-m.
.-The House is discussing to-night four bills which seek the appropriation of money to j>r’.’v:-de for the services of the Govern- ment for the next four mouths. A great many subjects have been dealt with by honorable members during the debate on these measures. Some strange statements have been made by honorable members on the Government side of the House. For instance, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) accused Opposition members, and particularly the members of the Liberal party, who are quite capable of looking after themselves, of being the friends of the organization known as the Friends of the Soviet Union and supporters of the Aid to Russia movement. He said that in all States the Australian Labour party had instructed its members to keep absolutely clear of the people associated with these activities because they were Communists. That instruction may have been issued in Queensland, but if it was issued in other States it was ignored. I well remember that when Russia was allied with Germany in the war with the Allied powers the Friends of the Soviet Union marched through the streets of Bendigo. In the second rank of marchers was the Honorable L. W. Galvin, the deputy leader of the Australian Labour party in Victoria, Mr. De Grandi, an old friend of mine, Mr. Duus and other prominent members of the Australian Labour party. These representatives of Labour gallantly marched behind the red flag, taking their place alongside the Friends of the Soviet Union notwithstanding that the Soviet Union was then opposed to the British Empire. No matter what honorable members opposite say, they cannot get away from the fact that the Menzies Government banned the Communist party and put the well-known Communists, Thomas and Ratliff, behind bars, and that immediately after the Labour Government had assumed office it schemed to release Thomas and Ratliff without incurring the opporbium of the people. The honorable member for Herbert accused the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) of rushing round and shaking hands with the members of the Friends of the Soviet Union and of waving the red flag at a time when Russia was our ally. The memhers of the Australian Labour party supported those people when Russia was our enemy. Long before then the Australian
Country party had made its position in relation to the Communists quite clear. We said that we would have nothing to do with them and that we would ban ti”* Communist party and drive its members underground like rabbits and after they were driven underground we would gas them if we could. The great majority of the people who are leading these antiBritishers are importations from another country. The Minister for Immigration (M.r. Calwell) proposes soon to introduce a bill to amend the Immigration Act to give the Government power to deport certain people.
– He should be in the House.
– There are many occasions on which the honorable member for
Herbert is absent from the House. We hope that after the next election he will be absent for a very long period.
– The honorable member for Bendigo will not be here after the next election, for he was not game to stand.
– Order ! The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) should return to the bill before the House.
– The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has all his troubles ahead of him, because he will not be able to man his housing propositions. Although the Government boasts of the number of houses built during its term of office, its record has not yet reached that of the Bruce-Page Government in 1925-26. Yet in 1925-26 only approximately 60,000 workers were engaged in the building industry compared with 90,000 to-day. Exservicemen are now paying £2,000 and more for a house which in 1925-26 could be built for from £600 to £700.
– To-day the Government is building houses and not shacks.
– The houses built by the Bruce-Page Government were equally as good as those built by the Government to-day. By his interjection the Minister for Works and Housing has caused me to digress from the subject of communism but I shall now return to it. Honorable members opposite say that the members of the Opposition parties are the friends of the Communists. I remind them that at a meeting held in Victoria recently Mr. Galvin appeared on a platform with Mr. J. J. Browne, who is the secretary of the Victorian Railways Union and an avowed Communist.
– At what meeting?
– Surely that does not matter. It is true, however, that he “ got the cane “ from his own party for doing so.
I propose now to say something about the wheat industry. The wheat-growers have been treated very shabbily by this Government. Honorable members opposite constantly boast of what the Labour
Government has done for the wheatgrowers of Australia. Rather they should talk about what the Labour Government has “ done “ the wheat-growers f ors because it has taken no less than £80,000,000 out of the pockets of the wheat-growers during its term of office. Last November, the Australian “Wheat Board, which is composed of men like Mr. Chapman, the growers’ representative, and Mr. Teasdale, who is cordially hated by the Government because he knows too much about it, recommended a sale of wheat to Great Britain. By the 26th November negotiations for an agreement had almost been completed. Wheat at that time was worth 15s. 6d. a bushel at distant ports and 16s. 6d. a bushel on the adjacent seaboard, but the sale was held up for four months. Actually, 60,000,000 bushels should have been sold, but a definite instruction, was given by the Minister that the matter was to be handled on a government to government basis. That government to government basis has cost the wheat-growers of Australia approximately £1,500,000. Between the 1st May and the 31st July, it will cost them at least £750,000. Why did the Government take that action? It took it for the very same reason that it agreed to sell wheat to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel. I do not blame the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for that. I know that he was left with the child when he assumed office. I might even say that he was seduced and left with an idiot child, because that is the only way one can describe the agreement. The reason for the transaction was to raise the prestige of the New Zealand Labour Government, which knew that it would have a tremendous struggle to survive the then forthcoming election.
– When I reply, the honorable member for Bendigo will find that his statement is pregnant with possibilities.
– The Minister’s administration
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the legislation under discussion.
– Very well, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have quite a satisfactory answer to the Minister, hut perhaps it should not be broadcast. The circumstances of the New Zealand wheat agreement are as I have stated. Recently I had a discussion with a well-known New Zealander. He is not a Labour supporter. In fact, he is a very liberal chap. He said that he had voted for the Labour party on several occasions, but he added, “ We have had them “. I asked him how it was that Labour had managed to escape defeat at the last election. He said, “ They gave the Maoris a few doughnuts made with Australian wheat bought at 5s. 9d. a bushel. That is why they succeeded.” As I have said, the Australian Government’s wheat deal with Great Britain will cost the Australian wheatgrowers at least £1,500,000. The agreement was made between the Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. Beasley, and the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps.
– That is not true.
– Then it was Mr. Beasley who carried out the negotiations, although I have no doubt that he was acting on instructions received from Australia. Sir Stafford Cripps, of course, was afraid of Labour’s position in the United Kingdom. He and his colleagues were worried by the anti-Labour swing at the British municipal elections. Obviously the people of Great Britain had found out that the Labour Government’s much vaunted programme of socialization meant a complete loss of their economic standards.
– Labour will go back.
– Yes, back to the obscurity from which it should never have been permitted to emerge. I repeat that the wheat agreement with Great Britain was made in an endeavour to bolster up the British Government in the eyes of the people. Sir Stafford Cripps wanted to be in a position to say, “ We have made an agreement with Australia under which we are buying wheat for at least 4d. a bushel less than the amount the Australian Wheat Board was prepared, to accept “.
– That is not true, either.
– Order ! The Minister must cease interrupting.
– That was stated by members of the Australian “Wheat Board, and the Minister has never denied it. I have watched the press for any denial and there has been none. Silence means consent. Sir Stafford Cripps realized that if an agreement were made, he would be able to boast that Great Britain was purchasing wheat from Australia at less than its market value. No doubt he is now saying to himself, “ The Australian Government is on our side in spite of the interests of the Australian wheat-growers, and it is prepared to give us this subsidy to lengthen the period for which we can cling to the treasury bench “.
– Good old patriot.
– I have no objection to this country assisting to feed the British people.
– That is very handsome of the honorable gentleman.
– “Well, no one can say that of the honorable member for Parkes. The position is as I have stated. We on this side of the chamber do not yield pride of place to any one in our desire to assist the British people who suffered so terribly during the war, and are continuing to suffer due mainly to misgovernment. However, we object most strenuously to any one section of the community such as the wheat-growers, the egg producers, or any other primary producers, being asked to bear an unfair share of the burden. After all, 64 per cent, of the population of Victoria lives within 25 miles of the Melbourne General Post Office, and in New South Wales the position is even worse. The disparity is not so great in the other States but it is still out of all proportion. Country people have not the facilities and amenities that are available to city dwellers. Even the Arbitration Court has subscribed to the principle that rural workers cannot expect the same treatment as their fellows in the cities, because whereas city residents enjoy a five-day 40-hour week - and very few work to full capacity even in that period=-the man on the land works for 56 hours, and for a lower basic wage. Apparently the Arbitration Court believes that people residing outside the cities must expect to work harder and longer to produce cheap food and clothing for the huge proportion of our population which lives in the cities. The Government is denying country people not merely luxuries, but also things that are absolutely necessary if production is to be increased. We know that the Government has no desire to increase output in the cities. If honorable members opposite believed that a 20-hour week would be an election winner, they would reduce working hours to that figure if they thought they could get away with it. We all know that several unions are now seeking a 30-hour week.
– How many hours does the honorable member for Bendigo work in a week ?
– The Minister makes a lot of silly statements and asks a lot of silly questions. They are not worth answering. The fact remains that country people are expected to work extra hour* and to produce 84 per cent, of the exportable wealth of Australia. All the wool, wheat, meat, and metals that we export are produced in the country districts. When our primary industries face a serious recession of prices, the present day “ golden age “ of which the Prime Minister speaks so glibly will disappear, and will be replaced by a cold iron age in which people will have to work hard to save this country’s economy. The day when they can walk out when any one speaks to them, will go and they will have to do their duty to Australia as the primary producers are expected to do theirs to-day. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has asked for increased butter production. I support his request, and I hope that the dairyingindustry will fall into line; but the treatment that the dairy-farmers have received is responsible for the serious slump in the output of butter fat. Lately, production has slightly increased, but for a long time there was a steady decline. The only primary industry that has gone on steadily is the grazing industry, which is the one primary industry that the Government has not yet interfered with. But the cat’s claws are outstretched as it watches the quail and hopes to grab it and bite into its fat. The Government is breaking its. neck to take over from the
Joint Organization. It is breaking its neck to interfere with the meat industry also. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture knows very well, it had one try to get its hands on to that industry. It had a “ go “ at the pig industry, failed dismally and was glad to get out of the picture. The grazing industry is the only industry that has not only held its own but has also gone ahead. The Government makes no attempt to supply the essential needs of primary producers, such as ordinary fencing wire, wire netting, cyanide and ammunition. About fifteen months ago I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice), a question about cyanogas and ammunition, and I said that ‘rabbits showed every sign of increasing to plague proportions. It was about the time of the opening of the duck season, and the Minister was so narrow minded as to say “ Ob ! So you want to go duckshooting, do you?” I have not been duckshooting for about four years, and I had no- intention of going on that occasion; but I had an interest in the welfare of my country and my fellow Australians. I knew the menace of the rabbits, and the Minister ought to have known it too, because he has his satellites spread throughout Australia. But apparently they did not report the actual position to him. Recently, I again asked whether dollars would be made available for the importation of cyanogas and .22 calibre rifle ammunition. I was given a. reply by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs, but, although my question had stressed the need for the importation of cyanogas or other fumigants, no mention was made of them. The reply furnished by the Minister for Trade and Customs read -
There is a substantial local production of 22 calibre ammunition.
I should like to know where the local production has gone. I could take 10,000 rounds into any small town in northern Victoria or southern New South “Wales and sell them at twice the proper price. It is impossible to get .22 calibre ammunition. Repeatedly, I receive letters asking me to help the writers to get some, but
I have to tell them that it is not possible. One can buy an odd box at hardware stores, of course, but not onehundredth of requirements is available. Fumigants are unprocurable. Primary producers cannot buy cyanogas. The shortages mean added work and a waste of time in trying to keep the rabbits at bay. The rabbit plague causes a terrific loss of forage. The rabbits not only eat the pastures but befoul them, and stock do not do well on pastures after the rabbits have been on them. That means a great loss to the country. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and his colleagues imagined that they had discovered a new Australian industry in the rabbits. They were sending millions of skins to the United States of America. At that time, the American soldiers were being paid colossal rates. They received about three times as much money as the Australian Government paid the men it conscripted. So much did they earn tha.t they were able to buy rabbit-fur coats for their girl friends. The market for Australian rabbit skins was tremendous. After the war. when the American troops had been demobilized and had spent their money, the Government of the United States of America restricted import licences for rabbit skins by 60 per cent. When the market was wide open and rat biters could get 3s. a skin, every man at a loose end went rabbiting and made good money out of it. To-day, however, people are not willing to do the hard work that rabbiting entails, and rabbits constitute now a national menace instead of what the Government was so misguided to regard as a flourishing industry. The reply to my question continued -
Import licences are freely issuable for 22 calibre ammunition when produced in countries whose currency in relation to sterling is considered “ easy “.
Despite the fact that available supplies do not fully meet the present demand licences n.re not at present being issued for the importation of this ammunition from the dollar area. Licences for limited quantities from the dollar area were issued last quarter, but the demand for allocation of dollars for other goods with greater priority made it impossible to continue the allocation for .22 calibre cartridges.
The Government wanted to import certain commodities to provide more amenities in the cities, especially for the wharf labourers who were too tired to unload the stuff that was imported. The wharf labourers are the people who dictate the foreign policy of Australia. They took the side of the Indonesians. That prompts me to say without hesitation that I am with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) in connexion with the deportation of the Indonesian family that came here and was succoured in Australia during the war and then tried to work a scheme to stay here. We do not want Indonesians here. Doctor Soekarno, who was supported by the wharf labourers and who went to Japan, where he was decorated by the Emperor, gave to some friends of mine and of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) a “ safe conduct “ in Java. Then the Indonesians ambushed the men and shot them. Not satisfied with having shot them, they tore them to pieces as a tiger tears its prey. They are the people whom the wharf labourers stood up for. If they had the opportunity again they would add to the ill-feeling that has been caused between us and the Dutch. Those of us who know anything of the facts realize that we owe a great deal to the Dutch for the part they played when the Japanese plunged down through the islands with a view to attacking Australia but were halted. There are certain things about the Minister for Immigration with which I agree. With others I disagree.
– Stick to that !
