18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Commonwealth Grants Commission - Sixteenth Report, 1949.
The Government has adopted the recommendations made in the report, and legislation to anthorize the payment in 1949-50 of the special grants recommended will ho introduced to-morrow. Copies of the report are available to honorable members.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– In view of the widespread ignorance of the Australian Constitution and the powers of the Australian Parliament shown by Australian constitutional associations and other organizations, as evidenced by their propaganda, will the Attorney-General say whether the Australian Government wouldhave any power to nationalize coal, shipping, iron and steel, farms, private businesses, or any other enterprise, not specifically referred to in section 51 of the Constitution, without obtaining an affirmative vote at a referendum of the people asking for extra power? Isit true that Great Britain has no written constitution, as we know it, and therefore has no constitutional barriers to nationalization?
– I think that the best way in which to answer the honorable member’s question is to deal with the second portion of it first. The United Kingdom Parliament decides what is to be done for the peace, order and good government of the United Kingdom, and no constitutional obstacle stands in its way. On the other hand, under the Australian Constitution it is perfectly clear that the Australian Government would not be able to nationalize any of the industries mentioned by the honorable member without having first obtained an alteration of the Constitution by the suffrage of the people. This Parliament has no power to nationalize, for instance, the coal and shipping industries, although it. might have the power to run a shipping line of its own. Similarly, it has no power to nationalize the iron and steel industry. Primary industry would be in the same position, because the nationalization of such industries would involve the control of production and business generally, a power which is not given to the Parliament under the Constitution. I am sure that the honorable member has the support of all sections of the Parliament when he points out that it is very misleading for organizations, especially ifthey term themselves “ constitutional leagues “ to try to represent quite falsely to the people that the Parliament would have any legal power to nationalize any of the industries mentioned.
Local Government Rates
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that, because of strong representations in recent months by the Melbourne City Council, he has relaxed a rule that Commonwealth-owned buildings in that city shall be rate-free? What information has the Government showing that Greater Brisbane loses between £200,000 and £250,000 annually in rates on Commonwealth-owned property, much of which has lately been acquired and on which rates were formerly paid? Does that amount represent more than 15 per cent, of the Brisbane City Council’s total revenue, as claimed by the town clerk of Brisbane ? In view of the Government’s persistent refusal to increase its allocations of the petrol tax to municipal and shire authorities, will the Prime Minister relax the rule regarding rates to the same degree in Brisbane as he has done in Melbourne.
– I draw the honorable member’s attention, in the first place, to the fact that provisions regarding the rating of Commonwealth-owned property are contained in the Constitution, of which the honorable member is such a stern defender. It is true that certain instrumentalities, such as the Commonwealth Bank, which accept no legal responsibility for the payment of rates, make an ex gratia payment to local government bodies. It is also true the Commonwealth has made it perfectly clear that when premises are occupied solely for government purposes it is not liable for the payment of rates. There have been some instances in recent years where the Commonwealth has leased or sub-leased premises to private enterprise engaged in commercial undertakings only. There have also been instances as at Quorn in South Australia, and also at St. Mary’s in New South Wales, where the Commonwealth has established housing schemes which include houses that are let to private tenants. The Government appointed a sub-committee to examine this matter and to determine whether it would be fair to make some ex gratia payments in instances where buildings owned by the Commonwealth were used for other than Commonwealth purposes - in other words, used by privately owned commercial enterprises that were in competition with other commercial enterprises - and were used also for housing that was not required exclusively for Commonwealth servants but was let to the public in the normal manner. In such instances the Government has waived its constitutional right regarding the non-payment of rates on Commonwealth-owned property.
– What about TransAustralia Airlines?
– I shall not take up any more of the question time that honorable members value so highly. I think that I had better prepare a complete answer for the honorable member setting out the details, although I consider that I have already given him enough information to consider.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the statement of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer that the British Government decided upon devaluation of sterling on the 18th August? Was that decision withheld from the Australian Government until the 16th September? If so, was such action in accordance with the agreement reached that members of the British Commonwealth are equal partners and entitled to equal rights in deciding questions of mutual concern? Was the information withheld because of any fears entertained by the British Government which arose from the leakage of information regarding proceedings at a meeting between representatives of the British and Australian Governments?
– Order ! The honorable member knows that he is not entitled to introduce debatable matter in a question.
– Can the Prime Minister, as a Governor of the International Monetary Fund, state whether the British request for permission to devalue sterling was reffered to the fund ? Was it referred before, or after, it was communicated to the Australian Government?
– I have no knowledge of when a decision was made by those charged with the responsibility of making a decision on behalf of the British Government on the matter that the honorable member has raised. From my knowledge- of these matters, I should imagine that knowledge of any decision with respect to devaluing the currency would not be given to a very wide circle of members of the British Cabinet, or to a wide circle of members of any Cabinet, the fact of the matter being, as any person of ordinary knowledge would realize, that any leakage of information about such a decision would enable speculators outside to make tens, or hundreds of millions of pounds. No doubt, the decision on behalf of the British Government was made by two Ministers. Prior to that decision being made there would be consultation so that the Leader of the Government, or the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, in this particular case, would have an idea, as I had in respect of members of the Australian Government, of what the general view of the Cabinet Ministers as a whole would be if such a decision were made. I have no knowledge of the date on which those charged with the task of making a decision on behalf of the British Government regarding devaluation made their decision. I do know that I received’ that confidential information on a date later than that mentioned by the honorable member as the date on which the British Government made its decision. The answer to the latter portion of the honorable member’s question is in the affirmative. I was aware that the British Government would make an application to the International Monetary Fund. I knew on the Saturday afternoon, which was the equivalent of Sunday morning in Australia, that the application was being made in “Washington and I arranged with the Australian Ambassador at Washington, Mr. Makin, to make a simultaneous application on behalf of Australia. He acted as my deputy as a Governor of the International Monetary Fund. It was only with respect to South Africa that I had any knowledge on that Sunday morning of what would be done by other countries. As honorable members know applications by 30 other countries for permission to devalue their currencies have since been granted. .1 cannot imagine any government, particularly a government in the position of the British Government, which could lose a great amount of dollars and find itself in serious difficulties as the result of any leakage, allowing its decision to be made known over a wide field. I knew that the British Government, was making its application in time to enable an application to be made simultaneously on behalf of Australia.
– Will the Minister for Defence inform the House whether it is a fact that representatives of the atomic energy agencies of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America are at present holding what is known as a declassification meeting at Ontario? If so, is the purpose of the review to assist in maintaining the maximum security of the information held in common by the participating nations? Why is Australia not represented at this conference? Is it because Great Britain and the United States of America have not changed their decision to exclude Australia from atomic secrets because of its failure to stamp out the Communist menace?
– There is no foundation whatever for the statement contained in. the last of the honorable member’s questions on whether Australia has been denied any information with relation to atomic research because of the alleged fact that communism has made certain advances in this country. During the war period, the United States of America, in conjunction with the United Kingdom and Canada, undertook certain inquiries which resulted in the discovery of the atomic bomb. However, in the post-war period the United States of America has adopted an attitude of extreme caution with relation to supplying relevant information to any authority outside the United States of America. It is not true that Australia, has been discriminated against, although the United States of America has considered that it should keep to itself much of the information that it has obtained on this subject during the post-war period. The conference now taking place between representatives of Canada, the United States of America and the United Kingdom may result in information now held solely ‘by the United States of America being passed on to either Canada or the United Kingdom or both. Australia has never asked for or received any information in connexion with the development of the atomic bomb and it has not been denied any information. The Australian Government does not intend to seek any information about the development of the atomic bomb. We do not consider that we possess either the scientific or the industrial resources necessary to develop the atomic bomb in this country. We are, however, concerned with the development of atomic energy for industrial purposes, but Australia has no need to seek any information from the United States of America with relation to that aspect of the subject.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform the House of the measure of success that has been achieved by the Department of Social Services in the administration of the rehabilitation scheme? Is he aware that many people who are not eligible for invalid pensions or sickness benefits under the social services provisions desire to claim them under the rehabilitation scheme to which I have referred? Has the department power under either the Constitution or the social services legislation to consider favorably applications received from those persons?
– A division of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction is engaged on work related to the rehabilitation of disabled persons in the community. Because of the valuable experience that has been gained by officers of the Department of Postwar Reconstruction in connexion with the rehabilitation of disabled ex-service personnel, it was decided that that department should handle the new scheme at this stage. Ultimately, however, it will be administered by the Department of Social Services. A particularly good centre has been established at Victor Harbour in South Australia, which the honorable member for Hindmarsh, other honorable members, and South Australian senators visited in company with me not very long ago. There are also very fine centres at Jervis Bay and at other places in Australia. I am not in a position to give the honorable member detailed figures relating to the number of persons who have passed through these centres, and to those who have been rehabilitated. It will be obvious to honorable members generally that there are in the community many persons who are disabled or incapacitated in one way or another and are the recipients of the invalid pension, who, if they were given certain training and rehabilitation courses, would be able to take their proper place in the community and so lighten the financial burden of invalid pensions on the community as a whole. They feel that they would be able to take a much bigger part in the social life of the community if they could do a full-time job as, indeed, many disabled persons are able to do after they have undergone one of these courses. The lists of invalid pensioners have been examined, and many invalid pensioners have been trained at these rehabilitation centres. As sufficient numbers of invalid pensioners are not coming forward to keep the centres fully occupied, we propose to extend the facilities of the centres to all invalids in the community, including young people between the ages of sixteen and 21 years, who are not entitled to the invalid pension, in order to ascertain whether there are many who would benefit from the rehabilitation courses. I believe that the Commonwealth has constitutional power to provide for such an extension ; but as the law stands at present I understand that some difficulty could arise. The subject is under consideration by my department, and I am hopeful that the benefits extended to invalid pensioners at present will be extended to other sections of the community as time goes on.
– I am unable to give the honorable member details of the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth on war service land settlement. The aggregate amount that has been expended by the Commonwealth for that purpose is approximately £16,000,000. I shall have a detailed statement prepared for the honorable member which will show how much of that amount was expended for the purpose of acquiring land for settlement purposes, for the writing down of the value of properties that have been approved, for loans to exservicemen settlers and for living allowances and the like. In the matter of access roads, I assume that the honorable member’s question arises from some incident that has occurred in Victoria, as I understand that there has been some misunderstanding about the matter in that State. The Commonwealth has made it clear to the States that when large properties are acquired and a part of an estate is reserved for roads, the cost of the area reserved, plus the cost of road construction, is a reasonable charge against the development and improvement costs of the estate, and can be dealt with when the revaluations are being made. This may result in the cost being written off, and if this should happen the Commonwealth would bear one-half of the cost, in the same way as it would with all other costs of development of such an estate.
– I wonder whether the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is yet in a position, perchance, to announce a decision on the proposal to acquire the Bolaro estate for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. I recognize that it may not be possible for him to have the details of all these acquisitions at his finger-tips, so great is the extent of thisGovernment’s operations in that respect, and, therefore, I remind him that the Bolaro estate is situated near Adaminaby,, in the Cooma land district, in an area well suited for wool-growing, sheepbreeding and cattle-raising. Will the Minister inform me whether a decision has yet been reached to acquire that property ?
– The honorable mem: ber for Eden-Monaro has inquired from time to time about the possibility of acquiring certain estates close to Canberra, and I have been able to inform him whether those estates have been acquired or have been submitted to the Commonwealth for consideration. Only yesterday, I dealt with a number of estates, and the Bolaro estate, which the honorable member mentioned, was one of them. I am pleased to be able to inform the honorable gentleman that the Commonwealth has approved of the acquisition of that estate for the land settlement of exservicemen. Of course, the actual acquisition of the estate is a matter for the Government of New South Wales. If my approval is accepted by the State Government, and that estate is acquired and sub-divided, it will provide three farms which will be used for the purposes of wool, sheep and cattle raising generally. That will bring the total number of properties that have been acquired in New South Wales to nearly 500, with a total area of approximately 5.000.000 acres.
– I desire to ask theMinister for the Interior a. question relative to the proposal by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to unify transport between Alice Springs and Darwin. The distance between thosetwo centres is approximately 1,000 miles, of which only 320 miles is traversed by railway line parallel to the bitumen road. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has plenary powers, and, according to a report in the Northern Territory press, he has announced, following his recent visit to that part of Australia, that only persons backed by big- money can survive in providing transport over the journey of 1,000 miles. As many small men have invested all their savings in supplying transport services in competition with one another, can the Minister explain to the House the Government’s attitude to the announcement of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner? If the unified system of transport is introduced, will the Minister assure me that the assets of the small operators, who pioneered the transport services, will be protected?
– The stage has not been reached when I, or anybody else, can give an assurance on what may happen about road transport in the Northern Territory. The transport system in that part of the Commonwealth to-day is very unsatisfactory from every point of view, and before any additional money is expended on the railway system between Birdum, Katherine and Darwin, the Commonwealth would have to be assured that certain freights for the railways would become available. The people are crying out for a better rail service between Larrimah, Birdum, Katherine and Darwin. I have instructed the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to investigate the position with a view to organizing a co-ordinated road and rail service between Alice Springs and Darwin. If his report justifies such a scheme, the Government will put it into operation so that the transport of goods from Alice Springs to Darwin, whether by road or rail, will be covered by the one authority.
– Recently, the Chief Electoral Officer has advertised details of the new electoral boundaries in relation to the old boundaries. “Will the Minister for the Interior consider publishing maps which show all the electoral boundaries as they stand since the recent re-distribution?
– I believe that the information sought by the honorable member is already available.
– Only from post offices.
– And from electoral offices, also. I shall discuss the matter with the Chief Electoral Officer and see whether it is possible to do what the honorable member has asked for.
– In view of the statement recently attributed to the AgentGeneral for New South “Wales in London, Mr. J. M. Tully, that the Government of New South Wales intends to spend £475,000 in Germany for steel railway waggons, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Australian Government, as well as the State governments, has resumed trading with Germany? If so, does the Government propose to import goods and certain raw materials from Germany? How do such goods and raw materials compare in price with British products?Would German imports have to be paid for in dollars or sterling? Is Australia exporting any primary or secondary products to Germany? If so, are they paid for in dollars or sterling?
– I assume that the honorable member has referred to West Germany, or Bizonia, as it is called, which is under military occupation by theWestern Allies. This area has a semi-hard currency, and trade is conducted under a ceiling budget. It would be very easy to create a dollar deficit in trading with this area. To avoid doing so, an agreement was reached with the Government of the United Kingdom to limit the quantity of goods obtained from Germany and to balance the quantity of such goods which go into Germany from soft currency countries associated with the United Kingdom. A similar arrangement exists in regard to Japan. I do not wish to encroach on the time of the House by explaining the matter further at this stage. I think it would be better for me to prepare a statement on it for the information of honorable members.
– During the recent controversy about petrol, it was alleged at one stage that there was an unspecified quantity of petrol available from Russia, and a specified quantity, 3,500,000 gallons, available from Poland. I understand that Mr. Warner, a member of the Victorian Government, who made the allegation concerning Russia, has since admitted that no petrol is available from Russia. Can the Prime Minister explain the position in regard to Polish petrol? To obtain petrol from Poland1, if any is obtainable, does one negotiate with private companies or with the Polish Government ?
– As I understand the situation, according to what I regard as reliable information, Russia has not sufficient refined petrol to meet the needs of the Soviet and certain satellite countries that depend upon it for limited supplies. The Government was informed of that fact a considerable time ago, and I think that it ought to be emphasized. No requests have ever been made, either by commercial interests or by representatives of the Soviet Government, for the granting of licences for the importation of petrol from Russia. Requests for permission to import manganese ore from Russian territory were made to this Government. Consequent upon the making of arrangements by commercial interests, a permit was granted and 10,000 tons of ore was imported. Permission to import timber from Russia was also sought and obtained, but I have been informed by the merchants that the timber available was in unsuitable lengths and that the transaction was not completed. There have also been requests for permission to import newsprint. However, I repeat that the Government has received no representations concerning the importation of petrol from Russia. The Government also understood that the situation in Poland was the same as that in Russia. It was informed that the Polish Government, or Polish commercial interests, were transporting crude oil from the Persian Gulf to Stettin and that the oil was being refined in Poland. The evidence indicated that Poland had insufficient refined petrol to meet its own needs, because the haul from the Persian Gulf to Stettin is very long and expensive. When an application for an import licence for Polish petrol was made by certain commercial interests, I think by Australian Motorists Petrol Company Limited, known as Ampol, I im mediately sent a cable to the United Kingdom Government inquiring, whether such transactions would involve dollar payments. I ascertained that dollarswould not be required, and an import licence was issued subject to the condition that all petrol obtained from Poland would be paid for in sterling and that all freight charges also would be paid in sterling. Then I. received a message from the Acting Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom informing me that persons associated with the proposed deal had come to him and asked that I make advances to the Polish Government because, it appeared, Poland was reluctant to grant export licences. I asked the Acting High Commissioner by cable to endeavour to ascertain what objections the Polish Government had to exporting petrol. I did not obtain a reply to that request, and I repeated the cable message and-asked that representations be renewed with a view to ascertaining what objection, if any, was entertained by the Polish Government to the export of petrol. T have not yet received a reply.
– The Prime Minister has indicated that no provision has been made to assure the Australian Government of an adequate petrol supply. Is the Government at present hoarding petrol? If it is not doing so, how is it that, at present, the Government appears to have abundant petrol for its vehicles while the public are forming queues or travelling all over our various cities to try to obtain petrol?
– I infer from the honorable member’s question that he suggests that the Australian Government should become the sole importer of, and trader in, petrol. In other words, he considers that the Government should completely socialize the petrol industry. If that is so, I should be glad if he would advise the public accordingly. As the honorable gentleman knows, the Leader cf the Australian Country party has fallen into every hole in the road in dealing with this matter.
– “He laughts best that laughs last.”
– The position is that the importation of petrol is solely in the hands of private enterprise, if one excludes the fact that the Commonwealth is, to a limited degree, associated with Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. In that company we have no controlling interest, managerial or otherwise. We merely have the right to appoint directors, but we have no control over the affairs of the company. The real- control of the Commonwealth ‘Oil Refineries Limited, rests with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, with which the British Government is associated but over the management of which it, has no control. So far as I can ascertain there is an adequate supply of crude oil available to the world from dollar and other sources, but there is not an adequate supply of refined petrol available to the world. No refined petrol is imported into France or Italy. Both countries can get crude oil. I have no doubt that, by paying dollars for petrol from American dollar companies, additional petrol could be obtained, but that leads us to the very important question of where the dollars will come from with which to pay for the additional supplies. The only place from which those dollars could be obtained is the already depleted gold and. dollar reserve of the United Kingdom.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Australian Government has, at any time during the last eight years, entered into any agreement with American oil interests, either on its own account or through the United Kingdom Government, under which the right of ‘the Australian Government to import petrol freely from any source is in any .way controlled or limited ? If such an agreement exists, either in writing or orally, will the Prime Minister disclose its terms to the Parliament?
– I can assure ‘ the honorable gentleman that the Australian Government has not, during the last eight years, entered into any agreement with any American oil company regarding the importation of oil nor has it entered into any such agreement with any sterling country. It is perfectly true that during the term of the Churchill Government in the United Kingdom, arrangements were made, I understand, -with American oil companies, in respect of the development of leases and concessions obtained or arranged for in the Middle East, so as to maintain the supplies of petrol necessary for the conduct of the war. That, however, was a matter entirely in the hands of the United Kingdom Government. I understand that it was also agreed, I do not know whether orally or in writing, that the American oil companies concerned would be able to obtain a return in hard currency or dollars in respect of certain aspects of their capital outlay, first regarding equipment and secondly regarding dividends. It is frequently overlooked that companies that concern themselves with Middle East oil leases or concessions have had to make very substantial payments to the sheikhs or other owners. I understand also that some of those owners under whose jurisdiction the oil-bearing areas concerned fall, have insisted that payments to them shall be made in hard currency and have gone even further than that, in many cases, and have insisted that the payments shall be made in gold. I understand, that in several instances, after those owners had received payments in gold at the fixed price, they have proceeded to sell the gold at another price on some other market. I understand that that matter has been adjusted now, but all those aspects caused a very severe drain to the Middle East of hard currency held by the sterling area. Any arrangements of that kind that were made during the period of the war were, I understand, made with American companies during the term of the Churchill Government. I do not think that any pressure was brought to bear except in regard to the concessions that I have mentioned that were granted by certain sheikhs and other rulers under whose jurisdiction the areas concerned fall. The Australian Government has not been party to the intimate details of the commercial transactions and arrangements entered into by the British Government since that time, and has made no agreement with any of the American oil companies.
