18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) - by leave agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisionsof the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948, Mr.McBride and Mr.Rosevear be appointed trustees to serve on the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust.
– I have had several inquiries from people interested in oversea’s trade and consequently the dollar shortage about whether the Government has given any sympathetic consideration to the question of barter. There is a firm called “World Commerce Company, of New York, which ships cotton yarn to Yugoslavia and takes timber in payment and exchange. -I am informed that that company would accept Australian wool in exchange for products of the United States of America that we require. I ask the Prime Minister why we cannot use the barter system. If that is not practicable between individuals could it not be applied on a governmenttogovernment basis? Is there any arrangement between sterling countries that they will not barter with dollar countries? Could the Prime Minister explain to the House why the Department of Trade and Customs has consistently discouraged attempts at barter arrangements?
– I propose to answer the honorable member very briefly, because it would take a long time to answer his question fully. Barter arrangements between individuals in Australia and another country would certainly be discouraged at once. They would dislocate the exchange control regulations if they were permitted. Moreover, there could be no certainty that any system of barter between individuals ‘could be carried out. Regarding barter between governments of different countries, we have, of course, an arrangement with the ‘Supreme Gourmand, Allied Powers in Japan by which we agree to take from Japan goods equal in value to the goods that it takes from us. That arrangement involves no dollar or sterling deficits but it is difficult to control. There are trade agreements between the United Kingdom and European and South American countries under which commodities are exchanged, if possible - and, in each ease, it is only, “if possible” - of an equivalent value. That in unilateral trade, but T think most ‘people agree that multilateral trade is preferable. The Minister for External Affairs deal with this aspect last night. The United Kingdom has - had to do that because of the difficult state in which it finds itself. I could probably deal better with the particular instance that thehonorable member has mentioned in a. written reply. I shall endeavour in that reply to cover, also, the other matters that he has raised.
Sale or “ Reynella ” - Timber Cargoes
The honorable member for Parramatta having asked a disallowed question,
– The honorable member may only ask a question which is framed properly in accordance with the -Standing Orders.
– With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall reframe my question. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel in form the House whether it is correct, as stated in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday, that the Seamen’s Union has insisted that Reynella, which’ was bought last June by an Italian company from the Australian Government, must be sailed to Italy by an Australian crew, which must be returned subsequently to this country, at the buyer’s expense, although there is no obligation of that nature in the buyer’s contract? Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether it is a fact, as stated in the newspaper report, that the Seamen’s. Union has made this demand? Does the Government intend to do anything about the demand in order to protect the buyer, and to ensure that the company obtains the benefit of its contract with the Government?
– I shall answer the honorable member’s question. From time to time there has been a certain amount of contention in connexion with matters similar to the one that the honorable member has mentioned. It is customary that when a ship is sold out of a particular country, whether by the . Government or by a private shipping company, the seamen of the country from which the ship is sold take that vessel to its port of destination. That is the general custom; it does not apply to any greater degree in Australia than it does anywhere else. Whilst I do not know the exact particulars with relation to Reynella, I know of the general circumstances of the sale. All that the Government has done has been to sell the ship. The matter of getting it to its destination is one for the buyer. There have been a number of these cases lately. This is not a matter which affects only the Seamen’s Union. A pressman, recently asked me about a Filipino ship about which there was a difference of opinion, and I furnished him with a. statement that subsequently appeared in one of the Sydney newspapers. I understand that finally the agents made a settlement with the Maritime Council, “because it was not possible to comply with the usual custom. I understand that when a ship is sold out of any country, the members of the crew to take the vessel to its destination must be members of the organization involved in that particular country, and it is not only one organization that is involved. I do not think that anybody would accuse Mr. J. Tudehope, secretary of the Maritime Council, of being “ red “. In most instances the arrangements on behalf of the Maritime Council have been made through him.
– In view of the decision of the Australian .Shipping Board to allocate the 10,000-ton “ river “ class vessel, River Murchison, to Beauty Point on the Tamar River at the end of September to lift more than 200,000 tons of timber for Victoria, a matter in respect of which I made personal representation to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel take up with his colleague the possibility of allocating three, or four, vessels of the same class annually to northern Tasmania in order to prevent the unnecessary stock-piling of timber in Tasmania which has occurred in the past owing to lack of shipping space?
– It is true that largely as the result of representations made by the honorable member the Minister for Shipping and Fuel has arranged for River Murchison to call at Beauty Point for the purpose of taking timber to Victoria. I am sure that if timber cargoes are available in northern Tasmania at a later period in the year, my colleague will be pleased to make similar arrangements for their shipment.
– “Will the Minister for External Affairs bring to the notice of the Minister for Immigration the terms of the draft Convention on Freedom of Information so that its provisions may be observed and applied to representatives of newspapers who are desirous of meeting ships that have been chartered by the International Reffugee Organization ? Will the Minister direct attention to the following resolution of the United Nations Conference on Freedom of Information : -
That the right of news personnel to have the widest possible access to sources of information, to travel unhampered in pursuit thereof, and to transmit copy without unreasonable or discriminatory limitations, should be guaranteed by action on the national and international plane.
Is General Lloyd, who is a representative of the International Refugee Organization, an officer of the United Nations? Was he appointed as the result of a recommendation that was made by the Australian delegation to the United Nations? Is the Minister aware of the terms of his appointment, and to whom he is answerable for his actions? Will the Minister ascertain whether the terms of General Lloyd’s appointment permit him to exclude newspaper representatives from vessels chartered by the International Refugee Organization upon arrival in Australia, and whether it is in accordance with the policy of that organization, to which this country is a major contributor, to adopt an “ iron curtain “ policy which prevents newspaper representatives from making on-the-spot investigations regarding the conditions under which children travelling under the auspices of the International Refugee Organization arrive in this country?
– The honorable gentleman has asked a long question. It contains more mis-statements than any other question that has been asked in this House for a long time. I do not propose to canvas all the mis-statements, but I shall give a general reply to the observations that have been made. Major General C. E. M. Lloyd, was the Adjutantgeneral of the Australian Forces during the latter part of the last war. He was appointed by the International Refugee Organization as its representative in Australia in order to protect its interests in the discharge of its obligations under the agreement that it has made with the Australian Government for the settlement in Australia of 110.000 or more displaced persons. General Lloyd was appointed by the International Refugee Organization, and not on the representation or at the solicitation of anybody inside or outside Australia. The organization wanted a top-ranking Australian to protect its interests. I know of no better choice that could have been made than that which was made. General Lloyd is answerable to the International Refugee Organization and to no other body. Two newspaper reporters, both employed by Sydney newspapers, one the Sydney Sun and the other the Sydney Daily Telegraph - of course, Sydney newspapers have a lower standard than that of newspapers that are published in any other capital city in Australia - went on to a ship months before any question of malnutrition had arisen. They ferretted their way round the galleys and the crew’s quarters and tried to get disgruntled persons to tell lies about the captain of the ship, the International Refugee Organization and other persons or bodies. One of the newspaper reporters - I think he came from the Sydney Sun - printed a story that negroes were wandering around the women’s quarters on the vessel at night. That was an absolute lie. There were some negro members of the crew who were disgruntled because they had been disciplined by the captain. When that story was published in the Press, denials were made by the captain and other responsible officers, but the newspaper that had offended so grievously did not have the decency to state that it had disciplined its employee for his libellous and mendacious statement. It made no further inquiries to ascertain whether or not what he had said was true. It simply said, in effect, “He has told this story, and we are backing it”. If that is the standard of journalism practised in the offices of the
Sydney Sun and the Sydney Daily Telegraph, then General Lloyd, in my view and in the view of all decent people, was justified in deciding that the representatives of such newspapers should not be allowed to board migrant vessels. This poisonous vicious matter, which is printed merely to benefit one paper or the other in the competition for circulation which is now proceeding in Sydney, can only have the effect of damaging Australia’s prestige abroad as well as the prestige of the Internationa] Refugee Organization. I am compelled to repeat an observation that I have made many times, which is that there are more fifth columnists in newspaper offices in Australia than in any other kind of organization. Some people do not care if they sink their own country provided they can sell a few more copies of their miserable newspapers and so promote circulation. That is what has happened with respect to the two newspapers that I have mentioned, and’ it is upon such filth as they have published that the honorable member for Reid has based his question.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing give an estimate, approximate or otherwise, of the cost of conversion of brick huts and other munitions buildings at Maribyrnong into living quarters for migrants? What building materials are used in this work ? Has the Government priority for timber, gypsum lining boards, nails, and the like, or is the material used allocated after the housing needs of the State have been determined ? If timbers are imported for this purpose, what timbers are being so imported and at what cost? Will the Minister personally inspect iron huts that have been brought from overseas for this purpose after they have been erected and partitioned into small cubicles, and determine whether they provide suitable living quarters for workers in the Australian climate? If he should decide that they are unsuitable, will he arrange that they shall conform, at least in respect of ventilation and air content, with Australian standards so that the health of those who live in them may be safeguarded ?
– I cannot state offhand the exact position in relation to the supply of materials for the conversion of the huts to which the honorable member has referred. In carrying out the programme for the construction of temporary buildings for the housing of new Australians it is the policy of the department to use, as far as practicable, materials which are not controlled by the States. Uncontrolled materials are those which are generally considered by the State Governments not to be in short supply. Requirements of materials in short supply in Australia are, as far as practicable, obtained from overseas. That policy has been adopted in order to lighten the drain on building materials required for the housing of the Australian people. The honorable member referred to imported iron huts. Does she mean Quonset or Nissen huts?
– I had Nissen huts in mind.
– Nissen huts were designed by the American Government for use originally in Alaska. In their construction an insulating material is used to keep the heat in. They were subsequently found to bc suitable for warm climates. Many of them were sent to Manus Island and other islands to the north of Australia, and at the same time quantities of them were made available to Great Britain. The design incorporates a ventilation system which ensures the free movement of air through the building arid renders it suitable for use in both hot and cold climates. When I was in Sydney recently I inspected one of the Quonset, huts that ha.d been brought from Manus Island. Huts of that type are being subdivided by my department and when that has been done they are very suitable for accommodation purposes. 1 assure the honorable member that the huts to which she has referred comply with the health standards operating in Victoria.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture lay on the table of the House copies of all agreements and contracts made between the Australian Government and governments overseas, for the bulk sale of Australian primary products, during the period of office of the present Government?
– I shall examine the honorable gentleman’s request to see whether it will be possible to accede to it.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services able to supply figures relating to the number of unemployed persons in Australia, particularly in New South Wales, for which I asked him yesterday and which he promised to have available to-day?
– I have the figures available. They were compiled yesterday, but reached me too late for presentation at yesterday’s sitting. The total number of unemployed persons receiving unemployment benefit in Australia yesterday was 2,705, or 1,055 fewer than on Wednesday of last week. New South Wales still had 1,200 persons receiving unemployment benefit yesterday, which was 1,195 fewer than on Wednesday of last week. As will be seen from the figures that I have supplied, the number of unemployed persons receiving unemployment benefit is decreasing every day.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister which arises from a report, that was given wide publicity recently, to the effect that the Prime Minister had told the members of the Labour party caucus that he had under consideration a national superannuation scheme that would be financed on a contributory basis. In view of the uncertainty created by this statement in relation to existing private superannuation schemes and others that may be in prospect, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether he has such a proposal to submit to the Parliament in the course of the present session? Will he say whether such a scheme is part of the proposal in the Labour party’s platform for the socialization of insurance in .this country?
– What really has happened regarding the matter of national superannuation is that some time ago the Government appointed an interdepartmental committee to study the question of the possibility of such a scheme being adopted. The Labour party’s platform, as honorable members know, provides for the elimination of the means test when that becomes financially possible. The Government has relaxed very considerably the conditions applying to the means test in respect of age and invalid pensions, as the honorable member very well knows. A report has been prepared by the interdepartmental committee to which I have referred, and it has been studied by me. That report has not yet been circulated. It contains a wide range of statistical information. I do not think it would be proper for me to tell the honorable member for Fawkner what I said at a private meeting of caucus, but I can say that I mentioned to caucus that such a scheme had been examined. No proposals were put to caucus, and no .proposals have been considered hy Cabinet. It was known to those in control of private superannuation schemes that proposals for the establishment of a national scheme were being examined, and I have received a number of deputations on the subject. I assure the honorable member that it is not intended to interfere with private superannuation schemes should the Government, at a later stage, introduce a System of national superannuation. Neither is it proposed to interfere with insurance companies. Insurance is very well catered for in Australia by reason of the fact that several government insurance offices are in existence. Moreover, some of the larger insurance companies are organized on a mutual basis, and so are not run for the profit of individuals. There already exists authority under the law for the Commonwealth to set up an insurance office should that be considered desirable.
Posters - Political Broadcasts
– Can the AttorneyGeneral say whether the Chief Electoral officer has referred to his department the matter of tory federal electoral signs being displayed at present throughout Queensland? If these signs are illegal, what action does the Attorney-General intend to take?
– The matter mentioned by the honorable member for Griffith has been brought to the attention of the Crown Law authorities by the Chief Electoral Officer, and I understand that certain action is pending. In the opinion of Crown Law authorities, there is open defiance of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It may be necessary, if the action contemplated is inadequate, for the law to bc amended. Clearly, the Parliament cannot tolerate having its enactments openly defied.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state the precise intention of regulation f> (1) (d) of the regulations gazetted to-day to control political broadcasts during the federal election campaign? Does the regulation mean that, although one political party might wish to buy more commercial broadcasting time than its opponent, it will in fact be allowed to purcha.se no more than its opponent is prepared to pay for, the idea being to achieve an “ adequate balance of broadcasts “ ? Does it also mean that, if one political party is not prepared to purchase any commercial broadcasting time whatsoever, its opponent will not be allowed to buy any. time either?
– I have not had the advantage of reading the regulation on this subject which was gazetted to-day, but I shall do so as soon as possible. I shall also consult the PostmasterGeneral, and obtain the information that the honorable member seeks. I understand, of course, that the Australian Country party and the Liberal party, which have plenty of money, could buy up all the time of all the stations operating throughout Australia, and use it for their own purposes for 24 hours a day. I take it that the purpose of the regulation is to try to provide for equitable treatment between all political parties, and I see nothing wrong, or undemocratic, with that.
Fulbright INTERCHANGE PLAN.
– Can i;he Prime Minister inform me of the latest steps that have been . taken to implement the Fulbright Act? What stage has been reached in discussions with the United States authorities with respect to that act? When is it expected that that act will come into operation in relation to Australia? What is the reason for the long delay in putting it into operation which delay has prevented the Australians from receiving the monetary benefits proposed under that legislation?
– As I explained on a previous occasion, discussions with respect to the Fulbright Act have been proceeding for a considerable period. The lendlease agreement between Australia and’ the United States of America which I concluded with Mr. Dean Acheson, the present American Secretary of State, when I was in the United States, was made prior to the passing of the Fulbright Act. Various discussions have since been held on a fairly high diplomatic level with a view to reaching agreement on certain contentious points arising under that act. Some months ago we thought that final agreement had been reached between representatives of the Australian Treasury and American representatives in this country particularly with respect to taxation provisions. Those proposals were forwarded to the United States of .America. I understand that subsequently the necessity arose for considerable discussions between the American State Department and the taxation authorities in that country. Last week, as the result of those discussions, I received word that it was felt that it was not possible for the United States of America to accept the proposals which we thought had previously been tentatively agreed to between Australian Treasury representatives and American representatives in this country. I have not had an opportunity to study the latest suggestions made by the American authorities, but I shall do so as soon as possible in order to see what difficulties remain. I understand that they .relate to taxation. I was not aware of any undue delay which had occurred in regard to particular students but should that be the case I shall let the honorable member* know the reasons for such delay.
– Earlier this year, the Minister for Works and Housing mentioned the possibility of importing prefabricated houses from Sweden for the use of Commonwealth public servants so that the housing of these people would not involve competition with the building programme for the general public. I ask the Minister now whether any action has been taken to import such houses, and if so, how many have already reached this country.
– During the past twelve months, many propositions have been submitted to the Government by agents for overseas manufacturers ofprefabricated houses. The countries concerned include Sweden, Finland and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately the gap between the cost of the imported houses and that of erecting conventional type homes in this country has been too wide. However, due partly to reduced prices overseas resulting from a restriction of markets in other countries, and partly to lower freight charges, that gap is being reduced considerably. Four or five weeks ago the Government called tenders overseas for the supply of 1,000 houses. There has been a good response and we are now awaiting firm prices. When these have -been received consideration will be given to whether such houses will be erected.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a newspaper report that, on the 18th August, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. Coombs, and the Deputy Governor, flew from Sydney to Brisbane in the bank’s official aircraft, en route to the south coast of Queensland for a holiday, and that on the 28th August, the aircraft again flew from Sydney to Brisbane to pick up members of the party and return them to Sydney?
Is it a fact that the total consumption of petrol for these trips would be about 960 gallons? As private airline operators and the Government’s own airline have aircraft flying between Sydney and Brisbane, does not the Prime Minister regard this use of additional petrol by the bank’s plane as a gross waste? If this report is correct, will the Government, in view of its request to commercial airline operators to reduce petrol consumption, insist that the Commonwealth Bank) shall curtail .private plane travel and thus assist in the conservation of dollars and make more petrol available to primary producers?
– I have not seen the newspaper report to which the honorable member has referred, nor have I any knowledge of the aircraft of the Commonwealth Bank having been flown to Brisbane. I know, of course, that the Commonwealth Bank has its own private aircraft. It was bought by the bank originally to enable the previous Governor and Deputy Governor to make personal contact at reasonably short notice and within a reasonable time with the bank’s branches throughout Australia. The .business of the Commonwealth Bank is expanding rapidly. There is no difference between the use of a private aircraft by the Commonwealth Bank and the use of private machines by certain business organizations. Frequently, aircraft are chartered by business organizations, including perhaps, newspapers, which are interested in getting their representatives rapidly to a particular locality. I can only say that if Dr. Coombs did go on holiday to Queensland - I cannot imagine that he did because I am sure that his trip would have been associated in some way with the business of the bank - it would have been the first holiday that he has had in the eight years that I have been Treasurer. Nobody has given more valuable service or worked more hours in the interests of this country than has the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. However, in order that the honorable member may be as fully informed as possible, I shall refer the matter to Dr. Coombs and ask him for whatever information is available.
Australian Representation - Peace Treaty
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say whether the transfer to Japan of Colonel Hodgson, Australian Ambassador to France, means that Australia will take a more active part in the conclusion of the Japanese peace treaty? Does the action of the Government also indicate that it intends to accept a Japanese ambassador in Australia?
– The new posting 6f Colonel Hodgson means that Australia will continue to play an active part in connexion with Japan because that gentleman will represent there not only Australia, but also Great Britain, India, and New Zealand in respect of the occupation council.
– Will it speed up the peace treaty ?
– The posting of Colonel Hodgson to Japan has been mentioned in public despatches, but the position in relation to the peace treaty remains substantially the same as it has been for some time. Australia has strongly advocated the conclusion of an early peace treaty. The present situation has continued since 1945. Even territorial matters have not yet been finally adjusted. Colonel Hodgson will play his part in the determination of such matters. Concerning the last part of the honorable member’s question, the Government does not intend to establish diplomatic relations with Japan. The policy of the Government is that such action should be deferred until the peace treaty with Japan has become definitive.
– Will the Prime Minister have investigations made to ascertain whether Mr. Russell, M.L.A., who is a member of the Country party of Queensland, flies an aeroplane on political tours around Queensland and takes the Leader of the Australian Country party in this Parliament with him? Is it also correct that Mr. Casey, the president of the Liberal party, also uses a private aeroplane to tour Australia organizing for political purposes?
– As I have indicated on previous occasions a number of individuals and companies, prior to the introduction of petrol rati.oning. used aviation spirit to operate aircraft for business purposes or organizational purposes, and they have been permitted to continue to do so. I do not think that any of those aircraft have been used for pleasure. In fact, I know of three or four aircraft that were used solely for purposes associated with organizations. Some of these may, of course, be political. Petrol has also been granted to political organizations to enable them to carry on organizational work, because the Government regarded that as a fair provision. I cannot say anything in particular about the case of Mr. Russell. Where consumption of aviation spirit or petrol by businesses and other organizations is regarded as warranted an allotment is still made. I shall have inquiries made concerning the specific matters mentioned by the honorable member. It is only fair to say that we have tried to retain the status quo in the distribution of aviation spirit and petrol to enable those who were normally using those commodities before the introduction of rationing to continue to do so.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is a fact that the coal strike was the cause of delaying the shipment of a certain quantity o;f wheat until after the 1st August last? If so, what quantity of wheat was prevented from being shipped? Is it a fact that in accordance with the International Wheat Agreement wheat that was shipped after the 1st August had to be sold at approximately 3s. a bushel less than the price paid for previous shipments? If that is so, will the Government consider making up the loss to the wheat-growers concerned in the same way as compensation is being made to those who suffered loss in other ways through the coal strike ?
– I have no doubt that wheat ships and other vessels and all kinds of business transactions in Australia were held up during the coal strike. I am also aware that many persons lost their employment during the coal strike, but I assure the honorable member that the Government has no intention of compensating persons for such losses any more than the Menzies Government compensated persons for losses they suffered through the coal strike during its regime. That stoppage lasted for three months and caused disastrous losses.
– Is the Minister for Migration aware that Mrs. Pauline Lee Tong, of Brisbane, was informed by her uncle in China that her husband had been killed in an air crash ? Is the Minister also aware that, until quite recently, Mrs. Lee Tong had not heard of her husband’s whereabouts since 1947? In view of those facts, will the Minister withdraw the statement which he made in the House yesterday to the effect that Mrs. Lee Tong did not tell the truth to the . migration authorities ? Failing a complete withdrawal of the statement, will the Minister qualify or modify it, and will he consider tendering to her an apology for having accused her of lying? As Mrs. Lee Tong is the daughter of two Australian-horn Chinese, will the Minister give an assurance that she may remain in Australia?
– I should like the honorable member for Moreton to know that I am the Minister for Immigration, not the Minister for Migration. I do nol know what happened when the honorable gentleman was a Minister, but I inform him that in the Department of Immigration we do not accept ex parte statements on whether ladies are widows or gentlemen are widowers. When we suspect that there may be a motive in the forwarding of certain information, we make a check. I assure the honorable gentleman that we had a letter from the husband of the lady two years after he was supposed to have been killed in an air raid, and we have other evidence which substantiates our belief that that gentleman is alive. I still believe that there was some purpose in the trickery that was practised. I believe that the lady deliberately withheld the information which she should ‘have given to us, and I also believe that the honorable member for Moreton is aiding and abetting ber in attempting to break down the White Australia policy.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to establish a trust fund of certain moneys received by the Government of the Commonwealth from the Government of the United Kingdom, being moneys representing proceeds of the realization of assets of the Temple Society, of members of that society and of certain other persons, and to provide for the administration and application of the fund.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the ‘ 7tb September (vide page 42), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates .under Division No. 1 - Senate - namely, “ Salary and Allowances, £12,400 “, be agreed to.
