18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr.DeputySpeaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture give any indication to the barley-growers of Tasmania whetherbarley exports from that State will be permitted from the forthcoming crop?
– The policy that will be adopted in respect of the forthcoming barley season will be that, provided the overall crop is sufficient to meet Australia’s needs, export quotas will he fixed on the basis of the yield in each State in relation to total exports. In those circumstances an export quota will be allocated to Tasmania. An endeavour will be made to allocate quotas to export organizations in that State in order to ensure that the advantage of the higher overseas prices will flow back to the growers.
Alleged Leakagesfrom Official Quarters
– I ask the Attorney-General whether any finality has yet been reached in his department’s endeavour to discover the identity of the person who was alleged to have forged, or stolen, certain documents from which the Leader of the Australian Country party made’ quotations in this House; or are we to regard that incident, like the last rose of last summer, as only a memory?
– Disregarding the horticultural reference madeby the honorable member, the matter that he has mentioned was fully inquired into by my departmental officers. It directly involves security, and I have nothing to add to what the Prime Minister has said on the subject.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether it is a fact that P. J. Magennis Proprietary Limited, a large firm of graziers of Yass, New South Wales, has issued a writ out of the High Court challenging the action of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales in resuming 14,253 acres for the purposes of soldier settlement in the Yass-Queanbeyan district? Is it a fact that this large firm of graziers is seeking a declaration that theRe-establishment and Employment Act and similar legislation are ultra vires the Constitution? Can the right honorable gentleman take any action to hasten a decision by the High Court in this matter in order to protect the interests of soldier settlers generally?
Dr.EVATT.- I am not familiar with the details of the case to which the honorable member has referred, hut an action of the kind he has mentioned has been commenced and it involves the claims of the Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales with respect to the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel in which the honorable member has displayed keen interest. The real point of the question is whether anything can be done to expedite the decision of the High Court of Australia on such matters. As all honorable members know, in these matters, in which three, four, five, six, or even seven judges may have to give an opinion, the Executive really has no control. Perhaps the position might best be summed up by the observation that a convoy proceeds at the speed of the slowest vessel.
Tennantcreek Water Supply
– I preface my question to the Minister for the Interior by stating that the residents of Tennant Creek have been carting water to that town for the last fifteen years from bores six miles away. In view of the fact that the suitability of the reservoir site at Honeymoon Range has now been proved by boring trial holes, will the Minister make representations to the Minister for Works and Housing with the object of having the construction of a dam there proceeded; with immediately in order to provide the people of Tennant Creek with an adequate water supply?
– I am not sure that it is a fact that the Honeymoon Range site has been proved by boring to be satisfactory. Recently I discussed the problem of supplies of water for Tennant Creek with a deputation that met me when I visited that centre. The facts associated with the matter are that a new bore has been sunk and is now being equipped. The bore water has been tested and been proved to be superior to that obtained previously from Gahn’s Bore, from which the town is now supplied. In addition, as an experiment, an earth dam was constructed at Tennant Creek about two and a half years ago, and its holding capacity has been proved. In addition to the new dam that is now being equipped, another earth dam will be constructed to supplement the water supply. The cost of installing a water scheme about 30 or 40 miles away from Tennant Creek wouldcost between £60,000 and £70,000, and a very substantial annual upkeep would be involved because of the nature of the country.
– But I referred to the site at Honeymoon Range.
– This mining town has been proved it is not considered that . representations should be made to the Government to expend such a substantial amount in view of the availability of a substitute means of providing an adequate water supply. The residents of Tennant Creek have not made any effort themselves to conserve water in tanks, as is done in many mining towns in Western Australia. Although a large quantity of water is consumed at the two hotels at Tennant Creek, and the roofs of those buildings have a large catchment capacity, rainwater tanks have not been installed. They apparently expect the Government to take all of the risks associated with the provision of a water supply, but are not prepared to make any effort themselves to conserve the water that could be caught from their roofs, as the people in most other places do.
– Has the Minister for Information seen an article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 22nd September in a column written by a journalist named McNicoll which purports to reveal the contents of a teleprint message that went from a Commonwealth Minister to his department last Tuesday? If so, will he endeavour to ascertain how this leakage occurred, and how this Daily Telegraph “garbage collector” gets his information?
– In my capacity of Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, who is in charge of teleprinter and similar facilities, I shall see whether the information that the honorable member seeks can be obtained, furnished to him, and, in fact, made public . It isa very desperate state of affairs if ministerial communications by way of telegraph, teleprinter, or indeed by letter, can be handed by somebody to a newspaper representative, or purloined by somebody and then given to a newspaper.We have had one experience in this Parliament of documents being abstracted from ministerial offices by journalists and then hawked around the Parliament and used. Perhaps there may be a need for a second inquiry. However, I shall bring the matter to the attention of the PostmasterGeneral, who, I am sure, will do his best to ascertain what has happened.
– Will the Prime Minister inform honorable members when they may expect from him an announcement of the amount and the terms of the dollar loans arranged incidentally to the devaluation of sterling by both the United Kingdom and Australia at Washington a short time ago. What effect will the loans have on the availability of petrol in this country?
– I understand that the honorable member is asking something about a dollar loan which he says has been raised in the United States of America. I can assure him that, so far, no dollar loan has been discussed with the United States of America. I can only repeat the statement that I made in my budget speech, which was that the raising of a dollar loan in some form or other from the United States of America would be considered by the Government, but that such a loan would not be for the purpose of enabling Australia to depart from the arrangements made at the recent financial conference of British Commonwealth Ministers in London to reduce dollar imports by 25 per cent. Such a loan would be raised only to assist in obtaining essential capital equipment for which commitments had been entered into prior to the agreement to reduce dollar imports by 25 per cent. The honorable member can at once forget the possibility of any dollar loan being floated in the United States of America or anywhere else to buy consumer goods. We are concerned particularly with capital goods that cannot be obtained in easy currency countries. In brief, the reply to the honorable member’s question is that no application has yet been made in the United States of America for a loan. All aspects of the matter are being examined, and if such a loan is agreed upon, it will be only to facilitate the purchase of absolutely essential capital goods for which commitments have already been entered into in some form or other.
– Last week, I asked the Minister representing the
Minister for Social Services whether the maternity allowance would be payable to newly arrived British immigrants who had not yet fulfilled the residential qualification. The honorable gentleman replied that arrangements had been made for the Director-General of Social Services to consider each case on its merits, and that he felt sure that payment of the allowance would be made in approved circumstances. I ask the Minister now whether a similar arrangement will be made in respect of child endowment.
– The answer is “ Yes “. The object of the Government is to, as quickly as possible, entitle immigrants whom we are satisfied will become permanent residents of this country, to the same rights and privileges that are enjoyed by native citizens. There is a residential qualification of twelve months in the Social Services Consolidation Act, and normally child endowment- would not become payable until the expiry of that period; but, the Government has empowered the Director-General of Social Services to make such payments as soon as he is satisfied that the new arrivals will settle permanently in Australia.
First-class Mattes at Ordinary Rates.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General obtain a report on the cost of carrying mails by air during the recent disturbance of normal transport systems which resulted from the coal strike and floods ? Will he also obtain a report on the additional cost incurred by the utilization of supplementary road transport during those periods ? Finally, will he give consideration to the carriage by air of firstclass mail matter without additional surcharge to the north coast of New South Wales and also to the whole of Australia where air services operate regularly, as is done throughout the Union of South Africa ?
– I shall be glad to bring the right honorable gentleman’s question to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, but I warn him that any very great increase of the cost of the carriage of the mails to any part of Australia will make the Postal Department rather concerned about balancing its budget. Recently we had to increase postal charges. Any additional cost will make it even more difficult for the Postal Department to present a report to this Parliament which will show that it is carrying on within its means. There are some parts of Australia to which mail is now carried by air at ordinary rates. I am sure that the Postmaster-General will extend these facilities if it is at all possible to do so. The specific questions asked by the right honorable gentleman will be answered within a short time.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture able to inform the House of the basis on which the announced interim distribution of wool profits will be made, and also the date of distribution?
– Since I announced in the Parliament recently that the Treasurer had approved of the distribution of a sum not exceeding £25,000,000 from profits of £43,000,000 now held by the Australian Wool Realization Commission, I have received a communication from the commission which indicates that the interim distribution would be on the basis of 6£ per cent, of the total appraised value of wool supplied by each grower who had participated in the scheme during the war period.
– Will the Minister for Immigration state whether he has taken an opportunity in recent weeks to review the arrangements covering both the treatment and accommodation of child migrants who reach Australia in a weakened or undernourished condition? In particular, will the honorable gentleman give consideration to a suggestion which has reached me from the nursing profession, that children who are obviously weak or undernourished on arrival in Australia should be treated at the children’s hospitals at Perth or Melbourne instead of being taken to migrants’ camps?
