18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on thetable a copy of the recent trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Argentina? Will he state whether that agreement embodiesescalator clauses governing the sales of the products of Argentina to the United Kingdom in the event of an alteration of the exchange rate? Have any conversations taken place with the United Kingdom Government to ascertain what its attitude would be towards the inclusion of similar clauses in Australian contracts with Great Britain in the event of an alteration of the present exchange rate? Will the Prime Minister also ascertain the dollar content of oil products that are being sold by the United Kingdom to Argentina under the trade agreement between those two countries!
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I do not know whether a copy of the trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Argentina has been laid on the table of the House of Commons, but if it has I shall endeavour to obtain a copy of the document for the honorable member. I have not seen a copy of the complete agreement, although I have seen a condensed statement covering its general provisions. I cannot promise to make available to the honorable member information that is not at the command of the Australian Government, but I shall see what I can do to meet his request. I understand that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has dealt with the subject of the sale of oil by the United Kingdom to Argentina. He has pointed out that most of the oil that was being supplied under the trade agreement between those two countries consisted of crudes and petroleum products other than refined petrol. Of course, the United Kingdom supplies some petrol to Argentina under that agreement. The honorable member forReid has also asked whether the Australian Government has discussed with the United Kingdom Government the inclussion of escalator clauses in contracts, which would come into operation with an alteration of the exchange rate. That matter has been the subject of conversations between various countries and the United Kingdom for some years. Naturally, when there is a suspicion that the exchangerate may be altered, the inclusion of escalator clauses in trade agreements is discussed. Most of the contracts that Australia has made with the United! Kingdom are expressed in terms of United! Kingdom currency, although I believe that wheat contracts with that country are expressed in terms of Australian currency. I shall have a short statement prepared covering that particular point, and supply it to the honorable member.
– Becauseof the increasingly depressed state of rural industries due to the withholding of petrol, will the Prime Minister secure from the States at the earliest possible date police reports about the general position- with a view to releasing to essential users the supplies of liquid fuel that they urgently require? As the shortage of petrol is due to the coal strike and the encouragement of bulk hoarding, will the Prime Minister now frustrate the intention of the perpetrators of the recent coal strike, to damage industry -
– Order ! Will the honorable member now ask his question ?
– I shall do so now. Will the Prime Minister frustrate the perpetrators of the recent coal strike by releasing to essential users supplies of petrol from government: stocks?
Mr.CHIFLEY.- I thought that the position had been made completely clear Mr. Bernardcorser. - Many essential users have no petrol, though.
– The honorable gentleman and his colleagues can take some responsibility for that. What I have endeavoured to make clear from time to time is that this Government has no power in relation to the distribution of petrol. I thought that that facthad been made perfectly clear. ‘ Now that the Commonwealth has lost its power as the result of a High Court decision, the Government cannot say to whom a garage proprietor must sell petrol or to whom the oil companies must sell petrol. If a garage proprietor wants to give petrol to somebody who is going to travel a great distance for pleasure or who plans to go on a picnic, in preference to giving it to a primary producer, that is entirely his own ‘business under the present law. The Government is endeavouring to remedy that situation. We know that only wealthy people, who can afford to pay for large quantities of petrol are able to hoard it. A great deal of petrol has been hoarded, much of it by wealthy primary producers who live in the country. A few cases of hoarding by such people have been brought to my notice. Such people are acting quite within the law, of course, although they may be very selfish. In answer to the main part of the honorable member’s question, I have already stated clearly that the Defence Committee has intimated that it regards 50,000,000 gallons of petrol as the minimum reserve that ought to be held for defence purposes, apart from other needs connected with national security that might arise. I think that the honorable member will realize that the Government must take some notice of recommendations of that kind. I do not think that the question about the coal strike has anything to do with the matter, ‘because supplies of coal that have been won during the months since the strike ended have broken all previous records. At any rate, petrol vehicles do not operate on coal. The Government is not able to see its way clear to reduce the minimum reserve of petrol for defence requirements, and the companies have been fold of that fact. Those companies promised’ in the first place, after a request had been made to them by the Government, to deliver to retailers for sale to the public only the normal quantities of petrol that they had been delivering under the rationing scheme. That promise has not been kept, and there is no law by which this Government can do anything about it.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer relating to petrol.
Has any application been made by the oil companies of Australia for an increase of the price of petrol ? If so, when and how will it be determined? Would it be correct to say that the oil companies of Australia are withholding supplies of petrol pending the determination of their application? Is there any truth in the statement that the Shell Company of Australia Limited recently diverted a tanker that was en route to this country?
– According to the information that has been given to me by the chairman of the State Prices Ministers, the oil companies made an application last December for an increase of the price of petrol by 2d. a gallon on account of what they claimed to be rising costs. Up to date, the State prices commissioners have refused to accede to the request. Last Friday afternoon, I spent a couple of hours with Mr. Finnan, chairman of the State Ministers in charge of prices, who asked whether the Commonwealth had any information that would enable the .States to learn the facts regarding petrol costs. I understand that the State prices commissioners have appointed two officers to investigate this aspect of petrol prices. I placed at Mr. Finnan’s disposal such information as we had, and agreed to supply him, or officers appointed by the State prices commissioners, with any additional information that we obtained from overseas. In accordance with that promise, we have despatched cables overseas in an endeavour to ascertain the facts about petrol costs. I understand costs are also being investigated by officers in Britain, and that the Government of the United Kingdom will also consider the matter. It is claimed by both the sterling and dollar oil companies that there ought to be a world price for petrol. Therefore, if currency devaluation leads to an increase of the price of dollar petrol, or of petrol with a dollar content, there should be, it is claimed, an increase of the price of sterling petrol also, because the United States of America uses two-thirds of all the petrol produced. The Government has no power to ascertain what stocks of petrol are held in Australia. We have information only about oil coming into Australia, and going into seaboard store.
After that, we lose control. We cannot say whether the oil companies are withholding supplies in the hope of obtaining a higher price. I do not know whether a tanker was diverted by the Shell Company of Australia Limited, but I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member have any information I am able to obtain.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether any State Premier has notified him of a scarcity of petrol, and has asked him to take action in the matter? Have the oil companies notified him of the quantity of petrol they have in stock, and stated that it is insufficient to meet the needs of essential users?
– I have discussed the question of petrol supplies with three of the Premier.s by telephone. I believe that they are fully aware of the possibility of a shortage which appeared to be indicated at an early’ stage. I regret that it was not possible to convince the State Premiers to take action to meet that possibility immediately after the High Court delivered its judgment. I was confident that such action would overcome many of the difficulties that have since arisen due to circumstances over which the Australian Government has no control. Although I called a special meeting of the Premiers to consider the position immediately after the High Court gave its judgment, no action was taken in the matter by the Premiers. Subsequently, when a shortage appeared to be inevitable I again asked the State Premiers to discuss the matter and either to refer power to the Australian Government to reimpose rationing or to pass legislation in their respective Parliaments which would enable the Australian Government under complementary legislation to reimpose rationing. That complementary legislation will be introduced in this House this week. As I have dealt with this subject fully from time to time I do not think that I can say anything further upon it. The Premiers to whom I have spoken are fully aware of the position. I have discussed with them the legislation to be introduced in the respective State parliaments. So far Western Australia is the only State that has yet passed such legislation although I understand that the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, has introduced similar legislation in the Parliament of that State. We are endeavouring, by moral suasion of course, to get the States that intend to pass similar legislation to expedite its passage. When complementary legislation is introduced in this Parliament honorable members will be given an opportunity to discuss the subject. As I have said previously, the Australian Government has no control over petrol after it is landed at the seaboard except in respect of reserve stocks for defence purposes.
– A notice in Barron’s garage, Gympie-road, Brisbane, states the petrol will be sold only to regular customers. Underneath that, in big letters, is “ Blame Chifley ! “ I ask the Prime Minister whether the quantity of petrol being imported into Australia has been reduced since petrol rationing ended. Am I correct in my understanding that, apart from the normal supplies that come into the hands of the oil companies, additional petrol has been imported to allow for the increased number of motor vehicles on the road and also that a further quantity has been imported to cope with the disabilities created by the coal strike?
– I cannot be held responsible for what some garage proprietor displays in a notice. There has been no reduction in the amount of petrol that may be imported and it was intimated to the oil companies-
Opposition members interjecting,
-Order! Members of the Opposition have displayed great discourtesy to-day while Ministers have been answering questions. I shall have to name some honorable members if they do not behave themselves properly.
– The Government requested the oil companies to allow only that quantity of petrol to flow out that had been flowing out under rationing, and it intimated that it would endeavour, subject to the exigencies of the dollar position, to enable them to continue the importation of 440,000,000 gallons of petrol a year, which was the amount that bad been imported while rationing was in force, with an additional allowance for the natural increase of demand due to the fact of new cars coming on the road. Having made that matter perfectly clear to both the oil companies and the State Premiers, the Government has allowed that same amount of petrol to be imported, because this Government does indeed keep its promises.
– Last week, the Minister for Civil Aviation informed me by letter that he would consider a proposal that his department should take over and operate aerodromes after they had been constructed by the Orange City Council, and the Waugoola Shire and Cowra Municipal Council. In view of the fact that the citizens of hoth Orange and Cowra believe that an aerodrome is essential to serve the needs of progressive country centres, can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether he has yet reached a decision ?
– The general policy of the department regarding the building of aerodromes is to construct them at reasonable distances from one another. Sometimes, two towns that are close together act as rivals in their claims for aerodromes, and it would not be economic to construct aerodromes at hoth places. Representations have been made to the department by the authorities in Orange, which is a well populated centre, and the honorable member for Calare has written to me several times on the subject. No decision has yet been reached. The capacity to construct aerodromes is limited by the labour and material available. The Government has a plan to expend £13,900,000 within a period of three years on civil aviation projects, including the construction of aerodromes. I shall again examine the matter mentioned by the honorable member, and try to obtain an early decision. The honorable member will be informed of the result.
Singapore Legislative Council to introduce legislation designed to keep out of Singapore immigrants from countries that do not accept natives from Singapore and Malaya as migrants ? Is it a fact that this move is being made in retaliation against Australia in view of our immigration policy? Has the attention of the righthonorable gentleman been drawn to a foreign policy statement attributed’ to the Prime Minister of India, Pandit Nehru, that racial discrimination was one of the world’s greatest potential causes of danger? Are the views of the Indian, P’akistan, Chinese, Ceylonese, Burmese, Malayan and Indonesian Governments on Australia’s immigration policy known to the Australian Government? If so, what are those views ; and are they in conflict with Australia’s policy ?
– The Government is aware of the move that is being made by a Chinese millionaire merchant, named Tan, in the Singapore Legislative Council to bring down certain legislation which, in the opinion of certain sections of the Australian press and leaders of the Liberal party, is directed against Australia but which, in fact, is directed against Great Britain and against all European influences in Malaya. That move is part of the campaign being ‘ conducted by the Chinese terrorists in Malaya on the one hand and by their influential backers in the -Singapore Legislative Council on the other hand to drive all Europeans out of Malaya. I have read the proposed legislation and insofar as it asserts the rights of the Malayan people - and the Chinese in Malaya do not give any loyalty to Malaya but give all to China-k determine the composition of the population of Malaya it is unexceptional. It is rather paradoxical that the mover of this proposal in the Legislative Council of Malaya should be a Chinese, because the Government of Malaya has a ban on the admission of any more Chinese into Malaya. It also has a ban On the admission of any more Tamil Indians. If the people of Malaya want to say that they will give Australian citizens the same right of entry for ternporary business purposes into their country as we give to Malays who want to come to Australia, they have the right to say so. That is reciprocal treatment. If Tan, or any one else, thinks that by passing such legislation as he is proposing Malaya can break down the White Australia policy of this country, he is making a great mistake. The loudvoiced protests of members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party in support and the sensation-mongering Australian press will have no effect upon the Australian people.
Opposition members interjecting,
– That is true. Members of the Opposition were too cowardly to express an opinion when the recent legislation dealing with the matter was before the House. The Leader of the Opposition could not trust his followers and, as he proceeded with his speech, he showed that he could not trust himself.
– I rise to order.
– Order ! The question may not be debated.
– I desire (to reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question. Pandit Nehru and also the leaders of the Indonesian Government have, at all times, asserted to the Prime Minister personally, and to the Australian Minister for External Affairs personally, and in press interviews, that they do not dispute the right of the Australian people to determine the composition of the population in their own country.
– They claim that right themselves.
– Yes; they assert their own rights in respect of their own countries, and they recognize the rights of all countries to determine who shall enter those countries and live permanently in their society and who shall be excluded for good reasons. There has never been one protest to the Australian Government from any Asiatic country against our immigration policy. Any upsets that have occurred and any attempts that have been made to stir up feeling have been the work of irresponsible anti-Labour politicians and the irresponsible Australian press.
Db. H. V. Evatt, M.P. - Colonel Hodgson
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Minister for External Affairs has been offered a decoration by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and also whether the Government has concurred in his acceptance of this honour. Did the French Government wish to confer an honour on the retiring Australian Ambassador to France, Colonel Hodgson, and did the Australian Government decline to concur in the acceptance of that honour, with the result that the gesture has been abandoned ? If so, what is the reason for this policy of discrimination which permits the bestowal of honours on a highly placed politician, but forbids their bestowal upon other men who have given service to the Commonwealth and to the world, either in places of distinction in the armed forces of the Commonwealth or in high and responsible positions in civil life? Will the Government review its present policy to ensure that henceforth distinctions of this kind are bestowed on a more evenhanded and democratic basis ?
– The Minister for External Affairs will answer the honorable member’s questions.
– The answer to the first question is “ No “. The offer of the decoration referred to has- nothing, to do with the Government of the Philippines, but refers to an award made by a private body in the Philippines that. is connected with the United Nations. The second question was answered only recently by the Prime Minister through the medium of the press. The whole practice of the Commonwealth Public Service is contrary to permitting the acceptance of such decorations by public servants. There was no formal suggestion made regarding the conferring of an honour on Colonel Hodgson. The practice laid down by the Prime Minister, and the late Mr. Curtin when he was Prime Minister in the early days of the war, has been followed. As far as the reference to myself is concerned, the Prime Minister has already answered that question in a reply that he gave to a question asked by .a member of the Liberal party. The award conferred on me by the French Government had nothing to do with my position as Minister for External Affairs in this Government. As the Prime Minister has explained, it was, rightly or wrongly, a recognition by the Government of France of my services as President of the United Nations General Assembly.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Air concerning aircrew promotions by reminding the House that during the war there was a system of aircrew promotion for both commissioned and non-commissioned officers which had a relationship to the period of service of each individual. I recognize that because of the necessity to shrink the Air Force to peace-time establishment there have been many demotions occasioned by the loss of acting and temporary ranks. Will the Minister for Air inform the House how many persons holding junior officer rank and non-commissioned officer rank at present have not received a promotion since the end of the war? Can he also tell the House exactly what the present system of aircrew promotions is?
– Promotions in the Royal Australian Air Force are now, of course, on a peace-time basis. During the war certain promotions were made automatically after specified periods of service. I refer particularly to promotions from” pilot officer to flying officer, and then to flight lieutenant. That system , of course, still applies under normal conditions. Naturally, opportunities for promotion in peace-time are restricted. That is known when men enlist. The system of promoting noncommissioned officers now in operation is similar to that which was followed prior to the war and in both cases is related to the establishment. I have no doubt that many members of the Royal Australian Air Force who are seeking promotion have, so far, been disappointed owing to the limited scope for promotion in peacetime. That cannot be avoided. I do not know whether the honorable member is suggesting that there is some unfairness in promotions, but, if so. I shall have inquiries made and see what action can be taken to remedy the position if that is necessary.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister a question relating to events that took place on the adjournment of the House last night. At 11.20 p.m., the debate on tho motion for the adjournment was terminated by the closure, moved by a Minister. I point out, by way of a preliminary explanation, that the call had previously been given to th-t honorable member for Capricornia and the right honorable member for Cowper. The honorable member for Warringah had risen for the call on each occasion.
– And had already distributed copies of his speech.
– I am obliged to the Minister for Transport for that remark. That is what I am going to put to the Prime Minister. The Minister for Transport says that the honorable member for Warringah had already distributed copies of his speech.
– So he had.
– I think that the Minister for Information himself has frequently done that, and always with regret later on. It was known to Ministers that the honorable member for Warringah had an important statement to make.
– Order ! What is the right honorable gentleman’s question ?
– I submit, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my preliminary explanation is much shorter than many that I have heard tolerated by the Chair this morning.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is entitled only to the same privilege that is enjoyed by other honorable members. He may give a reasonable explanation of his question. He has gone far enough in that direction now, and I ask him to put his question.
– If I am allowed the same tolerance as is extended to other honorable members I shall be well content.
-Order! If the right honorable gentleman is reflecting on the Chair, I shall not permit him to put his question.
– Very well. I ask the Prime Minister whether it is true that Ministers knew that the honorable member for Warringah had an important statement to make on the subject of judicial appointments, and that, following a not uncommon practice, he had given a note on it to the press? Is it true that the gag was moved for the express purpose of preventing the honorable member from speaking? Is it true that after voting had taken place, the Minister for Transport said publicly in this House “Will the press kindly return Mr. Spender’s speech?”, thus demonstrating the truth of what is involved in my former questions? Did the Prime Minister vote for the gag? If so, why? If the right honorable gentleman was not aware of these other facts, what does he propose to do about the matter ?
– I was not aware of all the events associated with the application of the closure last night. However, as I have already pointed out to my own Ministers, we have just completed a very lengthy budget debate. In addition, honorable members have been given extensive opportunities to seek information at question time. Those opportunities, I may say, have been much more liberal than any ever provided by previous Prime Ministers.
– Question time is a series of statements by Ministers.
– My personal view is that it is unfair to the parliamentary staffs, including Hansard, and to others who have to sit here and listen to tho speeches to permit lengthy debates on the motion for the adjournment late at night.
– Shades of Arthur Calwell ! He used to speak every night.
– I may say that if members of the Opposition parties are not prepared to extend some courtesy when replies are being given to questions, something certainly will he done about that. It seems ludicrous to me that an honorable member who has handed to the press copies of a speech which he intends to make in the Parliament should expect the
House to sit up to midnight and after to listen to his prepared statement. It must be completely synthetic. It is extraordinary that honorable members who are supposed to have some knowledge of the affairs of this country have to rely on lengthy written speeches that have been prepared outside for them.
– That is a strong attack on the right honorable gentleman’s own Ministers.
– Except when making second-reading speeches, which have to be precise, I have never read prepared statements. No journalist in the press gallery of this House can say that I have given him a written speech in relation to any matter. The Leader of the Opposition has asked what I propose to do about this matter. I do not propose to do anything about it. I thought that when the gag was moved last night and on a previous occasion ample opportunity had already been given to honorable members to discuss matters of great importance. The Leader of the Opposition has spoken about the honorable member for Warringah making an important statement.
– Hear, hear !
– Then it must have been the exception to the rule. It would have been the first important statement that the honorable member for Warringah has ever made in this House.
– I lay on the table the following paper -
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Twentythird Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1948-49, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
The pack of canned apricots, peaches and pears for the 1949 season totalled 2,707,557 cases. Although that total is approximately 245,000 cases below the 1948 production, it is very satisfactory, particularly as the peach crops were considerably damaged by adverse weather and production of peaches of canning variety did not come up to expectations. The production of apricots and pears of canning quality reached record dimensions. The aggregate of the 1948 summer and winter packs of canned pineapples was the highest yet recorded, and the 1949 summer pack was maintained at a high level, 244,149 cases having been produced. Disposal of the crop is proceeding satisfactorily and the board anticipates there will be a complete clearance of stocks before the 1950 season’s processing operations commence. Exports of canned pineapples to Canada are again very substantial this year, and a welcome feature is that endeavours are being made by exporters to market additional quantities of canned apricots, peaches and pears in that dominion.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) proposed - That Standing Order 70 - 11 o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of the session.
.- Before this motion is put I think that it would be reasonable for the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to tell the House exactly which of the 31 Orders of the Day now listed on the notice-paper will be disposed of. It would also be appreciated if the right honorable gentleman would tell us how many of the 34 questions on the notice-paper, some of which have appeared on it for many months, will be answered before the end of the session. The Government should also make a statement of policy in regard to events that are taking place in south-east Asia and to the need for assistance in the defence of Hong Kong. I understand that the United States of America and the United Kingdom have taken concerted measures, and I should like to know what the government view is and whether it has taken any action.
– Order ! The question before the Chair is whether the motion should be agreed to.
.- I have been rising all the morning to try to get in a question-
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– Only a few minutes ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), absolutely through pique because the
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies)-
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat while I explain to him that if he desires to speak to the motion before the House he may do so, but if he attempts to deal with other matters I shall direct him to resume his seat.
– I rose to speak to the motion, and I am sorry if I digressed. As the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said, there are 34 questions on the notice-paper and others have been deleted by the Government. In addition, it is possible that other questions upon notice may have been submitted that have not yet appeared on the notice-paper. Some considerable time ago I asked a question upon notice about the finances of the government-controlled Qantas airline, and I wonder whether they have been falsified like the books of Trans-Australia Airlines. Although the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) madea statement, he did not answer my question.
– Order ! Is the honorable member aware of the business before the Chair?
– Then he must confine his remarks to that business.
– I have failed to receive answers to so many questions that I protest at this cavalier treatment.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
. -I make only one comment on the proposal before the House. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has moved for the suspension of the Standing Orders to permit the Government to introduce fresh business after 11 p.m. In view of this motion the right honorable gentleman’s reference to what happened last night can only be described as pious humbug. Last night he denied the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) an opportunity to speak at approximately 11.15 o’clock because, as he said, he did not want the staff to be keptworking after that hour. However, having denied members of the Opposition an opportunity to speak after that hour last night, the right honorable gentleman has now come forward with a request that the 11 o’clock rule be suspended for the remainder of the session in favour of the Government. Quite obviously what is good for the Government is not good for the Opposition, and it is clear that so long as the affairs of the House are conducted in this fashion members of the Opposition can hope for but little fairness or justice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to - That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to make provision for the grant of financial assistance to the States in respect of the cost of long service leave granted under industrial awards to employees in the coal mining industry.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to excise on coal.
– Before the motion is put to the House I should like to know from the Government what business it proposes to proceed with, and the order of precedence that will be given to that business on the noticepaper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The short measure that is before the House has been introduced to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1949, and I shall endeavour to explain briefly to the House its purpose and intent. The bill is described as -
A bill for an act to declare that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is empowered to determine a basic wage for adult females, and for purposes related thereto.
Perhaps the quickest way to explain the purpose of the measure is to refer honorable members to sections 13 and 25 of the principal act. Section 25, which delimits the jurisdiction of the Full Court, reads as follows : -
The Court may, for thepurposes of preventing or settling an industrial dispute, make an order or award altering -
the standard hours of work in an industry; (b) the basic wage or the principles upon which it is computed;
the period which shall be granted as annual leave with pay; or
the minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in an industry.
Section 13 prohibits a conciliation commissioner from dealing with the matters that are referred to in section 25, which are exclusively reserved for the full bench of the court.
At the present time there are applications before the court which relate to the basic wage generally - that is, the basic wage for adult males - and to a large number of disputes concerning the female minimum rate. In the course of the hearing of evidence on those applications discussion occurred on the precise meaning and application of the phrase “the minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in an industry”. Varying opinions were expressed by the members of the court. The judges who are hearing the cases to which I have referred are Chief Judge Kelly, Judge Foster and Judge Dunphy. Judge Kirby also considered the meaning of the phrase in an earlier case. The Chief Judge has said that the phrase means -
The lowest rate of payment for work done by adult women, either prescribed in an award or sought to be determined in a dispute, the “ industry “ being delimited by the award or the dispute, as the case may be.
Judge Foster has said that the phrase should be defined as -
The female counterpart of the male basic wage - the least amount payable in any industry for an adult female regarded as such, unaffected by any other considerations whatever.
Judge Kirby has said that the phrase should be interpreted as meaning -
The lowest rate of remuneration specified as the foundational rate of remuneration (upon which the structure of wage differentiation is built up) for unskilled adult females in the industry or group of industries covered by the particular award or order.
Let me stop here for a moment. There as a slight difference between the views ;that have been expressed by Judge Kirby and those that have been expressed by the Chief Judge and Judge Foster. The difference can be summarized in this way. Judge Foster has said that in relation to adult females the female minimum rate is the counterpart of the basic wage for adult males. The Chief Judge and Judge Kirby have identified it with the minimum rate payable in an industry that is before the court in relation to an industrial dispute in respect of which the court has jurisdiction. Those views tend to coalesce. There may be industries in which the minimum rate for women is higher than the rate that would bo regarded as corresponding to the female counterpart of the male basic wage. The remarks of the Chief Judge and Judge Kirby were designed to meet cases of that kind
Judge Dunphy has taken a different view. He has said that the phrase should be regarded as meaning that the -minimum rate of remuneration for every classification of work done by women in an industry has to be fixed by the full bench. If that view were upheld, it would mean that there would be taken away from conciliation commissioners the authority to fix the rates of remuneration that are applicable to many classifications of work done by women in industries, such as the clothing industry, that are largely staffed by women.
– Was not that substantially the practice prior to the amendment of the act in 1947.
– It was. At that time an individual judge had complete jurisdiction over a whole industry. That practice was not in any sense analogous to the position that would be created by this view of Judge Dunphy, for the reason that the full court fixed the basic wage for adult males. Let us consider the clothing trade application before Chief Judge Drake-Brockman. He dealt with the whole dispute, being bound only by the adult basic wage and the standard wage fixed by the judges. He would fix the minimum rate for each classification. The functions exercised by the single judge under the old system in that respect are now exercisable by conciliation commissioners so long as they do not collide with the four matters, basic wage, standard hours, female rates and annual leave.
– Why not take the question of fixing female rates of pay back to the hands of the court?
– If that were done there would be a contradiction of the principle of the act.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral mean the present act?
– Yes. The purpose of this bill is to make it clear that in fixing the female minimum rates for women the function of the full court is to perform in relation to adult women the same judicial function that it performs in the case of adult males. The principle is quite clear. It is that the three judges should deal with the basic matter of standard hours - 40 or 44 as the case may be. The court also should deal with the question of annual leave, and it should deal with the fundamental question of the basic wage. What has happened, because of the use of the phrase “female minimum rates in an industry”, is that the view has been expressed that that places upon the shoulders of the court the responsibility of fixing the minimum rate for every classification in an industry such as the clothing trade, which is clearly a trade in connexion with which conditions should be determined by the judicial officer who has to deal with the dispute in that industry as a whole. These basic matters, such as the fundamental features of the legal fixation of wages and condition of work, under the federal system are intended to be given to the full court. The position may be summed up fairly in this way: Judge Dunphy’s view - and it is only his view that I am referring to at the moment - which is based on his interpretation of the phrase “ in an industry “ as covering every vocation within an industry, as we’ll as the industry as a whole, is that the full court of three judges would have to hear evidence in, say, the clothing industry, of dozens of classifications, and fix what would be in substance a minimum wage for that classification built up upon a basic wage of some kind plus an allowance for skill, which would operate in the case of each classification. In other words, the full court of three judges would be engaged on such a matter probably for months, because some of these industries are industries in which the margin of skill is a matter of delicate adjustment dependent upon many factors. There would thereby be converted from the jurisdiction of the conciliation commissioners to the jurisdiction of the full court what i«, under the scheme of this legislation, essentially a matter for determination by an officer who had a special acquaintance with that industry. There are two other considerations also. The first is the view of the Chief Judge and Judge Kirby, that the female minimum rate would be the lowest rate paid under an award. Judge Foster says that it is the lowest wage which can be paid, but the other two judges say that it is the lowest rate fixed by the award. The House will understand the point that I am trying to make. It appears to be a technical distinction, and is based on the wording of the act. The Chief Judge says that the phrase means -
The lowest rate of payment for work done by adult women either prescribed in an award or sought to be determined in a dispute, the “ industry “ being delimited by the award or by the dispute, as the case may be.
Therefore, the Chief Judge does not take the view that Judge Dunphy has taken, but says that the court must, under that power, fix, not a basic wage for women in the ordinary sense of the term, but a minimum rate for women in each group that would be regarded as an ra-. dustry.
– “Will the effect of this amendment be to expand or contract the capacity of the court to deal with the matter?
– I shall sum up before I say what the bill does. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), when introducing an amend.ment of the act some months ago, said -
The Government desires to give the judges of the Arbitration Court the same power to fix a female basic wage as they have to fix si male basic wage.
The purpose of this bill is to do that.
– It brings the procedure into line with the method of fixing the base rate and marginal rates for males.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) has described exactly the object of this bill. The purpose of the act which has been in force and which has worked on the whole smoothly and well, is to give to the court power to deal with basic or fundamental matters. Therefore we say that the court shall fix the basic wage for adult females. A conciliation commissioner must not fix that wage, but is bound by the decision of the court in relation to that matter. Apart from that, when the conciliation commissioner deals with the clothing trade, which is an industry of great importance to this country, he hears evidence covering the widest possible field in relation to each classification of female workers, and is bound by the decision of the court as to the basic rate, but he can fix the margins for skill according to the classification. Therefore, the minimum rate payable in respect of one kind of woman worker in the clothing trade may be the basic wage for women plus 10s. or plus £1, plus 2s., depending on the facts of the case.
I ‘shall now reply to the earlier interjection of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). To the extent that I have described, the bill makes it clear that the detailed elaboration of the proper wage to be paid to a particular woman worker in an industry shall be a matter for the conciliation commissioner. That was the intention of the Parliament, and the view which was submitted by the Minister for Labour and National Service was in accordance with that principle. The Government did not intend that any other principle should be applied and broadly takes Judge Foster’s view, that the phrase mean3 the female counterpart of the male basic wage, the lowest amount payable in any industry for an adult female, regarded as such and unaffected by any other considerations whatsoever. What is th° irreducible minimum that an adult woman should receive who is employed in an industry over which the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has jurisdiction? In the words of Mr. Justice Piddington, what is the irreducible minimum which should be paid under an award or industrial agreement ? Mr. J Justic Higgins said that the basic wage had come to mean in Australia what in some countries had been called a living wage or a minimum wage. His Honour stated -
Thu wage is based on civilized conditions - tho normal needs of the average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilized community.
I do not want to deal with the history of that matter, which commenced in the Commonwealth sphere of arbitration with the Harvester declaration by Mr. Justice Higgins in 1907. The “ basic wage “ is the phrase which has been used in the Commonwealth statute for many years and the essential feature in computing it is that it shall be done by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in accordance with certain principles which the court examines, including the needs of the worker, and not excluding the economic conditions of the community. The court looks upon the worker as being entitled in a civilized community to some standard which can never be reduced in any industry by any arbitrator.
– Would that rule out the recognition of elderly women as slow workers ?
