19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m. and read prayers.
– Before I call for questions without notice, I wish to say a few words about the procedure that will be adopted in reference to them. Questions may be directed to a Minister of State on matters affecting the administration of that Minister’s department. No question may be based on a newspaper paragraph. A question may not be directed to a Minister representing a Minister in the Senate. Such’ n. question must be placed on the notice-paper, as, obviously, the Minister in this House to whom such a question is addressed cannot know the answer to it without making inquiries. Questions may not contain any debatable matter, and should be as brief as possible. I point out to the House that in the House of Commons, according to the Select Committee on Procedure which sat two or three years ago, members ask and Ministers answer about SO questions an hour. Older members of this House will understand the difference between that procedure in the House of Commons, and the procedure in this House.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker, in the belief that I must have misconstrued something that you said at the commencement of this sitting. I_ understood you to say that you would not permit questions to be addressed to Ministers in their capacity as representatives of Ministers in the Senate. If that be so, I ask whether it is your intention to deprive members of this House of the opportunity to make representations directly to Ministers on the floor of the House.
– It is not my intention to deprive members of any of their privileges. Questions asked at this stage of the day’s proceedings are asked without notice, and it is not to be expected that a Minister will understand the details of procedure in a department administered by a Minister in the Senate sufficiently to be able to give answers without notice. Each honorable member has an opportunity, of which I hope he will make use, to ask questions concerning departments administered by Senate Ministers by placing such questions on the notice-paper. If a matter of urgency should arise, he may discuss it on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I should say that, if an honorable member is concerned about a matter affecting a department administered by a Senate Minister, the proper course for him to take would be to have a talk with the Minister representing that Senate Minister in this House and then, if necessary, raise the subject during the adjournment debate, when he could ask his question and obtain a prepared answer. It is obvious that a satisfactory answer could not be given to such a question asked without notice. The object of asking questions is to elicit answers.
– In the implementation of policy regarding displaced persons at Finsbury North, in South Australia, will the Minister for Immigration take action to ensure the carrying out of a promise given to me by a previous Minister to the effect that, generally, married couples, and not a preponderance of single persons, are to occupy that centre? I understand that the Minister has received a telegram from 35 men there in which they request that their wives and children, who are at Bonegilla camp in Victoria, shall be sent to Finsbury North. I ask the Minister whether he has given consideration to that matter, and whether he will announce that his policy is to keep families together, if that is possible?
– I have under examination at the moment the request which has been received from the gentlemen to whom the honorable member for Port Adelaide has referred. I have already made it my business to investigate the notification that is given in Europe f. migrants who intend to come to Australia, and I am. assured by my department that very strict instructions have been issued that prospective migrants shall be warned in specific terms of the probability that, during the course of their employment in Australia, they are likely to be separated from their families for some considerable time, and that it is even, possible that they may be so separated until the husband is able to secure accommodation of his own. In order to make sure that that warning is given, instructions have Deen issued that the selection officer must note, in writing, the application form, to the effect that he has issued such a warning. It is the desire of the Government to make this period of separation - this inevitable period, in some cases - as short as is practicable, and so far as lies in our power, we are doing what we can to ensure that these families are not separated for any greater period than circumstances require. The matter that the honorable member for Port Adelaide has raised is under active consideration at the present time.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether he wishes to purchase the site at Mildura, Victoria, formerly used for university purposes, for the use of his department. If so, have arrangements been made for the purchase ? If arrangements have not been made, what are the prospects of the site being secured by the department?
– It is the wish of my department to acquire the site for immigration purposes and negotiations for its purchase are proceeding at present with the Victorian Government. The honorable member has asked about the department’s prospects of securing it. The prospects are fair to good.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the declared disloyalty of one of his Ministers to His Majesty’s representative in this country, he considers that that gentleman - I refer to the Minister for Defence - is really a fit person to go to Britain to represent this country, particularly in view of the oath that he took yesterday that he would bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George VI. and to his heirs and successors? I ask my question having regard to the fact that the GovernorGeneral, Mr. McKell, is actually the representative of the King in Australia.
– The honorable member may assume that any appointment by this Government, will be a fit and proper appointment. The loyalty of my colleague, the Minister for Defence, to His Majesty the King has been proved under various circumstances and is not in question.
– “Will the Prime Minister endeavour to prevent the disparagement of Australians appointed to high and responsible positions overseas? I refer to a very strong statement in the Sydney Morning Herald, and also in the Sunday Herald, about the complete unsuitability of the Minister for Defence, Mr. Harrison, for appointment as Resident Minister in London. In conformity with the Standing Orders, I vouch for the complete accuracy of the statement, a.« all who know the Minister will do. I wish to know whether it is possible to prevent such facts from being cabled abroad so that some value may be got from the representation of this country in London by the Minister, before the people there “ wake up “ to him, as no doubt they will do soon enough.
– I appreciate the deep earnestness of the question. All I can suggest to the honorable member is that before he raises the topic again he should go into close conference with the honorable member for Hunter, because a little consistency in the approach made to the same topics by honorable members opposite would be of great advantage to all of us.
– The Minister for External Affairs was reported as having stated at the Colombo Conference that Australia was an Asian power and was not to be confused with areas that were definitely in the Pacific. “Would the Minister explain exactly what he was endeavouring to convey to the conference by such a statement?
– In the first place, what I said at the Colombo Conference was secret, so that anything I said there could not have been directly reported in any newspaper. In the second place, I have never stated -what I was reported, in some places, to have said. What I said at that time, and I repeat it now, was that Australia, though being a Pacific power, has its interests, not only in the Western Pacific, but also in the Asian area, where it has vital strategic and other interests.
– I understand that, arising out of the conference of Commonwealth nations at Colombo recently, a consultative committee was appointed to deal with the economic development of certain areas in Asia. I ask the Minister for External Affairs to give me some information about the composition of the committee and its precise powers and functions.
– The honorable member has again been misinformed. That is not surprising because it is usual with him. A consultative committee has not yet been set up. There was a recommendation to set one up. That matter will be proceeded with later, and the answer can then be given to the question of the honorable gentleman.
– Will the Treasurer state whether final consideration has yet been given, or whether any decision has been reached, on. the important and vital subject of the development of the Burdekin Valley? If not, will the right honorable gentleman give this matter his urgent consideration and confer upon it with his colleague, the Minister for Supply and Development, who visited the area and made public statements regarding its importance and the necessity for its development? If no decision has been reached will the Treasurer indicate what stage the negotiations have reached?
– Investigations are proceeding in connexion with the proposed Burdekin Dam. The cursory examination which has already been made has revealed many points of doubt. Further investigation is proceeding on basic principles. I shall confer with my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Development, on the matter.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral what the prospects are of overcoming the lag in the installation of telephones in country districts?
– The prospects have greatly improved in the last few months. We are now taking steps to try to secure the necessary material. There has been a very grave shortage of the essential requirements for the installation of telephones, including telephonic instruments. We hope that many of the shortages will be substantially overcome this year.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has given any directions to the Adelaide Advertiser to refrain from publishing daily reports of coal losses, as it did prior to the election, or whether the present policy of the Adelaide Advertiser of not publishing details of recent heavy losses of coa] production is a voluntary effort intended to delude the people of South Australia into the belief that the Government has honoured its pre-election promise to solve the coal problem?
– The Government has not given any directions to the Adelaide Advertiser on coal or any other matter.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service direct to be prepared for the information of the House a short return indicating the number of cases that have arisen under the amendment to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act dealing with remedies in connexion with ballots taken by registered organizations? The matter is of some importance and urgency in view of a certain, paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
– I shall be pleased to examine the practicability of doing what the right honorable member wishes, and at this stage I foresee no difficulty about doing so. I think that the right honorable gentleman knows that action is being taken in several ways in relation to the legislation to which he has referred. I shall be glad to supply the information that he seeks.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply and Development concerning the proposed expenditure of £250,000,000 upon developmental works throughout Australia. What steps should be taken by local authorities, through their representatives in this Parliament or otherwise, to have works such as port improvements, the damming of rivers and the reticulation of water included in the Government’s scheme?
– As the honorable memtar no doubt is aware, the Department of National Development has not yet been created. Therefore, I think that the time is premature for considering questions of this sort. However, I should think that we may clearly expect that the Government will not deal directly with local government bodies, but will deal with the State governments. I believe that some procedure that will obviate the necessity for local governing bodies to write direct to the Commonwealth authority, as they are doing now in considerable numbers, will be evolved when the department is created and has its duties defined.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to carry out the promise that was made on the floor of this House and also during the election campaign that, if the parties then in Opposition were returned to power, they would abolish the means test in relation to social services benefits. If the Government does intend to give effect to the promise, when may honorable members and the electors expect the necessary legislation to be introduced? If the promise is not to be honored, what explanation has the right honorable gentleman to make to the electors about the failure to implement a vital promise upon a matter that affects so many people?
– I am afraid that the honorable member’s question does rather scant justice to the statements that have been made on behalf of the parties supporting the Government, either in this House or in the policy speech. I shall see that he is provided with a copy of the policy statement, because he will find that no such absolute promise was made in it.
– The right honorable gentleman made the promise on the floor of this House.
– I am sorry, but that is exactly what I did not do. The Government parties have stated their position in relation to modification, where possible, of the means test. There is a reference to it in the speech made by the Governor-General, and, in due course, the reference in the speech will be made the subject of legislative proposals that will be laid before this House.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for the Army to a report that Japanese generals held on atrocity charges are to be released on orders from Australia. I ask the Minister whether such orders were given by him or by the Government? If such orders have, been given, . on what grounds is this clemency to Japanese war criminals justified?
– I shall intervene to answer the question. The matter of the trial of Japanese war criminals, or those alleged to have been guilty of war crimes, engaged the attention of the Government immediately after it was sworn in. Certain steps have been taken, and as some misapprehension on the subject may exist in the public mind, I propose to-morrow morning, with the indulgence of the House, to make a full, and I hope a clear, statement on the matter
Mi-. BRYSON.- In view of the recent increase in the payment of civilian employees of the Navy, Army and Air Force, which has amounted to about 7s. a week, and has been due to cost of living adjustments, and in view of the certainty that in the near future another increase of pay will be given to such civilian employees, on the same ground, t ask the Minister for Defence whether the Government has given any consideration to the granting of an increase of pay to members pf the services, so that their emoluments may be kept in conformity with the rising cost of living.
– That is ;i matter which will be considered when the opportunity presents itself.
– Having regard to the recent tragedies on Sydney beaches when two young men lost their lives through faulty equipment, I ask the Treasurer whether the Government will give consideration to the making of a grant of £20,000 to the Surf Life-saving Association of Australia, which is a federated body, so that it may purchase proper and effective equipment to help to preserve life in the future.
– The Government will consider the financing of life-saving organizations right throughout Australia.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of the concern that is felt by those engaged in the dried fruits industry owing to the continuing rise of the cost of production compared with the price of the product? If so, what is being done to help the industry?
– I am aware of the concern that is felt by those engaged in the dried fruits industry over what lias been represented to me as the disparity between the cost of producing dried fruit and the price at which it is sold. In response to a request conveyed to me by the honorable member for Mallee himself, I visited Mildura, and there met about 700 dried fruits growers, as well as members of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board and members of the Australian Dried Fruits Association. As a result of the representations made to me, I have instructed the Director of the Bureau of
Agricultural Economics to make an immediate investigation into the economic problems associated with the industry. The investigation has already begun, and as soon as authoritative information has been obtained, the Government will consider what, if anything, will be done about ^ the requests that have been made to it.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, relates to a statement alleged to have been made by the honorable gentleman to the effect that he had negotiated with the United Kingdom for the export of approximately 1,750,000 cases of Australian canned fruits at a rate equivalent to 10 per cent, higher than any rate that had previously been received by this Australian industry. Has the Minister given consideration to the effect that the export of that quantity of canned fruit will have on the Australian community, particularly country residents and the people in tropical areas who, when unable to procure supplies of fresh fruit, regard canned fruits as an essential item of their diet? If it is a fact that that quantity of canned fruit is to be exported, will the Minister ensure that the needs of the Australian people shall not suffer in the process?
– It is true that an arrangement for the sale to the United Kingdom of a substantial quantity of canned, fruits, including pears, peaches and apricots at the present time, has been concluded at a very satisfactory level of prices. Further negotiations are proceeding for the sale of canned pineapples and certain other minor classes of canned fruits. These negotiations are being conducted along lines which have regard to the advice tendered by the Australian Canned Fruits Board. That authority has always regarded, itself as having the obligation to make proper provision for the Australian home market. I have no doubt that that board had that fact in mind when it offered advice to me and to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture during the recent negotiotions. If the honorable member is able to bring to my notice instances of a substantial shortage of canned fruits in the country or any other districts, I shall ask the Australian Canned Fruits Board to examine the position and, in the light of the information that it submits to me, I shall determine the steps that may be taken to provide for the needs of the home market.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy a question relating to an incident that occurred during the tenure of office of the Labour Government, and to another incident that has occurred since the present Government has been in office. The first occurrence was the sinking of a corvette that was engaged in mine-sweeping operations, as a result of which some men were accidentally killed. The second instance was the recent Tarakan disaster. On both occasions, representations were made to the authorities to have the bodies of men killed returned to their relatives in their home States, but it became clear that it was not the practice in the Royal Navy or in the Royal Australian Navy to do so. Would it not be possible to adopt in Australia the practice of the navy of the United States of America as being more humane in the interests of relatives?
– The Government is at present reviewing the regulations relating to the disposal of the bodies of members of the armed services who meet their deaths in Australia. As for the tragic Tarakan disaster, it ought to be put on record that very substantial assistance - well above what is provided for in the regulations - was given to the relatives and friends of those men who suffered death or injury. Telegrams were sent to relatives informing them that if they wished to visit men who were injured their fares would be paid by air or rail to Sydney and back. Incidental expenses incurred while they were in Sydney were met for as long as they were required to remain, and their hotel expenses were also paid for the period during which, in the opinion of the naval medical officer, their presence in Sydney would be helpful to the injured persons. Thus, all the expenses incurred by relatives were readily met by the Government. When the injured men were able to return to their homes, they were accompanied by sick bay attendants, whose duty was to ensure that they suffered no disability as a result of the extraordinary shock they had sustained.
– My question referred to the dead.
– I have already said that the regulations are being reviewed. In the case of the one person whose remains were taken to Queensland, a grant has been made comparable with the expenses that would have been incurred if the burial had taken place in Sydney, as I indicated when this matter was first raised.
– I ask a question of the Minister for the Navy concerning young men who, having enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy, find that life in the service is entirely opposed to their inclinations and does not offer them what they consider to be a satisfying career. Numbers of such cases have come to my notice, and honorable members are probably aware of others. Will the Minister consider making some arrangement whereby men who make application during the first two years of their service in the Navy can have their periods of service reduced so that they may be released before the normal term of twelve years expires?
– I have been required to deal with an unusual number of applications for discharge from the Royal Australian Navy that have been carried over from the administration of the previous Government. I have replied to many requests for release that were addressed to my predecessor, indicating whether or not it will be possible to accede to them. I am pleased to say that such applications are not coming in at the same rate to-day as obviously they did previously. The proposal to-day is that men may enlist in the Navy for either six years or twelve years according to their choice. I believe that this scheme has given a great fillip to recruiting. The honorable member may rest assured that everything possible will be done to make sure that men who enlist in the Navy will remain enthusi- astic and be contented in their work. I hope that recruiting will be accelerated and that men who join the service will decide to remain in it.
– Oan the Prime Minister 3ay whether any Government publicity agency was responsible for the gross reflection conveyed by press reports concerning the visit of the Minister for Defence to London? I refer to a statement that he was going to London for the purpose of cleaning up the administration of Australia House, and to the implications in that statement ? Was any government agency responsible for the reflections on the late Mr. J. A. Beasley, and on the acting High Commissioner, Mr. Norman Mighell, or was the press entirely responsible for them ?
– I regret that I am not aware of the source of the statement that has been made. When I was asked what duties would be performed by the Resident Minister, I gave some general indication of them. I was asked whether, if any staff re-organization were necessary it would be a matter for the Resident Minister to consider. I said that naturally any man who had been appointed as Resident Minister in London would be particularly interested in the most efficient organization of his staff. Having said that, I may say that I indicated further that that statement was not to be taken as in any way reflecting upon any one else. I’ treated staff organization as a normal part of the duties that would be performed.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that some unrest has been occasioned owing to uncertainty in regard to. the future development of Jervis Bay? Will the honorable gentleman state the intention of the Government with respect to the future development of Jervis Bay?
– A general review of all the activities of the departments of the Navy and the Army are at present engaging my attention and that of the Cabinet. When I am in a position to make a statement relating to Jervis Bay, I shall be delighted to do so.
M r. DAVIES. - I address my question In ths Treasurer. Is it a fact that the New South Wales Government is short of rolling-stock for its railways and that as a result thousands of tons of steel and other heavy materials have to be transported by road instead of by rail? Is it also true that, as a result of this departure’ from normal transport methods, the roads in the Wollongong and Port Kembla district are being destroyed ? As it is not possible for the City of Wollongong tofinance the cost of repairing these roads, will the Treasurer make available to the New South Wales Government a grant from the petrol tax to enable the repair of these mutilated roads to be undertaken?
