19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– “Will the Minister for Labour and National Service make a statement to the House indicating the progress, if any, that is being made in his campaign for peace in industry, and setting out the number of industrial disputes now in existence together with the steps that the Government proposes to take to bring those disturbances to a satisfactory conclusion? Will the honorable gentleman also compare the quantity of coal that has been lost through industrial disputes since the present Government assumed office, with the loss for a like period during the .regime of the Labour administration?
– I shall ascertain whether it is practicable to prepare a statement on the lines suggested. The Prime Minister and I have not been idle in relation to our plans to secure peace in industry. “We have already had discussions with many leaders of the trade union movement, and I think that we can claim satisfactory results at least in our contacts with those gentlemen. I am, of course, by no means satisfied, nor, I am sure, is the honorable member himself, with the state of industry at present and in view of the Opposition’s professed adherence to the policy of industrial arbitration, we shall gladly welcome the support of the honorable member for East Sydney and his colleagues in ensuring that the law shall be enforced and the trade union movement encouraged to abide strictly by the decisions of our arbitration tribunals.
– As’ it is proposed to disband the Prices Branch in Melbourne, will the Prime Minister ensure that those members of the branch who were formerly Commonwealth employees shall be re-absorbed into Commonwealth departments without sacrificing continuity of service or other rights?
– I shall have the matter investigated. I do not know who the employees are, or the circumstances of their employment, but the matter will be closely examined.
– As the “Woy Woy airstrip has recently been de-hired, will the Minister for Civil Aviation consider the resumption of the property by the Commonwealth in view of the fact that local authorities consider the airfield to be essential to the district and the Gosford Shire Council has undertaken to maintain it ?
– The Woy Woy aerodrome was acquired for war purposes, and, at the end of hostilities, the property was returned to the owner. I shall send an official to examine the strip and ascertain whether the requirements of the district are such that the property should again be resumed for civil aviation.
– Is it a fact that- the Minister for Civil Aviation has refused to authorize the construction of an airport -at Albury, a very important city on the river Murray on the border of two populous States? If so, why has he refused the very reasonable application that has been made by the people of Albury for the provision of such a facility?
– I am afraid that the honorable member is not aware of all of the facts. The honorable member for Farrer has been in touch with me for some time concerning the construction of an aerodrome at Albury, and a proposition has been put to the Albury City Council that the Commonwealth should pay for certain works and improvements if the council will have them carried out. I am now awaiting further advice from the council.
– Can the Minister for Civil- Aviation give me any information on the prospects of the provision of air services to and from Benalla ?
– Benalla has an excellent aerodrome which was laid down for the Royal Australian Air Force for war purposes. I am hopeful that when intra-state services are further developed one will be run from Gippsland. Others are also anticipated. I hope that Benalla will then be a port of call for intrastate services or possibly for an interstate airline. The Government policy in relation to aerodromes and air services will be stated in the House at a suitable time.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation investigate the withdrawal of the mid-week air service from Flinders Island? As the residents of that island suffer from acute disadvantages because of their isolation, will the Minister, if necessary, recommend a subsidy for these services?
– Before I can say that the Government would approve of such a subsidy, I shall have to investigate the circumstances of the withdrawal of the service. I shall have that done and shall then supply the honorable member with an answer to his question.
– In view of the facts, first, that the High Court has declared invalid the war service land settlement agreements entered into between the Australian Govrnment and the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland; secondly, that the 1942 values, which have been the basis of compulsory acquisition of land in Queensland, are completely out of line with present values; and, thirdly, that the Queensland Government has given to the Graziers Association of Queensland and other victims of that unjust provision an undertaking to the effect that it will alter the basis of acquisition, subject to the Australian Government’s acquiescence I ask the Minister for the Interior whether this Government intend to give any direction in the matter?
– It is true that a recent decision of the High Court has upset the agreement that was made between the Commonwealth and the various States in respect of the land settlement of ex-servicemen. However, the Government is making arrangements to consult the Premiers of the various States with a view to amending the legislation that has been enacted under the terms of the agreement so as to remedy the condition of invalidity that now exists. The original agreement provided for the acquisition of land on the basis of the values that prevailed on the 10th February, 1942, but this Government has suggested to the Premiers of the States that that basis is unfair and that an increase should be allowed. Up to date, it has not received from the Premier of Queensland any notification of his acceptance of the suggested increase. However, I point out that, in addition to purchasing land under the terms of its agreement with the Commonwealth, the Queensland Government has also been purchasing land for the settlement of ex-servicemen under its own legislation, which permits it to decide for itself the has.:s of values upon which such land may be acquired.
– My question, which will concern the Minister for Health or the Minister for Transport, or both, relates to road accidents, which have occurred at the rate of move than 20,000 per annum over the last few years and which have left many people injured and maimed. As the result of such accidents, the number of crippled persons in the community is being constantly increased. A small beginning was made with the task of rehabilitating maimed and injured citizens during the lifetime of the Chifley Government. I ask the responsible Minister whether, in view of the obvious fact that all the road safety propaganda in the world will not prevent some accident1? a>-jm taking place, is it the intention of the Government to introduce a. comprehensive plan to rehabilitate crippled civilians?
– The part of the question that comes within my jurisdiction as Minister for Transport relates to the prevention of road accidents. As I pointed out in answer to another question that was asked in this House recently, a great deal of work is being done by a committee that Iras been appointed by the Transport Advisory Council to diminish as much as possible the incidence of accidents on the roads. I am not aware that any work in connexion with the rehabilitation of injured persons is being done within the department. It may be that a small section of the department is engaged upon work of that kind, but I do not think that is so. I shall cause inquiries to be made to ascertain the position. I shall also investigate the possibility of the extension of any such work as is being done. I shall furnish the honorable gentleman later with a full answer to his question.
– Oan the Minister for Health say whether disciplinary committees are to be established in connexion with the pharmaceutical benefits scheme? If they are to be established, what will be their composition, how will the members be chosen, and what will be the functions of the members? Have abuses of the scheme been revealed during recent months? If so, can the Minister indicate the nature of the abuses?
– During my discussions with the Federal Council of the British Medical Association and the Federal Council of the Pharmaceutical Guild it became evident that it was necessary to establish disciplinary committees to deal with abuses of that scheme which result in the wanton use of certain drugs, especially drugs that are scarce not only in Australia but also throughout the world, and others that are very costly. An agreement was made to establish a disciplinary committee in each State to investigate alleged abuses of the scheme. The two organizations to which I have referred are nominating some of their members to serve on the committees. It is apparent that there has been gross extravagance in the use of some drugs. If the extravagance is not checked, the cost of medicine to the State will be even greater in Australia than it is in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
– I ask the Prime Minister what progress has been made since the 10th December, 1949, in putting value back into the £1? Does the right honorable gentleman propose to do anything about that matter? If not, why not?
M.r. MENZIES. - The honorable gentleman falls into the error of assuming that value can be put back into the £1 bv some single legislative act. We have never at any time entertained that illusion. We believe that value goes back into the £1 when, by reason of a. series of economic measures and steps, the £1 buys more. That touches upon the problem of the relation of production to purchasing power. I should be very glad to think that all members of the Opposition were in favour of greater production, because if we could secure their complete co-operation in that matter we should find that production in Australia would begin to rise and that the value of money would rise with it. The whole of the activities of the Government are directed to this problem. I expect to be able to inform the House and the country from time to time of the steps that are being taken to achieve that general result.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs give the House any information in addition to that which is contained in to-day’s press regarding the suggestion by Colonel Hodgson that the occupation authorities in Japan are creating a financial oligarchy in Japanese banking?
– The Japanese newspapers recently reported that a financial review issued by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers had indicated that 10 of the 74 trading banks in Japan were transacting approximately three-quarters of Japan’s banking business. Other press reports have stated that those ten banks previously bore the Zaibatsu name. At the meetings of the Allied Control Council, the control of the Zaibatsu has always been a matter of great concern. Australia has always pressed for the breaking up of the Zaibatsu. In the light of those reports Colonel Hodgson–
– Is the Minister in order, Mr. Speaker, in making an obviously prepared statement in reply to a question which has been asked ostensibly without notice ?
– If the clock could bp put back eight years there might be something in the honorable member’s objection.
– Whether the clock may be put back eight years or not, I rise to order and ask whether the Minister is entitled to read a statement in reply to a. question without notice?
– That has been the custom in this House for a long time, (hough it is one of which T do not approve.
There must be an understanding in this House before long of what is meant by “ question “. The matter was dealt with effectively in the draft of the Sanding Orders Committee of the last Parliament, but the Government of that time did not ask the House to ratify the draft. Honorable members will have an opportunity of voting on the subject shortly, I hope.
– I shall turn my paper over. In the light of the statement which appeared in the press, Colonel Hodgson directed a question to the chairman of the Allied Control Commission to ascertain what had taken place with relation to the dissolution of Zaibatsu enterprises, and Mr. Sebald, the chairman, ruled it out of order. It is the duty of Colonel Hodgson, who represents this country, to make inquiries along those lines particularly in the interests of the security of this country. I have not had an opportunity of reading the complete report issued by Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers and when I have done so I shall have additional information upon which I shall make a further statement.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral lay on the table of the library copies of the script of all news broadcasts over the national radio stations since the 10th December, 1949 ? Will he also arrange for scripts of all future news broadcasts over the national stations to be laid on the library table?
– The PostmasterGeneral is unfortunately unable to be present to-day because he is slightly indisposed. I shall have the question brought to his notice.
– I direct question to the Minister for Supply and Development. Will the Minister take steps to call an early conference of representatives of the Governments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria, for the purpose of considering the future development of the south-east corner of Australia? Such a conference should consider the development of the port of Eden, and the inclusion in the railway gauges standardization agreement of a railway from Bombala to Bairnsdale, and one from Bombala to Eden.
– I shall be very glad to take the matter into consideration.
Mi-. BOWDEN.- Is the Minister for Supply and Development aware that in Victoria we have brown coal deposits conservatively estimated to total 37,000,000,000 tons? Will the Minister agree that those deposits could be a prolific source for the supply of oil, for the purposes of defence and otherwise ? Will he, for the first time, have an investigation made into the economics of this proposal.
– The extraction of oil from coal and particularly of oil from brown coal, is not an easy process, nor would the implementation of a scheme of that nature be inexpensive. However, it is clearly a matter that must concern the Ministry of National Development when it is created. I assure the honorable member that this matter will be investigated.
– My question relates to-
– I rise to order. This is the third question in succession that has been asked from the Government side of the House. The Standing Orders lay down that the Speaker shall look to the right and to the left.
– In the matter of the asking of questions every honorable member in this House is entitled to an equal opportunity to obtain information. So far as it lies in my power that equal opportunity will be granted.
– That is against the Standing Orders.
-If the honorable member considers that that is so he may take the appropriate action.
– My question relates to a newspaper report that 50 Chinese students are coming to Australia. Will the Minister for Immigration inform the House whether this indicates any change of the Government’s immigration policy?
– I Lave read a press report to the effect that 50 Oriental students were travelling to Australia on Westralia for the purpose of study in this country. No change of the Government’s immigration policy is involved. For many years the Australian immigration laws have provided for the entry into this country, under exemption, to students, merchants, and visitors. Inquiries are always made in advance whether the appropriate university will be able to enrol students, and whether suitable provision has been made for their support during the period of their studies in Australia. The students enter Australia under exemption and return to their own country when their period of studies expires.
– Did the Minister for External Affairs during his visit to Indonesia and Colombo, arrange for additional supplies of tea. and petrol for this country from either Indonesia or India ? Were any inquiries made into the possibility of obtaining additional supplies of those commodities for Australia? If so, what was the result of those inquiries? Has the Government any plan to import additional tea and petrol from those areas?
– The answer to the first question is “ No “. The matters referred to in the other questions come within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister for Shipping and Fuel.
– I preface my question to the Treasurer by pointing out that the construction of new premises for the Comonwealth Bank in Hobart was commenced about six months ago. So far only the excavations for the foundations have been completed. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether it would be possible to delay the construction of the proposed building until the housing shortage in Hobart has been relieved ? If that is not practicable because contracts have already been let. or for any other reason, will he consider, as a temporary measure, restricting the size of the building to meet only the needs of the present staff of approxi mately 140 instead of those of a staff of over 300?
– The matter raised by the honorable member comes within the jurisdiction of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, to whom I shall refer it.
My. COSTA. - According to a report in the Baily ‘Telegraph, fourteen coalmines were idle in New South Wales yesterday, with the result that there was a loss of over 12,000 tons of coal. Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether these stoppages were directly due to the new technique being used by the Government to increase production?
– The answer is in the negative.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House whether it is proposed to make available for purchase government houses occupied by tenants in the Australian Capital Territory? If so, on what basis will such purchases be made possible?
– The matter of the sale of government houses in Canberra is at present receiving the attention of my department. The issues raised by the honorable member will be brought to the notice of the departmental officers.
– Can the Minister for the Navy say whether the amount of prize money due to Royal Australian Navy personnel has yet been determined by the Government of the United Kingdom? How much will each man receive and when will the money be available for distribution?
– All eligible ranks will be paid the same amount of approximately £10 each. I have not so far been able to learn from the British Admiralty when the money will be available, but inquiries are still being made, and I shall advise the honorable member of the effect of the information I receive.
– In view of the importance of the tourist traffic as a potential dollar earner, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture see that measures are taken to attract more tourists to Australia from dollar areas, and to ensure their suitable reception and accommodation in both rural and urban districts in Australia?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has asked me to reply to the question. His department and the Department of Information, which I administer, are co-operating to encourage the tourist traffic in order to induce increased dollar expenditure in Australia, and also to create goodwill between Australia and the United States of America. Some work has already been done by the Department of Information in New York with this end in view, and I am hopeful that, as a result, tourist traffic will increase.
– In view of the many conflicting reports published in the press about, the intention of the Government to conscript the youth of Australia, can the Minister for Defence give the House any information about the possibility of conscription being introduced ?
– This subject was mentioned in the Speech of the Governor-General, and in the policy speech delivered by the present Prime Minister during the election campaign. It is at present being considered. The honorable member need not be concerned, because I am sure that he will be outside the age range of those who may be affected.
– Reports have been published in the press a.bout the loss of sub-machine guns and rifles from certain training depots. Can the Minister for the Army say whether adequate security measures are taken to ensure that there will be no further loss of vital defence equipment?
– Since the end of the second World War, substantial quan tities of arms and equipment have been stolen, primarily because there were not adequate facilities for storage and supervision. I am pleased to say that the position has now been improved. The sub-machine guns stolen recently from one of the defence establishments in the suburbs of Sydney have been recovered. The guns, when taken, were useless, because the breech blocks and bolts had been removed. As an added precaution, I have arranged that sub-machine gun breech blocks and bolts, which are required only for training purposes, will be stored in one of the banks in the vicinity of training establishments. As I have said, the weapons recently stolen have been recovered, and action is being taken against those responsible for their theft.
– Will the Treasurermake a statement at an early date showing the extent to which the evil of inflation has been intensified in this country by the decision of the Government to abolish the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues? In particular, will he state the amount of the increase in the debenture and ordinary shareholdings of public and private companies as a result of this action? Secondly, will he state the amount of the increase in overdraft accommodation provided) by banks, either by direction of himself as Treasurer, to the Commonwealth Bank, or by the ordinary activities of the banks? Finally, will he say by what means he proposes to protect the purchasing power of the £1 if he continues to destroy the safeguards instituted by the previous Menzies Government and maintained by the Chifley Government in order to see that this inflationary spiral shall not do further harm to the Australian people?
– Despite the fact that the subject brought forward is a matter for debate, I shall have the question answered if it is put on the notice-paper.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that of the twenty flour mills in Western
Australia about sixteen have closed down or are working only part-time? Is be aware that about 25,000 tons of flour is in store awaiting shipping space? Is he aware that at a conference in Adelaide recently Western Australia was allotted 12,000 tons of shipping space which is not so far forthcoming? Is he aware that some mills in Western Australia have been closed since the 8th December, and that at the present rate of shipment it would take until next September to clear the flour in hand, and that during that time there would be a very grave risk of weevil infestation ? Is the Minister aware that this- disruption of gristing is having a serious effect in reducing supplies of bran and pollard, and that the shortage of these commodities will very seriously .reduce milk and egg production? In view of the fact that there is a lessened demand for Australian flour and that, over the past ten years, Western Australia has exported twice as much flour as the eastern States having regard to the gristing capacity of the respective States, will he, because of the importance of maintaining supplies of mill offal to other primary industries, ensure that arrangements are made to provide at least the same comparative level of export of Western Australian flour as has prevailed in the past?
– I am not familiar with the statistics quoted by the honorable member but I know that, in general terms, the position is as he has stated it to be. The problem arises primarily from a falling off in the Australian export flour trade. This results from two separate circumstances. One is the re-establishment of milling capacity in certain countries where it had been destroyed during the war and to that extent a diminished demand for our flour was to be expected, and the other is the fact that in Australia we have a very low fixed price for flour mill offals by comparison with the prevailing prices in the United States of America and Canada. To that extent, in quoting prices for flour for export, Australian flour millers are in a very unfavorable position by comparison with American and Canadian millers. The combination of these two circumstances has produced a very difficult state of affairs. Within a few days
I propose to have a conference in Canberra with the chairman and the general manager of the Australian Wheat Board and one of the grower representatives on the board and a representative of the flour millers, at which the position will be examined. We shall endeavour to overcome the difficulty. I assure the honorable member that to the best of my ability the interests of (Western Australian flour millers will be safeguarded.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply and Development. In view of the very great shortage of galvanized iron for building purposes and for the carrying out of urgently needed repairs to houses and buildings generally, especially in areas where Tainfall is above average and where homes are exposed to the effects of sea air, will the Minister state what quantity of galvanized iron has been exported to places outside Australia since January, 1949? What quantity of galvanized iron is allotted to each State annually? Will the right honorable gentleman consider the desirability of making available a larger quantity of galvanized iron for the repair and renewal of roofs of houses throughout the States ?
– In respect of the matters that require the compilation of figures, .1 shall see that the information is obtained and made available to the honorable member as soon as possible. With regard to the latter part of the question, which concerns the allocation of galvanized iron for particular purposes, I remind the honorable member that the Australian Government has no power over the allocation of that commodity. Indeed, the Australian Government has no control over any commodities that come within the sphere in which I am responsible. The controls that existed previously were operated under the war-time powers of the Government which, in this respect, have now lapsed. As I am constantly receiving letters asking whether a certain product or commodity may be directed to a certain industry or area, I am glad to take this opportunity to say that the Australian Government has no powers of that kind.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In view of the serious proportions of the rabbit menace, and of the facts that the export of rabbit meat to Great Britain is no longer profitable and that large quantities still remain unsold in the United Kingdom, will the Minister indicate whether it would be practicable to include rabbit meat in our long-term meat contract with the United Kingdom Government. I point out that a fall in carcass value has followed the fall in skin value, and large numbers of men who normally engaged in the seasonal occupation of trapping rabbits have ceased operations because it is no longer profitable for them to continue the work. In addition, some of the small freezing works’ which were established to handle rabbits are now closing down.
– The Government is fully aware of the menace of the rabbit plague and it desires to attack the problem from every possible angle. One method by which it can be attacked is the encouragement of trapping and the export of rabbits. I know that the value of rabbit carcasses has fallen to such a degree that many people no longer regard rabbit trapping as a profitable occupation. That fact has arisen principally from the fall in value of rabbit skins, but also partly from the very diminished demand by the United Kingdom for rabbit carcasses. The honorable member for Wannon and other honorable members have discussed this matter with me, and I have undertaken to consult the Australian Meat Board with a view to a communication being sent to the United Kingdom Ministry of Food authorities to ascertain whether it would be possible to reach some arrangement that will hold out the prospect of a profitable sale of rabbit carcasses to the United Kingdom, and so re-establish intensive rabbit trapping in this country.
– Will the Minister for Health say whether he was correctly reported on page 1847 of
Hansard of the 30th June, 1949, as having said, in relation to the Chifley Government -
The Government could provide free medicine for the people to-morrow if it chose to do so and if the parties at present in Opposition get into power at the next general election they will give the public free medicine.
Has the right honorable gentleman taken steps to provide that free medicine in accordance with the promise then made? Does he propose to provide it at the early stage that he then indicated was possible? I ask this question because it must be obvious to Ministers and honorable members that the present high cost of medicine is a crushing burden on the people.
– During the eight years that the previous Government was in office it did not provide free medicine for the people of Australia, but the honorable gentleman will not have to wait so long before he has an opportunity to consider the policy of this Government in that matter, and I trust that then his sympathy for the people who are sick will lead him to assist us to put the necessary legislation through at the earliest possible moment.
– I ask the Minister for Health a series of questions on his “ bide a wee “ policy in relation to free medicine. First, is it a fact that the whole scheme is being delayed because his “ life-saving drugs “ will cost dollars? Secondly, will he consider the issue of orange juice to school children throughout the nation as part of the free medicine scheme? Thirdly, is he meeting with much opposition from the electors of Cowper in .relation to his decision to provide free milk to school children under the scheme?
– What is happening at the present time in relation to life-saving drugs is that we are obtaining, and have already obtained, advice from the most competent experts in Australia, to determine the full list of drugs to be provided, so that such drugs will be available to the people.
– Of this generation?
– The people will receive those drugs very much more quickly than would have been the case if the former Government had stayed in office. Insofar as the electors of Cowper are concerned, it may interest the honorable member to know that my Labour party opponent at the last general election, who was a doctor, completely repudiated the Labour Government’s medical policy.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 25 I lay on the table my warrant nominating Mr. McDonald, Mr. Tom Burke, Mr. Bowden, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Thompson, and Mr. Watkins to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That, during the unavoidable absence of the Deputy Speaker, the Speaker be authorized to call upon any of the Temporary Chairmen of Committees to relieve Mm temporarily in the Chair
Debate resumed from the 1st March (vide page 250), on motion by Mr. Opperman -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General lie agreed to: -
May it PLEASE Youn Excellency:
We the House of Representatives of the Parliament 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.
.- I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General. I should like to express in this House my thanks to the electors of Lyne for having chosen me as their representative in the Nineteenth Parliament of the Commonwealth. For the information of honorable members, I shall describe briefly the physical features and industries of my electorate. Lyne covers a very important area and has a greater number of tidal rivers than any other electorate has. Those rivers are the Manning, Camden Haven, Hastings, Macleay, Nambucca, and Bellingen. They carry an enormous volume of water and represent vast potential resources. In the electorate are the prosperous towns of Gloucester, Wingham, Taree, Port Macquarie, Wauchope, Kempsey, Macksville and Bellingen, and on the coast are some of the finest tourist resorts in Australia. The principal industries are dairying, with allied industries, the great hardwood timber industry and agriculture. The primary products that are grown require a high rainfall and a fertile soil. Therefore, it will be seen that Lyne has many resources that can play an important part in the national development and welfare. The people have given of their best, over the years, to the development of that area, and during the last three years they have waited anxiously for improved amenities. Unfortunately, they have waited in vain. To-day, however, they have every confidence that they will receive relief from taxation, in order to assist their productive effort, that they will be given the advantages of the extension of electrical supply and that they will have the benefit of the construction of new roads and the restoration of existing roads that are now in a bad condition of repair. The construction of airports and the provision of improved postal and telephone facilities are also urgently needed in my constituency.
Having given that brief description of the nature and industries of my electorate, I desire to express my thanks to His Excellency the Governor-General fo: the Speech that he has delivered to the Parliament, and to make some references thereto. I believe that I am correct in saying that the Australian people have waited for some years for really active leadership and responsibility to the fundamental needs of government. His Excellency has forecast that, under this Government, those qualities will be provided, and the people may confidently believe that we are moving into a new era of progress and development. With other honorable members, I am gratified that His Majesty has been restored to health, and I voice thanks for that fact on behalf of the people whom >I represent in the Parliament. I am also pleased to learn that Their Majesties intend to visit Australia in 1952. All of us deeply regretted that the Royal visit which was to have taken place last year had to be postponed because of His Majesty’s illness. We are, indeed, happy to learn that he has recovered from that illness, and I have no doubt that the welcome of the Australian people to Their Majesties will leave no room for doubt about their loyalty to the Throne. Several months after Their Majesties and the princesses completed their tour of South Africa, the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) and I visited that country and followed practically the route of the Royal tour of that great country. Although South Africa is confronted with many complex problems, evidence was not wanting that Their Majesties had left a deep impression upon the people and had completely won their affection. The respect which the European and native populations throughout the Union of South Africa, Rhodesia and the African colonies displayed for the Crown was extraordinary, and I believe that Australians will welcome Their Majesties with even greater enthusiasm. I sincerely trust, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has said, that it will not be necessary to curtail the itinerary that had been arranged for last year. Indeed, I ho,pe that it might be possible to embrace many additional areas within the Royal tour in 1952.
It is clear from the Governor-General’s Speech that all members of the Parliament must, first and foremost, take an interest in our relationships with other countries and do their utmost to ensure their welfare as well as our own in order to maintain world peace. Every member of the Parliament should co-operate with the Government in its policy on foreign affairs so that Australia may be enabled to make its contribution towards the maintenance of peace. I believe that although we may differ on how we should approach the various problems arising in the international sphere, the maintenance of world peace is the common objective of all honorable members regardless of party. We must co-operate with all other nations of goodwill in that task. I am disappointed to note how lightly some members of the Opposition appear to regard certain foreign influences that are at work in this country at present. It is only necessary to look back into history and to compare the situation then with the situation as we see it now, and to study the remarks made by men who should know the world position, to realize the state of world affairs at the present time. Since federation, this country has been involved in three wars, of which two were major world conflicts. The first major world war was brought about by the dominating ambitions of the then Emperor of Germany. The second world war was brought about by the dominating desires of Hitler. During the periods that preceded each of those wars it was possible for people to visit Germany to see how the German people lived and it was possible to examine their activities and to gain some idea of their national desires. In this age of threat and menace we have a great threat from Moscow hanging over us at all times, but no one is allowed to enter Russia to ascertain what is going on in that country. Therefore, we must be tremendously suspicious of what is being brought about behind the iron curtain and in the satellite countries that have come under the control of Russia. When we have a world situation such as this, we must recognize the seriousness of the times and make every endeavour to bring about such situations throughout the world as will maintain peace and harmony for us.
Having listened to the remarks made by Opposition members in regard to the seriousness of the threat of enemy agents in this country, and having noted the lack of seriousness on the part of the Opposition in regard to that matter, I repeat a statement that I heard made in the British House of Commons in 1948 by the socialist Foreign Minister of Great Britain when I was privileged to listen to discussions there. He said that the greatest threat that the world and democracy bad ever known hung over us from Moscow. That was at the time of the great Berlin crisis, when matters were very delicate. As that statement came from one so well informed on world affairs, we must necessarily take notice of it and do whatever we possibly can do to preserve peace for our people.
