18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr.Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct the following questions to the Prime Minister with a request that he furnish answers in the same way that information relating to the output from privately owned coal mines is given : - (a) What are the locations and output capacities of all of the refineries at present producing petrol for the sterling area? (6) What are the precise locations and planned outputs of “the refineries that are either under construction or which will he constructed to produce sufficient petrol for the sterling area, and the names of the companies or undertakings carrying out this work? (c) Will the right honorable gentleman also furnish the House with a statement reconciling that information with Government statements that have been made at’ various times this year that petrol rationing is necessary only because of a shortage of refining capacity, and that refining capacity is being developed at a rate that will obviate the need for rationing within two years? (d) What action has the Government taken, through its representation on the board of directors of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to ensure that that company shall provide adequate additional refining plant in order to make an appreciable contribution to Australia’s increasing demand for refined petrol?
– My reply to the question whether I am able to ascertain the refining capacity of the various plants, and whether they are financed by British or American capital, is that I oan only obtain the information in regard to Britain and it would bc some time ‘before I could supply even that information to the honorable member. It could be obtained only with the co-operation of ‘the British Government. However, I shall examine the matter and see whether it is possible for me to supply a statement. I have previously- made it quite clear that the difficulties with relation to petrol are concerned principally, with refined petrol, and the shortage of refining capacity. As I have mentioned previously, the. Haifa refinery, which is capable of handling 3,000,000 tons of crude oil a year, is entirely out of operation because the Arabs are not preparer1, to permit the passage of the crude oithrough their territory to Haifa, which is under the jurisdiction of Israel. In regard to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the agreement that was drawn up applies to the Australian Government, the Anglo-Iranian authorities, and others concerned. Whilst the Australian Government holds a majority of the share-holding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the Commonwealth has no control over the management of that company. The AngloIranian interests and the company itself exercise control with relation to the management of the company. Because I considered that the Australian Government should have some say about matters such as the appointment of the manager or a change in the composition of the capital of tha!. company, I discussed this matter with representatives of the company, on the highest plane, about twelve months ago. - I received no satisfaction at all from the other parties to the agreement, and I took the matter up with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Later I had’ a, conference with Mr. Gaitskell, the’ British Minister for Fuel and Power,’ and put the position very plainly to him. Since then, I have received a further letter from the Anglo-Iranian interests, but it is not satisfactory to the Government in any way. Under the terms of the agreement, it is not possible for the Australian Government to exercise any direction over the activities of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, or to insist that its refining work in this country or in the sterling area generally shall be increased. The question therefore of obtaining for the Australian Government a greater measure of control in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is under consideration. I shall see what information I can obtain for the honorable gentleman on the other matters he has raised.
– I remind the Minister for Repatriation that, some time ago, I introduced to him a deputation of paraplegics who made representations on the need for the Government to consider the provision of motor cars for these unfortunate people. The Minister assured the deputation that the matter would be thoroughly considered, and that, subsequently, he would make known the Government’s decision. I ask the Minister now whether the matter has been considered. Has it been brought to the notice of Cabinet? Has Cabinet made any decision, and, if so, when will the decision be made known?
– It is . true that, some time ago, the honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Parkes introduced the deputation to which the honorable member for Wentworth has referred in his question. The matter has been thoroughly considered by the Repatriation Commission and by the Government. The difficulty is, of course, that the number of people with claims for consideration is so large that it would? be most difficult to decide who should beomitted from a scheme of this kind.. That fact, plus information that has been received from other countries in which this concession has been granted to certain types of ex-servicemen, led the Government to decide not to introduce a similar plan in this country.
Capture op JAPANESE Ex-servicemen
– I ask the Minister for External Territories whether thereis any truth in the rumour that escaped Japanese ex-servicemen were recentlycaptured in New Guinea. If so, can theMinister give any information on thematter i
– The report referred toby the honorable member is quite true. Two messages have been received. Thefirst indicated that two escaped Japaneseexservicemen had been picked up m thesubdistrict of Saidor about 50 milesfrom Madang. The second message stated that seven more Japanese had been apprehended. They are being sent to Madangwith a view to subsequent transfer to thecompound on Manus Island.
– Last week, the House was informed that the Minister for Transport was attending a conferenceon transport matters in Western Australia as a Commonwealth Cabinet Minister. The week-end press reported that, while in Western Australia, theMinister made this statement -
Once the Labour movement, aa a whole,, decided that the private hanks should benationalized, they would be, and nothing could stop the nationalization . . .
In the past, some Government projects had been sabotaged, but such organizations bs the Post Office were “great and efficient”’ under Government control.
In the future Australians bad to be big enough to allow Governments greater constitutional powers.
Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government will provide the people of Australia with an opportunity to pass judgment on the subject of the nationalization of banking by way of referendum at the forthcoming election?.
– I have not seen the statement purported to have been made by the Minister for Transport. No doubt the Minister may have said, as he has said previously in this House, that if it is the wish of the people that u referendum be held on a particular subject, their wish should be granted, irrespective of what may be our views. What I want to say at once, and what I think has already been said by other Ministers, is that this Government will not be a party to any procedure that does not conform to the Constitution.
– I did not ask that question. I asked whether the Government would agree to the holding of n constitutional referendum.
– I have made it clear that everything we do will be don« constitutionally. There are differences of opinion regarding the meaning of the provisions of the Constitution. I once heard the Leader of the Opposition express what was undoubtedly his honest opinion about the constitutional position with regard to uniform income tax, but the High Court differed from him. Thea are wide differences of opinion among distinguished lawyers about the meaning of the provisions of the Constitution and as everybody knows varying opinions have been argued before the High Court and the Privy Council. The Government does not propose to do anything unconstitutional.
– It cannot do so.
– Why, then, did the honorable member for Richmond ask his question?
– I want to know whether the Government is prepared to take a referendum of the people on this subject.
– The honorable member for Parramatta might take his colleague from the Australian Country party aside and give him a private lesson.
Mr. Beale interjecting,
– Order !
– The Government does not propose to take a referendum of the people at the coming election on any subject dealt with by the Constitution.
– Will the Minister for Labour and. National Service state what is the number of persons receiving the unemployment benefit in Australia to-day? What was the greatest number of- unemployed in Australia during the depression years? How many person-i are unemployed in the United Stares of America to-day? How does Australia’s employment position compare with that of overseas countries ?
– I can furnish the information only in round figures.
– Leave out the fractions.
– We have complete details relating to the position in Australia. On Monday afternoon of this week 1,200 persons or not more than a very small fraction of 1 per cent, of the employable population were receiving the unemployment benefit. In 1939, as all honorable members know because the figures have been published so often, 10 per cent, of the employable population cf Australia, or 290,000 persons were unemployed.
– In 1931 when Labour was in office it was 28 per cent.
– Order ! The honorable member for Balaclava exhibits very bad manners in this House. I ask him to cease interrupting.
– The unemployment peak during the depression years was reached in 1932, and the figure cited by the honorable member for Balaclava is nearly correct. In that year 30 per cent, of the employable population was unemployed. -There were then nearly 700,000 unemployed. I cannot give the exact figure of unemployment in the United States of America, although I can quote figures from the Forum and some of the monthly publications issued by the American Federation of Labour. The latest figure of unemployment in the United States of America that I have seen was approximately 5,000,000.
– I rise to order-
– No point of order is involved. The Minister for Labour and National Service is answering a question. The honorable member for Balaclava will resume.his seat.
– “Would it not be preferable for the. Minister to obtain an official statement from the Commonwealth Statistician, instead of indulging in this guesswork ?
-Order! E have already warned the honorable member for Balaclava, and I have repeatedly drawn his attention and that of the House to his conduct. If he is not able to control himself in the House I shall ask him to sit in the front row, where I can keep my eye on him. The Minister will complete his answer.
– The third question asked by the honorable member related to a comparison of unemployment in Australia with that of other countries. New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom have done their utmost to implement a policy of full employment, but T am sorry to say that no other nations have been able to implement a policy of full employment comparable with that which obtains in this country.
– In view of the electioneering advertisements that have been inserted in the press by the Liberal and the Australian Country parties, and the statements that have been made in this House by members of the Opposition, which purport to quote from an address delivered by the Prime Minister to an Australian Labour party conference in Sydney some time ago to the effect thatwhole communities will he transferred and workers will be compulsorily moved from job to job, will the right honorable gentleman say whether there is any truth in the suggestion that the Government believes in man-power control?
– I have not seen the Liberal party propaganda on the subject to which the honorable member has referred and I have not heard any statements in the House to the effect that, at that meeting or elsewhere, I had indicated that there would be transfers of whole communities or that man-power control would be introduced. However, when speaking at a conference of the Australian Labour party in Sydney, I said that the policy of this Government, was the provision of full employment for all those who desired to work. I also said that that statement did not mean that, in every instance, men would be able to remain and obtain employment in an industry which might have reached saturation point in satisfying consumer demands, or that a man who had been engaged in one job which had cut out, would be able to obtain similar employment in the same locality.
– Somewhere, something.
-Order! There will ,be a vacancy here if the right honorable gentleman continues to interject.
– What I did say at that conference of the Australian Labour party was very simple. I stated that the objective of this Government was to provide jobs for everybody in this country who required employment and desired to work. That would mean, in many instances, that people would need to transfer from one job to another. I did not mention the transfers of whole communities, and I did not at any time say that people would be required compulsorily to transfer from one job to another. That is not part of the Labour party’s platform.
– Can the Minister foi External Affairs say whether it is correct that the Government of the United Kingdom has decided to grant de jure recognition to the Communists in China if and when they form a government? 1 point out that recognition of a Communist administration in China implies the withdrawal of diplomatic recognition from the present Nationalist Government. If the British Government grants such recognition to the Communists, what action does the Australian Government propose to take concerning China?
– Newspaper reports to the effect that the Government of thu United Kingdom intends to grant de jure recognition to the Government of North China, which is under the control of the Communists - if such a body has yet been formed - have not been authenticated, and no such decision has yet been made by the Government of the United Kingdom. The Australian Government is in close touch with the governments of the United Kingdom and the United
States of America, and any action taken by those governments will follow a common pattern. All those countries recognize the existing Government of China, so that the last question asked by the honorable member does not require an answer.
– My question to the Treasurer refers to an announcement that was made last night by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the course of a speech in which he said that a few days before the election, an amount of £25,000,000 would be distributed to wool-growers.
– I did not say that at all.
– Order ! The honorable member for Indi is not entitled to raise a debatable issue when asking a question.
Mr. Rankin interjecting,
– Order I When Mr. Deputy Speaker is on his feet, the honorable member for Bendigo should show a little more courtesy to the Chair than he does. He has a very bad habit of interrupting the Chair. I desire to point out that the honorable member for Indi is not entitled to debate any matter or raise any debatable issue when he is asking a question. If he desires to ask a straight-out question, he may do so.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I desire to take a point of order.
– Surely there is no point of order!
– I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to request the honorable member for Indi to withdraw his statement that last night I said-
– I rise to order.
– There is no point of order involved in these matters.
– Hear, hear!
– There seems to be some difference of opinion about the Minister’s statement, but a point of order may not be taken about it. Honorable members have an opportunity, in the course of debate, to deal with such matters. They cannot be raised at question time.
– I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– Put him out!
– Order !
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I desire to take a point of order. I claim that I have been misrepresented.
– That is not a point of order.
– Order ! The Minister knows the forms of the House. He may not take a point of order on this matter. If he considers that he has been misrepresented, he is entitled, at the appropriate time, to explain his position, but he will not be in order in doing so now.
– I concede that the Minister did not use the words “ a few days before the election “ but he said “ on the 30th November “ and that will be only a few days before the election, an amount of £25,000,000 would be distributed to wool-growers. “I desire to ask the Treasurer two questions. Will he have an authoritative statement prepared setting out the terms on which this largess will be distributed to wool-growers? Secondly, will the right honorable gentleman state whether the money which is so paid to woolgrowers will be considered as a part of this year’s taxable income; or whether some arrangement will be made to spread it for taxation purposes over the period during which the money was earned? As the Prime Minister knows, the wool under consideration represents clips for the last six or seven years.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Wannon, indicated some time ago that accrued profits resulting from transactions by the Joint Organization would be distributed to the wool-growers. Years ago, the promise was made by the Minister that this course would be followed at the appropriate time when it became clear what profits were available. He pointed out that the Government believed that the money was the property of the wool-growers or, at any rate, that they had a moral claim to it. I am surprised that the honorable member for Indi should describe as largess money to which the growers believe that they have a moral right. Having regard to the funds available, it was decided, with the permission of the Treasurer, and on the advice of the Joint Organization, to make a distribution to the growers. I asked the Minister some time ago when it was expected that the brokers and other parties who kept the records of transactions would be able to make the necessary information available to enable the money to be paid. I understand that advice has been received that detailed information will be available in time to permit the distribution to be made on the 30th November next. The Minister had nothing to do with the fixing of the actual date. In the ordinary course of administration, the 30th November has been fixed as the appropriate time for making the payments. As for taxation, the honorable member knows that under our income tax legislation the incomes of primary producers are averaged over a period of years for assessment purposes. On that point, I shall get the Commissioner of Taxation to prepare a statement for the information of the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the State governments have yet officially communicated to the Australian Government their decision on butter prices? Another week has gone by since the producers received the report of the Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, the producers’ own tribunal, which inquired into the cost of producing butter, and recommended a price which should hecome payable on the 1st July last. Is the Minister yet able to state what action the Government will take, in the difficult situation created by the loss of Commonwealth price-fixing powers, to ensure that the price undertaking given to the industry, and accepted by it in good faith, will be honoured ?
– No official advice has been received from the State Prices Commissioners, or from the State Ministers in charge of prices administration, about the cost of producing butter. Pending the receipt of such advice the Government is unable to give to this matter the consideration it deserves. When official advice is received, the matter will be dealt with. However, I have noticed a report in the press that the State Prices Commissioners, or the State Ministers concerned, are to meet again on Friday of this week, and that the price of butter is one of the matters to be considered. I cannot say whether the report is correct.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that until recently Flinders Island and King Island had a daily air service? Is he aware that the service to those islands now operates only on Monday and Friday of each week? Will he endeavour to have the service increased so that aircraft will call at the islands at least on Wednesdays as well as Mondays and Fridays?
– I am aware that the air service to Flinders Island and King Island is not considered to be satisfactory by the residents. The airline providing the service is Australian National Airways Limited. That organization was asked to increase the service but it has not been willing to do so. With a view to ascertaining whether further services could be provided for Flinders Island, following representations that were made to me by the Minister for Repatriation and several Tasmanian senators, I asked TransAustralia Airlines to make some investigations in the matter. Trans-Australia Airlines found that the air service already provided more seats than catered for the passenger traffic that was offering and that the operation of an additional service would involve a considerable financial loss. The honorable member for Franklin, like his confreres of the Opposition, objects to losses being incurred by governmentoperated airlines and therefore I am afraid that I am not able to give him the satisfaction that he seeks.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation to the accident that occurred at Guildford airport some months ago. The engines of an airliner that was bound from Perth to Darwin cut out when the aircraft was taking off, with the result that a crash occurred and the crew and passengers were killed. An inquest-has been held, but no information has yet been made available to the public concerning the cause of the crash. I ask the Minister whether a departmental investigation has been carried out? If so, what is the present position ?
– A technical investigation of the cause of the crash to which the honorable member for Fremantle has referred has been conducted. Some of the information that has been gleaned has been sent to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for further investigation, but up to the present it has not been possible to ascertain the cause of the accident. I am now able to announce that the Premier of Western Australia has kindly agreed to Mr. Justice Wolff acting as an air court of inquiry into the accident to aircraft VH-MME that occurred near Guildford on the 2nd July. I am referring the accident to an air court of inquiry because the departmental inquiry, after exhaustive investigation, has been unable to assign any definite cause for it. This decision is in conformity with the usual practice in cases where the cause of an accident is not ascertainable. I shall recommend to the Governor-General that Captain F. Cooper and Mr. D. B. Hudson be appointed as assessors to assist the court. Captain Cooper is a highly experienced airline pilot, and Mr. Hudson is a qualified aeronautical engineer. It is not possible now to announce the exact date when the inquiry will begin, but it will be as soon as can be conveniently arranged.
– Did the Minister for Immigration notice a report in the most recent issue of the Sydney Sunday Telegraph which stated that a portion of the quarantine area at North Head, Sydney, is to be set aside as a reception centre for persons awaiting deportation, who will be housed there instead of being held in gaol? Was the report correct in claiming that this step was being taken as the result of diplomatic pressure, or was it prompted by political malice on the part of the Sunday Telegraph?
– I saw the report to which the honorable member has referred. It is quite ridiculous to suggest that diplomatic pressure was applied by anybody in the matter of the provision of a place to house people who are liable to be sent out of the country. The United States of America has a better system than we have in Australia, and six or seven months ago officers of the Department of Immigration suggested that we should use some Commonwealth territory instead of State gaols for the housing of people who are no longer entitled to remain here. As the result of that suggestion, negotiations were opened with the Department of Trade and Customs and a site at North Head, on the northern side of Sydney Harbour, was selected. That place will be used in future. There have been deportations throughout the history of the Commonwealth and there will be deportations, of course, in the years that lie ahead. We shall try to make persons whose presence is not wanted here as comfortable as possible while they are awaiting deportation, as the United States of America does at Ellis Island in New York Harbour.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question concerning the newly appointed Director of the Northern Territory, who has come to the service of the Commonwealth from the Rural Bank of New South Wales with a high reputation and who has also worked for the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. If that officer is under the direct control of the Minister, will the Minister inform the House of the functions that he is required to perform? Will the Minister also make it a apriority job for that officer to obtain the inventory that has been compiled by an officer of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and to travel through the territory and by his own inquiries and observations, with the aid of the Administrator, ascertain the real wants of the Northern Territory with regard to bore casing and other developmental equipment? Will he instruct the director to go personally to the manufacturers of cement bore casings, windmills and other urgently needed equipment so that purchases may be made for the Northern Territory on a priority basis? The people of the territory are obliged to take the scraps that are left over from the States at present.
- Mr. Lambert has recently been appointed as Director of Northern Territory affairs. He will work under the control of the Department of the Interior. The intention of the Government is to establish a Department of the Northern Territory in Canberra. Mr. Lambert, who will be in charge of that department, will he able to expedite the taking of action upon problems that affect the Northern Territory, It is not the intention of the Government that Mr. Lambert shall be a commission agent and that he shall go round Australia negotiating with the manufacturers of various commodities. The shortage of materials is’ evident throughout Australia and is not confined to the Northern Territory. The Government has made a survey of the position regarding the supply of materials for the implementation of its plans for the development of the Northern Territory. It is hoped that, as a result of that survey, adequate supplies of material will be available in the near future for that purpose.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs given any direction that members of the Australian Diplomatic or Consular Corps shall have the right to draw upon government funds as personal loans to themselves? Is it a fact, and if it is a fact, is it known to the Treasury and to the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs that a certain high consular official in New York, who is now about to go elsewhere, arranged, between the 30th December, 1946. and the 11th April, 1947, for advances to himself totalling 10,500 dollars without any authority from Australia to do so ? If authority was given, by whom was it given? Is it a fact that in order to have those advances made to himself the official to whom I have referred issued certain instructions to tinfinance section of the Australian ConsulateGeneral in New York to make out vouchers payable to him, seven of which were in the amount of 1,000 dollars, one in the amount of 2,000 dollars and on, in the amount- of 1,500 dollars? Is it’ also a fact that in March of this year a sum of S,500 dollars in advances to thisofficial was still outstanding? Are thos? facts known to the Department of External Affairs and to the Treasury? Do these advances to a consular official constitute a permissible use of government funds? Is the Minister prepared to lay the file dealing with this matter on the table of this House?
– The answer to the first of the honorable member’s questions is that I have given no direction of the kind to which he has referred. I am not aware of the financial arrangements which the honorable member has mentioned. However, as the honorable member has put a series of specific question? I shall ensure that they will be answered as soon as possible. I am quite certain, however, that anything that the Australian Consul-General in New York has done in the particular matter raised by the honorable gentleman has been done correctly.
– I did not mention any specific official, but merely said “ a high consular official “.
– I consider that any action taken by the Australian ConsulGeneral himself or by any other high consular official of the Australian ConsulateGeneral in New York would havebeen taken correctly. If the honorable member will put his questions on the notice-paper I shall see that they areanswered.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing say whether it isa fact that the Government is calling for tenders in Europe relative to prefab:ricated houses? Has the Minister investigated the suitability of prefabricated houses so as to ascertain whether they can be built more expeditiously and’ cheaply than orthodox houses, and whether their maintenance costs arehigher? I ask that question because, in a recent investigation in London which covered eleven different types, T learned that they cannot be built more cheaply or expeditiously and that their maintenance costs are higher than those of orthodox houses. Before coming to any finality in the matter will the Minister either personally visit London or cause an investigation to be made regarding the suitability of these houses from all aspects?
– It is true that the Government has called tenders for 1,000 prefabricated houses from overseas. Alternative tenders have been called. Those for supply only closing on the 7th October, for supply and erection on the 21st October. The Government has already brought out various sample types of houses from both the United Kingdom and the continent in an endeavour to ascertain their suitabiliy for Australian conditions. The tenders for the 1,000 houses have been called upon our own specifications so as to ensure that the specifications in tenders submitted shall comply with local government regulations in Australia. There is a considerable difference between pre-cut houses and prefabricated houses. The latter in many cases Involve a higher maintenance cost and often are not as satisfactory as orthodox houses from the point of view of construction. Pre-cut houses, however, which we hope will be, in the main, the kind for which we shall receive tenders, should be in every way as good as orthodox houses. There are some hurdle3 to surmount before it will be possible for me to make a personal inspection in England of prefabricated houses.
– Has the Prime Minister received representations from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that the Government should defray the expenses of close relatives, who are unable to pay their own fares, to visit the graves of Australians killed in World War II., who are buried in the Pacific and European zones? Is it a fact, as reported in Smith’s Weekly, that a scheme of that kind has been instituted by the British Government ? If so, will the right honorable gentleman examine the British scheme with a view to instituting a similar scheme in Australia?
– Representations have been made by several exservicemen’s organizations and by quite a num ber of individuals that some scheme should be inaugurated to enable parents and close relatives to visit the graves of soldiers who are buried abroad. For a number of reasons the Government has not granted those requests. The proposal mentioned by the honorable member would involve in many instances, great physical, difficulties as well as considerable expenditure. However, although the Government has refused each request made to it up to dato, it has not finally rejected such proposals. All I can say at this juncture is that in the present circumstances the Government cannot agree to proposals of that kind.. I do not say that further consideration will not be given to the matter.
– I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The invasions of freedom of speech, choice, listening, and business enterprise, which result from the Political Broadcasts (Federal Elections) Order made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board under the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942-1948 and tabled in this House yesterday.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– The purpose of the motion, as honorable members will have gathered from the letter read by Mr. Deputy Speaker, is to discuss the recent Political Broadcasts (Federal Elections) Order made under the Australian Broadcasting Act that was passed towards the end of last year. Honorable members will recall that under that measure a board was set up and that among the powers conferred upon the board was one to ensure that facilities should be provided, on an equitable basis for the broadcasting of political or controversial matter. That provision was the subject of some discussion in this chamber. The danger inherent in such controls was, in fact, pointed out in a single paragraph with very great clearness by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who was at that time acting as Leader of the Opposition in my absence abroad. The honorable member for Wentworth said -
Freedom of speech and of expression is an essential part of the machinery of democratic government, and our right to choose our own press has always been part of our prerogative as a free .people. With the development of radio broadcasting, the unfettered right of people to choose their own radio programmes followed as a natural corollary of the right .to choose their own press.
I think that that statement is not to be improved upon. It consisted of a plea for one’s freedom of choice in listening. In spite of that, the board, having been set up, has produced1 an order which has been tabled in this House. I should regard it as an under-statement to describe that order as a clumsy, oppressive, and, in some ways, a fantastic attempt to control the listening of the people in the course of a federal election. It is a sample of what can come from the bureaucratic mind at it? worst. I want to point out to honorable members what this new order is. It is the new order with a vengeance ! In paragraph 4 of the order that was tabled yesterday there is a provision which compels the policy speeches of the leaders of political parties to be broadcast over all stations, both national and commercial. I have no personal complaint about that because no political leader would have the slightest objection to having a guaranteed audience, or an audience guaranteed up to the point that if they do not listen to him they cannot listen to anybody else. I suppose that that is not without merit. But here we come to the most curious anomaly. The order says that the leader of a political party is to have his policy speech broadcast, and that it is to be broadcast without charge, that is, if his speech is broadcast on interstate relay by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In other words, if the Australian Broadcasting Commission says to him, “Your policy speech will be broadcast over our interstate relay “, every commercial station in Australia, must put it on. Who is going to have the advantage of that provision? There are three people in this House who are identifiable as the leaders of political parties, but those are not the only political parties in Australia. There is the Australian Communist party, which professes to be a political party, and at any given time in this country there are a dozen other movements which are quite capable of putting up people as candidates for election to the Parliament. We have seen that happen before to-day. The Douglas credit movement ran a whole covey of candidates in one election. So it is necessary to consider whether there is any restriction on these parties. I looked to see whether “ political party “ had been defined. “ Party “ means “ a political party on behalf of which candidates are nominated at the election “. The one restriction is that they must be plural. So that, under the fourth paragraph of this order, any party which is a political party and which puts forward two candidates at the next federal election can come along and say, “ Our leader is entitled’ to be broadcast over all the stations of Australia”. Doubtless the Government’s answer would be, “ Yes, as the order stands, that is the position “. But then, of course, those people would not be broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In other words, the decision on who is to be treated as a leader and what party is to be treated as a party is to be in the sole discretion of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This is abandoning ourselves to bureaucratic control with a vengeance. Under this order it is perfectly clear that there is to be no restriction on how many parties, with their leaders, are to have this advantage of free access to the air except the right of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to say, “ You shall not broadcast because in our opinion the views of your political party ought not to be broadcast “. For all that I know, the Australian Broadcasting Commission may say to the leader of the Australian Communist party, “ Your party is recognized as a political party, and therefore it will be given time over the interstate relay. Having been given time over the interstate relay by the commission your broadcast speech must he taken by every commercial station in Australia “. The Government has resolutely declined to attach any illegality to the -Australian Communist party. Therefore the Australian Broadcasting Commission can hardly say, “ The commission is not going to give you this. privilege because it does not like your face “. The Australian Communist party would be entitled to say “We are a political movement, and as the Government insists that we are perfectly legally run we have a right to be heard “. In the result, the Australian Communist party’s policy speech, delivered by its leader, will go over every broadcasting station in Australia. We may have the singular spectacle, as a result of this piece of bumbledon, of broadcasting stations devoted, to the propagation of Christianity being compelled to broadcast the views of atheistic Communists. That could be the result. I emphasize that under paragraph 4 that I have been, discussing so far, there is no restriction relating to 15 per cent, of candidates or 15 per cent, of seats. Those considerations do not apply at all. In order to bring himself within the right to go to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and have his policy speech broadcast, a man need only be the leader of a political party that submits more than one candidate at the federal election. The one restriction is that if the Australian Broadcasting Commission does not like him he may not operate. If the Australian Broadcasting Commission, over which the Parliament has no control in this matter, decides that it will allow eight or nine leaders of socalled political parties to operate, these consequences will follow.
– We can disallow the regulation.
-! quite agree that we could disallow the regulation, but the Australian Broadcasting Commission will not make that determination by regulation. It will be merely an administrative decision by the Australian Broadcasting Commission which will be notified to me in a courteous letter. It will never take the form of a regulation that can be disallowed in this House.
The fifth paragraph of this astonishing order, which appears to be the first fruits of this new body, provides that the time is to be distributed between the political parties on an equitable basis, so that every commercial broadcasting station that decides that it would like to give time to the Australian Labour party must be prepared to give equal time or equitable time, whatever that may mean, to the Liberal party, the Australian Country party, and the Australian Communist party. The one restriction in this case is that that time must be paid for. I have never heard of the Communists being short of funds-
– Nor the Liberals-
– Nor the Australian Labour party. I am not going to be drawn into that side-show now, but I should like to go into it at a convenient time. All that I say is - and this is admitted by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) - that I have never heard of the Australian Communist party being short of funds. If that political party is entitled to demand time over any and every commercial station it will be able to pay for that time. There is one restriction only on the party that can so apply in this connexion and that i9 that it shall be a party which is nominating candidates in at least 15 per cent, of the electoral divisions in not less than three States. It needs to be putting forward eighteen candidates-
– Nineteen candidates.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is taking account of the fraction. Some of them would be only half portion candidates. If they do as I have indicated they will be entitled to come along to the commercial broadcasting stations and say, “ You are giving so much time to Labour; we demand similar treatment “. and they must be given that time. The balance must be held quite fairly. If one leader is given good listening time, so must the other leaders also have good listening time. This access to the air must he equal. I have no doubt that some honorable members have gnashed their teeth over this provision and have asked themselves; “ What sort of business is this ? “
In Melbourne the broadcasting station that is conducted by the Trades Hall is a very good broadcasting station, which puts on good programmes. It is devoted, quite reasonably, to the propagation of ideas, so far as ideas go over this station, which favour its own political point of view. I do not quarrel with that, but accept it. Under this fantastic order, if my party goes along to the Trades Hal’ sta tion and says, “ We demand equal time “, then equal times must be given to us. If the Communist party goes along - and it will if this order stands - and says, “ We demand exactly the same treatment as other political parties by your station, so that people who are accustomed to listening to your station, and who may, therefore, be largely people of your own political view, will be forced to hear our propaganda couched in whatever language we think fit to employ “, then the Trades Hall station will not be able to refuse.
I need say nothing more about the utter nonsense in the idea that broadcasting stations which are devoted to the propagation of Christian morality should be compelled to convey to their listeners teachings that are neither moral nor Christian. If this order stands, they will be put in the position of becoming the sponsors of those ideas, or becoming breakers of the law of the Commonwealth. This order, of course, is based on the fantastic idea that the community is made up of such stupid (people and morons that all their food, intellectual and otherwise, must be measured out to them. It is really the perfect production of the socialist mind. Everything must be controlled. Everything must be measured out neatly. After all, the Government controls broadcasting, and here we are told, in the clearest terms, that everybody is to be put on the same level in his approach to the public mind over a wireless station. T can only .assume that, if the Government controlled the newspapers, the same sort of provision would apply to them.