– The Government fully recognizes the extent to which the general road systems of Australia have deteriorated and the resultant difficulties that confront local government authorities. For that reason, among others,, the Government intends to borrow £250,000,000 over a period of five years for expenditure under the control and authority of the Department of Supply and Development. The cost of servicing the loan by way of interest and sinking fund payments will be met by an allocation from the petrol tax. Local government authorities which do not come within the scope of that loan programme will be assisted to the greatest possible degree by further allocations of the petrol tax which will be reviewed from time to time.
– I refer the Treasurer to a letter which he received from me regarding an application by the Townsville City Council for an amount of £25,000 for compensation in connexion with war damage done to roads in that area. I remind the right honorable gentleman that in reply to my letter he said that he had spoken to the Defence Council on this matter and that it was under consideration. Has the Treasurer arrived at a decision?
– The matter was taken up with the Defence Council, which has promised to send officers to Townsville to investigate the position and to confer with the local authority concerned.
– Nearly three weeks ago I made representations to the Minister for Civil Aviation with respect to a request for the re-opening of the aerodrome at Swansea, on the east coast of Tasmania, which was delicensed in 1939. I have not yet received a reply. Can the Minister indicate the attitude of the Department of Civil Aviation towards this request which has been made on behalf of the local council and of the aero clubs of Tasmania?
– I have before me a schedule relating to some 200 aerodromes in respect of which I have been questioned during the last eight weeks by members of the Parliament, representatives of municipalities and others. The honorable member for Bass was one of those who inquired about the Swansea aerodrome. I can furnish full details, but they are too lengthy to give during question time. If the honorable member wishes, he may peruse the details in my room this afternoon. The Government has adopted a policy of resuscitating all important aerodromes that have been allowed to fall into disuse and disrepair. The responsibility falls principally on the Department of Works and Housing, but that organization cannot do all the work. Housing has a higher priority, and, therefore, the work to which the honorable member has referred falls upon local municipalities. If the municipality in which the honorable member lives will assist in rebuilding this airport, the Government will consider meeting the expense.
– Can. the Minister for Civil Aviation give an estimate of the time that is likely to elapse before the Victorian Government will be authorized to set up the MelbourneSale:Bairnsdale air service, for which the first application was made about eleven months ago?
– The first application was actually made about two years ago. This Government has already made arrangements to open the service, and a service will begin this year between Bairnsdale and Melbourne, with a stopping place at Sale.
– During the election campaign, the Prime . Minister expressed himself as being in favour of a system of profit-sharing in industry. I desire to know, in connexion with the scheme which he has in mind, what proportion of the profit will go to the workers in industry and what proportions will be retained by the employers and the investors? Is the worker in industry to participate in any distribution of bonus shares?
– It is not proposed to depart from the practice by which questions of policy are not dealt with by questions and answers.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether it is a fact that officers of his department have been invited to confer with commercial interests and the radio industry for the purpose of commercializing television?
– No, it is not a fact that officers of my department have been in consultation with the interests to which the honorable member for Cook has referred. I myself have discussed with representatives of the radio industry their interest in television and what they may be able to do towards establishing it in Australia in the future. So far, television is under investigation by the Government, and policy has yet to be formulated.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing inform me whether it is a fact that at Nowra, in New South Wales, where the previous Government established a fleet air arm base, a desperate position has arisen over housing for British and Australian servicemen and their families? Will the Minister confer with the Minister for the Navy with a. view to ascertaining what can be done to alleviate that position?
– The problem to which the honorable member has referred has not come to my notice, but I shall be glad to make inquiries and collaborate with the Minister for the Navy on the matter.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform me whether he was authorized by the Government, prior to his leaving Australia, to make an offer at the international conference held at Colombo to provide food and funds for Far Eastern countries as a counter to communism? I should also like to know the amount to which the Government authorized him to commit this country in providing food and other amenities to those countries?
– The honorable member has been completely misinformed about the nature of the scheme that was put forward at Colombo. Any submission that I made at that conference was authorized by the Government, and has been adopted by it. The matter will be made the subject of a statement during the forthcoming debate on international nff airs.
– I am aware that an honorable member may not press unduly for an answer to a question, but the Minister seems to have overlooked one inquiry that I made. I ask him what amount is involved in the scheme to provide financial assistance to Eastern countries to help them to counter communism?
– I thought I had made the position clear. At Colombo discussions took place as a result of which certain recommendations were made by the representatives to their respective governments. The recommendations have been considered by the Australian Government and have been approved, but the steps to be taken by the other governments have not yet been finalized. No question of any amount can arise until a plan has been considered and an effort is to he made to implement it.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. What evidence has he found in the department that he now administers of a failure to observe the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act, as it affects or ought to affect appointments and promotions in that department? If he has found none, will he look into this matter and ascertain whether it is a fact that the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment
Act relating to those matters have been totally disregraded in that department in recent years? Does he propose to apply those provisions in that department in future?
– The number of appointments that have been made over the last six or seven years in the Department of External Affairs has been under my consideration. 1 have not yet completed my investigation. When I have done so, I shall make a statement to the House on the subject. The honorable member for Henty may rest assured that the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act will be observed by me.
– I direct the attention of the Treasurer to a report to the effect that the Union Bank and the Bank of Australasia, with deposits exceeding £150,000,000, intend to amalgamate. Has the Treasurer given approval for that amalgamation? If so, on what grounds does he justify that merger, in view of the oft-repeated statements by members of the Government about the desirability of encouraging the keenest competition in the banking industry?
– I know nothing about the subject-matter that the honorable member for Grayndler has raised.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Bank Officers’ Association, which represents employees of the private banks, has filed a plaint in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in which the same rates of pay and the same conditions of employment are sought as are enjoyed by employees of the government-owned Commonwealth Bank? Is it also a fact that the directors of the private banks are opposing the claims of their employees for the much better salary rates that are paid by the socialized Commonwealth Bank? If the foregoing statements are facts, will the Government intervene in this case in support of the employees of the banks and in opposition to the wealthy interests that own and control them?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is that I do not know. I had not heard about this matter until he referred to it. It may be true that a plaint has been filed. I shall refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and if he has any information on the subject, I am sure he would be glad to provide it to the honorable gentleman.
– Will the Minister for Health inform me whether the State governments have set up poliomyelitis prevention committees and whether they have asked for the Commonwealth to provide financial assistance?
– No requests have been made for financial assistance in that matter. The Minister for Health in Tasmania has asked whether it is possible to establish a council for poliomyelitis. I have replied that if the other States desire that such a council shall be estalished, I 3hall be willing to bring one together.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is proposed to compel all persons to become members of friendly societies before they may participate in the Government’s free medicine or health scheme ?
– That is a question of policy which it is not within my province to answer here. I can assure the honorable member that when the scheme is completed details will be laid before the House.
– Has the Prime Minister made any decision on the development of a national theatre in this country? I remind the right honorable gentleman that in China the national theatre came to great affluence under the second Ming dynasty.
– The honorable member is so disarming in the way he has put his question that I am bound to say that when this question comes before me - it has not had time to do so yet - I shall look at it with a kindly eye; but I make no promises about what will be done.
– When the Minister for External Affairs was proceeding to the conference of Commonwealth nations at Colombo, he was reported as having stated at a press conference that there was to be a more liberal administration of the White Australia policy. Was the Minister foreshadowing an amendment by the Government of the present immigration policy? If not, will the Minister explain to the House in what way the policy is to be more liberally administered?
– It is a fact that I held a press conference in Djakarta. I took the precaution to have recorded in shorthand precisely what wa,s asked at that conference and precisely what I answered. The answer to the honorable member’s question is that what I said was - and I repeat it now - that there could be no compromise upon the White Australia policy by this or any other Australian government. I said, however, that we would avoid the irritations which had resulted from the administration of the preceding government in such cases as that of Gamboa and some other persons. No alteration of the Immigration Act is contemplated. What I said was that the Government would not engage, through the Minister for Immigration, in the same blundering administrative tactics as those of the preceding Government.
– In view of the almost daily reports of increases in the cost of living, I ask the Prime Minister when we can expect some definite action to be taken to put more shillings into the Australian £1.
– I should regret it if the honorable member thought that, by some strange magic, overnight, we could achieve what he has suggested. I have not met any seriously minded person who thinks such, a thing is possible. All I can tell the honorable member is that the whole policy of this Administration, as he will come to see, will achieve that result.
– I desire to know whether the Minister for Commerce and
Agriculture is prepared to grant licences to export grain overseas. It is evident that because of the good season there are ample supplies, of grain forthcoming. I he inability to secure sufficient storage for large quantities of grain and the inability to obtain early export licences, have caused, losses to farmers in previous years. Some of the grain,, at least, could he sold as it is brought in from harvest.
– I have been giving attention to the question of export licences for grain sorghum. I find, that the position which obtained last season and the previous season was that one co-operative organization had been given the sole monopoly right to export grain sorghum. I had representations made to me by another important and numerically strong co-operative organization in Queensland, which asked to be given an export permit. That was in addition to the request for a renewal of the monopoly permit that I first mentioned. The decision that I have made is to grant a permit to’ each of those organizations, indicating to them that the quantity of grain sorghum that finally will be exported will be fixed having regard to the total volume of the crop and local, requirements of grain sorghum and, in the case of each applicant for an export permit, having regard to the quantity of grain sorghum placed in its custody by growers for disposal. I have also had requests that export permits be given to individual exporters of grain sorghum, and I have intimated that I will not place any intending exporter in possession of a document which, in itself, could be of value in soliciting the purchase of grain sorghum. Any merchant who has purchased a quantity of grain sorghum may apply for an export permit, and consideration will then be given to the application in the light of the principles that I have outlined.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that, in 1941, a government of which he was the Prime Minister refused to give permission to a Mr. David A. Graig, business consultant, of Sydney, to erect an oil refinery near that city? Did the Tariff Board make a report on the application and, if so, what was the nature of its finding? Did Mr. Craig inquire whether the government of the clay supported the claim of the Shell Company of Australia Limited that no outsider should be allowed to enter into competition with the cartel companies in the establishment of refineries? If 30, what was the reply given to him?
– Naturally I do not carry those details in my mind because 1 understand that the question relates to something that happened, or is alleged to have happened, nine years ago. I have no recollection of it, but I shall have the matter investigated, and if the facts are still on record I shall have whatever information is available conveyed to the honorable member.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– Was the Minister for External Affairs correctly reported as having announced that recognition was being extended to certain Indo-Chinese regimes sponsored, I understand, ‘by France? If so, does such recognition imply an exchange of Ministers or any other form of diplomatic representation?
– The answer to the first question is “ Yes “. The answer to the second question is “ No “. The granting of recognition does not necessarily imply an exchange of representatives with the various countries.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that because of the activities of middlemen and forestallers primary producers are destroying their surplus products ? In the north, I understand, the banana-growers are ploughing their surplus bananas back into the ground. Will the Minister take steps to ensure that primary producers receive a fair return for their labour by arranging for and encouraging cooperative marketing concerns? If that is done surplus primary produce may then be used for the benefit of people in towns and cities.
– I am not aware that any primary produce which is suitable for human consumption is being destroyed. I should be surprised to learn that that is true. There is a constitutional limit to the authority to the Commonwealth Parliament in this connexion, with which the honorable member is no doubt familiar. The primary producers in certain industries, such as the banana industry, have it within their power to establish co-operatives. Also, under State marketing legislation, compulsory pools may be established for primary products to enable producers to get what they consider to be fair and necessary prices. I am sure that if the banana-growers, or any other producers in primary industry, felt that they were in the position that the honorable member has described they would avail themselves of the opportunities of the State legislation to which I have referred.
Debate resumed from the 22nd February (vide page 30), on motion by Mr. Opperman. -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Hia Excellency the Governor-General lie agreed to: -
May it please Youn. Excellency:
We. the House of Representatives of the Parliiament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- First, I shall refer briefly to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), the new members who proposed and seconded the Address-in-Reply. I congratulate the honorable member for Corio on the modesty with which he delivered his first speech in this House. The honorable member for Riverina sounded a little dogmatic in his statements upon a very controversial subject. I shall leave it to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to deal with that matter.
Both honorable members said that Australia might hope to have a visit from Their Majesties the King and Queen and the Princess Margaret during 1952. Most honorable members know that an invitation to Their Majesties to visit Australia was extended by both, the New Zealand Government and the previous Australian Government, and that an itinerary had been arranged. Unfortunately, the illness of His Majesty prevented fulfilment of the arrangements. I join with the honorable member for Corio and the honorable member for Riverina in expressing the hope that it will be possible for the visit to be made in 1952. It may be necessary to limit drastically the heavy programmes that were submitted by the States on the last occasion. I know that there is great anxiety on the part of the States and public bodies to welcome Their Majesties.
In the Speech delivered by His Excellency only a limited amount of information could be supplied. Otherwise, the delivery of such speeches would occupy too much time. The Speech delivered yesterday, however, was a little more vague and hazy than most of its predecessors. Because there are many new members in the House, I shall deal briefly with some. of the matters that are mentioned in it. The Government proposes to set up a standing committee on foreign affairs. The Opposition will be prepared to examine that proposal on its merit.?. If the committee is to be given more than merely stereotyped accounts of what is transpiring in relation to foreign affairs, it may serve a useful purpose. I know that there is great difficulty in deciding what access shall be given to reports of a secret or semi-secret nature that are received by the Government. Some of the reports are intended to be exclusively for the information of the Prime Minister or the Minister for External Affairs. Unless the committee is given a wide range of information it will not be able to serve a useful purpose. I do not condemn the proposal, but merely say that if it offers to honorable members on this- side of the House, particularly those who are keenly interested in foreign affairs, opportunities to gain further enlightenment, we shall be prepared to examine it on its merits.
There has been a great deal of shouting about Communists, subversive activities and the like. Some wild and violent statements have been made by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who has even gone to the length of proposing that persons who might be Communists or have Communist affiliations should be deported. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) also has had some very strong things to say. Therefore, I was amazed at the vagueness of His Excellency’s Speech on this particular subject. Not much indication of policy has been given. Statements have appeared in the press, but I gathered, from answers to questions given to-day by the Minister for External Affairs that the press is not a reliable source of information. Apparently that honorable gentleman now shares the view which I, in common with many other persons, have held for some time, that a great deal of reliance cannot be placed on most press reports. It is apparent that, the Minister for External Affairs now shares the view held by myself and others that it is impossible to place a great deal of reliance on press reports - or on most of them, at any rate. I quote the following from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech: -
My advisers intend taking strong measures to protect the community against the activities of subversive organizations and individuals, and in particular they have in mind the Communist party and its members.
The Speech then goes on to say that legislation will be introduced to deal with subversive activities. I remember hearing the Minister for Transport (Mr. Beale) say with an air which would lead one to conclude that he had just stepped out of the pages of one of Dickens’s books, that communism could be dealt with under existing legislation. I think the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said the same thing. I can still hear echoing in my ears some reference by him to section 31 (/) of some act. I assumed from what Ministers said when’ they were in Opposition that there was ample provision in existing legislation to deal with subversive activities. As honorable members know, certain persons were prosecuted for seditious statements, and, indeed, some were convicted.
The Speech of the Governor-General gives no indication of what the Government really proposes to do about communism, but. we can assume that some consideration has been .given to the matter. There is an old Chinese adage which says, “ Soup is never taken as hot as it is cooked “. The Government’s present attitude towards communism seems to be an apt illustration of the truth of that adage. There is no need for me to labour the point further. We of the Labour party believe that communism cannot be destroyed by legislation, or by administrative action. I propose to recall something said on this subject by the Minister of External Affairs in Colombo, or somewhere in the East. Again my authority is only a press report, no doubt a quite unreliable one, and I apologize to the Minister if the report is incorrect. However, he was reported as having said that only by improving the economic conditions of the people was it possible to stay the spread of communism in the East. That had been said many times before. It was said by my colleague, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). I think I myself have made the remark a number of times. The same statement was made many years ago by Mr. Pandit Nehru, the present Prime Minister of India. I am pleased to have discovered a convert to the creed that the only way to cure communism - for, indeed, it is already a disease - is to improve the economic conditions of the people. I have studied the statements of the leaders of governments in Western Europe on this subject. I myself have heard the Prime Minister of India state his opinion. Whether we agree with Mr. Nehru or not, it cannot be denied that he is to-day the most powerful and influential figure in the whole of Asia, and he has made it clear for years - even, I think, when he was in gaol - that the only way to cure disaffection and discontent is to improve the conditions of the people. That is as true to-day as it was then. The same opinion has been expressed by many of the great statesmen of Europe. No Western
European government has banned communism. It has not been banned in the United Kingdom, the home of liberty, nor in New Zealand, although some action has been taken in Canada. During the election campaign, we made it clear that we regarded the banning of the Communist party as completely futile. I have always believed that this subject was very wisely dealt with in a statement which is reported in Hansard for the 15th May, 1947. I have never read a more clearly expressed opinion on the subject. I quote as follows : -
Or.c reason why I have repeatedly expressed the view that these people should be dealt with in the open is that I have complete confidence in the basic sanity of our own people. If we deal with these people openly we shall defeat thom; but we cannot deal with them openly unless their operations are known, unless they themselves are known.