– Yes. I disagree with the unprovoked and foul attack that he made on the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) yesterday. The Minister quoted a letter the writer of which was not prepared to allow his name to be revealed. The Minister tried to make out that he had cast no aspersions on the honorable member for Maranoa, but he read a foul letter, which was devoid of truth, and which alleged vile things about the honorable member for Maranoa. The reading of that letter by the Minister was heard by the radio listeners and the letter was also made available to the readers of newspapers that published it. Forty per cent, of the listeners and the newspaper readers would believe that there was something in what had been said. They would take the attitude : “ There must be something in it, or it would not have been published in the press or allowed to have been broadcast “, or they would say “ the Minister would not dare to say it unless there was something in it”. I regret that the Minister saw fit to make such statements.
I have personal knowledge of the fact that several British immigrants have been discouraged from settling on the land by immigration officers. This criticism does not refer to displaced persons, because I know that numbers of immigrants in that category have been made available for work in rural areas. People from the Baltic countries and neighbouring regions have been sent to work in the sugar industry in Queensland, the fruit industry in Victoria, on the hydroelectric project in Tasmania, and at various jobs in the country areas of other States. From what I have seen of those displaced persons, I consider that they are fine people and willing workers, whom we can well afford to assimilate. However, for some strange reason, the policy seems to be to discourage British, Dutch, and other European immigrants whom we should be glad to welcome to our country districts. The screening officers definitely advise such people against settling on the land. I know of two married men with families who left Great Britain with the object of becoming farmers in Australia. Before they left Great Britain they were told that they were mad to contemplate farm work, and that they ought to put it in fifth or sixth place on their list of occupational preferences. I admit that one of these men has ‘been a carpenter, but he has also worked on the land for part of his life. When they arrived in Australia, both of them were advised against going on the land. I tell the Government that Australia’s prosperity depends upon its rural industries. Our cities would die out very rapidly if primary production ceased. If the Government wants to increase the production of food and other primary products that the British people and the starving peoples of Europe badly need, it must provide additional labour for our farms. I believe that Queensland is growing, at present, the greatest crop of sugar that has ever been known in that State. It will not be possible to handle that crop unless we can get people to work on the land. The Government has sent displaced persons to the sugargrowing districts. Why not send our own kith and kin there if they are prepared to take up blocks and work hard on them ?
– Sugar blocks are available only to ex-servicemen.
– I assure the honorable member that there is enough fertile land in Queensland to provide blocks for all of the people we can induce to come here from Great Britain.
– But they cannot get blocks assigned to them.
– That is the fault of the Government.
– The sugar producers will not let the newcomers in.
– Why not? The law provides that only a specified area of land may be used for sugar production, but the law can be altered. The fact that there was a demand for, say, 400,000 tons of sugar annually when the law was enacted does not necessarily mean that the demand is at the same level to-day. In fact, the world’s need for sugar has increased considerably.
– What about the price?
– I should say that the growers are getting a good price now, and I do not believe that our economy would be endangered if sugar plantations were extended to cover a much greater area of the beautiful country that I saw recently in Queensland.
I am astounded that the Government has not included in the bills that we are now debating any provision for the expenditure of money on the development of northern Queensland, which, in my opinion, is one of the vital areas of Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– In spite of some of the people who come from there ! If we are to hold Australia for ourselves we must do: two things. First, we must settle people in northern Queensland. Secondly, we must export the. sugar, the peanuts and everything else that they grow and, if world market prices recede, we must, in the interests of our own safety, taking a selfish view, subsidize their products. We must ensure that the BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited does not squash our infant tobacco industry in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. I cannot understand the actions of this Government. It is supposed to be hostile to monopolies and to believe in socialism, and co-operation, but it allows buyers for the tobacco combine to force the price of first-class tobacco to within £d. per lb. of the price of the beautiful lemon-coloured, though poorer quality, leaf that is produced in parts of Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. A good crop of the light-coloured type of tobacco averages 6 cwt. or 7 cwt. of leaf to the acre. The mahogany leaf that is grown in the more favoured areas in better climates produces possibly 16 cwt. or 17 cwt. to the acre. But the Government allowed the price of the best leaf to be reduced to within £d. per lb. of the price of poor quality leaf, and promulgated a stupid regulation providing that leaf had to be classified’ in 37 different types - an utter impossibility. The result was that the buyers had the growers at Mareeba by the throat. I give the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) some credit at any r.ate for the fact that he plucked up enough courage to tell the representatives of the combine where they got off.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) protested against the cancellation of the regulations.
– That is a. matter for him.
– The Minister’s statement is sheer misrepresentation.
– I did not protest at any rate. I showed samples of tobacco grown in the Bendigo electorate, which I represent, to the present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) when he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and he admitted that they were equal in quality to any tobacco that he had seen.
– What had he seen?
– He had seen a lot of tobacco. Some of it was not very good. but some was high quality mahogany leaf that had been grown in good country, and it commanded a price that, in the opinion of the buyers, was too high in comparison with the price of the other leaf. I have also shown samples to the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and to people at the United States Embassy in Canberra, who said that the mahogany leaf was so good that it would have been used in the United States of America for only one purpose, the making of cigars. The leaf that I showed to the Minister was grown on Gunbower Island. I hope that the Government will take action to protect tobacco-growers and other primary producers in northern Queensland and the Northern Territory. “We must subsidize their products and keep them on the land ifwe are to hold Australia for ourselves. Those great areas in the north of Australia, with their long seaboard, must not be left open to any enemy, and God knows, there are hundreds of millions of potential enemies only a few hours’ flight from our shores.
I have beenvery disappointed by the Government’s attitude towards the Northern Territory. It has allowed people in that region to hold vast areas of land for years with the sole object of preventing its proper development and so keeping our beef industry from becoming dangerously competitive with the big Argentina interests that the holders of the land also represent.
– Who do they represent?
– That is perfectly obvious. Bovril Australian Estates Limited, for instance, awns Victoria River Downs, which coveres 12,000 square miles. The cattle raised on that property are a disgrace. They aremore like staghounds with horns than anything I have ever seen in the shape of cattle. Vestey’s Limited is not quite so bad. It occupies thousands of square miles of land on which it is not raising as many cattle as ran be raised on relatively small properties of 150,000 or 200,000 square miles. Rosewood station and Banka Banka station are two examples of properties on which cattle are being reared in large numbers which are equal to any that can be raised in the western district of Vic toria, the northern rivers district of New South Wales and the highlands above the River Murray. On the big holdings that I have mentioned, the cattle are mainly “ scrubbers “. On some stations there are almost as many bulls as cows. The companies have not sunk bores for water, although there is plenty of water under the surface, and one may often see a cow in bad condition travelling out from the natural waters suckling a calf about twelve months old and as big as itself as well as a calf only about a week old. There can be only one end to such conditions. When I visited one of the stations in 1938, I commented to the owner that I thought that he would lose a large number of cattle that year. He replied sorrowfully, “Yes, I think about 6,000 of them will die “. That was his attitude, and I am sure that a large number of the animals did die. But, strange to relate, the Government has not grasped its opportunities to alter those conditions, and reduce the size of some of the holdings. Any ex-servicemen who are familiar with the conditions in that part of the Commonwealth, are eager to settle on holdings of between 150 and 200 square miles, but they have not had an opportunity to do so.
– The present holders have leases for long periods.
– Yes, some of the leases are for 45 years, but many of them, involving tens of thousands of square miles, have been renewed while this Government has been in office.
– What amount of capital does a man require if he intends to settle on a small area?
– Some of the pastoralists in the north express the opinion that a settler on a small area requires a capital of between £15,000 and £20,000 in order -to make a successful start. I do not know the reasons that ‘they give for holding that view, but I doubt the accuracy of their estimates. Some of the successful settlers in thenorth began with substantially less capital than £15,000 or £20,000, and they carried on under worse conditions than those that prevail to-day. Although transport facilities in that part of the Commonwealthare still bad, they are a considerable improvement on the original conditions. I do not believe that a young man who is prepared to work, requires such a large capital as £15,000 or £20,000. The real obstacle is that the present settlers do not want any opposition or competition. They do not desire other people to take over the land and make a success of their ventures. In the same way, in the early days of Australian settlement, the squatter did not want the settler, because he knew thai if one settler could farm successfully, a veritable flock of new settlers would come into the district. Indeed, a squatter used to call the settlers “ cockies “ because a few came ahead of a large flock whenever there was a living to be made. A similar outlook causes the present settlers in the north to take a pessimistic view of a small settler’s prospects of success. When I was in Darwin some days ago, I was told that a new settler on a small holding must have considerable capital. In my opinion, that view is absolute rot. I do not believe that a young man who is keen to work, requires such a large sum of money before he can make a success of his venture. I emphasize the necessity for increasing the population in the north in the interests of national defence. No one will defend his country so strongly as the man who has his home and land in it, and hopes to leave his family there in comparative wealth, or, at least, with social security.
Honorable members opposite frequently claim that the people of Australia are extremely sorry that they voted against the rents and prices referendum. Personally, I do not know of any one who regrets the defeat of the referendum other than a few who derived some advantages when the Commonwealth controlled rents and prices. Those persons include those who were employed in administering prices control, and others who, in their business, worked on a cost-plus basis. The majority of the people are extremely glad to have shaken one tick off their backs. It is sad to relate that the Government found soft jobs for the persons previously employed in administering prices control. The Government transferred them to other departments, instead of allowing them to be absorbed in productive work and to become of some value to the community. They became as it were, an additional lot of fleas on another dog. The defeat of the referendum aroused the Government to extreme anger, because it loves power, and delights in being able to order people around. Thoroughly disgruntled, the Government looked around to see how it could square its account with the people and the Opposition. It speedily found a way to do so, by withdrawing the subsidies that it had been paying on foodstuffs and other commodities. In addition, the Government refused to assist the States to administer prices control by providing them with experienced staff.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) put -
That the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question, so resolved in the negative.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) said that he thought the people of Australia were very pleased that the permanent power to control rents and prices had not been given to the Commonwealth. The only conclusion to which I can come is that he is hopelessly out of touch with public opinion. I have with me a copy of the Wagga Wagga > Daily Advertiser, one of the Henderson chain of newspapers, which, in the course of an editorial in January, 1949, stated -
The increase in thu cost of living since the end of the war has been heavy, and since the Commonwealth Government relinquished controls, following the order of the electors, it has risen so steeply that the country is on the verge of a minor inflation. Undoubtedly the action of the federal authorities in withdrawing subsidies has bad a lot to do with the situation, but, at the same time, it cannot be denied that the transfer of price controls to the States has proved a dismal failure, and will probably prove to be a calamity in the next few months. Few unbiased people who voted against the referendum last year would now deny that they made a grave mistake. Up till that time there was reasonable stability, and Australia’s cost-of-living rise was lower than any other country’s.
The cost of living in this country was, in fact, the lowest in the world. To-day the opinion expressed in that article i3 widely held throughout Australia. I contrast the considered views expressed in that article with the foolish statements made by opponents of Labour during the referendum campaign. For instance, a pamphlet was issued by the Liberal party in Western Australia. A photograph of Mr. McLarty was prominently displayed, and underneath it was his promise to the people of Western Australia, which read : “ I will give you better price control “. A similar pamphlet was issued in South Australia with a similar caption displayed under a photograph of Mr. Playford. The honorable member for Bendigo placed great stress on the cost of administration of prices control by the Australian Government, but I remind him that the administration of prices control by six separate governmental authorities is costing far more than did the former system. Every month six State ministers and their advisers have to assemble in one of the capital cities, and their travelling costs money. Despite the best efforts of the States, their administration of prices control has proved a dismal failure, as the newspaper to which I referred pointed out.
Some critics of the Government have accused us of handing over control of rents and prices to the States too hastily. That criticism does not appear altogether consistent with the contention of our opponents that the States could more efficiently administer prices control. I recall that at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers to arrange for the transfer of responsibility for prices control from the Commonwealth to the States, which was held in this chamber, a tentative date for the transfer was mentioned. The Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hollway, then said to the Prime Minister : “ Do you not think, Mr. Prime Minister, that you ought to continue the control of rents and prices a little longer ?” The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that, the verdict of the people was that the Commonwealth should not continue to administer the control of prices and rents, and that, in accordance with the people’s verdict, he did not propose to delay the transfer of its administration to the States. The State Ministers then requested the Australian Government to continue its administration of controls, which had been so successful, a little longer. Indeed, it was, as the newspaper article that I have just read pointed out, the most successful in the world. The Australian Government was not overhasty in transferring its power of prices control to the States. As the Prime Minister pointed out so clearly, it had to act in accordance with the decision expressed by the electors, because respect for the declared will of the electors is a democratic principle to which members of the Australian Labour party have always subscribed.
During the campaign which preceded the taking of the referendum on control of rents and prices we made it clear that in the interests of the community, we would continue to pay subsidies on commodities for which payment was justified, and we have continued some subsidies. Superphosphate, for instance, is subsidized by as much as £2 los. a ton, and the Government is still paying very substantial subsidies on tea. I remind honorable members of those facts because members of the Liberal party are urging the Government to “ re-institute “ subsidies. In fact, some members of that party have gone much further and have advocated that the Government should pay subsidies on all manner of commodities. Mr. R. G. Casey, the president of the Liberal party, has even suggested that the Commonwealth should subsidize the cost of house construction. However, some members of the Liberal party ave opposed to the payment of subsidies. For example, Miss Nancy Wake, in one of the weekly contributions which she makes to the press, wrote -
I think we would be better off if we paid free market price for tea, did away with these irritating coupons, and have the money that we are forced to pay for subsidies deducted from our taxes. The tea would not really cost any more. But the cost to the Government would be reduced.
