19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that to-morrow I shall move -
That this House, having taken into consideration the statement made by Mr. Speaker from the Chair on the 30th March last referring to his relationships with His Excellency the Governor-General, is of opinion that Mr. Speaker merits its censure.
– “Would the Leader of the Opposition like to proceed with the motion forthwith?
– No. I prefer that it be dealt with to-morrow.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health in relation to the epidemic of poliomyelitis, and the conference that was to be called of the. Commonwealth And State authorities to devise means to combat that epidemic. Have arrangements yet been madE for the conference to be held ? If not ‘ will the right honorable gentleman expedite them because the epidemic is still prevalent in New South Wales and, I understand, to some degree, also in South Australia? Secondly, will he cause an authoritative statement to be issued by the Health Department in relation to suggestions made by the department that are affecting the immunization campaign against diphtheria which is commencing in New South Wales, to the effect that ‘ immunization against diphtheria makes the onset of poliomyelitis more probable ? That statements is causing very great confusion, especially among parents of children who desire to have their children immunized against diphtheria.
– It has not yet been possible to arrange the conference to which the right honorable gentleman has referred, but a great deal of information has been supplied by the States, which have undertaken research in connexion with this matter, especially by South Australia and Victoria. In reply to the second part of the right honorable gentleman’s question, I shall make arrangements for the issue of a statement in relation to the effects of immunization against diphtheria. Unfortunately, such a statement cannot be very authoritative as a good deal of doubt exists in relation to the matter. “What the Director-General of Health said was that insofar as immunization with anti-diphtheric serum was concerned there was no question of deletenous effects but that insofar as the mixture of anti-diphtheric and whoop.ingcought serum was concerned some question had been raised. That suggestion has been made on certain observations. I shall prepare a complete statement on the subject.
– In explanation of this question, which I address to the Minister for External Territories, I wish to state that I am aware that many exservicemen, because of the knowledge they gained whilst with the forces in New Guinea, are anxious to return to tha,t territory in order to assist in its development. They have been prevented from doing so by lack of finance and by governmental restrictions. In view of those facts, will the Minister consider, in the light of his recent visit to New Guinea, what encouragement and assistance may be extended to exservicemen and others who wish to go to New Guinea, particularly to engage in primary production ?
– As the result of my discussions and personal observations in New Guinea I came to the conclusion that there is ample scope for encouraging people, particularly returned soldiers, to go to New Guinea and engage in primary production. While I was in New Guinea I received a number of suggestions on how this should be done. I propose to take up this question with the Minister for Repatriation. I believe that certain action can be taken to develop the idea. I am satisfied that it will be a very good scheme from every point of view to encourage as many Australians as possible to go there. It will assist us to discharge our responsibilities to the natives and to maintain this area as a strategic zone.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is correct, as reported, that the Government intends to import coal from South Africa and India? If that report is correct, has the Government considered obtaining additional coal supplies from Queensland? The Minister for Mines has stated that Queensland can supply all the coal required or that would be imported from overseas and that the Queensland coal would not be inferior in quality to that which it is proposed to import and would be landed in southern States at no greater cost than that which would be imported from India and South Africa. Does the Prime Minister not consider that, in the interests of the Queensland coal-mining industry, it would be better to obtain coal from that State than from overseas?
– The importation of coal from overseas is being arranged by joint action by the Commonwealth and the States, particularly South Australia and Victoria. That importation is designed to secure prompt additional supplies of coal. It is in no way intended to limit the development of coal production in Australia. The Government believes .that the best coal, from Australia’s point of view, is the coal that can be obtained in our own country. It is desired to obtain coal not only from New South Wales but also from every other State in the Commonwealth including Queensland. The possibility of obtaining further supplies from Queensland has not been overlooked. My relevant colleagues in the Cabinet have been in consultation on that subject and have conducted certain investigations with the Queensland authorities. Importation of coal is designed, not as a long-range policy, but as a short-range means of securing urgently needed supplies. It should not be assumed that the Government’s policy is to import rather than to produce. The Government’s policy, in all such matters, has been to bring about the highest possible level of production inside Australia and to resort to importation only to supplement local production when it is below the desired mark.