I am glad that His Excellency’s Speech indicated that the Government proposes to continue to support, and to improve wherever possible, the relationships of the members of the British Commonwealth and to strengthen the bonds between the British Commonwealth and the United States of America and other countries which have objectives similar to our own. That is the only way we can hope to preserve peace in this world and I shall give of my utmost as a member of this House to the achieving of that objective. Many of the honorable members of this House and many people throughout the length and breadth of this land know the destructive effects of war and I am sure that, having had that experience and knowing of the economic results that arise from war, they will give of their best in an endeavour to ensure the continuation of peace. I shall leave that aspect of His Excellency’s Speech at this stage, in view of the fact that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) will be making a statement to this House, in due course, on matters of international significance. But while the Minister and other members of the Government are striving in the international field, we must, as a national parliament, shoulder our responsibility to provide adequately for the defence of this nation. Immigration, defence and development are so closely related that it is difficult to deal with them separately. Immigration is vital to our industrial expansion and rural development, and every effort must be made to bring to this country large numbers of people, preferably of British stock, so that this nation may be strengthened in every way. Honorable members can discharge their own responsibility in this regard by giving every encouragement to new settlers, and making them feel at home. There is no more lonely person in the world than the friendless immigrant. The Australian people generally must play their part and endeavour to make immigrants happy and contented so that they will settle down rapidly to a full enjoyment of the privileges that citizenship of this country offers to them.
It is apparent from speeches that have been made by Labour members of this House in the last few days that the Opposition does not yet fully understand the reasons for the defeat of the Chifley Government. Labour will remain in opposition so long as it features socialism in its policy. It is true that the socialist objective has been in the Labour platform since 1921, but, for many years, it was kept under cover and rarely discussed for fear of its unpopularity. During the war years, Labour’s socialist aspirations were revived, but at the 1946 general election the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley), gave no indication that his Government, if returned to office, would indulge in fullscale socialist activities. He merely asked the Australian people to give him a new mandate to carry on as before., The electors accepted that assurance and gave Labour the mandate that it sought; but no sooner had the Government been returned to office than we saw evidence of a desire to embark upon measures of which no mention had been made during the election campaign, and for which the Government had no mandate whatever. Legislation was introduced to nationalize our banking system and to enable the Government to undertake other socialistic ventures. The Australian people rose almost as one and demanded from the Parliament the right to express their views on the Government’s banking proposals, but the Chifley Government withheld that democratic right. Opposition members talk glibly about democracy. They had an opportunity to give to the people the democratic right to express their opinion on a vital issue which was to change the way of life of almost every member of the community, but they refused point blank to do so. They proceeded to act against the wishes of the people, and from that hour, the electors of the Commonwealth waited, day by day, for a chance to tell Labour just what they thought of socialism and of the Chifley Government’s action in introducing legislation for which it had no popular authority. That was the real election issue in 1949. The result was a decisive defeat for Labour on the 10th December, and, as I have said, I am certain that Labour will remain in opposition so long as it adheres to the socialist objective. The Australian people will not stand for socialism. We are of British stock and we love our freedom, lt is a characteristic of our nation, and we shall not tolerate domination by any political party which seeks to take away from us the freedom for which we have fought.
What was the record of the Chifley Government during the three years immediately preceding its defeat? It was clear to an outside observer that the greater part of the time of this Parliament was being occupied, in debating socialistic measures of some kind. When the battle was not being waged inside the Parliament, tire Government was carrying it On in the courts, seeking by some means to implement its policy of socialism. All that was going on at a time when the Government and the Parliament should have been devoting their full attention to Australia’s economic recovery. The Government’s preoccupation with socialism meant that the fundamental needs of the community were being neglected. To-day supplies generally are in a chaotic state and the restoration of normal conditions will take some time. We are told by Opposition members that present-day difficulties are war-caused. Admittedly some of our problems may truthfully be attributed to war, but it is five years since the war ended and in some respects present-day conditions are worse than those of 1945, which proves conclusively that, during the last three years, the Government has wasted the time of the Parliament and the nation. It has failed in its fundamental duties to the people of this country. There has been shocking waste of taxpayers’ money. The full measure of this waste is only now becoming apparent as reports of various organizations come to hand. The people now realize what socialization means and how it affects their lives and gives rise to inefficiency in almost every direction. I am sure that they will never again return to power a government that wants to implement a policy of socialization.
I refer now to the great primary industries of Australia. I welcome the proposal that was announced in the Governor-General’s Speech to establish
an independent cost-finding tribunal to examine at regular intervals the costs of production in primary industries with the object of providing for the return of a reasonable margin of profit to the farmers. That will ensure the maintenance of stability in our vital primary industries. Many honorable members have spoken of the prosperity that we are experiencing in Australia to-day, but most of them have overlooked the fact that the primary producers have been obliged to struggle against shortages and many other great difficulties in order to raise production to the present level. The truth is that primary production has decreased in terms of area, and also in terms of quantity in many directions. The prosperity is due, in a very large measure, to the exceptionally good seasons that we have experienced in recent years and are still experiencing. Such conditions may not prevail for a lengthy period. We must be prepared for what may happen next year. Approximately 150,000,000 bushels of wheat itrequired for local consumption and for export under the terms of the International Wheat Agreement. We produced about 200,000,000 bushels last year, but the surplus was harvested because farmers throughout Australia had a very good season, not because they had a record acreage under crops. Although all primary industries are important to the economic welfare of the nation, the dairy industry is outstanding because of the vital food products that it provides for young Australians in particular and for all Australians in general. No nation can continue to progress and expand its population unless it is supplied with essential milk foods. There can be no substitutes for such foods. The output of whole milk in Australia in 1939 totalled 1,1S9,000,000 gallons. In 194S-49 it totalled 1,206,123,000 gallons. Those figures disclose a slight increase of production over a period of ten years, but I suggest that it was due entirely to the good seasonal conditions that have prevailed in recent years. In reality, the production of milk has not increased over that period of ten years; in fact, there may have been a slight decrease on the basis of averages. During the same period, the population of Australia increased by 700,000, and the Government is now engaged in a vigorous programme of immigration.
We must bring new citizens to Australia as quickly as possible in as large numbers as possible if .we are to develop the nation and provide for its adequate defence, but we must realize the importance of increasing food production if we are to succeed in doing so. A year or two ago, the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) visited East Africa in order to study at first hand the United Kingdom Government’s ground nut undertaking in that country. We heard a great deal about that plan from the United Kingdom Government. Millions of acres of land were to be cleared so that ground nuts could he grown to provide vegetable fats for the British people. The total expenditure involved was £29,000,000, but the return was relatively slight. I believe that a much more effective approach to the United Kingdom’s problem could have been made by means of an agreement with the Australian Government for the production of dairy fats. Whereas -the ground nut scheme in East Africa failed, the output of fats for Great Britain could have been increased much more rapidly and cheaply in Australia. Perhaps the East African experiment was undertaken because the United Kingdom Government wanted to demonstrate the effectiveness of collective farming! Had it made an arrangement with the Australian Government to develop dairy farms in our high rainfall areas by applying a complete mineral dressing to those properties, it would have been able to obtain greater production of dairy fats, at a cost of only £1,000,000 or £2,000,000, than could have 1:,een obtained in any other country.
I refer now to the great natural potentialities of Australia. At the outset of my speech I spoke of the great rivers that flow through the electorate that I represent. I am well acquainted with the rivers of Australia and have examined the rivers of other countries. During 194S I devoted some time to a study of the methods of controlling waterways that are employed in the United States of America. As the result of my observations I am convinced that the time has come when the control and exploitation of our streams must be brought within the scope of national politics. The proposed new Department of National Development should be well equipped to engage in such work. The supply of electricity for light and power falls far short of the demand in every part of Australia. No nation has ever succeeded in producing more electricity than could be used, and Australia lags far behind the vest of the world in that field. The situation throughout the sea-board area of New South Wales is so serious that we scarcely know at what moment electricity rationing will be re-introduced. This state of affairs imposes great difficulties upon industries for whose efficient operation a constant supply of power is essential. At a time when coal is scarce in Australia and when we are seeking to import quantities of it from overseas, it is distressing to realize that the great hydro-electric power potential of our waterways is not being used. Our rivers have not been harnessed, and their waters are running to waste.
I desire also to direct the attention of the House to the urgent problem of flood control. Last August the Macleay River, which is situated in my electorate, broke its banks and caused what was possibly the greatest disaster that this country has ever experienced. The flood waters seriously damaged the town of Kempsey and destroyed thousands of head of stock. It has been estimated that, as a result of the flood, between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000 was lost. (Extension of time granted.] The Hunter River, the Clarence River, the Richmond River and other rivers in New South Wales and other States have caused similar disasters, but so far no real effort has been made to grapple with the problem of flood control. The State governments, through their water conservation departments and works departments, have collected a considerable volume of data in relation to hydroelectric power development and flood control, but they are unable to proceed further unless they receive financial assistance from the Commonwealth. The harnessing of our rivers would not only be of benefit to our industries, but also encourage decentralization by leading to the establishing of settlements that might attract to the country areas migrants from overseas who are now wandering about the streets of the capital cities. When I was in America 1 inspected the Tennessee Valley and other great water conservation undertakings. The problems that confront the Americans and those that confront ns are very similar The Americans have accomplished much in this field of activity, and there is no reason why we should not make some progress in harnessing and controlling the waters of our rivers for i lie purposes to which I have referred.
It may be asked how we can proceed to implement these schemes at a time when there is a great shortage of all the necessary materials. I propose to place before the Department of National Development, when it is established, some suggestions concerning several large hydro-electric power development and flood prevention projects in my electorate. The first requirement is that the Commonwealth should ensure that a comprehensive survey of the rivers concerned shall be made and a report prepared upon how the waters may best be controlled and utilized. That is the first step that should be taken. In the performance of the actual work of harnessing the waters of the rivers for power development and flood prevention, we must abandon the inefficient day labour system and revert to a contract basis. I am sure that there are British organizations that are prepared to enter into contracts to do these works and to bring to this country the necessary equipment and man-power. That would lead to the establishment of settlement areas in the places in which the work is to be done, and would make available man-power centres from which farmers and others in the areas concerned could draw labour. We have a great task ahead of us. We must take steps to tackle it now and not at some time in the future. I hope that the Government will shortly make a statement regarding the progress that is being made upon the projects upon which it has been possible to begin work. The people of the country areas are responsible for the great measure of prosperity that Australia is now enjoying. They are largely responsible for the fact that we now have large sterling balances overseas and that our financial position is very strong. They should be given first consideration when developmental projects are being implemented.
I thank the House for the extension of time that it has granted to me and which has enabled me to deal with a subject that I consider is of the utmost national importance. I am sure that, with the co-operation of Commonwealth and State Governments and local government instrumentalities, a process of development will begin which will make Australia one of the greatest nations of the world.
.- At the outset of my remarks I desire to thank the electors of my division for having returned me to the Parliament with a large majority to represent them as a member of the Australian Labour party. I compliment you, Mr. Speaker, upon your election to the exalted office that yon now hold, and, as a new member, I crave your indulgence if I should be guilty of any indiscretions. When I attended in the Senate chamber to listen to the Governor-General’s Speech, I was inspired when a son of the people and a great Australian delivered the Speech in a most dignified way. I was filled with pride to think that a fellow Australian occupied the exalted position of GovernorGeneral of this fair country of ours.In direct contrast were the miserable utterances of one who is now a member of the Government who attacked this son of Australia when he was appointed to the position of GovernorGeneral. The miserable, puny, paltry, narrow-minded utterances of that honorable gentleman earned for him the anger and abuse of the people who count - the Australian people, the working people, the producers of this, fair country of ours, who are, after all. the only people who matter. When I look across the chamber to-day, I see quite a number of young faces. It is no crime to be young, but I am very sorry that those boys should have been elected to the Parliament under the Liberal banner. I suppose they themselves are amazed at the miracle which resulted in their being elected, at least for a period. It will probably not be for a long period, ii3 I am inclined to believe when I look at their co-partners in crime, the members of the Australian Country party. I pay my tribute to youth, because I think that the youth of Australia is something to be wondered at. We owe much to the young people who have carried Australia through, the trials of the last ten years, the boys who f ought the battle of Australia in the deserts of Africa, in Europe and in New Guinea. They never thought that when they returned to Australia, having been promised a new order, they would be assailed by the tycoons d finance, and their miserable stooges who now sit on the Government benches, and described as loafers. They never thought that they would be told that Australians will not work. These young men were good enough to go to New Guinea and fight to preserve the miserable millions of the wealthy classes, but when they came back they were told that they were too lazy to work. Members of the Opposition will, perhaps, classify me as one of the loafers. I spring from a workingclass family. My mother - I hope sh? is listening now - is 83 years of age. I am very proud that an Australian of the third generation is able to attain the age of 83. She has grand-daughters and great-grand-daughters. That is something for the wealthy people of Australia to admire.
When I look at honorable members opposite, I wonder how any sane person could possibly vote for them in view of their past record. On the front bench opposite there is the same old gang that I remember was in office in the ‘thirties. I was then a boilermaker, fit and ready to work in the interests of the country, ever ready to shoulder my responsibilities as a family man, and as the son of my mother, but the gang in power said “ No ! “ I was placed on the dole, and for seven long, soul-destroying years I was out of work. I was a skilled mechanic, who had attended the technical college for years at my parents’ expense in order to learn my trade, but I was thrown onto the dole by the persons I now see opposite to me. However, the day came when I was elected to this Parliament, and to-day I have the glorious opportunity to tell them what I think of them. The Government proposes to send to London as Resident
Minister a man whose chief claim to fame is that he organized a subversive organization called the New Guard to overthrow constituted authority. Everybody knows that. He basks in the sunshine of the rank of lieutenant-colonel that he holds. Any one could obtain that rank for running messages between the Australian forces and the Americans. It is not hard to get a lieutenant-colonelcy when one knows how to seek for it. A right honorable gentleman whom I see opposite to me is the “tragic Treasurer “ of the ‘twenties. Others of the old gang are not present in the chamber at the moment, whether by design or accident I do not know. However, there will be other days on which they will be present. I have waited for 36 years, and I can wait for another ten. if necessary. I shall still be here. I hope.
To-day, I have heard honorable members talk, and talk, and talk. I can do plenty of talking myself, and I hope that what T talk about will be of some benefit to the country I love, and the people I love - Australia, and the Australians. The working people of Australia have been assailed ever since this Parliament opened with cries of, “You loafers! You won’t work, you won’t produce; you won’t do this or that, you won’t do anything “. Nevertheless, as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), one of our eminent trade union leaders, pointed out. production in Australia has increased by 10 per cent, during the last three years. The workers are producing more in a 40-hour week than was produced in a 44-hour week. The tycoons of finance do not like that. Neither do they like the co-ordination that is going on in the trade union movement. They know that their temple is crumbling. They know that the trade union movement is coming into its own. Out of the depression was born a determination to organize the trade union movement as it had never been organized before. Recently, the insignificant Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) - who, by the way, has never worked in his life - said that the Australian labourite had no fight left in him. What a rude awakening is coming to that insignificant gentleman, who lives in his £18,000 Palm Beach home, waiting for the Easter holidays in order to meet and greet the Japanese collaborationist, Dr. Soekarno, to wine and dine him, and to show him the beauties of our great Australian continent upon which the same Dr. Soekarno has cast envious eyes.
I am concerned about the future of the youth of Australia. Reference was made in His Excellency’s Speech to a “ sensible “ system of universal military service. It is common knowledge that when the kings of high finance crack the whip their “ stooges “ in the present Liberal Government must spring to attention and do the bidding of their masters. Many of them owe their election to the Parliament to the effects of the smear campaign that was conducted throughout r.his country, made possible by the millionof pounds that were paid into the party funds for that purpose by their masters. As honorable members know, one of the principal aims of honorable members opposite is to destroy the trade union movement in this country. The reintroduction of universal military training will be the first step in that direction During my lifetime there have been three wars and three depressions. I consider it remarkable that I have survived for so long in view of the number of Liberal governments that have held office’ in thi:country during that period. If they had had their way the workers of this country would have eaten grass during the general strike in 1917. In days gone by I was a compulsory military trainee. I ha ve a lot of things to tell you boys.
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson must address the Chair. It is not permissible for him to refer to honorable members of this House as “ boys “.
– I crave the indulgence of the Chair for my indiscretion. I realize fully that it is a long time since many honorable members opposite were boys. I hope that Australian mothers will pay particular attention to the Government’s proposal to apply compulsory military service to youths between the ages of 18 and 21 years. Young men are in the prime of their lives at those ages, and in many instances would be attending colleges to learn trades and to study for professions. Because of the
Government’s “ sensible “ selective scheme those young men will be forced to abandon, or at least seriously interrupt, their studies. Presumably, man-power boards will be established to decide matters of eligibility associated with the scheme. Of course, the son of Mrs. Jones living in Redfern will be one of the “will-bees”. He will “get the gun”. But Mrs. Laird-Smith’s son of Vaucluse will be one of the “ won’t-bees “. There will be something wrong with him. He will not be able to even work, because of his disabilities. The man-power officials will say “ We shall stand him aside “. He will be able to run around with the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) at the honorable gentleman’s Palm Beach home, and surf to his full content, while Mrs. Jones’s son will be shouldering a gun at Liverpool camp or Ingleburn camp. I well remember the attitude of the man-power boards that were established in 1912. When I was required to appear before such a board an official said to me, “ I understand that you go to a technical school on Wednesday nights.”. I said “ Yes. I should like to be excused from training on. those nights “. An upstart in a military uniform insisted that I call him “sir”. That is an indication of the state of affairs to which this Government is determined that Australia shall revert. Instead of attending night school on Wednesday nights I was inarched around the streets of Erskineville. The individual to whom I have referred was in charge of the march and “ yelled his ears off “ directing the trainees to turn to the right or to the left and to proceed along various streets. It is somewhat significant that when World War I. brokeout that lieutenant, as well as many other lieutenants, resigned from the service. J stress that the period between 18 and 21 years of age is vital in the lives of young Australians who are learning trades and professions prior to setting out on their journey through life. If the people of this country allow the citadel of education that was established by the Labour Government during the last eight years to be torn down in the interests of universal training, those boys will not get a further opportunity to pursue their studies until Labour is again elected to power in this country. The Government should establish some other system than the one proposed, which is designed to suit the wishes of swashbuckling loafers who call themselves military officers. Let them go to work in the factories and produce mechanical instruments of war. T’ military experts - not the “experts” tha: we have heard here recently - have stated that in future ground troops will be used only for occupational purposes. Australians should be kept where they are. In two world wars they fought victoriously without any prior universal training.
I am a good Australian, interested in everything that concerns Australia. Government spokesmen have announced that the Government is interested in decentralization. Nothing could be further from the truth, because the Government is not really interested in anything that may interfere with the making of profit. The bankers will see to that. Years ago bank managers commanded a good deal of respect. People regarded it as an honour to be spoken to by them in the streets, because they knew the financial position of many citizens. However, bankers have now broken all the ethics of their profession. No longer do bank managers hold an exalted position. They have been reduced to our level. They have fallen from grace and are now merely ordinary members of society. The sanctity of the relationship between doctor and patient was rudely upset, because the doctors desecrated their profession. The “ Macquarie-street vultures “, who will not examine a patient for less than 50 guineas, never cease to advocate secret ballots in the trade unions. But they do not cry out for a secret ballot on free medicine. Every doctor was told in no uncertain terms that he had to agree to the British Medical Association “ junta’s “ decision. That deprived the Australian mothers and children of free medicine for which they had been paying for years. There will now be introduced a systematic handout of drugs, but a person would have to be dying before they would be of any use to him. The tragic Treasurer of 1929 - I refer to the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) - has become the doleful doctor of disease and death. Pardon me for digressing, Mr. Speaker, but I was carried away by
Mr. Curtin. my thoughts. I have a lot to say for a new member; I have had it stored up for years, and it has just begun to burst forth like an erupting volcano. Under the Government’s loan scheme for the development of Australia, I sincerely hope that the money will be raised internally and that the dead hand of the almighty dollar will be prevented from smothering our fair land. The previous Prima Minister administered this country in a highly organized manner and prevented it from being subjected to the dictation of Wallstreet. I honestly believe that the present, Government, at the behest of the tycoons of finance, must either place Australia in bondage or relinquish office. I hope that the loans scheme will not interfere with the Snowy River hydro-electric undertaking, but I have my suspicions about that because of the action of honorable members on the Government side in boycotting the opening ceremony.
His Excellency referred to the necessity for increasing the supply of coal, steel and building materials. Coal is one of our basic materials. It is absolutely necessary that coal shall be produced in large quantities and that means that moat of the mines in Australia must be mechanized. ‘ In the mechanization of coal mines extreme care must be exercised so that the safety measures designed for the protection of mine workers will not be nullified. The lives of the men who hew the coal should not be endangered. Steel is controlled by a huge monopoly, and there will be no decentralization in that industry, because the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, through its representatives in this House, will make sure of that. I have a. knowledge of the steel industry and it may interest honorable members to hear that, although the present Government has been in office for only three months, representatives of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited are already touring Australia and marking down their small competitors for slaughter. These men who are engaged in the industry in a small way, will be told by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited that the Communists are preventing the production of steel and that therefore they cannot be supplied with the necessary raw material for their factories. They will he pushed out, not bought out, by this huge monopoly. The tycoons of finance who hold up their bands in holy horror at the spectacle of socialism creeping over Australia are not averse to the creeping paralysis that caused by huge monopolies. I submit in all sincerity to the Government that it should make plans to take over Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in (he interests of Australia. If that is not done our country will crumble under the power of this huge monopoly.
I intend to relate to the House a story about my dismissal, by subtle methods, from employment by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. In 1930 I was on the dole. A permanent advertisement was carried by the Sydney Morning Herald notifying vacancies for boilermakers at Port Kembla. Applicants were asked to present themselves at the office of the company at Port Kembla. I borrowed ls. for my fare and went to Port Kembla, where I was given employment by the company. I was not very strong; having been on the dole, I was suffering from malnutrition. At 10 a.m. f was told by one of the company’s many “chasers” who were liberally spread throughout the establishment, and whose duty it was to keep the men hard at work, that there were 2,000 men “ on the hill “ looking for work. At lunch time, I was told that the machinery had broken down in the section in which T was engaged and that half the men would have to be put off. Those .men were dismissed and were added to the growing number of unemployed “ on the hill “, which was a part of that unemployed ‘poo) that recently Professor Hytten spoke about. Professor Hytten is very much out of date, because Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was putting bis policy into effect in 1930. I could not get my half day’s wages until the following Friday. I .’should not like to inform the House of bow I managed to carry on until then. When I received my pay I went immediately, not to a hotel, because I am a non-drinker, but to a grill room to get a feed. I had three meals, which cut out my half-day’s wages, and I had to walk from Port Kembla to my home at Redfern. Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited causes more trouble in industry than all the Communists who are behind the Iron Curtain. It amuses and grieves me to think that honorable members opposite could be so stupid as not to reason things out for themselves. They merely listen to what they are told and talk in parrot fashion about incentive schemes, piece-work and bonuses.
The next item in His Excellency’s Speech that I shall deal with is petrol. The Government was very happy to announce the termination of petrol rationing. That was very satisfactory to taxidrivers, lorry drivers and family men with cars, who jumped with joy when they heard the news. That is the miracle that put members of the Liberal and Australian Country .parties on the Government benches, but it will never happen again. I view this matter with very grave concern. It is no joke to me.
There are ominous rumblings and rumours and, indeed, there are authenticated facts, which go to show that the huge transport companies in Sydney are buying up all the petrol they can get and are storing it away in 44-gallon drums. Under a Liberal Government these chaps know what they are doing. They do not spend thousands of pounds on the storage of petrol without a reason. They know that as soon as all the State elections have been held the coupons will emerge again from the vaults in which they are stored and that petrol rationing will again be imposed. There are ominous rumblings, also, that our defence stocks are being tampered with. Honorable members know that many conferences were held with defence chiefs on this point. Has the Government gone behind the backs of the defence chiefs and ignored their advice? Is it now tampering with the defence stocks for political purposes, to try to bring about the undoing of the Labour State governments that are still in power?
Australian mothers have been disillusioned more than once. There is a chap in Sydney called “ The Great Franquin “, who mesmerizes people. There is another person of his kind here - the Prime Minister, who mesmerizes the mothers of Australia with the promise of 5s. a week family endowment for the first child. I want mothers to listen carefully to what I am about to say. [Extension of time granted.’] The Prime Minister said in his policy speech -
If the basic wage, whether increased in amount or not, remains on the same foundation as at present we will give some extra help to families by providing an endowment of 5s. per week for the first child under sixteen years. … If the foundation of the basic wage is altered and its amount is calculated by reference to the needs of a married couple without children - and we have noticed that such a basis has been suggested - then we shall of course provide endowment for the first child on the 10s. rate.
Those were very brave words on the part of the Prime Minister. But therein lies further disillusionment. There are approximately 1,000,000 first children in Australia. If the proposed 10s. were paid, that would involve a total payment of £26,000,000 a year. There are approximately 2,000,000 basic wage workers, and the Arbitration Court is in duty bound by principles that were well expressed in 1941 by none other than the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), who then said -
In the court’s most recent judgment the view was expressed by the Chief Judge that, considered on the basis of needs only, the present basic wage is adequate for a family unit of three.
The basic wage will be reduced by 10s. at least, and with 2,000,000 basic wage earners in the country that will take £52,000,000 from the spending power of the great Australian nation. That is to say> by paying £26,000,000 to the mothers of Australia, out of the social service payments to which their husbands contribute, the Liberal Government will save its masters, the financial tycoons of Australia, a payment of £52,000,000 a year. Study these figures, and see whether they are not correct. It will be found that the wealthy will become wealthier. The sniggering honorable gentlemen opposite will find that this proposal will follow the course of a boomerang when the single girls and men and the childless couples find that their wages are to be reduced to pay the endowment for the first child. Just imagine what a pretty kettle of fish is going to be stirred up. This is the last term that the LiberalAustralian Country party unholy alliance will have on the benches of the National Parliament.
I come now to another very controversial subject. As a trade unionist, I can have a snigger at some of the naive and simple young gentlemen opposite, one of whom said yesterday, “ I believe in payment by results “. So does the boss; but he stipulates what the payment shall be. There are two schools of thought in Australia that would like to destroy the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Bruce-Page unholy alliance tried to do so in 1924. Now the Liberal- Australian Country party and the Communist party are the only parties in Australia that would destroy the arbitration system, because they believe in the open shop. They believe in going outside and engaging the man with the well-developed muscles. He is better endowed by nature to throw the big cases about, to swing the heavy hammer, and to do all the other hard work. There is nothing the boss likes better than to see the big fellow with the big muscles clad in a cotton singlet putting his hand up, signifying that he is seeking employment. To-day we have put a stop to that sort of thing. The” Liberal party is in the course of trying to break down what we have done, by cajoling this one and that one with incentive payments. Webster’s dictionary defines the word incentive as, “ that which incites “. It could be murder. It is murder. It is the murder of the weaker members of the community. They go by the board. Henry Ford, the father of all incentive payments, was once asked, “ Where are all the elderly men in this establishment?” He pointed to the local cemetery and said, “ There, they are “. That is what becomes of the weaker members under the system of incentive payments. Is the purpose of that system, in the words of honorable members opposite, solely to give the workers more money? Those honorable members are greatly concerned about the poor worker. They say that he does not get sufficient money and that therefore he should have the benefits of this system, and that the more money the worker gets, the more he will produce. Is the purpose of this system solely to increase production, or will it be claimed that incentive payments combine both of those objectives by increasing the volume of production and the purchasing power of the worker at one and the same time? Let us get on the merrygoround again and survey the position in which this would place him. If the worker produces more, he is paid more, and, therefore, has more money to buy the extra goods that he produces. Therefore, at the end of the week he is able to buy all the goods that he produced during that week, which leaves him in precisely the same situation on Friday as that in which he found himself when he started work at the beginning of the week. His position continues to remain static. That is the effect of the incentive payment system.