Other Liberal members have also expressed similar views. It is clear, therefore, that there is no consistency whatever in the attitude adopted by our friends opposite on this important matter of prices control. During the referendum campaign I told the people quite frankly that they would be the greatest losers if the power to control prices was taken away from the Australian Government, and I pointed out that the greatest losers would be the primary producers. At that time the farmers were enjoying the benefits of a sound internal economy and buoyant markets overseas. In most overseas countries the cost of living had increased to 100 per cent, more than the Australian co.=t of living, so that the farmers were enjoying the best of both worlds. However, I emphasized that the discontinuance of the administration of prices control by the National Government would inevitably result in substantial increases of the cost of living, and that it was almost equally certain that the overseas prices of their products would steadily decline. The members of the Australian Country party, who claim to represent the primary producers, of this country, did the primary producers a great disservice when, with their bedmates, the members of the Liberal party, or whatever its name may be at the present time, they advised the people to vote “ No “ at the referendum on rents and prices control. We are confident that the Government’s policy was the correct one, and the blame for any inflation that may have occurred in Australia lies upon the shoulders of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party.
This afternoon the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked what the Prime Minister had done to combat communism and went on to inquire how many ‘Communists had been gaoled. Apparently that is the yardstick by which honorable members opposite measure the success of an attack upon the Communists. The lack of an effective system of prices control in Australia could give a great impetus to the Communist movement, because, without such a system, inflation may occur, and it is in the misery that is caused by inflation that communism flourishes. The only way in which communism can be destroyed in any country is by giving the people security of employment and freedom from want. That is what this Government is doing. First, it is trying to place the Australian economy on a stable basis; secondly, it is implementing a policy of full employment; thirdly, it is providing social services to give the Australian people the security to which we believe they are entitled ; and fourthly, it is seeking effective control of the hanking system so that if a recession occurs overseas and our income from exports is reduced a programme of public works can be put into operation in order to prevent unemployment in this country. It is only along those lines that communism can be fought effectively and it is along those lines that the Government is dealing with the problem now and will continue to deal with it while it remains in office.- The honorable member for Flinders said that he was a believer in free enterprise. I recall that not very long ago, when speaking on a motion for the adjournment of the House, the honorable gentleman pleaded for the establishment of a marketing scheme for poultry-farmers. He wanted the Government to give the poultry-farmers a guaranteed price for their eggs and to ensure that pollard, bran and wheat were made available to them at concessional prices. How does the honorable gentleman reconcile those requests with his professions of belief in free enterprise ? Did he support the Australian Country party in its demand for the stabilization of the wheat industry? Did he support the demand of the Australian Country party that wheat-growers should be assured of a guaranteed price for their wheat based on the cost of production? Did he support the request of the wool producers for a joint organization such as that which was created by this Government, in co-operation with the governments of New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, for the purpose of stabilizing the wool industry? Enterprises such as those are co-operative enterprises. They are enterprises of the kind in which the Labour party believes and which this Government has established. Does the honorable gentleman desire that we should revert to the conditions that obtained before the war, when free enterprise was given a free rein by a Liberal government and thousands of Australian tradesmen were unemployed? In the depression years there were 700,000 unemployed people in this country. Is that the kind of free enterprise in which the honorable gentleman believes? It is under free enterprise of that kind that the Communist party achieves its greatest growth. Communism will not be destroyed by putting Communists into gaol or banning the Communist party. . Although the Menzies Government placed a ban upon the Communist party, Communists continued to occupy key positions in the coal-mining industry, the building industry, the Victorian railways, and in some of the engineering unions. That ban was “ phoney “, as is the story that is being told to-day by honorable gentlemen opposite. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was in Perth after his recent tour overseas, I listened to him addressing a meeting. He made a great oration, as he is always capable of doing, and concluded by saying, “ We shall fight the Communists. We shall smite them hip and thigh “. When he came to Melbourne, the “ big boys “ of the Liberal party apparently said to him, “ Bob, that is not good enough “. When the right honorable gentleman made his next speech he went a little further, but apparently his effort still was not good enough. By the time he reached Sydney he had apparently made up his mind that he would have to ban the Communist party again. Banning the Communist party will not destroy communism. The only way in which to fight it is by providing economic security for the people, as this Government is doing.
The propaganda in which the Leader of the Opposition is indulging to-day is just as dishonest as that which was indulged in during the rents and prices referendum campaign. Its purpose is to deceive the people of Australia. I have in my hand a quarter page advertisement, in which the right honorable gentleman promises that if the Liberal party is returned to power after the next general election it will provide houses for young couples. That is completely dishonest. How does the right honorable gentleman propose to provide houses for young couples? The Commonwealth has no control of the allocation of building materials or the issue of permits to build houses in any part of Australia other than in its own territories. That control is exercised by the State governments. The right honorable gentleman has said so himself. At a recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Housing, of which I was chairman, I made certain suggestions about how the Commonwealth might assist the States with regard to housing, and I was told by the Premier of South Australia that he did not want the Commonwealth to encroach further into the field. Notwithstanding that, the Leader of the Opposition has promised houses for young couples. The advertisement contains the sentence -
You are penalized to-day by the Chifley Government, which gives priority to extravagant building plans for Commonwealth departments.
The Commonwealth has no authority to give priority to any building in Australia other than a building for defence purposes. If the Commonwealth desires to construct a building other than one for the purposes of defence, it must seek a permit for the necessary building materials from the State government concerned.
– Even for a suburban post office.
– That is so. The advertisement refers to extravagant building programmes for Commonwealth departments. Any proposals for large Commonwealth buildings, other than hostels and houses, are referred to the Public Works Committee, on which .members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party serve with members of the Labour party. While I have been Minister for Works and Housing no major building programme that has been unfavorably reported upon by that committee has been undertaken by the Government. Furthermore, every report that has been submitted to me by that committee has been unanimous. Apparently, therefore, either the Leader of the Opposition does not understand the procedure of this House - and I can assure the House and the country that he does understand it - or his statements constitute just another one of his outright deceptions, which he is trying to foist on the people of this country. I now come to his next effort, or the next effort of whoever prepares those advertisements for him. Another such advertisement states -
This is what wo will do about rural housing.
I repeat that the right honorable gentleman would have no constitutional power whatever to do anything about rural housing other than to make finance available to the States should they desire to do something about it. The fact is that I raised the matter of rural housing at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture last August, at which representatives from all the States were present. The council decided that the matter of rural housing was one entirely for the States, and when I suggested that the State representatives on the council might discuss it and make representations along certain lines to the Commonwealth, they informed me that they desired no assistance and that if they should desire assistance they ‘ would approach the Commonwealth. No approach has been made. Let us again look at this advertisement. In it the right honorable gentleman declares that if returned to power his party would investigate the housing problem as it affected rural areas. As if there had not already been enough investigation in connexion with housing! He continued that the Liberal party would enable higher priorities to be given for rural housing. It is rather strange that the Leader of the Opposition should say that if he is returned to power his Government will give higher priorities to rural housing. That is merely another deception, because only the States can give priorities in regard to housing. The only parts of Australia in which the Commonwealth has power to give priorities regarding housing are the federal territories. He then goes on to say that his party will facilitate the erection of groups of workers’ homes by the State housing commissions and local government authorities. How can it facilitate the erection of houses by local government authorities? The only way it could do it would be by offering financial assistance to those authorities. It is rather strange that when the Opposition parties were in office, and when the present federal president of the Liberal party, Mr. R. G. Casey, was Treasurer, they went to the country during an election campaign and said they intended to make £.10,000,000 available for housing-
– What authority has the Minister for that statement?
– We still have copies of the relevant advertisements. At the election previous to the one I have just mentioned., the LyonsPage Government was seeking return to office. The present Opposition parties that formed the Lyons-Page Government caused to be displayed throughout Australia posters bearing a picture of a great Commonwealth bank cheque which bore the words “ £12,000,000 paid to the wheat-growers of this country. Signed, Lyons-Page”. I was a wheat-grower in those days and I can say definitely that wheat-growers did not receive a penny of that money. That was just another deception. At the election after that they used the great deception about their housing plan that I have mentioned. At that time thousands of tradesmen, including carpenters, bricklayers and plumbers, were walking the city streets and the country roads seeking a few days work. Yet the present Opposition parties produced this deceitful advertisement. They were elected, but they did not make one penny available for housing. When they were asked why they did not do so they said, “We have not the constitutional power “. Has there been any alteration of the Constitution in regard to this matter since then? Of course not! But the federal president of the Liberal party, Mr. Casey, and the Leader of the Opposition, who is his office boy, now say, “ We are going to make this money available “, although they said, when they were in office, that they did not have the constitutional authority to make money available for housing. This Government, on the other hand, has really done something about that matter, lt realized in 1944 that we must be prepared when the war ended to deal with the housing position and it called the States together and brought into being the Commonwealth-States Housing Agreement of 1945, under which we have made available to the States - although we were told by Mr. Casey, when he was asked to honour his promises, that it was not constitutionally possible - no less than £42,000,000 has been made available to the States for housing, through the Commonwealth-States Housing Agreement and in this financial year a sum of £20,000,000 will have been made available under the agreement. Those figures underline the difference between this Government’s record of action and the record of promises made by the Opposition. It is a shocking thing that the Leader of the Opposition should allow his name to be used in advertisements that are completely dishonest, when he knows perfectly well that he has no power to keep his promises.
– The Leader of the Opposition signs those advertisements.
– That is correct. Each of those advertisements carries his signature. Then we come to a matter that seems to concern the honorable member for Flinders. It is an article contained in the Daily Telegraph of the 1st March this year, under the heading, “ House-builders need subsidies to meet increasing costs “, and under the signature of Mr. R. G. Casey. In that article Mr. Casey gives Daily Telegraph readers a great story about what the Liberal party will do. One paragraph reads -
So control of the purse strings by Canberra puts the responsibility on the Federal Government. What are they doing about it?
The “ it “ refers to the matter of finances for housing. That shows how far out of touch Mr. Casey is when, as I have said, this Government has already brought into existence the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, under which, in combination with the operation of the War Service Homes Act, we shall make available approximately £20,000,000 for housing in one year. Another paragraph of the article states -
The Government can, if it wishes, iron out the gross fluctuations in the number of houses built and help maintain a constant and high level of home-building in good times and in bad.
That is the policy that Mr. Casey says that the Opposition parties will undertake if they are returned to office. Yet, when they had the opportunity to do so, at a time when both materials and man-power were abundant and they could have put into operation an effective home-building programme, they did nothing. It was in the periods when the Opposition parties had power and should have done those things, but did not, that communism grew by leaps and bounds in this country. That was the period when this allegedly great statesman, Mr. Casey, should have proved his statesmanship by doing some of the things that he now promises his party will do. This Government has already done those things, so it is rather superfluous for the federal president of the Liberal party to say that his party will do them when it obtains control of the treasury bench. He further states in the Daily Telegraph article from which I have already quoted, that rental subsidies paid under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are limited, in their application, to basic wage earners. That is untrue. The rental subsidy under that agreement is not limited to basic-wage earners. It is calculated on the basic wage, but in Victoria and New South Wales, where the cost of houses is high, the father of a family who is the only wage earner in the house may receive a rental subsidy even though his income is £8 or £9 a week. That shows how little Mr. Casey knows of the general housing position, and of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Mr. Casey also claimed that inadequate attention was given to the use of new methods and materials and to research into largescale housing projects which, he said, had been entirely neglected. Apparently, the president of the Liberal party in Australia, who has travelled extensively throughout the country, knows nothing about the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station, or about the information which it makes available to institutions interested in house-building. The station investigates new methods of construction, and its recommendations are sought and accepted by banks and insurance companies that lend money on house property. During the last three years, the station has drawn up codes of practice for over 40 new types of building. Apparently, Mr. Casey is also ignorant of the work done by the building materials section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which tests all kinds of timber and timber substitutes. The “ tall poppies “ of the Liberal party are completely out of touch with the requirements of the people in ‘regard to housing.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) attacked the plan for the rebuilding of Darwin, and referred critically to conditions in that town. I think he made six specific charges. None of them can be substantiated. Eight months ago, when I was about to visit Darwin, I discussed the situation there with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who asked me to examine the complaints that had been received about the Darwin plan. When J. reached Darwin, some of the residents told me the same kind of stories as we have heard from the honorable member for Parramatta. I thought that the only way to tackle the matter was to call a public meeting, which I did. I had with me the director of my department and the chief engineer, together with the ‘town planning officer, who is a fully qualified architect. I asked the people at the meeting to state their complaints about the plan and the general administration insofar as it affected the Department of the Interior and the Department of Works and Housing. However, no complaints were forthcoming. Then I was approached by two men, who said that the people were nervous about making complaints at a public meeting, so I asked officials of the Chamber of Commerce to bring to my office all those who had any complaints to make. About ten people representing different organizations came to see me. and they voiced some complaints and made suggestions. It became evident after discussion, however, that they had complained only because they did not understand the general plan for the development of Darwin. When the whole plan was put before them, and it was explained how it was proposed to develop the industrial area, the shopping area, the residential area, and. the areas set apart for the Army and the Air Force, they had no objections to raise. They said that, for the first time, they understood the plan, and were prepared to support it. The honorable member for Parramatta said that the plan was designed by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction for a population of 20,000. I remind him that the plan was prepared by the Department of Works and Housing, not the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. The first plan was designed for a population of about 20,000 because, at that time, it was believed that a large army establishment would be maintained there. However, when it was found that the military establishment would not be so large, the plan was altered. The honorable member for Parramatta tried to make out that we were still building for a population of 20,000.