– No. This legislation deals with the normal or basic wage, and would not relate to the slow worker or the juvenile worker. It deals with the living wage that is payable to the adult working under normal conditions, and excluding matters that are dealt with by way of margins, and other matters like skill or some special loading that is thought appropriate in the proper cases. The matters have become of greater importance because of the claim by women workers generally that the wage should be fixed on a basis of equality with men. Under this amending legislation, the court will be at perfect liberty, if it wishes, to fix the wage upon that footing. The court can fix the female wage at a percentage of the male rate, or by reference to a specific sum variable from quarter to quarter as is the adult male basic wage to-day. The court has a free hand. The Parliament has not a free hand. All that the Parliament can do is to give the jurisdiction in this case to the court. This amendment will make it clear that the function of the court in respect of adult female workers generally is precisely the same function as is performed by the court in respect of adult male workers generally. This legislation will clear up a difficulty that now exists. A few weeks ago the court publicly asked that the Parliament should clarify the position. It is unnecessary to elaborate the point that there is a difference of opinion among the judges of the court, It may be that three and perhaps four differing points of view have been expressed, but the great distinction is between the view of one judge that the court should fix the wage for each occupation, including the margin if it is the minimum rate, and the view of the other three judges which corresponds to the principles that I am now putting to the House. There are differences in the application of the principles, as I have tried to explain, but this bill is merely-
– What is the position now in respect of the 75 per cent, limitation which was imposed during war-time? Is that limitation still operating? It did rise to 90 per cent, in some cases.
– That provision still operates in certain cases, but it applies only to women who, under the war-time act. and regulations, were described as doing work which previously had been done by men. It did not apply to work, such as is involved in certain parts of the clothing trade, upon which men had never been employed.
– Have we not reached th” stags at which the court should determine what conditions shall apply in such occupations?
– Certainly, irrespective of whether men were engaged in the work before the war or not. That was a wartime element, and therefore it was dealt with by special war-time legislation. It is now disappearing gradually from the scene. The court is face to face with the fundamental problem of what should be the adult female basic wage, the counterpart for women of the basic wage that is fixed from time to time by the court in relation to nien.
– In order to clarify the point, will the position in future be that, in such occupations, the court will fix a basic wage and that then the conciliation commissioner dealing with that particular industry will determine to what extent above that wage additional payments shall be paid having regard to the degree of skill required?
– The honorable member has stated the position precisely, except that jurisdiction will not depend on whether or not ‘ the work is, or was, normally performed by males. That involves a minor amendment so that the “ basic wage the phrase used in the case of men at present, will be referred to as “ the wage for adult males “. The general purpose of the amendment is exactly as the honorable member has stated it. The court’s decision upon the basic rate for women will bind a commissioner. He will not be able to fix a lower rate than that, but he will be free to award a margin above that rate for skill or other special circumstances. It may be in a particular industry that the minimum rate for any classification is never as low as the basic rate.
– A conciliation commissioner could fix a basic rate above the court’s basic rate if he wanted to do so.
– I would not call it a basic rate. I limit the use of that term to the irreducible minimum below which a commissioner will not be able to go. In the clothing trade, the conciliation commissioner would probably fix no wage for adults corresponding to the basic wage, because that assumes that there i*. no margin for skill and it is very difficult in any modern industrial organiza-tion to find an occupation for an adult in which no skill is required and for which some margin is not fairly allowable.
– The basic wage male worker is a vanishing animal. He is very hard to find.
– I think that that is due to the more civilized modern approach to industry. Everybody knows that, whatever name is applied to a situation, something above the basie wage should be given because of the circumstances of the particular case. Tn fact, speaking personally, I would deny that there is an occupation in which some particular skill or strength is not required to perform the function for which the worker is employed.
Returning to the main point, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) have summed up the purpose.* of the bill accurately. In short, the measure will give the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the same power to declare an irreducible minimum rate for adult females as it has to declare an irreducible minimum, rate for adult males. We say that it has the power already, but the bill will make clear, in response to a suggestion from the court, that it has power to do as I have said and that its duty is to do so. The minimum rate for males will be called the basic wage for adult males and that for women will be called the basic wage for adult females. No conciliation commissioner will be permitted to go below those figures. He may fix either of those rates if he thinks that no skill is required in a particular occupation, but he cannot fix a lower figure. I want honorable members to understand that the provisions of the bill will apply to the proceedings at present before the court. In fact, no time has been lost and no evidence has been wasted because the court has admitted any evidence that would have been necessary in the case of any particular interpretation of the phrase.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to give effect to amendments of the principal act which have been recommended by the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. Under the existing act, the Administrator appoints the times at which the Legislative Council shall meet. The council has recommended 8.11 amendment to provide that at the request of a substantial number of members the Administrator shall call a meeting of the council. The bill provides that at the request of seven members, corresponding to a quorum of the council, the Administrator shall cull a meeting for a date not later than fourteen days after he receives the request. The council considers that, as the act provides for the Administrator to preside at meetings of the council, it is more appropriate that he should be addressed as the “ President “ instead of as the “ Chairman “, as specified in the. a et. It is considered that the proposed change to President will add prestige to the position of the presiding officer of a legislative body.
A further amendment recommended by the council is the extension of the Tennant Creek electoral district. It is provided by the bill that the district shall be extended to cover the area contained within a circle having a radius of 40 miles measured from the Tennant Creek Post Office, in lieu of a radius of 20 miles as at present. The increased area, will include a number of the mining shows which rightly belong to the Tennant Creek district. The extended Tennant Creek district would encroach upon the present Stuart electoral district. The bill therefore provides for the exclusion from the Stuart district of that portion of the extended Tennant Creek district south of the twentieth degree of south latitude. A consequential alteration to the Batchelor electoral district is also necessary. The bill, if passed, will come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent. The reason for providing for this is that the electoral rolls to be used for the forthcoming Legislative Council election will close on the 31st October. It will be necessary, therefore, for the alteration of the boundary of the electoral district of Tennant Creek, and the consequential alterations of the boundaries of the electoral districts of Batchelor and Stuart to become effective before that date so that the necessary alterations may be made to the respective electoral rolls. I commend the bill to honorable members and ask them to grant it a speedy passage.
– The Opposition has examined the amendments to the principal act that are proposed in the bill and has no wish to delay the passage of the measure.
.- On the face of it, the bill is a simple machinery measure. Amongst other things, it proposes to change the title in the Legislative Council of the Administrator of the Northern Territory from “ Chairman “ to “ President “. I am not concerned about that, but I am concerned about some of the other implications of the bill. The future of the Northern Territory, as I envisage it, is related to the development of the pastoral industry. The bill has come before me unexpectedly and therefore I admit that I am unprepared to debate it. However, according to my recollection, the original legislation to establish the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory provided that an overwhelming preponderance of representation by elected members was to come from districts other than the pastoral districts.
– The honorable member should discuss the bill. He is not entitled to discuss general matters.
– I point out, with respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if you had heard the speech of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), when he moved the second reading of the bill, you would realize that I am right on the point. This bill provides for the alteration of electoral boundaries in the Northern Territory, and that is what I am discussing. I cannot refer to the alteration of boundaries without making some mention of the original boundaries. The original boundaries of electoral districts from which are elected members to this so-called Legislative Council ensured that most of the representation would be given to the town of Darwin, the town of Alice Springs, and the mining town of Tennant Creek. They left the great pastoral areas of the Northern Territory with such insignificant representation that it was not worth a hoot. Now the boundaries are to be altered in such a way as to increase the Tennant Creek area by taking in some of the surrounding pastoral country. The effect will be to subtract from the value of pastoral representation, and give greater representation to the miners of Tennant Creek.
– Has the honorable member looked at the proposal, which is to make the Tennant Creek area include the country within a 40 mile radius of the town ?
– I know that the proposal, if given effect, will increase the area of the Tennant Creek electorate, and diminish the representation of the pastoral interests. That is bad in principle. If the great Northern Territory is to be developed, it can be done only by developing the pastoral industry, which is fundamental to the Territory, and not by developing an artificial town of Darwin or an artificial administrative centre at Alice Springs. If the Legislative Council is to serve any useful purpose, provision should be made for greater representation of the pastoral industry. The council has no executive power; it only provides an opportunity for representatives to talk and make recommendations.
My second point is that, whether or not the boundaries are altered, the representatives of the people should be allowed to express themselves freely. We should not place them under the iron heel of a government which has shown many Fascist tendencies.
-The honorable member is getting away from the bill, which deals with certain specific matters. He must connect his remarks with the bill.
– It must be relevant to the bill for us to consider whether those who are elected to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory shall enjoy an opportunity to express themselves freely,
– I am afraid not. There is nothing in the bill about that.
– The bill deals most particularly with the area from which a representative of Tennant Creek is to be elected. There is already on the council, a representative for Tennant Creek, and his position will be affected by this measure. When electoral boundaries are altered, the character of the representa tion may also be altered. The present representative of Tennant Creek is Dr. Webster, who had the temerity, as the representative of those who elected him, to speak from his place in what passes for a parliament-
– If the honorable member tries to evade the ruling of the Chair, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I am referring to the proposal to extend the Tennant Creek electoral area.
– I know what the honorable member is referring to. He is not entitled to canvass the matter. There are only three important clauses in the bill before the House, and the honorable member must confine himself to the subject-matter of those clauses. One of them relates to the calling of meetings of the Legislative Council ; another to the alteration of the title of the administrator from “ chairman “ to “president” of the council; and the third to the actual boundaries of the Tennant Creek electoral district. The honorable member may not discuss any other matter.
– I am speaking of the boundaries of the Tennant Creek electoral district. The alteration of those boundaries may affect the choice of a representative by the people, just as the alteration of the boundaries of some of the electoral divisions for the Commonwealth Parliament was designed to change the representation. The present representative of Tennant Creek, whose position will be affected by the alteration of the boundaries, is Dr. Webster, a public servant.
– He would not have been returned even if the boundaries had not been altered.
– I do not know him.
– I am telling the honorable member.
– So far as I know, I have never met Dr. Webster, but I know that as soon as he, speaking in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, criticized this Government, he was dismissed from his position as a public servant.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I congratulate the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) upon being the first to see the light in regard to the delegation of powers by the Government to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. The position was aptly summed up by the Canberra Times, on the 12th October, when it published the following: -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) announced yesterday that Cabinet had decided to recommend to the Federal Parliamentary Labour party that amending legislation be brought down to limit the powers of the administrator over the Northern Territory Legislative Council.
At present, the administrator of the Territory has absolute power to convoke and prorogue the Council.
The bigness of governments and of Ministers of the Crown can be measured by the power they are prepared to give away. Therefore, I congratulate this Government upon behaving in a democratic way by divesting itself of some of its power, so that, the legislation now before the House is in marked contrast to much that has been introduced during the last three years. Section 4m of the principal act is as follows: -
The Administrator may, by notice published in the Government Gazette of the Territory, appoint such times for holding the sessions nf the Council as he thinks lit and may also, from time to time, in a similar manner prorogue the Council . . .
It is now proposed to add the following provision : -
Provided that the Administrator shall, at thu request of any seven or more members, call a meeting of the Council for any time not later than i.4. days after he receives the request.
That amendment is a step in the right direction in the interests of democracy and it will be appreciated by the people of the Northern Territory, particularly members of the Legislative Council who were in revolt some months ago because the Administrator, for reasons best known to himself and the Government, refused their request that he convene a meeting of the council. Those members of the council believe that they were frustrated so long as the Administrator could refuse to act on such a request. The Minister has heard the clarion voice of democracy that is resounding throughout the Northern Territory, and the Administrator is now to be deprived of the absolute power that he has hitherto possessed. On that point I ask the Minister to accept my congratulations in the name not of socialism but of democracy.
Under the measure it is also proposed to enlarge the Tennant Creek district by extending its present radius of 20 miles to 40 miles from the Tennant Creek post office, I regret that steps are not being taken to constitute a separate electoral district of the Barkly Tableland. When the principal act was being considered I urged that that be done, but the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) who was in charge of that measure in the absence, through illness, of the Minister for the Interior, did not act on my representations. At present, the Barkly Tableland is included in the Batchelor district which extends 700 miles in a northerly direction from a point about 20 miles south of Tennant Creek, easterly to the Queensland horder, and westerly to the Western Australian border. The Batchelor district also includes the Gulf area excluding the Darwin district which is 90 square miles in area. Dealing with this point when the principal act was under consideration, I said -
The schedule to the bill describes the Batchelor district as constituting the whole of that part of the territory is north of the 20th degree of south latitude, excepting the Darwin and Tennant Creek districts. That area extends 23 miles south of Tennant Creek and 4 miles south of Kelly’s Creek, and includes the whole of the country north to Darwin. It includes the whole of Barkly Tableland, which is mostly held by large station-owners, who have a community of interest with the people of Queensland. I suggest that a new electoral district, to be known as the Barkly Tableland district, be constituted, extending from the 20th degree of south latitude north to Newcastle Waters. Such a district would constitute an economic region, to the potentialities of which the residents of the Northern Territory aru very much alive. Furthermore, it would constitute a compact electoral district, the residents of which have a community of interest. If such a proposal were adopted the Batchelor electoral district could then comprise the area from Newcastle Waters to Darwin, excluding the Darwin town area.
I support the plea made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) that direct representation be given to the pastoralists. That could be achieved by constituting the Barkly Tableland a separate electoral district. Hitherto, those pastoralists, being included in the Batchelor district, were represented by a gentleman who was a storekeeper’s assistant at Newcastle Waters. He resigned at the last meeting of the Legislative Council, and, consequently, residents in that extensive district are now without a representative in the council. If the Barkly Tableland were made an electoral district the pastoralists at the northern end of the territory would be given direct representation. I press that request particularly in view of the intention to construct a railway connecting that part of the Northern Territory with the far western portion of Queensland with which it has community of interest. When that railway is constructed holdings in that area will be subdivided and taken over by many small settlers whose outlook, no doubt, will differ considerably from that of the big pastoralists in the remote Kimberley area.
– in reply - I appreciate the support ‘that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has given to the measure. Any one conversant with conditions in the Northern Territory or possessing only a slight knowledge of those conditions, readily recognizes the urgency to alter the boundaries of the present Tennant Creek district. Under the first survey that district extended from a radius of 20 miles from the Tennant Creek post office. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has no knowledge of the great development that has occurred in the Northern Territory since Labour assumed office in this Parliament. On my last visit to Tennant Creek I found that many mines, such as “ The Whippet “, “ Edna Beryl “, and the “ Last Hope “, which are outside the present boundaries of the Tennant Creek electoral district, have proved to be good gold producers. Under this measure they will be brought within that district with which they have com munity of interest. It may be as the honorable member for the Northern Territory has pointed out that a general re-survey of all of the electoral districts should be undertaken with a view to preserving community of interest in the respective districts. I give the assurance that should anomalies arise in that respect I shall have the boundaries generally re-surveyed with a view to rectifying such anomalies. The honorable member for Indi should be one of the last persons in this House to talk about the development of the Northern Territory. He derided the powers of the Legislative Council, but I ask what he did while he was Minister for the Interior. I have been through the Northern Territory, and not one trace have I been able to find of anything that he did to develop that great area, not even a milestone. He should not lay himself open to criticism for hie inactivity while he was in office. When this Government came to power, there was not one adequately watered stock route in the Northern Territory.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Your attention does not seem: to be concentrated on the speech of the Minister for the Interior. In view of the exacting manner in which you circumscribed my remarks on the bill, you seem to be allowing an extraordinarily wide range to the Minister.
– A member of the honorable gentleman’s own party was talking with me and I was not listening to the Minister. I shall listen and confine him to the matter before the Chair.
– If I trespassed, I apologize, but I did so because of what the honorable member for Indi said. I appreciate that a man with great knowledge of the Northern Territory has recognized the value of the legislation and given it his support. So I am prepared to allow the House to decide.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Session and prorogation of Council).
.- This clause is designed to make provision by statute ensuring that the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory shall be called together upon requisition. This provision is prompted, of course, by an incident that occurred within the last year or so, when a member of the council, Dr. Webster, a public servant, and an officer of the Department of Health at Tennant Creek, had the temerity to criticize the Government.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable member is not entitled to deal with that aspect.
– My point is that a member of the council, Dr. Webster, publicly asked that it be called together.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The Chair is aware of that, but it does not come into the consideration of the clause. The honorable member is aware that that is so. He knows that he may not discuss that matter now. The clause indicates the method of calling the council together, and that alone. It does not provide an opportunity to go into the history of the council. That matter may not be discussed on this clause.
– I heed what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but, surely, the prime purpose of this clause is to enable us to decide whether it is necessary to have a provision for calling the Legislative Council together. If the Parliament negatives the clause, the present position will prevail. Surely, it is in order to debate that.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member has stated the limits of the clause himself. The debate must be confined to the question whether the clause should be agreed to or the prevailing practice should continue. History of previous incidents is beside the point.
Mr-. McEWEN. - I say with greatest respect that I support the clause because I think it is essential that there should be a. provision enabling elected members of the Council, whom this democratic Government has outnumbered with official members, to have the Council called together if they think that is necessary in the interests of the administration of the Northern Territory. The necessity for that provision, surely, can be judged only on past events. That is the way in which the necessity for every law passed by the Parliament is judged by the Parliament. There is not a law that is introduced into the Parliament, whether it be a financial provision or any other statute, that the Government does not attempt to justify pointing to events that have occurred. That applies to the voting of money, the establishment of the Coal Industry Tribunal, the Stevedoring Industry Commission, or anything else.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member appears to be questioning my ruling. If he desires to do so, the method of doing so is prescribed. If the honorable member does not desire to question my ruling, he must keep strictly within it.
– If the Parliament is to function usefully, we must surely be able to examine-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! Do not proceed on that line. There is only one way in which the ruling of the Chair may be disagreed with. The honorable member is now saying, “If Parliament is to function . . . “. The clause has no relation to the functioning ofthe Parliament.
– Well, if the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory is to function, a primary condition is that it must be called together. Otherwise, it cannot function. The clause is designed to enable it to be called together. Its introduction was prompted by certain circumstances in which the Administrator of the Northern Territory refused to call the Council together. The Administrator is under the direct control of the Minister for the Interior, and we are led to presume that he was acting under the direction of the Minister in refusing to call the Council together.
Mr.JOHNSON. - That is not right, and the honorable member knows it is not.
– I do not know that it is not. The Minister will have the opportunity to deny it if he desires to take it.
– It is not worth denying. Mr. McEWEN. - I have been Minister for the Interior and I know that the
Administrator of the Northern Territory consults his Minister on matters of political moment. Surely that is not a secret. It is a fair deduction, I think that when, in the face of a public controversy, the Administrator refused to call the council together he consulted his Minister. If he failed to consult his Minister, his Minister being aware of the public controversy, might have offered an opinion, if not a direction, to the Administrator. That is my process of reasoning. This clause is necessary because a public servant in the Northern Territory-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I ask for leave to move the third reading of the bill forthwith.
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr. Johnson) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without delay.
The House divided. (Me. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 18th October (vide page 1532), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill seeks to appropriate the sum of £8,000,000 for the purpose of giving financial assistance to the States for the current financial year to offset their budgetary losses and the costs that they incurred as a result of the recent coal strike. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) set out the reasons why the Opposition, in agreeing to the passage of this bill, nonetheless criticized the administration for its action before and during the strike. I only desire to add a few observations to what he has said. I consider that it is important to consider how and why this money is being expended, and whether any real purpose will follow as a result of this huge expenditure. The strike, it is true, is over, but the position to-day is, in the first place, that the miners have suffered no change of heart whatever; in the second place, that the Government has failed utterly to build up coal stocks ; and in the third place, that Communists are still in charge of the major trade unions of this country. I have mentioned these three matters and shall develop them slightly because it is a commonplace now for Government members to go around the country and say, “ What a remarkable Prime Minister we have! He was able to settle the coal strike “. He is certainly a remarkable Prime Minister ! He is remarkable particularly for the fact that for weeks upon weeks he sat and did nothing while hundreds of thousands of decent Australians were out of work, while misery and want were in the land, and while the people as a whole were suffering from serious privation. But the idea of honorable members on the Government side is of course to “ sell “ the Prime Minister to the people as the man who was able to break the coal strike, and who upheld the system of arbitration. I want to establish that arbitration has not been upheld by the action of this Government. On the contrary, the system of arbitration, which was steadily destroyed by the Labour Administration from the Prime Minister down, is still under serious challenge.
– Order ! The honorable member must deal with the bill which is designed to enable a certain amount of money to be appropriated for assistance to the States.
– I understand that. The purpose of this measure is to appropriate £8,000,000 - I realize that to honorable members opposite, £8,000,000 is merely a figure in a book, and is of no consequence - to reimburse the States for losses incurred as the result of the coal strike. Obviously, had the Administration done its job properly, there would not be any need for this appropriation, because the coal strike losses would not have been incurred. It is important to consider, therefore, how the strike originated. Had the Government upheld the authority of the Arbitration Court, there would not have been a strike, and therefore, there would not have been any necessity to plunder the public purse in the manner proposed in this measure. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) directed attention to the very matters to which I propose to refer now. The first is that the Arbitration Court which the Government claims to have upheld during the strike, has been steadily destroyed by the Government. When the miners decided to strike and so to inflict vast losses on the community, they were con vinced that the Government would not take any steps whatever to deal with them. It is of advantage at times to survey the past, particularly on occasions such as this. Prior to the strike the miners, as we all know, had steadily won concession after concession from governments in both the Commonwealth and the New South Wales spheres. I am speaking particularly, of course, of the Commonwealth sphere. Those concessions were won, not through arbitration, but in flagrant defiance of the principles of arbitration which the Government had pledged itself to uphold.
– Has the honorable member never heard of the Coal Industry Tribunal?
– I am coming to that. The miners, by defying the Arbitration Court were able to have that court abolished so far as the coal mining industry was concerned, and replaced by a special tribunal called the Coal Industry Tribunal. Obviously the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), dwelling as he does in Tasmania, knows little about what has taken place in New South Wales. The Coal Industry Tribunal was set up by the Government to placate the miners, but once set up, it was ignored by the miners or merely used by them as an instrument for advancing their claims. When the Coal Industry Tribunal was not prepared to accede to their claims, they went on strike, and in that way, were able to extract one concession after another. In what way is the arbitration system any better off now? It is said that the miners went back to work but at what cost did they go back to work? They went back to work at the cost of the misery and degradation of individuals and the loss of millions of pounds worth of production, as well as this drain of £8,000,000 upon the exchequer of the Commonwealth. The miners themselves did not suffer. They were able to survive, and that they have experienced no change of heart whatever is clear from the fact that they intend to commence their holidays one week earlier than usual at Christmas time. Therefore, contrary to the Government’s claim that that industry has been made to understand that the Government is in control, miners have struck on a number of occasions on minor issues at a time when coal stocks nave been desperately low, and they now propose to commence their Christmas holidays earlier than usual. I have said that the Government contributed to the strike. I shall give two examples of the Government’s failure to uphold the authority of the Arbitration Court. A strike occurred at the Bunnerong Power House in Sydney against an award made, I think, by Mr. Justice Cantor. The workers refused to abide by that award, and the Prime Minister of this country, acting at that time under power conferred upon him by the National Security Act, overrode the award and referred the dispute te somebody else for determination. How can we expect men to stand by arbitration when the Prime Minister is prepared to go behind the decision of an arbitration court judge? The second example that I shall cite concerns the then Deputy Prime Minister. A double dump wool dispute occurred some time ago on the waterfront. Although an award of the Arbitration Court prescribed the conditions that the men were bound to observe, the Deputy Prime Minister, using again power under the National Security Act, overrode the Arbitration Court’s decision. I give those two examples to show that, by the time this strike commenced, the miners and all other militant sections of the community had .been led to believe that this Government, which had displayed consistent weakness in refusing to uphold our arbitration law, would not take any steps to deal with the strikers. In truth, it did not take any such steps until some weeks had passed. ‘On the contrary, it sat idly by whilst the community suffered, hoping that something would turn up which would make it unnecessary to give a decision on the matter. Finally, the Government had to make a decision and, in fact, it decided to do the very things that we on this side of the chamber had advocated long before. Had the Government acted some weeks earlier on the lines suggested by the Opposition parties, there would have been no necessity for this measure. Opposition speakers pointed out in this chamber that coal had to he won; that the community could not be allowed to be held up to ransom by the militant leaders of the miners’ federation. We said that there was an obligation on the Government to obtain coal. However, until the whole economy of this country had been brought to a standstill, the Government did nothing. Long before the strike commenced, we said that there was an obligation on the Government to freeze the funds of unions which went on strike against the interests of the community and against the law of the land. It is well to remind the people of this country that the Opposition’s warnings were not only ignored, but also ridiculed by the Government. Honorable members opposite said that our suggestion savoured of fascism, but, in truth, what the Government was finally compelled to do, after having allowed the people of this country to suffer, and tremendous unemployment to be caused; after having allowed to accumulate a huge back-log of demand which will take many months to overtake and after having allowed a grievous injury to he done to the economy of this country, was to abandon its industrial policy in favour of that of the Opposition. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who has indicated that he disagrees with that proposition, knows something of the platform of his party. It is well for us to remember that one of the planks of the platform of the Australian Labour party provides that defence personnel shall not be used in industrial disputes.
– Hear, hear!
– But in fact defence personnel were so used during the coal strike.
– They were not.
– The Minister has no regard for the truth either inside or outside the House. Every person in this country knows very well that the troops who were finally used for the purpose of winning coal were defence personnel. Yet, the Minister for Information has the hardihood to say that they were not so used. Who other than defence personnel won the coal? Who were the persons who were dressed in military uniforms and used military equipment on the coal-fields during that industrial dispute if they were not Army personnel ?
– That was a Communist conspiracy, not an industrial dispute.
– The subtle casuistry of the Minister fits him ideally. He says that the coal strike was not an industrial dispute but a Communist conspiracy. By the same token, may I ask what has the Government done about the Communists who were engaged in that conspiracy? Recently, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) made the fatuous statement that the Government had the Communists on the run. If Communists are on the run, they are only running to take lip new positions from which to commence a fresh assault on the economy of this country. The Communists are still in charge of many of the key unions in Australia. “Williams is still in charge of the miners federation; Healy is still in charge of the “Waterside “Workers Federation; Elliott is still in charge of the Seamen’s Union, and Thornton is still in charge of the Federated Ironworkers Association. I stop at those four, though it is general knowledge that many other key unions are controlled by Communists.
– Donald Thompson is still in charge of the Building Trades Federation.
– That is so. The Minister has said that the Government did not use defence personnel for the purpose of dealing with industrial disputes, that this was not an industrial dispute but a Communist conspiracy. In reply to that statement let me point out in the first place that the Communist conspiracy still exists in Australia, and that nothing whatever has been done by the Government to combat it except the launching of prosecutions against one man in respect of a charge which had nothing to do with this industrial dispute.
– Against three men.
– The other two are of no consequence whatever.
– They have been sent to gaol.
– Very well; I agree that three men were prosecuted. “ That said the Minister in effect, “ deals effectively with the Communist menace “. The people know very well that it does not. The reason why this Government is not prepared to deal with the Communist party is revealed clearly by an examina tion of the composition of the Labour movement. One has only to look at the official report of the proceedings of the Eighteenth Triennial Federal Conference of the Australian Labour party to ascertain who comprise what is called the Australian Labour party directorate. The names of the members of the directorate are listed on the back of the cover of the printed report of the proceedings. The report also contains the names of the so-called parliamentary representatives of the party, and those of the secretaries of the Trades and Labour Council. Included among them are the names of very well known Communists.
– For instance?
- Mr. M. Healy, alias McCracken, the Communist secretary of the Brisbane Trades Hall Council, who is listed as a member of the directorate of the party is one of them. It is not unusual for the attention of honorable members to be directed to the fact that members of the Australian Council of Trades Unions have been helped by this Government to go overseas. On more than one occasion we have drawn attention-
– Order! The honorable member must return to the bill.
– The purpose of this bill is to appropriate a sum of £8,000,000 to cover up losses that have been brought about as the result of a Communist conspiracy in this country. The money to be appropriated belongs to the people. That amount of money may be only the first of a number of large sums that will have to be provided for such a purpose unless we get to the fundamental cause of this burden. I am dealing specifically with the bill. When we are asked to appropriate a sum of £8,000,000 for such a purpose it is pertinent to ask whether the possibility of trouble of this sort has ended or whether it will recur again. It is too often forgotten that the moneys appropriated by the Parliament belong to the people of this country. The Government has fought the Communists merely by word of mouth. The Minister for Information who goes to the Sydney Domain-
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in making a dissertation on the subject of communism. He must deal with the bill.
– I am dealing with £8,000,000 of the people’s money which will be poured down the drain as other millions of pounds have already been poured down the drain because the Government has made no attempt to deal with the menace of communism.
I propose now to deal with the subject of coal stocks held in this country. Of what use is it for the Parliament to appropriate £8,000,000 for the purpose of repairing losses incurred as the result of the coal strike if the Government fails to build up coal stocks so that if the community is again held to ransom the country will not be brought to a standstill? “When the present Government took office ample stocks of coal were at grass, but last year, despite the fact that there had been many stoppages and blackouts and much rationing of power and light, the reserve stocks of coal represented only one day’s production. That narrow margin which was permitted to exist by this Government was in accordance with the policy of the miners’ federation. What did the Government do about the matter? It did precisely nothing except talk. When we go to the people we shall have plenty to say about that. The Minister for Information, who suffers from a paranoia which does not allow his tongue to remain still on any occasion, does nothing but say in this House and elsewhere-
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill or the Chair will be compelled to deal with him.
– I am endeavouring to do so, but it is difficult at times to keep within the bounds of modern rulings given by the Chair. The Minister will, no doubt, tell the people that the Government has built up coal stocks. What stocks are now available ? Should a stoppage take place to-morrow, insufficient coal is now at grass to enable the country to carry on for more than three or four days. In respect of both the coal stock position and the Communist menace nothing whatever is being done by this
Government. It is not of much use for the Government to say that it has dealt effectively with the menace of communism by prosecuting one or two individuals.
– Order! The honorable member is endeavouring to make a speech which relates almost solely to communism. That subject is not covered by this bill. The purpose of the bill is to appropriate a certain sum of money to make good losses that have resulted from the coal strike.
– I always seek to obey your rulings, sir. I am attempting now to deal with the subject of coal losses.
Sitting suspended from 12.^.6 to 2.15 p.m.
– It is proper now for me to state the principles that lie behind the bill. The measure proposes to appropriate £8,000,000 in order to reimburse the States for losses and other special expenditure incurred by them as a result of the coal strike. Before the suspension of the sitting I had pointed out that it was not of much use to approve the payment of £8,000.000 to the States unless we had some reasonable assurance that what occurred during the recent coal strike was not likely to be repeated and that, there would not be a recurrence of the serious financial loss and misery that was then inflicted upon the people. “I pointed out that a short time ago Labour supporters went through the country seeking to picture the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) as a man who was able to break strikes that affected the interests of the community.
– Hear, hear !
