19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct to the Minister for External Affairs a question relative to the Government of China. There are actually two governments, one being on the continent of Asia and the other, the Nationalist Government, being still in control on Formosa. Having regard to the confused position caused by the recognition of the Chinese Communist Government by some governments, and the differing attitudes of the United Kingdom Government and the United States of America, has the Minister or the Australian Government reached any conclusion on policy or action relative to the recognition or the continued recognition of either or both of those governments?
– The confusion which may arise in the United Nations as the result of some governments recognizing the People’s Government, so called, in China, and other governments withholding their recognition is due to the fact that each nation must determine its own attitude towards the present people in charge, de facto, of China. The Australian Government sees no reason at present to recognize Communist China, and that is all I need say at the moment about the matter.
– In view of the serious effect that the shortage of bricks is having on all building operations, can the Minister for Works and Housing inform me whether consideration is being given to means of stimulating the production of bricks? Will the Minister take action, as he has already done relative to some building materials, to have mechanical equipment for the win 1111]g of raw materials such as clay and shale admitted to Australia free of duty? I point out that in New South Wales, privately owned brickyards have lost trained ‘men by the enticements of the State brickyards, which last year lost £17,000 of the taxpayers’ money in producing 900,000 bricks. Will the Minister confer with the Minister for Immigration with a view to bringing trained and green labour to Australia expressly for the purpose of meeting the urgent national demand for bricks?
– The shortage of bricks is one of the definite bottlenecks that is delaying the housing programme in Australia. The officers of my department and I have already given a good deal of attention to the matter. The problem varies in the several States. In general, the factors that are in short supply are man-power, coal, clay and housing, and the incidence of those factors varies in the different States. I am well aware that the situation in New South Wales is difficult, if not acute. The position there is due, to a degree, to a shortage of clay, and to the operation of a darg in the brickmaking industry in that State. The unfortunate effect of those factors is that we are making fewer bricks to-day than we were making ten years ago, whereas our need for bricks is possibly double what it was at that time. The officers of my department in conjunction with ‘brickmakers in each State and the trade unions are carrying out a close survey of the various problems involved. I shall refer to the Minister for Trade and Customs the honorable member’s suggestion that modern brick-making machinery should be admitted at concessional rates of duty, with a view to ascertaining what can be done in that direction. I assure the honorable member that the problem is under close study. The Minister for Immigration is diverting to the brickmaking industry the maximum number of new Australians, bearing in mind the claims of other constructional industries.
I assure the honorable member that the problem is being closely watched and that I shall do everything possible to break the bottleneck that exists in the brickmaking industry.
– In view of the decision of the Minister for Civil Aviation to develop the Kempsey aerodrome for all weather use by DC3 aircraft, and as the carrying out of this work is now the responsibility of the Department of Works and Housing, will the Minister for Works and Housing provide facilities for air travel as soon as possible for the 25,000 residents of the Macleay River valley? Will he also examine the possibility of an early commencement of the aerodrome works to which I have referred ? If that, is not possible, will the Minister arrange for an officer of his department to visit Kempsey to confer with the local authorities with a view to the work being carried out by such local authorities on behalf of the Government?
– The Department of Works and Housing can be described broadly as the works constructing authority for all Commonwealth departments throughout Australia. A very wide variety and volume of works are constantly listed for construction by my department. Some degree of priority must be imposed in respect of these works, so that their construction can proceed in order of their importance. Generally speaking, we have more works on our books than can reasonably be carried out expeditiously during the next six or nine months. Obviously all these works cannot be carried out at the same time. I assure the honorable member that the priority given to this work will be that recommended by the Minister for Civil Aviation. I shall submit for consideration by the officers of my department the honorable member’s proposal that the development of the Kempsey aerodrome should be carried out by the local authorities. If such a proposition appears to be practical from the point of view of plant and man-power, consideration will be given to the adoption of that means of carrying out the project.
– Yesterday, in answer to u question, the Minister for Civil Aviation said that a licence had been granted to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to operate an air service between Melbourne and Bairnsdale because that company could operate the service more efficiently than could TransAustralia Airlines. What facilities can Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited provide which TransAustralia Airlines cannot provide? In what respect does the honorable gentleman consider that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is more efficient than Trans- Australia Airlines?
– I am afraid that the honorable member has misquoted me. I did not’ say that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited had better facilities than has Trans-Australia Airlines. What I said was that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has the best equipment for the operation of such a service. Trans-Australia Airlines cannot operate in Victoria because the Victorian Government does not want government-controlled airlines to operate intra-state. After years of negotiations in connexion with the establishment of such a service the previous Government did nothing about it. When the present Government came into office it decided that the residents of Gippsland should have an air service without delay. A choice had to be made between the two private companies that operated in Victoria. The company with the better facilities has been given a licence to operate the service between Melbourne and Bairnsdale, with, a stopping place at Sale.
– I desire to inform the House that Lord Bennell, a member of the House of Lords, is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honorable members I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable MEMBERS - Hear, hear!
Lord Bennell thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In answer to a question yesterday in relation to putting shillings back into the £1, the right honorable gentleman stated that a combination of events had first to take place and that benefits would accrue slowly.. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government will make a substantial increase in age, invalid and other pensions in order to tide the unfortunate recipients of such pensions over the period that will elapse before theprices of commodities are reduced and stabilized ?
– The question is one of policy and is therefore a matter for Cabinet consideration.
– Will the Treasurer inform, the House what amount has been paid in fees, refreshers, retainers and other emoluments to counsel who appeared before the High Court of Australia and before the Privy Council to defend the Chifley Government’s banking legislation ? ‘
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information asked for in a day or two.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that the combined Liberal party and. Australian Country party vote represented only 49.2 per cent, of the electors on the rolls, will the Prime Minister agree to submit to the people by way of referendum the Government’s proposals to interfere with existing banking legislation, and to introduce legislation to interfere with the domestic affairs of trade unions, in order to ascertain the views of the people in relation to these matters before proceeding with them?
– The honorable member’s question is really a museum piece because I well remember that in the last Parliament, when the honorable gentleman was asked to submit the nationalization of banking to the people by way of referendum, he refused to do so, although that subject had never been referred to during the preceding general election campaign. In the recent general election, which, we won, banking- was one of the great central issues. The people, recorded their verdict without ambiguity. If the honorable gentleman, is really interested in public opinion on this matter, he will not have failed to notice, I trust, that in the only public opinion poll that has been taken since the announcement of our intention to go on with the banking legislation, the vote in favour of the policy of the Liberal and. Australian Country parties increased by no less than 4’ per cent.
– I ask the Treasurer to state whether he is aware that retired policemen and other public servants on superannuation are liable to have their income tax assessed on their superannuation plus any other income? “Will the Treasurer indicate whether he is prepared to consider amending the Income Tax Assessment Act to exclude superannuation payments from being assessed as- income ? If not, is he prepared to have superannuation payments assessed as separate income so that, lower rates of taxation would be applicable.
– Tha question is a fitting; one to place before the advisory committee on taxation that has recently been appointed and I shall see that it is placed before that committee.
– ls the Minister for Supply and Development aware that the process known as fish farming has been, successfully carried out in the United States of America and in Europe? Is it proposed to give encouragement to the development of fish farming in Australia ? “What experiments have been made by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization on this subject, and what are the prospects of success of large-scale fish farming in this country?
– I. was once guilty of writing- a powerful article on the subject of fish farming in Australia, based on the experience I had had in another part of the world. The departments’ in. charge of fisheries in the various States’ are the appropriate bodies to give this- matter attention. I have been in communication with the govern ments of two or three States on thissubject in the last few years and I understand that they have already produced informative pamphlets which were widely circulated in country districts in an effort to encourage country dwellers to make use of the potentialities of fish farming in dams or enclosed water.. 1 do not. recollect that the Commonwealth has power to take any action in the matter apart from the work whichhas been carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research. Organization during the last year or so. I shall ascertain what work has been done by that organization, what results havebeen achieved, and how the resultant information is being circulated.
– “Will the Treasurer state the cost of .advertising in the pressthe Ninth Security Loan which closes on the 18th March? How many people areemployed directly by the Government in. connexion with this work of raising loans ? Is it necessary continually to retain an expensive department and staff to float two’ or three security loans annually?
– I shall supply theinformation asked for and shall alsosupply information on the amounts expended by the previous Government in raising loan moneys.
– In view of the largeinflux of trainees that will occur when theGovernment’s selective training scheme is put into operation, will the Minister for the Army state whether he intends toestablish instructors’ training courses in the near future? I understand that there will be insufficient instructors in the Australian Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces to cope with the largeinflux of trainees.
– I appreciate thehonorable member’s interest in this subject. All of the points that he hasraised have already been taken into consideration and action has been taken alongthe lines- that he has suggested.
– Has the Minister for Immigration read in this morning’s issue of the Sydney Baily Telegraph a report that immigrants who arrived yesterday aboard the liner Al Sudan complained about bad conditions on the vessel? Has he any information on the subject? Such allegations, if true, are likely to be detrimental to our immigration programme.
– I regret that I have not yet had an opportunity to examine the report. I shall obtain what information I can on the matter and pass it on to the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether reports purporting to give the outlines of the proposed national health and medical scheme, which have been published in the press in recent weeks, were correct. Has the British Medical Association agreed to accept the scheme as outlined in the newspapers, and, if so, has it agreed to the provision of penicillin and sulpha drugs to the general public under the scheme ?
– The details given in the press statements were completely incorrect. Therefore, there is no need for me to answer the other question, which obviously does not apply.
– In view of the fact that a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers agreed, on the 19th August, 1947, that Victoria should receive 14.2S per cent, of the coal output of New South “Wales, whereas it received only 12.29 per cent, and 11.14 per cent, in 194S and 1949 respectively, and in view of the fact that the amount of unemployment relief paid in Victoria during the coal strike was negligible, partly because the Government of Victoria imported coal from overseas, will the Prime Minister give consideration to subsidizing that Government to the amount of the difference between the price of imported coal and the price of New South “Wales coal in respect of the deficiency of supplies from New South “Wales that I have mentioned? The amount of coal involved would be approximately 500,000 tons.
– The matter mentioned by the honorable member, and also other problems concerning local coal production and the importation of coal, have been receiving the very close attention of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. I shall have a talk with him about the proposal that the honorable member has made.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether the Government proposes to import 500,000 tons of coal at a cost of approximately £5 15s. a ton, which is more than £2 a ton higher than the cost of locally produced coal, and is also inferior in quality? Is it a fact that the New South Wales coal-miners are capable of producing sufficient coal to meet the needs of Australia if modern methods of production were applied, and a proper understanding arrived at between the management and the men? Is it also a fact that, in the past, large stocks of coal have been accumulated only for the purpose of trying to undermine the conditions of the miners; and that this has aroused suspicion which is still in the minds of the miners, and is responsible for a great deal of discontent? Will the Minister call a conference of representatives of the miners, together with honorable members of this House who represent coal-miners and who have . a knowledge of the industry, with a view to bringing about a better understanding and to removing the suspicion that at present exists, as well as to save the taxpayer’s money that it is proposed to expend on the importation of inferior coal ?
– My understanding of the statement made by the Prime Minister last night was that the Government had decided to import 1,000,000 tons of coal, not 500,000 tone a9 the honorable member said. The honorable member said quite truly that the coal-miners of Australia, and particularly those of New South Wales, are capable of producing all the coal needed in Australia for present purposes. It is a continuing regret of the present Government, and, I am sure, of all honorable members of this House, that there is not being produced in the quantities needed the high quality coal available from our own mines. The Government will welcome assistance from whatever part of the House it may come, to break down the suspicion that undoubtedly exists in the minds of many of the miners and their leaders regarding the intentions of the Government, and its expressed desire to promote greater production. It is the wish of the Government to obtain the coal needed for essential requirements, so that cost3 of production may be reduced, and more houses, goods, &c, made available to the people. I shall examine the suggestion put forward by the honorable member for a conference in which members of Parliament may participate in an endeavour to promote a better understanding of Government policy among leaders of the miners. However, I direct the attention of the honorable member and of the miners’ leaders to the very clear statement made by the Prime Minister on this subject when he delivered his policy speech on behalf of the two parties that now support the Government. The Prime Minister said that it was his desire to bring security to the coal-mining industry, and to encourage the maximum production of coal.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker, concerning the uniformed attendants of this House. Many of these officers are ex-servicemen, but I notice that they do not wear campaign or service ribbons on their uniforms. Is there an order or instruction against the wearing of such ribbons, and, if so, will you have it countermanded?
– I have no knowledge of the circumstances at the foment, but I shall make inquiries. I see no reason why officers who are entitled to wear ribbons awarded to them for honorable service in the King’s Commonwealth forces should not do so, and I can see every reason why they should wear them. I shall inform the honorable member of the result of my inquiries.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it has been correctly reported that the supply of tobacco from dollar areas is to be decreased, and, if so, whether the policy of the Government is to increase such imports as petrol from the same areas ?
– The matter inquired into has not come before me, but I shall ascertain from the appropriate Minister what the facts are in relation to it, and advise the honorable gentleman.
– Is the Minister for the Army in a position to indicate when it is proposed to set up the necessary authority to investigate claims for subsistence allowances by ex-prisoners of war?
– It is hoped that the Prime Minister will be able to make a statement on that matter either late this week or early next week.
– Did the Treasurer state, as recorded in Hansard of the 15th June, 1949- lt is merely to camouflage the true position to say that, because the Commonwealth could not control the expenditure of the money by the States, it was reluctantly compelled to withdraw subsidies.
Did he further say that subsidies were -
If the Treasurer made those statements, believing them to be true, is it possible for him to agree with the reported view of the present Government, which appears to bear out the opinion of the previous Government which led it to withdraw those subsidies?
– I did make those statements. The position was then as I indicated. The position has now materially altered because much water has flowed under the bridge since that time.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether requests were made by State Prices Ministers, through their chairman, Mr. Finnan, for a restoration of subsidies on food and other commodities, and what was the estimated cost of granting each request? What reply did the Prime Minister make, and to what extent, if at all, was he prepared to subsidize any of the items submitted by Mr. Finnan? What subsidies are at present being paid on foodstuffs and clothing? For how long have they been paid, and for how long is it intended that they shall continue to be paid ?
– The honorable member will appreciate that it will be useless for me to speak from memory about those documents, but I shall treat his question .as if he had placed it on the notice-paper., and will provide .an answer in due course.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs to outline the past practice in the selection of cadets for the Australian diplomatic service. Has a committee been responsible for the selection of cadets, and if so who were the persons composing it? What were their qualifications, .and what remuneration and expenses, if any, did they receive for their services ? Finally, is the past practice being continued, and if so will the same .committee be retained ?
– The answer with respect to the first matter is that I shall “have an exact statement prepared to show the conditions of admission of cadets into the diplomatic service. The answer to the second question is that .there was a committee, but I do not know the precise remuneration of the members of it. I shall have information prepared on that matter : also. I think that some members of it had no qualifications whatever to determine the suitability of cadets for the diplomatic service. As to the third question, the whole matter is being reviewed and I shall make a statement on it to the House later.
– In view of the urgent need for home-building sites to be made available to people, would the Minister for the Army consider the advisability of removing the Long Bay Rifle Range to a site further inland, and of transferring the present very valuable site to the New South Wales Housing Commission for the purpose of subdivision for home-building lots?
– That, and similar requests, seem to be coming to me from almost every honorable member. I shall give consideration to the request of the honorable member but I can hold out very little hope of being able to accede to his request.
– My question to the Minister for Works and Housing is prompted by the fact that under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements, the majority of houses have been built in areas where light industries are operating, and that this has enabled those industries to compete unfairly for the labour force and has reduced the numbers of employees, available for the heavy industries. In addition to making prefabricated houses available to areas in which the heavy industries are located, will the right honorable gentleman discuss with the State authorities the importance of building a greater number of houses near the heavy industry areas in order to ensure the stability of workers in those areas to give them the high living conditions that they like, and to attract them important national basic industries’?
– The State governments in general are fully .aware of the necessity for attracting workers towards the heavy industries, and to deflect a considerable proportion of their housing towards basic industries. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements give to the Commonwealth a certain degree of say-so in the allocation of housing as between rural and city areas. The Commonwealth is fully aware of the problem, and the War Service Homes administration is very properly being used to construct houses in advance of demand in the vicinity of basic industry areas. The matter which the honorable gentleman has raised is understood, and his question prompts me to take the matter up again with a view to ascertaining .the current views of the State government that I think he has particularly in mind.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply and Development.. In: the event of the Commonwealth importing prefabricated, houses from overseas,, what action’ does the Government propose to take to safeguard the interests of the residents of the Australian Capital Territory by ensuring that an adequate proportion of such houses is allotted to the Australian Capital Territory ?
– If I may venture to say so, the question of safeguarding the interests of residents of the Australian Capital Territory does not arise. The allocation of imported houses to the Australian Capital Territory is a matter entirely within the province of this Government. I assure the honorable member that an appreciable, and, I hope, a sufficient, proportion of imported houses will be allotted to the Australian Capital Territory.
– I remind the Minister for Supply and Development that during the early part of World War II. when he was a member of the Australian Government then in office, prefabricated aircraft were brought to Australia and, according to the assembling authority, they were found on arrival to be 33 per cent, short of parts. In the event of the Government making any substantial contracts for the importation of prefabricated cottages, will arrangements be made for an officer overseas to examine the cottages in order to ensure that they do not arrive here 33 per cent, short of parts as happened in connexion with imported aircraft?
– I doubt the accuracy of the honorable gentleman’s premise..
– It is based on a statement that was made by Mr. Storey.
– I believe the accuracy of the statement is open to question. In respect of imported houses- the honorable member, need lose no sleep. All steps will be taken by all the governments concerned to- ensure- that the houses are adequate for Australian conditions- both in quality and, T hope, also in quantity.
FULBRIGHT INTERCHANGE PLAN
– Recent announcements relative to the Fulbright Agree- ment under which selected Australian students will receive financial assistance through the United States Educational Foundation, indicate that applicants must satisfy the board that they have adequate dollar funds at their disposal to finance them in the. studies that they propose to undertake. Presumably the assistance is to be limited to round trip travel. Will the Treasurer- indicate whether any consideration has yet been given to this matter, and if so with what result ? If no consideration has been so given will he. indi, cate when further information, is likely to be available, in view of the extensive number of inquiries addressed to the Foundation?
– I shall look into the matter, and prepare a statement about it.