I shall wind up my speech by telling honorable members an extra good story. I wish that the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) were present in the House because I should like to take his mind back to something that occurred many years ago. The right honorable gentleman has probably forgotten about it, because he flits so often from place to place that he is liable to forget where he was last and what happened there. At the time of which I speak the right honorable gentleman was in West Sydney. The boilermakers’ union has had. some experience of incentive payments. The only agreement that the union has ever made to accept incentive payments, the shipbuilding agreement, was adopted by the trade unions and the then Prime Minister, now the right honorable member for Bradfield, on the 25th January, 1918. At that time pressure had been brought to bear on the unions to sacrifice their principle of opposition to piece-work for the purpose of enabling the shipbuilding industry to be established and to assist the shipbuilding programme to overcome losses that had been brought about by enemy submarine warfare. In the interests of the nation the ever-loyal and patriotic worker was prepared to sacrifice all that he had held dear. In addition, under that agreement the right to strike was sacrificed and provision was made for the dilution of labour. The agreement applied only to shipbuilding and was intended to remain in force until twelve months after the termination of the war, but it continued to operate until the Government’s shipbuilding programme had been completed. The shipbuilding yards were then closed down or forced to undertake other engineering work, workers who retained their employment being driven to maintain the highest rate of production for which they had received piece-work rates, but for which they were paid only the hourly rate provided by the award. For instance, the rivetter who had previously driven 400 rivets a day into the shell of a ship under piece-work conditions was forced to reach the same output on waterpipe work for the ordinary day’s pay. Thus, bit by bit, the conditions of the workers were broken down. I assure honorable members opposite that never again will the trade union movement sacrifice its principles in the interests of the wealthy class of this country. We built a government line of ships and every honorable member knows what became of them. At least one member of the present Cabinet knows quite a lot about the “ Bay “ class steamers which were given away to a criminal who subsequently spent eighteen months in prison. Australia is still waiting for payment from him in respect of the sab of Fordsdale and Ferndale.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and the House, for the patience with which this, my maiden speech, has been received. I trust that some of my “ cracks “ have sunk in. I hope to have many other opportunities to meet honorable members opposite in debate.
Sitting suspended from. 12.4-5 to 2.15 p.m.
. Before I deal with the subject I desire to discuss this afternoon, I shall refer briefly to two points raised by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor). I shall deal first with his reference to bank officers. The Bank Officers Association is a registered trade union, many of the members of which are also members of the Labour party. Their sole offence in the eyes of the members of the socialist party was that they were prepared to fight for their freedom and their principles. In that they found us, on this side of the House, behind them. The honorable member also referred to petrol rationing and to the storing of petrol by some of his friends.
May I draw his attention to a statement that appeared in a newspaper this morning to the effect that in the last two months petrol stocks in Australia have increased by 12,000,000 gallons? Petrol rationing has been expeditiously abolished by the Menzies Government. It will not be re-introduced. We on the Government side of the House are committed to a policy of full employment of the nation’s productive resources. The Opposition pays lip-service to that ideal, hut we treat it as a genuine obligation to the Australian people. We regard it as both worthy and practicable. Worthy because we know it will prevent the disillusionment and suffering that are attendant on unemployment; practicable because we consider that it will .tend to increase production and the material well-being of the people. We regard unemployment as potential production. We shall not permit any of our resources to remain unused instead of being utilized for the benefit of Australia. We do not regard employment as an end in itself but as a means to an end. It is part and parcel of the problem of improving the social and moral well-being of the people. If we compare the methods employed by the Labour party when it was in office with the proposals of the present Government, we shall find it easy to decide which methods have the greater prospect of maintaining full employment and full production. As I see it, it is an essay based on probabilities. We can ask ourselves which plans have the greater probability of success, those of the socialist party or those of the present Government. That is a simple proposition. I hope the explanation is just as simple and conclusive.
Historically, this problem was first dealt with by Lord Beveridge, the great Liberal statesman and economist. In later years by far the greatest contribution has been made by Lord Keynes, another Liberal. Right down the line, wherever we look in the sphere of scientific and philosophical thought, we find that the men who have provided leadership in exploring this problem were mainly Liberal economists and philosophers. Does that mean that we on the Government side of the chamber are ignorant of the problem and are not familiar with the methods suggested to combat unemployment and falling production? I leave honorable members and the nation to judge that issue. The problem is still one of the great academic questions that exercises the minds of a number of scientific men. This we can say: It is certain that unemployment does not constitute a pressing problem to-day, and I do not consider that there is any likelihood of it becoming a vital problem during the forseeable future. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) briefly referred to the subject in this debate. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) spoke on the subject a little more fully. I shall examine some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Bendigo for the reason that his speech was, in my opinion, one of the finest contributions made in this House since I have been a member of it. It appeared to me, however, that some of his statements are completely at variance with those expressed in official manuals and scientific reports. For example, he stated that output per man in Australia had increased since the introduction of the 40-hour week. I dispute that assertion. In Economic Monograph No. 116 of September, 1949, Dr. S. P. Stevens said that output in industry per standard week had not decreased in the same proportion as working hours had fallen. In other words, he said nothing at all about an increase in manhour output by 9 per cent., but simply that production had not fallen in the same proportion as it might have been expected to have fallen as a result of the reduction in hours. The most relevant portion of his article stated in general terms that the improvement in man-hour output can be attributed mainly to mechanization “ and organizational efficiency. It was mainly due to managerial efficiency. That is a very important fact, and the honorable member for Bendigo may, if he is interested sufficiently, study the monograph itself, which is available in the Parliamentary Library. I regard it as an authoritative publication.
The second point concerns the honorable member’s reference to the proportion of wages in relation to national income or gross national product. Again, if he cares to study a paper presented to this
House by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), when Prime Minister, which was entitled National Income and Expenditure 1948-49, he will find that the percentage of wages has increased in proportion to the gross national product. In 1939, the total wages bill of Australia, was £444,000,000 when the gross national product was valued at £949,000,000; in 1948-49 it was £1,055,000,000 out of a gross national product, valued at £2,256,000,000. That tendency has been the same in all western democratic countries during the last few years. Other statements on this problem are contained in the last three issues of the London Economist. Honorable members who would like to see for themselves how wages are an increasing proportion of national income can find very clear statements of the position there. I turn now to the references by the honorable member for Bendigo to the problem of actual wages. He referred to that problem as if the basic wage of £6 14s. were the wages actually received by workers. I have before me the Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics for the quarter ended June last year. At page S4 of that publication there is a statement which shows that the average weekly earnings of males during that quarter were nearly £9.46 a week in Victoria and £9.24 a week in New South Wales. I have not advanced my refutations of the arguments of the honorable member for Bendigo in any spirit of carping criticism, but merely so that the record can be made clean and clear.
Returning to my original proposition that we on this side of the House have a greater probability of maintaining full employment than could be achieved under the methods employed by the present Opposition when it was in office, I shall examine the methods of the Chifley Government during its last six years of office. What were those methods? First, there was a peculiar lack of warmth for private enterprise. The Leader of the Opposition used a very unpleasant euphemism, to describe the attitute of the Labour party when he said, in effect, We shall drive private enterprise out of existence by the method known as virile competition”. The Labour party’s policy towards air ways, shipping and banking provides clear-cut evidence of an intention either to curtail the operations of those engaged privately in those industries or to drive them out of business. Other section’s of industry were reluctant to expand, because they did not know the limits of the Government’s intentions and they did not desire their heads to be the next to fall under the “ guillotine “. In those circumstances, private enterprise could not be expected to expand. On the contrary, its activities would be gradually reduced. The first method to which th» Labour party resorted was to foster public enterprise and public works. In the white paper that was issued in 1945, thecost of the public works programme was estimated at £560,000,000, and the present-day cost would be probably double;that figure. The second method of th* Labour party was gradually but surely to increase the size of the Public Ser~ vice. The effect of that policy was tri canalize all additional employment into spheres which did not increase production. That tendency has been evident during the last six years.
Let us consider the position of the basic heavy industries. Our requirements of coal in 1949 amounted to 18,500,000 tons Approximately 14,000,000 tons of black coal were produced in that year. That output was 900,000 tons less than the production of 1948, despite increased mechanization and additional amenities at the mines. The objective for 1951 is 21,000,000 tons. There was little or no prospect of that quantity being obtained while the Labour party had control of the coal-mining industry. The steel industry has been operating at approximately 65 per cent, of its capacity. Strangely enough, the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), forecast last year that, in certain circumstances, this great primary producing country would be importing lamb and other foodstuffs. That forecast proves that our economy has become sadly distorted. The heavy industries have been neglected, and the lighter industries; have been considerably expanded. Manufacturing industries to-day employ many thousands more persons than they employed in 1939. That process of distortion stopped on the 10th December last.
This Government has set out to ensure, in co-operation with the trade union movement, that the heavy industries shall not be starved for labour and that this country shall quickly have the opportunity to return to conditions of full production.
I have dealt so far with the attitude of the Labour party. I now turn my attention to the policy of the present Government. Honorable members on this side of the chamber believe that the best way in which we can ensure continuity of employment and. at the same time, expand opportunities with rising rates of real pay, is to provide greater opportunities for private enterprise. In the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), “ we intend to make private enterprise both profitable and successful “. The right honorable gentleman used that telling phrase when to took us away shortly before the last election on what was for the Liberal party a very profitable and successful enterprise. I mention that matter in passing, because most honorable members on this side of the House will remember his words. Our first endeavour is to increase opportunities for employment by expanding free and competitive enterprise. Our second avenue of expansion is to allow private enterprise to engage in international trade. That factor is most important because governments in the past have not been able satisfactorily to engage in international trade. The history of the socialist government in the United Kingdom is conclusive proof that, when the Board of Trade becomes involved in any activity, the British people suffer tremendous losses and hardships. Our third line is that, in the most unlikely event of the formation of a pool of unemployment, then and only then will the Government engage in compensatory public works. However, we make a definite distinction between compensatory public works and works of a national developmental kind. That is why it is proposed to establish a Ministry of National Development. Honorable members may have read in the press during the last few days that the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) has announced a. developmental programme that will involve in the next five year9 an expenditure of more than £1,000,000,000. 1 foresee an expanding economy and an increased supply of goods and services coming to the Australian people at prices which they can well afford to pay.
The international balance of payments and our London balances are, of course, of extreme importance to a country which relies so greatly on primary production and export incomes for its prosperity. I do not propose to discuss that subject in this debate. I shall take a later opportunity to do 90.
I shall now briefly summarize my earlier remarks. The Labour party has only one policy, and that is slowly to strangle private enterprise. The methods of public works and expansion of the Public Service are common to both governments. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have several policies and they include the expansion of private enterprise, the increase of international trade and the adoption of a great national developmental programme. At this point in my speech, I should like to make a particular statement about socialism, and I do so as a person who, during the last two or three years, has made a study of scientific socialism. When I say that I have studied socialism, I do not mean that I have merely read a couple of books on the subject. I have spent two years of hard effort and mental sweat in the university. Statistics prove that since 1870 the increase of total production in liberal democratic communities that favour free enterprise has been at the rate of about 2 per cent, per annum. In other words, as the years passed, material standards considerably improved. The forecast has been confidently made by Professor Joseph Schumpeter, the greatest scientific socialist since Karl Marx, that if this process were permitted to continue for another 50 years, it would do away with anything that, according to present standards, could be described as poverty, even in the lowest income groups. Pathological case9 alone are excepted. The same authority has made a plea which may be stated as follows : - “ Leave private enterprise alone, and it will give the goods and services at the proper prices to the people who want them “. What, then, is the answer to my question ? Evidence proves that we know and understand the problem of unemployment. We know the various theories that have been put forward for solving unemployment and increasing production. The Government is determined, as far as lies within its power, to create more jobs than there are persons able and willing to fill them. On the probabilities, we can say that within the next decade this country will experience a period of prosperity that has been equalled only once in our history, and that was in the ‘twenties, when a Liberal govern ment was also in office. T wish to make it abundantly clear to every one that the Menzies Government is h pro-worker, pro-woman, and pro-family Government. If it is given the opportunity to do so it will realize most of the promises it made to the people of this country. There is, I think, a clear answer to the question that I posed earlier in my remarks. I shall not couch the answer in conclusive words. From what I have said any reasonable man will regard the answer as reasonably conclusive. I have shown that there is a far greater probability of maintaining full employment and production under the methods advocated by the Menzies Government than there could ever be under the methods that were pursued by the socialist Administration during its last six years of office. Unquestionably, time will bring a full realization of the promises that have been made by the Government.
In conclusion, I may say that some of my colleagues have told me that they experienced considerable nervousness when making their maiden speeches i” this debate. They said that their hearts were in their mouths. They fared better than I have done, because I am sure that my heart has been lost somewhere in the corridors. It is not marked, “ Please return to the owner “ or “ Reward to finder “ ; but if any honorable gentleman should find it I should be pleased if he would return it to me. As this is the first occasion on which I have made a speech before dinner, I trust that it has not proved too indigestible. Finally, I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the way you have placed your wings around honorable members who are now making their first appearance in this chamber and for the considerable help that you have given to new members who have made their maiden speeches. I would also like to thank honorable members for having listened so attentively to my first speech in this House.
– I am fully conscious of the privilege that I now enjoy of making my fi.rst speech in the National Parliament. Like other new members who have preceded me I am experiencing considerable nervousness. 1 intend to address myself principally to the needs of age and invalid pensioners, large numbers of whom reside in the electorate that I represent, although 1 have no doubt that many of them are to be found in every electorate. I regret that the Government did not indicate in the Governor-General’s Speech any intention on its part to alleviate the lot of this section of the community. The Governor-General’s Speech states -
My Government realizes that the increase ‘n thu cost of living is accentuating the difficulties with which age and widow pensioners in particular have to contend. My adviser* realize, also, that, the present system, under which various benefits are paid subject to a moans test, gives rise to problems of which them is no easy solution. My Government, however, is closely investigating the most pressing anomalies to set- what can be done to remove them, lt 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. lt is a matter for regret that age and invalid pensioners as a body are not directly represented in the Parliament to the same degree, for instance, as honorable members apposite represent certain interests and members of the Opposition t represent the trade unions. Last week, in Sydney, I attended a meeting of age and invalid pensioners who asked mc what the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) meant by his statement that the Government would “ put value back into the £1 “. I did not discourage the discussion of that subject because I thought that the right honorable gentleman, in view of the numerous promises that he made in his policy speech at the last general election, would naturally take the earliest opportunity to indicate exactly what the Government proposed to do in that direction. However, he has so far failed to do so. In answer to a question which was asked this morning by the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean), the Prime Minister said that value could be put back into the £1 only by increasing production. A3 the pensioners have passed the employable a,ge, being in the eventide of life, that statement will not give much comfort to them.
Last week the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) indicated that prices had risen by 10 per cent, since the 10th December, the date on which the election was held, whilst the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) indicated that during the last eighteen months prices have risen by 25 per cent. Is it any wonder that the age and invalid pensioners are despondent over their lot? Whilst we congratulate our primary producers upon the bountiful season with which they have been blessed, we must apparently ask pensioners to continue to subsist on a pension at the rate of £2 2s. 6d. a week. As pensioners on the average have to pay at least 15s. a week rental for a room, they find it almost impossible to subsist. Honorable members will have no difficulty in appreciating their need. Many age pensioners who are the parents of sons who helped to defend this country in two world wars are now obliged to live under conditions of semi-starvation. They cannot a /ford to buy two meals a day. Nevertheless, the Government has given no indication in. the Governor-General’s Speech that it intends to do anything on their behalf. Why should that responsibility be passed on to charitable institutions such as those conducted by the Salvation Army and the Little Sisters of the Poor?
Last December ‘the Sydney City Council, of which I have the honour to be a member, received so many requests for relief from indigent persons that it voted the sum of £5,000 for that purpose. That body received more than 5,000 applications for relief. I am glad to acknowledge that Senator Tate was chairman of the Civic Reform party in the Sydney City Council when it unanimously voted that money to relieve distress prevailing in that city. If we ourselves had relatives in impoverished circumstances we should do our utmost to help them. The age pensioners did the lion’s share of the pioneering work in this country, and it is a blot upon the nation’s good name that such worthy people should now be obliged to live under conditions of semi-starvation. We advertise overseas that Australia is a land of plenty. Quite rightly, we invite migrants to come here. We look after them, and give them of our best. Yet some of our own people who were born in the country, including mothers and fathers of our children, are dying to-day as the result of semi-starvation in every town of the Commonwealth.
I also wish to mention the Sydney City Council in another connexion.. This Government should be paying that council £53,000 a year in rates.. That responsibility has to be shouldered. Sydney City Council has many works to carry out. Yet this Government refuses to pay any rates on its Sydney property though the council has been trying to persuade it to do so. I do not think that that is just, and I hope thisParliament will remedy the injustice.
My one wish for the present, as a member of this Parliament, is that the age pensioners shall be given some relief before very long. The members of this Parliament should be ashamed of the way in which age pensioners are treated. If we do not do something for them we shall have widespread semi-starvation in a land of plenty.
.- I am pleased that Hi9 Excellency has indicated in his address to this Parliament that a ministry of development is to be formed in this country. I believe that an obligation rests on this Parliament to assist in the good government of thecitizens of to-day; but I believe also that good government should lay sound foundations for the future, both political’ and economic, so that posterity will inherit something of which it will be proud. The undeveloped resources of a State are the undeveloped resources of* the whole of Australia. It should not be the sole responsibility of Queensland, for example, to develop the latent resources within that State. Honorable- members will appreciate that Queensland and Western Australia are States of tremendous area with small populations. Within Australia there are several States smaller in area than either Queensland or Western Australia but with much larger populations. The people who live in those smaller States should contribute something towards the development of resources in the larger and less populous ones. We must lose the consciousness of State borders in Australia, particularly in relation to legislation in this Parliament. We must think in terms of the national interests and we must not allow ourselves to be side-tracked by the local interests of any one State.
This Parliament is the sole incometaxing authority in Australia. Income tax is collected on the basis of a person’s income and his ability to pay. Therefore, this Parliament has an excellent opportunity of shouldering the responsibility of contributing something to the. development of assets of the community. We have been promised assistance in Queensland in the past. A parliamentary delegation has visited the State and Ministers have also visited it. Yet the people of Queensland believe that they have not received fair treatment from the Commonwealth Parliament. When, on the 10th December, the people of Queensland elected fifteen out of their eighteen members to sit on this side of the House, I believe that they were expressing the belief that this Government would give greater consideration to Queensland than was given to it by the previous Administration.
The present Prime Minister, in his policy speech, said that the Government would give encouragement to the establishment, of the tobacco and cotton industries on a permanent basis. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Gilmore) has mentioned the tobacco industry. To-day, I shall say something in relation to the development of the cotton industry, the history of which has been tragic. It has gone through periods of hope and periods of hopelessness. The cotton industry was commenced in Australia, in 1860 because of the American Civil War. and because, at that stage, there was a possibility that cotton prices would con siderably increase. Within ten years we had reached a production of 3,000 bales of cotton per annum, but from then until 1920 the production was negligible. Li 1920, because the Queensland Government guaranteed a price of 5 1/2d. per lb. for seed cotton, greater interest was shown by the farmers in the production of cotton. But because of seasonal conditions production fluctuated considerably and it was not until 1930 that there was any real increase of production. In the early ‘thirties a Liberal government, which was in power in Queensland decided to give further encouragement to the industry.” In 1934 Australia produced the greatest quantity of cotton ever produced in one year in the history of the country. In that year, 17,500 bales of raw cotton were produced. Then, because of seasonal conditions, production slumped. No further interest was taken in the industry by governments until the last war. In 1941 a Commonwealth government decided that it would encourage production and it guaranteed a price of 5 1/4d. per lb. That guaranteed price continued until very recently in conjunction with price fixation. When it ceased to operate, world parity prices were paid to the farmers who were growing cotton, and such prices have been paid to them since. I shall come back to that point later.
Cotton ginneries in Queensland are capable of producing 30,000 bales of raw cotton a year, but last year only 1,000 bales of raw cotton were produced. Those ginneries are not only capable of processing the seed cotton, but they are also capable of processing the cotton seed from which is produced a highly valuable edible oil which is used by the medical profession and in the manufacture of margarine. A by-product is cotton seed racal, a highly valuable food for dairy cattle which is used extensively to increase milk production. Honorable members will appreciate that those ginneries are not being used economically while the industry is producing only 1,000 bales a year. For that reason they have also been used during the last few years for the extraction of another very valuable edible oil from peanuts.
The cotton industry is confronted with three main problems. The first of these is the difficult one of labour. The greatest exporter of cotton is the United States of America, which in the past had a tremendous pool of cheap labour at its disposal. .Because of the existence of that pool, America was able to export cotton at prices that were lower than the costs of production in other countries. However, there has been a tremendous drift of that cheap labour from the American cotton fields since the end of World War I., and, in order to maintain cotton production, planters in the United States of America have had to install mechanical cotton pickers. This development has provided Australia with an opportunity to expand its own cotton industry by installing cotton picking machines and, in the process, to provide the nation with a valuable asset.
The second problem is related to seasonal conditions. Cotton has been grown in Australia mainly under dry farming conditions, although it can be grown more satisfactorily under irrigation. An irrigated area can grow three times as much cotton as a dry farming area can grow. Australia, produced 17,500 bales in 1934 under dry farming conditions, and I suggest that we could achieve very satisfactory results even if we concentrated our attention upon the growing of cotton by the same method now. This Parliament should give earnest consideration at the earliest possible moment to the development of irrigation projects. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) informed the House recently that an investigation was being made in order to determine what assistance the Commonwealth should give in connexion with the Burdekin River scheme. However I consider that the cotton industry can be assisted by the development of smaller irrigation projects.
The third problem of the industry is that of providing a guaranteed adequate return to the farmers. Unfortunately, many Australian farmers who grew cotton in the years of our maximum production had their fingers burned because, through lack of government help, they were not able to secure n reasonable income. Their returns from cotton were not comparable with the
Mr. Hulme. returns that they could obtain from other forms of primary production. Therefore, I consider that it is absolutely essential for the Government to guarantee profitable prices if the cotton industry in Australia i3 to be really stabilized.
There are two reasons why I believe that the cotton industry is essential to Australia. The first is economic and is related to the subject of dollars. Honorable members may not be aware that Australia has expended 16,000,000 dollars since 1943 upon purchases of raw cotton from the United States of America. It has also imported large quantities of cotton from Brazil and Egypt. I do not know the exact dollar content of those transactions, but I remind the House that both of those countries are semi-hard currency areas. We have also imported cotton from India, but India expects to use 3,500,000 bales of cotton this year and expects to produce only 2,500,000 bales. Therefore, there is little hope that Australia will be able to buy cotton from India, and it may be forced to increase its imports from the United States of America or the semihard currency areas.
The dollar problem can be approached in three ways. In the first place, we might reduce our imports, but I believe that the application of such a policy on a permanent basis would be hopeless and futile. I realize that the previous Government adhered to that policy, but I do not believe that Australia will ever solve its dollar problem by such an expedient. I should prefer the adoption of one of the remaining two methods of approach. One’ of these would be to increase our exports, which would necessarily require increased production. I appreciate the difficulty of expanding production in Australia to-day, but, if our output of goods that are wanted in the United States of America can be increased sufficiently, we should have no difficulty in earning all the dollars that we need. The final method of approach would be to produce in Australia the types of goods upon which we now expend dollars. The cotton industry could be of great importance in the successful pursuit of that policy.
Another point in relation to the economic aspect of the development of the cotton industry is that we have a considerable number of spinning mills in Australia. I am not certain of the exact number, but it is between 70 and 80. About 100,000 bales of raw cotton are imported annually for processing in those mills. The proper development of the Australian industry would stabilize the source of supply of raw material for those mills for all time. The second reason why I consider the development of the industry to be essential is based upon the nation’s defence needs. Every honorable member will agree that adequate preparations for defence are necessary and will know that defence preparations are not restricted to the construction of ships and aircraft and the manufacture of armaments. Defence requires the use of many other essential materials, and honorable members will readily appreciate the fact that cotton is included in that list. Some people may ask, “ “What is the international situation? That would be a very pertinent question, and we should consider the international situation in relation to the subject of cotton. There is approximately six months’ supply of raw cotton in the world at present, and a survey made in November last year showed that production this year would be very little in excess of the actual amount required for the industry. During the next few years the cotton production of the world will remain fairly stable. The world parity price of cotton at the present time is 38.99d. per lb. I know that that price gives a reasonable return, to the cotton-growers, but men who have been in the cotton-growing industry previously are not prepared to take a. risk, even on that price, and will not return to the industry. They are just as entitled as are any other primary producers to a guaranteed price, and they want a guarantee of between 9-Jd. and lOd. per lb. for seed cotton.
I recommend most strongly to the Government that it should act on the evidence submitted to the Tariff “Board, all of which favoured a guaranteed price. The matter was considered by the previous Government which would not accept that evidence, but which accepted a recommendation of the Tariff Board. I believe that the Tariff Board is not fully competent to investigate the conditions of primary industries. The board has a responsibility in relation to secondary industries, but when an investigation is required into a primary industry the investigating authority should be composed of persons who know a lot more about the particular primary industry concerned than the members of the Tariff Board could possibly know. The previous Government adopted one recommendation of the Tariff Board to the effect that a debt of £67,000 owed by the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board should be paid by the Commonwealth Government. I submit that the previous Government took that action to give the cotton industry of Australia a decent burial. It is not a decent burial that is needed, but the re-establishment of the cotton industry. The industry should he put on a proper economic basis. Therefore, if this Government is not prepared to accept the evidence placed before the Tariff Board it should appoint another committee of investigation which should be representative of the people who know and understand the industry. This matter is urgent and action on it should not be delayed. The usual time for planting cotton seed is between September and December. In the Burdekin area of Worth Queensland operations start some time after the wet season at the beginning of March, but as a general rule the seed is planted between September and November. If the farmer is to be prepared for a planting at the end of September he will need to know at the latest by June whether the Government intends to guarantee a price for the cotton. In the interests of Australia the Government should give serious consideration to the establishment of the cotton industry on the basis that I have suggested.