.- We are asked to debate what I confidently hope will be the last budget of the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). It is likely to be a memorable budget because, upon the eve of an election, it dismally fails to present any solution of the various problems, external and internal, that will confront this country within the next three years. In fact, it follows the pattern of all other budgets presented by the Treasurer and it is a pattern to which we have become accustomed. It envisages a sterile socialist form of society in which every man will be encouraged to sit still at his job instead or engaging in a real effort to increase production and build up a new and vigorous nation, and will be led to believe that we can live from hand to mouth and from day to day. In short, we have here a depressing budget that offers no solution of the nation’s problems, and contemplates, as members of the Labour party are so often prone to say these days, a possible recession or depression, against which the only palliative that is offered is some grandiose and fabulous scheme of public works under which men and women displaced from their jobs are to be directed to the four corners of the Commonwealth to carry out this or that part of a programme of works that still exists only on paper.
At the outset, I want to make three broad observations about this budget. I shall then proceed to develop them in detail. In the first place, this budget can be described as a defeatist document. I say that because it accepts as inevitable the constantly rising scale of costs and prices. It assumes, as a reading of it indicates quite clearly, that in this financial year there will be a continued upthrust of prices and living costs. The Treasurer offers no solution of the problem. He merely points it out. In his view, during this financial year, we will experience an increased cost of living and possibly, for a while, an increased national income because the national income is fantastically measured these days in terms of whatever it costs the community to run the country, whether that is due to rising costs or not. The Treasurer has contented himself with granting only such relief from taxation as he knows will be more than recovered from the swollen pay envelopes, upon which taxation will be imposed, and from the increased imports of consumer goods to which a high tariff will apply.
In the second place, this budget, like previous budgets, is inflationary. It makes no attempt whatever to reduce what I shall term the poultice of extravagant government expenditure, which during the last three or four years has imposed a very heavy and serious burden upon primary and secondary producers, and, indeed, upon all other citizens. We should make it plain to the people, that, on the expenditure side, the Government’s obligation is to indicate to them clearly what they are getting for their money. It is well to repeat that what is being spent is not the Government’s money, but the people’s money. We have to-day a spendthrift government which disposes of every penny of the money that it takes from the people and makes no adequate provision for the future. The Government has had the good fortune to be in office for the last three years with revenue buoyant as the result of the large sums of money that we have received from exports. In that time, it has been falsely assumed that the benefits that have flowed to the people have been attributable to the efforts of the Government. Much revenue has been collected by the taxgatherers and spent, but, although our expenditure is four times greater than it was a decade ago, the people are receiving very little additional benefit. Six shillings of every £1 earned is a very serious impost to take from the people.
A select committee of members of both sides of the House should be appointed to submit plans to limit expenditure to an amount consistent only with the efficient performance of the functions of the Government, to eliminate duplication and overlapping of the services, activities and functions of government and to consolidate the services, activities and functions of government that are of a similar character. The present hopeless waste of public money is very largely due to the overlapping of governmental activities, to the fact that there is no real control of governmental expenditure and to the fact that no authority flows down from the man on top to those below and no responsibility is exercised from the bottom upwards. The government of this country has become a crazy quilt of duplication, overlapping, inefficiency and extravagance. That is aL very well for what I term the “ tax eaters who live upon the taxes collected; but it is very bad for the taxpayers. The spiral of rising costs is most serious for the men and women of this country who are confronted with a rising cost of living from which they can find no escape and out of which this Government certainly gives no lead in showing a way.
The wage-earner - and I am dealing primarily with the family man and his wife - is frustrated. Every wage increase is followed by an increase of the price of goods and services like gas, electricity and transport. All these increases eat up the earnings and savings of the people. In truth, under this Labour Government, the people have learned that £1 will buy to-day little more than 50 per cent, of what it would have bought four or five years ago. The tremendous governmental expenditure has not brought about any real advance in governmental services although the Government is spending today four times as much as it spent ten years ago. “We are not receiving any services commensurate with that expenditure. On the contrary, a large bureaucratic machine has been set up and the greatest part of governmental activity is directed to restriction of production. The controls are costly and negative. Throughout the country new works are largely at a standstill. One has only to walk a few yards from this House to see that that is true. Railways and roads are rapidly deteriorating. Most, if not all, governmental planning is still only on paper. In this election year, the Government, for obvious political purposes, has given birth to spectacular schemes for Australia’s future. They are merely plans. “When can they be translated into action? What is the Government’s answer to that question? In the five years that have passed since the war ended we have not witnessed any real development of Australia’s resources beyond the stage of their development ten years ago.
The third broad observation that I desire to make about the budget is that it contains the same cautious approach by the Treasurer to Australia’s trade problems as has been revealed in every budget that he has presented. He has drawn our attention to the fact that we may at any time suddenly have our economy changed. Indeed, he has stressed that possibility. He has drawn our attention to the way in which some nations have had their economies suddenly changed overnight by the actions of other nations. He has pointed that out, but he has not given us any indication of how this country’s affairs should be arranged to meet the threat. In our export trade, we rely more and more on fewer and fewer types of commodities. We rely mainly on three commodities only - wool, wheat and flour. Our internal economy has been very properly described as a “milk bar economy”. We have thrown our productive effort into a large number of activities, many of which have been encouraged by the Government, and, as the result, we have spread our butter very thinly indeed over the bread of our resources. Externally, we rely more and more upon our returns from only three stable commodities, and, in the period in which the Government has been in power, it has utterly failed to harness the resources of Australia.
All the magnificent opportunities that world trade presented when the war ended have been neglected. Therefore, I shall expand my comments under the headings that I have indicated. I emphasize the inflationary character of the budget and point out that it will increase the cost of living very seriously for the people of Australia. From 1946-47 to 1948-49 the Government’s expenditure has increased from £431,000,000 to £554,000,000. That is a very large increase. When the attention of the Treasurer has been drawn to this increase, he has been apt to answer, “ Well, it is a good thing to take large sums of money by way of taxes during times of high national income, because you are able to make provision against the future by setting aside reserves “. As a principle, I have said that that is right, but the principle has not been carried out in practice. I direct attention to what I said in this chamber in May of this year when I made it clear that I am not one who believes that in times of buoyant national income the Government should return to the people all revenue over and above its current requirements. On the contrary, I take the view that anti-cyclical budgeting is a proper approach to our trouble. The National Welfare Fund has a credit of £80,000,000 which has since been increased to £100,000,000. Should another depression come upon us that credit would disappear within a very short time. The present budget shows only too graphically that my observations were justified, because anticipated expenditure from the National Welfare Fund this year will be £100,000,000, or an amount equal to the credit in the fund. Should a difficult period come upon us - as witness the coal strike, when unemployment reached near-depression levels - it is quite clear that the fund, as presently established, would not last for very many months. Outgoings would increase considerably, whilst payments into the fund would be very seriously diminished. The main point that I seek to emphasize is that reserves established by budgetary financial transfers can be spent only once.
We should not be lulled into a sense of false security about the effectiveness of cautious treasury policy as the answer to full employment and the trade cycle variant. If a high-level governmental expenditure, as distinct from the setting aside of reserves, means that the accumulation of real wealth in the community is retarded, the objective of the Government in maintaining stable conditions of employment will be defeated. In this connexion, I shall make two observations. One is that if no reserves were set aside in times of abundant national income to meet fully the recessive conditions which inevitably follow a big boom, the result would be that heavy demands would have to be made upon the finances of the country, either by taxation or by depreciating the currency, at a time when both national and private incomes were falling. If at a time of buoyancy, when private industry and private initiative should be encouraged, the Government competes with private enterprise for reserves, private industry will be rendered less able to take up the slack when depressive conditions arose. The only course then open to the Government, as indicated in the budget speech, would be the implementation of a mammoth public works programme, which of necessity would require the direction of massive movement of people from one place to another in order to carry out the various projects. Is this the kind of living to which we are to become accustomed? I am reminded of the Prime Minister’s observation two or three years ago that we were coming to the period of the “ golden age “. Now, however, we are walking through the valley that leads to depression. We have been reminded that a depression may take place, yet the Government has advanced no plan whatever in its budgetary proposals to deal with sich a contingency. At a time when I should have thought that we would be laying down the foundation for a vast productive effort on the part of private enterprise the Government is doing its utmost to retard private enterprise. It is significant that in other countries that do not share the idea that socialism is the answer to all evils - I speak in particular of Canada and the United States of
America - a remarkable standard of living has been achieved, because their standard springs directly from private enterprise and private initiative. A comparison of our production with theirs in respect of two major matters reflects very seriously upon the Government’s handling of the economy of this country. In the United States of America the production of bituminous coal was 50 per cent, higher in 194S than in 1939. The production of anthracite, similarly compared, showed an increase of 12 per cent. In Canada, coal production was 28.9 per cent, higher in 194S than in 1939. A further improvement in the first four months of 1949 resulted in a rate of production 35.4 per cent, higher than before the war. In South Africa production in 1948 was 48 per cent, higher than in 1939.
We hear frequently that only Labour supporters can persuade workers to produce. Let us compare what has been Jone in the coal industry of this country with what has been achieved in South Africa, Canada, the United States of America, under three different types of government, of which all three share the common objection that we on this side of the chamber have to socialism. They have increased their production of coal by from 30 per cent, to 50 per cent. In Australia, however, the production of black coal was only 9.45 per cent, higher in 1948 than in 1939. That is an extraordinary comparison.
– Does that include production from open Cuts?
– Yes. I shall deal with that aspect in a moment. The shameful fact is that in New South Wales underground miners produced 6.1 per cent, less coal in 1948 than in 1939. Their production rate for the period from the 1st January, 1949, to the 18th June, 1949- prior to the recent coal strike - was 1.1 per cent, less than in the corresponding period of last year.
– From where did the honorable member obtain those figures ?
– I obtained them from the office of the Commonwealth Statistician. I am not accustomed to making statements in this chamber that are not based on fact. In this country the production of black coal has increased by only 9.5 per cent, over a period of approximately ten years. In that period, also, we know that industry generally has developed at an extraordinary rate. Although the demand for coal has increased, the Government has done nothing whatever to measure up to its responsibilities to increase the production of coal, which is the very basis of our industrial life. Production from underground mining is now less than it was ten years ago. When the result of the coal strike is taken into consideration it will be found that the production of underground miners in Australia, particularly in New South Wales, will be very much below that of last year. The all-too-negligible overall increase of coal production in this country is attributable solely to the development of open-cut operations. Such activity could have been increased tremendously if the Government had pursued an imaginative policy. I venture to say that if the Government had taken the trouble to allow the import of modern earth-moving equipment, which, as I have said on more than one occasion, we could have acquired had Ministers used their imagination, the production of coal from, open-cuts in this country would have been four or five times greater than it is at present. We should then have been in a position to measure up to our. responsibilities and to give the Australian people a better standard of living. That should be our primary objective at all times.
It is significant that the Treasurer, in his budget speech. said that we had increased our manufacturing capacity by 50 per cent, on the pre-war figure. I emphasize the word “capacity”. The words used by the right honorable gentleman were these -
In manufacturing, our capacity has increased at least 50 per cent.
He did not state that we are now working to only 70 per cent, of our capacity. If our capacity has increased by 50 per cent, and we are now working only to 70 per cent, of a capacity of 150 per cent, of the pre-war figure, that means that in ten years our overall production has increased by only 5 per cent. That is the position in Australia, but in other countries of the world where the clammy hand of socialism has not been fastened upon the national economies, the production of goods, especially coal and steel, from which most other goods flow, has increased considerably. In the United States of America and South Africa coal production has increased by 50 per cent, and 48 per cent, respectively. In this country it has increased by only 9 per cent. How can we discharge our responsibilities when production in this country is being retarded?
Output has been retarded for two main reasons which I need not state at any length. First, the Government has failed completely to exercise industrial discipline and to prevent the dislocation that has occurred. It has failed to support the arbitration system, with the ultimate result that during the recent general coal strike our economy was brought to a halt. Secondly, the Government by its restrictive policies and its taxation proposals, has refused to give any encouragement to private industry. Let me take, as an example, the figures relating to the production of steel, which is a basic requirement for the development of this country. In 1948 the production of steel ingots in the United States of America was 172 per cent, of the production, in 1939 and in May of this year the figure had risen to 184 per cent. The corresponding figures for the production of pig iron in the United States of America are 171 per cent, and 189 per cent, respectively. In Canada, which is a nation that is not very much, larger than Australia in terms of population, the production of steel ingots in 1948 was 147 per cent, of the production in 1938, and in March of this year it had increased to 160 per cent, of the 1938 figure. The story as it relates to Australia is a lamentable one. In 1948-49 the production of pig iron, blooms and billets, and steel ingots in Australia was less than the production in 1938-39 by 6.3 per cent., 11.9 per cent., and 3.3 per cent, respectively. The figures that I have given cannot be waved aside or dismissed with the statement that we have had difficulties to contend with. Other nations have encountered difficulties since the end of the war. Honorable members opposite often gibe at the United States of America, but during the last war that country very largely supported the Allied war effort on two fronts simultaneously and at the same time maintained an extraordinarily high standard of living for its people. That was achieved under what I term a free economy. Canada also made tremendous sacrifices during the war, but during the period that has elapsed since the war ended it has increased very greatly its production of coal and steel compared with the production in 1939. Australia, which has had a socialist Government during the post-war period, has to acknowledge the unpalatable fact that it is now producing less steel than it produced a decade ago. If that condition of affairs is allowed to continue, how can we develop this country and improve our standard of living, and how can the “ golden age “ that the Prime Minister so easily promised three years ago be anything more than a vision that is steadily receding? I have mentioned coal and steel, which are two basic products, because they reflect the position of many other commodities.
The truth is that the Australian Government is following an ideology that is now outmoded. It is following the old publications of the London School of Economics and the socialists of years gone by, who propounded what they thought to be cures for the ills of a society that had been over-developed and which could not absorb its productive capacity. The Government has failed completely to understand that the problems of Australia will not respond to the socialistic approach. Progress in this country was not won by adherence to socialistic dogma but by the sweat of the brows and by the imagination of free men. It was won by individual pioneers and not by socialists. Goodness knows what would have happened to Australia if a socialist government had been in power at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one. The foundations of this country were laid by free men. While the Labour Government has been in office Australia has had a golden opportunity to ensure its prosperity. We have received very high prices for our exports, and there has been a vast world market waiting for us, not only in respect of wool, wheat and flour but also in respect of many other commodities. During that time the Government has sat still. It has been hogged in socialistic ideas that are tied to the thinking of a generation ago.
I shall now deal with the way in which the Government’s policy is affecting the cost of living. Although a decrease of the national income is imminent, revenue in this year is increasing. As the Treasurer has pointed out, there is likely to be an upward thrust of prices for a large part of this financial year, if not for the whole of it. What has the Government done to deal with that problem ? It is taking 6s. in taxes out of every fi that the people earn. It has been said that taxation is being reduced, but that is merely a dodge. If taxation is being reduced, it is very strange that the annual revenue from taxes now is approximately £160,000,000 more than it was three years ‘ago. Instead of taxes being collected through direct imposts on incomes they are being taken from the people by way of indirect charges that affect the cost of living. By that means it is made difficult for the people to realize how much they are being taxed, as the full tale of taxation does not appear in their income tax assessments.
– It is a great illusion.
– It is also a wicked illusion. There was a Prime Minister of England, I think it was Pitt, who said a long time ago that the power of imposing indirect taxes gave power to the government to tax the shirt off the back of the worker.
– It is not the policy of the Opposition to help the worker.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) has not been a worker for a long time, so he need not start chipping in about the worker. He has forgotten about the worker. The Australian worker is supposed to be led by the Labour Government, and yet the truth of the matter is that the average man with a family, who earns an average wage - not the man like the honorable member, who is earning £3,000 or £4,000 a year from sheep-raising - is struggling hard to make ends meet. Yet the only concession that the Treasurer has given in this budget, apart from a slight reduction of sales tax - any loss arising from which the Treasurer knows that he will pick up in some other way - is an increase of the concessional deduction relating to payments on account of insurance. By the strangest circumstance this sole concession, which increases the allowable concessional deduction in respect of insurance payments from £100 to £150, is only to serve the interests of the Labour party. The Labour party parliamentarians said to themselves, “Now, we have to pay £150 under the pensions scheme for members of Parliament, and of that amount we are at present allowed only £100 as a concessional deduction for income tax assessment purposes, so let us jack the concession up to £150”. How many working men pay £150 a year for insurance? Will the Government tell us that this concesion has been designed to assist the working man. Or will it tell us that it is designed to help the rich man ? Which is it designed to help ?
– It is not for the working man. The honorable member knows that.
– Well, that is good enough. I cannot imagine this socialist Government making the only concession in the budget to the rich man. The concession was designed for members of the Parliament on the Labour party side who have plundered this country in every way that they could. If honorable members will study the provisions in the Estimates they will find that the expenses incurred in respect of all the committees of this Parliament have increased considerably. I refer, for example, to the Broadcasting Committee and the Public Works Committee. No one in the world will believe that the increase of the concessional deduction on account of insurance payments from £100 to £150 was given other than as a means of serving the interests of members of the Parliament. We on this side of the committee did not ask for that concession. It was decided upon, in the Labour caucus and its purpose is the purpose that I have stated. How can the Government expect the people of this country, who are faced with the increasing cost of living, ever to have confidence that they will be able to solve their problems, when they see things like this being done? It is a case of members of the Parliament who are in control of the government of the country using their position to serve their own ends and not the ends of the public. That is consistent with the policy of this Government, which spends money with the utmost extravagance. It spends as much money as it can get.
The Government pretends that it has reduced taxation because it has reduced indirect taxation revenue by £7,000,000. It claims that that is a real concession but it knows that, because of the increased cost of living, it will more than recoup itself for that £7,000,000. It is also strange that the amount of loss to the revenue as the result of reductions of indirect taxation, which will amount this year to slightly less than £8,000,000, is equivalent to the amount of money which the Government has had to add on to its budget for the purpose of paying to the States money to meet, it is said, the costs that were incurred by the States during the recent coal strike. I shall give some figures relating to indirect taxation so that the people may understand how they are being burdened, because it is of no use to tell the ordinary man that because his income tax assessment does not show him to be liable for much taxation, he is not being taxed just the same. The taxpayer should know that increased costs of production are ultimately reflected in his cost of living through increased costs of goods and services. Consumers will have to find £160,000,000 for the Treasurer this year through customs, excise and sales tax. The cost of goods to the consumer will, therefore, be at least £160,000,000 higher than if those levies were not imposed. Those taxes permeate the whole of society. Who will pay this huge sum of £160,000,000 in indirect taxes? How will it be collected? It will be collected entirely through sales tax and the hidden imposts of customs and excise duties. But that is not the sum and substance of the evil, because the imposition of those indirect taxes will have a tendency to increase even more the costs of production. If the cost of production rises the cost of goods will rise more than proportionately, so that an even heavier burden will be cast on the consuming public by way of this indirect taxation.
It has been the habit of the Labour party - I should call it by its true name, the “ socialist party “, but it has been masquerading under the name of “ Labour party “ for a long time past - to say that the sales tax is applied only to luxuries. That is so much nonsense. I have taken the trouble to find the relevant facts in the Taxpayers Bulletin for March, 1949, which show that sales tax and import duties are imposed on a very wide range of goods from biscuits to baked beans and from cocoa to canned cabbage. There is sales tax on coffee and import duty on tea, and there is a tax of 2s. in the £1 on breakfast foods. There is also a tax upon a large number of items used in the construction of buildings. Each one of those imposts reflects itself in the cost of living.
What is the Government’s approach to the problem of the increasing cost of living? Honorable members opposite have been complaining for a long time about the fact that the people who, after all, are the masters of the Government, refused to give them control over prices. In the years between 1940 and 1947, before the prices referendum was held, we had in this country a system of substantial payments of subsidies that kept the cost of living down. What did the Government do immediately the prices referendum was over? It changed its policy almost over night. Prior to that time the Labour party always supported the principle of subsidy payments to keep the cost of living down. Immediately the referendum was over, it used the vote as an excuse or alibi - because as I said last night this is a government of alibis. It announced that if it could not control prices it would not pay subsidies, and it rapidly diminished all subsidies, with the result that the cost of living of every person in this country went up. Thus the cost of living has increased very substantially over, for example, the last seven or eight months, in respect of, to quote only one range of goods, all men’s wear and children’s wear. That has been due to the policy deliberately followed by this Government. I say that the Government cannot remove subsidies while still imposing high taxation and incurring high governmental expenditure, and yet expect to bring the cost of living down. To attempt to do so would he what I can describe in no other words than “lunatic budgeting”.
I now propose to discuss Australia’s trade with the United Kingdom and other .overseas countries, but first let me say something about the dollar problem. Attention has frequently been drawn to the need to rehabilitate Western Europe, and the matter is mentioned in the budget speech. The needs of Western Europe are not confined to dollars. I crave the indulgence of honorable members to read the following passage from the budget speech: -
As a counter-part to Marshall aid, a system of intra-European payments was established last year with the object of providing funds by which European countries could within limits buy from their neighbours more goods than their own earnings would cover.
It is proposed that, with modifications, this scheme will be continued in the current year, in which case the United Kingdom will again make large contributions in sterling. This is because sterling, which is the means of buying goods not only in Great Britain but throughout the whole sterling area, is for many countries a very scarce currency. The United Kingdom, as honorable members know, has during the post-war years given very large financial aid to countries in Europe and this has helped them considerably to restore their industries and trade.
I pause there for emphasis. Europe must be rehabilitated. It needs to buy from other countries more than its current production enables it to pay for. It is in need of two currencies, dollars and sterling. Because some European countries need sterling, there has been established an intra-European system of trading. What staggers me is that, although Australia’s economy is bogged down because we cannot obtain essential imports from hard currency areas, no positive action has been taken by the Government to get dollars. Europe is in need of goods which can be obtained from either dollar or sterling areas. The rehabilitation of Europe is by no means complete, so why is it not possible for Australia to supply more of the sterling goods which Western Europe needs? A government with a truly Australian point of view would say : “ We have sterling balances in Great Britain, and,, above all, we have goods which we can supply to Western European countries. We can greatly increase our production of those goods so as to hasten the rehabilitation of Western Europe. We are prepared to make available our sterling funds so long as we receive a quid pro quo to enable us to import the things we vitally need “. However, this Government persists in its negative attitude, and in its policy of restriction. It recognizes, as we all do, the tremendous problem with which Great Britain is faced. It recognizes Britain’s need for dollars, but its only cry is “ We must further restrict imports from hard currency areas “. I refer honorable members to the following significant passage in the Treasurer’s budget speech: -
It will be clear that, apart from longer-term considerations, the issues being discussed in Washington have a critical present importance. Further restriction of imports, whilst necessary to check the fall in gold and dollar reserves, obviously cannot be carried beyond certain limits without causing grave dislocation to industries and standards of living in the countries concerned. In any case, it can in itself contribute nothing to the solution of the dollar problem which requires a positive effort to lift levels of trade rather than to reduce them.