– Can the Minister for Air say -whether it is proposed to re-organize the present Citizens Air Force and- the reserve, which is operating in a very limited way?
– Yes; plans are being prepared to enlarge the Citizens Air Force and the Reserve, and au announcement on the subject will be made shortly. Under the new defence arrangements, which involve the introduction of universal service, the Citizens Air Force will be expanded. In the meantime, special organizations like the university units will be developed, as well as the present Citizens Air Force.
– I desire to address a series of questions to the Minister for Information. Which, if any, of the publications of the Department of Information, is it proposed to continue to issue from the Bureau of Information which it is proposed to establish? To whom wilL those publications be circulated, and what is the estimated cost of producing them.?
– The matter which has been- raised’ by the honorable member- is at present under- consideration. No decision has yet been made,, but, no doubt, a decision- will be reached in the near future- and the honorable member will be advised of it.
– I express regret that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has not been in the chamber for two days, and, in the absence of the honorable gentleman, I address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the serious decline of potato acreage in Tasmania from 47,000 acres in 1948 to 35,000 acres last year, and in view of the further reduction in acreage that is expected in future owing to the uncertainty of marketing prospects and unequal treatment in. respect of the price that is to be paid to the grower, I ask the Prime Minister to indicate whether the Government is prepared to examine the possibility of introducing an Australian stabilization plan, with guaranteed prices for the potato-growers. Has the Australian Agricultural Council yet made a recommendation to the Government on that matter?
– Naturally, I am not aware of the correspondence that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture may have had on the matter to which the honorable member has referred, and what is in his mind in regard to policy, but I shall convey the honorable gentleman’s questions to him. I agree that the absence of my colleague is regrettable, but I am bound to say that he is absent more or less on my own instructions, because his health has been a little below par and I thought that he needed a few days away from his office.
– Oan the Minister for Supply and Development indicate at this stage whether the recently announced Clarence River dam scheme will in any way affect possible Commonwealth assistance for the Burdekin dam scheme in Queensland ?
– The honorable member is under a slight misapprehension, possibly because the press has implied that the Clarence River valley project has already been approved. That report is a little premature, because the matter is still under the consideration of the New South Wales Government. What I ventured to say was that if and when the Government of that State approached the Common wealth in the matter, I was sure that the project would receive the most sympathetic consideration. I do not believe that the two projects, if and when they are decided upon, and the Commonwealth plays its part in their implementation, will compete with each other, although it is possible that the production of cement in Australia may have to be enlarged in order to cope with those two and other large projects of the same kind that will undoubtedly mature in the next few years.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply and Development. As consideration has been given to the subsidizing of various State developmental schemes, such as the Clarence River scheme in New South Wales and the Burdekin Valley scheme in Queensland - I have no criticism to offer to those schemes, which, I hope, will reach fruition at the earliest possible moment - will the Government consider the granting of similar subsidies to other States which are at present financing developmental schemes out of the meagre resources which they obtain from the Australian Government?
– I think, with respect, that the word “ subsidy “ is scarcely the right word to use in this connotation. Great national developmental schemes which are devised in the various States are made the subject of discussions and negotiations and, in most instances, they eventually become the subject of agreements between the Commonwealth and the State concerned. Such” agreements relate largely to the allocation of the cost as between the Commonwealth and the State. I have no doubt that if the Government of Victoria, which, I believe, is the Government that the honorable member has in mind, made an approach to the Australian Government in respect of any great developmental public work which it has under consideration, the matter would receive consideration equal to that which has been given to similar public works that have been submitted to the Commonwealth by other States.
– My question to the Treasurer follows one which I directed yesterday to the Prime Minister in reference to the disastrous cyclone at
Carmila, and the reported approach by the Premier of Queensland for a Commonwealth grant to augment the State grant. Has that approach yet been made to the Treasurer? If so, what is the Government’s decision on the matter?
– An approach was made by the Premier of Queensland apparently before the cyclone had abated, for a Commonwealth subsidy on a £1 for £1 basis towards meeting the cost of repairing the damage and devastation wrought at Carmila. After I had conferred with the Prime Minister, I was able to announce that the Government had decided to approve of a Commonwealth grant.
– As western Queens land is at present experiencing record flood ings and as requests have been made for aircraft to be provided to fly food to towns isolated by flood waters, will the Minister for Air state whether Royal Australian Air Force aircraft have been made available for such humanitarian flights? “Will those aircraft continue to be made available while the emergency exists?
– The Royal Australian Air Force is always ready to cooperate in offsetting the effects of any disaster, and in any humanitarian work. A search is proceeding at the moment in Bass Strait for a missing ship.No request has been received for such assistance as that to which the honorable member for Kennedy has referred, but I assure him that if such a request is made and if the help is needed, the aircraft will be available.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Remote Controls (of the Bowden type) for Cycles and Motor Cycles.
Australians in Japan - Citizen Military Forces.
– I should like to ask the Minister for the Army whether he or the Cabinet has made a decision about the reinforcements of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force? Is there any truth in the rumour that Bcon, the official newspaper of the forces in Japan, is being sold to private enterprise in that country ? Are there any further developments in the Government’s plan for the introduction of compulsory military training, and is there any plan to provide for voluntary enlistment? Is it a fact that because decisions on those matters have been delayed some tension exists between the Minister and the Army? In fact, is the Army beginning to beat its joss?
– In reply to the first part of the honorable member’s question, the future of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan is at present under consideration. As to the other observations that were made by the honorable member, it is not my intention to answer facetious questions. I say emphatically that the most harmonious relations exist between service Ministers and their departments.
– During my visit to Japan as a member of the Australian parliamentary delegation, I, with all other members of the delegation, including the present Minister for the Army, had the honour to witness the changing of the guard of the Australian troops at the Japanese Emperor’s palace. I am sure that all members of the delegation were proud, as I was, to observe the fine bearing of the men. I know that the former Minister for the Army was very interested in the spectacle. Will the Minister for the Army have a. colour sound film made of the ceremonial changing of the guard and arrange for it to be screened in all Australian theatres, in order to demonstrate widely the fine bearing of our troops, and will he arrange for the film to be preserved as an historical record ? I may add that approaches have been made to me about this matter by relatives of the troops.
– I share the views that have been expressed by the honorable member concerning the Australian guard which is mounted outside the JapaneseEmperor’s palace at Tokyo. I regard it as one of the finest guards I have ever seen either here or overseas.I recall that a similar request was made to the former Minister for the Army, and if my memory serves me aright, the Minister undertook toaccede to it. I shallascertain what has been done in regard to the matter, and see whether it is possible to accede to the honorable member’s request.
– Does the Prime Minister agree with the evidence given by Professor Wood, Professor of Commerce at the University of Melbourne who, in opposing in increase of the basic wage at the basic wage inquiry, said that he did so onthe ground that such an increase would add further to the existing inflationary trend? If the right honorable gentleman believes in the accuracy of that statement, does he not agree also that increased profits would have the same effect? If he agrees with that contention, what action does the Government propose to take to halt the inflationary trend by limiting profits?
– This is purely an argumentative question. I have not read the evidence givenby the witness to whom the honorable member has referred. If I had done so, I should consider it no part of my function to comment from my place in the Parliament upon evidence given before a court.
Debate resumed from the 14th March (vide page 718), on motion by Mr. Opperman -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of HisExcellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
Mayit please Your Excellency :
We,the Houseof Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency forthe Speechwhich you have been pleased to address toParliament.
.- In this advanced stage of the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply there remains little or no new ground for meto cover. However, I should like to say something on the subject of increased production because I believe it can play a most important part in the solution of the great problems facing this country to-day. If we can increase production we can overcome many of the ills that besetus. What I have to say will not be entirely news to honorable members. Indeed,the leaders of theLabour party in England have been saying itfor the last four or five years. Theyhave been telling the people of Englandfor a considerable period of the urgent necessity for increased production. Posters and placards throughout the country side areexhortingthe English people to greater efforts. “ We must produce or perish “ is the slogan in England to-day. This country would be in a position similar to thatof England were it not for the fact that it is receiving a tremendous income from the sale overseas of some of its primary products.For our major exports we are receiving fantastic prices. The real crux of this problem is increased production. A country whose economy is based upon greatly increased income from the sale of the same amount of goods instead of from the production and sale of more goods is enjoying a very precarious prosperity. Such a state of affairs places the economyof thiscountry in a very dangerous position.
The old concept of prosperity was that it was a condition in which there was little or nounemployment; in which pay envelopes were full; in which savings were ample; and, of course, in which profits were high. These are all conditionswhich exist in Australia to a degree never known in this country before, yet we hear constantly the complaint, particularly from housewives, that although there is more money in the purse to-day than ever bef ore, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make it cover expenses. We have come to learn that our true, economicstrength cannot be measured by the amount of our pay and savings and profits, norby full employment, but by the volume and efficiency of our production.
On comparing present rates ;of production in ona* -main basic industries with pre-war .production in ‘those industries *we -may not -feel very proud. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) to whose impressive speech I listened with respect and interest, dwelt at some length on the subject of increased production but I cannot help feeling that his figures would have given a very fallacious idea to many of the .people who heard them,, although he did give the limitations of the bases of the figures. .The test of prosperity is not whether there has been an increase in our overall production but whether there has been the increase there could and should have been, having in mind -the fact that there are more people in Australia to employ and having in mind the tremendously increased demand both -at home and overseas. Many speakers during this debate have ‘stressed the very urgent necessity to increase the output of coal. Coal mining is a fundamental and basic industry upon which the progress of our major industrial effort depends. If we are short of coal the whole economy of this country suffers acutely as a result. To produce the same amount as was produced last year or the year before or the year before that is not enough. Since 1946 our annual coal production has remained consistently at approximately 11,500,000 tons. Last year this figure fell to approximately 10,750,000 tons, due to the big strike on our coal-fields. The Joint Coal Board estimated Australia’s coal requirements for 1949 at about 14,750,000 tons so .production fell short of requirements by approximately 4,000,000 tons. The Joint ‘Coal Board has estimated our requirements for this year as being in excess of 15,750,000 tons and in view of the fact that our coal industry has got away to a bad start this year, I feel that by the end of the year Ave shall be further from our goal than ever.
It is not sufficient for production to show a small increase or to be satisfactorily maintained. The steel industry was lagging in production immediately af ter the war, mainly due to the shortage of coal but in the past two years steel production has been about 12 per .cent, greater than the pre-war production.
Some of us may feel we could well be satisfied with that increase but when -we compare it with the efforts of other countries it falls into insignificance. Iti Canada steel production has increased by 120 per cent, on pre-war figures although, of course, Canada has employed a great deal more hydro-electric power and has relied to a great extent on the importation of tremendous quantities of coal. However, that does:not;alter the fact that it has achieved an increase of 120 per cent, above pre-war figures. In America, steel ‘production has increased by S3 per cent, on pre-war figures.
Many “honorable members -who have spoken before me have clearly pointed out that production ‘in all our main primary industries, with the possible exception of .the wheat industry which is dependent upon seasonal conditions, has been lower than .or about the same as pre.war production. In many other industries production .has not shown .the advancement it could or should have shown. “We must increase production now, otherwise our costs will mount to a point where w.e shall be no longer able to compete on overseas markets. Prices in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada have .levelled out. They are becoming quite stabilized, and, in many instances, have fallen. Only a sharp drop of overseas .prices will be required to make it quite impossible for us to compete in overseas markets. There should be no need for me to explain to this House how drastic the effect of that would be upon the economy of Australia. I cannot fail to reflect upon the wonderfully solid and sound economic position that Australia would occupy to-day if we had settled down immediately after the war and had tackled the problem of increasing production with the zeal that we -should have shown. In the years immediately after the war, Australia had the most desirable markets almost entirely .at its mercy, but unfortunately -we -did not take advantage of that opportunity and we are now excluded from those markets because other nations, which can most successfully compete with us, have stolen them from us. I could talk at great length about the reasons why we lost certain markets very close to our shores which we should hold to-day. But, of course, that would be speaking of the past, and nothing could be gained by doing so.
Our task is to increase production now so that we may take advantage of the wonderful conditions and opportunities that are fast slipping away from us. What is the solution of the problem of increasing production? In dealing with that question, I strongly support those honorable members on both sides of the House who have advocated the establishment of a better relationship and understanding between employer and employee. Also I strongly deprecate the vitriolic statements that were made by some members of the Opposition, which, I consider, were calculated to strengthen the attitude of bitterness that many workers to-day hold towards their employers. Such statements serve to perpetuate that most undesirable feeling of class hatred and are, I am sure, aimed at creating as wide a barrier as possible between the worker and his employer. I am only too well aware that many faults and failings lie with a great number of employers. Prom my own personal experience in industry and commerce, I know that many employers and members of managerial staffs are untrained in man management, to use an army expression. They are not suitable as leaders in industry. I know a great many who are completely inefficient in their executive positions. I am sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had that situation in mind when he referred in his policy speech to the promotion of institutions such as the Institute of Industrial Management. Many employers to-day have no difficulty whatever in disposing of the goods they produce, but are not disposed to increase production, as they could well do, because of certain taxation anomalies and other discouragements. It is true also that many workers believe, that the supply of goods may overtake the demand if they devote more effort to their work, in which case they will have worked themselves out of their jobs. They are also suspicious of incentive payment schemes. Many of them have had unpleasant experiences of incentive payments in the past. As production increased, the scale of incentives was whittled down by the employers and that, in good round industrial language, is called sweating. However, in answer to that I point out that to-day, as never before, the worker is protected by a minimum basic wage and, of course, the 40- hour week.
*I am extremely confident that, if we really settle down to the task of increasing production, Australia will have a magnificent future. There should be no unemployment as far into the future as we can foresee. I am convinced that, with the getting together of the employer and the employee, a basis of incentive payments satisfactory to all could be devised, with very great advantage to most of our industries, or at any rate to a great many industries. I am not so much of an idealist as to be unable to realize the cold, hard facts that the employer is eager to produce his goods at the lowest possible price commensurate with maintaining competitive quality, and that the worker is anxious to sell his services at the highest possible price, while at the same time assuring himself of continuity of employment; However, I am convinced that only by fostering mutual understanding and a much closer and happier relationship, so that each party will appreciate the problems of the other and the difficulties that must be overcome, can we achieve anything approaching harmony in industry.
Let us consider briefly what increased production would help us to do. I have jotted down my thoughts on this subject as they have occurred to me. Increased production would provide people with more homes in which to live. It would check the rising spiral of prices and costs. By stabilizing prices, it would protect our savings, which have progressively become worth less and less in terms of purchasing power. On this subject, I have in mind the great number of Australians who have accumulated savings over a long period of years, very often at the cost of personal hardship. Those savings have been made by means of savings bank deposits, through insurance, by contributions to staff provident funds and by other thrifty means. It is not very comforting for the thrifty people who have made these savings to realize that their savings are now worth only about one-half of the value that they envisaged when they made their first contributions. Increased production also would enable us to compete with an increasing quantity of goods on overseas markets. It would contribute immeasurably to the overcoming of the serious inflation that hai been brought about by the fact that there :.=. in circulation more money than can he exhausted in the purchase of the inadequate supply of goods that is available. Increased production would also create a truer and more stable condition of prosperity than that which we know to-day. Indeed, it would be the greatest possible contribution towards putting value back into the fi. Real prosperity, which consists in a high standard, of living for the people, is completely dependent upon the willingness of the people to produce goods anc) services. This Government cannot produce goods and services, but it can lend, encourage and inspire the people to do so, and I sincerely trust that it will fulfil that responsibility.
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territory) [3.38 J. - On this important occasion I take the opportunity as a new member of the Parliament to congratulate Mr. Speaker on behalf of the electors of the Northern Territory upon his elevation to lj is high office. My constituents have reason to congratulate him because they remember the services that he rendered to the Northern Territory as their unofficial representative in this House a few years ago. In discussing the Governor-General’s Speech, I shall confine my remarks to that portion of it which had a direct [fearing upon the affairs of the Northern Territory. I refer to the following paragraph in the Speech: -
A vigorous policy designed to develop the resources of the Northern Territory will bt put into operation. Particular attention will lie given to transport, pastoral development for increased meat production, mining’ and possible agricultural settlement. Basic research into land, water, mineral, murine and timber resources will be continued. The Darwin town pln.ii will be reviewed in the interests of greater efficiency and economy.
The terms used there are general, and as with other matters dealt with in His Excellency’s Speech, there is no indication of how the desired state of affairs mentioned is to be brought about. I shall refer to each of those matters in order.
I know that a programme of road construction was drawn up by the Chifley Government, and in the absence of a statement to the contrary, I take it that this Government will continue along the lines laid down at that time. . Apart from two bitumen highways, which were built dming the war for military purposes, there are no all-weather roads in the Northern Territory. Without such roads no heavy transport can be used. Unless heavy transport vehicles, which can operate the year round, are used, very little development of the Northern Territory is possible. In the absence of railways, roads will have to carry all current production including beef on the hoof. They will also be used for the movement of store cattle during unfavorable seasons and for the carriage of basic materials for present and future needs. I ask the Government to speed up the road building in the Northern Territory.
Thousands of square miles of the territory are suitable for pastoral purposes, but at the moment that land is not available for settlement. We are told that there is a scarcity of surveyors which is holding up the preliminary work for the opening up of such land. The reason for that scarcity is that the Public Service .Board, or some such body, refuses to make conditions of employment sufficiently attractive to entice surveyors into the service. In the interests of the Northern Territory some of the big holdings should be cut up. This would allow suitable settlers, by whom I mean resident lessees, to get on with the job of putting the land to its best possible use. I therefore ask the Government to alter the tenure of land in the territory from a short-term tenure to perpetual lease. Banks will not advance money to-day against leasehold property in the territory for improvements or the purchase of stock. If the Government made the tenure of land perpetual lease, I think that the banks would then advance money. The Commonwealth Bank could well help to .finance the development of the territory.
Mining has never before in the history of the territory had such a bright future. The value of the gold produced at Tennant Creek this year may exceed £50.0,000. Gold-fields such as that contribute greatly to the wealth of this country, and every encouragement should be given .to prospectors to search for new fields. It is still the prospector who finds new mines although mining’ companies very often take over from him and reap the benefit of his work. Mica mining is potentially the most important industry in the territory. At present the mica mines of the Northern Territory supply 99 per cent, of the Australian domestic requirements, and possibilities exist for the extension of those mining activities so that markets may be opened up in the United States. As well as developing the Northern Territory the encouragement of such mining would earn valuable dollars for Australia. The mica field in the territory is recognized as being the largest in the world. The difficulties associated with its development are of a technical nature and if the Government put the best brains available to work solving its problems that mica field would contribute greatly to the wealth of Australia as well as to that o£ the territory.