. -‘ All honorable members on this side of the House support the motion. When we went into the Senate chamber to hear His Excellency’s Speech, we were greatly interested to hear about the action which the Government proposes to take in the future. We were interested because when the previous Government left office the economy of this country was one of the most stable economies in the world. Honorable members on this side were disappointed because of the vagueness of His Excellency’s Speech and because of the fact that the Government had watered down the promises it had made to the people on the hustings. I refer particularly to the paragraph of the Speech which reads -
In view of the urgent need to develop Australia’s vast resources and to arrest the movement of rural population to the cities my Government will create a Ministry of National Development.
The next paragraph reads - la. ail developmental plans my advisers will pay attention to the importance of achieving a well-balanced pattern of decentralization.
I suggest that those paragraphs mean exactly nothing. The Canberra Times of to-day’s date contains a statement issued by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), which occupies more .than a column of space. The right honorable gentleman could have covered all he said by stating briefly that the Government proposed to follow the policy of its predecessors. That would have summed up the whole of his published remarks. The article appeared under a double column heading with a subheading. It began as follows -
Outlining the programme yesterday, the Minister for Supply arid- Development (Mr. Casey) said that a large number of imported houses would be diverted to Canberra
That was the policy laid down by the previous Government in relation to certain prefabricated houses that were being purchased overseas. The report continued with the statement that the Government’s problem was to develop rural areas instead of metropolitan areas, and it went on -
He admitted later that this might be done through taxation.
Again that follows the policy laid down “by the Chifley Government. When that policy on rural development and taxation was first announced in this House and the Chifley Government decided that the people living in the far north of Australia and in the western parts of Queensland and New South Wales should be encouraged to remain there, that others should be encouraged to go there, and that investors should be encouraged to establish businesses there, it was said that the Government would make certain- taxation concessions. Members of the Menzies Goevrnment who were then in opposition decried the action of the Chifley Government and said that taxation concessions were proposed because all the parliamentary constituencies in the areas concerned were represented by Labour members. Now we find the present Minister for Supply and Development indicating that he may bringabout some form of rural development through taxation. He has said that since the election overseas investors have hecome interested in Australia. We know that the Minister has been absent from Australia for a long time and perhaps he has not yet caught up with the political situation here. For- his information I point out that up to the end of December last no less than £165,000,000 of United Kingdom, Canadian and United States capital had been invested in Australia. I quote the following extract from the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) : -
Since Labour took office, the number or factories has increased from 27,000 to ore 37,000. Two thousand six hundred new manufacturing projects have been commenced in Australia during the last four years, and 200 of them are from overseas.
That is an effective answer to the suggestion that overseas capital has been attracted to Australia only since the election. It is also a reply to the honorable member for Lowe who said that the policy of the Chifley Government was slow strangulation of private enterprise. Would hard-headed businessmen, especially from overseas, risk millions of capital in a country where the government was slowly strangling private enterprise?
The Minister for Supply and Development said that it was proposed to raise £250,000,000 in loans within Australia. I was very pleased to hear that, because there are forces behind the Go vernment which have for a. long time been clamouring for the raising of loans overseas, particularly in the United States of America. Those who advocate such a course would like, apparently, to restore the conditions that obtained before 1929. Surely we, as individuals and as a community, have learnt something from our experiences between 1929 and 1932. Referring to rural development, the
Minister for Supply and Development said -
Our problem is to occupy this country, ami to restore the balance between city and rural a reu.8.
If it is the intention of the Government to use developmental loans to create rural amenities such as better roads, housing, &c, I agree, but the Minister did not mention any proposals for the expansion of industries in rural areas. Let us study the developmental projects put forward by the Labour Government, which, by the way, was accused of being socialistic, of having adopted a policy of strangling private enterprise, and of dabbling in spheres that should be reserved exclusively for private enterprise. The present leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, announced that it was? proposed to join with the Government of Queensland in the construction of the Burdekin “River Dam, the purpose of which is to prevent floods, develop hydroelectric power, and to expand the tobaccogrowing industry. It was also proposed, in co-operation with the State Government, to expand the cattle-raising industry, a matter of first importance foi economic and defence reasons. “Now, the Treasurer (Mr. “Fadden) says that he can find nothing in writing about such an agreement with the Queensland Government. In his own dealings, he is so used to reducing everything to writing because, apparently, he is frightened that his business associates might put something over him, that he cannot understand how an agreement could exist unless it is in writing. The fact remains that an undertaking -was given by the Leader of the Opposition to the Premier of Queensland regarding these developmental projects. All this backing and filling by the present Government in regard to the Burdekin “River Dam is an indication that it does not want to co-operate with the Government of Queensland. There is no other explanation. The Premier of Queensland has told the Treasurer that, irrespective of what the Commonwealth decides to do, Queensland will go on with the construction of the “Burdekin River Dam, as well as the “Walsh River Dam, another great project of the same kind. If they cannot obtain Commonwealth help the people of Queensland, with only their own limited financial resources, will go on with those projects.
The Labour Government also initiated the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which is being undertaken in association with the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria at a cost of £200,000,000. If any one had suggested to governments in power before 1939 that they should undertake a. £200,000,000 project, they would have fainted, so limited was their vision and so circumscribed their national outlook. In Tasmania, theChifley Government co-operated with theState Government in the establishment of the aluminium industry. An agreement was also made with the Government of South Australia for the construction of a standard gauge railway from the border of New South Wales, near Broken Hill, to Adelaide. In Western Australia, another enormous water conservation project was undertaken by the Commonwealth in association with the State Government.
Last, but not least, I come to the northern part of Australia. The present Leader of the Opposition, when he was overseas as Prime Minister, entered into an agreement with the United Kingdom for the development of pastoral areas in northern Australia, and the purchase by the United Kingdom of the meat produced. The purpose of the agreement was to provide more meat for the sorely pressed people of Great Britain, and to expand the cattle industry in our northern areas. When arranging for the development of any given area, the first step is the expansion of existing industries. In northern Australia, the cattle-raising industry is of supreme importance.
It will be seen that the developmental plans of the Labour Government embraced every part of Australia. However, as I have pointed out, the Minister for Supply and Development has not mentioned any proposals for the establishment or expansion of industries in rural areas. He was asked how., in the absence of the power of direction, such as existed during the war, the Government hoped to encourage particular industries, and the Minister replied -
There may he some gaps i:u the schemes, hut private enterprise will fill those. There are ways of encouraging or discouraging industries.
The honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) said that that the Labour Government had been slowly strangling private enterprise, but the Minister for Supply and Development has himself declared that there are ways and means of discouraging industries. The Opposition will support any Government proposals for national development and the improvement of rural amenities, but we say to the Government, “ We want to know what your programme is in regard to national development”. In which direction does the Government propose to go? What does it propose to do in relation to the establishment of other industries in our open north? Surely the Government has learned something from the experiences of the last war. Surely it realizes the threat of the teeming millions to our north.
We ali know of tha tremendously valuable job done by the sugar industry on the east coast of Queensland from both a defence and a developmental point of view. The northern parts of Australia constitute an open gateway for the teeming millions of Asia. We want to know what developmental works the Government proposes to undertake. What does it propose to do in relation to the development of the enormous resources of the Commonwealth ? What is its policy in relation to the protection of the northern portions of this continent? When honorable members on this side of the House were in office, we faced an extremely difficult task in dealing with the problems that arose from the transition from a war-time to a peace-time economy. Those problems were solved largely by national and international agreement. Just before its defeat at the polls, the Chifley Government had embarked on a programme that would have lead to tremendous rural development throughout the Commonwealth. We have a right to know immediately whether the present Government proposes to implement that policy.
The statement of the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) on the subject of the Government’s plans for national development confirms the remarks which I made at the beginning of my speech. The right honorable gentleman has said, in effect, “I shall carry on the policy that was enunciated by my predecessors “, but Le added these significant words, “ There are ways of encouraging or of discouraging enterprise “. Those who live in. our rural areas await with great interest the enunciation of the Government’s policy on rural development.
Dealing with the cost of living, tinGovernorGeneral said -
My Government views with grave concern the increase which has been taking place in recent years in the cost of living . . . An intensive review is at present being made b 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.
When the Chifley Government was in office and endeavoured to secure from the people authority to enable it to grapple with the difficult problem of inflation, honorable members opposite most vigorously advised the people to vote against the proposal. They said that the States could very well handle the control of prices. The people now know, to their sorrow, that the Labour point of view on that subject was the realistic one. Time has shown that the State parliaments ha vo not been able to grapple with this problem in the way in which the National Parliament grappled with it. At that time the experience of the United States of America had shown us very conclusively what would happen in the event of the control of prices passing from the hands of the National Parliament. The Government is obviously concerned about the steeply rising cost of living, but no government can control living costs unless it can control prices. This Parliament has no power to control prices. The people have spoken in a referendum and we must abide by their verdict.
The intensive review of the causes of present price trends may well cover a multitude of matters, including the possibility of the revaluation of the Australian £1 in relation to the £1 sterling. The National Farmers Union of Australia has carried a resolution protesting against any interference with the existing exchange rate. Other sections of the primary industries have likewise voiced their opposition to such a move. They know only too ‘ well the repercussions that would follow a scaling down of the exchange rate. It is interesting to note that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that Cabinet has not considered this matter. Before the constitution, of the present Cabinet bad been finally decided it was common knowledge in political circles that the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) had insisted that the portfolio of Treasurer should be allotted to a member of his party. The right honorable gentleman insisted on such an allotment because of the promises that had been made to the newspaper barons of Australia, and to other vested interests, that if the present Government were returned to office the’ relationship of the Australian £1 to the £1 sterling would be considered with a view to wiping out the present adverse exchange rate of 25 per cent. Before the election the present Prime Minister had readily given an undertaking to review the exchange rate because he, like most of the people of Australia, did not believe for a moment that the Chifley Government would be defeated at the polls. Now that he has assumed the responsibilities of office that undertaking is being wheeled up to him. The right honorable gentleman has said that Cabinet has not dealt with the matter. If it has not done so, why then should organizations of primary producers pass the resolutions of protest to which I have referred? Why, otherwise, do articles written by special correspondents appear in our newspapers pointing out the virtues of the re-alinement of the Australian £1 with the £1 sterling, and stating that by cutting the farmer’s income by from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent., we shall be able to put back value into the Australian £1? If such a course be adopted, the present spiral of inflation will rapidly be followed by a spiral of deflation. Has the Government already lost sight of the fact that in December, 1939, no fewer than 250,000 of our people were unemployed, and that when the first Curtin Government took over, although the country had been fighting a total war for two years, there were still 100,000 unemployed in this country? Since the conclusion of hostilities tens of thousands of migrants have arrived in this country and as there are still no unemployed people here this has greatly added to the purchasing power of tire people.
The policy of full employment initiated so successfully by the Labour Government, has produced tremendous competition for the available goods and services. The Treasurer has declared that the object of the Government is to put value back into the £1. Apparently that aim will be achieved by establishing an army of unemployed and re-constituting dole queues. The newspapers will benefit by no less than £1,000,000 in concessions on imported newsprint and other materials, and our overseas balances in London, which now amount to £460,000,000 will be cut by approximately £100,000,000. The indebtedness of the Commonwealth amounts to more than £2,000,000,000. If the Australian £1 is re-valued on the basis of parity with sterling, it would be the same as if the debt had been increased by £500,000,000. The Treasurer became aware of the reality of the position after the 10th December last. We accept the statement that Cabinet has not considered the revaluation of the Australian £1, but we should like to know whether the subject has been discussed formally or informally among senior Ministers. The farmers of Australia know that the re-valuation of the Australian £1 may reduce their incomes by 25 per cent., and even ex-servicemen who have settled on the land will not escape the effects of that change of financial policy.. Wool-growers in my electorate were in severe financial straits before the outbreak of World War II. because of deflated wool prices and the persistence of drought. Thanks to the high p rices that are being obtained for our truly golden fleece, those wool-growers have been able to discharge their indebtedness. It is true that they are paying high taxes on their incomes, but it is equally true that they are making fairly substantial profits. However, those profits have been used to liquidate their overdrafts. It is only in recent times that small woolgrowers and selectors have been able to free themselves from their indebtedness.
The present high prices for wool will not continue indefinitely. The wool industry itself is fully aware that prices must eventually decline, and a conference is meeting in London at the present time to discuss ways and means of substituting for the Joint -Organization a controlled marketing scheme. Those discussions would not he necessary if the industry itself believed that the existing high prices would continue indefinitely. Ex-servicemen who have been fortunate enough to secure sheep properties have been obliged to pay very high prices for their stock. If the price of wool is reduced by 25 per cent. as the result of the re-valuation of the Australian £1 in terms of sterling, those ex-servicemen will be left with heavy commitments. Their stock will depreciate in value because of the Government’s action in revaluing the £1, and a decline of wool prices, which none of us can prevent, will further embarrass them. If the Government appreciates the Australian £1, members of the Australian Country party will suffer the same fate as the Liberal party in England has suffered.
– Some very interesting subjects have been discussed in this debate on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech. Much has been said, and no doubt much more could be said, about many of them. I propose to address my remarks to the subject of health and medical services. I realize that that subject has already been mentioned by several speakers, but I may be able to present to the House some slightly different aspects and perhaps a different point of view from that which has been previously taken. Health and medical services are matters of great public interest, and their importance has been made more clear during this debate by references to such things as the increased flow of migrants to Australia, and the problem of housing. The subject covers a wide field and, in the ultimate, is concerned with housing, living conditions and many other matters that are of importance in all walks of life.
Health falls naturally into two divisions. The first is the field of preventive medicine, to which I may refer as the impersonal sphere, because it concerns what is commonly known as public health. The second is the field of curative medicine, to which I may refer as the personal sphere, because it concerns basically the individual and his own relations with health and disease. i propose to d beet my remarks principally to curative medicine. When ordinary individuals, including persons like myself, think about sickness and health and what can be done about them, their first thoughts are instinctively about curative medical services. In making that statement, I do not mean to imply that people are not sensible of the importance of other aspects of medical services. I am merely expressing my belief that the first thought which comes into their minds when they consider the question of health or sickness, and think of what can be done if they or members of their families fall ill, is about curative medicine. We should realize that, frequently, illness does not consist of a definite ailment. It is not always a positive, single, active disease like appendicitis or pneumonia, but may be a long continued process which is present in a home for many years. The problem, as set out in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, is to ascertain how all the resources of modern medicine - the aids and ancillaries of modern diagnosis and treatment, X-ray and pathology, and all the various kinds of equipment which are now common in the diagnosis and treatment of disease - are to be brought within the reach of the ordinary citizen.
It is not in my province to indicate the full solution of this problem-, but perhaps we make a mistake if we imagine that there is one single solution which is capable of universal application. If we attempt to solve the problem by the application of a rigid and inflexible system we may defeat our own ends. The profession of medicine teaches those who practise it one lesson in particular and that is that it is not always possible to apply a standard solution. That is true in individual cases and it is also true in a wider sphere. For instance, because one system of medical service is satisfactory in Sweden or New Zealand or Great Britain, it does not necessarily follow that it would be a success in Australia. Whilst we can learn from all those countries, it does not follow that we could apply their technique with success in our country. Any system we implement here must be suitable to Australian conditions.
I believe there are two principles which are of great importance. The first one is that in the provision of medical services in this country we should never lose sight of the general procedure of the provision by a general practitioner and family doctor service. It is the general practitioner in Australia to-day who is responsible, in a very large measure, for our high standard of medical practice. I believe I am right in saying that the standard of medical practice in Australia is at least as good as that of any other country in the world. It is sometimes imagined that medicine can be divided into compartments, allowing some, minor diseases, to fall within the province of the general practitioner and other diseases, major diseases, to fall within the province of the specialist. That is not so. The health of the individual is a continuing problem. It is not a fact that if an individual develops a serious disease he should be immediately referred to a specialist and would then be restored to health by a single act or on the specialist’s advice. The transition from disease to health, using the words in their widest sense to mean from ill being to well being, is a far more complex process than that. “Whilst all of us acknowledge the immense importance of specialist services, this transition will be fully secured only by the continuing contact of personalities. One of the major factors in restoring the individual to health is continual contact between patient and doctor. There is no justification for supposing that the skill of a general practitioner is much below that of a specialist. The general practioner does not deal only with minor diseases. He deals also with a very large range of serious diseases. Patients, as a matter of fact, pass from his hands to the specialist and hack again, so that the standard of practice of the general practitioner is raised, on the one hand by continual experience and contact with those whom he treats, and, on the other hand, by his collaboration with his specialist colleagues. That is the reason for the high standard of medical practice in this country. In a mechanical age where system and method and planning bear so heavily on the individual, it is worth while making a considerable effort to preserve this vital human relationship. I hope that it will be preserved in whatever medical services we come to apply in Australia. I regard this relationship as the core of medical tradition and efficiency in this country.
The second of the two principles to which I referred earlier is that the patient should have complete freedom of choice of his medical attendant and be able to change him as he likes. Unless the second principle is implemented, the first has no true reality. Whilst it may not always be easy to apply this principle by legislative action, it is extremely easy to destroy it by legislation of a coercive or depressive character. I believe that the retention of these principles is desired by people in Australia. I make that statement as one who is, I hope, not altogether without experience, because for almost 20 years I have practised medicine in an industrial centre surrounded by a rural district. Under these circumstances one conies into contact with what I would regard as an average cross-section of Australian life, and I consider that it is the overwhelming desire of the people of Australia to preserve these principles in whatever medical services they have.
An attempt is being made in some quarters to cause it to appear that there is a certain scheme of medical services which is earnestly desired by the people of Australia and which has been withheld from them by certain interests. Honorable members will have no difficulty in recalling that a short time ago, when this matter was being given great publicity, the Australian people were given the opportunity of saying, amongst other things, whether they did in fact desire to have that particular system of medical services implemented. Even a cursory glance at the distribution of seats in this chamber would give one substantia] grounds for declaring that the answer of the people was “ “No “. Consequently, statements that some “hierarchy” - I think that is the word - is frustrating the Australian people in the achievement of this cherished desire seem a little at variance with the facts. I believe that there is a great fund of goodwill between the profession on the one hand and the public on the other hand, and I regard that as a great national asset. It would be a matter for great regret if that fund of goodwill were to be destroyed, and I should say that those who seek to break that boud and create an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust are incurring no light responsibility.
It is obvious that the sphere of curative medicine must be integrated with the sphere of preventive medicine. Diseases are constantly passing from the one sphere to the other, and also from the category of the incurable or difficult of cure to the category of the eminently curable. I should like to make my meaning clear to the House by one or two examples. Pernicious anaemia is a common disease that has passed from the category of the incurable to that of th, relatively readily curable within the last 30 years. At least, if not curable, it can be so well controlled now that it no longer constitutes a real menace to those who suffer from it. As an example of diseases which have passed from the sphere of curative medicine to the sphere of preventive medicine I refer to tetanus, which, though still a very difficult disease to cure, has now become so eminently preventable that it would be almost true to say that, no Australian need die of it. The bridge over which diseases pass from one category to the other is the bridge of research, and it was gratifying to note the reference to that subject in the Governor-General’s Speech. “When we think of research, we should not confine our attention merely to institutions in Australia, although, of course, they ar« immensely important and should be encouraged in every possible way. We should also give some thought to the facilitation of access by graduates, especially young graduates, to centres of research and learning in other countries. The statement in the Governor-General’s Speech on the subject of medical services and research was short but comprehensive, and I believe that it has given us reason to look forward with a. high degree of confident expectation to the measures that will be introduced in this House by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page).
.- I support the motion before the House. The Governor-General’s Speech, which we are debating, indicates very clearly that the promises that were made to the people during the election campaign by representatives of the present Govern ment parties will be carried out. Speeches that have been made by members of the Opposition during the debate have proved that they realize that those undertakings will be honoured and they are already worried by the fact. Various members of the Opposition have attempted to instil into the minds of the listening public an idea that, the Government was elected upon the strength of a number of promises which it cannot possibly carry out. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), this afternoon said that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech represented a watering down of the election promises that were made on behalf of the Government. How on earth anybody with any intelligence and any sense of fairness can claim that the very constructive and comprehensive statements of government policy in the Governor-General’s Speech watered down our election promises I simply fail to understand. The Government indicated even before the new Parliament assembled that it had every intention of giving effect to its undertakings. In fact, it took action immediately upon those points of its policy which did not require prior reference to the Parliament. I refer to such matters as the discontinuance of petro] rationing. We were told that we could not carry out our promise to abolish petrol rationing, yet that undertaking became effective within about seven weeks of the Government’s accession to office. The Government has also announced that the payment of endowment in respect of the first child in each family will be commenced later in the year. Those were two matters in which the Government was able to move of its own volition without waiting to secure parliamentary approval, :ind it wasted no time in going into action.
The Governor-General’s Speech contained a complete outline of the policy which, when put into effect, will discharge all the obligations that were undertaken on behalf of the present Government parties during the election caninaaign. Of course, the Government’s obvious determination to implement the plans which gained the approval of a majority of the electors is a matter of grave concern to members of the Opposition. Apparently the present wish of the Opposition is not to join with the Government in doing what the people obviously wanted to be done when they recorded their votes on the 10th December last. Instead, it proposes to decry the Government’s efforts and to try to make some form of party political capital from them. The members of the Opposition do not realize even yet that they cannot fool all the people all the time, although the result of the election indicated definitely that most of the people refused to be fooled any longer by a lot of “hot air” and “blah, blah” from the Labour party. Many of the speeches that have been made by members of the Opposition during this debate could well be classified as “hot air”, and I’ am not afraid that the people will pay much attention to them. The electors look to this Government for results. They know that a situation which has resulted from eight years of misrule cannot be rectified within the space of eight weeks, and they are prepared to allow the Government a reasonable space of time within which to achieve its objectives, so long as it shows that it intends to honour its promises. The Governor-General’s Speech indicated clearly that the Government would keep its word, and a great majority of the people will be content to await the fulfilment of its policy.
Because of the comprehensive nature of the Speech, it would be almost foolish for any honorable member to attempt to deal -with all its aspects. Therefore, I have decided to apply myself only to two or three of the items which I consider to be of major importance. One paragraph in the early part of the Speech crystallized the outlook of the Government and indicated in a few words the sincerity of its policy declarations. That paragraph stated -
Tile strategic distribution of the man-power and material resources of the British Common won Hh. and the intensive development of Australia as a vital area in the Pacific, are of cardinal importance to the future of the British Commonwealth and Australia.
I particularly draw attention to the use of the term “British Commonwealth”. It is significant to note that in our basic policy we are looking to the future needs of the British Commonwealth and of Australia. The paragraph continued -
My Government’s policies for defence, immigration and development are designed to contribute in the most effective manner to the achievement of these objectives.
That paragraph crystallizes the objectives of the. Government, and their attainment will become obvious to those who study the Government’s actions and legislation.
The honorable member for Kennedy said that there was too much generality in His Excellency’s Speech. He professed to find no satisfaction in it at all because it did not contain details and explain how the policy was to be given effect. The honorable member has had a long experience in this House and he surely knows that the detail is a matter for the bills that will later be introduced. He must realize that the Speech lays down general principles and that all that can be looked for in it is a forthright statement of intention.
I propose to consider these general principles and to express my views on their importance and the methods by which the policy enunciated could be carried out. I have referred to the defence of Australia on numerous occasions in this House, but I make no apology for mentioning it again, because it is of paramount importance. The proper defence of the Commonwealth is a matter to which sufficient attention has not been paid in the last few years. I direct the attention of the House to that portion of the Speech in which the Government’s intention is thus clearly stated -
While the Australian regular army will be kept at full strength by voluntary enlistment, my advisers are making preliminary prepara- 1 ions for the introduction of a sensible system nf universal training designed to meet the military requirements of Australia with the minimum of interference with our urgent civil production.
The Government has carried out another of its promises to the electors by proposing to introduce a system of universal military training. I believe that that announcement will cause a great wave of relief to surge through the minds of all thinking people in Australia, because a general feeling of disquiet is developing. Everybody, no matter what his political opinion is, realizes the gravity of the danger that faces Australia. Up to now, nothing had been done to counter that danger. Many people are asking “ “What is to be done about getting ready for what is coming “? On several occasions I have referred to the futility of relying for the defence of this great new country on a system of voluntary training. The previous Government refused to face the realities of the situation and pinned its faith to a system of voluntary training. At one time it stated that that system would be given a fair trial in the belief that it would succeed. I concede that a trial was justified. 1 submit, however, that Opposition members should now be prepared to admit that the trial has revealed that the system has failed. Therefore, every honorable member in this House who believes that Australia should be defended, must be prepared to admit that the only effective method is that of universal military training. It is now obvious that the criticism which members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties levelled from time to time in this House against the system of voluntary training has been completely justified by the number undergoing training at present, particularly in the military forces. My view of the present situation, which has been formed as a result of investigations in various places, is that, if the present system of voluntary training is to be continued, all the major areas outside the capital cities of Australia, and possibly some of the capital cities also, would be hard pressed to provide a guard of honour for Their Majesties when they visit this country in 1952. Therefore, the present Government has faced up to the position.
Let us consider the political situation in the north of Australia. We all know that if at any time a threat were to develop against Australia’s security, it would come from the north. First, consider China. That is an enormous nation of great potential power and it is completely overrun by communism. The Chinese Communists have seized complete power and recently their leader spent several weeks in consultation with Stalin in Russia. We do not know, and may never learn, what the result of that conference was, but we must not overlook the extremely grave threat to Australia that it represented. Some persons have said that China bogs down and absorbs its conquerors. It is considered that communism will meet the fate of its predecessors. That may be true; but can the
Government afford to base its policy on such a possibility? It cannot. A very definite threat to us may develop in China, and our policy must be formulated accordingly. Indo-China is assuming a more important position in world affairs, and it has been reported that that country is becoming a breeding ground for the ideology that is Australia’s greatest menace. It is obvious that powerful nations are arising in the east. It is right that they should arise; but can the direction in which they are likely todevelop, be determined with any degree of certainty? Will it be such a direction that Australia will be free from any fear of attack? No one is prepared to venturean opinion on that matter, so we must be prepared properly to defend this country. Indonesia is at present a republic, and it is to be hoped that the statements that have been made about the peaceful ambitions of its people are correct. Certain factors that were involved in the establishment of the republic could develop in a way that would be inimical to Australian interests. It is quite true that Indonesia, if its people became hostile, could be a dagger aimed at the vulnerableheart of Australia.
Japan ultimately may become a democratic nation, as the United. States of America would have us believe that it will. It may have no more warlike aims. When some of us were in that country about eighteen months ago, we were assured by the people that they had foresworn the arts of war. We sincerely hope that that is correct. But in time Japan will again be one of the great nations of the world, and may become a terrible threat to Australia. I am not waving the jingoist flag, but am merely surveying the possibilities that lie ahead of us in order to determine whether we are entitled to rely on a scheme of training which, after a trial that has lasted for about two year’s, has produced about 5,000 trained men in our forces, apart from the regular nucleus.