That has been said time and time again from this side of the chamber during the last three or four years. We have declared that it is impossible to solve the problem by applying a policy of restriction. There must be a positive approach. I have looked through the budget speech carefully for signs of such an approach, but there is none. The Treasurer discussed the London conference, which was attended by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. One would have expected that, from such a conference, there would emerge a plan that would be stated in plain terms for Australians to understand, so that they would know what was required of them, and what recompense they might expect if they produced more goods. The Treasurer has admitted that restrictions cannot solve the problem and that they would reduce the standard of living, as they have, in fact, already done. As I have said, one would expect a positive approach from the Government, but I invite honorable members to note the generality of the language used by the Treasurer in his speech, and the lack of any indication of a positive policy. He said -
At the London Conference, where Australia was represented by the Minister for Defence and Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. J. J. Dedman, long-term aspects of the problem were considered and agreement was reached as to major objectives which should be pursued-
What does that mean? Looking over the hill, at the end of the tunnel, or something of that sort, I suppose. The right honorable gentleman continued -
Did any one ever before hear such drivelling twaddle in a Parliament?
Apparently we have some objectives, which are major ones, and some long-term aspects, which means, I suppose, taking the long view of our objectives, but what is to come of it all no one knows. Then the Treasurer passed from the general to the particular, and continued -
In particular it was thought that the central aim of all countries should be the achievement of a pattern of world trade in which the dollar and non-dollar countries should be able to operate within a single multilateral system, and that the strength and stability of sterling as an international currency should be a major goal.
I have no doubt that a boy in the first class in economics could have written that generality, but the words I have quoted were spoken :by our Prime Minister when he was telling the Parliament what the London conference did. It is no wonder that I have complained that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction does not represent Australian sentiment. He cannot see the problems of this country through an Australian’s eyes. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), apparently, is about to interject. I advise him to listen to what I have to say because it will be the last chance he will have of listening to a budget debate in this House. We are confronted with a major problem involving international payments, increase of our trade and disposal of our commodities. Yet, in this time of great crisis the Treasurer merely tells us that, in particular, it was thought that the central aim of all countries should be to have a single multilateral system in which goods flow freely and dollars are easily convertible to sterling. The Treasurer might as well have said that it was thought that there should be harmony and goodwill between all countries and that that should be the major aim of our policy. Nothing has been forthcoming with respect to those proposals. Yet, the Australian people, particularly the primary producers, want to know what is to happen to their products. It is useless to talk to the Australian people about producing more goods unless they are satisfied that as the result of producing more goods their standard of living will be raised. We are producing goods and sending them to Great Britain, and for them we are getting sterling credits. Our income in that sphere is increasing, but we have not raised the standard of living in this country as the result of that increased production. We need dollars but the Government is making no effort to solve the problem. It has not made any effort to increase the production of gold. I shall amplify what I said on that subject some time ago.
– The supporters of the Government talk a lot of “ tripe “ about the golden age.
– Yes; but we have not heard them speak very much about gold. We can produce gold in increasing quantities in this country, and although we cannot eat it, gold is equivalent to dollars for the purposes of our economy. But what is the position? As I pointed out last night, this is a sad story of lack of production; but the story is even worse in respect of gold than it is in respect of steel. In the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the last war our normal production of gold was 1,600,000 fine oz. per annum, which on present prices would he equivalent to fA.16,000,000. But, to-day, we are producing only 800,000 fine oz. of gold. In that period our production has been halved. If we brought our production of gold back to pre-war levels, we would on present prices of gold, increase our fund of hard currency by approximately £8,000,000. But the Government has done nothing in that direction. It has not only allowed the goldmining industry to become stagnant; it has even discouraged the industry. Why has it done that? [Extension of time granted.’] When the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) returned from the London conference, he spoke in the same terms as the Treasurer and he himself now speak in this House. We are told now that the idea was to have multilateral trade, to have a breaking-down of tariff barriers. When the Minister spoke on the International Monetary Agreement,, honorable members on this side of the House pointed out that the pegging of the price of gold was against the interests of Australia as a gold-producing country. Did the Minister, when he was overseas, speak in the interests of Australia? No. He and his colleagues spoke in terms of socialistic internationalism, and in doing so played into the hands of other countries. They sold Australia. We have now, but only as the result of what members of the Opposition have said, a conversion of the Government to the need to seek an upward valuation of gold. That move, of course, is being resisted by the United States of America, which holds the key to the position. By virtue of the agreement which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction signed on behalf of Australia, the United States of America can now say to us, “ No, there can be no upward valuation of gold under the agreement which you have signed “. Consequently, Australia, which is a goldproducing country and is producing in abundance all the things which the world urgently requires, cannot get the things it needs except by the will of other countries. The Government offers no solution of that problem. It simply says that we cannot solve it. Yet, it gives no encouragement to the gold-mining industry to increase production; and, because of its action we cannot get any upward valuation of gold unless other nations agree. This is the Government which is supposed to represent Australia’s interests !
Little by little there will sink into the public mind the fact that in this splurge of internationalism and the Government’s pursuit of socialistic goals, this country’s interests have been sacrificed. We are not in our present position as the result of the United States of America having a lot of dollars. That is not the reason. The disparity in world trade is due principally to the fact that production per man in hard currency countries is very much higher than our own rate of production. However, the Government little realizes that on vital matters, as we shall find it to be our experience under the Havana Agreement also, it has sacrificed our own interests and has made it more difficult independently to solve our problem with respect to hard currency. Consequently, we have been forced to adjust ourselves more and more to what other countries determine for us. In other words, we have been robbed more and more of any independence of national action as the result of what the Government has done. The truth of that statement is being proved to-day. I have already cited gold as one example. It is being proved bit by bit that the socialists of this world, of whom the members of this Government are only a portion, are steadily destroying the resilience of new countries and their ability to develop their resources. Australia stands in circumstances which are entirely different from those of most other countries. This is a new country practically on the threshhold of great nationhood. Yet, by agreements overseas, the Government has tied our hands, and we are now reaping the consequences of its actions. I have sought to make it clear that this budget holds out no hope to the people at all. It merely tells the people that they are to contribute 6s. of every £1 they earn to the Government’s coffers; and the Government will grab an increasing proportion of their earnings. They are told that Australia is in difficulties overseas, and because we cannot get dollars they must go without this or that article which can be obtained only from dollar areas. The Government says that it cannot buy dollars, or produce good’s to obtain them. It simply tells the people that there is no hope for Australia. This budget has been described as a budget of no promises ; to me it is a budget of no hope.
.- The budget is another very fine document presented to this Parliament by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who has had a record period of service in that office and whose work for this nation is becoming more and more fully appreciated. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) criticized the budget in strong terms. He said that it was defeatist, inflationary, and, finally, a budget of nohope. I do not propose to quote at length in the course of my remarks, but it may be appropriate, following a speech such as that to which we have just listened, to draw the attention of honorable members to two comments which appeared recently in certain Melbourne metropolitan daily newspapers. The opinions that I shall quote are expressed by the leader writers of the newspapers concerned, and, no doubt, reflect the views of the proprietors of those journals. On the 8th September, the Melbourne Argus published a leading article which described the current budget as “An L.C.L. Budget”. The reference, of course, is not to the Liberal Country League. The article states -
Mr. Chifley, as Treasurer, has produced a lower cost of living budget.
That is the crushing answer to the honorable member for Warringah. It is the frank comment of a reputable daily newspaper in Victoria. On the same date, the Melbourne Age, referring to the 1949-50 budget, said -
In broad results, the federal budget is a record of achievement, of sound, even conservative, management of huge resources, and of prudent foresight.
It would take more argument than the Opposition can muster to break down that sober comment. In the course of quite a good speech, the honorable member for Warringah said that the Government’s budget proposals were in general accord with its financial policy. The honorable member, like all Opposition speakers in this Parliament, and all Tory representatives in the parliaments of Australia generally, has allowed his mind to be influenced by that old bogy called socialism. We all have differing views on what is meant by socialism, or a socialistic system. To Opposition members, of course, the word “ socialism “ is not so much a vague term as an instrument of propaganda. They have much to learn in that sphere because if they look back over the years they will find that the same old bogy has been raised time and time again throughout nearly a century of Australian political history. It served quite a good political purpose in the early days, but it fails to-day to scare the Australian people. They look at the achievements of Labour and see the great public organizations that have been set up by Labour governments or even by anti-Labour governments in some instances. They see, for example, the great State Electricity Commission of Victoria which was established by a nonLabour government many years ago. They see the recent improvement in the finances of that great organization at the hands of the fiercest anti-socialist government the Australian people have ever known - the Hollway-McDonald LiberalCountry party Government. The people of Victoria have not forgotten that it was this anti-socialist government that increased the borrowing power of the State Electricity Commission from £15,000,000 to £60,000,000. The undertaking must surely be one of the greatest public-owned corporations in the history of this country. So, I say to the honorable member for Warringah and to others who seek to make political propaganda from the old bogy called socialism that there is an undoubted place for public ownership in the fabric of Australia’s industrial life, and that, in many directions, that public ownership must be expanded. On a recent visit to Australia, Lord Bruce, formerly Mr. S. M. Bruce, a past Prime Minister of this country, said that public utilities ought to be nationally owned. Lord Bruce cannot be accused of being a socialist or even a Labour supporter. He was one of the greatest tories that Australian public life has known, yet he. agrees with Labour’s contention that all public utilities ought to be publicly owned, whether such a policy is described as nationalization, socialization or anything else. But let me be even more specific. The present Labour Government, called by tories opposite a socialist government, as similar administrations have always been named by conservative elements in public life, has a splendid record in the expansion of public ownership. For instance, it has set up a very fine airline organization known as TransAustralia Airlines. It proposes also to establish a Commonwealth shipping line to carry Australian products between various parts of th:is great Commonwealth, ,and, at a later stage, overseas. I invite Opposition members who claim to be so fiercely opposed to State enterprise to tell the Australian people that, should they be returned to power, they will sell Trans-Australia Airlines to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited or some other private organization. Let them tell the Australian people that, if elected to office, they will disband or abandon the proposed Commonwealth shipping line and force Australia to depend once more on chance shipping from overseas. Do honorable members opposite believe that in time of war we should be utterly dependent upon outside sources for our sea transport services! That is the acid test for Opposition speakers. Are they prepared to say that they would get rid of the publicly owned corporations established by this Government? On the subject of banking, too, honorable members opposite have a case to answer. The nationalization of banking may or may not be an issue, depending as it does on decisions of the High Court and the Privy Council. But we have still on our statute-book the Banking Act of 1945, which, at the time of its passage, was described by Opposition speakers as a socialistic measure. We were told that that legislation was designed to achieve socialism by stealth and on the cheap. Will Opposition members tell the people of Australia that it is their intention, if elected to office, to repeal that legislation and to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board as it existed before the change was made by the Labour Government? Again I say that that is the acid test of whether honorable members opposite really believe that the Labour Government has gone too far in public ownership. If the Opposition parties do not propose to disband these newly created public corporations; if they do not propose to repeal the legislation that we have enacted, they must stand charged with being at least as socialistic as we are.
The honorable member for Warringah was most critical of indirect taxation. I, too, am very critical of indirect taxation. It is an undesirable practice, and its incidence and cumulative effect on the people is bad. I have before me a current publication in which one honorable member opposite expresses views that apparently are not shared by some of his colleagues. It is an interesting article by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) published in the Melbourne Herald on the 15th September.
– The article is headed, “ Government Spending No Answer to Slump “ and I take it that it expresses the views of the honorable member for Fawkner.
– It is a summary of an article by me.
– I shall quote only a short passage from the article. Then the honorable member may indicate whether or not the views expressed are his. I am dealing with the criticism of indirect taxation that was offered by the honorable member for Warringah. The article states -
Possibly the answer would be found in financing social services on a contributory basis and maintaining indirect taxation at a fairly high level. The income tax rates on the brackets from which investment principally derives must be lowered to more acceptable levels.
I take it that that statement expresses the views of the honorable member for Fawkner because it has been published in an article which purports to express his views. The honorable member expressed more fully than did the honorable member for Warringah the traditional policy of the Liberal party when he said that a good deal of the cost of government should be financed from the proceeds of indirect taxes. The honorable member for Warringah criticized such a policy to-day. I agree with him that indirect taxation is a bad form of taxation. I go further, and say that this Government has achieved a great deal in reducing the proportion of indirect taxes in the total taxes levied on the people. Prior to1 the advent of Labour governments in this country, approximately 60 per cent, of the revenue of the Commonwealth was derived from indirect taxes and 40 per cent, from direct taxes. To-day, the proportions are almost reversed. This Government has relied much more heavily on direct taxation and much less heavily, proportionately, on indirect taxation. lt is true that the amounts have varied from year to year as total taxes have been increased, but the proportions to-day compared with pre-war years are as I have indicated.
The honorable member for Warringah has cited statistics to show that production in overseas countries is relatively greater than it is in this country. Production statistics have always been an unreliable basis upon which to determine the prosperity of a country. Many important factors must be taken into account. The United States of America has vast mechanical ability and a great industrial system which were developed over the war years. America has become the bastion of the democracies, not only militarily, but also industrially. The vast industrial potential which was developed in America during the war has been turned to peace-time pursuits and has enabled that country to achieve remarkable results. In Australia production has suffered because we have not been able to obtain the mechanical aids which America has at its disposal.
The honorable member for Warringah has also said that the Government’s sole concession in the field of income tax consists of an increase of the maximum amount in respect of which rebates may be claimed for insurance premiums and superannuation payments, and that this concession bad been granted solely to benefit members of the Parliament. That statement wai unworthy of the honorable gentleman. I shall be interested to learn whether he fails to claim a rebate for the maximum amount when he submits his next income tax return. If my memory serves me aright the proposal for increasing the maximum amount in respect of which rebates may be claimed on this account was submitted by the honorable member for Fawkner. Certainly the first occasion on which I heard the matter raised was when the honorable member for Fawkner drew the attention of the Treasurer to the increasing cost of a variety of services which, he claimed, made the maximum amount of £100 unrealistic.
– In his reply, the Treasurer stated that a number of honorable members had raised the matter with him. He mentioned, among others, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan).
– That is so, and I think, also, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson). I draw attention to this matter merely to show that this was a most unworthy and unjustifiable statement. Things have come to a pretty poor pass in this Parliament when statements, of that kind are made by honorable members opposite. Doubtless some newspapers will high-light the honorable member’s statement that this concession is intended to benefit only ourselves and has not been granted to meet a demand throughout the community generally. As a general rule I do not favour concessions of that kind. I believe that they are inequitable in application because they benefit most those on the higher ranges of income and provide little or no benefit for those in the lower income ranges. Such a concession has, however, been sought by members of the Parliament and by people generally for a long time. I have been reliably informed that organizations of public servants have strongly pressed for the granting of such a concession. They have claimed that public servants make heavy contributions in insurance premiums and superannuation payments for which they have not been able to claim rebates. I leave the matter at that point, because I do not think it is worthy of further comment.
The honorable member for Warringah dealt with the Government’s proposals to cushion the effects of a possible recession. The memory of the depression of recent years is still fresh in the minds of the people of Australia and of other countries. We remember, not only the human suffering involved, which was tragic enough, but also the loss of productivity resulting from the unemployment of great masses of the people. Those losses can never be recovered. Men and women throughout this country have resolved that such an economic waste will never again be tolerated. It is true that the human f actor in the depression was of the utmost importance, but so also was the fact that men and women were idle when vast public works still awaited completion. To guard against the recurrence of a similar state of affairs the Government has prepared a public works programme on both a short term and a long-term basis. Honorable members opposite have criticized that programme on the ground that it must involve the direction of labour. Our answer to that contention, if an answer be needed, is that we had real direction of labour during the last depression. Sheer economic circumstances compelled the direction of labour and would again if a similar situation should arise. But what honorable members opposite fail to realize is that modern times have produced the answer to the problems that arise from a recession. If governments introduce public works programmes, or if they maintain a policy of full employment, it will not be necessary to direct labour. Intelligent employers and far seeing governments realize that the provision of adequate compensation for the hardships of unemployment, and of reasonable conditions of labour will enable us to avoid directing labour should a recession come upon us.
The honorable member for Warringah also referred to the Government’s commitments in respect of international conventions, agreements and organizations. He referred specifically to the International Monetary Fund, claiming that Australia’s participation in that fund had been resisted by the Opposition. If my memory serves me aright, the sole opposition in this House to the proposal that Australia should become a member of the International Monetary Fund and Bank came from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). By and large, Opposition members supported that proposal and gave it their blessing. The honorable member for Warringah has changed hia attitude. Now he claims that because of that agreement we cannot obtain an increase of the price of gold to-day. I point out, however, that when the International Monetary Fund fixes the price of gold to-day it does so as the result of a vote of its members, although I admit that the United States has a substantial influence when any such vote is taken. If the price of gold’ were not decided by the International Monetary Fund the matter would be left solely to the United States of America. The present organization takes from that country some of the control that it formerly had and confers the power of control on a new organization. The honorable member also repeated’ what he had said last night, namely, that the Government had done nothing to stimulate the production of gold. The fact is, however, that the Government has done a great deal to encourage the production of gold. Through its immigration policy it has provided additional man-power for the gold mines of Western Australia. The Government has sponsored a scheme to provide additional man-power for Currawong, the local forestry area which provides timber for the mines in Kalgoorlie, on which so much of Australia’s gold-mining production depends. Other migrant labour is also being made available to Kalgoorlie by the Government. The limiting factors that restrict gold production to-day are man-power and machinery. As I have pointed out, the Government has made direct efforts to overcome the scarcity of man-power and machinery. It has co-operated with the management of the gold mines and with those State governments that are interested in gold-mining, and has done a great deal indeed to encourage the industry. As I pointed out last night, the principal reason for the decline of gold production lies in the fact that because gold mines give up they must of necessity, in time, give out. There is not an unlimited quantity of gold in the earth. Huge quantities of payable gold have been won from the gold-fields, and it is inevitable that the supply of payable ore must diminish. The production of gold is also limited by the high cost of working to-day.
I think that my remarks dispose of the major criticisms of the Government’s financial policy uttered by the honorable member. His speech was not so much criticism of the budget as it was a splenetic attack on what he chose to call “ socialism “ and “ socialist government
As I said previously, the real test of the Government’s policy will come at the next general election, when the issues will be placed squarely before the people, and they will have an opportunity to express their opinion on the conduct of the nationalized or socialized industries of the country. The budget gives many indications of the solid achievements of the Government. The front page of the printed1 budget speech contains a formidable list of its achievements. Progressive reductions of taxes that have been made since the war amount to the equivalent, in current monetary value, of £200,000,000. To have reduced taxes to such a degree in a period of only approximately four years is a highly creditable achievement. Turning now to the actual incidence of income tax, I point out that individual taxpayers in the middle and lower income groups have received very considerable financial benefits. For proof of that we need only to compare the tax paid by taxpayers in the lower and middle income groups with that paid by them to the Commonwealth and State Governments before the war. It will be seen that, with the possible exception of Victoria, in most States people are paying less than they did before the war. The successive reductions of tax made by the Government are all the more remarkable because of the very considerable expenditure which the Government incurred during the prosecution of the war, the financial consequences of which still have to be encountered. The Government has provided £108,000,000 for repatriation and re-establishment of ex-servicemen. Because of the extraordinary prosperity that the community has enjoyed people have received high incomes, and in consequence the state of the national revenues has enabled the Government to set aside £184,000,000 for interest and sinking fund on debt arising from the war. It has made gifts to Great Britain totalling £35,000,000. It has also made direct contributions of £35,000,000 to relieve distress in other countries in Europe and elsewhere. I think that the magnitude of those contributions adequately disposes of the criticism made by the honorable member for Warringah this afternoon that the Government is not playing its part in international affairs. The expenditure on the provision of social services has increased from £39,000,000 annually to approximately £81,000,000, and the National Welfare Fund has been built up to nearly £100,000,000. The criticism made by the Opposition of the reserve in the National Welfare Fund reveals a serious conflict not only between various members of the Opposition but also between the two political parties in opposition. On the one hand, the honorable member for Warringah, who is a prominent member of the Liberal party, claims that the reserve of nearly £100,000,000 which has been accumulated by the present Government would disappear rapidly under the stress of adverse economic conditions. He contends that the total reserve is not sufficiently high. On the other hand, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has repeatedly asserted that the National Welfare Fund is nothing more than a secret reserve established by the Government for some ulterior motive, and the right honorable gentleman is emphatic that the fund should not be nearly so great as it is. Supporters of the Government are quite satisfied, however, that by establishing and accumulating such a substantial fund the Government has made a most substantial contribution to the economic security of the nation.
Turning to the payments which have been made to State governments, we find that those payments have increased, and will continue to increase. In 1949-50 it is expected that approximately £101,000,000 will be remitted to the States. For some time the opinion was expressed in this House, and also in the States, that uniform taxation should be abolished and that we should revert to the former dual system of taxation. However, I do not think that that view now finds favour with any substantial section of the community, and even if Labour were not returned to office at the next elections I do not think that the present Opposition parties would favour a reversion to the old system. For one thing they realize that taxpayers generally would be called upon to pay more in taxes than they do at present. To-day taxpayers are receiving a bigger return for their taxes than was ever envisaged before uniform taxation was introduced, although, of course, that may not be true of taxpayers in every State. However, it is certainly true of the three claimant States, which obtain the benefits of the financial prosperity of the more populous and more highly developed States in eastern Australia.
In other respects the Government also has a fine record. One of the most important improvements in our financial position made by Labour has been the reduction of loan indebtedness. Until the outbreak of World War II. our economy, under successive non-Labour administrations, functioned on the old principle of borrow, boom and bust. Under that system we were saddled with a huge public debt. Even in periods when incomes were high borrowing went on apace. Of course, the inevitable consequence was that when the national income was lowered we still had to meet huge commitments on. a great national debt. Because Australia may have to encounter a recession1, at least of the prices of its primary produce, if not of general economic conditions, the Government has restricted loan borrowing to an absolute minimum. By doing so, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has earned the gratitude not only of the present community but also of future generations of Australians. In the course of his budget speech the Treasurer stated -
During the year, loans! raised in Australia for State works programmes, Commonwealth advances to the States for housing, and redemption of unconverted securities resulted in cash subscription’s amounting to more than £127,000,000.
That simple statement shows that there has been no net addition to the national debt since last year, which is a fine achievement. However, it has not received the commendation of the Opposition or of the press. In fact, the decision to pay the sums involved from the Treasury instead of borrowing money to finance them was made in the teeth of the Opposition and the press, which have argued long and loudly that the Government should borrow more extensively so as to reduce the immediate burden of taxation. That contention is too frightening even to contemplate. The adoption of such a policy would be stupid even if we had not the experience of conditions after World War I. to guide us. In the circumstances, responsible members of the Parliament and newspapers which advocate that we must again pursue that policy reveal either a lack of ability to learn the lessons of the past, or selfinterest in the matter. I think that you, Mr. Temporary Chairman (Mr. Sheehy), in conversation with me put your finger upon the consideration that really counts. You said that an individual member of the community could not borrow indefinitely for the purpose of financing his current costs and remain solvent. In other words, the average citizen must meet his current costs from current income. That argument is equally true when it is applied to the finances of a nation. I believe that the Australian Labour Government, through the Treasurer, has done a fine job in that respect, and, as I stated earlier, it deserves and will receive the gratitude of this and succeeding generations.