– It is rather novel to hear a member of the Labour party approving of the action taken by the Prime Minister to break a strike. However, it is apparent that members and supporters of the Government have now learned what the Opposition parties have been trying to tell them for a long time, namely, that under a system of arbitration we cannot permit an industrial union to defy the Government. Every industrial union has an obligation to look after the interests of its members, but it also owes a prime obligation to the State. When a union reject? and refuses to discharge that obligation, then the administration of the day, whatever may be its political colour, must - as the present Government has learned - on behalf of the community, accept the challenge hurled at it. And, of course, that is what happened during the recent disastrous strike. For weeks the Government sat back and did nothing. Week after week misery accumulated, but the Prime Minister, who is noted for his capacity to sit back and do nothing, hoping that by doing so he will not have to make any decision at all. was ultimately forced to adopt the policy advocated by the Opposition parties.
I have said that it is not of much use to authorize such a large vote as that proposed unless we have some assurance that in future there will be no further stoppages of this magnitude. No one expects that except by resorting to oppressive measures, any Government can completely prevent the occurrence of strikes; but some strikes have to be dealt with quickly, as should have been the recent coal strike. However, as we all know that strike was dealt with iri a very tardy and slovenly manner. Indeed, we live now on the edge of an industrial volcano. We never know when such an occurrence is to be repeated. The reason is that those who are in control of the major unions have steadily defied the Government and the law of the land. It is not of much use for the Government to talk about industrial arbitration and its so-called achievements in “ streamlining “ arbitration by introducing new measures, unless the law of the land is to he upheld under all circumstances. The plain fact is that the law of the land was not upheld by the present Government during the recent coal strike, except in minor matters and in the final stages of that strike. It is true that ultimately the Government took action to bring the strike to an end by freezing union funds ; but it took that action only in a most slovenly fashion. Instead of introducing legislation to take immediate effect, it gave a full twenty-four hours’ notice of its intention to introduce the legislation, and so gave every encourage ment to the Communist-led unions to take the action which they immediately took. As the result of that action certain union leaders were imprisoned, although ultimately they were released. It is not my function, nor my purpose, now to canvass the action taken by the court; but it is my function to discuss the action taken by the Government. When the strike finally came to an end, and no further purpose could be served by the union leaders continuing to defy the Government, the Government instructed its counsel to urge the court to release the men who had been imprisoned. That was the way in which the Government dealt with the matter. The problem had been solved, and so the Government made the pretence of dealing with the matter before the court in a regular manner. It sent its counsel to the court with instructions to press the court that the men should be released ; and, as we all know, they have since been released. Actually, the only ones who suffered as the result of the strike were the unfortunate members of the public. They have had to bear all the consequences. The representatives of the unions, of course, are smirking behind their organizations, and have told their members that in fact they won a victory. In the course of the strike they learned that the present Government is never prepared to take up the cudgels quickly, but will allow extremists to impose their will upon it rather than join issue with them. They have also learned, of course, how better to conduct the next strike. In short, the Communists have enjoyed the advantage of making a practical test of their technique to discover just how far they can impede mA restrict the conduct of the nation’s business, and no one can deny that for three months they succeeded in bringing the economy of this country to a halt. What kind of a government is it that permits an organization to do what the Communist-led coal-miners did during the recent strike? What kind of government is it which, whilst admitting that the disturbance was the result of a Communist conspiracy, did nothing for weeks on end until it was forced by public opinion to take some action ? I said previously that the Government eventually was compelled to adopt the policy advocated by the Opposition parties. When it did so, it did three things. First, it froze the funds of the unions concerned, although that action was resisted by the Australian Labour party, whose members protested that they would not countenance that kind of thing. Freezing of union funds was described as repressive and as a “ fascist step “. Incidentally, we do not hear so much of that criticism now from Labour supporters. However, I repeat that the Government froze the funds of the unions concerned only because it had to do so unless it was to appear completely foolish in the eyes of the public. The next step was taken in the face of Labour’s platform - the Government actually used service personnel to break an industrial dispute. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) had the hardihood to say that service personnel were used not to break an industrial dispute, but to counter a Communist conspiracy. That argument needs only to be stated to reveal its stupidity. Honorable members on this side of the House have urged repeatedly that the Communist party must be destroyed. On every occasion on which they have done so, Ministers from the Prime Minister downwards have said that to do so would be to destroy freedom of speech. The Minister for Information recently spoke about putting Communists into concentration camps. That goes far beyond anything that we have urged. We have always said that we believe in the processes of law, but the Minister apparently does not believe in them. That is an example of the dictator-like mind that is characteristic of men who have been in power for too long.
We have been told that the Government prosecuted Communists under the Crimes Act. It is significant that one of the planks of the platform of the Labour party is the repeal of some sections of the Crimes Act, including the section under which Sharkey was prosecuted recently. Honorable gentlemen opposite have argued that those provisions are political weapons that could be used against the Labour movement. The actions of the Government are inconsistent. It is unable to decide where it stands in relation to communism. In the platform of the Labour party it is stated that the party objects to the use of defence personnel in industrial disputes and that it will repeal the sections of the Crimes Act under which Communists have been prosecuted, yet the Government was prepared to use defence personnel in an industrial dispute during the coal strike and it has prosecuted Communists under the Crimes Act.
The people of this country will not be satisfied with the mere passage of this measure. They will not be content to forget that a coal strike has taken place. The Labour party is struggling hard to make it appear that only Labour governments are able to settle industrial disputes, but South Australia, which has a Liberal government, was the only State that was able to keep open-cut coal production going during the recent coal strike. Under a Liberal government the work of coal production continued, workers were maintained in employment and the Australian Workers Union carefully carried out its obligations to the community. Had the Australian Government been really concerned with the interests of the people and not only with the preservation of the apparent unity of the Labour movement, it would have encouraged the Australian Workers Union to take over open-cut coal production in this country. Had it done so, there would have been less, if any, danger of this country being held up at pistol point by industrial unions such as the miners’ federation.
The public is now being warned that there will be a further shortage of coal owing to the decision of the miners to begin their annual holidays one week earlier than usual. The public is aware that there is not sufficient coal available to enable our basic industries to achieve maximum production. For a long time honorable gentlemen opposite have been in the habit-of talking about coal production in terms of 1939. Before the coal strike occurred, they were in the habit of saying that the longest coal strike in the history of Australia occurred in 1940, when the present Opposition parties were in power. The most disastrous coal strike in modern times occurred while a Labour government was in power. While it was in progress, the members of the Govern- ment sat back, being unable to make up their minds about what they should do. They were hoping to high heaven that something would happen to end the strike. They sent their spruikers - that is the correct term to use - round the countryside to tell the miners that they had to 2’eturn to the Arbitration Court, and also to assure them that if they did so everything would be all right. The Government said to the miners, in effect, “ We must support the arbitration system, or at least make it appear that we do so. Otherwise the Labour party will be destroyed as a party, if you go back to the Arbitration Court, you may rest assured that the Government will somehow find the money to pay for your long service leave.” That is what honorable gentlemen opposite regard as supporting the arbitration system. What have they done?
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is not entitled to discuss that matter.
– Owing to the interjections that were taking place, I could not hear what you said, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– If the honorable gentleman did not induce interjections, they would not occur.
– I did not induce them.
Mr. Edmonds interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) must keep quiet. The honorable member for Warringah was proceed’ ing to discuss a matter that is on the notice-paper.
– The House is considering a measure for the payment of a large sum of money to the States to reimburse them for losses that they incurred during the coal strike. I am seeking to ascertain what steps the Government proposes to take to ensure that this will be the last occasion on which a large sum of money will be taken from the pockets of the people, thus lowering their standard of living and increasing the cost of living, and made available to the
States to meet losses caused by strikes. One of the methods that the Government adopted to uphold the arbitration system was to encourage the miners to return to work by promising them that if they did so it would find the money with which to pay for their long service leave, as in fact, it proposes to do.
– That was said before the strike occurred.
– That makes thematter worse. I have said previously that the Government has encouraged theminers to strike if their demands are not met promptly. It has encouraged them to believe that they can get dividends only by direct action. The mining unions of this country have been able to extract from the community, because of their Communist activities, a greater number of concessions than have the decent unions.
I do not object to the proposal to reimburse the States for their losses. Certainly some of the States were not responsible for the losses that they incurred, although others do not standin that position. I do not object to theproposal that £8,000,000 shall be made available to the States, but I say that theGovernment failed completely to discharge its responsibilities until it was forced, by the pressure of public opinion, to take the action that had been advocated by honorable gentleman on this side of the House, although it was inconsistent with the platform of the Labour party. That action should obviously have been taken at the very earliest moment. It is well that the people should understand that the necessity for the payment of this sum of £8,000,000 to the States has arisen from what the Minister for Information has himself described as a Communist conspiracy. That Communist conspiracy has seeped into every activity of our political and economic life, and indeed into every activity of the Australian Labour movement. At the forthcoming general election the people will want to know what the Government proposes to do to rid us of the conspirators who are in our midst.. They will ask whether the Government proposes to rest content with the prosecution of certain individuals, and whether it intends to repeal the provisions of the
Crimes Act which are the only provisions under which it has been possible to prosecute Communists. They will want to know whether it proposes only to engage in a few more pious resolutions condemning the Communist party and to do nothing to put an end to a seditious Communist conspiracy.
– There are two elements in this country that were bitterly disappointed when the Government destroyed the Communist conspiracy a few months ago. They are the extremists of the right, who represent the forces of Liberal capitalism, and the extremists of the left, as represented by the Communists. When the coal strike ended the Communists were sore and sorry. They had been thoroughly thrashed and defeated in their attempt, as an insignificant minority in the community, to dictate to the elected government of the country. The forces of reaction were just as annoyed as were the Communists. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has given expression to the pent up annoyance and disappointment of the forces of reaction at the success of the Government in smashing what it believed to be a Communist conspiracy. The honorable member says that the Government did not win, but that the Communists won. The Adelaide News, one of the newspapers owned by my friend Sir Keith Murdoch, published an editorial headed A Battle Won, on Thursday the 11th August, 1949, the first two sentences of which are -
The Communists leaders who plotted the coal strike have lost it and the Australian people have won. The Reds have been beaten by public opinion, by the rallying of Australian Labour party forces on the coal-fields, by the influence of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, by the opposition of rational trade unionism, and by resolute Government action.
That is the opinion of ‘the Murdoch press. Yet the honorable member for Warringah comes along to-day and has the hardihood to tell us that the Government lost the strike. As a matter of fact during the seven or eight weeks that the strike lasted the Liberal and Australian Country parties were never mentioned at any time by the newspapers in this country. The public forgot them, as they were entitled to be forgotten. The struggle that was on was a struggle between the great forces of democratic progress in this country and the stupid leadership of the Communist party. That party was beaten because the Government of Australia rallied the whole of the forces of Australian democratic opinion behind sane thinking. The leading article of the Adelaide News to which I have referred, and for which I am indebted to the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy), expressed the opinion of everybody in Australia except the dyed-in-the-wool supporters of liberal capitalism and the members of the Communist party. The bitter chagrin, the undisguised disappointment, and the obvious frustration at the result of that strike is to be seen in the unlighted eyes of members of the Opposition whenever the coal strike is mentioned.
The honorable member for Warringah who has just delivered himself of his brief, tried to make a face-saving speech for the forces of reaction. They seem sorry that the strike was broken. It was not an industrial dispute, but, in the view of the Government, a Communist conspiracy. The Opposition had hoped that the Communists would have been able to hold the country to ransom so that they could have gone to the general election on an issue of coal and communism. There is nothing so dead as communism in the minds of the Australian people, and there is nothing that has been forgotten so quickly as the last coal strike. The Communist conspiracy failed and the Australian coal miner is to-day producing coal at a greater rate than at any time in recent years. One would imagine that coal-mining was amongst the most delectable avenues of employment open to the Australian people, instead of being one of the most arduous and distasteful to the average worker. The wonder to me is that anybody goes down into a coal mine when there are so many jobs available above ground. The Murdoch press a few years ago sent reporters into the coal-fields. They found that in some coal mines in New South Wales coal-miners had to walk distances of from 1 mile to 5 miles after getting out of the cages in order to reach the coalface. Can honorable members opposite tell me of any worker or business man in Australia, or anybody at all, who would be content to walk 5 miles above ground to his occupation? There would be deputations and petitions for tramway and bus services in order that workers might be saved the energy they would expend in walking above ground. In fact, practically nobody is prepared to walk any distance to work, even along good roads . and pavements. It must be remembered that many coal-miners have to walk half-way, and crawl the remaining half, into the bowels of the earth in order to get coal. All of the abuse of the coal-miners by the Opposition does not win coal. The coal-miners of Australia have a most unthankful task, and the sooner the 169 mines, or most of them, that exist to-day without mechanization are mechanized and we go in for open-cut mining, the better will it be for Australia’s industrial progress. Many of these mines, however, are just ratholes. Honorable members opposite have rok! us what they did in connexion with the 1940 strike.
– They did not worry how long it continued.
– As I am reminded by the honorable member for Boothby, when honorable members now sitting in Opposition formed the Government of this country in 1940 they did not care how long that strike lasted because there was plenty of coal at grass. What was the loss to the Australian people then? It was much more than £8,000,000, because the strike lasted longer. It was more than £8,000,000 worth of unproduced coal, plus the loss represented by the stoppages in industry. They did not care because they thought that they could starve the coal-miners into subjection. If honorable members opposite had composed the Government of this country at the time of the last coal strike, that strike would have lasted very much longer than eight weeks, because the Australian Labour party was the only political party in Australia that could handle that situation. It is the only party that has united ranks, and inspired leadership. Under the Prime Ministership of the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) it can do the things that are wanted by the Australian people. What did honorable members opposite do when they were in power in 1940 other than allow the miners to be starved into subjection? In 1940 and subsequently in 1941, just on the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, they showed that they were a rabble government. They did not give this country good government. They would be a rabble again if elected to govern this country. They have no concerted policy. Their hatred of each other is excelled only by their common hatred of the Australian Labour party, and their hatred of this bill is almost as intense as their hatred of the Australian Labour party. The honorable member for Warringah said that there was ample coal at grass before this coal strike started. The truth is that there was very little coal at grass. This Government obtained that coal because it had the support of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the Trades and Labour Council of Sydney, the Trades Hall Council of Melbourne, and the individual unions. I am reminded by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) that it was supported especially by the Australian Railways Union as well as by the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, three members of which are in the present Government. Those unions helped the Government and the Australian people to get the coal that was needed. Does anybody in his right senses believe that any trade union would support an antiLabour government in any action taken in a matter of this kind? The trade unions do not trust the anti-Labour forces. They have every reason to fear the forces of reaction that are represented by honorable members opposite. The forces of trade unionism know that honorable members opposite do not believe in arbitration, and that theirs are the only two political parties in Australia which, together with the Communists, have tried to destroy arbitration. The Liberal and Australian Country parties tried to destroy arbitration during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government in 1929.
– What happened then?
– They were defeated temporarily. Although they have not yet been extinguished I am convinced that the process of enlightenment now proceeding will ultimately lead to their extinction in this country. They are the people who successfully applied to the Arbitration Court in 1931 for authority to reduce the workers’ wages by 10 per cent. Now they say that they have not attacked the arbitration system. Of course, the workers know perfectly well that the friends of honorable members opposite, including such bodies as the Ch amber of Commerce and the Chamber of Manufactures - the very people who are supplying them with the funds that they are squandering in Australia to-day - have tried to destroy arbitration. The Labour party is the only political party that really believes in arbitration, because it wants industrial stability that is founded upon a set of good principles, including the principle that the worker shall receive a fair wage and an increasing share of the productivity of his own labour. In short, the Labour party wants social security and economic justice. Honorable members opposite are not concerned about those matters. They want the perpetuation of a state of society in which 20 per cent, of the people own SO per cent, of the wealth, and SO per cent, of the people are in economic bondage to the rest. If honorable members opposite desire that form of society, they will get no support from the trade union movement to maintain it. The only freedom in which honorable members opposite believe is freedom to starve in economic and financial depressions.
The honorable member for Warringah made various charges against this Government. For instance, he said that we sat hack while the community suffered during the coal strike. We did not sit back for one moment, but we did not rush ahead as honorable members opposite might have done, and thereby made it impossible to achieve what the Government set out to achieve.
– The Opposition parties Lad a trap set for us.
– They were hoping that we would walk into a trap, but we consulted the trade union movement. As that movement was able to gear its machinery to keep pace with the Government, we proceeded step by step until, in the final analysis, it was the forces of the workers themselves that defeated the recalcitrant minority. But that required leadership, and the necessary leadership was given by the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of the State of New South Wales. The honorable member for Warringah also said that the Government had attempted to destroy arbitration. The truth is that we fought the forces of reaction in the political field in 1929 when they tried to destroy arbitration, and we won. We fought the forces of communism in 1949 when they tried to destroy arbitration, and again we won. There is always an occasion when extremes meet, and the extremes of the Right and of the Left met in their fight against the Labour Government in the recent struggle. The honor-‘ able member for Warringah declared that the Government ignored the community’s needs. That charge is false. The Government supplied the community’s needs and won a victory that would not have been possible under any other leadership.
According to the honorable member for Warringah, the Government allowed the people to suffer, and permitted a terrible injury to be done to the economy of the country. Those statements are so obviously made for the purposes of party political propaganda that no one is influenced by them. At all stages- of the fight, the Government wanted the Liberal party and the Australian Country party to keep out of the way. Had those two political parties entered the struggle, they would have made the Government’s difficulty even greater than it was. But when the struggle ended, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) sat back sullen and silent. Neither of them expressed any gratitude at the fact that the struggle had been ended. Their silence was eloquent. It expressed better than any words could do their feeling of despair and frustration because the Government had won. However, a gentleman named’ Magnus
Cormack, who is a friend of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin)-
– Do not blame me for everything.
– Mr. Magnus Cormack, who is the selected Liberal party candidate for the electorate of Fawkner, said -
The Liberal party objects to the Government using the Army to smash a strike because that is the socialist way of doing things. If the Army can be used to get coal, the Army can be used to get other things that the community , needs.
Such was the degree of banality to which members and supporters of the Liberal party had sunk that they could think of nothing better than those words to explain away their disappointment and annoyance at the successful manner in which the Government had handled the coal strike. According to press reports on the 3rd August last, Mr. Cormack also said -
If once you get to the stage where you are prepared to put the Army in to run the coalfields, you will be prepared to put the Army in to run anything. In Russia the N.K.V.D., the internal security army, in fact does run all the basic industries.
Commend me to something more prime in stupidity than that, if the intellectual genius of members of the Liberal party can conceive anything more puerile ! The honorable member for Warringah said that the coal strike cost £8,000,000, and that for many months to come the community will not be able to secure all the things that it needs. All strikes cost money, and have most unfortunate effects. The recent coal strike could not be justified by any excuse that was put forward, nor in any circumstances. It was a conspiracy, and it had to be treated as such, and that is why we used the Army to break it, and the Royal Australian Navy to unload the coal aboard Haligonian Duke. The precious Hollway Government in Victoria, which came into office two years ago with a majority of 28 and is now struggling nightly for the Speaker’s casting vote in order that it may keep itself alive, had six months or thereabouts in which to take measures for the unloading of Haligonian Duke. What did it do?
– It did not do anything.
– After a long time, it called for volunteers to unload the vessel, and 300 persons responded. Approximately one-half of them were women, and most of them were members and supporters of the Hollway Government. Out of sheer decency, they had at least to volunteer to do the work. Eventually, in desperation, the Hollway Government turned to the Australian Labour Government to unload Haligonian Duke, and that Government gave the people of Victoria the coal that they should have had much sooner. The conspiracy could not have been defeated by calling for volunteers. Members of the Liberal party claim that the Australian Workers Union should have been permitted to work the open-cut coal mines. I recall that only 30 or 40 years ago the graziers and squatters, who were the fathers of many of the present members of the Liberal party and Australian Country party, were driving the organizers of the Australian Workers Union off their properties. How much did they care for the Australian Workers Union ? They hated it, and that organization has no reason to he grateful to them. The Australian Workers Union applied on two occasions to the Arbitration Court for permission to amend its constitution to enable it to engage in open-cut mining; but the Arbitration Court, as constituted in other days, refused to grant the applications, and, consequently, the Australian Workers Union is not able to engage in the mining of black coal as it engages in the mining of brown coal at Leigh Creek in South Australia and at Yallourn in Victoria. When a crisis arises, honorable members opposite cry, “ Send for the A.W.U.” The Australian Workers Union is not flattered at the invitation, and does not want one from the forces of reaction in a period of industrial trouble.
– The general secretary of the Australian Workers Union has made that clear.
– That is so; but honorable members opposite have a touching regard for the Australian Workers Union as they see capitalism decaying on all sides, and they hope that that industrial organization will bolster up their system. In that hope, they are bound to be disappointed. The cost of the recent coal strike is very large, but so also is the cost of a financial and economic depression. I have in my hand a copy of the Review of the Institute of Public Affairs in Victoria for July and August. I do not know how I get time to read all these documents, but somehow I manage to do so. In an article on page 105, the following statement appears : -
It has been estimated that the national income lost as a consequence of the depression exceeded the entire cost of the last war to the United States.
By the same criterion, the cost of the last financial depression to this country was £1,000,000,000 or more. Who was responsible for that depression? The blame rests with honorable members opposite, the banking institutions and the forces of capitalism generally in this country.
– Order ! I think that the Minister’s remarks are a little wide of the bill.
– That is my answer to those who say that this Government incurred a loss of £8,000,000 in connexion with the coal strike. The coal strike of 1940 cost a lot of money. How did honorable members opposite deal with that strike when they were the government? They resorted to the gentle art of bribery. They misused public funds. They appropriated a sum of money that was put into one bank account after another, and they misused public servants in order to hide their schemes. The money passed through seven or eight accounts until it got to the Communist leaders of the coal miners. So sickening was the affair that ultimately there was appointed a royal commission presided over by Mr. Justice Halse-Rogers. What he said about the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the Leader of the Australian Country party ought to cause both of those gentlemen to hang their heads in shame for ever more. He remarked that they could not remember what had happened, and he stood both of them down so that they might have time to think about their evidence, and then come back and tell a concerted story. Honorable members opposite could think of nothing better than bribery when they were confronted with communism. They have nothing better to suggest now than that we ought to call for volunteer workers when industrial strife arises. When honorable members opposite talk of communism during the forthcoming election campaign, the people of Australia will know what Mr. Justice Halse-Rogers said about them. When the honorable member for Warringah is reminded of such things, he can only resort to abuse. He has referred to honorable members on this side of the House at different times as paranoics and pathological exhibits. He descended to the use of police court jargon that may go down well enough in some cases, but is quite unsuitable in a national Parliament. The honorable -member quoted the platform of the Labour party to the effect that the defence forces were not to be used in industrial disputes. As I pointed out by interjection at the time, the Government did not use the defence personnel of Australia in an industrial dispute, and it never intends to do so. I remember, as a kiddie, the strike of tramway employees in Brisbane. The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Digby Denham, appealed to the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Andrew Fisher, for the use of the Army in that dispute, but Mr. Fisher said that the Labour party would never sanction the use of the Army for such purposes, and it never has done so. Labour governments have set up machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes. We hope that employees will always use it. We believe that they suffer most when they do not use it, when they ignore the almost streamlined arbitration machinery now at their disposal for the settlement of industrial disputes. An industrial dispute is one thing, but the misuse of the strike weapon by the Communists is another thing. Honorable members opposite must get that point clear. Labour is the only political party that can guarantee industrial peace in Australia, and the people know it.
– How many unions have come out on strike over the gaoling of Sharkey ?
– I do not know that anybody is yet on strike over Sharkey. I know that the Communist party tried to stop work on the waterfront throughout Australia some months ago because certain leaders of unions were sent to gaol, and that the response was verypoor. The people of Australia were not concerned about what happened to those persons. It was most improper, as well as untrue, for the honorable member for Warringah to say that this Government sent counsel to the Arbitration Court to plead for the release of the men who had been imprisoned. What the Arbitration Court did was its own business. The Government neither asked the Arbitration Court to sentence the men to imprisonment, nor attempted to interfere with the court when it decided to release them’. The court was left to its own resources. The court had made it clear that the treatment of the prisoners was a matter entirely within its own discretion. Counsel for the Commonwealth accepted that position, and were concerned merely to ensure that the court should be in possession of all the material facts necessary for the exercise of its discretion. In fact, counsel for the Commonwealth neither supported nor opposed the application that had been made.
The claim for long service leave mentioned by the honorable member for Warringah was discussed by the Coal Tribunal long before the strike occurred. It was because the Australian workers realized that the assertions of the miners’ federation in this respect were “ phony “ that the coal-miners lost a lot of sympathy and support. The Communists tried to distort .the facts of the case, as the honorable member for Warringah has tried to do. The Communists failed, and the forces of capitalism will fail, also.
The honorable member for Warringah asked what the Government was doing about communism, as if it were possible to destroy communism by applying a negative policy. Communism is an effect ; it is not a cause. Communism is the outcome of the system of society under which a few people are allowed to accumulate most of the wealth of the community. and hold the rest of society as bond slaves. Communism arises out of the misery and destitution and poverty associated with economic depressions; and out of the undeserved misery of hundreds of thousands of decent people. When we look back on the depression, we realize just how few Communists, comparatively, were created by it. We cannot help thinking how many Communists might have been created if the people of Australia had not, through all their distress and misfortune, kept their heads, and realized that it is not necessary to make revolution the handmaiden of reform, and that anything the people need can be obtained through the ballot-box in an enlightened democracy. We propose to get rid of communism, first by prosecuting all persons, whether Communists or not, who break the laws of the country, by committing sedition or any other crime. We propose, above all, to get rid of communism through the positive policy of removing the evils of capitalism, and we are doing so as far as the Constitution permits. To this end, we have introduced social services legislation under which expenditure for the benefit of the most defenceless and most needy sections of the community has increased from £18,000,000 a year, as it was when the Labour Government took office, to approximately £100,000,000 a year. The best antidote to communism is to give the people homes, economic security and happiness. When they have those things, there will be very few Communists in Australia. When honorable members opposite speak of Communists- who control trade unions to-day, they are talking of those who are on the way out. The Communists will be completely out when the democracy of the trade unions asserts itself. I remind the honorable member for Warringah that there are more Communists in the universities, of which he is ‘a product, than are to be found in all the trade unions. Never was there a more disappointed and disappointing speech than that of the honorable member for Warringah. It was special pleading at its worst. It was an attempt to convince the people that it was not the leadership of the great Joseph Benedict Chifley that won the strike, but the inexorable working out of certain other facts; that the Government was inept, ineffective and incapable of decision. All those charges are as untrue when levelled against us as they would be true if levelled against the forces sitting opposite in peace or war. If our opponents were in power on the treasury bench to-day, they would he the rabble they were when they fell to pieces in 1941, just as the Japanese were poised for their attack upon Pearl Harbour.
.- According to one’s opinions, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has made a good speech or a bad speech on political issues of the day. Some may consider it a good speech, I consider it routine. But it certainly had nothing whatever to do with the bill before the House. In fact, I think he has stolen the Prime Minister’s policy speech. I think he has beaten the gun. It was the usual diatribe stirring up class hatred that we are accustomed to from the Minister and some of his colleagues on every occasion presented to them. We might at least have expected a constructive speech, when the House is dealing with an issue related to one of the historical occasions in Australian political and industrial relationships. It was just a lot of “ blah “. It was a rehash of his speech in the Sydney Domain in the midst of the coal strike. It is true that he did not repeat the story of putting the “Corns” into concentration camps and that kind of thing.
– Did the honorable member make a speech during the coal strike ?
– I challenge the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) to make a speech in this debate. It will be interesting if he does. The honorable member is adept at making interjections, but notable for not making speeches. Let the honorable member go on record on this matter. I was referring to the speech of the Minister. I repeat that it was a rehash of the speech that he made from the soap box into a magnificent microphone in the Sydney Domain during the coal strike. It was a pure diatribe. This stirring up of class hatred is deplorable. ‘So we had better get back, if we can, to an examination of the bill itself and to some of the basic issues that made it inevitable. The purpose of the bill is that the Parliament shall vote £S,000,000 to the .States as the outcome of certain losses that arose from the coal strike, but it does not propose to divide the money among the
States in any ratio that bears any pretended resemblance to their losses. The money is to be distributed amongst the States according to the formula that is used for the re-imbursement of the States under the uniform tax legislation. Why did not theMinister for Defence (Mr. Dedman),, in introducing the hill, or the Minister for Information, explain why the Government is so incompetent or so indifferent that it did not try to relate the distribution of the £8,000,000 to the losses of the various States, but merely plucked out of a pigeonhole in the Treasury the formula under which the States are reimbursed f orthe loss of their right to levy income tax?’. What the Government has said, in effect is, “ Oh well, we have to give something; to the -States. We won’t get a headachetrying to work out what the States lost,, but we shall distribute the money on thebasis on which we’ reimburse them for lossof revenue from taxation. “. The bill has been recklessly and thoughtlessly slammed before the Parliament and weare asked to vote to the States £8,000,000’ on that formula. It is disgraceful for the Government to ask the Parliament to vote £8,000,000 without offering one word of justification in the Minister’s secondreading speech for the proposed . method of distribution. It is nothing but anotherillustration of the contempt in whichthe Parliament is held by the Government and the Labour party. When I say that the Labour party holds the Parliament in contempt it is the same assaying that it holds democracy in contempt, for the Parliament is the supreme instrument of democracy. If the Government treats the supreme instrument of democracy with so much contempt as not to bother to explain the distribution of so large a sum as £8,000,000, I am justified in saying that the Labour party has nothing but contempt for democracy and that any words that its members mayutter in defence of democracy merely pay political lip-service to the cause of democracy. The record of the Labourparty is indistinguishable from the record of the totalitarian State. Its design is to. transfer this country into a one-party country, as other countries have been transferred into one-party countries.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini). - Order! There is nothing about totalitarianism in the bill.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Clark), whom you are relieving in the Chair, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, gave the widest possible licence to the Minister for Information to refer to occurrences in the ‘twenties. I feel sure that you will extend to me latitude equal to that extended to the Minister. Who is going to pay this £8,000,000 ? Are we to view this as if we people collected here are to gather up £8,000,000 and, with our hearts bleeding for the poor State of New South Wales and the State of Victoria, give them £8,000,000? Of course not! What this legislation means is that we are to impose an additional tax of £8,000,000 upon the people who sustained the losses arising out of the coal strike. The £S,000,000 is a rough estimate of what the States lost. The people certainly lost much more than £108,000,000, because it was reported, without denial, that about 500,000 people were unemployed in New South Wales at one stage of the strike. The continuing loss to industry from the strike, which we shall not overtake for nearly a year, justifies me in saying that the people, who lost much more than £108,000,000, are to have abstracted from them an additional £S, 000,000 in order that we may distribute it to- the State administrations. I remind any trade unionist who thinks that he can regard that with equanimity because it will be merely an additional amount taken from the “ big fellows “ and the “ tall poppies “, that the budget that we have just passed is a budget under which the Government proposes to abstract from the mass of the people much more than will be taken out of the pockets of the wealthy. I remind him of the tax on his every pot of beer and his every cigarette. I remind him also of the primage and other indirect taxes that ultimately are reflected in the spiralling costs of living. That is the principal source from which this £8,000,000 is to come. Therefore, I hope that no one will be so naive as to believe that because he may be in the lower income range this bill does not really concern him, and that he will not be contributing towards this appropriation. He will be contributing to it, and contributing as this Government makes the people contribute, very heavily. Some ancient statesman cynically said that you Cannot tax the people too heavily directly, but you can tax the shirts off their backs as long as you do it indirectly. That is what this Government is doing to-day under its current budget.