I do not think that I could wish to add one word to that statement which, by the way, was made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I ask honorable members, and particularly the Treasurer, who really let his hair down when discussing the subject, to study the statement by the Prime Minister. However much I differ from him on some matters, and however much he may be compelled to do certain things because of political expediency, I believe that thePrime Minister is a liberal with a small “ 1 “. Unfortunately, he is officially a Liberal with a big “ L “. Of course, it is passible to bring in legislation directed against radicals or Communists, or people on the left with whom you disagree. If you are a bit of a Fascist yourself, you regard those on the left as Communists. We have no more sympathy with the Communists who oppose us than we have with the Fascists who support the Government - and there are many of those. It is not always possible to keep one’s skirts clean. There are Communists who oppose us, and then attempt later on to cling to the Labour movement. As I have said, I do not know what legislation the Government proposes to introduce. It may be something in the nature of a political gesture, but I am certain that if the purpose be really to prevent the spread of communism, its introduction will be a waste of time. We shall study the legislation when it is introduced, and comment on it then. I shall do no more now than make this general statement of my opinions.
I was interested to hear the reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to the dollar position. His Excellency said it was not possible to deal with the dollar position in isolation, without reference tothe rest of the sterling area. I think I have been saying that for a long time past.. On this point, I have seen some statements in the press purporting to set forth the Government’s attitude on the matter. Of course, if the Government repudiates those statements I accept its repudiation, because I have not found press reports to be very reliable. However, for this particular statement there appears to be some authority, because it is supported by statements broadcast by the Prime Minister himself about petrol rationing. In this connexion, I wish to make clear that I have studiously refrained from trying to obtain information from my friends in England or anywhere else on any matter touching Government policy. I do not think that it would be playing the game to do so. I have many friends in England, but I have not asked them for information, and had I done so they might not have thought that it would be honorable to give it to me. I understood from the speech of the Prime Minister that the British Government did disagree with the views of the Australian Government. I have seen it stated in the press that Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. Attlee had said to the Australian Government that it should not spend more dollars on petrol. When I was Treasurer I did not suspect that Mr. Attlee, Sir Kingsley Wood, Sir John Anderson, Dr. Hugh Dalton, or Sir Stafford Cripps ever dreamed of saying anything like that. I am sure that they did not do so. They always believed that the countries that were using British dollars to make up their own dollar deficits should decide how the dollars allocated to them should be expended. What they were concerned about was the overall expenditure of dollars. I am glad to see that admission in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech because it confirms what I have said so often in this House on other occasions. I have always maintained that no government, irrespective of its political colour, could carry on without serious disruption of its economy while the dollar crisis lasted. I understand, again from the press, that the dollar position has not greatly improved. Unless the Government can obtain from the British Treasury more dollars than Australia is able to earn, our economy must continue to be seriously disturbed. It is of no use merely to indulge in idle words. There is a reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to cooperation. Idle words are poor things when we want to help people and to preserve their goodwill. When we talk about co-operation we must be prepared to extend it to others. I surmise that when the Government looked into this matter of sterling petrol, which the Treasurer is to produce from here and there - lie mostly found it was not either here or there - it learned that its purchase would involve the expenditure of additional dollars, and that until we could earn as much as we expended in dollars we should have to draw on the depleted British dollar reserves.
Something was said by His Excellency about the necessity for providing an ample supply of petrol for transport purposes. Let me say in passing that during my term of office not one bushel of wheat or one pound of agricultural produce was left on the farms as the result of the shortage of petrol. The people know that that is so, just as they know that the only time when there was difficulty about petrol supplies was when petrol was unrationed. Recently I took the opportunity to travel through some of our country districts in order to ascertain how the wheat harvest was being shifted and how cement was being transported from the factories to the users. I found that no essential services were held up because of the shortage of petrol. Those who were short of petrol were those who in a period of grave difficulties I should regard as nonessential users. It is all very well to talk about helping the British Government and the British people. That help can be given by actions and not by words. It certainly cannot be given by idle words or by promises recklessly made. As all honorable members are aware, I have been greatly troubled by the grave economic difficulties that face the British Government and the British people. They are by no means yet out of the wood. A long hard road lies ahead of them. Nobody at the moment can foresee the solution of the dollar problem. Certainly nobody can yet see any light at the end of the tunnel. I have always thought that it was not very good policy to do anything which might- in any way embarrass Great Britain, our best friend and greatest ally, when that country is battling to rehabilitate itself and remains in dire straits because of the dollar problem. During the eight and a half years in which I was Treasurer of this country my relations with the British Chancellors of the Exchequer were of the most friendly character. I should be very greatly disturbed if I were to hear that our good relations with the British Treasury had been disturbed by reckless promises made on the basis that ample sterling petrol is available to us and that most of the petrol we use has to be paid for in sterling. An investigation of the situation will prove that basis to be completely wrong.
The next matter that I wish to discuss is the statement that the Government intends to put more value into the Australia £1. I shall be very interested to see how that task is essayed. I am not one of those who do not realize that the present inflationary spiral represents a very grave problem. Every government, whether it he a Labour government or a Liberal-Country party government, must be disturbed by it. I do not pretend for one moment that a government, whatever may be its political colour, should be able to find an easy solution of it. No one knows better than I do the extraordinary difficulties that it presents. Those who say recklessly that they will bring value back into the £1, and lead the electors to believe that it can be done quickly and reasonably easily, are merely deceiving the people. Some of the supporters of the Liberal party - the press which wants to get its requirements of newsprint a little cheaper than it does at present - are aware that the appreciation of the Australian £1 presents a very thorny problem for the Government. The Government will find it hard to pacify the king-makers, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Melbourne Herald and other newspapers which have rendered it many favours by printing so many lies, mis-statements and distortions of the truth on its behalf. I understand that a broadcast statement in relation to the appreciation of the £1 was made this week by a former very distinguished member of this Parliament, Sir Walter Massy-Greene. I have read a copy of his statement. It contained some truths that could well be studied by those people who talk about the appreciation of the £1. I have observed that it was not given much publicity in the press which favours the appreciation of the £1. Sir Walter Massy-Greene pointed out that in his opinion the appreciation of the £1 would be economic folly. For political but not for economic reasons, I should like to see the Government try to appreciate the £1. The previous Government made its decision to depreciate the £1 for economic reasons. I know of no economic reasons that would warrant its appreciation at the present time. I realize that one may argue the pros and cons of this matter, but thinking of the good of the country and balancing the advantages against the disadvantages, I consider that there is no warrant for appreciating the value of the Australian £1 at the present time. However, that is a problem which the Liberal party, the Australian Country party, and their supporters, the big newspapers, may argue among themselves.
I note in the Governor-General’s speech a reference to the intention of the Government to repeal the Banking Act 1947. As I understand the position, that legislation has been killed by the decision of the Privy Council in relation to it. I shall not deal with the legal implications of that judgment, because the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) may examine that aspect. However, there may be a few provisions of the Banking Act that should be preserved in the interests of the community. It may be only a matter of removing a dead horse from the field of play, but if any of the remaining provisions of the act are, in our opinion, of real value to the community, we on this side of the House will fight to retain them.
His Excellency also forecast the introduction of legislation to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-1948 by providing for the establishment, under the control of the Parliament, of a board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank, of which the Governor of the bank will bethe chairman. The amending legislation, has not been introduced, and I do not propose to anticipate its provisions. Perhaps the Government will appoint tothe Bank Board a number of prominent public servants and economists who have no interest in private enterprise. Thereis already in existence an advisory council which tenders advice to the Government on various financial matters. I have only to say that if the Government proposes to appoint to the Commonwealth’ Bank Board representatives of outsideinterests, as was done in the old days, the Labour party will oppose the legislation. In the past, some persons were appointed to the board because they had certain, social or business affiliations. If the Government intends to appoint such a board as that to take charge of the financial affairs of the country, it may rest assured that it will have the full opposition of the Labour party. We do not intend to allow, without a struggle, the people of this country to be placed in thraldom to a bank board, as they were in 1928-29. I do not suggest that the Commonwealth Bank Board at that time could haveprevented the financial and economicdepression that occurred in Australia - indeed, it could not have done so - but it could have alleviated the effects by perhaps 75 per cent. A few days ago I read a statement to the effect that as a result of the depression Australia has 50,000 fewer children of working age at the present time than it normally would have had. The explanation is that, during the depression in the early 1930’s, people could not afford to have children. A great deal of the responsibility for that situation may be laid at the door of those who then directed financial policy, including people who were not elected to the Commonwealth Bank Board by the general public or even by this Parliament,, but were appointed hy the government of the day. Why some of those- persons were appointed to the board, I do not know. J can only surmise that they were very pleasant fellows at cocktail parties and similar functions. The point that I desire to make is that most of them were definitely associated with private enterprise, and their business was to restrict the operations of the Commonwealth Bank. That institution, I remind the House, expanded greatly while the Labour Government was in office. The mortgage bank department and the finance department of the Commonwealth Hank have “cut the tripe” out of hire purchase operators, and have been of great benefit to the man on the land. 1! note with some amusement that the Governor-General’s Speech contains the following words in reference to the proposal to re-appoint the Commonwealth Bank Board: - lt will also be provided that any policy issues which ure the subject of this agreement between the Government and the Bank Board shall be referred to Parliament.
If I. did not have some knowledge of parliamentary procedure, I might accept that statement quite seriously. In theory, the proposal to refer to the Parliament the subject of any disagreement between the Government and* the Bank Board may be satisfactory, but, in practice, it is complete bunkum. Although the Governor of the bank may be appointed chairman of the board, the other directors will be able to override his opinions at will. When the Bank Board was in existence, the Governor was not given even a voice in determining the policy of the Commonwealth Bank. On some occasions he was not asked to express his opinions about various proposals. Even if he is chairman of the board, his. views may be swamped by the opinions of the other directors. The statement is made very loosely that a “ subject of disagreement between the Government and the Bank Board shall be referred to Parliament “, which may resolve the dispute. Of course, that is utter nonsense. The Treasurer and the Government are the authorities who should decide the economic policy of the country, not private individuals who are dragged in from outside industry. Many of them may be excellent citizens personally, and I do not make any suggestion of dishonesty in reference to them.
Some of them, at least were misguided, and did not know anything about the job that they were appointed to do. I do not desire to labour that point. I merely say that the Labour parity will oppose any attempt to re-appoint the kind of board that I have described, and when I say “ oppose “, I mean “ oppose “. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the Prime Minister and the House for their courtesy in allowing me to continue my remarks. The time that is allotted to me to review the many matters in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is rather short. His Excellency also stated -
My advisors believe there is a pressing need not only for reducing the burden of taxation but also for simplification of the various taxing’ acts, and an expert committee has been appointed to examine the report upon the issues involved.
The views that are expressed by financial editors unci by some politicians about the simplification of taxation are- an unfailing source of amusement to me. People in nearly every country have been endeavouring for a long time to simplify taxation, but none of them have succeeded in doing so. The Bruce-Page Government appointed a royal commission, of which Mr. Justice Ferguson was chairman, and an eminent accountant, Mr. E. V. Nixon, was a member, to examine and report upon the taxation system in Australia, but the majority of their recommendations did not produce simplification. I know some of the members of the expert committee that has been appointed to examine and report upon the simplification of the various taxing acts. At this point, I desire to make it perfectly clear that I have the highest regard for those gentlemen personally, and for their professional ability. Mr. Gunn, one of the members of the expert committee, has written a book on taxation and I think that he used the nom-de- plume, Ned Kelly. He has set out to show how the payment of taxes has been or can be evaded in this country, and the information that he gives should be most useful. Mr. Gunn is a very fine man. Many of us have worked with Mr. Eric Spooner, a former member of this House, and we know his ability. I know Mr. Turner very well, particularly in his official capacity. Mr. Hannan is undoubtedly most capable. But almost without exception, the members of the expert committee are accountants who are concerned with the interests of big business. I emphasize that point. I state again that all of them are very able men, and I am not making the slightest personal reflection upon any of them, but I point out that four of the six experts are interested in big business. Another member of the committee is the “Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales, Mr. Hughes. His qualifications are high, and I have had an opportunity to appreciate his ability. But, largely, the members of the expert committee are the representatives of vested interests in this country, and, therefore, one would naturally look with some suspicion on any findings that they might make on taxation. Again, I state clearly that I do not make any suggestion of dishonesty against any of those gentlemen. Years ago, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer had an opportunity to simplify taxation. I expect they will claim that the Labour Government, in the course of eight years’ administration, succeeded in complicating the taxation law.
– The advisory council on taxation existed when the right honorable gentleman was in office.
– I am not objecting to the advisory council on taxation. I have paid- a tribute to the professional ability of the members of that body. I have only stated that they are largely representatives of big business.
When I refer to child endowment, 1 realize that I may easily trespass on sacred ground. The Labour party will not oppose the Government’s legislation to provide endowment of 5s. a week for the first or only child under sixteen years of age in every family. However, there is one matter that I desire to make perfectly clear. I am not able to go deeply into this subject, because it may be sub judice. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister announced that if the Liberal party were returned to office, it would provide endowment of 5s. a week for the first or only child under sixteen years of age. I understand that throughout the Commonwealth there are between 400,000 and 450,000 families with only one child, and approximately 600,000 families with more than one child. After the right honorable gentleman had made that announcement, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration adjourned the hearing of the basic wage case, and, therefore, the only inference that I could draw was that the court at least proposed to take into account the endowment of 5s. a week for the first child under sixteen years of age, when determining the basic wage. If that is so, every adult worker under federal awards, every worker under State awards which adopt federal awards, as has been done in New South Wales and elsewhere, and all females working on a percentage of the male rate will receive a lower basic wage than they would get if endowment were not paid in respect of the first child. Of course, I cannot anticipate the decision of the Arbitration Court, but I emphasize that the court adjourned immediately the Prime Minister made his announcement. The implication is that the court proposes to take that payment into account when it determines the basic wage. I do not say that the basic wage will be lower ; the court may decide to raise it. All I am saying is that it should be understood clearly that it will mean, in my opinion, a lesser basic wage for all those workers whom I have mentioned.
His Excellency has forecast “ an effective programme in relation to health “. Apparently the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has talked about the matter, but, according to press reports, he has not talked to the right people. He has announced his intention to confer with State Ministers for Health, but when I saw two of them a few days ago, they had not, at that stage, been in consultation with the right honorable gentleman. The Prime Minister has said that the matter has never been considered by Cabinet; yet all sorts of proposals are supposed to be floating around amongst chemists and doctors.
– I did not say that this matter had not been discussed in Cabinet. I said that no scheme had been formulated by Cabinet, but Cabinet had authorized the holding of exploratory discussions.
– I accept the right honorable gentleman’s explanation, but I do not think that his statement appeared in. the press in that form.
– That is exactly as it appeared in the newspapers.
– Never in my life have I seen such a muddle about anything. The only clear thing that has emerged up to the moment is that a member of a union has capitulated to its executive. It is a strange thing to make a member of a union the judge of what that union ought to do in regard to the public health of this country. I hope the right honorable the Prime Minister will not take exception to my referring to the British Medical Association as a union.
– To what union is the right honorable gentleman referring?
– To the British Medical Association.
– I thought the right honorable gentleman was talking about the thirteen conciliation commissioners.
– I am sorry to have offended the susceptibilities of the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) by referring to the British Medical Association as a union.
– It is a union.
– It is most extraordinary to have all these proposals floating around the country, without any official Government pronouncement. All that I can see is complete muddle. When we do see something definite we shall certainly have something to say about it, and we shall seek to preserve the provisions we now have in the legislation of this country, or to achieve something more than capitulation to the British Medical Association.
. - In a roneographed document that was circulated for the information of honorable members on both sides of the House, which purported to give the names and addresses, as well as other particulars of members of this House, I was interested to see myself described as a new member. I believe that to be true, because I have been out of this Parliament for the last ten years almost to the day.
You were good enough to mention lately, Mr. Speaker, particularly for the benefit of completely new members of the House, the privilege that they might be expected to enjoy in their maiden speeches. That leaves me in somewhat of a quandary as to whether I should regard myself as a new member, or as a new old member. I expect that, a3 I go along, I shall discover to what degree the traditional benevolence of the House is to be extended to me.
If I may regard myself as a not completely new member, perhaps I may be allowed, with great respect, to give my very hearty congratulations to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), who moved and. seconded the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. In the 1930’s I heard a number of speeches of that sort and I do not remember any that I, and I think the rest of the House, listened to with greater attention and regard.
Perhaps I may be excused, also, for venturing personally to congratulate my friend, the honorable member who represents the electorate of Corio that I had the privilege of representing for nearly ten years.
I shall not follow the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) into everything that he 3aid because my time, and that of the House, is limited; but there are one or two matters on which I should like to say a few words.
The right honorable gentleman complained that the reference to communism in the Governor-General’s Speech was not sufficiently specific. It seems to me to be very clear-cut, specific and far-reaching. It says -
My advisors intend taking strong measures to protect the community against the activities of subversive organizations and individuals, and in particular they have in mind the Communist party and its members. A bill will be introduced early in the Parliament to deal with this matter.
I consider that, in four lines, His Excellency could not have dealt more specifically and more committedly with a matter of that sort. After all, the Governor-General’s Speech is not a second-reading speech on all the manifold matters with which it deals. It must deal briefly and succinctly with matters which the Government intends to. deal with in greater detail. I expect that legislation dealing with communism will be before the House in a relatively short time, and I believe that any fear that we may not be sufficiently strong.minded in our views on communism will be laid at rest when honorable members see what it contains.