The honorable member for Warringah dealt at length with prices. I do not propose to rehash the story because every honorable member is thoroughly conversant with it. Honorable members on this side of the chamber did their best to preserve in peace-time the system of prices control that the Commonwealth had exercised in war-time. Several years ago, every honorable member on this side of the chamber echoed the statement of the Prime Minister that, in the post-war period, the prices of commodities would certainly rise. He said that, as man-power controls were relaxed and as the volume of income from the high prices ruling for our export commodities increased, it would be almost impossible to keep prices static. The right honorable gentleman also declared that by employing uniform methods throughout the country the Commonwealth could control prices more effectively than could six independent States. The Prime Minister said that if the States were not prepared to refer the necessary powers to the Commonwealth, the Australian Government would conduct a referendum in an endeavour to obtain the approval of the people. For reasons best known to themselves, members of the Opposition urged the people to vote against the Government’s referendum proposals. They claim that they will be returned to the treasury bench at the next general election. Had the power to control prices been vested in the Commonwealth, the Opposition parties, as the new government, would have administered it.
– We shall be returned.
– I am merely saying that the evidence at the time of the referendum, and since the referendum, shows that the Opposition parties are not confident that they will be returned to office. Their actions provide clear proof that they realize that the Labour Government will be returned to the treasury bench. During the referendum campaign, Government supporters pointed out that by uniform action throughout the Commonwealth a single federal organization could control prices more effectively than could six independent State authorities. The Commonwealth was denied the power. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have never “ squealed “ about the people’s decision, or claimed that they were wrong in rejecting the referendum. We say that the people have a perfect right to be wrong. However, members of the Opposition are not entitled to complain about increasing prices. Even if the Commonwealth had continued the war-time controls, prices might have risen; but since the Commonwealth vacated the field, they have risen sharply and steeply until to-day they provide the major problem that confronts this country. As I have stated, we on this side of the chamber do not criticize the people because they refused to vest the Commonwealth with power to continue prices control. We made our decision, and asked the people to approve it. We were rebuffed, but in the circumstances, we contend, with justification, that members of the Opposition have no warrant to assert that prices should not have increased. Honorable gentlemen opposite did their utmost to ensure that the prices structure of the country would break down, and, therefore, to the degree that the general increases of prices could have been prevented, the responsibility rests squarely upon their shoulders. They can argue if ‘they phase that the action of the Commonwealth in withdrawing subsidies is the principal cause of the steep increases of prices, but that contention will not cause even a ripple on the pool of public opinion. Before the referendum campaign, the Prime Minister warned the people that, if the Government’s proposals were defeated, the Commonwealth would withdraw the subsidies. The people were also informed that if the Commonwealth were denied the power, the prices of similar goods might vary in the several States and that, in such a situation, the Commonwealth could not possibly pay subsidies. I doubt whether, on constitutional grounds, the Commonwealth would be able to pay a varying subsidy on goods in the respective States. I leave the problem at that point.
The honorable member for Warringah did not refer to immigration but he addressed some remarks to the committee on the subject of development. He alleged that the Government had not given any encouragement to private enterprise to develop Australia. The reverse is true. The Government has given every possible encouragement to private enterprise to develop industries in the Commonwealth, and its efforts have been crowned with marked success. The only limiting factors are man-power, materials and machinery. Because of the great demand for industrial plant and premises, the Government cannot allow all the businesses that desire to begin operations in this country to make a start at the present time. The honorable member for Warringah also said that the exercise of controls by the Government is restricting the development of the country. I remind the honorable gentleman that many of the war-time controls which the Commonwealth exercised have been transferred to the States. The Liberal Government of Western Australia is the only State administration to continue the control of the issue of permits for the purchase of new motor vehicles. That Government may be wise in doing so, and, of course, it is in a position to judge whether the retention of that control- is necessary. In addition, the Liberal Government of Western Australia has imposed a more stringent control of building materials than has any other State administration.
The development of Australia is closely related to our population problem. The Australian Labour Government has a fine record with respect to immigration. Members of the Opposition and the press will doubtless continue to draw attention to particular incidents in the administration of immigration and will overlook, except when they are forced to take account of it, the fine work of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). Our population has increased substantially as a result of immigration. By that means, we are making provision for a vastly increased population for developmental purposes and for possible defence requirements. Immigration is providing man-power for essential industries that will assist to overcome the existing shortage of materials. The Prime Minister has pointed out that under the immigration programme, the Government expects that 220,000 financiallyassisted new settlers will have arrived in Australia by the 30th June next, and of that number, some 130,000 will be available for employment. That is an excellent programme, and is an example of the vision that is displayed by this Government.
I do not propose to deal at length with international trade and payments. That subject is one of the most vexed problems of modern times, and the solution is not easy. The position has developed because of the sudden emergence of the United States of America as the financial centre of the world. After World War I., the financial centre of the world appeared to be shifting from the United Kingdom to the United States of America. Almost in a night, that process was consummated ,by World War II. The United States of America is the greatest creditor nation, and has replaced the United Kingdom as the greatest international lender and the market for finished products. The American people have been amazingly generous since World War II. They have made substantial payments not only to the devastated countries of Europe but also to Great Britain and other nations. I do not believe that the United States of America has yet realized that it is the greatest creditor nation, but as such, it must accept the position that has been forced upon it almost against its will. In other words, America must import as well, as export goods. The situation of the United States of America is vastly different from that of the United Kingdom when the last-named country was the banker of the modern world. Great Britain needed to import goods in order to sustain its people and to provide raw materials for its manufacturing industries. When those raw materials had been manufactured, they were sold to other countries. America needs imports far less than did Great Britain, but as time goes on it will realize that, with imports and exports, it can build a standard of living that will indeed be the envy of the world. For a short-term settlement of the dollar problem, of course, we look hopefully to the outcome of the recent conference between representatives of Great Britain, the United States of America and Canada. I do not subscribe to the general view that we can find a short-term solution of our dollar problem by persuading the United States of America to increase its imports. I refer to only one item alone in order to explain my belief. Our wool is demanded by the whole world to-day. Because of the war and the poverty that exists throughout the world, vast numbers of people are still badly clad. If the necessary purchasing power existed, we could sell our total wool clip easily anywhere in the world. If the United States of America were to buy it for stock-piling, as is frequently suggested, our wool would be denied to the people in other countries who need it. The same thing is true of all the other items that normally we would export to the United States of America. I do not subscribe, either, to the view that at the present stage we should divert a large volume of manpower to industries that might earn additional dollars for us. If we took that step now, when manpower is scarce, we should reduce the production of commodities that are essential to our well-being and vital to other people throughout the civilized world. We must make a new approach to the dollar problem. American gifts, great as they have been, must be even more generous. However, I do not think that we are entitled to suggest that to the United
States of Am erica unless we do likewise. We have amassed a substantial balance in the United Kingdom. I do not agree with the honorable member for Warringah !.hat we ought to give away that balance. As a creditor nation, we cannot afford to do so. In the event of a future recession, a catastrophic fall of the prices of primary products might affect us very seriously again if we did so. However, as a lead towards the solution of the world’s problems, foremost of which is the dollar problem, we might well say to the United States of America and other countries that, for a period of one or two years, we will give our surplus exportable commodities to some organization to be distributed as and when they are required.
I have not at hand the total of the surplus of our exports over our imports in recent years, but I assume that the amount is of the order of £30,000,000. I believe that, in order to solve the dollar problem, the United States of America must give way a large volume of its surplus products to other countries that need them. If we urge that policy upon the United States, we should be willing to undertake to do likewise. Therefore, our representatives in the councils of the world should be empowered to say that for a period of one or more years - I suggest one or two years - Australia will give its surplus products to some organization in order that they may be distributed to the countries that need them. In that way alone, I believe, can we solve the existing dollar problem. Of course, in any such scheme, whether worked out individually or collectively, the United States of America must be the major contributor.
I have dealt sketchily with the budget. It is a voluminous budget and a very creditable one. It is not a votecatching budget. The Treasurer could very easily have succumbed to the temptation to offer substantial benefits to the Australian people. Many of us would probably have fallen victims to the temptation to say that we would increase social services in all fields, and perhaps extend child endowment to the first child in every family, and then allow the antiLabour parties, if they were returned to office, to carry the baby of the vast addi- tional expenditure. However, the Treasurer resisted that temptation and I believe that, because of that and becauseof the work that he has done, the Government is assured of success at the election.
– Order ! The honorable member’s extension of time ha9 expired.
– In opening his speech, the honorablemember for Perth (Mr. Burke) quoted, in justification of the financial statement presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), some comments made in the Argus and the Age. He quoted the Argus as declaring that this was a “lower cost-of-living budget “. One wonders how that could even be suggested, in view of the everincreasing costs on every hand. Everybody knows that costs are continually increasing, and the Treasurer’s persistence in making record aggregate tax collections each year disposes of all arguments about the budget being a “lower costofliving budget “. The Age’s statement that “national accounts are in good order “ reminds me of the standard auditor’s declaration that “ all entries have been duly entered in the books and all bankings duly made “. Of course the national accounts are in good order! It is what is done with the money that matters. That is the crucial test. I shall apply it in some detail later in my speech. The honorable member for Perth sought to justify the Government’s nationalization policy by referring to the State electricity undertaking in Victoria. Members of the Opposition have never stated that they do not favour the public control of certain public utilities, such as the Post Office. However, events in Queensland, where the State Government has engaged in various nationalization projects, prove that public control of certain undertakings can be a costly failure. The Government of that State purchased cattle stations, hotels, butcher shops and other businesses and in a few years, sustained a loss of over £4,000,000, the cost of which will have to be borne by the citizens of Queensland in the future. I remind the Treasurer also of his action in taking over Coalcliff colliery from private enterprise during the war. He handed i.t hack in doublequick time because he found that, under Government control, more employees were producing less coal than formerly, with the result that a deficit of £80,000 very quickly accumulated, although private enterprise had been operating the colliery at a profit.
The honorable member for Perth said that he wanted to know where members of the Opposition stand in relation to bank nationalization. My attitude is clear and definite. I will not retract one word of the speech that I made when the 1947 banking legislation was before this Parliament. I have r.ot departed from the views that I expressed then and I certainly do not agree that the Commonwealth Treasurer is the only individual who knows how to spend money or that the people should have to get his permission before spending their own money. I am opposed to the nationalization of banking.
– What were the honorable member’s views about the Commonwealth Bank Board?
– I refer the honorable member to my attitude to the board before it was abolished. I did not approve
Df the membership of the board as it was then constituted. The honorable member may read the reports of my speeches on that subject if he wants to be further enlightened’. The Government’s attitude towards borrowing is one of its greatest faults. The honorable member for Perth has said that this is not a borrowing Government. The policy that it has adopted is one of stagnation that is preventing the nation from, increasing production. The Treasurer reveals once more in his budget his persistence in seeking to maintain his record for making records. He is after another record this year in collecting taxes. Only war scarcities and consequent high prices have enabled him to be grandiose in tax raising. Honorable gentlemen opposite claim that taxes have been reduced. Direct tax rates have been reduced, but indirect taxes continue to flow into the Treasury at an ever-increasing rate. The Treasurer has estimated that this year £311,700,000 will be raised from direct taxes compared with £305,798,013 past year. Although indirect tax collections are expected to be slightly lower than they were last year when they amounted to £165,228,491, it is estimated that a total of £471,200,000 will be collected in taxes this year as against £471,026,504 last year. In addition it is estimated that this year £159,000,000 will be derived from customs excise and sales tax. In other words, the record-breaking Treasurer intends to achieve another record in taxing the Australian people. His estimates, however, have always been conservative. Last year, he estimated a deficit of £17,000,000, which, he said, would have to be financed from loans, but he actually received £42,000,000 more than he estimated he would receive. I exclude self-balancing items related to primary production. Surplus tax collections amounted to more than £40,000,000. If the Treasurer’s estimates for this year are no nearer the mark than they were last year, the amount of £35,000,000 that he says will have to be raised by loan to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure will be more than covered by revenue. The citizen is no better off. He has to contend with an ever-increasing rise of the prices of the articles that he must buy. Even the honorable member for Perth admitted that. The withdrawal of certain subsidies has contributed to the increased cost of living. In the financial statement that he submitted to the House during the last sessional period, it was estimated by the Treasurer that income tax concessions, which commenced on the 1st July last, would cost £36,000,000. Last year taxes were reduced by about £26,000,000. The withdrawal of subsidies on commodities saved the Government £26,000,000. This year it will be saved at least £36,000,000 that it would have had to pay had the payment of subsidies continued. The subsidy on tea, which continues, cost £6,840,246 in 1947-48, £4,667,266 in 1949, and it is estimated that in 1949-50 it will cost £5,500,000. In 1947-48, the subsidy on “ imports other than tea “ cost £8,687,264 compared with £7,572,926 in 1948-49 and an estimated cost of £1,190,000 this year. No subsidy will be paid on potatoes this year, but the cost of the subsidy last year was £1,064,732. In 1947-48, the cost was £2,702,849. Similarly there will be no expenditure on subsidizing whole milk this year, whereas the cost of the subsidy in 1948-49 was £563,710 and, in 1947- 48, £2,156,945. In 1947-48, the subsidy on wool cost £9,226,596, but that was the last year in which the subsidy was paid. The subsidy on coal in 1947-48 was £2,357,891 compared with £232,189 last year, but the budget contains no provision for coal to be subsidized this year. No provision is made for the subsidy on coastal shipping freights, which cost £736,507 in 1947-48 and £219,273 in 1948- 49. “ Other items “ cost £1,706,810 in 1947-48 and £456,884 in 1948-49, but they will cost only £10,000, according to the Estimates, this year. Including assistance to primary production, the total cost of subsidies in 1947-48 was £45,839,074 compared with an estimated expenditure this year of £16,375,000. So about £29,000,000 has been added to householders’ costs. One interesting omission from the budget is the huge subsidy that the Australian taxpayers were paying to the New Zealand taxpayers because of the “ Scully “ wheat contract. That contract has apparently expired, although I understood that it was a fiveyear contract and had a year to run; but I may be wrong about that. A notable reduction of expenditure under that heading is contemplated. I note that a reduction of expenditure is contemplated also in connexion with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. In 1947-48 the expenditure in connexion with the wheat contract with New Zealand was £2,692,337, whilst the expenditure in 1948-49 was £3,537,426. No entry appears in the Estimates with relation to contemplated’ expenditure this financial year. Over those two years alone we paid the New Zealand householders £6,229,763. The total amount that has been paid since the contract was commenced is well over £7,000,000.
– Who was responsible for that?
– That was done by the present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) when Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but he did not tell us about it until after the last general election. Taking last year’s payments as a basis, we have saved the taxpayers of this country over £3,500,000. Expenditure is ever increas ing. The budget provides for an expenditure of £532,000,000, inclusive of self-balancing items. That shows no reduction on last year’s payments, and, in view of past experience, expenditure this financial year will probably greatly exceed that amount. Having estimated’ expenditure equivalent to that in 1948-49, the Treasurer has given an indication of how he proposes to meet increased costs. It is noteworthy that against practically all departments except those associated with defence services, war and repatriation, a plus sign appears. Let us consider those against which there are minus signs and see how the Treasurer is going to make up increases in the other departments. The proposed vote for Defence Services is £11,666,726 less than the expenditure under this heading in 1948-49, whilst the proposed vote for services in respect of the 1939-45 war is £59,023,017 less than was expended in 1948-49. This makes a grand total of £70,689,743. We know that costs are increasing on every hand and that the departmental expenditure will increase. In most of the departments there have been large increases of staff. It is evident that the only proposal that the Treasurer has to meet the increased costs is the reduction of expenditure in the items I have named. Although it is to be expected that expenditure on services associated with the war will decrease from year to year, I hope that uo ex-serviceman is going to lose because of these reductions. Some anomalies exist with regard to repatriation. Exservicemen who are buying their own properties and starting out on their own account are not in the same fortunate position as are those who were granted repatriation benefits, especially with relation to the securing of material such as wire, iron, machinery and other farm necessities. They are given no priority, and have no hope of getting those things. In effect, they are penalized because they have had the initiative to start on their own account. I have no particular quarrel about money spent on constructional works, but it is a serious thing that the Treasurer is spending right up to the available income. Recently the Prime Minister has been talking about the “golden age” and the “light upon the hill “, which apparently went out yesterday when he had no answer to the attacks that were directed at his restrictionist petrol policy and it was not possible for him to show some positive action. When he was in a corner the right honorable gentleman said that we were on the verge of economic chaos. I do not know which statement of his own he really believes. His actions belie his statement of yesterday. He proposes to continue his grandiose expenditure plans despite decreased export earnings. That is evidenced by the International Wheat Agreement that we endorsed, which provides for prices approximately 3s. a bushel lower than under the wheat agreement that we passed twelve months earlier, ,and in spite of the fact that maize and grain sorghum prices had declined. Prices now available overseas are considerably lower than they were two years ago. Because we did not have the supplies in Queensland last year, I am referring to two years ago. Prices now being obtained for wool are probably 10 per cent, lower than previously. That the Prime Minister has taken a “ tumble “ to his previous statements about this being the “ golden age “ is evidenced by his statement that we shall be facing economic chaos if we do not adopt a restrictionist policy. That is the right honorable gentleman’s attitude. The noted economist, Mr. Colin Clark, also sounded a note of warning when he stated that once government expenditure rises to more than 25 per cent, of the people’s income the danger point is reached. I point out that we passed that point last year, when expenditure absorbed .approximately 33 per cent, of the total national income. State taxes absorbed another 2£ per cent. If we have to face reduced incomes and there are to be no reductions of aggregate tax collections, as is evidenced in the budget before us, that suggests that the Government will presently absorb 40 per cent, of the nation’s income. That is indeed grave, and probably explains the reason for the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday. It is obvious that he has come to realize that this governmental extravagance cannot last; hence the reason for an inquiry having been made into a national superannuation scheme, and his advice to the Australian Labour party that some alternative social services method is necessary. He probably fears that it will not be possible to meet the cost of these grandiose expenditure schemes once prices begin to topple. The wasteful expenditure involved in the determination of the Government to impose its unauthorized nationalization schemes has resulted in very heavy cost to the taxpayers. I referred at the outset to my attitude towards banking nationalization. The budget reveals that the total cost of fighting the banking nationalization case will be £209,273, including an estimated expenditure of £80,000 this year. The Government has had to contest other legal actions arising from its nationalization schemes, in regard to which the Prime Minister has adopted a dictatorial attitude. Because the High Court gave a decision that was unfavorable to the Commonwealth in the Melbourne City Council case, the right honorable gentleman decided to introduce a measure to nationalize all trading banks in Australia, and he did not consult the members of the Labour party before announcing his intention to do so. If reports .be true, he has adopted a similar attitude in connexion with the budget. He determined the budget proposals himself and submitted them to the members of the Labour party later. If honorable gentlemen opposite had rejected the proposals, we should not be discussing the budget now, but they really had no say in the matter. They had to take the budget or leave it.
Very little information is available about the Department of Information, the title of which is a misnomer. The department is an extravagance, and is used to a great degree by the Government for political propaganda purposes. The estimated expenditure of the department this year is £339,000, and it is proposed that a further £2,000 shall be allocated to it to be expended upon buildings, works, fittings and furniture. One wonders why it is necessary for the department to employ approximately 55 journalists, twelve announcers and numerous other persons. There is very little evidence that its activities are for the good of Australia, but doubtless it is very convenient for the Government, in view of the impending election, to be able to use it for propaganda purposes.
I turn now to “ Capital “Works and Services “. The estimate this year for capital works and services for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is slightly in excess of the expenditure last year. An analysis of the items reveals that the sum to be allocated for expenditure upon telephone exchange services this year is less than the amount that was expended last year, although the country is suffering from a lack of telephone exchanges. The Minister representing the Postmaster-General in this chamber has repeatedly eulogized the activities of the Government in connexion with the importation of automatic telephone exchanges for installation in country districts. I shall be interested to know how many of those exchanges have in fact been imported and installed. I should not be surprised if the project has been wrecked on the dollar rock. The Treasurer has used the shortage of dollars as an excuse for almost everything that the Government has failed to do, but that excuse has not been used so far in connexion with automatic telephone exchanges. The House was told more than two years ago that large orders for this equipment had been placed and that deliveries were being made, but I have yet to see one that has been installed. The estimated expenditure upon telegraph and miscellaneous services this year is approximately £60,000 less than the expenditure upon those services last year, and the proposed expenditure upon trunk line services is approximately £1,000,000 greater than the expenditure last year. It seems that, in general, no provision has been made for improved postal and telegraph services. In those circumstances, it was very bad policy for the Government to impose an added tax upon the Australian people by increasing the charges that are made for postal services. The Government has a barren record in regard to the improvement of postal and telegraph services, but the Treasurer would not allocate to the Postmaster-General’s Department from his £42,000,000 of excess revenue the miserable sum of £3,000,000 and thus avoid the necessity for the recent increases of charges. The Government is not very popular among the people in the country districts because of the additional indirect taxes to which they will be subjected by reason of those increased charges.
One wonders whether, and, if so, how, it is proposed to undertake the capital works for which provision is made in the Estimates. There is a shortage of labour, and many essential materials are unobtainable owing to the dollar shortage. It is probable that the items have been included in the Estimates as an election bait and also to give the Treasurer some latitude if the amount of revenue collected this year should prove to be less than the estimated receipts, because the Government will be unable to expend all the money that is proposed to be allocated for these services.
In a statement attached to the budget speech, the Treasurer has stated that the dairying industry was given a guarantee by the Government that dairy farmers’ returns would be based upon the cost of production, which would be the subject of investigation and report each year by the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee. In July, 1948, as a result of the committee’s first recommendation to the Government, it was agreed to pay to dairy farmers an additional 2d. per lb. for butter. Although the Treasurer has admitted in the statement to which I have referred that the committee has now recommended that the price paid to dairy-farmers for butter should be increased by 2£d. per lb. - no mention has been made of the recommendation for an additional id. per lb. factory cost to which the Committee has also referred. The Government intends to continue its subsidy payments at the rate applying last year. No provision has been made to compensate dairy-farmers for the increased cost of production of butter. It appears that the dairying industry has been completely let down, and the position requires to be clarified. The Treasurer does not intend to provide the money necessary to meet the increased cost of production of butter, because he has not made provision for it in the budget.
– The State Governments must approve of an alteration of the price of butter.
– They have not done so. Who is going to find the money to meet the increased cost of production? Are the dairy-farmers, because of a difference of opinion between the Commonwealth and the Sta.tes, to lose approximately 3d. per lb. upon 70,000 to 100,000 tons of butter? The dairymen want to know what is going to be done. They are not concerned with the merits or demerits of the dispute, but only with the guarantee that has been given to them that they will be compensated for increased production costs.