I turn now to the basic reason for this bill and the sum that it seeks to appropriate. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) used the words “ industrial dispute ,T in relation to the recent coal strike, the Minister for Information said, “ Oh, that was not an industrial dispute. It was a Communist conspiracy.” Of course, that Minister and his colleagues are positively artists in the juggling of words. When it is convenient for them, an industrial dispute is not an industrial dispute but a Communist conspiracy. When it is convenient, income tax is not income tax, but social services contribution. When it is convenient an immigrant is not an immigrant, he is a new Australian.
– Order ! The honorable member must keep to the bill. He may not ramble all over the place on the subject of taxation.
– I do not wish to ramble any further than the Minister for Information rambled. I come back to the point about the Communist conspiracy. It is true that the Minister for Information devoted a great deal of his speech to discussing the Communist conspiract and he was permitted to speak in that strain as also was the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies).
– The Chair has not tried to stop the honorable member.
– I have been pursuing the line that I have taken because the necessity for this bill arose from the recent coal strike, the details of which I do not propose to traverse now. That strike provoked the Prime Minister of Australia to expend scores of thousands of pounds of the Australian people’s money on advertisements such as that which I now hold in my hand and show to honorable members, and which reads in part, “ The coal-miners have everything to lose - “ blah, blah, blah, blah, blah - “ Authorized by the Prime Minister of Australia”, and so on, in newspaper after newspaper. Why did the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) find it necessary to expend so many scores of thousands of pounds on unfolding the secret that that was a strike that had been inspired by the Communists? Did he not know that the Communists were at work? This Parliament voted £150,000 or more for the establishment of a security service that is intended to discover where there is any sabotage of the national security. Did the Prime Minister not know what was afoot until the strike had actually occurred? If he knew, why did he remain silent about it ? I say that that strike was a strike incited as much by the Prime Minister of Australia as by the Communists, because when the word “ strike “ has been mentioned in this House by honorable members on this side, the Prime Minister and his colleagues have said time after time, and are on record as having said, that men must retain what they have described as the “ sacred right to strike “. If the Prime Minister and other leaders of the Labour party proclaimed in the Parliament itself and on every husting that men must have the right to strike, how did they reconcile that proclamation with their criticism of the men when they did’ strike? Of course, as they had proclaimed a thousand times that men must have the right to strike, they could not with any basis of reason criticize the men when they did strike. So they had to have an alibi, and their criticism of the strike related to communism. Bless my soul ! I remember the days when the honorable member for Warringah, as Minister for the Army and acting on behalf of the Menzies Government, in which he and I were colleagues, put in their proper place - gaol - two Communists named Ratliff and Thomas because they had advocated just this kind of sabotage of Australia’s economy and military security. I am sorry that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is not in the chamber at the moment, because I should like to have an opportunity here on the floor of the Parliament to remind him that he and the late Mr. Beasley, who was then the honorable member for West Sydney, never let up for month after month in the
War Council in urging the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the then Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender), myself, and others who composed the Government side of the War Council in those days, to release these Communist saboteurs. Ratliff and Thomas, whose plan was identically the plan of those leaders who inspired the recent coal strike, so that they would be free to prey upon the Australian community again. Wc resisted their urgings, and of course history shows that the moment the Government changed, the very moment - and I mean that in a literal sense - Labour came to office, those men, who were in gaol because they had advocated sabotage of the security of Australia-
– And who had been convicted of it.
– Yes, who had been convicted, who had served’ and had come to the end of their sentences, who had been told that they would be released to be free men again if they would give an assurance that they would cease their subversive activities, and who had point- blank refused to give even their word that they would cease those subversive activities, which was why they were still held in gaol, were immediately released by the present Attorney-General, who now is a party to these blather advertisements that talk about Communist-inspired strikes. Bless my soul ! He let out the men who laid the plans for such strikes. That is the process that has finally brought us to the state that, having had this disastrous coal strike, we are now called upon to vote £8,000,000 as a partial reimbursement of the States for their losses. How does it come about that a responsible government permits this kind of thing to go on? It would he crazy for any one to imagine that the Government did not know that the strike was being planned. Why did the Government, knowing that these matters were in progress, allow them to continue, and encourage and aid them by releasing men like Ratliff and Thomas? The explanation, of course, is simple. It is that the Labour party is not a separate organism. The Liberal party, like it or not, is a separate organism. The Australian Country party, like it or not, is a separate organism. We stand separately, but the Labour party, which was originally designed as a separate political unit, is not so to-day. It is completely interwoven with the trade union movement of Australia. A person does not need to pay 3s. in order to become a member of a branch of the Australian Labour party.
– Order! What has all this to do with the bill?
– It has everything to do with the bill.
– The Chair thinks otherwise. The honorable member must return to the bill.
– So much has been said about communism in this debate that I propose to deal with that subject.
– The Chair is not preventing the honorable member from doing so. It is merely pointing out that the constitution of the Australian Labour party has nothing to do with the bill.
– In order to conform to your ruling, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I shall have to begin with what was to have been the end of my speech. I shall have, as it were, to tip my speech upside down and begin by saying that the miners federation is headed by Mr. Williams, who was recently released from Long Bay gaol and who is a selfproclaimed Communist and that it is affiliated with the Australian Labour party. I shall have to say that Mr. Healy, a selfproclaimed Communist, who was appointed by the present Government as a member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, is a leading member of the Waterside Workers Federation which is an integral part of the Australian Labour party.
– The honorable member would do well to deal with the subject of coal.
– I shall have to say that Mr. Elliott, who controls the seamen who played a part in the coal strike, is also a self-proclaimed Communist, and that the Seamen’s Union is affiliated with the Australian Labour party. Mr. Elliott is the gentleman whom the Chifley Government appointed to the Maritime Industries Commission. Mr.
Thornton, who also played his part and said his piece in the strike, who is a selfproclaimed Communist who has oscillated between Moscow and Canberra on passports provided by the Chifley Government - in some instances his expenses having been met by the Chifley Government - is the principal officer of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia, which also is affiliated with the Australian Labour party. Mr. Hughes, the head of the Federated Clerks Union - I do not refer to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). - is proud to proclaim himself as a Communist.
– The gentleman to whom the honorable member refers is Mr. J. R. Hughes.
– That is so. He is the principal figure. in the union of white collar workers, which also is affiliated with the Australian Labour party. Mr. Donald Thompson is another well known Communist. I hope that this Government has not expended between £200,000 and £300,000 on its security services without discovering that Mr. Thompson has proudly proclaimed that he is a Communist. He is the principal figure in the Building Trades Federation, another organization which forms an integral part of the Australian Labour party. One could mention ad infinitum the names of well known Communists who are associated with or control our key unions. The unions that are controlled by self-proclaimed Communists compose the body politic of the Australian Labour party, yet the representatives of that party have the hide to 6ay that it is fighting the Communists. What an audacious claim! I am glad to know that at least some Australian unions will not have a “ bar “ of the Communists. The Australian Workers’ Union is one of them. It is regrettable, however, that they are far out-numbered by the unions which are under Communist control. Why did this Government defy the written constitution of the Australian Labour party which specifically states that the armed forces shall not be used to settle an industrial dispute? Why did it establish a precedent which I hope will never be relied upon hy any future government? Did it do so to defy the
Communists, because that is the only explanation that has been given? Of course it did not do so to fight the Communists! The Government used the armed forces in the open-cut mines in order to avoid offending the Communists. There were only two alternatives to the utilization of the armed forces. One wa9 to bring in free labour, which we consistently advocated, and the other was to use the members of the Australian “Workers Union, whose organization is not controlled by the Communists. This Government, cunning as it is in matters politic, knew that if it had taken the reasonable course and used the members of the Australian Workers Union to work the open-out mines in New South Wales - they were already working the open-cut mines in Victoria and South Australia - it would have started something that would have torn the Labour movement apart. Rather than imperil the Labour movement, it tore up the constitution of the Australian Labour party and used defence personnel in order to end the dispute. That contemptible action which was taken in defiance of the constitution and platform of the Australian Labour party, established a precedent which might have dire results if it is ever again invoked by a future government. It is quite clear that the Communists, by controlling the key unions of this country, control the Australian Labour party itself. It is evident that the Australian Labour party quailed before the Communists and was not game to stand up to them. In a cunning fashion it went through the motions of standing up to the Communists. It did not jib at the expenditure of a few scores of thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money in the publication of a lot of “ blah “ about the strike. The Government used the armed forces knowing very well that they could be ordered on and off the coalfields at will. It could not have so directed members of the Australian Workers Union. That is the historical background of this precious bill. A strike in the coal industry was inevitable from the time when the present Prime Minister and his predecessor chose to say on every occasion on which the issue was raised in this Parliament that the workers must have reserved to them the right to strike. Whenever they said that, whenever the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and other Ministers fought the fight of Ratliff, Thomas and other Communists, and when they aided the Communist party by re-establishing its legality and furnishing Marx House with telephones and other facilities that loyal Australians could not obtain, they were doing something that made a catastrophic coal strike inevitable. The Labour party has not changed, nor has the leadership of the great industrial unions that are affiliated with it. Until the Australian Government adopts the policy, propounded by the Australian Country party, of branding the Communists as saboteurs and declaring that, as treasonable persons, they are not entitled to enjoy the freedom of this country, we shall not be secure against a repetition of strikes such as the coal strike. If there is any useful lesson to be learned from an examination of this bill, it is that the only solution of the Communist problem is to declare the Communist party an illegal organization. Despite the protestations of honorable gentlemen opposite that the Government and members of the Labour party fought the Communists during the coal strike, the real truth of the matter is that the Government avoided the necessity of lining the Labour party up against the Communist party by taking the clever but politically unscrupulous course of avoiding a show down.
.- This bill, which is designed to enable the Government to make a sum of £8,000,000 available to the States to meet losses that were incurred during the coal strike, is a simple and straightforward measure. Having listened to the speeches of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), one could be pardoned for thinking that the House is witnessing a rehearsal of the coal strike, which was settled long ago by the Government, with no assistance whatever from the Opposition. During the struggle to restore sanity and common sense amongst the miners and facilities to the people the honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Indi were conspicuous by their absence.
The country Achilles was skulking in his tent somewhere at the back of the Grampians when that struggle was in progress, but now he roars like a bull. The honorable member for Warringah, who pontificated to-day about what should and should not be done in relation to coal strikes and Communists, behaved like a cooing dove and not like a roaring lion when the members of the Labour party were dealing with and conquering the difficulties that the country experienced during the coal strike. This measure is designed to enable the Australian Government;, which is the principal revenue collecting authority in Australia, to reimburse the State governments for the losses that they incurred during that strike. The Opposition’s attack upon the measure is only a political dodge to bring two matters before the attention of the public again. One is coal and the other is communism. Without those two old stand-bys, honorable gentlemen opposite would be in great difficulties. It was left to the honorable member for Warringah, with his brilliant legalistic mind, to roll in the barrel with the inscription, “Bring us back the Corns ‘ and coal so that we may have some kind of an election message for the people “.
This bill has been used as a peg upon which to hang some of the most absurd and stupid arguments that I have ever heard advanced in this chamber. On every occasion when a measure with financial implications is being considered, honorable gentlemen opposite say that the Commonwealth is starving the States of revenue, but when, after an emergency, it is decided to make the sum of £8,000,000 available to the State governments to reimburse them for losses incurred, they say that it is disgraceful that the taxpayers should be mulct of that sum. They say that the Government was inefficient because it did not foresee the coal strike or did not stop it immediately it began. They show by their inane and illogical reasoning that they know nothing about the most turbulent industry in the world. Coal strikes are world problems. They are news to-day in the United States of America. President Truman has uttered the solemn warning that unless the coal strike in the United
States of America is settled, 20,000,000 Americans will be thrown out of employment. Honorable gentlemen opposite have not attempted to relate the coal problem in this country to the coal problems of other countries. They have said that the necessity for the expenditure of the £S,000,000, to which the bill relates, should not have been allowed to occur, but, now that it has occurred, they are trying to use the issue as a political football.
The Minister for Information reminded the House of just how much money meant to the Opposition parties when they were in control of the affairs of this country. In a very brilliant and telling speech, the Minister said that, comparatively speaking, this sum of £S,000,000 is a mere bagatelle. The depression, which was one of the blights that infested this country when the Opposition parties were in power, cost us £1,000,000,000.
– .Surely the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is not stupid enough to believe that the present Opposition parties caused the depression.
– Naturally, honorable gentlemen opposite squirm at every mention of the depression. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has emerged from his dug-out. He is like a rainbow in that he always appears after a storm. When the storm was in progress during’ the depression years, the right honorable gentleman was a pitiful sight. He made a pitiful Treasurer. Now the very mention of money causes him to run out of the chamber or provokes him into squealing interjections at the honorable member who happens to be on his feet at the time. The Minister for Information pointed out that as the result of the depression £1,000,000,000 was destroyed. It was not given to the States or used for rehabilitation purposes. Man-hours, money and human energy were dissipated in the greatest tragedy that has ever struck the human race. A sum of £1,000,000,000 is sufficient to pay for the Snowy Mountains scheme five times, to defray the cost of railway gauge standardization in. Australia five times, or to build a five-roomed house for every worker in Australia who needs one. It could finance a basic wage for every pensioner. That money has gone for ever. It was wasted senselessly. The anti-Labour parties were not entirely responsible for the depression, but their stupidity in managing the affairs of the nation-
Sir Earle Page interjecting,
– The cackling of the right honorable member for Cowper reminds me that he always attempts to put some kind of a defence forward.
– Order! A passing reference to the depression is permissible, but the honorable gentleman must not make a speech about it.
– I have attempted to contrast the sum of £8,000,000 that it is proposed shall be made available to the States to reimburse them for their losses during the coal strike with the sum of money that was lost as the result of the depression.
As I. have said, honorable gentlemen opposite have taken advantage of this measure to discuss coal and communism. If there are two matters upon which the members of the Opposition should never be heard, they are those matters. The Government settled the coal strike, although it was not easy to do so. The honorable member for Indi airily dismissed that achievement by saying that the Government should have done it earlier and easier and then turned to communism. He reminded us that anti-Labour governments had gaoled Communists and be explained at length the measures that were taken against the “Reds” in his day. If members of the Australian Country party should avoid one subject, it is how they dealt with communism. It is almost a classic, a “ natural “ and a “ must “ in this House that any reference to communism should include the maudlin handling of the Communists by the Australian Country party in its association with the Liberal party, and the pitiful creation of slush funds. The policy of the anti-Labour parties was to buy off the Communists. Honorable members opposite would not go out and meet the Communists. What would those tattered ranks opposite do if they were in a position to cope with the Com munists? The Opposition parties have been obliterated in a political sense in respect of representing the coal-fields in this Parliament.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has bleated about the Parliament becoming one party. Democracy is still good if the people choose the Labour party to govern, give it an overwhelming majority, and thereby establish one political party. The charge that the Labour party is fascistminded is absurd. Honorable members opposite talk round and round the mulberry bush, as it were. The slush funds that they established represented the only attempt they made to combat the Communists, and it was a pitiful effort. Almost every honorable member on this side of the House has referred at one time or another to the slush fund, but more recently, the Minister for Information and the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) have dealt with that, the old story. It is well known. If members of the Australian Country party had any political integrity, they would not refer to the subject of communism, assert that if they had the opportunity they would deal with the Communists, and accuse the Government of having failed to deal with them. The Minister for Information completely dissipated any pretence that the Opposition has made to possess a policy on this matter. Honorable members opposite talk around and around the subject. When the Government proposes to allocate £8,000,000 to the States to recoup them for their losses resulting from the coal strike, honorable members opposite take the opportunity to advise us that the losses would have been lower had the Government adopted the Liberal party’s policy for combating strikes. They repeatedly cry, “ You have taken our policy. We were going to do this and that “. Yet in the next breath, they complain, “ You put the soldiers into the coal-mining industry. We should’ not have done that. You have not taken ‘ care ‘ of the Communists as we should have done “.
The answer to the complaint that the Government used the Army to mine and transport coal is not the shabby answer that has been given by members of the Opposition. The Government used the
Army correctly, because it sincerely interpreted the situation on the coalfields. From the blanket of propaganda and blatant publicity, it recognized that the coal strike was a conspiracy and not an industrial matter. Had the Opposition parties been in office and set the soldiers marching, they could not have stopped the troops where the Labour Government stopped them, and men would have been shot. As history shows, their idea is to use the troops as strikebreakers and coal-winners. Honorable members opposite will never wake up to the futility of misrepresenting the actions of the Government. The Prime Minister, by perfect and magnificent timing, resolved the problem of the coal strike in a minimum of time without breaking either the sacred tenets of democracy or one of the ideals of the Labour party. Members of the Opposition jest about the Labour Government using the troops in the mines, and being afraid to employ the Australian Workers Union to mine black coal. Even at this late hour they insist that they have always been devoted to the principles of arbitration. Therefore, they should know that the Arbitration Court ruled on two occasions that the Australian Workers Union should not engage in mining black coal. The Opposition should also realize that the Government used the troops adroitly to win coal, and not in an intimidatory sense. That distinction was understood on the coal-fields.
This bill to authorize the grant of £8,000,000 to the States to recoup them for losses that they sustained as the result of the coal strike has been seized upon by members of the Opposition as a means by which to establish two things. The first is the charge that the Government failed to stand up to the Communists during the coal strike. We all know that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have not found a formula for dealing with strikes. The best that they could do when they were in office was to establish slush funds. They talked “big”, but they acted “small”. In the matter of obtaining coal during a strike they are also in bad shape, as is indicated by’ the manner in which the Menzies Government dealt with a general coal strike early in World War II.
I realize that the subjects of coal mining and communism are not strictly ‘ relevant to this bill, and I am sure thatyou, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker (Mr.- Lazzarini) would not permit me to develop’ those themes. However, members of the Opposition have painted an amusing picture in which they depict themselves as the protagonists of strong measures. I shall contrast the manner in which supporters of the Labour party were marshalled in the fight against communism with the cards that the Leader of the Opposition issued to his supporters a few days ago inviting them to attend Kim’s Camp at Gosford for the purpose of learning deportment. The deportment that the Government has learned is the deportment of democracy. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) was made water-joey and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was made billy-boy. As a decoration for his splendid services, the honorable member for Parramatta was given a grey feather to wear in his hat. I mention, with all due respect to the gallant young leaders of liberalism, that they could not trip up that wary old bird, the honorable member for Warringah, who refused to change the glittering sand of Palm Beach for the black soil plain of Kim’s Camp at Gosford. He preferred to accept the forecast of the weather prophet at’ the meteorological bureau to the weather forecast of the Leader of the Opposition, who was wrong. I contrast that nonsensical, stage-managed rubbish in which members of the Opposition indulged with the sober purposes of the Government.
I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Warringah for his cleverness in forecasting the inclement weather for the party at Kim’s Camp, and also in recognizing in the proposal to allocate £8,000,000 to the States an opportunity to attack the Labour Government. He said, in effect, “ This bill will enable us to get into the ring again. I shall do so, and you had better be in it with me. We shall attack the Government on coal and communism.” He gave other members of the Liberal party a lesson, but not in deportment. However, the people of Australia realize the necessity for assisting the States to recoup the losses that they sustained during the coal strike. They are also aware that the Government took strong democratic measures to combat that strike, and that it will act similarly in the future should’ the occasion to do so arise. But even greater and stronger than that is the inspiration and the lead that the Government has given to the people, as is reflected in the districts in which the Communists are supposed to flourish. The Communist candidate received an insignificant vote in the recent by-election for the Cessnock seat in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. Cessnock, which is in the heart of the northern coal-fields, was seething with hate and anger before and during the recent coal strike. Many of the people in that district participated in demonstrations against the Labour party because they accused it of indulging in strike-breaking tactics, whereas the Labour party was only bringing the strikers back to the democratic line. That has now been straightened out. The Labour party candidate polled some 18,000 votes and the Communist party candidate, who polled some 3,000 votes, narrowly saved his deposit. The force of the worker is reflected in the marching attitude of the people of Australia, who say, “We shall have none of the doctrines of communism and none of the bleatings of the Opposition parties who want to buy the Communist off with slush funds “. The Opposition parties buy off the Communists, but the Labour party fights them. Is not that like the old story of the conservative who bought off his opponents, and the radical, who wanted to reform social conditions?
Cessnock is not the only illustration. A by-election was recently held for the Redfern seat in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, and the Labour candidate, an alderman, had a 12 to 1 majority over the Communist candidate. Redfern is in the heart of an area in which some people say the Communists live and thrive. The Labour party is supposed to be encouraging the Communists, and yet Labour party candidates soundly defeated the Communist party candidates at the Cessnock and Redfern by-elections recently. The members of the Liberal party claim that they seek every opportunity to combat communism. Where were they in those two by-election campaigns? Where did the votes of the Liberal supporters go? Did they go to increase the huge votes for the Labour candidates, or to swell the minority votes for the Communist party candidates?
– I rise to order. I greatly regret the necessity to interrupt the mellifluous flow of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), but I remind you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that earlier the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was seeking to develop precisely the same theme as the honorable member for Parkes, although from precisely the opposite standpoint, but he was prevented from doing so by the Chair. I suggest that if the Chair considered it proper to stop the honorable member for Warringah from discussing the menace of communism, it should also prevent the honorable member for Parkes from doing so, although I confess that I make that suggestion with the deepest regret.
– Order ! The ‘Chair has heard nothing but references to communism from every honorable member who has spoken on this bill.
– Quite right!
– Order! This debate seems to provide a field day for honorable members to discuss the subject of communism, and the honorable member for Parkes will be in order in doing so.
– I thank you for your ruling, sir, and I shall attempt to develop the theme on two points only. Earlier, a member of the Opposition referred to a cessation of work on the coal-fields yesterday, and alleged that the miners had refused to go down the pits as a protest against the imprisonment of the Communist, Mr. L. L. Sharkey. Investigations, observations and public statements now prove that most of the losses of coal amounting to 5,800 tons, were due to mechanical defects and to defects in the minds of members of .the Opposition, but were not related to the sentence that the court imposed on Mr. Sharkey. That explanation of the position is important, as an illustration of the paltry attitude that is adopted by members of the Opposition, who attribute to the Government all the sins in the calendar in relation to communism. Of course, they know in their hearts that our effort is greater than their effort and that our story is stronger than .their story. Our decisions in relation to :ihe ‘coal strike, had the weight of government, and were not like the senseless piffle that we hear from the Opposition parties. I have not failed to notice from the speeches of honorable members opposite the portents that they are “ on the way out “. The honorable member for Parramatta has attacked hig business, and the honorable member for Fawkner
Hi ii s criticized the newspapers.
– (Order.! The honorable member is going too far. The bill does not mention :newspapers.
– Is not a passing refer.ence to newspapers permissible?
– The honorable member for Indi referred to advertisements that had been inserted by the Government in the Sydney Morning Herald to inform the people about the issues in the recent coal strike. That is my excuse for referring to the attack that the honorable member for Fawkner has made on the press. In my opinion, the expenditure by the Government on that publicity was well justified. The truth of the situation was brought .to the people clearly and concisely. Even more important, the message was taken to the pit tops where, previously, the only information that the miners had received about the situation was in the cheap dodgers that were given to them morning after morning by the Communists. If the publicity that the Government obtained from the advertisements in the press is a charge on Commonwealth revenue, it is a valid charge, because the publicity was a most important weapon in fighting the Communists. “We learnt in our struggles with the Communists that the propaganda battle had to be won before the men would return to work in the mines. Members of the Opposition have only a few vague ideas about propaganda. The struggle with the Communists was tough going, but the Prime Minister in handling the coal strike distinguished himself as never before.
– I remind the House that the purpose of the bill is to allocate £8,000,000 to the States as some recompense for the losses that they sustained in the recent disastrous coal strike. It is difficult to compute the exact losses from that industrial upheaval. Social services payments, and losses in trading and wages can be estimated, but the degree to which the national development has been retarded cannot be computed. The development of this nation has been set back perhaps five years because of that unfortunate strike. Almost on the eve of the general election the Government has decided to distribute £8,000,000 among the States which will expend the money wisely. This bill affords honorable members an opportunity to examine the causes of the recentstrike and to suggest measures for ensuring that the disaster shall not be repeated. The Government has to bear heavy blame for what happened. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who is always interesting and amusing, if nothing else, has derived great comfort from the fact that the Communists are defeated whenever they contest an election in Australia. I remind the honorable member that Communists are defeated in every country, provided the people are permitted to exercise a free vote. If a free election were held in Soviet Russia, the Communists would be rejected. They certainly would not get a majority in Czechoslovakia, where they recently staged a coup d’etat, or in Poland, as the former Premier of that country, Mr. Mikolajczyk, has testified in his book, The Rape of Poland. Therefore, if they record only a small number of votes in this democracy, that is not a measure of their strength. When the Communist party puts up candidates at an election, it is merely taking a census in order to find out how many people are becoming sympathetic with their cause. They know the real members of their party. If the Communists, whose members are estimated’ by the Government as only 25,000, were able to inflict such damage on Australia’s economy and cause a loss of wages amounting to £125,000,000, it is evident that the Government hae underestimated their strength. Now, the Government is proposing to appropriate £8,000,000 in order to compensate those who suffered loss during the strike. The Government should not take any comfort from the fact that the number of Communists in the country is small. Apparently, the Government is afraid to denounce the real enemies of the nation. Statisticians have stated that there was more unemployment in New South Wales during the strike than during the depth of the depression. Honorable members opposite have claimed that the Opposition parties were responsible for the depression. I do not wish to dilate on that point. Everybody knows that the depression was an economic blizzard that started in the United States of America and spread throughout the world. In Australia, we came out of it quickly. The depression was at its worst when a non-Labour Government was in power, and yet, at that time, there was less unemployment in New South Wales than was caused by the last calamitous coal strike. The Government has shown incompetence and great foolishness by consorting with Communists over the years. Now, on the eve of an election, Government supporters are busy denouncing communism, the old man of the sea who has been clinging to their shoulders. However, the ideologies of the Communists and the Labour party are the same. The socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange hae been adopted by the Communist party, and the same platform was adopted by the Labour party at its conference in 1921, when it became a socialist party. Winston Churchill, that great leader whose words can always thrill the people of Great Britain, declared that, as between socialism- and communism, there was no difference in principle; there was only difference in method.
– He has not been getting many votes lately.
– I should like to see the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) pit himself against such a giant. The Labour party, by consorting with Communists for so long, and for allowing them to riddle the trade unions, has been recreant to the trust imposed in it. I know it is frequently denied that Communists are members of the Australian Labour party; but on that point it is only necessary to read the evidence of Mr. Sharpley, once a member of the Communist party, and a man who, whatever his faults, had the courage to stand up and tell the truth about that party. Australian industry should have leapt ahead after the war, but actually it has fallen back because of the shortage of steel. Although steel can be produced more cheaply in Australia than in any other country in the world, Australia is the only steel-producing country in which production has declined. For this, the Communists are responsible. They know that if they can control the coalmining industry, they can also control the steel industry, and all the other basic industries. Some of us on this side of the House pressed the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to take action against the Communists, but his only comment was that communism was just another political philosophy, such as those subscribed to by members of the Labour party, the Liberal party, or the Australian Country party. Could any statement be more misleading? A little while ago, we listened to a diatribe from the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). During the coal strike, he delivered a speech in the Sydney Domain, in which he spoke of concentration camps, and said a number of insulting things about the Communists. I remind honorable members, however, that it is not so long ago since he told an Australian Labour party conference in Melbourne, according to a report in the Melbourne Age, that communism was not their enemy, it was capitalism. He has been trying to explain that away ever since.. The Government is trying to fool the people into believing that under socialism they can do better for themselves. All the time the Communists are infiltrating the socialist system, and are getting the country into a condition which will enable them to topple the Government over. No capitalist country has ever gone Communist. The Communists have always got into power when there was a socialist government in office. That is no less true of Russia than of other countries. The Communists came into power in Russia by ousting the Keren-sky Socialist Government, and installing themselves under Lenin. If Australia continues to march on towards socialism - and it nearly took a big step forward last year on the banking issue-1 -
– Order! The honorable member must get back to the bill.
– Your immediate predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, said that the widest discussion on communism would be in order, and honorable members on both sides of the chamber took advantage of that ruling. However, I shall return to the bill, the purpose of which is to appropriate money with which to pay compensation for the damage done by Australian Communists. Because members of this Government, including the Prime Minister, have condoned the actions of the Communists, and almost praised them, and because the Government has taken no action against the Communists, it is as culpable for what happened during the strike as are the Communists themselves.
Only recently I asked the Prime Minister whether he would maintain a reserve of coal in Australia, by importing it if necessary, as the Government was maintaining a reserve of petrol for defence purposes. In a long statement, the Prime Minister sought to prove that it was not practicable to import coal. That is nonsense. We know that coal can be imported from Britain, India and South Africa. Coal from India had been lying in a ship at Melbourne for months awaiting unloading at the time the strike broke out. Then the people showed that they were determined that the coal should be unloaded, and the job was done by naval ratings. The Prime Minister knows that coal could be imported, but he is not prepared to face the wrath of the Australian Workers Union and the miners’ federation. He is keeping the Australian Workers Union out of the mines, having declared that only miners can win coal. Australia is importing steel from Japan, something of which I do not approve, but if it is possible to obtain steel from Japan, it should be possible to get coal from overseas. We know that the setback to the steel industry is due mostly to the shortage of coal. There are no -reserves of coal at grass. Australian industry is living from hand to mouth, but when this Labour Government came into power there were substantial reserves of coal above ground. Within the last few weeks, the Prime Minister has refused to consider proposals to establish a stock-pile of coal, and his refusal shows that he is afraid of the Communists. He will not take any action that might displease them. I do not believe that the Australian Government could not import coal, because we know that the Victorian Government has been able to do so.
A few weeks ago, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) introduced a private member’s bill providing for the taking of a ballot of union members on any issue involving a strike. In my opinion, the ballot should be a secret one. I know unionists who are good citizens, and only want to be left alone by those traders in discord, Communists, who have infiltrated the unions, and who do no manual work, but operate as the agents of a foreign power. A majority of trade unionists would welcome a provision for secret ballot’s on strike issues. They know how the disturbers work. The Prime Minister kept the bill of the Leader of the Opposition at the bottom of the notice-paper until after the strike broke out. Every time it could have been discussed, he moved that Government business should take precedence over all other business. Had the Government accepted the bill, instead of allowing itself to be blinded by class hatred and confused by Communist propaganda, there would not have been any coal strike. There would have been no loss of hundreds of millions of pounds, and there would be no need to pay £8,000,000 in compensation for sabotage.