– I invite the attention of the Minister for National Development to the fact that severe dislocation has taken place in the shipment of apples from southern Tasmania. Two and a half million cases of fruit have been ordered from Tasmania by .the United Kingdom but shipment must be effected before the 31st May. Waterside workers are making every effort that is humanly possible to handle the cargoes, but it seems that a very considerable portion of the order may be left behind. The problem is a very complex one and involves wharfs, storage shed3 and other factors. Little can be done this season. It is principally a State matter, but will the right honorable gentleman, perhaps in consultation with the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, consider the situation in Tasmania with a view to his department offering advice and, if necessary, assistance before the next apple season?
– I am sure that a project of that sort would be given every possible consideration if it were referred to this Government by the Government of Tasmania, but it would be quite improper in the present constitutional situation for this Government to make the first move. I am sure that the Tasmanian Government is seised of the importance of the matter, and if it approached me I should immediately consider the problem in consultation with the Primp Minister and the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that Mr. E. Thornton has left Australia to attend a conference of the Communist-controlled World Federation of Trade Unions in Pakistan? In view of the continued added pressure of Communist organizations against British Empire interests, including the interests of the State of Pakistan, I ask whether any permit was issued by the Australian Government to allow of Thornton’s visit? If so, is it not time that our national interests were protected by preventing, as far as possible, Australian traitors from attending enemy conferences overseas to our detriment?
– The only information that I have on this subject is what I have read since I have returned to Australia. The issuing of passports is not a matter for the Department of External Affairs, but I have already had discussions with the Minister for Immigration and we are now considering the whole question of the limitations that can be imposed upon overseas visits hy Communists whom we know to be going overseas in order to advance conspiracy against this country. I am satisfied that the full extent of our powers will be used to prevent people from going overseas to engage in Communist conspiracies.
– I wish to address to the Minister for Immigration a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Wide Bay. Will the Minister inform the House whether his department issued a passport to Mr. Thornton? If so, in view of the many protests by members of the present Government parties when they sat in opposition against the issue of a passport to Mr. Thornton to enable him to travel overseas, did the Minister take those protests into consideration when deciding the matter? Does he consider that passports should be issued to persons who wish to go overseas in order to engage in Communist party activities, and later to use the knowledge gained while abroad to further Communist work in this country ?
– I did not issue a passport to Mr. Thornton. I understand that a passport was issued to him by the previous Government, of which the honorable member for Grayndler was a supporter.
The passport was valid for five years, and normally it would not be subject to consideration by my department until that period had expired. In this instance, the only knowledge I have of Mr. Thornton’s movements was what I read in the press, but if the honorable member will keep me informed of the movements of well-known Communists I shall do what I can to ensure that they do not engage in activities detrimental to the interests of Australia.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Has the honorable member been misrepresented?
– I have been grossly misrepresented by the Minister in his reply.
– The honorable member was not mentioned by name.
– The Minister for Immigration said that a passport, with a currency . of five years, was issued to Mr. Thornton by the previous Government. I was Minister for Immigration in that Government. The honorable gentleman also said that his department was not, therefore, required to re-issue the passport. The Minister has misrepresented the position, and he has misrepresented me, particularly.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it not the practice to postpone personal explanations until after question time so as not to interfere with the broadcasting of questions ? Has it not been the practice during the last three years not to permit personal explanations of this kind during question time?
– I think the honorable member for Melbourne might leave his explanation until later.
– I have my rights, and I insist on them.
– I do not know that you have.
– I have been misrepresented, and I insist upon my right to make a personal explanation.
– Very well, I shall heaT the honorable member, but I shall also hear other honorable members in similar circumstances.
– I might not mind that, sir. The Minister is right in saying that a passport has a currency, but I point out that every person who wishes to leave Australia has to submit an application every time he desires to do so. He has to get his wife’s permission, and, in addition, the permission of the Minister’s officers, to leave the country.