Mr. Fuller interjecting,
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) will probably lose his seat at the next general election to a very gallant gentleman.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the budget.
– The cotton industry affords another example of the Government’s attitude to. industry generally. The Government has afforded no practical assistance to enable increased production in that industry. In 1945-46 a bounty of £11,890 was paid in respect of cottongrowing; in the succeeding year the bounty dropped to £5,732; in 1947-48 it rose to £8,867, but it was still below the 1945-46 figure, and no bounty has been provided since then. Whilst the need for local production of cotton is increasing every day the action taken by the Government, if it can be called action, to encourage an increase of production is becoming less and less. Three years ago when I spoke about the cotton industry in this chamber, the then honorable member for Capricornia, Mr. Forde, was the Minister in charge of a bill relating to the cotton-growing industry that was before the House, and gave some election bait to the cotton-growers of Queensland during the debate on that bill. The cottongrowers did not swallow that bait, because the result of the election showed that they did not accept Mr. Forde’s word. The reason for their scepticism was that production had been declining, and although they had been asking for years for an increased guaranteed price, nothing had been done. .Several investigations had been made by the Tariff Board but no increase of price had been given although the costs of production had risen. At the last moment, a month or so before the election, Mr. Forde promised that a guaranteed price would be paid for that year, but the promise came too late to enable the cotton-growers to plant increased crops for that season. The Minister’s promise was purely and simply election bait. The board representing the cotton-growers has since repeatedly requested an increase of the guaranteed price, but nothing has come of those requests. Yet here we are having the same story over again. It is said that the Tariff Board is making an inquiry into the matter of establishing a guaranteed price. What kind of Tariff Board is it that cannot now give a report when it is supposed to have completed its investigations months ago ? The public as well as the cotton-growers has been protesting about this delay and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) is reported to have asked for the board’s report to be expedited. When the report is issued it will be too late for the growers to adjust their planting for the coming season. Perhaps that is the motive that is actuating the Government. I do not accuse the present Minister for Trade and Customs of taking any action deliberately to delay the report, but I condemn the Government generally for its failure to expedite the issue of a complete report of the position concerning this great industry. We talk a lot in this chamber about saving dollars. What greater dollar-saving industry could we have than the cotton-growing industry? The United States is at present considering the adoption of a policy of restricting production in the cotton industry because of the over-supply. We have to pay dollars for American cotton. Why do we not grow as much cotton as possible in Australia, and thus save dollars? The Australian Government and the Queensland Government are indifferent to the welfare of this most important industry, and it is time that the whole position was again fully ventilated in this Parliament, and a full explanation obtained regarding the procrastination of the Government, the Tariff Board and of everybody concerned, in respect of the issuing of an important report that would enable a decision on the guaranteed price to be made in time for this year’s planting. I have raised this matter only so that the issuing of the report may be expedited and a decision given that would enable the growers to adjust their sowing programme. What is the use of telling the growers in Queensland that they will be guaranteed 15d. per lb. for raw cotton, when imported cotton costs 32d. per lb. and more? Why do we not say to’ the growers of Queensland that we shall pay them 27d. per lb. or whatever they regard as a just price, because that price would still be below the price of imported cotton? If the growers had such a guarantee they would plant more cotton and the increased crop would save Australia dollars.
– The Tariff Board began its inquiry in May, 1948, and finished it in May, 1949, but no report has been made.
– I turn now to the tobacco industry which is very little better off than is the cotton industry, although the Government has given some increases of price in recent years. However, the guaranteed prices set by the Government were not effective because the product was degraded by the purchasing tobacco companies which receive large subsidies under the system of subsidy payments that is designed to maintain an economic price level. For every increase of price that the Government authorized the quality was degraded and the growers were worse off than before. The only hope that has been forthcoming - and it is a very slim hope - is the establishment by the growers of their ‘own stores and factories, such as the one established in Mareeba where the growers are manufacturing their own tobacco and getting results that give them a better price. Now the tobacco growers are talking about establishing a factory at Inglewood in my electorate. I hope that its establishment will benefit the growers because, all along the rivers in that district one can see many tobacco barns which used to be filled with tobacco but are now disused. The Australian tobacco industry, like the cotton-growing industry, could be a great dollar saver, but it has been just as neglected by the two governments concerned as has the cotton-growing industry. Is that any wonder? The attitude of this Government is evident in everything that it undertakes. It results in production being held up, as was evidenced during the recent coal strike. Our Ambassador in America may tell the American public that strikes in Australia are negligible, yet between the end of 1942 and the end of 1948, under this Government, Australian workers lost 9,300,000 working days through strikes. Ministers often say that we have no appreciable number of unemployed, but strikes in the 1942-48 period lost workers £11,730,000 in wages.
– Was not the Ambassador comparing the difference between strike losses in the United States and Australia ?
– The effect of the Ambassador’s statement was that the losses caused to Australia by strikes were negligible. In addition to the figures that I have given concerning strikes between 1942 and 1948 we must take into consideration the results of the recent disastrous coal strike, when the workers lost £1,500,000 in wages, and millions of pounds in wages were lost by workers in other industries.
So, I say in conclusion, with the extinguishing of the “light on the hill” which was to allow the glitter of the “ Golden Age “ to be seen, we find the Treasurer groping on the “ bank of economic chaos “, to use his own words, not knowing whither to turn, but blindly grabbing all the finance that he can lay his hands upon and spending it regardless of any productive result. Truly the Auditor-General’s recommendation for the re-establishment of the Public Accounts Committee to investigate expenditure under this Government should be implemented in the interests of the country.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
observed satirically that the budget now being debated was the last that this Government would present. The honorable member is not often completely right, but sometimes he is partly right, and this is such a time. This is the last budget the Government will present before the general election. But I am quite certain that the Australian people have too much sense to turn this Government out of office, and return to the conditions that prevailed1 in October, 1941, when the Labour Government first came into power. People can remember what the conditions were like in those days. They can remember that the defences of Australia were in such a deplorable state that even anti-Labour newspapers were castigating the antiLabour Government then in power, ‘and doing everything they could .to bring about a change. Many people and organizations not ordinarily the friends of Labour supported’ the Labour party at that time because they were afraid. They knew that Australia was in real danger, and they knew that only a Labour government could place the defences of the country on a proper basis. After the danger had passed, some of them returned to their former political love. The honorable member for Warringah would have been correct if he had said that the next elections would be the last chance for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I think it is .generally accepted that if the anti-Labour parties fail to win the next election they will be looking for a new leader. I should regret that very much, because I should like to see the present Leader of the Opposition go on in his present position for many years. Not only is he unable to lead a party successfully so as to win an election, but he is also unable to make accurate forecasts. Not long ago, he went overseas. He was in the United States of America at the time of the last presidential election, and he delivered several addresses there. Everywhere he was introduced as the Dewey of Australia. As a matter of fact, that is a very good title for him, because he will win as many bouts in the political field as Dewey did.
The honorable member for Warringah seems to think that the Government is depending on this budget to win the next election. That is not so. Apart from the budget and its proposals, the Government has to its credit a list of achievements that is quite capable of winning the next election for it. The Government has done a tremendous amount of good’ since it has been in office. Only to-day, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) told honorable members that fewer than 3,000 persons were unemployed in the whole of Australia. In October, 1941, although the country had been at war for two years, there were approximately 200,000 persons unemployed. That was under an antiLabour government. It is not likely that the people will throw away present benefits by changing the government at the next election. If time permitted, many illustrations could be given of the way in which anti-Labour governments misgoverned’ the country, and of how they played up to big business. For instance, the honorable member for Warringah, when he was Minister for the Army, sacked a boot inspector, Mr. S. G. Gill, at the request of big business, because that officer refused to pass inferior footwear for the armed forces. Mr. Gill insisted that the footwear for which the Government was paying should be of the proper quality. Honorable members have not forgotten the scandal about the supply of bread to the armed forces. I am pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is aware of the conspiracy in this country and in other countries to destroy all progressive governments, particularly in those countries where the greatest progress has been made. A few years ago, there was a controversy .on the proposal that Australia should become a party to the Bretton Woods financial agreement. I was one of those who were rather suspicious of the proposal, and who advocated caution. I suggested that we should not rush into an international arrangement of that kind. In to-day’s press there is published a news item which indicates that my fears were well founded. It is reported that Mr. Eugene Black, president of the International Bank, in referring to social welfare schemes, said that many countries could not afford such ambitious programmes. In the same newspaper reference was made to the fact that the cost of social services in Australia had increased from £16,000,000 under anti-Labour governments to approximately £100,000,000 for this year. No doubt Australia is one of the countries which, in the opinion of Mr. Eugene Black, cannot afford its ambitious social welfare programme. The Prime Minister and the Labour Government do not share Mr. Black’s views. At the conclusion of his budget-speech, the right honorable gentleman said -
From a social standpoint we have greatly extended the range and value of services available and experience has shown not merely that we can afford these services but that they have a positive worth in keeping up demand for goods and hence employment and investment.
Although honorable members opposite criticize the Government’s peace-time programme, they have not stated that the Government should not have granted any of the social welfare benefits that have been introduced in recent years. As a matter of fact, more progress has been made in this direction under Labour governments during the last few years than during any comparable period in the history of Australia. As the Prime Minister pointed out, it has been possible to extend our social services only because of the Government’s policy of full employment, and because the national revenue is buoyant. Honorable members opposite have twitted the Government because each year the budget has shown’ a surplus. In my opinion, it is better for a government or a business to finish the year with a surplus than with a deficit, as was customary when anti-Labour governments were in office. The honorable member for Warringah was once Treasurer, so he might be expected to know something about finance. Indeed, he has more than once tried to bandy figures with the leader of the Government. The honorable member quoted an amount in Australian currency and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked him to state the equivalent of it in sterling. The honorable member for Warringah replied, in effect, “ It is quite simple; you multiply the figure by five and divide by four “. That is how the honorable member for Warringah, who was formerly Treasurer, converts Australian currency into sterling. Obviously, he does not know anything about the subject. Yet, he tries to parade himself in this chamber as an authority on finance.
It appears to me that there is an international conspiracy against Labour governments. I shall not be in order in referring to debates which have taken place in this chamber during the current session, but it is quite obvious from speeches made in these recent debates that honorable members opposite who bad formerly been loud in their protestations that they were pro-British have suddenly become anti-British because the people of Great Britain have placed a Labour government in control of that country. Those honorable members are prepared1 to go to any lengths to destroy the British Labour Government, just as they are anxious to destroy this Government. I am certain of one thing. The anti-Labour parties during the next federal general election will not be ‘short of finance. Their coffers will be full. Already, they have so much money that they do not know how to spend it. The private banking institutions are now releasing certain of their employees from their ordinary work to go out and do a little political campaigning for the Opposition parties. All of these things are being done because the result of the next general election will be of the utmost importance to them. In order that the Opposition parties may present some semblance of a united front to the people, they now pretend that they have no differences of opinion or policy and, in fact, are united. It would be interesting on some other occasion to examine what some of them have said at various times about their present colleagues. For instance, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that he would not serve in any government under the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition resigned from a government because he disagreed with the leader of it. Honorable members will recall the national service group, as it was termed. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was a member of that group, the main purpose of which was to restore the right honorable member f or Kooyong to the leadership of the Opposition and to afford those who were prepared to support that objective easy entry into his cabinet should he ever again become Prime Minister. After that group had served’ its purpose, it was allowed to go out of existence. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had something to say about that group. He published a pamphlet in. which he set out his opinion of it; and the honorable member for “Wentworth would do well to read it to get the right honorable member’s real opinion of himself and of the leader behind whom he serves to-day.
It is interesting to note that the Opposition has always fought the Labour Government’s attempts to extend social service benefits. The British Medical Association has the support of the Opposition parties because they have never favoured the extensions of social services. Opposition members know that it is impossible to extend social services and, at the same time, reduce taxes. They want to reduce taxes, but not for the benefit of the ordinary worker and the lower income groups. They continually tell us in their speeches that the taxation policy of the present Government is retarding the extension of private enterprise in this country. It is to be regretted that the people are being taxed to pay for social services benefits which, up to date, they have not been able to obtain in full measure not because of any failure on the part of the Government, but because the British Medical Association and the Opposition parties have so far proved to be too strong and have been able to prevent the Government’s social services scheme from being fully implemented. Let us examine one of the election promises which the Opposition parties have handed out. They have promised the people that if they are returned to office at the next general election they will provide endowment for tho first child of a family. However, they have not said anything about the basis on which the basic wage is fixed or indicated that their purpose in making that promise is to give something with one hand and to take it back with the other. If their promises were worth anything, they would also assure the people that the foundation upon which the basic wage is fixed will not be varied and that tho people will, therefore, get some real benefit from the endowment provided for the first child. However, the people know that from the moment endowment is provided for the first child the Arbitration Court will reduce the basic wage on the argument that the first child has thus been provided for. The anti-Labour parties in this country, so long as I can remember, have always argued that a single man should not receive the same wage as a married man. They do not believe that the single man should be given an opportunity to save for the time when he will undertake the responsibilities of a married man.
The Opposition parties have never believed in a policy of full employment. Honorable members will recall that when the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and Mr. Forde, who was then deputy Prime Minister, were at San Francisco fighting for the inclusion of the principle of full employment in the United Nations Charter they were attacked in this country by the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues. The Opposition parties then said that the Government was trying to get around the decision of the people at the referendum of 1944. They implied that the people were stupid enough to record a decision against the provision of full employment. At that time articles appeared in the anti-Labour press attacking the Minister for External Affairs because of the efforts he was then making to have that principle included in the United NationsCharter. Then, we had Professor Hytten telling a conference in Tasmania that the ideal proportion of unemployed’ in the economy of a nation would be 8 per cent. That might be regarded as being ideal by Professor Hytten, but if he happened to be one of the 8 per cent, whowere unemployed he would not regard the position as satisfactory. We are well aware of the attitude of the anti-Labour parties on the subject of unemployment. On a previous occasion I quoted from an article which was written by the financial editor of the Sydney Morning Herald under the heading, “ Is Depression Necessary?”. I shall quote from it again as follows : -
Despairing references to prevailing indiscipline, and the difficulty of securing conscientious work, all too frequently conclude with the ‘ remark that only another depression will restore industrial efficiency and output . . Admittedly, depressions have had the redeeming feature of restoring efficiency to set against the misery of the unemployed.
That is the attitude of the Sydney Morning Herald and of the Opposition parties on the subject of unemployment. In a recent debate in this chamber the Leader of the Opposition said that it was quite obvious that the cost of production ought to be reduced; but he did not say how these costs should be reduced. The antiLabour parties have only one policy on this subject, and that is to slash the wages of the worker, to lengthen his hours of work and to reduce social services benefits. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said by way of interjection in a debate in this chamber not many weeks ago that he would vote to-morrow to abolish the 40-hour week. The honorable member now nods his approval of that statement. That shows conclusively that if an anti-Labour government were returned the first thing it would do would be to abolish the 40-hour week. It is rather amusing to hear honorable gentlemen opposite lecturing the workers of this country and telling them that they ought to accept arbitration and observe the decisions of the Arbitration Court. In this instance, after a proper investigation was made by the tribunal which was set up to determine the working week and that tribunal after hearing evidence from employers and employees and conducting an investigation which extended over a long period prescribed a 40-hour week, this self-styled democrat, the honorable member for Barker, says that despite the court’s finding he would vote tomorrow for the abolition of the 40-hour week. I think that the people of this country will vote to abolish him before he has an opportunity to vote for the abolition of the 40-hour week. Some members of the Opposition parties have rather quaint ideas of how production costs should be reduced. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is one of the bright boys of the Opposition. That, of course does not say much for his colleagues. During the depression period his suggestion to this Parliament, according to Hansard, was that the basic wage should not be paid to young men until they reached 23 or 24 years of age.
– That is a complete misrepresentation,
– I can produce the Hansard report to support my statement. Is it any wonder that the Australian people are not prepared to trust the affairs of this country to a government composed of men of that type? They know that there would be an immediate attack on industrial and living conditions in Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition, unconsciously I have no doubt, paid a compliment to the Prime Minister, when he said during a recent debate, that employment in the Australian transport industry had increased by 60 per cent, whereas in coalmining, the increase had been only 1 per cent. Surely that is a rather strange admission after all the talk we have heard about the advantages enjoyed by the coal miners. We have been told about the excellent working conditions that coalminers enjoy. Why then has employment in the coal-mining industry increased by only 1 per cent.? It rather looks as if governments have not yet gone far enough in improving conditions in that industry. Certainly the statement of the Leader of the Opposition belies the claim so frequently made by some of his colleagues that the coal-miners are being pampered by the Australian Government. However, the Leader of the Opposition at least admitted that there had been an expansion of employment in both the industries that he mentioned, and I cannot understand what he hoped to achieve by introducing that note into the debate.
I come now to the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). I have secured a copy of a speech that the right honorable gentleman delivered on the 28th July, to a Country party conference at Brisbane. The copy was not forwarded to me with the compliments of the Leader of the Australian Country party, but I have means of securing these things. Here is a statement that the right honorable gentleman made -
My message to youto-day is one of the utmost urgency. It is a call for immediate and purposeful actionto save this country from socialistic despoilers . The task is too vital for delay. We must work at this conference and consistently and resolutely thereafter to end, in crushing defeat, the Chifley Government’s rule of regimentation and ruinous restriction.
Then he went on to state what he believes to be the policy of the Labour party. He made some rather strange statements. He has said often in this Parliament that the Opposition proposed, if returned to power, to repeal entirely the 1945 Commonwealth Bank Act and thus hand the affairs of this country back to a bank board representing big business, but here is the right honorable gentleman’s statement to the conference -
During the Banking Bill debate in 1947, Mr. Dedman was challenged to show that his Government had a mandate from the Australian people for the legislation. He said: “Nationalization of banking has been part of the official policy of the Australian Labour party for a generation. This fact is very wellknown and was well-known when the people of this country returned Labour to power at the last elections. There has never been any secret about it. By returning Labour, the people endorsed the banking legislation of 1945”.
The Leader of the Australian Country party apparently does not agree with that. He does not believe that the people endorse the action of the Government, because he indicated in. his speech to the conference that the Opposition, if returned to office, would repeal this beneficial legislation. It is quite true that Labour has not been able to go as far as it would have liked with its banking policy. The Leader of the Australian Country party referred also to the decisions’ of the Labour party to abolish appeals to the Privy Council. He said that the people of this country should beware because the Labour Government, if returned, might pack the High Court. I think that one newspaper reported the right honorable gentleman as having spoken of the decision of the Government to “corrupt” the High Court. He said that the Government wanted a pliable judiciary. That is a reflection on the legal profession from which members of the judiciary are drawn. I am not hypocritical enough to say that I have so much faith in the legal profession in Australia, that I do not believe that some members of it could be corrupted. I have had a recent experience that leads me to the opposite view-
– Yes, we read about it.
– It is to be hoped that the honorable member understood it. If he did not, I shall be pleased to explain it to him some. time. Obviously, what the honorable member is upset about is that a judge, appointed to his office by an anti-Labour government, completely exonerated me from any responsibility. I realize that I shall not be permitted to say very much about a matter thathas already been discussed in this chamber,, but it would be rather interesting if members of the Opposition, including the honorable member for Balaclava, were to offer to expose their private financial affairs to the same independent scrutiny that I sought for mine. They probably would not survive such an examination as well as I did. I had nothing to hide and therefore I did not try to run away from the issue. I do not think that any Labour man has talked of packing the High Court. No Labour man wants the High Court to be packed. Our only concern is that the courts of this country should not be packed against Labour. We want impartial courts. Apparently honorable members opposite are quite agreeable to the selection of Labour’s opponents for appointment to public offices and ‘believe that such appointments only amount to “packing” when the selection is made from the ranks of Labour supporters. However, just a few names occur to me. I emphasize that I make no charges against any of these gentlemen. The present Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham, was a prominent member of an anti-Labour government, and a leader of an antiLabour Opposition in this Parliament. Mr. Justice Drake-Brockman was an antiLabour senator in this Parliament. Chief Judge Dethridge, prior to his appointment to the bench, was president of an employers’ federation. There are many others that I could name. Therefore, if there is any suggestion of “ packing “ the charge should be levelled by the Labour party. The Leader of. the Australian Country party said that the High Court had .proved a saf eguard, and he mentioned in that connexion, airlines, banking and petrol. Let us see what he said about petrol. Here again I quote from the right honorable gentleman’s speech to the Country party conference at Brisbane. He said -
The .petrol case showed that the socialists were continuing the illegal rationing of petrol which had to be stopped.
That is what the right honorable gentleman told the conference, but a few weeks later he and the Leader of the Opposition signed a joint statement advising anti-Labour State governments to reintroduce petrol rationing. He does not know where he stands and never has known. Probably the right honorable gentleman has the same opinion about the decisions of the High Court as I have. There are many people in this country who believe that when Australia was in danger the Government could have done anything without a successful challenge of its authority, but as the danger receded and that with the end of the war any challenge of the authority of the Government could be regarded as having more than an even money chance of success. Statements made by honorable members on this side of the chamber are invariably distorted by honorable members opposite and by their supporters. I remember on one occasion at a Labour gathering saying in respect of the proposal for the nationalization of banking, “ Once the Labour movement has spoken, the fate of the banks is sealed “. That statement was misrepresented and an attempt was made to prove that I had advocated the utilization of unconstitutional means to bring about the nationalization of banking. I said that the Labour movement is the popular political movement of the people of this country, and that whilst occasionally, because of misrepresentation, it suffers setbacks, inevitably Labour cannot be kept in opposition. As soon as the people realize how they are sold by anti-Labour governments they again turn to Labour. So, as long as the Labour party stands by its decision, the nationalization of banking will be brought about. Tests of the constitutionality of Labour’s .proposal may be made by certain authorities, but surely no honorable member opposite would argue that any authority is greater than the voice of the people. If the people continue to return Labour governments that are pledged to the nationalization of banking, why should not such a policy be put into effect? By answering the arguments of our opponents we hope to make it clear to the people that in their own interests the banking institutions of this country should be nationalized.
The Leader of the Australian Country party has said that it is Labour’s policy to abolish the Senate. He regarded that as a dreadful proposal because if it were carried out all power would then be vested in one House of Parliament at Canberra. Honorable members opposite who support the rights of the States do so only because they want to bring about as much disputation about the authority of governments as they can foster. They have more faith in the courts of the land than in its parliaments. They realize that if a popularly elected chamber were given complete political authority in this country they would no longer be able to maintain the privileged position of the financial backers of the political parties to which they belong. They know that the will of the people would then prevail. I see nothing wrong with the proposal for the abolition of the Senate. Honorable members opposite predicted dire consequences when the Queensland Upper House was abolished. They do not level the same criticism at the British system under which the British Government is not hampered by having to answer to a number of State authorities. They have not criticized the system in operation in New Zealand where the Government is free from the restrictions that hamper the Australian Government. At the conclusion of his speech at the Country party conference the Leader of the Australian Country party asked -
Does that sound startling?
