19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– As it is not easy for honorable members to follow the progress of the Melbourne tram strike either through New South Wales newspapers or through the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news service, will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House of what is happening in this dispute at present? Is the stoppage continuing? Is the Australian Government, through either the Minister himself ot the Attorney-General, taking any steps to intervene so that the dispute may be brought before the appropriate conciliation commissioner and settled as quickly as possible?
– As Victorian members of this Parliament are well aware, and other honorable members know from what they have read iri the press, there has been a tram stoppage in Melbourne for a considerable time. The Australian Government is keeping itself fully informed of all the developments in the strike. The conciliation commissioner concerned in this matter, Mr. Blackburn, has dealt with the stoppage on at least two occasions. When he last expressed himself publicly on the dispute, he said that the claim of the tramway employees was in no -way justified; and that he was not prepared to re-open the matter. The Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Concilation and Arbitration called the parties together for a discussion in his own chambers. At the same time His Honour emphasized that he was not intervening in the dispute as, under the act, he had no power so to do, but was merely having a talk with the parties. The next development, so far as I am aware, is that an application is to he made to the court on Thursday of this week to have the union de-registered. I have read that the general secretary of the union, Mr. Junor will visit Melbourne on Wednesday morning for discussions with other members of the union - presumably executive officers. I have not had any appeal from the Government of Victoria for Commonwealth intervention other than a request that the resources of the Commonwealth Employment Service should not be made available to striking tramway men seeking other jobs. I have made it quite clear to the Premier of Victoria that the practice that has been adopted in this country and, indeed, in other English speaking countries, is that government employment services should adopt a policy of strict neutrality on such issues. I have been informed by my department that of the several thousand tramway men now on strike, approximately 98 have sought other jobs through the Commonwealth Employment Service, and that 58 have accepted jobs picking fruit, 25 have gone to canneries, and another 25 have taken manual employment in various other industries. As the conciliation commissioner is available and able- to deal with this matter, and as it comes within the general jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the Australian Government does not propose to take any action at this stage*.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether he agrees with the opinion that the tram strike in Melbourne has been aggravated by the effect of a provision in the amending arbitration legislation that was passed by the Parliament last year which states that there may be no appeal. against a decision of a conciliation commissioner? Does the Minister consider that a solution of the present trouble would be facilitated if the men were granted a right of appeal?
– I do not think that the Standing Orders permit me to offer opinions at question time, because that period is intended to be devoted to the eliciting of information, but I can assure the honorable gentleman that the provision of a right of appeal in appropriate oases from a decision of a conciliation commissioner to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and
Arbitration is a matter of policy, which has been receiving the consideration of the Government.
– In view of the shortage of building materials, and the desperate situation of families of servicemen and civilians in Nowra because of lack of accommodation, will the Minister for the Interior consider making availa’ble some of the very fine timber in the Australian Capital Territory, in the vicinity of Jervis Bay, to suitable applicants for timber rights?
– The honorable member mentioned this matter to me some time ago. I have instituted inquiries in order to learn whether it would be possible to make some of this timber available for the purpose mentioned. As soon as the inquiries are completed, I shall let the honorable member have an. answer to his question.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs read the report, issued last week-end, of the international committee which studied European questions, in which it is stated that the Colombo plan for bolstering up eastern nations is too late? Can he say when it is proposed to give economic aid to those nations in the south-east Asia sphere that are in need of assistance in order to fight communism ?
– The answer to the first part of the question is “ No “. I shall refer at some length in my statement on foreign affairs to the other matter referred to by the honorable member. There are two possible approaches to the question, one a short range, and the other a long range approach. Certain matters can be dealt with swiftly, but, in our general conception of and to Asia, it is obvious that shall have to deal with long-range projects. It is acknowledged by the Government that, because of the fast-moving nature of events in SouthEast Asia, certain things must be clone as a matter of urgency.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to advertisements which have appeared in the daily press and also to statements which have been made by members of his Government to the effect that the policy and the objectives of the Australian Labour party are the same as those of the Communist party. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will repudiate those statements or if not whether he intends to include in his foreshadowed legislation a proposal to- ban the Australian Labour party as well as the Communist party ?
– What is to be contained in the Government’s legislation will be made known in due course. It is proper that it should become known to the House and to the public when the hill is read a first time. As to the first portion of the honorable member’s question, I shall tell him, since he asks me, that I see no distinction whatever between the ultimate objective of the Communist party and the ultimate objective of the Socialist party; but I have always been prepared to assume, in favour of the Socialist party, that it did entertain some difference of method. In other words, it proposed to achieve its objective by constitutional means whereas the Communists proposed to attain theirs by revolutionary means. That is a distinction which, once conceded, makes it difficult for me to understand, and always lias made it difficult for me to understand, why the ‘Socialist party should be so tolerant of revolutionary methods, since they are the one thing that distinguishes the one party from the other.
– Is the Treasurer aware that, by a. recent decision of New Zealand taxation authorities, newspaper subscriptions paid by farmers, graziers, and rural workers are allowable deductions allowance from income for taxation purposes, because newspapers are regarded as essentials for such persons? In view of the statement that the Australian taxation system is to be reviewed, will the Treasurer consider adopting in this country the decision of the New Zealand authorities in regard to newspaper subscriptions ?
– Can the Minister for External Territories say why his department has altered the long-standing practice of not permitting the recruitment of natives from the highlands of New Guinea to. work in coastal areas, on the ground that they are susceptible to malaria and tuberculosis? I3 the Minister satisfied that there is in New Guinea a medical organization capable of coping with the health problems that will arise if natives are brought down from the highlands to work on the coast? In particular, is he satisfied that scientific reasons have been advanced for permitting the bringing down of natives from the highlands to the coast? Is it true, as reported, that there is jubilation among the planters at the prospect of getting 20,000 natives from the highlands? What reason can the Minister advance for believing that the taking away of native workers from the highlands will not disrupt village life in the highlands?
– I am unaware of any jubilation among the planters in New Guinea. It may be that they are jubilant because this Government is approaching the problems of the external territories in a manner entirely different from that in which its pre.decessor approached them. I told the honorable gentleman some time ago that a full statement of the Government’s policy in relation to the external territories will be made and that an opportunity will be afforded for the House to discuss the matter. I hope to make that statement within the next two weeks. The administrator of the Territories of Papua and New Guinea is now in Canberra, and I have had many discussions with him. A variation of the policy of the previous Government in relation to natives from highland areas working in lowland areas will be permitted only to the degree to which medical advice in which I am satisfied confidence can be placed justifies such a course being taken.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a recent report in the New Zealand press that the overseas trade of Australia is dwindling? The report states that 2,000,000 gallons of Australian wine to the value of £500,000 is in bond in England and cannot be sold because its price is too high, that Australia has lost 40 per cent, of its overseas markets for canned tomato products, and that South Africa has captured our former overseas trade in jam. “Will the right honorable gentleman say whether the present Government inherited this unfavorable trade situation from the last Government? “Will he inform the House of the steps the Government proposes to take to establish a more favorable trade situation ?
– I have not seen the report to which “the honorable gentleman has referred. I shall take up the questions that are involved with it with those of my colleagues who are in charge of the relevant trade departments.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether the members of the conference organized by the International Labour Office and that is now being held at the University of Sydney to consider the problem of pneumoconiosis are mainly medical men? Is it true that the only mining engineer who can take part in the conference is a representative of the Joint Coal Board and that other mining engineers and practical miners can attend only as observers? Will the success or failure of the measures that the conference will recommend should be taken to prevent the exposure of workers to harmful quantities of dust depend ultimately upon securing the full cooperation of workers and managements in the application of these measures? Will the Minister broaden the scope of the conference to allow the points of view of practical miners and mining engineers to be placed before it?
– I direct the attention of the House to the fact that there is a question standing upon the notice-paper in the name of the honorable member for Cunningham which covers the points that he has just raised. I have already authorized the issue of a detailed reply to that question. It covers most of the matters that he has raised in this question. Although miners have no direct representation at the conference, the Australian Council of Trades Unions was given an opportunity to nominate a representative to attend the proceedings. It nominated Mr. Parkinson, who is a well-known figure in the mining industry. Mr. Parkinson has attended all stages of the conference as an observer, and I presume that he has been in a position to express any views that he has desired to offer. He has not been allowed to vote, but I point out that the conference is primarily one of technical men, especially medical men, who are dealing with the problem of dusted lungs. Mr. Parkinson and other representatives of industry have been able to express their views upon that matter.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Development to inform the House whether the Commonwealth can do anything to increase the allocations to the .States of essential materials such as fencing wire, wire netting, barbed wire, galvanized iron baths and fuel stoves, of which there is an acute shortage at the present time?
– The Australian Government now has no control over and can make no allocations in respect of any of the commodities referred to, although it still controls tinplate, which is in a separate category. The control that the Australian Government exercised during the war years derived from the National Security Regulations relating to the control of essential materials, which were issued under the defence power. That authority has now lapsed, and the Australian Government now has no control over those items. Such controls as now exist in respect of different material are administered by the State governments, not always in the same way.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that members of Pacific units captured at the landing in New Britain in January, 1942, who sur vived later imprisonment, were subsequently credited with war gratuity from date of embarkation, although other members of the defence forces who embarked at the same time, but who escaped capture after the fall of Rabaul, and engaged in further campaigns in New Guinea and elsewhere overseas, were credited with war gratuity only from the date of entry of Japan into the war? Will the Minister consider introducing legislation to amend the War Gratuity Act to provide that war gratuity shall be payable from date of embarkation to members who served in the Pacific theatre of war, similarly to the provision in respect of of members who served in the Middle East?
– In the past, all new features l ‘ating to the payment of war gratuity have been referred to an allparty committee for consideration and report. I shall examine the various aspects of the questions asked by the honorable member in order to see whether they are appropriate matters to be referred to that committee.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the dissatisfaction of many people who have just started in new businesses because of their inability to obtain quotas of tobacco and cigarettes? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that many holders of quotas are dissatisfied with their quotas, and consider that the distribution of tobacco and cigarettes is inequitable? In order that the public may be aware of the facts, will the right honorable gentleman make a statement of the true position? Does he consider that there should be an official approach to the tobacco distributors with the object of revising the existing baseyear quota method of assessing the requirements of individual businesses?
– The Government war-time controls over the distribution of tobacco were removed in March, 1946. Since that date the distribution of tobacco has been handled by a trade distribution committee, which is a voluntary organization comprised of representatives of the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. Therefore, the Government is not in a position to nominate any person to that committee, which is purely a trade committee, and in reality is not in a position to make any representations to it beyond those that might be made by any private citizen.
– My question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture concerns the wine industry. Now that the British elections have been determined and the personnel of the reconstructed Ministry announced, will the Minister make the strongest possible ‘^presentations to the United Kingdor government, before the Chancellor of tha Exchequer presents his budget to the House of Commons, with the object of obtaining a reduction of the excessive import duties on Australian wines and brandy? The continuance of those duties will threaten the livelihood of thousands of growers, employees and others in that important industry.
– The Government is aware of the position which has developed in the United Kingdom relative to the diminishing sales of our heavy wines and brandy. The Australian Government and the Government of South Africa, have already joined in stating a strong case to the United Kingdom Government, in which they ask that such action should be considered in respect of duties as would re-establish the volume of sale of our wines. We are at present awaiting some advice from the Australian High Commissioner’s office about the reaction of the United Kingdom Government to those representations. The position regarding brandy is rather more complicated, and is still under consideration.
– I should like the Minister for Immigration to inform me whether any survey has been made to ascertain the number of migrants which Australia is capable of absorbing each year. If such an investigation has been made, was due regard had to the acute housing situation and the retarding effect which that factor has on the natural increase of the Australian population? If no investigation has been made along those lines, can the Minister say whether any limit has been determined relative to the number of migrants who can be absorbed each year? Will the Minister also inform me of the means by which that limit was determined?
– The honorable member will be aware that the Government of which he was a member established a body known as the Immigration Planning Council. The members of that body are persons of authority in particular sections of Australian industry, including, of course, the trade union movement and various branches of our commercial and industrial life. Aspects of the problem to which the honorable gentleman has referred are placed from time to time before that body which, in turn, submits its recommendations to the Government for consideration. The number of migrants which the Government contemplates bringing to Australia this year is slightly in excess of the total number who arrived in Australia last year as the result of the policy initiated by the previous Government. I think that approximately 170,000 migrants came to this country last year, and the target for this year is 200,000. We have been making special provision by way of hostel ‘accommodation and otherwise to accommodate the migrants in a manner which will not interfere with the construction of homes for the Australian people generally. The new labour has been placed in essential industries concerned with the production of materials for use in housing in such a way as not to aggravate the housing situation for the Australian people but so as, I believe, to enable the migrants to make a direct contribution to the solution of our housing problem.
– In view of the fact that over-production of primary products in the United States . of America has caused a slump in rural industries accompanied by large-scale unemployment and in view of the Government’s efforts to secure for Australia the greatest possible number of suitable rural workers from abroad, can the Minister for Immigration inform me whether this Government or the previous Administration endeavoured to obtain rural workers from the the United States of America? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a recent United States Senate estimate that almost 500,000 men between the ages of 17 and 23 years, some of whom have had farming, experience, are now jobless and have little hope of finding employment in the near future? Will the Minister have inquiries made through Australian officers in the United States of America to ascertain whether suitable rural labour is available in America to he! p in expanding Australian production ?
– The Government would be very glad to attract to this country migrants from the United States of America and some action along those line3 has already been instituted. I shall be pleased to make the inquiries which the honorable member has. recommended to see whether it is practicable to bring a greater number of rural ‘ workers to this country.
– Will the Minister for Immigration state whether it is a fact that many thousands of new Australians are- being trained at Greta,, in a former military camp, for the purpose of supplying additional labour to Queensland and especially to Brisbane? Is it also a fact that there are not any immigrant training camps in Queensland? If there are immigrant training camps in Queensland could they not be used, particularly those that may be above what was controversially known as the “ Brisbane line “, to train new Australians for work in Queensland and so leave those at Greta to be absorbed into the heavy industries in Newcastle and other districts for which I have endeavoured to obtain the release of immigrants from Greta ? I have been told that my requests could not be complied with because the immigrants are wanted for Queensland. Also, is it a fact that many new Australians who were sent to Queensland away from their wives and children have returned to Greta camp at their own expense in order to rejoin their families? If those are the facts, does the Minister not consider that the time is rips to put an end to the inhumane procedure of separating such unfortunate people from their loved ones? Both men and women from the camp could be employed in the Newcastle area. Labour is needed not only in industries there, but also in many shops. Numbers of shop-keepers at Cessnock, Maitland, and other centres have applied, through me, to have new Australians allocated to them for employment.
Tradesmen are badly needed in the Newcastle district and many immigrants who> have been sent to Queensland are qualified tradesmen. In. referring to the Newcastle district I have in mind the whole of Newcastle and- the Hunter Valley generally-
-Order! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to make a speech.
– Is the time not. ripe for the Government to charge its policy and look after the interests of Newcastle, which is the Birmingham of the southern hemisphere ?
– The honorable member has raised a number of matters and made several suggestions. I shall try to have a statement prepared for his benefit covering his questions and his suggestions. He has asked whether the present policy in relation to the direction of new Australians can be altered. The policy, as the honorable gentleman expressed it, is not in any way different as far as I am aware from the policy that was in effect under the administration of the previous Government which he supported, However, full consideration will be given to the honorable gentleman’s suggestions to see whether they offer any scope for improvements in policy.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether an agreement, has been reached with the South Australian Government on the conversion to standard gauge of that section of the central Australian railway which runs between Port Augusta and Leigh Creek? If so, can the Minister inform me when the work is likely to commence? In view of the fact that when that section of railway is completed all the necessary men and plant will be available to undertake the work of completing the standardization of the line to Alice Springs and of continuing with the construction of the north-south line, together with the conversion of the Birdum -Darwin section as agreed to by the Commonwealth and South Australian Government, will the Minister make every endeavour to have those works put in hand?
– The honorable member will realize that the Government of South Australia and the Australian Government have made an agreement which was ratified in both Parliaments in regard to the standardization of the gauge in South Australia. The proposal he has referred to would be a possible variation of the route hitherto under consideration. A survey has been made from Stirling to Telford and certain improvements in the line may be made; but a variation such as he has suggested would have to be discussed and negotiated with the South Australian Government. Up to the present such negotiations have not been commenced.
– Would the Minister for Labour and Industry indicate what course of action is contemplated by the Government in regard to Communist-inspired rolling strikes? I make particular reference to the unreasonable attitude of the wharf labourers in Brisbane at the present moment in regard to the dispute over rotation of hatches.
– That raises a question of policy. All I can do is to assure the honorable member that the matter is receiving consideration by the Government and that it is hoped that effective measures will be taken.
– My question to the Minister for Supply and Development refers to the announced intention of the Government to seek the statutory and administrative partnership of the State governments in carrying out the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project’ to which, I am glad to know, the Government attaches great importance. What is to happen until such an agreement is reached with the State governments? Previous experience shows that the process may be very lengthy and of doubtful issue. Oan the Minister give an assurance that pending agreement with the State governments the scheme will be energetically continued under the existing Commonwealth statutory authority, and that failing an agreement with the States. the scheme will be carried to completion under the existing Commonwealth defence powers ?
– I am not aware of any announcement that has been made to that effect.
– Such an announcement was contained in the Governor-General’s Speech.
– I do not recollect any announcement in the Governor-General’s Speech in the sense of which the honorable gentleman speaks.
– I quoted the announcement exactly.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to say that it had been announced in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric power scheme would be energetically pursued. That most certainly was said. I understood him to say in the first part of his question, however, that there was some other announcement to some other effect.
– I referred to the announced intention of the Government to seek the statutory and administrative partnership of the States in connexion with the project.
-EY. - I can assure the honorable gentleman that the work of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is being most energetically pursued. The staff is being recruited as rapidly as possible. ‘ There has been no delay in the work and I can assure the honorable gentleman that there will not be delay. So far as the relationship with the States is concerned, that matter has not yet been considered by the Government because of the many other urgent matters that have engaged its attention.
– Will the Minister for Health indicate what the Government’s plans are in connexion with expanding the number of pathological laboratories throughout the Commonwealth? Will hospitals in small towns that serve large districts with poor transport facilities, such as Coonabarabran, be considered as weil as those in towns with large populations, such as Dubbo?
– At the present time the Government is giving close attention to the determination of the right strategic spots at which pathological laboratories should be established, and the honorable gentleman’s suggestions will be given full consideration.
– Is the Minister for Works and Housing aware that large numbers of homes now under construction cannot be completed because of a shortage of supplies of essential building equipment ? Notwithstanding the answer that the right honorable gentleman gave in reply to an earlier question by the honorable member for Corio on iron and steel products would the Government consider the granting of import licences for such supplies to be brought to this country, and if so would is also consider reducing the tariff on any such supplies in order to reduce the economic cost of building homes ?
– The Government is very well aware of the lag in the rate of house building caused by the shortage of a number of essential components. That is not the only matter holding up the construction of housing, although it is one of the most important. Recently the Government considered this matter, and as a result the duty has already been entirely removed from a very wide range of such building components including timber, nails and a great many other items, for, if I remember correctly, the whole of 1950. The items on which the customs tariff has been removed are items that are in very short supply in Australia. It is hoped that the Government’s action will step up the importation of building components and also do something towards reducing the cost of housing.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development empower the body that has been appointed to investigate the importation of houses to this country, to report first on the practicability of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation supplying Beaufort houses? I point out that machinery to build Beau fort houses is in existence, and that, according to reports, those houses can be constructed for approximately £1,000, compared with £2,000 for imported houses.
– I do not think that an investigation of the production of Beaufort homes has any relation to the work of the commission that is to go overseas. The commission has been appointed for a specific task which has already been outlined. I do not believe for one moment that the plant at Fishermen’s Bend has sufficient capacity to build Beaufort houses in addition to the aircraft construction work that is being carried out at present. However, I shall investigate the matter, although I have a grave suspicion that the figures cited by the honorable member are far from being reliable.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that during the last general election campaign he promised in one of his speeches that if he could be shown an example of a monopoly operating against the interests of the people he would take steps to nationalize the industry involved? If the answer to my question is in the affirmative, will he also say whether he has seen a report of a statement made in the New South Wales Parliament last Wednesday, in which it was alleged that an organized group of sporting goods wholesalers and retailers, along with a firm of cosmetic suppliers, had refused to supply their merchandise to co-operative societies ? In view of the fact that many hundreds of thousands of people belong to cooperative societies and that if the statement to which I have referred is correct, the monopolistic concerns that I have mentioned are operating against the national interests, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will have the position examined. If the statement is found to be correct, will he take steps to have such industries nationalized ?
– The answer to the first sentence of the honorable member’s question is, “ Yes “. As to the remainder of it, I have not seen the report, but I shall be interested to read it and form some judgment upon it.
– As every government department in the Australian Capital Territory is seriously embarrassed by the inability of the Public Service Board to obtain and retain female public servants, I ask the Minister for the Interior to have inquiries made to ascertain whether adverse living conditions or inadequate allowances arc operating against the obtaining and retaining of the services of female public servants, who are so largely responsible for the efficient despatch of public business.
– I shall have inquiries made into the matters which the honorable gentleman has mentioned and ascertain whether the position is as he has stated it to be, and, if so, what remedy can be applied.
– In view of the emphasis in the Prime Minister’s recent statement on still pending trials of Japanese for war crimes to the effect that delay is a frustration of justice, I refer to the delay in the judicial processes of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether, in justice to the Australian workers, he will take whatever steps may be possible to speed up the hearing by the court of the basic wage case?
– That question comes properly within the province of the Attorney-General, within whose general administration matters in relation to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court fall. I shall bring the question to his notice.
– At the present time, Trans- Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited both operate services to and from Western Australia, flying side by side westward in the day time and eastward at night. Partly as a result of such duplication air-mail services from a point such as Perth to a point such as Canberra may occupy as much time as 36 hours from the time the mail closes until the time mail matter is delivered, and of that time only about one-third is occupied in actual flying. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he will consult the interests concerned in order to examine the possibility of arranging for both a day flight and .a night flight in each direction. Will he also confer with, the Postmaster-General to see whether schedules can be arranged to provide a more speedy handling of air mail?
– Some rationalization is definitely needed on the east-west air route as well as on some other routes. A Cabinet ‘sub-committee is being set up to deal with some of the major aviation problems and the matter raised by the honorable gentleman will come before it for discussion. The previous Government departed from the principle of carrying mail on a pound-mileage basis which was profitable to the administration and instituted in its place heavy subsidies, most of which have been paid to the governmentowned airline. That is a matter I shall be taking up with the PostmasterGeneral and Cabinet with the object of ensuring that losses will not continue as they have done in the past on such services.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, relates to the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund and the fact that wheat-growers are continually being forced off the land by various causes, such as sickness and legislation such as that which is now operating in Victoria. Will the Minister consider introducing legislation to amend the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act so that growers who are obliged to leave the industry through no fault of their own may recover at least a large percentage of the money that they have contributed to the stabilization fund?
– The Government realizes that this matter is engaging the interest of wheat-growers. I believe that, eventually, contributions made by growers to the stabilization fund will be repayable in part after a period of years. That would provide an answer to one aspect of the honorable member’s question., I shall give consideration to the other aspect relating to wheat-growers who have been put out of production by the effect of State legislation. The honorable member can be assured that the situation of such men will have sympathetic consideration.