– He must also obtain a clearance from the Commissioner of Taxation, so let Government supporters laugh that one off.
– Order !
– To say that I had given a passport to Mr. Thornton, like a passout check, to enter and leave Australia without any interference by any Government authorities, is entirely to misrepresent the position.
– Did not the Minister give him a passport?
– I gave him a passport.
– That answers the question.
– The Minister for Immigration has given that gentleman a passport, too. When I was Minister for Immigration, I used to hear continual protests against the issue of passports to-
-Order! Will the honorable gentleman explain how he has been misrepresented?
– So far he has admitted that he has not been misrepresented.
– I have done nothing in my time to break the law. I obeyed the law. The truth of the matter is that the Minister, the Prime Minister and the whole of the Government-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is becoming rather complicated. If he wishes to proceed, he must defend himself and not attack others.
– I am right on the point. The Minister has attempted to misrepresent what I did, because he and the Government of which he is a member did not have the backbone to stand up, as a government, to what they said when they were in Opposition.
– Was the Prime Minister correctly reported as having stated that Australia’s investments in Malaya amounted in value to approximately £16,000,000 and that this constituted a vital national interest in that area? If he was correctly reported, is the Government contemplating any participation in any overseas military campaign, and does the right honorable gentleman consider that the defence of private investments anywhere warrants the loss of one Australian life?
– I have not read in any of .the recognized newspapers any report to the effect that I had made any statement about Australian investments in Malaya. I have not made any statement about Australian investments in Malaya either recently or at any time. If, therefore, the honorable member did read some report in some journal, I should be glad if he would tell me the name of the journal later. I suspect its identity. Any such report is completely untrue.
– In view of press reports that employees of the British Overseas Airways Corporation have complained to the management committee of the Aeronautical Engineers Association, following a recent explosion in a Corporation aircraft, that trade unions in Great Britain’s nationalized aviation industry are “riddled with Communists “, will the Minister for Air take adequate steps to ensure that there shall be no possibility of active Communists being employed in this country by the Royal Australian Air Force ?
– I did read an account of an explosion in an aircraft in Britain, which seemed to contain all the elements of a diabolical crime. Apparently the union believes that Communists in that organization were responsible, and it desires their expulsion. That is a most laudable desire and is something that this Government stands for, and will surely endeavour to carry out. As for communism in the Royal
Australian Air Force, I do not think it exists. The morale of that organization is high, and in the only case of sabotage which ha3 been discovered in recent months a man was tried, sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, and dismissed from the Service. We have the matter always under scrutiny both in the service and on the civil side.
– Has the Minister for Health read the leading article in the Melbourne Herald of the 17th April entitled “ Who is Delaying Medical Plan “, in which it is stated that all that ihe public actually knows at present is that it has been promised a medical scheme and that something or someone appears to he delaying it? In view of the fact that an impression is prevalent that the delay in the introduction of the new health legislation is due to the obstructionist tactics of the British Medical Association, will the Minister, in order to see that the matter is immediately clarified, accept the statement in the Herald’s leading article, that the merits of the latest plans cannot be discussed intelligently until the Government tells the people just what they are, and will he accept that journal’s advice that the Government should make an early statement because there can be no possible excuse for secrecy.
– The honorable member would know, if he were dealing with a human complication, that it should be dealt with in confidential consultation and not openly. That is the way in which negotiations are being carried on at the present time. The necessity for working in such a manner has been set out in this morning’s Melbourne Age, and also in the local press in which a letter dated the 1st March appears as though it were recent news. Before I came into the chamber to-day the secretary of the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia, Mr. Evans, rang me to say that the contents of that letter, which was answered some seven weeks ago, was not disclosed with the knowledge of the guild or with its consent.
What I said in reply to that letter answers the honorable member’s question. My reply was -
Thank you for your letter.
The position of the scheme is still fluid as so many different matters have to be dovetailed into the general scheme and this takes considerable time.
Fortunately the position vis-a-vis the Pharmaceutical Guild is more advanced than most as I hope within a couple of weeks to have the full list of drugs determined by the specialists.