– I said that the department was working on a plan prepared in 1946 which envisaged a population o. 25,000, which Darwin would never have.
– The first part of the plan covers a period of five years from 1945 to 1950, and envisages a population of 3,500 people. The fact is that Darwin now has a population of 6,000. We expected that owing to the damage done by bombing there would not be a very great influx of people to the town. The plan was to develop the town within the five years from 1945 to 1950 to accommodate a population of 6,000, and at the end of that period we could more accurately gauge the rate of growth of the population. That is how the plan is being developed to-day. Yet, the honorable member for Parramatta who, apparently, was satisfied to listen to all sorts of stories during his recent visit to the Northern Territory, said that construction is now being undertaken to accommodate a population of 20,000. Such a statement is untrue. He also said that it was planned to make the residential blocks 70 feet by 70 feet.
– I said that that was the original plan, hut that those measurements had to be extended.
– The only blocks which were surveyed on a measurement of 70 feet by 70 feet were those adjoining the military area. At no time was it planned to provide blocks of those measurements in the residential area. Such blocks were planned to be SO feet by 110 feet whilst, iri addition, an unoccupied belt was to be provided at the back of each row of residential blocks. Therefore,’ it is’ not true to say that the residential area will be congested. The honorable member produced another hardy ‘annual. He said that since the cessation of hostilities not one house had been’ built in Darwin up to 1948. The fact is that over 150 houses have been completely rebuilt in the town. In many instances, as the result of bombing by the Japanese, only the foundations, which consisted of six-foot columns of concrete, were left standing, whilst the remains of many houses which were abandoned after the Japanese air raids were completely ruined by white-ants.
Therefore, the story which the honorable member has told about Darwin is completely untrue. When I invited the people of Darwin to discuss with me any matters they wished to raise, I was interviewed by Mr. Cootes, a local solicitor, who was president of the Darwin Citizens Committee. I have too high a regard for Mr. Cootes to believe that he would be the author of the stories which the honorable member has retailed. Mr. Cootes has a greater sense of his responsibility as a citizen than the honorable member seems to possess as a member of the Parliament. In effect, the honorable member said. “ Why does not the Government throw away its Darwin plan, walk out of the town and let commercialism have free play”? Does he desire the Government to relinquish its responsibility in this matter? Does he wish to see Darwin revert to a jumble with a shop here and a Chinese joss house there? The bombing of Darwin at least served the good purpose of cleaning up Chinatown. The honorable member said that Darwin is the back door of Australia. The fact is that it is the first town which many visitors see on their arrival in this country. This Government is not prepared to allow to recur in Darwin the conditions which existed there before the war. We have some pride in this country. We shall ensure that Darwin shall he planned properly so that it will make a favorable impression upon all visitors who enter Australia, by air from the north.
.- I do not propose to argue with the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) about Darwin. However, I remind him that the war ended over four years ago. If the Government’s intention is to make Darwin the front door of Australia, it has made a very poor effort in that direction, judging by what has actually been done in the reconstruction of the “town. I was interested in the approach which the Minister made to this debate. His approach was typical of that made by Ministers and honorable members opposite to debates of this kind. He commenced -by lauding the magnificent job which the Government has done in stabilizing Australia’s economy. We have heard that phrase many times from honorable members opposite. Indeed, not long ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) improved considerably on that approach by describing the present as the “golden age “. He said that the Government was leading the people of Australia into the “ golden age “. However, even in the eyes of the Prime Minister himself, the “golden age” is now receding in the distance. Consequently, honorable members opposite are forced into attempts to lead the people to believe that the Government is responsible for our present prosperous economic conditions. By economic conditions they mean the large volume of money that is in circulation in this country at present because if they examine our economic position closely they will find that it does not present anything like the rosy picture which they attempt to paint in order to mislead the people. Every honorable member opposite who has spoken in this debate has lauded the Government for its magnificent achievement in maintaining the economic stability of this country. I do not know just what they mean by economic stability. National income, after all, is the yardstick of the wealth of a country. Our national income has been increasing since the outbreak of the recent war, but that improvement has not been due to any action, or statesmanship, on the part of the Government. It has been due entirely to the rapid rises of prices which we have received for our primary products overseas. Primary products represent 90 per cent, of Australia’s total exports, and that income is the basis of . our present prosperity. The national income has risen correspondingly with the increases of prices we have received for our primary products on overseas markets. I shall cite figures relating to the wool industry because it is a major Australian industry, providing probably 40 per cent, of the exports from this country. It is very interesting to consider how closely the national economy has kept step with the price level in the wool industry. In 1944-45 the national income was £1,274,000,000, and the amount received for our wool was £64,800,000. In 1945-46, the national income rose by only £10,000,000, and the return from our wool receded by approximately £6,000,000, showing that when prices in that major industry did not continue in an upward trend the effect on the national income was very marked. In 1946-47, thenational income increased by a further £80,000,000, and the return from our wool began to increase again, going up from £5S,000,000 to £96,000,000. In 1947-48, the national income was £1,635,000,000 and our wool cheque amounted to £155,000,000.. It is estimated that this year the national income will be approximately £2,000,0.00,000 and that the return from wool will amount to between £170,000,000 and £180,000,000. The much vaunted stability in the Australian economy, for which this Government takes such great credit, is due almost entirely to the rapidly rising prices of our export commodities. In these circumstances, it has been very easy for the Government to indulge in many plans, to introduce -many new benefits and to devise many new ways of expending money and still, with its ever-increasing revenues, to balance its budgets. I take no exception to the fact that on a number of occasions the Treasurer has underestimated his revenue and receipts. I realize that no person can forecast accurately the general trend of price levels and, as a consequence, the general trend of the national income. I believe that the Treasurer is following a prudent course in casting his estimates of revenue on a conservative basis. I have no complaints to make about that. But one of the things to which we must give thought is the fact that the Treasurer has underestimated not only revenue but also expenditure. It is well that the people should know of the rapid increase of expenditure in the civil field that has taken place since- the end of the war. It was expected, and with justification, that at the end of the war defence expenditure would be reduced; but it was never thought that the reduction of defence expenditure would be more than off-set by an increase in civil expenditure. In 1945-46, the first year after the war, defence and postwar charges accounted for £378,000,000 of a total expenditure for the year of £542,000,000. In other words, in that year civil expenditure amounted to £164,000,000. As the total collections from revenue amounted to £389,000,000 the gap of £153,000,000 had to be met by loans. In the following year defence expenditure dropped from £378,000,000 to £232,000,000, but civil expenditure began to take up the lag and increased from £.1.64,000,000 to £218,000,000. In 1947-48 defence expenditure was reduced to £1S0,000,000, but again civil expenditure took up the lag, and although the Treasurer was able to achieve a surplus, it increased to £276,000,000. This year, when the Treasurer has under-estimated both revenue and expenditure, defence and post-war charges were not reduced and are still expected to reach £180,000,000. Civil expenditure, however, continues to rise and is expected to amount to £343,000,000 this year. These figures should give the people some food for thought. In spite of his everincreasing expenditures the Treasurer flaunts before the country his proposals for the reduction of income tax. Accompanying the statement announcing the last tax reduction, which will not take effect until the 1st July next, the Treasurer circulated a table showing the benefits granted to the people by way of tax reductions. The right honorable gentleman even had the audacity to tell the people that the Government had refrained from collecting £176,000,000 in income tax when, in fact, the amount raised from that source has continued to rise very rapidly. Revenue from income tax amounted to £351,000,000 in 1945-46, to £374,000,000 in 1946-47, and to £414,000,000 in 1947-48. This year the estimated, yield from that source is £466,000,000.
– Those figures were issued by the Government?
– Yes. I mention them because the Treasurer is one of the great prophets of recession who has recently come into the limelight. The “golden age” has completely disappeared and now we begin to see the gloomy prospects of recession. If we should experience such a recession - and although I am not a prophet in these matters I cannot’ disregard the general indications of such a possibility - and it is accompanied by a fall in the prices of our export commodities, what will be the national income of this country? During the last two or three months there has been a drop of from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent, in the price of wool. If that fall in price applies over the whole range of export commodities, what will be the national income in 1949-50? I suggest that it will be considerably below the estimate of £2,000,000,000. Expenditure on defence and post-war charges in the coming year is estimated at £181,000,000. I should be the last to suggest a reduction of expenditure on defence, but I should like to see better value being received for the money that is being expended at present. If Australia is to play its part in the defence of the British Empire - as I still prefer to call it - we cannot for a. moment contemplate a reduction of defence expenditure. Civil expenditure, which increased by approximately £60,000,000 from 1947-48 to 1948-49 is estimated at £343,000,000 for the forthcoming year. That figure does not include pharmaceutical benefits, medical benefits, and every other kind of benefits under the sun that the Government is promising to the people of this country. The Government is making those promises without showing any sense of responsibility. How is all this money to be raised? The only comforting thought is that most of the Government’s grandiose plans seem to remain a long way from fulfilment. Plans for a number of fantastic projects have been announced in this chamber. We have, for instance, the Snowy Mountains scheme which has been heralded by the Minister for Works and Housing. The conception of the scheme is magnificent. We are told that it will work wonders for this country; but honorable members will recall that not long ago we were told of the Government’s magnificent plan to standardize the railway gauges in this country. That project was placed under the control of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) who obviously took great pride in it, but I have yet to learn that the job has even been started. And so it will be with the Snowy Mountains scheme. Desirable though it may be, a long time will elapse before it is begun. Even ignoring the problem of finance, the manpower and materials required are not available, just as they ‘are not available for the standardization of railway gauges or any of the other huge plans that the
Government lias presented to the House and to the country. The Government to-day is faced with a serious inflation problem. Costs are soaring. I was not at all surprised to hear the Minister for Works and Housing - or perhaps I should say no housing - admit that he is a planner. He said quite frankly that the Government has not the constitutional power to do anything more than prepare plans and provide money for the construction of homes. Yet, when housing is mentioned, the Minister boasts that- 47,000 houses were built last year. How does he reconcile that boast with his admission that the Commonwealth has not the constitutional power to do anything more than prepare plans, carry out research, and provide finance? He must realize as everybody else does that although the demand for houses is still substantial, it is diminishing, not because of the number of houses being built, but because of their cost. Many people who want houses of their own are not prepared to build at present-day prices, because it would mean tying a millstone around their necks for the rest of their lives. As I have said, the Government faces a serious inflation problem, but its first public admission of that fact was made only this week. Either by a deliberate announcement, or through what is called a Cabinet leakage, we have been informed that postal charges are to be substantially increased in spite of the fact that ever since the war, the Postmaster-General’s Department has been amassing huge surpluses. I shall not discuss how the figures are arrived at although I have a good idea of how it is done, but the people of Australia are being told that whether they like it or not, postal charges are to be increased by 10 per cent., 15 per cent., 50 per cent., and, in some instances, as much as 100 per cent. That, as I have said, is the Government’s first candid admission that costs are spiralling. In spite of all the flapdoodle that is talked by honorable members opposite and their supporters about the stability of the economy of this country, and the magnificent job that this Government is doing in providing the good things of life for the Australian people, the Government is beginning to sense the fact that the people of Australia doubt the ability of the country to provide these benefits. We hear a lot from the Government benches about increased savings bank deposits. That matter was dealt with most forcefully by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) in this debate. The Government preens itself because savings bank deposits have increased from. £280,000,000 to £680,000,000.
– The figure is £694,000,000 to-day.
– I accept the correction of the honorable member for Hume (M’.r. Fuller) on that point. But in any case, what does it all mean? It means exactly what the honorable member for Henty has told the House. The average deposit before the war was £60. Now it is £105; but the poor fellow who put his £60 in the bank before the war now finds it is worth only about £30 in purchasing power. Similarly, the average deposit of £105 is worth only about £50. The people are beginning to find that out, and the Government is trying to blame the Opposition for the spiralling costs, but the memories of the Australian people are not so short that they do not realize what are the main factors in the increasing costs. The Minister for Works and Housing started his speech by attributing to the Opposition responsibility for price increases because it had advocated a “ No “ vote at the rents and prices referendum. Every Government supporter who makes that statement knows that he is deliberately endeavouring to mislead the people. Regardless of the result of the referendum, there was nothing to prevent the Government from continuing prices control until the High Court said that the exigencies and effects of the war had ‘passed. It may be said that it did not like taking a doubtful course, but no one, not even “ innocents abroad “, realizing what it tried to do about the airways and banking, would believe in its reluctance to take up what might be a doubtful constitutional course. The transfer of prices control to the States was deliberately designed to wreak vengeance on the people who had dared to refuse permanent power over prices to thi- autocratic and almost dictatorial Government. “When the people in every State, having no doubt on the question, said “ No “, the Prime Minister immediately said, “ Very well, we will hand prices control over to the States “.
– The people would say . “ Yes “ to-morrow if they had the chance.