The right honorable gentleman quoted a Chinese proverb which I have noted for future use and of which I had not previously been aware : “ Soup is never taken as hot as it is cooked”. The inference was that during the general election campaign the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and honorable members who Support him spoke emphatically on the Communist problem but that the action we are about to take will not be nearly so strong. I think that that will be answered when honorable members see the bill on this subject which will come down to this House very soon. I do not think they will be able to complain that it is lukewarm. I shall try to match the right honorable gentleman’s proverb with another which I believe is Brazilian. It is this : “ You can’t whistle and suck an orange at the same time “. In the last month or two, we have been trying, as a Cabinet, to deal rapidly and effectively with a great many subjects, of which communism is one. While sucking those oranges we have not, perhaps, been, able to whistle sufficiently to satisfy the Leader’ of the Opposition.
The right honorable gentleman claimed that communism could be cured only by improving economic conditions. I venture to disagree with him. I believe that to be true in the overcrowded countries of the old world where there are distress, poverty and slums on a grand scale; but I should like the right honorable gentleman to say whether he considers that the unexampled growth of communism in Australia in the last four or five years has been due to poor economic conditions in this country. I do not believe that it has been. Nobody would claim that economic conditions in Australia are perfect; but I would not believe any one who said that the tremendous growth of communism during the right honorable gentleman’s period of administration had been caused by distress in the community..
– On the contrary, there has been a sharp decline in the membership of the Communist party.
– The growth of communism cannot be gauged by the membership of the Communist party.
I endeavoured to follow what the right honorable gentleman said. about the depreciation of the fi and putting more value back into the fi. It seems to me that he became a little confused; at any rate, I became confused while listening to him as between putting more value into or appreciating the value of the Australian £1 within Australia, and the appreciation of the rate of exchange of the Australian £1 vis-a-vis the £1 sterling. The appreciation of the £1 within Australia, as we have heard from the Prime Minister, is to be one of the principal matters towards which the Government will direct its attention. So far a3 I know, there has been no proposition in regard to appreciation of the exchange rate of the Australian £3 in relation to the £1 sterling.
The right honorable gentleman cited a speech in which, according to the newspaper report of it, Sir Walter MassyGreene opposed any appreciation of the Australian £1. I read the report of that speech. I know of nobody on the Government side of the House or elsewhere who has raised this subject so positively as to give the right honorable gentleman ground for saying what he said, in an apparent attempt to pin on our side some desire to alter the relationship of the Australian £1 with -the £1 sterling.
All I shall say about the proposal to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act is that the right honorable gentleman will get the shock of his life when the bill is brought down in a relatively short space of time.
The right honorable gentleman went on to say that one cannot simplify taxation. When I was Treasurer of the Commonwealth, in the middle 1930’s, a commission investigated the subject and I believe that we simplified the taxation law to a very considerable degree. Nearly fifteen years have since elapsed. Everybody knows that an Income Tax Assessment Act becomes out of date fairly rapidly. People find loopholes in it and ways of circumventing it. Also, the economy of the community becomes more complicated. Further provisions have to be cobbled into the existing act and, after ten years or, at the most, fifteen years, it is more complicated than it had been hitherto. I think it has been the experience of every government that in the course of every ten, fifteen or twenty years the Income Tax Assessment Act has to he overhauled and simplified. “We have done it twice before and now we are to do it a third time. I have no doubt that we shall simplify the act and that it will last for a further ten years, when the job will have to be done again, by, I expect, a future Liberal party and Australian Country party government.
I believe that members of the Opposition are in some disagreement among themselves in the matter of child endowment for the first child. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) dealt with this matter in his usual very forceful and conclusive way in 1941, when child endowment was first introduced by the Menzies Government. He went to great lengths then to explain most lucidly that the Arbitration Court no longer fixed the basic wage by reference to the needs of the basic wage worker and his family, but considered the national income and what industry could afford to pay.
Within the limitations of the time at my disposal, I propose to deal with a number of matters mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech with which I am either currently or prospectively concerned in my ministerial capacity. I need not remind honorable members that the circumstances of Australia have changed tremendously during the last ten years. Without discussing the broad facts, which are familiar to all of us, it is clear that Australia’s circumstances to-day demand that we achieve a large, rapid, and annually consistent increase of our population. We all know very well the reason for that. In turn, this necessity makes it essential for us to effect a similar large, rapid and consistent acceleration of the rate at which we expose, develop and use the nation’s natural resources and exploit our industries. We must employ our resources to the full if we are to accommodate adequately and provide good means of livelihood for the annually increasing number of citizens for which we are planning. As honorable members know, the Government is planning for an annual increase of the population by about 200,000 individuals by means of immigration. That figure, together with the natural annual increase of nearly 50,000, envisages an expansion of the population by 250,000 souls each year. In other words, we shall attempt to double our population within one generation. The task of welcoming and providing opportunities for earning good livings for all of those new citizens is tremendous and I have no doubt that it will strain our resources to the utmost. In fact, I am sure that we cannot achieve the programme entirely off our own bat and from our own resources. We must have the active assistance of the only two countries that can help us in this work - our Mother Country, Great Britain, and our great friendly neighbour, the United States of America.
The magnitude of the problem that confronts us can be gauged from one simple figure. Our officers calculate that, in order to provide for the increase of 250,000 souls annually that we contemplate, we must have a rate of public and private investment in Australia of approximately £200,000,000 annually, a rate that we have never achieved yet or even begun to achieve. That would be a vast amount of money for any country, and particularly for one that is still in the developmental stage, to find from its own resources. Indeed, I do not believe for a moment that we could find so much money in Australia. But we need something more than money and men; we also need the “ know-how “ of the experts in the older countries and of many of the world-wide companies, which can bring to the aid of our economy the most modern developments in equipment and industrial practice. Help of that sort can be obtained in any important measure only from Great Britain and the United States of America. The figure of £200,000,000 annually that I have mentioned includes the money that must be expended to provide houses, and the water, gas, electricity, sewerage, roads and other public services that will be demanded by the increasing population, together with schools and public buildings of every sort. In addition, we shall need great investments in both primary and secondary industries, mining and other activities. For investments of that character, we can look only to Great Britain and the United States of America, and, in order to obtain from them the rate of investment required to supplement our own savings, we must gain, if we do not already command it, and maintain the confidence of the people of those two countries. We must imbue them with confidence in our aims and faith in the future of Australia. If we have their confidence, and there is some evidence that we have already gained it, I believe that we shall be able to secure the increasing investment that we envisage in all forms of industry.
I have spoken of an immigration policy that provides for an influx of 200,000 people from overseas each year. But numbers are not of sole importance in this programme. I believe that a proper distribution of the new Australians who come to this country is also of the utmost importance. The mere expansion of our already very largely swollen capital cities will not provide security for Australia. I am always very much concerned, when I remind myself of the simple fact that at present 4,000,000 people, precisely 50 per cent, of Australia’s population, live and work within 100 miles of Sydney and Melbourne. That means that 50 per cent, of the population lives within considerably less than 1 per cent, of Australia’s land area, a most unhealthy situation. The fact is not a secret that can be confined to this House. It is widely known throughout the world that we are not occupying this continent anything like as effectively and well as we ought to occupy it. Therefore, a most important part of our task is not only to bring 200,000 immigrants from overseas each year hut also to ensure that they shall be settled in their work in places very largely outside the great capital cities.
– How can that be done without conscripting labour?
– That will develop during the life of this Government. The honorable member need have no fear about conscription. This Government will not introduce conscription of labour in Australia.
From the developmental point of view, a great deal of our task will clearly consist of what may be called a decentraliza tion project under which we must provide reasonable basic amenities in areas where such amenities do not now exist. “ The drift from the country to the cities “ has become a truism on the lips of everybody, and I believe that we all know the causes of that drift. In the minds of a very large number of people, life is not nearly so agreeable in the country as it is in the great capital cities. That is a situation that we hope to rectify, in a very great measure at any rate. Therefore, the Government proposes to constitute a Ministry of National Development as soon as possible. Although the tasks that will he given to that department have not yet been precisely defined, it can be safely assumed that, either through it or otherwise, the Government will provide itself with a means of selectively stimulating every branch of the Australian economy, by which I mean primary production, secondary production, mining, power generation, water supply, coal production, and, last but not least, home construction. It is too early for me to be able to say yet whether all of those matters will be dealt with by the Department of National Development. However, it may reasonably be assumed that a great many, if not all, of them will be the concern of the new department. One can truthfully say that this Government is developmentally minded, and will pursue the projects that I have mentioned with all of the energy at its command and support them with a very considerable expenditure of loan money, as has been announced.
It is appropriate that I should deal briefly with the housing problem at this stage. I am sure that my friends of the Opposition are well aware of the urgency and importance of that problem. Without using many figures, I shall state the nature of the problem very briefly. During the last financial year, 52,000 dwelling houses were completed in Australia. The officers of my department estimate that, with immigration and the natural increase of population, we shall need in 1951, not 52,000, but 90,000 houses. The estimate provides only for current demand, without making any inroads upon sub-standard housing in the slums of the capital cities and without speaking of other necessary building apart from housing. The Government will make every effort possible to stimulate the nation’s basic industries, upon which, when we get down to bedrock, housing and all other developmental undertakings rely. Housing is dependent upon the supply of bricks, corrugated iron, cement and many other things that stem in the first place from coal, and, until we increase coal production by many millions of tons annually, we shall not be able to carry out one-half of the plans that we have in mind. That fact applies with particular force perhaps in respect of housing. Therefore, in order to fill the gap between current requirements and local construction until our basic industries have been sufficiently stimulated, this Government, in conjunction with the governments of all States, is planning for the importation of houses on whatever scale it can afford.
– Does the honorable gentleman visualize a better standard of pre-fabricated home than is being erected in Great Britain now?
– I do not know what types of pre-fabricated house are being made in Great Britain, but I have been assured by my officers that Australia can get prefabricated, or precut, houses that will be indistinguishable in quality from the houses that are built in Australia.
At any rate, as a first measure towards trying to obtain more information about the firms and the countries that are specializing in the manufacture of prefabricated houses, this Government, in conjunction with the State governments, will send to the other side of the world within the next week or two ‘a small factfinding mission led by a prominent Australian business man. The other members of the mission will be three senior officers of the housing divisions of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria respectively. That will be simply a fact-finding mission. It will not place orders for houses, but will find out about the firms that can provide us with the very large number of houses that we shall have to import at least during the next two or three years. I shall not cite actual figures at the moment. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has asked whether such houses will be of satisfactory quality. I have ascertained that there is abroad in Australia an idea that a prefabricated or precut house is a temporary affair and in some way inferior to a house built in the ordinary way. I do not pretend to have personal knowledge of the standard of such houses, not having been in office sufficiently long to have acquainted myself with the facts, but officers of my department, in whom I have confidence, have assured me that that idea is wrong. This mission is being sent abroad because we need to have accurate and complete knowledge of overseas firms. We must know more than merely the quality of their product. All the State governments recognize that the mission i3 essential. They are principally concerned in the despatch of the mission and all of them are agreeable to its going. I do not propose to use the word “prefabricated” any more, but shall use the word “ imported “, because they are imported houses. The word “ prefabricated “ has developed a connotation of inferiority which I am advised is not a fact. It is our duty to establish in the public mind that they are not inferior, and to ensure that they shall not be.
– Why not send a trade union representative ?
– I discussed that suggestion with Mr. Broadby and Mr. Monk. I explained to them that if there had been any advantage in asking a trade unionist to accompany the mission I should have been the first to propose such a course. I further explained that this is intended to be a fact-finding mission of housing experts who have been in the business of the administration of housing for many years. I think that my explanation allayed their fears and assured them that the actual design of the houses was not in question. That is a matter for tha determination of the State governments who order them. The Australian Government will buy only a relatively small number of houses overseas, compared with the tens of thousands that the State governments may order. In this matter the State governments have complete autonomy and authority.
– They must be interested in costs.
– Yes, very greatly; we all are interested in costs.,
– Has any indication been given of what these houses are likely to cost?
– I have my own ideas, which I have formulated from the papers I have read. That is one of the main things, that this mission will investigate.
– They will cost at least £2,000 each.
– The honorable gentleman says that with great authority. I shall be astonished and disappointed if that ultimately proves to be the cost, although I am not denying that it may be the cost to-day. The importation of houses from overseas is not a novelty. Victoria has already placed orders for over £2,000,000 worth of imported houses for use by officers of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission and by railway employees in that State.
– What did each unit cost?
– I do not know what they cost. In general, it can be said that the cost of imported houses before this mission commences its work will not be more than a couple of hundred pounds greater than the cost of an equivalent Australian house.
– Could not information be obtained from the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent-Hughes) and the State officers who accompanied him abroad?
– We now have to investigate a much wider field than was investigated previously. We are taking every ad vantage of the information secured as the result of “ Operation Snail “. The matter of importing houses is not confined to dwellings. Victoria has ordered the importation of about £300,000 worth of school buildings, and Tasmania is beginning to place similar orders. All States except, possibly, South Australia, are calling tenders for a total of many thousands of houses.
– We shall finish up as a country of gerry-built houses.
– If that happens, we shall have failed in our task. I speak now of a subject that is intimately bound up with the matter of development in
Australia, because developmental projects are being discussed almost every day. That is the subject of dollars, which was raised by the Loader of the Opposition. The problem of dollars is, figuratively speaking, on the breakfast table of every Cabinet Minister, and it shows signs of being there for some considerable time. This Government will not lie down under the dollar problem. If we are going to say that it is insoluble, then the development of Australia will be greatly retarded. Much heavy developmental equipment must be brought to Australia if we are to develop the country sufficiently fast to enable us to hold it. I do not admit that, from the developmental point of view, the problem is by any means insoluble. On behalf of the Australian Government, I was able a month ago to make an arrangement with a certain firm for the importation of from 1,250,000 to 1,500,000 dollars worth of the heaviest tractors in the world, without any exchange of dollars. I am not convinced that an arrangement of that type cannot be multiplied many times. I shall not take up the time of the House by explaining the details of that transaction.
– Where was the bill for the tractors paid, in London or in America ?
– It was paid in Australia in Australian pounds, and that was the end of the transaction. There was no dollar obligation at all. We were able to conclude that transaction quickly by reason of the fortunate concatenation of a number of circumstances. The whole matter was finished in a week. I do not wish to be questioned on the details of it at this stage, but I am not without hope that in respect of our developmental equipment requirements we shall be able to get over the dollar hurdle. In this connexion I do not refer to consumer goods which must take their chance in the ordinary dollar pool. Extension of time granted.’] I am obliged for the tolerance of the House.
I look forward with the greatest enthusiasm to this task of development. All members of the Government, including myself, are facing the tremendous task of development in Australia with both energy and enthusiasm. We have no illusions about the difficulties that will arise. A tremendous task lies ahead and unless we succeed to a reasonably high degree the possibility of Australia remaining an independent British country indefinitely will be limited. This matter has therefore been placed high on the Government’s programme. I welcome the absence of party politics from it. A programme of national development must necessarily be of such a nature as to be above such considerations. The only feature that could justifiably come within the ambit of criticism on party political lines is the detail of how the programme should be carried out. I am convinced that probably no section of the community, with the possible exception of the Communist party, is apposed to the proposed programme. Our objective is to make this country year by year a more important unit among the Englishspeaking countries of the world.
Sitting suspended from b.55 to 8 p.m.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I desire to call the attention of the House to Standing Order 52, which was disregarded this afternoon by honorable members on the front Government benches, and those on the front Opposition benches, as well as by other honorable members.
.- There are four matters of very real concern to the people of Australia, to which this Parliament must address itself immediately. They are of the most vital importance. They are, first, the cost of living; second, housing; third, social services; and, fourth, full employment. It is not too much to say that the cost of living is rising alarmingly, and that it has risen very greatly since this new Government took office. In response to that observation I hear the vacant laughter of fools. If honorable members opposite had to live, as do the working women and working men of this country, on something near the basic wage they would know that what I say is true. The cost of living has risen 10 per cent, at least since this Government assumed office. Not only has the Government failed to put more value into the ?1; it has actually allowed more value to be drained out of the ?1. That remark applies to the ?1 the people earn as well as the ?1 they have saved. There are, apparently, a few shell-backed tories who have not yet realized that eggs are costing at least 3?., and sometimes 3s. 6d. a dozen ; that the price of lamb chops is 2s. per lb., or about 6d. each; and that the price of pork is 3s. per lb. How anybody can be expected to live under those conditions is one of the mysteries that will have to be solved, and it might be solved through industrial disturbances in this country very soon.
You know something about the Scriptures, Mr. Speaker. At least, you have created the impression that you do. Therefore, you must know that somewhere in the Scriptures there is a statement to the effect that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God. That does not hold out much hope for honorable members on your right. However, if it is almost impossible for a rich man to get into Heaven, it is certain that, since the Menzies Government came into power, in Australia, it is almost impossible for a poor man to remain on earth - and the position is getting worse.
– What is the honorable member doing here, then?