There are many ways of approach to the public in which a free choice may be exercised by a man or by an organization. The public may be approached by speech from the public platform, by radio, by advertisements, by pamphlets and by canvassing. Are all these to be neatly rationed so that no person and no organization shall have more than another ? The whole thing becomes ludicrous when it is all done in the sacred name, apparently, of equal access to the public mind. I begin to wonder whether, some day, we shall find that the churches of this country will be required to open their pulpits to people who hold precisely the opposite views to those of such church authorities so that both sides may be heard under careful government control. The whole of this business is a most striking example, first, of thu fact that this itch to control even the thinking of the people is one which grows and grows in the bureaucratic mind; and secondly, of the consequence of upholding the legality of communism. The Government has manufactured its own dilemma. Lt could say to the Communist party “ You are not to be allowed the same access as other parties have to the public over the air “, which would sound singularly like attaching a ban to the Communist party, or it- could say, “ We uphold your legality “ in which case it could not maintain support of this order which insists on the preaching of communism being made compulsory for any person operating a wireless station in Australia, and listening to communism being made almost compulsory for those who listen to broadcast programmes in Australia. I have not the slightest doubt that most honorable members opposite feel as we do, that this is a stupid order.
– The right honorable gentleman is surely not blaming us for the order.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) would be the first to take credit for it if it were a popular order. He would be throwing his chest - as far as possible - and claiming all the credit. This order is on his doorstep just as much as it is on the doorstep of every other person on the Government side of the House. All that we can hope for is that his obvious desire to apologize for the order will be translated into action by his showing his insistence that the order shall not stand.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has worked himself into a frenzy to-day over a matter that affects, as he says-
Mr. McEwen interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) must conduct himself in a proper manner during debate.
– The Leader of the Opposition has described the order as an invasion of the freedom of speech, choice, listening, and business enterprise. Honorable members will note that the right honorable gentleman said nothing very much about business enterprise although he said a great deal about freedom of speech, choice, and listening. The order, which is the subject of debate to-day, was prepared by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, an authority set up by this Parliament under legislation passed last year. The board, which was to be completely free from politics, was to co-ordinate programmes and regulate the activities of the commercial broadcasting world and the national broadcasting world alike. Three men were appointed to the board. None of them had any association with politics. One was the then DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs. Another was a gentleman who was subjected to a tirade of abuse from the Opposition because he had been associated with the Macquarie broadcasting network.
– Absolutely improper, too.
– I have no doubt that the honorable gentleman’s conscience is stirring him. The third member of the board was the warden of the Australian National University. These men have produced this order. They were not asked to produce it. They were not asked to produce any order; hut, in the course of their activities, they have produced this order.
– This is meant to be serious.
– I am quite serious. T have not the mental instability of the honorable member, who apparently can see amusement in everything that happens - even in his own dilemma.
– Order I The Minister must be permitted to continue his speech without interruption. There is too much interference.
Mr. Harrison interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Wentwortb (Mr. Harrison) is one of the worstconducted members during discussions in the House. I ask him to conduct himself properly during debate.
– When the Government received the order from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board it was in the position that it could have referred it back to the board expressing disapproval of it, or it could have accepted the order as it has done and brought it to the Parliament as required by law, so that honorable members could have an opportunity to move for’ its disallowance or to make any observations that they cared to make -on it. My own view, and I think I express the view of all honorable members on the Government side who have studied the order, is that in respect of that portion of it which defines parties, it is a stupid order. The board was informed that the Government did not approve of the order, and if the board had not decided to give the matter reconsideration, the probability is that the Government itself would have moved for the disallowance of the order. It can be said in extenuation of the board’s decision that, to use the vernacular, it was in a “ jam “ as the result of a decision that had been made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission on the occasion of the 1946 election.
– If the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will keep quiet for a little longer I shall tell him everything. The Australian Broadcasting Commission Act was passed by a non-Labour government.
– This is the story. The honorable member will have to take it and bear with it as best he can. The Australian Broadcasting Commission Act was passed, as I said, by a non-Labour government, and the commission was given complete and absolute authority to determine the matter of national broadcasts. From 1932 until the election of 1946 the commission had a rule, which I think was a very fair one, that every political party which was represented in the Parliament by five or more members was entitled to participate in broadcasts over the national network. On the eve of the 1946 election, however, the commission, for some extraordinary reason, decided to give tha Communist party fifteen minutes of free time over the national network. So, when the Australian Broadcasting Control Board came to consider what should :be done with regard to the commercial stations in the light of what the Australian Broadcasting Commission had done and was entitled to do, it decided to bring itself into line with the practice of the commission.
– In other words, it did not exercise its independence.
– Not at all. It exercised its independence.
– It did not.
– I shall not be put off by the insolence and rudeness of the honorable member. The truth of the matter is that the board had to co-ordinate the activities of the national as well as the commercial set-up. It decided that the leaders of political parties should be entitled to free time over the commercial network as well as the national network. Incidentally, I should like to hear the views of honorable members opposite on that principle. Do- honorable members opposite object to it? I think that they do but that they have not the courage to say that the commercial stations should not be obliged to give free time to all recognized political parties. The Leader of the Opposition has said that there should be freedom of choice on the part of the listeners, and that they should not be obliged to listen to propaganda from the Australian Labour party, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party broadcast by thy commercial stations if they do not want to do so. Actually, however, he is pleading for a continuation of the set-up under which the Liberal party, as the result of the vast resources of money available to it, can take up all the broadcasting time available on the commercial stations and so blanket out the other political parties. Can anybody reasonably object to the granting of free broadcasting time to all political parties ? During all the years in which non-Labour governments were in power they did not object to the Australian Broadcasting Commission rationing time to defined political parties. They did not say that one party should have more time than another. They agreed to the rationing of broadcasting time over the national network. When it come.* to the commercial network, however, honorable, members opposite seem to have an idea that the commercial broadcast licences belong to the people who hold them. The air is a public domain and the radio channels belong to the people of Australia. The radio channels are not the exclusive property of those who were fortunate enough to get in in the first place, and who, in every instance, struck a gold mine, and have been able to make huge profits for themselves. The holders of commercial broadcasting licences are not entitled to say to the people, “ We are not concerned with what the public wants. We shall use our instrumentalities for the purpose of making more profits for ourselves by selling more time to advertisers “. They have a responsibility to the public.
This order also contains a provision that commercial stations shall provide one hour’s free time every Sunday for religious broadcasts. Do honorable members opposite object to that? They ignore that provision which was recommended by the Gibson Committee. As honorable members know, the Gibson Committee was established by the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister of this country, for the purpose of examining the working of the Australian Broadcasting Act.
– I do not want to interrupt the Mnister, but I do not think that, there is any reference to religious broadcasts in this order. That is why no reference was made by me to that subject. Religious broadcasts are not covered by the terms of my letter.
– The right honorable gentleman’s submission refers to the invasions of freedom of speech, choice, listening and business enterprise. It is apposite to say that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board was established to do a fair thing by every section of the community. I think that the board made: a very bad mistake in making provision for the Communist party to have free time on the national network. I think it was a had move to provide that a commercial station must take propaganda from the Communist party, from the Freedom League, which is a fascist organization established by those of the extreme right among honorable members opposite, or, indeed, from any fascist organization. The test by which a political party should bo judged is not by the number of persons it endorses to contest seats in the Parliament but by the number of candidates it can succeed in having elected to the Parliament. That test was applied from 1932 until 1946 when the Australian Broadcasting Commission altered its practice and extended free broadcasting .time over the national network to the Communist party. But for that decision the Australian Broadcasting Control Board would not have been led into this mistake. Discussions on the subject are now proceeding. They have been proceeding for a week. Why they could not have been brought to a conclusion earlier, I do not know. To-day, in Melbourne, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is meeting the Australian Broadcasting Commission with a view to the adoption of a uniform policy in this matter. My advice from the Postmaster-General this morning was that it is likely that this order will be cancelled and that a new order will be issued in which the political parties will be specifically described. It will be stated in the order that free time shall be made available to the leaders of the Australian Labour party, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and to no others.
– It is proposed to sidetrack the independents?
– The problem of the independents complicates the situation. In any ease, I do not think that there is room in politics for independents. A man should make up his mind to what political party he belongs and not try to be a super-man who sails above them all. If a man will not join a party I do not think he can claim rights as an independent. If it were established that independents should have broadcasting rights the three independents in this Parliament would be entitled to go on the air. That would be against all common sense. It is obvious, too, that we could not have a party consisting of five independents. Independents cannot be independents and members of a party at the same time. There was a time in recent years in the South Australian Parliament when there were nearly enough independents to form a government. The principle of equal access by political parties to the facilities provided by the commercial network was emphasized in the Gibson report, which, as I have said, was appointed by the mover of this motion when he himself was Prime Minister of this country. That was a very good committee. It was led by a distinguished gentleman who had had years of service in the Parliament as Postmaster-General and had done a great deal to improve the Postal Department. On that committee there were two other members of the present Opposition parties, Sir Charles Marr and Dr. Grenfell Price, and three Labour representatives, the present Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), Senator Amour and myself. The committee was unanimous in all its recommendations about providing reasonable opportunities and equitable treatment for all political parties. That committee and the next committee appointed by statute to inquire into broadcasting matters, of which I was chairman, recommended that there should be fair opportunities for all political parties to purchase broadcasting time. The analogy made by the Leader of the Opposition, between newspaper advertising and broadcasting advertising is not fair, because whilst almost any one can establish a newspaper and endeavour to influence public opinion, not every one can get a wireless broadcasting licence. The channels available for broadcasting are few, and they were all taken up years ago. The early bird caught the worm with a vengeance, and although thousands of people would like to obtain radio broadcasting licences they cannot get them. When a commodity is scarce, all sections of the community are entitled to a fair share of it. The honorable member need have no fears about a spate of Communist propaganda being broadcast “or that any commercial station will be permitted to broadcast an excessive quantity of Communist electioneering matter. It is within the power of any broadcasting station to refuse to sell time to the Communist party, to the Australian Labour party, the Liberal party, or, for that matter to any other political party. Therefore, the difficulties and dangers envisaged by the right honorable gentleman need never arise.
I recall the time when certain political dramatics were perpetrated by broadcasting stations. A method of presentation “was adopted which was so bad that in the 1940 election campaign the voice of Hitler was simulated and all sorts of noises that we associate with nazi-ism wace reproduced for propagandist purposes aimed at returning to office the then government. The Gibson Committee decided that the presentation was obnoxious, unfair and dangerous to democracy, and that it should, be stopped. Under the powers conferred upon it by the act which governs it the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has stopped the John Henry Austral series, because those broadcasts by their spurious dramatizations violate the whole conception of fairness. Let me tell honorable members opposite that the initiative in deciding to discontinue that series came from the commercial stations themselves. They thought that it was an abomination. They were losing listeners, and the broadcast brought them into disrepute.
– It was only cheap dramatics.
– It was objectionable, apart from its dramatization. The Leader of the Opposition has complained that the Communist party has considerable funds, which it may use to purchase broadcasting time. It is probably correct that the Communists have considerable funds, They get money in various ways, just as the Liberal party gets its money. And the Liberal party has a.lot of money. The Leader of the Opposition need not think that because his party has huge funds and Labour has very little money he and his followers are going to have things all their own way.
– The Minister for Information is always trying to suggest that we have huge funds and that Labour has none. I will wager that the Australian Labour party has hundreds of thousands of pounds more than the Liberal party ever had.
– The Liberal party has so much money that it does not know what to do with it. It has so much money that it has fallen over itself to hand it out to too many fools to carry out its advertising. However, if the right honorable gentleman would like to arrange some sort of Marshall aid on a political basis whereby the Labour party, which desires to survive as the bulwark of democracy just as Great Britain does, we shall be happy to receive some assistance.
– But when Labour runs out of private funds it always uses the public money.
– But we do not misuse the public money. It has not been necessary to appoint royal commissions to inquire into what we have done with the public funds by attempting to bribe trade union leaders. We have never misused public funds.
– The Government is misappropriating thousands of pounds of public funds.
– I assure honorable members that, with the exception of the portion which deals with the definition of communism and of political parties, the general principles of the order under discussion are in accordance with the principles laid down by the Federal Com.munications Commission of the United. States of America, the Canadian Broadcasting Commission and the British Broadcasting Corporation. Private enterprise holds the field in the United States of America and in Canada, whereas Great Britain, under a conservative government, deemed it wise to establish a socialist instrumentality to carry out broadcasting, and that instrumentality has been maintained ever since. There has been no deviation in any respect by the Australian Broadcasting
Control Board from the policy propounded by the American and the Canadian broadcasting control authorities, and repeated by them quite recently. Of course, those authorities have their own. problems to solve. Amongst them is the need to see that all political parties get a “ fair, go “, to use an Australian idiom, and we intend to see that all parties get a “ fair go “ in this country.
– ‘Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The Minister has spoken on behalf of the Government and also on behalf of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), who is in control of the administration of broadcasting in this country. The Minister concluded by saying that the order under discussion was formulated, with the weakness to which he referred, because of a fundamental desire to give a “ fair go “ to (.very political section that is represented in this House. The order is most properly designated the “ Political Broadcasts (Federal Elections) Order “ and the astonishing feature of that order is the attempt of the Government to deceive the people into believing that the order was introduced in the interests of fairness and fair play. The hypocrisy of the Government’s claim is revealed by paragraph 7 (5.), which provides that -
Any news commentary, talk or similar broadcast which consists of or includes political matter shall be taken into account for the purposes of determining the amount of political matter which may be broadcast under this paragraph, except any such broadcast which was regularly included in the programme of the station during the period of three months preceding the commencement of the election period and in respect of which no payment or reward is received by the licensee.
I draw specific and emphatic attention to that provision, to the interpretation that will be placed upon it and to the Government’s intention to implement that interpretation. I want the House to realize that that provision specifically and indisputably exempts only two political members throughout the whole of Australia, and it happens that both of them are members of this House. Because of that exemption those two gentle men will enjoy continuous support and opportunity. One is the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the other is the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), both of whom are Labour members. Then the Government asks the House and the country to believe that the order has been promulgated on the basis of justice and fair play and a fair deal to every member of the House.
– That was a private arrangement.
– I do not care whether it was a private arrangement or any other kind of arrangement. The fact remains that the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro havereceived special consideration, and that the Labour Government will be benefited! by this exemption.
– It is a “ gentlemen’s “ agreement.
– I should like to know whether that provision is an example of the board’s idea of fair play. Does the board expect the Parliament and the people to believe in its bona fides and impartiality? Paragraph 7 (5.) of the order is definitely partisan. The Prime Minister has had the advantage of free broadcasting time over the Macquarie network for many months, and a broadcasting station, which is a member of the Macquarie network, has granted to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro the privilege of free broadcasting time each week. Consequently, the Prime Minister and the honorable member for EdenMonaro are the only two members of the Parliament to whom the board’s order will not apply. Does the Government consider that such an order is evidence of impartiality and fair play? I claim that this order gives the most blatant political advantage ever granted to oneparty.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has three functions. Thefirst is to ensure that radio stationsshall provide services in accordance with plans prepared by the board and approved’ by the Minister. It is useless for theMinister representing the PostmasterGeneral even to attempt to excuse theGovernment in connexion with the issueof this order. The preparation and issue* of the order must have had the approval of the Postmaster-General, who is responsible for the administration of the board. The order gives a definite material and political advantage to the Labour party. The provision is completely unambiguous.
The second function of the board relates to standards of equipment, and that matter does not concern us in this debate. However, the third and most important function of the board is to ensure that adequate programmes shall be provided by radio stations to serve the best interest of the public. Do the board and the Government, through the medium of the Postmaster-General, consider that the dissemination of Communist propaganda, as provided by the present order, will serve the best interests of the Australian public? The Leader of the Opposition dealt most effectively with that aspect. If the Government is opposed to the broadcasting of Communist propaganda, there is an easy way in which it can meet the situation. Of course, the. Government has been dodging that issue for some time. However, the Government should declare the Communist organization to be exactly what it is, namely, un-Christian and unAustralian, and admit that decent Australians do not want it. Therefore, the Government should treat the Communist party appropriately by declaring it an illegal organization.
The Australian Broadcasting Act provides that the hoard, in exercising its third function - that is, in relation to the programmes of commercial stations - shall consult the representatives and licensees of such stations, and ensure that equitable facilities shall be provided for the broadcasting of political matter. Is the peremptory demand for free time, the free use of facilities and the free use of technical officers and equipment an equitable or reasonable basis of performing such a function? If the Commonwealth acquires private property in other spheres of commercial activity, the Constitution requires it to pay just compensation to the owners. Under modern conditions, radio time is a valuable property right. What constitutional authority has the board to commandeer that valuable property right without paying just compensation to the people concerned? No doubt, the common views of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party will be held to be opposed to those of the Australian Labour party. However, both the Australian Labour party and the Communist party should be bracketed as parties holding political views opposed to those of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. In 1948, the British Labour party published a special centenary edition of the Communist Manifesto - Socialist Landmark, prepared by Professor Harold Laski, who at that time was the chairman of the party. [Extension of time granted.] I emphasize that in the foreword to that book, the statement was made that the abolition of private ownership of land had long been a demand of the Labour movement; that a heavy progressive income tax was being enforced by the present Labour Government as a means of achieving social justice; that socialization of credit in the hands of the State had been partially attained by legislative measures–
-Order! The Leader of the Australian Country party is getting away from the subject under discussion.
– I am giving reasons why the order that has been issued by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board must be considered from the standpoint that the Australian Labour party and the Communist party have the same objective. I have read an extract from the foreword to the Communist Manifesto - Socialist Landmark, by Professor Harold Laski.
– Order 1 I - do not desire to interrupt the right honorable gentleman’s speech, but I ask him to short-circuit the matter that he is elaborating. He is not entitled to enter into a dissertation on a subject that has no relation to the matter before the House.
– Will the Leader of the Australian Country party tell us about his secretary drinking with Jim Healy, the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation ?
– That is a dirty insinuation.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party is talking about filth.
– The Minister is at liberty to have a “ go “ at me as much as he likes, but he should not attack my secretary. I do not know what is wrong with the honorable gentleman. He is losing al! souse of decency and proportion.
– Order ! Honorable members must conduct themselves in a proper manner.
– I ask for an explana tion setting out the reason why the Prime “M mister’s broadcast each Sunday evening over the Macquarie network, and the weekly broadcast by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro from a unit of the Macquarie network, are exempted from the general order that has been issued by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. “Why have the Prime Minister and the honorable member for EdenMonaro been given this special privilege merely because they have for months been receiving another special privilege from certain broadcasting stations?
.- In the limited time that is available to me in this debate, I desire to direct attention to two points. First, the well-mannered criticism by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) is in direct contrast of the yammerings of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) about the Australian Labour party and the Communist party. The subject of this debate is an order that has been issued by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in relation to the broadcasting of election speeches. The Minister representing the Postmaster-General (Mr. Calwell) has explained the position, but it may be as well for some of us, as members of the Australian Labour party, to state our views. I am completely in agreement with what the Minister has said. The fact is that the order to which attention has been drawn is a piece of ineffable stupidity. It is not often that a Government beats its own baby, but, in this instance, the slapping is salutary and disciplinary, I hope. In any event, the position would not have remained unchallenged, because the matter of the order would have been raised at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour party. There is no doubt that this matter would have been raised in the party room, and mem bers would have placed their views before Ministers. However, the Minister for information (Mr. Calwell) has now made it clear that the order will be withdrawn in ‘ due course. In my opinion, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board attempted the impossible in the present state of political feeling throughout the world. It tried to apply democratic principles to an organization which is the utter negation of democracy - the Communist party. In an endeavour to be democratic the board leant over backwards. In its attempt to be fair to everybody it did something that would have been manifestly unfair to the political parties .which are genuinely representative of political opinion in this country, and unfair to the nation as a whole. The proposal to treat communism as merely a political force, instead of a subversive agency, was too democratic for an age in which democratic parties have learned to know where their enemies are. I reject as outside the scope of reason and fair play any proposal that would give the Communists free use of the air in order to disseminate their doctrines. The Leader of the Australian Country party suggested that there was some sort of a tie-up between the Communists and the Labour party ove*r this matter. The best answer to that is to point out what would happen if this stupid1 order were enforced. As the Leader of the Opposition said, church organizations that controlled radio stations would be required to broadcast matter that was the very negation of Christianity. The prospect was so absurd that something had to be done about it. The Minister for Information has been quite frank, and has explained the position of the Government. It is simply a matter of correcting an error, and the Government’s action will be accepted by most honorable members in that light.
Whenever broadcasting comes up for discussion, side issues are introduced. The Leader of the Australian Country party complained that certain political sections received special privileges on the air. He complained because the Prime Minister was given a few minutes talking time each week by one broadcasting organization, and- because the distinguished member for Eden- Mona.ro (Mr. Fraser), who is known to be a fine journalist and a great radio personality, has been given some broadcasting time. The Opposition always makes a great to-do about being the freedom party. Members of tha Opposition object to any proposal to interfere with free enterprise. Then why seek to interfere when a free radio station proposes to give some free time on the air? The money power will be concentrated on obtaining publicity for the Opposition parties in the forthcoming election campaign. Heaven help the people who will be smothered under a flood of its propaganda! It is paltry to take exception to the fact that now and then a B class station, part of an organization that exists for the purpose of disseminating news and views throughout the country, chooses of its own violition to offer the Prime Minister five minutes time in which to make a non-political report to the nation. The objections raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party were the most paltry that I have ever heard in this House. The arrangement with the Prime Minister was a private one freely entered into by the broadcasting organization concerned, and it ill becomes the protagonists of free enterprise to raise objections. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro was selected to broadcast, not because he is a Labour man, but because he has an entertaining way of telling the public, in his own electorate and outside of it, about public matters. As for the fairness of his broadcasts, he has sometimes been criticized by members of his own party because, in his efforts to be strictly logical, he may have departed in some respects from the rigid party line. When he talks to the people, he addresses them as a member of parliament, and gives his views as such.
Honorable members opposite are adopting a dog-in-the-manger attitude. The Leader of the Australian Country party would rush to the microphone tomorrow if he were given the chance of receiving free time. So would many other honorable members. So also, I may as well admit, would I. It was unworthy of the right honorable member to refer in a niggling way to the time allowed to the Prime Minister, so much of whose time and energy has been devoted to efforts to further the interests of the country. It would be paltry to refuse him broadcasting time, and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the organization which has resisted political pressure, and has continued to grant broadcasting time to the Prime Minister of the country. It should be made clear that the concession is granted to the Prime Minister whoever he may be, and not merely to the man who fills the position at the moment and whom I hope will continue to fill it for many years to come. Those who attempt to confuse the granting of broadcasting time to the Prime Minister with the order of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board are begging the question. It is absurd to suggest that a man who has a distinctive flair ^f or the spoken and written word should not be allowed to address the electorate in accordance with the arrangement by which he speaks at 6.45 p.m. c-ach Sunday. The real complaint of Ihe Opposition arises from the fact that hitherto they have believed themselves to have a virtual monopoly of broadcasting time, because the Opposition parties have been able to afford to buy it. Because they have the money, they are able to get on the air, and who has not been nauseated by the gaggle that assails his ears in the form of political propaganda ? The Labour party, lacking the money, cannot compete. Every night, listeners have to endure floods of political propaganda sponsored by Opposition parties, including the “ corny “ stuff put over by “ John Henry Austral “. Even Liberal supporters have written to me asking if it is not possible in some way to have such matter taken off the air. They recognize that when it comes to straight-out plagiarism of the Speaker’s rulings, and attempts to imitate the Prime Minister’s voice by some one pretending to be standing on tha steps of Parliament House, it is going beyond the limits of drama and of decency. The proper function of radio is to entertain and educate the people. This is a function which the Australian Broadcasting Commission is peculiarly fitted to discharge, and the commercial stations play their part too, having regard to the fact that they have to earn revenue. When a third, ingredient Ls added in the form of unceasing political tirades night after night it must necessarily be destructive of the very purpose for which radio exists. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who interjects, is himself a man of discernment, will admit that many political radio announcementsfrom political parties are boring and unnecessary, and political parties should themselves place some resistance on the broadcasting of such matter.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
, speaking on behalf of the Government, described the order of the Australian. Broadcasting Control Board’ as stupid and bad. It is a strange thing that a government should gazette and place upon the table of this House an order which it afterwards describes as “ stupid and’ bad “.
– I have told the honorable member why that was done.
– I know, but that is an indication of the depths to which this Government has fallen. The test in this matter is in connexion with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Does the Government propose to keep in office a board whose work is described by a Minister as “ stupid and bad”? I say that the order has emanated from a board that consists of either innocents or fools. The Government can decide which description applies.
– Or crooks.
– I am not going to say that. The order is the work of either innocents or fools. One does not need to read further than the first clause, dealing with definitions, in order to realize that. This board, with its authority to frame subsidiary legislation, declares in the order that, within three months of the date of an election, people who announce themselves as candidates for the Senate or the House of Representatives are to have certain concessions in relation to broadcasting. In all my experience in this House - and I have been a member of it for fifteen years - I have never known a Prime Minister to announce the date of an election anything like three months in advance. I think that the announcement that was made this week was the earliest that has been made since I was elected to this Parliament. The members of the board must be clairvoyants if they are able to determine, before the Government announces the date of an election whether certain people are to be entitled to broadcasting concessions.
Paragraph (3.) of the order contains a definition of “party” which, in my opinion, is very stupid. Enough has already been said about the Communists, but if I were inclined to have any feelings of kindliness towards the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) I should suggest that the order had been deliberately framed to prevent him and his candidates from having the right to broadcast.
– What about me?
– The order may have been designed also to prevent the honorable member from broadcasting, as far as I know. However, it gives certain ‘ concessions to the Communist party that it does not give to the honorable member for Reid, who is personally present in this House.
– What about the honorable member for Bourke?
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) will be affected in the same way, but I shall deal with that situation later. The honorable member for Reid is a member of this House and he also has two direct representatives in. the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. He is not given as much consideration under this order as is given to the Communist party which has no members in this Parliament, and I hope and pray to heaven that it never will have. At least the honorable member for Reid is here now, although, of course, I do not know whether he will be re-elected.
– Men like the honorable member have made a few Communists.
– I will say of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) that I should be very interested to see him standing up for the Communists. The Labour party’s claim that it is an anti-Communist party is not borne out by some of the actions of this Government. Any broadcasting station that is faced with any instruction under this order would be well advised to go to the High Court and ask it to give a decision. This Government has the unenviable record of having had its acts challenged in the High Court on constitutional issues more often than had all the previous governments of the Commonwealth. Furthermore, it is unusual for any court to uphold legislation introduced by this Government.
The position of independent candidates must he considered. I do not agree with the presence of independents in politics, but I have never sat as a member of any parliament, State or Commonwealth, that did not have some independent members. Dislike of independent members of parliament is one of my prejudices. However, I say that independent candidates are entitled to greater consideration than is extended to Communists. The people of Australia have returned independent candidates to every Commonwealth parliament that has been elected since I became a member fifteen years ago, but there has never yet been a Communist party representative in this Parliament. According to the order issued by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Communist party, which, I believe, cannot secure direct representation in this Parliament, is to be given preference over the people who, by their votes, have returned independent candidates to this Parliament time after time. The order ought to be withdrawn and the board should be told to examine its position very carefully.
– I have told the House that a new order will be issued next week.
– That is not the issue. If the order is bad, it should never have been gazetted. “What is to happen between now and polling day? The board will continue to function after this Parliament has been dissolved. It will then be able to make other orders, and there will hp no parliament to disallow them. On the record disclosed by the Minister for Information, the Government is prepared to allow the board to put over anything that it wants co put over. We have no guarantee that the new order to be issued by the board will come before this Parliament. The board may take so long in framing it that it will not be available for the Parliament to inspect before the dissolution.
– And it may be as bad as the regulation that wc are now discussing.
– That is true. We have no guarantee that the board will not make a bad order after the Parliament has been dissolved. We are asked to believe that the Government has spoken kindly to the board. The board is to meet the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Melbourne to-day. Thus we have two government authorities, established under acts of this Parliament, which so far have not been able to agree even on the very fundamentals of political broadcasting. It stands to reason that, as such authorities are multiplied, confusion over matters such as the House is now considering will increase.
The religious aspect involved in the board’s order has been mentioned. To mv mind it was criminally stupid of the board to frame an order that will compel broadcasting stations such as 2SM, 2CH and 5KA to broadcast the dope of the Communist, atheist, and criminal traitors that we have in Australia to-day. I have described them in the only way that they can properly be described, and I make no bones whatever about advising all of the church-controlled broadcasting stations, from my place in this House, to refuse to obey orders such as the one that we are now considering. ,There is a law above the laws that we pass in this Parliament, and the churches in Australia speak for that law. This order, if it has any home, was generated in hell. As far as the religious aspect of this controversy is concerned, the order has nothing whatever to do with the legislation that was passed by this Parliament. It does not come within the framework of that act, and any Government having any consideration for religious views on such matters would have quickly sent it back to the board and told it either to think again or to resign. My own belief is that the sooner the members of the board resign, the safer it will be for Australian broadcasting stations. Why should any broadcasting station be compelled to transmit political broadcasts that it does not want to transmit? Why should it be compelled to accept broadcasting advertisements for soap, beer, boots or anything fi se if it does not want to broadcast them?
– That will not happen under the new order.
– That will be when the broadcasting stations have been nationalized. I remind the House that the latest platform adopted by the Australian Labour party provides for the nationalization of broadcasting. This Government would have nationalized the broadcasting stations long ago if the Labour party had not owned one or two radio stations itself.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The heroics in which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has engaged are ridiculous. The honorable gentleman issued his challenges and made his statements after hearing the clear statement of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who represents the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) in this chamber. The Minister expressed the view of the Government upon this order and gave a clear indication that another order will be issued next week. In those circumstances, it was absurd for the honorable member for Barker to offer the gratuitous advice to the commercial radio stations that they should take this order to the High Court. It was more absurd for the honorable gentleman to argue that broadcasting stations should not be compelled to broadcast political views in which they do not believe. That is possibly the most ridiculous statement that has ever been made in this chamber. When the honorable gentleman was Postmaster-General, he refused even to allow radio stations to broadcast political views in which they did believe. Without going through the processes of law, he suppressed a Labour party radio station in Sydney, not because it broadcast political views in which it did not believe but because it broadcast political views in which the honorable gentleman did not believe. He issued his ukase that that station should be put off the air, and he did so because it had broadcast statements that he did not intend to allow to be broadcast. He silenced the station by withdrawing its licence and then hopped away to Kangaroo Island. The honorable gentleman Ls one ex-Postmaster-General who now sits on the opposite benches and professes to be concerned about the freedom of radio stations. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) is also an ex-Postmaster-General. Fortunately, the honorable gentleman will never occupy that position again. It became necessary for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, in a report presented to the Parliament, publicly to denounce a most audacious and tyrannical attempt by the honorable gentleman to prevent the commission from broadcasting, even in its news reviews and commentaries, any criticism of the Government in which he was a Minister. Itis on record in a report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission that the honorable gentleman, fresh from a Cabinet meeting, telephoned the head of the commission and said, in effect, “ No matter what the law says, from now on you are not to publish any criticism of our Government “. Those are examples of the ways in which the two exPostmasterGenerals who now sit on the Opposition benches acted when they were in office.