What did the Government do when the strike broke out? The Prime Minister remained inert and silent. He maintained the silence that is so often mistaken for strength, but is nothing of the kind. After leading the people into the wilderness, the Prime Minister sat down, and thought and thought. Then he spent thousands of pounds of public money on newspaper advertisements telling the people what he thought. He declared that the Communists were responsible for the trouble, and he washed his hands of it, like a political Pontius Pilate. The strike, he said, was none of his doing. Finally, the Labour Government, which has no time for servicemen, and which has always given them a shabby deal, called in the Army and the Navy to do the work that trade unionists would not do. The Labour party does not believe in compulsory military training, but the Labour Government used the Army as compulsory strikebreakers. Recently the honorable member foi- Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked whether it was true that there had been 5,000 resignations from the Army. I do not know whether that is true or not; but if there have been many resignations recently, I should say that they are due to the Government’s action in using the troops as strike-breakers. The Government got the country into a mess, and then turned to the armed services to get the country out of it. That was an unworthy action of the Labour Government, and will not be forgotten by the men in the services.
I desire to refer to one other link between the ‘Labour party and the Communists. I know that every member of the Labour party will disavow the Communists, but I remind the House that every Labour candidate for membership of this Parliament must sign the pledge that he stands for the socialization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. No member of the Labour party can get away from the fact that the principal objective of the party is the same as the objective of the Communists. Therefore, there must be a close link between the Labour party and the Communists. There is one member of the Ministry, whom I need not name, for we all know him, who has never made a speech that could not be labelled “ Communist “. He, like the Communists, is an expert in character assassination. There is a senator in this Parliament-
-Order! I ask the honorable member to return to the bill.
– I am saying that the Labour party and the Communist party are linked.
– The honorable member is rambling all over the world.
– Well, communism exists all. over the world. An exserviceman, who was employed by the Department of Works and Housing as a carpenter, was fined by the Communist-led Building Workers Industrial Union, and, when he refused to pay the fine, he was declared unfinancial.
– To which clause of the bill has that relation?
– The union, like the miners’ federation, is led by the Communists.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the bill.
– I shall raise the matter on another occasion. But two Ministers in the Government have given directions that when a man is fined by a Communistled union and does not pay the fine, he shall lose his job.
-Order! I do not want to order the honorable member to resume his seat. He must confine himself to the bill or I shall be compelled to do so.
– That is a lying statement, in any case.
– I shall read the letter.
– Order ! The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) may not interrupt.
– The Minister for Defence, who is an authority on lying, said, “ That is a lying statement “, and I ask that he withdraw and apologize.
– If the Minister made that statement, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw.
– I am ready to read the letter. The Minister suspects that he is one of the two Ministers.
– Order ! The honorable member must deal with the bill.
– The bill provides for the payment of £8,000,000 to the States to make good some of the losses that they sustained from the sabotage committed by the Communist party in certain unions, aided and abetted by the Labour party, which has encouraged the Communists in their nefarious ways. It is deplorable that the Communist party should have been allowed to grow as strong as it has done. We have decided that when we are returned to power on the 10th December, as we shall be, we shall ban the Communist party. We make no bones about that. We shall ensure that the Communists will not get the facilities and amenities that decent law-abiding people in the community are entitled to. We shall ensure the emancipation of the trade unionists who are at present dominated by the communistic purveyors of discord. We shall ensure the reversion of the control of the trade unions to decent men. Industrial unionism is an integral part of our life and social development, and it should not be allowed to be pulled down by men whose ideas are foreign to ours. We can only agree to vote this money to the States. The money will have to be paid by the taxpayers, who are the people outside as well as ourselves, and include the workers, small and big business men and farmers. The housewives will have to pay it in the increased cost of goods. That is a part of the price that we have to pay for allowing the Communist party to establish itself in our midst. The Communists will act again unless they are dealt with. I deplore that the stoppage took place. If the people are allowed to know the facts - and it is hard for us to inform them, because of what happens in this Parliament - they will sweep this incompetent Government out of office and replace it with a democratic government that will ensure that the Communist party shall not bp allowed to survive in Australia.
– The States suffered great losses from the coal strike and the Australian Government must recompense them for their losses. I agree with the bill in that respect. Many people in the community who suffered grave losses in the strike can never be recompensed. I represent an important wheat-growing constituency. The wheat-farmers lost heavily because of the strike. The
International Wheat Agreement came into force on the 1st August when the coal strike was at its height. Before the 1st August, wheat was worth 3s. a bushel more than it was worth after that date. The coal strike prevented the shipment of large quantities of wheat. Had that wheat been shipped, it would have returned 3s. a bushel more than it eventually returned. Therefore, the wheatgrowers lost 3s. a bushel on all the wheat which was held up at ports. I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) whether the farmers would be recompensed for that loss, but the Minister said “ Certainly not ! “. I realize that the wheat-growers are only one section of the primary producers, but, owing to fortuitous circumstances, their losses from the coal strike were especially heavy. Things would not be so bad if the payment of this money to the States would do away altogether with communistic interferences with industry. But it will not do so. For too long, members of the Government said in this chamber that communism was nothing to be afraid of, and asked what a few Communists could do. They also pointed out how poorly the Communists polled at general elections. But the Communist is not anxious to win seats in Parliament. His main object, as the agent of a foreign power, is to disrupt industry. He made a great success of it in the coal strike. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) have claimed in speeches that the Government had a great victory over the Communists in the coal strike, but I cannot see any victory for the Government when we have to pay £8,000,000 to the States to compensate them for their losses, when millions of pounds were lost by all sections of the community and when the Communists are as strong as ever. Ever 9ince I have been a member of the House of Representatives, I have said that communism should be banned, but the Communists are still at work and they will disrupt industry again before long. During the strike, some Communists were put in gaol. They were later released. I listened to the news session of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in which their release was announced. The commentator said that six of the eight men who had been released had immediately returned to their posts as secretaries or as other leading officials of the trade unions. He then said : “ Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach have gone for a short holiday, after which they will return to control “ - those were the words used, and they meant.” control of the unions”. While the Communists have control of the unions, we shall always have strikes, shortages of production and all the evils that are in line with the Communist doctrine. I favour the payment of this money, but I regret the circumstances that make its payment necessary. I am sure that we have not seen the end of the working of the Communists, and that we shall not see the end until we have a government strong enough to ban the Communist party. The Prime Minister has said, on countless occasions, “ If you ban the Communists, you drive them underground “. But, while they are a ‘ legal association, nothing can be done with them. We have asked the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) whether he will disconnect the telephones in certain buildings occupied by the Communists. His answer is “ No, we cannot do that, for the Communist party is a legal organization, and, therefore, we cannot touch it”. That is perfectly true, but I cannot understand why we should allow in this country the legal existence of an organization that practices such treason in disrupting industry, as necessitates the payment of this money and causes huge financial loss to the community. The Government should strike at the root of the trouble. I am a man who moves about the country and talk with people, and many think as I do. Until we have a government strong enough to take action against the Communists, we shall continue to experience the disruption of industry and we shall have little chance of getting the production that we need.
.- We are discussing the States Grants (Coal Strike Emergency) Bill, and, strange as. it may seem, having regard to some of the preceding speeches, I propose to deal with the hill. It is proposed to contribute £8,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money to the States on a basis that has nothing whatever to do with the expense to which they were put as the result of the coal strike. I think it would put too fine a point upon it to cavil about that, because it might be very difficult to assess the precise losses that each State sustained, and I do not suppose that any State would agree with the amount that the Commonwealth might assess as its share. Therefore, if we are to pay money to the States in respect of their losses during the coal strike, some rule of thumb must be applied, and I suppose that the basis upon which the proceeds of the uniform tax are distributed to the States is, although rough and ready, as good a basis as any other would be. In one sense, it is proper that the States should be assisted to meet the losses that they suffered in the industrial calamity caused by the coal strike, but, in another sense, no one can be recompensed for what happened, because the economy of Australia ha9 suffered a very deep and, if not permanent, at least, long-lasting wound as a result of what happened a few months ago.
I should like to* examine the circumstances of the strike, which has given rise to the necessity for this payment. How far was the strike necessary. To what extent could any political party be said to have been a contributing factor in causing the strike? How, perhaps, could it have been avoided ? I shall not discuss the matter at any length, but it is germane to the bill to discuss it, having regard to the fact that this is a bill to authorize the payment of £8,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money to compensate the States for the losses incurred by them during the strike, because, had the strike not occurred, this money would not need to be paid. The first thing to observe is that the stoppage cost the community £33,000,000 in wages lost. It cost £100,000,000 in goods not produced that would have been produced had the wheels of industry not come to a standstill. In striking miners’ wages alone the stoppage cost something like £1,500,000. In unemployment relief it cost something like £1,250,000, and, at the peak of the stoppage, there were 630,000 unemployed in Australia, of whom more than 400,000 were in New South
Wales. Added to that, of course, there was the consequential loss, misery and distress, in many cases of the deepest and most acute kind, that were suffered hy the wives and families of those who felt the impact of this disaster. It is estimated, and has been frequently asserted in this House and I do not think that anybody would deny it, that the loss to this country through the coal strike was about £120,000,000 or £130,000,000, a sum which exceeded the revenue of this country for the year 1938-39, the last year preceding the outbreak of World War II. I am seeking to point out to the House what the coal strike really meant to the Australian community, because it is only by understanding that matter thoroughly that we can realize the gravity of it, and face up to how it may be prevented in the future as well as to how such disasters should have been prevented in the past. In a period of 30 weeks during the present year, which included the period of the strike itself, 2,5.00,000 tons of coal were lost, and it is primarily the loss of that coal that has produced a great number of other serious results that have followed in its train. We are. all familiar with figures relating to losses of . coal output, because each year it is possible to tot them up and find out how many millions of tons of coal are lost to secondary industry because of industrial stoppages in the coal-mining industry. For the corresponding 30 weeks last year, no fewer than 1,158,000 tons of coal were lost through industrial stoppages in the coal-mining industry, the main trade union of which, as all honorable members know - and this is the only reference that I shall make to the influence of communism: - is riddled with Communist influence. Although it is true that that figure of 1,158,000 tons is itself disastrous, it is a trifling figure when compared with the losses that have been caused by the recent coal strike, which amounted to 2,500,000 tons of coal for the 30 weeks’ period that I have mentioned.
It should also ‘be observed that in Australia we are chronically about 3,000,000 tons of coal in deficit. That is to say, the natural consumption of coal, due to the increase of our industrial potential, has steadily risen and this year, speaking from memory, we require about 16,000,000 tons of coal although production will total only 13,000,000 tons. I ask the House not to bind me to precise figures in that regard. It is true, however, that since the end of the war, we have been chronically short of coal to the tune of about 3,000,000 tons. That chronic shortage reflects itself in other shortages such as the shortage of steel, and in our inability to get on with the jobs of adequately housing the people and of doing all those other things that would give this country that extra little bit of “ float “ that would enable us, as a people, to forge ahead as we are entitled to do and which we have every opportunity to do because] at the moment, the world demand for our products is so great:
I do not See how it can really be denied that all this dramatic and tragic loss is neither more nor less than a triumph for the Communist party. It cannot I be regarded in any other way, even although the most enthusiastic and ardent supporter of the Government may say that the Prime Minister and his Government ended up by breaking the strike. That is true, but we did, in fact, have the strike and we did suffer all those grievous losses. Having regard to what the Communists are trying1 to do and to their avowed purposes of preventing this country from getting ahead with preparations for war, as they say, and of preventing it from moving forward to security and prosperity through increased national wealth,’ I say, that the fact that the strike occurred at all represents a triumph for the Communist party and a grievous injury to the people of Australia. Destruction, chaos and disorganization are the objectives of the Communist party. It seems to me quite paradoxical and absurd for the Government or any individual to come along and speak of the recent strike in any spirit of satisfaction or triumph. It may be, a matter of satisfaction that the strike did end. It may be that the measures ‘taken by the Government did, in the end, cause the strike to collapse. I suppose it is true enough to make such a statement, but there is no comfort to be got from doing so. After all, the only alternative to some sort of resolute action at some stage was for the strike to go on and on and on until the Australian economy fell to pieces and economic order collapsed. Even the most pusillanimous government would not wish that to happen and would be driven sooner or later to take some steps to prevent it from happening.
The point I wish to make, in moderate language, is that the coal strike, no matter how we look at it or how it ended, was, in fact, a disaster for the Australian people and a triumph for the Communist party. Therefore the Government cannot be said to have had a triumph when the strike ended. The Communists won their point. The miners’ federation, riddled as it is with Communist influence really triumphed because ite leaders are entitled to say to the miners, “ There you are, boys ! We got what we struck for, which was long service leave “. I remind the House that at one stage, when the strike was imminent or in its early stages, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in reply to a question asked by either myself or another honorable member on this side of the House, disclosed the fact that he had already told the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. Gallagher, that if it was a question of money that prevented the granting of long service leave, the Commonwealth would foot the bill. I remember interjecting and saying, u A nod is as good as a wink “. So honorable members can see the set-up. The Prime Minister was. in fact, saying to the miners, “If you go back to the tribunal after having your strike, I have already given him the tip that you will get your long service leave if it is only a question of money “. And, of course, it was only ,a question of money. So those who led the miners into the strike are entitled to say that they won their point, and it seems to me that that is one of the disturbing features of the matter because nothing has been really settled. After all, every time a union strikes and wins its point, even if ultimately it has to save face and is driven by economic pressure or sanctions to go back to work, at least the union’s leaders are entitled to say to the men whom they led into misery and unem- ployment, “ Well, boys, it paid dividends. We got you what you were after “. We, on this side of the House, are afraid that a precedent has once again been established, and will be there to be followed on some future occasion when irresponsible individuals seek to lead trade unionists into illegal stoppages.
It is true that the Prime Minister ultimately froze the funds of certain industrial organizations. I can well remember the scorn that was poured upon the .members of the present Opposition in this House on a former occasion, when we suggested that that was a good policy. That policy had, in fact, for years been included in our own platform. I can well remember many Labour members, including the Prime Minister, scorning any such action and stating that it would be tyrannical and would constitute grinding the workers down, and also that it would be a wicked interference with the self-determination and selfgovernment of the trade unions. Well, the inexorable march of events drove the Government to take that very action. It also proved two things. It proved that a little hit of resolute action, even if somewhat belated, does get results, and that discipline will pay in Australia as elsewhere. Secondly, it proved that the use of troops to mine coal was good logical common sense. The troops were called in and worked the open-cuts, although it was spiritual anathema to Labour policy to take such an action, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has pointed out. The Labour party’s policy goes so far as to state that troops shall not be used in industrial disturbances. By some metaphysical method quite beyond my comprehension, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has found it possible to state that the defence forces were not used in an industrial disturbance. But the facts are that members of the Permanent Forces worked coal-mining machines in the open-cuts.
– So did naval personnel.
– Other arms of the services also worked in the open-cuts. If they were not service personnel, I do not know what they were, and if they did not participate in an effort to break an industrial strike, and did not successfully break it, I do not know what they did. The attempted denial by the Minister for Information that troops were used in an industrial disturbance is quite incredible to me. I consider that the Government’s action in using troops was quite a good action to take, however “belatedly it was taken. The Government, in my opinion did the right thing in getting the wheels moving in that manner, because the coal strike was not a petty stoppage caused by some disagreement between an employer and his employees. It was an attempt to wreck the economy of the country, and if a government has any stomach to it at all it must, in such circumstances, get the wheels moving and keep the community supplied with light and power. I make no bones about saying that the Government’s action in putting troops into the open-cuts certainly has my blessing.
– The honorable member differs from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White).
– I did not hear the honorable member for Balaclava say “ Yes “ or “ No “ in respect of that matter. I am only saying that my. view is that the Government did a good thing in putting the troops in. Any step short of actual bloodshed or tyranny is a good step for a government to take to protect the ordinary people of the community against some small section that is seeking to do something that is utterly scandalous, wicked and illegal. I do not think that any government need apologize for taking such action. The point that I am trying to make is that the necessity for a great deal of the action necessitated by the coal strike could have been obviated by proper resolute action beforehand. The strike was finished in due course and the men went back to work. But directly it was announced that the strike was settled the troops were withdrawn. Those mystical troops who, according to the Minister for Information, are not military personnel at all, went back to their camps. They did not continue in the mines for a number of weeks to build rap a surplus of coal. No! The faces of the coal-miners were saved. The wounded feelings of the coal-miners were saved by taking the troops out straight away.
It might have been very much to the service of the people of this country if these men, having been sent to the coalfields, had been left there for a while longer to build -up a reserve of coal. The second aspect of this matter which shows that this strike has settled nothing and that we shall have I a similar strike again, is that the Government, instead of putting into the open-cut mines the group of workers belonging to the Australian Workers Union, who were competent to work them, who do similar work in other fields and were willing to work them, and whose employment in the coal industry would have created an element of competition’ because their organization is not Communist-controlled, completely gave in to1 the miners’ federation and handed back open-cut mining to the control of that Communist-dominated organization. If that was not capitulation and compromise, and if it was not an indication of weak willingness to save the face bf the miners’ federation, particularly of the Communist leaders of that organization, I do not know what it was. If the Government had been adamant and had said to the members of the federation, “ Back you go to work. You can work the mines that you halve been working, but we shall give the open-cut mines to the Australian Workers Union “, what a crushing blow that would have been to rank-and-file members of the miners’ federation and particularly to their Communist leaders who led them into the strike. But the Government would not do that.
So, with reluctance I come to the conclusion that there must be some tie-up between the Communist leaders of the miners’ federation and the Government which made’ it impracticable or impossible for the Government to take a stand and place open-cut mining in the hands of a union which is not dominated by the Communist^. Had it done so it would have introduced an element of competition into i the coal-mining industry, and we would no longer be held to ransom i by one Communist dominated union which has a monopoly in coal production in this country. All the ranting that has been indulged in by honorable members opposite about monopolies apparently means nothing. The
Government had a classic opportunity to break the hold which the monopolist miners’ federation has on the coal-mining industry, but it did not take advantage of it. Only 24 hours had elapsed after the settlement of the strike when another strike was called, on that occasion at Lithgow or at some other place in the electorate represented by the Prime Minister, because the miners claimed that they were not getting the first deliveries of coal made after the strike for their personal, private domestic consumption. Day after day these consequential losses of potential coal production go on. The coal-miners are striking now because Mr. Sharkey has become the guest of His Majesty for three or four years. Only a few days ago they went on strike because they did not like the smell of the pit ponies. This time they objected to an odour - one of the things about which one’s best friend does not tell one - and they all went home again. So disputes go on in the industry. That is why the action of the Government to settle the coal strike, which was so triumphantly noised abroad as a great success, really settled nothing whatever.
I turn to another aspect of this matter. For a long time a plan has been in operation to placate the members of the Communistdominated monopoly in the coal industry. Let me give to the House an illustration of what is going on. Some time ago I asked a question in this House about Morinda, a steamer that used to trade between Australia and Lord Howe Island, It had been disclosed that Morinda was about to be withdrawn from the service to Norfolk Island and that the people of the island would be left without sea transport facilities to and from Australia. I asked why the service was being discontinued and I was informed that Burns Philp and Company, limited, the owners of the vessel, had stated that it was no longer economic to send the steamer to the island. I have done a little fossicking around in order to ascertain why it should be uneconomic to continue the service. Among other reasons I found that the price charged for bunker coal used by every ship that goes out of Australian territorial waters is £3 a ton and that out of the £3 received by the colliery-owners, 10s. is paid to the
Joint Coal Board as a sort of tribute. The fund resulting from such contributions is apparently used to provide the football pants, the ice cream, and all the other amenities that are now provided for the coal-miners. Apparently the policy of the Government is to placate the coal-miner and to keep him sweet and happy and send him. to work at so-called full production. The miners must have tiled bath-rooms.
– And scented soap.
– Why some of the scented soap was not put on the pit ponies, 1 do not know. This is how the Government’s plans have worked out. If a ship burns 1,000 tons of coal on a trip to New Zealand, which would be approximately the normal consumption, the shipowners have to pay £500 more than they would have to pay if this tribute were not exacted from them. That amountrepresents more than their profit on the voyage. That is why ship-owners are being forced to discontinue shipping services. So, through the joint generosity of the Government, which gives way to the coalminers at every turn, and of the Joint Coal Board, which is determined to placate the miners, come hell or high water, industry in this country is loaded with grossly excessive extra charges in order to provide football pants, scented soap, tiled bath-rooms and other ridiculous amenities for the miners. Let me give another illustration of what is occurring. The Joint Coal Board has recently issued instructions, the constitutionality of which might he said to be’ in doubt, but I shall not deal with that aspect now, that amenities buildings shall be erected for members of the miners’ federation. Some time ago the board issued an instruction to the owners of the Heddon-Bellbird colliery, at which 250 men are employed, to erect bathrooms estimated to cost £74,000. Bathrooms are already provided at the colliery and no complaints have been made about, them.
– What has all this to do with the bill?
– If the Minister had been listening he would have observed that T have been developing the thesis that the Government’s constant appeasement of the miners has been a contributing factor to the continuance of disputes in the industry. With the permission of the honorable gentleman I shall give two other illustrations to give point to my contention. An instruction was issued by the Joint Coal Board that the John Larling colliery, which employs between 400 and 500 men, should provide bath-room facilities costing approximately £50,000. At Stockton Borehole, where 130 men are employed, the provision of bathroom facilities estimated to cost £20,000 was demanded and at the Pacific Colliery, where 100 men are employed, an instruction was issued that bathroom facilities estimated to cost £20,000 should be provided. These are just bathrooms in which the miners may have a wash before they go home to mum ; but they have to be tiled with the best tiles available. The proprietors of the Pacific Colliery replied to the board, in effect, “ We have already provided bathrooms that have met with the complete approval of the men. No union secretary .or shop steward has ever complained to us about them. As far as we know, there is complete satisfaction with them. We will not erect a new bathroom at an estimated cost of £20,000. What are you going to do about it ? “ The board has done nothing about it, probably because the constitutionality of its instruction is in doubt. I am not one of those who criticize reasonable expenditure of money for the provision of comforts for the workers. It is a part of my political belief, which is shared by every honorable member on this side of the House, that we are long past the time in our social and political development when such reasonable expenditure should be questioned. But there must be some limit to these things. The provision of unnecessary amenities at astronomically high cost is only part and parcel of the attempt by the board to placate the coal-miners and to keep them sweet and happy at all costs. I have no doubt that these instructions were issued at the behest of the Government.
I conclude by saying that it never pays a government to pursue a policy of appeasement. Appeasement in the international field brought us to a great war which nearly destroyed us. As in the international field, so also in the indus trial field the Government must be firm and say, “ That is the law and we stand by it “. For a long time the Government has handled industrial disputes, and in particular the dispute which led up to the recent coal strike, in such a manner as to make it inevitable that sooner or later the Communist-led coal-miners federation would have a trial of strength with the Government. If, a long time ago, the Government had not talked about political philosophy and had not arranged for its fixers and back-room boys to go creeping around the unions saying, “ Let us have this, boys, and everything will he all right “, there would have been more peace in industry in this country. One of the Ministers of the Crown, is notoriously known as a wonderful fixer. Had there been a little more firmness we would have had far less industrial trouble. There is no escape from the conclusion that responsibility for what this country went through during the three months of the disastrous stoppage in the coal industry, which cost this country £130,000,000, must be laid at the door of the Government of this country.
– in reply - Honorable members opposite have had a good deal to say about this measure. Many of their remarks had little or no connexion with the bill before the House. To the degree that they had some connexion with it, however, my colleagues on this side of the House have answered most of the points that were brought forward. I intend to confine myself very briefly to only two points that were raised. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has said that this bill became inevitable because of the coal strike. The recent strike in the coal industry was not the first coal strike that has occurred in Australia, and this bill was not at all inevitable. In 1940, when the last general strike occurred in the coal industry the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister of this country. On that occasion the miners were on strike for a period of three months, but no bill such as that now before us was subsequently introduced into the Parliament.
– Uniform taxation was not in existence then.
– That is true. The honorable gentleman can make what excuses he likes to make. The Government of which he was a member did not introduce into the Parliament a measure to reimburse the States for the additional expenditure they were involved in because of the 1940 coal strike.
Last August, the Premiers, accompanied by their financial and other advisers, attended a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in Canberra. The financial experts of the States and the Commonwealth conferred together and furnished estimates of the additional expenditure by the States as a result of the coal strike. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) then suggested to the Premiers that the sum of £8,000,000 should be allocated to the States in the manner that is set out in this measure. Not one of the Premiers raised an objection to that method of allocation. If it is an unfair method, one would have thought that one or more of the Premiers would have objected to it.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that it was unfair.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– If the honorable member for Warringah said that it was unfair, then he criticized the Liberal Premier of South Australia, who raised no objection to it.
– Will the Minister explain whether this sum of £8,000,000 represents a part of the annual allocation that is made to the States under the tax reimbursement scheme, or whether it is separate from it?
– It is quite separate from the allocation to the States under the tax reimbursement scheme.
– This year the allocation is £62,000,000. Is this sum of £8,000,000 additional to that?
– Yes. It is a separate contribution. It was not included in the allocation to the States under the tax reimbursement scheme of £62,500,000 because it is a non-recurring item. It is to be hoped that there will be no need! for the Commonwealth to make a similarprovision for many years to come.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have had much to say about the effects of the coal strike upon industry and the amount of money that it has cost this country. The Minister for Information (Mr.. Calwell) directed the attention of theHouse to the losses that were incurred byAustralia during the depression. I havemade an estimate of the losses that were incurred during a period prior to 1941 when the Labour party was in opposition. I have taken the number of people who’ were unemployed from 1932 until the Labour Government came into power, and I have set a monetary value upon thegoods and services that they would have produced if they had been working during that period. The loss to the nation during that period was greater than the total cost of the war to Australia. It was greater than £2,000,000,000.
– That is double the figure that was given by the Minister for Information. He said that the loss was £1,000,000,000.
– The Minister for Information said that some one else had made that estimate. I am just as capable of estimating the loss as is anybody else. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) may make the calculation him’self, if he desires to do so. All that he would have to do would be to obtain the statistics relating to the number of man days that were lost, through unemployment, from 1932 until the Labour Government came into power, and estimate the monetary equivalent of the goods and services that those persons would have produced if they had been in employment. If the figure at which he arrives does not agree with the figure at which I have arrived, I am willing to go into conference with him about it. I made ,my calculations with considerable accuracy, and the figure at which I arrived was over £2,000,000,000.
It is to be deplored that the nation has suffered a loss as a result of the coal strike, but all the indications are that the Communist leaders of certain trade unions have learned their lesson. In a good many industries production has been maintained at a high level since the strike. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 15th October, the following report appeared : -
Steel production of B.H.P. and Australian
Iron and Steel Ltd. for September shows a marked increase . . .
There was a remarkable increase of production in September. That is an indication that workers in certain industries have learned a lesson from the very expert way in which the Prime Minister handled the coal strike.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 7th September (vide page 43), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill for an act to make provision for the granting of financial assistance to the States in connexion with the administration of prices, rents and land sales controls, and for other purposes. I shall not oppose the measure but I regret the necessity for it. Itwill probably be agreed that there would be no necessity for a measure of this kind if the goods and services that are available in this country were adequate to meet the needs of the people. It will probably be agreed also that if there had been no necessity for the Parliament to pass the States
Grants (Coal Strike Emergency) Bill the expenditure upon the administration of prices and other controls would be less than it is in fact. I point out that although the Government is acting generously according to its lights, in reimbursing the States for their expenditure upon the administration of controls, if the States had not been placed in a financial strait-jacket by the Commonwealth they could discharge from their own funds the financial obligations that are imposed upon them in respect of these controls. Last year a sum of £597,409 was made available by the Commonwealth to reimburse the States for their expenditure upon various controls. It is estimated that this year the cost of administering the controls will be £800,000. I assume that at any rate a part of the increase is due to the fact that the State governments administered the controls for only nine months of the last financial year, and that it is expected that they will administer them for the whole of this financial year. All of the States have abandoned some controls. I think it true to say that all States have either abandoned land sales controls or modified them substantially. Nevertheless, as I have said, owing to the shortage of many essential commodities and services, the remaining controls will continue in existence for at least the duration of this financial year.
It is worth while to mention that, despite the assistance that the Commonwealth has given and is giving to the States in connexion with the administration of controls, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and other Ministers have severely criticized the administration of those controls. Although the right honorable gentleman has indulged in such criticisms, he has omitted to state the reason for the increase of the cost of commodities. The increase is not due to any failure on the part of State governments; it is due to actions for which this Government must accept full responsibility. In 1948, by means of a referendum, the Government requested the people to give the Commonwealth permanent authority to control rents and prices, including charges. That referendum was defeated in every State. Then, in a fit of pique, the Prime Minister announced that the Government had decided to abandon, as quickly as possible, the controls that it had exercised for so long. There was nothing in the Constitution or in any Commonwealth statute to prohibit ‘ the Government from continuing to exercise control over rents and prices. The High Court had not given a ruling upon the matter. It was obviously competent for the Government to continue to operate the controls that it considered to be necessary, but it abandoned them in one fell swoop. The Prime Minister announced that in future the controls would be administered by the State governments. The Government took that action despite the fact that the legislation from which it had derived its authority to exercise controls was not due to expire until the end of the year and honorable gentlemen on this side of the House had stated that they were prepared to agree to an extension of the period of operation of the legislation if circumstances warranted an extension. I emphasize that the Prime Minister decided out of hand that the Commonwealth should relinquish the controls, and that the States should accept the responsibility of administering them. As the result of that decision, the States had to assume the control of prices, but the Prime Minister concurrently withdrew the payment of subsidies on essential commodities by means of which the Commonwealth had been able to keep down prices. The Labour party, on taking office, was reluctant to introduce the system of subsidies. After Labour administration had shown that prices would rise and costs would spiral, the Opposition parties suggested to the then Prime Minister,. Mr. Curtin, that those inflationary trends could be controlled only by the payment of subsidies on essential commodities. That idea did not originate in the minds of members of the Opposition. The practice had been instituted in Great Britain early in the war, and it had successfully kept down prices to an extraordinary degree. “We in Australia were more favorably placed in respect of essential commodities than the people of the United Kingdom were. As we produced most of our essential requirements, we could exercise complete control over the prices of them within the Commonwealth. Great Britain, as an importing country, had to pay the prices that the sellers of the goods, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and various foreign countries, decided to ask at that time. Despite the evidence of the success of the system of subsidies in the United Kingdom, even under . those conditions the Curtin Government was reluctant to introduce it in Australia. It was not until the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who had been representing the Labour Government in Great Britain, had returned to Australia and discussed the position with Mr. Curtin and explained to the public the advantages of the system that the Labour Government introduced the payment of subsidies. Unquestionably, during the period that the system was in operation, and in spite of other influences, the prices structure remained relatively stable. But it was obvious that, with the continued shortage of goods and the spiralling of costs and wages, the removal of the subsidies would cause increases of prices. I find it extraordinary that, in spite of the removal of subsidies and the transfer of controls to the States at a most . inopportune time, costs under the administration of the States have not increased to anything like the degree that the Prime Minister and the Government expected. That fact shows clearly that in their own sphere and competence the States have exercised those controls most effectively. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are not opposing this bill, but we make it clear that whilst we agree that the controls exercised by the States are effective to the greatest possible degree, they impose an additional financial burden upon the State governments. The system of uniform income tax was introduced as a war-time measure, but when the Labour Government realized how much control that system gave to the Commonwealth over the States, it continued the system in peacetime. The effect has been definitely to limit the powers of the States to raise money in their own spheres. Consequently, every State is a mendicant which is dependent upon Commonwealth bounty. “Whether or not the States desire to be the cat’s-paw or the football of the Commonwealth Parliament, the fact remains that they must come cap in hand to the Treasurer for financial assistance whenever they incur any extraordinary expenditure. We had an example of that in the States Grants (Coal Strike Emergency) Bill. The States have been unable to meet the additional expenses that the coal strike has imposed on them, and the Commonwealth ha3 to meet a part of the total cost of that unfortunate event. Whilst we regret the necessity for the bill for the two reasons that I have mentioned, we are quite prepared to support the measure, but we hope that, in the not-distant future the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States will be more equitably adjusted and that bills of this kind will not be necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 7th September (vide page 45), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill is to appropriate £10,000,000 for a grant to the United Kingdom, and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), in his second-reading speech, mentioned other monetary gifts that the Australian Government has made to that country since the war. To the degree that this gift will give some relief to the United Kingdom the bill is to be commended, but the British people would be justified in saying, “ Thanks for very little “. Of course, they would not do so. In my opinion, this gift is in the nature of a thankoffering, or conscience money for our’ deliverance in World War II. It is not a generous gift. Honorable members may not be aware that during the war Great Britain expended large sums of money in Australia. For a period, the people of Great Britain stood, in the breech and saved civilization. They were without allies in Europe. The United States of America and Soviet Russia, who became our great allies, had not at that stage been attacked by the enemy. However, the United Kingdom expended in Australia £17,000,000 on naval bases and operating costs, and presented to us, gratis, 1,600 aircraft, hundreds of aircraft engines and spare parts.