Upon receipt of this information, I shall contact you and fix a date for our meeting.
On Tuesday I wired to the secretary of the guild, who now says that he has arranged for the whole of the members of the executive to meet me to-morrow week in Melbourne, when the matter will be finalized.
– Has the Minister for Health been asked by the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia to give an assurance that the status quo of private chemist shops will not be altered, that patients will have freedom of choice of chemists when obtaining pharmaceutical benefits and that prescriptions will be dispensed only ‘by qualified chemists ? If so, what was, or what will be the nature of his reply?
– When I met the federal executive of the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australian in Melbourne last January, I gave it that assurance, which has never been altered in the slightest degree, and still stands.
– In directing a question to the Minister for Health I desire to make a brief statement so that my question will be understood. I know of a person in Melbourne who has secured treatment for his wife, who is suffering from arthritis, at the Rockefeller Presbyterian Hospital in New York. She was given five injections of the new drug, cortisone, and has apparently been cured, after having been bedridden for more than two years. A statement has beenmade that this drug would be released in Australia after March this year through a manufacturing chemist in Sydney. Does the right honorable gentleman know anything of such a proposal? In view of the fact that many sufferers from rheumatoid arthritis are interested in the claims about the effectiveness of this drug, will the Minister make full inquiries and issue a considered statement on the subject as early as possible?
– The question of what life-saving and disease-preventing drugs should be included in the formulary under the Government’s health and medical benefits scheme is being examined by an expert committee, consisting of professors of pharmacology in Melbourne and Sydney and of four expert specialists. I have no doubt that these eminent gentlemen will fully examine the effectiveness of the drug, cortisone, and decide whether or not it should be included in the formulary.
– Will the Minister for Health exercise patience in dealing with members of the Central Southern Branch of the British Medical Association who are defying the Government’s arbitration policy? In explanation of my question, I inform the right honorable gentleman that these members of the doctors’ trade union have joined together by direct action substantially to increase their fees to as much as a guinea a visit, and are refusing to work except at the new rates. Whilst I recognize that the Minister cannot tolerate this will he take into account the fact that the doctors have doubtlessly been misled by a small minority of trouble-makers at their head? Before invoking the Crimes Act against them, will he point out that this Government will not allow ally sections of the workers to take the law into their own hands and only as a last resort will it gaol or deport their leaders and so allow the rank and file to regain control of their organization?
– May I point out that the difference between doctors and the wharf labourers in Brisbane is that the doctors have kept on working night and day, while the wharf labourers in Brisbane have left the ships and have not unloaded them. What the doctors may do in relation to their fees has nothing to do with the Australian Government. That is purely a domestic matter between the members of the British Medical Association and their patients.
– As a decision was recently made to grant permits, under certain conditions, for the export of grain, sorghum from this season’s crop, would the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture advise the House of the number of such licences issued to date, first, for the whole of the Commonwealth, and secondly, for the State of Queensland. Also, in view of the anticipated good crop, especially in Queensland, and the comparative price of wheat and grain sorghum on the local market, does the Minister consider that there will be any relaxation of the conditions whereby export licences can be granted for 60 per cent of stock while the balance of 40 per cent, must be retained for the home market?
– The honorable member reminds me that I made a statement some weeks ago on the policy to be applied in the issue of licences for the export of grain sorghum. That policy still stands. Authority has been granted for the issue of a number of licences. I cannot say the exact number, nor can I say without inquiry whether licences have been issued in every State, but I shall obtain the information and supply it to the honorable member. The percentages of 60 per cent, for export and 40 per cent, for home consumption were considered to be appropriate before complete knowledge of the volume of the crop was available. When complete figures are available, I shall review those percentages and, as the honorable member suggests, it may be possible to vary them.
– I address to the Prime Minister a question about a proclamation issued by the GovernorGeneral recently, which related directly to industrial trouble on the Brisbane waterfront. Will that proclamation remain in force, or will it be revoked, in view of the fact that the industrial troubles in Brisbane have since ceased and the Communists have been dealt with in that city?