– I shall deal presently with the activities of the new Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), with his new-found friend, the Japanese collaborationist, Dr. Soekarno. The new Government that occupies the treasury bench, the MenziesFadden caretaker Government, came into power by promising the people that it would put value back into the ?1. I have before me one of its propaganda sheets, paid for by the banks, of course. You do not attend party meetings, Mr. Speaker, but you are probably cognizant of that fact. “ This is what we offer you “, say the forces of reaction. “ Lower prices . . . ?l’s worth for every ?1 you spend “. The Government has not put any value back into the ?1, and it is not concerned with doing so. The Government is here to serve the interests of wealthy classes, of whom Ministers are the political stooges. The other day, Mr. Aneurin Bevan said of Mr. Churchill, as I now say of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), “He is not a leader, he is a decoy “. He misleads the people. He uses his ability to pretend that he is something he is not.
The people of this country expect their money to buy full value in goods. If they do not get full value for their £1, if they see their children denied those things which are essential to their well-being, if they have to go on paying 5d. for a peach and 8d. for an apple, if they have to go on paying exorbitant prices for everything they need, they will raise their voices in protest. We on this side of the House will lead their protest in this place, on the street-corners and in public places, wherever demands are made for better conditions, or for something equivalent to the conditions which obtained under the last Government. We should be failing in our duty as Australian democrats if we did not lead the people, and galvanize opinion in such a way that ultimately it will destroy this Government, and destroy it sooner than many expect. This new Government did not look too happy yesterday when Ministers for the first time occupied the front bench. The Minister for External Affairs not only wore a funereal look; he also dressed himself up like an undertaker.
– Yes, but the burial took place on the 10th December.
– The final burial will take place a little later. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) can be depended upon to kill anything. He killed a former Menzies Government by intrigue when its leader was away in England, and he then killed his own government by incompetence within 40 days of its taking office. He should be the last one to talk about funerals or deaths. Members of the Government cannot run away from the fact that they promised the community that they would put value back into the £1. I have here a copy of the newspaper published by my friend, Keith Murdoch, on the 11th November, the date Ned Kelly was hanged.
– The honorable member ought to remember that.
– Yes, and I think the Minister for External Affairs will share his fate. In this so-called organ of opinion we were told on the 11th W last that the policy launched by the then Leader of the Opposition, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), was a “ cut-living-costs policy”. Actually, this Government has cut no costs. It only fooled the people when it said that it would do so. It may be that devaluation has accounted for some of the increased cost of living, but it is much more likely that the rapacity and greed of the wealthy classes are now finding expression in a more helpful atmosphere than previously existed, and that those classes are now taking it out of the people.
The right honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Casey) has made his re-appearance in this House. We do not know whether he is a new Australian or an old Australian, but we do know that he walked out on Australia on three occasions, and it will not be long before he is voted out of the Parliament for failing to give effect to what he said about his affection and concern for the people of this country. I think it was the right honorable gentleman who made some remarks about the concern he had for the ordinary people. He said that they were in the minds and the hearts of the new Government every day.
– I am quite capable of saying that.
– I know that the right honorable gentleman is quite capable of saying anything, and he certainly said that. We are very glad to see him back. I suppose the Indian people are, too. He was a very big noise in India. They used to give him a salute of seventeen guns.
– The honorable member only needs one.
– So long as I receive the salutes of the democracy of this country I do not want any from the big guns. The right honorable member for La Trobe is back in this country. But he did big things when he was in India. He presided over two famines. He saw big things happen. He saw a couple of million Indians die of starvation while he was Governor of Bengal, and now he pretends he is a leader of the Australian democracy. He told us he was interested in housing. He could not get too many huts for tie natives of Bengal when he was there, and he is not going to get too many houses for the people of this country.
– What complete rubbish the honorable member is talking.
– The right honorable gentleman can have his say later. But if I did talk rubbish I would be talking the stuff that suited his mind. The right honorable member talked a lot on what the Government proposed to do about housing. As if the last Government had done nothing about housing! We built 40,000 homes in 1947, 50,000 in 1948 and 54,000 in 1949. The present Government will build nothing like that total because the workers of this country do not trust it. As an honorable member has just interjected, it will bc something to its credit if it does. But the age of miracles is nearly past. Certainly the workers of Australia are not going to be fooled by the flapdoodle and nonsense that has been talked about co-operation between the workers and the employers of this country^ The workers of Australia will give this new Government as much co-operation as the British Medical Association gave the Chifley Government. Why do the workers distrust this Government? We do not need to tell them to distrust it. They know that the right honorable member for La Trobe was Treasurer of the Australian Government during the economic depression and asked the workers to live oil starvation rates of pay. He told them to pull their belts in.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I am telling this to the democracy of Australia through these microphones to-night. The workers of Port Kembla are listening and they will listen further.
– Order ! I point out to the honorable gentleman that the only person to be addressed here is myself. He is not addressing the people at Port Kembla or anywhere else.
– I am addressing you, sir; but indirectly I am addressing a much wider audience which I am anxious should hear my remarks on these matters as well as you. This Government which talks about the purchasing power of the community and the cost of living has put nothing in the Governor-General’s
Speech that would indicate that the Government intends to do anything whatsoever about those matters. I have read the advertisements that our friends opposite have published. But what do I read in the Governor-General’s Speech, which is supposed to be the vehicle which expresses the detailed plans to put the Government’s schemes into effect? I quote the following passage from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech: -
My Government realizes that the increase in the cost of living is accentuating the difficulties with which age and widow pensioners, in particular have to contend.
The Government leaves it at that. Age pensioners can manage as best they can. on the reduced purchasing power of their £1 since the Menzies Government took office. If they cannot manage, that is just too bad for them. There is nothing in Ihe Governor-General’s Speech which gives them the faintest ray of hope that pensions will be increased. But the Speech does say, in relation to the Government, if this will appease them in any way or help them to assuage their hunger or thirst -
It believes . . . that the application of its financial and economic policy will result in improvement in the purchasing power of the currency, so that pensioners, as well as other fixed income groups, will benefit.
If there is no more purchasing power put back into the £1, and if the value of the £1 continues to be drained out of it, it is just too bad for the pensioners of this country, who now constitute a very large section of the Australian people and are entitled to consideration before lots of other sections of the people. We gave them an increase of 5s. in the preliminary budget that we introduced last year. If the cost of living continues to rise they are entitled to much more consideration than we were able ‘to give them at that time.
If this Government can find money to spend in South-East Asia and help to float a loan for £S,000,000 - of course, the Minister may have been misreported again, as twice before, to-day, he has claimed to have been misreported - I repeat, if it can find money for the natives of South-East Asia and other places it can find money for nativeborn Australians who are past the age when they are of any further use to those who own the means of production, distribution and exchange. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech stated -
My Government views with grave concern the increase whichhas been taking place in recent years in the cost of living. It is realized that the solution of this problem is not easy. . . .
That is what the Government says in the Governor-General’s Speech. In the advertisement to which I have referred the parties which constitute this Government said -
This is what we offer you. . . .
Lower prices . . . A £’s worth for every £ yon spend.
The Government has not given the people lower prices, and now it hopes that a few soothing words will help them in their present difficulties. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech also said -
An intensive review is at present being made by my Government of the causes of present price trends with a view to determining the most effective measures which can be taken to remedy the current inflationary situation.
Words, words, words! What consolation are they to people who are suffering from this ever-increasing spiral of inflation which will some day go through the roof, with the result that the Australian people will be faced with mass unemployment? Perhaps the right honorable member for La Trobe, having demonstrated his capacity to preside over famines, is just the man big business wants to preside over the next depression in this country. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech states -
My Government will take all possible steps to stimulate the building of homes…..
What does that mean? It does not mean anything ! If the Government would not take all possible steps it ought to resign immediately. The taking of “ all possible steps “ may mean something and it may mean nothing. The cost of living, the provision of homes, and the expansion of social services are far more important to this country than the foreign policy of this Government or any other policy that it might devise.
In the Governor-General’s Speech the Government said nothing about full employment. In a word, the Government does not believe in full employment. It only says that it believes in it. Like every other defender of capitalism the
Government members want a system where there is always a percentage of the people unemployed, who can be found waiting at the gates for work so that the fellow inside who has a job will have to bend his back a little more and work a little longer to keep it. The Hytten plan ! Professor Hytten sent me a lawyer’s letter during the last election campaign telling me to stop saying the things that I had been saying, but I continued to say them and I have heard no more about it, and doubtless never will.
– Did he prosecute the honorable gentleman?
– He did not. He was not game to do so because what I had said was true. I had a copy of the speech which he had delivered. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to say that they believe in full employment. Where is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) ?
– I am present.
– The honorable gentleman had this to say about full employment -
Full employment and three meals a day could be guaranteed only in gaol or the Soviet Union.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable gentleman claims that he did not make that statement. He must have been misreported, and by the Melbourne Argus at that, for that statement was attributed to him by that journal.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The House is becoming too disorderly altogether. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is able to make his speech without interruption from either side of the House and if he is permitted to do so he will probably make it better, and in less time, too.
– I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I shall take my full time. Like you, sir, perhaps I shall add something to the gaiety of nations. In relation to medicine, about which honorable members opposite have talked so much, nothing has been done. They cannot even get the doctors to agree with them. The
Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has made three or four attempts to reach agreement with the doctors, the chemists and the friendly societies, but all that he has got up to date is a blank page. He has done nothing yet except to say that if one is half dead one will have the choice of 40 odd drugs, and that if one is nearly dead he will throw in a few more. He is not the Minister for Health ; he is the minister for disease. What this country wants is a national health scheme something like the scheme we tried to bring into force with the assistance of the medical profession. I used to hear talk about the watersiders “ bailing up “ on the Dutch in New Guinea. I have not heard yet from the Government side about the doctors “ bailing up “ on this Government. I wager that we shall not hear any more about the Government’s medical scheme during this session of the Parliament. Indeed we may never hear any more about it at all. That reminds me that the Labour Government in Great Britain brought down a very good health scheme which operated very efficiently and gave general satisfaction. A noted English doctor, the Bight Honorable Lord WebbJohnson, K.C.V.O., C.B.E., D.S.O., F.R.C.S., who is the president of the Royal College of Surgeons, recently had something to say about it. He visited Montreal, Canada, a little while back. The newspaper reporters there asked him a lot of questions because they had been concerned about the “ family doctor “ propaganda that had been spread around Canada. They asked him -
What do you think of the socialized medical services in England, my Lord?
Lord Webb- Johnson’s exact words in reply were -
Socialization of medical services is a laudable aim and objective.
These parvenus opposite, none of them lords - though you, Mr. Speaker, may have a hope in that direction, none of them has - will doubtless disagree violently with what the noble lord has said. And that reminds me that to-day in England is a very fateful day for the English people, for to-day is election day. The result of that poll will greatly affect the destinies not only of England and the British Commonwealth, but also of western civilization itself. I hope - and
I think that I can speak for the democracy of this country-
– Not at all. The democracy of this country tossed the honorable gentleman out of office two months ago.
– The great virtue about a democracy is that people have the right to go wrong. In this instance they will repair the wrong that they have done when they realize the mistake they have made. I am prepared to trust democracy even if honorable members opposite are not prepared to do so. I know that the democracy of this country hope3 that the Attlee Government will be returned to continue its splendid work of liquidating monopoly capitalism. May the England of to-morrow be an England of Aneurin Bevan and Herbert Morrison and the England of the little people, and not the England of the Churchills and the Edens. That England - the England of class and caste and privilege - is happily passing into history. We want the people of England to survive, but there can be no hope of England surviving the onrush of European communism except under a Labour government. I trust that what we hope for for the people of England will come true. If it does, things will not be so good for the people who sit opposite to us in this Parliament and who, for the time being, have snatched an electoral victory. Maybe we did too much for too many too soon, to adapt a Churchillian phrase, hut the trouble about this new Government is that it will take too long to do too little, and then only for too few - and they will be a favoured few. We were beaten at the polls and we acknowledge our defeat, but we plan to return to office again. We shall use all our constitutional powers to persuade the people of Australia that their destiny is safer in the hands of a government led by the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley), the greatest Prime Minister this country has ever seen, than it would be in the hands of those who form the present coalition. Nobody believes for one moment that the Treasurer does not still think the same about the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as he used to do. The back stab about which they used to talk is still a very real threat. If you, Mr. Speaker, would allow it, or if the Standing Orders would permit it, the Treasurer could pull his shirt off this very minute and allow the House to see what a perfect specimen of a human dartboard he has for a back.. Yes these people pretend that they are governing this country but their common hatreds are superseded only by their greater hatred of the Labour party. In a little while they will undoubtedly he at one another’s throats again. They seek to give the impression that they believe in democracy, yet wherever their (parties hold power in the State Parliaments they do everything that is undemocratic.
In the State from which you come, Mr. Speaker, there applies the most iniquitous form of electoral distribution which operates anywhere in the British Commonwealth. In the South Australian Parliament, thirteen sitting members representing city electorates represent approximately 260,000 electors, the four most strongly held Labour electorates each containing about 22,000 electors. These thirteen city seats representing approximately 260,000 electors are matched by 26 country seats- representing only approximately 160,000 electors. Is it any wonder that the Liberal Premier of South Australia should send his economists and officials into the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to oppose the granting of any increase of the basic wage at present under consideration and to argue for its reduction ? Is it any wonder that the Liberal governments of South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria should all send representatives to the court to oppose the application for an increase of the basic wage and to argue for the worsening of the conditions of the working classes who, with the working farmers, are the wealth producers of this nation? The workers are entitled to an everincreasing share in the productivity of their labour, but Liberalism everywhere tries to beat them down and deprive them of the things they are entitled to.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is not yet the right honorable member. I have no doubt that he is still anxious to become a member of the
Privy Council, although, if rumours about him are true, he denied that suggestion some years ago. But you know him, Mr. Speaker. One night, in this chamber, you moved a vote of no confidence in him as Minister . for the Army. I failed you on that occasion. If you would like to repeat that performance within the next few weeks I will not let you down a second time. At any rate, a t that time the honorable member for Warringah, in your opinion, was not a satisfactory Minister for the Army. He is not a satisfactory Minister for External Affairs.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– I know him, and I know the Treasurer, too.
– And I know the honorable member for Melbourne.
– I know that .the Treasurer was the subject of a royal commission of inquiry.
– And I know that the honorable member for Melbourne ran away from a law suit.
– Order ! There is no need for this crossfire.
– In any event, I read what a judge, who was a royal commission, said about the Treasurer. I was never the subject of a royal commission of inquiry. Let the right honorable gentleman laugh that one off. I read in a publication recently that the Indo.nesian rebel leader, Dr. Soekarno, in 1927, as an acknowledged Communist, trained in Moscow, led a nationalist revolt in Java which resulted in bloodshed, that he fled to Japan and was later decorated by the Japanese Emperor for services he rendered, and that on the fall of Java he became the leader for Japan of a puppet government in Indonesia. The Minister for External Affairs will not dispute that statement, because I have quoted those facts from a publication issued by the New South Wales branch of the Liberal party of Australia, from 30 A.shstreet, Sydney. Yet, this is the honorable gentleman who went to see this new president, whose republic he recognized, and with whom he discussed a number of things. Of course, the honorable gentleman, in my view, had no right to go to Java at all, because he was then going to Colombo; but after going there and then going on to Colombo he eventually found out what he had to talk about. He left this country without an idea, without even a clue to an idea of what he was to talk about. A man named Francis Stuart, of the Department of External Affairs, wrote his brief and the Minister is used to reading briefs. Out of it all came the “ Spender plan “. Following the publication of that plan, the “ Baron of Bardia “ became the “ Colossus of Colombo “. You know, Mr. Speaker, that the only things that are colossal about him are his nerve and the thickness of his hide. The people with whom the Minister discussed many affairs in Dja.lr.arta claim Dutch New Guinea for themselves. According to the Melbourne Sun of the 17th January, Dr. Soekarno said that Dutch New Guinea is part of the Indonesian fatherland; and several other speakers said the same thing later. Even Dr. Usman, who is in Canberra, said, “Dutch New Guinea belongs to us “, meaning to the Indonesians. The Indonesians have no claim whatsoever to Dutch New Guinea whether on ethnical, historical or any other grounds. They have no more claim to Dutch New Guinea than they have to Siam, Colombo, or anywhere else. Any government that did not immediately indicate to the Javanese that if they intend to walk into Dutch New Guinea we shall walk in there before them, does not deserve to last five minutes. The Minister made no claim for that territory for the Dutch. The Government should at least ask the Dutch, if they cannot hold Dutch New Guinea, to surrender their sovereignty of the territory to the United Nations and then accept a trusteeship; and if the Dutch wanted to share the trusteeship with this country we should accept it. [Extension of time granted.] We can no more let the Indonesians into Dutch New Guinea than we can let them into Darwin, and we can no more trust an Indonesia that we have recognized under Soekarno than we could trust an Indonesia that was lead by the same Soekarno when he was a Japanese puppet premier. If we allow the Indonesians into Dutch New Guinea there will be no hope of our holding the northern portion of Australia and the fate of this country would then be sealed and certain.