Within the last two months, Indonesia has laid claim to a large slice of New Guinea. New Guinea is an island of great tactical and strategic importance to Australia. Within that same period Japan has again put out feelers to ascertain whether permission would be given to the migration of about 5,000,000 of its surplus population to New Guinea and the adjacent islands. In. view of all those facts which affect the security of Australia, can we justify the policy that was adopted by the previous Government in regard to defence? I have outlined certain factors which, by implication, constitute a great menace to Australia. I do not say that other nations will attempt to acquire Australia, immediately; but in the political situation to the north of Australia lie germs which may cause the death of the British, character of this country. Under the previous Government’s policy a nucleus defence establishment was provided consisting of certain regular forces. We have a relatively small navy, a regular army, and an air force. It is sound policy to establish regular forces for the services-, but they cannot be more than a solid,, well-trained nucleus around which our main defence scheme will grow. I am dealing in this speech, not with the regular defence forces, but with the forces of which they are to form the nucleus in the future. But that is not nearly enough, because the nucleus must be backed up by welltrained forces of some kind - let us call them militia forces.. At present, for this purpose, we have in the Army only about 5,000 effective trainees. I know that the plan provides for a force of 19,000 or more, and that we used to be told from time to time that everything was going well, but I know from inquiries that I have made that the present strength of the militia is not more than 5,000; effectives; and it is the effective strength of a force that matters. No purpose is served by a Minister, who has just attended a parade, telling us that we have a force of 20,000 strong if only 5,000 are, in fact, regularly attending parades, and I believe that that will be the effective limit of the voluntary system, if it be continued. All sorts of things have been done to increase the strength of the militia under voluntary enlistment. Those in charge of military establishments have done everything in their power. They played ball with the previous Government, and honestly attempted to increase the force to the strength required. However, in spite of all their attempts, in spite of parades and displays of equipment in city halls, the militia has been barely holding its own.
It must be acknowledged, therefore, that tie voluntary system, in which some of us have never believed, has been tried and found wanting. Certain statements have been made on the subject of defence which I cannot allow to pass unchallenged. The honorable member- for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) made several references to- the Government’s intention to introduce compulsory training, and I propose to- reply to them. I have no wish to pick on the honorable member’ for Blaxland, particularly as heis a new member, but I intend to reply to his statements because they epitomize tha remarks of many other members of the Opposition, and exemplify the attitude of the Opposition towards compulsory military training. The honorable member said, for instance, that it was impossible to introduce compulsory training without interfering with the civilian activities of the young men of Australia. Does that mean that the young men of Australia are not prepared to stand up to their responsibilities? It cannot mean anything eke. Does it mean that the young men, if faced with a choice of preparing themselves for the defence of the country, or continuing to go to the races on Saturday afternoon, or to the pictures on Saturday night, will choose the latter course? 1 cannot see that it means anything else. Any government which is prepared to allow the young men of the nation to choose the races and the pictures in preference to doing their duty is not worthy of its salt.
The honorable member also said, in effect, that Australians are different from the men of older countries. Apparently, bis idea is that we need not be guided by the experience of other countries. However, Great Britain has found it necessary to train its men. Small countries like Finland, faced with the possibility of sudden assault, have found it necessary to keep their men in training for a period of twelve months. It seems to. me that the honorable member for Blaxland, and. those who think like him, have been driven into the position of claiming that we are super-men. Are we ? I do not how to any one in my pride in my fellow countrymen, but can we afford to flatter ourselves that we are so much better than every one else, and that the experience of others can be disregarded? Of course not. It has also been suggested that it is not necessary to grind into Australian men the essential qualities of the good soldier. The honorable member for Blaxland said that Australians had proved themselves in two wars to be men of great courage. With that statement of fact I absolutely agree, but with the conclusion he drew from it I emphatically disagree. I do not concede that because the Australian has proved himself to be a man of great courage and initiative it is not necessary to train him to meet a crisis when it arises. The honorable member said, in effect, “ The Australian has guts, and possesses all the necessary military requirements “. I say that, he does not possess the necessary military requirements.
– Will he get them on Saturday afternoons?
– No, and I have never suggested that he could. I am not adopting my present attitude in order to gain a party advantage, or to pick on any one. I ask those who may believe that the courage of the Australian is sufficient without military training to say what their reaction would be if they were to attend a stadium and see a game young Australian, quite without experience as a boxer, matched against an experienced and shrewd ringman? What would be their attitude when they saw that young man, with all the guts in the world, being cut to ribbons? Would they not clamour for the blood of the promoter? The parallel between the untrained boxer and the untrained soldier is complete, and what I have said should be an effective answer to those who argue that, because the young Australian has proved his courage in two world wars, there is no need to train him for what may be ahead of him.
I am dealing with this matter at some length because the sort of arguments I have been combating are those that may well go down with people who do not give the matter sufficient thought. I ask those who may be influenced by sucharguments whether they have ever seenBritish Tommies in actual warfarefacing terrific fire, and yet refusing tobudge? That is an outstanding example of courage, and I have witnessed it. Yet the Government of Great Britain knowsthat, despite the possession of such courage, men must be trained for thedefence of their country. Have thosehonorable members of the Opposition, who hold the opinions I am now combating seen line after line of German, troops advance against withering machinegun fire, and be mown down, and others still come on? I have. That is an example of wonderful courage.. But do the Germans believe that military training is unnecessary? Even the Japanese - and God knows I hate them enough - have exhibited courage of a very high order. I hate to have to say it, but I haveseen examples of such courage; yet theJapanese authorities believe it to be necessary to train troops. To argue that because we have in Australia men whowill answer the call to defend their country when the need arises, there isno occasion to train them beforehand, is to utter just so much rubbish. It is worsethan rubbish, it is heartless and dangerous talk. Those who would call on men whopossess nothing but courage to go out and die for their country would leave the country open to attack by the first great power that trains its men to attack us.
If this or any other government is toprepare for the proper defence of Australia, and discharge the sacred duty that devolves upon it in this respect, if it is to use the proven courage of our Australian men to the best advantage, and if those called upon to defend Australia are to be given a decent chance of survival in the face of attack, our men must be trained. Look around this chamber, and ask any man who wears a service badge, and he will say that when men go intoaction it is those who lack training who are most likely to be killed. If any further vindication of the Government’s policy of compulsory military training ia required, let me point out that every ex-servicemen’s organization in Australia is solidly behind that policy. That fact is significant.
Honorable members opposite may ask, “ But what about our plans for economic development? Will not the introduction of compulsory military training impede the putting into effect of those plans? “ It i.s not intended, so far as I know, to introduce compulsory military training in such a manner as to take out of production such a large percentage of manpower that the development of the country will bc impeded. I concede that the development of Australia is vitally important. In some respects, the requirements of defence and of national development clash, but surely the Go- tern ment possesses the wit to co-ordinate those requirements so that defence measures and developmental plans can he pushed ahead at one and the same time. There need be no fear that compulsory training, as envisaged by the Government, will seriously impede national development, which, I admit, is almost equally as important, even from the point of view of defence, as the training of soldiers. Statements made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) indicate that this point has been fully grasped by the Government. As a matter of fact, a great deal of preparatory work has to be done before any scheme of compulsory training nin be put into operation. [Extension of time granted.] Care must be taken to ensure that the scheme, once introduced, will be successful. The Minister for the Army has made it plain that the necessary preparatory work, is now being done. A complete survey of the man-power requirements of industry is being made so that the Government will be in a position to decide just what age groups should be brought into the training scheme, and what will be the requirements of national development. That is one of the preparatory actions that must be and, [ am glad to note, is being taken. Another action that must be taken, and 1 hope that it is being taken by those who are in charge of the department, is to provide adequate camp facilities for those who are to undergo training. We have now passed the stage at which men could be sent to camp, put into a tent and forced to undergo training under conditions which were far below the average to which they had been accus tomed in civilian life. We have to acknowledge that, in any scheme such as this, the living conditions of the trainees must be comparable with those in their own homes. Provision must be made for the appointment of proper instructors. The training syllabi should provide for proper facilities, not only for every-day training - the dry as dust stuff - but also for sport, recreation and some form of civilian training, so that the trainees will not get completely rusty during their training period. They expect the Government to move along these lines. As the result of the preparations that are now being carried out I believe that this scheme will be completely successful and that its success will provide a complete answer to the “ knockers “ who try to establish that some ulterior motive lies behind the Government’s decision to re-impose compulsory military training. The statement that the Government is planning for re-introduction of compulsory military training has given great relief to the community because the people realize how necessary it for our young men to be trained for the defence of their country. It is true that the proposal is unpopular in some quarters but in my view the Government merits high praise for its decision to tackle this task in the manner indicated by the GovernorGeneral.
Two other aspects of defence merit grave consideration. In the GovernorGeneral’s Speech reference is made to the Government’s decision to give effect to a policy of industrial preparedness. When considering that matter let us not forget that proper preparedness for defence does not merely involve the training of men to fight in the defence of their country. Nowadays, war is an all-in affair. During the last war we learned how essential to the war effort was the provision and development of factories capable of turning out the requirements of war. Factories capable of producing war materials must be ready to operate immediately at the drop of the handkerchief. During the last war the organization of our industrial potential was carried out by very gifted men who performed a wonderful service for Australia. If and when the next war comes we shall not have twelve or eighteen months warning in which to prepare for the onslaught. An essential part of the Government’s defence programme is the organization of our industrial potential to ensure that as soon as the gauge is thrown down the whole of our industrial establishments will be tooled and geared in such a way as to enable them to swing straight into the war effort. We may not have time to appoint men like Mr. Essington Lewis to do the job. The job must be tackled now. It is pleasing to note from, the Governor-General’s Speech that that fact is realized by the Government and that this preliminary work is to be put in hand.
The second aspect to which I wish to refer is the importance of New Guinea in the defence of Australia. I am sorry to have to say that I believe that as the result of the action that was taken by the previous Government in relation to New Guinea a great deal of the potential value of that territory in the defence plans of Australia has been lost. New Guinea should be prepared for the defence of Australia and should also be regarded as one of the principal areas in which training for defence of Australia should be carried out. If we have to defend Australia in the future, let us hope that we shall meet our enemy outside and not inside Australia. The House has debated this matter on several earlier occasions. For the benefit of new members, I point out that in my opinion the action recently taken in relation to New Guinea, as the result of which we now hold that territory under an ordinary trusteeship agreement, will prevent us from developing that territory as the forward defence line of Australia. Under legislation passed by the previous Government we are permitted to provide for the defence of the territory itself; but I cannot interpret that legislation as authorizing Australia to go beyond that. If New Guinea is to be the forward defence line of Australia we must establish bases and train our troops there. We need much more than the protection that is offered by a base at Manus Island. From, our point of view Manus Island is like a shag on a rock, right, out on its own. Under the terms of the trusteeship agreement we are obliged to report to the United Nations annually and possibly to answer hundreds of questions relating to what we are doing in New Guinea. That means that we shall not be permitted to take proper defensive measures for the defence of Australia without having our actions submitted to inspection and question by any member of the United Nations. That state of affairs constitutes a grave danger to us. I do not know what attention the Government has given to that problem, but I counsel it to give some consideration to the present position with a view to ascertaining whether or not we can follow 1 lie example of the United States of America, which holds its island possessions in the Pacific under strategic trusteeship and is thus enabled to make what preparations it likes for their defence without having to submit to inspection and inquisition by other nations.
I make no apology for having devoted the whole of my remarks to the vital subject of defence. I realize that th, present Government has enormous tasks ahead of it. It will go down in history as either a success or a failure, first, on its record in relation to the provision of adequate measures for the defence of Australia and, secondly, on its record in carrying out the national development of this country.
– I had hoped to commence and conclude in a spirit of amity and thus be accorded a very friendly reception by the House. However, I must reverse my original intention because I cannot let this occasion pass without replying to some of the statements that have been made by the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson), who has just resumed his seat. Those of us who were present during the whole of his speech concede that there was a remarkable similarity between his utterances and the words of the gramophone record entitled, “How Bill Adams Won the Battle of Waterloo “. He told us that he had met the Japanese, that he had seen Tommy Atkins in battle and that he had done this and that. He seemed to consider it proper that he should stigmatize as “ poohbahs “ those honorable members on this side of the House who ‘ preceded him in the debate and their remarks as nonsense. He went on to say that now at last has been ended the eight years of Labour misrule. I say to the honorable member, and I know that the people of Australia also would say it, if they had the opportunity to do so, that I am thankful to God for those eight years of Labour rule, for the end of the ineptitude, incapacity and misrule that marked the regime of the previous non-Labour Government. That Government was defeated because of the determination of the people to ensure that this country should emerge from its worst threat, uninvaded unsullied, and united. To the great men who have represented the Labour movement in the Government of this country, and who now represent it in Opposition, t Ja is nation owes a. great debt of gratitude. In time the people will realise how greatly they are indebted to those men. When we hear nonentities talk about the eight years of so-called Labour misrule, we are astonished at their temerity and ignorance of the facts of history. A calm review of what transpired during the period from 1941 to 1949 might impose a salutory check on the excessive exuberance of honorable members opposite. The Labour Government saved Australia and served it well.
We have listened patiently for many hours to speeches that have been made during the Address-in-Reply debate. Whilst those speeches differed in character, in the main they were excellent. Each speaker has expressed a somewhat different philosophy. All that has been said, both by those who support the Government and those who oppose it, could, perhaps, best be summarized in the speeches delivered by the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon), and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). In the rugged philosophy of the speech of the latter, which went out to all the people of Australia, we had a symposium of what Labour has had to endure over the years of the past. We hope that the working people of Australia will not have to endure such hardships in the years to come. The honorable member for Watson spoke of the heartbreaking experience of the working people of the Australian community during the years of the depression. A temporary advantage has been given to our opponents by their accession to office. T adjure them to make the most of their brief place in the sun, because their eclipse is rapidly approaching. Let us hope that that day dawns soon. Let the critics of the Opposition, who are elated at their temporary victory, analyse the voting figures . relating to the last election. It would be futile for mc to suggest that we on the Opposition side should occupy the Government benches. We have not the numbers to enable us to do so. The votes cast at the last election, however, do not portray the very happy picture that the Government would have us believe they do. The votes that were polled by the Labour party, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party at, the last general election tell the true story. The Labour party polled approximately 2,124,214 votes and won 48 seats; the Liberal party polled 1,816,282 votes and won 55 seats; and the Australian Country party, which is the willing jackal of the Liberal party, polled 500,349 votes and won nineteen seats. The total votes cast for non Labour candidates exceeded the iota] votes cast for the Labour party candidates by approximately 1.12,427, yet. the non Labour parties have a majority in this chamber of 26 members. Each Government supporter represents, on an average, 31,305 votes, but every member of the Opposition represents approximately 44,254 human beings. Let honorable members rejoice in their victory while they may ! As I have shown, the result of the election is not an accurate reflection of the support that was accorded to the three political parties. When the pendulum swings, as inevitably it will, the Labour party will again come into its own. Many people will sadly repent their decision to support non-Labour candidates at the last election, and will vote for Labour candidates at the first opportunity.
I do not propose to deal in extenso with the Governor-General’s Speech. As honorable members are aware, it foreshadows legislation that will be presented to the Parliament during this session. The Speech may be described as the shape of things to con]e. However, it is notable more for the omissions from it than for the matter that, it contains. The steady flow of migrants and the favorable position of our overseas trade balance, to which His Excellency referred in glowing terms, are the result of the Labour Government’s eight years of alleged mis-rule. The present Government is basking in the prosperity that was .brought about by the efficient management of the Labour Government. Like other members of the Labour party, I regret the omission from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of a number of matters, particularly references to proposals for fulfilling pre-election promises.
All the promises about social services that members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party made during the election campaign have been watered down into the following nebulous statement : -
My Government, however, is closely investigating the most pressing anomalies to see what can be done to prevent them. It believes, moreover, that the application of its financial and economic policy will result in improvement in the purchasing power of the currency . .
When honorable members opposite were misleading the people during the last election campaign, they promised a closer examination of social services. I contrast that statement in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech with the practical benefits that were granted, very properly and justly, by the Labour Government to the indigent, the aged, the sick and the infirm, and I believe that age and invalid pensioners throughout the Commonwealth will have reason to bewail the advent of this Government. There are many anomalies in social services that should be rectified. For a number of years before I achieved the distinction of being elected to the Parliament of Victoria, I was a public servant. In the early 1930’s I was an officer in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Branch of the Treasury. At that time, the Treasurer was the present Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey). In 1931, the Labour Government led by James Henry Scullin was succeeded by the non-Labour Government led by Joseph Aloysius Lyons, and one of the first acts of the new administration was to introduce legislation to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions
Act by the insertion of, I think, sections :”)2<j and 52d. Section 52c compelled relatives of an invalid or old-age pensioner to contribute to the cost of the pension. Some departmental officers had the unhappy duty of interpreting that iniquitious section, which was the cause of heart-break to many unfortunate pensioners. Decent Australian people, who were having difficulty during the financial depression in making ends meet with their low salary and wages, were presented with a demand by the non-Labour Government for a contribution towards the pensions of their relatives. That form of administration struck right at the roots of every humanitarian principle. The Lyons Government was of the same political complexion as the present Government, and the same principles that appeared to actuate it will probably actuate this benevolent Administration on its march to ultimate disaster.
Section 52d of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act was a miserable provision that operated harshly against unfortunate pensioners who, by their frugality, had been able to purchase a small home. They were compelled to give an undertaking that, in the event of their death after the 10th March, 1932, the amount of pension that they had received would be the first charge on their estates. Many worthy Australians relinquished their pensions rather than mortgage, in that way, the homes for which they had saved for a number of years. In one year, approximately 12,000 persons refused to apply for old-age and invalid pensions, although they were eligible to receive the payment, because they feared that their children would not be able to inherit their homes. Surely to God those days cannot return! I am afraid that they will, if the benevolent intentions of this Government are truly reflected in the Governor-General’s Speech.
I now desire to direct attention to certain anomalies in the social services legislation. Contributory pensions, such as superannuation and endowment, are regarded as income in the calculation of a pension. I urge the Government U< consider that position sympathetically, and exempt such income as superannuation and endowment from the computation. I agree with what has .been said in this House about the position of an age or invalid pensioner who owns a home but who, through invalidity, sickness or indigence, is unable to occupy it and is cared for by relatives in another home. I consider that the value of the pensioner’s home should not be taken into consideration when the amount of pension to which he is entitled is being assessed. Those are definite anomalies in our social services legislation, and their removal would be an important and most desirable concession to thousands of worthy people. Pensions are no longer a form of charity. The Labour Government adopted the correct attitude to pensions and social services. Three reasons may be advanced to justify the payment of pensions. The first is that it is an actual economic right, because most people who receive social services have already paid for them by one means or another. The second is that of moral right, because a person who, through no fault of his own, is unable to acquire a competence for his old age, should be cared for by the government of the day. The third is the broad humanitarian right, because those least able to care for themselves should be looked after by a benevolent government. Bearing in mind those facts, I urge the Government to correct its error of commission in not holding out hope to a worthy section of the community. However, I fear that my remarks will not have much effect upon this Government.
An important paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech, upon which I do not propose to expatiate at this stage, is that which contains the implied threat or promise that the Government will take action against the Communist party and subversive organizations. Having no knowledge of the Government’s precise intentions, I shall not embark upon an exposition of reasons for and against those proposals. However, I should like to refresh the memories of certain honorable gentlemen opposite. The following paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech has a familiar ring :-
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.
Those words should be uttered in thunderous declamation. The mere thought causes me to imagine that I can hear it. After a superficial glance at the words, a person may be pardoned for thinking that the objective is very laudable, but he may then recall that in 1928, when Mi’. Stanley Melbourne Bruce was Prime Minister, the following passage occurred in the Governor-General’s Speech: -
My Government is determined to defeat the nefarious designs of extremists and, armed with the mandate of the people, will take all necessary steps to accomplish this end.
At that time, the people had granted to the non-Labour Government the mandate for which its leader had asked. More than twenty years have elapsed since the Governor-General read that paragraph to the Parliament, yet no action has ever been taken against the Communist party. T believe that the canard that was successfully used in the election campaign in 1949 will be exposed during the course of this Parliament. I emphasized that, at this juncture, I do not desire to dilate upon the rights or wrongs of the proposal. In principle, however, I do not believe in the exercise of any authority that will prevent the democratic expression of a person’s opinion. I bate and abhor communism, and like other members of the Labour party, I have long been engaged in coinbating it. If we were to weigh what honorable members on this side of the House have done to fight communism, against the alleged desire of the Government to oppose it, the scales would be heavily weighted in our favour. For years, men like the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), a famous and leading member of the trade union movement, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) have engaged in combat with the members of the Communist party. They will testify that communism cannot be fought by driving it underground. I shall quote an opinion that is more sublime than mine, which even members on the Government side of the House cannot controvert. A question was asked of a certain party as to what it would do about the Communist party and subversive Communist activity. T quote the following reply from the Melbourne Herald of the 29th July, 1946 : -
Tire party does not believe in declaring the Communist party illegal and suppressing it, except in war. The Communist thrives underground and should not be forced down to become a martyr. The Communist party should be exposed by Liberal publicity and its doctrines countered by the merits of the Liberal doctrine. Subversive organizations should lae tackled in the same way as other subversive activities - the penalty of the law should be incurred.
That reply was given to a question that was asked of the Liberal party speakers’ group in Melbourne at the Liberal party conference in 1946. The Minister for Supply and Development stated on one occasion that, in his opinion, there had been an unparalleled and tremendous growth of communism in the last five years. I contrast that with another statement that was made by the present Prime Minister in Canberra on Tuesday, the 6th April, 1949. It was in these terms -
My tour of New South Wales has convinced me the Communist is losing ground in the trade unions.
The Prime Minister apparently took great heart in the thought that that drift from communism was to be a hopeful sign for Australia. Apparently, his opinion is not shared by his colleague. Communists will not be defeated by making them martyrs. There is something in the Australian temperament thai rejects the thought of driving anything underground. I believe that the driving of this force underground would be s dangerous negation of personal freedom. It would be the very thing the Communist party seeks, because, in its martyrdom, it might attract te its cause those who now withstand it. When I think of the bitter personal and political experiences of men on this side of the House and contrast (hem with the ineptitude and lack of experience of those who now mouth platitudes against communism, I cannot do other than accept the opinions of my colleagues and be guided by my own humble experience rather than accept those of honorable members opposite.
The honorable member for Bendigo has referred to interference with the rights of trade unionists. I do not think that T need add anything to his recent masterly exposition in this House. No facts can be produced to disqualify one sentence of his remarks and, because he is an acknowledged leader of the trade union movement who has devoted his life to a cause that has constantly battled with Communist infiltration, this House would act sensibly if it accepted the advice he has tendered. I sometimes wonder whether the desire to interfere with the rights of trade unionists is a corollary of the whittling away of the rights of trade unions in other directions. A headline to a news item in the Perth Daily News of Tuesday, the 29th November, 1949, read, “ Manufacturer Calls for Ban on Strikes “. The trade union movement believes in the right to strike for a justifiable cause. When one considers the positions of those who, while holding the beliefs and subscribing to the funds of the Liberal party, make statements of the kind that Mr. N. Mackay, president of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, is reported to have made, one realizes that there is a sinister move against the trade union movement in this country. This is what appeared under the headline I have quoted -
The right to strike was obsolete and redundant and should be outlawed as an unsettling and menacing threat to the -conduct of industry President C. N. Mackay told thi* Associated Chambers of Manufactures Conference in Perth to-day.
Possibly, what is implied in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is an interference with the sacred right of trade unions and is a part of a sinister movement to sap the strength from those organizations, which have done so much for the rights of the working people in Australia.
More competent men than I am have dealt with the subject of prices. While controls were exercised decently, intelligently and benevolently by the Labour Government there were many who complained; but at least they were rightly applied, and their rightful application maintained an even economy in this Commonwealth. When it mecame necessary to revert those controls to the States, assurances were given in the State Parliament to which I and other honorable members belonged that the States of Australia could exercise, an effective control. It seems to me that the States have mismanaged the control of prices. While the Commonwealth, was exercising the right to control prices under its war-time powers there may have been grumblers, but an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia were assured that their expenditure would bring a reasonable return. Those who induced the people to reject the referendum which sought increased powers for the Commonwealth must now, if they are genuine Australians, be biting their thumbs and feeling sorry that their advice was accepted by a foolish majority. That applies to the members of the present Government. Yet to-day they have the hypocrisy to assert that the evermounting spiral of prices is due to circumstances that are beyond their control. Some of them claim that it is a heritage from the previous Government. Mark the selfishness of this statement by the present Minister for Supply and Development, which appeared in the Standard Weekly of the 10th June, 1949-
Prices will rise. Buy all you can while prices are at their present level
In other words,, garner to yourselves, you fortunate people, that which you can while the time is ripe. “Never mind the wage-earner. With that philosophy animating the Government side of the House, how can it interpret the desires of working people?
There is a portion of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which deals with the importation of prefabricated homes and all other things likely to raise a gleam of hope in the hearts of those who have no homes to-day.. I represent the electorate of Hoddle, which is composed in the main of workers’ homes and sub-standard houses. If embraces the industrial areas of Collingwood. Abbotsford, Fitzroy, Carlton, and a portion of Clifton Hill. Four of those five areas contain large numbers of sub-standard homes, in which decent Australian people are endeavouring to raise decent Australian families. It is not their fault that they are housed in such hovels, many of which are inadequately lighted and sewered, are. vermin infested, unfloored and badly ventilated, and in some of which the walls are falling down. They are a heritage from the past rule of Liberal landlords. Because people cannot obtain homes, the decent people who live in nay electorate and in electorates similar to mine are compelled to live in houses of that type. Anything that would give them a. gleam of hope and hold out some promise of salvation in the future would be hailed with acclamation by them. [Extension of time granted.] My mind goes hack to the past again and I recall a promise made by the Bruce-Page Government many years ago which became an election issue. That Government announced a comprehensive homebuilding plan, for which an amount of £10,000,000 was to be set aside as a first instalment. Unfortunately the electors were deluded and returned the BrucePage Government to power, but not one home was built under that grandiose scheme. Therefore, I warn this Government that, if it deludes the people again, time and posterity will give it a just reward. But if it does lighten the burdens of decent people living in sub-standard areas such as I and other honorable members on this side of the House represent, it will be entitled to a measure of gratitude. However, history suggests the improbability of such a result and, in any case, a Labour government will eventually displace it from office. The Australian Labour party has made many mistakes, but its members have reason to be proud of the fact that, with all its mistakes, it has performed many good and righteous deeds. The working people of this community know that it is prepared to battle for them always. Although it may experience temporary vicissitudes, at least it is animated by the guiding principle that it must always try to do that which is good for Australia. No member of any political party can honestly deny that any one of the Labour party’s legislative enactments has ever been motivated by thought of gain for any individual section of the community. It is an Australian party in every sense. Our friends in the Government may rejoice now over their temporary victory, but the wheels of fate will turn again and they will be relegated to the Opposition side of this chamber. When that day comes, the people of this nation will welcome the return to power of the Labour party which governed this country for eight glorious years for the benefit of all and with distinction to itself.