– In reply to the honorable member, whose presence at the table suggests that he has been given a well-deserved promotion to the position of Acting Leader of the Opposition, I shall be pleased to consider the suggestion, which, he has said, emanated from the nursing profession, that migrant children arriving in Australia in a weakened condition should be taken to children’s hospitals in the capital city nearest the port of disembarkation. Some difficulties would arise in implementing the suggestion. In the first place, we should have to provide housing accommodation for the parents at a nearby establishment. Such accommodation may not always be readily available. In the second place we have unfortunately to deal with many people who are very temperamental because of the sufferings that they have experienced during recent years and who may not, in all instances, be amenable to the discipline of public hospitals. However, I can assure the honorable member that the Department .of Immigration and the Department of Health, our reception officer, .the medical officers and staffs of hospitals, and all members of public bodies concerned with migrants are doing their utmost to safeguard the lives <of migrants, and., particularly of migrant children. Any suggestions made by honorable members to improve the present facilities by mitigating the inevitable suffering of sick migrants on their arrival in this country, whether their suffering be -caused by malnutrition or otherwise, will receive every consideration. The honorable member mentioned certain suggestions that have been made by the nursing profession. The fact is that the Government took advantage of the presence in Europe of Matron Falls, matron of the King George V. Hospital, Sydney, to invite her to examine migrant centres and to make her return journey to Australia on a migrant vessel so that she could study conditions at first hand. Matron Falls did so, and since her return to Australia she has submitted a report, which is receiving earnest consideration. Needless to say we are very grateful to that lady for her co-operation. I also take this opportunity to express the Government’s appreciation of the forebearance shown by honorable members during a difficult time when, unfortunately some members of the community have been inclined to exploit an unfortunate situation for political purposes.
Petrol Tax - Roadmaking Machinery
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that approximately £9,000,000 annually of the amount that has been collected from the petrol tax is being retained by the Government for expenditure on purposes other than road construction and maintenance? If so does the Government intend to increase, substantially the amount of money made available for road construction and maintenance? If it does not intend to do so, will the right honorable gentleman say whether, in the event of an increase of the price of petrol, the Government will consider reducing the petrol tax so that the impact of the increase of price may be alleviated.
– I do not think that the honorable member was really directing his question to me for the purpose of learning the amount of money raised from petrol tax that has been retained by the Government, because that information has already been made available in various collections of statistics that have been furnished to the House. The honorable member is doubtless also aware that approximately £9,000,000 is payable to the States for road purposes. Should he not be aware of that fact, I take this opportunity to inform him that during the present financial year, as the result of collections of tax in the States and the contribution made by the Commonwealth, £25,000,000 will be available for road construction and maintenance throughout Australia. Last year, in addition to the grant that is normally made to the States, the Commonwealth made available £2,000,000 for the improvement of roads in sparsely populated areas. Of that amount only £986,000 was expended; in other words, not half of the money made available Gould be expended.
– The road-making authorities could not get the necessary machinery.
– I explained that point on a previous occasion to some honorable members and informed them that it was not due to the shortage of road-making % machinery.
– May I ask a question ?
– Order ! The Prime Minister is entitled to be heard in silence.
– What I ami asking is in respect of the amount diverted-
-Order! The honorable member has asked a question, and he should await the reply.
– The honorable member asked a question and must take what is coming to him in this matter. A few days ago, I discussed the petrol tax with the members of the executive of the Local Government Association, and those gentlemen did not advocate a reduction of the petrol tax. What they did advocate was that an increased amount should be made available for expenditure on roads.
– That was before the devaluation of the currency.
– That is perfectly true. At that time, the representatives of the local governing bodies were not aware of the devaluation proposals. I pointed out to them that in two financial years, an amount of £40,000,000 had been available for expenditure on roads. I do not say that, in some instances, difficulty has not arisen owing to the shortage of road-making machinery, but I remind the House that some road-making plant may be obtained from the United Kingdom and the easy currency areas. The United States of America is not the only country that is able to provide roadmaking machinery. Whatever the reasons may be, all the money that was made available was not expended and this year, an amount of £25,000,000 is available for roads. The amount by which the price of petrol may be increased cannot be determined at the moment. The position will become clear only when the oil companies disclose their accounts. Some of the statements made’ in this House about the dollar content of petrol have been completely inaccurate, and the companies themselves have had to admit that the Government’s figures have been correct. However, we shall not be able to determine the matter until the figures are available. No consideration has yet been given to reducing the petrol tax as the result of any increase of the price of petrol. That matter will be dealt with when it arises.
– Will the Treasurer ask the parliamentary committee, which has considered matters relative to the war gratuity in the past, to meet at an early date with a view to considering proposals for modifying the conditions under which the gratuity may be paid to exservicemen without delay?
– A parliamentary committee consisting of representatives of all the political parties has made recommendations from time to time about the conditions under which the war gratuity may be paid to ex-servicemen before the due date. I am extremely grateful to those honorable members for their valuable work. The late Senator Collett had considerable experience of the subject, and rendered most valuable service. Senator Cooper, the honorable member for Barker, the honorable meantier for Corangamite and certain honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber have also been most helpful and completely impartial in their recommendations. I understand that six of the eight members of the original committee were ex-servicemen. When’ that committee was reconstituted, the original members generously consented to continue to serve on it, and nearly all of the present members are ex-servicemen. Various suggestions have been made from time to time relative to the conditions under which the war gratuity should be paid to ex-servicemen before the due date, and the committee has considered them most carefully. The Government has also had the benefit of the advice of General Savige, who is familiar with the conditions under which the gratuity was paid after the last war. Sometimes the war gratuity has been misused, not because of actions by the ex-serviceman, but because some people were prepared to take him down. Apart from the fact that I know that many exservicemen would like to receive their war gratuity before the due date, I have had no indication that there is a need to review the conditions of payment at the present time. If the position required reconsideration, the parliamentary committee would have to be summoned, and the Government would again be indebted to the honorable members for their generous attitude in consenting to act on it. Should any circumstances arise which, in the opinion of the Government, call for a review of the conditions, the necessary action will be taken, but, at the moment, I have no evidence of the existence of those circumstances.
– Will the Treasurer inform me what stage has been reached in the discussions with the Government of the United States of America on the subject of double taxation?
– A number of discussions have taken place on this subject, but a satisfactory solution of the problem has not yet been found. I have discussed the position -with the Commissioner of Taxation, and we have also had discussions with representatives of the American Government. I do not say that they were expert tax officials. The fact is that, because of the difference in the amount of income derived by Australians from America and the amount derived by Americans from Australia, there is very little for us to bargain about. That was not so in the case of the United Kingdom, with which an agreement was reached in personal negotiations between the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Hugh Dalton, and myself. Then, there was room for compromise and for the granting of reciprocal benefits.
– What about American investments here ?
– I could say a good deal about that, too. Some honorable members have a mistaken idea about the investment of American capital in Australia. Often, the proposal is that an American company should bring a very small amount of American capital to Australia with which to start a factory, then borrow a large amount of Australian money by overdraft from the banks, and afterwards draw dividends from the enterprise in dollars. I do not say that that happens in all cases, but it does in a good man. There are some exceptions, and I could name three or four American firms which have acted very fairly. They brought their dollars here, put them into factories, and accepted shares which, of course, cannot be readily transferred. That is satisfactory, but I am not prepared to accept the other arrangement. As I have suggested, the transfer of income between Australia and the United States of America is practically a one-way traffic. Very little income comes from the United States of America to Australia.
– Is the amount going to America large?
– It is fairly substantial, and if more American capital were invested here, it could be very substantial. The Canadian Minister for Finance has given some striking instances of the heavy drain on the Canadian dollar pool because of circumstances such as I have outlined in my answer. My reply to the honorable member’s question is that no progress has been made in the direction of reaching a taxation agreement with the United States of America. There are further aspects to be examined. I have discussed the matter with the Commissioner of Taxation, and with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. I have no details of individual transactions, but I can find out the total disbursement in the form of income passing from Australia to the United States of America. Any tax arrangement would necessarily be onesided and would be unlike the agreements between the United Kingdom and the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada, and Canada and the United States of America. In the negotiations which led to those agreements, the parties had, if I may put it crudely, something with which to do a horse trade.
– As the whole quantity of non-arsenical sulphur required for the. superphosphate industry in Australia isbeing imported from the
United States of America at a cost of £3,000,000 annually, can the Prime Minister say whether raw sulphur of this kind is available in the sterling area? Is it true that sulphur has not so far been purchased for soft currency because the price of American sulphur was onethird less, and superphosphate carries a government subvention? Since devaluation of the Australian pound as against the dollar has had the effect of raising the price of American sulphur, will the Prime Minister instruct the chairman of the dollars committee to suspend immediately further imports of sulphur from the United States of America?