I was astonished to hear the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) make a statement in relation to paragraph 7 of the order which was entirely opposed to fact. That paragraph does not give to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) or to me any special right to continue to broadcast during the general election campaign. I do not know whether the other remarks that have been made about this order are as ill-founded as are those that have been made by the Leader of the Australian Country party. It is obvious from the right honorable gentleman’s statement that he has not read the order. Paragraph 7 relates to broadcasts by persons and organizations other than candidates and parties. It does not relate to candidates and parties at all. It does not cover the weekly broadcast, “Report to the Nation” that is made by the Prime Minister, or my weekly broadcasts. “
– That is my point. It exempts them from the prohibition.
– It does not exempt them from the prohibition. I invite the right honorable gentleman to read the paragraph again. There is no doubt that it relates to broadcasts by persons and organizations other than parties and candidates.
I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has referred to the broadcasts that I make each Sunday at 6.45 p.m. from station 2CA Canberra, station 2XL Cooma, and station 2BE Bega. I have mentioned those stations in order to refute the allegation of the Leader of the Australian Country party that my weekly broadcast is a privilege that has been extended to me by only one broadcasting organization. Station 2XL and station 2BE are not connected with the radio network to which the right honorable gentleman has referred. They are independent stations. They have adopted the very proper attitude that the member representing the Eden-Monaro electorate, whether he be a member of the Labour party, the Country party or the Liberal party, should have an opportunity to report each week to the electors his views upon matters of current interest, to say where he will be travelling in the electorate, and to give other information that will be of value. I have broadcast each week from station 2CA for the last five and a half years. It was only in recent months that, owing to the tremendous listening audience that those broadcasts have attracted, the other two stations in my electorate approached me and intimated that they would be glad to give me an opportunity to make use of their facilities. There can be no suggestion that a favour has been extended to me by one network. It has been extended to me by station 2CA Canberra and by two independent stations in my electorate.
It has been the practice, as the Leader of the Australian Country party has good reason to know, to discontinue my weekly broadcasts a month before the date fixed for the general election in order that from then onwards I may speak as a party candidate and shall not be obliged to give the highly impartial accounts that I should otherwise give. During the last general election campaign, so keen was our desire to see fair play and to have the issues fully discussed in the hearing of the electors that we offered to the Leader of the Australian Country party and to the Australian Country party candidate an opportunity to share the session with me foi- a few weeks before the date of the election. We wanted the electors to hear both sides on the same evening and to form their own judgment. I am proud to say that that offer has been publicly repeated on this occasion, but it has not yet been accepted by the anti-Labour parties.
– They did not accept it on the last occasion.
– That is so. We have invited the representatives of the antiLabour parties to share a platform with us. The offer applies, not only to broadcasts, but also to public platforms anywhere in the Eden-Monaro electorate. We have made our offer on the basis that each candidate shall have the same time in which to express his views and an opportunity to reply to misstatements made by other candidates. We have also stipulated that at the meetings the electors shall have an opportunity to question the candidates. We have offered an open forum at which every issue can be honestly examined. We want the electors to have a full opportunity to hear all viewpoints in one evening. I cannot understand why any candidate who believes in the policy of his party and in the views that he expresses should not be prepared to submit his policy and views to that test.
The mistake in this order is the mistake that has been mentioned by the Minister. It is that the opportunity is not to be confined to parties that are already established in the Parliament and are recognized as political parties. The object of ensuring that established political parties shall have a fair and reasonable opportunity to state their cases over the air is a worthy one. In previous years, the anti-Labour interests blanketed the air in an endeavour to persuade the people to vote for the Liberal party or the Country party, not by the presentation of a logical case but by the constant reiteration of slogans. They bought radio time with the deliberate purpose of preventing the Labour party from having an opportunity to express its views from radio stations.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehy).- Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. j. j. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided-. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from12.50 to 2.15 p.m.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - Construction ofa new school at Alice Springs.
Tie proposed work is required urgently to provide, new school premises at Alice Springs, particularly accommodation for secondary school students. The project was fully explained to the House on the 19th November, 1-948, when I moved that it should be referred for investigation by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. Tenders for the first section could be invited within approximately one month and the remaining sections could then be proceeded with. I concur in the committee’s report and recommend that approval be given for the work to proceed at an estimated cost of £78,024.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 27th September (vide page 625), 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.
– I do not know whether it is usual for honorable members when they are preparing a speech to select a title for their guidance in compiling their notes. Possibly, for a debate of this kind they are satisfied with the heading “Budget Speech “. However, I frequently like to cast my mind around for some theme, and on this occasion I have entitled my speech “A Cavalcade of Labour’s, or Chifley’s, Achievements “. I realize that in many instances I differ from you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, and your colleagues, about what are achievements. For example, should we happen to see a lovely lady in a beautiful dress we might have different points of view about the dress. Therefore, if honorable members opposite disagree with many of my remarks, all I can say is that they are founded on fact and I think that that is the best recommendation that can be given for any speech. Naturally, I commence my remarks by referring to the budget, which is the document now before the Chair. This budget is the last that will be presented to the present Parliament and, possibly, it is the last that the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will present. The budget should reflect the economic life of the country, mirroring the past and to some degree forecasting the future. At the outset it would be well to deal with the background against which the Treasurer has presented this budget. This country has just experienced three years of extraordinary prosperity. During the last financial year Australia has enjoyed possibly the greatest prosperity that it has ever known. In that period prices realized for our wool-clip averaged £60 a bale, and the clip as a whole earned a total income of £200,000,000 for this country. That income will stimulate our economy generally. Record prices have also been realized for other primary products. The price of wheat rose to £1 a bushel whilst in certain localities up to £4 a head was received for fat lambs. Unusually high prices have been received for all classes of sheep, lamb and beef. Those conditions have been reflected in our unprecedented prosperity. Possibly, we shall never again enjoy equal prosperity.
Briefly, that is the background against which the Treasurer prepared his budget speech, and, perhaps, we expected to receive more from the budget than we have been promised. I have no doubt that some of the “ caucus boys “ anticipated’ something better than the Treasurer has given in this budget. However, in recent times honorable members opposite have been so regimented that, to-day, when they do not agree with the actions of their leaders, they know that they had better hold their tongues. Honorable members opposite remind me of the Zombies of the West Indies. On the evening on which the Treasurer presented his budget to the Parliament I was in the company of a Labour supporter. After he had listened to the budget speech, it was obvious that he was not stimulated. There was no glint in his eye, or warmth in his heart. When he mumbled something to me, I asked, “ What is wrong ? “, and he replied, “ I cannot see anything great in that budget, or anything in it that will enthuse the people of Australia “. I readily agreed with that point of view. When we bear in mind the background of prosperity against which the budget has been presented there is nothing in it to stimulate the Australian people. The budget is all the more disappointing because we have been led to believe that the Treasurer’s golden age is here. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) and I have often discussed that golden age. We pictured a land with lambs gambolling all the time in the sunshine, while we, ourselves, in suitable raiment, would of course have nothing else to do but play the Pipes of Pan. However, we have come to the conclusion that whatever Labour’s golden age might be like, we have -had it. Now, I am trying to find out what it really was like. The budget holds out no hope for the future. It contains doleful talk about the possibility of a decline in the value of exports, lower prices for our primary products, the dollar shortage and problems associated with dollar deficits. It certainly gives nc indication that we are approaching a golden age.
I admit that the budget contains some concessions. For instance, the rate of sales tax on certain articles is to he reduced from 25 per cent, to 8$ per cent. As the result of one concession Australians will be able to buy bird cages for 21s. 3d., or 5s. less than they cost a year ago. If the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), who has just returned from a trip overseas, picked up a bird of rare plumage in the course of his travels, he may gain some benefit from that reduction in the price of bird cages. Or, he will be able more readily to purchase a bird cage of first-class manufacture, perhaps, one with spangles and stars. The budget also contains a concession to travellers on landing in Australia. The honorable member for Denison returned from overseas a little too soon, because under the budget passengers landing on these shores are to be allowed to bring in free of duty articles for personal use or gifts to the value of £30, whilst the remainder of their baggage will be taxed at the rate of 25 per cent, ad valorem. That is a great concession with which I am in complete accord. I have travelled abroad and I consider that concessions should long since have been granted to people bringing goods in with them from other countries. However, there is a “ catch “ in this concession which no doubt most travellers will recognize.. Probably a Scotsman will recognize it by saying “ Mon, there’s a thing ye canna bring in - free Scotch whisky I”.
Although a welcome concession is to be made in relation to ships’ stores, even this will arouse little enthusiasm on the part of the people. Recently I had an experience at first hand of difficulties that are encountered on vessels travelling short distances on the Australian coast after coming from, overseas. As we were running into Fremantle the purser of a ship on which I was travelling said to me “ You don’t know what a headache I have to-night. I shall have to ^account for every single thing that will be used on the trip around the Australian coast, including toilet paper “. Although this concession will doubtless save the pursers a great amount of work I point out that a traveller who expects to buy a glass of beer for 3d. on the high seas will be disappointed. He will be told that while the vessel is on the Australian coast he will have to pay 7-id. a glass. I shall make some comments on the proposed reduction of the entertainments tax. I believe that after the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) had returned from his visit to Great Britain recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) realized that it would not be long before sterling would “ go over the cliff “. The right honorable gentleman knew that, inevitably, that would result in increased prices of admission to picture theatres because the prices of American films would rise. Therefore I contend that although at first sight this appears to be a concession, in the long run it will result merely in leaving things as they were.
The budget contains a summary of concessions that the Government claims to have made since its election to office. Strangely enough, however, more money is now being collected in taxes than has ever been collected before. I point out that this budget contemplates an expenditure of £567,000,000, which is close to the highest yearly expenditure during the war years. Furthermore, the expected proceeds of taxation in 1949-50 under six main headings will exceed the amount that was collected following last year’s record budget. I point out also, that, because of rising prices and higher wages, many people are now called upon to pay more hi taxes, because they are in higher income groups. There is a tendency to-day to limit the field of taxation to the higher income groups, in which are technicians and business organizers who are largely responsible for the success of private enterprise. Unless some incentive is offered to those people, prosperity cannot be increased, because it comes not from the bottom, but from the top. If this budget is a reflection of the prosperity we have enjoyed, and of the wisdom of the Treasurer’s administration, I think that it can be termed a tragic account. As all honorable members know the Prime Minister possesses a fair meed of good Irish humour. That is evidenced by this statement in the budget -
The Government is maintaining its efforts to ensure the utmost economy and efficiency in administration. Staffing and organization of Departments is under continuous review by the Public Service Board and special instructions have been issued to all branches of the Public Service that expenditure of all kinds must be kept to a minimum.
We know, of course, that the cost of maintaining Commonwealth departments bas risen from £4,000,000 before the war to about £28,000,000 to-day. The humour in those words is therefore apparent. Such humour would do credit even to Tack Davey, the radio comedian.
There is a very great parallel between production and prices in this country. The first moves to keep prices at a reasonable level were made during the war by the Menzies and Fadden Governments. It then became necessary to introduce wages fixation and subsidies. In 1947, after Ernie Thornton, general secretary of the ironworkers federation, had threatened to call a strike in the metal trades, wages fixation ceased. I consider that relaxation of wage fixation was necessary at that time. However, it could not be expected that prices would remain stable. By the payment of subsidies, the level of prices of many commodities in this country was kept on a reasonable basis. Honorable members will doubtless remember the arguments that were waged about the referendum on rents and prices. At that time nobody said that he would have nothing further to do with prices control. On the contrary, everybody agreed that for some time to come there would have to be a measure of prices stabilization and a continuance of subsidies. The principal question was whether the power of the Commonwealth to fix prices should be embodied permanently in the Australian Constitution, to be used by any socialist government as it liked. I stress that such a power is necessary for a socialist government to enable it to meddle in and control industry.
The Prime Minister is becoming known as a vindictive man. That he is vindictive is shown by his attitude towards the petrol problem. All honorable members know that petrol is the heart of country life. However, to return to the referendum of 1948. When the heat was turned on, the right honorable gentleman said, in effect, “ If you do not give me these powers I will deal with you “. He has no patience with the common people; they must accept what he gives them. He made no hones about saying that if they did not give him what he wanted, he would abolish subsidies. In effect, the people said that they would not have any permanency attached to, prices controls. There, .is something inherent in the character of the Australian people which causes them to abhor anything that envelops them and restricts their freedom. Possibly that will be demonstrated by the result of the forthcoming general election. What happened is now legend. In as many words, the Prime Minister told the people, “ You have asked for it, now you are going to get it “. Thereupon subsidies were removed and prices rose; in fact, they are still rising. The Australian £1 is becoming less and less valuable, and wages are chas hig prices, which is causing great hardships in many homes. Prices of commodities covered by the C series index have risen by nearly 60 per cent, since the beginning of the war. Of course, many prices have increased by much more than 60 per cont. The Government is not entirely to blame for that state of affairs, because export juices also have risen. I do say, however, that had the Government not been so quick to hit the public on the chin by removing subsidies, the rise in the price level would not have been so great. Had it paid greater heed to the arguments that we on this side of the chamber had advanced in favour of encouraging increased production, the cost of living to-day would not be nearly so high as it is. Undeniably, volume of production is the key to prices. The volume of production must be approximately equated to the demand if prices are to be kept at a reasonable level. It is true that production of some commodities has increased, but in the vital industries production still lags seriously. For instance, the latest figures available indicate that our steel industry is working at only 58 per cent, of its capacity. Steel is the raw material of many industries. We could even export substantial quantities of it if we had it to spare. The building industry throughout the Commonwealth depends substantially upon structural steel; yet our mills are working at less than 60 per cent, of capacity.
I come now to primary production. Our output of wool, beef, mutton, lamb and butter is below the pre-war level. One of the main reasons for that is the centralization that has been going on in Australia ever since this Government came into office. . Our country districts have been denuded of population, and that denudation will continue until adequate supplies of petrol are assured to country residents. I have seen social and sporting life in the country come to a standstill because of petrol shortage. That is one reason why I am prepared to fight to the bitter end on the petrol issue. Petrol is vital to our primary producers upon whom we are depending to ease the dollar situation in Great Britain. There is an obligation upon us to do our best to feed the starving peoples of the world, but how can we maintain our exports and at the same time provide sufficient food to feed the hundreds of thousands, or even millions of immigrants whom we expect to come to this country, when, according to the Statistician’s figures, whereas at one time, 24.7 per cent, of the total number of employed persons in Australia were employed in primary industries, only 15.4 per cent, are now so engaged? The Government’s record in the realm of prices and production is a sorry one.
– There are 35,000 more people employed in primary industries to-day than ever before.
– Rural workers have, declined in both percentage and total number. That is shown clearly by figures in my possession. Unfortunately, I do not have them before me in the chamber.
Let us look at the “ achievements “ of the Government in the maritime industries, including the stevedoring industry, and in the coal-mining industry. I might describe the Government’s activities in these spheres as excursions away from the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) started to say something about arbitration last night, but unfortunately the expiry of his allotted time prevented him from going very far. The Government has made several grave departures from the established principle of arbitration. These have occurred mainly in the industries that I have mentioned. About threequarters of the people of the world are engaged in transport, so probably a substantial majority of the people of this country are so engaged, including coastal shipping, which is of vital importance to us because most of our goods are carried by sea. It is into this realm that the Government has stepped, ostensibly to improve efficiency and to extend amenities. We were told that the Government’s aim was to pave the way for smoother working so that the people of every State could obtain goods cheaper. The Maritime Industries Commission was set up, and to it was appointed Mr. Elliott, an avowed Communist. The Stevedoring Industry Commission was established, and to it, Mr. Jim Healy who, I am told, is one of the shrewdest Communists in Australia, was appointed. He drew £1,100 a year as a member of the commission. Mr. Roach, another Communist, was also a member of the commission. The Joint Coal Board was formed, and the Communists were allowed to come in on that too. The establishment of the Maritime Industries Commission and the Stevedoring Industry Commission would, we were told, bring greater peace and more efficiency to the waterfront, and would permit a quicker turn-round of ships; but what was the result ? In the year ended the 30th June, 1939, Australian coast.il shipping totalled 410,650 tons deadweight and that tonnage carried nearly 9,000,000 tons of freight. According to the latest figures, shipping on the Australian coast now totals 5S6,0O0 tons, deadweight, yet, in the twelve months ended December, 1948, that tonnage carried only 8,304,600 tons cargo. In other words, 42f per cent, more tonnage carried 7^ per cent, less cargo. In the -three years from 1937 to 1939 inclusive, the average discharging rate of vessels on the Australian coast was 804 tons a day. In the three years from 1945 to 1947 inclusive, it was 35’5 tons a day. The loading rate figures for those periods were 434 tons and 321 tons respectively. In 1939, the loading of interstate cargo ships at Sydney cost 3s. lOd. a ton, and the loading rate was 24i]- tons an hour. To-day, the loading cost is 17s. 4d. a ton. In the same period the increase at Melbourne has been from 3s. 3d. a ton to 133. Id. a ton. Since 1939, freight charges between Sydney and Melbourne have increased from 22s. to 67s. a ton and between Sydney and Fremantle from 43s. to 88s. a ton. Once again let me refer to my trip to Western Australia on board Ceramic, a brand new vessel, and the largest refrigerated cargo ship travelling to this country. I was informed that the turn-round of Ceramic in Australia took nine weeks; yet the voyage from Australia to the United Kingdom takes only four weeks including at least three, and frequently four, calls. In other words, in the time that it takes to turn the vessel round in this country, it could travel from Sydney to the United Kingdom, back to Sydney, and then to Fremantle. There again we have evidence of the Government’s great achievements on the waterfront.
– That does not tell us anything.
– It tells us a lot. What happened ultimately? Healy laughed openly at the Government, although he had taken £1,100 a year to improve relations on the waterfront. Obviously his aim was not to improve industrial relations but to cause discontent and disruption, and, as the Government must have known for a long time, he succeeded.
I turn now to coal. We have had a mass of legislation dealing with the coal-mining industry, but what are the achievements of the Government in that industry? Various tribunals have been set up. The industry has been taken away from the Arbitration Court and placed under its own authority - the Coal Industry Tribunal. There was to be some improvement of the position relating to the loss of coal through strikes. Let us consider the Government’s record in this respect. The loss of coal through strikes and stoppages in 1946 totalled 1,347,392 tons. In 1947 it was 1,671,206 tons and in 1948 it was 2,330,125 tons. What the total loss will be this year we do not know. These figures reveal the Government’s sorry record in relation to the production of coal which is so vitally important to the maintenance of our economy. As for the last coal strike, will Ministers deny that they had fore-knowledge that it was impending weeks before it was declared? Weeks before the strike was declared the miners were organized for the impending struggle. It was part and parcel of the ideology of the Cominform that there should be disruption in Australia at that particular time. The order for the’ calling of a strike in the coal industry came from overseas. When the strike was declared, did this Government immediately spring into action and do something to avert its consequences? Not at all; on the contrary, it remained inactive for weeks. I am a man from the land. It is my business to raise sheep and cattle. I have experienced the hazards of droughts, as have some other honorable members, but in time of drought I do not sit idly by and see my stock die. I go out’ and obtain fodder to keep my sheep and cattle alive. I act promptly. With the foreknowledge that this strike would be called, that more than 600,000 people would ‘be thrown out of work as a consequence, and that the country would lose in production between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000 a week which might result in a Commonwealth budget being destroyed, one would imagine that the Government would have acted quickly. It did not do so. Five weeks elapsed before any action was taken to get coal. It was said that only miners could win the coal. I am glad that that canard has been smashed. It has since been proved that inexperienced workers are able to mine coal just as easily as boys from my own district who have worked on the farms are able to work in the Al and Morning Star gold mines, and in a few weeks become experienced gold-miners. After the strike was called five weeks went by, the lights went out in Sydney and women went out into their backyards to do the cooking of their food before the Government made a move to save the country from complete disruption. Not until the strike had been in progress for five weeks were the opencut mines worked and coal at -grass brought to Sydney. Apart from a relatively few permanent employees no highly skilled workers are employed in mechanized mines. No greater skill, and certainly no greater nervous strain is involved in driving a locomotive in the mines than in driving an electric tram through the streets of Sydney or Melbourne. For five weeks the strike took- its course and the people were in travail because of the grave hardships inflicted upon them. That, briefly, is the record of the Government in connexion with the recent coal strike.
I propose now to deal briefly with the nationalization of banking. We do not yet know how far the Government will go in furtherance of its policy to nationalize the private banking institutions. We know however that if it is ever to give effect to its policy of socialism it must control the banking accounts of all individuals. The banking legislation of 1945 gave to the Treasurer very wide powers. It gave him authority to dictate the financial policy of this country even behind the back of the Labour caucus. It contained a provision compelling shire councils to bank with the Commonwealth Bank. When that provision was contested in the High Court the Government lost the case, and again we had an example of the vindictiveness of the Treasurer coming to the forefront for the right honorable gentleman then said, in effect, “ We have been knocked out by the High Court ; now we shall take the whole blooming lot “, and he went after the whole blooming lot. There was no stirring of conscience among honorable members who sit behind him at the failure of the Government to refer its proposal to nationalize the private banks to the Australian people, because since 1921 the Australian Labour party has been committed to a policy of complete socialization. The party’s objective, which is in the Parliamentary Library printed and bound in vellum, states clearly that it is the aim of the party to bring about the socialization of all forms of industry, production, distribution and exchange. As Lenin taught the world long ago, banking is the key to communism. The only difference between communism and socialism lies in the method by which the adherents of those creeds propose to gain their ends. Statements made by members of this chamber to-day confirm the Government’s intention to get control of the banks and of the banking accounts of private individuals if it can possibly do so. It realizes that before it can completely control the people it must control the” people’s money. How far the Government is prepared to go in that direction, only time can tell. The judgment of the Privy Council is still awaited.
The crowning achievement of this Government and of the socialist governments of Great Britain and New Zealand is to be found in the decision, taken after meeting in solemn conclave in London, to delete the word “ British “ from the British Commonwealth of Nations. Even the Empire Parliamentary Association of the British Commonwealth, of our membership of which all of us have been proud, has gone by the board. Legally the term “ British Commonwealth “ no longer exists notwithstanding the fact that British people all over the world have for countless generations been proud of the title and of the fact that wherever the British flag was raised decency and honesty accompanied it. James Fitzpatrick, of travelogue fame, referred to the British Commonwealth of Nations in these terms : -
This is the greatest human institution ever built by man. If it goes down civilization will be greatly retarded and the whole white race will be in jeopardy.
The word “ British “ has been dropped from the title “ British Commonwealth of Nations “ merely because Eire’ and India objected to its inclusion. The people of Eire are kindly and humourous, but they have a horrible habit of looking back over the things that happened a thousand years ago rather than to the present and the future. The great Empire which has been built up over countless generations, first as the British Empire, and later as the British Commonwealth of Nations, has been destroyed in the space of a few years by the socialist governments of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
I turn now to devaluation and to the part played by socialism in Great Britain in bringing about the need for it. I believe that a few facts and figures concerning the economic situation in Great Britain may be of interest because, although the impact of socialism on the economy of Great Britain may not have been wholly responsible for the recent slide of sterling over the precipice, it was undoubtedly responsible in a great degree.
– The honorable member ought to read the comments in the Observer
– The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) would do well to listen to the facts that I am about to recite. The additional financial burden placed upon the British taxpayers by the introduction of socialism in Great Britain is estimated to have been from £80,000,000 to £90,000,000 to the end of June last. Even Lord Nuffield, the Ford organization or General Motors Limited could not afford losses like that. Before the railways were taken over in 1945 they were distributing £40,000,000 annually in interest and dividends. From 1928 to 1938 they paid to their shareholders an average ‘of £30,000,000 a year. The operation of the same railways as a Stateowned concern has resulted in a loss of £25,000,000. Similar comment might be made of the air lines. In 1936-37, Imperial Airways Limited, a private company, made a profit of £326,000, and in the following year it made a profit of £237,000. Under the ownership of the State, British airlines lost £8,000,000 during last financial year. Altogether they have lost £30,000,000 since they were nationalized. Some interesting revelations have been made by Lord Citrine, who controls the national electricity corporation, concerning the effect of the nationalization of electricity. According to him the electrical services will incur a loss of from £5,000,000 to £7,000,000 this year, “although under their former control, one company alone, the Edmund Corporation, made a profit of £647,000 in 1947. Lord Citrine said-
It is one thing to nationalize industry by Act of Parliament: it is another thing to work out a kind of apparatus and machinery that will give economical service.
That is true, as the people of Great Britain are finding out now. During the last twenty years of private control the cost of electricity in Great Britain constantly decreased. However, since the supply of electricity has been nationalized, the cost to the consumers has increased by from 20 to 50 per cent.
Consider the history of the coal industry under nationalization. When the coal mines were privately owned they earned substantial profits for their owners. The British Government had to pay the coal owners £164,000,000 sterling to acquire their assets. Much of that money has since left Great Britain to be reinvested in Australia and South Africa. The production of coal under private enterprise was higher than under State ownership. Last year, the nationalized coal mines lost £25,000,000, and although it is expected that this year the mines will just about pay their way, the price of coal has increased from 17s. 4d. in 1938 to 47s. 8d. a ton to-day. Furthermore, I have been told by recent arrivals from England that the coal that is now supplied to householders is a poor mixture of coal and slate.
What about the workers of Great Britain ? Have they still the easy approach to a variety of employers that they enjoyed before ? No ; there is a gigantic coal commission in London, and they have as much chance of getting access to high executives there as a sinner has of entering heaven. Since’ the railways were nationalized about 2,000 employees have been dismissed. I say to the Government that the wages of socialization are poverty and tyranny. Once an enterprise does not need to pay its way its controllers become careless and its finances suffer. When the taxpayers are called upon to meet the deficits of numbers of such concerns the general standard of living must inevitably come down. We all know that from. the experience ofRussia. I visited Russia and I saw what happened in that country. Then comes the inevitable drive to obtain some degree of efficiency and prevent standards. That is when we get tyranny. Those facts are unpalatable, but it is as well that the committee and the community generally should understand and appreciate them. It is also necessary that Ave should realize that things are not going well with Great Britain. Certainly we knew that for a number of reasons it would ‘be necessary for Great Britain to devalue sterling, but none of us for a moment expected that sterling would be devalued by as much as 30 per cent. That has placed the value of sterling at even less than the former black-market rate. There is a need now for the British world to get together and do things.
Those remarks lead me to observe that Australia needs the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), because Bob Menzies more represents the character of the average Australian than does any member of the present Government.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I have previously warned honorable members opposite that the menace of socialism is now being realized by the community, and that the time is coming when the’ people will throw them out. There is a great need in Empire affairs of the personality of the Leader of the Opposition. I realize that honorable members opposite may recall other observations that I have made in years gone by, but I remind them that we all can rake up things that we have said years ago but which do not represent our views to-day under different circumstances. I say to-day that the right honorable gentleman is the leading personality in the English-speaking world, and that the time has come for the Empire to pull itself together, otherwise our position may become even worse than it is. Although we have had a fairly strong dose of socialism in this country, we may have to experience even more of it if the people, in their blindness, permit a socialist government to continue in office. However, the results of socialism are already becoming apparent. Although the -war has been over for four years, we are still experiencing chronic shortages of goods and services. Farmers cannot get even the wire that is necessary for them to fence and subdivide their properties. We are still experiencing continual shortages of supplies of various other goods.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) put -
That the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson ) be granted an extension of time.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. T. N. Sheehy.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- In the evening of my political life in this chamber, before I am cast into outer darkness, I should like to report to the Parliament and to the nation some observations that T made during my trip abroad. I returned to Australia last Thursday. No person who visits the United Kingdom and the Continent at the present time can return to such a privileged country as our own without feeling that ominous things are abroad in Europe. It is not for me to attempt to predict what may happen in the immediate future. When the visitor sees the multiplicity of aspects of the European struggle, he feels that it is most difficult to anticipate the future.
The most important of my observations, to which I desire to address myself this afternoon, is that all other things pale into insignificance when matters of security arise. I spent five weeks in New Zealand, and I was amazed to find that a people who are so near to us in many respects, whose characteristics are so like our own, who have a highly-developed civic sense, and who have achieved remarkable results in general development, social services and decentralization, should be so removed from us in other ways. While I was in that dominion, I carefully investigated a considerable number of matters, and I reached the conclusions that I desire to present to this chamber. Those conclusions are as follows : - New Zealand has no adequate transport facilities with Australia to meet the requirements of its rapidly expanding population. The Australian visitor who converses with a. New Zealander is told, “ I should like to come to Sydney or Melbourne and meet the Australian people. I should also like to apply myself to understanding their problems, but I am confronted with at least three difficulties, namely, transport, costs, and currency.” Those three factors are vital to Australian relations with New Zealand. That dominion did not become a signatory to the Bretton Woods agreement, and, therefore, was at liberty to vary the relation of its own currency to the currencies of other countries. About the time of my arrival in that dominion, the Government had appreciated the currency to the level of sterling. But New Zealanders generally were not completely satisfied with that alteration. The primary producer was fully appreciative of the contribution that it would make to his welfare, but members of the business section of the “Community was not altogether satisfied about the effect that it would have on Australian - New Zealand relations.
I asked various businessmen why they did not visit Sydney and Melbourne, those two great cities, each of which has a population exceeding 1,000,000 persons, and has also great industrial and social development. The answer that I was given was, “ The visit would be too costly “. Another factor is the currency difficulty. When New Zealanders go abroad, they are not permitted to take much currency with them. I read more Australian news in New Zealand newspapers than I have read New Zealand news in Australian newspapers. I am astonished at the average New Zealander’s lack of knowledge of Australians and at the complete lack of knowledge that Australians have of New Zealanders. That ignorance is most regrettable at a time when various countries are seeking security.
During my visit to New Zealand, I had conversations with persons in every walk of life - the professional, commercial, and industrial classes. I asked many people the following question : - “ What would have happened to New Zealand had the Japanese struck here instead of at Pearl Harbour ? “ Being truthful people, they gave the obvious answer, “ We could not have resisted the Japanese “. Had the Japanese attacked New Zealand instead of striking at Pearl Harbour, their next step would have been to seize Tasmania and deny our shipping the use of Bass Strait. Under those conditions, our shipments of primary produce to the United Kingdom would have been at a standstill, and our contribution to the conduct of the war would have been seriously impaired. They realize that. Then I asked them another question: “What would have happened to New Zealand had the Japanese decided to strike at Australia when we were entirely unprepared ? “ I am not going to deliver a dissertation upon the cause of our unpreparedness. It is too late in the day for that. To the question, “ Can New Zealand de Len el itself?”, the answer is “No”. To the further question, “Would Australia be stronger for defence purposes if we wore to ally ourselves with New Zealand in some physical way in the future ? “ the answer is, “ Yes “. Let me go back some distance into the past. During World War 1., New Zealanders and Australians, lighting side by side, won undying fame at Gallipoli. A word was coined to describe the combined force. It was called Anzac, which must surely signify the union between New Zealand and Australia. That name is significant, and the greatest compliment we could pay to the illustrious dead would be for New Zealand and Australia to get together. I propose to make some suggestions which, if adopted, could be the beginning of a get-together movement should the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, now or in the future, apply themselves to the matter. It has been my lot, very often, to talk 25 years ahead of my time. I expect that what I am saying now will take 25 years to sink in, but for the good of every one, I hope the time will be shorter.