.- As a new member of this House, I have been amazed by the tenor of the remarks made by honorable members opposite. I was astonished to hear so much bitterness and to witness the conducting of so many post-mortems upon the general election. It would appear that the Australian characteristic of being able to take a licking and take it like a man has been extinguished in the Australian Labour party. From what the honorable mem ber for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) said, one could draw the inference that some of the remarks made by his colleagues were puerile and nonsensical. I agree, especially in relation to the opinion expressed by one honorable member that, if an Australian civilian could be wrapped in a uniform and thrown into action, he would be a good soldier. Honorable members on this side of the House are better judges of such things than are members of the Opposition. I suggest that honorable members opposite look at the honorable gentlemen who sit with the Government and study the badges in their lapels. They will notice that every exserviceman’s organization in Australia is represented here. Our Cabinet of nineteen Ministers includes fourteen exservicenien. Obviously honorable members on this side of the House know what they are talking about when they discuss the subject of compulsory military training. Honorable members opposite have accused us of indulging in sabre rattling and war-mongering. That indicates that they are completely unaware of the nature of the Government’s policy. Therefore, I shall quote for their benefit from the first paragraph of the platform of the Liberal party. One of the objectives of the party is to have an Australian nation -
Safe from external aggression and living in the closest communion with its sister nations of the British Empire, playing its part in a world security order which maintains the necessary force to defend the peace.
Any man who has been through action in war has no more desire for war. Honorable members on this side of the House hope that we shall live out our lives in an era of peace. We do not want to have war again. There is no suggestion of sabre-rattling in the policy of the Liberal party. In fact, any suggestion that Aus.tralia, with a population of less than 8,000,000, might become an aggressor nation is ridiculous. We stand for peace, but we also believe that this nation, which we have inherited from our forebears, who toiled and sweated to make the country what it is to-day, is worth defending. The sob-note adopted by the Opposition in its election campaign, when it told the women of Australia that a non-Labour government would throw their sons into war, was merely a political fraud. What answer would honorable members opposite expect to receive if they asked any Australian woman whether she would prefer her son or husband to be thrown into battle if the unfortunate necessity arose, efficiently trained and capable of defending himself, or “ wrapped in a uniform “ and sent to certain death? The policy of allowing men to remain untrained would be one of cold-blooded murder. There could be no other description for it. Honorable members on this side of the House have proved their loyalty, their love for their country, and their love for their fellow Australians. For that reason we are justified in demanding, in the light of our knowledge, that a system of compulsory military training be introduced so that the country may be protected from aggression. I whole-heartedly support and endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson), and deplore such statements as were made by the honorable member for Hoddle.
Another matter that I wish to discuss is that of repatriation. Australia has known the effects of two major wars, and, as a result, we have in our midst to-day numbers of men who offered their lives in defence of their country, and had their bodies battered and torn in the struggle. Those men are entitled to special consideration. The ex-servicemen of Australia do not ask for rewards for what they did; they merely ask for adequate compensation for their sacrifices. Every member of the Chifley Government was approached individually by representatives of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen^ Imperial League of Australia, who sought their support for the “ 36-Point Pension Plan “. Nobody knows what happened to that plan. Probably it ended in some waste-paper basket. This Government believes that disabled ex-servicemen must be compensated by the nation, just as a trade unionist who is injured at his work is compensated. In fact, a sailor, soldier or airman is better entitled to compensation for disabilities suffered in the defence of the nation and its industries than is an injured industrial worker. I repeat that our ex-servicemen ask for no special rewards but merely want just compensation. This Government will ensure that they Shall receive just compensation. Evidence of that is to be found in the fact that a special Cabinet sub-committee, composed entirely of Ministers who have served in the armed forces in time of war, has been appointed to investigate problems associated with repatriation. The previous Government could not have appointed a sub-committee constituted in the same way. Only an ex-serviceman can understand the needs of another exserviceman. That is why special attention was paid to the composition of the present Ministry. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) is an ex-serviceman who fought with the infantry. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) lost a leg at Gallipoli. The ex-service men and women of Australia and the widows of those who made the supreme sacrifice look forward with relief to the regime of this Government, which will ensure that they shall obtain justice and consideration. My remarks might suggest that I am fighting strongly only for one section of the people, the ex-servicemen. However, I believe that, in stating their case, I am expressing the views of the whole of the people of Australia. Those views are exemplified in this brief quotation, which, I am convinced, epitomizes the ideals of all political parties represented in this House -
Let us command our thoughts and stand awhile in humble gratitude
To those who died ;.
Sinking ourselves in that great sea of pride whichwefeel in them,
As those brave spirits file back from the death theyfaced
That we might live.
To pay the debt in tears was never meant
But action, yes,action
That where they groped their children might walk in light
And see their dreamcome true.
Our dream of a great Australia marching forward to fulfil its ultimate destiny as a nation will come true under the administration of this Government.
– I preface my speech by paying a tribute to my predecessor, Mr. Frank Brennan, who, prior to his recent retirement, represented the electorate of Batman for 37 years. Mr. Brennan made a great contribution to Australian political history for almost four decades, during which period nobody at any time questioned his fidelity to the Labour movement. On behalf of all his former colleagues in this Parliament, I wish him the long retirement that he has well merited.
The Governor-General’s Speech has caused much interest because of its diversity and scope. There will not he much disagreement over portions of it, such as the reference to the sound and successful immigration policy that has been pursued since the end of World War II. That policy has received general approval. But there are other sections that are certainly open to much doubt, opposition, and scepticism. A government which claims that it stands for the highest welfare of the people should tackle first the most serious problems confronting it. The most serious internal problem confronting the Australian people to-day is the high cost of living. According to the speeches of honorable members on the Government side of the House, the first bills to be presented to the Parliament will not deal with that pressing problem. This morning the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that a number of legislative enactments would be required to tackle it. If that he so then the sooner he gets on with the job the better. We have been told that the first bills to be presented will deal with the alteration of the Banking Act of 1945. They are of minor importance compared with the problem of the high cost of living. It may be thought that the Opposition is discussing ad nauseam the cost of living but I assure honorable members on the Government side that if they were to mix with their electors they would find that that problem takes first place in the minds of the people. In moving about my electorate I continually find that the only subject the electors wish to discuss is the cost of living. They want to know whether it is to be tackled in an effective and systematic manner. The people are aggrieved because they were promised, during the election campaign, that this problem would be solved as soon as the Liberal party took over the government of the country. All sorts of promises were made to housewives. I know that honorable members on the Government side did a considerable amount of canvassing among housewives. The housewives repeatedly asked the question, “ What are you going to do in relation to the cost of living ? “ They were told that all that was necessary to solve the problem was a change of government. In view of the great increases of prices that have occurred since the 10th December, that claim has proved to be completely false. Last Thursday night my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said that the cost of living had increased by 10 per cent, since the 10th December. His estimate was certainly conservative. The increase has been nearer to 15 per cent., since that memorable day, particularly in a lot of vital commodities. The Government, after attaining the fruits of office, was not so certain that this problem was easy of solution, because we find that His Excellency’s Speech contains the following statement : -
It is realized that the solution of this problem is not easy.
This assertion is vague and is at variance with the definite promise made by the Government during the election campaign. There was an unusual occurrence in my electorate only last week. The Northcote City Council, the majority of whose members have Liberal sympathies, passed a resolution that it viewed with grave concern the reported destruction of fruit and the high prices that housewives are called upon to pay for fruit and vegetables. In the normal course of events this council would not discuss such a matter because it would be outside the ambit of the Local Government Act. However, it has received such severe criticism from ratepayers during the last six or seven weeks that even non-Labour representatives were prevailed upon to support the motion, which was submitted by a member of the Liberal party prior to the last election who unsuccessfully sought endorsement for two seats. It is, therefore, quite plain that members of the Liberal party are concerned about the cost of living.
The Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial has taken up this matter in an earnest fashion. That newspaper cannot b« accused of supporting the Labour party because never at any time has it put forward the views of Labour. It realized that if it was to maintain its circulation it must appear to be on the side of the housewife. Therefore, on the 17th February, it published the following article under the heading “ Chalk it up “ :- “. . Hut how much more?”
The housewives are asking.
Housewives are stunned - as never before - ;it the continued rising cost of everyday foodstuffs and general household commodities.
The latest rise of 5d. a dozen in eggs, taking them to ‘.is. 3d. a dozen, is just about the last straw, and - even more ominous - it means that she has to cut down on these daily necessities, so endangering family health.
Already, many families of two or more children have pared necessities below the bare minimum.
One mother with two children said last night that her milk bill was 19s. a week. Her husband earns a good salary - but not that good.
The kernal of the problem is embodied in the next sentence, which reads -
Since price controls were lifted in September, 1048, prices have spiralled.
Then the article indicates the enormous increases that have occurred in the prices of bread, milk, eggs, firewood, pepper, meat, sugar, onions, groceries and vegetables. That is a scathing indictment of the Government and it has more point in the light of the Government’s admission this morning that it is not prepared immediately to carry on with much needed legislation to deal with this problem. I recognize that the Government is on the horns of a dilemma, because members of the Liberal party persuaded the electors in September, 194S, to reject the Chifley Government’s proposal that the Commonwealth should control prices. Since then the cost of living lias steadily leapt ahead of workers’ incomes.
The honorable member foi- Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has said that this is a cause of serious discontent in trade union circles to-day. There is no more serious problem before the Government. The workers are certainly discouraged when they learn that the Government does not propose to deal with the matter immediately, because it will need a series of legislative enactments, but will first legislate upon subjects of minor importance. Certain, honorable members on the Government side, and certain newspapers, are very glib about the cost of Jiving. They say that the cause of th, rise is the 40-hour week. The 40-hour week has operated throughout industry for over two years and it is quite apparent that any effect it might have had would bc ve ended within six months. If the Government is sincere in its determination to lower the cost of living, which I doubt, then it must recognize that certain people are ruthlessly determined to deprive the worker of his weekly earnings and of the money that he saved during the war and the post-war period. The people are watching with avid interest to see what the Government proposes to do about living costs, and this matter alone may well exercise the mind of the Government. It is crystal clear that the Government should bring down a bill immediately to provide for a prices referendum. When a paper like the Sun News Pictorial of Melbourne stresses the spiralling of prices since the last referendum, I am convinced that such a referendum would now be emphatically affirmed by the people.
The Government has announced that it will attempt to arrest the drift of the rural population to the cities and will lay down plans for decentralization. It is high time that decentralization became an actuality. If the decentralization policy of this Government is to ‘be as successful as that of the Liberal-Country party Government in Victoria, then it is bound to .be a failure. In Victoria, the Cain Government gave a great impetus to decentralization, but its successor has shown no interest in the scheme, with the result that the whole decentralization movement in Victoria is stagnating, if not dissolving. If the Government is sincere in desiring to arrest the movement of the rural population to the cities, then it has a particularly difficult job, .because it will have to induce many thousands of its own supporters to discard their outmoded ideas. In order to carry out a policy of decentralization, this Government must have the co-operation of the States. The relationship between the Commonwealth and State governments has always been strained. Very little unanimity has been reached in any discussions between them. I hope that whatever representatives of State governments confer with the representatives of this Government about decentralization will forget that they represent States and will consider the problem, from a national standpoint. Although I represent a metropolitan constituency I recognize that the drift to the cities that has been accentuated during the war and post-war years is not a good feature of our life to-day. We must tackle the problem at the root. Our country areas must be developed. In many country areas houses are merely shacks and the lack of amenities is appalling. Immediately the Government tries to rectify this position it will come up against vested interests which will fight hard for the preservation of their privileges. The housing of farmers has been improved, but it still cannot be compared with city housing. Farm labourers are often worse housed than farm animals. There must be a campaign to house them adequately. Two or three years ago, when a rural award was made in Victoria, there were dire forebodings that because of the improvement of the wages and conditions of farm labourers the farming industry would be ruined. The drift to the capital cities has long been regarded as inevitable. If a decentralization policy is to be successfully applied, we must recognize the reasons for that drift. They are: 1. The absorption of country industries by small, but influential financial groups which found it profitable to close those industries and remove them to capital cities. Spinning, weaving, brewing, flour milling, canning, meat processing, wool scouring and fellmongering, are a few examples. 2. State parliaments, irrespective of what party has been in power, have been concerned over a long period if years with the well-being of primary producers, and of big manufacturers operating in and from the capital cities. Country manufacturers have been neglected. 3. Raw materials are carried on the railways at a lower rate than manufactured goods. This has had the effect of driving industry to the capital cities. 4. Governments have failed to provide a sufficiency of cultural, recreational and social amenities for country dwellers. This has tended to drive people from the country to the cities, where such amenities are available. 5. The status of rural workers has been consistently low. Because of those factors, the drift from the country to the cities has gone on with increasing momentum from year to year. If the present tendencies can be corrected, it should be possible to put into effect a practical decentralization policy. However, knowing who are the supporters of the present Government, I prophesy that it will encounter strong opposition from vested interests if it attempts to give effect to a vigorous policy of decentralization.
Pension rates have been discussed :U length in the course of this debate ami because the subject is of such general interest I believe that every honorable member should voice his opinion upon it. During the recent election campaign, some Liberal candidates said that if the Liberal party were returned to office pensions would be increased immediately. They may have spoken with more enthusiasm than authority, but the promise was clearly made. Since the present Government has come into power, pensioners have looked forward eagerly to the honouring of that promise, particularly in view of the rapid increase of prices since the 10th December. I have discussed the matter with many pensioners, and they are appalled at the callous attitude of the Government towards the need for increasing pensions. Apparently, the pensioners, a most deserving section of the community, must wait for the purchasing power of money to be increased before they can expect any relief.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– Despite the glowing promises that had been made during the election campaign, evidently all that the
Government now proposes to do is to endeavour to put back value into the £1 so that pensioners may be able to buy more with their meagre £2 2s. 6d. a week. That, to all practical intents and purposes, is all that these most deserving folk can expect from the Government. In the meantime, with prices soaring daily, the prospect ahead of them is indeed a grim one. They certainly did not hail with delight the announcement of the Government’s proposals. All that they can hope for is that in the dim and distant future, by the application of some nebulous formula about which we have not yet been informed, their lot is to be improved. In the meanwhile I shall doubtless read in the Melbourne news papers of the grim malnutrition that exists among our pensioners. As prices rise they will be able to buy less and legs with the meagre amount of their pensions. However, the Government has made its intentions clear in this respect and guilt for its action lies on its head. if it can be believed, the statement that the Government is investigating most pressing anomalies connected with the application of the means test is most welcome. The Chifley Government made an appreciable advance in the relaxation of the means test, notwithstanding that the problem has grown more complicated with the passage of the years because of the institution of non-governmental pensions schemes. During the last ten or twelve years many employers have adopted superannuation and pension schemes for their employees. For a contribution of 8s. or 10s. a week an from participation in social services pension or a lump-sum payment on retirement. Growing discontent exists among those who participate in such schemes because, by making provision for their old age, they are automatically precluded from participation in social services pensions to which they would otherwise be entitled. Two years ago a pensions scheme was inaugurated in the establishment at which I was employed prior to my entry to this House. As a union representative I attempted to induce my fellow members to take part in the scheme, but T found prolonged opposition to the proposal on the ground that by paying the contributions the employees concerned would dispossess themselves of a right to which they would otherwise be entitled. The problem is not easy of solution. Within the next ten years a complete survey of this subject will have to be made with the object of introducing a national insurance scheme.
I now propose to say a few words on the controversial subject of petrol. When the Government, with a great fanfare of trumpets, announced the termination of petrol rationing, everybody thought thai the people would be duly informed of the means by which the additional petrol required to meet the unrationed demand would be obtained. That information has not been forthcoming. As a matter of fact the whole business has been shrouded in mystery. There is a growing feeling among the people that the Government has something to hide in relation to this matter. Additional petrol can be obtained by one or more of several methods. First, it could be obtained by utilizing our defence reserves. When the Labour Government was in office it was criticized very severely because it did not resort to that method in order to overcome the petrol shortage. Opposition members waxed exceedingly eloquent on the the subject. They contended that the Government should immediately utilize the stocks held in reserve for defence purposes and replace, them later when additional shipments of petrol became available. On the advice of the Chief of the General Staff, the Labour Government refused to accede to that request. However, when the present Government came into office the Prime Minister said definitely that defence stocks would not be used. Secondly, it could be obtained by the imposition of restrictions on essential dollar imports so that, without the negotiation of a dollar loan, increased petrol purchases could be financed by the provision of additional dollars. That could be done only by restricting still further essential dollar imports such as machinery and metal products. What the public wants to know is whether the Government has already instructed the department concerned to review such imports with the object of whittling down still further the importation of these essential items. If that has happened, and I strongly suspect that it has, indus trial efficiency will be retarded because industries will be prevented from obtaining the necessary capital equipment to enable them to meet the production programme. Thirdly, it could be obtained by resort to the French petrol market. When the importation of French petrol was first mooted we wore told that such petrol would cost an additional 3d. a gallon. No statement has yet been made by the Government in relation to that matter. Does the Government contemplate an early increase of the price of petrol ? During the election campaign the Liberal party circulated in my electorate a pamphlet headed “ Unrationed petrol at 2s. 6d. a gallon “. It contained an implication that if the Liberal party were returned to power the price of petrol would be reduced by 6d. a gallon. I have been asked by many motorists about the Government’s intentions in connexion with that promise. I assure the Government that if it brings about a reduction of the price of petrol, it will receive a pat on the back from me and from motorists generally. The people are perturbed about the present petrol situation because the Government has not taken them into its confidence. The Melbourne Age of the 9th February last contained a leading article on this subject which was based on a broadcast promise made on the preceding day by the Prime Minister when he announced that petrol rationing would cease forthwith. Under the heading “ Large gaps in petrol picture “ the article reads -
The Prime Minister’s announcement that petrol rationing ceased last night may or may not have closed one the most controversial chapters of recent times …. But the broadcast left some large gaps. It is obvious that a very appreciable increase in consumption will now take place. As Mr. Menzies said, there is a dollar contribution in almost every item of import trade; there is certainly a substantial dollar content in petrol.
We have yet to learn from the Government what other imports will be sacrificed, or in what way the Government proposes to avoid widening the dollar gap. In our own case, the dollar shortage on trading account is very substantial, for the reason that our exports to (hillar countries fall far short of our imports from the dollar countries. Hitherto, we have rone to Britain to make up the shortage, which means draining the dollar reserves of the sterling area.
Sooner or later, some means must be found rn cloi-e or lessen the gap, and the broadcast did not explain how. The Prime Minister said nothing to show how the financial problem is to be overcome.
The article concludes “with the following paragraph : -
How mu,ch extra petrol was found to be obtainable from sterling sources, and what assurances there were that supplies would be steadily forthcoming and increased to take Care of the inevitable extra demands, have yet to be explained. Here, again, petrol users can but hope that sanguine expectations may lie realized.
From information at my disposal it appears that wealthy motorists are not certain that the Government will be able to guarantee a continuous supply of petrol, and because of their uncertainty they are buying up large stocks of petrol and putting it by for a rainy day. Is the Government prepared to give a. complete explanation of the means by which it proposes to obtain the additional petrol needed to meet the unrationed demand? If such an explanation is not forthcoming, wealthy motorists will not be greatly affected, but the working classes who have not sufficient money to buy large quantities of petrol for storage will suffer. Many workers are looking forward to the enjoyment of a motor trip over the Easter holidays. They want to be assured that ample petrol will be available to them during the holiday period.
I propose now to say a few words about the important subject of population. The policy of the Labour party on this matter is clear and unequivocal. We. believe that an increased population is imperative if this country is to achieve the destiny that has been planned for it. At the end of the war, a very successful immigration policy was inaugurated, under the brilliant direction of the former Minister for Immigration, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). It met with the wholehearted approval of honorable members opposite. Despite the statements that have been made on this subject by honorable members opposite, the advent of new self-governing nations to our near north and the change in the sovereignty of some of the nations to our north have altered completely the previously accepted basis of Pacific strategy. In the years to come it is possible that the same friendly relations may not exist between those countries as have existed in the last twelve or eighteen months. I believe that this country should make every possible endeavour to increase its population as quickly as possible. I do not pose as a military expert, but I believe that one of our first duties is to ensure that our industrial resources shall be equal to the strain that would be placed on the economy of the nation by a future conflict. We must develop our industrial potential and increase our population as rapidly as possible. We should concentrate on expanding production in our heavy industries, so that in, say, 30 years’ time, should trouble come to us from the north, we should be able to meet the challenge.
I have been greatly concerned during this debate by the continued attacks that have been made by honorable members opposite on the working class people of this country. Time and time again we have been told from the Opposition benches that it is the philosophy of Labour that man can live without work. that trade union organizers have discouraged workers from doing their best, that the worker has a selfish outlook and that there is no dignity in labour. Such disparagement of industrial workers will not bring about that aim of a friendly and co-operative spirit between labour and capital to which a special paragraph was devoted in the Governor-General’s Speech. It is high time that honorable members opposite at least tried to look without prejudice and bias at the problem of bringing about peace in industry. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for its indulgence. The outbursts by honorable members opposite are to be deplored, and Australian workers are and will be deeply resentful of such ill-considered and completely unwarranted attacks on them. Honorable members opposite should endeavour to induce the Government to adopt the splendid suggestions which have been made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) relative to industrial peace. If that were done, the results would be far more valuable, and more conducive to goodwill, than are continual and unwarranted attacks on people whose record of achievement is second to none throughout the world. I concede that there have been lazy workers in every age and generation, just as I assert that there have been inefficient and lazy employers who have retarded production. But the failure of a small section of workers and employers to give of their best to the community is no reason why the great majority of workers or employers should be indicted. The sins of omission and commission of a relatively few people should not be charged against the great body of such people. I hope that we have heard the last of criticism by honorable members opposite to the effect that workers are resolutely refusing to do a fair day’s work in return for a fair day’s pay. In the workshop in which I was employed, the men earned every penny they received, and the employer did not at any time complain about the calibre and speed of the workers, and the rate of output. The same can be said of almost every workshop and factory throughout the Commonwealth. The fact that some one makes an ill-considered statement, or some loafer decides to pole on his fellow workers is no reason why everybody should be included in the criticism.
Members of the Labour party do not feel depressed because, for the time being, they constitute the Opposition in this House. I am of opinion that our contributions to the deliberations of this Parliament will have substantial and tangible results. “Whatever the future may hold, the Australian people may rest assured that their interests will be safeguarded by the Labour party, which will use all the forces at its disposal for that purpose. I speak with deep sincerity when I express the opinion that, at the next election, the public will reverse the bad decision which they made on the 10th December last, and will again entrust the destinies of Australia to the only true Australian political party, the Labour party.
Mr. CHARLES RUSSELL (Maranoa) fS. 18]. - I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech. I have listened with great interest to speeches which have been delivered in this debate, but because of the indulgence which is extended to new members, I do not propose to strike a critical note. I am delighted to learn that the Government proposes to establish a Ministry of National Development, and having regard to the potentialities of the electorate which I represent which comprises a large area of south-western Queensland, it is not unnatural that I should address my first remarks in this House to the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey). One of the main factors which retarded the development of Queensland compared with the other eastern States was the taxation policy pursued by successive Labour go»vernments. That policy, of course, ceased, to operate with the adoption of the uni-. form income tax, and I hope that, for thesake of Queensland, we shall never revert to the former system of dual Commonwealth and State taxation.
The other factor which has been sd largely responsible for the lag in the development of Queensland has been the high cost of transport. This evening, I should like to deal particularly with railway development, because I believe that that form of expansion is essential to western and southwestern Queensland, and also to the Northern Territory. It should be made known to and impressed upon the nation that the population of western and northern Queensland was greater 50 years ago than it is at the present time. Burketown, Normanton, Croydon and Georgetown once had a total population of some 20,000 people, but to-day their combined population does not exceed 500. The towns of Windorah, Birdsville, Becourie, Betoota, Adavale and Thargomindah are shadows of what they once were. Indeed, they are dying towns. Is it suggested that the industry which once kept those places going is no longer necessary, possible or desirable? Is it suggested that we can get along just as well without the wealth which those places once produced ? Those who would make such a suggestion would show themselves unworthy to occupy our country. However, I am delighted to know that the problem will be handled! by this Government, which is fully aware of the urgency of the situation. If the Labour Government in Queensland is so devoid of ideas for developing that State, and is prepared to sit hack and watch the process of depopulation, it is time that the nation itself sat up and took some notice.
Railway development stopped in the western part of Queensland with the election of the first Labour government. That cessation of activity may have been a coincidence, but that is what occurred. Roads and road transport facilities have not reached the stage at which they are a satisfactory substitute for rail transport, and 1 do not believe that we can ever develop that country properly by constructing roads from existing rail terminals in Queensland. The lack of transport facilities is having a serious effect on land settlement, although it is obvious that young people should be encouraged to establish themselves on holdings. Because of the depopulation of the area to which I have referred, the land settlement policy in Queensland, which was regarded as one of the most progressive of the States, has virtually broken down. Between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 acres are held under occupation licence, that is, without security of tenure, and no developmental work is taking place. I believe that closer settlement in most of those areas is desirable, but it should go hand in hand with adequate transport facilities. It would be inadvisable to cut up the large properties of the west until those facilities are provided. In a country of precarious rainfall, the big holders are able to move their stock from point to point wherever the rain happens to fall. If those properties were cut up, the smaller holders would not have that opportunity, and would need to be given the facilities to enable them to move their stock in time of drought. Central Queensland offers an excellent illustration of the point that I am making, because successive disasters have impoverished many small holders in that area. In spite of that experience, the Queensland Government has made no move to correct the situation, and, as honorable members will see as I develop my theme, it has adopted a mulish and stupid attitude towards this great problem of transport. I believe that it is largely responsible for the condition of affairs that exists in western Queensland to-day.
Railways can be made the instrumentality for distributing population, provided that rail policy includes an intelligent rail freight classification. The United States of America have done what we have failed to do. In that country, there are no great concentrations of population in capital cities or at ports. The population is remarkably well distributed throughout the country. When I was in the United States of America recently, I was interested to hear American critics deplore the fact that 30 per cent. of the population of that country was living in cities of more than 100,000 people. I wonder what those critics would have said of Australia, where 52 per cent. of the population lives in the capital cities. The American railway operators boast - and this may be an exaggeration - that they can distribute industrywhereever they want it to go. They contend that it is better to have a railway operating between two large centres of population than running from one large centre to a number of small isolated places. The great difference between American railways and Australian railways is that American railways are run for profit - that word is anathema to the Labour party - and the Australian railways are run for votes. In that sentence we have the answer to the problem of the concentration of industry and population in and around our capital cities. WhenI first entered the Queensland Parliament I advocated the policy I have just outlined, but my suggestions fell on deaf ears. I shall mention a particular incident that happened recently. I had asked the Queensland Minister for Railways to alter the railway freight classification on scoured wool. That rate, incidentally, is higher than the rate for greasy wool. I made that request to the Minister with a view to retaining wool scours in the west of Queensland. However, my advocacy fell on deaf ears, and last year the scour at Charleville closed and with it went the employees, numbering probably twenty families. I did not make those representations for the benefit of the wool-growers, because they did not need my intervention. I took the action in an endeavour to retain those people in Charleville, which is losing some of its population. The owner of the scour, whom I saw recently in Brisbane, told me that he was making more money in that city and that his wife and family were much more comfortable there than they had been in Charleville, because they had all the facilities and advantages of city life, educational and otherwise. He added that he would not go back to tho west. That illustration is typical of how towns in the west are losing their population.