– The matter mentioned by the honorable member in his question has given the Government considerable concern. I have discussed with the representatives of some very large companies which are now able tobuy the necessary equipment the possibility of increasing the production of sulphur in Australia. I think I am at liberty to say that from the works operated by one company, 70,000 tons of sulphur are lost infumes each year. We are now pushing on with plans to recover the sulphur. A special officer of the Department of Trade and Customs, Mr. Clark, is now in London examining the possibilities of obtaining sulphur from the United Kingdom and other soft currency countries. We are already obtaining some sulphur from those areas, and the situation is improving. The Government considers that it is absolutely essential that Australia should have all the sulphur that is needed for the production of superphosphate,which is vital to our primary industries. I am sure that all honorable members will agree with the Government on that issue. Various suggestions have been made concerning the importation of brimstone. I assure the honorable member that the Government is anxious to obtain the maximum quantities of sulphur possible from easy currency areas and is also exploring the possibilities of enabling Australian companies to increase their production of sulphur as quickly as possible.
– When the Australian currency was previously depreciated in 1931 by a Labour government, the succeeding non-socialist government enacted the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act, which offset a great deal of the inflation caused by the depreciation. That measure was either repealed or allowed to lapse in 1947. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has considered introducing legislation of a similar character in order to ensure that costs shall not be unduly inflated? The effect of inflation, of course, will fall most heavily upon the working community.
– First, I think that I should correct the honorable member’s statement in relation to one matter. The decision to devalue the currency last Monday was made by the Australian Government. In 1931, neither the Australian Government nor the Commonwealth Bank, apparently regarded itself as having any authority to handle currency, and the first deflation of the currency then was made by the Bank of New South Wales, a private institution. Great confusion was caused, and the Commonwealth Bank finally fell into line with the general rate, which was then £A.131 to £stg.l00. It was later reduced to fA.125.’ Last Monday, the decision was made by the Government of the country, as it should be made, and not by private institutions. The honorable member’s suggestion that the Government should revise certain tariffs, as was done on the previous occasion, is very pertinent. It has not been possible to deal with every aspect of devaluation in the brief period that has elapsed since the action was taken, but the tariff aspect is being considered. I do not say that any action will be taken, nor can I promise that any particular legislation will be enacted, but I assure the honorable gentleman that the whole matter is being examined as he has requested.
– I present the reports of the Public Works Committee on the following subjects : -
Ordered to be printed.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to create by statute a secure procedure for the reception, administration and disbursement of certain moneys received by the Australian Government on behalf of a group of non-Jewish migrants from Palestine known generally as “ Templars “ or members of the Temple Society. The Temple Society is a religio-economic society whose original members migrated from Germany to Palestine between 1860 and 1870 for “the spiritual and economic development of the Holy Land “. By the use of communal funds and a. communal organization sustained by religious motives, members of the society gradually established urban and rural colonies at Haifa, Jaffa, Sarona, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and elsewhere in Palestine, and by the outbreak of the recent world war had developed them into flourishing and lucrative communities. Economically, they derived their wealth mainly from the primary products of their rural colonies, which, scientifically irrigated and cultivated, were given for the most part to citrus orchards, vineyards and dairy farms. Members of the Temple Society did much to raise the standard of scientific agriculture in Palestine. Although at the outbreak of the recent world war the society in general had been for 80 years in Palestine, and the majority of its members then living had never seen Germany, they had remained predominantly of German stock and had not lost their German nationality. When, therefore, in 1941, Palestine became a strategic war area of great potential importance, the Palestine Government found it necessary as a precautionary measure to move the majority of these Templars from Palestine. With the agreement of the Australian Government, some 574 men, women and children of the society were received in Australia as internees, and they remained in Australia as such during the war years.
By 1946 it was clear that the Templars in Australia would be unable to reestablish themselves in Palestine ; they had no desire to be transported to Germany, the Allied Control Commission of which was, in any case, not ready to admit them; the Australian Government was not anxious to be burdened with their internment indefinitely; and they themselves had applied to settle in Australia. They were, therefore, referred for investigation to Mr. Justice Hutchins, of the Supreme Court of Tasmania, who was then acting as a commissioner of inquiry in respect to such applications. In the final result,
Mr. Justice Hutchins recommended that, of the Temple Society, 504 men, women and children should be permitted to remain in Australia, and that 70 should be deported or voluntarily repatriated to Germany. I approved of this recommendation and put it into effect. Mr. Justice Hutchins, who ‘had complete access to overseas and local intelligence reports upon the political affiliations, character and conduct of members of tho Temple Society, and who examined each case individually, made these comments upon them in his reports -
Generally speaking, they are practical men of standing and of pence . . . Clearly these men and their families, whom, with a few exceptions, I have certified as of no security risk, have no need to be kept behind barbed wire any longer … In their case, us in others, I have to the best of my ability endeavoured to sift those who have proven bad records from those who have not, and I am happy to say that the great majority of these men and their families to my satisfaction have not been shown to be dangerous to the security of this country or the Empire . . These men, in the main farmers, have, as is well known, been anxious for many months to settle in Australia . . . Any detailed unbiased examination of their previous history will not support, in the main, any allegation which is contrary to the opinion I have above expressed . . . The great majority of them have every intention of applying for letters of naturalization and will become British subjects . . . There are many others (in Palestine), who also hold property, desirous of settling in Australia . . provided that they know that their very considerable assets even in part will in the end be made available to them. In this way Australia could secure people who apparently are desirable workers in primary industry.
Upon their release from internment, Templars in Australia requested me to grant landing permits to members of the society who still remained either in Palestine or in Germany, and to assist them officially in the liquidation of their valuable Palestinian assets and the transfer of the proceeds to Australia. I informed them that,- with the exception of a few special categories, Templars in Germany, like other German nationals, would not become eligible for admission to Australia until after the conclusion of the peace treaty with Germany. As the result, however, of the work of an Australian Government mission sent to Palestine at my direction in April, 1948, a further 270 Templars from Palestine, who, among others, had been evacuated to Cyprus for their own safety, were selected for migration to Australia and have since joined their relatives in this country; and arrangements have been made for the sum of approximately £3,500,000 sterling, derived for the most part from the liquidation of the Templar colony at Sarona, and then vested1 with other German assets in the Palestine Government, to be transferred to the United Kingdom Government for eventual disbursement to Templars in Australia. Part of this money has been received by the Australian Government, and, with the approval of the Treasurer, and as an emergency measure, a sum of £100,000 has already been distributed to individual Templars to relieve their immediate needs. The remainder of the money should arrive in Australia shortly after the completion of certain necessary audit and legal processes in the United Kingdom.
This sum of approximately £3,500,000 sterling is by no means the only amount which the Australian Government expects to receive for disbursement to Templar migrants. Because of unsettled conditions in Palestine immediately prior to and since the close of the British Mandate on the 15th May, 1948, much the greater part of Tempar property in Israel still remains unsold. It is believed and hoped that the Israeli Government will grant facilities for the liquidation of remaining Templar property in Israel, and for the transfer of the proceeds to the Australian Government for disbursement to these, its new citizens and settlers.
The moneys now in question are not public funds in the ordinary sense of the words. They are migrants’ funds. It is important, therefore, that they should be distributed and used’ in the best interests of Australia and of the migrants themselves. To quote merely one example it would not be in the best interests of Australia were these funds to be used for the establishment of large alien colonies. I have permitted Templars to settle in Australia on the express understanding that they will not form large alien colonies such as they were accustomed to in Palestine, and I intend to see that this understanding is respected. It is important also that these funds should be distributed in the interests of Templar migrants themselves, so that some priority in distribution is given to those who are in greater need, and to those who desire to give themselves to primary or other production in the national interests. Generally it must be assured, of course, that each Templar receives the proportion of these moneys to which he is justly entitled. The interests of Australia and the interests of these migrants themselves can be safeguarded most effectively by such a measure as is now before the House.
The nature of these moneys makes it obvious that a special trust fund should be created’ to receive them, and that, like other trust moneys held by the Australian Government, they should be subject to the provisions of the Audit Act 1941-1948. Furthermore, there is no valid reason why the Australian Government should be subject to expenditure in connexion with the administration of this fund or with the immigration of these migrants to Australia. Members of the Temple Society, in any case, have voluntarily offered to defray any such expenditure.
It must be pointed out that some small proportion of these funds will be found to be attributable to certain non-Templars resident in Australia and elsewhere. The records of the former Palestine Custodian of Enemy Property, which have been received in Australia, are so voluminous and interconnected that, prior to their transfer to Australia, it was impracticable for the Palestine and United Kingdom Governments to isolate moneys and supporting records pertaining to members of the Temple Society, from those pertaining to certain other persons. Consequently, this measure provides that disbursements from the fund shall be made in Australia to resident members of the Temple Society and to certain other residents who have a claim upon these funds, such as some nonTemplar German or former German nationals who were transported to Australia with the Templars in 1941 and were similarly permitted to settle here. It also provides that moneys proved to be attributable to non-residents of Australia, which will be a very small fraction only of the total moneys received, shall be refunded to the source from which they were obtained.