– I ask the Treasurer to state the limit of dollar expenditure fixed by the Chifley Government for the financial year ending the 30th June, next. “What is the corresponding figure that has been fixed by the present Government in respect of the same period? If the present Government is desirous of increasing the expenditure of dollars, from what source is it obtaining dollars in order to meet the consequent increased deficit? Has the British Government been consulted about the increase of the deficit fixed by the Chifley Government, and has it agreed to any increased dollar expenditure by the present Government?
– It is not the practice to deal with matters of Government policy in answer to questions. The issues raised by the honorable member will be considered in due course and a full statement on them will be made at the appropriate time.
– With reference to the abolition of petrol rationing, I ask the Prime Minister whether, when petrol rationing was abolished, the Government undertook not to exceed Australia’s dollar ullocation that was agreed upon by members of the British Commonwealth. Did the Government act on the recommendation of its advisers and of the major oil companies? Have petrol sales in Australia increased, decreased or remained stationary since rationing was abolished ? Will the right honorable gentleman make a statement to the House giving full particulars regarding the petrol position and indicating in particular the stocks of petrol held in Australia as at the 1st March, 1949, the 1st December, 1949, and the 1st March, 1950, and the sales of petrol in December 1949, and February, 1950? When the right honorable gentleman is making such a statement, will he lay on the table all relevant documents?
– I am sure that the honorable member doe.? not expect to have his concluding questions answered offhand. I shall see what figures are available. The Government did not, in determining its action on petrol rationing, act on the advice - as the honorable member has used the expression - “ of the major oil companies “. On the contrary, it took into account all the facts available to it and exercised its own judgment on that matter. As I indicated at the time, the judgment formed by the Government was not identical with the view of the Government of the United Kingdom. I made no secret of that fact. We gave no undertaking but we indicated that we proposed to continue to exercise the fullest .scrutiny over the use of dollars by this country. We are continuing to put that policy into operation.
– As quite a number doctors throughout Australia were prescribing medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act passed by the Chifley Government and many people were receiving medicine free of charge under that scheme at the time of the change of government I ask the Minister for Health whether those doctors are still being permitted to prescribe under those conditions and whether such prescriptions are still being made up at the Government’s expense?. If so, will other doctors be permitted to come into that scheme, or has any alteration been made to prevent them from doing so?
– No alteration has been made of the conditions under which certain doctors have prescribed medicines and such medicines have been made available to their patients at the Government’s expense. The only action that is being taken at present with respect to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme established by the Chifley Government is to carry out an investigation with a view to discovering whether any abuses exist. As I said a few days ago, that investiga tion is being made as the result of suggestions by organizations of both chemists and doctors. Until we introduce amending legislation it is our intention to continue the present system.
– Has the Treasurer seen an official statement that has been issued by the United States of America Labour Office, which indicates that 500,000 men between the ages of 17 and 23 are going into Civilian Conservation Corps camps in that country because no work is offered for them in private enterprise, that there are 6,000,000 workers unemployed in the United States of America and that another 6,000,000 workers are employed only half-time? In view of that alarming state of affairs will the right honorable gentleman say what plans he has in mind for maintaining full employment in Australia ? Is it a fact that the Government has been left the vast sum of £120,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund to provide social services benefits at the highest level should we in this country also experience a period of depression? Will the right honorable gentleman ensure that this money that has been saved for the people to meet possible hard times, shall not be burgled by the Treasury and used for less worthy purposes?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred. The other matters that he has brought forward will be given full consideration before the Budget is brought down.
– I ask the Minister for Transport whether any complaints have been made concerning the frequency, and the number of persons attending the meetings of the various committees of the Transport Advisory Council. I refer particularly to the Australian Motor Vehicle Standards Committee and the Australian Road Safety Council. Does the Australian Road Safety Council still consist of thirty-six members who represent six different States and are the meetings held in a. different capital city on four different occasions each year?
– At least one complaint has come to my notice. It related not so much to the frequency of meetings as the size of the body concerned, which was the Australian Motor Vehicle Standards Committee. I have been investigating the matter. It may be said that there is room for improvement in relation to the size of the committee. At a later stage I hope to be able to give the honorable member some further information.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, refers to a statement published in a Western Australian newspaper on the 16th February. It was there indicated that the Minister had stated that Russian and British fertilizers would be sought to ensure that adequate supplies would be available for the new season’s crops. Will the Minister say whether this proposed importation will include a supply of potash from Russia or from any other source outside Australia ? The necessity for augmenting the supply of superphosphate is appreciated, but as the Australian requirements can be substantially met by the Chandler potash industry of Western Australia, will the Minister, before seeking supplies of potash from overseas, ascertain the extent to which Western Australia is able to meet the total Australian requirements?
– I am not thoroughly familiar with the potash position, but I know something of it. In regard to fertilizers generally, the Government is taking steps to ensure that adequate supplies of superphosphate will be made available from the traditional sources. The Government is taking steps to supplement Australian supplies of sulphate of ammonia with nitrogenous fertilizer from the United Kingdom and other countries. Last year, sulphate of ammonia was imported from Russia. During the war, the then Australian Government requested the Government of Western Australia, to exploit the low-grade potash deposits at Lake Chandler in that State, but I gather that, since the end of the war, the Lake Chandler potash has not been able to compete with the imported product. However, the Government will give full and sympathetic consideration to sustaining the Lake Chandler potash industry as far as is economically justifiable.
– by leave - On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott) addressed questions to me about the proposal to develop a minor industrial area in Braddon, Australian Capital Territory. I informed the honorable member that I would make a detailed statement on the matter as soon as my inquiries were completed. I am now able to inform him that the decision to offer additional sites for minor industries at Braddon does not constitute a modification or variation of the plan of the city of Canberra, covered by section 12a of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1933. This section, which was inserted in 1930, deals with modifications or variations of the plan of lay-out of the city published in the Commonwealth Gazette of the 19th November, 1925. The published plan makes no reference whatever to the purpose for which the land under review may be used. That is a matter for decision by the Minister for the Interior. The Minister may refer to the National Capital Planning and Development Committee, established under Ordinance No. 37 of 1938, any matter in relation to the planning and development of the city upon which he desires the advice of the committee. As far back as September, 1922, the chairman of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, the late Sir John Sulman, suggested to the then Department of Home and Territories that a number of sites for businesses of an industrial character be allotted near Civic Centre, and that they be placed flanking the railway on both sides. That suggestion was not adopted at the time; but, on the 6th August, 1924, the secretary of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee forwarded to the secretary of the department a copy of a report by the committee on the leasing of lands at Canberra. Included in the report was a reference to the provision of industrial sites on the north side of the city. The report said -
Certain blocks near the railway ave considered to be specially suitable for business purposes and. subject to the building regulations referred to hereafter, for such undertakings as motor repair shops, garages, laundries, and minor industrial businesses presenting no objectionable features.
The committee suggested that 41 blocks could be made available for this purpose.
On the 8th November, 1924, shortly after the appointment of the Federal Capital Commission, it was reported to the Department of Home and Territories that the commission had considered the sale of business and residential sites, including the 41 sites for minor industries recommended by the Advisory Committee, and had reached the conclusion that nothing had been gleaned from its examination that would justify the commission recommending any change in the proposals. The 41 sites were offered by public auction on the ground on Friday, the 12th December, 1924, for the main purpose of an industry, other than a noxious trade, employing not more than 25 employees, and for any purpose subsidiary thereto, such as a residence or shop. Only six blocks were sold at the public auction. Subsequently, the Federal Capital Commission decided to build residences on seventeen of the blocks, and the remainder have since been sold for minor industries. Industries have been established on a number of the blocks and there has never been any suggestion that the original intention to establish minor industries in the sections concerned has been changed.
In recent years, the department has received many requests for the allocation of additional sites for minor industries. The recent decision of the Government to vary the plan of the city by eliminating the provision for a railway through the city will, when given effect in accordance with the provisions of section 12a of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1933, release for further development in this direction blocks contiguous to the present area set aside for minor industries. The proposal was discussed with representatives of the Canberra Chamber of Commerce, who had asked to be consulted as representatives of business interests, and they agreed that the sites were suitable, being convenient to the Civic Centre and having handy access to main roads. The proposal was then submitted to the Department of Works and Housing, which is responsible for detailed town planning in the Australian Capital Territory. The Director of Works concurred in the proposal.
As no major principle of the planning and development of the city was involved, and as in fact the decision to allot more sites for minor industries was in line with decisions taken more than 25 years ago, it was not considered necessary to refer the matter to the National Capital Planning and Development Committee. No blocks have yet been offered, but action has been commenced to clear some of the sites of pine trees planted some years ago and now matured. This action is necessary whether the sites are to be used for business or residential purposes. The land is far too valuable because of its proximity to the main Civic Centre, and the expensive public improvements by way of roads and services in the vicinity, to be reserved in perpetuity for a pine plantation. Accordingly, it is considered that it is in the public interest as a whole that the present proposal should be proceeded with, and it is not proposed to vary it in any way.
Crash at Amberley.
– by leave -I regret to inform the House that a Royal Australian Air Force Lincoln aircraft crashed this morning approximately 11 miles south-west of Amberley, Queensland. The four members of the air crew were killed. Their next-of-kin have been informed, and the names of the airmen will be released when acknowledgments have been received. The Inspector of Air Accidents is flying to the scene of the crash to investigate and report upon the accident. His inquiries will take some days. The sincere sympathy of the Government and, I know, of the whole Parliament, is extendedto the relatives of the deceased.
Debate resumed from the 2nd March (vide page 365), on motion by Mr. Opperman -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it please Your 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 andto thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- I have been asked by my fellow citizens of the Division of Robertson tooffer our congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker, and to extend our best wishes to you in the discharge of the duties of your office.
Until the campaign opened for the recent election, I had been one of those towards whom policy was directed in the hope of securing another vote. Mention has alreadybeen made of the the strength of the parties in the House, and as a new member I believe that there mustbe some reason for so marked a change. I think it would be true to say that honorable members on both sides are astonished at their numbers, though they naturally look at the matter from different points of view. I have tried, in the light of impressions gathered in my own electorate, to make a personal appreciation of the situation. I mention my own electorate because it contains a cross-section of Australian society. In the southern part of the electorate there are business, professional and commercial interests. In the north, there are various rural industries - dairying, citrus-growing and wine-making. Along the coast, there are fishermen, oystermen and timber-getters, and in the north-east corner quite a number of my fellow citizens are employed in the coalmining industry. As a result of my observations, I have reached the conclusion that there are two main reasons for the marked change in the constitution of this House. The first is that, despite the honest idealism of many honorable members opposite, the translation of socialist principles into practice was proving disastrous. Life was becoming too hard for too many people. They did not like being put on one plane. “We Australians believe firmly that we should have an opportunity to make some contribution towards the kind of life we lead. We are able to look back over recent years with pride when we recall the progress that has been made - progress rendered possible by the strength of character, the honesty of purpose, the devotion to duty, and the great spirit of adventure, which we have inherited as our British birthright. It is necessary, I believe, that we should foster those qualities. We know that we have them, because they were made manifest during the last war. We believe that we need to use those qualities in peace, so that we may gain those things which honorable members on both sides of the House earnestly desire that we should possess.
The second reason for the marked change in the strength of parties is not, so tangible, but it is, I believe, in some ways more important. During recent years, an ever-increasing political awareness has made itself manifest throughout Australia. It became evident during the latter part of the war, but it has increased in tempo and in force since 1946. It expresses itself in a resentment of complete ministerial control, and is based on a sincere belief in the dignity of man. The people desire the cooperation of all sections of the community for the common good, and they look to the Parliament, aird to us, its members, for a lead. In order to illustrate my point, let me cite some of my persona experiences during the few weeks preceding the opening of this session, when I had the opportunity to visit a number of coal mines in my electorate. I select the coal-mining industry as an example, because it is one of the basic industries upon which so many others depend. During those visits, I was able to speak to, and learn from, my fellow citizens then engaged on their tasks at the coal face. I made no secret of who I was, but I made no parade of the fact at that stage, because my sole purpose was to learn. I had not had any close contact with the mining industry since the outbreak of the war, and I believed that it would be greatly to my benefit to learn something of the atmosphere, and of what those employed in it were thinking and talking about. Before the war, I had been able to maintain a close liaison with those engaged in the industry. I had. gone to school with some of them, and later they were members of the unit with which I served in the forces. I saw some of them again during recent weeks. The question most frequently asked of me was this: “Now that you are there, what are you going to do for us ? “ And they added, “ Your leader, your party and yourself, in platform speeches, have said that you will do everything possible to bring about the introduction of the secret ballot in the conduct of union affairs “. When I spoke to groups of them, in the overwhelming majority of instances they said that that was what they wanted. I believe that that was a true expression of their opinion. I do not think it was said to me as a representative of a certain side of politics, because most honorable members know that those who are engaged in the coal-mining industry are completely honest in the expression of their opinions.
One of the saddest events of recent years is the continual pushing away from the general Australian community of those who belong’ to mining communities. The process of segregation is due to a number of factors. The first is the geographical situation of some mining communities, which are located in spots through which persons engaged in other walks of life do not often pass. The second factor is that the loyalty of the members of a mining community to other members, although a good thing in itself, tends to keep that community apart from others. The third factor, which I believe to be -the most important one, is that not enough has been done to establish a closer liaison between the miners and other people or to help the miners to solve their problems. We often hear it said, “ Oh, it is those miners again “. That is not the correct approach to .the problem. I know the miners to be as good Australians as are the rest of the Australian community. They have the same hopes, desires and ambitions as other Australians. I believe it to be necessary for us to give a lead in the establishment of the co-operation to which I have referred, and which must come from all quarters. That is one of the reasons why I listened with great interest to the speeches of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), the honorable member for Bennelong (Ma:. Cramer), and other honorable .gentlemen, who touched upon this subject. I was interested to hear their approach to the problem because I believe that if we can assist in any way to give effect to the thoughts that they expressed we shall be doing something to give a lead in the establishment of the state of mind towards, and the co-operation with, our fellow citizens that is necessary for our continuing development. Those are matters that I believe are exercising the minds of the majority of the Australian people. What I have said is based upon personal experience and reports that have been made to me.
I turn now to the question of social services. AH that I desire to say in addition to what has been said by other honorable members is that I believe - and I think that all members of the Government parties agree with me - that our approach to social services is that we desire them to be a right to be enjoyed by all Australians and not a charity. That is the basic principle upon which will be founded the social services legislation that was forecast in the policy speech of the Prime Minister and in the Speech delivered by the Governor-General. There has been some confusion in the minds of some honorable members in relation to this matter, but the full details of the social services policy of the Government have not yet been announced. The crux of the matter is the co-operation that we are going to give and to receive.
I conclude on the note on which I began. This co-operation is necessary. It is something in which we all believe to a certain degree, but if we believe in it truly, it is something from which we, as a Parliament, and as individual members of the Parliament, will gain glory. I do not refer to the kind of glory that is gained by displaying flags, beating drums or sounding trumpets. The _ glory will ‘be gained from doing something, the results of which may not be seen for some time, but which will be of great benefit of the progress of Australia. It is our duty as elected representatives of the people to give a lead, and if we do what is expected of us, we shall each share in the reward.
.- Since I came to the Parliament on the 22nd February, I have listened closely to the speeches that have been delivered in this chamber. They have been of a very high standard, and I shall endeavour to main tain that standard. I have observed the procedure that is followed in this House, the freedom and liberty that is enjoyed by honorable members, and the tolerance that is extended by you, Mr. Speaker, to us. I crave your indulgence while I thank the electors of Banks for electing me as their representative to the Nineteenth Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. I emphasize that I thank the electors of Banks and not the private banks. The electors of Banks have conferred a great honour upon me, and I shall endeavour to serve them so faithfully and well that, at the next election, those of them who did not vote for me at the last general election will hasten to the polling booths to rectify the great error that they made then.
I desire to comment upon the plan of the Government for establishing peace in industry and for increasing production. That it has advocated a ten-points policy is very interesting because usually a government is “ out-ski “ when the count reaches ten. The implementation of that policy would not assist production because the workers are suspicious of this Government, which will doubtless experience difficulty obtaining the co-operation of the workers. Of course, it is natural that the workers should view this Government with a certain amount of suspicion because for 34 of the 50 years since federation governments supporting the principles of the present Government have been in office in this country, and although they have had plenty of opportunities to establish peace in industry they have failed to do so. Criminals who wish to carry on their nefarious activities frequently resort to the use of aliases. Although the anti-Labour political parties commenced changing their name in 1910, strangely enough they have now reverted to their original names. They have the same gang leading them and the same driving force from behind as in those days. I contend that the force that supports the anti-Labour political parties and decides their objective is big business, which seeks excessive profits. It is not content with a fair return on its investment. Monopoly capitalism should be removed from industry. The position is somewhat analogous to drones being expelled from a bee-hive. Whilst they do not contribute physical energy to the hive they take the most out of it. Industry should be encouraged and developed in every way. For this purpose the Commonwealth Bank should make loans available at nominal rates of interest.
By its development of the system of conciliation and arbitration, the Labour movement has done much to bring about peace and contentment in industry. Prior to the election of Labour governments to power there existed very scant social legislation for the benefit of industrial workers in Australia. A friend of mine, who is a. plumber living in my constituency, has brought to my notice the contents of a document dated 22nd February, 1900, that was sent to him by his employer. It reads -
Enclosed please find cheque valued at £3 2«. lid. in payment for wages, 83½ hours in a week.
As honorable members are well aware, plumbers to-day receive about four times that amount for working only one-half that number of hours. These matters must be borne in mind when we consider the value of the £1, since the workers put the value into the £1. Because the employees were required to work many hours in a week foi1 small wages in days gone by, the £1 was of greater value in those days than to-day. Most people agree that the greatest problem facing Australia to-day is the need for increased production. The basis of the solution of this problem must be an increasing share of employee participation in the organization of industry. The workers should receive a return for their labour proportionate to the energy that they apply to their task. There must be a full recognition of the fact that employees are human beings, not machines. It was obvious from the manner in which the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) applied himself to this matter that he lacks an appreciation of the fundamental differences of considerations affecting the employment of men and women in industry. With the object of increasing production the honorable member contended that there should be an extension of the system of payment by results. If that method were adopted many people would owe the nation a lot of money. I refer not to the workers, but to the monopoly capitalists, whose only stake in industry is the amount of money they have invested. The honorable member for Bass was careful not to advance any detailed method of applying the system that he advocated. I imagine that he would favour the payment of a fixed basic wage to the worker who produced the most, and that the remuneration would be reduced to a pittance for the weakest worker. I stress that the introduction of such a system would not cure the ill and restore peace to industry. For any permanent good to result industry should be so planned that every working family will have a home equipped with modern appliances, and so that proper educational facilities will be available to the members of that family. Its full economic interest should be safeguarded at all times.
His Excellency indicated that the Government intends to establish an advisory committee to plan and develop industries in this country. I hope that the committee will give earnest consideration to the wants and viewpoints of the employees in industry. That is of the utmost importance, if the co-operation of the workers is to be gained. I consider that the Government has made a bad start in connexion with this matter, because it has shown little respect for its own employees, the public servants. When referring to the proposed re-organization of the Public Service, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated on the 9th January last that the committee would comprise Mr. W. E. Dunk, Chairman of the Public Service Board; Mr. Chippendall, Director of Postal Services ; Mr. Watt, Secretary to the Treasury ; and Mr. Fitzgerald, a public accountant. As honorable members know, Mr. Dunk has been Chairman of the Public Service Board for a long time. I presume that re-organization will be accompanied by disorganization, and apparently it is for that reason that the Government decided to include Mr. Dunk in the proposed committee. It is significant that no employees’ organization is to be represented on the committee. That shows a lack of respect of the principle of employee participation. Such snubbing cannot encourage co-operation, because employees like to enjoy the confidence of their employers. Many public servants are dismayed at the Government’s discourtesy in this matter. During the election campaign a number of Ministers of the present Government envisaged a reduction of governmental expenditure if the anti-Labour parties were elected to office. It is obvious that any savings effected willbe at the expense either of the government employees, or of the social services provisions.
Another matter which has upset public servants, and their respective organizations, is the action of the Government in cancelling preference to unionists. The obligation of unionism means the payment of a small contribution by each member, and in return, the organization looks after his welfare. In other words, all get together for their mutual good. The action of the Government in this matter is miserable and contemptible, and reveals the Administration in its true colours, namely, as the chief defender of big business, the biggest criminal in the world. Big business has kept the world in chaos for centuries, and the only bright spots in the otherwise dark firmament are the countries which have Labour governments. The action of the Menzies Government in cancelling preference to unionists, thereby encouraging “ polers “. fanatics and conscientious objectors, is typical of what a non-Labour government will do. As a public servant who has taken a keen interest in the affairs of his union, I have known a number of conscientious objectors, who declined to join an organization until they stood to lose a substantial monetary benefit.
During World War II. wages and salaries were pegged under National Security Regulations, and, naturally, Public Service organizations were unable to obtain financial benefits for their members. A few years ago, the Chifley Labour Government abolished wagepegging, and it was indicated that an increase of margins amounting to 25 per cent. was obtainable for the asking. The Public Service organizations submitted their applications to the Public Service Arbitrator, but before they were granted the increase of 25 per cent. on the margins, they had to meet objections by the Public Service Board, which proceeded to place the meanest possible interpretation upon the new award. The board applied the increases in conformity with a graduated scale, which did not mean what the government of the day had intended. However, that is by the way. The point which I am making now is that many of the conscientious objectors and “ polers “, who had not been prepared to contribute with their fellow workers to a fund for the general welfare, hastened to join Public Service organizations in order to participate in the Public Service Arbitrator’s award. They ceased to be conscientious objectors when adherence to their convictions would have caused them to forfeit amounts varying from £200 to £300 a year. The Public Service organizations treated those people very generously. Under their regulations they had power to impose fines upon the conscientious objectors, and compel them to make retrospective payments to union funds,but they said, in effect, “ Become decent unionists and we shall not charge you more than the joining fee “. Incidentally, some of the smaller unions have had to provide considerable sums of money to fight cases in the Arbitration Court in order to obtain benefits for fellow unionists.
This Government stands condemned by its miserable action in relation to its own employees. The Prime Minister, Ibelieve, would closely observe the by-laws of the Law Institute, the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) would scrupulously obey the rules of the British Medical Association, and the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) would not infringe the regulations of the Institute of Accountants, of which he is a member. Their affinity in that respect makes it illogical for members of those organizations in the Menzies Government to issue an edict extending to non-unionists the benefit of awards that have been won by unionists over the years. I wonder whether the Prime Minister would accept a brief if the junior counsel allotted to him was not a member of the Law Institute. He certainly would not! I can imagine his resentment in such a situation, yet he allows non-unionists in the Public Service to share benefits and improved conditions that have been gained by unionists. I wonder whether the Minister foi: Health would have a consultation with, or would operate with a doctor who was not a member of the notorious British Medical Association. Of course, he would not! I wonder whether the Treasurer would undertake an audit with a non-member of one of the many institutions of accountants. He certainly would not ! Yet those right honorable gentlemen issue an edict that will create u m ong Commonwealth employees a situation that they themselves would not tolerate in their own organizations. I warn the Government that the time will arrive when members of Public Service organizations, and particularly employees of the Postal Department, will take up the gauntlet and refuse to work alongside non-unionists. If peace is to be established in industry, whether controlled by the Commonwealth or private enterprise, the Menzies Government will need to set a better example than it has to date. It has certainly made a bad start.