I hope that when the promised statement on foreign affairs is presented to the House it will be more informative and have more blood in it than the GovernorGeneral’s .Speech contains. I hope that we shall be able to see from it what we are going to do with regard to Australia’s responsibilities overseas and that they will not be any greater than we are prepared to assume in the interests of our own people. I hope that when we are- told what the Government proposes to do with regard to the whole perimeter of Australia there will not be any attempt to ap pease” certain, people who are living near uson the ground that they will be commonallies with us against communism. I donot think that the Asiatics care one iota about communism. They are not half as; much concerned about communism as we: think they should be. And the Asiatics are not worried about Japan either. I think that they feel the Japanese did a good job in the last Avar when they lowered the prestige of the white man. I do not believe that we can cooperate with such people in any matter concerning the safety of this country. The only way to ensure our safety is to make certain that our relationships with the British Government and the American Government are sound. We shall not do any good, by doing as some honorable members opposite are doing, abusing the British Government because it has no dollars for petrol for us when it has no dollars for food for its own people. I hope that the statement to be presented to the House on the Government’s policy on foreign affairs will be much better than the story that has been told to date. I shall finish with a quotation from Sir Richard Acland, a member of the British Parliament, who recently published a book entitled Nothing left to Believe. His views epitomise my views in regard to what is happening in Western civilization. He says -
It seems to me, that we are living in one of the great historical crises thrown up by the recurrent fact that the “ solution “ to the problem of yesterday turns itself into, or creates from out of itself, the problem and challenge which we have to meet to-day.
We are living in the dead end of the age ot individualism. Individualism, for all its bright achievements, did not fulfil, and never could have fulfilled, the over-optimistic promised which it held out to mankind; on the contrary, it has created paradoxes, tensions, unsatisfied aspirations, inequalities and titanic world forces against which some kind of revolt has been, and is, inevitable. The outward form of this situation is the Communist challenge and the East-west tension -which is tearing at the social life of all mankind.
Above all, we in this country must not adopt the device of being satisfied to lose the last war in order that we might win the next one.
.- We have listened to a typical speech from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), and I sincerely hope that new members of the House will not conclude that it is representative of the standard of debate in. this chamber. We older members are accustomed to such speeches from him, because we have been here for a long time, and we have heard the same speech over and over again. Apparently the honorable member thinks that this Parliament is a place for buffoonery. It is about time that he realized that the National Parliament is a place for deliberative debate, in which matters may be dealt with as they are presented, not by loud-mouthed interjections, but by intelligent and constructive thought in order to assist in the- solution of the problems of the country. This afternoon, the Prime Minister drooled along about nothing - . -
– Does not the Minister mean the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) ?
– I realize that I have made a mistake. I said “Prime Minister “ when I meant the ex-Prime Minister. Victories are not won by buffoonery and by laughing and giggling out of turn. They are to be won, if won at all, on the hustings, but there, the Labour party lost lamentably. It is only a little more than eight weeks since the same kind of drivel was being addressed to the electors from the hustings throughout the Commonwealth, but the people took a tumble to it, and returned the Liberal party and the Australian Country party with a great majority. Despite what the honorable member for Melbourne may think, this Government will remain in office a long time.
– It will be a long time dead.
– Shortly before the last Parliament was dissolved, the honorable member told us that the Labour Government would remain in office for ten, fifteen or even twenty years. Well, the Labour Government is out of office, and I invite the honorable member for Melbourne to have a look at the number of honorable members who comprise the Opposition. The Labour party is out of office because the people saw a few of its members during the election campaign, and realized that they could not be trusted with the government of the country.
– The people should have seen the Minister for External Affairs.
– Order ! There is too much interruption. I allowed some interjections when the honorable member for Melbourne was speaking because I thought that he courted them, but some of them were quite unnecessary.
– The honorable member for Melbourne stated, at the beginning of his speech, that he desired to advance four points. He described them as important points, but he failed to deal with them in anything but the most sketchy and miserable way. He said that he proposed to discuss the cost of living, housing, social services, about which he said nothing, and full employment, to which he did no more than merely refer. He concluded with some observations about the Department of External Affairs, which T administer. At this stage, I do not propose to discuss foreign policy, but I do intend to make a few remarks about the rather stupid observations of the honorable member. In the first place, he said that I went to Indonesia and saw Dr. Soekarno. If I saw Dr. Soekarno as the President of the Indonesian Republic, I saw him as the leader of a nation that the Labour party, when in power, did its utmost to create. I remind the honorable member for Melbourne that the policy of the Labour party provides for active co-operation with, the governments of the Pacific and Sou th-East Asia, to assist in the economic and political development of those areas by means of regional arrangements and by means of technical educational and material assistance.
– What is wrong with that?
– The honorable member for Melbourne said to me, in effect, “ What do you mean by advancing any suggestion for granting aid to those people when some Australians are starving or are otherwise in want? “ He stated that the purchasing power of pensions had declined, and he made some other remarks. He conveniently forgot that the Labour party supported the idea of economic co-operation with the governments of the Pacific and South-East Asia for the purpose of giving them material assistance. When the Labour party was in office, it gave aid to certain students in Asiatic countries. The exMinister for Immigration would do well to remember what he did when he was in office. He advocated at all times that the Dutch should be driven out of New Guinea.
– I did not.
– I recall a debate which took place in this House in February, 1949, when, in the most vitriolic speech which has yet been delivered in this House and which bristled with hatred and rancour, the honorable member for Melbourne attacked the Dutch on the 0’Keefe case. Indeed, he said that the O’Keefe case was a conspiracy on the part of the Dutch against the Indonesians. During the last three years, the honorable member for Melbourne, and the Labour party, did their utmost to bring about the Republic of Indonesia - I am not for the moment criticizing that - but, having brought it about, it does not lie in the honorable member’s mouth to criticize a Minister in the present Government if when away from Australia on an important mission he happens to call upon the President of the Indonesian Republic. On that aspect alone the Government is supported by the previous observations and conduct of the Labour party.
– What (did the Minister say to Dr. Soekarno.?
– My conversations with Dr. Soekarno were conducted in decent language, and not in the kind of language that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward)- usually employs.
I now desire to make a few observations about the case that the honorable member for Melbourne has sought to make. His first observation was that since the present Government took office the cost of living had risen by 10 per cent.
– That is so.
– If the cost of living has risen by 10 per cent., that is because of the ineptitude and bungling of the Labour Government. I shall establish that fact, too. At a period when the whole community urgently required man-power and materials, and when people were seeking homes, the Labour party embarked upon a programme of most extravagant governmental expenditure, and competed for man-power and materials. Year after year, the budget became greater, and, indeed, exceeded the peak figure in wartime. That was because the Labour Government showed no regard whatever for public finance. Competition for materials and labour was brought about by the Labour Government that pretended to represent the workers. During the election campaign, the contentions that the Labour party has advanced in this debate were rejected by the people, and the Chifley Government was defeated.
– It was the boodleiers who put this Government into office.
– That is the kind of nonsense that new members will hear in this House from people who were bred in the old out-worn school of politics and who use phrases such as “ boodleiers “, “ moneybags “ and all that kind of drivel. They have been addressing those words to the people for some years.
– Quite right, too!
– At the last election the people caught up with the Labour party, and the result may be seen in the number of honorable members opposite. The strength of the Labour party will diminish as the years pass, because the truth is that the Labour party has let the people of this country down. The first cause of the increased cost of living is that the Labour Government engaged in extravagant expenditure. Because of governmental expenditure, there was competition for man-power and materials. That is the primary cause of the increased cost of goods and services. The second cause, about which the public is fully aware, is that when the referendum on rents and prices was defeated, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, immediately suspended the payment of subsidies which, until that time, had been keeping the co3t of living down. In a moment of pique, because the people had defeated the Government’s referendum proposals, the then Prime Minister withdrew the subsidies. He decided to make the people pay for their adverse vote. They have had to pay in increased costs of goods and services. Somebody once said that when tides run out we must wait for them to come back. The tide ran far out whilst Labour occupied the treasury bench, but it will return in full flood while we are here.
– The Government may draw a few crabs, too.
– We may, and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will probably he one of them. The next subject with which I wish to deal is devaluation. If the increase of the cost of living in the last few months can ‘be attributed to any one factor, it is the devaluation of our currency by the Labour Government. I shall not discuss the reasons for devaluation at present, but it is fair that the people of this country should know that ,the full force of the effects of devaluation has not yet passed. Devaluation will continue to have a substantial influence on spiralling costs for some time to come.
I come now to the influence on the cost of living of doctrines preached by the Labour party for six or seven years.
Mi1. Calwell. - Eight years.
– Too long- eight years too long. Labour preached the doctrine that the less a man works the more he is entitled to receive for his labour. So to-day, we find that bricklayers, for instance, are laying only a very limited proportion of the number of bricks that they are fairly capable of laying in a day’s work. They either do not realize, or ref use to realize, that their action is increasing the cost of living and making it almost impossible for the ordinary man to own a house of his own. A serious problem now confronting the Government is that of providing houses for the people of this country at reasonable prices. Let me tell honorable members what the Government has already done in the eight weeks during which it has held office. At our first Cabinet meeting, we discussed the wheat industry. The previous Government had shelved its responsibility by refusing to grant to Australian wheat-growers an additional 5d. a bushel to which they were entitled. We decided to make that additional payment in the form of a subsidy so that there would be no consequent increase of the cost of living. We acted similarly with the dairying industry. Therefore, in eight weeks, we have done two positive things that the preceding administration refused to do. This Government is under no misapprehension about the magnitude of the task that lies ahead of it. It has also inherited a legacy from the ineptitude and bungling of the Labour administration. I say to the House, and to the people, that the problems confronting the Government will be resolved within a reasonable time. Obviously they cannot he resolved in a mere three or four months.
The honorable member for ‘Melbourne asked, “ What has the Government done about housing? “ It ill-becomes the honorable member to talk about housing. I remind him that, three years ago, the Premier of New South Wales said that within three years, 90,000 dwellingswould be erected, by the Labour Government in that State. We find to-day, however, that, even counting garages as houses, the total is no more than 40,000. There again a. Labour promise has not been fulfilled.
The reason for the existence in this country of a state of full employment during Labour’s term of office in the Commonwealth sphere was not that Labour had in operation a positive policy of full employment. In fact, Labour had no policy of full employment. It simply said that it had such a policy..
Lt had no positive programme to maintain full employment. Full employment was maintained because the high prices that we were receiving for our exports stimulated our economy. In addition, of course, there was a vast backlog of unsatisfied demands for goods in this country. These factors combined to maintain full employment. This Government has a positive policy on this matter. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) ha3 already indicated that the Government’s rural development plans will contribute substantially to full employment which in future will not depend solely, if at all, on the maintenance of present high prices for Australian products in the world markets, but on expanding markets. We believe, too, as we have said many times, that full employment can be attained within the framework of liberty. It is quite simple to get full employment by enslaving people as Russia does. Full employment can easily be provided in vast slave camps; but we on this side of politics believe - and we have been elected to office because of this belief - that by proper planning and administration, full employment can be achieved without sacrificing the liberty of man. In the short period that we have been a Government we have already indicated what we intend to do in respect of housing and full employment. We have shown that we intend to carry out our promises.
My fourth point relates to social services. 1 could not understand what the honorable member for Melbourne was talking about beyond the fact that he appeared to be concerned about, the poor pensioner, the superannuated public servant, and others of that description. W e have been directing our attention to this problem for quite a long time and will continue to do so with a sympathetic understanding of their problems. I venture to say that had any government intended that the cost of living should be pushed up. it could not have pursued a better policy than that carried out by the Labour party while it held office in this Parliament. Almost everything that the Labour Government did increased the cost of. living. While claiming to represent the working man, Labour destroyed the standard of living of the working man, be cause wages have constantly lagged behind prices. It is quite true that wages have increased, but it is equally true, as the women of this country will testify, that tin; money value of wages has declined constantly. As the honorable member for Melbourne himself has said, it is well that we should remember that a democracy has a right to express itself. The honorable member received a rude shock at the last election, but his party’s failure at the polls can be attributed largely to his own buffoonery, his insatiable greed for power, and his inhuman implementation of the immigration policy of his Government. Every one on this side of the chamber knows well that there has been great bitterness between the honorable member for Melbourne and the right honorable member for Barton, who was Minister for External Affairs in the Labour Government. They have been pursuing two quite different policies and I venture to say that great jealousy still exists between them. They pretend to present a common front, but we who sat with them in the last Parliament know that they would cut each other’s throats to-morrow if they thought they could get away with it. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), a former Speaker of this House, whose gallant tributes to his successor we heard yesterday, sticks with the honorable member for East .Sydney (Mr. Ward), and the honorable member for Melbourne. They have always taken a view opposed to that of the right honorable member for Barton. While apparently joining a common Labour front, they pursue, behind the scenes, their own treachery and manoeuvring. Honorable members can see them sitting together now. It is just as well that the people of the Commonwealth should know these things. In an effort to delude the people, honorable members opposite talk incessantly about their solidarity, but we know that their differences run deep. It is sufficient for me to say that they have been condemned by the people. The people have given to Ibis Government a mandate in wide and definite terms. We shall carry out that mandate no matter what threats may be made against us.
– If we allow it.
– We know that we have not a majority in the Senate, but I have yet to learn that a Labour opposition can have courage. Labour oppositions have never shown courage, and I am confident they never will. Let me give some figures on the cost of living. During the four years 1946 to 1949, when Labour was in office, the actual increase of the cost of living was 23 per cent. In 1949, still under Labour’s administration, the increase was 9 per cent, from the first quarter of the year to the last quarter. Now honorable members opposite claim a 10 per cent, increase in recent months. Ohe has only to know the facts to realize that whatever increase has occurred in the short period during which we have been in office is directly attributable to the policy pursued by the last Government. We have a task before us and I believe the people will give us a chance to discharge that task. If they do, that task will he properly discharged. Value will be put back into the £1 and the people will find that their earnings are really worth something.
– If they buy property from the Minister, they will.
– I am glad to know my personal affairs are of so much interest to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), but they are of consequence only in order to illustrate that this is a country that gives opportunities to people if they like to take them.
I want to draw attention to some of the activities of the ex-Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). He made some observations about foreign affairs and calling upon the Indonesians. There has been a cleavage of views on most things between him and the right honorable member for Barton.
– Absolute nonsense!
Mi-. SPENDER.- It is absolutely true. The honorable member for Melbourne spoke about New Guinea. At the right time a statement will be made, but I say now that this Government is determined to see that the strategic interests of this country are properly secured. I need not say any more at the moment because, at the right time, I shall make a statement upon foreign affairs. The arguments the ex-Minister for Immigra tion advanced were quite opposed io those of the right honorable member for Barton who, for a long time has said, “ Let all problems be solved by the United Nations “. The ex-Minister for Immigration is a great fighter; he has been fighting with his mouth for years, but that is about all. When he has to go out and fight in any other way, he fights like the Duke of Plaza toro - leading his forces from behind.
– There is a continual fire of interjections coming from the front Opposition bench. I do not think they relate to the subject of the debate, nor do they appear to be helpful to the Opposition itself.
– The honorable member for Barton has said all these matters must he solved by the United Nations. How does that square with what the honorable member for Melbourne has just said? I draw attention to the fact that the creation and existence of the Indonesian Republic is very largely due to the policy pursued by the Minister for External Affairs in the previous Government. New Guinea was placed under trusteeship by that Government. Yet these are the people who point to danger in New Guinea in both the Australian areas and the Dutch and pretend they are the great defenders of Australia! It is not long since the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said, “ If there is to be any fighting for New Guinea somebody else can do it”. He would not fire a shot in its defence. It is a strange change of front that these people who were prepared to throw New Guinea away now talk about the need to defend that area. The truth of the matter is that the foreign policy pursued by the previous Government has brought this country to a dangerous strategic condition. I shall have more to say on this subject on a later occasion.
While I was away from Australia I was asked some questions at Djakarta and New Delhi about the White Australia policy.
– The Minister sabotaged the White Australia policy.
– I have a record here of what I said. I had a transcript taken of all the questions which were put to me, and my answers. Knowing the tactics of the Labour party, I knew very weil that my answers would deliberately be misrepresented. I was asked about the White Australia policy, and [ replied, “ It is a policy which has been adhered to by all Australian governments, no matter from what side of politics they have come.” When I was asked what decision had been taken by the Government on the O’Keefe case, I replied that no decision had been arrived at. In reply to a further question I said, “ Until we know what further application will -be made by Mrs. O’Keefe, the matter does not arise for decision “. Before I left Australia, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) indicated that he proposed to review a number of cases of people against whom orders to leave the country had been issued. He said he would then, approach the matter entirely de novo, in a liberal and humanitarian manner. On another occasion I was asked a question about the White Australia policy, and my answer was, “ There can be no compromise on. the necessity for such a policy”. I shall not weary the House by drawing attention to my other observations on this subject while abroad, except to say that when in India, I was asked a question on the White Australia policy and that I replied that the White Australia policy was based on the homogeneity of our people and that that policy would be continued, whatever government was in power in Australia.
T added that there was no intention to introduce fi quota system for Indians as the United States of America had done. There can be no doubt as to what I said since the record exists to prove it. I knew that when I came back men like the honorable member for Melbourne would engage in the usual distortion. I can tell the people that while overseas, I found that the ill will and hostility winch had been created against this country was due, not to the White Australia policy, but solely to the bungling administration of the last Minister for Immigration.
– Absolute nonsense !