The first essential is to open up negotiations with New Zealand on this subject. When I was in New Zealand, I talked to members of Parliament, and addressed meetings at Dunedin, Timaru, Christchurch and Wellington. I discussed the possibility of some physical union between Australia and New Zealand - not one in which Australia would absorb New Zealand, or in which the sovereignty of either country would be impaired, but one that would be something better than a system of pacts, alliances or treaties. The history of mankind is largely a record of the failure of alliances, pacts and treaties. We read in the Twenty-first Book of Livy the story of a broken treaty, and one after another practically all the treaties made since have been broken. The trouble is that treaties commit the people of one generation, but those people die off, and 25 years later an entirely different generation is in control of affairs, a generation that does not feel the same way about things as did the previous one. What should be our first step if we are to bring about a physical union of the kind I have in mind? Our Prime Minister (Mr.
Chifley) is personally acquainted with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, and could very well open up negotiations with a view to bringing about a first-class alliance between our Navy, Army and Air Force, and those of New Zealand. I am not a military man, and cannot discuss such a proposal in detail. I stop there, but I am sure that such an arrangement could be worked out. I know that something has been done already, and that the navies of New Zealand and Australia have met in joint manoeuvres. Let us go on from there, and establish an Anzac navy, army and air force. I want more than a sentimental alliance; I want something physical.
Air defences are vital to both Australia and New Zealand. Therefore, I should like to see established a transport air arm to operate a service between this country and New Zealand. I am not suggesting that it should be conducted on a strictly commercial basis, with the possibility of recrimination and ill feeling between the two countries if the service should be operated at a loss. There should be a complete union between the two air forces, and the service should be maintained whatever the cost, with no record of losses. The details could be worked out by the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) and his department. The service should be frequent and cheap, in order to encourage a stream of people to pass forward and back between the two countries. Perhaps there would be no real loss on such a service, when all factors were taken into consideration, because the travellers would spend money freely, and trade between the two countries would be stimulated. Let me cite some figures in order to show how inadequate is the present air service to New Zealand. At the present time, two 44-passenger planes operate daily between Melbourne and Perth, a distance of 1,820 miles, but only one plane leaves each day from Sydney for the north of New Zealand, 1,320 miles away. Wellington and Christchurch have between them a population of 250,000, but there is no direct air service between Australia and those cities. If aviation companies can afford to maintain the present service between Melbourne and Western Australia, where there are only about half a million people, surely we can afford to send more than one plane a day to New Zealand, which has a population of nearly 2,000,000. The population of New Zealand is more decentralized than is that of Australia. It is about 1,300 miles from Sydney to Auckland, or Sydney to Wellington or Sydney to Christchurch, hut by following the great circle it is only 900 miles from Hobart to Invercargill, in the south of New Zealand. Dunedin is barely 100 miles farther north, so that a service from Hobart to the south of New Zealand would serve two large centres of population, Invercargill and Dunedin. There should be a daily air service from Melbourne to Hobart, to Invercargill and then to Dunedin. As for fares, a passenger can travel from Melbourne to Perth, a distance of 1,820 miles, for £25, but it will cost him £35 to travel from .Sydney to Auckland, a distance of 1,350 miles.
An air transport arm is fundamental to the defence of Australia, but why let it rot on the ground? Why not use it to promote goodwill and a closer union between Australia and New Zealand? That is something which should be done, and I believe will be done, because we have a good government. Somebody must drop this brick. I am going out of the Parliament at the end of this term, and so do not have to worry about the consequences. As I have said, the first thing to do is to establish a service operated by the combined air forces of New Zealand and Australia. There should be one daily service from Sydney to Auckland, another to Wellington and Christchurch, and another from Melbourne, through Hobart to the south of the South Island. That is the first and the only thing that I want to say about transport. But I would not be satisfied with that as a physical union.
The first thing that one realizes upon returning to Australia from abroad is the terrible nonsense that is talked in Europe to-day about traditionalism and things that do not matter in the material world. Australia and New Zealand have very much in common. If all the people of New Zealand were deposited in Melbourne to-morrow we should not be able to distinguish between them and Melbournians. They speak the same language as Aus- tralians, they eat steak and eggs, too, and they play football, tennis and cricket against us. We should encourage the free movement of people between Australia and New Zealand as soon as we can do so. New Zealand has the same kind of social services as we have, and, in this respect, I pay a tribute to the Minister for Social Services (.Senator McKenna), who only recently concluded reciprocal social services arrangements with the Government of New Zealand. People in New Zealand observe the same working hours as we do. Rates of pay are about the same as those in Australia. Costs of production, also, are similar. Yet, 2,000,000 people in New Zealand are asked to defend a coastline of some hundreds of miles. ‘ If a man wishes to travel from Invercargill, in New Zealand, to Sydney he has to fly for 700 miles before he reaches Auckland, where he boards another aircraft which takes him 1,200 miles to Sydney. He could be almost in Tasmania, by the time he reached Auckland. It is ridiculous to ask 2,000,000 industrious, highly intelligent people to defend hundreds of miles of flat, rich coastal lands. Had the Japanese attacked there, instead of at Pearl Harbour, Australia, would have been virtually helpless. Only God could have saved us.
The ‘human race has reached another stage in its evolution. If there is anything that the world cries out for to-day it is leadership. At the international conferences at Geneva, everybody is frightened of everybody else. The more frightened a man is the louder he yells “ Democracy ! “ The second clause in the Western Union agreement that Mr. Churchill and Mr. Bevin have been debating with representatives of other nations at Strasbourg in recent weeks provides for a currency union. I do not want to argue about currency unions at this stage, but it is significant to remark that the last newspaper that I bought before leaving England on the 14th August, carried a large headline, “ Currency Union is the Ultimate Aim “. That is not the first time that such headlines have been published in the conservative press of the United Kingdom, and the fact indicates the trend’ of world .affairs to-day. Never before in our history has it been more important for Australia and New Zealand to keep together. If we are to keep together, the first thing- for us to do is to establish a customs union. There is not one reason in the wide world why we should not do so. The Australian Government has four constitutional powers fh-at would enable it to engage in such a contract. It could enter into a customs union under the external affairs power, the trade and customs power, or one or two other powers. There can be no reasonable objection to the proposal. As I? have said, costs of production in New Zealand are approximately the same as costs of production in Australia. The only difficulty at present lies in the fact that the New Zealand currency has been appreciated 2’5 per- cent, above Australian currency. However, I believe that the Prime Ministers of the two countries could make a bilateral agreement providing for a suitable currency arrangement between the two countries in respect of coin-modi ties that they produce.
I know that the scheme that I advocate represents advanced thinking. But these schemes do not appear to be so advanced when they are seen in operation. If one £joes to Switzerland, as I did a few weeks ago, one can get only twelve francs for a 61 note, whereas, in return foi1 a traveller’s cheque for £1, one can get eighteen francs. There is a discrepancy straight away. I believe that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who- is an intelligent, man, and our Prime Minister, who is equally intelligent, could easily evolve some scheme of a practical nature whereby goods that are- produced in Australia and goods that are . produced in New. Zealand could be exchanged upon a basis of parity between the two currencies. [ have ascertained that the Ottawa Agreement would have nothing to do. with any such arrangement, so- it would, be useless for critics to- raise that issue. The Commonwealth has power to make such an Agreement under the Constitution. If we succeed in concluding a bilateral agreement providing for a customs union between Australia and New Zealand, with the two currencies at parity, we shall provide- the world with the- example that people everywhere are seeking. T am sure that any such agreement, if submitted to referendums in both countries, would be overwhelmingly endorsed. Then, whenever the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) went abroad and encountered difficulties at international conferences, he would be able to say with authority, “ The thing to do is to establish a customs union. The alternative is the atomic, bomb “. Any person who studies world affairs can have no doubt that the atomic bomb is the most dreadful weapon that has ever been conceived by man. Nobody can read without a feeling of horror reports of the effect of atomic explosions at Hiroshima, Nagasaki or Bikini. Yet the bombs that were dropped at those places were only primitive! Within a few years, atomic bombs will be much more destructive than they were.
The alternative to the threat of atomic warfare lies in the formation of customs unions around the world, and people in Europe are beginning to realize that fact. The discussions at Strasbourg recently dealt with matters of no real significance, such as the proposal to establish an international, court of justice. Such talk was sheer bunkum., because the leader of any nation that broke away from a union of nations would refuse to. appear before an international court. What- nonsense it is to talk of such plans. We should sink all such traditional nonsense and get down to something of material vaLue that will prevent countries from coming to loggerheads in the future. Can any person in time of peace review in retrospect the events that took place between 19-39 and 3 945 when-,, according to American figures,, over 84,00.0,000 lives were sacrified directly and indirectly by war, and say, “ I will allow that to happen again and will not make one sacrifice to alter the situation “ ? Of course, no reasonable human being could do so. My feelings on this subject are deep-seated and strong: Somebody may ask why I do not do something about it in this Parliament. I learned a great deal that could be helpful to this Parliament during my absence abroad - and I point out that 1 travelled at my own expense, lest anybody might think, otherwise. Sitting here in “ no-man’s land “ at the back of the chamber over’ the last six years, I have learned at least to reflect, if not to achieve. I cannot achieve anything- now, because I shall not return- with the next Parliament,, but I believe that,, if I can arouse the interest of the Parliament in this subject, I shall be making a valuable contribution to the establishment of the very best relationships between Australia and New Zealand.
I addressed a number of meetings in New Zealand and talked to business people and working class groups numbering hundreds of persons, and I did not meet one individual who failed to say, “ Go ahead and try to do something about your plan “. I have thrown the subject into the ring for discussion in this chamber now, and it remains for other honorable members to do what they can about it. I exhort them for goodness sake not to wait for 25 years before they realize the importance of the proposal. I have envisaged the scheme but I shall not evolve it. That remains for this Parliament to do. “We do not want to interfere with New Zealand’s economic life. That is New Zealand’s affair. I do not care whether New Zealanders open their hotels on Sundays, ride on trams on Tuesdays, or keep their picture theatres open all night. But let us create something between the two countries to provide for the free flow of people and goods. Each country has materials that the other wants. New Zealand has large quantities of timber that Australia needs, and it requires Australian wheat. Incidentally, I was told that Australian wheat sent to New Zealand was cracked. Let us establish some form of physical union between the two countries. Our Minister for International Affairs will then be able to say, when deadlocks are reached at international conferences, “ Follow the example of Australia and New Zealand. Those two young countries have thrown their lot into a common cause and have achieved something of great value “. Such a physical union would not require very much effort. The line of demarcation between war and peace is not very wide, and the time has come for us to establish some physical union between the two countries in this small area of the world. Perhaps I have spoken over-enthusiastically, but I have given a great deal of thought to this subject. My wanderings throughout the world during the last 35 years have taught me that we shall get nowhere with sentimental nonsense. Communism is on the move. Let there be no mistake about that. We shall not quieten it by the methods that we are using now. What an example it would be to the nations of Western Europe that are now struggling to effect a Western Union if we could establish a customs union and other unions between the peoples of Australia and New Zealand and have them confirmed by referendums. The next step would be that the New Zealand Federation of Labour would meet the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the two bodies would evolve a common industrial policy for both countries. There would be common hours of work, common costs of production, and so on. There would be almost everything that tends to ensure freedom as between two peoples.
When I left Australia for New Zealand, I had with me some Australian currency. When I reached New Zealand I was told that my Australian £1 was worth only 15s. in New Zealand money, but during the time that I was there I was quite prepared to exchange my Australian money for New Zealand money on that basis. At this stage I desire to pay a tribute to the New Zealand Government for the great courtesy that it extends to Australians who visit that country. It is a pity that Australians do not arrange to visit New Zealand more often. I left New Zealand and travelled to Panama, which is a place that lives upon canal dues. Its population is mostly negroid. In Panama I wanted to hire a car to take me round the town, but the hire-car proprietors would not take New Zealand money, Australian money or sterling. They wanted only dollars. I found a way round that difficulty when I went to Curacao, a place off the coast of Venezuela. It has not enough water for drinking purposes. Its people obtain some of their drinking water by distilling sea water and some from a water-carrying ship that transports it from the mainland. A big coon came along in a car, and I told him that I wanted him to take me into town. He said that he would do so if I paid him in dollars, and that he would not take Australian money, New Zealand money, or sterling. He was too big for me to hit, and in any case I was not game enough to do so! I found a way round that difficulty. Then I arrived in London, the greatest money exchange centre in tie world. I had a few pounds of my New Zealand money left. Probably I should not have had it, hut I do not know about that. I had afternoon tea, in payment for which I produced some New Zealand silver, and a little girl with a cockney accent said, “ I am very sorry, sir, but we cannot take New Zealand money “. That occurred in the centre of the great British Empire. The next day I was walking past New Zealand House. I entered it to change my New Zealand silver, but I am dashed if the officials would take it. Any one who has visited Europe recently and has been pushed around there knows of the difficulties to which the currency problem gives rise. Although the peoples of the countries of “Western Europe howl about democracy at the top of their voices, any one who has visited Europe during the last six months knows that by the time he has filled in the forms that are necessary to enable him to get into a country and out of it again he has, so to speak, passed over two other countries. It is a terrible state of affairs. Are we to stand for that as between Australia and New Zealand? Of course we are not.
I have pushed this matter as hard and as far as I can push it. I believe that this is the first occasion on which it has been pushed on this basis in the Parliament. I consider that an Anzac air-arm is necessary for the defence of the South-Weet Pacific. The Australian and New Zealand Ministers for Air could evolve a common transport policy, based upon low fares irrespective of costs, that would ensure free communication between the people of the two countries. I believe that the people of New Zealand and Australia would accept it. A customs union could be evolved.
– That may be done by us after the next general election.
– I do not care who does it. I am glad that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has made that interjection, because it enables me to say that this is not a matter for party politics. I am going out of politics and I can look at the problem dispassionately. I am sure that a customs union between New Zealand and Australia could be evolved. All that is required is goodwill on the part of both peoples. If the governments of the two countries do establish such a union, it is most important that, in the interests of mankind and in order to set an example to the rest of the world, it should !be referred to the people by way of referendum so that the union between the two countries will be so strong that no “ cranky “ government either here or in New Zealand will be able to dissolve it subsequently. If the countries of the world can establish physical unions of one kind or another, encourage the free flow of trade and the free movement of people among them and achieve a uniform currency, a third world war may be averted, but the situation in Europe at present is such that there seems to be no possibility of averting another war, which would be attended by all the terrors of atomic weapons. I am not trying to terrify the committee. I have talked about nuclear fission in this chamber previously. In my opinion, western civilization is at the cross roads. The events of the next 50 years will determine whether or not it is to survive. The chance of survival depends upon the brain power that is applied to the solution of our problems.
There are other matters that I could discuss, hut I believe that it is too late in the day to apply myself to any of them. I have told the committee of one problem, and at a later stage in the debate I shall inform honorable gentlemen of other matters of which I learned something while I was abroad and about which it may be to the advantage of this country to know. I hope that nobody will accuse me of having approached this matter in a partisan spirit. I am going out of politics, and I want to go out as a “ clean-skin “. The government that effects the union to which I have referred will earn the undying gratitude of the peoples of Australia and New Zealand. It will carry on the tradition that was established at Gallipoli when the word “ Anzac “ was coined. A fusion of New Zealand and Australia on the basis of transport and customs would be the greatest compliment that we could pay to our illustrious dead.
– The . committee is indebted to the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) for his speech. There is no questioning the honorable gentleman’s sincerity. Doubtless there is much to be said in f avour of a non-party approach to the problems that confront us. The subject with which the honorable gentleman has dealt is worthy of a special debate, and I am sure that the members of the committee appreciate the arguments that have been put before them.
It is true that Australia is passing through a period of exceptionally high prices for primary and other products. It is also true that it is passing through a period of exceptionally high taxation and buoyant national revenue. High taxation now acts and will continue to act as a deterrent to the expansion of industry, because such a large proportion of the earnings of industry is expended by the Treasury instead of being used by industry itself as capital expenditure for further development. A comparison of receipts and expenditure in the pre-war years compared with present figures will supply an illustration of what I am attempting to convey to the committee. In the financial year 1938-39 the total revenue collected by the then Treasurer was approximately £95,’000,000, which was sufficient to leave a budgetary surplus of £5,000,000. But in the last financial year the Australian Government collected and expended £554,000,000, which sum was approximately £44,000,000 above the budget estimate. To illustrate how heavy taxation is depriving the people of their earnings let us make a comparison of income tax upon earnings in 1937-38 and 1948-49. In the financial year 1937-38 the then Treasurer took only £9,398,503 from the incomes of the people. In the last financial year the present Government took £281,000,000 from the same source. That latter figure included : income tax, £182,000,000 ; social services contribution, £90,250,000; pay-roll tax, nearly £20,000,000. Those figures illustrate the colossal expansion of the amount of taxes collected by the Government ‘and the corresponding increase of the burden placed upon the shoulders of the taxpayers. The Government has prided itself that included in its expenditure of £554,000,000 in the last financial year was a small contribution of £8,000,000 sterling to Great Britain. In the last three years’ Australia has made contributions totalling £45,000,000 Australian to Great Britain. But those contributions only make up the leeway that Australia created during the war, because apparently our patriotism and our desire to assist Britain was reflected in ever increasing demands for higher prices for the commodities that we sold to Britain. The result of those demands was that Australia built up a large balance in London. During the war period Canada made Britain a gift of £100,000,000 sterling and also presented it with £100,000,000 sterling worth of goods. Canada also paid back the total of its national debt to Britain but Australia in the same period increased its national debt and made no contribution to the coffers of the British people. So it can be said that we are not being unduly generous to Britain by making the small contributions to its finances that we have made.
One of the matters of greatest moment that have arisen in the present debate concerns the trading banks and the government’s determination not only to nationalize them, but also to take control of the people’s money. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said that by returning a Labour government at the last general election the people had signified their approval of its banking plans. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the position was really as the Minister has depicted it, why did the Government reject the hundreds of thousands of appeals from the people of Australia that were made by way of telegrams, petitions and letters to their representatives in this Parliament for a referendum on the nationalization of banking before such a course was adopted. I affirm that the Government’s banking plans not only were not approved by the people at the last election, but also have never had the majority approval of this Parliament. If we add the number of members of the House of Representatives who voted against the banking legislation in the Labour party caucus to the total vote of the Opposition parties in the House, it will become obvious that a majority of the Parliament is not in favour of the introduction of bank nationalization despite the determination of the Minister for Transport that it shall be achieved. The people did not give the Government any mandate to nationalize the trading banks and to take control of the people’s money, which was lodged in those institutions for safe keeping. If the people desire the Government to control their savings they can deposit them in the Commonwealth Bank, over whose funds the Treasurer exercises control through the medium of the Governor of the Bank. The Commonwealth Bank’s assets are valued to-day at £109,000,000, which compares unfavorably with the value of the assets of the trading banks, which is over £887,000,000. Included’ in die trading banks’ assets is an amount of £850,000,000 which is not their property but is held by them in safe keeping for their depositors.
The people of Australia will decide at the general election on the 10th December the first appeal against the Government’s banking plans, and will determine whether they desire that £S50,000,000 shall be entrusted to the control of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. They will then have the opportunity to show whether they are prepared to give a mandate to any government of this country to control their savings. “ Hands off the people’s money” has always been the determined cry of the Australian people. They can see that the present Government, whose policy is, in fact, dictated by a minority of the members of this Parliament, is determined to socialize their hank accounts. Already there is too much control of the private hanking institutions by the Commonwealth Bank. We know that with the abolition of the Commonwealth Bank Board a governor was appointed to replace the board and to dictate the policy of the bank. Unfortunately, by the 1945 legislation the Government gave to the Commonwealth Bank very great powers over private banking institutions, including the right to take their surplus earnings since the year 1939, and to pay interest on them at a rate that must not exceed 17s. per cent. At present the interest rate is 10s. per cent. The Commonwealth Bank is holding £342,750,000 of private bank funds, which it can lend at interest rates ranging from 3£ to 4 per cent. If the private hanks were allowed to use those surpluses amounting to £342,750,000 they would be enabled to finance all classes of borrowers, including ex-service personnel, at the lowest possible rates of interest. However,, the private banks must charge interest at the rates dictated by the Commonwealth Bank and to that degree they are severely controlled. Therefore, it cannot be said that they are a menace to this country. They could lend money at cheaper rate of interest if they were not compelled to recoup the loss on the large amount I have mentioned. I repeat that as the Government, through the Commonwealth Bank, has the use of that vast sum of money at a very low rate of interest it should at least make loans available to ex-service personnel a-t purely nominal rates of interest. When the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was Prime Minister, his greatest complaint about the private banks was that they made profits. To-day, the Commonwealth Bank is making millions of pounds in profits annually, and a large proportion of its profits is derived from the use of deposits in the savings banks and from the note issue.
The Minister for Transport has had much to say about the Government’s project to standardize railway gauges. Any sensible person will agree that that project should be deferred until more urgent works, such as water conservation and hydro-electric power schemes, have been completed. Fortunately, the Government is giving priority to the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric power scheme. Nevertheless, the Minister for Transport strongly desires to press forward with the standardization of railway gauges. He claimed that that project was originally advanced as a means of providing employment, particularly in order to meet the impact on the labour market of the demobilization of hundreds of thousands of service personnel. On that ground alone the Minister endeavoured to justify the project, which will involve the destruction of existing railway assets to the value of £600,000,000. Furthermore, it is contemplated that the project will take several decades to complete. In advocating it, the Minister emphasized that it will involve the standardization not only of railway gauges, but also of trucks, locomotives and railway equipment generally, and he said that much of the work would have to be undertaken by private enterprise. It is obvious that no unit of private enterprise in this country has the requisite capacity to supply any substantial quantity of the materials that will be required for that scheme. The Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland have now placed large orders for railway rolling-stock in Germany, Great Britain and the United States of America because the man-power and materials that are required to fulfil such orders are. not available in Australia and because strikes have deprived Australia of the greatest part of its iron and steel production. In reply to a question in this chamber on the 15th November, 1944, the Minister for Transport stated -
The work of standardization is. not to be proceeded with immediately; it is to be given high priority as a post-war undertaking. As for the difficulties mentioned, this Government has great capacity for overcoming difficulties.
Speaking on the Estimates on the 27th September, 1945, the Minister said -
In the not-too-far-distant future, service personnel will have been repatriated and demobilized, so that the allocation of 36,000 employees to the task of standardizing our railway gauges and modernizing rolling-stock, should not place any great strain on the Australian national economy. . . . From that point of view, we believe that this is one of the greatest national works that should be undertaken at the earliest possible date.
But what do we find to-day? The original estimated cost of this project of £200,000,000 has increased to £300,000,000. Furthermore, although the standardization of railway gauges was proposed as an urgent work in the postwar reconstruction period, the sum of only £40,000 was voted in respect of the last financial year, and of that sum only £13,304 has actually been expended. Much the same story can be told with respect to other great ventures that have been announced1 by the Government. For instance, it proposes to expend £50,000,000 on the expansion of the cattle industry with the object of increasing supplies of beef to the United Kingdom. How much has actually been expended under that supposed scheme? Have we been given any evidence that the Government is making a practical approach to that problem? Again, the Government has boasted about the Snowy Mountains scheme. The truth is that that scheme was conceived in Great Britain. The Government has been obliged to undertake it because it realizes that British industrialists will not be attracted to this country unless adequate supplies of cheap and reliable power are made available here. The same story can be told about all of the great projects that the Government has in mind. No appreciable progress has been made with any of its schemes because recurring industrial disputes have seriously reduced our overall productive capacity. I regret that Great Britain also is being hampered by industrial unrest in its efforts to meet its present crisis. That unrest is invariably inspired by Communists under dictation from Russia. A similar trend is developing also in the United States of America. That fact must cause us grave concern, because the United States of America and Great Britain are the only countries that are doing anything to help the weaker nations of the world in the face of efforts by Russia to dominate them. Unfortunately, the Government has done nothing to combat the Communists in their efforts to dislocate our industries. To-day, it is supporting the demands of the disruptionists who were responsible for the recent disastrous coal strike in their claims for an increase of wages by 30s. a week, a reduction of working hours to 35 a week and the provision of long-service leave. But what has this Government done for the dairying industry? The Government should have carried out that agreement. Instead, however, we find that is has restricted the dairying industry very severely. The prices that were fixed for butter and cheese during the war period still obtain. Had those prices not been fixed and had not the dairy-farmers been prevented thereby from receiving their full remuneration, the people of Australia would have been required to pay more for these commodities. However, the Government has kept the prices down and it lias promised to stabilize them by the payment of subsidies.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) should know that the prices are now 200 per cent, higher than when the party that he supports formed the government of this country.
– I remind honorable members that costs in the dairying industry have risen by 400 per cent. Although the dairy-farmers have to pay for the 40-hour week, they are rendered1 subservient by all the consequential trouble and the Government bases its reviews of costs in the industry on the dairyman’s 56-hour week. The subsidy paid to the dairying industry during the last financial year amounted to £4,652,951. I draw the attention of honorable members to the following statement, contained in the budget with relation to dairying : -
The dairying industry lias been given a guarantee by the Government that for five years as from 1st April, 1947, farmers’ returns will be based on the cost of production which will be the subject of investigation and report each year by the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee. In June, 1948, the Committee completed its first annual review under this arrangement, and, as a consequence, the return to the farmer at the factory door was increased, as from 1st July, 1948, by 2d. lb. commercial butter to 2s. 2d. per lb.
A further review of cost movements in the industry was recently completed by the Committee. As a result the Committee recommended that the return to the producer should be increased as from 1st July, 1949, by 24d. per lb. to cover additional coats. This brings the returns to the farmer to 2s. 4Jd. per lb. commercial butter basis for 1949-50. The Committee’s recommendation was accepted by the Government. Advice of the increased cost of production was advised to the Premiers of the various States on 22nd June, 1949, for the attention of the pricing authorities.
The Government is continuing its subsidy payments at the rate applying last year. On this basis, the subsidy is estimated to cost £5,575,000 for 1949-50.
Notwithstanding the assurance that was given by the Government, the increase provided under the agreement has not been implemented. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has claimed that the States have turned down that recommendation. However, I point out that that promise was made to the dairy-farmers by the Government, and it should be honoured.
– The State Governments should give effect to it.
– I contend that the Commonwealth is responsible for seeing that the agreement is honoured. In addition to giving over £4,500,000 to the dairying industry, the Government gave the New Zealand consumers a subsidy of £8,000,000, by under-charging for wheat. Although the wheat-farmers of this country bore that cost, it has been implied that that was a generous gift from the Australian Government. I also remind honorable members that because the recent coal strike involved the States in increased expenditure, the Commonwealth made a special grant of £8,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money to the States. That has been termed a non-recurring grant. In my opinion we have not seen the end of strikes in this country, which appear to be prompted by a determination on the part of sections of the workers in pursuance of an international theory that is neither Australian or British. The dairy farmers are being hard hit because inspectors from the Departments of Agriculture are demanding that improvements shall be effected to farm properties. In order to carry out the orders the dairy farmers require cement, iron, and timber to erect sheds to house their implements, and to improve their yards. They also require piping in order to take water to their dry paddocks. One of the reasons why Australian industry cannot provide those commodities is that the requisite amount of coal has not been supplied to the iron and steel industries. During 1948 we exported 112,837 cwt, of cement, 91,750 cwt. of iron and steel, galvanized plate and sheet, and 120,631 cwt. of structural iron and steel, although great quantities of such products are urgently required in this country. We also exported 15,627 cwt. of east iron pipes and tubes, over 2,000,000 lb. of iron and steel wire nails and staples, 283,825 lb. of other kinds of nails and tacks and approximately 17,500,000 superficial feet of hardwood beam timber. Yet, those of our people who are seeking homes are suffering to-day because industry cannot supply them with these vital commodities. In this respect, therefore, the primary producers have not had a fair deal.
Let us consider the aid that has been made available by the Commonwealth for the construction and maintenance of roads in this country. The total revenue derived from the tax on petrol, apart from aviation spirit, during the year 1948-49 was £17,500,000. Out of that revenue the Commonwealth made available to the States only £5,500,000. I contend that the Government would have performed a great service to this country if it had remitted the whole of the proceeds of (he petrol tax to the States. The Minister for Transport has claimed that £3,000,000 has been allocated for the construction of roads in sparsely settled areas. I consider that the way-back settlers should be assisted by the Government out of general revenue rather than out of the proceeds of the petrol tax levied on the motorists. In addition, £500,000 was made available for the construction of strategic roads. This should not form a claim against the proceeds of taxes levied on the users of petrol. We must bear in mind the requirements of local authorities in Australia. I consider that there should be a review of the present system. The Government is responsible for the provision of developmental and strategic roads in. the outback areas of this country. The taxes collected from the users of petrol should be returned to them in the form of improvements in the roads that they use. In customs and excise duty alone, tobacco and cigarette smokers in this country paid £34,735,000 last year, according to figures issued by the Commonwealth .Statistician. Much of the tobacco consumed was, of course, imported, and much of it was rubbish. If the Government wishes to increase tobacco production in this country, it should waive the excise duty on local leaf. In addition to paying £15,500,000 duty on imported tobacco, we are paying £19,000,000 annually in excise duty on tobacco manufactured in this country and nothing is returned to the growers to aid increased production. Other illustrations of how indirect taxes bear harshly upon citizens in all walks of life are to be found in the excise duty on beer, and the sales tax on chocolates and women’s clothing. There is an urgent need for a radical overhaul of this system of indirect taxation under which an unnecessarily heavy burden is placed upon some sections of the community.
I have referred to the misfortunes that Australia had suffered under the tyranny of a Labour administration, and the treachery of agents of a foreign country who, financed locally or from overseas, through the medium of government delegates to Moscow - we do not know which - have abused the freedom that citizens of this country enjoy, while the power that they represent has perpetrated injustices upon our neighbours, fomented antagonism and disagreement in world councils, and raised endless obstacles to world peace. Treaties have been made with our former enemies, and whilst they may not be of great consequence in the present period of high prices, I remind the committee that Australia will not always enjoy its present prosperity. Prices on overseas markets will fall, and our great primary industries may encounter adverse seasons. When that time comes, the ill-feeling that is being engendered overseas may be fanned into flames.