The United Kingdom Government agreed to transfer these moneys to Australia for disbursement, provided that the Australian Government furnished it with an indemnity against any claims arising from the wrongful distribution of these assets. As these moneys could be distributed more quickly and expediently in Australia, where the majority of claimants are available for consultation, this indemnity was regarded as justified and was given. “Whilst, in turn, the Temple Society and its members are quite willing to give a corresponding and covering indemnity to the Australian Government, it is considered more advisable and even necessary that the Australian Government and the Minister concerned should be protected by statute against any actions, proceedings, claims and demands whatsoever arising from the disbursement of these moneys. Legal and other difficulties attendant upon the proving of claims to shareholdings in this fund make it imperative in the interests of Australia that, although every care should be taken to ensure that the fund is justly administered, neither the Australian Government nor the Minister administering the fund should be subject to liability in connexion with anything done or omitted to he done in relation to the act or to any payment of money in pursuance of the act. This is a perfectly reasonable precaution.
I have personal knowledge of the migrants affected by this measure, and I believe that they will be a distinct asset to Australia. They are accustomed to the British way of life. Many are already naturalized British subjects and Australian citizens, whilst the others will apply for naturalization when their period of probation expires. Wot one penny of Commonwealth funds has been expended in bringing them to this country, and, under this measure, no Commonwealth funds will be expended in administering their assets or in settling them in Australia. I believe that their high standards of morality and conduct will earn them the respect of our Australian people, and that their farming skill and experience will enable them to contribute to the production of food for this growing nation and for the United Kingdom. Therefore, I commend the measure to the House, in order that, securely and efficiently, their assets may he received, administered and disbursed, and they may be enabled in consequence to settle successfully in Australia as new Australians, for their own good and in the interests of this great country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
1 7i Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 22nd September (vide page 541), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £12,400 be agreed to.
.- The people will find very little comfort in this budget because it continues heavy imposts and punitive taxation. Whilst it may suit some submissive people who believe that the State must be allembracing and not the servant of the people, I am sure that it will not be approved by the majority of Australians. The great bulk of our people will be angered by the continuance of heavy taxes. They do not want socialism. They have been sorely tried by this Government and its taxation policy. In a democratic community they can show their resentment only at the ballot-box, and I am sure that they will do so.
The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) proposes to collect this financial year the sum of £576,000,000 in taxes, whereas in 1938 collections of taxes amounted to only £74,000,000 and that sum was considered to be sufficient to meet the cost of government. Although the people did not, perhaps, object strongly to “the lavish expenditure incurred during the war years, no reason exists why the Government’s expenditure should not now be reduced to reasonable proportions. Whereas the tax per capita paid by Australians in 1938 amounted to £10 13s., it now amounts to £69 16s. 4d. per capita. Nevertheless, our people are worse off to-day. than they were ten years ago. One does not need to be an economist to be aware of the rise in the prices of commodities. The housewife, in budgeting for her home, recognizes that fact only too well. Consequently, things are more difficult in spite of the fact that nominal wages are higher to-day than they were in 1838. It would be difficult to compute the loss which the nation suffered as the result of the recent lamentable coal strike. That loss has been estimated at, approximately, £100,000,000 whilst it is also estimated that Australian workers lost £30,000,000 in wages during that strike. This nation has also suffered incredible loss as the result of the ban that the waterside workers have placed upon Dutch shipping. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who until recently, as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, wa9 telling other countries what they should do to settle their troubles, has allowed that ban to remain for the last five years. I understand that to-day the ban is not complete because Dutch ships bringing oil from the Netherlands East Indies are being unloaded. However, the waterside workers still refuse to load exports to, or unload other imports from, the Netherlands East Indies. In doing so they are acting at the behest of their Communist leaders, one of whom was gaoled for contempt of the Arbitration Court during the recent coal strike. In this matter the Minister for External Affairs, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, has remained impotent. Those facts are examples of the punishment which the Australian people have suffered under the present Government. The losses that 1 have indicated will ultimately’ be reflected in every workshop, and throughout the country generally, when the recession comes. Already there are signs that a recession is coming, although I do not believe for a moment that it will be nearly so severe as was the economic blizzard which this country experienced in the 1930’s. Nevertheless, since the end of the recent war, when our trade with war-devastated countries that were crying out for our primary products should have expanded by leaps and bounds, the Government remained inactive. Since 1938, its collections of taxes have increased by 550 per cent., whereas during the same period our national income has increased %r only 125 per cent. Even Micawber hew that if his income was only £1 and le spent 21s. he would meet disaster. Today, out people are over-taxed and our economy is correspondingly harassed. Tie concessions made in this budget arc but a few minor reductions of taxes. The Treasurer proposes to reduce the sales tax Which, incidentally, was introduced by the Scullin Government during the depression on the advice of an expert whom it brought from Canada. During the war the sales tax on some items was increased to as much as 25 per cent. In that emergency the people did not very greatly mind such an impost, but since the end of the recent war the Government has been tardy in reducing the sales tax. That is an indirect tax which is extracted almost imperceptibly from the worker’s pay envelope. However, the community is waking up. That is true particularly of the housewives. Customs and excise duties, primage, and sales tax are indirect taxes that amount to millions of pounds. Since the days when honorable members now sitting in Opposition formed the Government of this country tariffs have become principally revenue earners. Primage has been raised to 10 per cent, and sales tax has been increased to as much as 25 per cent. Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is prepared to grant reductions of primage and sales tax, the Government’s aim is to collect about £567,000,000. From indirect taxation alone £185,000,000 is raised to-day, compared with £57,000,000 in 1938. The indirect taxes now levied average £23 14s. 5d. a head of population. In addition, direct taxes are levied at high rates. Furthermore, we must remember that the currency has been depreciated.
– I rise to order. As no Minister of State is present in the chamber, the business cannot proceed.
– Order! That is not a point of order.
– I say that it is a point of order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No point of order is involved.
– A point of order -is involved. This committee cannot proceed unless a Minister is present in the chamber.
– I rule that there is not a point of order.
– I do not care what you rule. I sa.y that this committee cannot proceed unless a Minister is present.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It is not necessary for a Minister to be in the chamber.
– It is necessary for a Minister to be in the chamber. I object to the business being proceeded with while there is no Minister present.
– Order ! The honorable member for Barker will resume his seat.
– Since the point of order was raised, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has deigned to come into the chamber. I therefore address my further remarks to him as well as to the unseen -audience listening to the broadcast of these proceedings. Whether we like it or not, the £1 note is to-day torn in half ; it is now worth only 2.24 dollars. In 1931, when it was previously devalued, it was worth over four dollars. Because Great Britain has devalued currency, we have followed it on the easy downward path. As honorable members know, this devaluation was announced only a few days after the celebrations which marked the anniversary of the Battle of Britain. We have had the affairs of Great Britain very much, in our minds lately. The second battle of Britain, the economic battle, is now going on. Although it is not accompanied by bombings, it is just as grim in some ways as was the first battle. Great Britain will soon be enduring its tenth winter of austerity. Of course, much of its trouble was inevitable after a war against civilization in which it stood alone for so long. Only a part of the trouble, however, can be attributed to that cause. Because a socialist government was elected to office, the people of Great Britain are now in the grip of an economic dictator in the person of Sir Stafford Cripps, whom I have met. He is the aesthetic, austere man of whom Lord Wootton once said to me. If Sir Stafford Cripps ever becomes Food Minister, Britain will live on grass “. Instead of relying on the truths of the past he, unfortunately, has pinned his faith to the theory that it is possible to obtain some sort of world socialism. It will be remembered that he stated that the liquidation of the British Empire was essential for the socialist State. Now he has been the principal actor in the debasement of the British currency in an effort to get that country out of its difficulty. When Mr. Aneurin Bevan, the principal fanatic, attacked Winston Churchill throughout the war period he was a young man who should have been at the war. To-day, he is bringing down fantastic socialistic schemes that will cost hundreds of millions of pounds. He is insisting on the nationalization of the steel industry, which, in this year, reached the peak of its production. He also aims to socialize the whole of the sugar industry. The Government of Jamaica and Labour leader Bustamente have said that, they do not want the Government to operate refineries but prefer that private enterprise should, do so. But because Laski and other persons believe that it is possible to achieve a state of world socialism, Great Britain- is to be forced to suffer much more austerity than it has ever suffered before. Let us consider how Great Britain will overcome the difficulties that will flow from the devaluation of currency. Every one who has a knowledge of trade and commerce knows that, because of the trammels of socialist control, the people of Great Britain will now have to work much harder and produce more. Already that country is behind in fulfilling its orders, and .because of the depreciation of its currency production will have to be increased by about 40 per cent. If it found itself unable to bridge the gap before devaluation, how will it be able to do so now? The