Arms From Australia
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question that arises from disclosures that were made in connexion with a recent kidnapping in Melbourne. In the course of inquiries that were made into the kidnapping, it was alleged that certain Jewish firms had been engaged in the export of arms to Palestine , before the United Kingdom surrendered its mandate over that country. The allegations published in the press were to the effect that the Jewish firms had purchased war disposals munitions and other materials in New Guinea and had shipped them, via Australia, to certain interests in Palestine that were hostile to the United Kingdom. They presumably were used to kill British soldiers. Has the Commonwealth Security Service investigated the allegations ? Were permits necessary from the Australian Government for the export of those alleged goods to Palestine? What are the facts of the transactions, if they have occurred? I might point out that they have not been denied by any of the parties so far.
– The last question asked by the honorable mem’ber was “ What are the facts “, yet he based his question on some reports that are unauthenticated and are certainly not known by the Australian Government or by any department of the Government. The Australian Government has never permitted the export of arms to any country, except a country of the British Commonwealth, and then only under stringent conditions. So it can be taken as definite that no such permit as that referred to by the honorable gentleman has been given. As for the rest of his questions, I suggest that he waits until the facts are ascertained to see whether there is any basis for his inquiries.
Australians in Japan.
– In view of the Australian Government’s directive to its occupation forces in Japan to disregard General MacArthur’s new policy of fraternization with the Japanese, will the Prime Minister consider instructing the Australian commander, Lieutenant-General Robertson, to seek an early conference with General MacArthur so as to avoid future rifts in policy in relation to occupied Japan? What action has the Australian Government taken to place
Australia’s views on the future of Japan before the Government of the United States of America or before General MacArthur ?
– In reply to a question that the honorable gentleman asked last week, I indicated that the Government had instructed the Commander-in-Chief of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan that there was to beno alteration of the directive originally issued to him. As the result cif that instruction, I have no doubt that he will have talks with General MacArthur. I do not think that it is a matter of such great importance as to require discussions on a government to government level at this time. The Australian Government does not believe in a policy of fraternization with the Japanese people at present. That is merely a matter of domestic concern to Australia. As the honorable gentleman knows, because of his experience in the army, the matter of what latitude shall be allowed to troops in a foreign country is one entirely for the commander of those troops. If theCommanderinChief of the United States forces in Japan sees fit to allow his troops to visit Japanese houses, that is entirely a matter for him; it is a matter for theCommanderinChief of the Australian troops in Japan to say whether troops under his command may or may not visit Japanese houses. He has complete control of matters of detail of that kind.. The Government has made its position perfectly clear to the CommanderinChief of the British Commonwealth! Occupation Forces in Japan, and it stands by that.
– The Science and Industry Research Act 1949, under which, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was reorganized contained aprovision for the appointment of an advisory council with important statutory functions. Though some six monthshave elapsed, nothing has been heard about the appointment of the council. I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction what action, if any, has been< taken to appoint the Advisory Council of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, as provided in the Science and Industry Research Act 1949? What is the reason for the delay of more than six months in the appointment of the council? Can the Minister state when the council will be appointed?
– There has been no delay in the appointment of the advisory council. Under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, that was the previous organization, the council was a body of gentlemen who met only twice a year. The actual affairs of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research were in the hands of the executive committee. Under the new organization, the executive committee has greater powers than under the previous organization, and the advisory council takes the place of the previous council, which used to meet only twice yearly. I understand that action was taken to ensure that all members of the previous council should be transferred to the advisory council. If the advisory council has not met in the meantime, there has been no necessity for it to meet.
– Does the Minister say that they have been appointed?
– That is my understanding. If that is not the case, I shall advise the honorable member; but I believe that steps were taken to ensure that members of the old council should be appointed to the advisory council. If the council has not met I presume that the reason would be that there has been no necessity for it to meet. I also presume that, if it has not met for six months there will be a meeting very shortly.
Alleged Dismissal of Employee
– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether it is a fact that at a meeting of the Victorian central executive of the Australian Labour party on the 29th November last he produced and read a copy of a report on Mr. J.J. Brophy, an officer of the Public Service. Is Mr. Brophy the official who disclosed to a Victorian member of Parliament that the Minister for Labour and National Service had recommended the dismissal of a carpenter named Miller because Miller had refused to pay a fine imposed upon him by the Communistcontrolled Building Workers Industrial Union, which tried to intimidate him? By what authority did the Minister do so ? As, in the circumstances, Mr. Brophy is unable to see the report, will the Minister lay on the table of the House, both the report and the letter written by the Minister for Labour and National Service that caused the dismissal of Mr. Miller.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service at no time wrote a letter to me recommending the dismissal of any person.
– There is an affidavit in existence which says that he did.
– Furthermore, Mr. Miller was not dismissed at any time. He has been an employee of my department ever since I have been Minister, and he still is employed in the department. He was employed on a job that was declared black, and we moved him to another job. That job was also declared black, so we simply left him on it and the job was stopped by the union. We then took the case to the court, and won it against the union that had taken action against Mr. Miller. My department has at all times supported the action by Mr. Miller, as the records of the court will prove. When Mr. Miller actually took the deregistered union to court, the department had an observer there, and the transcript of the proceedings will be made available to the honorable gentleman if he should require it. It is true that I attended a meeting of the central executive of the Australian Labour party in Victoria. I gave that meeting my opinion of the whole matter regarding Miller. I also gave it the reasons why I continued to support Miller at all times and the central executive also continued to support him. I consider, therefore, that there is no necessity to carry the matter any further.
– In addressing a question, as a matter of urgency, to the Minister representing the Minister for
Trade and Customs, I explain that at (he beginning of the present sessional period I asked the Minister to ascertain from the Minister for Trade and Customs when it was proposed to lay on the table of the House the report of the Tariff Board dealing with the cotton industry. That industry is now languishing. This is the planting season, and if something is not done urgently the effects on the future of the industry will be serious. Will the Minister make an urgent inquiry regarding this matter?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs and ask that a. reply be expedited.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the Government has in mind the opening up of diplomatic relations with any new countries in addition to Israel and Egypt, which were referred to in the press to-day. If so, what are the countries?
– -The gradual extension of Australia’s diplomatic representation has been the accepted policy of the Government for many years, and has, I believe, the general support of the House and of the country. Egypt and Israel are of importance to Australia. Egypt has a strategic and political importance that will increase because of the new proposals regarding Libya. As far as Israel is concerned, our existing trade relationships with that country will obviously be extended. No firm decision has been made by the Government regarding additional representation elsewhere, but we have already in this country diplomatic representation from countries in the north of Europe, including Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium. Extensions of our diplomatic representation to those countries will take place in accordance with an orderly plan, always bearing in mind the need for going slowly and for not at present incurring any fresh dollar expenditure.
Nationalization: Legal Costs
– Very early in the last sessional period, I asked the Attorney-
General a lengthy question in connexion, with the legal costs incurred by theGovernment on the bank nationalization case. I have not yet had a reply to my question, which I have repeated in the present sessional period. On that occasion the right honorable gentleman said that, owing to some difficulty in theTreasury, he was unable to give me the details that I had requested. Is the right honorable gentleman yet in a position to inform me of the costs of theappeals to the Privy Council and to theHigh Court of Australia?
– Other honorable members have also asked the same question. The delay in providing them with an answer has been entirely due to the fact that the costs have not yet been finalized. They have not yet even been finalized inconnexion with the High Court action. I shall see what I can do to expeditethe supply of an answer for the honorable members who have asked questions on thissubject.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 30th September (vide page 789), on motion hy Mr. Chifley -
I’ll at the first item in the Estimates under Division No. I - Senate - namely, “ Salariesand Allowances, £12,400 “, Be- agreed to.
for drawing attention to the state of the committee. However, he has not drawn attention to the fact that none of the leaders of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party is present in the chamber. I n addition, I should mention that, when the honorable member drew attention to the state of the committee, only four members of the Opposition parties were present. Those facts reveal the determination of those parties to refuse to listen to the truth regarding the Government’s administration. I do not blame them for adopting that attitude. Perhaps, I should do likewise if I had to face up to similar facts. l t is accepted., of course, that it is the Opposition’s duty to criticize and to show whether the Government has neglected to promote or conserve the interests of the people, and how7 that could be done better if its ideas had been accepted by the electors. If that has been the Opposition’s objective it has failed completely, and it is reasonable to deduce from that failure that it is devoid of ideas other than those that have been tried and found, wanting in the past. That it has criticized the Government must, of course, be admitted. It has proved itself incapable of doing anything else. It is surrounded by a hard shell of conservative thought and reactionary inclinations from which it emerges now and again only to ask for the application of some measure of protection, or regulation, which will be to the advantage of the special interests that it represents.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Is the Minister in order in reading his speech? Furthermore, a quorum is not present. If Government members do not want to listen to the Minister, why does not the Government close the debate and thus pave the country money?
– The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– According to Mr. Casey, the president of the Liberal party, the Liberals now want free enterprise to be regulated.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. There is not a quorum present. I call attention to the state of the committee.
– That is the first time that the honorable member has called attention to the state of the committee.
– I have drawn attention previously to the state of the committee. It is time that the Government closed down this silly farce.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! Honorable members cannot indulge in cross-fire while a quorum is being formed. [Quorum formed.]
– According to Mr. Casey, who is the leader of the Liberals outside the Parliament, the Liberals want “ regulated “ free enterprise. It used to be free enterprise without any tags whatever, but now, they want free enterprise regulated. If the reports of Mr. Casey’s speech on the 18th March at Launceston are correct, it is clear that those from whom he is looking for support for his own and his party’s resurrection, have made it plain that he must not advocate on behalf of those opposed to Labour that the benefits brought about by nationalization or socialistic legislation, without which this country could not have progressed, must now be thrown overboard. So he has abandoned unqualified freedom of enterprise for regulated enterprise. As the President of the Liberal party, he now wants free enterprise to be regulated. The “ free “ enterprise of other days - the cut-throat competition which prevented the development of the country’s resources, the unregulated exploitation of man-power which left a pool of unemployed to be exploited and caused poverty among the wage workers and insolvencies among the primary producers and small businessmen - has had to give way to the policies advocated by Labour.
– Give yourself a pat on the back !
– Whilst it is not necessary for me to do that, it is desirable that I should draw attention to the difficulties and incapacity of the Opposition. The general public, particularly the middle-aged section of the community, which thinks about matters of this kind, will not readily forget the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, the government woollen mills, and other similar projects when honorable members now sitting in Opposition formed the Government of this country. The primary producers who depend upon the overseas markets for their welfare and prosperity will not forget that the shipping companies raised freight charges when the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was sacrificed at a ridiculously low price. But low as it was, that price was not paid in full by the bargain-hunters.
This budget, the third during the life of this Parliament, makes two vital provisions for the steady improvement of the conditions of life of the people, and the maintenance and improvement of the standard of living that has been attained in recent years because of sound planning and administration. These are the cooperation of industry with governments, and the development of our indisputably extensive resources by the application of our policy of full employment to our rapidly growing population. The extensive scope of the contemplated projects will establish wide fields of employment, and the application of sound ideas and initiative will be necessary in order to bring them to fruition. Despite the criticisms that have been offered from the Opposition benches, and the powerful interests that constitute the foundation for them, it cannot be disputed that our achievements since the cessation of hostilities, and the plans of this Government to counteract the onset of adverse economic conditions over which we have no control, have given the people a greater sense of security and confidence than they have ever previously enjoyed. The Government has shown itself to be capable of providing security and of ensuring progress, a state of affairs that the people will not readily want to change. I consider that the Opposition has misconceived entirely the reputation that has been established by this Government.
Honorable members will recollect that in June, 1947, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) gave the Parliament a comprehensive outline of the Government’s policy in relation to defence, the important considerations underlying that policy, and particulars of the fiveyears’ programme that had been approved for the three services and associated activities such as research and development. At that time it was estimated that the defence programme would cost the very substantial amount of £250,000,000 over a period of five years. Due, however, to subsequent increases in wage and price levels, and to the inclusion of certain new projects or activities in plans, following its last review of the progress of the programme the Government approved of an additional appropriation of £45,000,000, which it was estimated would be required to ensure that the whole of the organization, objectives, and projects covered by the defence programme would be achieved by the completion of the five-year period ending in 1951-52.
The Government has increased the five years’ allocation for the Royal Australian Air Force from £62,500,000 to £80,000,000. The approved programme provides for a static organization for the home defence of Australia, and for a group of task force elements, which, in an emergency, could be organized with suitable supporting ancillaries and head-quarters in order to provide .a force for employment for strategical purposes and in air support of the other services. During the first two years, up to the 30th June, 1949, progress has been made with the implementation of this plan. All units authorized under the programme have been formed, whilst a fighter squadron, which is in excess of the programme, continues to operate in Japan as an independent unit. “With relation to manning in the past, the main feature has been the settling down of the force. The present strength is almost wholly composed of personnel serving on peace-time appointment or engagement. Although during 1948 the outgoings exceeded enlistments, this year there has been a considerable improvement of the rate of enlistment, which has increased from about 150 a month a year ago to an average during recent months of 250 new recruits a month. These figures will be of particular interest to honorable members opposite. The large influx of permanent force recruits during the past year has placed a heavy strain on training establishments. Approximately 2,000 personnel are now undergoing elementary and basic training for ground staff musterings. This is most pleasing. The ground training school at Wagga is filled to capacity, and the overflow is being absorbed by other stations. Similarly, the radio school at Ballarat is working almost to capacity, which has been doubled during the last twelve months. The schools for apprentices are increasing their intakes and providing an excellent opportunity for youths who wish to undergo training for three years in the most highly skilled technical musterings. The schools and colleges established for the training of officers are functioning satisfactorily. The peak insofar as the training of air crews is concerned, has not yet been reached. The training of pilots and navigators will receive considerable impetus as- soon as the requisite output of ground staff, trained basically in their trades, is available. It is worthy of note that closest co-operation exists between the Royal Australian Air Force and the Aviation Branch of the Royal Australian Navy, not only in connexion with the training of pilots for the Navy, but also in other phases of training and activities associated with that new naval branch. Many Royal Australian Air Force officers are serving with the Royal Air Force, and others are undergoing various courses in the United Kingdom. This will ensure that the various branches of the Royal Australian Air Force will be kept abreast of all the latest technical developments.
– Are any technical men being sent from Australia to the United States of America?
– Occasionally they visit that country. We have a permanent attache at Washington who reports to us the latest developments in the United States of America. The Royal Australian Air Force reserve, composed of members of the permanent and1 citizen air forces, is in process of development, the current strength being about 4,800 personnel. The strength of the Air Training Corps approximates 2,800 officers and cadets, distributed between nineteen Town Flights and 35 School Flights throughout Australia. An interesting feature of this important movement is that a large number of ex-Royal Australian Air Force personnel are volunteering their services as instructors. This shows that they are maintaining an interest in their former activities, which we appreciate very much. The Government is firm in its policy that aircraft of the most modern and efficient types for the Royal Australian Air Force shall be manufactured in Australia. The types of aircraft currently in production are the Lincoln bomber, the Mustang, and the Vampire with the Nene jet engine. As honorable members may be aware, the first locally produced Vampire was. taken over about a fortnight ago, and it is anticipated that future deliveries will keep- pace with the originally planned output. The first jet aircraft almost wholly manufactured in Australia has given complete satisfaction in its trials so far. Only one or two parts are imported. In furthering the implementation of its policy in this connexion, the Government recently approved of the production in Australia of prototypes of long-range all-weather attack fighters and basic training aircraft. This work will be undertaken as research and development projects. Proposals for the local (manufacture of certain new types of jet bomber and fighter aircraft are also now receiving full consideration by the Government, and it is anticipated that a decision on these projects will be taken within the next few weeks. Apart from these big developments in the manufacture in Australia of certain of the latest types of service aircraft, it is important that 1 should refer also to the fact that local production potential has been established for the manufacture of almost all the technical and non-technical supplies, general equipment and stores that art: required by the Royal Australian Air Force. Orders placed overseas are now confined broadly to equipment of a highly specialized character, such as radio and telecommunication equipment, and to certain items that are necessary to maintain equipment obtained from the United Kingdom and the United States of America during the war years, the local manufacture of which would not be economical owing to the small quantities involved. The Royal Australian Air Force is being organized as a balanced force of operational squadrons, supported by a training, maintenance and supply organization that will be competent to support such a force in time of war.
I turn now to a brief review of developments that have been made in civil aviation. In some countries of small size, but with good communications, civil aviation might reasonably be classed as a luxury, but to Australia, a country of vast distances situated far from the centres of world population, it is a sheer necessity. Because civil aviation is essentia] to the development of our country and to the part that Australia must play among the nations of the world, this Government has done everything in its power to foster and encourage all kinds of flying within and beyond Australian territories. In that respect, I doubt whether any other country with a population equal to ours can compare with our record. Due to the far-sighted policy of this Government and of previous Labour governments Australia is on the eve of tremendous expansion. The vast hydro-electric schemes, the immigration programme and our great irrigation projects are all evidence of this. Civil aviation must develop and expand as the country expands, so that it can provide Australia with fast, safe, regular and efficient transport through the air. The success of the Government’s far-sighted civil aviation policy may be seen at any Australian airport where air services, equal to any in the world, are carrying more passengers in proportion to the population than are those c* any other country, and at the world’s lowest fares - 3.8d. a mile. On a population basis air services provided in other countries cannot he compared with those provided in Australia. The success of the Government’s civil aviation policy can also be seen over 25,000 miles of Australian international air routes which are flown by airliners of the latest and finest types available anywhere. Perhaps I should qualify that statement by saying that the largest types of airliners now used in Australia are exceeded in size only by the Boeing stratocruisers used in the United States of America. Aircraft of the latter type have been put into operation in America since we made our purchases there. It may be truly said that Australia is very well equipped with modern aircraft. We shall buy British aircraft as soon as they become available. The Government has been criticized because it ha9 relied on American aircraft-, but experts in these matters know that, because of the war, Great Britain has not yet been able to manufacture aircraft for passenger purposes th at can compare with those manufactured in other countries, particularly in the United States of America.