– I do not think the honorable member, for Hume is a good prophet. If the Government, which has no qualms about squandering public money, doubts whether the “ No “ vote indicates the mind of the people, it can hold another referendum, and I shall be glad to take the platform again in opposition to the “ Yes “ case. But I give the Prime Minister the credit for political nous, and, after he had travelled the length ,and breadth of Australia in advocacy of the “ Yes “ case in the campaign, he realized that he was advocating a lost cause in asking the people to give the Government power to shove them about for all time. So, he said that unless the Government was given the powers it sought, it would discontinue subsidies. I call attention to the fact that the system of subsidies was not one of the Labour party’s bright ideas. In fact, the Labour Government was loath to introduce the system. In the first two years of the war, when the Menzies Government was in office, the increase of prices was held at 10 per cent, above the pre-war level. Then, in one year, the increase went to more than 20 per cent. In spite of that rapid increase of prices, the suggestion that certain commodities should be subsidised was rejected out of hand by the Curtin Government. Then the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) came back to Australia from England and told the House and the country what was happening there. He told how Kingsley Wood, who faced a much more acute problem than that with which we were faced, had introduced subsidies on basic commodities, with the result that although the cost of food and raw materials brought from Australia and other parts of the world was increasing, the British economy was being held in a very satisfactory condition. Then, at long last, the Curtin Government introduced subsidies and was able to hold prices in Australia during the war at about 25 per cent, above the pre-war level. The Government knew that without subsidies prices would rise rapidly and continually. I give the Government credit for knowing that. Yet it accentuated the people’s difficulties by withdrawing needlessly from prices control. It also accentuated their difficulties when the 40-hour week case was before the Arbitration Court by taking the most unusual course of briefing counsel to present evidence, which the court had to take cognizance of, to the effect that Australia, in a, period of shortages, could assimilate a 40-hour week without costs increasing greatly. The Prime Minister knew what was in front of him. He knew that, in spite of all the flapdoodle and misleading talk about contentment in industry and continuity of work, the 40-hour week must add to production costs. Later he knew, too, that the basie industries, despite the granting of the 40-hour week, were suffering more and more hold-ups. So, I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and his colleagues and supporters were glad to shed the responsiblity of prices control. Yet the Prime Minister, not directly, but by implication, says that the control of prices by the States is not so good as it was by the Commonwealth. Every one who has had the experience of Commonwealth control and State control of prices knows that the control is much better administered by the States than it ever was by the Commonwealth. The simple fact is that the withdrawal of the subsidies sent prices soaring. They are still soaring. That is what is exercising the mind of the Prime Minister, his Ministers and his back-benchers. They know that it is useless for them to boast about the well-being of the people of Australia when the housewife, who has not a bottomless pocket, as the Prime Minister has, must budget week by week, month by month and year by year on the wages or salary that her husband brings home. She knows that, in spite of all the vaunted prosperity, everything she buys is becoming dearer and dearer. We know that the judges of the Arbitration Court, the Commonwealth conciliation commissioners and the various State wages authorities try to adjust wages in accordance with rising costs, hut the increases that they grant never catch up with the cost of living. So I am not at all surprised that the Minister for Works and Housing tried to lay the blame for rising prices on other shoulders than those of the Ministry. He quoted the opinion of the Wagga Advertiser - I had not previously heard of it - in a futile effort to bolster his argument that the States have fallen down on the job. But the people of Australia have a clear idea of where prices are going and when honorable members on this side of the House have finished the general election campaign, they will have an even clearer idea of where the responsibility lies.
The Minister for Works and Housing next dealt with communism. I compliment him on his order of priority. He accused the Liberal party of not knowing where it stood on the matter of communism. We heard a most disgraceful dissertation last night from the “ Minister for Misinformation “, Mr. Calwell. It did not come well from a Minister of the Crown. He maliciously and deliberately misquoted statements or made statements that he knew to be untrue about what the Liberal party thought about communism and had done about it. He made the fantastic statement that the Opposition parties had never prosecuted a Communist when they were in power. That assertion was disproved, of course. But all these signs indicate that the Government is beginning to feel the impact of public opinion. It has bulldozed the people long enough by talking about political philosophy and saying that the way to deal with these traitors is to make conditions better and better. It is a curious fact, which the Government might endeavour to explain, that communism is getting a tighter and tighter hold on Australia’s industrial economy in this period of great prosperity and improved conditions. That is in direct conflict with the Government’s declarations about the most effective method of combating the menace of communism. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) directed attention in this House recently to the fact that communism is most strongly entrenched in industries in which workers are most highly paid. The right honorable gentle- man pointed out that, in the coal-mining industry, a man working at the coal face earns as much as £4 12s. a shift, and not less than £3 a shift. On the lowest scale, a man working five shifts a week - and the work is available because we need all the coal that can be produced - earns £15 a week. These are the depressed workers who provide a fertile breeding ground for communism ! What nonsense ! The people of Australia are beginning to realize that it is nonsense and are demanding action by the Government against the Communists. One Communist, McPhillips, has been prosecuted recently. But the prosecution was initiated by the Arbitration Court, not by the Government.
A serious dispute is in progress on the coal-fields at present. I do not know what the result will be, though I sincerely hope that the difficulty can be resolved, but the simple fact is that as soon as one dispute is settled another one is started. We have had a succession of arguments and hold-ups on the coal-fields and in other industries throughout the period of office of this Government. It is of no use for the Government to offer excuses and say that it has tried to effect remedies. The plain fact is that it has completely failed to bring about harmony in industry. It has been the most abjectly unsuccessful government in the history of Australia. Under its administration, coal production has only recently reached the level that prevailed during the worst period of the war, when 700,000 people had been transferred from civil production to the armed services and war industries. At that time, when Japan was hammering at our doors, our miners produced over 14,000,000 tons of coal in a year. Yet this Government has only just succeeded in securing a return to that rate of output. The Prime Minister complains that the demand for coal has increased. Of course it has increased. Demand has increased in every country. Does not the right honorable gentleman expect Australia to progress? The increase of our population alone must have caused the demand to increase. Although the increase has been a natural process, the Government would be satisfied if coal production were maintained at its present level. It has made no attempt to explain to the people why, although employment has increased by 38 per cent, since 1938, coal production has increased over the same period by between 15 per cent, and 20 per cent. only. It must explain that circumstance without any sophistry about the efforts that it has made and the methods that it has used if it hopes to satisfy the people. Even the Prime Minister on occasions tries to calm the fears of the people by telling them that they are not so badly off, after all, and that money is plentiful. But he does not remind them that the things that can be bought with money are not so plentiful as they were and are much more expensive than formerly. He still adheres to the old idea that if one has a “ fiver “ in one’s pocket, “ all’s right with the world “. But that sort of thing no longer satisfies the people. The fact that the Government’s failure to cope with industrial hold-ups is the real cause of our troubles has become apparent.
The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) also discussed socialism. It is very interesting to note that members of the Labour party in this Parliament and elsewhere who have signed a solemn pledge to implement the “whole-hog” policy of socialism are now running away from that pledge. The Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) recently made a valiant effort to calm the fears of the people, but I do not think that the people can be reassured. I admit that the socialization plank became a part of the Labour party’s platform in 1921, but the very fact that little was done about it lulled many people into a false sense of security. Any feeling of security that they may have had has been completely dissipated by this Government. It put a sudden end to any misunderstanding when, without any mandate from the people - indeed, almost against an undertaking that it gave to the people by implication - it attempted to nationalize the private banks.
– The power to nationalize bankingwas written into the Constitution.
– I am not discussing the constitutional power. That question will be decided by a higher authority in the not distant future. In the first place, this Government enacted certain legislation to give itself what it described as “complete power over the banking system “ with which to meet all exigencies, such as the kind of recession that the Prime Minister now talks about so glibly. It told the people that that legislation would give effect in full to its hanking policy. But the High Court declared parts of that legislation to be invalid, and, as soon as he was returned to office, the Prime Minister in a fit of pique said, “We will wipe out the banks “, and proceeded to force through this Parliament legislation that conflicted with the expressed wishes of hundreds of thousands of Australians. The Government hopes that the public memory will be short, but I am certain that it will not he so short as that. Even if, as I expect, the Privy Council decides that the Government lacks constitutional power to give effect to its banking legislation, the fears of the people will not be calmed. They will realize that, even though the Government may be prevented from making a direct attack upon the private banks, it will still be able to use the back door methods that it has employed in connexion with some of its other schemes. The Government tried to nationalize airline services but found that it lacked the power to do so. Therefore, it established a government airline to compete with private services and said that, as the people believed in free competition, surely they would not object to a competitive government air service. It did not tell the people that, although free enterprise must make a profit in order to survive, a government service can continue to operate at a loss, at the expense of the people.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Harrison) put -
That the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- It is inevitable that, in a debate of this description, when 50 or 60 honorable members desire to address themselves to the same subject, there must be some repetition, and, I imagine from the standpoint of listeners, tedious repetition. For that reason, it is unfortunate that 1 have decided to deal with some of the subjects that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) has so ably discussed. No greater misrepresentation is practised in this House than that which is practised on the subject of prices control. When we seek the explanation, we find it in the fact that in the forthcoming election it will provide a most unpalatable pill for the Government to swallow, when the people, who feel that they have been betrayed, record their verdict on this subject. Therefore, every honorable member opposite who discusses prices control frantically and feverishly defends the Government’s policy in this matter, and tries to shove the blame on to its innocent victims, the States; We cannot reiterate too often the facts concerning prices control in order that the public may learn again the other side of the question. Prices have not risen any more steeply since the Commonwealth relinquished control than they did while it exercized control.
– If the honorable member were in business he would think differently.
– The facts are that increases of pi-ices before the Commonwealth vacated the field of control were absorbed in subsidies. In three years, those subsidies rose from £10,000,000 to £35,000,000. In the year that the subsidies were discontinued, it was estimated that the cost would be approximately £50,000,000. The whole scheme was becoming too big for the Government, which determined, even before it held the referendum, to abandon the subsidy system of payments, at least to a certain degree. To that degree, I believe, the Government has relinquished the payment of subsidies. It dared not abandon those payments while maintaining the control of prices, and, therefore, it deliberately staged a campaign to get rid of prices control. The Government made what I called during the referendum campaign, and what I still call, a cowardly retreat from the responsibility that this Parliament placed upon it. The Government had sought that responsibility from the Parliament. The referendum had nothing whatever to do with prices control. The question asked of the people at the referendum was whether they favoured the Commonwealth Government retaining the permanent power to control prices, or whether they believed that it should have power to control prices only on a temporary basis and for so long as it was considered necessary by the Parliament. I emphasize that the question asked of the voters was not whether the power to control prices should be exercised by the Commonwealth Government or by the States. The people answered “No” to the Government’s proposals, and their answer indicated that although they were not prepared to confer a permanent power on the Commonwealth, they were quite satisfied for the Government to continue to administer controls on a temporary basis for so long as that was considered necessary. The real nature of the question asked of the electors at the referendum was explained from every Opposition party platform in Australia during the campaign, so that there can be no doubt that the people understood the issues on which they were to vote. During the progress of the campaign it became obvious to the members of all parties, and to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) himself, that the people would decide against the Government exercising a permanent power to control rents and prices. The Prime Minister, who is certainly astute politically, immediately decided that if the. Government’s proposal was defeated at the referendum he would seize the opportunity to terminate the payment of commodity subsidies.
– The Prime Minister made it clear before the poll was taken that subsidies would not continue to he paid if our proposal was defeated.
– Exactly. However, his threat did not bluff the people of Australia, and in six States the Government’s proposal was overwhelmingly defeated. Now members of the Australian Labour party are endeavouring to persuade the people that the responsibility for the increased cost of living since the referendum rests with the Opposition parties because they advised the people to vote against the Government’s proposal to acquire permanent power over prices. During the campaign members of the Australian Labour party endeavoured to influence people to vote for the Governments’ proposal by promising them that if they did so the great Labour party which was sitting on the golden dome, would deal out largesse to all and sundry. Notwithstanding that the numbers of their elected representatives outnumbered those of the Opposition parties they were unable to persuade the people of any one State to support their proposal, and it is nonsense for them to contend now that the Opposition parties were responsible for the defeat of their proposal.
Although the payment of subsidies on many commodities has been discontinued there is no proof that the States have been less successful in the administration of prices control than the Government would have been had it continued to administer prices control. As I pointed out in my earlier remarks before the referendum was held, the payment of subsidies on shipping freights, potatoes, woollen goods and other things was costing the National Government £35,000,000 annually, and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) had already determined to discontinue payment of subsidies on many goods and services. Had the Government’s proposals been accepted by the people at the referendum, that fact would not have deterred the Government from withdrawing most of the sum of £35,000,000 that it was expending annually on subsidies. It is clear, therefore, that the cost of living must inevitably have increased by nearly £35,000,000 annually. When members of the Australian Labour party attack the administration of prices control by the States they are wont to refer to the increased cost of living in Victoria and Western Australia, where Liberal governments are in office, and in South Australia, where a pseudo-Liberal government is in power. They conveniently forget that the greatest increases of the COSt of living have taken place in New South Wales and Queensland, where Labour administrations are in office. It is time that members and supporters of the Government adopted an honest attitude towards the increased cost of living. The plain fact is that had the Government’s proposals been accepted by the people at the referendum, most of the subsidy payments of £35,000,000 would have been discontinued. Of course, the Government’s proposals were rejected by the people and the States have assumed control of prices, and they simply have not the finance available to subsidize the cost of living. In the circumstances that confront them the States have done a wonderful job. If the Australian Government had continued to exercise its temporary power to control prices until the 31st December last, as it could have done constitutionally, instead of vacating the field as rapidly as it did, the State governments would have been in a much better position to assume control when it passed to them. Of course, that did not matter to the Government. Its members said, in effect, “We represent the only democratic party in Australia, and we must obey the expressed will of the people, which is that we should not any longer control prices “. Of course, that was nothing less than a fantastic excuse, because the Government had the constitutional power to continue to exercise prices control until the 31st “ December last. If necessary, members of the Opposition would have supported an extension of the Government’s temporary powers for another year.