I will bet he scared all the old ladies who were present. It certainly did not sound startling to me. The right honorable gentleman believes that all controls indicate a socialistic policy on the part of the government responsible for exercising them. Recently, I happened to pick up an old newspaper cutting headed, “ Spender on Money as War Cause “, which is rather interesting in view of the honorable member’s speech in this debate. The extract reads - “ If the use and development of the world’s raw materials is to be left in substantial measure to huge interlocking and international combines, there can be no safety for the future of our children,” said Mr. P. C. Spender, H.H.R., on Radio 2UE last night.
Mr. Spender said the fight of powerful trading interests of on,: country, or group of countries, against another, for raw materials, must inevitably result in war. “Until international trade is controlled so as to prevent spasmodic and unbalanced development of the resources of the world, there can be no permanent peace,” said Mr. Spender.
How can there be any control of international trade and development unless there is control of national trade and development? The honorable gentleman, in effect, admits the necessity for national control. Only when he attacks the Labour Government does he begin to criticize controls. If a government composed of members of his party were in office to-morrow it would not only do certain things which were done by its predecessors but also improve on them. I have heard the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, complain frequently that the Government stifles criticism of its, actions. Perhaps the honorable gentleman will allow me to quote from an old newspaper cutting what the then chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Cleary, once had to say about him. Mr. Cleary’s remarks are interesting because of the frequency with which the honorable member protests against what he describes as the ‘ Government’s clamping down on criticism. The extract reads -
Incidents of attempted interference with the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news services before the present Federal Government took power were mentioned by the Chairman of the A.B.C., Mr. Cleary, during his evidence before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting.
In the course of his evidence Mr. Cleary said that Mr. Harrison had telephoned from Canberra and said that the Cabinet objected to any criticism of the Government going over national stations.
– That is lovely!
– Quite so. The extract continues - “ At 4 o’clock in the afternoon,” Mr. Cleary added, “ I was given a direction by telephone purporting to be in compliance with the Act, and making me personally responsible for seeing that ‘ The Watchman ‘ did not, from that moment, criticize the Government. “ To test the matter, I asked whether ‘ The Watchman ‘ could criticize the Opposition. The reply was that they were not concerned with that, but he must not criticize the Government “.
– One way traffic !
– Yes. The extract proceeds - “ I asked for confirmation of that in writing, but I did not get it. I was obliged to write that day, to confirm my remarks, and my confirmation was never challenged.”
– Was that our Eric Harrison ?
– Yes, it was the same gentleman who was a prominent member of the New Guard organization and who believed in using armed force to overthrow constitutional government, but who now poses as a democrat and a defender of the freedom of the people. The people would indeed be in serious danger if they depended on him to defend them. During the debate on the censure motion earlier in the week honorable members opposite without realizing the fact, made an attack on private enterprise. The Leader of the Australian Country party claimed that it had been left to the private oil companies to find supplies of petrol for Australia. The right honorable gentleman stated that ample supplies existed but that the oil companies were engaged in a war among themselves. If the producing and marketing companies are fighting among themselves and amassing supplies of petrol which the world requires, how can honorable members opposite expect the Government to obtain supplies for this country? The Government has no control over the international oil combine, and therefore it cannot do’ anything about that situation. However, it could do something about controlling affairs in this country, and that is exactly what it has done. I was not surprised at the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Opposition because, before he entered this Parliament, the right honorable gentleman was the legal -adviser of the Shell oil company. I recall that on one occasion, when that concern had been ordered by a royal commission :to produce its books for inspection, the company, acting on the advice tendered to it by the -right honorable gentleman, refused to do so.
In order to win the next general election, members of the Opposition believe that all they have to do is to continue to cry out that the Government is doing something to f avour communism in this country. Now, that trick has been tried on many occasions, “and, in any event, I do not share the opinion of some honorable members that there is a real menace of communism in this country. I think that we give the Communists too much free advertising. We build up their importance. There is no real need to give them so much publicity. I think that the real danger to this country is fascism - and probably the Opposition regards it as a good tactical move to cloak that danger by continually talking of the menace of communism. If men like the honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Warringah, and ethers like the honorable member for Barker, were again placed in control of the affairs of this country we can imagine what would happen. Of course, those honorable gentlemen hope that the people have short memories. Undoubtedly that accounts for “the attempts of the honorable member for Barker to parade .as a democrat. I remember that when he was Postmaster-General he not only forced a Labour radio station off the air, but, when he was questioned, he refused to explain his reason, saying, “ One radio station is enough for one Christmas “. Then he went into seclusion on Kangaroo or Rabbit Island or some other island off the coast of South Australia, just like a rabbit running for his burrow. On another occasion when he was asked about the rights of women in this country, he stated that he would not give women a vote. In fact, he would not give .them any say in public affairs at all. He is fascist-minded. He is recorded in Hansard as having said that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. Yet he is a member of a political party which includes a woman amongst its representatives in the Parliament. In the honorable member’s electorate there is quite a percentage of German settlers, who have been here for -many years, and many of *whom have proved to be very good settlers. I understand that the honorable gentleman has a knowledge of the .German language, and I am fold - although I do not know whether or not it is true - that in the past the .honorable gentleman, who is a very astute campaigner, used ‘to broadcast to them in their national tongue, instead of encouraging them to speak the English language, which is the language of the country of their adoption.
Honorable mem’bers opposite such as the honorable mem’ber for Barker have not an Australian outlook. In the course of a debate in this Parliament the Leader of the Opposition said -
Australia should not have a foreign policy. You cannot have all the Dominions talking with a divided voice. Britain ought to speak for us all.
Of course, the right honorable gentleman and his followers do not sing the same tune now, because a Labour administration is governing Great Britain. They no longer advocate that we should follow Great Britain. Now they adopt an attitude which is not so much antiBritish as it is anti-Labour. Incidentally, I am disturbed by the suggestions made at the current international economic discussions that Great Britain should be compelled to reduce its industrial costs. I think that the British Labour Government has done a marvellous job since it has .been in office, and I hope that it will not be influenced to alter its policy by pressure from outside sources, whether that pressure comes from the International Monetary Fund or direct from Wall-street. On the contrary, I trust that it will continue to implement its policy. -If the Australian Government is to be criticized because it has supported the progressive policy of the British Administration, then supporters of the Government must meet that criticism. To rebut that criticism I point out at once that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is continually complaining that primary producers in this country are being compelled to sell foodstuffs to Great Britain at lower prices than they might otherwise obtain. I remember the time when the right honorable gentleman was always advocating that we could not do enough for Great Britain. Is our attitude to Britain to be determined on a commercial basis or on a humanitarian basis? It is of no use for us to talk about the great sacrifices of the British people and the need for us to stand beside them in their hour of trouble, if we are going to complain at the same time that we are not charging them enough for our products. The present Government will go to the election with the confidence that it has made a very real effort to improve out position, and although I should like it to have gone further in some directions, it cannot be denied that real progress has been made. If Labour is returned to office that progress will continue.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- There was a time when the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) was regarded as something of a lion in debate, and when he spoke his followers would listen with bated breath as he poured out his contribution. I do not know how many of them who heard his speech to-night felt as I did, but my impression was that if the honorable gentleman resembled any member of the aE.im.al kingdom particularly, he resembled nothing so much as a sparrow bopping around from rubbish heap to rubbish heap, hoping somehow or other to pick up a feed. I am quite sure that even if his speech gave some satisfaction to Communists situated anywhere between Woolloomooloo and Malaya who happened to listen to it, it must have given very little satisfaction to those members of his political party who heard it. He has always followed the well-known Hitlerian technique that if you repeat a lie often enough you will find a certain number of people who will believe it. After opening his remarks tonight by saying that whilst this was the last budget that would be presented to the people before the general election, he said that be felt sure that the people of Australia would not return the present Opposition parties to power because the people would - recall the condition of affairs in 1941 when Labour assumed office. That has been a popular cry with the Minister and some of those who sit behind him, and, even at the risk of taking up valuable time which should be devoted to the discussion of more contemporary affairs, that slander must be nailed once and for all. I propose to nail it not by the words of any honorable member from the ranks of the Opposition, but by recalling the very definite statement of the man, who, in 1941, was given the responsibility of leading the country during the war. I refer to the former Prime Minister, the late Mr. John Curtin. When he assumed office, Mr. Curtin had the decency to tell the country the extent of the debt which it owed to those who had been leading them. On the 12th October, 1941, only a few days after he assumed office, in the course of a public meeting in the Sydney Town Hall, which he addressed, he said -
I have to pay tribute to the Government which preceded my own for the constructive work they have done in defence and the foundations they have laid.
Mr. Conelan interjecting,
– I should be interested to know whether the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) takes exception to the statement made by ‘his former political leader which I shall quote now. On the 18 th October, 1941, Mr. Curtin paid further tributes to the previous administration. He acknowledged that when he came into office -
The Navy was at its highest pitch of efficiency, as demonstrated by the notable exploits of its ships overseas. The horns defence Army was well trained and its equipment had been greatly improved. The strength of the Air Force had been largely increased, both in respect .of home defence squadrons and the training resources of the Empire Air Scheme. The equipment df the Air Force had also been much improved. Finally, munitions production and the development of production capacity over a wide range of classes, including aircraft, was growing weekly.
When the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) was a member of the Opposition, he was sufficiently fair-minded to pay a tribute to the work of the government of the day. He is reported in Hansard of the 27th August, 1’941, as having said -
I do not join with those who say that Australia has failed in its war effort. I know something of the organization of industry, and when “we compare what has been achieved with what we previously thought to he possible, we realize that somewhat of a miracle has been wrought.
Mr. Curtin and the present Minister for Labour and National Service were senior spokesmen for the Labour party. I do not claim that our defences were perfect at that time, but those honorable members on this side of the chamber who had the responsibility of office at that time laid the foundations for that magnificent war effort, including munitions production, of which the Australian people speak so proudly to-day. If there were deficiencies, the weight of the responsibility that rests upon our shoulders for them is only onetenth of the weight of the responsibility that rests upon the shoulders of members of the Labour party for them. Mr. Curtin himself acknowledged that fact in a speech which he delivered in the Sydney Town Hall on the 10th October, 1942, approximately one year after he had assumed office. On that occasion, he made the following statement : -
As a Labour man, I have to accept the responsibility, as does the Labour movement of the whole world, that it made no preparation for war. It believed in disarmament, in better conditions for the worker. It preferred butter to guns, homes to flying fortresses, water works to dockyards. We thought and hoped that we had finished for ever with the era of determining national disputes by war. 1 do not condemn Mr. Curtin for the attitude that he adopted in this chamber on defence matters before he became Prime Minister. My colleagues and I pointed out how foolish and mistaken the view of the Labour party was, however idealistically its base might have been. We tried to induce members of the Labour party to take a more realistic attitude, but they refused to do so. It stands to the credit of Mr. Curtin that he realized later the error of his policy, and he was man enough to acknowledge it publicly, and pay a tribute to his predecessors in office. Yet the Minister for Transport repeats the slander in a broadcast speech almost on the eve of the election in the hope that the memories of the people are so short that they will have forgotten the great work that was done for Australia by my colleagues in those days.
The Minister said that Australian workers would not vote for Opposition candi- dates because they feared’ that the return of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party .to office would presage a period of unemployment. Does the Minister think that the memories of the people are so short that they have forgotten that the peak of unemployment in this country was reached during the regime of the Scullin Government? It was because of public dissatisfaction with its administration that the Labour Government was swept from office at the polls in a record defeat, and the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were able to take the reins of government and bring Australia out of that financial and economic depression at a rate of progress which compared more than favorably with that of any other country, and earned the envy and admiration of the rest of the world. Those facts must be remembered when slanders are poured’ out on us at this time.
I cannot admit that there was a logical sequence of thought in the Minister’s speech. He jumped from perch to perch, and from heap to heap, but I tried to note some of the more important matters to which he referred. FOr example, he spoke of our attitude to child endowment. He said, in effect, that members of the Opposition support child endowment. Of course we do. In 1941, we introduced the social service known as child endowment and we are proud that we did so. Child endowment has benefited the young, growing elements in this community. As the means test is not attached to child endowment it is a real social service, available to all the people. The Minister also said that we introduced child endowment with the knowledge that it would have an effect on the basic wage. He contended that if the first child is made eligible for endowment, the effect will be to keep down the basic wage. Does the Minister really believe that? Is he speaking honestly and sincerely when he makes that statement? If he does believe it, I remind him of certain facts. The Labour Government, with his support, increased child endowment from 5s. to 10s. a week. Therefore, if there be any merit in his contention that we introduced child endowment in order to keep the basic wage down, his criticism applies with added force to the Labour Government. However, I do not believe that that is the true position. I consider that we have to keep a bigger proportion of the national income for those who have family responsibilities. Figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician show that since 1941, when we introduced child endowment, the average Australian wage rate, exclusive of the endowment payment, has increased from £5 12s. to £8 18s. a week as at the 31st December, 1948. The position is that the average Australian rate has increased by £3 6s. a week, but the effect of that has been to give a disproportionate benefit to the single man or woman earning wages and to those persons who have no family responsibilities. The incomes of those with family responsibilities have not increased in anything like the same proportion. Therefore, I hope that honorable members, irrespective of the political party to which they belong, will try to make more adequate provision for those who have larger family responsibilities.
I was interested to hear the Minister for Transport analyse and criticize a speech by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The Minister twitted the Leader of the Opposition, who, he said, had not been very accurate in his assessment of prospects and developments, and he then mentioned that Ee had in his possession a copy of a speech by the Leader of the Australian Country party. The script had not been sent to him with that right honorable gentleman’s compliments, but had come into his possession by other means. All I can . say is that the Minister has apparently shown a great deal more foresight and acumen in this instance than he has in some other recent developments in the Department of External Territories. It seems remarkable to me that a man who feels it safe to chide the Leader of the Opposition with not having a very clear view of what is happening around him, or who displays sufficient acumen to pick up the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party, was not able to detect among those working with him or having access to his office a man who was secretly a Communist and who had in his possession a Communist party membership ticket for 1946.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable member knows that he cannot deal with that matter.
– I do not know why the Deputy Chairman objects to my words, but I merely make that comment in passing. I could say many other things about the speech of the Minister for Transport. He referred to comments by the Leader of the Australian Country party on the decision of the Labour party to increase the membership of the Senate, although its political platform advocates the abolition of that chamber. That thought leads to an interesting matter which is worthy of discussion for one or two minutes. One of the criticisms which the people of Australia and members of the Opposition make against the Labour party is that it is not true to -label, but attempts to hoodwink the people in season and out of season, so that its published undertakings are not worth the paper upon which they are printed. I shall enlarge upon that subject in a few moments; but, for the present, I desire to refer to three things which, in recent months, the Labour party has done and which are a direct violation of its printed platform. The Labour party’s platform provides for the abolition of the Senate. “What has the Labour party done about that? When it suits its conveniences, it does not abolish the Senate of 36 members, but presents to the Parliament legislation for increasing the chamber to 60 members. That is the first violation of its platform. Then again, for many years, the Labour party has regarded the High Court as possessing final jurisdiction in all Australian causes. But what happened when the High Court brought in a unanimous verdict in an Australian cause, the issue of the nationalization of banking, that the legislation passed by this Parliament was bad in law? Bang went another provision in the printed platform of Labour ! The party scrapped it immediately, and not merely took the case to the Privy Council but also sent the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to London to argue before the Privy Council for seventeen days.
– Did the honorable member say that the High Court’s decision was unanimous?
– It was a unanimous decision of the High Court that the legislation passed by this Parliament was bad. I invite the Government Whip (Mr. Fuller) to challenge that statement. It was a unanimous decision by the High Court of Australia, which, the Labour party has told the people in its printed platform, should be invested with the final decision in all Australian causes.
The Minister for Transport might have devoted a little time to the third matter of that nature to which I shall now refer because it is very much more down his own alley. I am sure that I do not need to remind him that the printed platform to which he subscribes provides that defence personnel shall not be used in industrial disputes. There is no equivocation about it. It is set out in black and white. Honorable members opposite might reasonably have considered that there was some justification for the Government to resort to methods conflicting with the party’s platform if all else had failed in a desperate situation. But that was not the position in the most recent instance. The Government did not wait until all else- had failed. It had received an assurance that members of the Australian Workers Union were prepared to do the work that members of the defence forces were ordered to do. It made no attempt to call for labour from the Australian Workers Union. Neither did it seek to engage civilian labour instead of employing army and navy personnel to unload a coal ship at Melbourne. That was no last resort. As soon as it suited the Government’s book to do so, it put members of the defence forces to work, platform or no platform. I undera stand that the Minister for Transport was one of those who strongly criticized that decision, of the Government. The honorable gentleman touched on many subjects during his speech to-night, but he was discreetly silent about that and many other matters on which he has found himself in conflict with his colleagues in the Government.
I will say on the Minister’s behalf that he has always, been frank and honest about one matter - his adherence to the socialist objective of the Labour party. I could not fairly say that he has attempted at any time to disguise his whole-hearted adherence to the printed platform of the party and its stated objective of the socialization of industry, production, and exchange. My purpose now is to follow that matter through because, if there is one criticism that can be levelled fairly and seriously against the Prime Minister, the AttorneyGeneral and some other senior members of the Government, it is that, throughout their term of office, they have attempted to camouflage and throw a smoke-screen around the real objective of the Labour party, to which each of them is solemnly pledged. The Minister for Transport is not included in that charge. He has never disguised his attitude. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), have also been quite frank about that matter. But they are not the men whom the people listen to- and follow when- they are dealing with issues that -are- decided at elections or on other occasions during the course of a government’s term, of office. I make no criticism of the man who honestly professes to follow the socialist objective of the Labour party and works inside and outside the Parliament to bring it to fruition. I may think that he is> mistaken, I may disagree with him, and I may try to show him where he is. wrong, but I respect his sincerity in adhering to the views that he holds. I despise and. condemn the man who, while holding those views and working day and night inside and outside the Parliament to bring his socialist policy to fruition,, conceals his objective and attempts to hoodwink and mislead the public by disguising the purposes behind the legislation, that, is brought forth. I am prompted to develop this subject because of the speech that was made in this chamber yesterday by the Attorney-General.. At the conclusion of his speech), and without reference or relation to the matters that were under discussion, that right honorable gentleman dragged in a subject that there was no need for him to mention-. Of course, the election is looming, and the Attorney-General knows that the people are very much concerned about the possibility of the Labour party fulfilling its socialist programme. Because of that the ‘tactics of the right honorable gentleman and other senior Ministers are, as they have been on the eve of every election in recent years, to camouflage the real purpose of the Labour party’s programme.
I propose to trace the history of this matter so that we may know once and for all where the Labour party really stands and in the hope that its members will be forced to have the honesty to stand by the objectives to which they are pledged. In order to present the picture in proper perspective it is necessary for me to go back to 1920. In November of that year, the Communist party was formed in Australia by Mr. J. S. Garden, whose name will have a familiar -ring in this Parliament. Mr. Garden formed the Communist party here, and it immediately began to have a powerful influence in the trade unions. Its influence was so great that the federal executive of the Australian Labour party thought that, unless it took the matter in hand, a separate political force would be built up which would sweep away from the Labour party the support that it traditionally received from the trade unions. Therefore, it set out to recapture the support of the unions. In order to achieve its aim, it had to make important concessions. The first of those concessions was made at the All-Australian Trade Union Congress., which was convened in 1921. The president of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council and of the Australian Labour party executive at that time, who is now the Minister for Labour and National Service, presided at that congress. It was there that the industrial Labour party threw overboard the old objectives of the Labour movement in favour of the objective of the socialization of industry. Prom that day onward the Labour party ceased to be the party that the people of Australia had known, with a virile, robust, Australian nationalist tradition. From then on it was a socialist party, steeped in the doctrines of internationalism and’ the ideologies of socialism and communism, A charge that can be fairly made against the Australian
Labour party is that, since that time, it has traded under a dishonest label. It has flown a false flag ever since it adopted the socialization objective. It has never disavowed that objective. Prom time to time, more .sober-minded, conservative, or hesitant members have expressed their doubts about the party’s policy and have sought to have the wording of the objective altered; but the wording of the resolution that was carried at the congress of 1921, which was subsequently adopted at the interstate conference of the Australian Labour party in Brisbane in October of the same year, has never been varied. That resolution reads -
The objective of the Australian Labour party is the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange.
I shall give honorable members an idea of what the Minister for Labour and National Service thought about it at the time that he presided at that conference. He is reported to have stated in his official report -
Socialization of industry is the culmination of the teaching of Marx.
When acknowledging a vote of thanks at the end of the conference he used these words -
I feel the workers of Australia have at last adopted the slogan of Karl Marx : “ Workers of the world unite “ and at last one of the dreams of my life has become an accomplished fact.
However, other senior Labour supporters were not so happy. I shall read to the committee what Mr. Theodore, a former Labour Premier of Queensland said at the time. When speaking to the interstate Australian. Labour party conference at Brisbane that adopted this objective on the 21st October, 1921, he said -
You have changed the objective. You might as well change the name of the party and call it the Communist party.
We did not hear a great deal more about all this either at that time or for a number of years. Labour was not in office in the federal sphere, and clearly, if the socialist programme was to be carried out the real drive had to come from the central government at Canberra. But interested members of the Australian Labour party did not remain idle. Bv 1931 the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party had appointed a socialization committee which included such prominent members of the party as Mr. Donald Grant, now Senator Grant, Mr. J. S. Garden, Mr. J. Stewart, who is now a member of the Legislative Council in New South Wales, and Mr. W. McNamara. In 1931 that socialization committee adopted a programme, which time will not permit of my quoting fully. However, one of the most significant passages read -
That a plan to ‘be known as the “ Three Year Plan “ of social transition be propagated to provide for government by regulations, such regulations to aim at the establishment in three years of a socialized State . . . the programme went on. One of the prominent spokesmen of the party in 1934 was Dr. Lloyd Ross, again a figure well known to all members of this Parliament. He was formerly the New South Wales secretary of the Australian Railways Union. He was one of the intellectuals of the party, who, in National Planning in Australia in 1934, made this comment -
In Australia the first necessary and practical step would be to make the Commonwealth Bank an instrument for carrying out the financial policy of the Government of the day; the second, to set up an investment board to control investment; and the third, to bring private banks under State control. Side by side must go the setting up of a supreme economic council to organize development . . .
That was one of the proposals adopted at the 1921 conference. The proposed economic council, quite clearly, was to replace this Parliament as the arbiter in Australia on trade and financial matters. The article continued -
Those words of Dr. Ross have a profound significance, having regard to the nationalization of banking proposals which this Government has put before the Parliament, and which have been re-endorsed so recently as to-night by the Minister for Transport. Subsequently, in the same article, this appears -
I have indicated my opinion that all plans must be inadequate that do not interfere drastically with private property, that do not socialize the main methods of producing and distributing wealth and that do not enforce on all departments of economic life the measures that are necessary to eliminate unemployment, wars and poverty. I have emphasized the need for socializing the banks, and shown the political and constitutional problems involved, and so have come back to my first point, of the impossibility of talking about economics without mentioning all aspects of social life.