Now that the change over from war to peace has been successfully accomplished, and aviation has been established on firm foundations, it is worth while to examine briefly the problems which faced the Government at the conclusion of the war. Air transport, expanded for military purposes, had far outstripped all previous conceptions of civil aviation. The air was full of stories of new war-time radar devices which, it was hoped, would solve all problems of navigation. Yet experts now agree that not one of those devices was suitable for immediate adoption by civil air lines. It would have been foolish to rush in and use them without proper examination of their usefulness for civil aviation purposes. Many that were used in the early stages of the development of radar have been discarded. Australia, like the rest of the world, lacked airports and airway facilities, and the ground organization necessary for large-scale air traffic. The Department of Civil Aviation, which had been formed only in 1939, had a skeleton war-time staff. I do not blame anybody for that state of affairs. At the time of its establishment, many of its best men who had some knowledge of aviation, particularly of air navigation, were required by the services. A large percentage of its staff joined the armed forces, particularly the Royal Australian Air Force. By a stroke of genius on the part of President Roosevelt, the United
States Government had called the nations together at Chicago in 1944 and the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization wa9 formed, but the countries of the world were still a long way from agreement on the many technical standards required for airports, airworthiness, radio navigational aids and communications. Backed by the Government, the Australian Department of Civil Aviation planned for the future. It took an active part in international conferences and wrote the specifications for great new airports at capital cities. It expanded its communications systems, and recruited a staff to tackle the still unsolved problems of air traffic control. In that direction great energy was displayed by the department. In its task it was assisted by the Government in every possible way. The administrative side, too, was only rudimentary. A small staff in Melbourne could no longer cope successfully with the problems of aviation throughout the continent, and a programme of decentralization was begun, so that a regional director in each State could make routine decisions on the spot and send to head office only those policy matters which needed special attention. The Air Navigation Regulations that had been gazetted after World War I. were so out of date that they needed re-writing. New standards were needed to ensure the physical fitness and technical ability of air crews. A complete stores and accounting organization had to be established so that the department’s affairs could be carried on in an orderly fashion. This re-organization had to be achieved at a time when civil aviation was growing by leaps and bounds, but it was achieved without interference with the day-to-day work of the department and without dislocating our air services. Although restrictions due to dollar difficulties still exist, we believe now that we have passed the worst stage. We have the requisite trained specialized staff to carry on the future work of the department.
Not all countries were so fortunate. In 1947 airline companies in the United States of America were heavily subsidized, but they still suffered’ a combined loss of 22,000,000 dollars, largely because the ground facilities had not been able to keep pace with the increased volume of operations. Delays were so serious that some one coined the slogan, “ If you’ve time to spare, travel by air “. In 194S, American airlines carried fewer passengers than they carried in 1947, and the load factor was only 60 per cent. Our own figures, on the other hand, show a steady growth in every department of air traffic. Honorable members must not conclude that I am in any way trying to minimize the achievements of the United States of America in civil aviation. I agree readily that the United States is one of the most forward countries in civil aviation matters, but I point out that it has had its difficulties. Because of similarity of size and of problems, the United States of America is the only country in the world to which we can look for guidance. Of course, the population of Australia is not comparable in number with that of the United States of America, and that part of America which is snow-covered in winter-time is much larger than the eastern portion of Australia which is so affected. However, the various problems in relation to area, with which the Department of Civil Aviation has to deal, are much the same as those of the United States of America. America’s problems are more difficult to solve than are our own problems, because air traffic is so much denser in that country than in Australia, and flying weather is more often unfavorable there than it is here. But the United States of America is not a country that allows itself to be beaten by any technical problem. Its experts have devised a fifteen-year plan for a most elaborate electronic system of airways navigation and control, at an estimated cost of 1,100,000,000 dollars.
The Department of Civil Aviation has been watching closely the position in the United States of America, and has been trying to make sure that our ground facilities shall be equal to the demands that will be made upon them in the next few years, particularly by jet-propelled aircraft. Aircraft of that type are now a distinct possibility. Although none of them has yet been available for passenger services, some of the trials and developments that have taken place in the United Kingdom seem to indicate that that country will be ahead of any of its competitors, when those trials, which, necessarily, will cover a period of years, have been completed. Our airways and airport divisions have kept before them the ideal of an air transport system operating with the same degree of regularity as an express train. They look forward to the day when our airlines will be on time all the time with absolute safety. That is most difficult to achieve. Because of weather conditions, some services must be cancelled, and travellers are thereby delayed. But science is gradually developing means to overcome those difficulties. The problem is not so much travelling in bad weather as the capacity to land at airports in unfavorable weather. Various interesting developments are taking place that will enable aircraft to land at their destinations, even under the most difficult conditions. Mascot and Essendon airports handle the heaviest traffic in the British Empire. That fact is not generally realized by the Australian public and by people in other parts of the world, and perhaps honorable members wonder why the volume of traffic is so heavy. The explanation, largely, is that the United Kingdom has many airports that may be utilized. During the war, the United Kingdom Government constructed a large number of airfields, because they were essential for the security of Great Britain.
– Is not Essendon the second busiest airport in the world ?
– I should not say that it is the second busiest airport in the world, but it is easily the busiest airport in Australia. The volume of traffic that is handled there compares favorably with that handled by most airports, with the exception of the very busy ones in the United States of America. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) will be interested to hear that the air route between Hobart and Brisbane will soon be as busy as any airway in the world.
The problems to which I have referred demand the use of the most modern techniques and the latest equipment. The Division of Airways is expending £6,500,000 on new electrical equipment. Perhaps some honorable members oppo site, who criticize the Government’s policy in respect of civil aviation, although they always seem to disappear when any formidable arguments are being advanced to destroy their case, will say that Australia is somewhat behind the times, but the fact is that Australia is well ahead in civil aviation. I. shall give the committee the latest information about the progress of new installations. The 30 new visual aural 112 megacycle very high frequency ranges are almost ready for use. Twelve of them have successfully passed their flight tests, and the remaining eighteen should be in operation by November. Omni-directional radio ranges will be installed at Darwin and Mascot for use by international aircraft, and they will be extended to other airports when they are needed. The S9 distance measuring stations, costing £657,000 and covering an area of 2,000,000 square miles, have been developed in Australia and have been ordered from an Australian firm. Honorable members will be interested to learn that Australian firms have developed their techniques to such a degree that they are able to manufacture this highly technical modern equipment. Our airways programme is in accordance with international requirements, and closely follows the ideas that are being developed in the United States. In the production of distance measuring equipment, Australia is ahead of the rest of the world. That is rather a’ big claim to make; nevertheless, it is true. No other country has distance measuring equipment that is ready for installation. Distance measuring will give the pilot of an aircraft an infinite number of milestones to tell him exactly where he is along each air route. It will be an aid to safety and, in addition, will enable us to make much more efficient use of air space and aerodromes. The general improvement of the radio communications systems will necessitate the expenditure of £880,000, with £391,000 for international communications and £206,000 for very high frequency ground-to-air communications. I am sure that members of the Opposition will be interested in that information. I have cited those figures because I .believe that the progress of civil aviation in Australia is not generally known. I do not -claim that we are so far advanced as we should like to he, but when we consider the size of Australia and our comparatively small population, it must be admitted that the Department of Civil Aviation has done a good job.
The provision of power supplies will cost £911,000. Honorable members may wonder why that is such a large item. The explanation is that many airports are situated in places where electric power is not available, and, therefore, they must generate their own supplies. At other places where power is available there must be an emergency plant for immediate use in the event of failure or interruption of the town supply. Recording equipment, time-clocks and other aids to- air traffic control will cost about £320,000. In deciding what equipment should he installed, the department has recommended expenditure only after thoroughly investigating whether the expense is justified. For instance, instrument landing systems, each costing £30,000, should pay for themselves in savings to the operators within two years of their operation at busy airports. That shows the value of installing modern equipment when it is obtainable and can be utilized in this country. In normal operations, without instrument landing systems, aircraft are not permitted to land at airports unless the minimum visibility is greater than 2 miles and the minimum ceiling 500 feet. With instrument landing systems, landings can be made with the same standard of safety in 400-yard visibility and a 200-ft. ceiling. When instrument landing systems are used, delays and cancellations of flights because of unfavorable weather can be reduced to one-fifth of what they are to-day. Those are factors to which the Government and the Department of Civil Aviation are devoting attention in the interests of the people of Australia, who are more air-travel minded than are the people of any other country. The use of instrument landing systems means that aircraft will not be “ eating their heads off” at some fog-bound airport; less petrol will be wasted in fruitless flights to an alternative airport, and in bringing the passengers to their destinations by bus; less money will be wasted on needless hotel accommoda tion; less inconvenience and less delay will be caused, and loss of goodwill will be reduced. Moreover, the safety factor will be increased.
I shall now examine airport development. Honorable members must be personally acquainted with some part of our airport building programme. We are constructing airports at the capital cities and making airstrips at isolated’ cattle stations in the most remote parts of the Northern Territory and New Guinea. At the end of the war, it was impossible to build aerodromes everywhere at once, consequently the Government gave priority to those airports that were most urgently needed. The Government decided that it would be responsible for the building and maintenance of all airports that were approved stopping places on regular air routes, and that all other airports would he the responsibility of the local authorities, but that the Department’s airport engineers would be available to give expert advice so that the local authorities would be started on the right lines. That policy has worked out well. Many local authorities, guided by the department, have gone ahead with their airports, some of which have since been approved as regular stopping places, and taken over by the Commonwealth, the local authorities being reimbursed for their expenditure.
Mobile airport maintenance units in the far north-west have, at nominal cost, done good work improving the airstrips put down by station-owners. The department charges owners only for the actual fuel and labour used on each job. Four years ago, 2,000 feet was considered an adequate airstrip. To-day, in the Kimberleys, there is scarcely an airstrip that cannot be used by DC3 and similar large aircraft.
More spectacular, of course, is the development of the great capital city airports. In the interests of safety and efficiency, we are providing at least two airports at each capital city - one for heavy transport aircraft and one for light aircraft. We are watching carefully to see whether we can anticipate future demands, and be ready with additional airports when they are needed. To conserve precious housing materials, we have not been putting up permanent passenger facilities since the war - most of the accommodation provided has been improvised from disposals buildings - but as soon as possible, we shall start on permanent terminal buildings. They will be designed to allow for future expansion.
We have taken over more than 60 ex-Royal Australian Air Force airports which are now, or will be, of value to civil aviation. We have made substantial improvements to 28 airports, and 56 more were listed for construction, extension and modification during last financial year. The department hopes, during the next three years, to improve 134 airports in all States at a cost of nearly £14,000,000. It will be many years before our airports are all we wish them to be, but we are making reasonable progress in the face of the present shortages of labour and materials.
In the development of international air services, Australia is making more progress than ever before. In fact, a new era began for Australian international services when the first Qantas constellation took off for London on the 1st December, 1948. Thanks to our courageous policy, we were operating the finest long-range transport aircraft then available over the world’s longest air route. We were, of course, co-operating with the United Kingdom Government, the revenue being shared between Qantas Airways and British Overseas Airways Corporation in proportion to the service capacity flown, each operator bearing its own costs. Since Qantas Airways obtained the use of a fifth Constellation from British Overseas Airways Corporation, the frequency of its service has been increased to twice weekly.
To cater for the backlog of freight offering between the United Kingdom and Australia, a Lancastrian freighter service was inaugurated in August of 1948, shared on a 50-50 basis with British Overseas Airways Corporation. There are two return services each week. Under the leadership of Mr. Hudson Fysh, one of Australia’s aviation pioneers, Qantas Airways as a Government airline is doing a great job for Australia.
The Pacific service is also a good example of Empire co-operation. Australia owns one-half of the shares in the operating company, British Commonwealth Pacific; Airlines, which has its head-quarters in Sydney. Here again, the best aircraft available are being used to provide a superb service. Acquiring the aircraft for sterling was a brilliant deal negotiated by the chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, Mr. A. W. Coles. Unfortunately, the dollar shortage has restricted the number of passengers on the Pacific service. I predict that, when trade becomes normal again, it will be one of the busiest international air links of the world.
Tasman Empire Airways Limited, another joint venture of the United Kingdom, Australian and New Zealand Governments, has so far continued its allegiance to flying boats, and has purchased new Solent flying boats, which are now being delivered. The 40-passen- ger Solent is unquestionably the most modern commercial flying boat yet produced, and in comfort, speed and efficiency will be a great advance on previous types.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I propose to make a few further observations on socialization, which has been vigorously argued during this debate, and my remarks will be particularly directed to socialization in relation to the family. It appears to me that the Opposition speakers on the subject of socialization have advanced three main contentions: They have contended, first, that socialization is bad in all its forms, and that socialization of any kind is always inferior to the operation of private enterprise in the same field; secondly, that the aim of the Labour party is total socialization; and, thirdly, that continuation of the Labour Government in office would produce in Australia a condition equivalent to the rule of Stalin and company in Soviet Russia.
I believe that each of those contentions has been adequately answered by my colleagues in this chamber, but honorable members opposite do not appear to be re-assured. Indeed,’ competing with one another in making frightening statements, they have, at any rate, succeeded in frightening themselves. They are like men who, sitting over-late before the fire telling ghost stories, and vieing with one another to invent new horrors, finally reach that state of mind when they are afraid to leave the fireside and go to bed. They see in every movement of a curtain, and hear in every creaking floorboard and in every screeching owl, evidence of some horrific sign or apparition. So also, today, are members of the Opposition the victims of their own over-heated imaginations. They may frighten themselves; whether they are succeeding in frightening others remains to be seen. It is certainly a much more difficult task for them to do so when they have to produce their bogy in the open air, and in the bright sunshine of an Australian day, in an endeavour to scare hard-headed Australians with a tale at which those Australians have been laughing with increasing vigour for the last 30 years.
Let us glance for a moment at the first contention - that socialization is bad in all its forms, and is always inferior to the operation of private enterprise. Picture a family united in harmony, sitting in the home circle. It is, in fact, an example of communism in its purest form - not that notorious perversion that exists in Soviet Russia. In the society of the home, each contributes according to his ability, and each draws according to his need. All members of the family work for each member of the family, and .each member is proud to do his best for all the others. Picture that innocent, happy family when a shrieking voice comes through the radio warning them to have nothing whatever to do with socialization in any of its forms. The family is the basis of our state and our society. When ; government acts for the true welfare and well-being of the family, it is a good government. When it acts against the interests of the family, it is a bad government.
What does that family, which is being warned against socialization in any form, require for its true well-being? First, it requires freedom. It is most important to the family that it should have freedom within the family circle. Secondly, it requires economic security - the means to provide for its needs, and an assurance that such means will continuously be available to it. That is a basic need of the family, without which it cannot exist. The assurance of economic security comes bo the family from two sources. It comes, first, from full employment and, secondly, from a form of social services that provides an economic charter against all the vicissitudes and ills that may beset the members of the family. Full employment and social services both can be provided for the family by one means only - the control of the credit policy of this nation through the placing of control of the credit system in the hands of the Government and the operating of that control through the Commonwealth Bank, which every member of the Opposition will agree is socialization in practice. Upon that form of socialization, the very safety and the economic well-being of every family in Australia depend. Therefore, the radio voice that says to that family, “ Have no truck with any form of socialization is unlikely to he heeded. Third, the family requires protection from exploitation. One typical form, of protection from exploitation that families in this country enjoy is rent control. Rent control, by definition the intervention of the Government for the benefit of tho individual and the community, is socialization in its purest form. When the radio voice says to the family, “ Have nothing to do with socialism of any kind whatever “, it is inviting that family to do away with the security that enables it to exist and to provide for its needs and the protection that saves it from ruthless exploitation. The head of any family knows to-day how much rent would most likely be demanded from him but for the form, of social protection that is involved in rent control.
More than anything else, the family requires a home for its well-being. Without a house, the family cannot exist and flourish as it should flourish. Before the war, housing in Australia was controlled by private enterprise, which built 29,000 homes throughout the country in 1939. There were plenty of tradesmen available in those days to build houses, a.nd there were plenty of materials available from which houses could be built. But private enterprise necessarily is mainly and primarily concerned with profits - the rate of dividends that it can earn from its investments. The reason why more houses were not built in Australia in 1939 was that, irrespective of the good of the family, private enterprise sought and found other means of investment that provided it with higher profits than could have been obtained from house construction. Since the end of the war housing has been primarily a responsibility of the Government, and last year 54,000 homes were built in Australia by government intervention for the benefit of the family and the community - again, socialization by definition. By that form of socialization many thousands of families in Australia have obtained homes that otherwise they would not have obtained and the shocking lag in housing provision, which was due to the failure of private enterprise before the war to place the needs of the community above its own profit, is being steadily overtaken.
On all of those grounds, the family man would be well-advised to beware of the voice that comes through the radio and says to him, “ Have no truck with socialization in any of its forms “. But if that unhappy man, the paid Liberal propagandist, had only those difficulties to surmount in order to persuade people to have nothing to do with socialization of any kind, his task would be easy in comparison with what it really is. When he says to the family, “ Have no truck whatever with socialization “, he is, of course, saying in effect, “ Don’t turn on that tap, it is full of socialized water. Don’t flick that switch, it provides socialized electric power. Don’t drink that cup of tea, it is reduced in price by half by a form of subsidy that is socialist by definition. Don’t open that letter, because it has been contaminated by having been brought to you by a socialized postman. Don’t dial that number, it is a socialized telephone that you are operating. Don’t travel by bus, tram or train because all of those transport services are socialized. Ride your bicycle, although even then you will be travelling on a socialized roadway. Don’t take any notice of that socialized traffic policeman who is holding up his hand at the corner. Knock him down “. Of course, if a member of the family heeded that advice he would experience the true horrors of socialism in a socialized gaol.
Many people in the electorate that I represent imagine that they are keenly opposed to any form of socialization. When I meet them, they tell me that they do not want to have any truck with socialization and that the one thing that Av«tralia needs is a return to a complete system of free enterprise. After telling that to me, as their representative in this Parliament, they proceed to discuss with me the urgent need and their desire for a vast extension of social services in their community. The first thing they do, after having denounced socialism to me, is to ask me how soon extended electricity services can be provided in that area, when will the water supply be extended to the remote rural area in which they live, what can be done to provide new roads, new railways, new aerodromes, new telephone services, new post offices, and so on. In fact, I do not believe that there is one country man in my electorate who would not heartily welcome a great extension of socialist enterprises in his district. . So I imagine that on this occasion, less than ever before, will those who preach that socialism in all its forms is bad have any success with the intelligent Australian elector.
The second contention of Opposition speakers in this debate in regard to socialism is that the policy of the Labour party is total socialism. There are many definitions of “ socialism “ and “ socialization”. In any standard dictionary, one finds at least six or seven definitions given to each of the words, according to the varying senses in which they are used; but when the representatives of the Opposition invite the Australian people to believe that the policy of the Labour party is socialism in the sense of an allpowerful state with the members of the community the slaves and servants of that state, they grossly misinterpret the policy of the Labour party.
– But not the objective.
– And! the objective. When they declare that the policy of the Australian Labour party is total socialism, they make a complete misstatement. When they picture what they describe as “ the horrors of socialism “, they describe it according to their definition ; but surely it is reasonable to look at the definition that the Australian Labour party itself has placed upon the words that it uses to describe its policy. There is no question of the objective of the Australian Labour party, because it has stood unaltered for the last 28 years, and there is no question, either, of the meaning of the objective of the Australian Labour party, because that meaning was clearly expressed by definition and declaration, adopted at the same time as the objective, 28 years ago, and it has remained ever since. I propose to read that declaration, which, as my colleague, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) reminds me, was re-affirmed as recently as last year by the triennial conference of the Australian Labour party. It reads -
Let me again read the last part of the declaration -
On the merits of that declaration we could have a happy and reasonable debate, but I doubt whether members of the Opposition would accept a challenge to debate the value of that declaration or the basis of that declaration. Indeed, if they did dare to accept the challenge to a debate-
– That declaration has come to light only in the last few months. Nobody had ever heard about it before.
– That is not so. It has stood for 28 years. If it has been. kept from the public, who has kept it from them? As the honorable member knows, we have tried time and time again to publicize the declaration, but time and time again our political opponents have prevented us from doing so. They are the owners of the means of propaganda andpublicity. Can any one point to a newspaper or commercial radio station that has given adequate publicity to the plans of the Australian Labour party stated in that declaration? They have tried to suppress it. It is written in the rule book.
– It is not in the rule book.
– Order! The honorable member for Barker must cease interrupting.