The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) was justified in recalling that the Minister for Health had been described many years ago as the “ tragic Treasurer “. When the right honorable gentleman was Treasurer in the BrucePage Government he introduced a measure to provide £500,000 for the relief of the 500,000 unemployed persons in Australia at that time. Those unfortunate men were given an additional clay’s work at cutting paspalum, and the newspapers described, under bold headlines, the provision of that sum of money as a “ marvellous gift “. Many of the unemployed were carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers and other artisans whose energy and ability should have been devoted to constructing homes for the people, but the non-Labour government of the day preferred them to stand in dole queues. Another honorable member lias described the Minister for Health as the “morbid medico”, and I find much merit in that description of the right honorable gentleman. He stated that it was fundamentally wrong to throw the whole responsibility of hospital and medical services on to the Government. T disagree with that opinion. The Government is the people, and I believe that all the people should share the financial responsibility for sickness in the community. A person, in falling ill, has enough misfortune, without having to suffer the financial burden of sickness. The Government should make the doctors obey the wishes of the Australian people, and co-operate in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The people are entitled to that service as a right, because they pay for it with their social services contribution. The formulary which was devised by the Chifley Government contained more than 800 drugs, yet the British Medical Association complained that number was insufficient. However, medical experts expressed the opinion that the formulary contained all the drugs, with the exception of those which had not been proven and others which were of no value. Under the health scheme proposed by the Menzies Government, the formulary has been whittled, down to 42 drugs and by the time the British Medical Association approves it, only aspros will be available. The latest plan is not that of the Menzies Government, but of the British Medical Association, and the various State branches of that organization are fighting among themselves over the scheme. While that argument is proceeding, the strike of the British Medical Association against the Chifley Government’s national health plan continues, regardless of the needs of 300,000 pensioners, including 75,000 invalid pensioners, who urgently require the benefits of the scheme. Why should 50,000 diabetics, who daily require- insulin, be deprived of the wonderful benefits which the Chifley Government desired to provide for them? When the nonLabour parties were in opposition, they incited the British Medical Association to strike against the Chifley Government, and that organiaztion is still on strike.
The programme of the Menzies Government in relation to social services is most disappointing. It indicates that age and invalid pensioners, and, indeed, the recipients of pensions generally, may expect no immediate increase of the benefits. The Government claims that its plan to assist the pensioners will put more shillings in the £1. The situation was aptly expressed the other day when a person said, “ This Government had not been in office a week and £1 was worth ls. less “.
– Two shillings less.
– The speaker went on to say, “ We will not get another bob in the £1 until we get Bob out of government “. There are some anomalies that the Government should remedy. Some couples who are old or infirm are debarred from receiving an age or invalid pension because of the permissible income provisions. These people have saved from £1,000 to £1,500 to get a home for themselves, but because of the rising costs of building materials and homes generally they have not been able to buy a home. As a result, they are left with their savings and are debarred, because of that, from receiving £4 5s. a week between them in pensions. This is a matter that should receive attention in special circumstances. Other persons are in a similar position; they own a home, but because they are unable to get possession of it and have more than the permissible income, they cannot obtain a pension. Consequently, they lose £4 5s. a week. The Government should do something immediately about the wives of invalid pensioners who are not entitled to a pension because they have not reached the age of 60 years. Provision is made to pay women in such circumstances £1 4s. a week. Sometimes the wife of an invalid is in a worse position than a widow. She has on her hands a sick husband for whom she has to provide a home. She has to stay at home to nurse him and is unable to go out and work to supplement her husband’s pension and the £1 4s. a week that she receives. The payment to wives in those circumstances could very well be raised to the full pension rate of £2 2s. 6d. a week. I believe that the pension rate should be lifted immediately and progressively increased until a living wage goes into every home. Men and women who have served the nation well and contributed to the Commonwealth income by their faithful industry should enjoy comfort and security when they become old or infirm. If industry is developed with that purpose in mind we will have industrial peace.
I had intended to congratulate the honorable member for Barker (Mr.
Archie Cameron) on being elected to the speakership of this House, but as he is temporarily absent from the chamber, perhaps you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be good enough to convey those sentiments to him. I did not do so at the beginning of my speech as I heard somebody say the other day : “ They start to smooge before they begin their speeches so that they may get away with it “. That is why I say it now.
.- I had hoped to have an opportunity to congratulate Mr. Speaker on his election to the speakership of this House because I remember that when’ I came to Canberra as a farmer’s representative previously, he was a Minister and I accepted his ruling with great difficulty and had a stern fight every time. Listening to the speeches made on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, I have tried to find in those from the Opposition side some evidence of planning or of consistent criticism that called for an answer from honorable members on this side. I am always rather concerned about the kind of argument that I have just heard on the horrors and dangers of payment by results. I have been a farmer all my life and have never been paid in any other way; nor do I expect to be. If I do not farm well and work hard I do not get paid. I have the added disadvantage that although I may send my produce to the wharfs for shipment to a market, because somebody else does not work well I still may not get paid. The Victorian electorate that I represent covers a complete cross-section of Australian life because it produces, I suppose, more milk than does any other electorate in Australia, all the black coal and practically all the brown coal produced in Victoria, as well as all the electricity and most of the timber that is used for building in Victoria. But mainly its interests are rural. My interests are rural and therefore I shall deal with rural matters.
Before I deal in detail with developmental matters I want to refer to an argument that has been raised by the Opposition on an item of policy contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. My heart has “been wrung by the references of honorable members opposite to the position of the unfortunate British people who will possibly be deprived of some dollars because the Australian Government has decided to de-ration petrol. It seems a terrible thing that we should ask them to make a further sacrifice because we believe that in the interests of Australian development petrol should be free from control. But it is a curious contrast that they should be expected to train their sons for the defence of Australia as well as of their own country when honorable members opposite are not prepared to allow Australians to be trained to defend themselves. The Opposition agrees that we should develop our manufacturing potential to the utmost but it expects somebody else to protect us during the year or eighteen months that it takes to train defensive troops. Looked at in that light much of the argument about petrol is hypocritical. Let us attend to such important things as the defence of Australia ourselves. I shall say more about petrol later.
While on the subject of defence I commend to the House the thoughtful speech of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock). I believe that the real lesson to be learned from World War II. was the integration of command among the services which makes a fighting force. I suggest that we go further and consider the integration of the training of the men who may become involved in a defensive war. Much of the success of the Japanese in their early advance through the islands was due to the fact that Japanese sailors were trained as first-class infantrymen and artillerymen and were able to go straight on with the job. I commend to the House the thoughtful speech of the honorable member and the developments that will accrue from it.
Honorable members opposite have referred to some fancied difference of opinion between the Australian Country party and the Liberal party regarding revaluation of the Australian currency in relation to sterling. There are in the Liberal party as there are in the ranks of the Australian Country party a great number of farmers who, like myself, are interested in the export value of Australian produce. Accordingly, any attempt to drive a wedge between the two parties must fail, because they are working together and can build their future policy in association without any danger of a rupture in their relations. Honorable members opposite have also said that the Liberal party is not really interested in a policy of decentralization. I am always rather astonished at the association between members of ,the Liberal party and bankers, that honorable members opposite allege exists. They like to give the idea that every member of the Liberal party is some kind of slave to “ big business “. I have never had anything to do with “ big business “, and that remark applies equally to most honorable members on this side of the House. In any event, I do not know why it should be thought that, if we were “ stooges “ of bankers or of “ big business “, we should not be interested in a policy of decentralization. A former Victorian government claimed to have followed a policy of decentralization. In one country town a number of girls were given employment in a cricket pavilion, where they worked with half a dozen sewing machines, and it was thereupon claimed that the industry in which they were employed had been decentralized. If any honorable member desires to see real decentralization of industry, he can see it now in Gippsland. In that district there is a really genuine attempt to provide decentralization in an area which has power, water, and fertile land. I, personally, shall do everything in my power to advance a policy of decentralization.
I turn now to the general subject of rural interests, which I represent in this Parliament. The Government, by the announcement of its intention to establish a Ministry of National Development, has shown that it has realized that in most cases such development must be achieved in co-operation with the governments of the States. A broad, overall plan will be submitted to the State governments for consideration. Much of the developmental work to be carried out will fall within the sphere of powers held by those governments, and the push, energy, drive and research work that can be given to the work by this Parliament will require acceptance by the State governments. My main interest in relation to development is in connexion with the development of rural production. Without doubt the rural production of Australia has dropped, and is dropping at the present time most alarmingly, possibly not in respect of some fictitious money value, but in actual pounds weight of butter and other products. If our schemes of development can make rural life more comfortable, provide more amenities for country people, make primary production safer and so attract more people to the land to further increase production, then this Government will deserve much of Australia.
I return to the subject of petrol. We have been told that not a bag of wool, wheat, or vegetables, not a case of fruit or can of milk was left behind because of petrol rationing during the period it operated. Basically, that statement is true. But the extra can of milk, bag of vegetables or case of fruit was not produced, largely because of petrol rationing. It would be fair to say that there was no form of bitterness felt by the countryman more. He had the feeling that if he had worked in an industry with a 40-hour working week he would have had a much better time. He felt that way particularly on occasions when his children desired to ‘go to the pictures in the nearest town, or when he wanted to attend church on Sundays and he had to examine his petrol supply carefully to see whether he could afford the petrol for the trip. Young people in the country areas were much affected by the lack of petrol which, in the bush areas of Gippsland, was very largely responsible for the decision of people to leave country districts. It is hypocritical to suggest that everything in the way of primary products that could be carried was carried. The point is that although everything that was produced was carried, not everything was produced that could have been produced had there been uo petrol rationing.
The Government has announced a loan of £250,000,000 for the development of rural areas, it is suggested that the money will be spent on soil and water conservation, electricity supply, and so on, and possibly for re-afforestation. I trust that all the States will take full advan- tage of the Government’s plans in this respect. The position of shire councils at the moment is desperate. There is scarcely a shire council in my electorate that has not written and informed me that under present conditions, even giving only the barest maintenance to their roads, it shows an annual deficit of £3,000 or £4y000. Therefore, I hope that the Government will adopt in connexion with the loan, a very liberal interpretation of what is to be regarded as capital expenditure. Many rural roads, waterworks and other utilities have reached a stage at which they cannot be “ darned “ much longer, but must be completely rebuilt. In one corner of my electorate there is a rich and highly productive area known as the Koo-wee-rup Swamp. It is a black, peaty deposit which has great depth and is very soft because of the fibrous matter of which it is composed. Shire engineers in that area say that they cannot seal a road with bitumen until they have 15 to 17 inches of foundation under it. That position has arisen recently because of the development and increased use of heavy road transport. I hope that, if the Government should decide that the loan money will be made available for capital expenditure, it will be very generous in its interpretation of the term capital expenditure.
During your absence from the chamber., Mr. Speaker, I asked Mr. Deputy Speaker to convey to you my congratulations on your election to your high, office, and I reminded him, as I should like to remind you, that when I visited Canberra as a representative of farmers at a time when you were a Minister, I accepted your ruling only after a very bitter fight. I trust that I shall not have to do the same here.
– I propose to address myself to two main points in connexion with the Address-in-Reply. Before I do so I should like to join with other .honorable members in my congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House, on your elevation to the Speakership.
I propose to speak on Australia in relation to the British Commonwealth and on proposals for the alteration of the Constitution. If time permits, I then propose to refer to a matter affecting war service land settlement. This is an historic meeting of the Australian Parliament. It is the first meeting of an enlarged House which has undergone the first serious alteration since this Commonwealth was founded some 50 years ago. I come from the oldest Parliament in Australia to the youngest Parliament in Australia. After nearly 30 years in the Parliament of New South Wales I come to the Parliament of the Commonwealth. I hope that before I leave this Parliament I shall have assisted very considerably in removing that stigma. I shall endeavour to elaborate that remark as I proceed.
I suggest that the time has arrived for a complete review of the relationship of the Commonwealth and the States. On that historic occasion in 1927 when this Parliament was opened by His Majesty the King, who was then Duke of York, I approached the portals here with another member of the State Parliament who afterwards became the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, and a flunkey at the door, dressed in knee breeches and all the other appurtenances of his office, said to us, not very politely, “ Where are your passes ? “ We produced our parliamentary passes and said, “ We are State members “. His reply, given in unmistakable terms, was, “ State members are of no account here “. That reply had a great deal of significance in the years that followed. I turned to my colleague and said, “Do not let us argue with this low fellow”, and we retreated in such good order as we might. Having watched the military manoeuvres on the hill behind, we made a strategic descent on Parliament from the back of the building and walked in the back entrance. Nobody challenged ns. So my first attempt to outer the Federal Parliament was repulsed with indignity and my first entrance was secured by strategic manoeuvre. ‘On this occasion, I come with the full support of the very important electorate of New England. I deeply regret that it was the removal of that very distinguished gentleman, the Honorable J. P. Abbott, from the parliamentary sphere that made it possible for me to come here. He is my friend, and like many others I greatly admired -his capacity and the intensity with which he served Use interests of this nation in peace and in war.
I did not tell that story of my first descent into this House purely for the purpose of amusing honorable members or the people who may be listening to the broadcast of these proceedings. I told it because I have found that it is symptomatic of the attitude of the Commonwealth to the States over the 50 years of federation. I believe that the nature of that approach has been determined by childhood, now verging into adolescence, and I trust that in the years that are to come the Commonwealth and its great Public Service will have a new conception of the relationship of the Commonwealth and the States and will realize that it is a great partnership - a partnership thai; can be operated by financial and intellectual leadership from the Commonwealth, working out through the machinery of the States and the State public services, which have shown exceptional capacity to serve and co-operate, particularly during the war years.
I am greatly interested in the intention of the Government, expressed in the Governor-General’s (Speech, to bring about certain amendments of the Constitution. It is proposed that the Constitution shall be amended to give the people the power to say whether the Government shall socialize industry or not. Having had some 30 years’ experience with lawyers as well as with laymen, I say that the Government has a man-sized task in devising something through which the lawyers will not drive a coach and four. Insofar as this Government can take from this or any other Parliament the right to impose socialization or anything else against the will of the people, and give to the people the right to say what they shall do, I am at one with it. I believe in trusting the people. I believe that there is an inherent core of common sense with the people. I have seen governments representing both sides of politics go to the country with proposals which have been rejected but which their leaders in the light of events of years afterwards, were prepared to admit were mistakes. Although the government had thought the proposals were the best under the circumstances, the people had acted wisely.
I want to refer to one or two other amendments of the Constitution to which I sincerely trust this Government will be able to give serious attention within the next two or three years. The first of these is the financial independence of the States. Immediately I mention that, somebody wants to know if I want to force on the people all the evils of dual taxation, and so on. I do not consider that the two things are inseparably bound up, but I do say that one thing that is inseparably bound up with my statement is the fact that unless the States are financially independent we can eliminate them as an effective part of the Commonwealth partnership. The federal compact can be destroyed by a process of attrition which is well understood by those who control the power of the purse. For those who believe in federation and democracy as well as those who believe that the centralization of government is the beginning of dictatorship, this is a most important fact. Karl Marx, when addressing the German Communists in 1848, told them that at the time of the re-organization of government ‘in Germany the democrats would strive for a federal system of government. In brief, he said, “ You must oppose them because only by the concentration of the powers of government in one place can you hope to secure the control of the German nation or any other nation”. When I look at Australia and the work of the architects of the Constitution and realize that they themselves made provision for the continuance of this federation unless -the people by specific vote so amended their Constitution as to destroy it, I must say that one of the most important things to which this Government, or any government, can direct its attention is the early strengthening and expansion of the federal system. I am irrevocably opposed to the methods that were advocated by Marx, who realized with his brilliant mind that the Communists could gain control of a nation through a concentration of the powers of government in one parliament. I am opposed to such methods, not merely because I want to contest the doctrines of Marx, but because I believe in democracy and have faith in it. The powers of government must be decentralized if democracy is to flourish. Every intelligent man who considers this problem must understand that, although decentralization of administration has many faults, which render it liable to failure, decentralization of political power under a safeguarding federal constitution is, as Marx foresaw, an effective way of stemming the rising tide of Communist ideals. I should give all my support to communism if I believed that it would bring greater happiness to the human race, but I have found no reason for believing that it would do so. On the contrary, I am convinced that it would force the human race to depths of degradation and despair from which it could climb back to the bright light of freedom only with the greatest sorrow and travail. I do not wish to see this nation attempting to traverse such a dreadful path.
Another point that emerges from an examination of constitutional problems is the necessity for the formation of State constitutions so as to bind State governments to courses of action that are just and equitable to all citizens. A recent court decision held that the Chifley Government’s attempt to circumvent the Commonwealth Constitution in a certain matter relating to land was ultra vires the Constitution. The States are not subject, to any such legal limitations. A State government can seize property upon any terms that, it deems fit. It is not bound in any way to treat its citizens with justice and equity. Surely, in any civilized community, provision should be made to protect every member of the community ! I suggest that an amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution to enable the framing of constitutions for the States should be regarded as an urgent necessity. Pursuant to my earlier remarks concerning the necessity for expansion of the federal system and the removal from this Parliament of the stigma of being the youngest parliament in Australia, I suggest that steps be taken to modify the provisions that were embodied in the Constitution concerning the establishment of new States.
I have heard a great deal of twaddle talked about the intentions of the founders of the Constitution. The founders of the Constitution did not deal in humbug. They intended, as Sir Henry Parkes declared, that there should be a further sub-division of the existing unwieldy States. I believe that many of the evils that have hampered Australia’s development have been due to the failure of Australian parliaments and the people to take advantage of the provision in the Constitution for the formation of new States. Such States should be established in areas like the New England district in northern New South Wales. That region was recommended by an eminent judge of the supreme court as the site for a new State. It has an area cf 64,000 square miles, a population as great as that of South Australia, and, two years ago, its annual production, worth £100,000,000, was greater than that of the whole of Queensland. Yet we are compelled to put up with the inefficient system of government from a distance. We have a £2.50,000,000 plan for -the development of Australia, which must grow into a £1,000,000,000 plan if the needs of this rising giant of a nation are to be satisfied, but if we are to succeed we must, decentralize political power. Decentralization would place in the hands of executive bodies on the spot the power to say “yea” or “nay” without reference to some distant capital. Governing bodies of that character would not be distracted, for instance, by the industrial problems that arise from the great aggregation of population in the relatively small area surrounding Port Jackson. Important local problems could be dealt with promptly and effectively by bodies with intimate knowledge of those problems.
The task of developing northern Queensland, central Queensland, northern New South Wales, southern New South Wales, and even northern Victoria should, be handled on the spotby legislatures with an understanding of the needs of those areas and able to concentrate on them exclusively. The people who live in those districts have indicated, by the calibre of the representatives whom they have elected to this Parliament, that they have the political capacity necessary to make such a system of state legislatures readily workable. Unfortunately, the new States project is rendered almost impossible of consummation by the nature of our Constitution. Successful efforts have been made in the part of New South Wales that I represent to stir up the public conscience on this subject, but whenever the people try to secure control of their own affairs they become enmeshed in constitutional difficulties. They should have the right of appeal to this Parliament. I have spoken at length, but nevertheless not so fully as I should like to have done, upon the subject of constitutional amendment. We should trust the people and give them the right to conduct conventions in order to deal with the subjects that I have raised. My observations at the unofficial conventions that I have attended have convinced me that the best results could be gained by that means. Critics will say that the decisions of people’s conventions could not be carried into effect. My reply to that objection is that, if the decisions of fully representative conventions were submitted to this Parliament, only a very bold government or political party would refuse to give to the people as a whole the right to express their views upon those decisions.
We must break down the unwieldy system of government that is retarding development in the outlying areas of Australia. Existing governments are preoccupied with industrial problems in the most populous centres, and their attention is distracted from the needs of the rest of the nation. Unless we break free from this unprogressive system, we shall never succeed in raising Australia to the full stature that it should achieve as a nation. In order to avoid loss of power along the transmission lines, we should establish the generating station on the spot. Unless we establish additional States, Australia is likely to wander on the lowlands instead of reaching the highlands of nationhood, progress and prosperity. Since federation, Australia’s population has practically doubled and I believe that within the next few years we shall witness much more rapid development throughout the Commonwealth. Australia stands on the threshold of magnificent possibilities. The forces behind are thrusting us forward. I believe that we shall respond ; and one way in which we can do so is to clear the decks in order to utilize more effective means of meeting the increasing requirements of the country.
The second matter to which I wish to address my remarks is Australia’s position within the British Commonwealth. I have given considerable attention to this subject. Indeed, I have treated it as rather a hobby over a period of many years. The policy of the previous Government in foreign affairs placed the United Nations first, the British Commonwealth second and co-operation with the United States of America third. It was almost inevitable that after the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) when he was Minister for External Affairs had been elected President of the General Assembly of the United Nations that that Government should give first priority to his policy as leader of the United Nations. However, such a policy was not realistic from Australia’s point of view. When that policy became inevitable on his part after he had accepted appointment as leader of the United Nations his resignation as the Australian Minister for External Affairs should have followed automatically. I have no intention of reflecting upon the right honorable gentleman in any personal way, but I believe in the age-old adage that no man can serve two masters.
An urgent need exists in each country of the British Commonwealth to establish a Ministry of Commonwealth Affairs. A ministry bearing a somewhat similar designation already exists in the British Government. However, the affairs of the British Commonwealth have reached such a critical stage that each member of it should appoint a senior Minister capable of expressing the views of his Government and such Ministers should form a Council of British Commonwealth Ministers. Those Ministers should have at their disposal a secretariat which would keep them up to date with British Commonwealth affairs between meetings of the council. I do not think that the Australian Minister should also administer the portfolio of External Affairs. If he did so, he would not fulfil the requirements of the new ministry. Of course, I am now speaking not in a personal but in an administrative sense. The Minister entrusted with this responsibility should be enabled to give his undivided attention to this special work and thus provide an effective liaison between the principal members of his Government such as the Prime Minister, the Minister for External Affairs, the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the Minister for Immigration so that he would always have the latest information available that he required to enable him to deal with any question suddenly arising within his sphere. One might ask what immediate benefits would result from such a proposal. Of course, the appointee would need to be a man of great capacity. Obviously, it would be foolish to appoint any one who was not fully capable of carrying so great a responsibility. The proposed council would always be right up to date in respect of every phase of British Commonwealth affairs. I suggest that each of the proposed Ministers should be a member of the Cabinet in his respective country and that he should be given a job that would enable him to keep in touch with the realities of politics without having them claim his entire attention. The Australian Minister should have his head-quarters in. Australia and should carry on his work from this country. I do not believe that the results desired could be achieved by a Minister who spent most of his time overseas and thus, in effect, was isolated from the community that he represented. He must play a vital and organic part in the work of his own government so that when he appeared in the council of Ministers of the British Commonwealth he should be able to interpret for his colleagues on that body not only the views of his Government hut also the thought of the community in his own country.