During World War II. we accumulated in the United Kingdom large credits from the sale of our export commodities. Honorable members will recall that, at the beginning of the war, the United Kingdom agreed to accept at guaranteed prices all the primary products that Australia could supply. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride), who was the Minister for Munitions in the Menzies Government at that time, is familiar with the details of that generous arrangement. I remind the House now, although the time has long passed, that Australia had many doubts about its ability to maintain exports. Had it not been for the supremacy of the Royal Navy, we should not have been able to supply Great Britain with urgently needed primary products. We should not forget that fact. We should bear in mind constantly that the credits totalling hundreds of millions of pounds that we accumulated in the United Kingdom during the war were ensured because the trade routes were guarded by the Royal Navy, and the Royal Australian Navy, which is a valuable unit in the whole naval strength of the British Commonwealth. Great Britain entered into those trade arrangements with Australia and would not break them under any consideration. Remembering those days, can we say, then, that this grant of £10,000,000 is a generous gift ?
What is Great Britain’s urgent need at the present time ? I remind honorable members that on the 18th September, 1940, the Royal Air Force inflicted on the Luftwaffe the greatest losses that the Germans sustained in their attacks on Great Britain. Hitler had prepared “ Operation Sea Lion “, by which he hoped to subdue Great Britain, which at that time was his last enemy in Europe. His plans called for a great aerial attack on the United Kingdom, and the Nazis felt confident, in view of their earlier victories, that they would succeed. But the Germans lost the Battle of Britain. Although the Nazis had numerical superiority in aircraft, their machines were slightly technically inferior to those of the British, and the Royal Air Force pilots were probably better trained than the German airmen were. The Germans sustained- their first great defeat in “World War II. in the Battle of Britain. I regard . the gift of £10,000,000 to the United Kingdom as a contribution to the poor box. We should remind ourselves of the early years, of World War II., and remember the perturbation and fears of the civilized world at that time, when the Nazi hordes were trampling Europe underfoot.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I arn showing the debit as well as the credit side.
– Order ! The honorable member is entitled to make a passing reference to some of those matters, but may not embark on a long dissertation on matters that are not related to the bill.
– With due respect, I submit that the subjects that I have been discussing have a vital relation to the bill.
– Order ! The Chair thinks otherwise, and asks the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– The debt that Australia owes to the United Kingdom cannot be reckoned in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. It is a matter of honour. The danger that was present in 1940, when Great Britain saved civilization, has passed, but the people of the United Kingdom have suffered ten years of austerity, and the Australian Government proposes to assist them by clipping £10,000,000 off the frozen credits that this country has accumulated in London since the outbreak of World War II. That is the point that I make, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I did not succeed in making it clear before. The gift of £.10,000,000 is inadequate. From time to time, honorable members, including myself, have asked the Government to render assistance to people of the United Kingdom in another way. Those people require not money but goods and food. In the press yesterday, I read a news item in which it was stated that Great Britain must face even greater austerity. The second Battle of Britain is now being fought, and it is being waged in the economic sphere. Victory, on this occasion, may be more difficult to achieve than was victory over the German air force in 1940. Great Britain is not being subjected to bombing, attacks now, but the people of that country are facing other difficulties and trials. The Australian people are generous and openhanded, and have sent millions of food parcels to the United Kingdom, but the Australian Labour Government has not sent a ton of food to Great Britain. Other dominions have done so. Each year, as Christmas approaches, I ask the Government to make a large gift of food instead of a monetary gift to the United Kingdom. If the Government considers that a gift of food is not practicable, it should examine what other dominions have done. Governments, councils and such organizations as the Red Cross have sent large quantities of food and clothing to the people of Great Britain. The Australian Government has contended itself with making monetary gifts, which consist of clipping off £10”,000,000 or £15,000,000 from our accumulated credits in the United Kingdom. A monetary gift does not fill the stomachs of the Britons, although it may assist the United Kingdom Government to purchase food and goods from other countries. The microscopic gift of £10,000,000 will not give any immediate relief to the British people. A few days ago, the honorablemember for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said that exports of food from Australia to the United Kingdom had increased, but if he would study the official statistics,, he would find that the increase was not so great as the increases of exports from New Zealand, Canada, Argentina and the United States of America were. Therefore, Britain is buying much food from the dollar area when more should be supplied from the sterling area. If Australia were to send more food it would be of infinitely greater value to Britain than is the making of a money gift. The Empire dollar pool is dwindling rapidly because Britain must buy foodstuffs from bard currency countries, including Canada, as well as from Argentina, which has driven such a hard bargain. Before last Christmas, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) whether he would consider sending to Great Britain a gift of food to the value of £2,000,000 or more, as has been done by Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand. This Government has never at any time given an ounce of food to Britain. I do not want to detract from the value of the monetary gifts, but such gifts mean little at the present time. I am sure that honorable members opposite will see the point I am trying to make.
– Does the honorable member imagine that we ship money to Britain instead of food?
– If the honorable member’s knowledge of finance is so limited that he does not know the difference between sending food or money to Great Britain it is of little use for me to attempt to explain the matter to him. I am sure there would be no need to explain the difference to the people of Great Britain. A gift of money is a mere hook entry which the people of Great Britain will not notice. Does the honorable member comprehend that? If not, let him take a trip to England, and share in the austerity being experienced by the people there. I now ask the Prime Minister, who has just come into the chamber, whether he will consider making a present of food on a large scale to Great Britain this Christmas.
– What we give them is hard cash, and they can do what they like with it.
– If the Prime Minister is interested only in hard cash, that indicates the mentality of a Scrooge. It should not be the mentality of the Prime Minister of a great dominion. I am disappointed. Some of the State governments, and various municipalities, as well as the Bed Cross Society, have made gifts in kind to Great Britain. Because the Australian Government has refrained from increasing the export of foodstuffs to Great Britain, the Government of that country has been forced to make extensive purchases from the dollar area.
– Great Britain is getting all our surplus meat and butter, and all the wheat it wants from Australia at. the present time. What more can we do for Great Britain?
– The Prime Minister has said all that before. If he had declared boldly that Britain would get a certain fixed percentage of our exports,, even at the expense of other markets, it would be of great help to the people of Great Britain. Only a little while ago, the House appropriated £8,000,000 topay for the damage done by saboteurs. If the Prime Minister were to say that Australia would vote £8,000,000 this year to buy food for Great Britain, what a splendid example that would be of cooperation among members of the Empire family. As the result of the war Great Britain owes colossal debts to various countries. Before the United’ States of America came into the war Britain was compelled to liquidate its overseas investments to the point at which it impoverished itself. During the war, Britain lost 250,000 men killed in battle,, besides hundreds of thousands of persons killed in bombing raids’. When the war was over, Great Britain found itself heavily in debt. That was Great Britain’s experience after the Napoleonic war, also, but Great Britain wrote off its Allies’ debts. It is true that since the end of the last war, Britain has received Marshall Aid from the United States of America, in addition to the dollar loan from that country, but the loan has been exhausted, and Marshall aid will soon come to an end.
According to recent press reports, Great Britain is sliding into bankruptcy. That is a matter which concerns us closely. In 1938, we were hoping that Great Britain, which was our best customer would continue buying our products. If Great Britain, which is the centre of the greatest Empire the world has ever known, should now fail, the Empire would crumble, and we would go down with it. We cannot endure alone. The time is ripe for the calling of a great Empire conference. If any one objects to the use of the word Empire, he can express the idea in his own terms. I suggest that the nations that made up the Empire, and fought together against the totalitarian forces, which, if unchecked, would have trodden us underfoot, should meet in conference to discuss the present economic situation. The various countries should be represented by the heads of governments, not by minor members. Britain, morally, owes no debt to any one. The United States of America, and other nations concerned, could be invited to such a conference. It is absurd that Great Britain should be heavily in debt to Egypt, which Great Britain saved during the war, and which, but for the British intervention, would have been over-run by the enemy.
– The Egyptians have forgotten El Alamein.
– Yes, and they have forgotten what Great Britain did for their protection. The present economic conflict must be settled. Much of the debt left by the war should be struck out. Great Britain should not be allowed to slide into bankruptcy. It must be saved at all costs. The Australian Government proposes to make a gift, out of our profits, of £10,000,000 to Great Britain; but, in addition, it should make material gifts. That should be ‘followed up by a conference, such as I have suggested, to reach an agreement on matters of trade, finance and defence. If we have no regard for what is happening in Great Britain and if we are content merely to put something in the poor box, then we shall go down with Great Britain. The government that is in power in Australia after the next election should call a conference such as I have suggested. The Empire has resources as great as those of the United States of America or Russia, but those countries are compact masses, and their strength lies in their unity. The Empire is scattered throughout the world, and its unity is not so apparent. Because the various parts of the Empire are so widely scattered, we are apt to forget the ties that bind us together and mean so much.
.- The purpose of this bill is to authorize the making of a gift of £10,000,000 to Great Britain, this being our third gift of the kind. When the first gift was under consideration, I said that, in my opinion, it would be the forerunner of further gifts to Great
Britain. We, on this side of the House, fully realize the part played by the Mother Country during the war. The Australian Government, at various times, has offered foodstuffs to Great Britain if that country could see its way clear to transport them. I have in mind a specific offer of 100,000 tons of sugar, a commodity of which the British people stood in great need. The only condition was that Britain should provide shipping to collect the sugar. I understand that Great Britain declined to do so because ships could make three trips to the West Indies for sugar in the time that it would take to make one trip to Australia.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said that Great Britain was faced with bankruptcy. That is the very reason why this Government has made such tremendous efforts to conserve dollars in the Empire dollar pool, and the Government has been criticized recently for so doing. We do not forget the part played by Great Britain when it faced the enemy on its own. Great Britain at that time was the front-line of the Empire’s defence, but the whole Empire was behind the Mother Country, and the various components were playing their parts.
It is not long ago since the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) were in Great Britain with me. We attended many functions, and at all of them speakers were lavish in their praise of what Australia was doing to help the Old Country. The honorable member for Calare, I know, paid particular attention to the food situation, and he will remember that public speakers, whether at functions given by the Merchant Tailors Guild or at other functions in the Guild Hall, in London, were most generous in their praise of Australia for the splendid effort it had made to help Great Britain, an effort which surpassed that of any other dominion.
– That applied to the individual Australian for food parcels.
– People who proposed toasts and votes of thanks at functions that I attended said that Australia had played a grand part. I attended a dinner held by the Merchant Tailors Guild. A Canadian had been given the privilege of proposing the toast of the grand master, on whose left-hand side I sat. Notwithstanding that a Canadian had proposed the toast, the grand master, who was so overcome by emotion that he had to pause twice in his speech in reply, turned to me and lavished praise on Australia for what it had done to aid Great Britain. I have said all that, because, during the war, I said firmly that after the war ended the Mother Country and the rest of the British Empire would have to ensure that the ties that bound it were drawn tighter than ever. I believed that then and I believe it’ now. In fact, it would be a good thing for the Empire if its resources were pooled. So I wholeheartedly support this measure under which a third gift is to be made to the United Kingdom by the Labour Government.
– The gift is being made by the people of Australia, not the Government. Why bring in politics?
– Do not split straws. This is a gift from, our country to the Mother Country that the Australian citizens are making.
– That is better.
– The plain fact is that the Government handles the affairs of the country. When I use the word “ Government “ I mean the people, for the Government is the people. The popularly elected government of the country represents the will of the country. I repeat that I whole-heartedly support the measure. I hope that more will be done by Australia to help the United Kingdom, and I am sure that, from’ time to time, it will be done.
– in reply - I shall not detain the House for long; but, in view of the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), I should say something. I have never heard a more stupid speech than that made by the honorable gentleman. A school child could understand the position, which he, either deliberately or because of ignorance, has tried to confuse. He has said that, instead of saying to the United Kingdom, “Here is a gift of £10,000,000 “, we should give to . the United Kingdom £10,000,000 worth of food.
– I did not say that. 1 said that we should give £10,000,000 worth of food to the United Kingdom in addition to this money. Why not keep to the facts?
– The honorable mem- * ber said that instead of making a gift of £10,000,000, which was merely a book transfer, we should give to the United Kingdom £10,000,000 worth of food. He now interjects that we should give to the United Kingdom £10,000,000 worth of food in addition to the £10,000,000 that we propose to give it in cash. I shall deal with his interjection, because it lines up with something that he said about this gift being not enough. The honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways. On every occasion that offers, honorable gentlemen opposite say that we should reduce taxes. The £10,000,000 that is to be given to the United Kingdom’ has to be raised by taxation. It is not a book transfer. Every person who pays tax will contribute to the gift. As the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) endeavoured to make clear, the Government is merely the agent for the people of Australia. After consideration, the Government decided that it was expressing the will of the people in proposing this gift. The amount of the gift has to be raised by taxation from the people, and every taxpayer will have to contribute to it. There can be no doubt that it is a gift of cash, not a book transfer. In relation to my remark that the honorable member’s statement was foolish, the honorable member said that we should send £10,000,000 worth of food to the United Kingdom. That is exactly what happens. The United Kingdom will get £10,000,000 worth of food from Australia without having to send to Australia goods in exchange. That is as plain as a pikestaff. Any school child could understand what happens. The honorable member has been at this game before and so has the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who, three years ago, when it was proposed to make a gift of £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom, took a similar stand. They have raised this matter time and time again in an endeavour to mislead some people who perhaps hear only the Opposition side of the argument. They try to delude the people of Australia into the belief that Australia has not been fairly liberal to the people of the United Kingdom. I have attended a number of conferences abroad. The conference that I attended in London recently was an economic conference. The honorable member for Balaclava suggested a conference between Australia and the United Kingdom. The Government of the United Kingdom and the dominion governments are conferring all the time. At the economic conference that I attended, all the financial matters that were referred to by the honorable member were discussed. In fact, the relations between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Australian Government and, I think, the government of every other British dominion are closer now than they ever were, and that applies not only to financial and economic matters but also to defence matters. The Government of the United Kingdom has expressed the greatest gratitude to the Australian Government for the assistance that it has rendered. It is perfectly true that we might make a larger gift to the United Kingdom. The suggestion is sound, but we have to look after the interests of the Australian people as well as those of the United Kingdom. It ill becomes Opposition members, who are always demanding reduced taxes, to make a proposal, which, if carried out, must mean increased taxes in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- It is unfortunate for Australia that in our crisis we should have in the Ministry a man like the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who understands so little of what trade between countries means. He is prodigal in the use of shibboleths and cliches. He has travelled round the world attending conferences. He has been to Havana and Geneva and now he has some deputies at Annecy inFrance.
– Order! The honorable member must deal with the bill.
– The Minister has tried to delude honorable members into the belief that we on this side of the committee, want to take more from the pockets of the people in order to send money to the United Kingdom. He tried to mislead honorable members when he alleged that my statement that the Government should acquire food and send it as well to the United Kingdom was a misunderstanding of the meaning of the bill. We have advocated that the Government should go on to the Australian market and buy food and send it to the United Kingdom. Does the honorable gentleman think that this book entry of £10,000,000 will fill British stomachs? It is nonsense to say that money changes hands. All that happens is that an entry is made in the books of the British Treasury. Certainly, it is accounted for in goods, but we export other than primary products. Cold cash does not feed people. Australia is falling behind in its exports to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is buying from Argentina and the United States of America and Canada. Between 1938 and now its purchases from Argentina have risen from £38,400,000 worth to £130,800,000 worth and those from the United States of America have risen from £117,600,000 worth to £295,200,000 worth, and those imports consist largely of food. That is because Australia is not sending its full quota of food to the United Kingdom. Surely the Minister understands that if the Australian Government bought food on the Australian market and sent it as a gift to the United Kingdom, that would be understood there. New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina have done that. It is a great pity that the Minister, surrounded by a few planners, goes round the world thinking in terms of money and. not of food. I am reminded of the conquest of Bagdad by the Tartars and the Caliph, who was of the same kidney as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and thought only in terms of gold. He was locked up in a tower of gold where he died because he had no food. The people of the United Kingdom are in a somewhat like predicament. They have a handful of dollars, some of which were lent to them by the United States of America and some of which were derived from Marshall aid, but they want food. Their supply of dollars is dwindling, and because the Prime Minister has been told to dip more lightly into the dollar pool we have a petrol shortage and rationing to come.
The TEMPORARY OH AIRMAN. - Order !
– I shall not go into the details of that matter. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and his colleagues tie themselves into financial knots and ignore the human difficulties of the magnificent head-quarters of the British Empire to which the Minister once belonged.
– And I still belong to it.
– I do not think the honorable gentleman does. I remember a debate in 1943 about the export of butter to the United Kingdom, when I said that the Minister was starving Great Britain. The Minister resented it. Yet a strong Empire does not enter his make-up. He thinks only in economic terms on his trips to Havana and other places and he has sacrificed the Ottawa Agreement and Empire preference.
– Order ! The honorable member must deal with the bill.
– Had the Government acted more humanely and had it taken an Empire outlook, it could have acquired food, as other dominions and other countries have done, and given it to the United Kingdom, in addition to this monetary concession. Australia should produce more food, and there should be more gifts in kind as well as in money. This gift is something, but it is not adequate.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m. [Quorum formed.]
Debate resumed from the 7th September (vide page 48), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the hill he now read a second time.
.- The bill before the House is for an act to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1948. It forms a part of the budget programme and was presented to the Parliament some weeks ago at the same time as the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) gave to the House the details of his budget arrangements for the current financial year. I propose to examine, in the first instance, the place that the sales tax now occupies in our financial structure. I think that when we come, as a Parliament, to review from time to time the operation of revenue raising measures it is fitting that we should examine just what place they occupy in the general revenue proposals of the Government and whether they are succeeding in their purpose. We should also examine the effect of their impact upon the community as a whole. I ask honorable members to examine with me for a moment or two just what place the sales tax now occupies in our financial structure and what effects it has on the cost of living and upon the taxpayers generally. Although this bill seeks to reduce the general rate of sales tax, and is intended to be, in fact, a tax concession, I am sure that in one or two other directions, if the Estimates of the Treasurer are correct, an amount of £35,000,000 or more will still be collected from sales tax in the current financial year.
I propose to show later that the Treasurer’s Estimates are, as has been usual in past years, on the conservative side, and that in all probability he ‘vill receive some millions of pounds more than the £35,000,000 that he originally estimated he would collect from this tax. But taking the Treasurer’s own estimate, honorable members will realize that the figure of £35,000,000 still constitutes a very substantial revenue item in the total budget collection. We should pause at this point to examine the effects of such revenue collections upon the cost of living and upon the benefits that w enjoy from Government revenues. We know that the Government has a very large social services programme. It has committed itself this year to a budgetary programme of, I think, about £573,000,000, and of course it has to obtain that amount of money from various sources.
I consider that I should emphasize at this stage that although social services benefits are given by the Government they are not given quite so freely as the Government would perhaps like people to believe, and as perhaps some of the more gullible members of the community may imagine. For example, honorable members will find, if they examine the Treasurer’s Estimates for the current year, that he expects to collect £185,500,000 on items which all directly affect the cost of living. The following table shows where this large amount will come from: -
Honorable members will appreciate that those items by their very nature must have an effect upon the cost of living. A man who imports goods has to pay customs duty, and the amount that he pays in duty must necessarily form an element in the price that the public must pay for the article. A manufacturer or distributor who pays excise must similarly pass that charge on to the public. Pay-roll tax, land tax, and sales tax must also be elements of the cost of’ production that must be passed on to the public in the form of increased prices. I have ignored other taxation revenues which are derived from income tax and other sources of that character, because they do not affect the cost of living so directly as does sales tax and the other taxes that I have mentioned, although in the long run they obviously must have a bearing upon it. The items that I have mentioned have an immediate and direct impact upon the cost of living and also upon the weight of the burden that rests upon the taxpayers of the nation.
So it is interesting to associate this figure of £185,500,000 with the social services which are, in many instances, granted without any means test and in other instances with the means test applying. Last year social services cost £81,000,000. If the taxpayer wants to know the source of these substantial benefits that are paid out in the form of social services he will find, in these items that I have mentioned alone, that the. cost of those services is more than doubly covered by the collections from the taxpayer. I am quite certain that the Prime Minister himself would agree that although it pleases us from time to time to talk about this being free and that being free in connexion with our social services, none of them are free in the real sense of the term. They represent a collection by the Government from the community, and a distribution to sections of the community according to the programme that the Government has laid down. At no stage should we delude’ ourselves that they are free benefits that we receive from a benevolent administration. Those who receive these benefits, in the main, have helped to pay for them. Certainly somebody has paid for them.
Last year sales tax produced just under £40,000,000, but the legislation now before us seeks to reduce the general rate of that tax from 10 per cent, over the whole field of its application to 8-J per cent., and on certain luxury items from 25 per cent., the rate that now applies, to 8i per cent. That is the real purpose of the legislation. I suggested earlier that although on the face of it the Government expects that in a full year that these concessions will cost a little over £6,000,000, in the result they will cost the Government very little, if anything. In fact, if the present inflationary trend is maintained the Government may find that it can still have given away these concessions and yet come out with a larger overall collection than it received in the previous year. The first three months of this year have already shown that the Treasurer’s ‘estimates will be substantially exceeded if the rate of collection that operated in those three months is maintained. In addition to that fact, the basic wage is increasing, and the effect of the recent currency devaluation undoubtedly will be to force up the prices of many articles, particularly those imported from Britain and the United States of America. As the general level of costs rises the revenues collected by the Government will increase in proportion. When the basic wage rises all wage levels will go up because, as the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has told us, the basic wage itself is not a true wage level in the sense that many people receive the, basic wage, but that it is only a starting point. It would be difficult to find throughout the length and breadth of Australia to-day, many people who receive the bare basic wage. No matter how relatively unskilled the occupations of many workers may be, judges and conciliation commissioners have prescribed marginal rates for them, which, in the result, give them much bigger earnings than the basic wage. So we do not get a true picture of the position by considering the level of the basic wage alone. Every increase of the basic wage, as I have said, increases wage levels generally, and so in turn increases the amount of pay-roll tax that the Government collects. It also increases the cost level. If prices are marked up in accordance with increased costs the amount of sales tax collected by the Government also increases. We have found that this process has been painfully acute in recent years.
In 1939 the weekly basic wage was £4 2s. in New South Wales. By the November pay period of this year it will have increased to £6 12s. The basic wage was £5 12s. in 1947. . The important point to take from those facts is that as these payments increase so the revenues of the Government increase in direct ratio whether they come from income tax, pay-roll tax, sales tax, or other sources. Therefore, I repeat, the Government may very well find that the £35,000.000 which the Treasurer has estimated will be collected from sales tax will be many millions of pounds below the total amount that will actually be collected.
– The Government’s costs will also rise.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service says quite properly that the Government’s costs will also increase, but I am quite certain that whatever may be the effect upon the finances of the State governments, the Minister will concede that so far as the Australian Government is concerned, however much its costs increase as the result of the process that I have outlined, its revenue collections will rise very much more in proportion, and that the burden of increased costs will be felt much more by the State governments, unless the Commonwealth steps in and gives them grants, than it will be felt by the Australian Government.
I have made these comments to provide a background for our detailed consideration of this legislation. As I have said, the Government desires to make some concessions. Nobody will attack a government for making concessions. We are all delighted when the tax collector steps in and says that he is about to give us some relief.
– This is a concession, is it not?
– I am not questioning that. The point that I am making is that no one here is attacking the Government for making a concession, but that I do feel disposed to criticize it for not allowing the community to get the best use from the concession that it proposes to give. As the result of the reduction of the rates of tax an amount of £6,000,000 is to be conceded by the Government. Had the Government wanted to make a real concession of £6,000,000 to the people, it could have done so in a much more useful way that by reducing the general rate from 10 per cent, to 8j per cent. That reduction will have very little effect on the smaller and more essential items, particularly on. foodstuffs and household lines, that are bought by the average family man and housewife. It will have some effect on very expensive items costing one pound or more, but on foodstuffs, grocery lines, cakes and pastry, it will have little or no effect at all. Honorable members will appreciate the fact that an article which sold for 5s. under the old rate of tax will be sold for 4s. lid. as the result of this concession.
– Not very many items of foodstuffs bought by the ordinary family man carry the full rate of tax.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) is very much mistaken. I propose to show that there are many items that most people would regard as general household items which still carry the general rate of tax. I emphasize the point that except in respect of articles that cost 5s. or more very little saving will be made by the people as the result of this concession. On an article costing 5s. the saving will be only a penny. On items costing ls. 6d. or 2s., which included many grocery lines, no saving at all will be made.
– “Will the honorable member mention specifically some of the items that are still carrying the full general rate of tax?
– If the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) will be patient for a while, I shall give him a list of the important items that are still carrying the full rate of tax. Under the Standing Orders I am allowed 45 minutes in which to complete my speech. Although I do not propose to take up the whole of that time, I remind the honorable member that I have so far spoken for only a quarter of an hour. I have said that this concession will give little or no relief to the housewife. In respect of the bulk of the items which come into her ordinary budgeting, it will give no relief at all. It would be much more advantageous to the community generally if the Government exempted from sales tax the items listed under the division “foodstuffs, beverages and household items” and kept the general rate at 10 per cent, instead of reducing it from 10 per cent, to per cent. In the average household budget, the sales tax represents a considerable expenditure. Despite the proposed reductions, the sales tax is expected to yield £35,000,000 or more in the current year, or £5 a head per annum, or at least £20 per annum for the average Australian family. Honorable members opposite have invited me to mention some of the items that still carry sales tax which are regarded as of real importance in the average household. I have a list of such items which as far as I know is accurate. I am quite emphatic on the facts-
– Be careful!
– I shall be a lot morecareful than the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has been, and I am sure that. I shall get into much less bother than hegot into.
– Will the honorable member mention the items of foodstuffs that still carry the full rate of tax ?.”
– Some food items which, still carry the full rate of sales tax arecocoa, coffee, custard powders, desserts,, jelly crystals, meat puddings, plum puddings and salt. I am sure that thehonorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), who represents an electorate in which the people have to watch how they spend their money, will agreethat the housewife has to buy many of” these items in the course of a year. TheTreasurer has told us from time to timethat all basic items of foodstuffs havebeen exempted from sales tax. I should hate to live in a household which had toexist on a diet which consisted of the basic items of foodstuffs that are so exempts The poorest household would regard biscuits as part of its normal diet. I suppose there i3 no housewife withchildren who would not spend a certain amount of money every week on biscuits, if they are not unobtainable because of strikes in one industry or another. Biscuits are indispensable in every household in which there are children. Oakes and pastry are also bought by almost every housewife. In every industrial suburb people will be found going into the shops to buy their weekly supplies of those commodities. All of those items carry the full rate of sales tax. I have cited only representative items. Theofficial volume of sales tax exemptions and classifications consists of nearly 600 closely printed pages of items, including 282 pages which enumerate foodstuffs and beverages of various kinds which are subjected to the tax. I have merely cited a few representative items in order to illustrate my point.
– The honorable member referred to salt. Does he mean household salt?
– I understand that household salt is subject to the full rate of tax. Other general household lines include baking powder; boot, floor and stove polishes; brooms and candles. I do not suppose there is a household in Australia that has not found it necessary this winter to get in a plentiful supply of candles for use in the event of a failure of the electricity or gas supply. The full rate of tax is also imposed on insect destroyers and disinfectants. An open season should perhaps .be declared within the next few months for insect destroyers. Other items include matches, clothes pegs, soap, starch and general toilet lines. These are but a few representative items. In respect of items included in the two divisions “ Cakes and Pastry “ and “ Foodstuffs other than Cakes “ and Pastry” collections of sales tax for this year are estimated to yield £3,000,000. The tax on furniture and household requisites, including floor coverings, blinds, bedding, refrigerators, wireless sets, sewing machines, electrical appliances, brooms, brushes and kitchenware, cutlery and crockery is expected to yield £7,000,000. Soft furnishings and household drapery are exempt. These details were supplied to me by officers of the Taxation Branch and their accuracy can therefore be relied on. From the items listed under the three divisions which I have mentioned, all of which have their impact on the household budget, the collections of tax this year are estimated to amount to £10,000,000.
That brings me back to the point that, had the Government wanted to give real relief, it would have done better to have retained the general rate at 10 per cent, and to have completely exempted from tax the whole of the items covered by those three divisions. Under the Government’s proposal the total value of the concession for the full year is estimated to be almost £7,000,000. As I indicated earlier, it is likely that sales tax collections will be very much higher than the Treasurer has estimated, so that it would have been practicable for the right honorable gentleman to have eliminated from the schedule the three divisions to which I have referred. Had he done so he would have given substantial relief to householders without losing revenue which the Government could not comfortably afford to relinquish.