Mr.FRASER- It has been there all the time, for 28 years. There is no secret about it.If honorable members opposite wish to contest that declaration, they will have to contend that they believe in allowing private ownership where it condones exploitation and that they believe in private ownership as a means of exploitation. Those are things that are opposed by the Australian Labour party. Those are things that, I believe, are espoused by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and because they espouse those things, they are afraid to open a debate on the merits of the Australian Labour party’s declaration. That is where Labour stands and is proud to stand. Its policy is calculated not to injure the enterprise of the manufacturer and businessman; not to deprive the farmer of the result of his work; not to take from the worker the product of his labour and his thrift; but, on the contrary, to assist the manufacturer, the businessman, the farmer and the worker in putting forward their best efforts for their own welfare and the welfare of the nation. The Labour party fundamentally believes in individual rights. Its attack on vested interests is because those vested interests conflict with individual rights and destroy them. We all saw what happened to individual rights when vested interests operated the major economic forces of this country during the depression.
During those disastrous years, the private enterprise of scores of thousands of good Australians was swept away, the fruits of the toil of thousands of farmers went to waste, and years of effort by small shopkeepers and businessmen went for nothing when everything they had striven to build was wrecked. The Labour party seeks a state of society in which man shall not be the slave either of the State, or of financial interests controlling his economic destiny, but in which he shall enjoy the maximum measure of personal freedom and individual security and have the opportunity to develop his own personality, to rear his family without fear, and to stand up in the full dignity of manhood as a God-fearing and selfrespecting citizen. That is the true meaning of the objective of the Australian Labour party.
The third contention of the Opposition is that if government by the Labour party continues in this country we shall have rule in Australia equivalent to the rule of Stalin and his associates in Soviet Russia. That contention is the most fantastic of the three contentions about socialization that the Opposition has advanced during the present debate. If it were possible to get a Communist to speak frankly - and I doubt whether it is - he would say that the Australian Labour party is the greatest enemy of the Australian Communist party. It is against the Labour party in office that the Communists have launched their strongest attacks. Those attacks have always been repulsed for a reason which is clear and simple to understand. Communism breeds in conditions of discontent and chaos. Its recruits aire drawn from the ranks of the embittered, the hungry and the unemployed, from the degradation and despair of the dole and of the soup queue. The Communists in Australia regard the Labour party as their real enemy because when Labour is in office there is continuous political activity which ameliorates the general conditions of the people through social services, just industrial conditions, full employment and rising living standards. In such conditions the breeding grounds of communism are destroyed, and the Communist party’s recruiting grounds are swept away. Men assured of social security and social justice have no time for the doctrine of despair preached by the Communist party in Australia. The conditions that the Communists require for success are the very conditions that obtain when a reactionary government is in power in this country and when selfish vested financial interests are given full rein for their profit motive irrespective of the interests of the Australian people. The Communists’ ends would be served by the overthrow of the Labour Government and the election to office of a government that believed in the maintenance of a pool of unemployed people. Communist strength would increase if the Labour Government were defeated and an antiLabour government were returned to office. Is not this the clue to the Communist action in recent months that was calculated to destroy the Labour Government by the political plat that brought about the recent coal strike?
For all these reasons the third contention put forward by the Opposition is one which any sensible Australian will reject. The Labour party, believing in the rule of the majority, believing in the parliamentary process, and believing in orderly steps for the improvement of the living conditions of the whole of the people, is the bulwark of the Australian people against any form of violence, revolution, despair or misery. A challenge to the welfare and freedom of the people can come from the extreme left, and it can also come from the extreme right. Such a challenge cannot succeed while the Labour party stands as the representative of the aims of honest Australian citizens. Only by the success of such a challenge can the conditions that are the chief essential of a happy family life be destroyed in this country. They cannot be destroyed while the Labour party remains in office and remains true to its policy and purposes.
.- I intend to devote some of the time at my disposal to replying to some of the exaggerations, distortions and falsehoods that have been thrown around this chamber during the present debate. But first, I desire to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on his budget, which is the last of a succession of budgets that he has brought down in this Parliament. I consider that the present budget is a fitting coping stone to his eight years’ service as Treasurer. It is also a complete fulfilment of the undertaking given by the Treasurer when he introduced his first budget, which imposed higher rates of taxation upon the people, that those rates would be reduced when general conditions warranted such a reduction, and that the reductions would begin with the rates of taxation on lower incomes. He also undertook that as the finances of the country allowed there would be increased social services. Honorable members on this side of the committee have already quoted tax tables and have given details of the highest rate of taxation during the war and of the rates as they are to-day. I shall content myself, therefore, with giving only one instance of how taxation affects the people. There is a great deal of talk nowadays about taxation on lower incomes and of how a considerable proportion of the earnings of the workers is taken in taxes. I shall take as an example one tax scale that stands out as a beacon pointing to the justice of the Government’s tax policy. I have chosen the scale relating to a taxpayer with a wife and two children who earns £400 a year. Such a taxpayer pays no income tax, but he pays £5 per annum in social services tax. He receives back as social services, in the form of child endowment, £26 per annum, which means that he is a distinct gainer.
– But what about the indirect taxes that he pays?
– I am speaking about income tax. In mentioning that matter the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) who has just interjected is acting in accordance with the old adage that “ fools rush in where angels fear to tread “, because indirect taxation has been reduced even more than has income tax. The honorable gentleman, spoke about the promises that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made during the last general election campaign.
– About the promises that he did not make !
– The remarkable thing is that the one complaint of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and the press was that the Prime Minister made no promises.
– I did not say that the Prime Minister made any promises.
– The Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Australian Country party and the press, said after the last general election that the people of Australia had given the Prime Minister an open cheque and that he could do just what he liked, or do nothing at all, and that the people would have no right to complain.
– I did not make any reference to promises by the Prime Minister.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite now say that some of the legislation that has been introduced by this Government, and some of its actions, were never put to the people. On the other hand, as I have stated, the Leaders of the two Opposition parties and the press proclaimed to the people that they had given the Prime Minister an open cheque and, no matter what he did they had to “ take it “, because they had no come-back. That is the position. Whatever this Government has done during its last three years of office will have the endorsement of the people. The Leader of the Opposition and also the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) who is now frowning and making hideous faces, have probably made similar statements. [Quorum formed.] That fact plainly emerged from the last general election. The honorable member for Wentworth compels any one who seeks to reply to him to go back into the dark ages. He is always delving into the past. On this occasion he dug up the old bogy of socialism. I recall the cartoons and placards that were circulated by Labour’s opponents in the days when Labour was entering the political arena in this country. Our opponents then talked about the “socialist tiger”, and. I recall one placard in which the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was then a member of the Labour party, was depicted as a giant grabbing a baby from its mother’s arms. Labour’s opponents then sought to create the fear that Labour would make all babes wards of the State. Those placards were posted all over the country. The Opposition parties are still dishing out the same old propaganda. In the early days Labour’s opponents claimed that Labour wanted to break down all respect for the marriage tie, and bring about conditions under which people would live in a state of free love. But the most amusing talk I have heard from honorable members opposite is their complaint that the Government is pushing people around. They claim that every child should be subject only to its parents’ control and that the father should be free to decide the future of his children. Under the conditions that existed when I was a boy no worker had the slightest hope of ensuring economic or social security for his children. The children -of all working men were obliged to go -out and earn their living as soon as they reached an age at which they could work. Australian children in those days did not have any opportunities of the toad that the Government is now making available to all Australians under its policy of full employment. In the old days every worker had to follow the job; the job did not wait for him. Therefore, all talk by honorable members opposite about preserving the freedom of every citizen to work as he will is . so much humbug and hocus pocus. The fact that I, or my brothers and sisters, or hundreds of thousands of other Australian children wanted the opportunity to be educated at a university, or, possibly, had ambitions to become doctors or scientists counted for nothing in those days. We had no opportunity to obtain higher education. The lot of the great majority of Australian children was to go to a primary school and after reaching the highest class in those institutions they were compelled to go to work in order to help to keep their homes going. Perhaps the honorable member for Wentworth was one of the fortunate ones whose parents had sufficient resources to enable them to provide higher education for their children. The fact is that under the capitalist system of which the basis is production for profit, there is no alternative to economic slavery for the worker and his children. The opportunity for higher education in the days to which I refer were given only to children of the wealthy. Perhaps, that is why we have had so many dud lawyers and doctors in this country. Listening to the honorable member one can only conclude that he must have been in the happy position that his parents could afford to give him a higher education. When I was a boy not 2 per cent, of Australian children had any opportunity whatever to decide what vocation they would follow, because their parents did not have the requisite financial resources to give them the opportunities of higher education. However, under Labour - this so-called socialistic party, which we are told wants to do all sorts of terrible things to the detriment of the Australian worker and his family - conditions have been changed for the benefit of the nation as a whole. Labour has awakened the conscience of the people not only in Australia but also in Great Britain and many other countries. To-day, all children according to their mental capacity are given the opportunity to proceed to secondary schools and to universities.
Existing educational facilities and social services are here to stay. The people will not again tolerate the ineptitude and careless disregard of their welfare which anti-Labour governments displayed in the past. I have had experience as a member of hospital committees in country towns and I have been a member of committees that were formed with the object of establishing hospitals in certain localities. It would have been easier to get blood out of a stone than to obtain financial assistance from anti-Labour governments for that purpose. Those governments were content to provide only the most meagre hospital facilities for the people. It is significant that no anti-Labour government has dared to interfere with the social services benefits provided by Labour governments. Despite what the Opposition parties say about the terrible crimes perpetrated by Labour governments no anti-Labour government has dared to repeal any major piece of legislation enacted by Labour. I can think of only one exception in that respect. I refer to the action of the Stevens Liberal Government in New South Wales, when it simply gave away State undertakings, such as, the Monier Pipe Works, the State brickworks and bluemetal quarries to its political friends. Honorable members opposite complain very loudly to-day about the shortage of bricks. I remind them that the State brickworks which the Stevens Government gave away to private enterprise are still idle. Nevertheless, the shareholders of the organization concerned are drawing dividends in respect of those dead works under an arrangement made with interests in control of other brickyards. They have been trying that ever since Sir Bertram Stevens was Premier of New South Wales. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) suggested what would become of the funds of the private banks if they came under government control. I challenge the Opposition to go before the electors of this country, either on the platform, per medium of statements in the press, or by radio broadcasts, and advocate a reversion to the condition of affairs of secondary inflation th at occurred under anti-Labour governments during World War T. They would not have the courage to do so. Existing controls with relation to private finance must be maintained if we are to continue to maintain economic stability in this country. I a.m convinced that if honorable members opposite are elected to office at the forthcoming general election they will sabotage the Commonwealth Bank, as was done previously by the Bruce-Page Government, and render it impotent to act in the interests of the people of this country.
– And interest rates would be raised.
Mv. LAZZARINI.- That is so. In the days to which I have referred, interest rates of 7 per cent, and 8 per cent, were charged on overdrafts. There were other, and worse features, however. Although honorable members opposite are supposed to represent the rural producers, they are allied with the finance companies. If in those days of secondary inflation a bank thought that an element of risk attached to a proposition concerning a primary producer, the bank would not accommodate him. The primary producer would then have to seek accommodation from a big finance company such as the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company Limited, or Pitt Son and Badgery Limited, which charged them 10 ,per cent, or 12 per cent, interest. If the banks had accepted risks and charged high rates of interest to the farmers there would have been a- public outcry. As the shareholders of the banks were also, in many instances, shareholders in the finance companies, the final result was the same. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) knows that my contention is true, because he has handled the accounts of some of the finance companies. If he is honest he will admit the truth of what I am, saying.
I shall now refer to criticism that wafflevelled at the Government by the honorable member for Wentworth, who is; always “ moaning “ about Communist; influence in the Public Service. He directed a question along these lines to the Prime Minister only recently. The Opposition alleges that we are allowing Communists to get into positions in the Public Service where they can obtain valuable information with which to sabotage the interests of this country. But what happens when security officers begin making inquiries? The honorable member for Wentworth immediately “squeals” about them prying into the affairs of public servants. If the Opposition contends seriously that we should ferret out every Communist in the Public Service, how can that he done other than by inquiry? It has been suggested that the taking of the oath of allegiance should be insisted upon. I point out that that is merely like snapping a finger. Any Communist would be prepared to subscribe to 50 oaths in order to be permitted to occupy a position where he could obtain information of value to the political party that he supports.
Much has been said about this Government’s attitude towards socialism. As honorable members know there once operated a system called the system of laisser-faire - the system of noninterference with private enterprise. That policy operated in Great Britain long before there were any laws to govern such matters as weights and measures and the quality and quantity of goods sold. It was claimed at the time that there was no need for the governments to introduce legislation to control weights and measures or to insist on yardsticks to ensure that the customer received full value for his money, or for a law to he introduced to make the selling of shoddy materials illegal, because the dishonest traders would lose all of their customers and only the honest traders would survive. After a period of years, however, it was found that only the dishonest traders had been successful; every one else went to the wall. It was therefore apparent that in order to protect the people as a whole from the rottenness of private enterprise, legislation would have to be introduced to govern such matters. That has been the history of economic development in Great Britain, and, indeed, in Australia.
Like the honorable member for Wentworth, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) makes some fantastic statements. It is a matter for wonder that the political party that he supports tolerates his incredible imagination. When referring to age pensions recently, it was apparent that either the honorable member for Parramatta was misinformed on the subject, or that he deliberately misstated the position. He said that the only government to reduce age pensions was the Scullin Government. He also claimed that the Deakin Government had introduced age pensions. Although that is true in the federal sphere I remind the House that a system of age pensions was in operation in New South Wales before federation. The idea, of paying pensions to the aged arose from a conversation in a shearing shed in the back country of New South Wales near Bourke. When the shearers met to frame resolutions to send to a Labour conference, one of their number -moved that pensions should be paid to men over 65 years of age and women over 60 years of age. That resolution became part of the Labour party’s platform. At the time Labour was the third party in the New South Wales Parliament. It was suggested to the Lyne Government that a system of age pensions should be introduced, but the suggestion was ignored. Because of its position in the State Parliament at that time the Labour party could destroy any government that it wished. Mr.
George Reid - subsequently Sir George Reid - the then leader of the opposition in the State Parliament, was then asked if he would support the payment of age pensions if Labour forced the defeat of the Lyne Government. Mr. Reid said, “ Yes, boys ; if you make me Premier, I shall provide pensions for the aged “. Thus, the age pension was introduced originally, not by the Deakin Government in the federal sphere, but by the Reid Government in New South Wales.
This budget will appeal to the people of Australia as a genuine attempt on the part of the Treasurer to maintain the economy of this country on a sound foundation. It is an honest budget and was presented by an honest man, who will, in the not distant future, again appeal successfully to the people of Australia on behalf of a government which, for eight years - one half of them the strenuous years of war, and the other half the equally strenuous years of peace - has rendered service to this nation which is not paralleled by that of any other government that I have known.
– It is indeed fortunate for this country, and for the Empire as a whole, that there still lives in the British Commonwealth the right honorable member for Woodford in the British House of Commons, Mr. Winston Churchill. Mr. Churchill has a habit of saying things that have great meaning and as time goes on, and we understand them better, have even greater meaning. One of his statements which has particular application to Australia to-day was -
We must beware of trying to build a society in which nobody counts for anything except politicians or officials, a society in which enterprise gains no reward and thrift no privileges.
I should like to make passing reference to a matter which has come to the fore in the last two years and upon which Mr. Churchill’s statement has a very direct bearing. It is remarkable to find that people in business and in industry who come to us with their problems, asking us to ventilate them, now invariably say, “ Please do not .mention my name “. They make that request because they fear the consequences that may result from the disclosure of their names. despite the fact that “their claims may be legitimate and amply justified. To illustrate my point, may I say that a man who recently approached me in relation to a matter affecting customs duties, like others, asked me not to mention his name, and said, in effect, “If you mention it, the Department of Trade and Customs will take some retaliatory action against me “. That that fear should exist in the coram unity 13 indeed a sorry state of affairs. Another illustration of the sorry pass to which we have come in this country is shown by .the fact that members of Parliament are now doing many things for their constituents which their constituents themselves formerly did in their own right. That fact is evident to many of us.
During the debate on the budget several honorable members opposite have asked, “ What is the policy of the Liberal party, and what are members of that party doing about it?” The platform and policy of the Liberal party have been printed and published in a document which is readily available to the people, just as are printed copies of the platform and policy of the Australian Labour party. I remind honorable members opposite, who question the policy of the Liberal party, that we on this side of the chamber have the right to question the policy of the Labour Government. The platform of the Australian Labour party provides for the abolition of the Senate, yet recently we had the spectacle of the number of members of the Senate being increased as the result of a legislative enactment initiated by the present Labour Government. The platform of the Australian Labour party also supports the principle of the initiative, referendum and recall, but a motion submitted by a private member seeking the adoption of the principle of the initiative, referendum and recall has remained on the noticepaper for some considerable time and has not, been fully debated, and, no doubt, will not be fully debated during the remainder of the lifetime of this Parliament. Another plank in the platform of the Australian Labour party provides for the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council ; but in spite of that, this Government appealed to the Privy Council in the Banking case. An honorable member opposite said recently that the members of the Australian Labour party always rigidly adhered to the party line. How rigidly have honorable members opposite adhered to the party line in the instances which I have quoted? As the result of the adverse public reaction to the proposal for the nationalization of private banking, the Australian Labour party has become nervous about stating its objective plainly to the people. The sole objective of the party is to bring about the socialization of industry, production, distribution, and exchange. Since that objective was first adopted by the party, many attempts have been made to amend it. Honorable members opposite have attempted to convey the impression that the Blackburn interpretative clauses have been included in the party’s platform and policy, but. the records of the 1948 conference show clearly that those clauses were not, accepted by the party. The story told by Labour supporters is often, “ We certainly have socialization as an objective, but the Constitution prevents us from going too far in its attainment “.
– Tell us one industry which the Labour Government has socialized.
– Has the honorable member never heard of shipping and broadcasting?
– There are means of achieving the objective of socialization other than in accordance with the Constitution. There is what I term the “ squeeze “ method, by which the Government sets up conditions which make it impossible for private enterprise to compete with enterprises owned by the State. That method is operated by the licensing system, by unfair competition from undertakings sponsored or owned by governments, by regulation, and by the establishment of government monopolies in certain fields of industry. Let us consider what has recently happened in the broadcasting field. Recently the Government established the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and clothed it with sweeping powers over the commercial as well as the national broadcasting systems. Last week in this Parliament we had a discussion about an order which had been promulgated by the control board and which the
Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who represents the Postmaster-General in this chamber, admitted to be a bad order. Certainly he has had the grace to admit it, and to state that the Government will amend it. But I ask: Why was the order promulgated in the first place? It is well known that there is a new system of radio broadcasting called frequency modulation, which is said to be a vast improvement upon the existing method called amplitude modulation. What has the Government done? It has said, in effect, “We shall have a complete monopoly of frequency modulation “. In other words, the coming thing in radio will be a government monopoly. Television is another new development in radio, and once again the Government has said, in effect, “ Television is to be our monopoly “. The commercial broadcasting stations will not be permitted to use frequency modulation or television. It is quite clear that amplitude modulation will gradually disappear, and, with its. disappearance will come the disappearance of the commercial broadcasting stations. The reason is not far to seek. Unless the commercial radio stations give the most modern services, such as frequency modulation and television, they will not obtain advertising, upon which they depend for their revenue, and they will be gradually but completely forced out of business. Then, through this “ squeeze “ method, radio broadcasting will be nationalized. The Government will gain that objective of its policy, not by constitutional means but by squeezing private industry out of business. That is what I mean by the “squeeze” method. When frequency modulation and television come into general operation, people will be able to sit at home and see on their receiving sets reproductions of olympiads, football games, test matches and other forms of entertainment. They will be watching a government programme. They will not be looking at a broadcast by a commercial station, because commercial stations will not be permitted to use frequency modulation and television.
Another way in which this “ squeeze “ method is being used is all too evident in the Shipping Act, which was passed by this Parliament a few months ago.