In the limited time at my disposal it is not possible for me to elaborate these proposals fully. I put them forward because I believe that we are now faced with the results of the unrealistic policy that was pursued by the previous Government in. its relations with other members of the British Commonwealth. The best thing that could happen for Australia would be for the British Commonwealth to remain strong. I have seen what has happened to weak and small nations and in this troubled world
I have not the slightest desire to be a member of a small nation whether it seeks to stand on its own or is a satellite of another nation however powerful or friendly the latter might be. If we keep at least a substantial part of the British Commonwealth together and build for the future on a common understanding of our mutual interests, if we increase our strength as a family of nations we shall have done something not only for our immediate security but also for the security of future generations of Australians. It is of the greatest importance that as British peoples we should be sufficiently strong to form an effective bargaining force. Every honorable member is familiar with what is happening in the world to-day. If we can build up our own strength and that of other members of the British Commonwealth and thus maintain cohesion within that Commonwealth we shall be in a strong position to bargain and, if necessary, to fight for the maintenance of peace.
Having regard to the time at my disposal I have dealt with this subject fairly fully. I sincerely trust that the view that I have expressed will find favour with the Government which I support. I know that it has great and difficult tasks ahead of it and that they will fully occupy the time of Ministers. Having been a Minister myself in a number of governments I know perfectly well how important it is when confronted with a really big job to utilize the services of a really big man and enable him to concentrate upon it. Therefore, the Government should appoint a Minister for British Commonwealth Affairs and give him all the support necessary to enable him to carry out his duties realistically and help to establish effective cohesion between all members of the British Commonwealth. We should not attempt to establish a sort of imperial federation, or anything of that kind. I do not think that such an arrangement would really work. Indeed, it would be unsound. Properly directed, the fundamental strength of the community of British people could form one of the greatest bulwarks of democracy, freedom and enlightenment. I hope that on some other occasion I shall have an opportunity to deal more fully with this proposal as well as with other matters, particularly the defects of the land settlement of ex-servicemen.
.- There is a number of features associated with the Address-in-Reply presented to this Parliament that makes it different from other Addresses-in-Reply. Not the least of those features is that, at the conclusion of the debate, a greater number of speakers will have addressed themselves to it than has participated in similar debates since the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia. I extend my respects and congratulations to -those members on the Government side of the House who were entrusted with the responsibility of moving and seconding the Address-in-Reply. They acquitted themselves admirably. Those congratulations can be extended to every other member of the House who has participated in the debate. I believe that the House will gain in stature and that the level of future debates will be considerably higher than that of the past by reason of their experience and the capacity they have displayed.
No government has ever come to office in more favorable circumstances than have accompanied the present Government’s assumption of national responsibility. Those circumstances could be described as “ a Prime Minister’s dream “. The budget has been balanced for two years, and it is quite within the realm of possibility that the present Government will balance Commonwealth accounts this year. I have no doubt that if it accomplishes that feat the press of Australia will claim that for that reason it should command the support of the electors. In the last two years the* budgets presented to this Parliament not only have been balanced, but also have shown a surplus. Although in the past the press of this country has postulated that one of the hall-marks of good government is the balancing of the budget, the fact that the Chifley Government balanced its budget for two years in succession apparently meant nothing to it, but I have no doubt that if the present Government balances its budget - and in the circumstances in which it took office there is no reason why it should not - then the press will use every means in its power to impress upon the people of Australia the magnificence of such an achievement.
It has been stated during this debate that members of the Opposition, in their defeat, could not “ take it “. I direct attention to the attitude of the previous Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) when the result of the election was announced. On that occasion he said, “ The people of this country have spoken; we accept their decision ; we respect their decision “. I cannot see what other attitude he could have adopted. Honorable members opposite have acknowledged that he accepted defeat in a manner that became him. I cannot say that this Government has accepted victory in such a generous fashion. In its acceptance of office it has been ungracious, although no other government in the history of the Commonwealth has taken over the reins of office under such favorable conditions. The Chifley Government’s accomplishments for this country will endure. No matter how partisan one may be, one must admit that that Administration, in the eight years during which it was entrusted with the responsibility of governing this country, achieved much of an enduring character. So as to illustrate the partisan and ungenerous attitude of Government members, I shall refer to a statement by Mr. Holland, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who succeeded Mr. Fraser about ten days before the Commonwealth general election. According to the Melbourne Herald of the 1st December, 1949, Mr. Holland said this -
We disagree with much that has been done during the Labour Government’s fourteen years in office, but we acknowledge that it leaves behind it much that- will endure. I pay my respects to Mr. Peter Fraser, who will always command admiration for the tenacity with which he led his party.
A few weeks ago, a conference on immigration was held in Canberra. Speaking at that function, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) acknowledged the soundness of the policy and the worth of the work that had been done in the sphere of immigration by the Chifley Government, but those have been the only acknowledgments that have been made. In contrast with the generosity displayed by Mr.
Holland in similar circumstances, the Government has not appeared in a very good light.
We have been informed that in the very near future the Government will present to the House a statement on foreign, affairs. That being so, I shall limit my remarks on the matter. I hope that in the ensuing debate honorable members on the Government side of the House, and particularly those of them who were members of the Eighteenth Parliament, will be less irresponsible and more realistic in their approach to foreign affairs than they were when in Opposition. Those who heard past debates on foreign affairs will remember that certain honorable members took advantage of the occasion to level up personal scores. Some of the statements of members of the Opposition at that time are coming home to roost rapidly. I refer particularly to their attitude on the Indonesian dispute. The Chifley Government tried to have that matter submitted to arbitration under the control of the United Nations, so that it might be finalized. That Government did not commit itself to support either of the parties involved. Time and time again, when the matter was raised, the then Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) made it clear that the Government did not commit itself on the merits of the dispute, but was concerned only in having it referred to the General Assembly of the United Nations, in the belief that that would serve the best interests of all. We were criticized in this House for having followed that course. The Opposition suggested a different procedure, which, had the Government followed it, would have led to the present Administration finding itself in an extremely embarrassing position. I refer honorable members to the reports of the debates that took place on this matter. In them, they will find that members of the Opposition did not hesitate to state their position frankly and to advise the Government about what it should do. I point out that mediation by the General Assembly of the United Nations was advocated not only by the Government of Australia but also by the Government of India. When this matter was finally settled, the attitude of Australia and India was overwhelmingly endorsed by the General Assembly. One can only hope in the interests of the welfare of this nation that the Government, in its approach to international problems, will display a degree of realism and responsibility which was completely a’bsent when honorable members opposite occupied the Opposition benches.
It is said that dollars are politics. During the election campaign, the 23eople of Australia were led to believe that they only had to change their Government to rid this, country of its dollar problem. I am quite convinced, however, that in its approach to that problem this Government will fare no better than did the Chifley Government, because the factors which largely contribute to our dollar difficulties are external and therefore beyond the control of any Australian government. During the last three years, Australia has accumulated substantial dollar deficits. In 1946-47 we had a deficit of 34,000,000 dollars. In 1947-48 the deficit increased to 164,000,000 dollars. In 1948-49, it was 73,000,000 dollars and the budget estimate for the current financial year is 70,000,000 dollars. It is generally acknowledged that lack of dollars is retarding the development of this country; but obtaining dollars is not just a matter of asking for them. There are. th roe ways in which the Government could attempt to reduce our dollar deficit. First, it could float a dollar loan, but the exorbitant rate of interest which such a loan would carry, would make this course impracticable. Secondly, the Government could try to purchase dollars from the International Monetary Fund. The Chifley Government made such a purchase last year, but owing to subsequent developments, it would be almost impossible for us to draw upon the fund again. When the fund was established, the intention was that all subscribers to it should contribute their own currency so that all the currencies of the world would be readily available to member nations. However, as the result of the constant dollar drain on the fund further dollar purchases by Australia are out of the question. The third method by which the Government could seek to reduce our dollar deficit is to increase the sales of Australia goods to dollar countries. That too, is virtually an impossibility.
Dollar area purchasers are able to dictate just what goods they will import, and in what quantities those goods will be imported. For instance, our greatest dollar earner is wool. One would think that Australia produces so much wool that earning more dollars would simply be a matter of sending more wool to the United States of America. The American people however, have a say in that. I remind honorable members that not long ago Congress and the Senate of the United States of America passed a measure designed to increase the already high tariffs on imported wool. But for the most unusual action of the President in vetoing that measure, our difficulties in selling wool to America would have been considerably greater than they are to-day. America too, has a wool industry which, in the past has brought’ pressure to bear for an increase of the protective tariff on imported wool. Therefore, the prospects of increasing our wool sales to the United States of America are exceedingly glum. The devaluation of sterling also presents a problem. I propose to cite to honorable members certain figures for which I express my grateful acknowledgment to the Treasury. In 1948-49, Australia sold to the United States of America, 255,000 bales of wool valued at 74,000,000 dollars. In the first half of 1949-50, we sent 215,000 bales of wool to the United States of America and received in return 38,000,000 dollars. In other words, in the first half of the current financial year, we sent only 40,000 bales less than we did in the whole of 1948-49, but received in return only one-half of the dollar payment that our 1948-49 exports brought to us. I repeat that, in my opinion, the present Government will not be able to get any nearer to a solution of the dollar problem than did the Chifley Government. Our dollar deficit is being financed by the Empire dollar pool. In other words, we are drawing upon Great Britain’s dollar earnings, although that country, in turn, is relying upon Marshall aid to make up its dollar deficits. When Marshall aid ceases in 1952, the dollar problem will become more acute.
The suggestion that petrol rationing was a political expedient and was quite unnecessary is, to say the least of it, an exaggeration. If rationing was not necessary,, why did the Liberal leader in New Zealand, Mr. Holland, not think that rationing could be ended in that country without affecting its economy? When Mr. Holland spoke to the people of New Zealand about ten or twelve days before the general election in this country, lie did not promise to end rationing. During the recent election campaign in the United Kingdom, no party committed itself to the abolition of petrol rationing. Rationing in this country was necessitated by circumstances over which the then Government had no control. I remind honorable members too that no essential industry in Australia was ever denied an adequate supply of petrol. I also point out that there was chaos in New Zealand when petrol rationing was abolished, and no political party was prepared to tell the people that, if returned to power, it would lift, rationing again.
I commend the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr.. Casey) for the initiative he- has displayed. Every honorable member is well acquainted with the depressing effect of the shortage of housing upon the lives of so many thousands- of our fellow citizens, and anything the Government can do to relieve the situation is to be commended. Cost is- an important factor in housing. We know that costs ha’ve been steadily increasing, and that the end is not yet in sight. Housing is primarily the responsibility of the State governments, but State housing schemes are largely financed by Commonwealth money, and the Commonwealth could contribute towards reducing building costs by making money available at a lower rate of interest. It has been estimated that if the rate of interest were reduced by & per. cent, it would be possible to lower rents by as much as- 8s. or 10s. a week. The housing situation is desperate. Most honorable members know cf instances- of three or four families living in one house which is big enough to accommodate only one family in comfort. Sometimes families of five are living in single rooms 10 feet by 3 2 feet. Such, conditions breed discontent, which is felt throughout the whole of the community.
I was pleased to learn-, that the Government proposes to increase service pen- sions. I hope, however, that it will not discriminate between ex-servicemen and other pensioners. The- Chifley Government did not so discriminate! but, when pensions were raised, extended the- benefit to. all. pensioners. We concede the claims of ex-servicemen to an increase, but if a corresponding increase is withheld from other pensioners the Government will lay itself open to challenge on the ground of sectional discrimination.
The attitude of the. Opposition to the Government’s legislative programme, as outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech, has been stated by out leader. I congratulate those new members who have participated in- the debate, and I am sure that their contribution to- the work of the Parliament will be a valuable one. We await with interest the legislation, which the Government proposes to introduce. The wheel has- turned, and the Labour party is- now in opposition. Honorable members, opposite will do well to remember that the wheel will. keep. on. turning The Opposition represents almost 47 per cent, of the people. Although the Labour party numbers eight less- than the Liberal party in this House, the aggregate vote for the Labour party was far greater than the aggregate vote for the Liberal party: We represent the- largest group of voters in Australia. This group has entrusted us with their representation in the Parliament, and we shall not be recreant to that trust.
– Many new members are making their maiden speeches on the motion for the adoption of the Ad’dress-in-R’eply. As a result it is possible that the debate will continue for many days, thus delaying the introduction of the urgent legislation outlined in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral. Therefore, I propose to be brief, but what I have to say is so important that I avail myself of the present opportunity to say it. I propose to speak on the subject of new Australians in general, and their employment in the. rural industries in particular. This subject is referred to in the following paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech : -
The strategic distribution of the man-power and material resources of the British Commonwealth, and the intensive development of
Australia as h vital area- in the Pacific, are of cardinal importance to the future of the British Commonwealth and Australia. My Government’s policies . . . for immigration and development are designed to contribute in the most effective manner to the achievement of these objectives.
The. great problem that faces all young countries is tha.t of developing their resources, and such development is necessary if we are to achieve greater prosperity and a richer way of life. There is an obligation
On all of us to work for that richer way of life. In addition, we have an obligation to prove to the rest of the world that we are justified in retaining this continent in the face of a hungry world. We can justify our possession of it only by developing the great heritage that has been handed down to us.
Let me give the House an idea of the conditions that exist in my own electorate. They are conditions that I have seen and studied. A few years ago, a little school’ near Horsham, which is my home town,, had SO pupils, but now it has less than 30 per cent, of that number. There is a 3,000-acre farm within ‘ fifteen miles of Horsham that was supporting ten familiesa few years ago. To-day it is being operated by a man and his wife. The ten families lived on the farm under good conditions. They cured their own bacon, raised their own chickens, and grew their own vegetables. The children were reared in healthy and happy surroundings. During the depression farming people had a difficult time, but at least they had enough to eat. A relative of mine told me - and, incidentally, all my relatives are actively engaged in primary production - that during the depression all that he spent upon food for his family, which consisted of himself, his wife and four children, was 7s. 6d. a week. They produced on their farm nearly all the food that they required. Despite the difficulties of the depression, they were able to live healthy and happy lives. The Government is deeply conscious of the drift of population to the cities, and its decision to establish a Ministry of
National Development should meet with the approval of all true Australians. Recently I listened to a news broadcast from station 3W V. One of the items of news broadcast clearly indicates what people in the country are thinking about this drift. It was as follows : -
Speaking at the annual rally of the National Catholic Rural Movement - Wimmera region - lit Dimboola yesterday, the spiritual director said that in the fourteen years ending 1S47 the Wimmera had lost 34 out of every 100 of its shire population. This, the Reverend Father said, was a fact which was not only curious tout very startling to those who had any Australian patriotism. These people, he said, had left the small townships and farms in what we called “ the drift to the city “, hut this should be called the drift to national insanity. 1 believe that the success of rural development will depend largely upon the manner in which we use New Australians in our primary industries. Again I draw upon my local knowledge. The early settlers, through hard work, a deep love of the soil, and their pioneering spirit, did much for Australia. They lived happy, healthy, useful and contented lives, and at the same time, they achieved financial security. An examination of the names appearing in telephone directories or electoral rolls in primary producing areas and particularly in my electorate proves that the people who live in those areas are largely the descendants of immigrants. We attach great importance to the necessity of ensuring that British migration shall be first and foremost in our considerations. This is a British community. We desire to remain a British community, living under British standards and maintaining the ideals of British parliamentary democracy. I have no fear that those persons who have already been admitted to this country from overseas are weakening that position, but we must maintain a proper balance between migrants of British and non-British origin. I know that that is a matter upon which all honorable members are agreed. We must make the migrants who come here feel at home. We must help them to become assimilated into the community by extending our friendship to them. What is more important, we must educate our own people in regard to immigration and keep them informed of what has been and is being done so that they will extend a warm welcome to new migrants. I believe that that is a task for private organizations rather than for governments. In my electorate, organizations such as Rotary clubs, Apex clubs, and progress associations are doing splendid work. Their representatives are going to displaced persons camps, informing migrants of the conditions that exist in the district, helping them with their problems, inviting them to dinners and arranging special talks for them in an endeavour to ensure their successful assimilation into our society. I commend the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the wonderful work that it is doing with its New Australians series.
The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has stated that the Government’s immigration programme provides for the admission to Australia of 200,000 migrants each year, of whom 100,000 are to be British migrants and approximately 50,000 displaced persons. Provision has also been made for the admission of Dutch migrants on a much larger scale than hitherto. The admission of such migrants has so far proved to be most successful. I believe that Dutch ex-servicemen from Indonesia should be brought to Australia rather than be repatriated to Holland. We also need Dutch workers from Holland itself. The parties of Dutchmen who have already arrived in this country have earned a splendid reputation for themselves. The Dutch Government is anxious that more of them should come here and the Australian Government reciprocates that feeling because it considers that, especially as they are interested in rural pursuits, they are excellent migrants. Australia must increase its primary production. It has been proved that, if that be not done, we shall barely be able to feed our increased population in five years time, and that in ten years time we shall have to import food. We must also, as the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) has said, send our products overseas in order to obtain funds with which to pay for the imports that we require. I commend the Government for haying taken steps to bring Dutch ex-servicemen to this country from Indonesia. They have practically no relatives . and should be easily absorbed into our community. Generally speaking the new Australians are very decent people. They appear to be happy about their prospects in their new country, and satisfied with their contracts. They are apparently sincerely opposed to communism. Most of them consider another war in Europe within a few years to be a distinct possibility, and are anxious to settle down in Australia and be genuine members of the British Empire. They have a profound respect for Their Majesties the King and Queen, and for British traditions.
I have been very perturbed about one aspect of the mass naturalization ceremonies that have been performed in various parts of Australia. Although it has been the policy of the Government to supply flags in connexion with these functions I have been disappointed to observe that Union Jacks have not been supplied. The love and attachment that we have for the Mother Country should be stressed emphatically. Migrants should be encouraged to regard themselves as Australians and to forget their national prejudices and contentions. Many of them are anxious to follow rural pursuits. From my observations and inquiries I am convinced that at least 90 per cent, of the new Australians will ultimately drift to the cities unless a real attempt is made to prevent that happening. If they are not trained either on farms under the sympathetic guidance of farmers, or in rural training institutions their enthusiasm may wane. I consider that the ideal arrangement would be a combination of both methods of training. They should, be trained particularly for shearing. One of the greatest problems facing the wool-growers of this country is to obtain sufficient shearers to handle the wool-clip. If the new Australians were trained to become skilful shearers they would contribute much to the Australian economy, and gain the benefit of following a useful and profitable trade. As I have mentioned before, I am very perturbed about the shortage of fencing materials in this country. I consider that some of the migrants could be very usefully employed in the manufacture of that commodity. Of course the training to which I have referred cannot be undertaken without finance. In this connexion, I consider that the Australian Agricultural Council should be able to assist the migrants. They should be informed of the financial aids that are available to them for the purchase or leasing of farms, by means of bank loans and sharefarming arrangements. I point out that the performance of two years’ work in camps is accompanied by marked disadvantages. Such a life is not conducive to their associating with Australians, and they tend to form national cliques. There is a tendency also for such a life to institutionalize people who have already been in institutions for a considerable number of years. It also tends to retard their learning of English. Until they have acquired a working knowledge of our language it will be difficult for them to be assimilated into the Australian way of life.
Amongst the displaced persons who have migrated to Australia are men of considerable mental ability who are wasted in their present occupations. Many of them are semi-trained engineers, doctors, and lawyers. Othersare qualified tradesmen who should be most valuable to our economy. Included in their number are many silversmiths, saddlers, and carpenters. I consider that great care should be exercised in checking their associations and workmates, many of whom are antiBritish and Communists. Many of them instil into the new Australians low moral standards. Honorable members may recall that it was reported that in 1949 money was borrowed from migrants at Robinvale by very doubtful methods. Many of these men shun the trade unionsbecause they believe that some of them are Communist-controlled. In many instancesthe fault lies with the employers. They should make allowance for the migrants’’ lack of knowledge of the English language, and the strangeness of their new surroundings. Many of them are extremely nervous as a result of their previous experiences. In this respect their own ministers of religion could contribute much to their well-being,, because they would understand their problems. I hope that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) will consider permitting ministers of religion to come to this country. Many of the complaints that have emanated from the migrants are due to lack of housing. I was considerably heartened by the statement of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Casey) that the Government plans to import prefabricated houses. The nomination of British exservicemen to come to Australia has been seriously delayed because of our inability to provide accommodation for them. Furthermore, people engaged in rural industries are unable to obtain the services of the migrants for a like reason. I consider that the Government should grant a high priority to rural industries to obtain building materials. I have always been a country man and hope to continue to be one. My advice to the new Australians is to come to the country districts of Australia and settle on. our wonderful soil. There they will be able to live a full and happy life, knowing that there is now a National Government deeply concerned for decentralization, is conscious of the need for full production, ,and is genuinely interested in the welfare of all sections of the community.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
Some honorable members having risen in their places on Mr. Speaker returning to the chair on the resumption of the sitting,
– There is no need for honorable members to stand when I return to the chamber after the suspension of a sitting. The only time when I should be received by members standing in their places is when I am preceded by the Serjeant-at-Arms carrying the Mace, and he will announce my arrival.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the House to the statement in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which I take to be the central economic promise of the Government and its main promise in its economic policy for the next three years. That statement is as follows: -
My Government views with grave concern the increase which has been taking place in recent years in the cost of living. It is realized that the solution of this problem is not easy and calls for the closest cooperation not only as between Commonwealth and
State governments but also between all sections of the community. An intensive review is at present being made by my Government of the causes of present price trends with a view to determining the most effective measures which can be taken to remedy the current inflationary situation.
That statement is rather humble by comparison with the confidence expressed in the statements which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made when, as Leader of the Opposition, he was delivering his policy speech at the beginning of the last election campaign. At that time, the right honorable gentleman was very confident about the cause of the inflationary trend in Australia, and he did not appear to think that it required review. In his policy speech, and I am indebted to the right honorable gentleman’s staff for supplying me with a copy of that document which is adorned with a genial photograph of him on the cover, the right honorable gentleman made the following statement : -
In Australia the pre-war pound - the Liberal pound, the Country party pound - has been converted to a Socialist pound which in terms of what it will huy is, even on the “ C “ series index, worth only 12 shillings and not 20 : and in real terms has certainly fallen to 10 shillings.
If I were the advocate of a union before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, I should not ask for a better statement than that in furthering my case. The right honorable gentleman observes in it that, though on the cost of living index of the basic wage the £1 is worth only 12s., in point of fact it is really worth only 10s. He indicates that, in his opinion, the basic wage index underestimates the cost of living by a whole 16f per cent. The index alleges the £1 to be worth 12s. on pre-war levels, but the right honorable gentleman says that the £1 in relation to the basic wage is worth only 10s. He made that statement twice in the course of his policy speech. To follow that reasoning consistently, the right honorable gentleman should now be arguing that the basic wage, which is £6 14s. a week, by being underestimated in relation to the cost of living by 16$ per cent., should rise by £1 2s. 4d. to £7 16s. 4d. a week. The right honorable gentleman’s logic must fall rather jarringly on the ears of the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. McLarty, the
Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hollway, and the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, who are intervening in an arbitration court case at the present time to suggest that the basic wage should not be increased.