In 1920, and again in 1939, royal commissions which had been appointed by the Queensland Government advocated the linking of the central and western railway lines at their terminal points between Blackall and Charleville. The Government disregarded the findings of those two royal commissions. I admit that, to-day, there are insuperable obstacles to the State government building large extensions of the State railway system, but when it had the opportunity, it did not do anything. In 1945, Sir Harold Clapp advocated that that link and also others in the general plan of railway development running up to Darwin. Three months later, the findings of the Royal Commission on Aba.tto.irR and Meatworks were submitted to the Queensland Government. This dealt with other things besides the question of abattoirs and, in particular recommended an alternative route to Darwin, running west of the existing termini in Queensland in order to develop valuable cattle lands.
The fact that no action is being taken on the findings of the various commissions that have been set up from time to time is deserving of the strongest censure. The 1920 and 1939 State royal commissions were in the nature of State enterprises but the Clapp scheme and the proposals made by the Royal Commission on Abattoirs and Meat works were national in character. It is obvious that the Queensland Government has no real intention of taking any steps in this matter and a stalemate has been reached. It is obvious also that there is a great fear that the linking of the central and southern systems in the west of Queensland will cause a loss of trade to Rockhampton and that the connexion, of Queensland border towns to the New South Wales system will cause a loss of trade to Brisbane. It appears that the Australian Government is also at a stalemate because it is committed to South Australia in connexion with the building of a north-south line. It is twice committed there, because South Australia, when it joined the federation, did so on the distinct understanding that the north-south line would be constructed. That understanding was confirmed when the South Australian Government recently entered into the agreement on the standardization of railway gauges. At this stage of Australia’s development, two lines would not only present economic difficulties, but also would be unjustified. So we have arrived at another impasse from which the Government will have to find a way of escape.
The urgent necessity for development in western Queensland and the Northern Territory is a national problem. If we are to maintain our beef production with an exportable surplus we shall have to do something.. Unless wu act promptly it will not be very long before we shall have no surplus of beef to export. Wo heard from the last Government something about a guaranteed price from the British Ministry of Food. As a meat producer, I say that that type of agreement is not worth the paper it is written on. Let the Government give us security of tenure and basic transport services and we will develop the country. The policy of the Queensland Government, both in the design and operation of its railway system, is so stupid that it would be better to have the railway systems of Australia controlled by a federal authority. I do not mean by that statement that we should standardize railway gauges, hut rather that we should standardize management and equipment. New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia will surely achieve standardization, but in Queensland standardization would require the reconstruction of all our railways and if we have sufficient money to build new railways it would be far better to build them in places where none exist at the present time.
The railway system should be removed from political control. The Queensland system has always been subject to political control and that probably accounts for the deplorable conditions that we find there to-day. Operating costs constitute a material factor and the connexion of intra-State and interstate systems would encourage on to the railways a much greater volume of traffic. If a greater volume of traffic could be obtained the cost per mile would be considerably reduced, because most railway capita] is invested in fixed assets such as railway stations, land and rolling stock. Also, there would be a reduction in manufacturing costs if standardization were effected. When I was in England and the United States of America recently I made comparisons in manufacturing costs and I found that a 16 ton Victorian railway wagon in England would cost about £1,300. If we had the materials to make the same wagon in Australia it would cost approximately £1,000. In the United States of America, prior to devaluation, such a wagon would have cost about £750 for production runs, or large orders.
A look at the maps of New South Wales and Queensland will show that the railway systems of Queensland have been designed to serve the coastal interests of that State. Starting from the border of New South Wales, we come first to Coolangatta, with a rail gap between that town and the New South Wales system of some 18 miles. Next we come to the uniform gauge lines connecting the two capital cities, and after that there is the Wallangarra line, which previously was the. main railway line between Sydney and Brisbane. After that, we come to Texas, on the border, some 50 miles from the New South Wales railway system. This town is in rich country, which is capable of carrying more people than it carries at present, but the nearest rail link in New South Wales is at Inverell, some 50 miles away. Some 60 miles farther west we come to Goondiwindi and more country capable of being developed. Here there is another rail gap of 5 miles between that town and the New South Wales terminus of Boggabilla. Eighty miles further west is Mungindi and at that place there is a gap of 20 miles between it and the Queensland railway at Thallon. Farther west we come to Barringun. That town should undoubtedly form the border link between Bourke and Cunnamulla, and connect the two main western systems of New South Wales and Queensland. The Queensland Government has the mistaken idea that goods passing into New South Wales are a loss to Queensland, so it has bottle-necked the produce of western Queensland into Brisbane. This is a loss not only to western Queensland but also to Hie nation, because the produce is going in the wrong direction. The natural direction of movement of stock from western Queensland is southerly. All the stock routes follow the rivers. The pastures of the southern States have a better rainfall than the pastures of Queensland, and they also have a winter rainfall. Consequently, they are normally better fattening pastures. Apart from that, there are no diseases in the western areas. There are no ticks and no live to worry the stock as there are on the coast. There is plenty of cattle and beef to supply the local requirements in the coastal regions of Queensland. The greatest populations in Australia, are in the south, in Sydney and Melbourne, and that is the natural market to which the stock should go.
When I pointed out this fact in the Queensland Parliament, I was accused of disloyalty to Queensland. Certainly, exports are desirable, but why send all produce to seaports? Why not regard border towns as trading centres, and so build those up by the trade which would result from the export of goods from Queensland ? If ail the produce is attracted away from Brisbane and the more populous parts of Queensland, then prices would surely rise in Brisbane and so attract the produce back again. That would be beneficial to the primary producers and people generally of thosetowns and areas of western Queensland The channel country of Queensland is a comparatively undeveloped area and its future is dependent upon railway development. The proposed scheme of road construction from the existing termini at Quilpie and Yaraka is totally inadequate to develop that area. Road transport is about three times more expensive than rail transport. Road transport involves the problem of transhipment when products reach the terminals. Another factor, however, is that the stock are moving in the wrong direction away from the people. Road transport will not develop this part of the country which has to he considered along with other parts of western Queeusland. I refer particularly to the Barkly Tableland and the country north of it. I have been talking about moving stock in a southerly direction, but there will be times when the stock will need to move in a northerly direction because of the vagaries of the seasons. The development of this area and of the Northern Territory should form part of a master plan. I hope that this Government has something of the sort in mind. Railway design must be a major factor in the development of that region. Various commissions have been appointed from time to time to consider the problems involved in the development of the Northern Territory, but here again their recommendations have been conveniently pigeon holed, presumably because the projects recommended by those bodies had few vote-catching possibilities. The Northern Territory has great potentialities, but the basic problem of development there is identical with the problem that exists in western and northern Queensland. The already small population of the region is being steadily depleted. The Government should give very serious consideration to that trend as soon as possible.
Ample precedent exists for federal control of railway systems. Such control has been imposed in South Africa and in Canada, and even in the United States of America, where railways are operated by private enterprise instead of by governments, a central co-ordinating authority has been placed in charge of the various systems. The Government of South Africa employed the best man available to establish a single administration of its railway services and gave him a free hand and ample funds with which to carry out his plans. According to the information that I have obtained, the system is now working very satisfactorily. The political and economic difficulties involved in this problem can be removed only if the Commonwealth takes over the railways systems of the States, either bv obtaining the approval of the people at a referendum or by entering into agreements with the various States. An attempt was made to secure agreement at one time, but the Government of Queensland was completely unco-operative and it failed. . The Government must do something to rectify the serious depopulation trend in our remote areas, especially in view of the proximity of northern Australia to Asiatic countries. Failing the co-operation of the Queensland Government, ways and means must, be devised to provide the country with the basic transportation facilities that are essential to its proper development.
The impasse that has arisen over the relative merits of the schemes for the completion of the north-south line and the building of an inland line in Queensland, must he overcome. Should the north.south line be approved, careful attention must be paid to the missing links in the Queensland system. However, in spite of the claims made by South Australia in favour of the northsouth route, I consider that the Queensland plan would be more beneficial to all of the eastern States because of the development that would be fostered by its implementation. There would be relatively little traffic along the northsouth line unless extensive mining operations were undertaken in that region, but the construction of the proposed line in Queensland would unquestionably benefit South Australia, particularly if that State were linked from Marree to the nearest point on the Queensland system. However, it is not for politicians to decide which of the proposed routes is the best. Our job is to have these matters investigated and then to ensure that the recommendations of the investigating bodies are carried out. The previous Government failed completely in that duty. It is better not to appoint commissions at all than to put them to work and then ignore their decisions. The difficulties of managing pastoral properties in western Queensland and the Northern Territory are increasing. Very little white labour is available. In fact, the only labour in some of the most distant places is black, and that is inadequate. The result is that no developmental work is being done and production is decreasing while general efficiency and the quality of stock are deteriorating. Australia has been wasting valuable time that it can ill afford to waste. In suggesting federal control of railways,I am fully conscious of the risk of centralization of administration that is involved, but I am sure that the advantages that would accrue would outweigh the disadvantages. The situation is beyond the power of State governments to control.
The development of western Queensland and the Northern Territory and the extension of transportation facilities should be handled in conjunction with our immigration policy, and I am sure that the Government is keeping that necessity in mind. This is a national problem. State boundaries are becoming less clearly defined as the years pass, and it is unthinkable that interstate jealousies should be allowed to hamper national progress. Basically, the drift of population to the cities arises from lack of opportunities for youth in the outback. Land settlement should be attractive to young people, but opportunities for settlement are not available and boys are leaving the country to look for employment elsewhere. When the young men leave, the girls leave also, and when both the young men and the girls leave the old folk follow them. Evidence of this dangerous drift is to be seen in the dying towns of western Queensland. Honorable members should visit those places and see conditions for themselves.
The growth of Brisbane and other port cities has been out of all proportion to the retarded development of western Queensland. I consider that that has been the result of railway design and policy. [ Extension of time granted.] In Queensland, 44.2 per cent. of the population lives in the port cities. One of the most important factors that has influenced this aggregation has been the rail freight classification system. The rates “ To Porte “ provide for concessions varying from 30 per cent. to 80 per cent. for primary produce and coal. The system was instituted for the purpose of encouraging exports. The encouragement of exports is highly commendable, but why were the seaports favoured? I want to see exports from the border towns of Cunnamulla, Goondiwindi, and so on, all along the State border. The produce should be sent where the people live. The classification system not only encouraged exports but also encouraged the shipment of produce for consumption in the port cities, which resulted in a reduction of the cost of living in those areas and gave them an advantage in respect of professing and manufacturing. The concentration of population is the natural result of the bottle-necking of traffic and trade through the ports, in particular through Brisbane.
In order to show that the trend of population concentration is worse in Queensland than elsewhere, I propose to compare figures for that State with figures for New South Wales. It would not be fair to compare the distribution of Queensland’s population with that of New South Wales to-day because of the greater development of the southern State, which has been due to the tax factors thatI mentioned in the first place. However, it would be fair to make a comparison of the situation in Queensland to-day with that which prevailed in New South Wales in 1901. The population of Queensland, according to the 1945 census was 1,086,628. The populations of the port cities were as follows: -
Those totals represent 44.2 per cent of the entire population of the State. The population of New South Wales in 1901 was 1,355,355. The populations of the port cities were as follows : -
Those totals represented 42.9 per cent. of the entire population of the State.
To sum up the situation, I wish to stress the following facts : -
Because of the negative policy of the Queensland Government, steps should be taken to control the design and administration of State railways so that they may become the instrumentalities through which this country can be more fully developed, which implies a better distribution of population and industry.
Mr. PETERS (Burke) [8.58 J. - 1 strongly commend to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his colleagues the speech that has just been made by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Charles Russell). The Government should give the most earnest consideration to the preparation of a master plan flint will cause the cattle of Queensland to move in the right direction. Like ether new members, I speak on this occasion with some diffidence, but there are two sound reasons for my embarrassment. They are the speeches that have been made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentwortb) and the honorable member ‘ for Riverina (Mr. Roberton). Each of those honorable gentlemen addressed himself to this House with an air of omniscience. The Prime. Minister and his Cabinet cannot be. as sure as they were at the cornwell(:(3ment of this session that they are the. r It, h t people in the right place. When I was campaigning prior to the recent election, I was confident that if I was elected I would sit behind a government led by the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) and so would be able to help in adding to the many benefits that the people of Australia have gained through eight years of Labour administration. Those benefits have made, every thoughtful patriotic citizen in every country of the world envious of the people of this country. However, I find myself sitting in opposition to the Menzies Government and I shall do what I can to assist the right honorable member for Macquarie, and those who, with him. once controlled the destinies of this country, to stem the tide of reaction.
During the debates that have taken place in the last few days I have heard democracy discussed at length. The Speech of His Excellency contained reference to democratic measures. The honorable member for Riverina and the honorable member for Mackellar also spoke about democracy. The latter gentleman pointed to the honorable members on this side of the House and said that when they governed the country they were the assassins of democracy. I hear an honorable member say “ Hear, hear “. The honorable member for Mackellar evidently spoke in this chamber with the recklessness which, I believe, is also a characteristic of him outside it. That recklessness will probably cause you, Mr. Speaker, in time, to suspend his licence. The honorable member for Riverina gave an involved definition of democracy. He spoke, of democracy being based upon production and the ownership of property. He was evidently of the opinion that the bigger the business a person controls and the greater his landed assets the better democrat he became. Despite the description of the new democracy that he put before us I believe that a better definition is the time honoured one of government of the people by the people for the people, f judge by that standard all those who claim that they are democrats. The fact that a person makes loud protestations in support of democracy does not prove that ho is a democrat. As I judge people on the basis that I have indicated, I apply that yardstick to the Communist party, the Liberal party, the Australian Country party and the Labour party alike. In the stern fight for government based upon the will of the people and responsive to their desires, the Labour party has alone, down through the years, proved to be true. Upon the benches opposite sit the Prime Minister, the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) and the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), all of whom come from the State in which my electorate is situated. They have played no mean part in the government of that particular State. The Government of that State is not democratic, it is oligarchic. The Victorian Legislative Council has a franchise which allows a. ballot to be rigged worse than any ballot that has ever been rigged by the Communists in this country, and the honorable gentlemen to whom I have just referred, who, to-day, play a large part in the Government of the Commonwealth, were active, in the past in the government of that State. There they were ever found, to use an expression that I learned from the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), fighting with the ferocity of a Bengal tiger in defence of government of the people by the few for the few. Knowing this, I consider that I am justified in saying that their views, as demonstrated by their actions, reflect the views of this Government. Accordingly, when I hear members of the present Government propounding something that is camouflaged under the title of democracy, T shall at once investigate the wood pile in an endeavour to find the nigger.
The principle of government of the people by the few for the few has been demonstrated in the actions of other anti-Labour governments that have preceded this one, and which have included many of the members of this Government. I believe that the two main parties in this House are divided, not on grounds that are purely ideological, but on far more substantial grounds. The two parties are divided on the grounds of divergent interests. The interests represented by the Government are not the interests represented by the Opposition. The Opposition stands for the great mass of the people of this country and for the promotion of the general good of the community. The general good can be achieved only at the expense of the privileged and wealthy few. The privileged few have put into power in this country the present Government so that it will do their work. Private hanking institutions were very active during the last election campaign. They dragged their clerks, male and female, from the tennis courts of Toorak and Malvern and put them out all day on Saturday, the 10th December, in constituencies such as Burke to deliver cards in order to put the Liberal party into power. The banking interests did not do that because they were solicitous for the welfare of the average man and woman, or because they were disturbed in some way by the low standard of living of the workers, or because they thought that the pensioners of this country were not getting all that they deserved. They did it because they wanted upon the treasury bench puppets to dance at their bidding. The Labour party requires parliamentary representatives who will ensure that the rights of the people to control the financial and credit resources of Australia shall not be impaired. That is why the banking interests expended hundreds of thousands of pounds to defeat the Labour party. So long as the present Government remains on the treasury bench the monetary policy of this nation will be dictated by the private banking institutions.
In order to prove my contention 1 recall to the memory of the House the recent history of governments that preceded this Government. I do that because I believe that this Government, acting in the interests of private finance, will be the architect of a new depression. I do not believe that the benevolent and humane looking gentlemen who sit in front of me on the Government, benches are deliberately planning a new depression ; yet I believe that most of them are unconscious - some more than others - architects of a new depression. In order to prove my contention that the road they have marked out leads to a new depression, I shall detail some of the recent history of this country. The Bruce-Page Government found during its period of office that unemployment was mounting. It brought into existence the Development and Migration Commission. That was a vast organization and it wandered at will throughout the length and breadth of Australia collecting evidence. It prepared reports on many subjects, but all those reports were made with the object of improving the economy of the country and with stemming the rising tide of unemployment. Professor Copland and a number of other economists collaborated with that commission. Honorable members may find the reports of the Development and Migration Commission in the Library. They are elaborate document’s about trade cycles, the effect of banking on the creation of unemployment, the influence of seasonal work upon employment, and other details in connexion with that subject. But although they submitted reports, nothing was done, and unemployment continued to increase. The Government then invited to Australia the British
Economic Mission, consisting of Sir Edward Duckham and three others. They became known as the “ Big Four “. They, too, travelled throughout Australia. They went to Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. They consulted with trades hall officials, with chambers of commerce and with chambers of manufactures. They consulted with politicians and others and submitted a report, but unemployment continued to increase. The Bruce-Page Government then went to the country, and in effect said to the people : “ We have the solution to the unemployment problem. Put us back into power, and we shall cure all the ills that afflict the economic life of Australia. All we need is power to destroy the arbitration system. Give us authority to restore to employers the right to employ people at coolie wages for as many hours a day as they wish, and on conditions unfettered by the Arbitration Court”. Well, the election took place, and the Bruce-Page Government was smashed. In its place there came into office, but not into power, the Scullin Government, which recognized that the only way to solve the country’s economic problems was for the Government to assume a greater measure of control over the economic and monetary resources of the nation. The new Government introduced legislation, to give it control over credit, but all its efforts were frustrated by the representatives of vested interests in a hostile Senate. In the course of time, the Scullin Government had to go to the country, and what was the issue upon which it faced the people? It was a proposal that there should be a fiduciary issue of currency to enable the Government to provide employment, and to relieve the difficulties of the rural population. The banking institutions, as the mouuthpi cces of wealthy interests, fought the Scullin Government as bitterly as they recently fought the Government led by the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley). The Scullin Government was defeated, and back into power came the old coalition, similar in its nature to the coalition which governs Australia to-day. I forgot to point out that the Bruce-Page Government .by legislation, set up the Commonwealth Bank Board. It was that board which made ii impossible for the Scullin Government to grapple with the problem of unemployment and destitution that was sweeping through the country like an outbreak of bubonic plague. The same forces that destroyed the Scullin Government, and frustrated its attempts to improve the lot of the people, are now ranged behind the present Government, and will do all in their power to defeat attempts to improve theconditions of the workers.
Of course, the banks were not theonly contributors to the funds of the Liberal party during the last election campaign. The banks represented the “ Big Bertha “ among the artillery that was massed for the attack on the Labour Government, hut business interests of various kinds represented the smaller guns. Why did those various interests unite to oppose the Labour Government? Was it so that they could pay higher wages to their employees, or help to put value back into the £1? Did the sellers of various commodities unite to defeat the Labour Government so that the new Government, when it came to power, might be. able to compel them to sell their goods cheaper than before? Such suggestions are absurd. It is nonsense to suggest that people will expend vast sums of money in order to assist forces that are opposed to their own interests. If big business institutions wanted to pay higher wages and reduce prices, if the banks wanted to reduce the rate of interest on overdrafts, if big companies wished to reduce the returns paid to directors and shareholders so that the community might get a better deal, they could have done so without expending immense amounts of money to put into power a government of a particular political complexion. Of course, we know that they helped to put the present Government into power so that it might serve their interests. They said, in effect, “We have bought and paid for you. Therefore, for as long as you are the Government, you shall do our bidding “.
– Order ! The treasury bench is unoccupied.
– I regret that the treasury bench will not remain permanently unoccupied by the Ministers now in office. However, the time will inevitably come when the present Government will go out of power. Ministers will be judged by their actions, and as time goes on the people will condemn them, despite their promises and protestations, and despite the benevolent appearance of some of them. It will become increasingly apparent to the people that the present Government is here to serve the interests of only the wealthy few.
In the Speech of the GovernorGeneral at the opening of the Nineteenth Parliament, he said many things that appeal to me. For instance, I am in favour of paying endowment for the first child so long as such payment does not reduce the standard of living of others; so long as it does not mean that the Arbitration Court will take the payment into consideration as a. reason for fixing the basic wage at a lower rate than would otherwise be its intention. It is stated in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government is strongly of the opinion that the means test should be abolished. I agree. Before the elections, spokesmen for the parties now in power said that they favoured increasing the pensions of discharged servicemen and their dependants. So do I. They said that they favoured the reduction of indirect taxation on essential commodities in general use. So do I. I am convinced, however, that the Government will not be able to do any of those things. Previous governments made promises which were not kept because they conflicted with vested interests of which they were in reality the puppets. I remember the historic occasion on which the right honorable Stanley Melbourne Bruce, speaking from the platform of the Dandenong Town Hall, said that if the people returned his party to power his Government would institute a national insurance scheme, and expend £20,000,000 on housing. The people obtained neither the insurance scheme nor the houses, although at that time labour ‘ and materials for house building were plentiful. It is evident that the people cannot depend on the promises of honorable members opposite. Before the advent of the Labour party, there was a saying, “ As brittle as a politician’s promise”. Then, the Labour party was brought into being. When Labour representatives made promises to the people from the hustings they did everything in their power to honour them. In that lies the distinction between the Labour party and the Liberal and Australian Country parties. Representatives of the parties opposite made promises which they knew they could not honour. Gloomy pictures were painted by the press and disparaging broadcasts were made with the object of deluding the people into the belief that Australia would drift into a terrible condition if the Chifley Government were returned to office. Those who deserted the Labour party and gave their allegiance to the parties opposite gave no thought to the fact that in the eight glorious years during which this country was governed by the Labour Government it had done nothing to justify the gloomy stories that had been told about it. Honorable members will recall the sort of propaganda in which the parties opposite indulged. The people were told that if the Labour Government were returned to office it would conscript labour. Honorable members opposite said, in effect, “ You will be taken by the scruff of the neck from your wives and families and sent to the wilderness to undertake work for which you are unsuitable and in which you do not want to engage “. They said that Labour was the enemy of progress because it sought to pamper the workers to the detriment of Australia. They cannot have it both ways. They cannot indict the Labour party on the ground that it shows too much concern for the welfare of the workers and, at the same time, say that if Labour were returned to office, workers would be conscripted and the rights of the individual worker would be detrimentally affected. It was also said that if Labour were returned to office the savings of the people would be endangered. Honorable members opposite said to the workers, in effect, “ Beware of a Labour government. If Labour is returned to office your saving3 will no longer be secure “. [Extension of lime granted.’] I thank the House for its courtesy. Unfortunately, too many people forget that, prior to the advent of the Labour Government led by the late
Mr. John Curtin, they had no savings whatsoever, but many of them were in debt and unemployment and misery stalked the land. Only during the eight years of Labour administration were the working people able to accumulate savings. The allegation that a government which had made those savings possible would later make them insecure wa3 an absurdity. Other stories were told about the threat of the nationalization of small businesses. These bogys were designed to scare the politically timid and, unfortunately for the nation, they induced the people to vote against the return of the Labour Government. When I decided to stand foi- the electorate of Burke I had hoped that I should be privileged to sit behind the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) and assist him to mould a fuller and happier life for the people of this country. I believe that the time is not far distant when that hope will be realized. Soon the people of this country will realize that only in the Labour movement can they hope for the promotion of the interests of the average man, woman and child in the community. I conclude by saying that truth will not be long in opposition and that wrong will not for long be on the throne.
.- tn my first words in this House may I tender my sincere thanks to you, Mr. Speaker, to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), to the members of the Government and to honorable members generally, including members of the Opposition, for the graciousness with which I was received when I first entered this Parliament. Such a cordial welcome from those who have absorbed the atmosphere of this House is a very great encouragement to a new member even though he may have had some public experience, as I have had in other circles. In the few days that I have been here I could not help being sensibleof the. debt that we owe to the great men who have graced this House in the years gone by. When we gaze upon the pictures of our great statesmen and parliamentarians that are hung in King’s Hall and the corridors of this building we realize that, although this is yet a young country it is already inspired by great traditions and personalities which will influence its future. The realization that some of the great men whose portraits grace the interior of this building are still serving in this Parliament makes me feel very humble. It is an honour to sit with them in this chamber. As a new member I pay a tribute to the great pioneers of the past who laid the foundations upon which this young country has grown to nationhood. The world is passing through what . is perhaps the greatest crisis in its history. Not a man, woman or child in the world to-day feels completely free from fear. I doubt whether there has ever been a period in history when fear among the peoples of the world has been so nearly complete. We do not know what tomorrow holds for us. We have no idea of what next year may bring. The world has just emerged from the greatest conflagration in its history, but notwithstanding that that conflagration ended more than four and a half years ago, we are still unable to see the light. In every country, not excepting the United Kingdom itself, the people fear the future. Great Britain is struggling to maintain its prestige and place in world affairs. All too often the peoples of other nations fail to remember the contribution that ha.s been made by the British Empire to world civilization. They are prone to forget that many of the benefits which they now enjoy, including improved standards of living, stem from practices that were adopted in the British Empire within the last 150 years. Until comparatively recently Great Britain was the greatest and most powerful nation in the world. The two principal factors which contributed to its greatness were the ingenuity and spirit of its people and its ability to keep open the sea lanes of the world by the power of its navy. Through its aid the peoples of other countries have been able to improve their standards of living and to take their part in world commerce. Before the war Great Britain had established credits in the four corners of the earth. It was well for the world that it was able to do so because, but for the existence of those credits, many nations would not enjoy the place which they now occupy in world affairs. Of its own free will Great Britain dissipated its overseas investments in the interests of mankind. As a result of the ingenuity and capacity of the people of Great Britain the independent states of Europe have been able to retain their sovereignty. Bui these things were not achieved without sacrifice. To-day, as the result of its generosity, Great Britain no longer occupies the position in world affairs that it occupied in days gone by. As an outpost of the British Empire Australia is charged with very great responsibilities. It is our duty to consolidate our position in this part of the world and to develop this young and new nation into a most important part of the British Empire That responsibility rests particularly on members of this Parliament and it must be accepted with all seriousness by the people of this country. History W1 record the events that are taking place in the world to-day. With out meagre population of 8,000,000 people we are the last country of any magnitude on God’s earth which still remains to be developed. We have a marvellous opportunity to benefit from the errors that man has made in the past. We have inherited traditions which will help us in the task of building . a grea t nation. We are on the boundary fence of western democracy. At our front door are more than 1,000,000,000 people, representing one half of the population of the world. They are sorting themselves out, and are trying to determine what their way of life shall be in future. Most of them have never known the benefits of western civilization and true democracy, and they are making up their minds as to how they intend to live henceforth. I am pleased indeed to be able to pay a tribute to the former Minister for Immigration, Mr. Calwell, on his attitude towards immigration, although I am afraid I cannot congratulate him upon his administration of our immigration laws. I also congratulate those honorable members opposite who agree that this country must be populated quickly. There is no alternative to that. We must stretch our resources to ensure that we shall obtain population, because we cannot continue to hold this country unless we populate it as quickly as possible. Even then, we may be too late, but that is the best we can cio at this time.