Under the provisions of that act, no ship may engage in the interstate trade unless it has been granted a licence by the Minister. Earlier in my speech, I referred to licences as an example of the “ squeeze “ technique. The Shipping Act provides the perfect example of the licence method of applying the squeeze. The act provides that a licence that has been granted in respect of a ship may be terminated at the discretion of the Minister. An owner may not claim, as a right, a licence for a ship which is more than 24 years old or which has not been built in an Australian yard. The plan is fairly easy to understand. The Government puts out of commission all ships that are more than 24 years old. Unfortunately, quite a number of vessels engaged in the Australian coastal trade are more than that age. The Government also says that private industry in relation to shipping must be licensed from time to time.
– And rightly so.
– That is the view of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), but it is not my view. As I have stated, the Minister may at any time terminate the licence that has been granted in respect of a ship. Under that act, private enterprise is not permitted to purchase ships outside this country. Australian vessels must be built in Australian yards. The act also provides that at least 50 per cent, of the ships that are constructed in Australian yards must be made available to the Australian Shipping Board. At this point in my speech I desire to refer briefly to the financial record of that organization. In reply to a question by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) on the 2nd March last, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) revealed that the combination of the trading results of Commonwealthowned, chartered tonnage and requisitioned tonnage resulted in debits of £1,874,460 in 1945-46, £4.226,780 in 1.946-47 and £4,047,480 in 1947-48. Thus the Australian Shipping Board made a loss of £10,148,720 in three years’ operations.
I now turn to the supreme example of the “ squeeze “ method. I refer, of course, to the Government’s attempt to nationalize banking. Under the Banking
Act of 1945, this Government possesses certain very definite powers over interests, credits, loans, surplus profits and many other aspects of banking. If it so desired, the Government could ruthlessly use those powers. We must remember that the nationalization of banking is a part of this ‘Government’s political platform, and it is well that we examine “the most recent statement by a Minister on that point. Speaking on the budget a few weeks ago, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said, in effect, that it was quite true that the Labour party had not been able to go so far as it would have liked with its banking policy. He stated -
So, as long as the Labour party stands by its decision, the nationalization of banking will be brought about. Tests of the constitutionality of Labour’s -proposal may be made by certain authorities, but surely no honorable member opposite would argue that any authority is greater than the voice of the people.
He went on - and this is the point -
If the people continue to return Labour governments that are pledged to the nationalization of banking, why should not such a policy be put into effect? By answering the arguments of our opponents we hope to make it clear to the people in their own interests the banking institutions of this country should be nationalized.
That statement can only mean that the present Government will regard the coming election as a referendum, or an opportunity to obtain a mandate, to authorize it to proceed with its policy to nationalize banking. The people of Australia should keep that point in mind.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Another form of the “ squeeze “ technique has been aplied to civil aviation. Early this year, I asked in this House how much had been made available in dollars to Trans-Australia Airlines for the purchase of new American aircraft during the last two years, and how much had been made available to any private company during the same period for the same purpose. I was told in reply that during the two years immediately preceding the 11th March, 1949, an amount of 1,263,000 dollars had been made available to Trans- Austral! a Airlines. No dollars had been made available to other companies for the purchase of American aircraft.
– Did other companies apply for dollars?
– Of course they did, and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, in particular, did so. Another way to squeeze private air companies out of business is to prevent them operating on international routes. For instance, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and other companies have been refused permission to operate overseas from Australia.
Another minor method of achieving nationalization’ is through the system of perpetual leases for war service land settlement, homes and farms, under which the ex-serviceman can at no time own his farm. One is immediately reminded of the statement of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who said that he did not believe in the workers owning their own homes lest they become “ little capitalists “.
I now propose to discuss petrol, which is a subject of great interest to many people, particularly those who live in the country, because petrol is essential to enable them to move about, and to convey their product from place to place. Early this year, the High Court ruled that the Australian Government no longer had power to administer the petrol rationing system as it then existed. The Government had its own legal advisers, and it must have known that its power to ration petrol would cease within a reasonably short space of time after the war ended. What provision did it make to meet that contingency ? Not long after the High Court gave its decision, the Prime Minister said that it was most likely that, in the near future, petrol rationing would be reintroduced. That statement was made deliberately to create the situation which now exists. The obvious reaction of the people to such a statement was to say: “Well, we are to have rationing again some time in the future. The only thing to do is to store up some petrol now “.
– To hoard it.
– Yes, to hoard it. Unfortunately it was the natural thing to do in the circumstances. People were threatened by the Prime Minister with petrol rationing in the future. If he had wanted to be fair to the people, he would have declared that petrol rationing was to be re-introduced, and would then have introduced it the next day. That would have been completely fair to everybody. Honorable members opposite say that the right honorable gentleman had no power, but why did he wait six or seven weeks before he called the Premiers together?
– The States have sovereign powers.
– Of course they have. Why did not the Prime Minister call the Premiers together immediately so chat they could have made a decision that would have become effective at once? Earlier this year we were told by the Prime Minister that he had explored a.ll possible avenues by which additional petrol supplies could be obtained. Yet, when somebody said that Australia could get petrol from Poland, he said that, before an import licence could be granted, chat avenue would have to be explored. Just bow much exploring did he really do ? Let us examine the Government’s own activities in connexion with the conservation of petrol. The Prime Minister has been outspoken about hoarding and unnecessary purchasing of petrol. What has he done to reduce the Commonwealth’s use of petrol? The average monthly consumption by Commonwealth vehicles during the five months ended, the 31st May, 1949, was 687,000 gallons. In June, 1949, when rationing was abandoned, consumption by the Commonwealth rose to 800,000 gallons. In July, the total reached 942,000 gallons. That was an average increase of 183,000 gallons, or 26 per cent, above the average monthly consumption under rationing. It represents approximately 50 per cent, of the total monthly requirement of petrol for the whole State of Tasmania. Yet the Prime Minister says that people should not increase their use of petrol!
We all know that the petrol problem is related to the Empire dollar problem, but what measure of equality is there between the various Empire countries in their dealings with the dollar pool? An examination of the average annual petrol consumption figures for vehicles in the respective Empire countries provides a. rather startling comparison. According to the statistics, each motor vehicle in Canada uses 726 gallons annually. In
India, the consumption is 664 gallons, in South Africa it is 612 gallons, in New Zealand 385 gallons, and in Australia 300 gallons. Where is the equality in this Empire dollar pool arrangement with regard to petrol? I thought that socialism had something to do with equality, but those figures give no indication of equality of treatment. It is remarkable that the governments of the first three countries that I named in that comparison are non-socialistic, whereas the last three are socialist and have maintained petrol rationing schemes. The Prime Minister might well have arranged a conference with Sir Stafford Cripps, whom he emulates so sedulously, and with other Empire ministers in order to arrange for something approaching equality of treatment in the distribution of petrol throughout the Empire.
This budget emits not one ray of hope for ex-servicemen who are in receipt of pensions. Ministers and their supporters have quoted, figures ad nauseam about the Government’s achievements in the fields of re-establishment and other activities associated with the needs and wants of exservicemen. But none of them have said anything about pensions. Surely the basic principle of ex-servicemen’s pensions must be to provide at least the necessaries of life for incapacitated soldiers. Ex-servicemen pensioners to-day are scarcely able to scrape along on what they receive. In fact, the 100 per cent, pension in 1917 was 40 per cent, of the basic wage, and the proportion has risen since then to only 44 per cent. Is that supposed to represent progress for exservicemen? Age and invalid pensions, with the principle of which everybody is in agreement, have increased by 22s. 6d. a week since 1920, but war pensions have increased by only 13s. a week in the same period. It is obvious to anybody with any knowledge of the situation of exservicemen to-day that their pension rates must be increased. In order to deal with the subject in specific detail, I refer to the circumstances of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. The special pension rate for such men, which is the maximum rate payable, is only £5 6s. a week. The basic wage now is £6 7s. a week, and a claim has been made upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for an increase to £10 a week, practically double the rate of the maximum pension for total and permanent incapacity due to war service. An examination, of the comparative progress of the basic wage and the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen is interesting and also extremely depressing. In 1920, when the basic wage was £3, the pension was £4. In 1943, when the basic wage was £4 5s., the pension was £4 16s. In 1948, the basic wage outstripped the pension and rose to £5 15s. compared with a maximum pension rate of £5 6s. The disparity has since been magnified, and to-day the basic wage is £6 7s., whilst the pension remains at £5 6s. In other words, the basic wage has increased by £3 7s. a week, while the maximum pension rate has increased by £1 6s. a week. The Limbless Soldiers Association is clamouring, and justly so in my opinion, for pension increases for its members. It wants the 100 per cent, pension of 55s. a week to be increased by 15s. a week.
The totally and permanently incapacitated and the limbless ex-serviceman do not enjoy the advantage that is available to us of being able to obtain work when they are willing to work. Many of them are completely incapable of earning a. livelihood for themselves. Surely it is the first duty of this Parliament, and of every Government, to ensure that these men, who risked so much, shall at no time suffer any rectifiable handicap from the great effort that they made on our behalf in the war. The land settlement scheme for ex-servicemen again comes to my mind. Surely the Government could for once change its mind so as to allow ex-servicemen on the land to buy their farms at some time. It is obvious that any man who knows that he will own his farm eventually will, by virtue of that knowledge, have a greater interest in it and devote more effort to its development and thereby be a better citizen of Australia. The Labour party has declared on various occasions that it believes in the nationalization of primary production. One has only to turn to the United Kingdom for confirmation of those declarations. Recently the socialist government of that country acquired various farm properties. The British Broadcasting Corporation announced in a news session that the Government had acquired the properties of 26 farmers in the south of England because its local agricultural officer had reported that they were not farming their land as he thought that they ought to do. Because of that bureaucrat’s decision, the Government took over the properties. A little earlier I heard an honorable member opposite ask, by interjection, who had said that the Labour party believed in the nationalization of the land. Let me quote what the Government Whip, the honorable member for Hume, said about it. Hansard reports him as having said - 1 submit that the Commonwealth Parliament should assume supreme control of land . . . By a decree of the Commonwealth, all land, whether allotted or not, should be taken out of the control of the States and placed under the control of the National Parliament . . .
How could any one construe that as meaning anything but nationalization of the land?
– Has the honorable member not heard of the Constitution?
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked whether I have not heard of the Constitution. I was proceeding to show that by the squeeze method and by unfair treatment, industries can be completely and effectively gathered into the fold of the Government. I say that the system of perpetual leasehold is one means of ensuring that a certain part of the land shall be nationalized. I have referred to pensions. The budget confers nothing on these people. Exservice organizations all over the country are bitterly disappointed with it. On the admission of the Government, costs are rising, and the basic wage is constantly rising; but pensions are not rising correspondingly. It is curious that it is considered that a man who has served in this Parliament is worth, in terms of a pension, twice the amount of pension of the man who took his life in his hands and served his country at war. I thought that at least exservicemen’s claims would have been recognized in the budget.
.- At the outset, I wish to make a few remarks on a question raised last week by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and again this afternoon by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser). The honorable member for Barker read extracts from the official report of the Australian Labour party Commonwealth conference of 1921. I do not propose to go over that ground again ; but I do wish to say that, of all the members on this side of the chamber, none knows as much about that conference as I do. I do not have to rely only on the printed pages of the report; I know the atmosphere and the personalities of that conference. I know the impressions left in the minds of the delegates. The motion moved by Mr. Blackburn on the fifth day was carried. I think Mr. Demaine, the Queensland member, was in the chair, and he ruled that the motion was in order. It was carried by fifteen votes to thirteen. The remarks made this afternoon decided me to speak on this matter. I know the Labour platform, I suppose, as well as any honorable members in this chamber do. Honorable members in this corner claim that the definition of the Australian Labour party objective has always been there for all to read, and has always been acknowledged. The rules book produced this afternoon certainly contains the declaration. I shall read it again. It is as follows: -
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 utilized by its owner in a socially useful manner and without exploitation.
That is what is called the “Blackburn Declaration “. The rules book produced this afternoon contains that declaration, but I have never seen it in the rules book of any other year. The rules book produced to-day is the new one. For over 30 years Labour mem bers received assistance, advice and information whenever they wanted it from Mr. Blackburn. It is, no doubt, gratifying to them to be able still to avail themselves of that assistance. I should like to reply to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), who has just sat down. He spoke of the evil ways in which small businessmen can be squeezed out of business. That kind of thing has happened in private enterprise. It happens only too often. The establishment of huge emporiums can and does squeeze out the little shopkeeper. Much could be said of the squeeze action of private enterprise, but I do not wish to go into details on that; I only wish to mention it. .
I turn now to the matters included in the budget. Without a doubt, the budget presents some good features) and must be regarded as a good budget by a large number of the people. There are others, of course, who can only see the features that particularly affect their own lives, and, to them, the budget is far from satisfactory. Those to whom the budget is a good budget are the influential sections of the community, and those to whom it is not a pleasant document are the people without political influence. Such individuals are not happy about it but they are in the minority. They have little political strength and their voices may not be heard. As I have spoken for them before, I have no hesitation in speaking for them again. I have much concern for them. I speak of those who must live on fixed incomes - our senior citizens, the widows and the invalids, and many others. They had hoped for some relief from this budget, and it is not being given to them. Yet the figures show that the basic wage has been increased thirteen times and by an aggregate of £1 15s. from 1936 to 1949, and, during the same period, pensions have risen by only 10s. I know that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has explained that pension rates are not affected by the cost of living, and he has explained why that is so; but the explanation is not convincing, because the pensioners themselves are very much affected by the cost of living. A. pensioner cannot live in any sort of decency to-day on £2 2s. 6d. a week. Many pensioners must pay 25s. a week for rent, or live as many of them are living under slum conditions. I quote the following report from a Melbourne newspaper : -
Dr. J. E. Co,:kei ill, medical officer to the Collingwood City Council, said that hundreds of aged people were living in slums and filthy verminous houses. . There was no room for elderly people in institutions. Hundreds died in asylums because their children could not look after them, and they had nowhere else to go.
I know that to be true. Unless pensioners are prepared to pay rent of £1 or £1 5s. a week they must live in rooms in dreadful circumstances. Many of them who are ill cannot even attend to themselves, nor can they get any one else to attend to them. They cannot afford to buy clothing or shoes. Every necessity from food to footwear has increased in price, and if the present real value of the £1 is only 10s., as was stated in this chamber last week, then pensioners are no better off now that they were under past governments that paid only what honorable members on this side of the committee have described as the “ miserable sum “ of £1 a week. Quite often the circumstances in which pensioners have to live are brought to my notice. At conferences recently in New South Wales and elsewhere pensioners have asked that they be given a pension of not less than £2 10s. a week. If prices continue to rise, as we have been told that they will do, these people will still be in difficulties even if their pensions are increased to £2 10s. a week. If a pension of £2 10s. a. week is ultimately granted it should not be reduced even if, at some time in the future, the cost of living falls.. The amount of £2 10s. should be the minimum rate. I have received many letters on this subject from all States, and I also know of the circumstances of pensioners from personal observation. I know quite well that pensioners have to go without many necessaries, and therefore I must continue to raise my voice on this subject whenever an opportunity to do so presents itself.
Even up to the eleventh hour, pensioners believed that the budget would contain a provision for increased pensions. Most pensioners will not accept the explanation that economic conditions at the moment are such that the country’s economy could not support an increase of pensions. This Government has improved on the old order so far as its social services legislation is concerned, but, if we think in terms of present needs, it was the bounden duty of any Labour administration to do what the Government has done. The furtherance of the well-being of the people could not remain merely a slogan. It had to be translated into action. True Labour representation requires of a democracy that all cause for sighing and weeping shall pass away, but we are still a long way from democracy in that Utopian sense. The cultivation of Labour ideals and principles, and the development of the spirit of social service required that this Government should do at least what it has already done, and perhaps a great deal more. Pensions have been increased to £2 10s. a week in. New Zealand. Why cannot a similar increase be made in Australia ?
Honorable members on the Government side have spoken in glowing terms of the increases in pensions granted in recent years, and at least one honorable member has claimed that the Government has provided freedom from fear of insecurity. I wish that that were true. If it were, those who have served their country in peace and in war would not want for shelter, sustenance or warmth. The worn-out wage-earner who has given service to the country in the best years of his life should not want. Some honorable members have mentioned child endowment. Let us be quite clear about who introduced child endowment, and also regarding what has been said in this Parliament about endowment for the first child. I have been interested to hear the subject of endowment for the first child discussed in this chamber not only during this debate but also during other debates. Child endowment was introduced by the Menzies United Australia party Government in 1941. In introducing the bill the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) specifically claimed that payment of endowment in respect of the first child was not warranted. His statement to that effect appeared in the March-April
Hansard of 1941. He claimed that the inclusion of the first child would increase the cost of child endowment by over 80 per cent. But now honorable members who belong to the Liberal party, which was formerly the United Australia party, desire the present Labour Government to give to the people what they themselves would not grant in 1941. Personally I should like endowment to be paid in respect of the first child. It is logical that it should be paid. The present Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) had a good deal to say on the subject of child endowment on the 27th November, 1940, when his party was in opposition. T shall speak about his remarks presently. Child endowment should have no effect on the basic wage. It was not given in relation to the basic wage. The amount that is paid as child endowment could not possibly keep a child, and indeed it has been claimed that it is given as a recognition to parents who are rearing a family. The present Minister for Information said in 1940 when speaking of the need to encourage the people to rear families -
This problem cannot be ignored. We cannot procrastinate in dealing with it if we wish to continue to progress as a white nation.
On the 10th December, of the same year he said -
The benefit of the machines must go back to the workers in the form of reduced hours and increased social services. It may not always lie desirable to keep on raising wages. It may bc better to give to the workers the benefit of their production in the form of social services such as child welfare centres, child endowment, kindergartens, creches . . .
T have made a particular point of reading those extracts from Hansard because only a few weeks ago I raised, for the second or third time in this chamber, the matter of provision of child welfare centres, kindergartens, and creches. I have quoted the words that were used by the present Minister for Information in 1940 to show that, at that time, he believed that these facilities should be provided as a part of the social services, of this country, because in that way the benefit of the machines would go back to the workers. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has pointed out that there are Lady Gowrie centres. That is so. They are demonstration centres, and there is one in each capital city. They do not even touch the fringe of the great need for the facilities that I have mentioned. Of the many thousands of children in Victoria, fewer than 3,000 are affected by the kindergarten work that is being carried out there at present. The nurseries can take care of only 600 children. On this subject I have received a letter from the secretary of the Victorian Association of Day Nurseries and Creches enclosing a copy of a letter which that body has forwarded to the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna). That letter reads -
This service is provided for children whose mothers are widows, deserted, divorced, separated, victims of bigamists, fathers incapable of earning sufficient income for health or other reasons. lt is also necessary for men who are widowers or have the sole care of children for any reason, to have them cared for.
The State is providing £25 per head, approximately one-third of cost, which with steadily rising costs, is quite inadequate.
No capital assistance in regard to buildings, previously provided by voluntary committees and now inadequate and in disrepair, is available.
There is no suitable existing training scheme to provide staff for nurseries. Mothercraft nurses even with pre-school certificates are not adequate staff. With financial assistance, a suitable course could be arranged with very little difficulty.
A residential nursery to care for children whose mothers are compelled to go to hospital for confinement or operation purposes is most urgently needed.
Mr. F. H. Rowe, some time ago, assured us of your interest in these matters, in fact suggested that we might meet you in Melbourne at some suitable opportunity.
I have read that letter because I am sure that many honorable members and many members of the public do not realize that so many small children in our community are not properly cared for. I should like to go into this subject in greater detail and if time permitted I should do so. I cannot do so now, however, as I wish to take this opportunity to advance the claims of other groups in the community for greater consideration at the hands of the Government. In these matters I believe that prevention is better than cure. The cost of providing social services could be substantially reduced if we applied ourselves more earnestly to the preventive side including the provision of adequate and proper housing.
I compliment the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) for expressing so boldly his dissatisfaction with his department’s administration of native affairs. On previous occasions in this chamber I have drawn attention to the manner in which aborigines are being treated. I did so because I was confident that my informants had not misled me. Therefore, I derive not a little satisfaction from the following report which was published in the Melbourne Herald of the 21st September last: -
Dar win, Wednesday. - The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) is dissatisfied with his department’s administration of native affairs.