Basic research into land, water, mineral, marine and timber resources- is also mentioned in His- Excellency’s Speech. Where research is mentioned I hope that the Government has in mind an extension in the territory of the activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It is only through research that pastures can be improved and agricultural development speeded up in- this area. The Government should pay much attention to research and should extend the activities of this organization within the territory. There are areas in the territory capable of supporting large agricultural populations, but owing to’ the lack of roads- and services- they are lying practically idle. With financial and technical assistance, and with the construction of roads, those areas can* be made to produce a variety of valuable goods.
Lack of water is- a retarding influence on development, not only in the territory, but also in the whole of Australia. That is one of the first matters to which the Government should direct its attention. Very little further extension of the pastoral industry can take place in the Northern- Territory unless more water is made available, from wells1,, bares, tanks- and. dams. We have- the Katherine, Daly, Victoria, and other rivers in. the territory which are all capable of supporting extensive settlements along their banks ; but thought must be given to the development of our water resources to their greatest extent before such settlements will be possible. It may be that hydro schemes or straight out irrigation schemes are desirable. To illustrate- the effect of the lack of water., I instance Tennant Creek. The population of Tennant Creek, is about SOO, and all drinking water has to be carted a distance of 6 miles. The water costs lis. a. 100 gallons, and until, recently the price was double that amount. Honorable members ca.n readily- understand how such a state of affairs tends to r.etard the development of the town. Those are the conditions that prevail in an area where it. is expected more than £50.0,000 worth of gold will be produced this year. I ask the Government, when it is considering the provision of water services in the Northern Territory, to place Tennant Creek high on the list of priorities. The people of that town are entitled to the ordinary amenities of life, of which a proper water supply is one.
In his Speech, the Governor-General said that the Government would review the Darwin plan. When it does so, it should restore to the people of Darwin the area that was resumed- some time ago by the naval authorities-. This fine area overlooks the harbour, and the people are incensed that it should have been taken over by the naval authorities. There are many fine, buildings on the site, and up till recently quite a few of them were empty. The area could be made one of the beauty spots of Darwin. I ask that a better shippping service be provided to Darwin. An improved service from southern ports would have the effect of reducing the cost of living and also the cost of building in Darwin, which are at present very high. It would provide better facilities to primary producers to send their produce to the southern, markets.
The matters which I have mentioned are of vital importance to the people of the territory, but. it would be of little use to- attempt a- solution of the various problems until the administration is brought up to date. It is impossible to construct a sound building on faulty foundations. The Government should appoint a Minister whose sole duty would be to administer the Northern Territory, and to initiate and carry through plans for its development. Let us get away from the idea that the administration of the territory is a parttime job for a Minister. I wish it to be understood that I have no wish to reflect upon the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride.)., or upon any other Minister, when I urge this reform. ‘ It is impossible for a Minister to devote to the affairs of the territory the time that they deserve if he also has to give his attention to other important matters. Recently, it was announced in the press that the Minister for the Interior would take over the duties of the Minister for Defence i(M.r. Eric .T. Harrison) while that gentleman was in London, and that the Department of the Interior would absorb the remnants of the Department of Information. Thus, at a time when the affairs of the territory should be receiving more attention from the Minister, they may well receive less.
The Government should re-organize the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory to enable the people to play a. more effective part in the management of their affairs. The council was set up by the Chifley Government for that purpose and the people welcomed it. Although they recognized that it was too limited in its scope, they were prepared to try it to see how it worked. The Legislative Council has now been functioning for two years, and during that period many weaknesses have been revealed. For instance, it was found that the influence of the -Government nominated members of -the council was so overwhelming, that n;o measure introduced -by the elected representatives had any hope of succeeding unless it was acceptable to them. lt was further shown that the council had no power to force government departments to divulge information about their activities. Then, when reports of the proceedings of ‘the ‘council ceased to be iw longer published, the public could nol’ follow wfoat the council was doing, and they began to lose interest. There- for.e, I ask the Government to review the conditions under which the council is constituted so that it may operate more effectively in the interests of the territory.
The Chifley Government recognized -that the people of the Northern Territory had advanced a -long way towards the goal of self-government. The very fact that the Legislative Council was established was proof of that. If the present Government is prepared to review the activities of the council, and to appoint a full-time Minister for the Northern Territory, it should logically go a :step further, and bring down legislation empowering the elected representative of the people of the Northern Territory to vote in this House on all matters that come before it. Surely the people of the territory have proved that they are entitled to have in the Parliament a representative empowered to take his place with other honorable members in the conduct of the affairs of the nation. In all sincerity, I ask that this reform be effected. If the Government will agree to the proposals I have made, it will show that it is prepared to do what is necessary to develop the Northern Territory and to give the people there a more effective say in the conduct of their own affairs. It will also show that it recognizes that the people of the Northern Territory are citizens of Australia, and are entitled to be treated as such. The development of the Northern Territory must be treated as a national undertaking, and honorable members should realize now, if they have not realized it before, that the Northern Territory in its present condition is the outstanding weakness in the Australian defence structure. I warn honorable members to take heed -of the unsettled conditions in countries to the north o’f Australia. I agree with the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) to the effect that no nation can esCape its geography. The urgency of the situation warrants special efforts. I wonder whether honorable members agree that a special Minister should be appointed to attend to the task of developing the territory. Australia has already suffered attack by an enemy. Bow many honorable members remember the date of the bombing ©£
Darwin by the Japanese? I suppose that comparatively few can recall that fateful date off-hand. It was the 19th February, 1942, when, for the first time in Australian history, an aggressor made a direct attack on our mainland. Yet, eight years later, Australia has forgotten that dark day, when 250 men and women lost their lives, and 400 persons were injured. That was a disaster the nature and magnitude of which Australia had never suffered before and has not suffered since; yet, in a comparatively short period, the event has been almost forgotten. In conclusion, >[ suggest, in all sincerity, that the Government should set aside the 19th February as a national day of rememberance, to be a reminder to the people, and especially to public nien, that such a disaster can happen here. If we do not populate our empty north, the next attack will fall not only on Darwin but also the cities of the southern States.
Dr. NOTT (Australian Capital Territory) 1 4.3 ]. - At the beginning of my remarks, I should like to congratulate Mr. Speaker on the high honour that this House, by unanimous vote, has conferred on him. He has been a distinguished soldier who lias served his country well. Also with endless resolution, he has served the people of Australia as a Minister of the Crown. He spent eight stoic if restless years in Opposition, and on the 22nd February last, he was elected the Speaker of the House of Representatives. His many activities on behalf of this country, a.nd his associations with this honorable House mark him as the person fitted to occupy the Chair. I am also most gratified that Mr. Speaker has seen fit to wear the robes of office. It is most important that on such occasions as this, and in such days as these, when democracies are shrinking throughout the world, and, more particularly, when our own democracy is resting on a knife edge, we should be extremely loth to discard any legacy which has been handed down to us from the mother of parliament? as a symbol of dignity and order, and of the freedom that wo enjoy to express our opinions in this chamber. That freedom is also enjoyed by people in other parts of the British Commonwealth. I feel that my constituents would like mc to express to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) their thanks for the manner in which he has closely associated himself with and the deep interest that lie has shown in many organizations, cultural and otherwise, in the Australian Capital Territory.
At long last, the Australian Capital Territory has been given limited representation in the Parliament of the Commonwealth. The fight for that representation has been of long duration. I was a mem bon* of the Parliament at the time of the transfer of the seat of government from Melbourne to the Australian Capital Territory. Shortly after our arrival in Canberra,.! had the honour to present to the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. S. M. Bruce, now Lord Bruce, a petition signed by approximately 76 per cent, of the whole of the population of the Australian Capital Territory in which they prayed that they should be granted representation in the Parliament. Mr. Bruce received the petition sympathetically, and speaking on it in this House, expressed the opinion that the case for representation was unanswerable. I also recall that, on that occasion, the present Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) strongly supported the petition, and the then Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Matthew Charlton, urged that the request should be granted. But time passed, and nothing was done.. Tn the intervening years I have submitted similar petitions and have led deputations to successive Prime Ministers in the hope that, eventually, the adult population of the Australian Capital Territory would be granted at least limited representation in this House. It remained for the last Government, through the good offices of the then Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), to grant us the franchise. Whilst we are gratified, we do not feel particularly grateful to any one, for we have only been given citizen rights, of which we had been deprived for many years. However, we have gained the franchise, and we sincerely pray that, in the not distant future, the member for the Australian Capital Territory will have the same voting rights in this House as all other honorable members excepting one have.
It ia somewhat extraordinary that the Australian Capital Territory is the smallest of all the electorates, yet it is the oldest in one sense and the newest in another sense. Its boundaries were not laid down by any commission which had been set up by the Parliament. The framers of the federal Constitution, the giant intellectuals of the day, who, following a series of conventions, brought into being the federation as we now know it, decided that the Australian Capital Territory should be situated in New South Wales, and Canberra was later selected as the territory for the Seat of Government. Its geographical boundaries are also the electoral boundaries of the Australian Capital Territory constituency. The framers of the Constitution also decided that the Parliament of Australia should, at the appropriate time, grant the franchise to the residents of the territory for the Seat of Government, and years later the people here have exercised the franchise for the first time as residents of the Australian Capital Territory. I feel a deep sense of responsibility at the honour that has fallen to me to represent the new electorate in this House. I rejoice in the fact that the constituency known as the Australian Capital Territory was not created in a spirit of rancour and bitterness, or after hard political battles and the display of party passions, but has progressed to the stage that we know it to-day. The Australian Capital Territory is the nerve centre of Australia. It is the residence of His Majesty’s representative, His Excellency the Governor-General, the Seat of the Government of Australia, the official place of residence of the Prime Minister and of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. It is the seat of the Australian National University - a university which, I think, for the first time in history has been planned on scientific and detailed lines. It is the cradle of the Australian military machine. I refer, of course, to the Royal Military College, at Duntroon. It is the home of nearly every Commonwealth department. It is also the seat of an archbishopric and a bishopric. Governmental decisions that are made in this small centre are flashed not only to all parts of Australia, but also to many places beyond the seas. Every honorable member should surely agree that in view of the importance of this constituency, the member for the Australian Capital Territory should have the same voting rights as other honorable members enjoy.
It is astonishing to think that those of us who came here voluntarily or compulsorily in the past forfeited the privileges that we had enjoyed as citizens of the Commonwealth immediately we crossed the imaginary line that marks the boundaries of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. I hope that such a condition of affairs will not exist again. What would be the reaction of other honorable members if 15,000 or 21,000 persons in, say, municipalities in their electorates were deprived of the franchise? The whole idea is absurd. That is why I make bold to say that I have not the sole responsibility of representing the Australian Capital Territory. This electorate is the delegated will of the whole of the people of Australia, and not of an isolated or composite section, and every honorable member has the same responsibility as I have to ensure the progress of this territory, which is the symbol of the Australian destiny.
Before I discuss some of the matters in the Governor-General’s Speech, I should like briefly to pay a tribute to the people who, 25 or 30 years ago, laid the foundation stones of many, if not all, of the permanent structures, apart from hostels and guest houses, in the Australian Capital Territory. Those buildings stand as monuments to the indefatigable efforts of people to build, at the seat of government, a city worthy of the Australian nation. The national capital, in its early days, was controlled by directors-general of works, and surveyorsgeneral. .Subsequently, it was administered by the Federal Capital Commission, which was replaced by a system of ministerial control. All of them have played a noteworthy part in the development of this young country and the extraordinary amount of time and labour which they have devoted to their task should be properly recognized. It would not be out of place for me to pay a tribute to Mr., later Sir John, Butters, who,, together with hia associate* commissioners, did. valuable work under great stress, in; order that the parliamentary building should be ready for the opening oS the- fils. Parliament to sit in Canberra in *1921:. Reviewing the past and looking forward to< the1 future; I believe that I appeal to the sense of justice1 and fair.ness, in, every honorable member when I urge that: the representative of the Aus: tralian Capital Territory should now be given, a; full franchise, in. thus- House. The honorable member for. the Northern Territory (Mr.. Nelson), has, advanced, the claims of. the residents of that territory for f ul representation in this Parliament. 1. point out that for. some time the residents o£ the Northern. Territory have been in’ a more fortunate position than have die, resident* of the Australian Capital Territory in that they have been blessed - the word “ blessed “ may not be the: proper word to use’ in this connotation - by the’ appointment of a legislative council in which, their interests can be represented. I believe that the growing importance of the: electorates of the Northern Territory and. the- Australian Capital! Territory entitle their representatives* ta full franchise rights in this National Parliament. The importance of the electorate- of- the- Australian Capital Territory has increased as the result of the establishment, in this national city of the high commissioners’ offices for the United Kingdom, and’ the Dominions, and of embassies of foreign^ countries, and consideration should now be given to the granting’ to. its’- representative of” full franchise- rights. It would not be too much to expect: this, Parliament to go a step- further and in the. generosity of its heart, and with, sagacity and wisdom, extend, to; the. residents of the Australian Capital Territory representation also in 1?h& Senate: It is true, that an advisory council has-been in. existences in this Territory for: mam.y yearns, but although that body has functioned well within the limits of its: constitution, ifr is: purely an advisory body and; has’ no* executive power: The council was! constituted, merely to proffer advice; to the Minister for the Interior of the day. I say without hesitation, amd the minutes’ of the; proceedings of the council will bear out the truth of my contention, that had successive
Ministers for- the Interior- followed’ the advice given on innumerable occasions by the council-‘ during the last twenty years, this- city would be a much, better city than it is to-day, and many of the ills from’ which its residents’ suffer, and the irritations which remind them continually that they are1 only partly enfranchised, would: long ago. have disappeared. The time has1 come when the Minister- should see that the Advisory Council shall give way to a legislative council clothed with sufficient power to- initiate, amend or veto ordinances that may be made by the government of the day in direct opposition to- the’ wishes- of the people of the Australian Capital Territory.. A legislative council would not need to be clothed with, great executive power at this stage of our development, but its’ establishment would enable the people to- take an increasing share- of responsibility for the development: of. this- National! Capital. A consistent and, in> some directions; a wellsupported move has been made for- lie establishment of a municipal council for this city. I do not’ oppose the- appointment of such a body. I merely say that, having had. aldermanic experience, 1 know that to play with, the two. proposals is to play with a two-edged sword’.. At this, juncture I. support- the proposal- for the: establishment of a legislative council, and not. a council clothed- with; municipal powers1.. I. hope that; my discussion- of these matters at some length: at this stage of our proceedings will not, be regarded as1 indicating that I have a. parochial outlook. I have no embarrassment in mentioning them now because: I realize that they concern every Honorable; member of. this House.
I propose1 now- to deal briefly’ with some matters that were mentioned’ in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General1. Naturally, of course, my first thoughts turn to> matters relating’ to public health. Before I proceed to- deal with the Governments health plans- I propose to reply briefly’ to. statements’ that have been made by honorable membei-3 opposite on Matters- that are greatly exercising1 the minds of the1 people at the- present time1. The- honorable member for Reid (Mr: Morgan) le erred to poliomyelitis, which isi raging- in all the States and also in the Australian Capital Territory. He seemed to be under the impression that this epidemic is of minor significance. The extraordinary feature of this disease is that in its present epidemic state, it has a shocking way of selecting too often the flower- of the- flock. . Very often the victim of poliomyelitis becomes wholly uneconomic and has- to be- supported by the- community for- the rest of his life. The problem, of coping with poliomyelitis has given the medical profession, a great deal of concern. The honorable member, with, a cynicism that was unworthy of him, said: that at last a medical officer is being sent abroad to become familiar with, the latest- methods in the control and treatment of .this disease. This is not by any means the first occasion on which the scourge of poliomyelitis has exercised the minds of every practising medical man in Australia. Dr. Mcnamara, a very distinguished medical graduate from Victoria, who is a world authority on the incidence of poliomyelitis, its treatment and control, has travelled abroad on several occasions and on her return has reported to the various Australian organizations that are concerned with the control of this virulent disease. The honorable member for Reid also referred at great length to the activities of Sister Kenny. I have had the privilege of knowing Sister Kenny for 26 years.. She is a lady of outstanding ability and personality. I offer no criticism of her work except to- say that whilst she has mad( the whole world conscious of the dread effect of poliomyelitis, she has obtained her best results in .the treatment of sufferers only when she has closely approached the orthodox methods of treatment that are followed’ by the medical profession.