The Bolsheviks succeeded because they alone could carry through the ruthless measures necessary to stop social disintegration, because they had no limiting bias towards private property, and because they alone could call upon the latent stores of enthusiasm and creative ability of the masses. He who would an economic development, even in Australia, must learn more from the Bolsheviks than from any one else.
In the light of that article an almost fantastic situation arose a few years later when the same Dr. Lloyd Ross, who had not changed his policy or his attitude in any degree, was appointed by the Australian Labour party as one of the senior officers in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. He became one of the trusted officials first of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and later of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. This was the man who held these pronounced views, and had claimed that socialization should be implemented.
– Did not the honorable member once belong to a branch of the Australian Labour party?
– Did you not try to join one of its branches ?
– I have belonged only to the United Australia party and the Liberal party.
– What about the All for Australia party?
– I assure the Minister that that party was operative before I became interested actively in politics. Despite these unwelcome interruptions, I shall proceed so that the people of Australia who are listening to the broadcast of these proceedings will be able to judge for themselves what degree of reliance they may place on the assurances that were given to them by the present Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and other senior Ministers in this Government that they had no intention ‘whatever to do anything in the way of socializing the industries of this country. On the eve of the 1943 general election this appeared in a press advertisement over the name of Dr. H. V. Evatt-
The Commonwealth Constitution gives no general power to nationalize industries. Under Labour government, there will be more room for private enterprise a,nd business initiative after the war than ever before.
It is somewhat significant that such soothing words should be used by an Australian Labour party candidate immediately proceeding an election. Labour was getting rather troubled abou]; that time because Dr. Lloyd Eoss and. others had made public statements concerning Labour’s policy since 1941. The left wing of the movement was asking them to press on with the objective of socialization to which each of them had given a written pledge. The public waa becoming alarmed, and in a broadcast from Perth in the course of the election campaign in August, 1943, the late Mr. John Curtin said -
They talk about socialization. I have this to say: That the Commonwealth Parliament has no power to socialize industry. I say that my Government has not socialized any industry.
Those were the assurances of 1943. But we soon found that they were not worth the paper that they were printed on. After the general election of 1943, in which Labour was returned to office with a handsome majority, a conference of the Australian Labour party was held in Canberra in December of that year, when this resolution was adopted -
That a nation-wide campaign for socialism be started immediately and that the implementing of the campaign be left in the hands of the Federal executive.
That happened only a couple of months after the solemn assurances that were given by the then Prime Minister and the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth to the people of this country. I remind honorable members that these conferences are attended by the big representatives, the hand-picked few of the Australian Labour party. There they debated the resolution that I have mentioned. In June, 1944, another important conference was held, that time in Sydney. What happened there was not reported in the daily press at that time, but it did appear later in the official paper of the Australian Labour party. I stress that I am not quoting from any so-called capitalist organ. In the issue of the Standard pf the 15th June, 1944, this appeared -
Decisions to draw up a ten-year plan for the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange in logical stages was one of the outstanding results of the annual general Australian Labour party conference at the week-end. Moving the motion on behalf of the executive, the vice-president (Mr. W. C. Taylor) said that with Labour in charge of the Commonwealth and most of the State parliaments, the time had come for a more definite statement of the party objective and for the development of a plan for the instruction of governments to achieve socialization. “ We must set out an order of priority for the things that must be done .to that end,” he declared. “ For too long politicians have been allowed to regard themselves as having a use only at election times as party-labourers. They must be given faith in the desire of the party to achieve the objective.”
The man who proposed that motion was no renegade to the Labour party. He could speak with authority because he held high office in the party. The Government later appointed him as its representative on the Commonwealth Bank Board, and he is now one of its nominees on the Australian National Airlines Commission.
I come now to 1945. I want to show how steadily the Labour party pursued its objective when it had secured a majority in the Commonwealth Parliament. At the Federal Australian Labour party conference that was held in Canberra in 1945, Mr. Hanlon, the present Labour Premier of Queensland, proposed the following motion : -
That the Federal Government give consideration, in co-operation with the State governments, to the nationalization of industries.
That was an attempt to overcome the obstacle to nationalization that is contained in the Constitution. The nationalization was to be carried out by the Australian Government and the State governments acting in co-operation. It will be remembered that in 1945 the Labour party had control of the Commonwealth Parliament and also of five of the six State parliaments. In 1946 the Prime Minister, knowing of the plans that had been made by the Labour movement, and himself having been a party to the discussions in many instances, did not say anything about socialism during the general election campaign of that year. He could- not avoid mentioning the subject, because to do so would be to lose the support of the left wing of the party. Therefore,, assuming the urbane, homespun air with which we have become so familiar, he said to the people, in his simple and frank way; “ I do not come to you with promises; I come to you on Labour’s record.” The right honorable gentleman, very discreetly, concealed the real purpose that underlies the policy of the Labour party and made no reference to its pledged objective. Every Labour party candidate in the general election of 1946 was required to sign a pledge that he would do his best to implement the policy and objectives of the party. No mention, was made of nationalization in 1946) but what happened when the Labour party was returned to power in that year with a big majority? We have heard much about the socialist tiger being some kind of a bogy, but after the general election of 1946 the socialist tiger pounced with dramatic suddenness. The airlines had been grabbed during the war, despite solemn assurances that nothing would be socialized in war-time. Then followed the banks, the shipping services and the broadcasting networks of this country, in respect of which this Government has taken sweeping powers.. Now there is a move to bring the doctors into the net. To-night the doctors were attacked by the Minister for Transport. The doctors are not. resisting the Government’s legislation because they wish to oppose a. plan for a better health service in Australia.. They have, themselves, proposed, to the Government that an improved health service should’ be established, and have set out in detail their proposals in regard to it. They are opposing the Government’s legislation because they have been told in clear and specific terms- by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) that the objective of the Government’s health policy is the complete, elimination of the private, doctor service.. Knowing that this Government, the members of which are sworn to the implementation of a socialist programme, intends to eliminate the private doctor service, who can blame the members of the medical profession, for resisting the Government’s health legislation, if,, in there view, the- interests of the public will be better served by a private doctor service ?.
I should like to go into these matters, in much greater detail, but I have not sufficient time in which to do so. I have put them on record because; as the general election draws nearer, we shall hear less and less of the socialist objective, to which every honorable gentleman opposite is pledged1, and more and more of Labour standing on its record. The bland assurances of the Prime Minister in 1946 were followed by sweeping and radical intrusions into the private enterprises of this country and by a government grab for socialistic power over important sections1 of our industry. In Great Britain steel’ has been brought into the net, and cement is to follow; coal and the railways have already been taken. Private members of the Labour party in this Parliament and members of the Government have told us that the Australian insurance companies are to be nationalized, and the printed platform of the party refers to a number of other activities that are to be. taken over under the socialist programme,, but we shall hear less and less of those, aims in the next few months.. I urge the public not. to be hoodwinked by bland and soothing assurances.. As I have already said, I have no complaint to make against the genuine socialist who stands by his. programme and his undertakings, but. I condemn those who seek to play a confidence trick upon, the Australian people by disguising and camouflaging their real purposes.
I say, in conclusion, that the people of Australia do not want socialism. If they knew that that was the real objective of the’ Government, they would reject the Labour party candidates at the forthcoming general election. The Government knows that that is so. It realizes thatonly by concealing its objectives can it hopei to- obtain the continued support of the people, who would reject socialism, because- they know that it would lead to an unwarranted infringement of theirpersonal, liberties, rationed poverty as in Soviet Russia, and inefficiency in the conduct of our great public and private undertakings. The people would reject socialism because they know of the. terrible pass: to which the British people have been brought by the activities of the socialist. government of Great. Britain. If the people are to have a slogan at the forthcoming general election, I hope that it will be, “ Away with socialism, goodbye Mr.Chifley, and good-bye Mr.Cripps.”
.- The honorable member forFawkner (Mr. Holt) has joined that long list of Liberal party members who have been apologizing since the end of the war for the sorry state of affairs in which they left the defences of this country when the people voted them out of office in 1941. The Minister for Transport (Mr.Ward) earlier to-night made a statement in. relation to the activities of honorable members opposite when they were in office at the start of the recent war, and he stated quite clearly, honestly and sincerely that they left this country defenceless. It is well known to everybody in this nation that had we beenattacked in 1941 when Japan entered the war and when a Labour administration had only recently taken over the reins of government, we would not have been able to do much, because all the ammunition for anti-aircraft artillery then available in the country would have been used up in fifteen seconds. The honorable member forFawkner quoted a statement made during the war by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, in which he had commented favorably on the foundations for adequate defence that had been laid by Liberal governments. What the honorable member apparently does not realize is that Mr. Curtin made that statement in time of war, and that that fact conditioned what he said. Mr, Curtin was charitable and was also a great Australian, and he could not advertise to the enemy the defenceless state in which the Liberal party had left this country. Mr. Curtin’s statement was made to aid the defence of this country and in an endeavour to ensure that the enemy would not know that we lacked essential equipment. His statement was not a real commendation of what Liberal governments had done to develop this country’s defences.
– How would the honorable member know ?
-Honorablemembers opposite talk about their war record when theywereinoffice.Butwhywerethey votedoutofofficebythepeoplein1941 whilethewarwasinprogress?Whydid thethenmemberforHenty,Mr.Coles, crossthefloorandhelptodefeatthe Government?
Mr. Blain interjecting,
-Order ! If the honorable member for the Northern Territory cannot contain himself, I advise him to leave the chamber.
-I was merely attempting to give the honorable member for Martin. (Mr. Daly) some information..
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to give information by way of interjections. It is disorderly to do so.
-The honorable member forFawkner handed out some harsh state- ments to-night andI think that it is only right that he and the honorable member for. the Northern. Territory (Mr. Blain) should be on the receiving end now and hear afewfacts in relation to the tragic administration of the antiLabour parties in time of war. The former honorable member for Henty, Mr. Coles, assisted to vote an. anti-Labour government out of office in time of war and afterwards supported the succeeding Labour administration and it is on record that he voted against the former administration because of its inability to provide this country with adequate defences. I shall quote, as an answer to the honorable member forFawkner, the reasons why Mr. Coles voted as he did. Mr Coles saidin this chamber on the 3rd October, 1941-
My decision Has been made in the hope that Australia may havea change from the present unsatisfactory position, either by an appeal to the electors or bythe present Ministry inviting the Opposition to take over the reins of government. Australia requires responsible government that will result in throwing thewhole of the resources of this countryintothewareffort.
That wasa striking condemnation of the tragic state of affairs at thattime, when we were a defenceless nation. That statement is a monument to the incompetent people on the other side of theHouse wholeft this country defenceless.I have not time togofurther into that matter, but if honorable members opposite believe that they have a good war record I think that disillusionment should come to them from a study of the election figures of 1943, when the greatest majority of votes on record was given to the Labour party candidates, and the Curtin Government took office, because of the inability of the Opposition parties to administer the country’s affairs.
It is peculiar that now, when an election is looming, honorable members opposite devote great study to the programme of the Labour party in the Federal and State spheres. We have heard the honorable member for Fawkner state to-night that the Labour party broke a plank of its platform by sending soldiers to the coal-fields to work open cuts during the recent strike. Every member of this Parliament, and every citizen, should know that the recent industrial disturbance was the result of a Communist conspiracy designed to wreck Labour governments in the State and Federal spheres, and was accepted as such by the entire trade union movement. That being the case, the Government was not breaking a strike, but was foiling a Communist conspiracy. The Communists were supported in their conspiracy to a great degree by honorable members opposite. The Government took the view during the strike that trade unionists had taken before, that any means were justified in order to ensure that democracy would prevail and that the government would give this nation the firm and stable administration that was given it since 1941.
The most outstanding feature of the coal strike was the failure of honorable members opposite to visit the coal-fields and put their proposals forward. . It is a tragic commentary on their lack of duty to the nation that at the height of that great Communist conspiracy they attempted to make political capital of it by means of newspaper advertisements and by sending the federal president of the Liberal party, Mr. Casey, to the coalfields to talk with men who were determined to wreck the Labour Government with the support of the Communist party. That is the only sort of thing that honorable members opposite know how to do, and yet they criticize this Government for its actions during the strike, although in fact the Government took the firmest action that has ever been taken in this nation. That action won the commendation of all sections of the Australian people, even though a few narrow-minded people on the opposite side of the chamber do not agree that it was worthy of commendation.
Let us look at what a Liberal party government succeeded in doing. The Hollway Government in Victoria took seven months to make up its mind to unload one ship, and in the end the Australian Government had to step in and have the ship unloaded. The Hollway Government had boasted of what it would do to the Communists and how it would uphold the laws of the country, but it was incapable of unloading one coal ship without obtaining the consent, approval and support of the Federal Labour Government.
I turn now to the statement made by the honorable member for Fawkner regarding the Australian Workers Union and the mining of coal by its members. The honorable member quoted a statement which he said was made by Mr. Dougherty, an official of the union. Mr. Dougherty has given the lie direct to that statement by saying publicly that he made no such statement as the honorable member for Fawkner has attributed to him. The facts are that the Australian Workers Union in New South Wales has not the necessary legal authority to permit its members to mine black coal. Before its members could do so certain amendments would have to be made to the arbitration machinery governing that union. By making his statement to-night the honorable member for Fawkner has adopted the policy of repeating a lie so often that the public will be led to believe that it is the truth. I do not know what the honorable member thinks about the recent industrial disturbance, but let me say that in similar circumstances I consider that the Government would be justified in taking the same action as it took, and would receive the same unwavering support of all sections of the trade union movement as it received during the recent coal strike. Instead of talking about what they would do to the Communists, the Opposition parties would have done better if they had fallen into line with the State and Federal Governments in smashing up the Communist conspiracy.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has developed an “ Australia-first “ complex in recent months. That must be because of the fact that he has now been in the Liberal party for the longest period that he has lasted in any political party in Australia. He said that we must think of Australia first and that the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) does not represent the Australian viewpoint. In speaking of the dollar crisis and other matters, he stressed that we should think first of Australia, and I agree with him. The present Government always thinks first of Australia. A pre-dominant feature of the Government’s policy is to see that the people of this country, particularly those who cannot help themselves, enjoy an equal share of this world’s goods and of the social services and economic benefits that should be available to them. In 1941, when a Labour government was elected to office, Australian troops were recalled from the Middle East to defend this country against invasion hy the Japanese. The honorable member for Warringah, as a member of the War Advisory Council, was one of those who fought to ensure that those troops were sent to other parts of the world and did not return here to defend their own country. He desired them to be sent to Burma and other places. He is the type of man who to-day states to the people that we should “ think of Australia first”. That is a great political catchery. The sincerity of the honorable member for Warringah can be judged by his actions at the time of that great crisis, when he had the opportunity to have our troops returned to this country so that Australia would be served first, instead of other nationals being protected by them in preference to our own.
According to the honorable member for Warringah, private enterprise has made the “United States of America what it is. Undoubtedly, there is much truth in that, but be failed to mention that in that country unemployment is growing rapidly, and that more than 5,000,000 persons in that home of free enterprise are short of the necessaries of life because they lack jobs. Those figures relate only to the registered unemployed. There are no social service provisions as we know . them in the United States of America, and the cost of living there is very high. Figures have been cited in this House to show that a very large proportion of the people of the United States of America cannot live on their incomes, but are forced to draw on their savings. The honorable member attributed all our misfortunes in Australia to the Government’s programme of socialization. To-day, the people of Australia, under a Labour government, have full employment and reasonable economic security. They are much more prosperous than before the war. If that is the result of socialization I believe that the people will be prepared to support socialization in preference to anything they knew before the war. The honorable member for Fawkner mentioned the part played by private enterprise in the development of the country; but he omitted to say that, during the depression and afterwards, private enterprise, including the banks, condemned the flower of Australia’s manhood to life on the dole, or to shovelling sand as relief work. Many of the huge public works that were commenced1 after the outbreak of war could have been undertaken during the depression if a progressive government had been in power.
The honorable member also said that the Government’s socialization programme was retarding investment. If the country is really being ruined by the Government’s policy it is amazing that in almost every newspaper we pick up we should read tributes by prominent persons to Australia’s prosperity. For instance, Mr. L. Hartnett, a leading Australian industrialist, said after his return from abroad recently that Australia was the best country in the world. An American industrialist at present in Australia stated the other day that business in this country was booming. More than 30 agents of British businesses are at present in Australia planning new factories. Almost every day, British business men are arriving in Australia to start new industries in this socialist state in order to share in our prosperity. In a newspaper which I have here a visitor described Australia as a paradise on earth, while from the home of free enterprise, 7,000 “Yanks” are seeking passages to Australia in order to settle here. Nevertheless, honorable members opposite say that private enterprise is hampered in Australia, and that industry is being ruined by the -Chifley Government. Letus see what our own Professor Copland has to say on the subject. I do not admire him particularly, because I have unhappy recollections of his attitude in the past. Although he now occupies a high public position, I believe that he still entertains political ambitions in association with a party that is not friendly to the Government. I quote from the Sydney Daily Telegraph a statement by Professor Copland, and this is one of the few occasions upon which I have found myself in agreement with something that has appeared in that journal -
There is full employment ; there is a higher standard of living than ever before in our history; there is an easier tempo in work for all, except, perhaps, the housewife; there is .a freedom from financial worry, especially among rural producers, that was probably never achieved before; there is a wider “diversity of production with less reliance on a few primary products; there is a higher development of social welfare; there is a much lower burden of external debt; .and there is an assumption of international responsibility in economic matters not attained before.
That is certainly a tribute to a socialist government. It is also a refutation of statements of honorable members opposite, particularly those of the honorable member for Warringah. Professor Hytten, economic adviser to the Bank of New South Wales, is recorded in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 13th September as saying -
HEALTHY STIMULUS OF FOREIGN CAPITAL.
Overseas capital has been flowing into Australia in a fairly steady stream ever since the end of the war.
Figures have been cited by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) showing that, far from retarding private enterprise, the Government has provided incentives to industrialists to commence operations .in Australia. In this respect, the policy of this Government is more progressive than that of any previous government.
We have been told that high taxation is retarding production, and honorable members opposite have claimed that taxation should be reduced. In 1946. Liberal party candidates stumped the country saying that if substantial remissions of taxation were made there would be’ increased production, and commodity shortages would be overtaken almost immediately. Now, although taxes have been reduced by many millions of pounds, honorable members opposite are still saying that high taxation is preventing increased production. The fact is that the Government has reduced taxation greatly, but the benefit of the reduction has been given to those on lower incomes. The Government has not distributed largess in the form of taxation reductions to those who can well afford to pay. Those who believe that taxation is keeping down production should study the relevant figures. They would then see that in almost every sphere of activity production has increased greatly compared with 1939. If they study the financial pages of the newspapers they will see that company profits are higher than ever before. We do not read of bankruptcies taking place nowadays. Businessmen are not complaining, except those who would like to double their profits at the expense of the wage-earners. Since this Government has been in office, it has reduced taxes by £133,000,000. Yet, honorable members opposite still say that taxes must be reduced in order to increase production. Indirect taxes have not been increased since 1946. A glance at the charts circulated with the budget show that since the end of the recent war the average Australian family consisting of a man, his wife and two children, who earns £500 a year has had his tax reduced from £80 16s. to £14 ls. Bearing in mind that no increase of indirect taxes has been made in that period, that is a substantial reduction. Therefore, it is useless for honorable members opposite to try to convince educated Australian citizens that their taxes have not been substantially reduced by this Government.
Honorable members opposite contend that prices are rising and that the purchasing power of the £1 is decreasing. Certainly, that is the case at present ; but who is responsible for that position? The blame must be laid at the door of honorable members opposite,, such as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) and the noisy member from Western Australia who went throughout the length and breadth of this country urging the people to vote against the Government’s proposal to give power to this Parliament to continue to control prices on a nationwide basis. Those honorable members told the people that if they rejected the Government’s proposal prices would not rise. Full responsibility for present rising prices must be laid at their door because they advocated the abolition of price subsidies and prices control. They said that private enterprise should be free and unrestricted and that prices should be allowed to find their own levels. Thus, honorable members opposite are responsible for the present rising prices and the decreasing purchasing power of the community. Since that referendum it has been made clear that the State governments are not capable of administering prices control effectively. The result is that prices of commodities which are in abundant supply are skyrocketing. Recently, the Minister for Prices in New South Wales, Mr. Finnan, disclosed that exploitation was taking place in the sale of commodities which were in plentiful supply, and that this was one result of giving private enterprise a free hand. That opportunity was given to private enterprise by honorable members opposite who urged the people to reject this Government’s proposals with respect to prices control. Consequently, the people are now being exploited. Honorable members opposite, instead of urging the people to make a decision which they knew would be detrimental to the people, should have protected the interests of the community.
The Opposition parties also criticize the Government because of its social services programme. The Government believes in the principle of full employment and is implementing its policy of guaranteeing economic and social security to the people. To-day, unemployment in this country is at a record low level, and our position in that respect compares more than favorably with that of any other country. Any citizen in Australia can obtain a job to-day if he, or she, is willing and able to work. That fact is a striking example of the efficiency of the Government and its ability to provide employment. Those people who were unemployed some weeks ago as the result of the tragic coal conspiracy to which I have already referred and for a limited period lost their security know what it means to lose their employment overnight. I urge them to remember that such conditions were the order of the day during the regime of anti-Labour governments in this country when for years on end over 500,000 Australians were out of work and until the Labour Government was elected in 1941 never knew what it was to draw a full day’s wages. If an anti-Labour government is returned to office at the next general election, that state of affairs will be repeated, and the people much sooner than they expect will find themselves back in dole queues with no possibility of gaining economic security. In addition to its policy of full employment, the Government is pushing ahead with its social services programme, and it has already provided for the people a measure of social security never previously equalled in this country. Nations like the United States of America, Great Britain and continental countries are looking to Australia and New_ Zealand for a new approach to the provision of social security.
– What about a contributory social security scheme?
– I shall remind the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) of the miserable pittance which the Lyons Government proposed to give to the people under the Casey contributory national insurance scheme. The people should remember that when the present Government assumed office in 1941 legislation on the statute-book covered only three social services benefits, namely, child endowment, age and invalid pensions, and maternity allowances. The cost of those benefits at that time was approximately £17,000,000 a year. To-day, throughout the length and breadth of Australia people are participating in social services benefits totalling £100,000,000 a year, and that amount will be substantially increased when the interests opposed to Labour’s programme, including the British Medical Association, are brought into line as, no doubt, they will be. Honorable members opposite talk about meagre social services benefits, and advocate a contributory social services scheme. Let us look at the scheme which was proposed by the Lyons Government and sponsored by Mr. Casey, the “ Bengal Tiger “ and Liberal party “ white hope “ at the next general election. When the Casey scheme was proposed, the government of the day issued a pamphlet setting out the benefits which would be provided under it. That pamphlet sets- out -
National insurance will provide cash payments for the widow and children of every man who qualifies. From the day you die, your widow will receive a regular cash payment of 12s. 6d. a week.