I hope that the Government will collect and expend its revenues warily until we can see what the future holds for us. Instead of fostering such huge and expensive schemes as the useless standardization of railway gauges, the total cost of which is estimated at £200,000,000, the Government should be giving greater assistance to those who are endeavouring to promote trade, and to improve our trading facilities. For instance, urgent attention should be given to the improvement of harbour facilities on the Australian coast. The Government should offer every aid to develop local port facilities to assist industry. I agree, of course, that nothing could be more important to this country than new water conservation and hydro-electric schemes. Amongst the civilized countries, Australia - and I speak particularly of Queensland - has taken probably the least advantage of its water conservation and power generating potentialities. That matter is worthy of immediate and urgent attention. Expenditure in that direction would be immediately remunerative. The Government should turn its attention to these projects, and cease expending the fabulous sums that it is collecting from the taxpayers of Australia annually, in a manner that is not in the best interests of those who contribute.
– I rise to support the budget, which, in my opinion, is one of hope, prosperity, and progress for the people of Australia. This budget, like all the others that have been presented by the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), reflects the true financial position of the Commonwealth, without any trimmings, rash election promises, or bribes. It shows clearly not only to the people of Australia, but also to the world, the prosperous position in which this country finds itself to-day as the result of Labour administration. For proof of this, one has only to read press statements which are made from time to time, not by the Treasurer, but by overseas financial experts and businessmen who visit Australia to inquire about the suitability of this country for the investment of overseas capital. Already, due to the administration of the Labour Government, many hundreds of new industries, which employ thousands of people, have been established. I am sure that honorable members opposite will agree that overseas investors would not bring their capital to this country if conditions for investment were not most favorable. Some overseas business men who have made a complete survey of the economy of this country, have reported to their principals that Australia, under the leadership of its present Prime Minister, is financially and economically, one of the most stable countries in the world. These statements reflect great credit on the present Government.
It is pleasing indeed to learn from the Treasurer’s budget speech that in the last two financial years -the Government not only balanced its budget but also wound up with a surplus. During the present financial year the Treasurer will again find himself in a similar position, which augurs well for the future prosperity of Australia and is a tribute to the masterly manner in which the right honorable gentleman has managed the finances of this country.- It would be very interesting to compare the budget now before us with those presented by succes sive Treasurers prior to the advent of the Labour Government in 1941. I venture to say that in nine years out of ten nonLabour Treasurers either budgeted for or closed the financial accounts of the year with a deficit. That certainly happened in the year in which the Bruce-Page Government was defeated.
During this debate every speaker from the Opposition side has criticized the Government for its alleged failure to reduce income tax. The lack of foundation for such criticism is shown by the fact that during the last four years the Government has granted reductions of income tax amounting in the aggregate to £280,000,000. The actual reductions granted by this Government has been much more liberal than were the promises made by the leaders of the Opposition parties during the last election campaign. Although I was not in a position to take part in the last election campaign I read with interest the policy speeches delivered by the leaders of the three political parties. The Prime Minister said quite frankly that he would make no rash promises about reducing taxes, but that if his party were returned to office he would review the financial position from time to time and would grant reductions if and when they were warranted. The Leader of the Opposition promised that if his party were returned to office he would reduce income tax by 20 per cent. The Leader of the Australian Country party was a little more ambitious. He wanted to go one better than the Leader of the Opposition, and he promised the people that if his party were returned to office he would reduce income tax by 28 per cent. Notwithstanding the fact that the Treasurer made no definite promise that he would reduce taxes, he was returned to office with an overwhelming majority. Within a few weeks after the new Parliament had assembled the right honorable gentleman found that the finances of the country were in a sufficiently buoyant state to warrant a reduction, not only of income tax, but also of other charges. In spite of these successive tax reductions, honorable members opposite persist in alleging that the Treasurer has failed to reduce the charges levied on the people. Income tax rates are now lower than they have been for many years. They are lower under the uniform tax system than they were under the former system of State and federal taxation. It is the policy of the Labour Government to lighten the burden of taxation on those on the lower scales of income. The Opposition parties would reduce the imposts levied on only the high income-earners and on those who make large profits at the expense of the community.
A statement has been prepared by Treasury officials and circulated to honorable members which shows the proposed total levy of tax and social services contribution compared with the tax payable at war-time rates by taxpayers without dependants on incomes derived from personal exertion. The reductions shown in the table are as follows : -
The percentage reduction in respect of the higher incomes is on a progressively reduced scale. It is clear, therefore, that the Government which I am proud to support has made most substantial reductions of taxation, particularly to workers with dependent wives and children. Consider the present position of a married man with a dependent wife whose income of £150 is derived from personal exertion. During the war he had to pay tax of £3 9s. Now he pays no tax at all. Similarly, those in receipt of £200 a year, who formerly paid £10 18s. tax, now pay no tax at all. Their taxes have been reduced 100 per cent. A taxpayer in receipt of an income of £300 a year formerly paid £36 13s. in tax, but his contribution has now been reduced by 86.6 per cent. Persons in receipt of incomes of £350 a year paid £53 13s. a year in tax during the war. Their tax has now been reduced by 81.7 per cent. Those in receipt of £400 a year, formerly paid tax of £71 lis., but their tax has now been reduced by 80 per cent. Those who receive £500 a year used to pay £109 6s., but their tax has been reduced by 76.4 per cent. Those whose income amounts to £600 a year used to pay £148 19s. in tax, but that amount has been reduced by 72.9 per cent. Taxes on higher incomes have also been proportionately reduced. Although the present Government made no promise to the electors during the last election campaign to reduce taxes by any specific amount, it is clear that the reductions that it has actually made have gone much farther than the reductions promised by the leaders of the Opposition parties.
It is informative to examine even further the incidence of taxes, because the Opposition has continually complained that taxes are unjustifiably high. Actually the statistics prove that taxpayers, particularly the workers, in all States are much better off under the present system of uniform taxation, than they were under the old dual system of Commonwealth and State taxation. I propose to give some illustrations in support of that statement. Before the uniform tax was introduced in 1941, a man who had no dependants, whose income was derived wholly from personal exertion, and amounted to £150 a year, paid tax of £1.1 in Victoria, £5.8 in South Australia, £3.8 in Tasmania, and £7.3 in Western Australia. Now he pays only £3 in uniform tax. A taxpayer with an income of £200 a year now pays £5.6 under uniform tax, whereas, formerly, if he resided in New South Wales he had to pay £10.1, in Victoria £7.9, in Queensland £7.8, in South Australia £18.2, and in Western Australia £16.8. A taxpayer who receives an income of £250 a year pays £9 under the new system, whereas under the former system he had to pay £22.2 if he resided in New South Wales, £19.3 in Victoria, £24 in Queensland, £31.5 in South Australia, and £28 in Western Australia. Those figures prove that the workers are now paying much less in tax than they did formerly. Furthermore, official statistics show that the amounts paid by Australian taxpayers in income tax and social services contribution total much less than the taxes paid in New
Zealand and the United^ Kingdom. Let us compare the position of a taxpayer without dependants who hae an income of £150 a year. In. Australia he pays £3 ls., in New Zealand £11 5s.,, and in the United Kingdom £14. ls. The recipient of an income of £200 in Australia pays £5 12s., whilst a taxpayer who receives a similar income in New Zealand pays £15, and in the United Kingdom £20 ls. An Australian who receives £250 income a year pays £9 in taxes, whereas a resident of New Zealand who receives a similar amount has to pay £18 5s., and a resident of Great Britain with a like income has to pay £32 ls. A person who earns an income of £300 in this country pays £13 2s., whereas a person who earns a similar amount in New Zealand pays £26 17s., and a resident of the United Kingdom has to pay £44 ls. A person who receives an income of £350 pays £1S ls. in Australia, £3S lis. in New Zealand, and £56 ls. in the United Kingdom. Those who earn an income of £400 pay £23 15s. in Australia, £50 4s. in New Zealand, and £68 ls. in the United Kingdom. Those whose income amounts to £500 a year are called upon to pay £98 ls. in the United Kingdom, £74 19s. in New Zealand; but only £37 10s. in Australia. That comparison proves beyond dispute that taxpayers in the lower and middle income groups in this country pay much les9 than their counterparts in either New Zealand or the United Kingdom. Of course, it may be true that persons in receipt of very high incomes pay slightly more here than do the recipients of similar incomes in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. However, as I have previously pointed out, those people are well able to afford to pay taxes. Indeed, we need only to peruse the daily press and to examine published balance-sheets to learn that almost every public company is earning substantial profits, and that those profits have progressively increased since the war. In to-day’s press, particulars are given of the number of public companies whose profits have recently been distributed, and they are paying huge dividends to their shareholders. Although this budget does not provide for a reduction of income tax, I am sure that, at the appropriate time, the Treasurer will review the present rates.
This Government has already expended an amount of £108,000,000 on repatriation benefits and the re-establishment of ex-service men and women. In incurring that expenditure, the Labour Government has fulfilled the promise that it made to these people when they were still in the services, and honorable members generally will agree that the money has been well spent. I am pleased to he associated with a government which has honoured that promise, because I recall vividly the plight of many ex-servicemen after World War I. The Labour Government was determined that that condition of affairs should not recur. After World War I., many thousands of demobilized men were walking the streets of our cities in search of employment. They existed on the dole until the outbreak of World War II. in 1939. Many unemployed persons enlisted because they had not been able to obtain work. i
– Is that why the honorable member enlisted to serve in Africa?
– I repeat that many Australians enlisted in 1939’ because they had been unable to obtain’ employment. When I make that statement, I do not want honorable members’ opposite to think I believe that those men would not have enlisted if they had been in employment. The position was that in 1939 they were out of work and were forced to do something to occupy themselves. They had been at a loose end and had not had an opportunity to learn a trade. If this Government had not introduced the re-establishment scheme, many of the men who served in World War II. would have been in the same position after demobilization, as thousands of young men were in after World War I. Those unfortunates tramped the streets of our cities and towns in search of work, but the government of the day did very little for them. I am gratified that the Labour Government has honoured its pledge to ex-service men and women, and I know that the vast majority of those who have had the advantage of the rehabilitation scheme, which is administered by the capable Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), are now able to take their place -in; life as skilled tradesmen. Had the Labour Government been as. remiss as were some of its predecessors, many of those young men would now be at a loose end and of little value to the community. No one appreciates this Government’s rehabilitation scheme more than does the ex-serviceman himself. The expenditure of £10S,000,000 has been excellent in a national sense, because many ex-servicemen have been and are being trained, as skilled tradesmen. The shortage of carpenters, bricklayers and the like is acute, and the training of exservicemen under the Government’s reestablishment scheme is assisting to solve ihe labour problem in our industries.
Since the end of the war the Government has made gifts of £25,000,000 and £10,000,000 to the United Kingdom, and this budget provides for a further gift of £10,000,000. That is a wonderful gesture by the Australian Labour Government, and the gift has been of great assistance to, and is deeply appreciated by, the people of the United Kingdom. We realize that their position is most difficult. If the Government of the United Kingdom should require further assistance, I am sure that the Australian Labour Government will readily come to its aid, even though’ the amount of the gift may be relatively small.
The Treasurer, in his budget speech, has dealt extensively with social services. That subject has been mentioned frequently in this debate, but honorable members cannot refer to it too often, because the social services benefits which this Government ha.? provided r.vc unparalleled in the history of the world. It is true that our sister dominion of New Zealand has also introduced many social service benefits, and it may be true that, in one or two instances, that dominion makes slightly larger payments than the Australian social services scale provides for. However, the Australian standard of social services generally gives greater benefits to the recipients than does the New Zealand system. The Curtin Labour Government took office in October, 1941, without a majority in this House. However, it enjoyed the support of two independent members, who believed that, in the period of crisis for the freedom-loving peoples of the world, the Labour party was the only party that could be entrusted with the government of this country. Whilst prosecuting a maximum war effort, the Curtin Government’ showed its consideration for the plight of many unfortunate Australians who were not able to help themselves. That Government made many social reforms. I venture to say that if the Opposition parties had remained in office, they would not have exhibited such concern for the welfare of the less fortunate section of the community. Until the Curtin Government introduced its reforms, the social services available to the Australian people were limited to invalid and old-age pensions, child endowment and maternity allowances. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that nearly every increase of social services has been the result of action or agitation by the Labour party. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has claimed on numerous occasions that old age pensions were introduced by the government led by Mr. Alfred Deakin, and if he were in the chamber now, he would. I am sure, attempt to repudiate what I am about to say. It is true that Mr. Alfred Deakin introduced the first old age pension legislation, but it was not he who originated the scheme. That was done by the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, and a few other Labour members of State parliaments. In those days, practically all the States had tory governments. Labour members tried to induce the State governments to introduce pensions schemes under which men and women, often the pioneers of the country, who, because of misfortune, were no longer able- to support themselves, should receive something from the State in the eventide of their lives. The Labour representatives were not successful in the State parliaments, but they continued the agitation when they became members of the Federal Parliament. It is true that Mr. Deakin introduced the old-age pensions scheme, but he did so by virtue of a compromise reached with the Labour party led by Mr. Andrew Fisher. In return for support by the Labour party for some of his other proposals, Mr. Deakin agreed to institute the system of old-age pensions.
Other social services, such as invalid pensions and maternity allowances, were introduced directly by Labour governments. Many years elapsed until, in 1941, child endowment was introduced by the Menzies Government, but it did not do so because it was anxious to assist parents. The workers had a basic wage claim before the court, and the Government of the day realized that if child endowment were not introduced the employers would probably be called upon to pay a higher basic wage. Social services in Australia are unparalleled in any other part of the world. The present Government has increased invalid and age pensions from 21s. to 42s. 6d. a week. Whilst I am pleased at that, I hope that it will be possible later to increase the rate still further. The maternity allowance has been increased from £4 10s. to £17 10s., and there is no means test such as there wa9 before the Labour Government took office. Child endowment has been increased from 5s. to 10s. a week. An allowance has been provided for the wives of invalid pensioners, something that was previously unknown. The Labour Government has also introduced widows’ pension, and has provided funeral benefits, unemployment and sickness benefits and hospital benefits, all of which are a great boon to the workers. Under an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, by which the Commonwealth pays to the State hospital authorities so much for each occupied hospital bed, people may now receive free hospital treatment- throughout Australia. This Government has also introduced a free pharmaceutical benefits scheme, buunfortunately, it has been held up because of the strike by members of the British Medical Association. It has been stated in this House over and over again that only the workers go on strike, but the British Medical Association in Australia is striking against the Government. Members of that organization have refused to give the people the service to which they are justly entitled. I hope that the Government will win the day, and force the doctors to give the people free medicine and free medical treatment, for which the Government is prepared to pay.
I am very pleased to be associated with the present Government, and to be able to give my support to the budget. Members of the Opposition have criticized the budget, describing it as a dismal failure. I claim that the budget reflects the true financial position of Australia. It contains no rash promises, ‘but I am confident that when the people have the opportunity to express their opinion on the 10th December next, they will return the Labour party with an overwhelming majority, knowing that under a Labour government the country will he happy and prosperous.
.- The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has given us a long tarradiddle about alleged taxation reductions by the Government. In this, he was merely repeating the claims of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in his budget speech. However, according to the figures of the Auditor-General, which were submitted to the House with the budget speech itself, taxation from all sources, far from having been reduced, has increased by £120,000,000 during the last three years. In 1945-46, the total amount of revenue collected from taxes was £350,000,000. Last year revenue from taxes amounted to £471,000,000, an increase of £120,000,000. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has claimed that extraordinary reductions have been made in rates and he has tried to pretend that they are comparable with those that were made after World War I. I have obtained figures that were compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician and they provide an accurate comparison of the situation of taxpayers on various scales of income after World War I. and at the present time. The following table refers to the taxes levied upon single taxpayers on various salary ranges in 1948-49 and in 1927-28:-
The following table compares the taxes paid in the same years by a man with a wife and two children: -
It is true that the Commonwealth now collects income taxes for the States and to compensate for this in my illustration, the 1927-2S figures could be doubled. I shall prove later in my speech that the extraordinarily high incidence of taxation has completely destroyed all incentives to work.
This budget is most distressing to the people, who looked for at least some amelioration of their conditions. The dollar crisis has provided us with a sharp reminder of three important truths. The first is that the dollar crisis has affected Australia very much more severely than it has affected the United States of America or Canada. It has had a very considerable and harmful effect upon the United Kingdom and Australia, both of which are under socialist control. The United States of America and Canada, the two great non-socialist countries, are pulling the world out of its mess while Britain and Australia are bogged down because of the energy, time and money that have been (wasted in socialistic ventures. One of the first facts that one notices about the dollar crisis is that it completely debunks the glittering story of the Chifley system of brummagem finance. The Labour party has declared ever since the depression that Australia can be insulated against all international financial repercussions. Another fallacy that the Labour party has persisted in fostering for years is that, when a Labour government held office briefly during the depression, it was unable to give effect to its policy because it was hampered by a hostile Senate. However, as I have pointed out on other occasions in this chamber, members of the Labour party do not believe that story themselves. Had they believed it, the Scullin Government would have asked the people to abolish the Senate in accordance with the Labour party’s platform. Instead of doing that, honorable members opposite have sheltered for years behind the tale that the Scullin Government was hamstrung by a Senate in which there was an antiLabour majority.
Australian export figures to-day are higher than ever before. “Wool, wheat and other commodities that we send overseas are bringing extremely high prices. Although our exports last year realized £545,000,000, the Treasurer has told the Parliament that he cannot afford to expend a mere £2,000,000, or less than onehalf of 1 per cent, of the export receipts, in order to enable us to prevent petrol rationing. Australia needs only onetwentieth of 1 per cent, of the volume of petrol consumed throughout the world in addition to normal imports in order to obviate petrol rationing. Petrol is of great importance to both our primary and secondary industries, but it is of special importance to primary industries, because they have no alternative transport facilities such as are available in our cities. This situation completely destroys the doctrine, which has been promulgated by the Labour party for the last twenty years, that Australia can insulate itself against world troubles. That fallacy has been the basis of Labour’s financial policy and of most of its actions, and now, in the hour of crisis, it is proved to be a broken reed. Australia’s economy is just as much a part of the world system as my arm is a part of my body.
Another truth, which is emphasized by the starvation of our economy in the midst of the greatest outpouring of wealth that we have ever known, is that Australia has failed to take advantage of its favorable post-war position to increase its production and the sales of those commodities that the world badly needs and is ready to buy at high prices. Instead of following the sound policy of encouraging production, the Government has in fact encouraged the people to “go slow “, taxed away’ the incentive to work, and created uncertainty in the community with its socialistic projects at a time when we need confidence most. Our production has failed. The Prime Minister did not really need to devalue the Australian currency. The Australian £1 devalued itself in a kind of instinctive protective reaction against the dangerous position in which our economy found itself, just as an eye blinks automatically when some foreign matter lodges in it. Devaluation was forced upon us as a means of protection in the mess in which the Government had landed us. The devaluation of the Australian £1, however high-sounding it may seem and however much it may be dressed up by the economists and financial geniuses, is most damaging to our prestige. It is the procedure that kings and dictators followed for hundreds of years when they debased their currencies by clipping the coins. Any poor individual citizen who clipped the country’s coins was sent to gaol. But a dictator or treasurer who did the same thing was hailed as a financial wizard.
The effect of devaluation will be to slug the workers, the people earning middle and small incomes, and consumers generally by adding another flat rate of taxation to the taxes that are already levied. The only saving factor in Australia at present lies in the existence of the home consumption prices that have been fixed for certain goods, such as butter, sugar, and wheat. Those home consumption prices were established for the benefit of the people by non-Labour governments in the period before World War II. They are not rising, whereas the prices of all imported goods, especially those from dollar countries, are rising rapidly. The Labour Government has ignored the cardinal principle of taxation - that is, ability to pay. Recognition of that principle has always led to the adoption of a system of graduated income tax. An examination of the budget reveals that almost all the taxes that are proposed will hit the small man harder than they will hit anybody else and that they are mostly levied at a flat rate. The Treasurer’s estimate of the revenue that will be derived from the social services contribution is £99,000,000. I do not know why the right honorable gentleman did not budget for a revenue of £100,000,000, but perhaps his conscience troubled him a little. The social services contribution is payable at a flat rate of lSd. in the £1. Single men and married men with two children will pay the same amounts of money by way of social ser vices contributions if their incomes are £600 a year or more. The social services tax is a complete fraud. A strange feature of this budget is that it is proposed that almost every tax shall be levied at a flat rate. Sales tax is to be levied at a flat rate, as are customs duties, excise and entertainments tax. In the impact of those -taxes on the community, there will be no discrimination between persons in the low and the high income groups. Family men will be most adversely affected because they must buy many commodities for their families that other persons can do without. Worse than that, the Government intends to persist with the stupid practice of taxing gross incomes before deductions are made. That will hit the small man most, because, relatively speaking, deductions are of less value to persons in the higher income groups than they are to persons in the lower income groups. In fact, in the case of some persons in the higher groups some of the deductions actually disappear.
– A man with an income of less than £500 a year does not pay income tax.
– I understand that at the present time there are many working men who earn more than £500 a year and my illustration has been given already. I understood that the whole of the Government’s case in regard to income tax was that the income limit had been raised. I shall show later how the Government has reduced the real income of the people and that the real income of the individual Australian at the present time is what it was in 1932-33, in the depths of the depression.
The most tragic commentary on the budget is that although we have hundreds of millions of pounds frozen in London and hundreds of millions of pounds are being raised in this country by taxation, there does not appear to be enough money available to give to the Kempsey flood relief fund more than £20,000, which is only one-tenth of the amount that the public has subscribed by way of free gifts and approximately 1 per cent, of the total loss that has been caused by the floods. There does not appear to be enough credit available in either the sterling area or the dollar area to enable eis to import the paltry quantity of petrol that would enable us to avoid the reintroduction of petrol rationing in Australia. Petrol has become one of the universal raw materials of primary and secondary industries.
I hope to prove that the story that has been told by the Government in this budget and in its propaganda is largely bogus, full of boasts, alibis, and distortion, and that in many instances it conceals the truth. First, let us take the social services fraud. The social services contribution is payable at the rate of 18d. in the £1. The revenue from it last year was £80,000,000, and this year it is expected to be almost £100,000,000. It is said that that money will be used to pay age pensions and other social services benefits. Before the social services contribution was introduced, age pensions and maternity bonuses were paid from general taxation and a major portion of the cost of child endowment was met from the payroll tax. For many years widows’ pensions in New South Wales were paid from the proceeds of general taxation. The only new benefits that are paid from the enormous revenue that is derived from the social services contribution are funeral benefits, unemployment and sickness benefits, and hospital benefits, the total annual cost of which is less than £10,000,000. When we defeat this Government in December, we shall put into operation a policy that will enable us to abolish the social services contribution in its present form and institute a national health service scheme in which doctors, chemists, friendly societies, voluntary aid societies and hospital boards of management will play their parts willingly. They will not be forced to do so. That scheme will raise the standard of health and nutrition in this .country. We shall also devise a method of limiting the liability of the nation in respect of such services.
The claims made by the Labour party in its advertisements are full of falsehoods. Recently, an advertisement appeared in the press in which the following statement appeared under a portrait of the Prime Minister: -
In their long term of office before the war, the same anti-Labour forces that seek election this year borrowed their way into financial chaos” followed by the huge unemployment and widespread suffering df those unhappy years.
That statement is false. The budget papers show that in 1922 the Commonwealth Government debt was £353,000,000 and that in 1939, it was £317,000,000, or £36,000,000 less than in 19-22. There is a footnote which states that £10,000,000 of State indebtedness in London has been taken over by the Commonwealth for transferred properties and £12,000,000 in connexion with the ex-servicemen’s land settlement scheme. If we examine the position overseas, which is the Treasurer’s long-suit in these wild statements, we find that in 1922 the total amount of Commonwealth debt in London was £114,000,000, and that in 1939, it was £98,000,000, or £16,000,000 less. If the £10,000,000 transferred property debt is taken into account, it was £26,000,000 less in 1939 than in 1922. The Treasurer has added State and Commonwealth borrowings together and blamed antiLabour governments for having borrowed that amount of money even though many of the State governments were Labour. Even on that basis, we find that in 1922 the State and Commonwealth overseas debt was £411,000,000 and that it is now £428,000,000. It is obvious that overseas borrowings were not the cause of the depression. It was caused by an international crisis and the consequent decrease of the prices paid for our major exports.
Dealing with the position of Australia after the 1914-18 war, Mr. Colin Clark, an eminent economist with a. world-wide reputation, said -
From 1920 to 192G-27 came a rate of economic progress which has never been equalled at any other time in Australian history, or scarcely in the world.
In many other countries there have been short, or sometimes prolonged, periods of very rapid economic growth, and from the available statistics of national incomes I have selected all the available figures. It will be seen that this period when production per head in Australia was expanding at the rate of 91 per cent, per decade, nearly constitutes a record.
That is what an independent authority had to say about the particular period to which the Prime Minister has referred in his advertisements. The manner in which real incomes rose, according to table 8 that appears on page 18 of Clark’s booklet, is well worth examining.
It shows that the real income produced on a 45-hour week basis was £210 a head of working population in 1918-19 and grew to £350 in 1932-33. The figure rose from £210 in 1918-19 to £330 in 1927-28, or at the rate of 91 per cent, in a decade, which was roughly 9 per cent, a year. I have had taken out for me by the Commonwealth Statistician figures that show that since 1938-39 in spite of the increase in the use of labour-saving and time-saving devices that have been made available to the country’s industries, real earnings have been increased by only 22 per cent, of the index figure. That is to say, the increase is 2.2 a year compared with the increase of 9 per cent, a year in the decade between 1918-19 and 1927-28. I have had the figures brought right up to date .working on Clark’s basis, and I find that real income kept on increasing until 1939-40, when it was £392 a head of working population. It then started to fall until in 1945-46 it was £350 a head, which was exactly the same as the figure in 1932-33, which was the worst depression year that we hare experienced. It seems to me, therefore, that the Treasurer should show some sense of proportion with respect to these matters. Now let us look at the relative increase in investments in the two periods. Between the years 1921 and 192S the confidence and buoyancy of industry were so great that investment in land, buildings and machinery jumped from £130,000,000 to £240,000,000. During the last war between the years 1940 and 1948, although the value of money was only half what it was in the previous decade I have mentioned, the increase of investments was only £120,000,000- that is to say from £305,000,000 to £425,000,000. That increase of £120,000,000 occurred over a period of eight years of war, compared with an increase of £110,000,000 in the previous period of seven years that I have quoted, when money would buy twice as much equipment as it would during the last war. Employment in the manufacturing industries rose from 320,000 to 450,000 persons in the 1920-21 to 1927-28 period concurrently with the increase of the average of real income from £210 per annum to £330 a head of working population per annum. Primary pro duction also increased. The number of dairy-farmers increased from 50,000 to 120,000, and the number of dairy cattle increased .from 1,750,000 to 3,500,000. Butter production rose from 90,000 tons to 200,000 tons. That increased prosperity can also be traced throughout secondary industries in the figures that I have already given relative to real wages and employment levels. This country entered a period of real prosperity two years after the 1914-18 war. It is now more than four years since the end of the last war, but we have not yet achieved a similar real prosperity. In fact, our failure to achieve very much will be clearly seen if we compare our efforts with those of Canada which has a non-socialist Government. We can bring about the same rapid rise of real prosperity as we had after World War I. if we establish the right conditions. Canada has done it in its progress between 1939 and 1949. That country offers a very strong contrast to Australia’s stagnation. In Canada a sane realization of the country’s best approach to its problems has placed it in a position in which it has been able to devalue its currency by only 10 per cent, in relation to the American dollar - and then only because it suited Canada’s pocket to do so - compared with a 54 per cent, depreciation of Australian currency, which was forced upon us. Canada is in the proud position of being one of the three countries that were represented at the epochal conference on currency the decisions of which have shaken the world. In fact, Canada and America are the only two countries which were able to settle currency problems. Britain was called in only to have the decision communicated to it. We could still do what Canada has done, and as we ourselves did after the last war, if we had good government and confidence among the people so that they would realize that they would be allowed to gain something from their labour. During the last war, and in the period immediately succeeding it, Canada gave or lent to Britain, in that country’s hour of distress, about £1,000,000,000 worth of goods machinery and credits to be used in any way that Britain chose. Australia’s gifts to Britain total less than £40,000,000 sterling of frozen credits, an amount that has been lying like a huge block of ice in Britain’s internal economy. Making that gift was like putting a block of ice into a patient’s stomach and expecting it to cure the pain. Instead of giving Britain useless money balances we should be giving it food to enable it to save its sterling and dollar resources instead of spending them for food from other parts of the world than Australia. Our money gift amounted only to an entry in a book.
Canada has increased its volume of production by from 60 to 80 per cent, overall compared with pre-war years. In Australia, as the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) pointed out recently, we have just held our own in production, or have shown a decline, even though there are 1,000,000 more people in Australia now than there were before the last war. Of course, in both Canada and Australia there has been an enormous increase of money values, which conceals the real position, and so it is necessary to look at volume instead of value. In Canada, under a nonsocialist Government real incomes increased in the 1920’s as they did in Australia, but in Australia real incomes have declined in recent years under a socialistic Government. The test of which country has had the better success in post-war development is provided by petrol. Canada uses twice as much petrol a vehicle as Australia does, but it has no rationing. Australia is so “hard up” in the most bounteous season ever known, and with the highest prices for its products ever received, that it cannot afford to pay for one-twentieth of one per cent, of the world’s consumption of petrol to obviate rationing, when petrol is indispensable to the continuance of production.
The following contrast is most illuminating : -
From 1939 to 1947 the production of chemicals in Canada increased by 75 per cent, in volume and by 180 per cent, in value. In 1947 overall production increased substantially in ten of the twelve major industries in that country the percentage increases in the more important of those industries during the preceding twelve months being as follows: - Coal power distillation 28.5 per cent., heavy chemicals 29 per cent., fertilizers 28 per cent., paints and varnishes 21.4 per cent, and supplies 37.4 per cent. Thus, there is no industrial stagnation, or decline, in that country; on the contrary, production is increasing annually. Employment losses in Canada have been much less than in Australia. Last year, the volume of production per man of general lines in Canada increased by 4.8 per cent, whilst the unemployment rate was 1.3 per cent. The loss in working days decreased from 4,500,000 in 1946 to 2,400,000 in 1947 and to 657,000 in 1948, the last-named figure representing a loss of only l/10th of 1 per cent, of the total working time. Canada achieved that record without any talk about full employment about which we hear so much in this country. According to the Official Canadian Review, the outstanding feature in industry in that country between 1938 and 1946 was the marked increase in the volume of manufactured products which was doubled during that period.