Not only would that have the effect of giving general relief to the family budget, where it is needed most, but it would also have saved the Taxation Branch and the community a great deal of unnecessary work, irritation and vexation. I do not know how many officers are required to police the 600 pages of items that are contained in the official volume of sales tax exemptions and classifications; but I know that it is a vexatious and burdensome business for manufacturers and retailers to have to conform to all the requirements of the sales tax legislation. At one stroke of the pen the Government could relieve business men, grocers and the proprietors of delicatessen stores and mixed businesses throughout the Commonwealth of the vexatious and tedious business of carrying out all the detailed work involved in connexion with the sales tax. I do not believe that most honorable members realize the complexity and confusion that arises from the different rulings that have been given in relation to items which are subject to this tax. I should like to mention some of what I regard as borderline anomalies which are to be found in the pages of this legislation. I have not made a very careful selection because I have not had the opportunity to do so. Milk arrowroot biscuits are exempt from sales tax, but vanilla rice biscuits are taxed. Frankfurts in cans are exempt, but not steak and kidney puddings and stews. Fish paste is exempt, but not imported sardines and salmon. Butter milk powder is exempt, but not malted milk powder. Processed cheese is exempt, but not cheese and gherkin or cheese and celery. Asparagus is exempt but not asparagus paste. Pickled gherkin is exempt, but not pickled walnuts. Hamburger rolls are exempt but cheese bread and milk loaves are subjected to the tax. The Treasurer is well known to be very fond of meat pies. I remember that a budget which he introduced some time ago embodied a proposal partially to exempt meat pies from sales tax to enable them to be sold for a halfpenny less than the price that had previously applied. On that occasion honorable members on this side of the House described the budget as a “ meat pie budget “. The items which I have cited do not by any means constitute an exhaustive list. I have cited them merely to illustrate the complexities that have been allowed to drift into this legislation over the years.
I do not desire to detain the House any longer. I emphasize the two points that I have tried to make. The first is that the sales tax has an important effect upon the cost of living. Its existence is one of the reasons why the costs have reached a point at which, according to an article in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, the purchasing power of the fi is in comparison with its purchasing power in 1939, worth approximately 12s. Swollen Government revenues have played an important part in forcing up the cost of living in this country steadily and continuously. To the degree to which the Government can reduce the cost of living by reducing the amount of sales tax that is payable upon certain commodities, it should be encouraged to do so. The second point that I have endeavoured to make is that if the Government is in the mood to make concessions, the three divisions to which I have referred could, with great advantage to the community, be eliminated completely from the field, of sales tax. I suggest that it would be of more advantage to the family man to exempt the cheaper articles from sales tax than to reduce the general rate of the tax. If the Government did that, it would give the community as a whole some genuine relief. Although it may be too late for this Government to be influenced by the remarks that I have just made, I hope that its successor will bear in mind when the next budget is being prepared, the desirability of exempting from sales tax items that figure largely in the household budget in preference to reducing the general rate of the tax. As far as I am aware, no member of the Opposition desires to impede the passage of this measure.
.- I do not propose to dispute the accuracy of the statements that have been made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). If sales tax is to be retained, it is inevitable that it will give rise to anomalies. It appears to be the intention of the Government to retain the sales tax as a means of raising revenue. If that be bo, the tax should be viewed in its proper perspective in relation to other revenue producing devices.
The bald fact is that sales tax is another form of customs duty or, in relation to ‘locally manufactured goods, another form of excise duty. If it is imposed on imported goods, it is tantamount to the imposition of an additional customs duty. If it is imposed upon articles that are manufactured in this country, it is tantamount to the imposition of an excise duty. The, Treasurer has estimated that this year customs duty will yield approximately £60,500,000 and that excise duties will yield approximately £60,000,000. It is apparently expected that a sum equivalent to approximately 30 per cent, of the estimated revenue from customs and excise duties will be derived from the operation of the sales tax. If sales tax is to play such an important part in the finances of this country, regard should be had, when considering its application, to decisions that are made in relation to customs and excise duties. Under the customs legislation, provision is made for exemptions and the waiving of duties and primages in certain instances, but I understand that the sales tax legislation does not contain similar provisions. Irrespective of the arguments that may be advanced in support of a claim for the waiving of sales tax, the Commissioner of Taxation, unlike the Comptroller-General of Customs, must insist upon getting his pound of flesh. Under the customs legislation, goods that are not commercially manufactured in this country may be allowed to enter Australia free of duty and primage, and provision is also made for the waiving of excise duties upon goods which have for some reason or other become almost unmarketable, and have to be sold at a loss, but the Commissioner of Taxation has no authority to exempt from sales tax goods that fall within the categories to which I have referred, although it might be desirable for that to be done.
Having drawn attention to the relationship between sales tax and customs duties, I point out that, under the present system, sales tax is, in effect, an ad valorem customs duty or an ad valorem excise duty. The amount of the sales tax that is payable upon an article increases as the cost of the article increases, because it is based upon a percentage of the selling price. That is one reason why it is difficult for the Treasurer to estimate with any accuracy the revenue that will be derived from the sales tax in any year. Although it is estimated that during the current financial year the revenue from the sales tax will be £35,000,000, and that the concessions that are proposed in this bill will cost £6,0,0,0,000, it might very well be that, if costs increase for reasons that are entirely beyond the control of the Government, the revenue from the tax this year will be £41,000,000, or the sum that the Treasurer has estimated would be collected if the concessions had not been made.
If sales tax is to be retained as a means of producing revenue, it ought to be related to customs duties and excise duties. If it were so related, proper schedules should be prepared. At the present time the sales tax exemptions and classification lists are entirely different from the customs tariff schedule. I realize that there would be administrative difficulties in the way of complying with that suggestion, but if the Government desires to take certain action, administrative difficulties are not regarded as being an insurmountable obstacle. If sales tax were related to customs duties and excise duties in the way in which I consider that it should be related, it ought not to be imposed as an ad valorem duty but should be levied at a fixed rate, irrespective of the price of the articles upon which it is imposed. I believe that if that were done, the Treasurer could forecast with considerable accuracy the amount of revenue that would be derived from the tax in any year. If that proposal is not acceptable to the Government, I suggest that it would be possible to reduce the number of items upon which the tax is imposed. That would play an important part in preventing increases of the cost of basic articles, some of which have been mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner. I believe it is high time that sales tax was viewed in its proper perspective and related to customs duties and excise duties. The suggestion is that pro vision should be made for the tax to be imposed at fixed rates. At the present time it is, in effect, an ad valorem duty. That is a vicious practice at a time when costs are increasing, as they are now.
.- The platform of the Federal Labour party, under the heading “ Progressive Reforms “ and the sub-heading “ Taxation and Finance “, requires that sales tax. should be abolished as soon as possible. Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) inform the House when that may be expected to occur? Can he say why it is not possible at the present time to carry that plank of the platform of the Labour party into effect ?
– in reply - I found it very difficult to follow the first part of the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), although I followed the argument that he advanced in the latter part of the speech. In the first part of his speech the honorable gentleman directed attention to the fact that it is estimated that the revenue from sale’s tax in the current financial year will be £35,000,000. He suggested that, because the revenue from the tax last year was £39,000,000, and because this year the tax will be imposed upon a larger number of sales than was the case last year, in all probability, even allowing for the loss to the revenue of £6,000,000 by reason of the concessions that are now proposed, more than £3.5,000,000 of revenue will be derived from the tax this year.
– Not necessarily a larger number of sales, but sales at a higher cost level.
– At a higher cost level, then, whichever way the honorable gentleman wants it. “Whenever a Treasurer makes a particular estimate of revenue for any given item, the Opposition of the day always suggests that the collections will exceed it.
– If the costs fall, the receipts will he lower.
– That is so.
– I do not desire to interrupt the Minister’s speech, hut-
– Order! The Minister must be allowed to make his speech without interruption.
– I did say that the collections for the first three months indicate that the receipts will exceed the Treasurer’s estimate.
– The honorable gentleman made that statement, but the receipts for the next three months may show a decline compared with the estimate. An Opposition always advances the contention that the estimated receipts from a tax will probably be exceeded by the actual collections. That contention is in line with the argument that is adduced about the swollen coffers of the Treasurer. The honorable member for Pa wkner added receipts from sales tax, customs and excise, and said that the total return from indirect taxes would be £159,000,000.
– No, £185,000,000.
– According to the budget statement, the total receipts from indirect taxes is estimated at £159,000,000. However, the actual figure does not really matter for the purposes of this discussion. The honorable member for Fawkner then said that last year we had expended £81,000,000 on social services benefits, and, therefore, we were taking from the people in indirect taxes about double the amount that we were returning to them in the form of social services benefits. It is easy for the honorable member for Fawkner or for any other honorable member to take a given item or a series of items in the budget and hypothecate those revenues to a particular purpose. The honorable gentleman did not mention heavy items on the expenditure side. For instance, just as it can be said that the amount raised in indirect taxes is double the amount paid to the people in social services benefits, so it can be said that the amount raised by indirect taxes will be more than absorbed by servicing the debts of “World War I. and World War II., and that this item and defence services account for far more than the total returns from indirect taxes. Therefore, I do not understand the logic of the honorable member’s argument, unless he has been trying to confuse the public about the amount of money that was raised by indirect taxes, and the comparatively small amount, as he regarded it, that is expended on social services benefits. I merely want to make it clear that there are particularly heavy items of expenditure about which the public does not hear very much. For example, the people do not hear much about an amount of £21,600,000 for War (1914-18) Services. When members of the Opposition are growling about high rates of taxes, they conveniently omit to mention that the allocation this year for “War (1914-18) Services” and “War (1939-45) Services” is £75,000,000. I did not follow the argument that the honorable member for Fawkner advanced. I did not understand why he mentioned the amount of revenue from sales tax, and tried to relate it to social services benefits.
The honorable member for Fawkner also stated that the sales tax concessions, totalling £6,000,000, could have been made with greater benefit to the general public. He suggested that sales tax on certain selected items should be abolished. The honorable gentleman did not state the amount of tax collected on those particular items.
– I did. I gave a figure of £10,000,000 for the three divisions.
– We have to raise revenue by some means or other in order to meet all the expenditure of government, including expenditure on the two world wars. It is easy for the honorable gentleman, who has not the responsibility of the Treasurer, and indeed, is not likely to have that responsibility in the near future, to suggest that the Government should give away £10,000,000 when all that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) can see his way to concede on this occasion i3 £6,000,000. I believe that this concession will be well received by the public. This Government is not in the habit of making promises to reduce taxes, but I assure the honorable member that the Government and the Treasurer are far more likely to make further reductions of sales tax than the Opposition parties would be likely to do if they should constitute the Government. The amount of money that this Government raises inindirect taxes in proportion to the total revenue that it receives is far less than the proportion of indirect taxes to total revenue was when the Opposition parties occupied the treasury bench. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who was Treasurer for a period, presented a budget in which the proportion of indirect taxes to total revenue was very much higher than the proportion of indirect taxes to total revenue has been in budgets presented by Labour treasurers. All the evidence shows that the people are far more likely to receive reductions of indirect taxes from the Labour Government than they are from governments composed of the present Opposition parties.
It is true that the platform of the Australian Labour party contains a reference to the abolition of indirect taxes; but the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) knows perfectly well that Australia has just emerged from a costly war, and that it is impossible, at the present time, to abolish all the indirect taxes, including customs, excise and sales tax I do not think that the honorable member would approve of the abolition of the excise on wines and spirits, although that is an indirect tax, as much as the sales tax is. There are qualifications to the Labour party’s desire to decrease or abolish indirect taxes. It is true, as a matter of theory, that direct taxation is a much more equitable way of raising revenue than indirect taxation is, but on account of heavy war expenditures, the Government has not found it possible to grant greater concessions than it has proposed in the budget.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I consider that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) should have replied to the point that has been raised by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein).. I do not necessarily support the particular points which that honorable gentleman puts forward, but the principle that he advocates is one which this Parliament may very well consider. It is rather remarkable that a discretion to remit penalties is not given to the Commissioner of Taxation even when he may be genuinely convinced that a hardship has been inflicted or there has been an honest misinterpretation of one of the matters in the 600 pages of classifications that I mentioned earlier. The Commissioner of Taxation has no discretionary power to remit sales tax, even if he considers that he should do so. As I understand the position, and according to the views of the Commissioner of Taxation as expressed from time to time, that official may remit sales tax only when an error has been caused by a written ruling given by one of his own officers. If an official administering the sales tax law gives quite honestly, but mistakenly, an oral ruling in response to an inquiry, and the person concerned is informed subsequently that he should have collected sales tax on the items in question, the Commissioner of Taxation, even though he is convinced of the citizen’s honesty, has no discretion in the matter. Under the act he may remit sales tax only if one of his own officers has given a written ruling which supports the mistake that has been made by the retailer or the wholesaler. That is wrong. I believe that this Parliament will not support a condition of affairs in which honest mistakes arising from information supplied by government officials carry with them a penalty for the citizen concerned. When it can be established to the satisfaction of the Commissioner of Taxation that the mistake has occurred, he should have discretionary power to deal with the matter. If it is claimed th at such a responsibility is too great to place on the Commissioner of Taxation, the Parliament should provide that that official should . report to the Treasurer who, if he sees fit, may exercise a discretion in those cases. The act at present is too inflexible to meet the thousands of cases which arise, some of which undoubtedly create hardship. I do not think that the Minister should brush that suggestion aside without any comment. I should like him to give an assurance to the Parliament that the points which have been submitted by the honorable member for
Watson, and which I have emphasized, will be examined by the Treasurer and the Commissioner of Taxation, and that, if they have any substance, the law will be appropriately amended.
The only other comment that I make arises from the Minister’s own obtuseness about my earlier remarks. He said that he could not follow my arguments. I thought that I had made myself clear, but for the benefit of the Minister, I shall briefly restate my views. Certain revenues which the Government collects have a considerable effect upon the cost of living. Those items are not necessarily indirect taxes, as that term is normally understood. Some of them may be regarded as direct taxes. I do not know “whether the Minister regards the payroll tax as a direct tax or an indirect tax, but certain indirect taxes, which total ?185,000,000 a year have a direct bearing upon the cost of living. When I referred to the expenditure on social services benefits. I was not ti-ying to confuse the public 1 believe that the people have been confused by the Labour Government in this matter. They have been led to believe that the Government is granting many benefits gratis, whereas I set out to show that the benefits, whatever they may be, are paid for, not by the wealthy taxpayers alone, hut by every family and every bread-winner. Indeed, the average Australian family pays in sales tax alone ?20 a year. I merely made that point, and used the illustration of social services to show that the total amount expended on social services was less than one-half of the total collections from the indirect taxes which had a direct bearing on the cost of living. I am not oblivious of the fact, and, indeed, I have referred to the circumstance that there are important items which the Government has to finance. I hope that the. useful suggestions put forward by the honorable member for Watson, as well as the matter that I have raised will receive favorable consideration.
– I apologize to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) for not answering the point raised by him in his second-reading speech. I assure him, and also the honor able member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), that I shall draw the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to the matters mentioned, and that they will he very closely examined.
As for the point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner, it is quite clear where the money comes from for social services. It does not come from sales tax. Social services benefits, are paid out of the National Welfare Fund, which is made up of social services contributions and, of course, the proceeds of the payroll tax as well.
.- It is proposed to insert c in the schedule of exempt articles the foi .owing item: - 20a. Vegetable fats put up for use for culinary purposed.
I suggest that it should read as follows : -
Vegetable fats and oils put up for use for culinary purposes.
If this suggestion is not accepted, oils used for culinary purposes, particularly sunflower seed oil, and peanut oil made from seed grown in Australia, will be penalized compared with vegetable fat, which consists of hardened cocoanut oil extracted from imported copra. This would penalize those engaged in the extraction of oil from locally grown seeds, and place them at a disadvantage compared with those trading in imported vegetable fats. Both the fats and the oil are mainly used for culinary purposes. During the last year or so, the, production in Australia of sunflower seed from which oil is extracted has increased tremendously and many hundreds of tons of sunflower seed are now purchased annually by processors.
I again express my regret that the Treasurer has not seen fit to exempt ice from, sales tax. I appreciate the fact that the tax has been reduced from 10 per cent, to 8-J per cent. On a previous occasion, I outlined the reasons why L thought that ice should be completely exempt, and I do not propose to go over the ground again. I merely ask that further consideration be given to the suggestion that I have placed before the Treasurer in writing, as well as from the floor of the House, that the sales tax on ice should be abolished.
.-I ask the Minister to consider removing sales tax from sunglasses, upon which, I understand, a tax of 81/3 per cent is now levied as upon an unspecified item. Already spectacle frames are tax-free, and weknow that sunglassesare very much used on the beaches of Australia. Indeed, I understand that many persons, acting on medical advice, have their optical prescriptions embodied in sunglasses.
– I support the request of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) that ice shouldbe free of sales tax. Refrigerators, upon which sales tax must be paid, are used mostly by the well-to-do, but the poorer sections of the community must be content with ice chests, which are now a necessity, when butchers’ shops are closed from Friday to Monday. I do not expect the Minister to promise immediately that sales tax on ice will be removed ; I merely ask that consideration be given to the request when further reductions of sales tax are under review.
– Why not raise the matter in caucus !
– This is a place in which to raise matters of this kind. My experience has been that matters raised in committee often receive favorable consideration from the Government at a later stage. While I do not agree with the general observations of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), I believe that sales tax should be removed wherever possible from small items that figure in the household budget. The revenue raised by sales tax on such items does not amount to much in the aggregate, and the tax itself is a source of irritation. It should be removed, even if the articles themselves do not appear to be essential. Already, the main essentials used in the home are exempt from tax, and I urge that the exemption be extended to ice.
.- The bill provides for the remission of sales tax on goods used by various philanthropic organizations and government institutions, including the Services Canteens Trust Fund. I suggest to the Minister that theRed Cross Society should be included in the list of organizations so exempt from the payment of sales tax. The Bed Cross Society is, perhaps, the finest international organization in existence for doing good. I know that certain films imported by the society were assessed for sales tax, which is payable at the Customs House at the same time as customs duties. After a protest had been made, the sales tax was waived, but the exemption should be embodied in legislation. The exemption should also be extended to the flying doctor services. I need not dilate on the good work done by such services for settlers in the outback. In some instances, they provide by radio communication the only link the settlers have with the outside world. The services are maintained largely by voluntary contributions, together with a small government subsidy.
– The various points raised by honorable members will be carefully examined, but it is not possible at this time to make further concessions. When further reductions of sales tax are being planned, the suggestions put forward will be considered.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
(Nos. 1 to 9) 1949.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 7th September (vide page 48), on motions by Mr. Dedman - (1.) That, in respect of goods (vide page 46).
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolutions adopted.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Barnard do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions in regard to the first and second readings, committee’s report stage, and the third readings, being put in one motion covering several or all of the Sales Tax Bills Nos. 1 to 9, and the consideration of several or all of such bills together in a committee of the whole.
Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) presented by Mr. Dedman, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 7th September (vide page 46), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That, on and after the first day of October, 1949, in lieu of the rates imposed by the Entertainments Tax Act 1942-1949, the rates of entertainments tax be -
Amount paid for admission (excluding the amount of the tax).
Not exceeding One shilling . . .
.- I should like to know whether this is the matter that was referred to in the budget. We have no information before us to show whether it is or not.
– It is.
. -Will this have any effect on one of the biggest “ steals “ ever staged in Australia ? I refer to the tax placed by the Australian Performing Right Association Limited on every theatre, every concert hall and every person who plays music or sings songs in public.
– It has nothing whatever to do with that.
– Has the Government given no thought to trying to stop that “ steal”?
– The matter was examined as far back as when Sir John Latham was Attorney-General to see whether some solution could be found and the present Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has gone into it at some length.
– The Government has done a lot of illegal things since then, and I thought that it might have taken some action on this matter.
– I move -
That, in the first line in the first column of the schedule, the words “ not exceeding “ be left out.
This is a drafting amendment, which is designed merely to give proper effect to the proposals already announced. It is intended that the rate of 2d. specified in the first line in the third column of the schedule in the resolution shall apply to payments of1s. only for admission, whereas the terms of the resolution, as printed, could be so interpreted as to cause this rate to apply also to ‘payments of amounts less than1s. Payments less than 1s. are free of tax under the existing law, and it is intended that they shall remain so. The amendment will ensure that effect is given to that intention.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Barnard do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 6th October (vide page 1066), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That, on and after the eleventh day of October, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine, in lieu of the rate imposed by the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1947, the rate of the charge in respect of the employment of waterside workers be Two pence half-penny for every man-hour of employment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Barnard do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
.- The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has moved cursorily and without giving any reason for his haste that the bill that he has just presented to us be now read a second time. The Minister might well explain to the House why the bill is necessary, what it is proposed to do and why he asks that we agree to it so suddenly.
– If the honorable mem”bor for Reid refers to Hansard for the 6th October, when I explained the provisions of the bill to the House, he will find the information that he requires.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed “through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 9th September (vide page 172), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to amend the Income Tax Assessment Bill 194S. It covers two subject-matters. It extends the depreciation allowance for wear and tear of machinery. The original depreciation deduction was allowed in 1946. It amounted to 20 per cent, on plant acquired or installed during the period up to the 30th June, 1950. The “bill extends the period of the concession :to the 30th June, 1952. In addition, it increases the depreciation allowance from 20 per cent, to 40 per cent., and “brings the allowance into line with that “provided for in income tax legislation of Great Britain. That is the first subject matter with which the bill deals. The only other thing that it proposes to do is to increase the concessional allowance on “life insurance premiums, superannuation fund contributions, payments to friendly societies and the like from £100 to £150 a year. At this stage, it is rather important to observe that, prior to the general election, the only concessions that the Government proposes are concessions to those engaged in industry, particularly big industry, the usefulness of which I do not dispute, and an increase of the concessional allowance in respect of premiums oh life insurance policies and the like to £150 a year.
I want to say something about t,he oppressed middle class of Australia; but, before doing so, I must say that it is passing strange, indeed, that this legislation gives concession to only two sections of the country. The first is to big industry, for the most part, because that is the section that will benefit most from the depreciation concession, and in the allowance in respect of new plant, which I support The second is to those who pay in excess of £100 a year by way of life insurance premiums and the like. When the budget was before honorable members, I remarked how strange this was, and it seems that that observation should be repeated, because the public will, no doubt, be aware, that between the passage of the Income Tax Assessment Act 194S and the introduction of this bill, this Parliament passed into law a system for the payment of pensions to former members of the Parliament, under which each member contributes £156 a year to the pension fund. Before the introduction of the pension scheme, the maximum concessional allowance in respect of such contributions was £100 a year. The question that one asks immediately is why it is that the only concession allowed to individuals under this legislation is a concession that happens to satisfy and play into the hands of members of the Parliament.
– Stupid !
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council says, “ Stupid ! “ He is an expert in stupidity, because the only thing he ever does for his salary is to move the gag.
– I have a rival in the honorable member as far as stupidity is concerned.
– Let the VicePresident of the Executive Council go out and explain to the public how it comes about that the only concession given to the public is an increase from £100 to £150 a year in the amount of permissible deduction for the purposes of income tax assessment in respect of payments into pension funds and the like. How does it come about that the amount almost exactly coincides with the amount that members of Parliament pay annually towards a pension ?
– The honorable member is too silly.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council may say that and keep on saying it as often as he pleases, but the public, particularly the middle class, who have been seeking some concessions will understand the’ position very clearly. They will want to know why a concession like this is given, and no other. I might ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who is supposed to represent the labouring masses in this Parliament, what particular section of the labouring masses pays in excess of £100 a. year in insurance premiums. Perhaps he will give us an answer to that one. “Why was this concession introduced? To satisfy the people on very low incomes ? The answer is “ No “ ! Only a man with substantial means’ is able to pay each year in excess of £100 in insurance premiums. If that is not the reason for the legislation are we to understand that the Labour party has introduced this sole concession to satisfy the rich people? Such an action would represent a peculiar change of front on the part of the Labour party. So the only conclusion we can come to is the one that I have stated, which is that when the Labour party caucus came to consider this matter its members said, “ Well, we only get a permissible deduction of £100. The amount which is compulsorily taken from our salaries for the parliamentary pension fund is £156 a year. We ought to increase the amount of concessional deductions so as to adjust the difference “. Whatever honorable members opposite might say, that is the inference that I draw from the Government’s action. This concession is the only one that the budget gives to a sorely harassed section of the community. I want to make some remarks about that section of the people which is generally described as the middle class.
Ever since the Labour party has been in power it has considered itself to be in office solely for the purpose of giving concessions to those upon low incomes or the basic wage. I am all in favour of giving concessions to those on or about the basic wage, but there is a middle section of the community which requires some consideration and which has received none whatever from this Government. It is quite true that taxation upon those below the £500 per annum range, apart from social services contribution, is nil, or practically nil. The Government has done little, however, for the people who earn, for example, between £500 and £700 a year, although they constitute a large section of the community. It is strange that the Government has done something for age pensioners who have no property whatever except, perhaps, their homes, whilst a section of the community which includes people who, having some personal pride, have struggled throughout their lives to set aside some money so that when they reach their old age they need not depend upon charity, has received no special concession. The fact is, as every honorable member who has given consideration to this matter knows, that those people who have struggled so hard to set aside something for their old age are in a worse position, as far as income is concerned, than those who have squandered all they earned and are solely dependent now upon the age pension. I am making a special plea for those people, because I am here to present the case for this middle section.
– What’ does the honorable member mean by the middle section ?
– The middle section consists of people who are receiving between £500 and £800 per annum. Shortly I shall relate those earnings to real income on the 1939 basis, because it is not of much use to talk about money these days. The important thing is to refer to it in terms of what it will purchase.
– I rise to order! W li fi r relationship have the honorable member’? remarks to the bill?
– Order ! The honorable member must connect, hi:remarks to the bill.
– I propose to do so, and my observations are directly directed to-
– Order ! The honorable member may refer in discussion to the actual clause.
– That is what I am doing, with great respect to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a bill to amend the principal act, and in the whole of my experience in this Parliament it has never been the rule to prevent an honorable member from dealing in a secondreading speech on behalf of the Opposition, when a bill to amend a principal act has been introduced, from saying that there ought to be further amendments to the principal act to deal with a matter in respect of which the amending bill does not go far enough.
-Order! The Chair rules that the discussion must be confined to matter covered by the bill, and the honorable member must so confine his remarks.
– Do I understand you to inform me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I can do no more than to say whether I agree with this bill or not?
– Order ! The honorable member is entitled to make a policy speech on these matters outside the Parliament; but he is not entitled to discuss now matters that are not relevant to the bill.
– I beg your pardon.
– Order ! If the honorable member intends that remark as impudence I shall ask him to resume his seat. The honorable member knows that when I am on my feet the rules of the House provide that he must resume his seat in any event. The Chair will be the judge of whether the honorable gentleman is in order or not, and if the honorable gentleman does not keep to the bill I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I was endeavouring to keep to the bill. I say that this bill gives one concession, and one concession only, to private , citizens and that is an increase of the permissible deduction in respect of payments for insurance premiums, from £100 to £150. I have already said, and I now repeat, that this concession can benefit only an exceedingly limited section of the community, because there are very few people in this country, and I want to repeat it-
– Order ! The honorable member can be charged with monotonous repetition.
– If the Chair desires to stop me, it could do so. I am seeking, on behalf of the Opposition, to put the Opposition case in this matter.
– Order ! The honorable member is entitled to put the case once, but he is not entitled to keep on repeating it.
– You mean, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I cannot go beyond what is in the bill, while the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction sits at the table smirking and encouraging me to say more than I am entitled to say ?
-Order! The honorable member is not entitled to make a speech along these lines. He must speak to the bill and he is not entitled to repeat what he has previously said. There is a standing order which provides that a member must not indulge in repetition.
– I say, with respect, that this bill should have made provision for other sections of the community. In my opinion the concession that it grants does not go far enough. There are very worthy sections of the community, for example the middle class, who areentitled to concessions before this concession is approved by the Parliament. I shall oppose the passage of this legislation unless concessions are made or promised to people in the middle income group who are entitled to them. There are people in this country who are struggling to live within their means. I want to show that those on incomes of, for example, between £500 and £600 a year, who belong to a class which cannot afford to spend more than £100 at the very outside for insurance premiums, have a disposable income now, when the increase of prices is taken into account, of not more than £330. The £1 is shrinking in purchasing power. That decrease in real value is, in point of fact, a direct result of the policy pursued by this Government. I have in mind a very deserving section of the community which includes the professional classes, small businessmen, superannuated civil servants, and a large section of civil servants, who are struggling very hard to make ends meet and who are not succeeding in doing so. I am opposed to a concession that primarily will serve as a class the members of this Parliament. I am, therefore, speaking directly to the bill when I say that the reason for my opposition to it is that there are some deserving sections of the community to which this budget and this particular bill offer no real concession at all. The total number of people who fall within the £500 to £600 per annum group is just under 300,000. Those who fall within the £600 to £800 per annum group number somewhat under 200,000. I know these people better than most honorable members opposite, and I know that they are endeavouring to give their families a “ fair go “. They do not want to accept charity and medical benefits. It would have been a good thing had the Government, before proposing this present concession, allowed the people to have a straight-out deduction in respect of medical expenses. Let me give point to that statement. To-day a concessional allowance deduction of £150 upon an income of £500 represents only £11 14s. of income tax rebate. On an income of £S00 it is £17 3s. So, although it is said that we enjoy a concessional deduction, the deduction is not worth a great deal of money, particularly to taxpayers on the middle ranges of income. I contend that this hill should not receive the approval of this Parliament while so deserving a section of the community continues to be ignored by the Government. lt would be proper for the Government to give to the citizen the right of a straight-out deduction.
I am wholly opposed to the concessional deduction system. Concessional deductions are misleading. This system makes it appear that a real deduction is given when in the final result only a fractional deduction is granted. Taxpayers should be allowed straight-out deductions in respect of all medical expenses. After all, if the expenditure of a taxpayer, his wife and children on medical expenses amounts to £100 - that would be an extreme amount for those on the middle income ranges - the concession granted would amount to much less than £20. Of what value is such a concession to a taxpayer in the middleincome group? I believe that it is proper to encourage people to pay their own medical expenses if they think fit. Thosewho do so should receive some encouragement from the Government. The system of concessional deductions should hereplaced by the straight-out deduction method, particularly in respect of dental and medical expenses.
Another matter which should have been considered by this Government before it decided to- increase the concessional deduction in respect of insurance premiums and superannuation payments, which, after all, primarily benefit members of the Parliament, is the allowance that is granted in respect of a taxpayer’s wife and children. That, too, is a concessional allowance. In these clays, although such an allowance may appear to be very substantial, it does not amount to much in terms of money. I want to make one or two observations on that point. The first is that a straight-out deduction should be made in respect of the allowance for the wife and children of a taxpayer. TheGovernment professes to believe in increasing the population of this country, but it never gives any real evidence that it desires parents to have large families. One of -the ways in which it could encourage them to do so would be to givethem straight-out deductions in respect of all children under a certain age. That should be done quickly if the middle-class section is not to be depressed out of existence. My second observation is that the concessional deduction in respect of the wife of a taxpayer is dependent on theincome of the wife not exceeding £100 a year. That provision and the provision which relates to concessional deductions for medical expenses should be reviewed in accordance with modern conditions. An income of £100 a year is very small in these days. Despite the fact that the cost of living has increased and the valueof money has rapidly diminished, the Government still clings to the old limitation, and under the system of concessional deductions as distinct from straight-out deductions the benefit to the taxpayer becomes less and less.