belief has been expressed that a large market exists in the United States of America for British goods. That has never been so. Australia has always bought more from Great Britain than has the United Statesof America. Although there may havebeen an occasional year in which theUnited States of America bought mores British goods than did Australia, by and large Australia has always been a better customer of Great Britain. In 1944-45, Australia imported goods to the value of over £61,000,000 sterling from the United Kingdom. The value of goods imported from that country in 1945-46 was over £58,000,000. On the other hand our exports to the United Kingdom were valued in sterling at £52,000,000 in 1944-45 and at £80,000 JD00 in 1945-46. Goods imported by the United States of America from the United Kingdom in 1943 were valued at £21,000,000 sterling in 1944 at £17,000,000 sterling. It is, therefore, obvious that the chickens are now coming home to roost. I remind honorable members that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), representing this socialist Government, went to Geneva, and later signed the Havana agreement, which has since been ratified by only one nation - if Liberia can be so’ called. The Ottawa agreement has largely been thrown into the discard. Preferences have been either frozen or reduced instead of efforts being made to expand trade within, the British Empire. It is obvious that we have thrown away the substance for the shadow. I could cite many examples to prove this contention. However, honorable members are well aware of the value of reciprocal trade to Australia following the economic depression. Yet now, because Great Britain has devalued its currency, its people will have to work harder to try to get trade in the dollar markets. Of course, we recognize that, apart from being generous by way of Marshall aid, the United States of America has done much But we have not done enough collectively for Great Britain. I have contended on many occasions that following the war there should have been a family conference. What is the use of our Ministers paying fleeting visits to England to attend conferences? If, instead of playing around with the futile United Nations, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) had concentrated his ability and energy upon rehabilitating the British Empire, we should not be in our present predicament. In my opinion, the way out of this impasse would have been for us to adhere to reciprocal Empire trade which permitted bilateral treaties to be made. Great Britain could have had a treaty with the United States of America for a definite volume of trade, and the United- States of America could have reduced its tariffs to achieve this. Even though the United Kingdom has devalued its currency, that does not mean necessarily that more British goods will be sold to the United States of America. By increasing tariffs the United States of America could annul any advantage that may accrue to Great Britain from devaluation. The President of the United States of America has the power, without reference to Congress, to increase or decrease the tariff on any item by 50 per cent. No other leader of a democratic nation has that authority. But the President may be forced by Congress to shut out more British goods. So much for Britain’s troubles. I believe that the United Kingdom has fulfilled its moral obligations to the world. Had we, as an empire, decided to make bilateral treaties with America and adhered to the principles of reciprocal Empire trade, the position of the British Commonwealth to-day would be much better. The United States of America still does not buy much Australian wool in spite of the expensive trips that have been made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, with his great entourage of public servants, to Geneva, Havana, and other places. Even with the depreciation of our currency, it is problematical whether the United States of America will buy much more Australian wool. Addi- lional sales may be made if the wool is cheaper, but, if it is not, American importers will not buy. What will be the effect of devaluation upon Australia ? We are large importers of goods from dollar countries. I have before me figures compiled by the Department of Trade and Customs showing our major dollar imports. Motor chassis, of course, loom largely on the list. Imports during 1948-49 were valued at nearly £A.7,000,000. Petroleum products cost us £6,000,000, motive power machinery £500,000, timber £3,250,000, paper pulp and paper boards nearly £2,000,000, drugs and chemicals £1,500,000, tobacco £3,500,000, textiles, mainly cotton, nearly £3,000,000, and aircraft and aircraft parts, largely for the Government’s own use, £2,500,000, making a total of £53,000,000. What will happen from now on? The people should know. The Government is hazy about the future. Earlier to-day I asked’ the Prime Minister whether the Government would bring down legislation to offset the inflationary effects of devaluation. He said that he would “have a look at it” or something to that effect. But many of these importations must continue. We cannot develop the outback without petrol, trucks and tractors. Our people cannot be clothed without the importation of substantial quantities of cotton. When the Lyons Government was in office in 1934,” the annual cotton production in Queensland was 20,000 bales. The Labour Government has been so recreant to its trust that production has declined to less than 1,000 bales a year. There is a substantial American cotton content in most of the textiles that we import from Great Britain and from other countries. Consequently, as a result of devaluation, the cost of those textiles must rise. It is of no use the Government pretending to have found an easy way out of our difficulties. It has taken a drug which is making it feel happier, but the headache will follow very soon. Although the Australian hardwood industry is highly efficient, substantial quantities of other timbers have to be imported. They include, for instance, oregon, the price of which must rise, thus affecting housing costs. Similarly, there will be an’ increase of the price of
American machinery including earthmoving plant and other heavy units so badly required in the isolated areas of the Commonwealth, particularly in the north-western regions, which I visited recently. I commend to honorable members an article published in the Melbourne Herald yesterday about the Kimberley district of “Western Australia. The article states that that territory has actually gone back during the last 25 years. It has been forgotten by this Government, so busy has it been with its own internecine union fights.We could be producing much more beef in those areas than is produced at present. “We are informed that the Government has a plan for the development of our northern regions, but that is a thing of the future. What has the Government actually done during its eight years of office? The prospect that faces us to-day is that of considerably increased prices for all imports in which there is a dollar content. I wish to correct a statement that was made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction who, amongst his own followers, has achieved some reputation as an economist. Of course there are economists and economists. Some of them are a menace to the welfare of the nation. Half-baked economists are worse still. This Minister, whom we have sent around the world making the trade agreements that have led us to our present pass, said that in 1931 the nonLabour government dickered about exchange but did nothing. I remind him that the administration in office at that time was the Scullin Labour Government. The value of the Australian £1 on overseas markets was at its lowest ebb. Finally from a depreciation of 30 per cent. in relation to sterling, it was pegged at 25 per cent., where it has remained ever since. The Scullin Labour Government was as futile as is the present administration.When the Lyons Government came into office, it brought down a customs exchange adjustment act which put a factor into our customs tariff by which the exchange was subtracted in some measure from certain items. The exchange could not be offset completely, but that legislation gave Australia time to recover. This Government has nothing in prospect.Without greatly increased production, prices will soar and the Australian £1, which, to-day, is worth 2.24 dollars, or approximately 10s., will become worth less and less. That will mean industrial dislocation, discontent in unions, strikes for more pay, and widespread uncertainty which should not exist to-day. We frequently hear the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) stating that socialism is a bogy to many people, yet we have socialism everywhere. He cited land settlement of ex-servicemen as an example of successful socialism. That shows just how little most honorable members opposite know. I have before me a booklet setting out the constitution and platform of the Australian Labour party. Under the heading “ Principles of Action “, it states -
Socialization of industry by -
The constitutional utilization of thu Federal, State and Municipal Government parliamentary and administrative machinery; (b)Theextensionofthescopeand powers of the Commonwealth Bank until complete control of banking and credit is in the hands of the nation :
The number one objective of the Australian Labour party is the socialization of industry, production and exchange. That is Marxism, but it did not originate with Marx. He merely borrowed some of the slogans and cliches of the French revolutionaries. He believed that a perfect world would result from socialism. I rather agree with Stephen Leacock the humorist-economist, who said : “ It is a grand idea. Everybody will work for the other fellow. There will be no unselfishness. I am all for it; hut when I come to think of it, I do not know whether I am fit for it. In any case, many others are not fit for it, so, in the meantime, I shall hold on to my house “. Without exception, the members of the Labour party in this Parliament, who are engaged in furthering the aims of socialism every day, are capitalists. They pretend to be opposed to the profit-motive, but that motive largely animates them in all their actions. It is regrettable that so many people should believe them to be sincere. I do not say that they are not good fellows - outside of politics many of them are - but they will lead this country to perdition if they are permitted to give effect to their pernicious doctrine of socialism. It has been truly said that a community of sheep that remains sheep, deserves a government of wolves. The booklet from which I have quoted is regarded by honorable members opposite as their bible. Every Labour member of this Parliament, and every Labour candidate for the next election, must sign a pledge that be believes in every word that is printed in it. Honorable members opposite are not true Labour men at all. The very name “ Labour “ has come to have a new meaning. They are not Labour men; they are socialists. The socialization platform of the Australian Labour party was adopted in 1921, at a conference held in Brisbane, at which the notorious “ Jock “ Garden, then secretary of the Communist party, took a prominent part. At that conference a proposal that supreme economic councils should be established to replace the Parliament, was also adopted. That is the Soviet system. Yet the platform of the . Australian Labour party contains no pledge that it supports the arbitration system. At this time, when we are approaching a general election, the subject of socialism is not mentioned by honorable members opposite. They prefer to pose as democrats. One of the members of the party’s brains trust, Senator McKenna, in an endeavour to explain its socialist policy, said in a recent broadcast in Tasmania -
What the party wants is the socialization of the sources of production, distribution and exchange.