I do not desire to labour that point. The right honorable gentleman was merely talking for the purposes of the election. He was referring to the “ socialist £1 and was suggesting that it was socialism which had led to runaway inflation. The tenor of his argument continued, in effect, “ If you can get rid of socialism, you will go back to the Liberal party and Australian Country party £1 of 1939 “. I am very fascinated by his statement about the socialist £1, because, in point of fact, the purchasing power of the Australian £1 during and since World War II., has depreciated less than has that of the dollar. Does the right honorable gentleman refer to the “RooseveltTruman” dollar, or the “democratic” dollar or, in respect of the depreciation of the English £1 sterling during the period of the coalition government in the United Kingdom, to the “ ConservativeLiberalLabour “ £1 sterling? All currencies, whether within an entirely unlimited capitalist economy such as that of the United States of America, or within an economy which was strongly controlled, showed, during the period of the war, a similar depreciation, but in Australia that depreciation was rather less than it was elsewhere.
However, I wish to take that statement from the Governor-General’s Speech out of the sphere of easy generalization in which it is left, and consider the specific policies that the Government may pursue if it desires to reduce the cost of living, and to discuss whether it is likely to adopt those policies. The first course which it may take is to revalue the Australian £1, so as to bring it to parity with sterling, that is to say, to alter the value of the Australian £1 by legal enactment so that instead of 125 Australian £l’s being required to buy 100 £l’s sterling, only 100 Australian £l’s will be required to buy 100 £l’s sterling. That policy, of course, would take off the present export subsidy, as the exchange rate virtually is, not only on primary industries but also 0)i any export industry. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Mackinnon) has suggested that, on this subject, the Liberal party and the Australian Counparty are as one. I imagined that the Australian Country party would be strongly opposed to the alteration of the exchange rate to bring it back to parity with sterling.
The devaluation of the Australian £1, in relation to sterling, was carried out in 1931 to a ratio which was maintained when we devalued last year at the same time as Great Britain devalued sterling in relation to the dollar. There is no doubt that the devaluation of the Australian £1 in relation to the English £1 sterling was inflationary when it was done by a Labour Government, and for that policy we have no apology whatever to offer, because it was based upon the highest considerations. First, that policy was designed to assist the United Kingdom. The fact that our £1 is devalued in relation to the £1 sterling cheapens all commodities which Great Britain buys in this country, and if honorable members can accept our point of view that the restoration of the British economy and the British market is of prime importance to Australia, then they will support the policy which the previous Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) pursued late last year. Secondly, devaluation is related, as a policy, to our international obligations. The shortage of food has been the chief characteristic of the post-war world, and the chief cause of instability in it. No better explanation of the situation could be made than the statement of Sir John Boyd Orr, of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as reported in the press during the last two days. We took the view that while the world food situation remained unchanged, the continuity of an export bounty which might stimulate the production of food was justified, even though it might take some toll of the Australian economy. The extent to which the Australian economy thereby suffered from inflation was part of our share of the world’s burden. They were high political considerations for which we have no occasion to make an apology. But in the sphere of direct government control, the revaluation of the £1 could be a step which the Government could take to arrest the rise in the cost of living or act as a temporary check. New Zealand took that step. It was not very long before other factors in the inflationary situation annihilated the checking effect on New Zealand’s action in coming into parity with sterling; but, still, it is an action within the sphere of governmental power and we shall view with interest the final decision which Liberal Ministers and their colleagues of the Australian Country party make on that subject. We venture to suggest that it is extremely likely that the exchange rate will remain as it is.
The second step which the Government could take to arrest the rising cost of living would be to enact a system of prices control. I do not imagine for a moment that that accords with the political and economic philosophy of honorable gentlemen opposite, or that they believe in prices control. They say, in the main, that prices control is only a very temporary expedient to be used until production gets back to normal. They claim that prices will then fall of themselves. They deny the effectiveness of prices control although I think that there is quite strong evidence that its removal from the Commonwealth sphere led to a further movement upwards in prices. Prices control, as an economic weapon, was particularly directed at the retail trade. A study of journals like Rydge’s Business Journal or of the financial columns of newspapers in Australia to-day will show that one of the characteristics of the statements about the economic position of companies is that companies engaged in manufacture such as the much maligned Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited are making relatively low profits and paying relatively low dividends. To see the big money and the big dividends of from 17 per cent, to 23 per cent, and even higher -rates, one must look at the figures for the retail trade and especially the retail clothing trade. This applies particularly to the large emporiums in the capital cities. Honorable gentlemen opposite frequently speak of wages as the major factor in inflation, but I draw attention to the fact that these record profits and dividends remain after wages and taxes have been paid. The distribu- tive trades are not constantly being called upon to replace machinery and to engage in all sorts of capital expenditure such as firms engaged in the wear and tear of manufacture are called upon to do. If it is correct, as honorable gentlemen opposite say, that there is a low volume of production in the country and that fewer goods than ever before are being circulated, they are advancing a very strong argument to show that record profits are being made by the retail trade on a low turnover, and therefore their profits per unit on the commodities that they sell must be at an excessive level. That is the logic of the economic position which honorable gentlemen opposite always take up. Prices control was a check on the retail trade.. That control has gone. Having regard to their record profits the prices being charged in the retail trade cannot be explained in terms of wages. They are profits struck after wages and all other expenditure have been accounted for. That is why trade union circles take rather a dim view of the exclusive concentration by most honorable gentlemen opposite and certainly by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia on wages as a factor in the inflationary situation.
The third step which a government might take in arresting the rising cost of living would be to peg wages. That is beyond the constitutional power of the Commonwealth, so we need not discuss it here. The fourth step the Government could take would be to intervene actively in arbitration court proceedings and, by such intervention, seek to persuade courts to reduce wages or not increase wages or to plead with them that wages were a major factor in the inflationary spiral. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court is getting quite a deal of instruction at present from all sorts of sources. It is usual for those sources to concentrate the utmost attention on any remark by a trade union official to the effect that the court should be more expeditious or should do this or that. Such an official is taken to task and given a solemn lecture to the effect that he goes close to contempt of court. But let honorable members listen to a paragraph from an editorial published on the 4th March in that paragon of virtue, the Sydney
Morning Herald. After discussing the trade union claims it has this to say -
Such a change would have the most farreaching and possibly damaging effects on the entire economy. The Court has heard a considerable body of expert evidence on the disastrous inflationary consequences of an unduly large increase in the basic wage. It obviously cannot brush aside such evidence and can arrive at a just finding only after careful consideration of all that is involved. The A.C.T.U. may disregard the. public interest but it is the Court’s responsibility to protect it.
That is to say, it is the court’s responsibility not to accept arguments offered to it. .Similarly if we read a statement on the same subject issued recently by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures we shall see that it places the blame for inflation squarely on the trade unionists and on those miserable 2s. rises in the basic wage that are taking place from time to time. The statement reads -
Interest rates should be reviewed to encourage thrift and discourage unwise speculation and over-development of mushroom industries;
I pause here to say that it is the oldest fallacy in economic reasoning that if increases are made in the interest rates unwise speculation is discouraged. I thought that John Maynard Keynes had proved by an exhaustive analysis that increases in interest rates during the boom years of 1927-28 had merely left the field of borrowing to the man who was completely unstable and would take the wildest risks and that the cautious investor was discouraged from borrowing. But the Associated Chambers of Manufactures pleads for the use of that ancient economic instrument which is described in the phrase “ Check a boom by raising interest rates “. Its statement, from which I am quoting, goes on as follows : - there should be restoration of peace in industry by firm government and enforcement of Arbitration Court decisions; and the disastrous results of the 40-hour week must be acknowledged and the trade unions must consent to longer hours or to more overtime being worked at less prohibitive penalty rates.
And there again, another statement on inflation, as did that of the Sydney Morning Herald, comes squarely back to the basic wage. All other factors in the inflationary situation are ignored.
There is another step which the Government may make apart from interven ing in the basic wage case against tho * trade unions, and that is to falsify the cost-of-living index. The right honorable gentleman stated in his policy speech, from which I quoted earlier, that, according to the index, the £1 was worth 12s. on 1939 values, but in reality was worth only 10s. He indicated by that statement that he did not consider that the index was altogether reliable. That statement by the Prime Minister, as repeated in another form by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) in last Friday’s financial supplement of the Melbourne Herald,, in which the Cabinet had a field day, for photographs of honorable gentlemen and right honorable gentlemen beamed at one from various parts of the newspaper. This is the statement of the Treasurer -
While encouraging production to the full we shall hold ourselves ready to pay prices subsidies in appropriate cases as, for example, in respect of items affecting the cost of living of basic wage earners.
The Treasurer mentioned that the policy of subsidizing butter and cheese was being pursued. When I asked the Prime Minister a question on the subject of the cost-of-living index he indicated in his answer that the range of goods in the index was not very great and therefore did not constitute a perfect index of the movement of prices. When trade unions in the past have said, “ This basket of goods which you take into consideration for basic wage purposes is ridiculous nutritionally. It mentions only two vegetables, potatoes and onions. All fruit and every other vegetable are left out of consideration “ ; the answer has always been, “ It is not meant to be a regimen on which a man can live. It is merely a selection of certain items which, it has been found, act as a general index of the movement of all prices”. What becomes of the index if select items in it are deliberately subsidized and their prices are pegged? The answer is that the whole range of other prices moves upwards. Obviously it becomes further falsified as an index and to imagine that it impresses trade unionists to say, “ We shall hold ourselves ready to pay prices subsidies in appropriate cases as, for example, in respect of items affecting the cost of living of basic wage earners”, ” is fantastic- and indicates a falsifying of the index. I can see two Ministers ready to come in with a sledgehammer blow and I shall forestall them by saying that the Labour Government also falsified the index in that way during the war years, but it was done in conjunction with prices control of all other items. Here is a statement which says that the goods to be taken into consideration in the cost-of-living index shall be selected, but there is no mention of all the other items that ought to be considered. Having regard to the Liberal party’s policy of complete opposition to prices control we may assume that the Government does not intend to impose prices con trol on the other ranges of commodities. Secondly, if the prices of commodities not included in the index are left free to move, and the prices of those included in the index are not left free to move, it would constitute a surreptitious method of pegging wages. If prices control is not imposed in association with subsidies; if the commodities may, in fact, move in a free market;, and if the Government itself, by its subsidy expenditure, is keeping prices to the consumer pegged, then the Treasurer faces an indefinite and unpredictable expenditure on subsidies ‘as those prices move upwards, and I cannot see what constitutional power he has to prevent such an upward movement of prices.
So we are brought back to another method that the Government may use to check rises in prices. It is the favourite method referred to repeatedly by the Liberal party - through increased production. That party states that increased production will bring prices down. The Government has several means- of increasing production. One of them was referred to by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth). We have heard from this cloud of witnesses that encompasses the Prime Minister about, and has done so since the 10th December, the statement to the effect that “We all believe in incentive payments. That system will increase production “. In making that statement Government supporters themselves put no query to the Government’s constitutional power to- direct any employer to make incentive payments to workers. If honor- able members on the Government side of the chamber really believe in that policy they should,, of course, have supported the referendum that sought to confer on the Australian Government power over the terms and conditions of labour. The Government has no power ever such terms and conditions. So- we fall back on the vague words, “ We shall encourage the system of incentive payments”. That statement conjures up before our eyes the spectacle of all honorable gentlemen opposite going around among the employers and encouraging incentive payments. It is a rather vague programme which has never been specifically defined by honorable gentlemen opposite, and 1 look forward to hearing the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr: Holt) explain to the House how he proposes to translate these fine ideas into practice. I ask honorable gentlemen opposite to explain this increased production policy, and also to say whether they set any limit to it. I do not mean, by that, any limit to Australian production, but whether they consider that Australian production is capable’ of indefinite expension. I recall that humorous expression by the Prime Minister in relation to the Liberal pound and the Country party pound, of 1939.
If we examine the production situation as it was in 1939 we shall find that it was very different from the production situation in 1949. For instance, in. 1939 the late Sir Henry Gullett as Minister for Trade Treaties, had a trade diversion policy to administer. It was his job to keep goods, especially Japanese goods, that were the cheapest range of goods available and which included vast quantities of rayon, cotton and other goods, out of the Australian economy. The price level of 1939 was based on the existence of a. superabundance of these goods, the importation of which the Government was resisting. Will honorable gentlemen opposite explain to us how their increased production policy will make up for the annihilation of the production that Japan used to send into our- economy, but which it is unable to send now and which it is unlikely to be able to send for- the next five years?’ Germany was also a great provider of goods that circulated in the
Australian economy in 1939, and is not so to-day. So was Czechoslovakia, and that country is also out of. the running to-day. The United Kingdom also at that time, when it was not labouring under the impact of war, destruction of its industries and loss of its foreign investments us is now the case, was a supplier of goods to a much greater volume in 1939 than it is to-day. Under these circumstances it is foolish for honorable gentlemen opposite to imagine that Australian production, with every man in the country working at double pressure, can make up for all that production from foreign countries that entered our country in 1939 and that will be now lost until the world fully recovers from the late war. “We shall be very glad to hear their explanation of their policy, but we doubt if any honest or scientific explanation, along these lines can be made.
In the course of the Governor-General’s Speech attention was drawn to the fact that wc had record sterling balances in London. What does that fact mean? It means simply that we have sent the United Kingdom about £450,000,000 worth of goods more than we have imported from that country. The Commonwealth Bank and other banks in London are holding British I O U’s which will be redeemed at a time when British production can sustain such a claim. In the meantime, primary producers and others have been paid for these exports but Great Britain has been exempted from sending goods back into the Australian economy. Such an unbalanced export trade generates money incomes in the hands of primary producers and other exporters, whilst it exempts Britain from sending back an equal volume of goods for the Australian economy. In other words, this trade is inflationary. Our £35,000,000 gift to Britain was inflationary, and the sending of £28,000,000 worth of goods to Unrra without asking for any goods in return was an inflationary act. I make no complaint about such a policy. The Australian community is well fed and clothed, even if it is not well housed, and the policy of long-term credit and gifts is, justified in terms of high international interest and of duty by this relatively undamaged country to the devastated areas of the world. But it adds up- to an inflationary policy, and it is a major factor in the inflationary situation. To ignore that policy and select some miserable adjustments to the basie wage as being the seat of inflation is to be both dishonest and unjust to the wage-earning sections of the community..
I am very much afraid that honorable gentlemen opposite intend to pursue that policy because, while they speak vaguely about trying to find, by intensive reviews, the reasons for the inflationary situation, they go on to deal with one category of Australian income-getters on a very low level of income, the pensioners. We find the following in the Governor-General’s Speech : -
My Government realizes that the increase in the cost of living is accentuating the difficulties with which age and widow pensioners in particular have to contend. My advisers realize, also, that the present system, under which various benefits are paid subject to a means test, gives rise to problems of which there is no easy solution. My Government, however, is closely investigating the most pressing anomalies to see what can be done to remove them. It believes, moreover, that the application of its financial and economic policy will result in improvement in the purchasing power of the currency, so that pensioners, as well as other fixed income groups will benefit.
The Government says to the pensioners, in effect, “We have not yet found out what will arrest inflation, but when we do it will benefit all the people on fixed incomes “. That must he very comforting to- those on fixed incomes seeing that the cost of living is still going up and is expected to continue to rise for at least another year !
In Western Australia the McLarty Government is to go to the electors of Western Australia on the 2-5 th March to seek a renewal of their confidence. I draw attention to the position in Western Australia. Wool is at a record price; wheat is at a high price; and gold has risen in price by 30 per cent, as a result of devaluation. The McLarty Government is claiming that the Western Australian workers’ in the housing industry have worked so well that it has doubled the production of houses. It is not saying that the workers have worked so well. It is only saying that it has doubled the production of houses. Rut as this has not been done on a greatly enlarged staff we shall suppose that there will be a moment when Mr. McLarty will have it in his heart to say that it is the workers who have doubled the production of houses. Week by week, there are frequent references to new records in the weekly output of coal in Western Australia. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) spoke of the production of coal, but made no reference to the extent to which the coalminers had extended their production targets. What reward have the workers received for their efforts? The reward for all these increases in production has been intervention by the State Liberal Government in the basic wage case for the purpose of seeking a reduction or a pegging of wages. That is an act of unprovoked aggression in the situation that exists in Western Australia. Extension of time granted.’] On the claims of the Western Australian Government itself, its action against the wage-earning section of the community is unjustified.
Rural incomes are another factor in the inflationary situation to-day. I speak of the level of money incomes because money incomes are what cause inflation. I would not be able to evaluate whether what the farmers endured during the depression was worse than what was endured by the unemployed; but undoubtedly the money in the hands of the primary producers to-day is a major factor in the inflationary situation. I cannot see the logic of an argument which says that as the basic wage was £4 in 1938 and as it is £6 15s. now, that represents inflation ; but which does not say that as wheat was ls. 3d. a bushel in 1939 and it is somewhere between 16s. Id. and 20s: 4d. now; or that as wool was somewhere in the vicinity of ls. per lb. in 1939 and yields a great range of prices now; or that as the wool income from exports was about £50,000,000 in 1938 and was about £265,000,000 last year, also these results represent inflation. In the logic of the members of the chambers of commerce and manufactures and of other people who are concentrating intensely on the increase of the basic wage only it is responsible for inflation. That is an entirely wrong attitude.
But the Chamber of Commerce has also made a statement through Mr. Don Fair, who is a bank economist. This may not be so acceptable to the Australian Country party, because it is one of the few statements which put the farmer in the same category as the wageearner. I use that expression since honorable gentlemen opposite object to the expression “ worker “. Writing in the Record, the official journal of the Melbourne and Brisbane Chambers of Commerce, Mr. Fair says -
The total effect of revaluation upon our oversea earnings is tied up with this question of the relation of prices to costs. Past experience has shown that a peculiarity of farm output is that it usually rises when prices fall as farmers try to make up for loss of income by expanding their production.
How congenial is this theory of the bank economist! As far as the metropolitan manufacturer or retailer is concerned, a higher price is an incentive to greater production; but as far as the farmer is concerned, a lower price is an incentive to greater production, because he will try to increase his output to make up for the fall. That is the basis of the reasoning that lies behind the actions of the Chamber of Commerce in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I have quoted what was said about the farmers because I am sure that honorable members of the Australian Country party will not find it congenial. Yet it is precisely the same line of argument that they use in referring to the wage-earner.
What is the Liberal view of the basic wage? It is apparently that if production is so greatly increased that prices fall, the cost of living will move downwards and the cost-of-living index will move downwards. Therefore it contends that the basic wage must move downwards <to maintain the same relationship between the wage-earner’s purchasing power and the quantum of goods that the purchasing power will buy. If we keep rigidly to the logic of an index, a falling price level has no advantage for a wage-earner or at any rate only a slight advantage, because his wage level will also fall. . That is the theory. The essence of liberalism was once considered to be insistence upon the supremacy of human considerations over all others, but we have heard from supporters of the Government no rumbling of dissatisfaction with the mechanistic conception of what should be a man’s return from his effort in industry, under which his wage falls automatically if the price level falls.
I now make a brief observation upon the whole system of arbitration, because it is under attack sometimes from the left and sometimes from the right. Generally speaking, in an economy in which prices are rapidly rising, arbitration is attacked by some trade unions and spokesmen from the left. In a situation of rapidly falling prices, such as existed in 1930, arbitration has always been attacked legislatively from the right. That state of affairs can be explained very simply. Arbitration always acts as a check upon the movement of wages after prices, either upward or downward. Therefore, in a situation of rising prices, arbitration is regarded by the unions as an impediment and in a situation of falling prices it is regarded by the employers as an impediment. For the benefit of supporters of the Government who come from Western Australia, I remind them of the time when’ the Mitchell Government was in office in that State and Mr. President Dwyer fixed a certain basic wage in the State Arbitration Court. The Mitchell Governmentdeclared, in effect, by its legislative action, “ This level of wages is nonsense. We shall cut it by 20 per cent”. In other words, that decision of the arbitration court did not drive wages down after falling prices fast enough to suit the Mitchell Government, which therefore cut wages legislatively. Is it to be wondered at that there is a suspicion amongst many sections of workers that arbitration is attacked from the right as- soon as it threatens to be of the slightest use to the employee, and similarly that it is attacked from the left when it retards the upward movement of wages as prices rise? I ask Government supporters in their speeches during the remainder of this debate to take the Government’s proposals for powerful action against the rising cost of living out of the field of safe generalization to tell us its real intentions about the exchange rate, action in the arbitration court, and the subsidizing of items in the basic wage regimen, and to explain why the wage is always inflationary whereas the high level of rural incomes is not inflationary and why, if wages are a major factor in the current inflationary situation, the level of dividends in retail trade is as high as it is at present. If they explain those points, they will be making some progress towards giving a convincing explanation of the reason why the wageearner, and nobody else, should be singled out as the cause of the inflationary trends in our economy.
– Earlier in this debate we listened to a very thoughtful and significant speech by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), which, I suppose all honorable members will agree, wa9 one of the ablest maiden speeches made in this session of Parliament. It dealt with many problems that are the immediate concern of the Department of Labour and National Service, which I administer, and my prime purpose in intruding in the debate, which so far has mainly provided an opportunity for the making of maiden speeches by new members, is to deal with some of the very important issues that the honorable member for Bendigo raised. However, we have just heard a speech by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), one of the leading members of the Opposition party and a member of its executive, and I am tempted to spend a great deal of time in pursuing some of the interesting speculations on economic policy that he addressed to the House. I shall deny myself that pleasure in full, but some of his arguments covered ground that had been traversed by the honorable member for Bendigo, and consequently I hope to be able to deal with them briefly, if not so comprehensively as I should like. The honorable member for Fremantle made a long speech, in which he suggested some reasons why the Labour Government had not been able to deal effectively with the grave problem of inflation. He suggested no practical means of dealing with inflation, although he indicated a number of measures which, if carried out by the Government, might cope, in part at any rate, with that economic problem, I have jotted down some of the factors that have occurred to my mind as being causes of the inflationary situation that has developed in Australia.
The Government has expressed its determination to grapple with the problem in order “ to get value back into the fi “, to use the not particularly original but nevertheless graphic phrase of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). However, as the Prime Minister said only a few days ago, the task of getting value back into the £1 is not a matter of performing some single and spectacular economic act. It will involve a series of measures, all directed towards that particular purpose. Labour governments had eight years in office, during which the country drifted into its present serious economic situation, and no reasonable-minded person would expect this Government to undo in eight months what its Labour predecessors took eight years to bring about. This Government will move in that direction throughout its life, which I hope will be long, and will seek to rectify the damage by means of measures that it will submit from time to time. Let us consider some of the causes of the present economic position. Some of them at any rate were either under the control of the preceding Government or within its direct jurisdiction. I shall endeavour to deal with, them in their chronological order as they made their effects felt in the economy over the past eight years.