Another matter to which attention might well be given is the desirability of allowing deductions in respect of school fees paid by taxpayers. It seems to be the general opinion of honorable gentlemen opposite that no allowance should be made for school fees because educational facilities are provided in State schools free of cost. Denominational and private schools perform a very useful service to the community. Although I was educated at a State school, I am completely opposed to the view that every child should go to a State school. It is a wise policy to encourage not only State schools, but also denominational and private schools. To the degree that parents send their children to private and denominational schools the burden imposed on the States for the provision of educational facilities is relieved. I believe that the education of children in private and denominational schools should be encouraged rather than discouraged. In their attempts to give their children the best possible start in life, parents have to pay out of their own pockets increasing sums of money in school fees, for which no deduction, concessional or otherwise, is allowable for income tax purposes. Parents who come into that category .are more deserving of consideration than are many of those who will benefit from- the concessions which we are now considering.
Is it contended that, a straightout deduction should not be granted to a taxpayer in respect of a dependant mother? There are many taxpayers in the community who are keeping their mothers. What is the use of speaking about concessions if, in fact, the people who discharge a moral obligation of that kind are given no consideration by the Government? I make a special plea for the people in that category who are in the middle income groups. Unless something is clone for them they will be gradually bled white. Many people throughout their lifetime accumulate comparatively small amounts of money, which, in accordance with the Government’s requests they invest in Commonwealth loans, but when they seek to obtain age pensions they find that they are not eligible, because they are in receipt of small incomes from their investments. Others who invest their savings in the purchase of a home and who may have much more in terms of total wealth, are entitled to enjoy their home plus the benefits of a pension, and, in addition, are permitted to earn up to £3 2s. 6d. a week-
– Order ! The honorable member is now dealing with the subject of pensions.
– But only in passing, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
-The honorable member is not in order in discussing that subject.
– All I wish to say is that those who come within the latter category are in a better position than are some taxpayers on lower income ranges. We should revert again to direct deductions for the benefit of people of that kind, who deserve the utmost consideration by the Government. I regret that no such provision is included in the legislation now before us. After all, the Government has vast resources at its command which would enable it to deal effectively with this comparatively small matter. The Government takes approximately 7s. from every £1 earned by the community and it could easily afford to grant additional concessions to those in the middle income groups and other deserving sections of the community.
I have dealt with the provision of the bill which increases to £150 the amount in respect of which a concessional deduction may be claimed for insurance premiums and superannuation payments. The Government should give consideration to the extension of a similar concession to businesses. As I read the bill, this concession is to be limited to individuals. Many companies contribute on a £l-for-£l basis to superannuations schemes for the benefit of their employees. The allowance should be extended to a company which operates such a scheme. As I understand it, the principle behind the bill is that we should encourage the person who makes provision for his future. If that is so, it is proper that similar encouragement should be given to those who help others to make provision for their future.
-Order! The honorable member is now referring to the company tax, which does not come within the ambit of this bill.
– I am dealing with concessional deductions.
– That is the only subject with which the honorable member may deal.
– That is precisely the subject with which I am now dealing. The Income Tax Assessment Act provides for the allowance of concessional deductions to companies as well as to individuals. I think that I am entitled within the limits of this bill to show that a . measure which provides for the allowance of concessional deductions to individuals only should not be passed unless coincidental with it-
– Order ! I shall not allow the honorable member to continue along those lines. He must confine his remarks to concessional deductions allowed to individuals.
– Why did not the honorable member rectify this so-called anomaly when he himself was Treasurer of the Commonwealth?
– If I were permitted by the Chair to reply to the interjection by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), I should be glad to do so. Another matter to which I wish to draw the attention of the Government is that the provisions of this bill in relation to the deduction of 40 per cent, of the cost of new plant do nol extend to mining companies. The bill provides that a deduction of 20 per cent, for initial depreciation shall apply until 1952, or, at the option of the taxpayer, in respect of new plant installed or purchased there shall be an initial deduction of 40 per cent. I submit to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who is now in charge of the House, that an examination of the Income Tax Assessment Act reveals that it has worked adversely against mining companies. It is true that mining companies have a right to write off the value of capital equipment over the period of its estimated life; but it would be of greater benefit to them if the benefits of this bill were extended to them. I ask the honorable gentleman to look into that matter. Mining companies are covered in Division X. of the principal act. Under that division, there has been no corresponding amendment. I suggest to the Minister that consideration should be given to the position of mining companies so that, at their option^ they may take advantage of the provisions which have been generally incorporated in the principal act, or, again at their option, be subject to the provisions contained in Division X. of the principal act. I suggest that before the Senate passes this bill, the matter that I have raised be considered’. I conclude by saying that this bill reflects the Government’s policy of refusing to grant concessions to taxpayers in the middle income groups, who have been steadily ground down by the Government and cannot look to the Government for any help in improving their position.
– I am amazed at the remarks that have been made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). The honorable gentleman usually presents his case in a reasoned manner, although very often I do not agree with him. He told the House to-night that the £1, compared with its value in 1939, is now worth only 12s. He referred to the income tax rebate of £100 in respect of a wife as not being:Sufficient The Government realized that some time ago, and increased the amount of the rebate from £100 to £150. That was done because the cost of living had increased. If a man wishes to have an adequate pension upon retirement, he must now pay a larger sum each year in premiums than that which he paid previously, yet the honorable member for Warringah has objected to the increase qf the concessional rebate in respect of those premiums from £100 to £150.
Mr. Spender interjecting,
– The honorable gentleman made the charge that the concessional rebate in respect of insurance premiums and payments to superannuation funds is being increased merely to give a benefit to members of the Parliament. I point out to him that there are many persons in the middle income group who pay more than £100 a year in premiums upon insurance policies for themselves, their wives and their children.
– There are not verymany of them.
– There are many of them. “When the honorable gentleman suggested that the concessional rebate in respect of premiums upon insurance policies and payments to superannuation funds is to be increased merely for the benefit of members of the Parliament he was repeating a statement that appeared in the newspapers just .before he made a similar charge in this chamber some weeks ago. The phrasing that was used by the Sydney newspapers and the Adelaide newspapers was identical. It was stated that the Government intended to increase the amount of the concessional rebate to £150, which was the sum that members of the Parliament contributed each year to their superannuation fund. When the honorable gentleman spoke on this matter previously he also said that the amount of the contribution was £150, although the precise sum is £156. That leads me to believe that on that occasion he was repeating something which had been suggested by the newspapers, or which had been suggested to the newspapers by an honorable member opposite who wanted to discredit the Government. There are some members of the Parliament who expend more than £100 a year upon insurance policies in respect of their wives and themselves. To my mind, it is ridiculous to suggest that the rebate has been increased to £150 merely because members of the Parliament are now required to contribute £156 a year to a superannuation fund. Before the Parliamentary retiring allowances scheme was brought in, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to increase the amount of this concessional rebate to £200. I know of university professors who, before the war, were in receipt of salaries of £1,000 a year. They were then paying premiums of £150 a year upon endowment policies so that they could retire upon half salary. If their salaries were increased because of the increase of the cost of living and they still desired a pension equivalent to a half of their salaries, they were required to pay more each year in respect of insurance premiums than they paid before the war. I consider that the honorable member for Warringah fell below his usual standard when he suggested that this concessional rebate has been increased merely for the benefit of members of Parliament. If it was right and just to increase the income tax rebate in respect of a wife to £150, and if it is true that the £1 is now worth only 12s. in comparison with what it was worth in 1939, then it is right and proper to increase the amount of this concessional rebate in order to give some relief to persons in categories similar to that to which I have just referred.
The honorable member for Warringah stated that companies do not receive a concessional rebate in respect of their contributions to employees’ superannuation funds, but I do not propose to argue that point. I raised this matter with the Treasurer over two years ago. One of the reasons that the right honorable gentleman gave for being unable at that time to increase the amount of the rebate from £100 was that big companies were setting aside sums of money from their high profits to put into this kind of account, and that they would derive a major benefit from any increase of the rebate. That was the position then. It galls me to hear an honorable gentleman who should know the facts suggest that we are just trying to grab something for ourselves. As I have pointed out previously, the honorable member for Warringah will derive twice as much benefit from this concession as I shall derive from it.
– I do not think so.
– The honorable gentleman knows that the income on which he is taxed is larger than is my income.
– I certainly shall not pay as much income tax as some honorable gentlemen opposite pay.
– I should be surprised to learn that the honorable gentleman does not receive adequate remuneration for his professional services during the lengthy periods that he is absent from this House. His income must be much greater than mine. Therefore, the rate of tax that is applicable to it must be greater than that which is applicable to mine. In those circumstances, a concessional rebate of £150 would mean much more to him than it would mean to me. The honorable gentleman is on the wrong track if he thinks that members on this side of the House have supported this measure merely in order to gain some benefit for themselves.
I direct the attention of the honorable member for Warringah to some members of the Public Service. He may not regard public servants who are in receipt of salaries of £1,250 or £1,500 a year as being persons in the middle income group. He may consider that, in their cases, there is no justification for an increase of the concessional rebate, but I point out that their expenses have increased and that the rebate that they are at present allowed is not worth as much as it was worth previously The honorable gentleman might just as well have said the members of the Government only thought about themselves and the more highly paid members of the Public Service. I know that there are some members of the Public Service who are paying more than £100 a year in insurance premiums, and I say that they are entitled to some increase of the concessional rebate in respect of those premiums.
When we were considering increasing the amount of the rebates in respect of dependent wives and children, I considered that we were entitled also to give some consideration to the claims of people who would not be entitled to receive an age pension. The honorable member for Warringah talked of people who take care of their money and said that they do not receive the same benefits as those who waste their money. If a man has been thrifty and is entitled on retirement to a pension in excess of £7 5s. a week, he will have paid over £100 a year in insurance premiums or superannuation payments.
– There are many people receiving less than £7 5s. a week who cannot get the age pension.
– I quite agree. I am sure that the honorable gentleman will do me the credit of admitting that
I desire to help the people to whom he had referred.
– Then why did not the honorable member for Hindmarsh vote and fight for them?
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) is so regimented that he has never voted in a way other than that in which his leader has told him to vote. He has been in this Parliament for three years, as I have. I do not know of one occasion on which he has departed from the regimented Opposition vote. Honorable gentlemen opposite talk of regimentation, but they are more regimented than the members of the Labour party ever have been. It is ridiculous for the honorable member for Parramatta to talk of my voting in opposition to something that the Government of which I am a supporter has decided is the best that it can do.
I should not have intervened in this debate had the honorable member for Warringah not shown that he is prepared to attempt to make political capital out of the Government’s desire to do justice to those who are attempting to provide for their future when they retire. The Government is to be commended for having recognized that persons in the middle income groups as well as in other sections of the community are entitled to consideration in this connexion.
The honorable member for Warringah made a mistake when he said that income tax is payable by persons in receipt of salaries of over £350 a year. He should know that, as from the 1st July of this year, a single man with a salary of £500 a year is not subject to income tax. A married man whose salary is £650 a year- is practically in the same position, because he is entitled to an allowance of £150 a year in respect of his wife.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Warringah regarding persons with small incomes who are not entitled to receive social services benefits such as age or invalid pensions because they have some capital at their disposal. However, that matter is not dealt with in this bill. The honorable gentleman has said that the claims of those people should have been met before an increase was granted on the concessional rebate in respect of premiums upon insurance policies.
I do not desire to refer to the taxation tables at this stage, but any one who examines them will find that persons with salaries of £600 to £800 a year, and they are the persons in the middle income group about whom the honorable gentleman has spoken, have received considerable benefits from taxation reductions.
.- I thought that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) presented his case for persons in the middle income groups eloquently and forcibly. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) has put the emphasis in the wrong place. He has protested too much. One would think that the honorable gentleman had a monopoly of concern for the welfare of the people on lower incomes. I have received a letter from the secretary of the Retired State Employees Association. It reads as follows : -
I am enclosing a copy of a letter that I have sent to Mr. Thompson on behalf of the above association regarding certain statements that he made over the air during Parliament about -the knowledge that he says that he possesses with regard to the means test.
I refer to this matter because the honorable member for Hindmarsh has attacked the honorable member for Warringah for having referred to the plight of those persons in indigent circumstances. The secretary of the Retired State Employees Association wrote to the honorable member for Hindmarsh as follows : -
My council has received many complaints from members in all parts of this State about what they consider are unfair, unenlightened and illogical statements you have made recently in Parliament when the question of fixing the definitions and limitations for the means test of the Pensions Act has been discussed.
– Order ! This bill does not deal with pensions.
– Very well.
– The honorable member for Balaclava is welcome to proceed as far as I am concerned.
– Order! The Chair is concerned that the honorable member’s remarks shall be relevant to the bill.
– If persons in receipt of low incomes pay income tax and the social services contribution but do not receive social services benefits, they are in a most unenviable position.
– Order! The honorable member cannot pursue that line of discussion.
– The honorable member for Warringah was able to speak about income tax, and I hope that I shall be permitted to do so.
– I was not permitted to proceed very far.
– Order! If the honorable member for Balaclava reflects upon the Chair, he will not be permitted to proceed very far. He may speak about income tax, but not about pensions.
– I shall do so.
– Order! The honorable member will listen until the Chair has finished.
– I thought that the Chair had finished long ago.
– The honorable member will not proceed very far if he becomes flippant with the Chair.
– I shall leave the subject of pensions, and direct my remarks to income tax. The honorable member for Warringah is concerned about the plight of persons in the middle income group, including superannuated public servants, professional men, and persons with a little property who are so heavily taxed. The Government does not consider their plight. They are the “little” people. The owners of small businesses and private individuals in those groups are being forced to the wall under the present system of income tax. The Labour Government pays heed to the great monopolies, the big business groups and the trade union movement, but the people between those upper and lower strata receive no consideration. They are in a most unenviable position. The Government should revise the income tax law. The honorable member for Warringah has already covered that subject thoroughly, and I merely comment that if this Government does not correct that anomaly, the next Government will do so.
– Why did not the antiLabour parties correct that so-called anomaly when they had an opportunity as a government to do so?
– We did, but since we were in office, taxes have risen by 550 per cent., whereas the national income has risen by only 125 per cent. Even Micawber would begin to worry about that position. The country must become insolvent if that condition of affairs is permitted to continue.
I am glad that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) is present, because I know that he will support me in the matter that I am about to raise. A few months ago, I travelled some 5,000 miles in northern Australia and I talked to many owners of cattle stations and others in that area. I learnt that one of the deterrents to the development of that part of the Commonwealth was the unequal imposition of income tax. Persons engaged in primary, fishing and mining industries, who are residents of the Northern Territory, are exempt from income tax. Other people who live in zones A and B are allowed certain tax concessions. It is amazing that a socalled Labour Government does not consider the circumstances of the working men in those areas. I ascertained that the Kimberleys in Western Australia which, the Government hope3, will produce a large quantity of beef have become almost denuded of white population, and one of the principal reasons for that situation is the operation of unequal tax laws. The owner or the leaseholder of a property are exempt from tax but the manager and the white stockman have to pay income tax.
– I have raised that mattei dozens of times during the last three years, but the Government will not heed me.
– Exactly. I support the honorable member’s representations on this subject, because all too often, his is a lone voice in “this House. A stockman will not remain on a station for a wage of £9 a week and his keep if he can earn higher pay in Darwin. Station owners and leaseholders consider that the tax exemp tion should be extended to their employees, but the Labour Government does not heed them. Is it any wonder that towns like Wyndham, Broome and Derby are falling into decay and are being denuded of white population? On some cattle stations the manager is the only white man. White stockmen were taxed so heavily that they left the cattle stations and took easier jobs in the cities. Surely the Government can remedy that position. Honorable members opposite are showing little interest in my remarks, but if they could project themselves on to one of those lonely outposts for a month and live under the conditions of isolation with no communications with large centres except through the flying doctor service, they would understand the difficulties. It is very easy, when one is in Canberra, to talk in terms of millions of pounds and not care about the men who live in that part of the Commonwealth which is nearest to the teeming millions of Asia. The owners of cattle stations, who are not conservative in outlook, want this tax exemption extended to their employees.
I refer now to another tax anomaly. Persons who live in zones A and B are allowed certain deductions of income tax. Residents who live west of Oodnadatta, which is a dry area pay higher rates of income tax than do those who live a few miles away in northern Australia. A station owner in the Northern Territory who enjoys the tax concession can prosper, but a station owner in South Australia who is subject to income tax is labouring under considerable difficulties. If it is constitutional to delineate zones A and B in Australia, which I show on the map, it should be constitutional to grant tax concessions to persons living in the cattle-raising areas of Queensland and South Australia. But what do members of the Labour party care? There are only 1,000 or 2,000 votes in the whole of those areas.
– Perhaps 3,000 votes.
– I accept that figure. The only stockmen on many stations are aborigines and half-castes. The white employees have disappeared. The Government must accept the blame for that drift of population to the cities, because it has not spread the income tax exemption to the employees in those areas.
The Government has wisely exempted the gold-mining industry from the obligation to pay tax. Gold, after all, is the best currency in the world. It is more acceptable than sterling and even dollars. It is the hardest currency in the world. However, a tax exemption of only 20 per cent, is granted to the tin-mining industry, although tin is rapidly becoming a rare metal. The present-day value of tin, expressed in sterling, is £750 a ton. In 1939, we produced 3,294 tons of tin, but in 1948, production had declined to 1,184 tons. Ten years ago, we imported only 39 tons of tin, but last year, this country, which has considerable resources of tin, imported 500 tons of that metal. The Government must realize that its taxation policy is discouraging the tinmining industry. Tin resources in the Northern Territory, Tasmania and other parts of the Commonwealth are not being exploited, because the industry itself, including the people who accept the financial risk, will not mine tin under present conditions. Tinplate, which will be manufactured in Australia shortly, is a vital requirement in the fruit canning and meat canning industries. The Prime Minister should be aware that we shall require increasing quantities of tinplate. In 1939, we used 2,100 tons of tin, but this year, we shall require 2,334 tons, and our demands will increase. If we continue to import tin, we may deplete the Empire dollar pool. Perhaps we can obtain supplies of tin from the sterling area, but we should not have to import it when we have resources of tin in the Commonwealth. The Government should put the tin-mining industry, for tax purposes, on the same basis as the goldmining industry, because tin is now almost a rare metal.
.- I should not have risen to speak in this debate had it not been for the unexpected pleasure of the presence of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in the chamber. If I can persuade him to remain here for about five minutes, I shall make a few remarks on this bill in the hope that they may penetrate the inner chambers of his mind, and perhaps lead to advantageous results. My criticism of the bill is not that a relaxation has been made in favour of the taxpayer, but that the relaxation is not sufficiently generous. I have oxpressed the opinion before and I make my public protest now about the form in which the income tax law has been left. Again and again, it has been pointed out that amendments of the income tax law are long overdue in order to make it simpler, more intelligible and more just in its application, but nothing has been done. Some years ago, attempts were made to simplify the income tax law of the United Kingdom, but corresponding legislation has not been passed in this country. It is almost the unanimous view of those who work in the profession of accountancy, and of lawyers who have anything to do with the income tax law, that the present operation of the Income Tax Assessment Act imposes disabilities on persons, and causes annoyances, stupidities, complexities and straight-out injustices.
– “Who wrote that speech for the honorable member?
– I wrote it. No one expects that the income tax law will satisfy every one. I suppose that, in one sense, the law will not satisfy any one who, as it were, is on the suffering end of income tax, but it should be possible to implement a system that will be intelligible to the average citizen, so that he may know where he stands in relation to it. The commercial community and, indeed, all thinking taxpayers believe that the time is long overdue for the simplification of the income tax law. I shall give, in a very short time, a few illustrations of ways in which that law may be simplified. We shall assume that the Treasurer desires to extract x millions of pounds from the people by way of income tax. I suggest that it is possible to extract the same amount of revenue by a system that would be simpler and more just than the present one. We believe that it is time citizens were given some relief from taxation, but even if we proceed on the assumption that the present amount of revenue must be collected, it is not beyond human ingenuity to collect it by simpler means. My first suggestion is that the Treasurer should abandon the silly and unjust system of concessional rebates, and revert to the old system of straightout exemptions from income.
– The present principle was recommended by two of the finest taxation experts in the Parliament.
– And I know why it was recommended. The present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) was Treasurer at that time also, and he wanted to extract a little more blood from the stone. The system of deductions was changed to one of rebates by an amending act passed in 1942. The change was made, I assert, for no other purpose than to collect more income from the poor, quivering taxpayer.
– That is quite untrue.
– The change was made on the recommendation of a committee which considered uniform taxation, and on that committee were the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and Mr. E. S. Spooner.
– I know, and it was made for the purpose of gouging more money out of .the taxpayers while not raising the rates of tax. It was hoped, of course, that the process of getting more out of the taxpayers would pass unnoticed. The objection from the point of view of the taxpayer is that, under the rebate system, he pays more, and the making of returns is rendered more confusing and difficult. Generally speaking, the method works against the taxpayer.
– It blinds them with science.
– That is so, and it is time that we returned to the system of direct exemptions. I have never heard any genuine arguments . from the other side of the House in justification of the present system. I did hear at one time a crude and rickety argument by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in which he suggested, in effect, that the taxpayer wa.* better off under the rebate system, but that argument is accepted by no intelligent member of the community.
My second suggestion is that the time has come to change the method of graduating taxation rates. At present, the scale is like an oblique line drawn across a graph, rising from the bottom left-hand corner to the .top right-hand corner. My proposal which is widely supported by accountants, is that the scale for personal exertion should be graduated, as the word suggests, in the form of a series of steps. The present system is based on a fetish for theoretical exactness. Let us consider an example. Suppose a man has a taxableincome of £500, after concessions and allowable deductions have been made. On this, he should be taxed at a flat rate of x pence in the £1, rather than at a ratewhich rises steeply and continuously as at present. On the next £500 of his income he should be taxed at a flat rate of x penceplus, say, 3d. in the £1, and on the next £500 at a flat rate of x pence, plus sixpence in the £1, and so on. That method has been approved by practising accountants as one which would do justice to the taxpayer, and allow him to know more readily his liabilities in advance, or at the end of the taxation period.
My third suggestion for the reform of our taxation laws is that the rate of tax on income from property .should be the appropriate rate for a corresponding amount of income from personal exertion, plus a fixed percentage. Under the present procedure, there are entirely separate rates for income from personal exertion and income from property. I understand that in England the method in operation is the same as I have suggested. It makes for simplicity, and need not diminish theamount of revenue raised. I have another suggestion to make, and I am sorry that the Treasurer thinks so little of the matter that he has walked out of the chamber.
– He attended most carefully to what was valid in the honorable member’s arguments.
– That is more than can be said of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). My next point should appeal to the Attorney-General as a lawyer. It is that the time allowed for lodging notices of objection to assessment is altogether too short. The time allowed is 60 days, which is not long enough in which to lodge objections to highly complicated taxation assessments on firms and companies. That the Attorney-General should suggest that the period is adequate passes my comprehension.
– The provision has been in the act for 35 years.
– Honorable members opposite are always remarking that the Nationalists did this or that GeorgeReid did that. I am not concerned with what the Nationalists did or with what George Reid did. I have been a member of this Parliament for only three years, which may be bad luck for the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), because he cannot hurl at me remarks about what was done years ago by members of the present Opposition. Existing provisions of the income tax law may have been all right when they were first introduced; but, having regard to the growing complexity of business affairs and of taxation laws, they may be quite wrong now. Indeed, I claim that they are wrong. I do not think that the Attorney-General would deny the validity of that criticism.
I further suggest that the provisions of section 210, and subsequent sections of the act, which restrict the right of persons to leave Australia, should be relaxed. At present, all persons before they can leave Australia must obtain from the Commissioner of Taxation a certificate authorizing them to do so, and this provision sometimes works tyrannically. Section 210 is as follows: - 210. Upon the application of any person
About to leave Australia, the Commissioner, Second Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner may, ifhe is satisfied - (a.) that that person is not liable to pay income tax;
Upon the issue of that certificate the person who desires to leave Australia is graciously permitted to do so, but, if the certificate is not issued, he may not leave the country. One or two honorable members on the other side of the House may need to leave Australia in a hurry some day and may be grateful for some one having said a word or two on this matter now. There is an elaborate set of provisions in sections 212 and 213, the effect of which is that, unless a person who wants to leave Australia receives the permission of the commissioner to do so, which means that he has to pay every stiver of tax that, in the opinion of the commissioner, he owes or may owe or lodges the necessary bonds which again the commissioner has the discretion to accept or refuse, he cannot get out of the country. I should have no objection to a provision under which a certificate should be refused, if the commissioner was of the opinion that the person seeking to leave the country was seeking to leave it for the purpose of evading tax or in circumstances that rendered it likely that he would not return and pay his tax; but the present law, which provides that a man may not make a business visit abroad without going through the elaborate procedure of satisfying the unbridled and unfettered discretion of the commissioner is objectionable.
– Did the Commissioner of Taxation not let the honorable member out?
– He did, because, unlike some honorable members opposite, I pay my tax; but that is neither here nor there. The existing requirements are too drastic for modern business conditions. The world is contracting. People go abroadby air every day in the week and are back again within a few weeks, or even days. The provisions of section 210 and subsequent sections of the act work harshly against the commercial community of Australia and many private citizens, and they should be relaxed.
I wish to make another point. The Taxation Branch needs to speed up its decisions. We all know that many income tax assessments are years overdue and that a letter written to the commissioner may not be answered for months. I pass over the bloomers and blunders made in the department because I accept the proposition that in a large department mistakes are inevitable, but there are unsatisfactory and unjust delays in obtaining decisions from the branch. It is time that machinery was provided to speed up the decisions of the department.
Those are a few of the matters that ought to be attended to, but the fact is that the Government, which pretends to an interest in social justice, does not do anything about it. That indicates humbug. All that it is concerned with is scrounging more money from the taxpayers. It pretends to do justice to the taxpayers, whereas it is really pushing them round as a part of its plan to push them around permanently.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Burke). - Order!
– It is all part of the pattern, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. Instead of simplifying the income tax procedure by following precedents in England and other parts of the world, the Government sticks to its ramshackle, out-of-date system. It piles one absurdity on top of another. All that the Government is concerned with is bleeding the taxpayer to death. In the United States of America, taxpayers may pay their tax in advance long before they receive their assessments and thereby know from six months to six months precisely where they stand and what they have to pay. There is no reason why we should not have a new deal in taxation matters, but the Labour party is not interested in a new deal for the ordinary middle class taxpayer.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Dedman) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed - That the House do now adjourn.
– On Monday, the 10th October, speaking at a public meeting in Sydney, I stated my conviction that if this socialist party were returned to power-
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1949 -
No. 72 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
Nos. 73 and 74 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association and Professional Officers’ Association, Comwealth Public Service.
Nos. 75 and 76 - Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen and others.
No. 77 - Transport Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 78 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Customs Seizure of Gramophone Records.
d. - On the 30th September the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked the following questions : -
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Commonwealth Government arrange for the importation of steel products in short supply in all States to cover 1949-50 requirements and tor the distribution of locally produced and imported products at a uniform selling price. He also suggested that the Broken Hill Pro:prietary Company Limited might accept the responsibility, under Commonwealth supervision, of acting as distributing agents for imported products to all States.
Kingdom is at present being explored, and it is anticipated that as a result of discussionswhich have taken place consequent upon the Finance Ministers’ Meeting in July of this year, imports of steel from the- United Kingdom, with the possible exception of sheet and wire, will be considerably increased in 1950. Monthly imports from the United Kingdom have been rising progressively since January, 1949, and the increases in May, June and July of this year have been substantial. In order to leave to private users locally manufactured supplies and to avoid forcing up prices by competition on a scarce market, the Government decided some months ago that Commonwealth Departments, when planning steel requirements, should place orders in Australia only when it had been found impossible to arrange suitable delivery from overseas. Whilst the price of imported steel is higher than the locally produced product, the Commonwealth Government decided that it should absorb the additional cost in order toallow private industry access to the lower priced Australian steel. The Government further requested departments that where orders have already been placed in Australia by them, arrangements be made, if possible, to transfer such orders to overseas suppliers. In ite policy of endeavouring to overcome the shortage of steel in Australia by encouraging importations, success has been achieved in obtaining considerable supplies from Japan. The position is being closely watched by an inter-departmental committee, and every effort is being, and will be made, to overcome shortages of steel and steel products in Australia. The monthly imports of iron and steel for the period January to July, 1949, are set out hereunder: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -
The submission of the very detailed information asked for by the honorable member in respect of each member of the board’s staff would involve the preparation of a lengthy document, but should the information now supplied not meet the honorable member’s requirements further details can bc made available to him in due course.
In addition the Government of New South Wales has contributed the following amounts : -
No other State government has contributed to the funds of the board so that the total moneys received bv the board from Government sources have been £3,149,023.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : - 1 and 2. The quantity of petrol imported into Australia in the months April to August, 1949, was -
Figures for September are not yet available. Monthly import figures fluctuate considerably because of the timing of arrival of tankers. The monthly variations are attributable to factors of this kind and not to any change in import .policy. Of the quantity imported in the five months April to August, about 10 per cent, is recorded as coming from the United States and other dollar countries. However, the geographical source of supply does not necessarily reflect the currency of payment. The petrol imported into Australia is purchased from British and American companies which produce petrol in many different .parts of the world. The petrol bought from American companies cost dollars wherever it is produced, and there is also a substantial dollar element in the cost of petrol supplied by the Britishcontrolled companies. Because of limitations of refinery capacity, the petrol production of the British-controlled companies is not sufficient to meet the needs of the sterling area and other essential commitments. Accordingly, if Australia were to import a greater proportion of her .petrol requirements from British-controlled companies, some other part of the sterling area would have to make correspondingly larger purchases from American companies and there would be no net dollar saving to the sterling area as a whole. This being the case, the policy followed in Australia (and also in other sterling countries) is to allow the source of supply to be governed by ordinary commercial considerations such as tanker availability and the short-haul principle. This policy results in greater economy in the use of tankers and reduces the landed cost of the petrol. Although it results in some parts of the sterling area purchasing a much larger proportion of their requirements than others from American companies, it does not in any way add to the dollar cost of petrol to the sterling area as a whole. Trade statistics are compiled on the basis of geographical origin and do not disclose cither the nationality of the supplying company or the currencies of payment. However, as an illustration of the differing position in various sterling countries it may be mentioned that United Kingdom .statistics for the first six months of 1949 indicate that more than 33 per cent, by volume of the petrol imported into the United Kingdom came from the United States and other dollar countries.
g asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he have prepared a statement showing -
The total cost of Australia’s contributions to and representation at the United Nations and subsidiary organizations since its establishment; (6) the total cost of Australia’s contributions to the United Nations Belief and Rehabilitation Administration, International Refugee Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Trade Organization, World Bank, Far-East Mission, International Postwar Relief and Rehabilitation, Allied Control Commission for Germany, Austria and Japan, South Pacific Commission and the International Labour Organization since 1945; (c) the total cost of assistance given for fares and other assistance to displaced persons from Europe and assisted migration from Malta; and (d) the losses paid by the Treasury as a result of the wheat contract with New Zealand?
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minis ter for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 October 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19491019_reps_18_205/>.