I turn now to a most unsavoury incident that occurred in the House last night, which affected members of the Australian Labour party as much as it did members of the Opposition. Not one member or supporter of the Government applauded the action of the Minister concerned, and I have no doubt that every one of them felt ashamed of it. When I contemplated entering the National Parliament I subjected myself to a certain self-analysis because I considered it to be a high honour to enter the Parliament. I asked myself whether I should be capable of holding my own with the type of man that I would meet here. I have since been told by a constituent that, if members of the Opposition are to hold their own in Australian politics and in the forth-coming election, we must lower our standard of ethics.
– Order! The honorable member is not entitled to reflect on the ethics of the House.”
– I am referring to the incident that occurred iri the House last night. A deliberate and premeditated attack was made on the reputation of an honorable gentleman whose character is unassailable. If it were possible to review the records of every member of the Parliament, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), who was the victim of the attack, would stand forth as a lily-white, to borrow the term used by the honorable gentleman who attacked him. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) knew what he was doing when he made that attack, although, in fairness to the Minister, I must say that I was surprised that he should have done such a thing because I had thought him to be above it. However, it is of no use to put forward the excuse for him that his action was not premeditated. The Minister rose in his plaGe and commenced his speech by telling us that he had been waiting a long time to “get” the honorable member for Maranoa. Then he proceeded to “ get “ the honorable gentleman by reading a letter, the contents of which he did not know were true or false. The letter in question was written to the Minister by a disgruntled person, and was of the type that we all receive from time to time from such individuals. The writer virtually implored the Minister not to reveal his name because he did not want it to be known. However, that did not deter the Minister, who did not hesitate to read the contents of that letter to the House, although he realized very well that the proceedings of this chamber are broadcast over the wireless to the world. I emphasize that the writer of the letter had not even the courage to permit his identity to be revealed. The action of the Minister was disgraceful, and although only a few honorable members opposite have attempted to defend the Minister’s action, because, they, no doubt, feel as I do about it, the attempts made by certain honorable gentlemen opposite to defend his action are even more reprehensible. I consider that the least that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) could have done was to propose the appointment of a select committee, as he did in the Blain incident, to enable the honorable member for Maranoa to establish his innocence in the only way open to him. Such a committee would have investigated and, I have no doubt, disproved, the scurrilous charges made by the Minister for Information, who should have had better sense and more respect for his office than to make those charges. I knew when I entered the Parliament that honorable members were expected to give and take hard knocks in debate, but I did not expect that it would be considered fair to reply to reasonable criticism by attacking the character of the critic. I remember an occasion in this House when an honorable member, who is no longer a member of the Parliament, smeared the name of a reputable citizen. It was subsequently established that there was no truth in the allegations that had been made, but they had been heard by hundreds of thousands of people and possibly were believed by many of them, because it is an old principle that the truth or refutation never catches up with the slander. I did not think that that would happen again. An attack by a Minister of the Crown upon the most inoffensive man in the House is something that it is very hard to swallow. I am convinced that I shall be able to hold my own in this House in future, without bringing myself down to that level. I am satisfied that honorable members on this side of the House will do their best to ensure that that kind of conduct does not occur again, and it is to be hoped that honorable gentlemen opposite also will do their best to prevent similar attacks being made from the Government benches.
A year or two ago I requested that better postal and telephone services be made available to people in outback areas, but not much has been done to provide them. I do not blame the postal authorities entirely for that failure because if their desire to supply improved services were the determining factor, the services would be provided. The reason that is given for the lack of postal services in outback areas is that there is a shortage of necessary materials. Despite the fact that the people who live in the outback will have to wait for many years before they get the system of communications that they deserve and, indeed, must have, a substantial increase of postal charges has been announced. In some instances charges are to be increased by 50 per cent, and in others by 30 per cent. The people want to know what has happened to the surpluses that have been shown by the Postal Department, in the last four years. It is expected that this year’s operations will result in a deficit. If there be a deficit, why should not the past surpluses be used to meet it? The revenue earned by the Portal Departmr,nt goes into Consolidated Revenue, but when the department gets into financial difficulties it cannot use the money that it has earned and to which, in my opinion, it is entitled. Instead, the Government proposes to make the people pay the deficit by increasing postal charges. I admit that conditions in the country are generally good. It may be that, because of that fact, the Government has taken the viewthat the people should pay more. The Minister for Labour and National .Service (Mr. Holloway) attributed the expected deficit to the 40-hour week, an increased number of employees and higher wages. The Arbitration Court, under pressure from the Labour Governments of Australia, agreed to the introduction of a 40-hour week. Before the Arbitration Court gave its decision, the New South Wales Parliament passed legislation making a. 40-hour week operative in New South Wales, and the Queensland Government, a Labour government, announced its intention to introduce a bill similar to that which had been passed by the New South Wales Parliament when the Queensland Parliament reassembled. Therefore, the Arbitration Court had no alternative but to give a decision in favour of the trade unions. The 40-hour week has done more to cause the shortages from which we are now suffering than has any other factor in the nation’s economy. The reasons for the proposed increases of postal charges are the factors to which the Minister for Labour and National Service referred and the fact that the Government appropriates the revenue that is earned by the Postal Department and apparently does not give it back. Doubtless the proposed increases will come before the Parliament for ratification. It is to be hoped that the Government will reconsider its decision, because I believe that the deficit can be met without an increase of charges.
I rose mainly to deal with increases of prices and the misrepresentations that have been made by honorable gentlemen opposite in an attempt to delude the people as to the reason for them. Some people are now saying that they would vote “ Yes “ instead of “ No “ to-morrow, so it seems that in some instances the attempt has been successful. Some unthinking people who cannot put two and two together believe what has been told to them by certain honorable gentlemen opposite. It is untrue to say that, if the Commonwealth had retained control of prices, increases would not have occurred. Prices would have risen. If the people did not pay the increases directly, they would have paid them by way of subsidies. The sooner the truth is known, the better it will be for the country.
I shall defer further comments upon postal charges until the question is before the Parliament. I should like to refer to the subject of communism, which has been very lightly touched upon during this session, but I shall defer my remarks until a later occasion.
– in reply - I appreciate the action of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) in curtailing his speech, thus enabling the ‘business of the House to be expedited. The honorable gentleman could have covered a wide field. He referred to the suggested increase of postal charges and stated that improved services had not been provided. Since 1939 the number of telephones installed in Australia has increased from 661,000 to 1,005,000. Therefore, telephone subscribers are linked to 344,000 more telephones than they were in 1939. It is true that everything has not been done that we should like to do. Approximately 600 rural automatic telephone exchanges, which I regard as a great amenity in country areas, have been ordered and are being installed as fast as they are delivered. The honorable gentleman referred to the revenue earned by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Of the total of £36,000,000, £12,500,000 is a notional figure in respect of services provided for other government departments. It is merely a book entry. In addition, the Postal Department does not contribute to the sinking fund in respect of the department’s debt. The department has never paid its own sinking fund charges. The Treasury pays out approximately £2,000,000 a year in respect of that item. An honorable member asked where the profits went. During the last financial year and this year £20,000,000 has been expended on capital works for the Postal Department, and at the present rate of expenditure £12,000,000 will be expended in the next financial year. The Leader of the Australian ‘Country party (Mr. Fadden) interjected yesterday that that is borrowed money, but it is not so. It is Consolidated Revenue, which means that the Postal Department does not have to pay interest on it, and also that no sinking fund charges have to be paid. That fact relieves the. department of a charge of probably £330,000 a year. Therefore, the surpluses that have been mentioned are not surpluses in total but have been used for expenditure on capital works for the Postal Department which, as I have said, has amounted to £20,000,000 in two years. A sum of £45,000,000 has been provided for a three-year programme, including £12,000,000 to enable the Postal Department to place advance orders. I do not propose to deal fully with that matter now because it still has to be determined in some respects, and the House will have a later opportunity to discuss it. Nor do I propose to deal with all the questions that have been raised during this debate. I shall reply to some of the main points only. Unfortunately, one hears the same arguments used every time such debates take place, and finds oneself repeating the same replies, until the whole proceeding becomes a sort of litany of statements and responses. I do not like that kind of tedious repetition.
The honorable member for Gippsland mentioned a statement that was made in this House. Most honorable members know my views on their so-called privileges. I consider that those privileges have been somewhat abused at various times by all parties. I, personally, have never found it necessary to say in this House anything that I am not prepared to say on any street corner, which would permit any person to take any action considered necessary, through the courts.
– Does not the Prime Minister consider that his Ministers should conform to that rule?
– The honorable member for Richmond does not conform to it.
– I have never said anything in this chamber that I am not prepared to say outside.
– I am not quarrelling with the system of privileges, which was in operation before I entered politics. I am, relatively, a political amateur, and J do not profess to be experienced in those matters. Speeches made in the Parliament have always been privileged. 1 consider that a worse practice than that of honorable members making attacks, under parliamentary privilege, against other honorable members, is that of defaming persons outside the Parliament who have no right of reply. That has been done repeatedly with the full approval of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) used to produce one scandal a week, which proved always to be a mare’s nest without even a bottom to it. At least honorable members are in a position to defend themselves against charges made against them by other honorable members.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) had something to say about expenditure. I consider that it would be only repetition for me, by replying to him, to cover ground that has already been covered by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) had something to say about reconstruction policy, but the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) answered her effectively, so I shall not cover that ground again either.
There can be no illusion regarding the Government’s attitude to prices controls and the removal of subsidies. We were completely honest about those matters. Prior to the taking of the prices referendum we told the people that, if the Government were not given constitutional power to control prices, it would not be able to continue the payment of subsidies on goods over the prices of which it had no control. The first statement that 1 made in connexion with the referendum made that perfectly clear. Some honorable members opposite, particularly the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), as well as some of the Opposition’s advertisements in newspapers that advised the people to defeat the referendum proposals, said that the Government would never dare to withdraw subsidies. So the lies did not come from this side of the House, but from the advertising agents and some honorable members of the Opposition. We did the democratic thing. The people’s verdict in the referendum was very conclusive and we do not disagree with it. We never believed that six States could agree about any one matter. I have had some experience of trying to obtain agreement between States. I am chairman of the conference of Common.wealth and State Ministers that is held in August every year and know the difficulties of getting any six bodies, or any six men, of diverse interests to agree on any particular matter. When there is a diversity of opinion between governments it is very difficult to achieve a uniform method of administration. I repeat that there was no illusion on the part of the people about the Government’s views on the referendum and its intentions regarding subsidies if the referendum proposals were defeated. The honorable member for Gippsland and other honorable members opposite have stated that the Opposition was prepared to extend the period of the defence transitional provisions, to enable the Government to continue to control prices. But the legislation containing those provisions had only to be tested in the High Court of Australia and be declared invalid, and no matter what the Opposition believed or did, we would not have had the power to continue prices control. I think that it was generally recognized, as time went on, that power under the defence transitional legislation would be challenged some time and also that with the passage of time the High Court of Australia would be bound to examine closely what were claimed to be powers held under the Commonwealth’s defence power. We feared that something of that kind would happen and considered, therefore, that we should ask the people of Australia if they desired the Government to have those powers that it did not then possess constitutionally. In my first statement about the referendum, as I have already said, I pointed out that we would not be able to continue the payment of subsidies as before, unless we could control the prices of goods upon which subsidies had been paid. We kept our promise and obeyed the will of the people. I do not know why anybody should complain about that.
Several other matters were raised that I have heard raked before. One of them concerned the encouragement of workers to do more and better work. “We have been listening to that for a long time. At one time it was said that if taxes were reduced on incomes in the lower brackets everything would be all right. That has been done. Any one who studies the present scale of taxation deductions on lower incomes, particularly of taxpayers who have family responsibilities, will be surprised at the low amount of tax levied. The new scale of deductions for dependent children that will come into operation on the 1st July next makes the lowness of the rate even more pronounced. From time to time the argument has been advanced that the incentive of workers in the lower and middle in-come brackets had been destroyed by heavy taxation.
– What about indirect taxation?
– Indirect taxation has been removed entirely from all basic foodstuffs, all clothing, 95 per cent, of building materials, and a number of other items. I know that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) takes up the matter of some new food preparation that one rubs on biscuits to illustrate the fact that, according to him, the sales tax on foodstuffs has not been removed. Not long ago, when I asked the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) to tell me one basic foodstuff on which sales tax was still applied, he replied “ Refrigerators “. I realize that he was talking about iron rations and not about ordinary rations. That was the only item that he could think of.
– I named biscuits, cakes and scones.
– Then the honorable member for Fawkner scurried away, and with some assistance from the Library staff, dug up the names of a number of fancy foodstuffs that are used in the making of sandwiches, hoping to prove that basic foodstuffs were taxed.
I propose now to discuss Australia’s general economy. A certain measure of inflation has taken place, and I do not claim that it is entirely due to the fact that the Commonwealth lost control over prices. We know that prices rose overseas, and that was bound to affect local prices, but the loss of Commonwealth control over prices contributed greatly to the inflationary trend. I admit, of course, that higher wages, and the introduction of the 40-hour week, had something to do with bringing about a measure of inflation.
– Something !
– No one can say to what degree they contributed to it. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) went so far as to cast reflections upon the Arbitration Court. I always understood that the court was sacrosanct, and free from criticism in this House. The honorable member said that the 40-hour week had been granted by the court under pressure from the Government. That was a grave reflection on the court. I take this opportunity to express the Government’s appreciation of the services rendered to Australia by the late Chief Justice of the Arbitration Court, who died last night. I resent the fact that, on the day of his burial, he should be charged with having acted under pressure from the Government. He did not share the political beliefs of the Labour party, and it came as a surprise to me to hear the honorable member for Gippsland say that he had granted the 40-hour week under pressure from the Labour Government. I, like the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), have had many arguments in the Arbitration Court with the late judge over industrial matters, but we never doubted his honesty or impartiality.