Undoubtedly one of the most important factors that accentuated inflation was the high level of government expenditure, which was on a scale far greater than was ever previously attempted. Finally, in the last budget presented by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) as the Treasurer of the day, that level rose to aproximately 30 per cent, of the total national income passing through the hands of the Government. A second factor was the support given by the Labour Government, through the Arbitration Court and otherwise, to the introduction of the 40-hour week. Whatever views we may have concerning the shorter working week, there can be no doubt that one -of its consequences was inflationary in character. Nearly all of the matters that I mention can be argued, and I am attempting to do so very briefly. A third factor was the removal of subsidies by the Labour Government. The ‘honorable member for Fremantle said that the discontinuance of prices control had exaggerated the inflation trend and he suggested that the Government should reimpose control, presumably after submitting the proposition to the people again at a referendum. The parties that support this Government argued at the time of the previous referendum campaign that prices control, of itself, could not keep prices down. We still believe that to be true. Unless prices control is associated with steady and increasing production, all the artificial mechanisms in the .world cannot prevent prices from rising to a level that is not warranted by the volume of goods in circulation in the community. Consequently, if we are to have prices control again, we must recognize it for what it was in the past. Then there were good reasons, as there still are, for believing that it was a measure that brought about inefficiency and obstruction in production and retarded normal production which may have rendered prices control completely unnecessary. Whatever the merits of that view may be - and we argued them exhaustively when the previous Government took the referendum on prices control which was overwhelmingly rejected throughout the CommonwealthI was interested to note that to-night the honorable member for Fremantle skipped very quickly from the subject of wages control. He merely said that the Government did not have power under the Constitution, to peg wages. We have not the constitutional power to impose prices control. However, the honorable gentleman said that we might control prices whilst, at the same time, he skipped away from the subject of the pegging of wages because that subject does not have a popular ring. As was argued during the referendum campaign, unless wages are controlled as the primary element in costs, prices control becomes an utter futility. I question whether the trade union movement has ever decided that it would be quite happy to have wages control as a part of prices control. Should that ever become the view of the trade union movement, that would be a fitting time to examine again the merits and demerits of that proposal, but until that happens we shall be merely indulging in academic arguments on the subject. Whatever prospects the States may have had of controlling prices effectively the previous Government went out of its way to sabotage such control by immediately removing subsidies on some of the most important items that were helping to hold, down prices. That is a responsibility which the previous Government cannot escape.
When dealing with the subject of subsidies the honorable member for Fremantle looked menacingly at the members on this side of the chamber and’ accused the Government of attempting to falsify the basic wage index by selecting certain items for the provision of subsidies. I was interested to hear him make thatcharge because, speaking from precisely the same spot from which he spoke to-night, I made the same charge against the previous Government. I accused it of picking out of the basic wage regimen items which in themselves were meant to be representative and paying subsidies in respect of them so that in the result they ceased to- be representative of the field from which they were taken and did not reflect rising costs. Whether the previous Government attempted to rectify that position as the result of criticism by the then Opposition I do not know, but I do know that since then, the Commonwealth Statistician has assured the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that he examines very closely any possibility of any mechanism of that kind having the effect of giving a distorted picture so far as- the basic wage regimen is concerned, and that his index is loaded accordingly so that the true position will be reflected. That evidence was given before the court. Therefore, I assure the public on behalf of the Government for which I speak at this moment that far from falsifying the basic wage index the payment of subsidies is. directed solely towards the purpose of keeping prices down and to that degree at least towards putting value back into the £1. We know from the assurance given by the Com monwealth Statistician that whatever is done in that respect, will not be allowed to falsify the basic wage index.
The fourth matter which undoubtedly has an inflationary consequence, was the decision of the previous Government to follow the United Kingdom Government in its decision to devalue the £1 sterling by making a corresponding devaluation of the Australian £1. I do not intend to debate that proposition at this juncture. As the honorable member. for Fremantle realizes, that is a matter of high government policy which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will have considered by the Government and upon which an official statement will be made in due course. However, that factor has had an inflationary consequence. The fifth factor - and I jotted down seven factors while the honorable member was speaking - is the effect of industrial troubles throughout the Commonwealth. Undoubtedly, they have the effect of halting production, obstructing the transport of goods and increasing the costs of production; they have had an inflationary effect. I propose to say something about those matters at a later stage. The sixth item to which the honorable member referred follows partly from industrial troubles and also from the misguided leadership given by some sections of the trade union movement. Whether from good motives or from motives of a subversive and seditious nature, the leadership which instructed certain unions to go slow on the job, to ban overtime work and take other measures as well has had the effect of retarding production. Finally, there is the matter that was properly referred to, and which no honorable member would deplore, namely, the remarkably high farm incomes which have come into Australia during recent years, whilst the fact that we are allowing our sterling balances to accumulate in Great Britain has also- had some inflationary effect upon prices.
The policy of the Government is to impose a check upon the present inflationary movement by a series of measures which it hopes will have the cumulative, effect of increasing the purchasing power of the £1 and meeting the problemof inflation by encouraging the wageearner to- increase production.. He will do so if given an incentive and a leadership to which he will respond. That was one of the four principal matters that were raised by the honorable member for Bendigo, and I have dealt with it at this stage because it was discussed at length by the honorable member for Fremantle. The honorable member for Bendigo said that although there is a good deal of industrial unrest it is not confined to Australia, but can be found in other parts of the world. He pointed out that after the war ended there was a wave of unrest leading to industrial stoppages, and he then said that we were experiencing a new wave which in Australia, at all events, arose, first, from the fact that prices are spiralling and, secondly, from the belief of the wage-earner that he is not receiving his fair share of the total volume of production. I shall deal with the second point. Is the wageearner receiving a reasonable and fair share of total production? I believe that it is time that the facts were clearly faced. Those who tell the Australian trade unionist wage-earner that he is not receiving a reasonable share of our national production is doing a disservice to this country. He is merely manufacturing, by a doctrine of discontent, a crop of industrial troubles which in the long run must rebound against the interests of the wage-earner himself. Supporters of the Government can claim with every justification that they have the interests of the wage-earner at heart. We can fairly claim that the Government was elected to office by the votes of hundreds of thousands of trade unionists throughout Australia. This Government was put into office by men and women who were working for wages and by members of unions who genuinely and sincerely believed that the Liberal party offered a preferable alternative to the policies and courses of action which the Labour movement presented to them. In confirmation of that statement I give an illustration from the vote of the people of Queenslaud at the recent election. That State has been regarded as having traditionally Labour sympathies. Yet out of eighteen members elected to the House of Representatives, fifteen belong to the Liberal and Country parties. I emphasize that that occurred in a State whose political allegiance has been traditionally Labour. I believe that the people of Queensland, in common with the majority of people throughout the other States of the Commonwealth, supported the Liberal and Country parties because at long last they awoke to the fact that the claim of the Labour party that it stood for the worker and his interests was a lot of pious humbug. They realized that the workers in this country had made real gains during the last ten years, gains that had been supported by all sections of politics.
– Take it back to 3 931.
– I shall take it back to 1931, as the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) suggests. By a steady process, from the time the Labour Government was removed in 193.1, there was an improvement in the conditions, wages and prospects of employment of the Australian workers. The improvement was so great that the honorable member for Bendigo, to whom I especially address my remarks on this occasion through you, Mr. Speaker, will recall that as a representative of the trade union movement, he was able to approach the Arbitration Court in 1937, six years after this process of improvement had been put into steady movement by the Lyons Government, and apply for a prosperity loading of the basic wage. The essence of his case - -and I remember it vividly and with satisfaction because I was a supporter of the Lyons Government - was a comparison of the conditions at that time with the conditions of the depression years. Steadily the improvement has gone on through the 1930’s, the 1940’s and even through the war years. Repeatedly this House has been told by honorable members opposite how inadequate is the basic wage as a living standard. No honorable member on this side of the House will argue that the basic wage is an adequate f amily wage at the present time in Australia. But can any man be found who is being paid the basic wage? The basic wage-earner has become almost an invisible man in this country, and the basic wage has become the foundation upon which industrial allowances and margins are imposed, so building up that wage that the relatively unskilled man is paid much more than the minimum rate. Nobody would argue that the work of a waterfront labourer or of an iron worker is skilled, and yet those men are paid much more than the basic wage. The real test is to be found in the average male wage earned in Australia at the present time. On the figures given by the honorable member for Fremantle £6 14s. a week is the basic wage at the present time, and on the six capital cities basis it is £6 13s. On the statistician’s figures for the September quarter of 1949 the average male wage was £8 18s. a week. No doubt the average wage is considerably higher than £8 18s. a week at the present time. Having regard to the increases that have occurred in the basic wage since September, 1949, it is probably nearer £9 10s. To get a realistic picture of the living wage of the Australian worker the average wage must be looked at. But the full picture of the overall prosperity of the worker is not seen by looking merely at the wage rates. The honorable member for Bendigo drew a picture of the worker’s income based upon the money that he was paid. That is not the whole picture. The honorable member did make reference to other matters but he lumped them all together in one sentence and skipped away from the subject very quickly. A full picture can be seen only by looking at the substantial improvements of standards that have been made quite apart from the additional wages earned. Looked at it in that way it is found that during the last ten years very real improvements have taken place. In 1939 the annual leave available to the worker was one week on full pay in some industries, and in other, industries no leave at all. To-day a fortnight’s leave on full pay is the standard practice, and in some industries three weeks’ annual leave is allowed. In 1939 sick leave was just being introduced; to-day it is universal on the basis of one week’s sick leave a year which is cumulative if the worker does not take all or part of it. Penalty rates for week-end work have increased since 1939. Then there is the very important matter of leisure. The 40-hour week has been introduced during the last ten years, the standard working hours to-day are 40 as against 44 each week, whilst the standard working week is five days as against ‘six days. Honorable members opposite, who from time to time visit our factories on inspections, or to interview constituents, or for other purposes have been struck, and if they are honest they will admit it, by the fact that employers generally have made an honest effort to improve the amenities and working conditions in their factories. This has been done by the provision of industrial food services and medical attention in many establishments, and by a variety of other means. All those improvements are substantial gains made by the wage-earners over the years. Honorable members on this side do not begrudge those improvements; we welcome them, and we say that in the course of the last ten years there has been a major social reform in this country which has brought into more even balance the incomes available to the people. We have a much more democratically based community life, and we welcome it. Another important improvement is in the realm of social services which are spread over the whole field of wage-earners. Social services payments have increased from £31,000,000 in 1939 to £103,000,000 in 1949. That is a big improvement. Another matter that is of an overwhelming consideration to nien working on a weekly wage is security of employment. Not only is full employment enjoyed in Australia at the moment but there is every prospect, as far as one can see now, that it will continue. Despite the enormous influx last year of approximately 170,000 migrants, there’ are more vacancies for jobs registered with the Department of Labour and National Service than there were twelve months ago. Although there is a state of full employment in Australia to-day, there are registered with the Department of Labour and National Service, more than 106,000 jobs, which are available to those who desire to transfer from one position to another. That is a tremendous improvement on the state of affairs that existed before the war. To get a true picture, let us recognize also that, to-day, there ‘is more than one bread-winner in many homes which, in pre-war years, were lucky at times to have even one. The result is greater income for Australian families.
There are one or two other facts which, I consider, provide interesting confirmation of what I am putting to the House. We find, for instance, that whereas in 1939 life assurance policies aggregated £509,000,000, to-day they total 1,100,000,000. Similarly, savings bank deposits which in 1939 amounted to £246,000,000, had risen by December of last year to £790,000,000, including war savings certificates. Clearly this great social reform, this transfer of purchasing power, and this assurance of security and stability have become accepted features of our community life. We all applaud these developments. There is not a man with any humanity in his heart who does not rejoice at these improvements in the Australian way of life. Is that not a story which all men of goodwill, regardless of their political persuasion, should be telling to the wage-earner and trade unionist instead of continually building up in his mind the impression that he is getting nowhere: that governments are only trying to crush him, and that the boss is ‘his natural enemy ? Such treacherous humbug adversely affects the welfare of the people of Australia. This is the propaganda and the doctrine that we as a Government are determined to stamp out if we have an opportunity to do so. A great chance is presented to this Parliament, with its host of new members on both sides of politics, to show the Australian people that the poisonous and pernicious doctrine of class war is dead; that it had no foundation in fact; that it has no place in a young developing democracy such as we have in Australia, and that we, as responsible men and women, are not going to set Australian against Australian and encourage the Communist in his subversive work by allowing this propaganda to spread. We should affirm our determination to vote on political issues, not according to occupations, but as free and responsible citizens, and according to our own conception of their merits. There is no future worth speaking of for this country if its people are to view their political problems in terms of their occupations, that is, if a man is a wage-earner he will vote for the Labour party.; if he is a farmer he will vote for the Australian Gauntry party, and if he is an employer he will vote for the Liberal party. If that is to be our approach, there is no greatness ahead of this country. We shall make real headway only if the three great political forces in this country seek votes and support from the people on the merits of their policies instead of trying to buy some sectional or occupational interest. Something of that spirit was reflected in the speech of the honorable member for Bendigo. I welcome very much his expression of the genuine desire that we all feel to solve our industrial problems on a basis of co-operation and comradeship amongst all sections of industry in order to increase the productivity of this country and build the great Australia that we all seek.
The honorable member touched on one matter which I consider should not be allowed to pass because it forms an important portion of this Government’s programme. He rebuked us for what we have in mind about the banning of the Communist party. I say to the honorable member and to his colleagues that if the parties now in government have received any one clear mandate from the Australian people, it is to stamp out the menace of communism in Australia. The people of the Commonwealth now, if never before, have their eyes fully opened to this menace. They recognize that communism is not just another political philosophy, but a treacherous, sinister, subversive conspiracy directed against the welfare of the Australian people in the interests of forces outside this country. That has been made abundantly clear to the Australian people, and they have endorsed overwhelmingly that aspect of the Government’s policy. The honorable member for Bendigo said that the Government’s proposal was a negation of the.freedom and individual liberty that is a part of the British tradition. We on this side of the chamber are fully conscious of that tradition. I can remember, as a new member of this chamber, making representations to the right honorable gentleman who is now the Prime Minister of Australia - he was then the AttorneyGeneral - to ‘ have the then existing ban’ on the importation of Soviet literature into Australia removed. The ban had been imposed originally by the Scullin Government and had been maintained by its successor. I thought it was wrong that economic and historical literature on Soviet Russia should be banned in this country, and I suggested to the AttorneyGeneral that the ban be removed. The right honorable gentleman agreed with me, and the ban was lifted. Soviet literature then circulated freely, and we were able to learn something about Russia. With the ‘exception of the early years of the war when, for security reasons, a ban was imposed upon the Communist party - Russia was not then in the war, and from the Australian Communists we had been getting nothing but obstruction and sabotage - Communists have been free to move, work, and organize in Australia. But what has been the result of that? The result has been a succession of subversive and treacherous acts directed against Australia’s interests and against Australian wage-earners and trade unionists. Does the honorable member for Bendigo suggest that the Australian Workers Union, a union which he will recognize as one of the most powerful and influential in the Commonwealth, with its membership of 162,000, is blind to considerations of freedom and liberty? That union, by its own act has banned Communists from executive positions. [Extension of time granted.] We are told that such things should not be done by Government action, and that the trade union movement should be allowed to clean up the mess in its own ranks. I point out that section 106 of the Regulations made under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, empowers any union to include in its rules a provision directed, in effect, against Communist activities and membership. Under that section, any union may ba.r Communists from executive office, or remove from office a man who is engaged in Communist activities. However, only one union has so far availed itself of the opportunity to take this action.
– That is not correct.
– If the honorable member for Berth (Mr. Tom Burke) can cite other unions that have taken this action,
I should be glad to hear of them. I know of only one union of any consequence, .and that is the Australian Workers Union. What further evidence do we want than what is happening in Australia at this very moment? Is it a coincidence that in Melbourne the tram service is completely suspended as the result of an industrial stoppage, not because no court is available to deal with the matter, not because the matter cannot be dealt with fairly and promptly, but because of the wilful defiance of the properly constituted tribunal by a union led by an avowed Communist, one O’Shea ? Is it a coincidence that in Brisbane fifteen ships are idle because the decision of the tribunal specially set up to deal with the industry is rejected by a union ? Is it a coincidence that “ Comrade “ Roach is now in Brisbane taking a hand in the stoppage? He has been buzzing up and down the coast for a considerable time, and wherever he has gone shipping holdups have occurred on one pretext or another. If honorable members opposite, who represent the Labour party, are genuine when they say that they support industrial arbitration, if they are of the number who claim as moderate men to be opposed to communism, are they prepared to stand- on the sidelines at a time like this, or a.re they prepared to get behind a government that is determined to smash this threat to our way of life? We have sought the co-operation of the trade union movement since we came into office. We had a record, when we were in office before, of fair play in our dealings with the trade union movement. At least, leading members of the movement have done me the honour of stating that I attempted to deal fairly with them. That is the policy I have attempted to apply - to deal fairly and generously with those who speak for the trade union movement, flow have our efforts been received ? The New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, in a resolution carried on the 26th January, had this to say of our efforts at co-operation -
We warn all affiliated organizations and the Trade Union Movement in general not to be stampeded by statements made by Anti-Labour forces nor to permit themselves to be misled by the olive-branch tactics now being pursued by the Menzies Government in respect of Trade Union and Government co-operation.
If we seek co-operation we are accused of olive branch tactics ; if we seek to employ other methods we are accused of trying to crush the Labour movement. We are genuine in our attempts. The trade union movement is one of great responsibility and power, and never more so than at this time of full employment, something which we are all pledged to support. Therefore, trade union leaders, whatever their political views, have a responsibility to co-operate with the government of the country, whatever its political colour, if it has been democratically elected. I say that it will spell the destruction of the trade union movement if it follows the course of refusing to co-operate with the government of the day, because Labour leaders in executive positions are opposed to the policies of that government. The present Government is in office because of the free vote of hundreds of thousands of wage earners and trade unionists who voted for us on the 10th December.
We have been told by members of the Labour party that the party is opposed to communism, and is out to fight communism. We want to see some evidence of it. We will give them every opportunity to support us in measures directed, not against the trade union movement - we want that movement to remain strong - but against those who take shelter in the movement, and use it, not for justifiable industrial or political ends, but for traitorous and subversive ends. Therefore, I direct attention to the final passage in the resolution of the New South Wales ‘ Trades and Labour Council -
Finally we advise all workers within this State that any conflict that might take place between the Menzies Government and the Communist Party and its members, will be a fight between two Anti-Labour forces neither of which have any claim for sympathy or support from the Labour Movement of this country and should be treated by the organized Trade Union Movement as such.
All Unions to be supplied with a copy of this determination of policy and principle of the Council.
There is a plain statement by those who claim to speak for the trade union movement in New South Wales. If the Menzies Government takes on a fight with the Communist party, the trade union movement is to keep out of it. That is a clear instruction. Is that the opinion of those members of the Labour party who are here to-night ? Is that the opinion of the trade union movement of Australia? Do trade unionists believe that if a government democratically elected, with a clear mandate to stamp out communism, takes action against the Communists, the trade union movement should have nothing to do with the issue? I do not believe that that is the true attitude of the wage-earners and trade unionists. I am convinced that if the Government, out of a genuine desire, not to interfere with the democratic rights and proper opportunities of the trade union movement, but to rescue the Australian people from this threat to their existence, takes such measures as it thinks proper, and makes its reasons clear, it will have the overwhelming support of the Australian people.
This is a great country, with its greatest years of achievement ahead, a country which offers to all a rising standard of life, a country to which we can gladly invite hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of people from other parts of the world to share in the great task of development and expansion. It is too good a country to be wrecked by a miserable handful of conspirators who are sheltering behind the slogans of freedom and liberty, and relying on putting their propaganda over some sections of the people, and particularly some sections of the trade union movement, to get away with action inherently traitorous to Australia, and opposed to the great traditions of a democratic people.
.- There was one statement made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) which I would not attempt to contradict, namely, that a great number of Australian workers at the last election, not realizing where their best interest lay, voted for anti-Labour candidates; but I challenge contradiction in saying that never was any other government so patently elected by fraud and deceit as this one was. Before many months have passed a great many of those workers who voted for anti-Labour candidates will regret their action. The Minister for Labour and National Service said that during the last ten years great progress had been made in this country. That was a testimonial to the Labour party, because during eight of those ten years a Labour government was in power. When we took over from an anti-Labour government in October, 1941, there were 290,000 unemployed persons in Australia. lull employment has existed in Australia only under the regime of Labour governments.
The Minister appealed to the Labour movement and the trade unionists of this country not to talk of a class struggle in the community; but at the conclusion of his speech he made a violent attack upon Australian trade unionists, and threatened them that, unless they jumped when this Government wanted them to jump, they would find who was the master of the situation. In my opinion, the Minister - who, I . understand, effected his introduction to political affairs in this country by writing a treatise on socialism - is due for a rude awakening if he believes that Aus tralian trade unionists can be bluffed as easily as that. The honorable gentleman directed attention to the fact that the Sydney Trades and Labour Council has, by resolution, decided that if a conflict occurs between the LiberalAustralian Country party and the Communists, it will take no part in it, and suggested that that is evidence that the Labour party is not opposed to the philosophy of communism. I tell him that we do not accept honorable gentlemen opposite as liberals in the true sense of the word. We believe that the word liberal “ when applied to them is a misnomer. They are cloaked fascists. The democratic forces of Labour hope that the result of the fight between fascism and communism will be a draw, with both sides being eliminated from the political scene. That would be a good decision as far as Labour is concerned.
We have no doubt about what interests back this Government. Honorable gentlemen opposite have tried to make it appear that this is a people’s government, but I say that it is a rich man’s government. I am not accustomed, to make statements unless I have some evidence to support them. I remember the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stat ing in this chamber that the Liberal party was not the same party as that which bad been known as the United Australia party or the Nationalist party but was a new political organization with a new philosophy, and that its members were not the political representatives of big business. The right honorable gentleman has also said that he has returned donations that were sent to him by trading and manufacturers’ associations. He has said that the Liberal party will not accept donations from those quarters because its policy is not for sale. I have a. copy of a letter that was circulated by D. Hardy and Sons Limited. Mr. Hardy is the president of the Retail Timber Merchants Association of New South Wales. The letter reads as follows : -
My company recently received a special appeal from “ The Liberal party “. It is not unlikely that you may have donated during the year, or have received a similar letter and have favorably responded. On the other hand, considering the momentous issue at stake may I now appeal to you to give close consideration as to the obligation to “ The Liberal party “ and that you, send in to them a cheque appropriate to your circumstances and to the issues involved. Never was there a time in our history when every penny and every ounce of effort is required to make sure of a change of government. Your cheque should be sent direct to “ The Liberal party “, Ash-street, Sydney, and not to our association, for as you know the constitution of the party expressly precludes them from accepting money from any association.
The Liberal party says that it is not the representative of big business in this country, but that is a copy of a circular that was issued by an association the members of which contribute to the finances of the party. It is evident that the persons who have paid the money will call the tune, and that Liberal party and Country party candidates who were elected to the Parliament will do the bidding of these outside interests. I think that every honorable member will, if he be honest with himself, admit that it is impossible for any one to represent in parliament every section of the community. I have never claimed to do that, because I know that in the community there are the exploited and those who exploit them and that it is impossible to represent both classes. If the Minister for Labour and National Service regards that as a declaration of class warfare in this country, he is entitled to do so.
The honorable gentleman has said that there are very few persons in this country who are receiving only the basic wage and that the average weekly wage is now £9 10s. It is well known that the wage structure is determined by the base. If the base is increased, wages generally are increased automatically. If the honor.able gentleman believes that, because many workers are now receiving more ti ian the basic wage, an increase of the basic wage does not matter, he should go before the Arbitration Court and support the claim of the trade unions for a basic wage of £10. .