During this debate, honorable members representing constituencies from northern Queensland to Western Australia have emphasized the need for developing our resources. Undoubtedly, that work should be done, but how shall we attempt it, and make this country the nation that it should be in the councils of the world and the British Commonwealth of nations unless we increase our population? At this point, I congratulate the Government upon what I believe to be a charter for a new Australia. If honorable members are unbiased, and look at this matter impartially, they will see that provision is made in His Excellency’;: Speech for all the things that should be done to bring about the new Australia, the great Australia of which I speak. The whole programme is progressive, reveals imagination and indicates a desire and a purpose to bring justice to all sections of the community. I congratulate the Government, too, upon its decision to establish a Ministry of National Development. Undoubtedly, at the present time, a greater need exists for that Ministry than for almost any other ministry. I am not attempting to make light of other functions of government and of other important things that must be done, but I should like to emphasize the need for the Ministry of National Development, and all that it may mean, because that aspect is not sufficiently recognized throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
Various people hold different views about the relative importance of things that should be done. The rural population advocate one thing, and some people regard the housing programme as the most important, but one thing transcends in importance all other things that we can do in this country. If we do not attempt it, we may as well give up now and not endeavour to do the things that I have tried to envisage. I refer, of course, to th, necessity for overcoming the difficulties that are preventing the expansion of coal production. If we do not solve that problem, we shall have no right to continue to hold this country in the way in which we envisage the matter. We must cure the problem of coal production. That is the fundamental of fundamentals in Australia. It is an indictment of the people of Australia and of previous governments that the problem has not already been solved. Australia has rich coal deposits. Thousands of millions of tons have not yet been surveyed. We hardly know where the coal is. Some, honorable members advocate the construction of hydro-electric schemes that would make a substantial contribution to the power resources of this country. Such projects are undoubtedly good, and every available river should be harnessed for the purpose of producing power; but, in my considered opinion, hydro-electric schemes are not a permanent cure of our power problem. So far as I am aware, Australia has no natural sources of oil. A previous speaker suggested that some oil may be obtained shortly in Australia, or that we may have access to it in New Guinea ; but the fact remains that we depend almost wholly upon coal. If we do not produce coal in the quantities that we must have, we shall always be in difficulties. I remind the House that the output of coal is no greater now than it was nine years ago, although the demands on power throughout Australia are more than 100 per cent, greater than they were at that time. That information will give honorable members an idea of how we are drifting, instead of solving the problem of coal production. Great hydroelectric schemes in other parts of the world, such as those of the Ontario Commission in Canada, and the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States of America, are not completely self-reliant, and must be fortified with steam, generating stations. Honorable members should carefully consider that fact, because some people have the idea that hydro schemes are the alternative to coal. That opinion is wrong, and the sooner the people of Australia, including members of the Parliament, coal-miners and workers in industry realize the truth, the better it will be. If they do not want to sell Australia out, they must tackle the problem in a spirit of co-operation, and ensure that the problem of coal production shall be cured once and for all. It can be done. It is only our own errors, our own way of going about these things, and our own cussedness that are delaying the solution. I may be asked, “ What is your cure for the problem ? “. I am not one of those who is prepared to decry the miners, and say, “ These fellows are bad “. No ! I believe that we have in the mining community some very fine Australians. It is true that they have been misled. Some of the people who are associated with the industry are not acting truly in the interests of Australia. Those people must be rooted out, and I believe that the Government has a programme for rooting them out. But we must not forget that the history of coalmining in most parts of the world, including Australia, makes a sorry story. About ten years ago, when I was in public life, I was one of those who called and decided tenders for coal. Ample coal - indeed, more coal than we needed - was being offered, and prices were undoubtedly cut. On many occasions, miners did not get a full week’s work. The miners recollect those experiences, and because the industry was not properly controlled in those years, they were an easy prey for Communist tactics. They were told, “If you allow a stockpile of coal to be accumulated, you will have no weapon to ensure security of work “.
– The miners had reason for that.
– I admit it. The miners were easy prey for the Communists because of conditions that existed in the past, but the programme of the Government indicates that such conditions no longer exist. In future, the miners may depend upon security of employment. We should endeavour to instill that knowledge in their minds. I realize that that task will be difficult, but we should try to convince them that they can look to this Government to ensure that they shall be treated justly and fairly.
Another factor to which we must pay attention is the need to bring our methods of mining up to standards that are current in other countries. Those improvements have been delayed because of the psychological attitude of the miners themselves. I know that the problem is psychological. However, T believe that this Government can set out to prove to the miners definitely that we are their friends, that they are Australians, that they are a part of this great programme for building a new Australia, and that the duty is as much theirs as it is ours to work and co-operate for the purpose of curing this fundamental problem of coal production. The miners may be depended upon to do their share if we can be rid of the people who are penetrating their organization and deceiving them with tales of class hatred. I am sorry to say that I have heard similar doctrines preached here.
Some honorable members are interested in wheat.
– Hear, hear!
– The wheat-grower is guaranteed a price for his product. Is there any reason why the price of coal, a fundamental primary product, should not also be guaranteed? As coal is necessary to maintain our industries upon a proper footing, I believe that the Government should consider the advisability of offering a guaranteed price for it. Indeed, the Governor-General’s Speech indicates that the Government has such a proposal in mind. Above all, I think that the appeal should be for a spirit of co-operation between the people working in the mines and the owners. There has been a tendency for the Joint Coal Board and other people who have been examining this industry to pay no regard whatever to the information that can be given to them by the mine-owners themselves. They appear to be a discarded race whose opinion is not wanted. The mine-owners of this country are capable of giving excellent advice and they are prepared to enter into a spirit of co-operation with the miners and wit.ii the State governments.
My own personal experience; as chairman’ of the Sydney County Council, until recently is a very sorry one in regard to that matter. There is an attitude of mind in the State of New South Wales which is incomprehensible. I saw in a newspaper to-night a notification by the Minister for Mines of the intention of the Government of New South Wale? to commence mining operations in the Burragorang Valley. Figures were cited in regard to the output of that mine-. The coal in Burragorang Valley is the finest in Australia for the purposes of power generation. Only two small mines are operating there at the present time, the Wollondilly Extended and the Nattai Bulli mines. They are producing about 700 tons of coal each a day. The SydneyCounty Council is sorely tried by the. quality of coal it receives, because its burners are designed, rightly or wrongly, to burn a certain grade of coal. The most suitable coal for them comes from the Burragorang Valley. The Sydney County Council made a tentative arrangement with one of those mines to double its output. I understand that the same arrangement could have been made with the other mine. We approached the Joint Coal Board, which told us that the necessary machinery would be available. These mines are 100 per cent, mechanized and, as far as I know, have never had a strike. When the council representatives visited that mine they met the operatives and put the proposition to them as well as to the management, and the operatives indicated immediately that they would co-operate to the full. All that we were asking was that the State Government should allow the Sydney County Council to have 2,000 acres adjoining the existing leases operated by the two mines, as they could not afford to duplicate their machinery because of their limited life. All the surrounding leases belong to the State Government and are a part of the State of New South Wales coal mines that ure to be established under the control of Mr. Baddeley. I think the State has over 45,000 acres. We aimed at producing within six weeks at the latest an additional 1,500 tons of coal a day. That would have been of tremendous assistance to the big industries of Sydney. We put the scheme to the Government, which delayed us for some time. Eventually, the Premier received a deputation and I presented the. case for the council. I informed the Premier that we could get this coal if we were granted a lease which would enable us to enter into an arrangement with the companies on a royalty basis. There was no question of excess profits. The Premier threw his hands in the air and said, “ Preposterous ! Do you think I am going to allow (instates’ assets to be used for the benefit of private enterprise ? “. I said “ Mr. McGirr, I am not concerned about what theories you have. We want coal because we have to try to give power to the people “. He said he would do something about it ; but that was four months or more ago and nothing has yet been done. Since we made that investigation certain people have made surveys but the State Government’s scheme will not produce coal in quantity in the Burragorang Valley for another five years at least unless the existing mines are taken over and worked.
T made a. personal appeal to all parties to keep this matter of coal production above party politics. For too long has it been made the political football of all sides. We must lift it above party politics because we cannot continue to exist unless we do something about the production of coal. I know many people have suggested different ways of curing the problem, but unless it is approached in the true spirit it will not be cured. I compliment the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) for the co-operation that he offered in his speech. Here is the greatest opportunity for honorable members on the Opposition side to hold out the olive branch and give every co-operation in the production of coal. If we get together on that basis there is no doubt that the problem will be solved.
I pass on to a difficulty which will be a problem to the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey), who, I understand is to be designated Minister for National Development. We have limited resources of man-power and materials and must use them in the most economic way in order that the things that are. most urgently needed shall be completed in their correct order. There is a tendency for the competition for labour to become so severe, particularly for technical officers in certain grades that, in a. desire to proceed with some long-range scheme, we are likely to leave undone those things which we should complete now. I am wholeheartedly in favour of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. [Extension of time granted.”] If, in regard to national works. we do not do first things first, we shall not get the greatest value out of our country. There is the Pyrmont scheme in Sydney which is held up; there is the Lugarno scheme still to be completed; there are other schemes in Victoria. A sum of £150,000,000 or thereabouts is being expended in all the States of Australia upon power generation that will be urgently needed within the next few years. The development of this country cannot be proceeded with until power becomes available, and every country in the world is short of power machinery.
I know that the Sydney County Council has been criticized because of blackouts, but America has black-outs and rationing has taken place in Canada where the hours of labour have had to be staggered. It is easy to draw labour from one concern and to give it to another. At times, political expediency may bear upon this subject, but we have to get these essential basic works completed. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and honorable members of this House, particularly members of the Opposition, who have listened to me without interruption. Some of the things I have said must have prompted replies, and I appreciate their courtesy.
– As a new member in this Chamber, I have been very impressed by the forms and ceremonies that are associated with it. A number of procedural matters which seemed strange and rather meaningless in themselves assumed a significance when their historical background was considered. This Parliament, of course, is modelled upon the Mother of Parliaments at Westminster, and we have here a striking combination of the virtues of the new world and the old. To a newcomer to Canberra, the district appears as a rural frontier town, set in beautiful Australian bushland, and there in it is the vigour, the bustle and the activity which one would expect to find in the national capital of a virile young democracy. In the midst of this bustle and activity, we. have set up our National Parliament and have grafted onto our parliamentary institutions, because we have modelled our system on that of the House of Commons, the. benefits of centuries of accumulated wisdom, experience and tradition. We have youth and vigour coupled with experience and tradition. Those attributes are bonds that, unite Australia with the other countries of the British Commonwealth in that unique partnership of free and equal nations, each member of which is in no way subordinate to the others. Our common heritage of free institutions, parliamentary forms of government, and the crimson threads of kinship, are intangible and invisible bonds, and, that being so, it is particularly important that the Crown, which is the tangible and visible symbol which unites the British Commonwealth, should be represented in this country in the office of Governor-General by a person who commands the confidence and esteem of all Australians. I believe that the bonds which unite the British Commonwealth should be not merely maintained but, also strengthened, and that the office of GovernorGeneral of Australia is of vital importance in strengthening them. For that reason T suggest that two principles should be considered by the Government should it have occasion at, some time to make an appointment to that distinguished position. First, if a member of the Royal family were available, the people of Australia would greet his appointment with enthusiasm and affection. For my part, T hope to see the day when Prince Michael, the young Duke of Kent, will become our Governor-General and grace the position that his distinguished father would have filled but for his untimely death. Secondly, if a member of the Royal Family should not be available the office of Governor-General should bo reserved for a distinguished Australian citizen. I know that some people who apparently have a national inferiority complex will not agree with that proposition. They consider that no Australian citizen is worthy of elevation to the highest office in the country, but 1 believe that they are only an insignificant minority in the community. T should say that it would, not be necessary to go beyond the confines of this chamber in order to find eminent Australians, who, by reason of their outstanding public service, their fine characters and their integrity, would be worthy occupants of that great office. “Without wishing to be in any way presumptuous, I suggest that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), theLeader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley; and the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) would be worthy of selection. No Australian would say that any of those gentlemen would fail touphold the position of Governor-General with all the dignity that it warrants. Recalling my mind to the ceremonies that marked the opening of this Parliament, I am filled with a deep sense of satisfaction and pride in the dignity with which the present Governor-General, the Right
Honorable W. J. McKell-
-Order! The nam. of the Governor-General must not b>: brought into debate either in praise o in blame.
– I bow to yourruling, sir. The Governor-General carried out his duties with dignity and great distinction, and I believe that those of us who met him and observed him-
– Order ! I have said that the name of the GovernorGeneral must not be brought into debate.. He must not be either praised or blamed i n this chamber.
– Again I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I though’ that you referred merely to the use of the name of the Governor-General.
– He must not be criticized and he must not be praised. He is above that.
– One furthermatter is worthy of discussion in support of the principles that I have stated. A number of vice-regal appointments have been made in the States in recent years and no criticism could be levelled against those that were made in Queensland and in New South Wales respectively, wheretwo very distinguished Australian citizens, Lieutenant-General Sir John Laverack and Lieutenant-General Sir John Northcott, were elevated to governorship. Each appointment met with general approval and acclaim. I suggest that the Government should bear those principles in mind, because I believe that, they are in accordance with the wishes of a vast majority of the Australian people.
The Governor-General’s Speech has been debated at great length, but I crave indulgence to mention briefly three of the subjects that were mentioned in it. I have noted that the Government has appointed u Cabinet sub-committee to review the pensions and allowances paid to ex-servicemen. According to the Speech, the Government intends to introduce appropriate amending legislation as soon as possible during the current session. In view of the increased cost of living and the fact that the value of our currency has depreciated, the time is ripe for a favorable review of such pensions and allowances and this proposal has my full support. I hope that the legislation that has been foreshadowed will provide worthwhile concessions and benefits for ex-servicemen. In agreeing to take this action, the Government is following the precedent that was established by the Labour Administration that came into power in 1941. “Whan that administration under the leadership of the late John Curtin assumed office the interests of ex-servicemen had been sadly neglected over a period of years by preceding nonLabour governments. The Curtin Government rapidly remedied that state of affairs. In 1942 it appointed a joint committee to inquire into the working of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. As the. result of the report that that committee submitted, the conditions upon which service pensions were paid were considerably liberalized, whilst the pension rates were increased all-round. One example of the benefits that the Curtin Administration conferred upon ex-service personnel was the increase of the special rate of pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen from £4 a week to £5 6s. a week, whilst the rates payable to the wives and children of such pensioners were also considerably increased. I do not propose to give details of the benefits that that Government conferred upon ex-servicemen generally. However, it is worthy of note that it increased the pay and allowances of servicemen in the field and provided a more generous rate of war gratuity which, incidentally, will become payable to ex-servicemen in the near future. A Labour government also implemented the Reconstruction Training Scheme under which 200,000 persons received benefits.
Tens of thousands of young men were trained in various trade.; and professions and were thus enabled to carve out careers for themselves. In addition, Labour administrations inaugurated the highly successful soldier settlement scheme. I have mentioned only a few of the benefits that Labour administrations conferred upon ex-servicemen. It is pleasing to note that the work that those governments did for ex-servicemen did not pass unnoticed. The late Sir Gilbert Dyett, whose name was a household word in ex-servicemen’s organizations, referred to the work of the Curtin Government in the following terms : -
I do not think we have ever had a Government more sincerely alive to the interests of ex-servicemen than the present one.
Sir Gilbert’s illustrious successor as federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Sir Eric Millhouse, whose death recently members of the Opposition greatly regret, endorsed the remarks of his predecessor when he said that the Labour government of the day was handling the rehabilitation problem well. The exservicemen of this country have every reason to be thankful to Labour governments for what they have done for them. It is to be hoped that the new Government will follow in the footsteps of its predecessors and continue to treat exservicemen with justice and generosity. If it does so, it will have the Opposition’s full support. “We trust that as a first step in this direction it will make a worthwhile increase of the rate of pensions and allowances payable to exservicemen and their dependants.
I shall now refer briefly to the subject of age pensions which has been dealt with by several of my colleagues in this debate. We must continually bring this subject before the House because it would appear from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that the Government does not propose to give to these elderly citizens the measure of justice that is their right. The Governor-General’s Speech states that the increased cost of living is accentuating the difficulties with which age and widow pensioners in particular have to contend. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), who opened this debate, referred in feeling terms to the difficulties confronting age pensioners. He said that he was aquainted with many of them in his electorate and he described how hard it was for them to make ends meet. Recently I attended a function that was sponsored by age pensioners in my electorate. At that gathering one elderlylady said that she could not afford to take a. ticket in a raffle because she had only 3d. in her purse and would require thai money to pay for her milk on the following morning. She added that she would be all right on. the following day because it would be pension day. Despite the fae that age pensioners were given worthwhile increases of pensions by Labour administrations, many of them are finding it impossible to subsist at a decent standard of living because of increasing prices. Many age pensioners have to pay £1 a week rental for a room out of their pension of £2. 2s. 6d. a week. Thus, they have little left with which to purchase the necessaries of life. I hope that the Government will not be hypocritical on this matter. After allowing the honorable member for Corio, who is a new member, to raise their hopes by expressing sympathy with them in their predicament, it must do something about the matter. I have no doubt that many age pensioners read reports of that honorable member’s speech, or heard his remarks over the air, and formed the impression that the Government is conscious of their predicament and intends to do something to help them. The Government will act. very harshly if, in view of the speech of the honorable member for Corio, it fails to do something for the age pensioners but merely relies on its proposal to put value back into the £1. This matter will provide a test of its genuineness. Some honorable members opposite have stated that they represent not any particular section of the community, but all sections and have denied that they represent interests which financed their election campaigns. Here is an opportunity for the Government to show genuine sympathy for the little people in the community, the ordinary men and women. It can avail itself of that opportunity, if it is genuinely interested in their welfare, by granting a worthwhile increase in the pensions payable to the aged, invalids and widows.
The final subject to which I wish terei er is housing. Australia has the highest standards of living of any country in the world. I do not exclude the United States of America when I make that statement. We have made wonderful progress during recent years and have & magnificent record of achievement. However, in the sphere of housing we have lagged behind to some degree. The preceding Government did everything humanly possible to overcome- the housinglag that had resulted from shortages du-? to war conditions and from’ the neglect of this problem on the part of earlier administrations. Last year, over 50,000 new homes were constructed. That was a remarkable achievement, but, of course, we must do better still. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) painted a picture of the conditions that result from overcrowding. That state of affairs exists in all metropolitan electorates aswell as in many country areas. During the recent election campaign I had brought to my notice three families that were living in a house that could comfortably accommodate only one family. One of those families, consisting of a husband, wife and three children, was living in a room in which there were only three beds and no other furniture. The mother of that family is a very fine woman, but her face showed lines of worry., She was haggard, drawn, and dispirited. As one who believes that the basis of our national life is the family, I suggest that this Government should treat housing as a No. 1 priority. It hasa responsibility to the people to provide the houses that they need. Furthermore, the provision of houses is not a partypolitical matter, but is the plain duty of the Government. It is the duty of the Opposition to criticize the details of the Government’s plans and to try to spur it on to action. The matter of housing the people is far above politics; therefore, I approve in principle of the proposal put forward by the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) to import a large number of prefabricated houses. We cannot approve of the detail of this matter, but we can approve of the principle-. 1 should like to see a hold and vigorous programme for the importation of houses so that 100,000 houses would be brought to this country in the next two years. If that were done and if at the same time we pushed on with our building programme, we might begin to make up the bousing leeway. If the Government tried to do that honorable members on this side of the House would support it in principle.
Last year the .’National Reserve Bank of New Zealand made money available at 1 per cent, interest to the New Zealand Government for the purpose of housing. If that could be done in New Zealand, surely it could be done here. The people of Australia are looking to the Government to honour its promises in this matter and I suggest that the Government has the means of doing so in the banking legislation that it is proposing to bring before the House shortly. The people of Australia will peruse that legislation with great interest to see whether the Government makes provision for the Commonwealth Bank to provide special home-purchase loans at a reasonable rate of interest. If the Government will do that I shall be prepared to concede that it has made a contribution towards the desirable ideal of bringing home-ownership within the reach of every Australian family. But if the Government will not do anything along the lines that I have suggested, the people of Australia, will draw their own conclusions as to the honesty of purpose that lay behind its advertisements. I thank the House for its indulgence.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Dean) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations - 1950 -
No. 1 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union.
No. 2 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia; and others.
No. 3 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 4 - Australian Journalists’ Association.
House adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, The needs of the Postal Department are three times higher to-day than pre-war. A high proportion of the automatic telephone switching equipment required is now being manufactured in Australia. An additional factory designed to double the output of underground cable has also been established. Sufficient telephone instruments are being delivered to meet the department’s needs, but serious shortages of cables of the smaller size are being experienced. The position is being met by obtaining additional quantities from the United Kingdom. The material supply position has improved substantially, and for the first time since the war supplies of essential items are being delivered in adequate quantity to enable the department to carry out its special programme of works. The outlook for 1950 is very much improved.
t.- On the 24th February, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott) drew my attention to a document relating to the emigration of residents of Malta to Australia. The honorable member said the document contained the following clause : -
Owing to the housing shortage priority will be given to single men. Married men will also be accepted, but they should understand that no assurance can he given to them that they will be able to provide accommodation for their families before at least twelve months from their arrival.
The honorable member then asked -
Will the Minister take steps to ensure that no confusing or misleading statements about housing being available to migrants from Malta within twelve months of their arrival in this country are embodied in any subsequent contracts entered into with them?
In my verbal reply I promised to examine the subject-matter of the question and effect any amendments which might be necessary. I should now like to submit the following in amplification of my verbal reply : -
When the recruitment of Maltese tradesmen for employment with the Department of Works and Housing was first considered, it was intended that selection would be confined to single men. It was learned, however, that single men in the trade classifications required were too few to fill the requisition and permission was then given for the recruitment of married men, provided it was understood that the Commonwealth could take no responsibility for the provision of housing for their dependants.
Meanwhile, before the arrival of the Australian selection team in Malta, the Maltese authorities had issued call-up notices in the form of the document mentioned by the honorable member. Embodied in this document, which was issued without prior consultation with the Australian representatives, was the paragraph relating to family accommodation quoted by the honorable member.
When the tradesmen were being interviewed by the Australian selection team, the difficulty of obtaining housing for families was explained verbally to each man in English and, where necessary, in the Maltese language. At this interview it was stressed that family accommodation in’ the Australian Capital Territory could not be expected before at least two years, which, in; January, 1949’, was. a> reasonable estimation, of the time-lag in obtaining a house. Even then it was pointed out that accommodation could not be guaranteed.
Immediately after the arrival of the first group, of tradesmen in Canberra it was apparent that some misunderstanding regarding the availability of family accommodation existed. To ensure that such misunderstandings would not again occur,, both the Australian representatives and the Maltese authorities were- asked cn 6th April, 1949; to delete the paragraph . referring to “ at least twelve months “ from all documents used and to substitute for it the following: - “ . . . No accommodation for my family or relatives can be guaranteed within any specified time . . .” This paragraph has since been embodied in all undertakings signed by Maltese migrants coming to Australia.
– On the 28th February the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) asked me to indicate the policy of my department in placing new Australians in- employment in this country and in mentioning the great shortage of labour stressed the necessity for ensuring that migrant labour is used to the best advantage. I desire to inform the honorable member that the policy of the Government in allocating new Australians to employment is to give priority to industries producing basic materials and essential services, and I have had the following figures assembled to indicate how this policy is being carried out -
Tcn per cent, of the new Australians employed in Australia at present are engaged directly in home building or the production of materials such as timber, bricks, pipes, cement tiles, wall boards and paints.
Seven per’ cent, are engaged on works involving the construction of dams and the provision of water and sewerage services.
Fourteen per cunt, ure employed on rail or road construction (to which the honorable member specially referred.
Four per cent, are engaged on brown coa) or hydro-electric schemes.
Five per cent, arc employed in other public utility activities including local municipal connells and the like.
Eleven peT cent, ane working hi primary industries including afforestation.
Seventeen per cent, are employed in other important manufacturing Industries including the production nf iron and steel, clothing and textiles, and in food processing.
Most of the balance of the 47,000 new Anstralians employed in this country ‘xt present ure females, who are engaged mainly in domestic work in hospitals and institutions and in private homes.
ROYAL Australian Navy.
IS. - On the 1st Marek, -the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) asked whether my attention had been drawn to a statement that Anglo-American naval manoeuvres will take place in the Pacific this month, and whether Austraiian naval forces have been invited to participate, I am mow able to inform the honorable member that no official invitation has been received for Australian forces to take part in naval manoeuvres in the Pacific. I would observe, however, that the Australian frigate Shoalhaven forms part of the occupation forces in Japanese waters and is operated by the local United States commander of naval forces. While the Australian Commonwealth Naval Board has had no advice regarding Shoalhaven taking part in joint exercises, it is not normal for the ship to report in advance if she is included in ships taking part. This information would be received in the monthly report of proceedings. It has been customary for the Royal Australian naval unit in Japan to take part in any naval exercises arranged, but in this case the unit is a frigate and is not suited for all types, of fleet activity which might be termed exercises. J. would further inform the honorable member that at present the Australian Fleet is in New Zealand waters and during the month of March will carry out various exercises in conjunction with ships of the Royal New Zealand Navy, returning to Sydney in the first week of April.
– On the 28th February, the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) asked a question regarding the production of wire netting in Australia for the purpose of combating the rabbit plague. I now inform the honorable gentleman as follows : - ‘
The Government is paying very close attention to the matter of increasing wire netting production Already my department has made -available 1.1-3 new Australians to the factory nf Lysaght Brothers at Chiswick, thus enabling the resumption of wire netting production in that plant. In Newcastle it has been essential so far to reserve practically ail the available migrant workers for the production of the basic iron and steel which is the prerequisite for the processing industries, including Rylands and Lysaghts, and it nas not been possible to make available additional labour for wire Betting .production. The whole problem at the moment is one of additional hostel accommodation, and the Government is pushing ahead with its programme of hostel construction as quickly <as possible. When this additional hostel accommodation becomes available a wider distribution of labour win be possible and this win include additional labour >r the production <of wire netting.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500302_reps_19_206/>.