During the recent war Canada increased its power generating capacity to 11,000,000 horse-power installed, the increase during that period being greater than Australia’s total installation. Last year seven times more electricity was generated in Canada than was generated in Australia. The population of Canada is roughly 13,000,000, or almost twice the population of Australia, but Canadians utilized seven times more power. Here in Australia, however, the Communist influence has been allowed to run practically unchecked. The production of coal has been stationary, and our power installation has been increased by only 30 per cent, since 1938. Yet the Government has granted permission for the expenditure of 1,000,000 dollars for the purpose of importing cement making plant from the United States of America despite the fact that existing cement manufacturing works in this country are at present operating at only half their capacity because they cannot obtain sufficient coal to meet their requirements. Our iron and steel furnaces are working at only 67£ per cent, of their capacity. The implementation of the 40-hour week has reduced our annual production by from 10 to 12 per cent.
The Canadian Government threw the Communists out of the public service and industry several years ago, and sterilized their influence; but the Australian Government is still playing with them. During the recent coal strike, which caused a loss of production valued at £100,000,000 and a loss of £30,000,000 in wages, the Government was afraid to employ members of the Australian Workers Union in open-cut mining because of the Communist influence in the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Only a few days ago that body, because of Communist influence, threw out the Government’s proposal to institute incentive payments in order to increase production. As the result of that rebuff, the Prime Minister is leaving the question of incentive payments alone. He pointed out in Parliament that the vote of confidence was a direction to the executives of trade unions to be observed for a whole, year, but the Australian Council of Trades Unions has not dropped the matter at all. It has instituted an active campaign in the unions against incentive payments. That is the tragic state of affairs in this country. Who is governing Australia - the Australian Council of .Trades Unions or the elected representatives of the people? The tragic mess in which Australia finds itself to-day is due largely to the resistance to progressive measures by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which is always the master of the Labour party. Its control over the Government has always been very great; in fact, the Government practically regards itself as the servant of that body.
During the ‘twenties, when the Australian Council of Trades Unions passively resisted British migration, the Labour party strongly opposed migration proposals in Parliament. The Labour opposition of the day moved for- the abolition of the assisted passage scheme under which the sum of £300,000 was provided as a revolving fund in respect of the fare of each migrant from Great Britain. When the Labour party came into power in 1929 its first act was to repudiate the £34,000,000 migration and development agreement that the Bruce-Page Government had made with the British Government. Under that agreement the British Government provided half the interest on loans used for developmental projects, whilst the Commonwealth found onethird and the States provided the balance of one-sixth. Under that agreement the Wyangala Dam and other large-scale undertakings were constructed and approximately 900,000 British migrants came to Australia. I admit that perhaps, 400,000 of that number subsequently returned to the United Kingdom, but losses of that kind are inherent in all migration schemes. The point is that due to the policy of non-Labour governments during that period a steady flow of British migrants was established.
The Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Labour party also strongly opposed the policy of providing adequately for the defence of this country. Repeatedly, the Labour party during the twenties moved to reduce expenditure on the defence estimates. When Labour attained office in 1929 it abolished compulsory military training, closed down the Royal Military College at Duntroon and threw ships of the Navy out of commission, resisted the provision of funds for defence and, when world war broke out, it objected to the formation and despatch overseas of the second Australian Imperial Force. It opposed the building of the Captain Cook Dock and even objected to provision being made for the defence of the territories of the Commonwealth. Since Labour took office at the end of 1941 it has never ceased to declaim against what it calls the lack of preparedness of previous governments. That of course, is quite false, as is proved by statements made by the late John Curtin who, on the 12th November, 1941, said -
I have to pay tribute to the government which preceded my own for the constructive work .they have done in defence and the foundations they have laid.
Again on the 18th October, 1941, Mr. Curtin paid further tributes to the previous administration in the following words : -
The Navy was at its highest pitch of efficiency, as was demonstrated by the notable exploits of its ships overseas. The home defence Army was well trained and its equipment had been greatly improved. The strength of the Air Force had been largely increased, both in respect of home defence squadrons and the training resources of the Empire Air Scheme. The equipment of the Air Force had also been much improved. Finally, munitions production and the development of production capacity over a wide range of classes, including aircraft, was growing weekly.
I was commissioned to represent the Australian Labour Government in the British War Cabinet, and on the 1st November, 1941, I made this official statement -
The German Bear-Admiral Luetzoe has sneered at our war effort in the hope of misleading others to think of us as a feebly protected country, divided in aims, weak in resources - an easy prey . . . But Australia has 450,000 men, or 25 per cent, of the male population between 18 and 40 years, in the armed forces. By 1943 five out of every 3ix physically fit men between 18 and 45 will be under arms or making munitions. Australia has become an important Empire arsenal, supplying large quantities of munitions to the Empire east of Suez. Bear-Admiral Luetzoe has said that Australia has an army of 1,500 professional soldiers and a militia of 35,000, inadequately trained. In fact our land forces comprise 170,000 troops in the Australian Imperial Forces, 200,000 in the militia and garrison battalions, and a home guard, recruited mainly from veterans of the last war and those in reserved occupations, of 50,000. The training of the home forces is similar to that given in the Australian Imperial Force except that lessons of Libya, Greece and Crete have been incorporated. Their magnificent record in those theatres of war needs no emphasis. Australia had already built more than 1,000 planes, and considerable headway was being made in the production of new types. The Royal Australian Air Force had already expanded to over 00,000 and was increasing in strength every week. As a partner in the Empire air training scheme, Australia was furnishing thousands of trained air crews and ground staffs for service overseas. The heroic defence of Britain by the Royal Air Force was the best recruiting agent the” country had ever had. Over 220,000 volunteers have applied.
During the two years of war that preceded that meeting the Royal Australian Navy had been responsible for many brilliant victories, one of the most outstanding being the sinking of Bartolomeo Colleoni in the Mediterranean Sea. After Labour was elected to office particulars of those victories were published in June, 1943, in Facts and Figures of Australia at War, issued by the Department of Information. It is stated in that publication that at the outbreak of war in the Pacific there were 431,000 personnel in the Australian defence services, and a further 60,000 persons employed in shipbuilding and aircraft manufacturing activities. I remind honorable members that in 1935 the government of which I was a member launched the Consolidated Aircraft Company, which constructed Wirraways. One thousand aircraft were manufactured and sent to other peoples across the seas. I say quite frankly that that government was responsible also for taking the initiative with relation to the manufacture of munitions. At that stage, however, Labour was elected to office, and thereby gained the advantage of the work that had been done and the momentum that had been created. Subsequently Labour tried to destroy the credit that was our due, which was a terrible thing to do, because we should all be united in connexion with the defence of Australia. If we desire to restore our prosperity to a level that will enable us to trade on even terms with other countries of the world we must restore that buoyancy and confidence that distinguished Australia in the ‘twenties. That can best be achieved by replacing the present socialistic Government at the earliest possible moment with a government that believes in freedom and initiative, and in giving every possible incentive to production and progress.
Sitting suspended from 5.4-9 to 8 p.m.
– The budget introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is a record budget in more than one sense. The right honorable gentleman is the only member of this Parliament since federation who has introduced so many budgets. He is the only Treasurer to have introduced so many budgets in succession; and he is the only Treasurer in the history of the Commonwealth who can claim, with justifiable pride, a record that is unequalled, I imagine, anywhere else in the world. -So good is the budget, that the London Times, in an editorial on Thursday, the 15th September, said -
Australia has made remarkable progress in the ten years since 1939.
Praise from the London Times is praise indeed. The editorial added -
During six of these years the country’s efforts were concentrated on the prosecution of the war and supplies of imported goods from the United Kingdom and other parts nf the world were greatly reduced.
The manufacture of many of these goods in Australia was stimulated as a result, but the most rapid expansion was naturally reserved for the four years since the end of the war.
A manufacturing capacity half as large again as in 1939 and fourteen people in work for every ten in 1939 were among the signs of prosperity to which Mr. Chifley was able to point.
After referring to prudent investments for the country’s future as represented by vast projects for utilizing Australia’s natural resources, the Times continued -
Similar prudence has for the most part characterized the financial operations which have been based on this prosperity.
In Mr. Chifley’s words, Australia’s “external position hail been strengthened against adversity by reducing the hurden of oversea debts, accumulating London funds and securing long-term contracts for a number of Australian exports”.
The editorial then referred to Australia’s “ solid achievements “, and added -
Mr. Chifley iB entitled to point with pride to the progress which his country has made.
Honorable members opposite who have dared to criticize the budget have sought to create the impression that the country is not in a sound financial position. It is to the credit of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who made a valuable contribution on the subject of the devaluation of sterling, that he said nothing in criticism of the budget, and if that right honorable gentleman cannot find any ground for criticism in a budget introduced by a Labour Treasurer on the eve of an election, I imagine that hopes for victory at the polls are not very high in the hearts of the Opposition parties. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Opposition identified himself with the Government’s proposals on devaluation. To that degree he made a worthwhile contribution to the debate, even although it was difficult for him to do so, because, in the Liberal party there are two -sections - the Chamber of Commerce section representing importers, and the Chamber of Manufactures section which represents manufacturers. The importers wanted the Australian £1 to be appreciated in relation to sterling; the Chamber of Manufactures wanted the existing relationship to remain, as it has been allowed to remain. The Australian Country party, too, wanted the position to remain unchanged, and so the Liberal party, in a difficulty, had once more to submit to the humiliation of having the tail wag the dog.
Very little that has been said by Opposition members about the budget is worthy of much criticism, but one or two things of importance were mentioned by Opposition speakers who did try to make a case against the Government. One such matter was production. The truth is that output has risen under the administration of this Government, and, in fact, it has risen since the introduction of the 40-hour week. On the 5 th April of this year, the Melbourne Age reported Professor Copland, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University at Canberra, as having said to a meeting of the Canberra branch of the Economic Society -
Real output per man in Australia has not fallen, but has increased by probably 12.5 per cent, since before the Avar.
According to the Melbourne Age of the 19th September, Dr. P. Stevens, a research economist at the Department of Economics at the University of Melbourne, who made a survey of a number of Melbourne factories, has said -
The majority of firms have increased, their standard weekly output since the introduction of the 40-hour week in September, 1947.
Information was collected on an interview and questionnaire basis, and the survey covered 71 firms, employing 11,000 persons.
That testimony clinches the Government’s defence of the 40-hour week. But let me tell the committee as briefly as I can, how much, in round figures, this country has prospered since Labour came into office. There was very little progress between 1939 and 1941 when the Opposition parties were in power, because we were then at the beginning of a long war. However, the national income has increased from £814,000,000 in 1938-39 to £1,635,000,000 in 1947-48. Primary production has increased in value in the same period from £184,000,000 to £547,000,000. The value of our exports in terms of pounds Australian, f.o.b., has increased from £140,000,000 to £409,000,000. The value of factory production has risen from £203,000,000 to £480,000,000. The number of factories has increased from 26,940 to 37,375. Those figures hardly justify the prophets of gloom in the Opposition ranks and outside this Parliament who are continually telling the people that the country is not in a healthy state. This is my answer to honorable members opposite who want the Government to sack large numbers of public servants, and thus drive a lot of decent honest Australians off the government pay-roll so that they can be put to work for lower wages or can be denied employment altogether when the Hytten plan, exposed by (he honorable member for Parkes, comes into operation. The number of factory employees - and most of them are employed by private enterprise - has risen from 565^000 in 1938-39 to 849,000 in 1947-48. In the same period salaries and wages paid in factories have increased from £107,000,000 to £286,000,000. Of great significance is the fact that savings bank deposits have increased from £246,000,000 when ‘ the Opposition was in control of the destinies of this country to approximately £740,000,000 to-day. Savings bank deposits are the savings of the people - the little people, the people with whose interests and future we are primarily concerned. The Liberal party, in its propaganda at the last election, made certain definite promises through the speech of its leader. The right honorable gentleman said -
Our platform includes the adoption of a three years programme of progressive tax reduction aiming at a total ultimate reduction within that period of 40 per cent, in all income tax rates.
The Liberal party’s undertaking appeared to mean a uniform 40 per cent, cut in the rates of tax on all incomes, high and low alike. The Government has certainly not cut the rate of tax on high incomes by 40 per cent. For instance, the man on £15,000 a year now pays £9,000 in taxes, compared with £12,000 in January, 1946, a reduction of 27 per cent. But this Government has done a tremendous service to the people on the lower and middle incomes. Since January, 1946, the tax commitment of a man with a wife and two children, earning £400 a year, has been reduced by 87 per cent. For the man on £600 a year, the reduction has been 75 per cent., on £800 it has been 65 per cent., on £1,000 it has been 61 per cent., on £1,250 it has been 56 per cent., and on £1,500 it has been 53 per cent. It can be seen that we have catered for the needs of the lower and middle class income earners. We have looked after those who have only their labour power to sell, whether it be brain power or physical strength. Such people, the vast majority of our community in fact, have every reason to be satisfied with this Government.
Let us consider a single taxpayer without dependants. Such a taxpayer in receipt of £400 a year has had his tax reduced by 71 per cent. A similar taxpayer in receipt of £600 a year has had his tax reduced by 65 per cent., on £800 a year by 61 per cent, on £1,000 a year by 56 per cent., on £1,250 a year by 52 per cent., and on £1,500 a year by 48 per cent. A single man without a care in the world who is in receipt of a taxable income of £1,500 a year, that is, after all rebates have been allowed, has benefited by the activities of this Government during the last three years to the extent of a 48 per cent, reduction of his tax. The Opposition parties, I repeat, promised a reduction of 40 per cent. I emphasize that they wanted to cut the big man’s tax and the little man’s tax alike by 40 per cent. This Government imposes taxes in accordance with the right canons of taxation. We place the burden of maintaining the government of this country on the shoulders of those best able to bear it.
Our policy is to take from those who have and give to those in need. Since January, 1948, reductions of income tax and social services contribution by the present Government have amounted to £113,000,000. We have reduced income tax and social services contribution by £95,000,000, war-time companies tax by £3,500,000, sales tax by £26,500,000, entertainments tax by £1,300,000, customs, excise and primage duties by £6,000,000, and estate duty, gift duty and the gold tax by £700,000. These figures would be much greater if we related them to the present value of money. In the course of his policy speech, to which I have already referred, the Leader of the. Opposition made a number of promises -to the people and offered a number of criticisms of this Government. For instance, he criticized our immigration policy. I obtained two printed copies of his speech in order to make sure that what I might quote from his speech would be right. One of the copies carries a portrait of the right honorable gentleman looking a little cynical, a little disappointed, and a little uncertain, and the other shows him as apprehensive and anxious about the election result. The copies of the speech were printed by different printeries, but the text is the same in both. The right honorable gentleman said that this country should increase its population as quickly as possible. I have no criticism to offer of that laudable sentiment. He then said -
Frankly, we of the Liberal party do not think that the present Government means business.
As Minister for Immigration, I can face this Parliament and the country and at least produce a record of achievement on behalf of this Government and the Labour party that is without equal in the history of the Commonwealth since settlement first took place on our shores. I shall be only too happy to supply further details of those achievements when the Estimates of the Department of Immigration are under consideration. The right honorable gentleman allowed himself to relax in the course of his speech, because be said -
The whole difference between the Government and ourselves is that we feel that the real interests of our people will be best served, not by concentrating all our attention on the carving up of the duck we already have, but on getting on with the business of making three ducks grow where one grew before.
The Australian people probably regarded that proposition as being in the nature of a three duck trick, a sort of variant of the three card trick, for they refused to fall for it and when the election results were announced it was found that it was the Liberal party and the Australian Country party that had been carved up and not the duck. Since then honorable members opposite have not produced anything fresh with which to appeal to the people.
All the propaganda we see deluging this country at the present time, and I have plenty of it here, was circulating on the occasion of the last election. All of it was sent around the country at great expense for the purpose of trying to fool the people into voting this Government out of office; but the attempt failed dismally.. To-day honorable members opposite trot out again the same old stories about socialism and the conscription of labour, and they even seek to disguise their purpose by claiming that they are getting funds and support from the little people. I shall quote two facts to show how apprehensive they are. A meeting of the Federal Council of the Liberal party was held in October, 1948. According to an extract from the party journal, Liberal Opinion, the. Federal Council resolved that public utilities should be operated, wherever practicable, by private enterprise, subject to such statutory safeguards of the public, and especially of the consumer interests, as might be deemed necessary. Honorable members will recollect that they read in the press on Monday or Tuesday of this week that State conventions of the Liberal party in New South Wales and Victoria had carried resolutions in somewhat similar terms and that a gentleman named Bridges had said that he did not agree to the insertion in the resolution of the words “ wherever practicable “, because he wanted to get rid of all socialized undertakings. He wanted to get rid of the Postal Department, Trans-Australia Airlines, and the Commonwealth Railways. He believed in free enterprise, and he said that there were some Liberals who believe in some forms of socialized undertakings existing in a world of free enterprise. Most Australians do that. Right from the beginning of settlement in this country various forms of socialism have worked alongside private enterprise. I suppose that that will always be so. At any rate the attitude of the Australian Labour party on these matters Ls very clear and has been made manifest on many occasions. We believe in socializing those industries which the public interest demands should be socialized. We socialize an industry, if we are able to do so constitutionally, in order to protect the people from exploitation, but even those forms of private enterprise that reach the monopoly stage are not interfered with unless the public interest demands that they should be taken over. That, at any rate, is the theoretical position. In actual practice we have done very little socializing while Labour governments have been in power.
Honorable members opposite would lead the community to believe that they are averse to any form of socialism whatever. When the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister of Australia he used to rise in the morning and perform his ablutions with socialized water. He used to walk out of his house on to a socialized pavement, step into a socialized motor car - the best that the Commonwealth could buy - drive along a socialized roadway to a socialized public office. He would then take his seat in a socialized chair, read mail delivered by a socialized Postal Department and use a socialized telephone to ring his colleagues. When he had finished all that, and had enjoyed even some other benefits of socialism, he would take up his socialized pen, dip it into socialized ink and write long speeches in defence of private enterprise. Such are the activities of those in this community who write and rant against socialism.
I draw attention to the fact that in its attempt to get back to office the Liberal party has been collecting a huge slush fund all around Australia. It has been obtaining money from all sorts of sources. One reason why it has been able to obtain funds from the banking institutions is because it wants to destroy the Banking Act 1945, which was approved by the people of Australia at the 1946 election. Nobody can deny the truth of that assertion. When the 1945 banking legislation was under discussion in this chamber the Leader of the Opposition said that if his party were returned to power it would re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board. The right honorable gentleman has not publicly repeated that statement. However, the printed platform of the Liberal party, issued by the secretariat of the party in February last, at page 13 - a rather unlucky page, perhaps - provides for -
Full development of the Central Banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank, with restoration of Board control . . .
Restoration of hoard control means one thing - the handing back of the people’s bank to the private trading interests and the private bankers, thus opening the way for a repetition of what happened before in the history of the Commonwealth Bank when men like Sir Olive McPherson resigned on one day from the directorate of the National Bank of Australasia Limited to become a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board but went back to his former directorate on the National Bank of Australasia Limited when the Commonwealth Bank Board was abolished. What honorable members opposite desire is control of banking not by the Commonwealth Bank but by business men. In the days of the depression, when the anti-Labour majority in the Senate and the private banks dominated the financial and political scene in this country, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board was none other than Sir Robert Gibson. He was not a banker. He had not had any experience in banking before he became chairman of the board. He was a bedstead manufacturer. If the board were restored to-morrow another person of the type of Sir Robert Gibson would be appointed as chairman and again the interests of this country would be betrayed.
The Banking Act 1945 is on the statute-book and it will npt be removed by a vote of the people of Australia. No legislation to provide for such a retrograde step will ever pass the Senate. The Australian Country party is just as reactionary in this matter as is the Liberal party. In fact, it is even worse. I have described members of the Australian Country party on some occasions as the hill-billies of Australian politics, and on others as Bulgarians. The language which I have used to describe t h.ein ,. however,, was nut. stronger than that in; which the- former Liberal Prime Minister,. Me. Bruce, castigated them for their political blackmailing tactics-. The Australian. Country party has. proposed that control of the Commonwealth Bank b- vested in a board representative of various interests; particularly of the primary industries, such a hoard to. be entirely free from political control. Members of” that party say that they do not want political control of banking. What they want is a renewed banking control of politics. We have already had too much of that and we shall have no more of it. Having set themselves right with the banking interests, the political representatives of big business have proceeded to collect from the banking institutions money which belongs to the shareholders but which is voted away without reference to the shareholders. That money is spent, in the interests not of the community or of the shareholders, but of big business which has dominated our economic life in the past and wishes to do so again. According to Mr. Eric White, a former publicity officer of the Liberal party, the Federal president of the Liberal party has been abroad. In a publication entitled *Inside Canberra, volume I., No. 2 of the 22nd January, 1.948, the following paragraphs appear : -
Federal Liberal president, R. G. Casey, leaves to-night by ‘ Lancastrian for England. There has been no official explanation for his visit. Here is the reason.
The Liberal party feels that the next eighteen months are crucial in Australian politics, and that a supreme effort must be exerted to defeat Labour. An intensive anti-Labour, antisocialization campaign is being planned, and thousands of pounds are already in hand to finance it. But the Liberal party leaders believe that British interests, which have investments in Australia estimated at ?400,000,000, will be eager to contribute to a fund that is designed to protect their interests as much as the interests of Australians themselves.
The Liberal party’s immediate past president, T. Malcolm Ritchie, established contacts with influential business men during his visit to England last year, and has convinced Mr. Casey of the need for reminding them of the anti-socialization struggle now in progress. Mr. Casey will entertain in England selected groups of Australian investors, many of whom have never been to Australia and endeavour to convince them of the need to contribute handsomely to Liberal funds.
Mr. Casey’s target; ?100,000.
I have been quo-ting- a gentleman- who ought to know - what he. writes about, because he was the campaign director of the Liberal- party just two years ago. He was. in close touch- with them ; he has certainly never been a member of the Australian Labour party. I have details of the space that has been taken in metropolitan daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and periodicals from the 1st January to the 1st July this, year. Advertisements have been inserted by the Liberal party, Institute of Public Affairs, Taxpayers Association, People’s Union, Australian Constitutional League, Liberal and Country Party, Victorian League of Bights, Queensland People’s Party, Queensland Institute of Public Affairs, Citizens Right Association, Country and Democratic League, Tasmanian Constitutional League and the Chamber of Manufactures.
– All under-cover Liberal organizations.
– Yes, they are all under-cover Liberal party organizations, and they comprise a long list of aliases of those who have committed many crimes against the Australian people. The approximate monetary value of the newspaper space that their advertisements have occupied in the “cold war” in the first seven months of this year that has preceded the election campaign is ?28,973. They have used, or misused 28,000 inches of newspaper space.
Having got the money, our friends opposite pretend that they are not taking it. They even had the hypocrisy at a meeting in Sydney a few days ago to say that they did not want funds from business interests. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st August last stated -
How necessary it is that the Liberal party should have forceful and influential leaders was shown by the revelation at last week’s federal council meeting that in New South Wales and Victoria certain interests have been seeking to edge their way into financial control of the party.
That there are still sections of the Liberal party which would not be averse from accepting “ contributions “ was shown by the fact that Mr. Casey felt it necessary to reaffirm the party’s refusal to take donations from any outside organizations.
And so they carried a resolution that they would not accept money from commercial and business interests. But the Liberals are accepting money from those interests all right ; they are taking it in fistfuls and bucketffuls. I have a collection of circulars which have been sent throughout Victoria and New South Wales by various sections of the Chamber of Manufactures urging support for the anti-Labour forces. The one which I shall quote is typical of the rest. It bears on top the words “ Personal and Confidential”, and states - a special meeting of great importance to the industry is being held at - 312 Flinders Street, Melbourne, on
Friday, 8 July at11.30am
The address mentioned is the headquarters of the Chamber of Manufactures.
– Only for the Scullin Government the manufacturers would have been on the rocks long ago.
– I am reminded’ by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that had it not been for the action taken by the Scullin Government to protect Australian manufacturers, they would have all been on the rocks long since. It was the Scullin Administration that built them up, and the Lyons Government that nearly ruined them during the depression. The circular continues -
The matter coining before this meeting will be such as to cause you considerable concern respecting the future of your organization. You will realize, therefore, why I address a request that you, personally, attend.
It is of the utmost importance that the business head of each of the companies attends, and only if it is physically impossible for you to be there, would I suggest that you send a deputy.
And, now, here is the Ku Klux Klan touch -
Admission to the meeting can be obtained by the production of this letter or by personal recognition of the person attending. I trust you will be able to come along as it is upon people of your standing that reliance is placed for guidance and assistance.
Many of those meetings have been held. Mr. Stewart, of Hecla Electrics Proprietary Limited, Mr. Redway of Metters Proprietary Limited, Mr. Woods of Tilbury and Lewis Proprietary Limited, and Mr. Campbell of Nettlefolds Proprietary Limited were appointed a committee, and they functioned under the heading of an organization that styled itself the Individual’s Freedom LeagueIn spite of their secrecy and all their attempts to keep the situation dark, theLabour party did find some manufacturers who believed that they owed everything to Labour governments. Thesegood friends went along and listened,, and we got reports of all the things that happened. Some of the people complained that they had already given money to the Liberal party and the Australian Constitutional League, but they were told that- more money was wanted, and that they would have to contribute. According to one of the circulars which I have, every employer in Victoria is to be levied at the rate of 15s. per employee as a donation to the Liberal party.
– The amount of 15s. is the minimum.
– That is so.
– The amount is £1 a head in Brisbane.
– Yes, the amount may be higher elsewhere. They actually sent this circular to one of my friends and imposed the levy on him. He was told that his share would be 10 guineas. An honorable member opposite interjects that it was voluntary. Of course, the contribution was voluntary. If the person did not subscribe, he would not exactly find tacks in the tyres of his motor car, but he would not be able to get many of his requirements. That was a kind of capital levy which they imposed, and they have been imposing it on everybody. The following objectives have been set for various organizations: The Chamber of Manufactures, £100,000; the Chamber of Commerce, £150,000; the Individual’s Freedom League, £50,000; the private trading banks £500,000 ; and the Confederation of Furniture Manufacturers, £20,000. I have in my hand ‘ a copy of a notice in which one man’s contribution was assessed at £50. He told them that he was a Labour man. He gave me the notice and told me that I was at liberty to use his name. I refuse to disclose his identity, because I want to save him from victimization. On some of the notices, I see the name of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and the following names have been typed in - J. Stamp, L. Waite, C. Telford Smith, A. Monk- not Mr. Albert Monk of the Australian Council of Trade Unions - J. Goetz, T. Weight, W. Down, H. Austin, and 0. Granowski Those documents have been brought to us by men who feel ashamed and disgusted at what is happening. The report of the proceedings of one meeting was given to me by a friend. He also wrote to the Prime Minister. He states -
Individual members are told the amount they .are expected to pay. They are told the sums must not be shown in income tax returns as donations to trade or political organizations, hut suggested they should be charged up to advertising. It was stated at the meeting that most of the money would be given to the Liberal party campaign funds but some would be used for direct propaganda.
I ask honorable members and the hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia, who are listening to this debate to-night to take note of the following passage: -
All present were warned of the necessity “for absolute secrecy.
That fact was emphasized with the following words; -
Calwell would be glad to know of what goes on here.
Well, Calwell does know, and because he is Minister for Information, he is telling the people of Australia. Anyhow all this humbug that honorable members opposite talk about party funds has been exposed in the dog-fight which is taking place in Victoria between the Liberal party and the Country party. The Deputy Leader of the Country party in that State has attacked members of the Liberal party for using their money to try to destroy the Country party instead of the Labour party. He said that they have a huge sum at their disposal. According to a report in the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial, of the 28th May last, the Leader of the Country party in Victoria, Mr. McDonald, challenged Mr. Kent Hughes, who was then the Acting Premier, to appoint a royal commission to inquire into party funds. Mr. McDonald is reported as having said -
Since Mr. Kent Hughes’s Government is always so ready to appoint royal commissions, I challenge it to appoint one on the funds of political parties.
I would also like an inquiry into those who pay for compaigns.
Mr. Kent Hughes’s outburst is typical of the Liberal-Country party’s personal, mudslinging campaign.
What delightful language these university educated people use. Mr. McDonald continued -
I am certain that in the case of a Liberal party, the 2s. Od. membership fee, which they do not always bother to collect, does not cover the cost of their lavish campaigns.
It certainly does not. I could quote additional evidence in this matter, but I content myself with saying three other things. First, on the 7th February last the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial. reported Mr. McDonald as having said -
I regret the Liberal party has declared war but it must realize that political slavery is repugnant to free men and women.
Mr. McDonald then proceeded to refer to the Liberal party as follows: -
They had resources far exceeding a 2e. 6d membership fee and thought the lavish use of money entitled them to bulldoze the people and shove them around.
Mr. McDonald was right, but at that time he was pleading only for the Country party and not for the great democracy. And, finally, Mr. P. T. Byrnes, M.L.C., who is also a member of the Country party in Victoria, said -
The Liberal party is prepared to use its tremendous election funds to annihilate the Country party.
What has the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) to say to that statement? He does not reply. I suppose that, at the suitable opportunity, he will re-echo the sentiments of the Liberals, because he is just as much in the bag of big business as any member of the Liberal party is, and the party which he leads is just as reactionary and conservative as the other political party that sits in Opposition in this chamber. I have here a copy of a publication entitled The Road Bach. Some 300,000 copies of that publication are being printed by the Liberal : party at a cost pf £10,000. It is stated that all the characters mentioned in the publication are fictitious, and that no reference is intended to any living person. However, I read the word “Chif” six times and “Mr. Chifley” once. Of course, those expressions do not refer to any living person!
Time will not permit me to tell honorable members and the listening public all that I should like to tell them about these matters. I have in my hand1 various publications that were issued by the Liberal party on the occasion of the last election. They dealt with a variety of subjects. One pamphlet was called Pig Iron Bob. F assure honorable members, who appear amused, that the pamphlet carries the statement that it was issued by the federal secretary to the Liberal party, and the address .given is 30 Ash-street, Sydney.
-t. - Will the Minister read that pamphlet ?
– I have ‘not sufficient time to do so, because I want to say a few things about some other matters. ‘The Liberal party and the Australian Country party sometimes give their second preferences to the ‘Communist party. “Of course, they deny on occasions that they do so, but my statement is true. Two members of the Lang party in the Parliament of New .South Wales owe their election to the preference votes of the Communist .party. It .is equally true that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) is courting the Communist party for its .second preference votes in the forthcoming election, because he is advocating in the columns of the Century the Communist policy of destroying the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. He is advocating collective bargaining. I should imagine that those persons who talk about banning the Communist party would at least be consistent. When the Opposition parties were in office, at the beginning of the war, they ostensibly banned the Communist party. An election for the Senate and the House of Representatives was held in 1940. A Senate “ Vote-Thus “ ticket was issued by the Liberal party and the United Country party in combination in the State of New South Wales.
– How did the Minister get it?
– An admirer sent it to me. I have millions of admirers all over Australia.