Honorable members know how far that amount would go even in those days. Compare it with the benefit of £2 2s. 6d. a week which is paid to-day. That pamphlet also stated that the Lyons Government proposed to increase the cash payment of 12s. 6d. a week to 15s. a week in 1944. The Casey scheme also provided for a weekly cash payment of 3s. 6d. for each dependent child, making a total payment of £1 3s. a week for a woman and three children ; and the people were to be given those benefits because they were to pay for them. If Australian citizens to-day were told that they had to contribute for those benefits they would soon tell the Government what it could do with them. The .pamphlet issued by the Lyons Government also contained this statement -
When you are sick . . . Doctor and Medicine - Your first need is medical attention. You will receive this free of charge from a doctor of your own choice.
Yet honorable members opposite criticize the present Government for implementing a measure similar to that which the Lyons Government considered to be vitally necessary. The benefits proposed under the Casey scheme, even allowing for the different conditions existing at that time, would hardly keep a dog. Subsequently, Mr. Casey refused to go ahead with his national insurance scheme because he believed that the country could not afford the meagre expenditure involved. It is obvious that if the Opposition parties were returned to power they would split on the issue of social services and would finish up in greater confusion than exists in their ranks to-day. The arguments advanced by honorable members opposite in this debate are sheer party propaganda. Prior to every general election the antiLabour parties bob up with a new policy on social security. I remind the people that those parties occupied the treasury bench for over 32 years prior to 1941, and throughout that long period they placed on the statute-book legislation which provided for only three classes of social services benefits at a cost of £17,000,000 annually whereas during the last eight years Labour governments have provided an additional £70,000,000 annually for the provision of such benefits. Nevertheless, prior to every general election the Opposition parties put out baits of the kind they are putting out to-day. I commend the budget. The Treasurer has balanced his budget for the second occasion within recent years. A record of magnificent achievement in this young country stands to the credit of Labour since it assumed office during the recent war. It shows that, with a continuance of the prosperous times that we now enjoy, the sound policy of the Treasurer will, if pursued in the years to come, ensure to the people of this country a long period of social and economic security. Despite the attempts of the Opposition parties ‘to make political propaganda out of the old socialist bogy, the people of this country may rest assured that the Government will continue to endeavour to give to them the things to which they are entitled.
.- We have just listened to a survey of political events by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly). One of the most disgraceful utterances that I have ever heard in this House - particularly as it came from a Labour supporter - was the honorable member’s insinuation that the late John Curtin spoke with his tongue in his cheek when he complimented preceding administrations upon having laid the foundation of Australia’s war effort. I was surprised indeed thai the honorable member should sink to such depths, because, although I differed with Mr. Curtin politically, I knew him to be an honest man. It ill became the honorable member for Martin to speak as he did. Referring to the recent coal strike, the honorable member said that members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were not prepared to go to the coal-fields in an endeavour to bring peace to the coal-mining industry. I remind him that in this very chamber before the Parliament rose for the recent recess, both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) offered to accompany the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to the coal-fields. Their offer was rejected. Honorable members opposite know quite well that certain Government members and supporters believed that the Prime Minister should go to the coal-fields to speak to the miners. The miners were on strike not against private employers, but against the principles of arbitration and conciliation which are subscribed to by all political parties. The honorable member for Martin deliberately misstated the position when he said that Opposition members were not prepared to go to the coal-fields in an endeavour to settle the strike. The honorable member referred to “ the noisy member from “Western Australia “. In fairness to my Western Australian colleagues, I should like to make it quite clear that he wai referring to me. The honorable member criticized the contributory social services scheme that was propounded in 1938. 1 do not suggest for a moment that I agreed with every detail of that scheme, but the fact remains that for an annual contribution _ of 78s. the working man would have received something worth while in return. To-day he contributes much more than that, and receives practically nothing in return. After vaunting its social services programme for many years, the Government now realizes that its scheme is top-heavy and is tumbling around its head. The Prime Minister admitted yesterday that proposals for a contributory scheme have been investigated. Apparently there is a growing realization that the present scheme rests upon a rotten foundation and is likely to topple at any moment. Therefore, before Government supporters criticize contributory schemes, they should take stock of their own position.
The honorable member for Martin claimed that many new factories were being established in this country. To impress members of this chamber and, presumably, visitors, he waved press cuttings ostensibly supporting his remarks. I ask the honorable member where are these factories?
– They are all over the place.
– Then why is there such a squeal about man-power? When we ask for labour for industries that are already established, we are unable to get it ; yet the honorable member for Martin claims that capital is flowing to this country for the establishment of new factories. That is not true. Many overseas industrialists have come here to make inquiries, but have departed realizing that conditions in Australia are not so good as they appear to be. Proof of the pudding is in the eating. The factories are not here. I only wish they were so that production of essential commodities could be increased.
The honorable member for Martin raised the old bogy of rising prices, blame for which he laid at the door of the Opposition parties. It is well that this charge should be refuted immediately, because I have no doubt that it will become an election cry in the very near future. One reason for increasing prices in this country is that the Government put its tail between its legs and ran out on its obligations. The question put to the Australian people at the rents and prices referendum was not whether price control should pass from the Commonwealth to the States, but whether it should be written permanently into the Commonwealth Constitution. The people of this country saw the danger of that proposal. In an endeavour to sway the electorate, the Prime Minister resorted to bluff and intimidation. He said that if the people voted against the Government’s referendum proposals, Commonwealth price stabilization subsidies would be removed. Later, Labour spokesmen advanced the stupid excuse that as the Commonwealth no longer controlled prices it. could not continue to pay price stabilization subsidies. But there was. no need for the Australian Government to run out as it did immediately the referendum was held. It had authority under its defence transitional powers legislation to continue prices administration until the following December. Members on this side of the chamber offered their support in the maintenance of controls so long as they were necessary.. They expressed the view that only a madman would remove all controls with one slash of a knife whilst the substantial gap between supply and demand remained. It is of no use honorable members opposite raising the bogy of rising, prices because just as we on this side of the chamber stumped the country advising the people to reject the Government’s referendum proposals, we shall stump the country again to counter the allegation that the Opposition parties are responsible for rising prices. In any case, the Government’s charges do not ring true to the people of Australia, and the baitwill not be swallowed on this occasion.
The Leader of the Australian Country party was taken to task to-night by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who quoted what the right honorable gentleman had said at a Country party conference held at Brisbane in July of this year. I have questioned the Leader of the Australian Country party on this matter, and1 I am confident that he. has never said that if returned to office’ he would’ repeal’ the 1945’ Banking Act. In case the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) may be- a little ahead of me, I say now that I have not. heard the Leader of the Opposition say that- the Banking Act. would be repealed’ in its entirety.
– The word’s of the Leader of the Opposition are- recorded in Hansard;.
– The right, honorable gentleman, said that if he were, returned to office he would repeal certain sections of, the act but not. the-, act. as a. whole.
– He said tha-fr he would1 repeal’ the? whole of the- act..
– The Minister, is. trying to involve me in an argument with him. Such a statement does not appear in Hansard or elsewhere.. What the Leader of the Opposition said was. that if he were returned to power hewould repeal certain sections of the act. removing the control of banking from the Treasurer and reconstituting, the Commonwealth Bank Board by replacing civil servants by representatives of various phases of Australian industry.
– Surely that, is quite’ enough.
– The Minister cannot run out on me as he ran out of the Country party twenty years ago in order to get a seat in the Parliament. He ran out of all political parties until at last he was picked up and taken’ under the Labour party banner, despite the fact that Labour men know that he does not subscribe to the platform of their party. It has also been said that the Leader of the Australian Country party f avoured the repeal of the Banking Act of 1945; but honorable members opposite cannot point to one word uttered by the right honorable gentleman even hinting at such an intention. The Minister for Trans* port has said that if the Opposition parties’ were returned to power, they would dispense with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and thatthat would be the end of the 40-hour week. In an endeavour to cover tip his remarks at that stage he engaged in a verbal conflict with my friend the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The only political party which is likely to toss overboard the Arbitration Court is1 the’ Australian’ Labour party; which poses as th« champion of the workers: Search as wemaY, we cannot find’ in’ the- platform of that party any statement which indicates, as does the1 platform of the Australian Country party, that” the* party believes in the maintenance of the system of” industrial’ conciliation and arbitration. The’ platform of the- Austraiian’ La’bour party does not contain* any positive- or definite statement that its members’ shall! abide by the1 system of conciliation and arbitration.. Paragraph 4- of the platform of the- Australia-Hi Labour, party- states’ thatone; of the- planks-, of the1 party- is1 -
Legislative ena’ctment” on’ hours; and wage standards, with the Commonwealth possessing full, powers, on industrial matters;
Further proof of the attitude of the Australian Labour party to the maintenance of the system of industrial conciliation and arbitration is to be found in the following question put to the. people in the referendum of ,1946: -
Are you prepared to give the Government control over wages and hours?
Notwithstanding that the Labour party is supposed to represent the working classes of this country, honorable members opposite are prepared’ to put up to auction the living .standards- of the workers of this country. They have no real consideration for the worker as a human being and a man of some standing, in his country. The Prime Minister and Sir Stafford Cripps h-ave both said, that no system of socialism can operate without conscription of labour. A similar view was expressed by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) at the meeting of the Summer School of Political Science held at Canberra in 1944, when he said, in effect, “ Iia the interests of the. State the people of Australia must be prepared to give away the right to choose the nature of their employment and their employer “. Surely that must involve, conscription of labour. As recently as October of last year the Prime Minister, speaking at the Trades Hall, Sydney, said that there will have to be movement of people and of towns if we are to progress. Sir Stafford Cripps also has made similar statements. It illbetides any member of the Labour party to say that honorable, members on this side of the House, particularly the Leader of the Australian Country party, have ideas of that kind. The Minister for Transport also said that the Leader of the Australian Country party when concluding his speech at the Country party conference held, in Brisbane on 28th July last asked -
Does that not sound startling? r only hope that the people realize how startling the prospect really is. Surely they must have been startled when the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), speaking at Ballarat in April of 1948, said-
The- Labour party has a master plan- for, total socialization. We. will go on- and. on. until eventually, in Australia, you will have, a great co-operative Commonwealth. Its. wealth will bc owned by the people and will be operated in a socialistic manner for the people as a whole-.
Lest some honorable members opposite may deny that such a statement was made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I asked the Prime Minister on the 28th April, 1948, whether his attention had been drawn to it, and if so, whether he agreed with the views of his colleague. The right honorable gentleman replied -
I have not read any statement of- the kind reported to have been made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, though a scrapof information1 was conveyed to me about something he is reported to have, said at Ballarat..
A scrap of information was conveyed tohim! If the Minister had been incorrectly reported, was it not the duty of the Prime Minister of this country to say so. If he disagreed with the statement, was he not in duty bound to indicate hisdisagreement with it?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture could have made a personal explanation at the time claiming that he had been misrepresented if,, in fact, he had been misrepresented.
– That is so, but he did not say a word on the matter. In spite- of statements of that kind, honorable members opposite claim that this1 Government is not inclined towards socialization. “What rot !’
– The Government ispledged to it.
– The first plank of Labour’s platform pledges the party to the nationalization of industry, production, distribution and exchange. The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), who is in charge of all our communication services-
– Nationalized services.
– The postal and communication’ services- of this country were established on a national basis longbefore the Minister even dreamt about nationalization,, but this Government has made a terrible hash of them. It is not customary for Labour journals to report incorrectly the utterances- of Labour Ministers and supporters. In the Australian Worker of the- 29th December, 1947,, the Postmaster-General is reported as having said1 that private ownership of land and other means of production would have to be removed from the people. Probably Government spokesmen will endeavour to convince the people that that statement was intended to apply only to what they are prone to call the landed class - those who own properties of from 5,000 to 10,000 acres or more. If so, it is bad enough. Any man who has selected his land, cleared it and settled his family on it, is a valuable asset to his country. If the statement was intended to apply to a man whose holding was bequeathed to him, and who has nurtured the soil and kept it in a state of productivity, it is equally bad. Rut I doubt very much whether that is the real objective of the Australian Labour party. I can recall hearing the present Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) ranting out the same old stuff on the Esplanade in Perth years ago. I believe that Labour’s policy is intended to attack individuals, the ordinary working men and women, who form the bulk of the population of this country and are the real people of Australia. In 1946 the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said that he did not want the working man to own his own home because that tended to make a nation of “ little capitalists “. How many people who are living in rented homes are in a position to buy those homes? The ultimate objective of the present Government is to reduce us all to a classless society; in other words, a community without feeling and without any other human attribute. It wants to reduce us all to the status of pawns that can be pushed around as the Government chooses. As I said a few moments ago, the Prime Minister stated emphatically on one occasion that the Government must be able to move people here, there and everywhere if the country is to progress. Therefore, it ill behoves the Government to try to assure the people that it is not inclined towards socialism.
I have with me a copy of the Sunday Times, a Western Australian newspaper, which no one can deny supports the Australian Labour party. Although it has been an apologist for Labour for many years, it recently felt constrained to criticize the present Labour Government because of its socialist policy and sympathies. Under the caption, “How long must we string along with Sir Stafford Cripps “ the newspaper published an article by a man named Victor Courtney. Sir Stafford Cripps, incidentally, had previously stated that we must liquidate the British Empire if socialism is to progress. The article stated -
None of us will object if Mr. Chifley includes in his budget another gift of £10,000,000 for the British people. That is, if it goes to the British people.
But there is a growing feeling that a lot of the financial and other help that this country has extended since the end of the war is going, not to the British people, but to boost a doubtful economic system.
We are being asked to continue with sublime faith along a journey on which British Chancellor Sir Stafford Cripps is the leader and the end of which is shrouded in mists of theories and hopes.
Further sacrifices we are being called to make in the interests of Britain have accented public dissatisfaction over our relationship not with the British people, but with the British financial set-up.
That is why members of the Opposition continually criticize the British Government. Of course, supporters of the Government accuse us of being anti-British because we do not like the road that the British Government is travelling. The accusation that we are anti-British does not stick to us ; if it sticks to any political party, it must adhere to the Australian Labour party. Whilst members of the Opposition parties have the greatest admiration for the British people,, we have realized for a long time that the road which the British Government is travelling is a bad one for the British people and for the world.”
I turn now to the budget. In the course of his speech the Prime Minister said -
The main key to this post-war financial achievement - as to many others - has been, I believe, that throughout the whole period full employment of labour has been maintained.
That assertion, is to say the least, ridiculous. Speaking about the special problems of income, prices and employment, the right honorable gentleman said -
Transcending even this, however, is the question whether levels of employment and incomes can be maintained in major countries abroad, because it is these factors which, fundamentally, determine world production, prices and trade.
Our financial condition to-day is attributable solely to the high prices that we had been reduced. In reply to that asserthink that all honorable members realize that if the prices paid’ for our exports were to recede suddenly the whole financial structure erected by the present Government would collapse. The right honorable gentleman also asserted that debts owned by farmers and businessmen had been reduced. In reply to that assertion I invite any honorable member to move around amongst the rural community to ascertain the real position. I have received a letter from a farmer in Western Australia who complains that he has no opportunity to surmount the obstacles placed in his way by the excessive taxes that he is called upon to pay. He would prefer to pay a substantial sum outright to the Government in order to liquidate his liabilities. I have received another letter from a station owner in Western Australia in which he complains that in respect of a recent year in which he earned £3,000 he was called upon to pay £2,000, and in the following year he was required to pay taxes amounting to £10,000 although his total income amounted to only £10,000.
– Neither would be correct.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) is “welcome to accompany me for the purpose of inspecting ray correspondent’s books if he desires.
– The amount involved would not be in respect of current income only.
– Admittedly, but the fact remains thai; the taxation has been levied on his income. What opportunity has such a man to liquidate his debts or improve his property so as to withstand the effects of an economic recession? It is absolutely stupid for any one to suggest that there will not be a recession. There is bound to be some recession even if it is caused only by drought or some other local climatic vagary.
The Prime Minister went on to say that our productive capacity has increased by approximately 50 per cent. Our productive capacity may have increased, but our actual production certainly has not increased. Go wherever we like in this country, we find that we cannot obtain wire, galvanized iron, piping and a number of other essential goods. We have to import galvanized iron and piping from Japan. Incidentally, very little of the imported material is finding its way to Western Australia, and I should like to know what proportion of the total import of those materials is going there. The Prime Minister made a special reference to that State by mentioning that a comprehensive water supply scheme has been undertaken in Western Australia. He mentioned that the Government had provided £2,150,000 for that purpose, and I give it full credit for making the funds available. However, I repeat what I pointed out when the measure to authorize the advance was under consideration. I said then that Western Australia was in need not so much of money as of material. Although a substantial quantity of piping .is needed for reticulation, we cannot obtain the piping.
– Why is the piping not available ?
– Because sufficient piping is not being manufactured, due to the fact that coal is not being produced in sufficient quantities. Even the Queensland Government’s project at Blair Athol to win more coal has fallen through. What is the reason ? I do not know. The coal is there. Mr. B. G. Casey has written in his book, Double or Quits, that his father referred in the Queensland Parliament in 1897 to the resources of the Blair Athol field. Why do we not develop them?
– The company sought a semi-socialistic enterprise.
– The company concerned could not obtain the money that it required, because prospective investors saw a danger in risking their money in a country that is travelling the road along which Australia is going.
The Prime Minister referred in glowing terms to the Government’s migration policy. I agree that we urgently require immigrants, but we must provide homes for them. The difficulty of obtaining migrants to work in country districts is most serious.
– No migrants are being sent to country districts.
– I do not know bow many migrants have been sent to country districts, but the position is almost tragic. Sometimes, a private employer in the country applies for the services of displaced persons, perhaps a married couple. Through unforeseen circumstances, he may not be able to accept the immigrants immediately they are available and after he has been certified as a suitable employer. When he renews his application for labour, it is forwarded to Canberra or Sydney, but it is not granted until he has again been certified a suitable employer. Persons who reside in distant parts of the wheat belt in Western Australia have been granted permits to employ displaced persons, but because they could not accept the immigrants at the moment they were available, their certificates as suitable employers lapsed. What kind of administration is that? Surely that procedure can be simplified. A certificate that a person is a suitable employer should remain in force until evidence to the contrary is produced.
The Postmaster-General’s Department allows an amount of £100 for the erection of a telephone line to the residence of a country subscriber. During the last sessional period of the Parliament, all the departmental charges for telephone services were increased, but the amount of £100 was not altered. I claim that it isinadequate. However, I shall not elaborate that point, because other members of the Australian Country party also desire to deal with it. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department should no longer require primary producers, particularly wheat farmers, to supply the labour that is required for clearing a route, digging the holes and transporting poles for telephone lines. I realize that the department has labour difficulties, but it is asking too much when it requires primary producers to fulfil those requirements before it will provide a telephone service. The department is in a better position to supply labour than is an individual farmer, who simply cannot afford the time to undertake such work. The
Government should not lose sight of the fact that the wheat-grower is producing a valuable commodity for export.
Yesterday, the House discussed the seriousness of the dollar situation. The statement has repeatedly been made that Australia is unable to obtain certain goods from overseas because of a shortage of dollars and gold. I remind the House that there is plenty of gold in Western Australia. Because the Government is hiding behind the Bretton Woods Agreement, gold is not being mined in the quantities in which it can be produced. The Premier of Western Australia, the Chamber of Mines and all other interestedbodies have repeatedly made representations to this Government for some measure of assistance in order that the production of gold may be increased. It is cf no use the Government saying that gold is not wanted because the Prime Minister has said in his budget speech -
Further restrictions of imports, whilst necessary to check the fall in gold and dollar reserves, obviously cannot be carried beyond certain limits . . .
Gold is urgently required, and the precious metal Ls available in Western Australia. Since 1936, the price of gold has been fixed’ at approximately £10 12s. per oz. The cost of production in the gold-mining industry has been increasing at an alarming rate, and, in the circumstances, it behoves the Government to assist the industry. Even if the Commonwealth should incur expenditure in that respect, the gold that would be won could be made available to the sterling gold and dollar pool for the purchase of the essential goods that we urgently require from the hard currency area. If we can obtain those goods, we shall be able to increase production, and, by expanding our exports, we shall improve our purchasing capacity overseas. The Prime Minister has stated that he has had inquiries made into the so-called marginal mines which pay dividends up to a certain percentage. The right honorable gentleman has not yet informed the House of the result of those investigations. If the Prime Minister will tell the House whether he proposes to assist the gold-mining industry by reducing the customs duties on imported machinery, and sales tax, we shall have some basis on which to work. The fact cannot be denied that gold is available in Australia and is urgently required by the sterling pool.
It is a disgrace that the Government should actually be discouraging the production of gold when so much of that precious metal is available in Western Australia. Doubtless a Government spokesman will reply that sufficient manpower is not available to increase the output of gold. I suggest that the Government should explore the possibility of employing suitable immigrants in the mines. Europeans have been working on the Kalgoorlie gold-fields for years, and their work is as efficient as that of other miners. Cannot suitable men be obtained from overseas to work in the industry? It is futile for the Government to explain that gold is not being mined in large quantities because of the shortage of man-power. As I have suggested, there is a way of overcoming that difficulty. We want the Government to make a pronouncement of policy for assisting the industry,, If some mines, after receiving assistance, are able to pay substantial dividends, the tax on gold could be reintroduced and applied to them. However, the industry as a whole needs a fillip. ‘ There should, be no discrimination between mines. Since the cessation of hostilities, no prospecting or other form of development has taken place in the industry. It is a disgrace that this Government, which has been in office in such prosperous times, should retire behind the Bretton Woods Agreement and forget about Australia’s interests. The Government is being led along by Sir Stafford Cripps and others. If the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who attended the recent financial conference in London, will indicate to us the kind of arguments that he has put forward on Australia’s behalf, we may be able to obtain some idea of the Government’s views. At present, we have only the statement in the budget speech to the effect that the Government is taking the long view of the situation. We are expected to be satisfied with “ hifalutin “ expressions and platitudinous ponderosities. We want to know what the Government intends to do to assist the gold-mining industry. As the Perth Sunday Times has stated, the people of
Australia are sick of this Government, and of the Prime Minister in particular, being led by the nose by Sir Stafford Cripps on a journey, the end of which is shrouded in the mists of theories and hopes.
House adjourned at 10.40’ ip.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I refer the honorable member to the answers given to similar questions asked by the honorable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Employment :rural Industries.
Mr.Adermann asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With respect to the rural industry, how many persons were occupied (a) as employees and workers on their own account and (b) as wage and salary earners in each year since 1939?
What were the corresponding figures for industries other than rural?
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Information is not available for each separate year or for years beyond 1947. The following table gives the data available: -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. It is not proposed, for security reasons, to release the replies to these questions, but the information will be made available confidentially to thehonorable member if he so desires. 4. (a) Trucks for tasks beyond the capacity of Army transport units. (b ) Special vehicles for the carriage of explosives, (c) Cars for the use of the staffs at Army Head-quarters and head-quarters in capital cities.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 September 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490915_reps_18_204/>.