The chief complaint of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) seemed to be that the finances of the country were too sound. I remember that when the National Welfare Fund Bill was introduced, three prominent members of the Opposition - the honor able member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the then honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) and the then honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) - shouted in unison that it was “ phoney “ proposition, and that the fund would be insolvent very soon. Well, the fund is now approaching the £100,000,000 mark, and no one can doubt its soundness. It is well that the public should be informed of the country’s financial position. I have read in American journals articles which paid tribute to the soundness of Australia’s economy. Prices have risen in Australia, but they are still below world prices, and certainly far below prices in that great capitalist country, the United States of America. Farmers know that they have to pay three times as much for wire imported from the United States of America as for locally made wire, though it is admitted that there is not enough local wire. There is inflation in the United States of America, and, indeed, all over the world. It is infectious. It has spread to Eastern countries, even to those where tens of millions of persons are unemployed. It has spread to the islands of the Pacific. When I was in England, Lord Leverhulme told me that wages paid to workers on the plantations in the islands were three times what was paid before the war. In South Africa, under a conservative government, mining costs are increasing, and in Latin America wages and costs have risen. No government has been able to prevent inflation. The Government of the United Kingdom has been paying £500,000,000 a year in subsidies in order to keep down prices, but eventually increased costs will have to appear in the nation’s economy. However, I think I can claim, without undue egotism, that, having regard to all the circumstances, inflation and price increases have been less in Australia than in any other country in the world. In Australia, we have been able to control inflation, and we should have been able to do it better if the Commonwealth had not lost its power to control prices.
Another complaint against the Government is that it has financed public works, including those for the Post Office, out of revenue instead of loans. Surely there is nothing wrong with that. Is it not right that in a time of prosperity we should try to finance public works from revenue? Is it suggested that, having borrowed during the war, we should go on borrowing in time of peace? In spite of the fact that we have kept the national economy in a sound condition, and even have had surpluses though only modest ones, we have reduced our overseas indebtedness by over £110,000,000, and advanced £35,000,000 to war-stricken countries. This amount will probably be increased eventually to £37,000,000. Overseas interest rates have been reduced, which has lightened our overseas payments. We were also able to reduce interest rates in Australia. During the war, we kept bringing down interest rates, whereas, in World War I. they kept going up, so that at one time as much as 6 per cent, was paid on treasury bills with a tenure of three months. Nothing like that has happened since a Labour government has been in office. We have every right to be proud of the country’s financial position.
The honorable member for Fawkner charged the Government with bleating about a depression. It is not the Government, but overseas newspapers, and economists who are judged to be experts, that are predicting an economic depression. History shows that great inflationary trends in the world are generally followed by recessions. Any one who refuses to be guided by events which have happened in the past in circumstances similar to those prevailing to-day is a fool. It is a simple and very sound banking principle that we should endeavour on a governmental basis to make our own economy completely solvent, and, asfar as possible, build up a reserve against the possibility of a recession. The honorable member raised the subject of a recession; I did not do so. He raised it in a question which he asked about the rapid fall of prices on the New York stock market. What we have tried to do is to implement a simple programme which can be easily understood. In conjunction with the States, we have set out to provide against a fall in our overseas income and overseas trade which may result from a recession abroad. Some honorable members on this side of the chamber have vivid memories of the last depression. From actual experience they know what it is to have to depend upon the dole and what it feels like, having a wife and family, to have to go out and beg for a couple of hours’ work. Because of those bitter experiences, which I do not believe will ever be forgotten, it is the duty of any government to try to strengthen the economy of this country so that in the event of any recession occuring overseas we shall, as far as is humanly possible, buttress our economy to withstand the effects of a movement of that kind. “We have been told that some one in the United States of America said that it would not affect the American economy very much if 5,000,000 Americans were unemployed. My answer to that is that it might not affect the economy of well-to-do people, but it would seriously affect the economy of the 5,000,000 who were unemployed. Without indulging in heroics, we owe a duty to one another. If it is possible by legislation or administrative action to prevent a recurrence of the tragedies which followed 1929-30, any politician or any government would be recreant to its trust if it did not take steps to prevent anything like that from happening again. Let us take our minds back to 1929. I, myself, remember those days very vividly, as I am sure other honorable members do also. We lapsed into that recession with our finances completely unsound. Governments of the day were borrowing overseas as much money as they could obtain, and in 1928-29 the source of that borrowing was shut-off. Overseas investors had lost confidence and would not invest in further Australian loans. Subsequently, we were able to borrow in this country only by the grace of the private banks and at high rates of interest. When we faced the recession that occurred in 1929-30 Australia was bankrupt. That was the fact of the matter. I shall not go over the political story relating to those days or deal with the sufferings which were borne in one way or another by millions of good Australian citizens. Any government would be recreant to its trust if it were unmindful of past experiences of that kind and did not take steps to buttress our economy against a recurrence of them. Although we may be only figures moving temporarily on the stage, nevertheless, we have a great public duty to protect not only the present, but also future generations, the children of to-day. We must give some thought to Australia’s future. I was delighted to learn from the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that the Liberals to-day have advanced somewhat upon the Liberals of the 1860’s. From my experience of them, I could imagine that, possibly, they have made a slight forward movement during the last 80, or 100, years. That is about the rate at which they will progress. I have necessarily dealt with this matter in a general way; it covers a very broad canvas. However, I shall give a few illustrations to show that one is not always justified in accepting as conclusive, what appears to be so on the surface. A few years ago, Argentina was “ on top of the world “, but it is not in that position to-day. Likewise, Sweden, which is a hard currency country, appeared to be “ on top of the world “. It is not in such a fortunate position to-day; it is offering its goods at prices very much lower than it did previously. I am not speaking of Labour-socialist countries. South Africa was “ on top of the world “ two years ago. lt is one of the greatest gold-producing countries. However, ‘because of lack of overseas balances, it was forced to place a heavy restriction upon the importation of dollar goods; and, more recently, it has been obliged to restrict the importation of sterling goods. Precisely the same development has occurred in many other countries. We have the anomaly provided by the experience of France. During the last twelve months that country has made rapid economic progress, but no matter how hard the French people work, or to what degree they increase their production, they still find themselves in grave economic difficulties. I shall not paint the full picture. I have said sufficient to indicate that a country which has Australia’s opportunity - and many have not been so fortunate - should make every provision possible against a rainy day, that is, against a possible recession over which we would have no control. We could not do anything about a recession in other countries, hut we can prepare to protect ourselves. All that we have done has been done as our public duty. In conjunction with the States we have formulated programmes of muchneeded public works which will be undertaken as sufficient labour and materials become available. We have now proposed schemes such as the Snowy Mountains scheme and a plan for the development of the Northern Territory. We have made plans for a great advance in the productivity of this country. Those plans are not designed to benefit Australia merely this year, or next year; they will be of benefit to future generations of Australians. We have a duty to do that. The honorable member for Flinders, although he made his remarks in a kindly way, rather sneered at the opportunities in what he was pleased to call the “ golden age “ for Australia. I have a tremendous faith in the future of this country and in its people.
– I was talking about the present.
– The honorable member is thinking about to-day. Therein lies at least one difference between the Labour party and the Opposition parties. We try to look forward, instead of always looking backwards. That is the basis of our immigration policy. Not so long ago many complaints were made that our immigration policy was not successful, whereas now we hear complaints that it is too successful. We propose to evolve a great plan of development for Australia and to build up our population by attracting to this country desirable citizens from less fortunate countries, and to offer not only them but also all Australians the greatest possible opportunities in the development of this land. Regardless of whether or not recessions occur overseas, I. repeat that never before in our history has Australia had the opportunity that is offered to it to-day. Already, we have enabled, first, South Australia, and, secondly, Tasmania, to increase their industrial activity. We have met with great success in that respect. I do not condemn honorable members opposite for talking about socialism. I do not need to remind the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride), who has been the most voluble on the subject, that while he is in Canberra he is living in a socialized community. Every service he uses here is socialized. He would not be able to turn on the light in his room, or even to take a bath, if it were not for the socialized services provided by the Government for the residents of this city. Accordingly, I do not take very seriously the complaints made by honorable members opposite about socialism. I repeat now what I have so often said on the hustings, that we believe in the socialization of certain activities in the interests of the people. Such a policy is by no means championed solely by the Australian Labour party. Mr. Playford, the Liberal Premier of South Australia, the State from which the honorable member for Wakefield comes, socialized its electricity undertaking. The BrucePage Government socialized the A class broadcasting stations. A Liberal government of Victoria socialized the electricity undertaking which operates throughout that State. All of those activities were socialized because the governments concerned believed it to’ be in the best interests of the people that they should be placed under government control. Even conservative governments have recognized the desirability of socializing certain activities for the benefit of the masses of the people.
– The platform of the Australian Labour party pledges all members of the party to a complete programme of socialization.
– I have listened to that sort of statement for the last 25 years. Reference was made by some honorable members to the subject of taxation and the effect of rising prices on the wages of the workers. As I propose to issue a number of small charts showing the incidence of taxation and the effect of rising prices on wages, I shall not deal with that subject at this stage.
Reference was also made to the shortages that prevent the rapid development of our secondary industries. I am well aware that limitations have been imposed on the expansion of secondary industries because of the shortage of labour and materials but I believe that with perseverance they can be overcome. One difficulty has been that our industrial expansion has somewhat outgrown our physical capacity to meet these developments. These problems will solve themselves as time goes on. What we want, perhaps more than anything else, is a spirit of faith in our nation, not only among our industrialists but also among the workers who will have to do the donkey work. With such a spirit to spur us on, and with unlimited opportunity, coupled with an economy, the soundness of which has never previously been equalled in our history, our future is assured. The Labour Government is determined to do its best to exploit our opportunities to the fullest extent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 18th May (vide page 16), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the hill he nowread a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 18th May (vide page 17), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I rise to ascertain from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) whether the Government proposes to push through at this hour all the detailed schedules which are contained in the bill now before the Parliament. By agreeing to discuss the four cognate measures together in order to facilitate the proceedings of this House, the Opposition has co-operated with the Government; but if the Government intends to push through detailed Estimates covering £71,000,000 of public expenditure at this late hour, we shall take such opportunities as are available to us now to discuss them. It is most unfair to expect the Parliament to debate these Estimates at this hour of the night. I ask the right honorable gentleman to report progress on the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 10th March last, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked me a question about an ex-prisoner of war who, he said, had complained about alleged inefficiency and waste of time on the part of officials of the New South Wales branch of the Repatriation Department in attending to him and taking his application for medical treatment. The appropriate repatriation authority has reported to me on the alleged unsatisfactory handling of this case. The report reveals that the person to whom the honorable member referred in his question is a Mr. Davis. Mr. Davis applied at the New South Wales branch in Grace Building at 2 p.m. on the 8th March last for acceptance of a disability as being related to war service. When asking his question in this House, the honorable member for Parramatta gave the impression that Mr. Davis was filling in and signing forms for the whole of the time between 2 p.m. and 4.35 p.m. on the day in question. That statement, however, is not borne out by the facts which I shall mention at a later stage. The forms of application that Mr. Davis was asked to fill in and sign were similar to those which are completed by all applicants for medical benefits and pensions. The first application form, 20e, includes a medical report to be filled in by the doctor. The questionnaire sets out 21 simple questions, the first eight of which are -
The remaining questions are equally simple. The next form is an acknowledgement of non-liability for treatment. Then there is an agreement concerning the doctor’s clinical notes. The next form is “ Repatriation Survey of ex-Prisoners of War (J)- Personal Statement”. That, too, is a simple form with only seven questions on it. Then there is a form which applies to men who served in a theatre of war with Japan. Its purpose is to save applicants a second visit. There are certainly not twenty pages of forms, and, as I have said, they can be filled in quite simply. The honorable member for Parramatta, when referring no Mr. Davis in his question, said -
He has told me that he telephoned the doctor at the hospital and was told to attend at 2 p.m. He did so and between that time and 4.35 p.m. he and the doctor were engaged in filling in fifteen or twenty pages of forms.