The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) saw fit to indulge in a diatribe against the British Medical Association, an organization; association or union - call it what we may - whose members have played an enormous part i’n making possible the widespread practice of medicine throughout this country. I shall deal more fully with his remarks at a- later1 stage. I content myself now by saying that in, the ranks of the British Medical’ Association are* to be found individuals with the highest ideals- who, for years, have rendered courageous service to people in every walk of life. I should be recreant to my trust as a member of this House if I did not pay tribute to them for the services they have rendered. The books of the British Medical Association are audited by a public auditor. The organization- is controlled entirely by its members. Its members may differ at Dimes with politicians. Indeed, who would not do- so when politicians attempted to play about with the health of the community?’ Those who are best fitted to advise on matters relating to the health of the- community are .those- whose whole lives have been spent in the medical profession. I deplore from the bottom of my heart the- fact that in the past the political parties- represented on both sides of this. House have sought to capitalize the health of the community for political purposes. The sanctity of life and the sacredness of health should not be made the subject of party politics. A national health scheme should be completely, above party politics. I have not yet seen the draft of the bill which is to be introduced by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) to provide for a medical service. When it is introduced it may or may not please me.. If it does not please me, I shall not hesitate to say what I think about it. Almost every day questions are fired across this chamber, and statements are published in the press, relating to health matters which are based on mere conjecture. Questions based on statements made by irresponsible people would be better left unasked because they merely increase rancour- and bitterness in the minds of the people who have so often been misled. I d’o not know what provisions the bill will’ contain. I only know that to-day it costs too much to- be born, too much to live, too much to be sick, and too much to die. A health scheme must embrace the whole of the. community and every aspect’ of the health of the1 community. The subject of hospitalization’ may or may not come- within the ambit of the bill. Every medical practitioner realizes that the present position of hospitalization is not pleasing to contemplate. I, myself, have seen no fewer- than five women being confined at once- in a’ public hall and< in’ the corridors of the Canberra’ Community Hospital, yet this cil?? is’ supposed to have1 a modern md! up-to-date hospital; Congestion’ has resulted from the rapid growth of the population of this city, mostly by the addition of people of an age .at which they can rear families. Every effort is now being made to overtake the shortage of hospital accommodation in Canberra, and I trust that I shall never again witness such an occurrence as that which I have described. I urge the Minister for Health to take into consideration the need for the standardization of hospitals throughout Australia. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been wasted because of the lack of such standardiza-tion. Any health measure that may be adopted for the welfare of the people must take into consideration a better deal for the nursing profession. In some quarters nurses are looked upon purely as a means for increasing the income of medical practitioners. One of the most pathetic, things in life is to see nurses, after years of service, no longer able to be gainfully employed in their profession, having to seek other sources of employment in order to eke out an existence. The position of the invalid and age pensioners in relation to any bill that may be brought down is a matter of great concern to me. I say with respect that the invalid pensioner who is receiving the lousy amount of £2 2s. 6d. a week is in an impossible position economically. He is almost at the same disadvantage as the head of a family who is stricken with tuberculosis which confronts him with a long and distressing illness and the prospect of being unfit to resume his occupation. Unless he has adequate means, he is bound to be a recurring case in the immediate future. Any bill that is introduced must bring about an amelioration of the condition of those people. The basic wage to-day is approximately £6 14s. a week. Wages have risen, costs of commodities have sky-rocketed, yet the invalid and age pensioners are supposed to eke out an existence in a tumble-down shack on £2 2s. 6d. a week. That is asking an impossibility. Thousands of these people have passed through my hands in the 23 years during which I have practised in this community. It has been my sad lot, again and again, to be called out to settlements where they live to certify to the death of some old man who had passed peacefully away and who received under a death certificate the only luxury he ever know. Some men had lain there for days without any one caring what had happened to them. Any bill that is introduced should make such provision as will obviate happenings of that kind. We have tried for years to establish a Twilight Home for the aged. Quite recently, I was shown lovely blueprints of one, but you cannot cover a man with a blueprint or put him to bed on one. Nor will it buy him enough food to provide him with a bare existence at the lowest level. I do not yet know the details of the proposed bill, but it must make full provision, not only for the treatment of the person who is suffering from tuberculosis but also for the aftercare of tubercular patients. In most of the big cities in which tuberculosis is prevalent, sanatoriums have been set up, and an interest is taken in sufferers from tuberculosis. There are committees which see that these people obtain employment after their recovery because it is impossible for many of them, after a long and debilitating illness, to go back to their former gainful employment in which they were engaged when they were stricken with the disease. There is in progress a health campaign that is designed to eradicate tuberculosis. I heard a speech that was made in 1948 in which it wa3 stated that in 25 years there would not be one case of tuberculosis in this country; it was to be obliterated for all time. About 23 years previously, I had heard a speech in the same terms when I was a delegate to a conference in the Australian Capital Territory at the opening of the Institute of Anatomy. The body conducting the campaign is in a position to deliver the goods, but it will not be able to do so unless the economic position as well as the medical condition of the tubercular patient is considered.
Housing and the care of people suffering from tuberculosis and kindred diseases are inextricably interwoven matters and the one cannot be dealt with without considering the other. Whereas hundreds sought houses in the Australian Capital Territory five years ago, to-day there are thousands. We should not ask workmen to occupy many of the houses that have been constructed. One-half of the cases of delinquency !:« ~z before the Children’s Court, which I attend regularly, are brought about by the fact that many of the houses are not large enough for their occupants. There are no recreational facilities and children are compelled to seek their pleasures in the street and once they do that they immediately lose the benefit of parental control which would mean so much to them in later life. It is not possible for me, in the time at my disposal, to deal with all these matters. The housing position has been bad in Canberra ever since this city was founded. From 1934 onwards, the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council again and again has carried resolutions calling on the government of the day - every government for the last 25 years - to realize the seriousness of the housing position and to provide decent housing for the people. The Molonglo settlement was built with green timber, which shrunk. It was originally used to house German prisoners of war. A considerable population was housed there under conditions which it was not fair to ask any man to accept. That was done when this country was not short of building material or any of the ancillary items of a housing scheme. The history of the unutterable failure of the housing scheme, which is now a national calamity, can be read in the records of divorce courts, children’s courts and other courts throughout Australia. Tho right honorable gentleman who has the duty of providing housing for the community, is sending a mission abroad to inspect prefabricated houses. He should be forced to realize that time is the essence of the contract. He should send some one abroad with authority to purchase houses, but they should not be purchased unless they provide proper facilities and conveniences. I do not think any one who has not had hospital experience and has not gone from house to house in Canberra can realize the heart-breaks that are being suffered and are leading to the desolation of many families in the Australian Capital Territory. I have in my hand a sheaf of letters that I have received this week. * Extension of time granted.^* It has been a deplorable thing to see government after government, year after year, remain so entirely oblivious to the needs of the people who are on the lower scale of remuneration and cannot pay the rents that are demanded for the better type of house. This is a national matter. It affects Canberra, perhaps, a little more than other cities, because most of the people in this city are engaged in essential services. They have been brought here by the Government, therefore it is the bounden duty of the Government to see that they are properly housed with some measure of comfort and dignity.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) dealt with the subject of peace in industry and with matters that are tendential to securing peace in industry. I have here the printed text of a speech on the subject of peace in industry which I broadcast during the recent general election. I was so impressed by the speech of the honorable member for Bendigo, who has had a long experience in industrial matters, that I handed to him a copy of my speech on the same evening as he spoke in this House. Peace in industry, like housing, is perhaps the most important factor that will lead to the security and development of this country along the lines that only a democracy should go. I have listened for hours to the speeches of honorable members on both sides of the House. Many of those contributions will have a lasting effect. I was struck by the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last night, in which he held out an olive branch for co-operation with members on the other side of the House, so that, in the interests of Australia as a whole, we may get somewhere by increasing industrial production. The whole of our prosperity depends upon that. The lessening of our dollar shortage depends upon our ability to produce goods that are marketable in other .parts of the world. The greatest disintegrating factor in this country to-day is the strike weapon. Every one seems to admit that to-day strikes are being organized by those who are communistically inspired and who would, if they could, hitch their wagon to the star of a type of totalitarianism which would be of no advantage to any one who lives in this country. Increased production is to-day a clarion call to the Empire and particularly to the people of this country. Increased production and reduced costs depend on the continuous and steady employment of .all the people who are engaged in industry. High tension production cannot -achieve the degree of efficiency that is essential to mass production unless there is complete co-operation by every one .of those units that are engaged in industry. Lack of co-operation by various sections of industry lowers production, undermines employment, and reduces the wage earnings of those who are engaged in industry. Therefore, we have the present unsatisfactory .and unstable economic position domestically and nationally.
How, I ask, can peace in industry be brought about and maintained.? I say, by a better spirit of -co-operation between the workers on the one hand and the owners and managers on the other hand. That has been stated in this chamber time and time again. But the question is, how can this better spirit of co-operation between workers on the one hand and the owners and managers, or captains -of industry, on the other hand be brought about? Never in the history of the great ‘Commonwealth of Nations has the responsibility of industry been so great as lt is to-day. That responsibility does 1lot rest entirely on the worker. It also rests on .those who are known as the leaders or the captains of industry, or tha owners or managers. There must be demonstrated a better effort to get together ami .a lowering of the .continuous hostile tension that so often exists -between managers of industry and the workers in it. The old view that the worker is. a mere unemotional cog in the wheel of industry lias ?gone for ever and should not be allowed to raise its head again. Likewise, -the old view that the captain of industry, the employer, is a hard bargain driving person, has long since passed into oblivion, because to-day it is supplemented by a modifying psychology. Arbitration courts have been set up which give to both sides the opportunity to state their case, so that a decision may bp .given which will not lead to disruption of the efficiency of industry. Those old ideas would he as dead .as the teachings of Karl Marx if politicians (Hil »not ‘continually revive them. They contribute .nothing towards .goodwill and the establishment -of the trust and cooperation that -must exist between workers and managers. The personal importance to industry of the worker must be .recognized, and employers must acknowledge the fact that .human dignity and personal values are “just as important as profits. Industry will develop and expand prosperously only when .those who employ labour realize that the best asset that they can possibly have is a modern trade union organization, under perfect control, co-operating with them in every way. Gainful and continuous employment under the best conditions that industry can afford is the greatest steadying factor in relation to production, and it offers the only means of combating Communist-inspired strikes.
Security in industry can be bought, but the only acceptable price is that of good and continuous employment. Industrial peace and stability will never be achieved by coercion or prison bars. That is my firm belief, formed after making a closely detailed study of the situation over a long period. Every large industry and every large trade union should appoint a key personnel committee for the purpose of ironing out those small problems and pinpricks which, if allowed to continue, become magnified beyond their proper proportions. Such a system would increase the efficiency of industry in every respect. The very fact of the employer and the employee meeting face to face, neither the one looking up nor the other looking down, would add greatly to the prospect of maintaining peace in the industrial sphere. The encouragement of trade unions by managements would be conducive to goodwill and the growth of confidence and trust. The investigation of individual complaints should be facilitated. Such activities would not be detrimental in any way to the existing conciliation and arbitration system. In fact, they would contribute to the efficiency of -the system. Though we have differences of opinion, we are Australians and we share a common desire to see our nation progress towards the destiny that ‘has been decreed for it. We have inherited from our forefathers a great legacy that should not be lightly thrown aside. If we fail to meet adversity as our forefathers did and overcome our industrial troubles in a spirit of mutual .goodwill we shall cheat our children,’ and .their children after them, of the .legacy that should be .handed down to them. We shall destroy hope aud blast all prospects of developing a great and industrially peaceful nation.
.- 1 remind honorable members that the honorable member for Corio ‘(Mr. Opperman) initiated this debate. In other . days and in other circumstances, many .people lagged behind .the honorable gentleman to their intense discomfort. Those of us who enter the debate at this stage feel some sympathy for his former opponents because we, .too, are lagging. far behind the honorable member with a certain amount of discomfort. Most of the important points of the Governor-General’s Speech have already been covered, not only effectively, but also frequently by previous speakers. The principal subject that exercises my mind is the housing shortage. Several honorable members have already discussed it, and we have just heard an .eloquent dissertation upon it by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott). However, despite all that has been said, -much more remains to bo said. That will be so until every person in Australia has a home in which to live. Every young man .and woman facing the prospect ‘df marriage and the raising of a family, .and every ex-serviceman has the Tight to a home. I fully appreciate that housing has become principally a matter for the State governments ; nevertheless, this Parliament influences and guides those governments in many obvious .ways. For that reason, I listened with the greatest :satisfaction to the following ;passage in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.: -
My Government will take all possible steps to stimulate the .building of .homes. 1 realized that those’ were not empty words, ‘because the ‘Government already, in the brief period during which it had been in -office, ‘had. begun to put its policy into ‘effect. It made a very sympathetic approach to the housing problem by .reducing, or abolishing, tariff charges -upon imported prefabricated ‘and pre-cut homes and an imposing variety of building materials. Those acts proved the sincerity of its promises and .caused. a ray of hope to shine upon the homeless.
It would be impossible for me to discuss the housing situation fully within the time at my disposal and within the limits of the patience of other honorable members. I could speak at length about the (shortage itself, housing in relation to ihe immigration programme, slum clearance, the ‘-prohibitive cost of building homes, the effect of the shortage upon the birth-rate, and dozens of other aspects. However, ST. propose to deal merely with the shortage. Every honorable member must be aware of the tragedy of this ‘shortage. The honorable comber for the Australian .Capital Territory has -spoken movingly of .his experiences of .the .desperate personal problems that constantly arise. The seriousness of the situation is too apparent to need further emphasis. Any member of this Parliament who >can return to his electorate without (being inundated with talcs o’f broken families, >ruined health and desperate hardship is indeed a fortunate man. A member of the ‘Opposition asked recently whether honorable members on this side of the House- had examined the Herne Bay housing settlement in New South Wales. I have not inspected it closely, but I have -seen it. I did not like what I saw. I have also inspected housing settlements in other States governed by -Labour Administrations, and I did not -like ‘what I saw there, either. It seems to me that slums :are being .manufactured for the unfortunate people who have to live in such settlements.
My comments refer only to the shortage of ordinary homes for ordinary people. I have no intention of wasting the time of the House by pleading-the cause of people who, in their -wisdom or otherwise, wish to acquire -spectacular dwellings. My sole concern is for those people whose problem is one of need, not one of choice. Whenever the housing shortage is mentioned, whether it be at -a public gathering, at a council meeting or in this National Parliament, somebody always produces -a spate of figures stating bow many homes have ‘been ! built under the administration. of this ‘government or that government, fi submit that such statistics ure irrelevant. The socially decisive factor is the number of the homes that have not been built. Thousands of young men and women who are waiting to be married are suffering because of the housing shortage. Every book that they read and every film that they see ends with the heroine and the hero marrying and settling down to live happily ever after. But such things are not to be for young Australians, and the purpose of their lives is being frustrated. The problem of the homes that have not been built is one that affects our ex-servicemen and imbues them with cynical selfcondemnation because they went away to fight for their country and in doing so lost their chances of getting homes. This is the problem that fills Australia with hopelessness and misery. We search “for reasons for the shortage, but too often we are satisfied with mere excuses. Many theories have been advanced to explain the inadequacy of our home building programmes. Some people say that the reason is to be found in the fact that we have lost the small investor from our midst. They say that many ordinary homes were built in the past by people who invested their small savings in homes hut that the incidence of taxation and other factors crushed such investors out of existence. Another person will say that it is the working tradesmen who are at fault; that they will not work hard and will not work overtime, because high taxation makes it not worth their while to put forth their best efforts or to work extra hours. That argument requires a lot of justification. Other people say that master builders, because of taxation, regulations or the shortage of material, just will not bother to build homes. Many reasons are given, some true, some half true and some totally untrue. The Government must discover the real reasons, whatever they may be, and take all possible steps to encourage and stimulate the building of homes. Home building should bo a priority project. Since the war, even although materials have been controlled, there is evidence that far too many luxury buildings have been constructed in Australia. Night clubs have been built, also luxury hotels the size of the Taj Mahal, where only a millionaire can buy a glass of beer in the lounge. I could show honorable members to-day in the electorate of Franklin, a home that has been built since the war ended, in which even His Excellency could live with a great deal of distinction. Goodness knows how many bathrooms and .toilets it contains, yet other people, including returned service men and their families, are living in one or two rotten rooms. That home was built by one of the most active and influential socialists in my city.
The Commonwealth authorities themselves are not guiltless of luxury building. In my electorate a palatial building was started last year for the Com monwealth Bank. It is too late now to have anything done about that, but I say officially, by way of protest, that last year when a complaint was made by a group of people including myself, our intelligence was insulted by our being told that in spite of the fact that nearly £1,000,000 was to be spent on the building and between 20.0 and 300 workmen employed on it, the project itself would not affect home building. It is well known that big construction companies exist and that they employ a great number of workers and have an imposing pay-roll. It is not their function to build cottages ; they can be concerned only with large construction works. I do not deny the right of any person to build any sort of home he chooses. I do not suggest that the luxury hotel does not fulfil a purpose for those unfortunate people who want to take their relaxation the hard way! With every ounce of emphasis at my command I say that the building of homes should fin joy absolute priority over such buildings. The priority should be in tho allocation of materials, and also in the matter of government sympathy. If homes are to be built, this country must first have a sympathetic government. The Government of to-day is sympathetic; that is indicated in His Excellency’s Speech. The second essential is the co-operation of the Opposition. The matter of housing the homeless people of Australia should be above party politics. All matters concerning housing should be discussed on the highest possible level in this House. Since I arrived here as a new member I have discovered that my personal estimation of the National Parliament needs adjustment. I have been amazed to see the tactics of debate and to hear the language that has been used in this House. In any other assembly, such as a football club meeting, a cricket club meeting, or a local council or union meeting, persons who indulged in such tactics would be severely disciplined. I have asked more experienced members whether present-day behaviour is similar to that of the past, and I have been assured that it is. I am told that bitter personal attacks and abusive language are not unusual in this chamber. When I asked questions I was told to .take no notice of such, things, that it was just showmanship and an act put on to impress or fool the electors. I suggest that there must be better ways than that of impressing electors. If those statements are true, then surely honorable members of this House are plumbing the depths of insincerity.
Like most honorable members who have spoken in this debate have done, I must include the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) in my remarks. In one of the most profound contributions that have been made to the debate lie said that unless we can find the solution of the problems of industrial peace and industrial relationships, we shall be finished. Remembering his long experience I very respectfully agree with him, and add that the problem of inflation, with which industrial peace is involved, must also .be solved. If we do not solve that problem we shall face a tragedy. The tragedy will be not that we shall be finished, but that the solution of the problem of “industrial peace and co-operation could have been found so easily by simple and sane means, which had not been adopted. Surely if we are to find the key to industrial peace an example must be shown. The best place to set the example is in this chamber.
To house the people adequately the active support of everybody directly or indirectly connected with the building industry is required. The men who win coal and who man the furnaces in the steelworks or the brickworks must cooperate, as well as the architects, brick- 1 ayers and other skilled tradesmen who »ect the homes. The honorable member - Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) told us that the union of which he is a member has not taken part in a strike for 30 years. I pay him a tribute and extend my humble compliments to a union which can boast of such a record of service to the community. That record illustrates the integrity of its members as well as the wisdom, judgment and courage of its leaders, particularly during the last few years. Being president of a union with such a record is something of which to be proud, and my admiration for the honorable member for Blaxland and his union is deep and sincere. The honorable member said that his union did not stop work during the war years. I cannot give any extra credit for that. Quite a lot of other men worked during the war years. Sailors, soldiers, airmen and members of some other unions also worked. The servicemen worked under conditions which were not good. Often they did not get home to see their families at night, and frequently they worked on Saturdays. Sundays and other holidays. Their remuneration was not good and no overtime was paid. Moreover, their work often took them into the vicinity of people who, to say the least, were careless in their use of firearms. Those men are amongst the ones who are waiting for homes. In this fifth year after the end of the war there are men waiting for a home who also worked during the war years. Some of the servicemen did not come home at all. I remind honorable members of the translation from the Greek inscription on the monument in the Burma jungle close to the place where so many Australians lie. It is -
When you go home tell them of us, and say for their to-morrows we gave to-day.