After his recent tour of the Northern Territoryhe said at a public meeting at Alice Springs - “ I am not happy with much of whatI have seen andI have said so to the officers responsible “.
He said he had made two attempts to have the native problem made a national one. The States had refused hie request to surrender their natives to the Commonwealth.
Recently he had attended a conference in Canberra of native welfare workers from all States, and a certain programme was agreed upon. “ My complaint is that in the Northern Territory tliis programme has not been given effect to,”’ he said. “ I have left instructions that unless it is, something will happen to the officers responsible.”
Mr.Johnson, in almost every district he visited on his tour, asked questions of local residents, station owners, and policemen about the way in which natives were living.
That report substantiates the disclosures that I have made on previous occasions in this chamber. Since I was elected to the Parliament,I have received many letters from all parts of Australia which relate to the conditions under which aborigines are living, and I had intended to raise this matter before I even read the report of the Minister’s statement to which I have just referred. The Minister stated that he had made two attempts to have the native problem made a matter of national concern. In that respect I completely support him. However, when the Australian Government asked the people at a referendum to give it control over aborigines it submitted that pro posal with several other proposals and the people rejected it.I believe that the people would readily give that power to the Australian Government if that proposal alone were put to them at a referendum. Unfortunately, the majority of aborigines have no vote and, therefore, some members of the Parliament are not very much interested in their welfare. Perhaps, the Minister for the Interior has been informed of the contents of a letter that was addressed recently to the Prime Minister (Mr.Chifley), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) in the name of the Churches of Christ Aborigines Mission by Pastor DouglasNicholls, who is also secretary of the Australian Aborigines League. In view of the importance of that letter in the light of the Minister’s recent statement on the subject, I shall read it for the benefit of honorable members. It is as follows: -
I write to ask your support on behalf of my fellow members of the Australian aboriginal race for our request that we be accorded representation in the Australian National Parliament.
The request is that provision should be made for the election to the House of Representatives of a representative of the Australian aboriginal race to be elected upon the vote of all aborigines enrolled under the current Commonwealth franchise.
We wish that this proposal should be effected by compiling an electoral roll, including the whole of Australia, of all full-blood aborigines, or part aborigine blood, covering all other than those who have always been entitled to the normal franchise by virtue of being 50 per cent. or more white blood.
I desire to make it quite clear that this proposal does not envisage giving electoral rights to aborigines still living in the tribal state or who are ineligible under the law for enrolment as Commonwealth electors at the present time.
The request is simply that, in order to provide an opportunity for a spokesman for my people in the National Parliament of their own native land, there should be compiled into one electoral roll all the aborigines at present entitled to the franchise, and that they should vote, not in their respective electorates, but as for one electorate to choose their own representative.
I am not in a position to know whether the numbers so eligible would be of a strength warranting a request that the elected representative should have equal voting rights in the House of Representatives. My attitude, and the attitude of my people on this point, would be to take the reasonable view that, if the aborigine “electorate” approximated in numerical strength that of any of the newly created House of Representatives divisions, then we would expect our representative to have the right to vote.
If, on the other hand, the electoral strength of our race proved to be very substantially below the strength of the normal electoral divisions, then we would for the time being be content to accept the same status as the member for the Northern Territory, and the intended new member for the Australian Capital Territory, with comparable limited voting entitlement.
Would you be kind enough to consult the members of your political party, or your organization as the case may be, and advise me whether your party will support our request.
We feel that we are not asking more than the minimum to which we are entitled in requesting one spokesman for the native Australian race to sit in the Australian National Parliament where the white people of our native country will have 180 representatives in the next Parliament.
An indication of your party’s attitude to our request will be awaited with eagerness, and I trust will be decided as a matter of urgency.
I sincerely hope that sympathetic consideration will be given to this request.
Although I should like to say something about the Commonwealth Public Service I hardly know where to begin, because I have acquired so much material in the many letters that I have received from disgruntled people. These communications contain many different points of view and many different complaints. I am convinced that many of the problems could be sorted out and the anomalies rectified. I hope that steps will be taken to straighten things out. Honorable members opposite have offered a considerable amount of criticism from time to time about the increase of the numerical strength of the Public Service. From their comments about bureaucracy and other aspects one would imagine that the Labour Government had produced some particularly objectionable kind of officialdom not before known. I have listened to these complaints with considerable interest. Every time honorable members opposite air these grievances I am reminded, of the story of the Circumlocution Office, where this advice was given by Mr. Barnacle -
You’ll ask till they tell you. Then you’ll memorialize that department (according to regular forms which you’ll find out) for leave to memorialize this department. If you get it (which you may after a time), that memorial must be entered in that department, sent to be registered in this department, sent back to be signed by that department, sent back to be countersigned by this department, and then it will begin to be regularly before that department. You’ll find out when the business passes through each of these stages, by askingat both departments till they tell you . . , . When the business is regularly before that department, then you can watch it from timeto time through that department. When it comes regularly before this department, then, you must watch it from time to time through this department. We shall have to refer, it right and left; and when we refer it anywhere, then you’ll have to look it up. When it comes back to us at any time, then you had better look us up. When it sticks anywhere, you’ll have to try to give it a jog. When you write to another department about it, and then to this department about it, and don’t hear anything satisfactory about it, why then you had better . . . keep on writing.
I wonder why honorable members opposite think that this sort of thing origina ted with the Australian Labour party or with. Labour governments? They have only inherited the Circumlocution Office!
– in reply - The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) has made reference to the introduction of child endowment. The details of that legislation are well known to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), who was in charge of the measure in this chamber. The honorable member for Bourke implied that child endowment had nothing to do with the subject of the basic wage. I should like to correct that impression. The fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court did take child endowment into consideration when makingits determination on the basic wage. It has been said that child endowment and the pay-roll tax were introduced by honorable members opposite, when they formed the government of this country, with the object of obviating an increaseof the basic wage. The pay-roll tax has been referred to as a tax on earnings and not a tax on profits. I am not criticizing or condemning honorable membersopposite
– The object was to obtaina more equitable distribution of income.
– That arrangement was made by agreement with the employers’ organizations.
– It was supported strongly by the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
– Order! I shall not permit Opposition members to keep up a running fire of interjections. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is entitled to reply without interruption.
– We are not obstructive.
– As I have said, I am not criticizing honorable members opposite. I do not know what the mind of the court was with relation to social :services, in connexion with the basic wage determination. I have not read the transcript of the proceedings. I do know, of course, that certain aspects have arisen again, on which I do not propose to make any comment. From some of the remarks that have been made it is apparent that the matter of social services has been taken into account with relation to the basic wage. The honorable member for Bourke also referred to social services benefits and pointed out -what she understands to be the position in New Zealand. In that dominion a flat rate of ls. 6d. in the £1 is levied on income, and no exemptions or concessions are allowed. A very substantial sum is collected for the provision of social service benefits in New Zealand in that way. The procedure in this country in providing for social services is different. As honorable members have already been furnished with a comparison of the New Zealand and Australian schemes, I shall not again weary them by restating the position. However, I make it clear to the honorable member for Bourke that the Australian Labour party, and particularly myself, would have liked to have seen several measures introduced in this country, including a scheme of national superannuation. I think that it will be possible in the days to come to give consideration to such a measure. I stress, however, that it could not be financed out of present taxes.
The honorable member for Bourke also referred to endowment of the first child. This would cost over £30,000,000 a year. Furthermore, the abolition of the means test would cost another £60,000,000 a year. It is of no use attempting to fool the people with promises. These things can be done only by the imposition of additional taxes. They are, therefore, linked with the matter of general finance. Under the present provisions relating to the payment of invalid and age pensions, a man and his wife, who are both pensioners, may each receive an income and still retain their right to pensions. Including income from other sources, they may receive £7 os. a week between them. Nobody can contend that that is not a comfortable amount for the sustenance of old people who are not compelled to go to work and who do not need the dissipations that youth sometimes indulge in to gain experience of life. At the other end of the scale there are those who have nothing but their pension, and for them life must at times be hard. Suggestions have been made from time to time that something should be done for them. That, however, would necessitate the introduction of a means test within the means test, a matter on which there has been considerable disagreement. I mention these matters because the honorable member for Bourke has shown a great interest in them and I want her clearly to understand that whilst the Government is not unsympathetic towards her proposals it could not finance them by bank credit or out of thin air.
I shall not weary honorable members by covering all the points that have been raised during this debate. There are, however, some matters upon which I should like to touch. I shall dispose of minor matters first. One of them was a statement by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) for whose utterances I gather the press is always able to find plenty of space, doubtless because he is the de facto leader of the Opposition in this chamber. I refer at the moment to his remarks about the taxes imposed on persons in the lower income group. I place on record one example of how the taxes levied on such persons have been reduced in order to show the fallacy of the honorable member’s argument. Let us consider the position of the man in receipt of £600 a year, who has a wife and two children. During the war when the democratic countries were fighting for their liberty very high rates of taxes were levied on all sections of the community. I make no apology for that. During the war a taxpayer with a wife and two children who was in receipt of £600 per annum paid in income tax £11 S per annum. To-day such a taxpayer pays £26 but receives the whole amount back in child endowment for the second child.
– He also has to pay indirect taxes.
– I shall take the honorable member on about that one, too. I am dealing at the moment with direct taxes. Such a taxpayer in fact does not pay any tax at all because the whole of the levy of £26 is represented by social services contribution. The honorable member for Fawkner has said by interjection that such a person also pays indirect tax. Let us examine that point. No sales tax is levied on basic foodstuffs and clothing, and of all the materials associated with the building of a home 97 per cent, are free from sales tax. It is true that the man who buys a few pots of beer, or who goes to the races, for a man does not live by bread alone, has to pay some indirect taxes; but the basic necessaries of life are free of indirect taxes.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) painted a woeful picture of the decline of some of our exports. I suggest that he should arrange for some one to gather more correct statistics for his use. His figures and his misstatements of the position were misleading. I hope that they were not intentionally misleading. He claimed that since 1939 there had been a 1 per cent, fall in the quantity of greasy wool sent abroad. That is perfectly true; but what the right honorable gentleman forgot to tell the people was that there has been a 132 per cent, increase in the volume of scoured wools, noils and wool tops sent abroad. He also said that 5 per cent, less wheat was sent abroad now in comparison with 1939; but he omitted to tell the people that 63 per cent, more flour is now being sent than was sent in 1939.
He said that there had been a reduction, of 16 per cent, in our beef exports, but he omitted to say that there had been an increase in the exports of canned meats of 550 per cent. He said that there had been a 20 per cent, decrease in butterexports ; but he omitted to toll the people that exports of processed milk and otherdairy products had increased by 400 percent. I remind him and honorable members generally that in 1939 approximately 250,000 breadwinners were permanently unemployed in Australia, and no doubt an additional 250,000 were intermittently unemployed in this country. Nowadays our people arc able to live comfortably and are able tobuy the commodities about which the honorable member told us only a halftruth. Since 1939 there has also been a considerable increase in our population. When all these factors are taken into consideration an entirely different picture is portrayed. In respect of the volume of exports of the commodities about which the right honorable member complained, and of the by-products or part products which I have mentioned, in 1948 there was a 10 per cent, increase over the 1939 figures and in 1949 there was a 34 per cent, increase. Exports of these greater quantities have been achieved in spite of the fact that consuming capacity hi Australia has so greatly increased because the workers are now fully employed and are able to enjoy a decent standard of living.
– The Treasurer’s figures completely distort the position. The figures cited by the Leader of the Australian Country party were supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician.
– Of course they were supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician ; but the right honorable gentleman quoted the half of them that suited his purpose and deliberately omitted to quote the other half that would have correctly reflected the position.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) dealt with a matter of the highest importance in the economic life of the United Kingdom and of this country and in fact of most countries, and I thought, from his point of view, not- unfairly. The right honorable gentleman endeavoured to forecast the possible effects of devaluation. There must be many differences of opinion on that subject. I shall not deal with the particular aspect of our own devaluation at the moment but I shall deal with the factors that influenced the United Kingdom Government to devalue sterling. Despite expert opinions which may be expressed here, most of the leading economic and financial experts in the United States of America., and particularly those in responsible positions, have believed for quite a long time that one of the ingredients in the solution of the dollar problem is some devaluation of the currency. I am not mentioning any particular figure.
– lt was not 30 per cent.
– Perhaps not. The American experts did not mention a figure, but they considered that some devaluation of the currencies of European countries would make a considerable contribution to .the solution of the dollar problems, not permanently but in order to ease the immediate position, and vastly improve it in the future. One factor should be kept in mind. Marshall aid will terminate in 1952, and the Americans hope that by that time, the countries of Western Europe will be able to stand on their own. feet by paying in dollars for their essential requirements. I understand that the Secretary of the United States Treasury, Mr. Snyder, held that belief, and certainly those representing the United States Government on the International Monetary Fund were of that opinion. A great deal has been said in this chamber .about the International Monetary Fund, but I do not think that any one will dispute the value of having an international body overlooking the matter of currencies. I cannot emphasize too strongly the danger of successive depreciations of a currency until finally the currency becomes almost worthless. France has depreciated the franc three times since the end of the war, and the first two devaluations provide an example of the depreciation of a currency improving the economic position of a country. Tha.t is also true of Italy. Although there are always dangers in depreciating a currency, we can find instances to prove that depreciation has tended to remedy economic ills. The farmers and peasants of France were not. prepared to sell their goods at prices based on the previous value of the franc. The depreciation of the French currency tended to provide more incentive for those people, and, in addition, it brought about the release of a considerable amount of gold that had been hoarded. There were similar circumstances and results in Italy.
It has been known that for some time, certain European countries have desired to depreciate their currencies. At least one of them was a hard currency area eighteen months ago. However, the economic position of a country can change overnight. It is very difficult for the man in the street to understand how that can happen, and one needs to have all the information even to be able to form a reasonably intelligent opinion about the position. A number of European countries, excluding France and Italy, have wanted for some time to depreciate their currencies, as that move would assist them to earn not only dollars but also sterling. Honorable members may be surprised at that statement, but they should remember that some European countries are not able to earn enough sterling for their requirements. The position generally is most important ‘ to Australians, beca.use European countries such as France and Italy are excellent customers of the Commonwealth. I cite one instance in passing. Last year, France bought from Australia £46,000,000 worth of goods, expressed in Australian currency, but we purchased from France only slightly more than £4,000,000 worth of goods. A similar condition of affairs existed in our trade relations with Italy. Last year our sales to European countries exceeded our purchases by more than £85,000,000. In that respect, we were in much the same position as the United States of America, which sold to other countries vastly more than it purchased from them. France could not possibly pay Australia £46,000,000 in sterling, when we purchase only £4.000,000 of goods from it, and, therefore, other countries had to prop it up. I make it clear that I am citing France as an example, but the illustration is equally applicable to other European countries. The United States of America, with Marshall aid, and the United Kingdom with sterling propped up France. During the last nine months, the United Kingdom has paid to European countries £61,000,000 in sterling and that money is, in effect, in the form of free gifts.
I have mentioned those instances in order to show the great difficulties that are associated with currencies. One European country which is a hard currency area is Belgium. It holds a certain amount of sterling, but beyond that it requires payment in gold. Some European countries were awaiting the lead to devalue, and they would have depreciated their currencies with the consent of the International Monetary Fund within a reasonable period. In that way, their exports would have competed violently with British goods in foreign markets, and that fact became of the greatest importance to the United Kingdom. This year, the United Kingdom is obtaining from the United States of America 962,000,000 dollars in the form of Marshall aid. Last year, it received approximately 1,250,000,000 dollars from that source. Marshall aid will continue until 1952, and, by that time, the Americans will have given a vast sum of money to European countries. They have hoped that as the result of those gifts, the economy of European countries and of the United Kingdom in particular, would be stabilized. That has not happened. The Americans also believed that certain steps could be taken that would help to solve the economic problems. Rightly or wrongly, they believed that the devaluation of sterling and other European currencies would be, if not a cure for the trouble, at least a contribution to the solution of the dollar difficulty. I am not at liberty to discuss at great length - indeed I have not the knowledge to do so - the complete results of the conversations between Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. Ernest Bevin, who represented the United Kingdom, and the representatives of the United States of America at the recent economic conference at Washington. However, I am sure that every possibility of solving the problem was discussed at that meeting. We havealready seen some of the results of the talks in the liberalization of trade discrimination, to which the Minister for Trade and Commerce (Senator Courtice) referred last week. I am confident that there are many other ways - not by legislation, grant or loan - by which the Americans believe that they can render great assistance tothe United Kingdom and Western Europe if certain things, including the devaluation of the currency, are done.
A few minutes ago, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) interjected to the effect that the Americansdid not expect the United Kingdom todevalue sterling by 30 per cent. Possibly that statement is true. It is not for theInternational Monetary Fund or for the Americans themselves to dictate or even indicate to any country the degree towhich it should devalue its currency. They may pass a resolution in which they indicate that they believe that some depreciation of the European currencies will assist to solve the economic problems of those countries, but the decision to devalue rests with the countries concerned. I am surethat the Americans would not attempt toindicate to the United Kingdom, Australia or any other country their idea of thepercentage by which the respectivecurrencies should be devalued. They would leave it to the judgment of the country concerned, as the Internationa] Monetary Fund itself did, to decide upon a reasonable percentage. The Government of the United Kingdom decided upon 30 per cent. It has been suggested by some of the myrmidons of the Liberal party, such as writers in the SydneyMorning Herald, that the Australian £1 should not have been depreciated by the same percentage as the pound sterling. In so doing they paid a highcompliment to Australia’s economy, and contradicted those members of the Opposition who had complained of the diminishing purchasing power of the Australian £1. Indeed, twelve months ago, some arguments might have been advanced in favour of appreciating the Australian £1 in relation to sterling. In this respect, certain factors have to be considered. .First, there is the decline of world prices ; and, secondly, the fact that our own manufacturers were being undercut in the Australian market by cheap imports from countries which had already depreciated their currencies. Both those factors constituted a threat to Australia’s economy. It has been suggested by some members of the Opposition that the Government’s decision was influenced by politics. I discussed the matter with some of the Government’s most able advisers - economists, treasury officials and others. I did not ask them to judge on political grounds. We can do that ourselves. I asked them whether, in their judgment, it would be wise on economic grounds to follow Britain in devaluing our currency, and they offered the opinion that it would be the wisest thing to do in all the circumstances.
– Were they officials?
– They were officially consulted by me in conference and they wore supposed to know something about the matter. I have no wish to be intolerant in this discussion, and it may be that when the pros and cons are stated, the margin between the opposing points of view is not very wide. Honorable members opposite may hold what views they like about the political implications of the Government’s action. I have been concerned, as has the Minister for Customs, over the fact that already many Australian manufacturers were being undercut by goods imported from countries which, with the exception of one or two, had not then depreciated their currencies to any great extent. By depreciating their currencies still further they were bound to drive some Australian manuf acturers completely out of business.
We now have to consider the primary industries. Before the depreciation of the currency, there was a tendency for the price of primary products to fall. This was particularly noticeable with wool, other than the finest grades. It was true also of wheat, even of wheat sold under the International Wheat Agreement, and the decline was very substantial in respect of other wheat. The price of rabbit skins, which had previously earned a considerable amount of income for Australia, had fallen to almost nothing. Those engaged in goldmining in Western Australia claimed that, on the then price of gold, they could not carry on without a subsidy. The same was true of other metals. The price of lead and zinc concentrates was falling rapidly. Because of heavy importations from Mexico, the price of metals in the United States of America declined severely, and the decline was reflected in the price of base metals in the United Kingdom. I do not need to tell honorable members from Western Australia anything about the cost of producing gold. In this respect, we have something in common with South Africa. Indeed, our representative on the International Monetary Fund acts also as the representative of South Africa. It is not for me to discuss the economic position of that country, but there is no doubt that South Africa, which is one of the important gold producers in the world, has found itself in serious economic difficulties. Some difficulty was also being experienced in respect of sugar and other commodities. When all those factors were considered from the economic point of view, one would say that there had to be some devaluation of the currency. Not that we wanted it. We hoped that there would not be devaluation, although we knew of the difficulties in which some countries found themselves. We are the victims of inexorable circumstances. Currency depreciation in other countries compelled us to follow suit, having regard to the position of our primary and secondary industries.