– Does the Minister kiss them all?
– The millions who admire me would prefer to kiss me rather than kiss any member of the Opposition, and I do not blame them. The Liberal party-Country [party -candidates, who appear in the fifth column .on this ticket, were marked !, :2 and -3. Actually, they got into the fifth column by lot, hut they really deserve to be there, -anyway. Labour party candidates were given last preference and were marked 19, -20 and 21. The anti-Labour parties gave their fourth ‘preferences to a man named Walsh, who was not attached to any party, their fifth preferences to a man named White -and their sixth preferences to Lawrence Lance Sharkey. This was in the .middle of the war, when the Communist .party was supposed to he banned, yet these people gave their ‘sixth preferences to the general -secretary of the Communist party. That .shows how inconsistent they are, and what a lot of hypocrites and humbugs they are, whether it be in regard to communism, or to anything else.
Another admirer sent me a propaganda document issued by the United Country Bureau of Publicity, Information and Research. At the top of this document the following words are printed: -
A pawn ticket policy of waste-paper rations for starving people.
Printed around the four sides of the document are the words “One Lang”. Then, at the bottom, the following legend appears : -
Eel]> United Country party candidates to snip the latch on Lang on June TI.
The other side of the document bears the words “ .Starvation debenture “., and pictures the face of Mr. Lang on the lefthand side!, that of “ Jock “ Garden on the right-hand side, -and that of Lenin between them. These words also - appear on the face of .the .document -
The Wastepaper .Commissar of the Soviet Slave State ^promises to Repudiate to the Bearer his promise to pay £21,000,000 (which he has not got) on -payment of the usual 5 per cent, commission contracted outside the moratorium.
Those were the days in which this phoney individual, the present honorable member for Reid, used to pose as a Labour man, and when the Country party pretended to be his enemy. The man who sent me -the document wrote -
This was when I thought Mr. Lang was a Labour man, and the Liberal party thought he was a ‘Communist. Evidently we were both wrong.
To-day, the honorable member for Reid has the ineffable pleasure of seeing the whip of the Australian Country party, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) - I almost said for Long Bay, because of the association with “ Jock “ Garden - whipping for him in this Parliament. Honorable members opposite give their de facto leader every opportunity to do what he wants to do. They provide him with the numbers to move adjournment motions and generally help him as he helps them in his opposition to the Government.
The people of Australia, I believe, are satisfied with this Government. They are satisfied with the achievements of the Treasurer. They are satisfied with their great leader. They want the things for which the Prime Minister stands - a “ fair go “, justice to all, and privilege to none. They do not want the parties of that Opposition that ruled and ruined the country in the past. They say to themselves: “ Chifley spells security ; but Menzies spells muddle; Fadden spells failure, and Ryan spells ruin “.
– The committee has been treated to one of the best examples of stage management I have ever seen even the expert Labour party put on. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) did not address one word to the Opposition. The benches on the Government side are packed. Hardly a head is missing, and the Minister addressed ‘his remarks to his supporters. He had something to say about the little people and party funds. I want to say something about that, too. You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, as a brother South Australian, will realize that I am speaking the truth when I say that the parties on this side of the committee are also supported by the iittle people of South Australia. I am one of them - one who might be called a poor peasant of South Australia. There are 40,000 electors in the division of Wakefield, and 11,000 are financial members of our party. They have paid in their money. In my own electoral division, there are 41,000 electors,’ of whom 9,000 are financial members of our party. Most of them have signed orders under which their subscriptions are obtained year after year. Only recently, the newspapers in South Australia published a statement by a namesake of mine, Mr. C. R. Cameron, who will be in the next Parliament as member for Hindmarsh. He is secretary of the Australian Workers Union in South Australia, and if the press report of his statement is correct, every member of the Australian Workers Union in that State has been levied 5s. for election expenses.
– It is a voluntary contribution.
– Yes, and what would happen to the trade unionist who failed to pay up? Public money has been expended by this Government on Labour party propaganda. Back in 1944, the metropolitan and country press all over Australia carried advertisements putting the Labour party’3 point of view regarding the referendum then about to be held. When we questioned the Minister for Information on the subject, we were told that the cost of the advertisements had been charged against post-war education. Thus, the cost of the Labour party’s disastrous appeal to the people, not only for the holding of the ballot itself, but also for the presentation of the Labour party’s case, was taken out of public funds.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has handed me the answer which was given to a question on notice, so it must be correct. It states that 500,000 copies of a booklet called Social Services of the Commonwealth have been printed at a cost to the taxpayers of £8,607. The copy that I have has been labelled by somebody on every page, in big blue letters, “ Webb for Swan - Vote Labour “.
– Another half million copies are on order, too.
– Yes. I say that that is an act of dipping into the pockets of the taxpayers. Many men are in places like Long Bay gaol for having dipped into the till in that way. This is an act of administrative prostitution o£ which Mary Magdelene might have been intensely proud in. her unregenerate days.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Government stamped the words “Webb for Swan - Vote Labour “ on the booklets ? That was not done by the Government.
– Copies of the publication are standing in high stacks waiting to be distributed. Every honorable member on the Government side of the chamber knows perfectly well that this publication was prepared for the purpose for which it is being used, and for no other purpose. This is a proof of our contention that government departments and the funds of taxpayers are being used for the dissemination of Labour propaganda. In view of the fact that the Minister for Information was good enough to quote something that came into his hands by means which we all understand, I shall put a question to him. As he is the Minister for Information he may choose to answer it, but I do not think that he will do so. Certain advertisements have appeared in the press recently appealing for funds for the Australian Labour party. They .bear the names of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and Senator John Armstrong. Those names are well known to us. I ask honorable members opposite why the money is to be sent to those three gentlemen. Under their party organization there are trustees who are supposed to handle such funds. Who are they? I shall tell honorable members. One is named Ferguson, another is named King, and the third is named Densford. If my understanding of the political biographies of those gentlemen is correct, each one of them has a Communist background and that is why contributions to Labour party funds are .being directed into the hands of Ministers instead of into the hands of the trustees. The Labour party does not want to be caught as it was caught by Evans and Hughes in Sydney in 1940, when a breakaway organization paid its election expenses out of the party’s funds.
The Minister also mentioned the subject of savings bank deposits. As the result of the inflationary policy that this Government has pursued, and which I shall discuss later, the value of savings bank deposits to-day is very much less than it was in 1941 when the Labour party came to power. In fact, the value of the money in those savingsaccounts is decreasing week by week under this Government’s administration. Thosehigh deposits are in the savings bankssimply because people cannot exchange the money for the goods and servicesthat they require. The shortage in that connexion is due to the industrial policy that has been fathered and fostered by this Government. The Minister took great credit unto himself and the Government for reducing taxes, but the fact is that, with every reduction, the Government has obtained more revenuefrom taxes. How much uncollected tax remains outstanding only the Lord, theTreasurer, and perhaps somebody else, knows, but they have not told us the figure up to date. The Minister alsoreferred to public utilities. Surely heknows perfectly well that the Liberal party believes that there tare certain utilities of a public character that can bebetter administered under State control than in any other way.
– I do not believe that the Liberal party holds that view.
– The Minister might have the courtesy to hear what I have to say. I listened to him for once in silence, and the feat imposed upon me one of the greatest strains that I have ever sustained. To listen to the honorable gentleman was a penance. Surely he knows that within very recent times a Liberal-Country party government in South Australia nationalized the electric supply services of that State, with the support of an overwhelming majority of the members who sit behind its Ministers in both houses of the State Parliament.
Now I come to the subject of the Commonwealth Bank. One would think, after listening to the so-called democrats on the Government side of the chamber, that they believe in democratic methods of management. But as soon as they deal with a bank, a public utility, or anything of that description, they reveal themselves as dyed-in-the-wool dictators. They want a dictatorship. They want Dr. Coombs to he in sole charge of the Commonwealth Bank. They do not want more than one mind to be engaged upon the task of administering the bank. They do not want any number of experienced persons to be brought together so as to advise the Government. There are certain aspects of the Banking Act 1945 that have not been tested in any court. Only one test has been made, and in that test the Government lost every round. I have a strong suspicion that, when certain other tests are made, it will lose those rounds also. Therefore, irrespective of whether the Government is returned to power or not, the time must come when certain obvious illegalities in that legislation must be brought into the light of day in court, where judgment must be pronounced upon them. The Government has just increased the price of gold. Tt takes credit to itself for that although, according to the Banking Act 1945, gold is no longer a backing for the Australian currency. The Government suffered a defeat at the prices referendum, but, according to the Banking Act, it took the sole right to fix the price of gold. I say that the Government has no pricefixing powers at all outside of its own territories. I shall refer to that subject later for another purpose. The people of Australia need have no fear of anything that will occur in relation to banking if the Liberal party is returned to power, because it believes that a government should govern. If a Commonwealth Bank board did not carry out the policy that a Liberal government considered that it ought to carry out, the words of the old gentleman in the Old Testament would apply - “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away “. The Liberal party believes that the authority which confers power upon such a board can take away the power, qualify it, or destroy the board.
Now I dismiss the statements that were made by the Minister for Information and come to the matters that I originally intended to discuss. First, we have a record budget. According to every Minister who has spoken, this is an example of what Australia can do under Labour rule. We have heard that to-night from the Minister for Information, we heard it earlier in the debate from the rusty bugle of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), and we heard it in the first place from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) him self. This is a prosperous year. Yet, in this prosperous year, the nearest that the Government can get to balancing its budget, to use the expressive term of the Treasurer himself, is £35,000,000. He calls that a gap to finance from loan funds. If the Government cannot get within less than £35,000,000 of balancing its budget in a good year, what in the name of fortune will the gap be like when we experience lean times? I do not expect the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), who will probably speak after me, to enlighten me upon that matter. That water is a little too deep for him.
– It is too deep for the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron).
– The Minister is deceiving himself. I dislike quoting statistics, but I must do so in order to make some comparisons. The Labour Government was voted into office eight years ago next Monday. Since then our population has increased by 14 per cent., the number of age and invalid pensioners by 18^ per cent., the cost of age and invalid’ pensions by 133 per cent., the note issue by 214 per cent., the total debt of Australia by 100 per cent., and the debt of the Commonwealth by 317 per cent. The total interest burden has increased from £50,000,000 a year to £83,000,000, or by 66 per cent. All that has occurred under a government that is supposed to have conferred wonderful benefit’s upon Australia. I say that the Government has indulged in a policy of downright, wholesale inflation in regard to our currency. When it assumed office, the note issue was £67,000,000. According to the latest figures that are available, the issue is now £214,000,000. That is a tremendous increase. Most of the note issue is in the hands of the public. It is there for the reason that I gave a few moments ago - that is, that the people cannot exchange their cash for the goods that they want. Inflation is also occurring in the Public Service. The official report of the Public Service Board reveals that on the 30th June, 1948, the strength of the Public Service was 120,991 persons. Of that number, only five of every twelve men and women were permanent officers. In 1939; the strength of the Public Service was 47,000 persons, of whom 32,000, or over 66- per cent., were permanent officers. According, to- a letter that I received from the Public Service Board, this week, the- latest information that the board can give me regarding the number of public servants relates to the 31st December, 1948. In the six months between the 30th. June,. 1948, and the 31st December, 1948, the strength of the Public Service increased from approximately 121,000 to 131,300 persons.
– Blow many of them will honorable gentlemen opposite sack if they are returned to office?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) knows as well- as I do that this honeymoon, jubilee, jangle, or whatever it is called,, cannot go on much longer. He knows perfectly well what he will do when adversity strikes him, as it struck him when he was a member of the Hogan Government in Victoria. At that time he agreed to the Premiers plan, but he did not resign his office.
– I lost my seat over it.
– The honorable gentleman did not resign. He has not yet let go- of anything on which he has had a grip. If the number of public servants can increase by over 10,000 in six months, I should like to know from the Minister for the Navy what is the upper limit of the service.
– How many public servants will the honorable gentleman sack if the Opposition parties are returned to power?
– That does not arise. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) says the electors may well sack some Ministers of this Government.
– The honorable member for Barker has said that most public servants are redundant.
– There is too much crossfire or back-chat going on. This Parliament is the highest debating body in the Commonwealth, and its members should set an example to other bodies by the way in which they conduct themselves when debates are in progress here. The dignity and prestige of the Parliament must be maintained. If some honorable gentle men are not prepared to consider the dignity of the Parliament, they should consider their own dignity. I remind the members of the committee that our proceedings are being broadcast. If honorable gentleman who have been interjecting realized how silly interjections sound to persons who are listening in, they would refrain from carrying on in the way in which they have been doing. While I am in the chair interjections will not be allowed;.
– I compliment you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, upon having made a discovery. I trust that my time wall be extended’ by approximately three minutes, because during the course of my speech that amount of time has been taken u-p by interjections from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and by the cheering of the Minister for Information when he resumed his seat.
I shall now deal with price fixing. The cost of living is rising. In the Commonwealth Gazette of the 15th September, the Commonwealth price-fixing authority published a list of the prices of certain commodities in Canberra. According to the list, in Canberra, a 1-lb. loaf of breadis to cost 4Jd. and a 2-lb. loaf of bread is to cost 8-Jd. I do not know that those prices are lower than corresponding prices elsewhere. According to the decision of the local price-fixing authority, the charge- that may be made in Canberra for half-soling and heeling a pair of boots, sizes 4 to 9, is lis. Id. I get my boots repaired in South Australia for 7s. 6d. The prices of methylated spirits are given in terms of 6-gallon, 5-gallon, 4-gallon, 1-gallon, ^-gallon, and quart tins, 36, 35 and 34 oz. bottles down to half-pint bottles. There are two- prices. In every instance the Canberra price is higher than the price in Jervis Bay. Both of those territories are under Commonwealth control. Similar considerations apply to kerosene. A 44-gallon drum of kerosene costs 2s. 2-Jd. a gallon in Jervis Bay and 2s. 3d. a gallon in Canberra. I bought a drum of kerosene recently in the area in which I live, and I think that the price that I paid for it was 2s. Id. a gallon. I challenge the Minister for the Navy to produce price-lists from each of the
States and to compare them; with the Commonwealth list. The Minister nods, but that is as much as he will do. I am quite sure that neither the Minister nor his colleagues are prepared to accept my challenge to compare what this Government has done in places in which it has no State government or other body to interfere with it with what is being, done by Labour party, Liberal party, or Country party governments in the States. The Postal Department, which is entirely a. Commonwealth concern, recently increased its charges considerably. The price of sugar is to be increased by £d. per lb. That was a decision not of a State government but of the Chifley Government. The Parliament is to be asked to give effect to the increased price before we go to the country.
I turn, now, to the cost of houses. According to a recent press report, the Government is to import experimental prefabricated houses from Britain, Italy, and other countries that were damaged or occupied by the enemy during the last war. In Australia, which suffered no war damage, we cannot even house our own population. We have to import houses from, overseas. According to press reports, the cost of the wooden and aluminium prefabricated houses that are to be imported is £1,850. The cost of houses has practically doubled during the period of office of this Government. I read to-day that tenders for 1,000 houses are being called for by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). It will be interesting to see what that produces.
I come next to the “ quality “ of living in Australia under the present Government. How often do the people find it impossible to obtain white sugar? How often in the jam season do housewives find it impossible to obtain sugar at all? And why? Not because there is any shortage of sugar in Australia, but simply because there is a shortage of the will to work. It is organized, confounded loafing and nothing else, and it is of no use beating about the bush. Transport generally is not as good as it was in 1939 prior to the war. Shortages of gas and electricity, and consequent blackouts are common. We now have a system under which everybody is supposed to get more leisure, but in fact the people have less opportunity in which to enjoy their leisure. Not only has- the cost of living in this country increased, but the quality of living has also deteriorated. One stock example is in respect of housing. Would anybody compare modern building construction with the standard of construction that existed before the war, and say that modern construction is better than pre-war construction? Look at any modern housing scheme and it will be seen that the standard of construction does not equal th?standard that the people enjoyed until 1939. All honorable members know that fact perfectly well, because the truth of it can be seen in their electorates just as easily as it can be seen in mine.
I had intended to make some remarks about devaluation but I have another interesting matter that I shall introducefirst. I have a strong suspicion that at the forthcoming general election somehonorable members opposite, possiblyincluding yourself, Mr. Temporary Chairman, will refer to the socialization objective of the Labour party, and endeavour totell the electors that it does not mean what it says. I have taken the trouble to obtain from the Parliamentary Library the official report of the proceedings at the Labour party’s conference at Brisbane, in October, 192’. I shall quote certain passages from it to show that a fair fib is being told about the party’s objectives. Robert Burns once said -
Some books arc lies from end to end, And some great lies were never penned
But the truth is contained in this Labour party document, every word of it. I have served in State and Federal parliaments with many of the men who were delegates to that conference, and not until the subject of nationalization of banking arose did I ever hear any mention of the existence of what has since come to be known as the “ Blackburn Declaration “. I also say to honorable gentlemen opposite that no such declaration has any effect or validity inside the Labour party, and I shall prove it from this document. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has been on the air lately, and the ether has been burning with his song. Has that honorable gentleman ever read this original document? I ask him that, because anybody who has ever read it through would be left in no doubt about what “ socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange “ means and what it was intended to mean by those who adopted it on behalf of the Labour party. There is also no doubt about what those who opposed it said that it would mean. I shall make some reference to the rules of the Labour party that are still followed. I hare a copy of the report of the proceedings of the triennial conference of the Labour party that was held last year, which I obtained after going to a great deal of trouble. Getting a copy of the report of the proceedings of that conference is like asking for an orginal manuscript of the New Testament. In fact, it is almost impossible to obtain a copy of it. I should have thought that a party which claims to be so close to the people as the Labour party claims to be would be only too willing to have its conferences in public so that the public could know what happens at them. One of the greatest political frauds that I have ever known was perpetrated only last year at that triennial conference. Rule 6, which was adopted in 1921, states -
There is a special reference at the opening of the 1921 proceedings to the fact that Tasmania was unrepresented and that instead of there being 36 delegates at the conference there were only 32. The chairman therefore ruled that seventeen votes must be cast in order to carry any motion that would affect the pledge, constitution or platform of the party. Rule 10 states -
That is interesting in view of what happened before the conference was over. I shall now quote some other interesting passages from this interesting document. According to page 80 of the report, the late Mr. Maurice Blackburn said that he- . . did not like the objectives of the All-Australian Congress. Its phraseology was indefinite and they did not know what it meant. It included nationalization and a lot of other things. The word “ socialization “ was used because it meant all things to all men. In giving it out to the people they should have no doubt as to its meaning. Mr. Ross wanted every agency of production, distribution and exchange socialized. How were they going to say to the people, “ We don’t propose to disturb the small proprietor unless his production means the exploitation of others”? The objective must be so clearly worded that he who ran would read; but the present objective was such that he who read would run.
That is the statement of the gentleman who was supposed to he so keenly in favour of this proposal. Mr. Riordan who, I think, was a relative of the Minister for the Navy, then said-
– It is a famous name.
– Yes, and it will be doubly famous after I have read what the other Mr. Riordan had to say, and the Minister will be sorry that he interjected. Page 9 of the official report of the proceedings of the 1921 conference contains this statement -
Mr. Riordan said that it was just as well to understand the great trend of opinion at the All-Australian Congress was that a new order of society was necessary in order that the worker got a fair deal, and it was with that object ‘in view the Congress re-drafted the objective. The opinion of that Congress was that socialization could only he brought about by utilizing the present system of Parliament to nationalize all industries. It was not intended, for example, that the State insurance should be socialized and handed over to the workers. It was intended that all industries should be first nationalized and then socialized. Under the new order there would be a central body. The coal miner would not hold up the new community. He may under the present system hold up the capitalistic system. There would be no danger of that under the new order, because the community would not tolerate him doing so, and if he did so would send some one to replace him and he would starve.
On page 11 one of the most distinguished members that the Labour party ever produced is mentioned. I refer to Mr. E. G. Theodore. The report states -
Mr. Theodore opposed the proposal. He did not oppose the word “ socialization “ as understood until recently. According to the Melbourne Congress socialization did not mean nationalization or collective ownership, but some kind of control obtained through nationalization and ultimately control by councils. All industries were to be controlled by supreme economic councils. Mr. Ross quite frankly said socialization might mean nationalization first, and then the control by some kind of Soviet system.
That is the statement of Mr. Theodore, and I do not think that even his worst enemy would regard that gentleman as a fool. I now come to the famous Blackburn declaration. I read the following extract from the official report which was headed “ A Declaration “ : -
Mr. Blackburn (V.) pursuant to notice, moved : “ That this conference declares :
That the Australian Labour Party proposes collective ownership for the purpose of preventing exploitation, and to whatever extent may be necessary for that .purpose.
That wherever private ownership is a means of exploitation it is opposed by the Party, but
That the Party does not seek to abolish private ownership even of any of the instruments of production where such instrument is utilised by its owner in a socially useful manner and without exploitation.”
– What is wrong with that?
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) will see what is wrong with it before I am finished. The report continued -
Mr. Kean (V.) seconded.
Mr. McNamara (V.) asked what was the good of their spending two or three days in arriving at socialisation of industry? It was very difficult nowadays to say what line of private ownership was not some form of exploitation
The honorable member for Hume will take a sympathetic view of this -
Take land, which it was largely intended to cover. Even if the farmer was only working for himself, and producing, he was exploiting, unintentionally, through the land values.
Mr. Boss rose to a point of order. The issue already raised had been disposed of and decided on. This was very conflicting with the socialisation scheme and the methods adopted. If they had this, in addition to the resolutions regarding socialisation, they would have a whole host of trouble throughout Australia, which would not make for clearness of thought or exposition. This would becloud the whole thing in a world, of fog.
The Chairman said lie was not prepared to say Convention should not discuss the motion.
Mr. Kean (V.) said the motion clarified the whole position. They were not necessarily opposed to private ownership. The evil arose when exploitation came in. The quarrel was not against private ownership, but against exploitation. They must admit private ownership in some things. The case of the man who derived benefit from appreciated land values was provided for. They did not expect in their time to nationalise land and agriculture. It would be in the form of private ownership without exploitation. The taking of the social value away from laud removed the last vestige of exploitation.
Mr. Boss said that motion would conflict with the ones they had arrived at. They should leave well alone, and stand or fall by what they had done.
The motion was carried by 15 votes to 13.
That motion failed to obtain the 75 per cent, of votes required under the conference’s standing orders to be cast in favour of a motion of that kind before it could properly be declared to have been carried. The report continued -
Mr. Riordan (Q.) said, according to the Standing Orders, the motion was not carried, because it interfered with something already done, and a majority of delegates had not voted for it.
Mr. Theodore (Q. ) said: It goes on to the platform. It does not interfere with it.
Mr. Scullin (V.) did not see how the motion could be ruled as affecting the platform.
Chairman ruled the motion did not affect the policy already carried.
Mr. Riordan moved to disagree with the Chairman’s ruling.
Mr. Whitford (S.A.) seconded.
The motion was defeated.
So, the chairman’s ruling was upheld. I have studied the policy of the Labour party, conference after conference, and with the exception of that reference to the so-called Blackburn declaration, that declaration was not heard of again until it was raised at the triennial conference of the Labour party that was held last year. Honor-able members opposite can search the platform of the Labour party from beginning to end and they will not find in it any reference to that famous declaration.
– That is not true.
– It is true; and I invite the Minister to produce any reference in the Labour party’s platform to that declaration. I come now to the conference of the Labour party that was held last year. Some interesting matters were brought up at that conference. I read the following extract from page 14 of the official report : -
Messrs. Clarey and Bardolph moved reception of report and that items be taken seriatim. Carried.
Messrs. Clarey and Chamberlain moved adoption of “ Objective, The Socialization of Industry, Production, Distribution and Exchange “, as presented in the Constitution and the Report.
Mr. Cameron (S.A.) moved amendment: That the motion stand as indicated, -with the addition of the following words: - “ (a) That the Australian Labour party proposes collective ownership for the purpose of preventing exploitation, and to whatever extent may be necessary for that purpose; (6) that wherever private ownership is a means of exploitation it is opposed by the Party; but (o) that the Party does not seek to abolish private ownership even of any of the instruments of production where such instrument is utilized by its owner in a socially useful manner and without exploitation.”
Points of order were raised.
That Mr. Cameron is the gentleman who will be elected to the new Parliament as the member for Hindmarsh.
– No ; there will be four Camerons in the next Parliament and, perhaps, I may form my own party if things should not be to my liking. As the delegates did not understand what Mr. Cameron was talking about they had to wait until some one hunted up the report of the 1921 conference. I read the following extract from page 16 of the report of last year’s conference : -
Chairman read an interpretation of the Objective as carried by the 1921 Federal Conference. . . . Chairman ruled that the matter relating to the interpretation of the Objective of the Party as carried by the 1921 Conference can be reaffirmed by this Conference.
How any one can reaffirm something that was originally ruled out of order and never carried, I do not know. However, the matter was reaffirmed. The report continued -
Messrs. Webb and Chamberlain moved: That the matter of the Objective be now before the chair. Carried.
Messrs. Clarey and O’Flaherty moved the adoption of the Objective as contained in the report of the Platform Revision Committee, viz., “ The Socialization of Industry, Distribution and Exchange “. Carried Unanimously.
Mr. Cameron (S.A. ) moved the reaffirmation of the interpretation of the Objective of the Party as carried by the 1921 Conference.
Seconded by Mr. Bardolph
Dr. Gaha moved adjournment of debate until later in the proceedings of Conference.
Mr. Walsh (Q.) seconded.
Mr. King raised point of order, that as Mr. Clarey had the call, is it competent for the adjournment to be moved.
The Chairman upheld point of order.
Mr. Clarey opposed the motion.
The motion that Mr. Clarey opposed was a motion reaffirming something that was not carried at the Brisbane conference. The report continued -
Mr. Cameron said that in view of the position disclosed by Mr. Clarey, that the 1921 declaration still stood, he desired to withdraw his motion. Messrs. Walsh (South Australia) and Toohey moved: That leave be granted to withdraw the resolution. Carried.
The interesting thing about the triennial conference that was held last year was its attempt to reaffirm something that had been declared by the chairman to be out of order at the 1921 conference. After some explanation by Mr. Clarey, which explanation was not committed to paper, the gentlemen who moved and seconded the motion asked for leave to withdraw it, and leave to do so was granted. But nobody asked for leave to withdraw the 1921 objective - the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange - because that was carried unanimously. It was reaffirmed by the conference held last year, but when that conference came to consider the so-called Blackburn declaration it treated that declaration in the manner that I have indicated. Therefore, during the forthcoming general election no member of the Labour party, whether he be a member of Parliament or not, can’ justifiably make statements of the kind that I have heard and seen printed in certain quarters on this matter. Any member of the Labour party who reads the report of the 1921 conference must know that the Blackburn declaration does not, in fact, exist. He must inevitably ask himself, “If such an important declaration qualifying the 1921 policy did exist, why in Heaven’s name is it not attached to the party’s platform ? “ A political party that claims to uphold a declaration of that kind does not hide it under a bushel so that nobody can find it. I say again that of the members whose names are there, I had never heard the late member for Bourke, Mr. Blackburn, Mr. Scullin, who is still a member of this chamber, John Price, S. R. Whitford, or Mr. E. E. Yates, who is still living in Adelaide, refer to the existence of this thing until the banking issue arose. This so-called declaration is published in the back of the report.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Three minutes has been taken off my time. If there is any sense of justice in this world, I should be allowed to address the committee for another three minutes.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member will resume his seat. His time has expired. He has been allowed to address the chamber for 45 minutes, the period that honorable members may speak to this debate.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) put -
That the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) be granted an extension of time.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. J. W. Hadley.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy - Minister for the Navy) [9.38]. - Before addressing myself to the budget, to which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has made only passing reference, I shall reply to some of his assertions. First I shall deal with the matter to which he referred last, namely, the Blackburn declaration in connexion with the resolution that was carried at the 1921 conference of the Australian Labour party in Brisbane. The honorable member purported to give honorable members a correct interpretation of what took place at that conference. As the honorable member pointed out, a relative of mine of the same name as myself was present on that occasion. I say emphatically that the honorable member’s interpretation of what took place at that conference is incorrect. The Chairman’s ruling that the declaration altered neither the platform nor the policy of the Australian Labour party was upheld. I thus give the lie direct to the honorable member’s implication. That is the truth of the position, and I shall not reply at length to the honorable member’s diatribe. “We do not require him to interpret Labour party policy for us. He was most critical of this Government’s proposal to import pre-cut houses, and stated that they would cost about £1,800 each. According to figures that have been furnished by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) there have been built in this country by all instrumentalities in the last three years not less than 145,146 houses. It is well known that when honorable members now sitting in Opposition formed the Government of this country, and Mr. Bruce, now Lord Bruce, was Prime Minister, they introduced a housing bill, in accordance with their promise to the people, but when it was passed they forgot all about the matter. Now we have the self-same outlook on the housing problem. The honorable member for Barker has criticized the Government’s decision to import prefabricated dwellings. I remind the honorable member that the Government has used every possible means to make up the leeway in the construction of houses caused by the war, and by the inactivity of previous administrations. As I have said, the sole contribution made by the Bruce-Page Government to the solution of our housing problem was to pass an act. In subsequent years, governments of the same political complexion failed to tackle this problem although ample supplies of materials were available and thousands of Australians were unemployed. Those governments fell down on the job, yet the honorable member for Barker has the temerity to criticize the present administration because of its efforts to house the people of this country adequately. The importation of these prefabricated dwellings will provide homes for an additional 1,000 families.
Although the honorable member for Barker was critical of the number of public servants, he refused to state, in answer to an interjection, just how many public servants would be sacked if, by some miracle, the Opposition parties were returned to office at the next election. The honorable member obviously fails to realize that there has been enormous industrial development in this country. Earlier to-night the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) gave some interesting figures illustrating that development. I remind the committee also that, as the result of World War II., the activities of the Repatriation Department had to be expanded considerably and that many thousands of ex-servicemen are still undergoing medical treatment. In addition, the Government is assisting exservice men and women under the Reestablishment and Employment Act. flier e services require substantial administrative staffs. However, public servants throughout the Commonwealth will be most interested to know just what is in the minds of honorable members opposite.
The honorable member for Barker claimed that an appeal for election funds for the Labour party had been issued over the names of Mr. Ferguson, Mr. King, and Mr. J. C. Denford
– The honorable member said that appeals were being made by individuals who had a Communist background. The three gentlemen whose names I have read are the trustees of the New South Wales State fund. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong) - names that the honorable member did use - are the trustees of the federal parliamentary party fund which has nothing to do with the New South Wales State fund. The honorable member for Barker knows quite a lot about slush funds, of course, because he was a member of a government which delved rather deeply into these matters.