I respectfully suggest that the honorable member for Blaxland, in his association with the great trade unions, and in the new extended sphere of influence that he now occupies, should continue to spread the wisdom, and exhibit the courage, that have given his own union such a magnificent record. I believe it to be the function of a trade union and of a union leader, no less than of a government, to maintain and protect the rights and privileges of workers but I say, further, that it is the function of a union and of a union leaden- to: recognize frankly that it is’ impossible to dissociate privileges, from duties and responsibilities to. the community.
In- considering the housing needs of the community as- a whole, it is well to consider also the needs of various sections of the- community. We should consider, perhaps first of all, the needs of the 3ick. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has- gone into this matter much more fully than I can hope to do, but I believe that it is a blot on the- fair name of Australia that we should be at; this moment short of 18,000 hospital; beds, and. of the1 equipment and accommodation that go- with them.. Many of- us have come up against the problem of sickness in- our own. families-. Those who: have not may find that their turn will come: The need for more hospital accommodation, is urgent.. I also- d-raw attention to- the housing needs of old people. Never’ let. us use- the wor-d “ problem “ in. respect of them in the- way that it is customarily used. The fact that our parents tend, to live many years longer than, used to be- the case is surely not a problem but something for which we-should be thankful. The time has ‘come when. we,, as a nation,, must, recognize, the claims of this ever-growing section, and act accordingly.. Of the old people, there is a fortunate section who can find accommodation with their children. There is a second section of elderly people who, through savings or investments, have acquired sufficient resources to enable them to engage domestic help to look after them in their declining years. However, there is an ever-growing number of old people who cannot, for various reasons, live with their children, and are unable to provide for themselves. For those in this big group only two courses are open. The first is to enter some government institution. Although such institutions do really meet a great need’, I submit that they are not nearly good enough for our old people. Others may gain admittance to rest homes, some of which are privately run, but most of which” aTe run By some of the churches or other charitable organizations. Rest homes of this kind- are much nearer to the ideal provision- for our old folk, but they are by no means perfect. Fbr one thing, the ability of those conducting homes- to provide accommodation is always limited by lack of finance, and in that respect the: Government might help by granting’ subsidies. I am not suggesting that another- government department should be set up- to administer such- an activity. An existing department could undertake to. examine the operations, of existing charitable organizations that administer homes for. old’ people, and could arrange for the payment of subsidies to those, of which it approves. In this way,, the maximum amount of good could be achieved at the minimum cost. I believe, however; that it would still be necessary to provide some kind of community home for elderly people.. I do not. know what the final: form, might be. Perhaps it might be- decided to provide flats, in which, elderly couples, or individual persons, could be provided with a bedroom,, living room and bathroom, some accommodation they could call their own, and in which: they could preserve, some measure- of independence and privacy.. There might, perhaps,, be community din-in g. rooms,, a domestic- staff, and a medical service.. I am sure that the suggestion merits consideration and expert examination. It would take time to put such, a scheme - into operation, but,, in the meantime, we should, do for the old. people whatever we can as. quickly as we can. That something should be done for them is beyond all argument. The men and women concerned have lived useful lives. They have raised their families, and, presumably, paid their taxes. By living their ordinary lives, they have done a great deal to develop the nation. The time has now come- for the nation to show its gratitude,, and discharge its obligation. When I consider the record of Australia during the war, when I recall that nearly 750,000 men and women were taken out of civil production for war purposes-, when I think of the ships we- built, of” the Army and Air Force townships that sprang’ up all over Australia, of the aircraft hangars that were constructed’, and of the aircraft and engines that were manufactured, embodying the most delicate precision instruments, I cannot believe that it is impossible to provide in this country the homes that- are- so- urgently needed’. There is only one thing’ preventing it, and that is the willtodo it. Thereisa problemto solve, but it is not nearly so difficult as others that were solved during the war. I thank honorable members for their courteous hearing.
.- I was amused to hear the honorable member forDenison (Mr. Townley) say that he was disappointed at the conduct of honorable members. I assure him that he has not seen anything yet. During th is debate, frequent reference has been made to the industrial unrest that is prevalent in Australia to-day. Undoubtedly, there is a great deal of Industrial unrest, and it is to be regretted. I listened closely to the speeches made by honorable members on this subject, but I listened in vain for any historical survey of the situation, or for any proposal that might solve the problem. I believe that the prevailing unrest has its roots in the fear of economic insecurity, and in the treatment that has been meted out to the workers in the past. Before the 1914-18 war, most of Australia’s workers were engaged in the primary industries. When that war broke out, young Australians flocked to the colours. Of those who joined the fighting services 80 per cent. were members of the workingclass.
– Why not100 per cent? Everybody in Australia is a worker.
– The honorable member for Denison sought to draw a distinctionbetween trade unionists and members of the fighting forces. Therefore, we should pay a great tribute to Australian unionists for the part that they played, not only on the home front, but also on the battlefield. During World WarI., hundreds of thousands of Australian workers volunteered todefend this country, and they were promised by those who stayed at home, and by the government of the day, that, upon their return, they would have better working conditions, improved housing, higher pay and the social amenities to which they were entitled. Reference has been made repeatedly in this debate to the recurring strikes on the coal-fields. Have honorable members opposite a knowledge of the conditions under which the miners live? I invite Government supporters to visit Maitland, Cessnock, Greta, Singleton and
Muswell brook for the purpose of seeing for themselves the rotten conditions under which the coal-miners are expected to exist contentedly. They have endured those conditions for many years while they have hewn coal for industry and for other people who live under infinitely better conditions than they have. Is it a matter for wonder that communism is taking root in the minds of the coal-miners? The slumsin any other part of the world are no worse than those on the coal-fields of Australia. When I visited Japan, I saw no conditions, even in the port areas, that were worse than those on the coalfields.
– Many of them are very decent places.
– I am not speaking of the decent places.I am referring to the filthy slum areas which predominate on the coal-fields. Does the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) deny that that isso ?
– I am amazed. Obviously the honorable member has not visited the coal-fields.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Adelaide to address the Chair.
– I shall do so,but I believe that the honorable member for Evans cannot possibly be sincere when he states that many of the homes on the coal-fields are decent places.
– Hiscolleagues are not sincere, either.
– The honorable member for Evans is obviously not aware that no attempt has been made to alleviate the conditions under which the miners have lived for many years.
– Even Labour governments in New South Wales have not attempted to alleviate those conditions.
– I have not referred to any particular government. I have merely stated that slum areas exist on the coal-fields to-day.
– That is a matter for the State Government.
– That is not the point. Those conditions prevail on the coal-fields, and until they are improved
– What did the Chifley Labour Government, of which the honorable gentleman was a member, do to improve the conditions on the coal-fields ?
– We did everything possible to improve those conditions. We were prepared to make money available-
-Order! I again ask the honorable member to address the Chair, and to ignore interjections.
– I am only doing as other speakers have done, and the Chair did not intervene then. However, I shall ignore the interjections. The coal-miners have had sad and bitter experiences that they will not easily forget. When they accumulated coal at grass, they were dismissed. Honorable members opposite do ‘ not like to be reminded of that phase of the history of the coal-mining industry. As soon as there was a stack of coal at grass, the miners lost their jobs. Will honorable members opposite deny that fact?
– Their conditions also were broken down.
– The coal-miners quickly learnt that a stack of coal at grass meant unemployment for them. They virtually starved when stocks of coal were accumulated. But nothing was said in those days about the plight of the coalminers, and the influence of the “ Corns “. During World War I., Australian servicemen were assured that, on their return to civil life, they would be granted improved working conditions, with higher pay. Yet in 1931-32, Australia had more than 700,000 unemployed, of whom a big percentage were ex-servicemen. Those unfortunate people walked the streets in search of work. They lived on the dole. Does any honorable member opposite deny that?
– That was during the Scullin Government’s term of office.
– When the private banks took control of the country.
– The Labour Government seized every opportunity to ensure, by legislative enactment, that should the need arise, the Commonwealth would not be prevented from providingmoney for the relief of unemployment. When the Scullin Government was in office, it proposed to make available an amount of £18,000,000 to provide work for the 700,000 unemployed. Its political opponents, who controlled the Senate,, refused to approve that grant. Honorable members opposite cannot “get away” with the statement that the Scullin Government was responsible for the flood of unemployment in Australia. That Administration did all that it possibly could to provide funds for the relief of unemployment, thereby keeping Australia’s promise to those who had fought in World War L and had thereby protected the lives of those who had to stay at home, yet every effort that it made was frustrated by a hostile Senate. Is it to be wondered at that the Labour party has since made every possible effort to prevent a repetition of .that occurrence ? After World War I., the miners, who had produced ample coal for the requirements of the country, were forgotten, and I believe that they have become determined not to provide all the coal that is needed in Australia. The reason for that attitude is that they realize that an accumulation of coal at grass means unemployment for them. Honorable members opposite blame the Communists for the irritation that exists in the industrial sphere, and perhaps the “ Corns “ have aggravated the position, but that is not the whole story. This week, a vote was taken among Melbourne tramway employees, who are on strike, on a proposal for a return to work. Approximately 2,000 members of the union voted . against a resumption of work, and only twenty voted for it. The “ Corns “ cannot be blamed for that decision. Had a secret ballot of the members been taken, the result of the voting would not have been materially altered. I refer to that incident because I believe that the present industrial unrest is not wholly attributable to the activity of the “ Corns “.
– The cost of living is the difficulty.
– I am coming to that matter now. During the financial and economic depression in the early 1930’s, Australia could not provide £18,000,000 to feed, clothe and shelter hundreds of thousands of its citizens. Some honorable members opposite remark, “ Ah, there was a world-wide depression at that time”. Yet Australia’s natural resources were as great then as they are to-day, and the existence of slums in our cities emphasized the necessity for a vigorous home-building programme. There was an abundance of bricks, roofing tiles and other building materials for a programme of slum clearance. Steel was available for standardization of the Aus- tralian railway system, and other materials were available for the construction of roads and bridges. Yet honorable members opposite advance the excuse that the world-wide economic depression was responsible for the unemployment of 700,000 Australians. They say that because there was a depression in other countries, many Australians had to starve.
In 1939, World War II. began, and Australians were again called upon to play their part. Manfully they responded. Although theyhad been treated badly in the intervening years after World War I., they again agreed to offer their services to their country, leave their homes and dear ones, take up arms, go where they were directed, and, if need be, lay down their lives for this great land. However, they made the following resolution : “ We shall not come back to the social conditions that prevailed after World War I., when we were promised security, and the only security that we had was the dole “. That is not a fan- tastic story. Those conditions existed in Australia. On the outbreak of World WarII., Australian unionists rallied again in hundreds of thousands, and fought for the preservation of their freedom. However, they were firmly resolved to prevent, after the cessation of hostilities, a repetition of the conditions that had prevailed in the 1930’s. They are now actually fearful that they will be thrown out of employment when the demand for goods and services is satisfied. That has been their experience in the past.
– Does the honorable member advocate a policy of restricting production ?
– That is not my policy. I am endeavouring to explain to the House the fear that has been aroused in the minds of Australian workers. If the honorable member believes that I support a policy of restricting production, he does not understand what I have been talking about.
– What has the Opposition done to bring about increased production?
– It has done everything possible to increase production. When the Labour Government was in office considerably less industrial unrest existed in Australia than exists to-day. The present Government must accept responsibility for the industrial unrest that now exists. I notice that that statement is greeted with derision by honorable members opposite. Obviously they do not like to hear the truth. During the war, when the Labour Government exercised control of prices there was little industrial unrest because the worker was able to provide for himself and his family those amenities that made life worth while. The purchasing power of his wages was very much higher than it is now. After the termination of hostilities the Government was no longer able to rely on its defence power for the continuance of prices control. That power could be vested in the Commonwealth only by the consent of the people given at a referendum.
– That is quite untrue.
– We asked the people to clothe the Commonwealth with such power but our proposal was rejected.
– The people would not trust the Labour Government.
– They would trust us now. The Government should give the people an opportunity to say whether or not they are prepared to give to this Parliament the right to enact legislation imposing prices control. Honorable members opposite have referred to the high wages that are received by Australian workmen to-day, yet they know only too well that for every £1 increase in the wages of the workers the cost of living is increased by £1 10s. Naturally, the Australian worker will .continue to be ‘dissatisfied .until ihe has received real increases of wages which will enable him to purchase the goods that he requires and to provide reasonable amenities for Iris family. In defence of their right to enjoy the -amenities of .life many Australians have lain down their lives. An immediate survey should be undertaken by the Government to ascertain the reasons for the discontent that exists among the workers. If honorable members opposite believe that .the banning of the Communist party . in Australia will .end industrial unrest ‘they are not so practical >as I thought them to be - and I had no great hopes in that direction. I leave the matter there.
– I should think that the honorable member ought to do so.
– Apparently my remarks are getting under the skins of honorable ^members opposite. My statements cannot be refuted.. The Australian worker has made up his mind that in future he will obtain a greater share of the wealth that flows from his labour. Honorable members opposite should abandon the notion that .by continually attacking the workers a better output will -be obtained from ‘.them.
– We -have attacked not the workers. but their leaders.
– The workers elect their own leaders as they have a perfect light to. do. I have painted a picture-
– Tt is a very poor picture.
– What does the Minister for External Affairs (Mi. Spender) know about the conditions of labour in the .mines at Cessnock .and Greta ?
– The ‘honorable gentleman has been extracting teeth practically all his life. What can he possibly know about them?
– I have been a member of this Parliament for many years and I have .had .ample opportunities to study .t’he -conditions under which the workers labour.. If honorable members opposite ^analyse the .difficulties that confront the workers they .will be more sympathetically inclined towards- them and in return .will obtain better services from them.
Sitting suspended from 6.50 to 8 p.m.
Speaker, I add to the congratulations of other honorable members my own congratulations to you on your appoin’tment to your “high office. Democracy can only continue so long as the people retain respect for their parliamentary institutions. You, sir, since you have assumed the chair, have shown that you intend to maintain the highest tradition of the British House of Commons. Already, you nave done much to restore the dignity and the decorum of this House. By your refusal to attend .party meetings you have shown that you are above parties. By your refusal to take part in debates on the floor of this House you have shown that you are going to give your decisions from the chair impartially and with fairness, unbiased by the heat of debate. I feel that under the able leadership of our Prime Minister (Mr.- Menzies) and the splendid Government that he has selected, .Australia has the .greatest opportunity that it has ever had in its history. This country contains a very large -area of fertile land. During the war our men and women showed that they had initiative ‘and enterprise. They have shown also that there is nothing that they cannot produce as well as any-other country. At the present time the demand for goods produced by Australia is greater than .-it .has ever been. The world is crying out for Australian products and only hard work and co-operation are needed to increase the standard of living of our people.
However, ‘the world picture is not so rosy. Many honorable members have already made reference to the threat of war so long as the policy of Soviet Russia is one of ‘expansion. Every honorable member in this House is fully alive to that threat, not only from abroad, but also from those in our own country whose feelings for Soviet Russia are greater than their loyalty -to our -own people, i do not propose to add to the remarks ‘that have been made in this House concerning that, threat; which, is clearly on. the horizon: Throughout the world, we see a threat which is even, greater than the threat of war.. That, threat is starvation. Recently, leading, economists throughout the world have come to the conclusion that, there is not enough food ira the world adequately to feed more than one-half of its population. In view of the amazing- increase- in world population, that presents a problem as great, as any the world has ever had to face. The population of the world, is- increasing at the rate- of 2,000,000 people a month. There are 150,000,000- more people in the world to-day than there were when World War II. commenced. Europe, in spite of the most destructive war that the world has ever seen, has 12,000,000 more people than it had in 1939, when the war commenced. Japan,, in spite of the atomic bomb and the terrific destruction, that was caused during the war, has 8,000,000 more people than it had when it entered the war. Every day of every week of every month of every year 60,000 more people are lining up for breakfast. The expectation of life in Australia is 63 years. That very high expectation results from the good’ food of this country and also from the marvellous advances that have been made, in medical science. The expectation of life in India is 27 years. More than half the babies born there never reach adult age. Medical science has now been taken to India, -with the result that the population of India, will increase at a rate far greater than ever before. To-day there is not enough food in the world to feed half the people, and every day there are thousands and thousands more mouths- to feed. Despite these facts, there is no world plan to provide additional food for these increases in population. Starving people do not die quietly. The starvation of people in other parts of the world presents a threat of the greatest magnitude to this and all other countries.
Honorable members may say, “ This is all very interesting, but; after all, we have plenty of food, so how does it affect us? “ The previous Government, realizing the need’ for extra food production, and realizing the need for extra? population, embarked upon a policy of immigration. This policy is being expanded by the present- Government,, and it is. anticipated that in I960, only ten years hence,, our population will be 10,500j000.. During the last ten years our food- production, instead, of increasing per capita of population, has been declining. There has been an alarming drift from the country to the city, which has previously been mentioned in this debate. I think it was stated that there are 60,000 less people engaged in primary industry than there were at the commencement of the war. Using an index figure to illustrate the fall in production, comparing the year 1936-37 with the year 1946-47, we find that production decreased from 1,020 to 754;, we find that our pastoral production decreased from 1,065 to 939. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) very lightly glossed over this fact during his remarks to this House-. He pointed to the favorable position, of the primary producers now compared with that of ten years ago. It is admitted that the incomes of primary producers are- considerably higher now than they were before the- war. Their incomes are higher foi- the very reason that our primary products are becoming scarcer, and: whenever supply falls, obviously prices will increase because of the increased demand. Production, both agricultural and pastoral, has, for practical purposes, been static in the last ten years.- If it remains the same for the next ten years Australia will need to import almost every kind of fool;stuff’ and there will be no country willing to export primary products. The quantities of foodstuffs that we shall need to import in ten years time if our production remains the same will be substantial. Assuming- that the consumption per Bead’ of population for 10,000;000 would be the same as it is to-day, we should need to import 91,000 tons of beef and veal, 21,000 tons of mutton and lamb, 22,000 tons of pig meat, 156,000 tons of potatoes, 1,000 tons of processed milk, 3,700 tons of citrus fruits, and 35,000 tons of fresh fruit, and we should have nome of those commodities for- export. The only two foodstuffs of which we would, have enough for our own consumption would, be wheat and sugar, andi of those we should have very- little to export.
Our sheep population to-day is practically the same as it was ten years ago. Our sheep population for the last tcn years has been -
Those figures show an average for the five years, 1938 to 1942 of nS,000,000. For the next five years the average population was only 108.000,000; and in 194S our sheep population dropped to 102,000,000.