The Leader of the Opposition discussed the effects of depreciation. He said that it would be necessary to sell 44 per cent. more goods on the American market than before depreciation in order to obtain any benefit from that move. That may or may not be true. For instance, if the price of wool rises in Australian currency, as it has done in the last few days, it will take more dollars to buy our wool than it did before. Moreover, it is possible that the price of wool, which was declining before devaluation of the currency took place, would have declined still further had the currency not been devalued. We export considerable quantities of lead and zinc concentrates to Belgium, which is a hard currency country, and the price we receive for those exports is of great importance to the sterling-dollar pool. If, as a result of devaluation, the price of lead and zinc, rises in Australian currency or in sterling, it may not be necessary to export greater quantities in order to earn the same amount in dollars. I make that point in passing in order to show that what the Leader of the Opposition suggested is the worst possible effect that could flow from devaluation. The price of British goods in the British market may increase, but those goods may still earn more dollars than before. They may not sell in the United States of America at a price representing that full degree of devaluation; they may sell at only a little less than before.
– Then devaluation would mean higher living costs.
– There is some truth in that. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) made a strong demand that the budget be withdrawn and reframed as the result of ‘devaluation. I have heard such demands on other occasions when there was no question of devaluation. It is well that honorable members should keep in mind the fact that only 9.9 per cent, of our imports come from United States dollar sources and 2.6 per cent, from Canadian dollar sources. Canada’s currency, of course, has not been depreciated so much as the currencies of other dominions. Not more than 12 per cent, or 13 per cent, of our imports come from the two dollar countries, of which Canada has depreciated its currency by only 10 per cent.
– - What proportion comes from sterling areas?
– Fifty per cent, of our imports come from the United Kingdom. Small quantities come from Belgium and Switzerland, which are hard currency countries, but the great bulk comes from soft currency areas.
– -But the prices will rise.
– I shall deal with that later. At the moment I am dealing with the suggestion that devaluation will have a considerable effect upon the Australian budget. The fact is that the budget will be affected only in minor ways. The costs of American goods subject to ad valorem duties will certainly increase as the result of devaluation, but that is not of great importance. It is also true that capital equipment, such as gradersand tractors, purchased in America will cost more money than previously. Such of Australia’s contributions to international organizations as are paid in dollarswill also rise. The servicing of the Australian debt in the United States of America will involve increased interest charges. Those four items represent some of our increased commitments. Other increases will be involved in the purchaseof products from the United Kingdom which include raw materials from dollar sources. As the result of the presence of dollar components, they will be dearer to purchase than they were previously. The four classes of direct increases that 1 have mentioned are of only a minor nature. The increases that will arise from the use of dollar components in manufactured articles imported from the United Kingdom are merely conjectural at present. lt has been suggested that, if the pricesof wool, lead, zinc and other commodities produced in this country rise as the result of devaluation, income tax revenue will increase this year. That is not true. As honorable members know, although wage and salary earners pay tax by means of current instalments, primaryproducers and exporting companies, which will benefit from price increases, pay provisional tax based on the incomes that they received in previous years, not on the income of the current year. Thus, the budget calculations will not be affected in respect of income tax payable by primary producers and exporting companies this year because, if their profits increase, the increases will not be reflected in higher income tax payments before the next budget is prepared. I explain these facts because the subjects have been mentioned during the debate. I deal with them not in any spirit of intolerance but merely in order to state the true position. I know that politics is a difficult game and that many honorable members think that they ought to score a point whenever the chance- to do so presents itself, but I am seeking to deal with these subjects without using them for political advantage. I wish to impress upon honorable members the grave seriousness of the dollar situation. I speak now with special reference to the United Kingdom. I have dealt with this subject often, but its importance warrants emphatic repetition. The people of the United Kingdom bore the brunt of the war and suffered greatly in the process. They have put a Labour Government into office and that, in the eyes of honorable members opposite, is one of the crimes that they have committed. However, I remind honorable gentlemen that they are the same airmen, the same soldiers, the same women and the same children as r.hose who suffered the privations and terrors of war. They are the same brave and courageous people who sacrificed so much for the world and for civilization.
– They were the same in 1939, too.
– That is perfectly true. The trouble seems to be that most of them have changed their political views since 1939. I want to impress upon honorable members opposite that that has been the only real change in the British people. One of the fundamental principles of democracy, I have always believed, is that the people have the right lo change their political views. I understand that honorable .members opposite, or their satellites outside the Parliament, arc spending hundreds of thousands of pounds in their efforts to induce the Australian people to change their political views. As far as I can see, the only sin that the people of Great Britain have committed has been to put a Labour government in office. Otherwise they are not different from the brave and courageous people who fought and suffered in the war and are now suffering privations in the aftermath of war.
There can be no doubt that the dollar situation assumed a very serious aspect just prior to the recent Washington conference, notwithstanding the various palliatives that had been employed from time to time. The whole economy of the sterling area could have broken down. We must keep in mind the fact that, for the last twenty years at any rate, Australia has at no time earned sufficient dollars to enable it to buy the things that it has wanted to buy from the United States of America. It has always had to go to the British Treasury for the purpose of ‘Obtaining the dollars that it has needed. We had to obtain 164,000,000 dollars from Great Britain in 1948-49. That was the amount by which the cost of goods that we bought from dollar areas exceeded our dollar earnings. In spite of the drastic cuts that were effected, our calls upon the Empire dollar pool last year totalled 73,000,000 dollars. The gold and dollar resources of the United Kingdom Government have decreased from over £500,000,000 to a very low amount. I think that it was stated publicly some time ago to be £400,000,000. It is certainly lower than that now, probably much lower. Should the United Kingdom eventually exhaust its dollar resources, Australia would have to cut off the flow of dollar imports so sharply that our economy would be completely disrupted. New Zealand, India, Pakistan and other countries would be similarly affected. Australian industry would be thrown into chaos because essential commodities, including some raw materials, would no longer be available to us. It is our duty to make an effort to ensure that such a state of affairs shall not come to pass. The Government is making such an effort. That is not merely a matter of sentiment, deeply grateful though we are to Great Britain. It is also good business practice. As honorable members know, the United Kingdom has been propping up Australia’s customers in Europe as well as being itself our best customer. It has been providing sterling credits in Europe so that we have been able to export our wool, sheepskins and other products to those countries. Last year, we sold £85,000,000 worth of commodities more than we bought, and the credits to pay us came from the United Kingdom, or the European recovery programme, not in the form of dollars, but as the result r>f the European system of payment. Thos” people buy our goods. Do honorable members not think that it is good business, leaving sentimentality aside, to help people who are helping our customers anr! are themselves our greatest customers’ That is all I propose to say at the moment about devaluation of the currency. Then will be several bills that will allow oFFer.tunity for further debate on that matter.
The Leader of the Australian Country party had a great deal to say about dollar loans in America with which to buy all sorts of things that Australia needs. All I want to say about dollar loans in America is that they have been a real headache to the governments of this country. I am speaking of loans that have been floated on the public market. We have about 10,000,000 dollars falling due shortly in America, and I think the Brisbane City Council and the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board, Sydney-
– And the Queensland State Government, at 7 per cent !
– That is perfectly true. We have the responsibility to see that those loans are paid. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) knows something about our responsibility in that respect. We have the responsibility to see that they are paid. It will not be easy to raise even a loan of 10,000,000 dollars, except on exorbitant terms. It will be difficult to have the transaction dealt with in a way that will not impose an undue burden on the State instrumentalities by which the loans are held. To go on the public market in America, at the present prices of foreign securities - and I include our own securities in the category of foreign securities - on Wallstreet, would he to obtain money at a ruinous rate of interest, and no political party in this country could possibly justify that.
– I suggested the International Monetary Fund.
– I shall come to that. There are international agencies that can be examined. One is the International Monetary Fund. It cannot meet all the demands for dollars made upon it. It would need to have the touch of Midas to be able to do that, because enormous requests have been made to it. We are examining these matters. No application for a dollar loan has been made by us yet. I say quite frankly that we have been working in consultation with the Government of the United Kingdom in that matter. I make no apology for that. While I have been Treasurer there have been four Chancellors of the Exchequer. One was Sir Kingsley Wood, who is now dead. He was a very able man. The next was Sir John Anderson, a conservative, and also very able. The next was Sir Hugh Dalton. The current Chancellor of the Exchequer is Sir Stafford Cripps. Regardless of the fact that the political views of two of those gentlemen differed from mine, my relations with all four have been consistently good. We have trusted and worked ,with one another. Sir Kingsley Wood could have treated me very much more firmly about the dollars. So could Sir John Anderson have done, later. They were prepared to take my word, as spokesman for the Australian Government, that the dollars that we expended were essential to this country. They put no dollar ration upon us. They could have done so, except in one year, when American soldiers spent in this country a lot of dollars on various activities that I have mentioned before. That was the only year when we earned more dollars than we spent. In all the other years, we have had to depend on the British Treasury for dollars. Those four Chancellors of the Exchequer were prepared to accept ray word, expressed after consultation with my colleagues in the Australian Government, that the dollars that we spent were essential to meet the needs of Australia. Whatever may befall me in politics, I have never broken my word with any of those four Chancellors of the Exchequer. They treated me fairly. They showed confidence in me. I would never betray the trust that they have reposed in me. I could not be recreant to my trust.
– The right honorable gentleman is giving himself a good testimonial.
– It is not a testimonial to me. I am giving a testimonial to the men who were prepared to trust me. I have tried to do the honorable thing in not betraying that trust. Whatever political advantage or disadvantage may arise, I am not going to break the close association that I have with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he be Conservative or Labour. Australia and England are so close together and their interests are so closely interwoven that it would not pay this country to do that.
The Leader of the Australian. Country party went on to talk about the importation of all sorts of things. He talked about the importation of tractors. That is a striking case. In the last two years, we have allotted 20,000,000 dollars for the importation of tractors. I am speaking only of agricultural tractors, of all types. I am not referring to orcharding tractors of 6 horse-power’. I repeat that we have allotted 20,000,000 dollars for the importation of agricultural tractors from America. In addition, we have allotted 10,000,000 dollars for the importation of tractor spare parts. That is a total of 30,000,000 dollars. In the last six months of last year, from all sources, we bought 5,000 tractors and, in the last six months, in one way or another, we have obtained about 10,000 tractors. This year, 14,864 agricultural tractors will be imported. I leave out industrial tractors, which can be obtained from, nowhere but America. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) claims that the investigations of his department show that the needs of this country for agricultural tractors amount to between 10,000 and 11,000 a year. If that is so, we are making up a substantial part of the back-log. We should give thought to how many tractors should come from the United Kingdom and the “easy” currency countries that are our customers. I do not think it greatly appeals to the British Treasury that we should be spending great quantities of dollars on American tractors when we can get tractors from the United Kingdom, or our customers in the “easy” currency area. Those tractors may not be quite what the farmers desire, but still it would not appeal to the British Treasury if we 3pent dollars on American tractors when we can get tractors from Great Britain. If we were free to do that, the British people might as well buy their food from the dollar countries. Tractors from the United Kingdom and Europe are becoming available in greater numbers. The Chambers works in Western Australia and International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited in Melbourne are developing their tractorproductive capacity. We expect a substantial flow of tractors from those companies.
The point that I make is that 14,864 tractors have come into the country.
– Where from?
– From all sources. I have given the figures of what will come from America - 20,000,000 dollar worth of tractors and 10,000,000 dollar worth of tractor spare parts this year. The number of agricultural tractors that will flow into the country from all sources totals 14,864. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture estimates that the number of agricultural tractors normally required is between 10,000 and 11,000 a year. The Government does not propose to borrow in America or from the International Bank or from any other source any more than is essential to meet the liabilities to which we are already committed. It hopes that, with an improvement in the availability of materials and goods in the easy currency areas of the United Kingdom and Europe, some of our commitments to the dollar area will decrease and we shall be able to fulfil the needs of primary producers and others more and more from those easy currency areas. During the last six months we have issued licences for the importation from easy currency areas of 200,000 tons of steel products. Those licences were issued after satisfactory evidence of availability had been provided. We have brought in, or are bringing in, 500 tons, or the equivalent of 59,000 rolls of wire products. We could not have done that twelve months ago. We are also importing steel from Japan as far1 as the ceiling quota which operates in regard to that country permits. We cannot import all the steel, that we want from Japan because we cannot afford to run a dollar deficit with the Supreme Command of the Allied Forces in the Pacific. We have to sell as much to Japan as we import from that country. There is one other aspect that I desire to mention, because it has been raised by the Leader of the Australian Country party, who produced a long list of orders that had been placed for tractors and other goods abroad. I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman quoted the list in all good faith, but1 such lists are “ bogus “ because they have been collected from merchants or storekeepers or other people of that kind and, to a large degree, represent multiple orders. A very striking instance of how the placing of multiple orders can be misleading when conclusions are drawn from the number of orders in hand, was provided in America recently when steel manufacturers believed that they could produce 100,000,000 tons of steel and find immediate buyers for it. There were enough orders on their books to keep them busy for two or three years, but they discovered later than many steel users had orders placed with four or five different producers, which misled the steel manufacturers about the size of the market awaiting their product. I also have some experience of similar instances. Last Saturday a primary producer spoke to me about getting a tractor and .1 asked him where he had placed his order. He mentioned five different firms with which he had placed orders for the one tractor that he wanted. The same kind of thing happens in respect of motor cars. An individual who is waiting to obtain a motor car may place an order with a number of different motor car companies. I have known of half a dozen men each of whom had orders placed with six different companies. When one company filled the order placed with it the orders placed with the other companies would be cancelled. Statistics that I have given regarding applications for import licences were based on the evidence of existing requirements. The figures given by the right honorable gentleman, however, represent multiple orders and give no true picture of requirements at all.
I should like the Opposition parties to make up their minds about some things if they possibly can. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) mentioned a press statement to the effect that we should prepare for a rainy day. That is what this Government has been doing since it came into office. It has been protecting the economy of the country by endeavouring to ensure that if we meet reverses of any kind, or if the shafts of misfortune are directed against us and other countries, our economy at least shall be able to stand up to any shock. Some time ago the Leader of the Australian Country party even went to the extent of wanting to rifle “ the children’s money box “, the National Welfare Fund, so as to provide some important taxation advantages to rich companies and individuals. This Government has placed in the National Welfare Fund such a reserve that the pensioners of this country need never again fear what happened to them before, when their pensions were drastically reduced.
I was very interested in a speech by Viscount Bruce in the House of Lords recently in which he mentioned twelve ways in which Britain could surmount its dollar ‘difficulties. No. 6 of these points was “ a reduction of social services expenditure “.
– That is what the Scullin. Labour Government did.
– Viscount Bruce said that in 1929 he had tried to impress on Australian politicians the need for a reduction of social services expenditure. It appears that there are one or two Australian politicians left upon whom he succeeded in impressing it. In October, 1929, the Scullin Government had not come into existence.
– But the Bruce-Page Government did not reduce expenditure on social services.
– Honorable members opposite need not take my word for the intentions of, the Bruce-Page Government. They have Viscount Brace’s own word for it.
– What about Mr. Scullin’s action? Who did reduce social services expenditure ?
– I shall come later to the question of who did it. Viscount Bruce only recently said the same thing as his party was saying in 1929 - “ reduce social services expenditure “. Viscount Brace advances that as one of his cures for England’s dollar difficulties. He also stated that he had said the same thing to his friends here in 1929, before the Scullin Government existed. I was very interested to see that statement by Viscount Bruce because I have often made it perfectly clear that this Government has made a provision so that age pensioners and others, no matter what economic reverses may be suffered by this country, will be protected from a reduction of social services.
– How does the Prime Minister prove that?
– I prove it by the fact that the National Welfare Fund now contains £100,000,000, which I should call a very substantial protection against any government, no matter what its political colour, threatening to reduce pensions.
– What is the difference between reducing pensions and depreciating the currency? That is doing the same thing in another way.
– There is nothing in what the honorable member for Fawkner says. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, which supports the Opposition parties and by which they swear, the £1 ought to be appreciated, not depreciated. The Opposition parties and the Sydney Morning Herald should confer and make up their minds. The Leader of the Australian Country party told us, prior to the last general election, that if a conservative government - or whatever alias the Opposition parties were using at that time - was returned to power, it would reestablish the Commonwealth Bank Board. In other words, seven or eight gentlemen connected with big business and elected on the basis of some social preference, would be allowed to guide the economic destinies of this country. Of course, they were not game at the general election to flaunt that as an objective of their party; but we now have the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that that is a part of. the policy of the Opposition. Therefore, if any honorable member opposite wishes to deny that, he must deny his own leader.
I was very interested to read of a statement made by President Truman in the United States of America at the beginning of September last when there had been a great deal of talk in that country about welfare States. Much the same talk was indulged in about the United Kingdom. When dealing with the provision of social services benefits, some honorable members opposite as well as some Australian newspapers spoke about pampering and spoon-feeding the people and destroying enterprise and incentive. In that respect they said that the Government had some association with another political party. Speaking at Pittsburg at the beginning of September, President Truman referred to this practice of placing labels on political parties. He instanced the experience of the late President Roosevelt when he introduced the New Deal in the United Spates of America. The first cry raised by the conservatives on that occasion was that the New Deal was socialism and regimentation. However, that cry did not work; the people returned Roosevelt to office and kept him there. On the next occasion, opponents of the Roosevelt administration had to find another label and they raised the catch-cry of bureaucracy and bankruptcy. When that catch-cry seemed to collect a bit of mildew, they raised the cry of collectivism and statism. Like the comic strips being published in this country, some honorable members opposite seem to be a few years behind the times. All the cries that they raise against this Government were raised against the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. Although Roosevelt was one of the greatest leaders of the movement to preserve liberty for the democracies of the world, his opponents raised the cry of bureaucracy and bankruptcy against him; and at the last presidential election the same cry was used against Truman. But it did not work. The man in the street; - the ordinary people - rejected the advice of those people. At Pittsburg, President Truman spoke about high-powered people who had been employed by his opponents, as similar interests are employed by the Opposition parties in this country, for the purpose of tacking some name on to the Government in order to bring it into disrepute. Those interests are still active in the United States of America and similar interests have been bought by the Opposition parties in this country. These men who have had convictions have been bought, the only difference between them and Judas being that Judas received only 30 pieces of silver whilst they have been much more highly paid for their apostasy. I refer to the experience of the Roosevelt administration in the United States of America because tie Labour party in Australia, like the party that Roosevelt led, has always stood for the masses of the people.
The Leader of the Australian Country party talked about the profits of companies. Let me remind him that in 1939, 542 of the leading companies in Australia paid an average dividend of 6.8 per cent, on shareholders’ funds, whereas last year they paid an average dividend of 7.8 per cent. Therefore, companies in this country are not being treated too badly. The Labour party does not object to industry and enterprise receiving a reasonable return for initiative and capital investment. We know that the best way to guarantee such a return is by providing full employment for the people. There is no other way. I repeat that the Labour party from its inception has taken a definite stand on that principle. The great masses of the people who have little except their family relationships and jobs are entitled to the protection and help of the more fortunate sections of the community. We have stood for justice for all, and no matter what labels may be tagged on to the Government we shall continue to do so. In reply to similar attacks, President Truman said of his opponents, “ They can call me what they like. The American people will have welfare services.” I remind honorable members that nearly 1,000,000 workers are out of work in the United States of America to-day because they are fighting not for an increase of wages, but for the provision of some security for themselves when they retire. The Ford Company, which is a non-union shop, recently instituted a social security insurance scheme for its employees. A census recently conducted by an employers’ organization in New South Wales showed that of twenty questions put to employees 62 per cent, of the answers placed security for the workers as the first consideration. That is our platform; that is our objective and our ideal.