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) said in the course of his contribution to the debate that wages now buy less than they did previously. That is true, but who is responsible for it? In 1948, on the advice of the present Government parties, the Australian people refused to continue the Commonwealth authority to control prices. From that time we have gone downhill and, owing to ever-increasing prices, the purchasing power of wages is becoming less and less. There was much greater stability in the national economy when the Labour party was in office. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st November, 1949, not long before the defeat of the Chifley Government, the following, passage appeared in a leading article: -
That the last three or four years have been exceedingly prosperous is indeed true. The national income in l!)48-4i) nearly readied £2,000.000,000 or two and a half “times the pre-war level - a considerable advance, even when allowance is made for the depreciated value of money. Employment and incomes are high, and production in many fields lias attained new records.
During those years a Labour government was in office. As the Minister for External Affairs has said, it is perfectly true that wages now purchase less than they did previously. The purchasing power of wages has declined rapidly since this Government took office.
I believe in arbitration, which is a part of the policy of the Labour party,, but I am not so foolish as to believe that the arbitration system of this country has worked as effectively or as efficiently as it should have done. Many attempts have been made to improve it. The machinery of arbitration has worked much more speedily when employers have sought a reduction of wages than it has done when trade unions have sought an improvement of wage standards. It will be recalled that in 1931 the employers applied to the Arbitration Court for a reduction of the basic wage on the grounds that prices were falling and the national economy could not bear the wage that was then being paid. The court, by some peculiar process of reasoning, decided that it would not reduce the basic wage but would approve of an all-round reduction of wage standards by 10 per cent. That was done in a very short space of time. But the present claim by the trade unions for an increase of the basic wage has now been before the Arbitration Court for over twelve months and nobody can foresee when the case will end. During that period prices have risen continuously. It is probable that if the basic wage is increased, the value of the increase to the workers will have been destroyed before they receive it. Is it any wonder that the workers have become restless? Prices have increased to such a degree that a basic wage of £10 a week, which some persons have attempted to ridicule, would not be sufficient to purchase more than the workers require to rear their families in accordance with decent Australian standards. It is extraordinary that people enjoying a high standard’ of living should tell others that they should always accept a much lower standard than is generally provided for Australian citizens. The Australian trade unionists should be warned that the present anti-Labour Government is waiting for an opportunity to make an attack on industrial and living standards in this country. If a pool of unemployed should be established in this country it will not be long before employers- will discontinue paying anything in excess of the minimum wages which the law requires them to pay. The workers have been able to meet increasing costs to some degree only because tl] e shortage of labour has enabled them to earn wages in excess of the basic wage. When they lose those conditions many of them will face abject poverty.
I shall now refer to immigration. 1 believe that in determining the intake of migrants not sufficient regard has been paid to the absorptive capacity of this country. No proper examination has been made of this matter since 1945, when an investigation was conducted by the Minister for Immigration in the Labour Government (Mr. Calwell). After exhaustive inquiries he decided that a country could only be expected to absorb 2 per- cent, of its population yearly. On the basis of a population of 8,000,000 that number would be 160,000 a year. As the natural increase of the population would be about 80,000 a year, a like number would be the maximum number of migrants that could be properly absorbed into our community. Yet the Government has announced that it proposes to bring 200,000 migrants to this country this year. I do not accept the opinion that a large population necessarily gives a country great defensive strength. If that were so, large areas of China would never have been overrun by the Japanese. The only argument that could be sustained in support of a policy of mass migration is that if we failed to make proper use of this country we should be open to criticism by the landhungry peoples of the world. In view of the new technique of warfare numbers are not so important. Let us examine the position which may be brought about if the present policy of the Government continues. I shall refer to a statement by Mr. E. S.. Clayton, New South Wales Commissioner for Soil Conservation, a man who ought to be able to speak with some authority about that problem. This is what Mr. Clayton said in relation to the claim that this country is still many millions short of the limit of the population that it can carry -
Unless Australia launches an all-out attack on soil erosion not even the present population ,:,wl,1 bc sustained.
Yet the anti-Labour Government is willynilly bringing these people out to Australia without having regard to the circumstances of the people who are already here.
It is rather interesting to note the statement of the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), about the housing situation in this country. I wonder how many honorable members opposite have visited emergency housing settlements and observed the terrible conditions under which many of the people who are already in this country are obliged to live and endeavour to raise families. Only recently there were 60 applicants to rent a garage for use as a home. The honorable member for Evans referred to an instance of fourteen people living in two rooms-. Have honorable members thought of the great damage that is being done to our own people by retarding the natural development of population? Many exservicemen have married since their demobilization, but have been unable to build or secure homes. In many instances their wives have been obliged to return to their mothers’ homes until their husbands could provid’e accommodation for them. Let us consider why honorable members opposite want large numbers of migrants brought to this country. The position now is entirely different from what it was when Labour was in office, because Labour is pledged to a policy of full employment, whereas, the anti-Labour political parties favour the establishment of a pool of unemployed. The Minister for Immigration has announced that it is the Government’s intention to bring out this year 40,000 more British migrants than was originally intended. What will the Government do with them? They will not be absorbed in the general community, but will be accommodated in specially erected hostels. While occupying those hostels they will be obliged to work where and when directed. They will then be available for use by this anti-Labour Government as a strike-breaking weapon. It would not be the first time that antiLabour governments had used unfortunate people from overseas for that purpose. That is why the trade unions are to-day viewing with a great deal of distrust what the Government proposes to do. I shall read to the House a letter that was received by a new Australian en route to this country on Orontes. At an appropriate time I should like the Minister for Immigration to explain how the state of affairsthat the letter reveals has developed. The letter was signed by a director of
It is possible it may be your intention or desire to purchase a home after your arrival in Australia.
Should you be interested in acquiring a home either now or in the future, we would be pleased to offer assistance in this regard or in fact we will gladly offer the resources of our organization to assist you in any form of real estate investment in which you might be interested.
My firm has listed on its books numerous properties both old and new for sale in all suburbs with vacant possession. I would be very happy if desired to arrange for details to be given to you and an inspection made of the properties which would be most suitable to your requirements.
Therefore, please do not hesitate to phone or call at our office if you are requiring advice or assistance in any of these matters.
What that firm is doing is quite obvious, because there is no need to force sales in this manner as there is already a great demand for homes in this country. Many people have the money but are not prepared to pay the black-market prices that are being demanded by such unscrupulous firms. The fact that no action is taken to deal with this situation exemplifies the hypocrisy of honorable members opposite in respect of many of the problems that face the Australian people at present.
After listening to the speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service it is apparent that neither he nor the Government believes in prices control. During the campaign in connexion with the referendum on rents and prices Labour told the people that the real issue was whether prices control should be continued or abandoned. Representatives of the Liberal and Australian Country parties denied that that was so, stating that while commodity shortages existed prices control should remain, and declared that the referendum was for the sole purpose of deciding whether permanent control of prices should be vested in the Australian Government or be exercised by the States. Unfortunately, the people voted against the Government’s proposals and allowed the power to control prices to pass to the States. Although prices are still racing away,
Mr. Hollway, the Liberal Premier of Victoria, quite openly admits that he wants all controls and restrictions removed. It is a fact that whenever controls have been removed, prices have risen. What does the Government propose to do about this matter? Ministers will probably defend themselves by saying that the Government lacks the power to enable it to take the necessary action. I remind them that members of the Labour party wanted this Parliament to have the power to control prices.
Ministers have consistently avoided mentioning the reason why the Government takes no action in respect of the limitation of profits. I find it strange that no reference has been made to the fact that profits in this country during the last twelve months have increased to £900,000,000. Obviously, prices could be reduced to a reasonable figure without interfering with the wage standards if investors and employers were prepared to accept lower profits, yet Ministers have not suggested this method of reducing the cost of living. Honorable members have witnessed the hypocrisy of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator McLeay) and the Minister for
Labour and National Service, who have spoken of the need for peace in industry. They have declared that employers and employees are partners in industry. That statement is ridiculous. If they were partners in industry in the real sense, would it not be reasonable to consider that the employers and employees would have an interest in knowing what their partners were receiving? Yet, according to established practice in this country, the wages of the workers must be regulated, after proper investigation, by an industrial tribunal. However, profits are not subject to any form of control or regulation. Government members have contended that any attempt to regulate profits would destroy incentive amongst employers and investors. Under the original National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations that were introduced in 1942, wages were pegged and provision was made for limiting profits to, I think, 4 per cent. Immediately great pressure was applied and arguments were advanced in this Parliament to the effect that, for administrative reasons, it would be impossible to regulate profits. I am not able to answer the arguments that were advanced at that time, but I know that if the people who were then agitating for the elimination of that form of control had been desirous of finding a method of regulating profits, they could have done so. The system of prices control in Australia, even when administered by the Commonwealth, was not entirely satisfactory, although it operated with much greater efficiency than has been the case since the States undertook the task. I shall explain to the House the basis for that statement. I was a. member of the Government at a time when it required some information about certain increases of prices that had been approved by the Prices Branch. The basic wage had been increased by 7s. a week, yet before the workers had received the additional money in their pay envelope a shoal of applications descended upon the Prices Branch seeking approval for increases of prices. Naturally, before we approved the increases, I wanted to know on what evidence and on what material the decision had been made, and whether it had been shown that the employer could not carry the added cost. Although we were members of the Government of the day we were told that, under the system then operating, the evidence had to be treated as strictly confidential and could not be made available to us. We were not able to say, therefore, whether or not the increases that had been granted by the Prices Branch at that time were justified, because we did not have the evidence before us. When the workers seek higher wages, they are obliged to approach an industrial tribunal and argue the cost of every item of clothing and every other item that they use from day to day. Why, then, should it be so difficult or impossible for employers to have their return from industry regulated by a tribunal after a public investigation ? I can anticipate the arguments that will be advanced in reply to my question. It will be said that the secrets of a business should not be divulged, as the disclosure would give trade rivals an advantage. Employers adopt that attitude in these particular matters, but the
Australian people should not accept this contention as finally determining the matter. If we are to have a balanced economy, and if the Government desires to prevent the spread of communism, the proper procedure is to deal with the problems of the people. The conditions under which people are living to-day are conducive to the spread of communism, because they cause people to become desperate and turn to any party which they believe offers an elleviation of their position. In January, 1945, it was estimated that the housing lag in Australia was at least 300,000 homes without making any allowance for slum clearance. The Government hopes to bring 200,000 migrants to Australia this year. Let us suppose that one home will be required for every four migrants. On that basis, 50,000 homes must be provided for the migrants who will come to Australia this year before we begin to cope with the problem , of housing Australians. Many unfortunate people who have been registered for years are awaiting the opportunity to obtain emergency accommodation. Their expectations after many disappointments do not extend to a permanent home. They knock on the doors of honorable members, particularly those who represent industrial areas, and beg for the right to go into emergency accommodation that is not suitable for any civilized people to occupy. Those are the conditions that exist in this country at the present time. I read in the press a few days ago that a family was paying £2 a week rent for the privilege of living in a packing case in a back yard. I also read that another unfortunate individual had camped on Manly beach and had to be assisted by the Life Saving Association. Those conditions prevail because antiLabour governments have failed to render any assistance to the homeless. Honorable members opposite are interjecting, and I gather that they do not agree with me. I tell them that the housing problem is not one of recent origin, but dates back many years. It is a legacy that has been handed down by non-Labour governments and by private enterprise, which merely sought to exploit the needs of the people for their own profit. The slum dwellings in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities are not legacies that have been handed down by Labour administrations. In any case, whoever may be responsible for the mistakes that were made in the past, there is no justification for continuing a policy that is accentuating the difficulties of the people. I ask members of the Government parties to inform the House of their proposals for improving the housing situation. I believe that migration to this country should be rigidly regulated, and that we should not take such large numbers of people from abroad until we have dealt with some of our domestic difficulties. I know that the Minister for Immigration will reply that the migrants have been able to step up production in certain essential building industries. Displaced persons have been employed in brick pits, tileworks and the like, but many of them have already completed their two years’ contract with the Commonwealth and relatively few of them stay in those industries longer than it is necessary for them to remain. This argument is advanced and the position is exaggerated only for the purpose of trying to satisfy the Australian people that the Government is justified in loading to capacity every vessel that arrives in this country with migrants. I am not arguing that we should build a barrier around Australia, and keep everybody from overseas out of this country, but I am arguing against the policy of flooding Australia with migrants regardless of this country’s domestic difficulties. In my opinion, migration requires a more scientific approach than has been made to it. The Minister for Immigration has stated that the Government’s target is a population of 10,500,000 in 1960. Unless action is taken to step up primary production, Australia, instead of being an exporter of food, will need to import food. That is the doleful picture of what lies ahead of this country.
The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) has spoken of decentralization.. I was hearing that word even before I was elected to the Parliament, and, of course, I have often heard it since I have been a member. In my opinion, we cannot have a policy of decentralization unless the Government has the power to direction, because industries will continue to be established near the seaboard, near their home market and near cheap power and sources of labour. Industries are established where they can earn the greatest profit, with the result that the development of this country is uneven. But the moment a government or a public man begins to speak of decentralization by directing the establishment of industries in various inland areas, we hear talk about the need to repel this attack upon the personal liberties of the people. The people will eventually have to recognize that certain controls are necessary if Australia is to have a balanced economy.
I want to mention another matter that has been raised during the debate; it concerns the Territory of New Guinea. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Spender), in distorting a statement that I made in this House some years ago, tried to imply that I believed New Guinea should be handed over to the control of some foreign power. The truth of the matter is that when anti-Labour governments had control they believed that the only purpose for which our external territories should be retained was to permit certain commercial interests to exploit them. I said then that if that was the sole purpose for which the territories were to be retained, the people who were exploiting them should defend them. Under a Labour government the position w as reversed. Honorable gentlemen opposite have frequently denied that there was exploitation of the natives by commercial interests. They talked of the humane treatment received by the natives and claimed that the affairs of New Guinea had been so conducted that they were a credit to this country. I never make statements unless I produce evidence in support of them. I have said that there was exploitation of the natives, and that the indentured labour system was a compulsory slave labour system. I shall place before the House evidence of the correctness of that statement in a letter to the mine superintendent of New Guinea Gold-fields Limited. This letter was obtained by me from old records covering the period when anti-Labour governments had control. It states -
The native B.6029 AH is posted to your strength with effect from to-day’s date. As this boy has only six weeks to run on his present contract, I have not considered it necessary to issue him with anything extra.
You would oblige me by giving this boy the moat arduous job you can, as he has endeavoured to influence his friends to refuse to make new contracts.
The letter was signed for New Guinea Gold-fields Limited by a man named Kelly, “ Native Labour Superintendent “. According to it, because one native was advising his own people not to renew their contracts, and he evidently believed he had good reason to do so, he was to be given the most arduous task. No doubt that method was used to intimidate his fellow natives to continue in their service under the conditions then operating. When the Labour Government restored the civil administration in October, 1945, it made a declaration that the indentured labour system should end at the expiration of five years. We knew we could not do it in one step without great disadvantage to the economy of the territory if we did not have some transitional period. We also altered the terms of service. We changed the indenture period from three years to one year, raised the age at which a native could be indentured from twelve to sixteen years, fixed a working week at 44 hours, and forbade indenturing of female labour. The complaint to-day is that we put the welfare of the native first. Honorable members heard the .question asked to-day regarding the transfer of natives from the Labour Government would not permit highlands to the lowlands for work. The that practice. The Minister said to-day that whatever was done would be on proper medical recommendation. From whom does he think we were accepting advice? The medical advisers in the territory told us that it would be detrimental to the .health of the natives. [Extension of time granted.’] For that reason the transfer of natives from the highlands to the lowlands was forbidden. Tt is well known that these natives die in large numbers when they undertake employment nearer to the coast or on the lowlands, but evidently there is a return to the old policy under the new Government and commercial and monopolistic interests are to be allowed to resume their former position as the exploiters of the natives. The Govern ment apparently intends to reverse the humane policy of the previous Labour Government.
That is typical of what the workers generally can expect, for this is a rich man’s Government. It is a Government that is representative of the wealthy monopolistic interests of this country. Although it is always professing friendship towards the workers and the industrial trade unions it has no real love or regard for them. What does it intend to do about the unions’ domestic affairs ? It intends to introduce legislation to restrict the choice of the unions in the election of their officers. It wants what are known as company unions in this country. No doubt they would be modelled on the American style, the employer deciding who the president and secretary of the organization shall be. It is quite evident that anti-Labour forces are pursuing a policy in this country by means of which they hope to soften the trade union movement before they make an attack on industrial and working conditions. If ever there was a reason why the Labour party should not cooperate in any way with this Government, it was supplied by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) this morning when he said, in effect, that there was no difference between the objectives of the Communist party and the Labour party. He said they differed only as to methods, one being a revolutionary party whilst the other, the Labour party, believed in attaining its objectives by constitutional methods. If he believes that the Labour party has the same objectives as the Communist party, is it not obvious that if he is able to get in the thin edge of the wedge he will later extend the prohibition upon the holding of office in unions to militant Labour men. I have no love for the Communist party or its policy, but I say that if a Communist is successful in being elected by a properly conducted ballot he should be allowed to fill the position for which he nas been selected by the union members. If Government supporters were to speak their true thoughts to-night, they would say that if they had the necessary power and believed they could get away with it, they would banish every militant Labour man from the Parliament. They have said on occasions that they would not mind a moderate Labour government. I do not know what they mean by a moderate Labour party, because a member of a political party either believes in its policy or he does not.’ If a man believes in the policy of the Labour party, then he is a Labour man. If he does not, then he has no right to remain in its ranks. There are no degrees of Labour men. A man is either Labour Or anti-Labour and therefore honorable members can take it from me that as far as I am concerned - and I think I can speak for my colleagues as well - every measure that this Government brings down will be closely examined. We do not intend to be misguided by the honeyed words of honorable members on the Government side. We shall judge honorable members opposite on their performance rather than on their words. The 10th December last was general election day. How many promises made during the election campaign have honorable members opposite fulfilled? They have abolished petrol rationing. The Minister for Immigration reversed one or two decisions that did not matter a snap of the fingers to the average Australian. But, outside of those actions, what has the Government done but talk a lot about what it proposes to do? Has it done anything to alleviate the difficulties of the Australian housewife or of the Australian worker? While honorable members opposite are talking the interests they represent in this Parliament are amassing more and more profit. All that I hope is that it will not be long before the Australian people will have another opportunity of deciding which political party they desire shall conduct their national affairs. I am perfectly satisfied that after the lapse of even this short space of time they realize that the present Government does not propose to do anything to help them.
The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), who was formerly chairman of the Sydney County Council, sits on the Government benches in this chamber. I remind honorable members that the cost of electricity in the City of Sydney has risen by 3s. in the £1 since the 1st January, and by 50 per cent, in the last two years. The difficulties of the people go on day by day and talk will not cure them. The Labour party desires to see some action taken by the Government to fulfil the promises that honorable members made to the people when they sought their support at the general election.
– Following the lightning diatribe of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) it is appropriate that we should return, at least temporarily, to the previous tenor of the debate. I desire at this stage to offer to you, Mr. Speaker, as have other honorable members, my congratulations on your unanimous election and elevation to your high position.
I shall now deal with some of the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney. He has asked the House and the country what this Government has done since its election to office. Admittedly it has not done a great deal, but it is tackling in the correct way the job that has to be done. I remind the honorable member and his colleagues that they left so much debris around that this Government is having the most terrific job in clearing it away so as to see what damage the previous Government did in its eight years of office. The honorable gentleman said at the outset of his remarks that the Government was elected by fraud and deceit. I say to him, and to any other honorable member on his side of the House who cares to support him in his view, that the present Government was elected as a result of its exposure of fraud and deceit, because there was never a government in Australia that endeavoured more by its devious and dark methods to bring degradation to the working people of this country than did the previous Government. The honorable member said that this Government has threatened the trade unionist. It has done no such thing, and will not do anysuch thing. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has said that he is prepared, as is the Government, to work in genuine cooperation with trade unionists. The honorable member also said that we intended to break down the system of conciliation and arbitration so as to be able to attack industrial standards. Let any member of the Opposition who speaks in this debate from now on produce from the 1948 platform of the Labour party one word that says that that party stands for the maintenance of the system of conciliation and arbitration.
– What is the honorable gentleman seeking to convey?
The honorable member for East Sydney then had something to say about immigration, and mentioned a statement by the Director of Soil Erosion, implying that if we did not tackle the problem of soil erosion we would be unable to feed, not only the migrants entering the country, but also the Australians already here. That statement came from an ex-Minister of a government that was in power for eight years. I admit that some of that time was covered by the war period, but after the war had ended the Labour Government was often asked to take action to combat soil erosion. I asked several questions during the last Parliament a.bout whether the Government would confer with other countries in that matter, yet it took not one step in that direction. It is no good, therefore, for Opposition members to revive these old stories. We know that during the life of the last Parliament the honorable member for East Sydney opposed in this House his own ministerial colleague on the subject of immigration; that there were constant conflicts about immigration between the honorable member for East Sydney when he was Minister for Transport and Minister for External
Territories, and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), when he was Minister for Immigration. Therefore, his effort to mislead the House to-night does him no credit. He went on to say that behind the introduction of so many immigrants to this country was an endeavour by the Government to obtain means with which to break the strike weapon of the trade unionists. We do not intend to adopt such tactics, nor do we intend to follow the example set by the former Government in violation of the Labour party’s platform, of bringing out the Army against strikers. In calling out the Army during the coal strike last year the former Government endeavoured to smash a trade union that will not bow the knee to the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I refer to the Australian Workers Union.
The honorable gentleman then turned to the old bogy of prices control, and charged the members of the present Government with having caused chaos. As honorable members very well know, the referendum on prices control was taken, not on the question of whether the Government should have renewable powers to control prices, but on whether it should have permanent powers to control them. We were then in Opposition, and every one of us promised full’ support to the then Government in continuing the defence (transitional powers) legislation, with a view to enabling it to maintain prices to the degree that might be thought necessary. But what happened? When the people voted against permanent power over prices and rents being granted to the Australian Parliament the then Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) immediately tossed the whole business into the lap of the States, at the same time cancelling the payment of considerable subsidies amounting to £20,000,000 or £30,000,000.
The honorable member for East Sydney said that the only way to deal with the problem of communism was to tackle the problems of the people. Admittedly that is one of the ways, but I hope later on to show that members of the Opposition who are ex-Ministers, and who were advisers to the Governor-General, have made, during this debate, statements that will not tend to assist the alleviation of the problems of the people. The honorable member for East Sydney spoke at some length about the immigrants that are coming to this country. He knows, a3 does every other member of the House, that the policy of immigration being followed ,to-day is almost exactly the same as that which was followed by the predecessors of the present Government, and which was enunciated by the then Minister for immigration, who is now merely the honorable member for Melbourne. The immigrants that are coming to this country are going into emergency hostels, and we are using whatever housing we can get for the time being until better accommodation can be found. That was the policy of the previous Government.. Every member of this Parliament must know that we have used army camps and whatever other means we could to house these migrants until they can be absorbed into the economy of the country. We are not using for the accommodation of these immigrants material that is wanted by the people for their housing projects. We are merely following the policy pursued by the previous Government, and are endeavouring to get as many migrants as possible working on the construction of materials for house-building.