These socialists repeat the parrot-cry which resulted in untold misery for countless millions of people when Lenin put Marx- policy into effect. Mr. Churchill summed up the true aims of the socialists in a few words when he said that between socialism and communism there was no difference in principle, but only in method. Of course the method of the socialist operates more slowly than does that of the Communist. Senator McKenna endeavoured to explain socialism away by saying in effect, “ We have an explanation of how socilaism should be achieved. We shall socialize only those things that it is not socially desirable to leave in the hands of private enterprise “. Is what is socially desirable to be determined by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) or by other leading luminaries of the Australian Labour party, including yourself, Mr. Temporary Chairman? What may and may not be socially desirable will be determined by the Labour caucus, be it an industry, a bank or an individual. Already the members of the medical profession, one of the noblest of the professions, are in the category of the condemned. They are not socially desirable in the opinion of this Government, and consequently they must become the servants of the State. Some member of the Labour caucus has worked out a system under which they are to be regimented. This Government is closely allied with the advocates of a barbarous creed which seeks to uncivilize the world. Honorable members opposite have not a close acquaintance with the dreadful consequences of its adoption. I saw a little of its effects when I was in Russia in 1918. There I saw something of the degradation and misery of the Russian people. Since then their plight may have improved or it may have worsened. It is a pity that those who advocate the Russian ideology do not go to Russia and stay there. This Government has given to Thornton, Lockwood and other Russian agents in this country who acknowledge no fealty to this country, carte blanche to go to Russia and to carry out the orders of their masters on their return to Australia. Honorable members apposite have been busily engaged in trying to repudiate their half-brothers, the Communists; but we know that the line of demarcation between the Australian Labour party and the Communist party is difficult to define. It is true that this Government has upset some Communist plans to disrupt this country, but it has never really vigorously opposed the Communists when seeking to attain their aims. Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) introduced a private member’s bill which is designed to embody in our arbitration law a provision requiring the holding of a secret ballot before a strike may be declared. I should have favoured the inclusion of a provision for the holding of a compulsory secret ballot of all members of the organization concerned. The learned’ Attorney-General gave reasons why, in the opinion of the Government, the bill could not be accepted. He was obviously afraid of the Communists who have consistently defied him, as they did when they destroyed our trade with the Netherlands East Indies because of an agreement which they had made with the Indonesian Communists’. Most honorable members have, no doubt, read the booklet published by Cecil Sharpley, a former Communist. The Communist party is made up of dupes, knaves and traitors, and perhaps by some who are all of those things. Sharpley . fell into one category or the other. Nevertheless, he had the moral courage to show us what has been going on when he gave evidence before the royal commission appointed by the Victorian Government to inquire into Communist activities. How many times have we asked this Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the activities of these people only to find that the Prime Minister was afraid to agree to our request?
Mr. Daly interjecting,
– The red tie which the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) is wearing may not signify anything, but I do not believe that his political faith is very much at variance with that of the Communists. At page 10 of his booklet, Sharpley wrote -
Ballot-rigging is one of the party’s most secret activities. Planning and execution are left to as few top members as possible. . . . Tt is an established practice. Late in 1037, when I was managing the party press, I was ordered to print 200- additional ballot-papers in case we needed to rig the Victorian branch elections of the Ironworkers’ Union. As it happened,, we did not need them.
He then told us what happened at one particular election. He said -
In mid-194S an election was held for the post of Victorian secretary of the Blacksmiths’ Society. The previous secretary had disappeared.
With the funds, no doubt! -
The federal secretary had taken control of branch affairs and ordered an election.
These are the de facto rulers of Australia from outside this Parliament -
An elderly Communist member from Adelaide was appointed returning officer. Vending an election, a non-Communist, McLean, acted as secretary. We persuaded H. Harper, a mau who we believed we could use, from the Newport Railway Workshops, to stand for secretary. From- the National Secretariat in Sydney orders came that we must win this post, so a member of the Communist Central Committee was flown from Sydney to Adelaide to- wangle the printing of 200 extra ba-1 lot-papers. Because of the typographical difficulties, they had to be printed in Adelaide. They were brought to Melbourne and handed te iii e in John Connell’s Hotel in Elizabethstreet, Melbourne. I filled in the 200 papers in the name of Harper - who, I am certain, had no idea of what went on. Harper won. At the next election in January of this year, Harper was beaten.
Yet the peripatetic Attorney-General, who goes around the world putting things right, cannot realize that the trade unions, which have done so much for Australia in the past, have been captured by the Communist wreckers, whose leader. Mr. Sharkey, has stated, “ We make strikes our business “. Of course they do. They hope eventually to become the government. I believe that in New South Wales 22 trade unions are under “ red “ control. They hold up the industrial production of Australia and intimidate the community. Yet the Government has not the intestinal fortitude to decide that a compulsory secret ballot shall be taken by any union contemplating a strike. That is the only way by which decent trade unionists who do not care to attend meetings that are dominated by extremists can be emancipated from the control of the Communists.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said yesterday that it would not be possible to emancipate decent trade unionists merely by introducing secret ballots.
– Did he ? What does the honorable member for Martin think about that? Of course, honorable members opposite do not think. They simply follow blindly the Marxian idea. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said recently, “ On, on to the socialist world ! “ I could quote a lot more observations of Marx and Lenin, who were frequently quoted during discussion of the -Government’s attempt to socialize banking. I content myself with recalling that it was Lenin who said, “ Give me the banks, and we have everything and can liquidate the little man first “. That is exactly what the Australian Communists are trying to do. The Prime Minister, whom some regard as a Heavensent wizard of finance, was appointed by a non-Labour administration to the membership of a royal commission on banking which wandered around Australia for “ two years. The Government of that time, of which I was a member, was looking for answers to many financial problems. In the report which the right honorable gentleman later submitted as a member of the royal commission he stated that he believed that there was a place for private banks in the community. Now, he tells us emphatically that there is no place for them, and that they must be socialized. How these despots love power! I commend to honorable members the dictum of Lord Acton that “ Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely “. We i-ee a classic example of the truth of that dictum in the strange antics of the Minister for Immigration, who is always either pulling people into the country or pushing them out. The Prime Minister wants to be the financial dictator of this country. Because the Melbourne City Council challenged his attempt to assume autocratic powers, he said, “ Abolish the banks “ - just like a Cromwell abolishing parliament. The right honorable gentleman intended to confiscate the shares of the bank shareholders and the people’s deposits in the banks, and, incidentally, in the process to conscript 30,000 bank clerks. Of course, he did not dare to submit his proposals to a referendum. Fortunately, the Privy Council has, for the moment, frustrated his plans. However, the battle is not yet over, and if Labour is returned to office at the next election the Prime Minister will undoubtedly make another attempt to nationalize our banking system. Of course, the Constitution exists to protect us against dictatorship, but he knows quite well that the Constitution can be circumvented. Honorable members on this side of the chamber do not intend to give him any helpful ideas, because I have no doubt that he already has plenty. Of course, the Minister for Transport was quite frank about the present Government’s intentions concerning the banks. Only the other day he said, in effect, “We are going on with the abolition of the private banks. We intend to socialize them “. I give him credit for his frankness. Better a frank sinner than a covert one.
– The Minister for Transport did not say anything of the kind.
– The otherwise mildmannered member for Robertson (Mr. Williams), who rarely speaks, will follow me in the debate, and will doubtless endeavour to prove that the Minister for Transport’s words mean something else. However, I refer the honorable member to the reports of the Minister’s utterance which appeared in Hansard and in the press. I do not know how he hopes to get around those remarks.
I shall deal now with other sins of ommission and commission of the present Government. Because the general election is approaching, a lot of fantastic statements and wild electioneering utterances have been made by members and supporters of the Government. In fact, they even had the audacity to charge the Opposition parties which were in office at the outbreak of World War II. with having neglected our national defences. Contrast their present statements with the criticisms that they made in 1938 and 1939. In November, 1938, the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) stated -
The Government is expending much too rapidly on defence. It is making plans for more than the adequate defence of Australia. I make no excuse for saying that. whilst the present Minister for Transport stated -
It is amusing to hear people say we will not give up New Guinea. To these people I would say that if it should become necessary to defend our Mandated Territories, they should defend them themselves.
Let me remind honorable members opposite that at that time they opposed every defence estimate that was introduced by the then government. They opposed the splendid Empire Air Training Scheme that helped to give us air superiority during the war, without which we could not have won victory. The present Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), who lias an unfortunate soap-box manner when speaking in this chamber, yesterday made the absurd statement that there were 700,000 people unemployed in 1931. Is that true?
– I took the trouble to search the year-books, which disclose that the highest percentage of unemployment during the depression, 28.3 per cent., was reached in 1931. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), who has interjected, who was in power in 1931? Was it the Scullin Government?
– The Scullin Administration was not in power ; it was only in office.
– That did not prevent its members from accepting ministerial allowances, anyhow. A perusal of the official statistics of unemployment during the years before the war indicates the fantastic nature of many of the assertions of honorable members opposite. The Minister for the Army told a harrowing tale of the starvation and misery suffered by the ex-servicemen of World War I., and he contended that those dreadful conditions continued until 1938. The official statistics certainly do not bear him out. Incidentally I was ashamed to hear him suggest that many of those who were amongst the first to enlist in the services on the outbreak of World War II. did so because they were unemployed. Apparently the Minister for Repatriation does not agree with me because I distinctly heard him wag his head! It is a disgrace to suggest that ex-servicemen of World War I. were impelled to enlist at the outbreak of this war because of their economic situation. The official statistics in 1939 show that only S.7 per cent, of workers were unemployed at that time. I remind the Minister for Repatriation that in 1931, 117,000 unionists were unemployed. Even if we add to that figure others who were receiving sustenance payments, the total does not approach even remotely the exaggerated figure of unemployment mentioned by the Minister for the Army. If I wanted to score a political advantage, I could, of course, agree with him that unemployment was very much greater in 1931 than the official statistics show, because, at that time, Labour was in power. However, I repeat that the actual incidence of unemployment was never so bad as was suggested by the Minister for the Army. That honorable gentleman had a lot to say about defence matters. I could tell the committee a lot more about those matters.