Before coming to the budget, I wish to refer to a cowardly personal attack that was made on the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) in the course of this debate. I was in this chamber, sitting beside the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson), when the attack was made, and I was astounded to hear a man whose administration as a Minister of the Crown had been criticized, make such a cowardly assault on another honorable member. Of the 45 minutes allowed to the honorable member for Moreton for his budget speech, he devoted 32 minutes to his attack on the honorable member for Lilley. I know that because I timed him. In the course of those 32 minutes, the honorable member for Moreton admitted that during his term of office as Minister for War Service Homes, he had evicted a returned soldier. In other words, he confirmed the statement made by the honorable member for Lilley. I shall deal in a moment with some of the untrue statements that were made by the .. honorable member for Moreton about the honorable member for Lilley, but first I wish to refer to one statement that was perfectly true. The honorable member for Moreton said that the honorable member for Lilley did not speak very frequently in this chamber. Certainly he does not speak as frequently as does the honorable member for Moreton, who talks on every subject and regards himself as a master of everything, but every time the honorable member for Lilley rises, lie has something of value to place before honorable members. Obviously, he must have had something of value to say on the occasion in question, because it took the honorable member for Moreton 32 minutes1 to reply to him. The honorable member for Moreton speaks so ineffectively and so frequently that he invariably empties the House. Some honorable members refer to him. as “ The Minister for Pomposity and Importance”. For the first time in my political life, I have risen to attack another man, but I do so because I believe that the honorable member for Moreton made a most unjustifiable assault upon the honorable member foi” Lilley. I wish first and foremost to place before the committee and before the listening public, the truth about the honorable member for Lilley. The Brisbane Courier-Mail starred the attack made by the honorable member for Moreton, but made no mention of the statement that had been made by the honorable member for Lilley. I hope that the Courier-Mail will have something to say about the statements that I propose to make to-night. Three years ago, about this time, we were on the eve of an election, and a similar campaign was whipped up with the object of unseating the honorable member for Lilley. The CourierMail joined in the campaign by making a personal attack on the honorable member for Lilley, very much on the lines of that made by the honorable member for Moreton in the course of this debateBut what happened? On election day, the electors replied to the attack made by the Courier-Mail by returning the honorable member for Lilley and increasing his majority fourfold. I am confident that the result of the 10th December of this year will be similar. The honorable member for Moreton also alleged that somebody writes the speeches that are made in this House by the honorable member for Lilley. I remind the committee that the honorable member for Lilley was making speeches when the honorable member for Moreton was a clerk in the Public Service. The honorable member for Lilley was an Australian Workers Union organizer in the days when an organizer had to know how to speak to men, because there was no preference to trade unionists then. He had to be able to address men at short notice and to explain to them the reasons why they should join the union. Yet the honorable member for Moreton has dared to suggest that the honorable member for Lilley had to get some one to write his speeches. On the 20th September, 1946, the Sydney Sun, which is certainly not a Labour sympathizer, published an attack on the Minister for information, in the course of which it made reference to the honorable member for Lilley. It said in effect - “ Jim Hadley is a conscientious, decent fellow, who does a good job for his constituents “. I regret very much having to reflect upon the honorable member for Moreton, but my justification for doing so is that he made an entirely unwarranted attack on the honorable member for Lilley.
In the course of his contribution to this debate the honorable member for Barker made only passing reference to the budget, but he devoted a great deal of his time to the alleged socialist plank of the platform of the Australian Labour party. He avoided detailed discussion of the budget, however, and it is clear that the reason why he, like other honorable members of the Opposition, adopted those tactics is that he realizes that the Government cannot be successfully assailed on its record. During the course of his attack on the Government, he produced a pamphlet which had been issued by the Department of Social Services in which, he alleged, there had been enclosed another pamphlet advising the recipient to “ Vote Labour “.
– That was stamped on the pamphlet.
– Of course, there is nothing to prevent the Liberal party from doing likewise, except that the pamphlet sets forth the social services that have been provided by Labour administrations. It is not necessary, therefore, for any one to endorse the pamphlet “ Vote Labour “, because its contents show just how much the people owe to Labour. To return to the remarks of the honorable member for Barker, it is significant that nearly all honorable members of the Opposition have attempted to revive the old bogy of socialism. I can remember the emaciated socialistic tiger ‘that was paraded before the electors in my youth. The honorable member for Barker, who has a flair for delving into history, had a great deal to say about the decisions of the 1921 conference of the Australian Labour party. In fact, he almost suggested’ that the world had only just discovered that the Labour party advocated the socialization of certain things. However, I point out that this plank has stood in Labour’s platform for 2S years.
I turn now to criticism of the “defence policy of the Government, and particularly to attacks that have been made upon the Government’s naval programme. The original plan of expansion for all our armed services involved the expenditure of £250,000,000 over a period of five years, of which £75,000,000 was to be expended upon the Navy. Since then costs have increased considerably, and an additional amount of £44,000,000 has been provided1 for the three services. Confining myself to the naval aspect of defence, I point out that in the three years that preceded the outbreak of war expenditure upon the Royal Australian Navy by anti-Labour governments amounted to only approximately £11,000,000, whereas in the last three years the Government has expended approximately £61,000,000 on defence, which is nearly six times the amount spent before the war. It has been suggested by members of the Opposition who have taken part in the debate that the increased expenditure has been wholly absorbed by increased industrial costs. However, it is silly to suggest that an increase of approximately £50,000,000 has been occasioned solely by increased industrial costs. As a part of the Government’s plan to provide adequate defence services, the Navy has embarked upon the provision of naval aviation. The development of naval aviation during the war demanded that serious consideration should be given to the establishment of an adequate fleet arm in the Royal Australian Navy, and on the 1st July, 1947, the Government approved of the acquisition of aircraft carriers for our Navy. That decision will have the effect of not only strengthening our own forces but also making an effective contribution to the forces of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I desire to refer particularly to the campaign that has been inaugurated by a section of the press, whose fireside strategists have attacked the Government. One newspaper even published a subleader on the matter as recently as last Monday. The press campaign was no doubt launched at this time because we are on the eve of a general election, and our opponents amongst the press realize that the establishment of naval aviation in this country must redound to the credit of the present Government. For that reason a section of the press was prepared to “write down” the Australian Navy, without making any proper inquiry into the truth or otherwise of its allegations, in order to gain some mean political advantage. It charged the Government with having purchased an aircraft carrier that was obsolete. Of course, the charge reeks of politics. Here are the facts. H.M.A.S. Sydney is the most modern fleet carrier of its class in commission. Light fleet carriers are now included in all navies of any size, including the Royal Navy, and there are numerous vessels of Sydney’s class in commission. Criticism has been levelled at the alleged lack of speed of the vessel, but its speed is sufficient to launch aircraft under almost any weather conditions. In addition, the vessel is fitted with a catapult to launch aircraft when conditions are such that they cannot be launched in the normal way. Whilst it is generally conceded that the higher the speed of an aircraft carrier, the greater is its value, I point out that that contention applies equally to all types and classes of war vessels. But it must be borne in mind that a degree of speed can be attained at which it would become uneconomical to operate a particular vessel for a certain task, and the law of diminishing returns would begin to operate. The resulting increase in the number of men required to man the ship would not be justified. In designing ships it is necessary to reach a compromise between the demands of speed, range, hitting power and the provision of living accommodation. This compromise has been successfully reached in H.M.A.S. Sydney, which is capable of fulfilling every task that it was built to undertake. That is all I have to say in reply to the criticism of H.M.A.S. Sydney.
Naval aviation was firmly established in Australia when the naval air station at Nowra was commissioned in August, 1948. On the 12th May, 1949, H.M.A.S. Sydney arrived at Fremantle with the 20th carrier air group, and the group has now worked up to full operational efficiency. H.M.A.S. Sydney >ia now returning from ite first visit to northern waters, where it underwent exercises in company with other units of the fleet. Workshops have been built at the Royal Australian Navy air station, Nowra, to enable the service to carry out the maintenance and normal repairs of aircraft and components and to maintain the reserve aircraft. Arrangements have also been made for the major repair and overhaul by civilian firms of Royal Australian Navy aircraft, aircraft engines, propellers, and other machinery and equipment. Most of that work is being undertaken by government annexes.
This afternoon the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) referred to the desirability of integrating the Australian and the New Zealand naval forces. At the moment, all I can say concerning that suggestion Ls that large-scale fleet training exercises in which H.M.A.S. Sydney will take part have been arranged for next October and November. Those exercises will be held in conjunction with ships of His Majesty’s New Zealand squadron, comprising the cruiser Bellona and five frigates. The New Zealand vessels will arrive in Sydney next Monday. Last year units of the Royal Navy visited New Zealand to hold exercises in association with the New Zealand squadron in that squadron’s home waters.
Much was learned concerning naval defence during the recent world war, and we discovered that the greatest potential threat to our sea communications in the event of war may be enemy submarine attack. Compared with earlier types, the modern submarine embodies radical improvements in design and performance, the most important of which are a much higher underwater speed and the ability to remain submerged for much longer periods. Submarines of the future “will undoubtedly be armed with torpedoes of greater performance and other new weapons and devices, including possibly atomic weapons. It is incumbent upon any government that is conscious of its defence responsibilities to take cognisance of those facts, and the present Government has certainly done so. Not only would our merchant fleet be exposed to attack on the high seas and along our coastal trade routes, but also the approaches to our ports could be mined, our harbours attacked by midget under-<water craft, as they were during the war, and possibly our industrial centres subjected to bombardment by missiles launched from submarines. The Government has taken steps to meet this potential threat. They include the modernization of existing ships, the equipment of ships under construction with the latest weapons and devices for combating submarines, and the efficient training of officers and men to operate the new equipment. To assist in this training, the United Kingdom Government has kindly agreed to make submarines available for service on the Australian station. They will arrive in Australian waters in January next. Testerday I issued a statement to the press in which I informed the general public that two of these vessels, H.M.S. Pelemachus and H.M.S. Thorough, will probably leave the United Kingdom in November and arrive in Australia in January. A third vessel, which has not yet been selected, will leave for Australia at a later date. Each of these submarines will carry a crew of about 60, but a spare crew and the majority of a base maintenance staff of approximately fifteen members will also be provided by the Admiralty. Anti-submarine training is now one of the most important aspects of naval activity. The acquisition by the Royal Australian Navy of the aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. Sydney has made maro important the provision of full antisubmarine facilities, now that one of the tasks of the Firefly aircraft borne by the carrier includes submarine hunting. It is necessary also that the crews of other ships, particularly of destroyers, frigates and other smaller vessels, should be trained in submarine detection. Both of the submarines which are expected to arrive in J January are of the “ T “ class. Vessels of that class did excellent work during the war. They have a displacement of approximately 1,575 tons and a length of 270 feet. Each vessel carries one 4-in. gun and smaller armament, as well as many torpedoes. Plans for the provision of a modern anti-submarine school are well advanced. This school will assist in enabling personnel of the Royal Australian Navy to attain the high standard of efficiency in submarine fighting that was achieved and maintained during the war. Since the 1st July, 1947, when this plan was evolved, the Government has embarked on the building up of a modern navy. Its first act in the post-war period was to lay down two new destroyers, known a’s “Battle” class destroyers, each of 3,000 tons displacement. One of these, H.M.A.S. Anzac, is under construction at Williamstown and will be commissioned next year. The other, H.M.A.S. Tobruk, is being built at Cockatoo Island and will be commissioned at the end of this year. In addition, four “Daring” class destroyers, of approximately 3,000 tons which are, in effect, light cruisers, are to be built. They will bo of all-welded construction. That is a new development in shipbuilding in Australia. I have now shown that the Government has, in two years, embarked on a programme of building a modern navy. It has undertaken the destroyer programme, and negotiated for the purchase of the aircraft-carriers. I have mentioned the establishment of an anti-submarine school, and the securing of a loan of submarines from Great Britain.
Steady progress is being .made with the establishment of an advance naval base at Manus Island. L.S.T.’s have been employed for some time in the material and logistic support of the Manus project. In addition to taking north a large range of motor transport and earthmoving equipment, those ships have carried stores and equipment of all kinds for the establishment of the naval base and the continuance of the salvage project under way in New Guinea. The back-loading of the L.S.T.’s has consisted mainly of salvage from United States assets taken over on Manus Island, the bulk of which is being utilized in various housing schemes on the mainland.
Honorable members will note that an amount of £5,868,000 has been provided in the Estimates for Pay and General Upkeep of personnel of the Permanent Naval Forces. On the outbreak of war, the sea-going personnel of the Royal Australian Navy totalled 5,500. The numbers reached the peak in 1945 when the naval forces consisted of 39,900 officers and men and 2,700 Wrans and nursing sisters. When I assumed office, the reduction of the war-time naval forces and release of personnel were in progress. Demobilization continued smoothly, and at the 30th June last, 38,105 members of the naval forces had been demobilized. Under the post-war plan, the seagoing “ personnel authorized at the 30th June, 1952, totals 14,753, and, at present, 10,300 are borne, including nearly 400 on loan from the Royal Navy and 1,000 recruited in the United Kingdom for the Royal Australian Navy. It was essential in the establishment of naval aviation that the Royal Australian Navy should rely on personnel on loan from the Royal Navy to start the programme. Further personnel on loan will be required for forming the Second Carrier Air Group. However, 75 per cent, of the air crews will be of the Royal Australian Navy officers and ratings, and it is hoped that by 1952, 85 per cent, of all personnel will be of the Royal Australian Navy.
Although there will probably always be a few highly specialized types of air training which it would be uneconomical to carry out in Australia, much local training has already been established in Australia, mainly at the Royal Australian Air Force .Station, Point Cook, and the Royal Australian Navy Air Station, Nowra. It is interesting to note that the first group of rating pilots recently completed their eighteen months’ course at Point Cook, and proceeded to the United Kingdom for advanced training. The great difficulty which arose on demobilization in replacing reserve medical and dental practitioners who had been called up for service, and in releasing long trained and experienced ratings of the sick berth and dental branches, has practically been overcome. The reserve medical and dental officers have been almost entirely replaced, and soon they will be completely replaced by new entrants, the majority of whom have come from the United Kingdom. However, advertising for medical and dental officers is continuing as doctors and dentists are still required to meet the needs of the larger Navy.
To keep the conditions of service in line with those of the community in general, we are constantly reviewing the living conditions of personnel of the Royal Australian Navy. Every effort is made to improve the conditions of service generally. Honorable members will be fully aware of the defence retirement benefits scheme adopted for all services, and of the new pay code which made services pay comparable with that outside the service. More generous provision has been made, too, for overseas passages for the wives and families of personnel serving abroad, and for payment of fares of families and of cost of transport of furniture of officers and men when a permanent change is made in their place of duty. The press has criticized housing arrangements. For some time a billeting officer has been active in Victoria in order to assist in meeting the housing requirements of personnel, and similar action is under way in New South Wales. Various housing schemes to enable ratings to have their families in the vicinity of Nowra Air Station, Balmoral Naval Depot, Flinders Naval Depot, the Harman Wireless Telegraph Station, are being actively investigated.
Honorable members will be interested in other features of the development that has taken place in the Royal Australian Navy, because of this Government’s desire to strengthen our naval forces. A few years ago, we had the experience of an enemy threat to our shores, and1 we learned a lesson the hard way. Therefore, it behoves a government that is worthy of the name to take all the action that is necessary to strengthen, among other things, the naval forces of the country. I have indicated how that is being done. Apart from the ships which have been laid down and the new ships which have been secured, the Royal Australian Navy is undergoing an internal expansion. In view of the increasing importance of electricity to the Navy and the highly specialized qualifications required in personnel of all ranks carrying out electrical duties, a new branch known as the Electrical Branch was instituted in January, 1948. The responsibilities of the Electrical Branch are, broadly, the maintenance of all electrical, radar and radio equipment in the Fleet and the maintenance of electrical and radio equipment connected with naval aviation, and the operation of certain electrical equipment. From, my remarks, honorable members will see that the Navy is expanding in every direction.
Whilst the recruiting of ratings now is more difficult than it was in the immediate pre-war period, when an entry of 1,000 a year was sufficient to balance the “ wastage “ through discharges, “ engagement expired”, invaliding, and the like, and provide a sufficient surplus to make up to the then authorized numbers, an intake of 2,000 a year is now required to achieve the same object. Apart from the increased competition from other services, whose pre-war requirements were small, recruiting is being affected by the reduced birth-rate during the depression years of 1929-32. At present, 1,200 of the 2,000 recruits required annually are being obtained in Australia, and an endeavour is made to overcome the shortage by acquiring in the United Kingdom trained ex-Royal Navy ratings. The demobilization of large numbers of Reserve officers created a shortage of officers for the expanded post-war Navy, but we are endeavouring to overcome this shortage in a number of ways. First, the annual entry of cadet midshipmen to the Royal Australian Naval College during the past three years has been increased by approximately 50 per cent, of the numbers entered during the three years immediately prior to the outbreak of war. Twenty-eight were entered in 1949. Second, a special system has been reintroduced for youths aged seventeen to eighteen years to enter the Royal Australian Navy for a shorter period of training before proceeding to sea. This system applies also to youths who desire to specialize in the Engineering, Electrical or Supply Branches. Third, a system of appointing selected university students in engineering and electrical faculties to commissions in the Royal Australian Navy while in their final year has been adopted. Fourth, a number of Reserve officers have transferred to the Permanent Forces. Fifth, the promotion of ratings from the lower deck to commissioned rank has been encouraged to the fullest extent. Sixth, ex-Royal Australian Air Force personnel have been appointed to the Royal Australian Navy for flying duties in the Naval Aviation Branch. Seventh, a number of officers have been obtained on loan from the Royal Navy.
An important feature of the budget is that provision has been made for the re-introduction of naval reserve training. The amount provided in the Estimates is £260,000. It is planned to commence recruiting towards the end of 1949, so that training may begin early in 1950. Reserve training establishments in the capital city ports will be fitted out with the latest training aids and up-to-date equipment. The present Naval Reserve Forces consists of approximately 4,000 officers and men. In addition, there is a reserve of Wrens officers and ratings. In the pre-war period, an instructional staff of Naval Auxiliary Services trained the Reserve Forces, which also carried out periods of continuous training in the fleet. In the post-war reserve, it is intended that a large proportion of the instructional duties shall be carried out by officers and petty officers of the reserves who served in the Royal Australian Navy during the war, and full use will be made of the accommodation available for training at sea, and in the various Royal Australian Navy specialist schools of which many more now exist than before the war. The training of the post-war reserves will be of a more specialized character than was necessary in 1939, and provision has been made for personnel to undergo additional voluntary training and courses.
It is pleasing to be able to refer to the great interest being shown by young men of school age in the Navy League Sea Cadets, and the Naval Board has given its official recognition to that organization. To encourage this splendid recruiting ground for the Royal Australian Navy, a small amount of money is to be expended on the provision of uniforms and efficiency allowances for the sea cadets. Requests for the estab lishment of sea cadet units have been received from various schools.
Included in the Estimates is £1,880,000 for new construction.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House last night, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) repeated certain statements concerning the publication of a list of numbers of Canberra telephone subscribers after the installation of a new telephone exchange. A full and effective reply was made to him last night by the Minister (Mr. Calwell) representing the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron). I have some knowledge of this matter, and I wish, therefore, to make some observations on it. Three principal charges were made by the honorable member, each one of which was completely untrue. In making the first charge, he said -
The only list available of new telephone numbers as the result of the erection of a new telephone exchange was one published by the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party.
It is not true that the only list available was one published by the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party.
– I did not say that. The honorable member should read the report of what I said, and not try to twist my remarks.
– I know exactly what the honorable member said. He made the original statement in the course of a question, and he repeated it last night when he said that the only available list of new telephone numbers was the one published by the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party. That is completely untrue. Lists were supplied, not only to the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party, but also on the same date to the Canberra Times, the Canberra Chamber of Commerce, and all those who were connected with, the new automatic telephone exchange. In his second charge, the honorable member said that Labour party candidates had obtained a list of the telephone numbers, including “ silent numbers “ before it was issued officially, and had published that information.
– The Minister for Information said that himself.
– The honorable member for Wentworth can squeal as much as he likes - I am telling the truth. The list published by the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party does not contain one “ silent “ number, and I defy the honorable member to show that it does. Therefore, his statement on that point was also completely untrue. The honorable member’s third charge was as follows : -
On the day that a list was issued to other persons a list was issued to the Australian Labour party, which was thus given an unfair preference. The party then printed and issued it as pre-election propaganda. It was only after repeated requests had been made by interested parties that several clays later copies of the list were made available to the Canberra Times and the business community.
That statement is also completely untrue. The fact is that the list was published hy the Canberra Times on the 6th September. It was not published by the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party until the 7th September. There is not an atom of truth in the statement, that the list was published by the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party before it was available to other parties. It is true, as the Minister pointed out, that by inadvertence two “ silent “ numbers appeared on the official list issued to various organizations. The only published list containing the two “ silent, “ numbers was that published by the Canberra Times. The list published by the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party contained no “ silent “ numbers. It is to be regretted that it has become almost a custom to describe a contemptible and untrue statement as a “ Harrison “.
, - I am not at all surprised that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) should rise and try to defend the person to whom I alluded last night. Probably, in the circumstances, we would all do the same thing, but when he tries to twist what I said, he should have his memory refreshed. I asked a question, based on certain information that I had obtained from the Minister (Mr. Calwell) representing the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron). The Minister said that there was not a scintilla of truth in what I said. Then, in order to make it clear that there was a basis of truth for what I said, I pointed out that certain information had been published in the Canberra Times. I said -
In the Canberra Times of the 3rd September, 1949, an article was published under the: heading - “ Canberra Denied Information on New Telephone Numbers.”
It read as follows: - “ The failure of the Postmaster-General’s Department to issue supplementary lists showing new and altered telephone numbers arising from the introduction of the new mobile exchange on the north side of the river has resulted in confusion . . .
The official attitude up to yesterday waa that no lists of changed numbers will be available before the new telephone directory is issued in January …
The Secretary of the Canberra Chamber of Commerce (Mr. Rowe) said yesterday that the Council of the Chamber had discussed the matter and had requested the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to publish the information and also to supply a supplementary list of new subscribers in all suburbs.”
I then pointed out that the Canberra Times, on the 6th September, had reported that the Postmaster-General had released the new telephone numbers to the Chamber of Commerce and the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party, as well as to the Canberra Times. That was what I said last night. If the honorable member joins issue with me, I refer him to what was published in the Canberra Times.
– The record shows that the honorable member said that the Labour party got the list on the 2nd September.
– The dates that I have mentioned are on record, and the honorable member can check them. I then pointed out that a leaflet had been issued by the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party on the eve of an election. I did not know the date on which it was issued.
– Did the honorable member say that the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party issued a list several days before anybody else received one?
– No, I did not.
Mr.Fraser. - Did the honorable member say that?
– I said that the leaflet was published in September, and added -
It is obvious that Mr. Fraser had some inside knowledge regarding the date of the forthcoming general elections, because the leaflet concludes with these words - “ December 10. “Federal Elections: S. R. Rhodes.”
I said that he had obtained the list, not that it had been published’, before it was issued officially. That is my claim. He obtained the list, which included silent numbers, because he was the press secretary of a certain Minister. There is no doubt about that. I also said that he had obtained the list before it had been issued officially, and had published the information in a leaflet that was distributed to the people with the compliments of the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Australian Labour party. I did not say that it had been published before-
– Yes, you did.
– There are my words.
– You said it.
– It is of no use for the honorable member to try to twist what I said, because my statements are on record. I merely say to him that there is a very strong suspicion and that we may have some knowledge about who issued the list and when it was issued.
Mr.Fraser. - Produce your knowledge.
– That may be done, too, because this matter will not be allowed to rest here if it is to be the subject of discussions and challenges. The fact is that the member of the Australian Labour party concerned, who is the press officer of a responsible Minister, was placed in a preferred position over subscribers and others who should have been in a position to obtain the telephone numbers. There is no doubt whatever about that, and he took full advantage of his position. Furthermore, the list included silent telephone numbers. There may have been only two silent numbers, as was stated in the telegram from the Postmaster-General that the Minister for Information quoted. But silent telephone numbers have been refused to police and others. When the Minister for Information knew that a barrage was to be laid down, that questions were to be asked on this subject, and that information had leaked out, he communicated with the PostmasterGeneral, who sent him a telegram stating that it was only a little mistake that had been made, not a big mistake. The fact is that somebody made the information available, and I maintain that it was made available and obtained irregularly and, having been obtained irregularly, it was used to gain advantage by a political party in Canberra-
– It was not used.
– It was used by a political party for its own benefit and for the benefit of one of its members who occupies an official position in Parliament House. Such things should not be condoned by anybody.
– I thought that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) would have done the decent thing and apologized to Mr. J. R. Fraser, the press secretary to the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), for his unwarrantable attack upon that gentleman. The honorable member has not even been fair and honest in the House to-night. He has not quoted everything that he said last night. What the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) has said is borne out by a reference to what the honorable member for Wentworth said in his speech last night. This is what he said-
– I rise to order. The Minister obviously has an uncorrected confidential proof of the report of what was said in this chamber during the adjournment debate last night, and I submit that, under the Standing Orders, he cannot quote from that proof.
– I am not quoting from anything, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– The Minister just put it down. He got it from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– Order ! The Minister is not entitled to quote from unrevised Hansard proofs.
– I was about to quote from copious notes, as the honorable member for Wentworth did when he quoted what he took down last night, or what was taken down for him as a verbatim account of what he said. I have my notes.
– The Minister’s point might well have been taken when the honorable member for Wentworth was speaking.
– I am not taking any point. I say that the honorable member for Wentworth said last night -
To s>im up, on the day when the telephone officer refused to issue the list for public information an Australian Labour party official was in possession of the only official list in the city.
That is what the honorable gentleman said last night, and that is not true because the telegram from the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), which I read to the House, stated that the Chamber of Commerce, the Australian Labour party, and the Canberra Times were all supplied with lists. The Postmaster-General’s reputation is beyond reproach in this matter. He would have no reason to falsify any statement in the telegram that I quoted. The honorable member for Wentworth also said -
It was only niter repeated requests had been made by interested parties that, several days later, copies of the list were made available to the local newspaper and to interested parties.
Then to-night he said that he did not say anything of the sort. He condemns himself out of his own mouth.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that I said that the list had been published. I did not say anything of the kind.
– I am quoting from my recollection of what the honorable gentleman said, and I think; that a reference to the published volumes of Hansard in due course will show that I seem to have a very good memory of what was said. The honorable member took advantage of his right to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night in order to make a violent, unprovoked and undeserved attack upon a good public servant who won a seat on the Canberra Advisory Council. It was a miserable attack. The honorable member asked me some questions on the subject some days ago, and I answered them as well as I could at the time. I obtained information from the Postmaster-General by telegram and I had it ready after the honorable gentleman had done me the courtesy of telling me that he intended to raise this matter. I made a reply to him in my capacity as the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in this House, and I think that I replied effectively and completely to all of his misrepresentations. When the honorable member for Eden-Monaro referred tonight to the attack that had been made upon a distinguished public servant, who happens to be his brother, and stated additional facts, the honorable member for Wentworth repeated his offence, and even worsened it by attempting to blacken both the name of the officer concerned and the Canberra branch of the Australian Labour party. ‘ He said -
I consider that I have .proved beyond all doubt that this is a case which shows that the whole of the departments are thrown open to public servants.
That was an outrageous thing to say.
– I rise to order. lt is obvious that the Minister is reading from an uncorrected and confidential Hansard proof. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as the custodian of the Standing Orders of the House for the time being, whether you are prepared to permit this continual flouting of your ruling.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) quoted from a Hansard flat, and no objection was taken to that action. I am unable to observe what the Minister is quoting from. He has informed me that he is using copious notes, and I accept his word.
– The honorable gentleman referred to an individual benefiting himself in an election campaign on behalf of the Australian Labour party. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support the charge that was originally made, or the re-affirmation of the charge in a distorted kind of way. My original statement that there was not a scintilla of evidence to support the charge has been borne out by this debate and the debate that occurred last night. The honorable member for “Wentworth spoke of people who have the right, through their occupancy of official positions in this Parliament, to have access to lists of telephone subscribers. That was a callous and wanton charge. Nobody in Parliament House has access to records of that bind. This is a smear campaign. It was suggested that somebody had obtained information about silent numbers, but I pointed out that information about two silent numbers had been supplied by inadvertence. The information was supplied on approximately the 5th September to some people, but the list in which it was contained was cancelled on the 6th September. Any person who had information about those two numbers in his possession could have used it only for a period of 24 hours. He could not have made use of it in an election campaign Chat took place some days afterwards. The honorable member for Wentworth is getting a very uneviable reputation for attacking people in this Parliament, and it is time that he changed his methods.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) flO.42]. - I do not wish to quote from ilansard “ flats “ or to take part in this debate as an umpire in the controversy between the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). I think that the time has come for somebody to examine the part that the Postal Department has played in this incident. I am an ex-Postmaster-General.
– Thank goodness the honorable gentleman is an exPostmasterGeneral.
– The Postal Department has something to explain. Perhaps the honorable member for Eden-Monaro could inform me whether the Australian Labour party in Canberra is a telephone subscriber? Is it listed in the telephone book?
– I think that the secretary is listed.
– I contend that the Australian Labour party, as a telephone subscriber, is not entitled t» more consideration than is any other subscriber. The proper way in which to publicize changes of telephone numbers is by making alterations to the telephone book. That is what telephone books are for. It is utterly wrong and immoral for the Postal Department to give to any political party, organization or individual information about telephone numbers before that information has been made available to the public. Unless things have changed since I was PostmasterGeneral’ - doubtless they have changed for the worse - the list of silent numbers is not kept in the same book as that in which the list of other .telephone numbers is kept. If information about silent numbers was contained in a list of ordinary numbers, that must have been done deliberately. I am well aware that there are more than two silent numbers in Canberra. It would be interesting to know something about the two silent numbers to which the Minister has referred, and to learn why they were included in the list of public numbers.
– With whom does the honorable member bet on a Saturday?
– I do not bet with anybody. In my opinion, too much betting goes on in this place. I say that the people who are responsible for .keeping order here are not doing so.
The Minister has said that each person in Canberra whose number was changed was advised of that fact ‘by letter. I make no complaint about that, but I point out that if a telephone system is to function properly it is important that subscribers whose numbers have not been changed shall he informed of the changes that have been made to other numbers. If that were not done, much time would be wasted in transferring calls to the subscribers with whom the callers wish to be connected. With an automatic system, a ridiculous position would arise if details of altered numbers were not made available to all subscribers.
The Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral has not given. a satisfactory explanation of the matters to which the honorable member for Wentworth ;has referred. I say that they cannot he explained satisfactorily and that something maliciously and deliberately immoral occurred in connexion with the supply of information by the Postal Department to certain selected persons and authorities, while the rank-and-file subscribers were allowed to go hang. That is not in accordance with the traditions of the department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping arid Fuel has supplied the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 September 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490928_reps_18_204/>.