The position of Australia is not dissimilar to the position of other primary producing countries. Last year, the export of wool from the Argentine decreased by 61 per cent., from South Africa 19 per cent., and from New Zealand 25 per cent. The wool production of the United Sta tes of America last year was the lowest since 1879. The amount produced was 216,000,000 bales whilst the normal consumption of the United States is 345,000,000 bales per annum. The United States of America is not producing more than two-thirds of its own requirements of wool. In those circumstances, is it to be wondered at that the price of wool has sky-rocketed? That phenomena] rise has occurred simply because not enough wool is being produced to supply the world’s demands. Almost the whole of our reserves of wool have been used. The Joint Organization accumulated a reserve of 10,500,000 bales during the war, but stocks had fallen to less than 1,000,000 bales by last December, and it is expected that they will be entirely exhausted ,by the end of June this year. What a wonderful opportunity this state of affairs offers to a country like Australia, which oan increase its sheep production tremendously.
All of our economic problems could be solved by increasing primary production. The dollar problem could be solved almost overnight. As I have said, the United States of America must import one-third of its wool requirements, and we could satisfy that demand. Whether America bought the wool direct from Australia or through Great Britain would be of no importance. The transactions would replenish the dollar pool of the sterling countries. Lord Boyd-Orr recently expressed the very pessimistic opinion that the world would destroy itself by 1975 because of its inability to feed itself. I do not share that view. Australia has .proved that it can surmount difficult obstacles and already our graziers are able to raise six sheep where only one sheep could be raised previously. They can make poor land fertile and productive by planting pastures and adding phosphates and trace elements to the soil. There are millions of acres of unused land in Australia, and our primary production could .be doubled, trebled or even quadrupled. Many other countries are not in the same favorable situation. The small countries of Europe have not enough land to permit of any substantia] increase of primary production. India is achieving good results by draining swamps and endeavouring to bring new land under cultivation, but the extra productivity that will be gained will represent only a drop in the ocean of India’s requirements for its own population. Thus, Australia is one of the few countries that has the opportunity to solve the great world problem of food shortages. But we must move quickly if we are to succeed. We must adopt a definite plan of expansion for our primary industries. It was gratifying to* note in the Governor-General’s Speech a statement of the Government’s intention to deal with the problem of production as a first priority. As I have said, our graziers can double and treble our production of wool and meat, but they must have supplies of wire, wire netting, tractors, cement and many other essentials of efficient primary production before they can do so. That fact connects the primary industries with the secondary industries.
Therefore I refer now to the expansion of our secondary industries. We must have new capital before we can proceed with their development, and new capital comes only from the savings of the people. The Chifley Government went out of its way to advertise the virtue of thrift. The importance of saving and thereby accumulating new capital is obvious, but we need something more than a mere advertising campaign advising people to be thrifty. The Government must give some genuine encouragement to thrifty people. Our laws at present penalize thrift in many ways. A man who has put aside a few shillings each week in a savings bank account finds, when he receives a return from his savings, that he is taxed at a higher rate. A penalty rate of tax is imposed because the income from his saving, or deferred spending, is not regarded as income from personal exertion. Our social services legislation embodies an even more wicked form of discrimination against the thrifty person. A citizen who has squandered all of his money can obtain the age pension without any difficulty when he reaches the appropriate age. But a man who has acted in the national interests and set aside a pound or two each week in the savings bank, or who has taken out an insurance policy, or saved in some other way, finds that it is useless for him to apply for a pension when he reaches the retiring age. He has been thrifty, and therefore he is not entitled to the age pension. Is it to be wondered at that people do not appreciate the merits of thrift when the laws discourage thrift? .
I shall cite an actual case of injustice in order to demonstrate the iniquity of the means test that is applied under our social services legislation. I shall refer it to the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner), but I know that nothing can be done to rectify the wrong until the law is altered. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) also took up the case, but without avail. A man aged 78 years, who had lived and worked all his life at Broken Hill, which is not a very pleasant place at which to work, decided that, at his advanced age, he was entitled to enjoy a rest. He had paid taxes all his life, and he owned a house valued at £248 at Broken Hill. His daughter and her three children were living in the home. The old man decided to give the house to his daughter so that she and the children would still have somewhere to live at Broken Hill, and he went to Adelaide and applied for the age pension. The pension was reduced by £2 19s. 3d. a fortnight, leaving him only a little over £1 on which to live, firstly because he had owned the house at Broken Hill and had given it to his daughter; and, secondly, because he had apparently been wicked enough in the eyes of the law to subscribe to an insurance policy for £500 which, owing to his advanced age, had a surrender value of £416. If that man had saved nothing, he would have received the full pension. But because he had insured his life and had bought a house, which he had left for his daughter and grandchildren to live in, he was deprived of more than half of the age pension. I believe that the unjust means test strikes right at the root of our economy. It discourages thrift and thereby discourages production. Therefore, I was delighted to learn that this Government was prepared to tackle the problem.. I am not unmindful of the difficulties that are involved. Had the national insurance scheme been brought into operation during the war, the problem would not exist now, but unfortunately the Labour Administration did not carry the legislation into effect. That is why the means test remains a blot on the Australian economy. The sooner we deal with this problem the better it will be for the whole community, even if we tackle it only in stages. It is scarcely necessary for me to remind honorable members of the extraordinary situation of public servants in this community. They are compelled by law to contribute to a superannuation scheme and they are compelled by law to pay a social services contribution. Yet, when they reach the retiring age, they are not entitled to draw the age pension, for which they have paid the social services contribution, because they receive superannuation. Is there any fairness or justice about that? We must take early steps to abolish the means test.
Australia can and must play a major part in solving the world’s food problem. It has the initiative and the capacity to do so. I believe that employers and employees can and do work together in this country. Compared with the total volume of production in Australia the number of ‘strikes .and disagreements in industry is infinitesimal. Of course, it would be very .much better for the country if there w.ere no strikes at all, and -I am sure that .every effort is being .made by the -Government to .reduce industrial disruption to a minimum. The fact is that employers and employees do co-operate in 9.9 per cent, of our industries. Their differences are settled around conference tables and never .see the light of arbitration. .Many honorable members have discussed incentive payments as if .such things were unknown in Australia. However, the incentive payment system is used, I suppose, in a majority .of our smaller industries and is giving ‘complete satisfaction. The employees concerned would not agree in .any circumstances to the adoption of any .other system. Unfortunately for us, the .Communists do not want the workers to be prosperous. Therefore they oppose incentive payments and all forms of profit sharing. It is unfortunate that many socialists echo their arguments. Faced with the .great problems that exist to-day, we all should be prepared to co-operate and do everything in our power to bring peace to industry so that industry can produce the maximum quantity of goods and services. Only -by increasing production can we save the world from .starvation.
.- I hope that you will be -sufficiently indulgent, Mr. Speaker, to accept another vote of thanks for what we expect that you will be able to do as our new presiding officer. I wish to congratulate you upon your election to your present high office. Whatever else we may think about you, Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House believe that you will dispense justice to both sides of the House. The capacity to do so is a very important qualification for your important office. I express my gratitude to the new members in this Parliament whose speeches have impressed those of us who have been here for two or more terms. They have impressed us by their sincerity, and I hope that they will never lose that quality in this Parliament, where it is very easy to become cynical, .hard-boiled and so party-minded that one .cannot see the good in the other fellow. I hope -that each new member will retain ‘his own :personality and not try to assume that of somebody else. .In carrying on , under those circumstances with .their .parliamentary careers, which I hope will be .successful, they will be appreciated -.by the .people. The Australian people admire sincerity, .straightforwardness rand humbleness of mind in .’their parliamentary representatives. Immediately a man thinks he is better than heis then he is on the. way out. That .hasbeen .proved .in all forms of human relationship in every field of life. A larger number of new members than ever before in the -history of the House .are young men. Although -we .shall do our best to remove them at the next ‘election, I hope that, whatever happens then, they will .bring credit to this Government and to the country while they are here. Honorable members opposite will also try to remove us when opportunity arises. Some of us have come from the hustings badly .mauled, but nevertheless -we scraped through to the tape and got here. We shall face ‘whatever comes to us with the best spirit that we can muster. Our .attitude towards ‘the bills that will come before this Parliament will be to look at them squarely and sincerely. We shall try our best to see the good in them. Where it it possible to approve of the .measures submitted by the Government we shall do so. It is our job to be critical. To attack and fight is also our job, and we shall do it. We shall pull legislation to pieces, which is also our job, but in doing these things ; we shall ‘he fair towards ourselves and towards the Government, and we shall also act with an understanding of our responsibility towards the country as the Opposition..
– The Opposition will be constructive ?
– Constructive and als( instructive. We shall pass on information to the Government when it comes to our notice. We do not wish to -have any part an .the irresponsibility and lack of discipline that is rampant ‘throughout the world to-day. Whatever their party, honorable members of this Parliament should display such responsibility and discipline of mind as will make them an example to the country. We were elected by the ;people and they expect an example from us. The position of a member of Parliament is very important in the community. The electors are out bosses, a fact that we must not forget. I hope that Ministers will not forget it because so far we .have seen a display of arrogance by certain members of .the Government of which we do not approve. J hope that the honorable gentlemen 1 have in mind who have been guilty of this fault since they became Ministers of the Crown will have a due regard for the fact that they too are the servants of the people and not their masters. Arrogance is one of the worst faults that anybody can have. The happiness, security, health and well-being of the people are the main concern of this Parliament.
Honorable members are not in the Par- liament for personal reasons or to enrich themselves. If new members work in their electorates as I have done in mine during the last three years, a fact that has enabled me to remain a member of this House for a second term, they will be much poorer men at the end of that time. I spent over £800 in my electorate during that three years on organized tours, the broadcast advertising of them, and hire of halls, travelling expenses, donations and other things of that type. If an honorable member is to be a true servant of the people he will be a much poorer man in three years’ time. We are the mouthpiece of the people. We must try to express their will in our legislation. We must he guided by public opinion, and the moment we ignore it we shall run on the rocks. At one time a government could put it over the people, but the people are better informed to-day and governments cannot bamboozle them now - at any rate not all of them. We speak not only for those who can speak for themselves but also for the dumb. Service to .humanity is the greatest possible service, and a member of Parliament, I believe, can serve the community in the highest degree. Service, courtesy and a personal interest in the people of our electorates, together with an understanding of human needs mid problems, will remove much of the criticism of Parliament and its members Mi at has been frequent in the past. Cynicism directed against members of Parliament has been too widespread.
Certain indiscretions on -the part of members in the past may have had ‘a cumulative effect on the minds of the people and they may now think that we all are here for what we can get out of the place. As the Nineteenth Parliament goes into action it becomes our duty to break down that cynicism. A feeling -of trust must always exist between the electors and the elected. Government is from the bottom up and not from the top down. Government is from the people through us and not from an authority which has not been elected- by the people but which has been set above them. That is democracy as distinct from autocracy and fascism.
What I intend to say now is not in any sense a moan, such as the Prime Minister charged the Opposition with last night. The Prime Minister’s charge is merely a cheap way of breaking down a reasonable argument. We have a right to analyse the election result, and I intend briefly to do it. I accept our defeat, but we are going to pull up our socks and try our best to win back into government ; if not in three years’ time then in six or nine years’’ lime. We shall be continually on the tail of the Government. The period of office of governments in Australia occurs in cycles and no honorable member on the Government side need think that he is in office for all time. There has been a swing to the right in the last few years in all countries outside the Soviet Union. Just after the war there was a -pronounced swing to the left in British countries because the people felt that the conservative rule of pre-war years had brought on the second world war. The swing was from that type of political thought towards the left. The feeling for the left existed for four or five years and then a new swing developed towards the right. That has been apparent in New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain to a certain extent, and in Africa. The reason for it is that the people in the countries I mentioned have recovered to an extent from the tragedy of the war. Economic security and full employment have existed in most of the British, countries, apart from India and Pakistan, and during a period of security there is a psychological trend towards conservatism. Some one has said that a man is a radical until he is 45 years of age and after that he becomes a conservative. That is only a generalization of course, but the swing to the right in the last few years has occurred because more economic stability now exists than existed when the war ended. The capitalistic framework of the economy of the world must inevitably cause war again. The seeds of war and depression are inherent in the capitalist system. The conference at Amsterdam called by the World Council of Churches in 1948 proclaimed in its economic policy that neither capitalism nor communism was the ultimate answer to the world’s economic troubles. That is the belief of the Labour party. The cycle of war and depression is apparent throughout the last 100 years - depression and glut, boom and slump.
The Government has a majority of 27, which sounds formidable until one remembers that twenty seats were won by less than 1,000 votes. The voting returns for the Commonwealth in the elections to the House of Representatives show that the Labour party polled 1,941,752 votes or 46.7 per cent, of the total voting strength; the Liberal party polled 1,659,405 votes or 39.9 per cent.; and the Australian Country party polled only 401,872 votes or 9.6 per cent, of the total votes. The Communist party polled only 36,083 votes throughout the whole of Australia, which is less than 1 per cent, of all the votes cast. The Labour party was linked with the Communist party by our political enemies, but I believe we did more to smash the Communist party economically than -any other party has ever done. Other parties polled 119,083 votes, or 2.9 per cent, of the total. Thus, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party between them polled 49.5 per cent, of the votes, and the Labour party 46.7 per cent. The difference between them was only 2.8 per cent., which is not a great figure. According to the representation of the parties in this House, there appears to have been a big swing against Labour, but the swing was very small. Many of the seats were won by a narrow margin, and that margin could be reversed at the next election. I look upon myself as one of the survivors of the Labour party wreck. In Tasmania, I was the only survivor. However, when a ship laden with bullion and treasure goes down, strenuous efforts are made to raise it. The Labour ship was wrecked on the 10th December, but strenuous efforts will be made to refloat it.
The methods used by the anti-Labour parties to win the election were utterly reprehensible. I do not say that honorable members opposite were individually responsible for what happened, but their propaganda machine was responsible. The parties that now support the Government won their way to power by the use of fear and finance, with a fair amount of falsehood intermingled .with them. Fear is a deadly weapon, whoever uses it. It is the most primitive instinct in the world. Never again shall I doubt that Hitler and Goebbels won over the German people by propaganda that played on their fears. For more than twelve months, the Labour party was battered by the propaganda of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. Theirs was a perfectly organized campaign. The Labour party can, perhaps, learn something from them, but the campaign would never have been so successful without the help of money, and the Labour party would never be able to raise so much money in so short a time. We do not know where the money came from; we can only guess. However, the interests that opposed the Labour party so strongly during the last three years made sure that the opposing parties got the money they wanted. A tremendously powerful political machine went into action against the Labour party during the election campaign, and it swept our propaganda aside. By employing the vicious weapon of fear, our opponents created panic among the people, distorted their vision and paralysed their thought. They played havoc with the susceptibilities of people who had no political background, and no understanding of economics. Fear feeds on ignorance. Where there is no ignorance there is no fear. Once we have knowledge of a thing we do not fear it any more. The people who are ignorant of political factors were the victims of the propaganda directed against the Labour party. So devilish was that propaganda that it created in the minds of the people, not only hostility towards the Labour Government and its leader, but also something that was far worse - hatred. Perhaps honorable members opposite do not know that their propaganda went so far. They moved in their own circles, and did not have an opportunity to observe results ; but we, who were getting the battering, knew what was happening. In southern Tasmania, one of our lady members, who was canvassing for the Labour party, said that never in her whole experience had she encountered such hatred of the Labour party as during the last election campaign. Even people who had previously supported the Labour party slammed the door in her face before she had an opportunity to say anything. Their action proved that the anti-Labour propaganda which they had heard over the air had aroused hatred of the Labour party in their minds. I encountered the same frame of mind among people whom I met during my own election campaign. It is bad that a political party should create such hatred in the minds of the people against its opponents. We do not object to criticism, but the creation of hatred amounts to hitting below the belt.
The people were made to fear socialism and nationalization. The Labour party was defeated on those two issues. Petrol rationing was a side issue. The antiLabour propaganda machine succeeded in creating in the minds of the people an unutterable fear of what the propagandists called socialism and nationalization. They dressed those two subjects up in hideous clothes, gave them terrible names, and said, “ This is socialism. It is a monstrous thing. Turn out the Chifley socialists “. It was not true socialism that the people voted against, but a bogus socialism, a wicked invention of the Liberal party a bloodcurdling monster falsely called socialism. What is socialism? Do honorable members opposite know that they are looking at examples of socialism all around them every day? Socialism is not a hideous thing, and it is not a new thing. It is part of the present economic system, even though that system is predominantly capitalist. The anti-Labour propagandists made it appear that socialism was something quite new in our experience. Well, what about the roads we drive over? What about the hospitals for our sick, the water services in our towns and cities, and the electric light and power services operated by governments, such as our hydroelectric system in Tasmania?- What about the government research farms, the railways, tramways, irrigation systems, the post office, the departments of agriculture, and the various co-operative enterprises? What about Trans-Australia Airlines, the ships operated by the Commonwealth Shipping Board, the whaling industry, the aerodromes, and the Navy, Army and Air Force? Those are all examples of socialism in action, yet an attempt was made during the election to induce the people to believe that socialism was some monstrous thing introduced by the Chifley Government. That is an example of the hypocritical propaganda with which the Labour party had to contend. Falsehoods were also told to the people about nationalization. Wicked statements were made to the effect that the Labour Government would take away the people’s homes and farms and businesses, and even their money. This propaganda so frightened some people that they drew their money out of the banks, and buried it in their gardens. I refer more particularly to people who were too old to think, and who are not well versed in politics. Wild charges were made about what the Labour Government would do if it were returned to office. Those who made such charges deliberately ignored the provisions of the Constitution, a document of 127 sections, which was finally adopted in 1-901. The Constitution defines the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, and no government can exceed those powers. Of all the terrible things the propagandistssaid that a Labour government would do, not one was permissible under the Constitution, but the propagandists carefully refrained from pointing that out. They did not tell the people honestly what theConstitution provided.