The information contained in the few forms completed by Mr. Davis provides a basis for the essential medical files of the department. None of the information asked for is superfluous. The files are essential in the consideration of claims for medical, hospital and pension benefits. With regard to the allegation that between 2 p.m. and 4.35 p.m. Mr. Davis and the doctor were engaged in filling in forms, [ find that it was not until 2.50 p.m. that the medical officer attended to the patient. Mr. Davis was advised by a private practitioner to approach the Repatriation Department. He was given a letter introducing him to Dr. Dean of the New South Wales branch. On the 8th March, he contacted Dr. Dean by telephone and it was arranged that he should call on the doctor at 2 p.m. Upon arrival at the repatriation office, he was asked to report at the medical counter, which is the customary procedure, and to apply for acceptance of his condition. It was necessary for him to complete the necessary papers and this took him approximately half an hour. He was then asked to wait in the medical waiting room, and as soon as the clerk was free to attend to him he was told that Dr. Dean had made arrangements for him to see Dr. Mack. Dr. Mack attended to him as soon as he was free of another case, and Mr. Davis subsequently left the building a little after 4.30 p.m. In a conversation later with a responsible officer of the Repatriation Department, Mr. Davis said that had he realized that he should have gone to the medical counter in the first instance instead of arranging an appointment with Dr. Dean, much of the waiting time would have been avoided. As I have already stated, the time occupied in completing and signing the forms regarded as essential for the proper handling of repatriation medical cases was not unreasonable. It may be, however, that the honorable member was told that Mr. Davis spent some time with the repatriation medical officer on the day in question completing some personal statements for an appendix relating to a survey of prisoners of war which the Repatriation Commission is having compiled. That, of course, had nothing to do with the normal routine practice with applications for medical treatment and benefits. It is pointed out, however, that ex-prisoners of war realize that the help that they can give to the medical officers in this connexion is for the benefit of this section of ex-servicemen as a whole. While Mr. Davis was at the department on the 8th March, the opportunity was taken by the medical officer to obtain the assistance of Mr. Davis in this way, thus obviating the necessity to invite him to the office for that special purpose. In the course of a discussion with a responsible officer of the department, of Mr. Davis’s experiences at the New South Wales branch on the 8th March, it was pointed out that Mr. Davis had stressed the fact that he, at the time of his conversation with the honorable member for Parramatta, had been, to use his own words, “ a bit hot under the collar “. Mr. Davis added, when speaking to the official of the department, that he had nothing but praise for the attention given to him by the officials of the department. I have no doubt that some complaints about repatriation matters are well founded, because the department does not claim to be, nor do I claim it to be, a perfect instrumentality. However, I suggest that if honorable members would bring their complaints to my notice personally or in a letter, it would save ventilating in this chamber matters that could be dealt with effectively otherwise.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has just urged members of this chamber to bring their complaints to the notice of Ministers rather than ventilate them in this chamber. I have taken a complaint to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), but have received no redress at all. Therefore I am bringing it before the Parliament, and I have selected the motion for the adjournment as the appropriate occasion .because the broadcasting of proceedings has ceased, and I have no wish to do the Navy recruiting campaign any harm. I remind the House, however, that I could have easily selected another occasion on which to offer my criticism. However, I do so now, and my criticism, I think, is shared by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson), who asked a question a day or two ago on a similar subject. I refer to the recruitment in the Navy of young men for a long term of years. When some of the young men find that for family or other compassionate reasons it is necessary to seek relief, not the slightest compassion is shown by the officials of the Department of the Navy. I should not like to regard the Minister for the Navy as merely the echo of the voice of his department, but I contrast his attitude with that of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) when similar problems are taken to him. He certainly, in my view, assesses the problemsaccording to what he thinks ought to be done, and tries to do what he thinks ought to be done. But, when problems are presented to the Minister for the Navy, they are met with a reply like, “ I shall take the matter up with my officers “. When they have knocked back an application, that is the stone end of it. I shall relate the facts of the case which I brought to the notice of the Minister. I think it merits consideration. A. young man occupied a position in a bank in a country town. He was only seventeen years of age when he was attracted by the advertisements that the Navy has all over the country about the adventurous life at sea and so forth. As soon as he turned eighteen, he enlisted and signed indentures for twelve years. I ask, as I have asked the Minister, whether it is fair to tie a boy down for twelve years when he is only eighteen years of age and is at a most impressionable period of his life, and then not give him a chance of changing his mind or occupation? . The lad I have in mind served for about two months, found that he did not like being in the Navy, and deserted. His parents wrote to me about it. They told me that he was completely unhappy and would never do any good in the Navy. They asked me whether I could do anything to obtain his release. Naturally, I placed the facts before the Minister for the Navy. He gave me the reply any one would expect, which was that nothing could be done while the sailor was a deserter, but that, if he gave himself up, consideration would be given to his case. I told his parents that and said that it was also my opinion that the boy should give himself up. He did so. He then served the appropriate sentence for desertion. I have forgotten what it was, but I presume that it was severe. Then he resumed his place in the Navy, but still wanted to get out. His superiors asked him why he did not give it another try and undertake the examination for stoker. He did so and passed. But he is still completely unhappy. The point is that the boy’s mother has been practically driven into the lunatic asylum by her son’s experiences. The boy’s father came to me and told me that the mother had suffered a complete breakdown owing to her worry about the boy. The father is only a working man, but he said, “ There used to be a time when a man could buy his son out of the Navy. I own my own home, but I am willing to sell it for what it fetches and pay the proceeds to the Government, if it wants the money, to buy my son out. I will do anything to save my wife’s health “. I related all the circumstances to the Minister, without the slightest result. The boy is still tied down for twelve years. The mother’s health is breaking down. The father is ready to buy the son out if that is required.. But there is not the slightest show of compassion by the department. Before a boy of eighteen is required to sign on for twelve years, he should have to undergo a probationary period of three or six months. A period of probation is almost universal in vocations that call for a long period of indenture. A girl wishing to train as a nurse first has to go through, a period of probation to see whether she is likely to settle in to the profession. Similarly, other jobs requiring a long term of indenture provide for a period of probation. My interest in this matter is not so much on behalf of the son as of the mother. I have done everything in my power in letters to and personal interviews with the Minister to have something done, but without avail. “When I heard the honorable member for Hindmarsh ask a question about a similar matter, I realized that, not only I, but also he and perhaps other honorable members, are concerned about the way the Navy is treating boys who have enlisted in its service. I repeat that I have chosen this hour of the night, when we are not on the air, to bring these facts to light. I do not want to damage the Navy’s recruiting campaign. I realize the difficulties it faces in recruiting. Its difficulties in obtaining recruits these days are no less than those than those of other services. But if the Navy wants to retard recruitment, it has only to keep on doing the sort of thing that I have complained about. Then, if its actions are publicized, as they should be, when it shows no compassion in cases like that which I have instanced, its recruiting campaign will undoubtedly be seriously affected. If the department continues with its present attitude I shall have no compunction in seizing every opportunity to publicize the facts.
.- 1 shall refer to the matter raised by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). I am sorry that he spoke as he did, because it makes it necessary for me to detain the House while I point out what I asked on the 10th March. My question was not stated by the Minister. He said, though, that I had alleged in my question that Major Davis had spent from 2 p.m. to 4.45 p.m. filling in forms. He conveyed to the House the impression that I had asserted that all the time had been spent in that way. That makes it necessary for me to read my question, which was as follows: -
My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation, concerns a complaint that has been made to me hy a constituent. The constituent, who is in ill health, was a prisoner of war in the hands of the Japanese. He was sent to the Repatria-tion Office in Grace Building, Sydney, to obtain’ a certificate to enable him to be X-rayed at Randwick Military Hospital. He has told me that he telephoned the doctor at Grace Building and was told to attend at 2 p.m. He did so, and between that time and 4.35 p.m. he. and the doctor filled in fifteen to twenty pages of forms.
That, of course, is quite different from saying that he spent all his time filling, in forms. Had he done so, he would not have had any medical examination at all. The question went on -
Is the Minister aware of the existence of this orgy of red tape! Is he aware, further, that it is causing great discontent among exservicemen? Will the honorable gentleman, say what he is prepared to do … ?
I asked that question in the interests of ex-servicemen, particularly ex-prisoners: of war. I am sure that the Ministeraccepts my assurance that they were dis- contented with the state of affairs at Grace Building and that he will confirm that as a result of the question an improvement took place. Improvement was promised to Major Davis and he benefited from it. It is quite true that Major Davis did not complain about the medical attention that he received. Most exservicemen will say that they are considerately treated. The complaint related to the long delays and what I described then, and still describe, as an “ orgy of red tape “. It is all very well for the Minister to say that Major Davis filled in only three or four forms. The result is the same whether one fills in the same form 44 times or fills in 44 different forms. Major Davis asserts that, while he was at Grace Building, he and the doctor filled in no fewer than fifteen or twenty pages of forms. That may have been three or four forms in triplicate or quadruplicate. The fact is that they wasted a great deal of time filling in nonsensical papers. That sort of thing has caused bitterness amongst ex-servicemen. I should have thought that most honorable members, having heard the Minister’s statement, would agree that my case had been proved. Obviously there was a great deal of unnecessary rigmarole. As the Minister has seen fit to quote what Major Davis is supposed to have said to members of the department on other occasions, I shall quote what members of the department have said to him. One of the doctors in particular complained about what he described as “ all this red tape “ and expressed the view that there was too much of it and that that sort of work should be cut down. When Major Davis visited the department after I had raised the matter in this House, he was again told by members of the staff that, their attention having been directed to it, they realized that there was too much “ red tape “ and that there would be an improvement. If there has been an improvement, I think that my question has been justified. As for the Minister saying that 1 should have approached him in the first place, some honorable members on this side of the House have had experience of failure to get satisfactory results by going to Ministers before raising complaints in the House. It seemed to me in the circumstances that it would be in the best interests of exservicemen, who were very bitter and discontented, to bring this matter of public importance to the attention of the Minister and the people by asking a question in the House. I am glad at least that my efforts have achieved the desired result.
– I wish to reply to the speech that was made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). The honorable gentleman said that if an officer “ knocked back “ an application for discharge from the Navy, that was the end of the matter. If that was the way in which h he allowed his department to be administered when he. was in office, I have nol-bing further to say. But if he intended that remark to be a gratuitous insult to me, I hasten to assure him that the statement was not true. I shall tell him what happens when seamen apply for release from the Navy on compassionate grounds. The application is made in the first place to the man’s commanding officer. It is then sent to the Naval Board, and instructions are issued for a naval padre of the religious denomination of the applicant, to make an investigation and furnish a report. The department acts on the padre’s report. If an application is subsequently made to me by a member of this House, I refer the matter to the department and ask for a report. If an investigation has not then been made by the appropriate padre, arrangements are made for him to make inquiries so that I may be supplied with detailed information. Action is taken according to the padre’s report. I cannot recall all of the details of the case mentioned by the honorable member, although he discussed it with rae yesterday after he had asked a question on the subject in the House. I asked the department to send me the file dealing with the application, but it has not yet arrived.
– The question was asked only yesterday.
– I asked about the cas* months ago.
– The honorable member spoke to me about it yesterday, and 1 said then that I would send for the man’s file. It has not yet arrived. I have adopted the usual procedure. In order to make the situation abundantly clear to the honorable member, I shall explain the grounds on which releases are granted from the Navy. Incidentally, the grounds for release which now exist have been in existence almost since, the establishment of the Royal Australian Navy. In th, first place, a man may be discharged on the ground of medical unfitness. In the second place he may be granted a compassionate release. A third method by which a man may gain his discharge is to “ buy himself out “. That procedure is not permitted at present for reasons that I shall explain. As I informed the honorable member yesterday, the Government decided after the war to maintain an interim navy until it made its final decision upon peace-time naval policy. Men were enlisted in the interim Navy for a period of two years, and the last enlistment of that character was made prior to the 30th June, 1947. All enlistments made since the 1st July, 1947, have been in the permanent Navy. Members of the interim Navy are now being discharged from the service if they have not re-enlisted in the permanent force. In consequence, the Navy is in a similar situation to that, of industry. There is a shortage of manpower due to the fact that the Navy is not attracting recruits in sufficient numbers because economic conditions outside the service are too attractive, apparently, to young men. However, when the first winds of an economic blizzard blow, there will be no dearth of recruits for the Navy. The present Tate of enlistment is about 120 men a month. The recruits are sent to Flinders Naval Depot for their initial training. I emphasize that men can secure their release from the Navy at present only on medical or compassionate grounds. Every application for discharge is investigated carefully on its merits.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre- sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department-
Commerce and Agriculture - W. P. Dunk.
Treasury - B. D. Haig.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
St Leonards, New South Wales.
Migrants- Statement by the minister for
Immigration regarding the employment of displaced persons in Australian Coal Mines and in Iron and Steel Works at Newcastle and Port Kembla.
House adjourned at 11.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
g asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he furnish a list of payments made by the Commonwealth from the 30th June, 1945, to the 1st May, 1949, to the following trade union officials: - (a) J. Healy, (b) E.Roach, (c) Eliot V. Eliot, (d) Idriss Williams, (e) Abner MacAlpine, (f) J. Cranwell, (g) A. Monk, (h) C. Schreiber, (i) E. Glasson, and (j) M. Duffy ?
– I am not aware that all of the abovenamed are trade union officials. Particulars concerning Commonwealth payments made to those who were trade union officials during the period mentioned by the honorable member will be obtained and furnished as soon as possible.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development drew my attention to the foregoing questions as coming within the purview of my department. The answers are as follows: - 1. (a) 1,909; (b) 360.
g asked the Minister represent ing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will he furnish the total cost of the New Guinea timber royal commission and the fees paid to counsel assisting the Royal Commissioner ?
– The information is not yet available but will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as it is available.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice - 1.has the Commonwealth Government given consideration to the survey of an Indian Ocean Empire air route from Western Australia to England via Cocos Islands, Diego Garcia, Seychelles, Mombasa and Malta?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The Commonwealth Government recently authorized Qantas Empire Airways to carry out a survey Bight across the Indian Ocean, from Perth to Johannesburg via Cocos Island and Mauritius. The company’s report and recommendations, together with information obtained by my department, are now being studied from technical and commercial aspects, but it is anticipated that facilities along tho route will not be available for some months after approval to operate such a service is obtained. An air service, on lines similar to that flown by Qantas Empire Airways in their survey, would provide for air service requirements between Australia and South Africa and will also provide an alternate route to the United Kingdom, while linking with the British Overseas Airways Corporation South AfricaLondonair service at Johannesburg. As the proposed Australia-South Africa service via Cocos Island and Mauritius would meet requirements as an alternative route to tho United Kingdom, the use of Diego Garcia and the Seychelles Islands is not warranted at present and. consequently no survey of these places is contemplated in the near future.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490602_reps_18_202/>.