We old members have heard the same diatribe from the honorable member for East Sydney since 1931. His present speech is on a parallel with his “ Brisbane line” out.bur.st. When he was put to the test on that occasion he ran away from it.
I should now like to say something in a kindly way to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), who is a new member of this House. He was heard in silence. When I made my maiden speech it was probably a little more provocative titan his, but it was not heard in silence. I am not complaining about that. The honorable member for Watson said that he could not understand why any one in a sane mind could vote for the members of the Government, implying that the majority of the Australian people were in a state of insanity on the 10th December. That statement resembled the- “ vermin “ speech by Mr. Aneurin Bevan in England, and does the honorable member and his party no credit. I hope that after ,at least three years in Opposition he will have been taught better manners.
His Excellency the Governor-General, when addressing members of this chamber in another place, made mention of military training. The honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) has dealt with that matter very effectively, although he referred in the main to the personnel side of the training. Members of thi? Parliament who are now in Opposition have referred to him in rather unparliamentary terms. They have derided the idea of my colleague and other honorable members endeavouring to force into the minds of the members of the Opposition and the Australian people the necessity for some positive work in the defence of this country. They have been doing that because of their experience of what it means to be in a state of unpreparedness. We have heard from the members of the Opposition the same story as they used in 1911, when the first compulsory military training was introduced by the Labour party. Honorable members of the Opposition criticize the Government’s military training policy, but I remind them that their colleagues of the same political colour in New Zealand at least had the courage to place before the people of that dominion the question of whether or not a system of compulsory military training should be adopted, and the people voted in favour of it. They were subsequently defeated at the polls, not because of their adoption of compulsory military training, but because, following the policy of our predecessors, they were endeavouring to socialize their country. Thank heavens the people of New Zealand would not accept that. The Labour Government in this country did not have that courage. I hope that compulsory military training will be introduced into this country in a very short time because I cannot see how any young fellow can be ashamed of allowing himself to be taught some physical exercises and how to use a weapon and to accept discipline. I cannot see that that will do harm to either the individual or the nation. A lot of accidents with weapons occur not through knowledge of firearms but because- of a lack of such knowledge. At least we shall he helping to save some lives in that way.
His Excellency’s Speech dealt with the subject of aviation in these terms -
My Government’s policy on civil aviation will be progressive and constructive. Without creating public or private monopoly the aim is to develop internal and external air routes, so that the widest number of communities may enjoy the advantage of regular air services.
I commend the Government for that expression but I hope it will note that so far practically everything that has been done in connexion with air services and air routes, except one from Western Australia to Mauritius, has been done on the eastern side of Australia. I again make a plea for something to be done in regard to the Indian Ocean air route. At the moment, we have an air route to England via the southern portion of Asia, and everybody knows that as I have pointed out in this House previously, the conditions in those areas are not the most peaceful and that something could happen at any time that would cut air communications between Australia and the Old Country. I request this Government to include in its expansion programme a survey of the route from Western Australia to Cocos Island, Diego Garcia, the Seychelles, Mombasa and Malta and thence to England. Not only would this give us an alternative route but it would also give us bases for our defence. I trust that when the Minister for Air (Mr. White) is dealing with any expansion programme on external air routes, he will give serious consideration to this proposal. Already the Dutch airlines are running a service from Holland to the Netherlands East Indies over the Indian Ocean, going much farther south than Diego Garcia or the Seychelles.
Another matter upon which I commend the Government is its decision to establish a Department of National Development. Such an instrumentality has been needed for a long time. Originally, we expected that the Government would plan for the expenditure of an amount of £250,000,000 upon national development. Therefore, honorable members and the people generally must be particularly gratified by the knowledge that the Government contemplates an eventual expenditure of £1,000,000,000 upon developmental work*
I trust that every endeavour will be made to secure the services of the best available experts for the projects that are planned. Members of the Opposition have declared that the Government will do nothing and is merely engaging in over-optimistic talk. They have asked what anti-Labour governments did during the ‘thirties and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has said, in support of his criticism, that anti-Labour governments made no attempt to initiate the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric and irrigation undertaking. Every honorable member must know that that great scheme was the brain child of a Country party member of the New South Wales Parliament and that exploratory and survey work was commenced a long time ago. The job could not be undertaken earlier because of adverse economic circumstances and also because sufficient data had not been collected to enable engineering work to be started. The Chifley Government was able to make a beginning only because it happened to be in office during a period of monetary prosperity. Many projects of a similar character are awaiting attention in various parts of the Commonwealth, and at this stage I direct attention to the needs of Western Australia. That State, unfortunately, lacks rivers of the size of those that flow through the eastern coastal regions. Therefore, it is necessary for Western Australians to store the rain that falls between the Darling Range and the coast and pump supplies to the inland agricultural districts. The water supply systems of that State represent colossal engineering achievements. Honorable members will recall the completion in the early part of this century of the magnificent Kalgoorlie water supply scheme. Its designer, C. Y. O’Connor, was so widely criticized and persecuted before the scheme came into operation that he finally committed suicide, but his plan worked so successfully that the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) was moved to declare when he saw it in operation, “ That is what we want in this country - big minds and big projects “. I earnestly hope that the Government will pay full attention to the problems of Western Australia when it is drawing up its programme of national development. I admit that many great projects await attention in the eastern States, because this part of the Commonwealth i9 more favorably situated than are the more sparsely settled western regions. However, we must not lose sight of the difficulties that hamper development in Western Australia, which covers onethird of the area of the continent.
I refer now to the subject of immigration in relation to land settlement. Dealing with this matter, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech stated -
While rural industries have also been aided, it is planned that a bigger proportion of migrant labour, in the future, will be attracted to the land.
I am pleased that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) is listening to my remarks, because I am sure that he will realize their importance and give serious attention to them. I believe that it is generally known that officers employed in the United Kingdom to select immigrants for rural work are not suited to their job. The fact has been reported to me by several farmers and graziers who have had the good fortune to visit the United Kingdom in recent years, and I understand that one of those gentlemen returned to Australia on a ship on which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was travelling and had long conversations with him on the subject. I have been informed that selection officers employed at Australia House, London, have had no experience of conditions in Australian farming areas and do not understand, the requirements of primary industries. The Minister for Immigration should, if possible, locate farmers who came to Australia in the first place from Great Britain and battled through the depression on the land. Such men would know the ups and downs of farming and would be able to choose men suitable for settlement on the land. The immigrants could first be employed as farm workers and later be given opportunities to acquire properties for themselves. I mention, in passing, that there is plenty of land available for settlement in Western Australia.
I am pleased that the Government intends to concentrate much of its attention upon defence problems. Nobody doubts the importance of defence pre- paredness, and I hope that the western sea-board of the continent will not be neglected by this Government. I am not being in any way parochial in dealing, with this subject, as I shall prove. There are 4,350 miles of coast-line in Western Australia completely open to any enemy. Over that stretch of the coast from Eucla in the south to Wyndham in the north there is not one major defence installation. When I mentioned this deficiency in the House on a previous occasion, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had the audacity to speak of the airstrips that had been constructed in Western Australia. I know something of those airstrips. Many of them, have fallen, into disrepair, and, in any case, few air squadrons are stationed in that region.. In 1910, it was first decided that a naval base ought to be constructed in Western Australia in order to protect the lifeline of our trade with the United Kingdom and Europe, but nothing has yet been done to establish such a base. In those far-off days, the Sydney Bulletin described Albany as one of the finest harbours, but one of the most neglected, in the British Empire. AdmiralHenderson visited Australia in 1911 and examined the site of what was to have been known as Henderson Naval Base. Eminent naval experts were asked to report on the proposal, but that was the last that was heard of it publicly. I may be reminded later that an amount of £8,000,000 was expended upon preparations for the establishment of a naval base. I am fully aware of the fact, but nobody seems to know where the money was expended or what it was expended upon. Other honorable members from Western Australia will support me when I say that one cannot find any sign that even so much as a shovelful of sand has been turned over. Apparently the expenditure was confined to exploratory work. There is no tangible evidence anywhere on the western coast that any work has been done towards the establishment of a naval base. When honorable members realize that the distance of 2,133 miles from Fremantle to Sydney is comparable with the distance from the United Kingdom to the United State9 of America they must appreciate the stupidity of our recent defence policy. I am informed that Admiral Fraser expressed amazement during World War II. and asked what was wrong with Australian policy that it should he necessary for ships to travel from the western seaboard all the way to Sydney in order to bc docked for repairs.
I sincerely hope that this Government will view the matter in a different light from that in which previous governments viewed it. The establishment of a proper naval base upon our western shore, in conjunction with the survey for an air route across the Indian Ocean, would provide adequately for the defence of the western side of the continent. The Seyschelles Islands which are situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean would serve as a hopping-off place should a suitable base be developed in that area. All these proposals about which honorable members have spoken in this debate are in the embryo stage. But they must be developed, and I claim that not one of them can be developed unless we establish peace in industry in this country. Several honorable members have mentioned this subject. I propose to approach it from a different viewpoint. I do not think that any honorable member could fail to have been impressed by the force of the arguments that were advanced by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who dealt with this subject last week. Whilst supporters of the Government may not agree with all his arguments, they admit that he made a rational and sincere approach to this problem. However, the same observation cannot be made about the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and several other honorable members of the Opposition. The honorable member for Bendigo said -
Finally, I make a suggestion as to how better industrial relations might be achieved. Remove the brick wall that has been erected between those guiding industry and those doing the work in industry. . . . The worker in industry -is paid for the toil he gives, but the reason why he is doing a job, the objects of the company which employs him, its keenness to expand, its planning, discussion of problems and the one hundred and one other things associated with executive positions is undoubtedly outside the knowledge of the worker.
That is a reasonable approach. However, the honorable member for Melbourne, when he was dealing with the problem of housing, said -
We built 40,000 homes in 1947, 50,000 in 1948 and 34,000 in 1949. The present Government will build nothing like that total because the workers of this country do not trust it.
Those remarks on the face of them are bad enough, but I remind the House that they were uttered by an ex-member of the Executive Council. The honorable member continued -
Certainly the workers of Australia are not going to be fooled by the flapdoodle and nonsense that has been talked about cooperation between the workers and the employers of this country.
The workers of Australia will give this new Government as much co-operation as the British Medical Association gave the Chifley Government.
However, as one honorable member said, the members of the British Medical Association at least kept on working while they continued negotiations with the previous Government. It is deplorable that an ex-Minister should incite the workers to refuse to co-operate with the Government in the carrying out of its projects. Every Australian should take cognizance of the fact that whilst one member of the Opposition sincerely upheld the principle of amicable negotiation between employers and employees and sincerely endeavoured to approach that problem in a rational way, one of his colleagues, who was Minister for Immigration in the Chifley Government, cut the ground from under his feet. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that when supporters of the present Government were in Opposition and in their remarks did not follow the same track that their colleagues followed, they were told by members of the present Opposition who were then in office that they should get together and work out a common plan before speaking on any subject in this chamber. I shall not make that retort to members of the Opposition on this occasion. I merely say to the honorable member for Melbourne that it is about time he took a leaf out of the book of the honorable member for Bendigo, because only through the activities of honorable members like the honorable member for’ Bendigo shall we be enabled to obviate industrial unrest. I have believed for a long while that some employers - I admit that all employers are not unscrupulous in their dealings with, their employees - are convinced that’ the time has arrived when they should admit labour to the management table and tell the employees through their own representatives just what they plan to do. The sooner that is done the sooner shall we bring about peace in industry. “We should not cast stones at the employees as the honorable member for Melbourne has cast stones at the employers. He dashed to the ground the hope that the honorable member for Bendigo raised, in this House that amicable industrial relations could be achieved. If we follow the latter’s example, we shall have a chance of getting somewhere in dealing with this problem. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), when discussing the same problem, said -
When I analysed the Speech that was made by the Governor-General yesterday, the first point that struck me was how fortunate this Government is in having left to it a legacy that has enabled it to announce its present programme in the knowledge that the programme can be financed from the funds that its predecessor established.
That honorable member in his subsequent remarks dared the Government even to ask the trade unionists to conduct compulsory secret ballots for the election of their officials and in respect of matters of major importance to their organizations. The honorable member is a member of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, and I am aware that that organization, like the Australian Workers Union, has endeavoured to rid itself of Communists. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), who was Minister for Air in the Chifley Government, also is a member of that union. However, as I have already said, it is useless for the fireman to fire his engine as hard as he can and for the engine-driver to do his best at his job if “ red “ guards, at the same time, are applying the brakes in the brake van. When members of many unions are pulling against each other in that way, how is it possible to apply the principles that the honorable member for
Bendigo enunciated? We should endeavour to persuade employers to admit labour to the management table. [Extension- of time granted.] If we wish to approach this problem in the way suggested by the honorable member for Bendigo and if we wish to makeavailable to the workers,, as they themselves desire, a greater share of thebenefits of production, it is incumbent upon the workers to be prepared to accept some responsibility in return. With some organizations doing everything in their power to rid themselves of Communist influence and, at the same time, others in the same industries not doing anything to rid themselves of that influence, we must take steps to correct the position. Those organizations whose members desire a greater share of the benefits of their production and a voice in the management of their industry must be willing to support this Government, which is prepared to tackle this problem through legislative action. Those trade unions that sincerely desire to solve this problem must support the Government’s proposed legislation, which will prescribe that compulsory secret ballots shall be held in respect of all major matters affecting the activities of trade unions. I have yet to be convinced that, as some members of the Opposition have claimed, that proposal will do the trade unions a lot of harm, because I believe that the average trade unionist is law-abiding and wants to get rid of subversive elements in his organization. How will the Government’s proposal cause harm to trade unionists? They will only be required to record their vote at the election of officers of their organizations,, or on matters such as whether they shall go on strike. At present, all trade unions hold secret ballots, but their members are not obliged to vote. Therefore, the Governments proposed legislation to make such ballots compulsory will be fully justified.
– To what union does the honorable’ member belong?
– I am a member of the Australian Society of Engineers, which is one of the finest unions in this country.
– That organization is controlled by Communists.
– That is why its members will welcome the Government’s proposed legislation. They desire to be good Australians. They require their ballots to be taken by a judge of the Supreme Court, the Chief Electoral Officer or the Industrial Registrar. That indicates the dissension within the union. The system of compulsory secret ballots for all major union activities willbe of great assistance to those whom Labour is supposed to represent. If as a result of the ballot a strike was to take place over some real or imaginary grievance, it is unlikely that a union would decide to strike immediately. There would always be a breathing space which would give the Minister supervising that industry time to arrange for conciliation commissioners to investigate the threatened stoppage and try to avoid it. In that way continuity of production would be maintained. That is of vital importance to the standard of living in this country because it has yet to be proved to this House, and the people of Australia, that an increased production of the essentials for living would not raise the standard of living generally.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fairhall) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I refer to a statement which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made in this House to-night respecting the increase of the price of electricity in Sydney imposed by the Sydney County Council. He said that that increase had been made in January. That is not correct; it was made in December. The inference sought to be conveyed was that the increase could he attributed to this Government-
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that no honorable member may refer to a debate that took place, to-day, or to anything in regard to it.
– I rule that the honorable member will be quite in order so long as he deals with the facts and not with the earlier debate.
– I would remind the House-
– I rise to a point of order. The Standing Orders provide that an honorable member is not entitled to take advantage of the motion for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of replying to any debate that is already before the House.
– Will the honorable member quote the standing order to which he refers?
– Although I cannot quote the particular standing order, I ask for a ruling on the point that I have raised.
– The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) is quite in order. He wishes to clear up a misstatement about a matter over which he has a certain degree of control. He has not asked for leave to make a personal explanation. On the motion for the adjournment of the House a member can deal with any matter that is not on the notice-paper. The subject of the charges for electricity in Sydney is not on the notice-paper.
– It might interest the honorable member who made that statement to learn that the increase of the electricity charges in Sydney was made solely because of the increase of generation costs. The major part of the increase was due to the necessity to purchase oil, instead of coal, for generating electricity. Oil costs five times as much as coal. The Sydney County Council has had to expend over £1,000,000 on equipment for the purpose of burning oil to provide electricity for Sydney because coal has not been available.
.- I think that the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has told only a part of the story. The fact is that this was not a temporary increase approved by the Sydney County Council but one that still remains. I should like the honorable member to go into greater detail. Surely he does not suggest that he, as the chairman of the Sydney County Council, would approve of a permanent arrangement whereby oil would be used in substitution for coal. Coal is produced in this country, and he has admitted that it costs only one-fifth of the cost of oil. Therefore, I assume that it was to meet a temporary difficulty owing to the shortage of coal that oil was used. The additional charges that I referred to were 3s. in the £1 from the 1 st January of this year, and a total of 50 per cent. extending over the last two years. I consider that the honorable member has not disposed of my statement by his explanation.
I should also like him to explain the system by which the black-outs are arranged in Sydney when they become necessary. I have been advised that those black-outs are usually arranged to occur in industrial suburbs during what might be regarded as the normal hours for the preparation of meals, whereas whenever they occur in what are considered to be the more well-to-do suburbs, the interruptions of service are experienced during the day, when very little inconvenience is caused to the consumers. The opinion is held by many workers in Sydney that they are being penalized by the Sydney County Council by the way in which the black-outs are regulated. The honorable member might also explain why, if he was able to conduct the affairs of the Sydney County Council efficiently, he had to be supplanted by Mr. Condé ; although he continued to draw his salary for the position while Mr. Condé was carrying out his functions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Defence - D. A. Heap, P. Middleton, J. A. Scott.
Labour and National Service - M. T. Shaw.
Supply and Development - M. G. Allen, A. J. Barlow, D. F. Dyson, R. P. Loh.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (28).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Middle Swan, Western Australia.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances - 1949 -
No. 3 - Brands and Marks.
No. 4 - Pasturage and Enclosure.
Regulations - 1949 -
No. 2 (Brands and Marks).
No. 3 (Pasturage and Enclosure).
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
k asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :- 1 and 2. The question Of establishing a national theatre company was under consideration by the previous Government, but a full scheme had not been worked out. The present Government has not as yet had time to go into the matter fully, but as soon as the opportunity occurs it will do so.
k asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. A statement is being prepared which will give the information desired so far ae 1949 is concerned. The information required in respect of earlier years is not readily available and would involve considerable research in records held by several departments in the various States. In view of the pressure of urgent departmental work, it is regretted that staff is not available to undertake the investigation required.
s asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
With reference to the conference called by the International Labour Office to consider the prevention and treatment of dust complaints affecting the lungs of workers, particularly in the mining industry - (a) is it a fact that the employees working in the mining industry are not represented al the conference, and, therefore, will have no voice whatsoever in the decisions which will be arrived at; and (i) will he consider the advisability of appointing a practical miner to put the miners’ point of view to the conference?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The conference now in session in Sydney was convened by the International Labour Organization, and is one solely of experts concerned with the question of pneumoconiosis which is a pathological condition of the lungs caused by prolonged inhalation of dust. The conference is not of the normal tripartite type at which delegates represent the interests of government, employers and workers. On this occasion, the delegates both from Australia and overseas are almost without exception highly qualified medical men with a specialized knowledge in the field .of public hygiene and pneumoconiosis. The purposes of the conference are : ( 1 ) to enable the experts to exchange information on the present stage of knowledge of pathogensis, clinical aspects and diagnosis of silicosis, siderosis, asbestosis anthracosis and other forms of pneumoconiosis; (2) to consider the present stage of preventive measures against pneumoconiosis; and (3) to exchange news on the possibility of defining minimum international standards of compensation, for disability caused by pneumoconiosis. Because of their likely concern in the matter, I arranged for all bodies interested to nominate persons who might attend the discussions of the conference.
In this background, the following are the answers to the question of the honorable member: (a) Employees working in the mining industry are represented through observers nominated by the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Mr. W. Parkinson, the president of the Southern District Council of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees Federation, who is one of the Australian Council of Trades Union representatives, has been present at the proceedings during each of the sitting days of the first week of the conference which was opened on Tuesday, 28th February. Mr. Parkinson, in common with the observer representatives for the emplovers’ organizations and other interested bodies, will not be entitled to vote at proceedings. This arises from the nature of the conference as outlined above. (6) See answer to (a).
t. - On the 24th February the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) asked -
Will the Minister for Immigration inform the House of the number of war-time evacuees who are in Australia at the present time? What are the Government’s intentions in regard to them? Has the Minister issued any deportation, orders since he assumed office? If so, how many has he issued
I replied to the question in part and said I would ascertain how many of the deportation orders I had issued related to war-time evacuees. I now inform the honorable member as follows: -
None of the deportation orders I have signed since assuming office relate to war-time evacuees, but I have approved of eighteen deportations for other reasons since I assumed office in December last. Every war-time evacuee is the subject of an individual investigation to determine whether or not he is to allowed to remain here under exemption.
Twenty of these investigationshave so far been completed and thepersonsconcerned were found tobe satisfactory in all respects. Investigations being made into other cases are at various stages of progress and I expect that they will all be completed by June next. In any case where investigation discloses that an evacuee is undesirable as a resident of this country an order will be issued for his deportation.
Rubber and Textiles.
s. - On the 28th. February the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked me a question concerning the possible effect of the importation into Australia of goods from cheaplabour countries in the rubber and textile industries. As promised in my interim reply, I have had inquiries made into the matter raised.I have found that requests are continually being received from industry regarding the adequacy of protection afforded by the tariff. As has been the practice of this and previous governments, these requests are examined to see if a prima facie case exists for a TariffBoard inquiry. Quite recently, for instance, representations were made on behalf of rubber shoe manufacturers in Australia and also in regard to certain types of piece goods. If a prima facie case is established, the Tariff Board will be asked to inquire into the adequacy of existing duties.
Mrs. Phyllis Wenner.
t. - On the 28th February the honorable member forGellibrand (Mr. Mullens) addressed the following question to the Prime Minister -
In the absence of the Minister for Immigration, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has considered the case of Mrs. Phyllis Wenner, 25 years of age, who by the irony of circumstances has been compelled to say good-bye for all time to her four-year-old daughter, watching grief-stricken at Mascot while a cilpper departed carrying the child into the custody of her father, an ex-member of the Army of the United States of America. Has the Government made any representations to the American authorities on the subject? If not, will the Prime Minister see that representations are made, stressing the pathos of this parting for a woman who was divorced only because a minor court conviction prevents her from entering the United States of America? Should an Australian mother be bound by the terms of an Amerian court order so tragic in its incidence ?
The Prime Minister informed the honorable member that the terms of the question would be conveyed to me and that I would provide an answer. I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
The question of Mrs. Wenner being permitted to enter the United States is solely a matter for determination by the United States authorities. Information received from the United States Consulate, Sydney, is that Mrs. Wenner was refused an entry visé in 1944 because of a conviction recorded against her. I am advised that she has made no further attempt to securea visé since that year. The consulate has also advised that Mrs. Wenner could only gain admission to the United States if she were granted a pardon such as would cause the court’s decision of guilty to be changed to not guilty or by a special act of Congress. In regard to the departure of Mrs. Wenner’s daughter to the United States, a permit was g ranted under the Emigration Act to enable h er to proceed to America to reside with her father. Mrs. Wenner consented to the child leaving Australia, otherwise the permit would not have been issued.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500307_reps_19_206/>.