How far can an Australian government go ? We must not confuse socialism with nationalization. Socialism is government ownership of certain utilities on behalf of the 7>eople, so that any profits earned go back into those utilities for the- benefit of the people. Under that” system ^ the utilities exist for- the benefit: of the people, and. not1 for “the exploitation of the people.. Nationalization is- something different. Under* nationalization, a” government take3 everything, leaving nothing -for private enterprise. Socialism, on the. contrary; can exist side by side with, private enterprise. Governmentowned! instrumentalities can operate alongside those that are privately owned. There- is. nothing in the Constitution to prevent the Australian Government from operating its own coal mines, but it. has no power to. nationalize the coal industry. It. has- power to operate its own shipping services, hut it has no power to nationalize shipping:. It can. run its own airlines, but it has no power to nationalize the air services; It can: run its own railways, but it cannot take over all the railways in Australia.. The Government can enter the iron and. steel industry, but it has no power to nationalize the iron and steel industry. There are Commonwealthcontrolled hospitals,, but the Government cannot nationalize the hospitals-. The Commonwealth can. employ its< own doctors, but it cannot nationalize medical services. It could, have its own- chemical factories, like those of the Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, but it cannot nationalize, the chemical, industry. It can set up its own. research farm, but it has- no power to nationalize the land. It can. acquire land for soldier settlement, but it cannot nationalize farming. The Commonwealth may run its own banks, as, indeed, it does, but the High Court and the Privy Council have ruled that it has no power to nationalize banking, even though that power appears to be inherent in placitum 13 of section 51 of the Constitution, which provides that the Commonwealth has power to- legislate in respect of banking, other than State banking, and that it has power to legislate in respect even of State banking that extends beyond the boundaries of a particular State. The Commonwealth can set up its own textile mills, its own boot and shoe factories, butat has no- power to nationalize the clothing- industry. Ifr can establish its- own broadcasting stations, but it has no power to* take over privately owned broadcasting1 stations. The anti-Labour propagandists; however, told the people that the Labour Government, if returned to power, would nationalize everything. They did so, knowing full well that what they said was not true. If socialism and nationalization are the: Frankenstein monsters they are represented to be, why have not the anti-Labour governments of Western Australia, South Australia, and Victoria handed over, to private enterprise such government-controlled enterprises1 as railways, electric power services, coal mines, &c. ? I challenge honorable gentlemen, opposite to answer that question-..
– Private enterprise- never owned them.
– That does- not matter. The non-Labour parties, to be consistent, should transfer those activities to private enterprise. While there is one private utility in any field1 of the Australian economy, it” cannot be said that that industry has” been nationalized: The Postal Department is1 the only truly nationalized service in the Commonwealth, and the power in that respect is derived from section 51 of the Constitution, which reads as follows: -
The Parliament shall . . have power to make laws for the peace, order- and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:-
Postal, telegraphic,, telephonic, and other like services.
Those- facts show the lengths to. which the- Liberal party and the Australian Country party went” in order- to defeat the Labour party at the last election. The people voted,, not against socialism, but against- a bogus thing that honorable members opposite dressed up and called socialism.. Another falsehood that was voiced by honorable members opposite was that primary production had declined during the last decade. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) quoted some interesting figures; and I congratulate him on the way in which he presented them, but I do not agree with his statement that primary production is lower in volume to-day than it was ten years ago. I have- obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician figures which show substantial increases during the last ten years in the. production of wheat, oats, barley, blue and- grey peas, cheese, condensed milk and like products, linseed, fresh fruits^ canned fruits, potatoes, onions, eggs, fresh fish and even peanuts. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party also declared during the last election campaign that the Labour party wanted to regiment the people. That statement was a wicked untruth, because a Commonwealth government has no power to regiment or conscript man-power in peace-time. Honorable members opposite also informed the electors that the Labour Government’s free medicine scheme would regiment the. people, and even the British Medical Association. Of course, that statement was incorrect, but many people were deceived by it with the result that age and invalid pensioners have been deprived of the free medicine to which they are entitled.
The military power of fascism, naziism and Japanese imperialism is broken, and the physical battle has ended, but a more subtle battle continues. I call it the battle of ideologies, a war of the mind, a war between ways of life, ideas, concepts and beliefs - political, economic and social. A nation’s military power may be broken, but its ideologies may survive. The fact that Christians and Jews still practise their faiths, although they were persecuted for many years, is proof that an ideology will not be destroyed by force, persecution and even torture. We should not lull ourselves into believing that, with the death of Mussolini, Hitler, the Japanese war-lords and millions of Germans and Japanese, and with the destruction of their armed might, the signing of peace treaties and the proclamation of a new constitution in Japan, the creeds and ideologies of those tyrannous regimes have been destroyed. The poison is still in the world’s blood-stream. We can replace a bad ideology, bad idea or bad way of life only with a better idea or a better way of life. We must tackle the problem in that manner if our democracy is to survive. Our schools, colleges, universities, youth clubs, churches, discussion groups, libraries, films, theatres and homes must become recruiting agencies in the war of the mind and the battle of ideas in order to develop a race which knows the real meaning of democracy. By our own example we should endeavour to attain that objective.
.- I have always considered that the foundation on which Australia and the British Empire have been built is our basic legislation. I do not believe that legislation which is passed in this Parliament is worth the paper on which it is printed unless its foundation is right, and that is why I think that we in this House must always show our loyalty to His Majesty the King and to the British Commonwealth of Nations, and must nol consider it old fashioned to say that we must put our trust in God. Unfortunately, we do not hear that expression very often in this Parliament. I am convinced that the people of Australia desire the Government .to take the steps that it has promised to take to secure closer unity and co-operation in trade with other countries of the Empire. We require a reaffirmation and extension of Empire reciprocal trade. The Chifley Labour Government, which went out of office last December, lost sight of that urgent need as a means of strengthening the ties of Empire. If honorable members require any proof of that statement, they should examine the International Trade Organization Act which was sponsored by the Chifley Government in 1948, and which had the approval of every member of the Labour party. That legislation provides that no new trade preference shall be granted to our kinsfolk, and that negotiations must be commenced for the reduction of existing Empire trade preferences with a view to their eventual elimination. Under that act, the United Kingdom and the Dominions are regarded as separate entities which shall not grant to one another better trade treatment than they give to foreign countries. The Chifley Government did not try to strengthen cooperation among the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The International Trade Organization Act gives to a conglomeration of governments and their representatives the right to determine the course of our trade. The Chifley Government gave away Australia’s right in that matter. In my opinion, we can do better by running our own affairs, negotiating bi-lateral trade agreements, and encouraging trade within the Empire.
A previous Labour speaker invited us to examine the history of the achievements of previous governments. I was tempted to do so, and I made some interesting discoveries. Prom federation until the 7th October, 1941, non-Labour governments had occupied the treasury bench in the Parliament of the Commonwealth for 32 years. Labour governments had been in office for eight years made up of various periods, and the Scullin Labour Government was in office at the beginning of the financial and economic depression in the early 1930’s. Prior to federation, the Labour party did not have any voice in the administration of Australia. Let us visualize what happened in the century before Australia attained to the status of a nation. Let us think of all the trees that were felled, the rivers that were bridged, the railways that were built, the roads that were constructed, the houses and public buildings that were erected, the flocks and herds that were established, the extension of agricultural and pastoral pursuits, the increasing production of wheat and other cereals, the rapid progress of the dairying industry and the freedom from industrial -disputes. That will show the progress that brought Australia to nationhood with its first 150 years. Whenever an Australian politician, regardless of the party to which he belonged, returned to Australia before 1940 from a visit abroad, he almost invariably said, “ This is the greatest country in the world “. All that progress had been made under the administration of non-Labour governments, because the Labour party had been in office for only a few brief periods totalling eight years.
We must not confuse prosperity with progress. Australia is now experiencing a period of great prosperity, but the country has not progressed during the last few years. The great Roman Empire and other empires reached a high degree of prosperity, but they fell into the dust and did not rise again. It is a strange thing that the nations have made most progress when they have been in the most difficult straits. It is during a period of prosperity such as we are now experiencing that we must be particularly watchful, lest we lose all the advantage that may be gained from that prosperity, and even retrogress Deposits in the banks are at unprecedentedly high levels, tout the foundation of our present prosperity was laid not by the Chifley Government, but by non-Labour governments. Australia has enjoyed, a succession of bountiful seasons for which God, and not the Labour party, is responsible. Some honorable members of the Labour party laugh at that statement, but they cannot deny its truth. My point is that a farm would grow as much in 1939 as it will to-day, provided the seasons in the two years were approximately the same. Sheep would grow as much wool in 1939 as they grow to-day, and the sheep population of Australia was greater then than it is now. Cattle would fatten just as quickly in 1939 as they will to-day, and the cattle population was larger in that year than it is now. A succession of bountiful seasons and the ready market for our primary products in the warracked countries of the world at prices that would have seemed extraordinary even in our wildest dreams of years ago, are the factors responsible for our present prosperity. The Labour Government took advantage of the prosperous conditions and taxed the primary producers very heavily, but it did not take one progressive step to assist the primary industries. It contemplated the .Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme, and the first sod in connexion with that work was turned by the latest methods at an impressive ceremony a few months ago, but that was only u preliminary move. I have often wondered where all the timber, cement and other materials required for that construction would have been obtained if the Labour Government had remained in office. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) tried to gloss over the position by saying that vast quantities of goods are available for consumers. In order to make his point he instanced the large turnover and profits of city emporiums. One needs only to visit the big city shops to see that only luxury lines are in plentiful supply but the people get little, if any, value from them. Most of the every-duy requirements of the people are scarce.
It has been said in this House on many occasions that every one of us deplores the drift of population to the cities. “We all greatly regret that more and more people should be attracted to the metropolitan areas. A new member sitting on the Opposition side of the House has claimed that the last Labour Government did more than any other government to bring about decentralization. I do not agree with him. In no period of eight years in the history of this Commonwealth have so many people drifted to the cities a3 were attracted to them during the regime of the last Labour Government. Many country people went to the cities to engage in the production of war materials and, having established themselves in city homes, were reluctant to return to the country centres after the war had ended. Indeed, the Labour Government encouraged them to stay in the cities. They were caught inextricably by the lure of the cities, just as if they had been placed in concentration camps. Everybody knows that in present circumstances there is little or no hope that they will return to the land. Decentralization and the provision of housing in country areas should go hand in hand. I am pleased to note that the Government proposes to undertake vast developmental schemes. As a sufficient number of houses cannot be provided from our own resources, the Government proposes to import houses from abroad. Though we are pleased with that decision, we want to know where the imported houses will be erected after they arrive here. The political pull of the cities has greatly increased as the result of the increase of the number of honorable members representing metropolitan constituencies. Of the thirteen new seats in Victoria, eight are in the metropolitan area and five in country centres. A similar allotment of new seats has been made in all States. Where the number of members is largest the greatest political pressure is exerted. We must fight against any attempts to prevent the erection of imported houses in country areas. If, as a start, 1,000 homes were erected in the Murray valley an additional 1,000 families would be attracted to that area. Instead of erecting imported houses in the metropolitan areas, where our great manufacturing plants have been established, the Government should erect them in country centres and assist in the building of factories to employ the population so housed. If the housing shortage in the cities is overcome we shall never tempt former country people or others to abandon the attraction of city lights. Houses erected in country centres will act as a magnet and attract people from the cities. A new member in his maiden speech said -
The average worker is prepared to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and must not be judged by any loafer who does not pull his weight.
I agree with those sentiments, but it is difficult to decide what are a fair day’s work and a fair day’s pay. Under the law of this land such matters are decided by conciliation and arbitration, but groups of workers are continually taking direct action against the law of the land. The Labour Government which was responsible for the appointment of conciliation commissioners determined that no appeal should lie against their decisions. Apparently that Governmentregarded its appointees to those posts as omniscient. I know that the average Australian worker is a decent Australian citizen, yet, strangely, wageearners in every walk of life obey the laws of the land with the exception of our industrial laws. The average worker frequently flouts industrial laws because he is encouraged to rebel by Communist trade union leaders. Many workers who believe that the law should be obeyed are intimidated by their union bosses and prevented from expressing their opinions. This Government, which stands for the maintenance of law and order, has determined to defeat the aims of industrial agitators who seek to disrupt production at every opportunity. Speaking of Communists the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) said -
They stand for a principle that would bring us under foreign domination.
Speaking from an adjoining seat in this Parliament during the same week, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) said -
If the Communist party is banned we shall get away from the principles of democracy.
Another member of the Opposition has said that the only way in which the menace of communism may be overcome is for the unionists to throw off their apathy and attend union meetings with the object of sweeping Communists from executive positions in their organizations. Our future apparently is to depend on whether or not rank and file unionists are prepared to leave the comfort of the fireside during the cold winter evenings in order to attend the meetings of their organisations. Apparently tie interests of this country are to count for nothing. In the eyes of Labour supporters, if the workers are apathetic and refuse to attend their union meetings, nothing can be done about the matter. Most Labour spokesmen have paid that if we ban communism we shall merely drive the Communist movement underground. I remember that when the former Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), used those words, the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) said -
Where does the right honorable gentleman think the Communists are now? What we eoe on the top is mere camouflage.
I am inclined to agree with that view. When I read about scientists in the United Kingdom being gaoled for disclosing defence secrets I wonder whether the Communist party in this country is being used as a smoke-screen to hide the operations of those who act as spies for a foreign power. In to-day’s issue of the Melbourne Herald under the heading “Malayan Threat at Worst Peak” a message from Kuala Lumpur states that the Communist crisis in Malaya is more dangerous than it was before the British Army had been called in. The Communists are sweeping through China and thrusting down to the Malaya Peninsula.
– What has that to do with the banning of the Communist party in this country?
– The Communist menace cannot be laughed off so easily by Opposition members. Too frequently they try to shield these enemies in our midst. The plea that as a democratic country Australia should not interfere with the rights of individuals or groups of individuals has a hollow ring. The words of Lincoln, “ Government of the people, by the people, for the people “, have been quoted by new and old Labour members when making such a defence of their apathy in the face of the Communist menace. They should pause and ask themselves, “Who are the people ? “ Are they those who owe allegiance to a foreign power and continually disrupt industry by foul methods in this country? Are they those who will not obey the laws of this land and are disloyal to our King? Or are they those who obey the laws of the land and stand for God and King and right? By no stretch of the imagination can any Opposition members claim that, the Communists, who owe allegiance to a foreign power, constitute “the people” of this country. The Communist party must be banned. Its numbers may not be large, but it must be remembered that a few people properly organized can sap the productive life-blood of a nation and sully the reputation of our whole community. I have always advocated the maintenance of the rights of the private individual who is prepared to obey the law. In the short time that has elapsed since this Government assumed office, it has done much, but if, in its lifetime, it did nothing more than stem the. flow of socialism, it would have fully justified the confidence that the electors have reposed in it.
During the life of the last Parliament I made motions for the adjournment of the House on three occasions. On the first occasion I advocated the payment of a subsistence allowance to former Australian prisoners of war, but the Chifley Government bluntly refused to do anything about the matter. I am now pleased, that a committee is to be set up to investigate the matter. On the second occasion I referred to the rabbit menace. I asked that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization be instructed to make special virus tests in northern Victoria. The Labour Government’s attitude towards that proposition was again negative. I am pleased now to be informed that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, in collaboration with the appropriate State departments, is to take action along the lines that I then advocated, and that the first experiments will be carried out in northern Victoria. On the third occasion I drew attention to the serious deterioration of our roads, but again the Labour Government did little, if anything, to alleviate the position. I was pleased to hear the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) announce that the Government proposes to raise a loan of £250,000,000 for developmental works, including road maintenance and construction. The right honorable gentleman said that interest on the loan will be met from the proceeds of the petrol tax and that direct allocations from the petrol tax to the States will be reviewed from time to time. These decisions indicate that the Government is progressively tackling the problem that is presented by our worn and dilapidated roads. It has been said that if the Labour Government had remained in office for another three or four years it would have retarded the progress of this country for half a century. As a result of the maladministration of that Government the progress of this country has already been retarded by from fifteen to twenty years.
Opposition members are continually asking what the Government proposes to do in order to put more value into the £1. It is impossible to do much in that direction in a short time. What has brought about the lag in production? The primary cause was the diversion of the greater part of our productive efforts to the provision of war materials. During the last four years production has lagged principally because of the fear of socialization. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has claimed that it was not the intention of the Labour Government to give full effect to its socialization objective. As every one knows the objective of the Labour movement is to bring about the socialization of the means of industry, production, distrit.i on and exchange. Opposition members cannot shrug off the avowed objective of the Australian Labour party by merely saying that the Labour Government did not intend to socialize this or that industry. A Labour spokesman from Victoria has said that as the people do not like socialism, Labour must water down its socialization policy; but Mr. Kennelly, who is a much more authoritative spokesman for the Labour movement, has urged Labour not to abandon, any part of its socialization programme.
The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has claimed that the votes recorded in the general elections of 1943 and 1946 demonstrate conclusively the confidence of the people in the programme submitted to them by Labour candidates. He significantly failed to refer to -the votes recorded in the general election of 1949. In 1941, Labour attained power as the result of the defection of two Independents of this House who normally had supported the Menzies Government. In the campaign that preceded the general election of 1946 no mention was made of Labour’s socialization policy and the people gave the Labour Government another chance. But when the Chifley Government introduced its proposals for the nationalization of banking and refused to submit them to a referendum of the people, protest meetings were held throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth and telegrams of protest blocked our communication channels. Any government which deliberately flouts the will of the people and establishes a virtual dictatorship in a democratic country must expect to be soundly defeated. In 1949 the people were wide-awake. In the last speech that I made in this House before it was dissolved, I said, “The people now know the aims of the Labour Government. If they return Labour I shall be prepared to say that they must want socialism “. But they treated the socialistic plans of Labour in the way in which I thought they would treat them. One young man said, “I will vote Labour. It was good enough for my father and it is good enough for me “. But when it was pointed out that what his father had voted for was the old Labour party and that, although it had socialistic plans, it did not bring them forward, that man voted for the present Government at the general election.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide said, “ I always feel sore when anything is put over. The banks had their men out. The bank employees were giving out tickets at the election”. Why should they not do that when the previous Government had intended to rob them of their livelihood and to take over the institutions in which they worked, and had been trained? The honorable member for Port Adelaide must have been very sore when he found what had been put over by his own party. I have here a pamphlet entitled “Petrol Politics and Propaganda “ which was sent to me in January of this year. It has Mr. Kennelly^ name on the back of it, but I do not know whether he sent it to me. Whoever sent it put on the front of it, “What about it?” The pamphlet says this about the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) : “ He is playing politics with petrol and making promises he cannot fulfil The Treasurer fulfilled his promises all right. He fulfilled them right up to the hilt. The pamphlet also says -
Early in the present election campaign there appeared a Liberal-Country party advertisement promising unrationed petrol in the event of a Liberal-Country party Government being formed. Since then the promise has been mentioned but the theme has been played down. Why ?
The answer to that question is that once the Liberal party and the Australian Country party give a promise they do not need to play it up all the time. The people know that they will keep it.