– Tell us all about them.
– I was coming to repatriation, but, perhaps, on second thoughts, I had better deal with it during the debate on the estimates of the Repatriation Department. In passing, however, I must say that it is tragic that men who defended Australia in war, including men now blind or totally incapacitated, who visited Canberra last week to plead for better treatment by the Government of ex-servicemen, should have been rebuffed by the Prime Minister. After all, the obvious need to increase their pension rates has been shamefully neglected. For years their pension rate remained unchanged, notwithstanding the increased cost of living, but the Government saw fit to increase the pension rate by only 5s. a week last year and by nothing this year. In conclusion, all I desire to say is that the “ golden age “ of which the Prime Minister dreams has been shown to be nothing more than a golden pipe dream, or a hoax.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) negatived -
That the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) be granted an extension of time.
.- The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who has just resumed his seat, referred to me as one who seldom speaks in the Parliament. In reply to that observation, all I shall say is that if I spoke as badly and as inaccurately as does the honorable member, who is like an old woman, always mumbling incoherently and acting the buffoon, I should speak even less frequently than I do. He speaks often, but he does not say anything worth while. I speak seldom, but I always have something to say.
Unlike the- honorable member for Balaclava, I do not talk twaddle. Although the honorable member has addressed the chamber for three-quarters of an hour, he cannot keep his. tongue still while I make my speech. He wants to speak all the time; He is- known as a constant interjector, and at times the occupant of the chair cannot control him. He has been named and suspended for disorderly conduct. Yet he has the impudence to criticize honorable members on this side of the chamber, because they are not always jumping up in their places, speaking on every possible occasion and acting like buffoons, saying nothing but causing the listeners amusement.
The budget discloses a state of national prosperity undreamed of in the past. It reveals that a mastermind has been guiding this nation through the difficult economic times that have been encountered since the end of the war. The budget is the national balance-sheet,, and the people have complimented the Government on its good business sense and its clever handling of the nation’s finances. The people are the shareholders in the nation’s prosperity, and they derive great comfort from the realization that responsible authorities and critics of the budget admit that Australia, through careful government, stands in a very sound position economically among the nations of the world. However much honorable members of the Opposition criticize this budget, they can draw little comfort from the realization of the fact, that they will have to wait many years before they will be returned to the treasury bench. They may never have that experience. Honorable members of the Opposition have dressed their election window, and members of the Labour party do not mind that, so long as they have an opportunity to submit their case to the people.
– I think that all honorable members should hear the honorable gentleman, and, therefore, I direct attention to the state of the committee.
– I rise to order ! I should like to know whether the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is in order in directing attention to the state of the committee when two-thirds of the Liberal party are attending a holiday camp.
– There is no point of order. The bells will be rung. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Balaclava cannot bear to listen to my speech without interrupting me. We all know that few members of the Opposition are present this morning.
– Only four of them are present..
– Who are they?
– I rise to order! On Wednesday evening, when I happened to mention that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had’ left the chamber, the occupant of the chair called me to order and said that I should not say whether an honorable member was in the chamber or outside it. The honorable member for Robertson has stated’ that very few honorable members are present this morning. I submit that he is not in order in doing so.
– There is no point of order.
– The Labour Government has given to the people benefits that were denied to them for many years by non-Labour- governments. It has assured them freedom- from want and fear, and has given them reasonable social and economic conditions; The Liberal party and the Australian Country party have no record of their treatment of the people of which they can be proud. The workers, the primary producers and the housewives remember the suffering and misery which existed when the Opposition parties occupied the treasury bench. AntiLabour governments in those years were unable or unwilling to alleviate the distress of the people. The position has now changed. With the Labour party in office, the present prosperous condition of the country will continue, and, indeed, will be improved. If the Liberal party and the Australian Country party were returned to the treasury bench, there would be a real danger that prosperity would quickly disappear. Wages would be reduced and working hours would be increased. A few nights ago, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie
Cameron), by way of interjection, admitted that he would do his best to have the 40-hour working week abolished.
– Hear, hear! T believe in work, not loafing.
– The honorable member, who is a big “noise” in the Liberal party, said that he would put that statement in writing if we asked him to do so. The people know that the Liberal party will attempt to abolish a 40-hour week if ever it has an opportunity to do so. If the Liberal party should be returned to office, the primary .producers will again be left to the mercy of the middlemen, who exploited them in the past and who are the real power behind the Opposition. Certain social services benefits would also be lost to the people, whose security would be endangered. If the present scale of social services were reduced, the small business men wouk be the great sufferers, because many of them depend to a large degree on the circulation of the money that people receive from social services. In the course of a year millions of pounds, which this Government distributes as social services payments aTe in circulation, and if that spending were reduced, a recession would follow, and small business men would be the greatest sufferers. The Labour Government has achieved much; and it is achievement, not talk, that counts. No farmers, small business men or working men and women can honestly say that they are not better off to-day than they were in pre-war years. The simple issue which the people will soon have to decide is whether they will place their trust in the Prime Minister or in the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The records of those two gentlemen speak for themselves. The Leader of the Opposition, knowing that the chief issue at the forthcoming election will be security of employment and the maintenance of national prosperity, is trying desperately to manufacture issues more to the liking of the Opposition. He would prefer the issues of communism and nationalization of banking. However, every school child knows that this Government is the deadly enemy of communism. The Communists hate and detest the Government. They are run ning candidates against the Australian Labour party, and lining up with the Liberals in an effort to defeat the Government.. As a matter of fact, the propaganda of the Liberal party is very much on Communist lines. The Liberals have groups of people going around the country trying to intimidate the people in the manner of stand-over men, which is the method that the Communists employ. What happened during the recent coal strike has convinced every thinking Australian that the Communists are getting no sympathy from the Chifley Government, and are never likely to get any.
The Leader of the Opposition would be very happy, indeed, to have nationalization of banking made an issue at the forthcoming election. The honorable member for Balaclava, like the Leader of the Opposition the other night, made considerable play on this question. He quoted the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) as having said that the banks would yet be nationalized. He placed his own interpretation, a false one, on what the Minister said. All those who were present when the Minister for Transport spoke heard him express his personal opinion that although the Privy Council had pronounced against bank nationalization, that was not the end of the matter; that in the years to come a Labour government would eventually get the necessary power, and the banks would be nationalized’. That is a fair interpretation of what the Minister said. We know, as does the Opposition, that bank nationalization is as dead as the dodo, and that it would be just as hard to revive. The Privy Council has agreed with the High Court that the Government of Australia has no constitutional power to nationalize banking. Since the Government has no power to do so, of what use is it to tell the people that if this Government is returned’ at the next election the banks will be nationalized? Members of the Opposition are talking what is, in fact, sheer humbug. They are not prepared to tell the people the truth. They are trying to mislead the people, who understand well enough that since the Privy Council has decided against the Government on the constitutional issue as it affects the nationalization of banking, that is an end of the matter. The only way in which it could become an issue again would be for this or some succeeding government to hold a referendum in an endeavour to obtain from the people power to nationalize banking. Then it would be up to the electors themselves to grant or refuse that power. In the meantime, no good purpose is served by talking twaddle to the effect that if the Labour party is returned at the next election the banks will be nationalized. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition knows the great power of the banks, and he wants that power behind him. He wants all the bank clerks in country towns to work for his party in the election campaign. Members of the Opposition realize that if they were to tell the truth, and say that nationalization is no longer a danger, the banks would probably not put so much money into the Liberal party campaign, and bank clerks would not be so enthusiastic in giving their help to the Opposition parties. Therefore, the Opposition wants to keep the banking issue alive, but at the election the issue will be neither the nationalization ofbanking nor communism. The people know that the Labour Government fought and defeated the Communists, and that 53 trade unions in Australia, including some of the most powerful ones, lined up behind the Government to defeat what was a criminal conspiracy to discredit and destroy the Government. For the way it handled the strike the Government has earned the congratulations of all right-thinking persons in Australia. Was the Government to stand idle, and let the Communists take charge? We have a suspicion that some of the leading Communists are conspiring with certain persons connected with the Opposition, and that they will use their joint endeavours to defeat the Government in the election. Some people like the honorable member for Balaclava, who has now gone out of the chamber, have the impudence to tell the people that this is a Communist government, or that it will be influenced by the Communists. The people of Australia know that they have a sane, sensible Government, which led them through the war and into the peace, and has now given them economic security. They know that solongasa Labour government is in power they will have good social services, full employment and a high standard of living, and that there will never be any need to fear communism. They know that communism thrives on misery and despair such as afflicted the people when anti-Labour governments were in power. We can forget all about bank nationalization for the time being.