– Let me tell the people some of the cruel and inhuman things he did which engendered that hostility. If the ex-Minister can lift his head in these circumstances, it is because he has no brains in it. There was the case of Mr. and Mrs. Jang. Here was a man whose real name was Joe Young Chew. He came to Australia in 1931. He was allowed to come here to act as a substitute for his father while the latter went to China. The father did not return from China, and permission was granted for Chew to give assistance in the business of his father which was conducted by his mother and his brother. In 1939, permission was given for Jang’s wife to visit her husband. She arrived in September, 1939, and five children have since been born. Then, because Jang commenced work as a market gardener, he was pursued by the ex-Minister. This man had been here since 1931. He had five children, all of whom were born here. Therefore, they are Australians.
– They are full-blooded Chinese.
– Apparently the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is under the impression that if a full-blooded Chinese is born in this country he is not an Australian. The Nationality and Citizenship Act for which the previous Government was responsible provides that such a person is fully entitled to Australian nationality. In the case to which I have referred, the man’s five children were born in Australia. Those children were not told to leave the country, because they could not be deported owing to the fact that they are Australian ‘citizens, but the father, after having lived here for nearly 20 years, was told to leave the country.
– He was told either to resume his former employment or to go back to his own country.
– He was told to go back to his own country by the honorable member for Melbourne, and an order for his deportation was issued. There are other cases to which I could refer. Children who are half Chinese but who are also Australian citizens have been, of necessity, compelled to follow their fathers to the East and to live there under conditions which, if the honorable member for Melbourne could see them, he would regard as being disgraceful when compared with the conditions under which the average Australian has learned to live. The honorable gentleman has, by his inhuman acts and his stupid bungling, destroyed the goodwill in which this country has been held by the Asiatic peoples. He has driven some Asiatics with Australian wives and children forth from this country unnecessarily. All that I have to say is that if the administration of any law results in the law of God being destroyed, that is bad administration. If the administration of a law breaks up families, then such administrative acts cannot be supported. The White Australia policy was not originated by persons on the side of politics to which the honorable member for Melbourne belongs. It was established by our side of politics and has been successfully administered by our side of politics for over 30 years. The honorable gentleman has, by his bungling, created hostility to Australia among the Asiatic peoples. That hostility has been caused not by any objections to the White Australia policy, the objects of which are clearly understood overseas, but by the inhuman and -brutal way in which it was administered by him. Since the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has been in office, he has pursued a course of administrative action that has in no way affected the White Australia policy. In a humane way he has dealt with, specific cases such as those of Mrs. O’Keefe, Mr. Jang, and other persons. A simple, humane and common-sense administration of the White Australia policy has been pursued in place of an embittered and blundering administration, with the result that goodwill towards Australia has been restored in the Eastern countries. In my view, that goodwill is very largely attributable to one or two simple acts of administration by the present Minister for Immigration.
When the people spoke recently, they spoke upon this very issue. The honorable member for Melbourne imagined, when he raised this issue in this chamber, that he had an election winner. He said that the people would reject those who were, as he claimed, destroying the White Australia policy. The truth of the matter is that the people were not so easily misled. They knew very well that we, on this side of the chamber, stood steadfastly and without compromise for the maintenance of the White Australia policy. Instances of inhumanity can be remedied by special acts of administration, and some instances of inhumanity were dealt with immediately this Government came into power.
The ex-Prime Minister and the exMinister for Immigration both sought to discredit the Government, but they utterly failed to do so. I venture to say that the people of this country are determined that the Labour party shall remain out of office for many years to come.
– Having listened for some time to this debate, it has occurred to me that at this stage it would not be inappropriate, to deal with what I may perhaps call the bread-and-butter issues as they affect the Australian workers, thousands of whom are listening to the broadcast of our proceedings, and to endeavour to ascertain whether any promise of the betterment of the welfare of the Australian people was contained in the Speech that was delivered yesterday by His Excellency the Governor-General.
As a new member of the Parliament, although my name and initials are the same as those of another honorable member, I take pride in the fact that, as an Australian, I extend to His Majesty’s representative in this country the respect and loyalty to which he is entitled. However, I take the view that little purpose is to be served by mere lip-service loyalty to His Majesty and the future well-being of this country. When I analysed the Speech that was made by the Governor-General yesterday, the first point that struck me was how fortunate this Government is in having had left to it, not a legacy of the kind to which the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) referred, but a legacy that has enabled it te announce its present programme in the knowledge that the programme can bo financed from the funds that its predecessor established. As a trade union leader. I am not satisfied that the Government intends to take full advantage of the good things that have been left to it. I am by no means satisfied that its approach to the welfare of the Australian people is a proper one. On page two of the Governor-General’s Speech there is a reference to a “ sensible “ system of universal military training. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) has spoken of a factfinding body that is to be sent overseas to investigate the possibility of importing houses into this country, but what is the use of sending fact-finding bodies overseas for that purpose if it is the intention of the Government to compel our own artisans to undergo a period of compulsory military training? It is impossible to introduce a system of military training of the kind to which ‘ reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech without interfering with the civilian activities of the young men of this country. If ever there was a country that needed its younger people to be fully trained, it is this great nation of Australia. If the Government intends to proceed with a scheme of universal training, I hope that it will not lose sight of the fact that the Australian is not a person of the same type as the persons who have been brought up in the older countries. It is not necessary to grind into him the qualities that go to make a good soldier. The Australian has proved that when a crisis occurs he will answer his country’s call and that he possesses all the necessary military requirements. The man-power shortage in this country is acute, Transport services, for instance, are languishing. A dangerous situation faces us in more than one State. Considering the seriousness of our man-power difficulties, one is obliged to question the wisdom of the Government’s plans for compulsory military training- The Governor-General’s Speech contained the following passage: - . . my Government will aim at the progressive filling of industrial gaps and the establishment of the most modern techniques and equipment in industry and in government factories . . .
T gathered a great deal of satisfaction from that reference to government factories. If we must indulge in <a policy of compulsory military training and preparations for war, let us set up a factfinding body now, with the object of establishing munitions factories so that we shall never again suffer the tragedy of having private profits made from the manufacture of war materials. Munitions and equipment for the armed services should be produced in government factories under strict government control. Let us not foster a policy that will bring profit to a few as a consequence of the manufacture of weapons of war. Like the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), who moved the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I have had an opportunity to study conditions overseas at first hand.
From my own observations, I firmly believe that preparations for war will continue to be made so long as profits can be gained from the manufacture of armaments. When profits can no longer be wrung from armaments factories under peace-time conditions, war will commence. The common people have not been allowed to have any influence in such matters hitherto, but the time has come when ordinary men like myself, who have come from the ranks, must be allowed to determine what shall be done. How far does this Government intend to go with its plans for the establishment of munitions factories? The Governor-General announced in his Speech the Government’s intention to provide for an alteration of the Constitution so as to prevent any government from, acquiring monopolistic rights to engage in commerce or industry without the consent of the people given at a referendum.’ If ever a government monopoly were needed, it is needed in the armaments industry. A referendum would not be necessary to establish such a monopoly, under the terms of the proposed legislation, and the Government should keep that fact in mind in dealing with the programme of military preparations mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech.
Reference was made in the Speech to the increased cost of living. People may make excuses and blame whichever government they care to blame for the increased cost of living, but the facts are simple and plain to those of us who have led a bread and butter existence. The fundamental cause of the spiralling .cost of living was the defeat at a referendum of the proposal by which the Chifley Government sought to obtain power to control prices. The members of the present Government must accept responsibility for that defeat. The Governor-General’s Speech dealt also with taxation policy. I have no objection to the simplification of taxation forms and procedure, as suggested this afternoon by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey). However, if the Government intends to reduce taxes without first doing something more tangible than was proposed in the Speech for the benefit of aged and invalid pensioners, its remissness will be a standing disgrace to it. The persons who should count most in this community to-day and who need succour most are those who won for us the right to our nationhood, our old citizens. They should be the first to receive help from any government of any political colour. I am reminded of the fact that the basic wage has been increased by 5s. a week in Victoria since this Government came into power. What effect will that increase have? Unless something is done by the Government to assist pensioners, their position will become virtually intolerable. I was astonished to hear in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech the announcement that the Government proposed to reduce taxes without an accompanying declaration that the lot of our age and invalid pensioners would be made easier. The Speech contained the following reference to pensions: -
My Government realizes that the increase in the cost of living is accentuating the difficulties with which age and widow pensioners in particular have to contend. My advisers realize, also, that the present system, under which the various benefits are paid subject to a means test, gives rise to problems of which there is no easy solution.
I was particularly concerned by this passage -
My Government, however, is closely investigating the most pressing anomalies to see what can be done to remove them. It believes, moreover, that the application of its financial and economic policy will result in improvement in the purchasing power of the currency, so that pensioners, as well as other fixed income groups, will benefit. 1 do not know what is meant by “other fixed income groups “. It might reasonably be said that the 123 members of this House belong to a fixed income group. That could truly he said of most honorable members on this side of the House, although most honorable members on the Government side have lucrative sources ot income apart from their parliamentary allowances. Immediate positive action should be taken to alleviate the distress of our pensioners, and it is completely wrong to bracket them in broad terras with “ other fixed income groups “. My mind is seriously agitated by the Government’s attitude towards pensioners. It would be tragic to reduce taxes without first giving relief to those members of the community who most deserve sympathy and help.
The Government has appointed a Cabinet sub-committee to deal with claims of ex-service men and women, and we can at least be grateful for that. Those men and women also deserve early consideration of their needs. I have noted with a great deal of interest that all members of the sub-committee are ex-servicemen. My experience during the past twelve months, when I was attempting to displace the former de facto leader of the Liberal party in this House, indicated that the general impression amongst exservicemen’s organizations was that they were treated best by people who were not exservicemen. However, I hope that that impression will not be borne out unhappily by the decisions of the sub-committee.
I shall deal next with the matter of communism. I listened with interest to the debate on this subject. I have not been in the privileged position of being able to stand outside and talk about communism. For fourteen years I have been responsible for trades union leadership, and I can give a true and honest answer to the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), who asked to-day whether economic conditions in this country had been responsible for the increased Communist domination of the unions in the last four or five years. That question indicated the Minister’s ignorance. In the last four or five years the grip of communism on the industrial movement in this country has relaxed. The growth of communism was given its greatest fillip when the Communist party was banned by the previous anti-Labour Government. The Sydney Trades and Labour Council became riddled with communism while the ban was in force.
Members who were known Communists took control of that council while the party was banned, because those who were honest in the trades union movement could not pin them down as Communists. The position has been quite different during the last five years while the Communists have been out in the daylight. To-day we who are members of the Australian Labour party control the Sydney Trades and Labour Council by a majority of two to one. In my union not one Communist holds office on the State council because the party has been in the open. “No Australian worthy of the name, whether Liberal or Labour, has ever been afraid to fight a common enemy in the open. But ‘ if these persons are sent underground, those who, like myself, have fought communism and know something about it are at a disadvantage because we cannot pin the Communist tag on them. I believe that the Communist party in this country will welcome the imposition of a ban upon it. In my electorate during the recent election I was opposed by a Communist candidate, by the de facto leader of the Liberal party, Mr. J. T. Lang, and by a Liberal candidate. Honorable members of this House will remember that Mr. Lang fought his campaign on a policy of banning Communists. The Liberal party has branded me a socialist, but there was very little difference between the attacks that were made on me as the Labour candidate in Blaxland by each of the three anti-Labour candidates. Despite the enormous personal following of Mr. J. T. Lang in Blaxland, and the belief that he could not be beaten, the electors accepted the policy that it is wrong to send Communists underground. No Australian will run from a. good fight, and we shall fight to keep the Communists in the open so that the Australian people may deal with them in the same way as we have done while we have had them in the open. A similar situation arose in South Australia and in Tasmania. When a ban on communism is mentioned, I wonder whether some people who say that there is very little difference between the Communist party and the Liberal party are not right.
I now turn to the intention of the Government as expressed in His Excellency’s
Speech, in respect of industrial arbitration. His Excellency said -
My Government is convinced that a rapid development of the Commonwealth depends largely on higher levels of production and, with them, higher standards of living, on freedom from industrial disturbances, and on the fullest co-operation of both sides of industry.
J view that statement with some apprehension. Whatever section of the Government made that recommendation to His Excellency, does not fully appreciate what is implied by it. The next paragraph of the Speech deals with the intention of the Government to interfere with the machinery of conciliation and arbitration. If that be done the Government apparently intends to bring about some arrangement whereby we shall get back’ to a system of barter. The control of industrial relations will be taken from the present machinery and will become subject to a system of barter between employer and employee. That will- be treading the path that Thornton and the Communist party want it to tread. That is the policy which Thornton brought from overseas and it is opposed by the Labour party with all the sincerity it possesses. That system exists in only two countries in the world. If the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) made a study of international relations while he was overseas he would know that one country is America, where to-day there are between 5,500,000 and 6,000,000 unemployed, and the other is Russia, where, if the worker doe3 not do the employer’s bidding, he goes to the wall.
I shall fight for as long as I live and with every ounce of my strength to retain in this country freedom of movement in the industrial field between worker and employer on a basis that must be prescribed by some form of conciliation and arbitration. The proposed system can be given any name that honorable members like to attach to it but in essence it is a bonus system. When piece-work systems and incentive systems are spoken of, it may be pointed out that America has all of them and that they are merely other names for the bonus system. As Shakespeare said -
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet;
All these systems become ultimately bonus systems and are of no advantage to the worker. In fact, I think that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited had something to do with this part of the Government’s policy because it is well known that large concerns are assisted hy the introduction of bonus or incentive systems whereas small men are forced out of business. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) referred to the Government’s policy with relation to decentralization. To my mind, his implication of a course of action that will assist monopolies does not square with the contemplated action in connexion with industrial control. I am convinced that very few honorable members opposite know much about the responsibilities and trials associated with trade union leadership. I sincerely hope that before the existing legislation relating to industrial arbitration is amended, great care will betaken to ensure that the conditions at present operating in favour of the workers of this country shall not be disturbed. I assure honorable members that the Communist party is anxiously awaiting interference with the existing arbitration machinery by the newly elected antiLabour Government. The Communist party hopes that the present Government will revert to the system under which appeals were permitted against the decisions of conciliation commissioners, because the Communists would then be able to “ point the finger “ to the intolerable delay inevitably associated with industrial arbitration machinery of that type. Although it may be contended that some of the decisions that have been made by conciliation commissioners have not been so good as they could have been, broadly speaking they “ break even “. I point out chat it is of the utmost importance to the trade union movement in Australia that matters relating to industrial arbitration shall be resolved promptly, whether or not the decisions favour the trade unionists.
In my opinion the .previous Government was a much better government than the Minister for External. Affairs (Mr. Spender) is willing to concede. The industrial arbitration machinery that was initiated during the regime of the Chifley Government did more to advance indus- trial stability and industrial peace generally in this country than any such legislation that was in existence when that Government took office.
This passage also occurred in His Excellency’s Speech -
Ai investigation is also being made of measures that might be taken to restore to union members the opportunity to express their views, by democratic methods, in relation to the election of officers and threatened or actual disputes.
As the Government has not consulted the leaders of the trade union movement about this matter, it is difficult to understand what course is being pursued in connexion with the investigation. I remind honorable members that it was my pleasure to be elected by the rank-and-file members of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen to the highest position in that organization. As that union has always adhered to the policy of rank-and-file control I find it difficult to understand what is meant by the statement that it is proposed, by democratic methods, to restore to union members the opportunity to express their views. I stress that any union that does not adhere to such a policy has before it a matter that can only be determined by the rank and file of that organization. Furthermore, if any government or other legislative authority were to interfere with the domestic affairs of trade unions in this country there would follow the greatest industrial unrest ever witnessed in Australia.
I am not aware of who recommended to His Excellency that investigations should be made in connexion with the proposal to conduct secret ballots in relation to actual or threatened disputes. I am quite sure, however, that His Excellency is fully aware that the introduction of secret ballots in connexion with such matters would lead to the greatest chaos ever known, in the industrial field in Australia. It must be remembered that the only commodity that the workers of this country have to sell is their labour. Under the existing industrial arbitration machinery it is possible for disputes, actual or threatened, to be dealt with promptly on the spot by conciliation commissioners. As Australian workers have been accustomed to relative freedom in the industrial sphere, I am convinced that, in many instances, they would walk off the job, if conciliation were removed from union control, and say, in effect, “You can go hang”.
Let us consider premeditated industrial action and the circumstances in which it is possible to take a ballot to decide an industrial issue. I have had actual and bitter experience of what happened during the Avar period, as well as in peace-time, when the executive of the union with which I was associated considered that ballots should be taken in relation to proposed industrial stoppages. Despite the fact that that union had not experienced a stoppage by its members for over 30 years, on both occasions on which ballots were taken the decisions were two to one in favour of a stoppage. Following those ballots it was only because of the vast strength of the leadership, and because of the type of industrial arbitration machinery that was provided by the Labour Administration, that I was able to “ side-track “ the issue. It, is nothing but hypocrisy for the Government, on the one hand, to suggest that it wants to ensure freedom from industrial disturbances, and on the other hand to contemplate destroying measures that were introduced by a Labour government to establish a semblance of industrial security in Australia,.. The Minister also implied that the Australian Labour party was not prepared to fight for this cause. I remind honorable members that I have been associated with the- industrial sphere in this country for fourteen years, and have engaged in all kinds of fights. During the war period I even had to fight the members of the union with which 1 was associated, and on more than om: occasion I incurred the wrath of other organizations because I refused to permit the members of my union to become involved in industrial disputes at such a time. I was able to adopt that attitude only because of the legislation that had been enacted by the Labour- Government.