Honorable members interjecting ,
– There are too many interjections. If all the interjections of one of my friends on the front Opposition bench who has not debated the motion were collected they would make a long speech. That applies also to another Opposition member.
– Honorable members have asked why the Government did not raise age pensions last year when they were raised by the New Zealand Government. That was quite a valid question. I point out, however, that on the 14th June, 1949, I asked the then Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) whether his Government intended to increase the rate of invalid and age pensions and, if so, whether the increase would be between 3s. and 5s. a week, as had been suggested in the press, or whether the Government would ensure that the new rate would have some practical relation to the cost of living. The right honorable gentleman, in his reply, said -
The law provided at one time that pension rates must be related to the cost of living and must rise or fall according to variations of the cost-of-living index figures. However, when C series index figures fell about three years ago, there was a great protest against any reduction of pensions. As a result, the provision that related pensions to the cost of living was removed from the law. Therefore, the pension rates aTe not now affected by the cost of living.
I make that quotation for the information of the House. Why an honorable member should ask this Government why pension rates were not raised so long ago I cannot understand.
I now read from a Digest of Decisions and Announcements and Important Speeches by the Prime Minister (The Bight Honorable J. B. Chifley), which was printed by the authority of the Government Printer -
On 7th December, 1949, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) broadcast over the national network. Mr. Chifley said -
In deciding how you shall record your vote, 1 know that you will give regard to the sort of Australia in which you want your children to live.
It will be noted that the right honorable gentleman did not say, “ I hope you will give” or “I think you will” but “I know you will give regard to the sort of Australia in which you want your children to live “. The people gave due regard to that. He was absolutely right in every detail.
The honorable member for Fremantle said that inflation was caused largely by the amount of money that was being received by the primary producers. How many people on a decent wage in this country would have taken the place of wheat-growers in my electorate a few years ago during the drought, when the dust storms wrought havoc and they had nothing to live on? We have now had three good years and some money has come in. The honorable member for Fremantle said that the wheat-growers are getting to-day from 16s. to 19s. a bushel for their wheat. That is just as true as the statement that the wage-earner is receiving from £16 to £19 a week. It is only a half truth. The wheat-growers are to-day subsidizing the people of Australia. The wheat that is sold to the Australian people costs them 6s. 8d. a bushel. A consumer subsidy takes the price up to 7s. Id. gross, which is the cost of production. The return to the grower from all sales at the peak of world prices averaged in the vicinity of 10s. per bushel. Yet an honorable member without practical knowledge tells the Australian people that the wheat-grower is Sotting from 16s. to 19s. a bushel. That false propaganda should be corrected immediately. The wheat-growers are entitled to what they get because of the bad years that they have had and which must recur. Any honorable member who objected would show a lack of practical knowledge and a lack of experience to anticipate what will happen in the future. The honorable member for Wilmot has fa id that we cannot do this or that because the Constitution will not permit it to be done. It is a great thing for responsible persons to say, “ The people are safe with us because we are like lions in a cage, and cannot get out, but if we do get a chance to get away from the Constitution we shall bring certain things into effect, just as the lion would eat the keeper who looked after him “.
On the subject of compulsory military training, I believe that it is every man’s duty to protect his country in time of war, and every government’s duty to see that its defenders shall be properly trained and equipped. Some people who seek world, peace say that we must lead the way by bringing about disarmament. We want peace, but until those people can convince countries such as Russia that they must give some practical indication of other than war-like intentions, I cannot see any reason for this country ceasing to prepare to protect itself.
I thank honorable members for having listened with such attention, and I hope to be with them again in later debates.
.- First, Mr. Speaker, I tender to. you my congratulations on your election to the Speakership of this House. I believe that a display of courage and dignity by the Chair is even more necessary to-day than it has been in the long history of parliamentary institutions, because to-day this parliamentary institution is under heavier fire than it has been for a century or more. I congratulate, also, those honorable members on the opposite side of the House who have delivered their maiden speeches in this House. I was particularly impressed by the opening remarks of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who stated that the function of the Opposition was to examine the legislation fairly, squarely and critically and that it would carry out that function.
It was very interesting to note that the honorable member for Wilmot, having developed that constructive, reasonable, and dignified approach, then drifted on to a theme that has run like a pattern through almost every speech from the Opposition benches. Almost every Opposition speaker has devoted a considerable portion of his time to demonstrafing why he and his colleagues arc sitting in Opposition and not in the seat of government. It was suggested fairly early in the debate, I think, that that was due to a not unnatural dislike of being evicted from the government benches and could he likened somewhat to crying over spilt milk. I do not believe that. The honorable member for Wilmot credited the Liberal party and the Australian Country party with a superb organization. I think that that credit was merited, but, at the same time, it does seem to me that the reason why almost every member of the Labour party has advanced a number of reasons for the defeat of that party is to be found in the figures cited by the honorable member for Wilmot, which show that the Labour party received 46.7 per cent, of the total number of votes recorded, which was considerably less than the percentage that it received in 1946. If one can pay any attention to gallup poll findings - and recent history has proved they cannot be disregarded - one recently taken makes it evident that the drift away from the extreme left continues, because it revealed a further swing of 4 per cent, away from the Labour socialist party. Consequently, the statement of the honorable member for Wilmot that the Liberal and Australian Country parties won twenty seats by less than 1,000 votes is not so significant as one might believe, because, if another election were held, we should get a further 4 per cent., and would hold 32 seats, 25 of which, on those figures, must have majorities exceeding from 1,250 to 1,500.’ Why this disastrous election result from the Labour party’s point of view? There is one reason for it, and that is the plan which holds together the hard core of the Labour movement. The only possible explanation is that the Labour party has relinquished all hope of capturing the swinging middle-class vote. The honorable member for Wilmot indicated the pattern of Labour policy when he said that the Opposition would keep attacking the Government parties in the hope that it would regain the favour of the electors within three years, six years, or nine years. That is the reason for the outcry about finance and falsehoods. Those honorable members who have made such charges know perfectly well that they are not valid. The defeat of the Labour Government at the general election arose from three factors. The first of these was the faith in the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of people who worked for the success of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The second was the desertion by the Chifley Government of the people who had elected it to power. During the last few years, it has become a truism that the middle class is a “ vanishing race “. That was the second factor that helped to bring about the defeat of the Labour party. Members of the Opposition have frequently suggested that there is a rift between the parties that form this Government, but the third and most significant factor that led to the Labour party’s defeat was a greater split in its ranks than has ever occurred or could occur in the ranks of the united Government parties, whose broad principles are identical. Those facts explain why members of the Opposition are whistling for the wind.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) adopted an extraordinary course when he invited the House to consider the historical background of the Labour party. He claimed that a fear of insecurity had grown in the minds of the workers as the result of their treatment over the years. Any fear that haunts the minds of the workers to-day has been implanted by members of the Labour party. Anybody who has listened attentively to the speeches made by honorable members of the Opposition during this debate must realize that that is nothing less than the absolute truth.
Then the honorable member for Adelaide followed the well-worn track of Labour party speakers back over the years to the depression. He dealt with that subject in the suave manner that is characteristic of members of the Opposition. Members of the Labour party had no monopoly of sorrow and suffering during the depression. I suffered poverty and hunger then, and I am here to-day, on this side of the House, because of those experiences. There can be no hope of a prosperous future for Australia if we allow the natural development of the nation to be fettered and restrained by the actions of incompetent socialist theorists. The honorable member for ‘Adelaide also dealt with the familiar theme of putting value back into the £1. Like some of his well-meaning but misguided colleagues, he was under the impression that it would be possible to stop the rot of eight years in eight weeks. His knowledge of economics obviously is not so great as that of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). From what the honorable member for Fremantle said earlier in the debate, I am sure that he would agree with me if he were here now.
One of the important passages in the Governor-General’s Speech was as follows : -
In all developmental plans my advisers will pay attention to the importance of achieving a well-balanced -pattern of decentralization.
The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) spoke fluently and with force last night about the considerable development that had taken place in Australia under eight years of Labour rule. I would
Dot disagree with the right honorable gentleman. His statements on this subject were true up to a point, but, unfortunately they were not complete. I should not have the temerity to charge him with lack of knowledge, but apparently he overlooked one aspect of development that is of vital importance. Perhaps some protective growth develops over the eyes of all ardent and enthusiastic socialists and blinds them to such facts. The right honorable gentleman discussed the imposing degree of industrial development that had occurred as the result of war-time necessity, good seasons, and the post-war expansion of overseas markets for secondary products. He did not tell the House that, as that pyramid of industrial development arose, so primary production decreased in proportion. He did not point out that, although the number of workers in industry increased by 500,000 between 1939 and 1949, the number of rural workers decreased by 60,000 over the same period. Neither did he mention the fact disclosed by the census figures that, although city and provincial populations increased by approximately 1,000,000 over the fourteen years from 1933 to 1947, rural population decreased by about 27,000 over the same period. In order to provide concrete support for those almost fantastic figures, I refer to another indication of the drift away from primary production that may be more readily appreciated by members of the Opposition. In one small outer metropolitan area in the electorate that I represent there were 22 small farms in 1942 devoted to dairying, mixed farming, market gardening and so forth. Only two of those farms are left to-day. The remainder of the area has been devoted to grazing. That illustrates the effect- of the drift, which the right honorable gentleman acknowledged but which he claimed to be desirable. The scarcity of labour and the shortages of wire, machinery and other items essential to successful primary production that were mentioned by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) are making conditions for small primary producers almost insupportable.
Many honorable members talk about inflation to-day as though it were some abstract problem. The honorable member for Fremantle devoted a considerable portion of his speech to a reasoned and constructive analysis of certain economic facts; but, like his- colleagues, he had to toe the party line. The honorable gentleman was misguided in his conclusions; but at least he knew what he was talking about. He discussed the various factors that had brought about inflation in Australia, and mentioned particularly the accumulation of overseas balances that had been a major cause of inflation. In simple terms, the degree of the infla tionary spiral depends basically upon the ratio of goods available to the money available. If the amount of money in the hands of the people increases and the volume of goods available is reduced, no economic measures can check the inflationary spiral. That is what has happened in Australia. The situation has also been affected by a number of factors that honorable members opposite have not mentioned. Perhaps it is not their function to mention such things. An increase of production is not the only solution of the problem, important though it may be. The factors that affect production are many and varied. One of these is the number of workers engaged in industrial disputes because, while the men are idle, they are consuming but are not producing and therefore are increasing the inflationary tendency. According to the latest figures that I have been able to obtain, the proportion of workers involved in disputes in Australia in 1948 was 13 per cent. By contrast, the figure in the United States was a little less than 4 per cent, and in Great Britain it was a little less than 3- per cent. In other words, the proportion of workers engaged in disputes in that year was four times as high in Australia as it was in the United States of America and Great Britain. Recent surveys have confirmed those general figures.
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Townley) referred earlier to-day with some eloquence and authority to the subject of housing. Recent investigations have confirmed the opinion that was expressed a few months ago that the number of man-hours involved in erecting a home had increased, on the average, by 30 per cent, during the last ten years. Expressed in terms of inflation, that fact means that 130 man-hours are used for 100 hours’ worth of production. Thus, the inflationary spiral is shaking the very foundation of our national existence. As the honorable member for Denison said, every family should have the opportunity to own its own home. Surely the present state of affairs does not indicate any eagerness on the part of the trade unions or the Labour party to help people to become home-owners. Our economy has become unbalanced during the last ten years. We have full employment but we lack full production. We have money, but we lack the goods that could be bought with the money. That may be an over-generalization. Collectively we have the money and collectively we have some kinds of goods. But the important fact, which cannot be overemphasized, is that those goods are not essential to the balanced development of the country. There is a disproportionate production of luxury goods which helps little towards the development of this country. That is indicated in the figures cited by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). All sorts of minor luxury industries have been established at the expense of the primary industries. His Excellency referred to the matter of rural development. I have indicated the great need for some policy on that matter. “When considering a policy in detail, I hope that the Government may be able to give much thought to the needs of primary producers in relation to roads, which are essential for the transport of their goods und the development of their farms. Roads are particularly needed in those areas outback in the hills which are difficult enough of access at any time, but which were made much more difficult by the action of the Chifley Government in shutting its eyes cruelly and cynically to the needs of the people in those places. T hope that the matter of roads for country people will be given favorable consideration. The building of roads to-day does not involve man-power as much as it involves machinery.
The next point with which I shall deal is the sweeping statement by many honorable members opposite that the Communists should not be banned. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) leaned across his desk in his very impressive manner and said that the unions would fight, and if the Government wanted to take that as a threat it could do so. That was an illustration of the general approach to the matter by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) is one of the few men who ha3 fought against the Communists at some risk to himself. He said that communism was not confined to industry, but that there were Communists in the universities, in the professions, and amongst the school teachers. He also said that some were even in the churches. It is easy to say that the causes that produce communism should be removed. The inference is that those causes are purely economic. However, on the evidence put forward on the recognized authority of the honorable member for Yarra the causes are not all economic. Honorable members opposite who have addressed themselves with fire and vigour to the matter of banning the Communists have said that they should be fought in the unions.. Some unions have been successful in fighting Communists, but others have not. The whole strength of the Labour party and of the non-Communist union officials has not been sufficient to put the Communists out of the unions.
In view of the possibility of danger that faces this country, the Government cannot afford to leave the fight against communism in such shaky hands. Some honorable members, by their own words, bring into being the forces that are the cause of communism, even while they are suggesting that they should be removed. Many honorable members opposite who addressed themselves to i this matter indulged in a stirring up of bitter class hatred. They put into the minds and the hearts of the men who listened to them, and who follow them, bitterness, not only against the boss, but also against society as we know it. They have transformed the minds of those people into fertile fields for fructifying the seed of communism. They have done it, I believe, in all honesty, because they are stone-age men in an atomic age. “Forty years ago I knew many of the men who built the Labour party, and they were men of a differentcalibre from many of those whom I have listened to in this House. Honorable members opposite have not changed their technique over the last 40 years and any one who cares to read Hansard will find the proof of that. They are using the same technique that was found successful in the early days, when conditions were very different from what they are now. That technique has been used to maintain in power men who have been unable to evolve modern techniques to meet the Communist menace. They are fighting the atomic bomb with the bow and arrow. It is reasonable and proper for the Government to put forward the views contained in His Excellency’s Speech. It is said that the Government will give to the rank and file of the unionists an opportunity to conduct their own affairs freely and in secrecy. The Government will meet and fight the Communist menace. I suggest that it would be failing in its duty and its responsibility to the people if it did not take just that attitude. If I could be assured that the Communists could be fought by the Labour party with a modern technique - and I know how sincerely some of my friends in the Labour party fight - then I should be one of many on this side of the House who would back it, and the trade unions, in that fight. But we all know that however much they try, they cannot win such a fight. Communists can be put out of unions here and there but not generally throughout industry. This House knows that somebody must defend the country against this new form of aggression.
In conclusion, I submit that the Government parties were put into this House because the people overwhelmingly supported the policy presented to them by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). This Government has a mandate to carry out that policy. That mandate and the policy have been expressed in the Speech of His Excellency, and if the Opposition will confine itself to the admirable course of action outlined by the honorable member for Wilmot of criticizing and analysing in a constructive fashion, and co-operating with the Government in the measures that are directed not against Labour, but against the Communist menace, then it will make as great a contribution to Australia’s welfare than the great men who first formed the Labour party.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryan) adjourned.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 2.30 p.m.
I submit this motion because half-past ten in the morning is the usual meeting time of the House on Thursdays. This afternoon a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee was held and managed to arrive at a great deal of agreement.
Two or three outstanding matters still have to be discussed. It is very desirable that the House should have presented to it a set of Standing Orders that represents the agreed opinion of the Standing Orders Committee, if that be possible. I think that it is possible. But if we are to exhaust that possibility we should meet to-morrow morning. Therefore, it is desirable that the House should not meet until tomorrow afternoon. For that reason I have moved to that effect. To honorable members opposite I say that I have conferred with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), who is agreeable to this motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn. Mr. MULLENS (Gellibrand) [10.15]. - Being a comparatively innocent and unsophisticated new member, it has occurred to me that the time may be appropriate to put a query to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but I deliberately exclude him and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) from any implied reproof that my question may contain. Is it fair that we new members on this side of the House, having an insatiable thirst for knowledge, should, when we ask questions of Ministers in an endeavour to satisfy that thirst, meet sometimes with a downright rebuff, and sometimes with a scowl or a sneer? I am aware that the Standing Orders define in general terms what may be done by the Minister who is questioned, and by the honorable member who asks the question. However, I, in common with some other honorable members, am an Oliver Twist in my search for knowledge. “When we ask questions we want information. I know that the information is sometimes difficult to obtain. At times it may be impossible to obtain. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service have always frankly and readily given in answers to questions such information as was at their disposal, provided it was of a nature that could be divulged, and did not bear upon matters of policy. In strong contrast has been the demeanour of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). When I asked him a question recently, he approached the table with a look of ineffable scorn on his face. He seemed to be immediately on the defensive, and his attitude suggested that he was saying to himself, “ What is this bounder aiming at ? “ Then he scornfully told me, in effect, that my question did not matter one iota.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Honorable members opposite say, “Hear, hear!” But note the difference when a question is asked by a Government supporter. When a question was addressed to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Beale) by one of the solid phalanx of Government supporters, he answered in a friendly voice that every avenue would be explored to obtain the information, which would be supplied to the honorable member in due course. The suggestion was that the honorable member’s question was the quintessence of wisdom. Another Minister, when asked a question, approaches the table like a prancing peacock.
– Order !
– Perhaps I should have said like a dancing dervish.
– Not a dancing dervish, either. I know what that is, too.
– Well, I withdraw the remark. I trust that the Prime Minister will see that new members shall be given the information that is their due. The questions directed to him and his Ministers are not asked in a frivolous spirit. The constituents of Gellibrand desire to know the answers to the questions that I ask, and I, to. the limit of my ability, will try to ensure that they shall get the information.
– in reply - I am, indeed, profoundly moved by the remarks of the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens). I can see that the football season is approaching, and that Williamstown is getting into good form. The Government desires to give all information possible, particularly according to the degree to which it is needed. I shall see that an extra quota shall be made available to the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented: -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Guildford, Western Australia.
House adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information: -
Detailed particulars of the information required are not available, but the overseas shipping position is improving and shipowners are confident that Australian requirements in prefabricated houses from overseas could be transported to this country.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500315_REPS_19_206/>.