-I rise to a point of order. T understand that the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) mentioned my absence from the chamber. I was called out in order to check some figures for the Hansard record of my speech.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. There is a standing order . which says that when the occupant of the chair is on his feet speaking the other honorable members must remain silent. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) had no right to interrupt the honorable member for Robertson on a point of order such as he raised. He can make a personal explanation later. I do not recollect having heard the honorable member for Robertson refer to the honorable member for Balaclava.
– Every honorable member on this side of the chamber hopes that the Privy Council’s decisions, when they are published, will show no reason why the Banking Act of 1945 should not stand unimpaired. No government can govern properly unless it has power to control the credit of the nation.
This Government has a remarkable record of achievement in the spheres of social services and general political economy, but it will probably be remembered best in the years to come because of the beginning that it has made with works designed to develop the physical face of Australia. To those of us who love our country there is nothing more interesting or desirable than the planning and carrying out of great national development schemes. This Government, and the State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, are determined to make good use of this land and to develop and improve it as far as they are capable of doing so. Many great works have already been initiated. There are the
Snowy Mountains project and the River Murray water conservation scheme. The Government of New South Wales has undertaken great works on the Mumimbidgee River. Remedial measures designed to strengthen and improve the Burrinjuck Dam. are continuing. An amount of £350,000 has been allocated for work on a water storage project on the Lachlan River. which is almost complete. The first of 35 weirs along the. Darling River has been completed. The estimated total cost of those undertakings is £450,000. A storage, to cost between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000, is to be constructed at Lake Menindie. On the Macquarie River, work is proceeding on the Burrendong Dam, the cost of which is expected to exceed £4,000,000. Construction of the Keepit Dam on the Namoi River is well advanced. The estimated cost of that work is over £4,000,000. Great developmental undertakings have been planned for the Hunter River Valley, in the electorate that I represent, an area in which I have always had the greatest possible interest. Expenditure on the Glenbawn Dam this year is expected to be £42,000. The total cost of that undertaking will exceed £3,000,000. Investigations at other dam sites in the Hunter Valley are well in hand. The general plan for the valley provides for both flood control and water conservation projects. It will be a great day for Australia when the works planned and undertaken in the Hunter Valley by the Government of New South Wales, aided by the Australian Government, are completed. The Maitland district has just suffered a disastrous flood that would not have occurred had the dams that are now planned been complete. One sympathizes with the people in that area who lost so much of their property in the flood, and especially with the citizens of Kempsey. I take this opportunity to refer to the activities of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who must be praised for his efforts to alleviate the sufferings of the people of Kempsey. However, the right honorable gentleman, having accepted the praise to which he is entitled, now talks loudly and long about the necessity for water conservation and flood control measures, particularly along the Macleay River. We are entitled to ask, as the people of Kempsey to whom I have spoken ask, “ What did the right honorable gentleman do to promote those works, which he now exhorts the Government to undertake, during the many years in which he was a powerful figure in this country?” Why is he now attempting to make political propaganda against this Government and the Labour Government in New South Wales on the ground that they have failed to erect dams? The plain fact is that he did nothing when he had the opportunity to assist in this sphere of work. He fell down, on his job. He had a glorious opportunity to go ahead with the works that he now urges this Government to undertake, because he was in power during the depression.
The successive governments of which he was a member had full control of both houses of this Parliament and, had he and his colleagues been sufficiently farsighted and wise, the projects that he now talks about could have been completed then. Employment could have been provided for thousands of men. Money could have been made to work for us instead of being allowed to become our master. But the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues did not take advantage of the great opportunity that was available to them. They just said, “ We have no money with which to carry out these great national works “, although people were walking the streets of our cities in thousand’s or working at useless jobs, such as shifting sand, for the sake of a miserable pittance with which to keep body and soul together. That is how the anti-Labour parties governed the country. I have a great fear that, should they ever return to power again, they would reduce taxes so drastically, in order to satisfy the wealthy people of Australia, that they would have scarcely any money in the nation’s coffers. The result would be that the great development schemes planned and commenced by this Government would have to be discontinued. Then they would merely say to the people, “ It is too bad, but we cannot afford to do the work”.
That is why I am so concerned about the validity of the Banking Act of 1945. If that act had not been challenged, this Government would not have even attempted to nationalize the banks. All that the Government wanted to do was to protect itself and the credit of the nation. It wanted to have power over the national credit so that it could use the country’s wealth to develop the country. It will be a major tragedy if the Banking Act of 1945 should ever be declared to be invalid. I. am very pleased that reference has been made in the budget to the great d velopmental works that the Government has initiated. Honorable members opposite, in criticizing the budget, have made no reference to the Government’s policies in relation to immigration and development. The two go hand in hand - the development of the country and the introduction of new citizens. Under our good and wise Minister for Immigration (Mr.Calwell) thousands of people are being brought to Australia. They are being well cared for and will make good Australians. He should be complimented on the great job he is doing. Indeed, he has been complimented in high places, both in Australia and in other parts of the world. In his budget speech, the Treasurer dealt with the fields of power development, water supply, aviation, land transport, and research for minerals, which, as he said, are prerequisites for progress under the new techniques of our age. He said -
TheSnowy Mountains power scheme, for which legislation has been passed this year, will be the greatest single project so far undertaken in Australia.
The Labour Government can be proud that it has initiated the greatest single project so far undertaken in Australia. Development is to take place not only in New South Wales and Victoria, but also in Queensland. In his speech, the Treasurer said -
Discussions have been held with the Queensland Government on three other major projects. One envisagesthe use of the waters of the Burdekin River for irrigation and the generation of electricity. Under a second scheme the Barron and Walsh Rivers would be used for irrigation purposes. A third project would provide railway facilities for the Callide opencut coal-mine, and make additional supplies of coal available for all States, particularly the southern States.
It is pleasing to those well acquainted with central and northern Queensland that the Government is- to give the Queensland Government a hand in de veloping the great resources of central and northern Queensland, because, unless we develop this country with all the means we have, the millions living to the north of Australia will have cause for just complaint that we are not developing our country.
I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; progress reported-.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -1949 -
No. 68 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 69 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 70 - Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
No. 71 - Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinances - 1 949 -
No. 5 - Districts.
No. 6 - Landlord and Tenant.
No. 7 - Police Arbitral Tribunal.
Regulations - 1 949 -
No. 7 (Building and Services
Ordinance ) .
No. 8 (Building and Services Ordinance) .
House adjourned at 12.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:- “ The Facts.”
s asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
;White asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following information.: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
Brisbane General Post Office.
l. - On the 14th September, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked the Minister representing the- Postmaster-General the following, questions : -
How far has the department progressed with the plans for the building of a new general post office in Brisbane?’
Elizabeth-street, Brisbane, where it was proposed to commence work on the section of the new building?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
y. - On the 15th September, the honorable member for Swan(Mr. Hamilton) asked me questions concerning the use by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of the bank’s official aircraft for the purpose of visiting Queensland. In response to my request, Dr. Coombs has furnished me with information which bears out what I said to the honorable member in my interim reply to his question on the 15th September, the journey was made in the first instance on official duty. Dr. Coombs has further advised that following upon his appointment as Governor it has been his natural desire to visit the main offices of the bank, particularly in the capital cities and to meet again the chief State officers in the several States, the senior executive officers and the managers of as many branches as possible. In his view, personal contact with the bank’s staff and some direct acquaintance with the various parts of Australia served by the bank are essential requirements for the efficient performance of the responsibilities attaching to the position of Governor of the bank. With this in mind he has already visited Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne. He had planned to visit a number of centres in western Queensland and to visit Brisbane en route, but owing to a visit to the United Kingdom at my request he had to cancel this arrangement. Arrangements were then made for the Governor and the Deputy Governor, Mr. Richardson, to visit Brisbane on Monday and Tuesday, 22nd and 23rd August. The official programme over those days was as follows : - 22nd August -
Official call on Deputy Premier of Queensland.
Official call on Lord Mayor of Brisbane.
Meeting with representatives of other banks in Queensland.
Meeting with staff of the main offices of the Commonwealth Bank in Brisbane during the late afternoon. 23rd August -
Attended civic reception extended by Lord Mayor of Brisbane.
Luncheon with prominent business people.
Meeting with managers and senior officers of suburban branches of the Commonwealth Bank.
In addition, during the period of his stay in Queensland he also called at the following branches of the bank: - King George Square, Brisbane; George-street, Brisbane; Fortitude Valley, Brisbane; Graceville; Stone’s Corner; Southport; Coolangatta; Tweed Heads.
He took the opportunity afforded by this official visit to Brisbane to take a brief holiday of eight days, which, as I pointed out to the honorable member previously, is the first holiday he has had for about eight years. He took his family with him in the bank’s aircraft to Brisbane. His family and he travelled back to Sydney in the bank’s aircraft. He states that on these and the return journeys the bank’s aircraft also carried officers of the bank who required to travel between Brisbane and Sydney.
I feel satisfied that there has been no extravagant use of the bank’s aircraft, the acquisition of which has proved of considerable advantage in the service of the bank.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 September 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490923_reps_18_204/>.