My views on this matter may be briefly summarized in this way: If the Government is sincere in its announced policy of maintaining peace in industry it should take steps immediately to reassure the workers of this country that they will be provided with full employment, a state of affairs that they enjoyed under the previous Government. I cannot stress* too strongly that the Government will not achieve peace in industry unless it guarantees to the workers of Australia continued full employment. In the second place, if the Government is really “ big “ enough to face up to the reality of the situation, it cannot introduce the system of compulsory ballots and at the same time maintain peace in industry, unless it is prepared to grant preference to unionists in every industry in Australia.
– I am conscious of the honour done me by the people of Leichhardt in making me their representative in this Parliament, and of the duty I owe them. I am proud to be a member of this Parliament, and to support the Government. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and it applies to the individual as well as to the nation. In his Speech, the Governor-General stressed the need for defence. Australia has a near neighbour in the north and, as has been pointed out to-night, that neighbour has laid claim to territory belonging to one of our former allies. Indeed, if I am correctly informed, it has laid claim even to territory which Australia administers under mandate. It may be of interest to members of this House, and to the public generally, to know that the electorate I represent extends to within three miles of the Papuan coast. That brings the Indonesian question very close to our shores, and makes it a matter of immediate concern to this House. “We must have adequate defence, and I am glad that the Government is aware of that fact.
North Queensland has been neglected throughout the years. Shipping services to northern Queensland are far worse now than they were 30 years ago, and residents and farmers are subjected to greater inconveniences now than any they had to endure in the past. I am glad that the Government proposes to treat coastal shipping as a matter of importance, and to give it high priority. The electorate which I represent is capable of producing vast quantities of goods which are needed by the people of Australia, and by those of other countries. A great deal of sugar is produced in the area. We produce also tobacco as good as that grown in any country in the world, and better than that grown in most countries. Australia needs dollars. Much has Deen said to-day on that subject. It was known to the last Government that the tobacco grown in northern Queensland was of the highest quality, yet nothing was done to encourage production. Indeed, everything was done to dis.courage growers. The Government forced upon them a method of marketing that robbed them of £3,000,000. Can any one wonder that the production of tobacco has declined? No assurance of stability was given to those engaged in the industry. No encouragement was given to any one to invest money in it, whilst everything was done to force them to leave it.
In northern Queensland there are vast forests capable of supplying the finest cabinet timbers, but it is impossible to get machinery and equipment to work them. Our roads are in a deplorable condition. In many instances they are no more than bush tracks. Our telephone service is had. I cite one example. The only brickworks supplying Cairns district is situated 14 miles from the nearest telephone. In wet weather there is no means of communication at all. During my election campaign, I was at the Walsh telegraph station when a truck arrived carrying a pastoralist, his wife and children, who lived on a property situated 80 miles from the nearest white people. Their mail was brought to them once a month by a black boy. The wife, who before her marriage had been employed in a wool broker’s office in Brisbane, had not seen or spoken to a white woman in six months. I was deeply touched when I saw the emotion with which she greeted the telegraph officer’s wife. Such are the conditions that still exist in the pioneering areas in northern Queensland. I should like to refer also to another family that went out to. Cape Tribulation, and carved a home for itself out of the virgin forests with the axe. In other countries, such a forest would be called a jungle. The only means of communication with the outside world is a weekly launch service. There is no wharf or jetty, and goods have to be loaded and unloaded from a barge in the open sea. When the weather is bad it is sometimes impossible to work a cargo at all, and produce goes to waste. There is no telephone communication. Only a few months ago, a small girl in this district had some of her fingers severed in a chaff-cutter. A journey in an open boat was undertaken to obtain medical assistance, but I regret to say that it arrived too late. The child died. The farmers in the area are producing rice, and within the last month they received their supply of fertilizeramounting to 7 tons, upon which they paid £42 in freight charges. Despite such difficulties, however, they still retain that pioneering spirit of which the people of northern Queensland, and the people of Australia generally, are so proud.
I am very pleased that the Government proposes to establish a Department of Supply and Development. We in the north, in one section of the Leichhardt electorate, have possibly the most assured rainfall belt in Australia. Many rivers rise in these jungles, and falls of varying heights abound. There is sufficient water to produce power that would be, I daresay, equivalent to the power that the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme can produce. We have no complaint about the progress that is being made in the advancement of the Snowy Mountains scheme. We seek only additional consideration. I hope that the Government will remember our claims for such consideration.
Every known mineral that exists in the world is found in the rainfall belt to which I have referred. To obtain these minerals would certainly require capital and encouragement. But our people have drifted from there. In fact, the drift has almost become a rush. We have vast deposits of limestone, a material which is used in the manufacture of cement. The plans that are envisaged by the Government for the absorption of immigrants to build homes will call for a great quantity of cement.
I turn now to irrigation projects. To-day, I heard .the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) ask a question in this chamber about the money that has been made available for the Burdekin Valley scheme. That scheme is excellent, but there is one which is more important still, and it should be hustled along. 1 refer to the Barron-Walsh scheme, which will be of such great assistance to our farmers, who are already preparing and cultivating their land, and producing tobacco, of which this country is so short that its importation constitutes one-third of our dollar expenditure. The BarronWalsh scheme is not so big as the Burdekin Valley scheme, but it should he proceeded with simply because the farmers are already in the area, the land is already tilled, the buildings are prepared, and skilled workers are available. We require our roads ‘ to be extended. Cooktown, with all its possibilities and vast resources, has no road communications with the rest of Australia, and I hope that a road from Cooktown will be kept in the mind of the Minister in connexion with schemes that will open up that land and develop it.
Having outlined briefly what is necessary if we are to populate the northern belt of Australia and render it secure from forces that have been encouraged so much to look with greedy eyes on our shores, we must support, as well as provide, schemes that will attract immigrants and our own Australians so that they will go there to get away from the cities. I have been very greatly concerned about the shortages of essential commodities under which the people in the north suffer, and by what little consideration those people who are so worthy of consideration, have received. Recently, I heard echoes of a scream by a section of the people in the heart of Sydney because they could not drive their cars over the Sydney Harbour Bridge without paying a small toll. Those people wanted £200,000 thrown here, and a few hundred thousand thrown there, and yet the valiant people who are pioneering the outback work for little reward so that they may make Australia better. I feel that our Government will have in mind the areas I have mentioned, and that if there are any sums of £200,000 to throw in any direction those people will benefit. I am sure that this Government will be one whose members will take off their coats, roll up their sleeves and do the job for all the people and not for just one section of it.
– May I first, in all humility, congratulate the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Gilmore) on his address, which showed to me, on my second day in thi.3 chamber, the breadth of the coverage of the work done in the Parliament. May I also congratulate the people of the electorate of Leichhardt on having a man of such an earnest and sincere type as is the honorable member for Leichhardt, who can put his case to this House and show such a commendable anxiety about the people in the far-flung areas of the north, which are so rich and so important to this country, May I also congratulate the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), on successfully getting through their maiden speeches. I hope for the indulgence of the House during my maiden speech.
First, if I may be permitted for a few moments to divert my remarks from the Address-in-Reply, I desire to say something that I feel impelled to say to you, Mr. Speaker. The people whom I represent and, I believe, all the people of Australia, are delighted that you occupy the chair. We know that you are a man of great courage, who is very fair-minded, and who will fight for what he believes to be right. I congratulate you, sir, on the principles that impelled you to make the decisions that you announced yesterday from the steps of the chair. I feel that it was dramatic that in one bold stroke you lifted the dignity of that chair to such a lofty plane, when you announced that you would not speak from the floor of the House and that you would not enter the party room of the political party to which you belong, but that you would take your seat in the chair every day with your mind clear, as it is now and as it always has been, but clearer still of any of the dissensions or cross-currents that you consider might make you unable to be completely impartial and completely open-minded in the judgments that you have to make. Before you made your announcement everybody that I had met in the last few weeks expressed delight that you were to be the Speaker. They felt that your occupancy of the chair would mean a new era in parliamentary government and parliamentary procedure in this country. They believed that backed, fortified and strengthened by the magnificent policy enunciated by their leaders, they would be able to restore freedom to this land, and preserve the liberties of its subjects. They believed that you, sir, in presiding over this House, would give it the reputation and prestige that all Australians look for in their National Parliament. On your election to office, you referred to King Charles I. If I might venture to do so, I should like to remind honorable members of the time when King Charles I. went to the House of Commons with an armed force with the object of removing five members who had dared to try to uphold civil liberties. The King looked around the chamber, but he could not see the men concerned. He then asked the Speaker whether he could see them, and Mr. Speaker Lenthall used these historic words, which were spoken for the last time to a sovereign in the House -
May it please Your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place, butas the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here, and I humbly beg your
Majesty’s pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this to what your Majesty is pleased to demand of me. “Well”, replied the King, “I see that all the birds are flown “. Mr. Speaker Lenthall did a. tremendous job in establishing a parliamentary tradition which you, Mr. Speaker, have intimated you hope to uphold. The tradition established by Mr. Speaker Lenthall makes this chamber, the Lower House of the Parliament, absolutely sacrosanct. It establishes this House as a place in which men may act, and say what must be said, with complete freedom. We believe that you, sir, like Mr. Speaker Lenthall, will be the protector of the rights, privileges, and liberties of honorable members and because of that, the protector of the rights, liberties and freedom of the people. To-day, the people are asking for freedom. If the prestige of this House be not upheld - and I hope that I shall be pardoned for speaking in tins fashion in my maiden speech - we shall deal a deadly blow at freedom Unless those who represent the common people in this Parliament are protected and parliamentary democracy and parliamentary practice are upheld, freedom will perish in this land. Your statement from the chair, sir, coupled with the speeches that have been made by the leaders of the Government parties, in which they have laid down the aims and objectives of the Government during the next three years, give me great cause for hope that there will be a return of the vigorous pioneering spirit. Unfortunately that spirit was lost during the war because of the mismanagement and controls that caused a loss of incentive and a general slowing down of progress in this country. We have high hopes that the pioneering spirit will return, but we realize that some time will elapse before it does so.
I congratulate the Government on its magnificent decision to establish a Ministry of National Development. In all States, but in New South Wales in particular, governments have to face problems which, if they are not solved, may well be fatal to this country. Our railways are running down, our roads are ina serious condition of disrepair, and we suffer power and light shortages, and even blackouts. The housing situation is desperate. Families are separated, and ex-servicemen and young people generally are unable to secure homes. The rapid increases of the cost of living are seriously affecting pensioners and other people on fixed incomes. At the root of every one of our troubles lies the shortage of coal, notwithstanding the fact that in New South Wales alone, seam upon seam of rich coal representing billions of tons are undeveloped. In one small part of my electorate, with a spread of 30 miles and within a few miles of Sydney, 200,000,000 tons of magnificent steam coal remains untouched. Some people blame the coal-miners for the present situation. I do not intend to do that. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has made a statement on this subject which must be promptly answered. It is the leaders of the miners who have persuaded them that direct action is the only means by which results can be secured. Recently,
I was asked to speak at a strike meeting at Camden in my electorate. A rather naive request was made to me to bring with me a Labour speaker. I asked the Labour member for the district whether he would go with me. Like the honorable member for Blaxland, I believe that it is the duty of political and industrial leaders to endeavour to stem the onrush of communism: and to bring about industrial peace. The Labour member was too busy to accompany me, but I addressed the miners at Camden. For a whole hour I heard a Communist named Martin address the miners. Martin is still a member of the miners’ central council. This story is very different from that which we have heard from the honorable member foi- Blaxland. Martin told the miners, who were receptive to his suggestions, a story which was so plausible and so dangerous to the people of this country that it could make one’s blood run cold. When I tried to tell the miners about the things that they had achieved and the improvements that were to come - they already had bathrooms and water reticulation - I was prevented from doing so. One of the miners’ leaders then said, in effect, “ We got these things only through direct action. We had been promised water reticulation for years. One morning at 8 o’clock we held a. stopwork meeting, and. by 11 o’clock pipes, which were said to be unprocurable, appeared. The miners were inclined to cheer their arrival, but after all, you can get these things only by direct action “. He knew perfectly well that it would be impossible to obtain pipes and have them delivered to such a remote and inaccessible place in the Burragorang Valley in three hours. This is what happened: When some one got word through that the pipes were on their way a stop-work meeting was called simply in order to dupe the men and to pretend to them that the water reticulation had. been installed in the mine only as the result of holding the atop-work meeting. A few days ago, when T visited the coal-face at Berrima, a miner leaned on his pick and said, “We want freedom to work when we want to work and freedom to earn money for our wives and children. We do not want to be forced into strikes when we do not want them “. That miner and many others like him are calling upon this Government to do the right thing. They are looking to this Government to have the courage to protect them against extremist leaders. The honorable member for Blaxland would have us believe that because he has fought the Communists and no member of the controlling council of his union is a Communist, the Communists have been cleared out of the controlling bodies of all the trade unions. Let us have a look at the position in the Australian Railways Union, which, I believe, is the organization with which the honorable member for Blaxland is associated.
– He is a member of the Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen.
– I am aware that the honorable member has fought the communists within his organization, but he is a member of an organization of which Mr. Ferguson is president.
Opposition members interjecting,
– It is the custom of this House that an honorable member when making his maiden speech shall be heard in silence. That courtesy must be extended to the honorable member for Macarthur. One honorable member was interjecting from outside the bar of the House.
– Perhaps, I should apologize for arguing along the lines that I have followed, but I do so under stress of feeling after having heard the speech of the honorable member for Blaxland. However, I should like to make this point: Mr. Ferguson is a member of the Australian Railways Union and he came to my electorate and said that that union would not strike during the big coal strike recently because it might affect the liberties and earnings of other workers;. When he was asked whether he was genuine in making that statement, he replied, “Yes, we will not strike against the Labour Government and the workers “. I ask honorable members to recall what the honorable member for Blaxland has just said. Mr. Ferguson was then asked, “ Would your union strike if the Menzies Government were in power ? “, and he replied, “ That is a different matter “. He was then asked, “ Are you referring to strikes as a political matter? You are not striking against the Chifley Government, but when the Menzies Government is in power other workers will not matter; you will be prepared to strike. Is that right?” He replied “Yes, that is right “. The honorable member for Blaxland would have us believe that only the Communists are waiting to strike against this Government; but Mr. Ferguson, who, I understand, is president of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party, said that his union would strike against the Menzies Government.
I am delighted that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) have said that they will give a new status to local government bodies. In the past those bodies have been squeezed. For a number of years they have been denied revenues derived from the petrol tax and other taxes to which they were entitled. During the last ten years the total revenue of local government authorities in New South Wales has decreased by £500,000, and their total expenditure on road works and bridges has decreased by a corresponding amount. At the same time, however, the costs and charges which those bodies have to meet have risen substantially. The cost of American trucks has increased from £500 to £1,500, or an increase of 300 per cent. While they have been obliged to pay pay-roll tax their wages bill has risen by 200 per cent. Consequently, their ability to provide essential services in their areas has decreased considerably. I learn from the Auditor-General’s report th at a sum of between £500,000,000 and £600,000,000 in revenue has been collected by the Commonwealth, representing an increase of £88,000,000 on last year. Therefore, it can be said that those local government bodies are being forced out of business whilst their ability to provide essential services in their areas is being seriously curtailed. They require revenue in order to construct feeder roads and provide water, light and power services, as well as for soil conservation work. This Government recognizes the needs of local government bodies and the assistance that it proposes to give to them will emphasize the need for a return to the land in order to increase our production. As the honorable member for Leichhardt has pointed out, an urgent demand exists in all rural areas for the extension of telephonic services. We cannot hope to> develop this country unless we first provide up-to-date roads in country districts and thus give to primary producers a chance to recover the position that they enjoyed before the outbreak of the recent war. The tendency to centralize all administration in Canberra is also detrimental to the development of our rural industries.
I sincerely trust that I shall prove to be a worthy representative of my electorate. I intend to be in my place in this chamber whenever I am wanted here except on occasions when I am called away from Canberra on urgent business. You, Mr. Speaker, said that it was your aim to be the servant of the House. I believe that every honorable member should be the servant of the people who live in the districts that he represents. Unless that principle is observed we shall not have democratic government. The people are entitled to come to their respective representatives for all sorts of things and each honorable member should do his utmost to look after the interests of those whom he represents. I hope to perform that duty so long as I have the strength to do so.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gordon Anderson) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of the .Public Works Committee : - Senator O’Byrne, Senator Annabelle Rankin and Senator George Rankin.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee: - The President of the Senate (Senator Brown), Senator Maher and Senator Wright.
The followingpapers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Twentyfifth Report on the Commonwealth Public Service by the Board of Commissioners, dated 23rd January, 1950.
Ordered to be printed.
Appointments - Department -
Attorney-General - A. S. Barnes, P. J. Clarke, A. M. Davidson, C. N. Jeffery, R. T. G. Lahey, J. R. Leslie, B. J. Letcher, H. Lindgren, R. F. Pickering, H. N. Walker.
Interior - L. R. Adler, M. Harrison, N. W. Larsson, R. M. Markey.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Tamworth, New South Wales.
War Service Homes Act - Report on War Service Homes Commission for year 1948-49, together with statements and balance-sheet.
House adjourned at 10.30 pm.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 February 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500223_reps_19_206/>.