Apart altogether from politics, all of us have a duty to perform. Honorable members opposite may smile, but I remind them that conservatism is as old as the pyramids whereas the Labour party was founded only in the ‘90’s as the result of industrial oppression and had economic conditions, and since its inception it has fought for the things that I have mentioned. It will continue to fight for those objectives, because apart altogether from polities everybody in this world has a duty to mankind generally. Whilst we are prepared to see industry make reasonable profits, we are not prepared to make the question of making profits the be-all and end-all of life. We may make mistakes because we are only human, and no political party can remake human nature. The most that we can do is to help the masses of the people and give to them some sense of security and some degree of human happiness. That is Labour’s objective. A recent survey in the United States of America disclosed -that 113 cartels control 50 per cent, of the production of that country. The Labour party has done something for Australia. It has given full employment to employees, and it has given to employers an assurance that their business will succeed because only full employment can provide that assurance to them. We have already paid off £110,000,000 of our overseas indebtedness and that amount will be increased to £117,000,000 by the end of this year. We have reduced our interest bill by £9,000,000 a year. We have provided to the utmost of our capacity stabilization schemes for primary producers, and we have extended social services benefits over a very wide field. We propose, subject to whatever legal limitations may be placed upon them, to extend those social services still further. We have given £45,000,000 to assist the United Kingdom, and apart from the upkeep of international relief agencies we have provided over £31,000,000 for direct international relief. We have expended over £2,000,000 in connexion with the maintenance of our forces in Japan. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has remarked on several occasions, Australia has the lowest percentage of unemployment of any country in the world. That is fact, not fancy. To honorable gentlemen who go about preaching that this Government stands for communism I say that the fact is that this Government is the only real bulwark against communism in this country. I shall refer to the words of
Mr. Pandit Nehru. When he was asked how communism could he held in check in the East he replied, simply, that it could be held in check not by battleships or soldiers, but only if the western countries saw to it that condition!! of life were improved for the people of the East who were prepared to accept any sort of a creed, because the conditions under which they were living could not be worse. I am referring to the conditions in the East.
– What about conditions in Australia ?
– I am referring to Mr. Pandit Nehru’s statement that communism could not be suppressed in the east or anywhere else merely by force of arms. As honorable members know, communism thrives on the misery of the people. Europe has been saved only because somebody was prepared to step in and improve the conditions of the people there. Briefly, Mr. Pandit Nehru said, in effect, “ You will never defeat communism with guns or soldiers or battleships; you will defeat it only if you continue to fight for the improvement of the conditions of the mass of the people “. That is what this Government has done; it is what this Government has fought for, and shall continue to fight for.
First item agreed to.
The general debate being concluded -
Remainder of proposed vote. ?374,000.
– We are considering the proposed vote for the Parliament, which includes the vote for the Senate, the House of Representatives, and a number of other items. I shall refer specifically to the proposed vote of ?36,000 for parliamentary printing. I direct attention to the scandalous misuse of public funds and the extravagant waste of money involved in authorized parliamentary printing by the present Government. As honorable members know, election time is very close at hand. Recently huge advertisements have appeared in the press incorporating a photograph of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the name of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) at the bottom. They were advertisements appealing for funds for the Australian Labour party. I do not intend, at this stage, to discuss what I consider to be the impropriety of Cabinet Ministers publicly soliciting funds. I point out, however, that the Government is using the public printing press, not for the public good, but expressly for the purpose of disseminating literature of this kind to influence the voting at the forthcoming general election.
– That is a terrible lie.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks do not relate to the proposed vote, and are therefore out of order.
– I am speaking of the proposed vote for parliamentary printing. Does not that term embrace documents that are printed allegedly for the use of the Parliament?
– What the honorable member has in mind will be dealt with when the proposed vote for the Department of Information is before the chamber. He may, of course, refer to the printing of Hansard and parliamentary papers.
– I am referring to parliamentary papers, alleged to be for the benefit of honorable members.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member should know that parliamentary papers are those that are laid on the table of the House.
– If that is so, I should like to know how it is proposed to expend ?36,000 for the relatively few documents that are tabled. I point out that that would be an average expenditure of ?500 to ?700 a week for those trivial documents.
– What about Hansard?
– I am under the impression that the printing of Hansard is not included in this proposed vote. However, even if that were so, surely it could not be shown that ?36,000 could be properly usable for this purpose. That is a vast amount of money. I say, emphatically, that this is an instance of the use of treasury funds for the purpose of furthering the electoral programme of the Austraiian Labour party.
I shall refer to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, the proposed vote in respect of which is £2,600. I should like to know what is the necessity for, or the purpose of that committee now that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has been established. We have quite a number of organizations, committees, boards and the like connected with broadcasting. First there is the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The chairman of that commission exercises certain control. Then there is the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee, and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board consisting of Mr. Fanning, Mr. Ogilvie and another gentleman, a recent creation of this Government. It is the board which will completely control broadcasting in every aspect. What, then, is the reason and necessity for a committee, under the chairmanship’ of our very distinguished friend, Senator Amour, which is going to expend £2,600 a year in connexion with a non-existent duty? I contend that as this is now a superfluous committee, this item should not appear in the Estimates. Will the Minister explain the reason for maintaining this redundant board? So far as I can see a sum of £2,600 is to be expended to defray the expenses of a few gentlemen travelling around the country on jaunts, who might otherwise have to pay their own way. There are, of course, other items in the vote for the Parliament. The total vote is £374,000, compared with £31.4,100 for 1948-49. Perhaps the Government can explain why an increase of nearly £60,000 in the vote has been considered necessary. Does this increase represent the outcome of the great campaign on the part of the Government carefully to safeguard the taxpayers’ money? As far as I am aware, increases in the salaries paid to staffs of the Parliament were made in a preceding year, so that the additional £60,000 cannot be accounted for in that way.
– Additional members and …. sena tors will be elected during the present.^), financial year.
– I am not at all sure that parliamentary allowances are, r-m-pi-fid bv this vote. In any case, the
Si- points I have raised are of sufficient importance to justify a reply by the Treasurer, though I have no doubt that it will not be forthcoming.
– I may as well reply to various’ points as they are raised during the debate. If other honorable members have matters to raise, I shall reply to them later.
– Why this change of front?
– There is no change of front on my part. I am always prepared to debate questions with honorable members opposite whenever they raise them.
– Then why was not a reply given to a question which I asked some time ago?
– The honorable member may not have asked a sensible question. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has dealt with matters which are covered by three divisions in the vote for the Parliament. He dealt first with Division 7, which covers the vote for the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, for which the vote this year is £2,600. An amount of £2,700 was provided last year and the expenditure amounted to £1,816. The honorable member has suggested that there is no necessity for the Broadcasting Committee, and that in fact the committee was appointed solely in order to give certain honorable members and senators an opportunity to jaunt around the countryside doing no useful work whatever. Al] I have to say to the honorable member is that certain members of the Opposition are also members of that committee.
– Not members of the Australian Country party.
– If honorable members opposite believe that all that the members of the committee are merely jaunting around the countryside spending money where it should not be spent, I suggest that the honorable thing for them to do is to resign from the committee. Let us see who among the Opposition are members of this committee.
– When did the committee last meet?
– I am answering the honorable member for Richmond, who has criticized the committee and questioned the need for its continuance. The Opposition members of the committee are Senator Rankin, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). In criticizing the proposed vote for the committee the honorable member for Richmond is in fact criticizing members of his own party and their conduct as members of the committee. It is nothing new for honorable members opposite to indulge in that sort of criticism. They do not all belong to one political party and one often finds that one branch of the Opposition expresses viewpoints which are completely divergent from those expressed by the other branch.
The honorable member for Richmond also had some observations to make regarding Division 8, which covers parliamentary printing. In discussing this item, he made a number of completely false statements. He thought that the consideration of this item gave him an opportunity to get in some propaganda about what he claimed to be the Government’s misspending of public money. Division 8 does not cover any of the matters which he mentioned in the early portion of his remarks. I challenge the honorable member to state a case to prove that the Government had misused public moneys. As honorable members know, the honorable member for Richmond frequently makes loose and wild statements about the Government and charges it with all sorts of imaginary crimes, but in not one instance has he ever been able to prove them. Again, on this occasion there is no substance in the honorable member’s allegations. As you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, rightly pointed out, the matters which he raised are not covered by this division. The vote this year for parliamentary printing is £36,000. As you pointed out, Mr. Temporary Chairman, it covers only three items, and as none of them related to the points raised by the honorable member you rightly ruled him out of order. The honorable member then endeavoured to bolster his case by saying that £36,000 was far too much to cover the three items listed under Division 8. Let us examine those items in order to determine whether or not the provision of £36,000 is justified. The first item covers the printing of Mansard, including cost of distribution, for which the vote is £23,000. It is true that that is a somewhat larger amount than was provided in 1948-49; but recently there has been a rise in the cost of printing generally and in postage rates.
– If these increases will have an effect on the cost of printing and distribution of Hansard, can the Minister explain why the estimate for 1949-50 is £7,000 below the actual expenditure for 1948-49 ?
– It is expected that some savings will be made at the Government Printing Office, which on many occasions in the past has been compelled to resort to overtime. Overtime payments have resulted in a rise in the cost of printing and distribution of Hansard. It is hoped that this year expenditure will be kept within the limit of £23,000.
– When the new Parliament meets the additional members and senators will each have an entitlement to free copies of Hansard.
– That is so. However, the Department of the Treasury has estimated that £23,000 will be sufficient to meet expenditure on this item. If the vote had been higher, the honorable member for Richmond would have complained even more bitterly. He has presented no case to justify his criticism of the vote for the Parliament. Indeed, much of his criticism was directed towards expenditure which is not covered by the vote for the Parliament and is not included in the budget. This Government has not used public money improperly in any way whatever. The honorable member will have an opportunity to speak on every item in these Estimates if he wishes to do 60. Just as on this occasion the Temporary Chairman found that the honorable member was completely out of order, so on every other occasion on which he brings forward an allegation about the improper expenditure of public money he will find that the Chairman, as soon. as he realizes what the honorable member is saying, because that takes some time to grasp, will again rule him out of order, because he will be out of order.
The other two items in this vote are ““Parliamentary Papers, £6,000” and *’ Other Printing and Binding, £7,000 “. Last year, an amount of £6,000 was provided for “Parliamentary Papers”, but only £4,445 was expended. Last year, an amount of £6,000 was provided for “ Other Printing and Binding “, but the expenditure was £7,66S. The proposed vote for “ Parliamentary Pointing “ for 1949-50 is £36,000, and, as I have explained, there is no point in the honorable member’s criticism.
The honorable member for Richmond has also pointed out that the proposed vote for the Parliament is £374,000, compared with the proposed vote of £314,100 Last year and an expenditure of £324,003. The honorable gentleman asked for an explanation of the estimated increase of expenditure amounting to £50,000. As another member of the Opposition interjected at the time, the number of senators and honorable members will be increased next year. The honorable member for Richmond said that he did not know whether honorable members’ salaries were paid under the proposed vote for the Parliament.
– They are not.
– As reference to Division 9 ‘will show, there will be many other expenses apart altogether from honorable members’ salaries. The proposed vote for the conveyance of members of the Parliament and others is £96,000 compared with an expenditure of £71,920 last year. The proposed vote for the maintenance of Ministers’ and members’ rooms, including salaries and staff is £65,000, compared with an expenditure of £54,777 last year. “With the increased number of senators and honorable members next year, it is expected that expenditure on the conveyance of members of the Parliament and others will be increased. If I were to analyse the other items under the heading of the Parliament, honorable members would see clearly that there is every reason to expect that the expenditure during this financial year will be on a somewhat larger scale than it was last year. That accounts for the increase of the proposed vote for Parliament to £374,000 this year, compared with an expenditure of £324,003 last year.
– I have stated repeatedly in this chamber that there should be a number of permanent standing committees to investigate major national problems, and report their conclusions to the Parliament. The need for - such standing committees is more urgent now than ever before. If we are to protect our economic structure, we must keep ourselves well informed about events. We must watch trends, and provide safeguards. In particular, we must be prepared to protect Australian secondary industries against the dumping of goods from abroad. We must ensure that this country alone does not observe the letter of the international trade agreement whilst other member nations flout its provisions.
– Order! How does the honorable member relate his remarks to the proposed vote?
– At the beginning of my remarks, I referred to the necessity for increasing the number of standing committees. At present, we have only the Public Works Committee and the Broadcasting Committee.
– Those are statutory committees which are already in existence.
– I contend that we require additional standing committees.
– That matter should not be raised when we are discussing the proposed vote for the Parliament.
– We should ensure that this country shall not be the only one to observe the letter of international trade agreement whilst other member nations flout its provisions. This country could lose external markets, and its industries could lose their home markets.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member is not confining his remarks to the remainder of the proposed vote for the Parliament.
– If I may point out-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks to the proposed vote under consideration.
– I shall do so. I desire to point out that there should he another standing committee, and I shall adduce reasons in support of my view.
– The honorable member is not in order in proposing an increase of expenditure.
– I shall not do so. Australia could lose its external markets, and its industries could lose their home markets. There have already been indications that the dollar’ crisis has been loaded against us. There have been glaring examples of this country imposing rigid restrictions against its own industries, while its competitors have-
– Order ‘. The honorable member is not connecting his remarks with the remainder of the proposed vote for the Parliament. If he continues in that strain, the Chair will ask him to resume his seat.
– I desire to show the need for another parliamentary standing committee. If I am not permitted to do so, il cannot see that there is any point in discussing the Estimates.
– What committees do we need ?
– - If the Temporary Chairman will permit me to proceed, I shall explain my views.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must relate his remarks to the remainder of the proposed vote for the Parliament.
– I desire to show that there should be other standing committees.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member will not be in order in doing so.
– If I am not in order, I should like you, sir, to indicate whether I shall have another opportunity to raise this matter during the consideration of the Estimates.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That is not relevant to the question.
– I desire to explain my reasons for advocating that a third standing committee should be appointed.
– The honorable member may not discussany standing committee other than thePublic Works Committee and the Broadcasting Committee.
– May I not show why a third committee should be appointed?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No.
– Will I have an opportunity to do so during the consideration of the Estimates?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is.no provision in the Estimates for an increased number of standing committees.
– Will I not have an opportunity to show that the present number of standing committees is not sufficient?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member may refer only to the standing committees now in existence.
– I rise to order and point out that your ruling, sir, is contrary to the first principles of committee work. All that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has to do is to move that the proposed vote be reduced by fi as an instruction to the committee to consider the establishment of another standing committee. The honorable member would be perfectly in order in doing so. I think that you, sir, who for the time being are in charge of the privileges of honorable members, have a duty to point out that fact to the honorable member, and I regret that you have not done so. I have known the time when you would have done so.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member were to move in that manner I would rule his motion out of order.
– Then we migh t as well close up.
– The matter that I want to place before the committee is, I believe, of the utmost importance to Australia. There is a standing committee on broadcasting, and one on public works. Why should there not be another standing committee? I do not want to increase the vote, because I know from my own parliamentary experience the difficulties associated with that.
– Will the honorable member say what committee he wants appointed?
– Will you allow me to adduce my arguments?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No.
– As I have said, if the Parliament were to appoint the standing committee that I have in mind it would not be necessary to increase the vote by one penny, but the appointment of the committee would assist the economy, the progress and the stability of the country. I desire to state my reasons for suggesting that the committee be appointed. There have been many glaring examples of the imposition of rigid restrictions on industry in Australia, while overseas competitors grab our trade. That is why the Parliament should appoint a standing committee on trade and tariffs. Its job would be to watch the operation of the many international agreements-
– Order ! The honorable member is not discussing the vote before the committee.
– I desire to do so.
The TEMPORARY’ CHAIRMAN.The honorable member knows that he is out of order. He knows that he may discuss only the item before the committee, but he is going all round the world.
– And so is the Standing Committee on Public Works, and the Broadcasting Committee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must not become facetious. He has been given a good deal of latitude.
– I am trying to point out that, in addition to standing committees on public works and broadcasting, there ought to be another standing committee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is no provision in the Estimates for an additional standing committee. This is neither the place nor the time to discuss the appointment of such a committee.
– May I state my arguments ?
– No. If the honorable member will not confine his remarks to the item before the committee, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I rise to order. The proposed vote before the committee is an amount of £374,000 for the Parliament as a whole. The money is to be expended for the purposes of the Senate, the House of Representatives, various committees, and for miscellaneous purposes. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) is seeking to discuss something which affects the Parliament as a whole, namely, the appointment of another standing committee. If you prevent him from doing so, you will be restricting to an intolerable degree discussion of what the Parliament may or may not do.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The committee is discussing the estimates for the Parliament, and the statements of the honorable member for Reid bear no relation to the proposed vote before the committee.
– I am saying that there should be a committee on trade and tariffs.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the Parliament agrees to the appointment of such a committee, provision will be made for it in the Estimates in due course.
– I am trying to get it in now.
– This is not the time or place to do so.
– I can see no other way. There is provision in this item for the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and also for the Broadcasting Committee. Why can I not suggest that the Parliament should appoint a standing committee on trade and tariffs? If I may not put forward such a suggestion now, when may I do so ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is aware that such a committee can be appointed only by resolution of the House.
– The Government’s explanation of the increasing cost of the Parliament is that more members are to be elected next year.
However, the people of Australia are becoming concerned over the increasing cost of administering the Parliament. The cost is rising year after year, and it is not entirely due to the enlarging of the Parliament. In 1945-46, the cost was £225,264, but for 1948-49 the cost was £324,003, an increase of just under £100,000. All over Australia we read slogans urging us to keep prices down, and to save for security, and we expect the Government to set an example in the administration of the Parliament itself. Far from doing so, however, the Government seems determined to spend money without any thought of economy. Apart from the allowances paid to members, expenditure on such items as telegrams and telephones is increasing. For instance, the cost of postage, telegrams, telephones and fire services for the Joint House Department was £8,554 in 1948-49, but for the current financial year it is estimated that the cost will be £11,500. The increase, of course, will be attributed to the increased charges for telephone calls, telegrams, &c, but the general rise of administrative costs cannot be explained away. I was intrigued to notice that £200 was set aside in 1948-49 to provide for the conveyance of senators and their luggage in Canberra, but that only £1 of that sum was expended. I have seen many senators being driven about Canberra. If that can be done at a cost of £1, the arrangement must be very economical. I fear that that cannot be the answer. A similar amount was set aside for the conveyance of members of the House of Representatives and their luggage in Canberra, and £168 was expended on that service. Perhaps some special system of bookkeeping is involved. Every honorable member knows that, although senators are not so numerous as members of the House of Representatives and do not assemble so frequently, the ratio is not 168 to1. Surely to goodness £1 would not cover the Canberra travelling expenses of all senators. Will the Minister tell me why only £1 was expended from the appropriation and for which honorable senator it was used ? The explanation probably lies in some accounting technicality, but I should like to hear it explained.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) whether he will be able to provide me with an answer to a question that I asked about a month ago concerning the right of an exservice settler to bequeath his property to his wife or next of kin. The Minister said that he would make inquiries and inform me of the result. The sands of time are running out fast, and I should very much like to have an answer before the Parliament is dissolved. Will the Minister be able to oblige me?
– in reply - I shall endeavour to expedite an answer to the honorable member’s question.
Question resloved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Land Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Department of Civil Aviation purposes) - Essendon, Victoria.
Postal purposes - Arran, Queensland.
Railway purposes - Potshot (Vlaming Head), Western Australia.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Currency: International Monetary Fund.
Electoral: Australian Capital Territory Franchise.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 October 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19491004_reps_18_204/>.