– I was proposing to say something about that matter after question time, but I may conveniently deal with it in answer to the question by the honorable member for St. George. Some time before Easter, I announced to the House that a proclamation had been issued under the Crimes Act having regard to events on the waterfront in Queensland. Since the issue of that proclamation, the process of work on the waterfront has been restored. There has been continuity of operations, and, in point of fact on the matters which immediately gave rise to the dispute, the Waterside Workers Federation has gone back, to the judge, and certain proceedings before him are now pending. In other words, the industrial disturbance which provoked the proclamation has terminated, and, in those circumstances, the Government has decided to revoke it. As I indicated to honorable members when I made my announcement to the House some time before Easter, the position is that, under the Crimes Act, a proclamation’, once issued, continues until it is revoked. It will be revoked this afternoon. It is not desirable that emergency measures of that kind should continue after the expiration of the emergency, and, therefore, we propose to revoke the proclamation. Should any disturbance in future require corresponding action, the Government of course will know what to do.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that there is an organization on the waterfront in Melbourne known as the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union? Is he also aware that the organization had its origin as a strikebreaking, or “ scab “, weapon, and that it has now merged into a Communistcontrolled union? Is he aware that a move has originated with the Communistcontrolled federal executive of the Waterside Workers Federation to swamp the anti-Communist Melbourne branch of the federation, and that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is the weapon to be used for this purpose? As part of the Communist plan is to increase the numerical strength of the “ scab “ union, will the Minister instruct the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board to refuse to grant a current application by the Permanent and Casual
Wharf Labourers Union for permission to increase its membership?
– I am familiar -with the history of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. We have had some discussion in this Parliament of its activities over recent years, and I have watched with interest the apparent transformation that has taken place in its character over the same period. I have had discussions recently with the secretary of the Victorian branch of the Waterside Workers Federation along the lines that have just been covered by the honorable member’s questions. Those representations are being examined, and I shall also take into consideration the suggestion that the honorable member has made.
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing give the House any indication of the progress that has been made by the mission that is now overseas investigating the possibility of obtaining wooden or prefabricated houses in Europe and the United Kingdom?
– I remind honorable gentlemen that the small mission that has gone overseas to investigate the matter of prefabricated housing is not a purchasing mission but a fact-finding mission. The mission reached Britain only a week or two ago and I have not received a preliminary report concerning its work. When I have anything to tell the House on the subject I shall, of course, do so at once.
– In view of the increasing cost of living, particularly in relation to foodstuffs, house rents and housing, and also in view of the great inroads made into the pensions of aged and invalid persons, will the Minister for National Development have an examination made of the British Government’s housing scheme for aged persons with a view to introducing such a scheme in Australia so that aged and invalid persons in this country can obtain housing at cheaper rents?
– The mission that has gone to Britain to investigate the matter of prefabricated housing has already arrived in that country. I have asked it to obtain particulars of the scheme to which the honorable member has referred so that the Australian Government may be informed on the subject.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister relative to the unfortunate position of a number of miners and retired miners residing in the Scarborough area on the south coast of New South Wales, where a terrific landslide occurred, which took many houses with it. Is it a fact that many miners and retired miners have had their homes wrecked, in many instances beyond repair, and have lost their whole life savings? Is it also a fact that a committee appointed by the Government is at present going around assessing the damage done to the property of farmers as a result of the recent floods, with a view to granting farmers financial assistance to repair the damage? Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of extending the scope of the committee’s functions to take in the industrial area of Scarborough and to provide for an assessment to be made of the damage there, with a view to financial aid being granted to the miners and retired miners on the same basis as the assistance to be granted to farmers?
– I am not familiar with the unfortunate incident to which the honorable member has referred. In the case of flood damage in both New South Wales and Victoria, I received applications from the Premiers of those States, who drew attention to the nature of the losses that had occurred. The Government agreed to co-operate with those States in taking some action in the matter - not to repair all the damage done to individual citizens, but to deal with cases of genuine personal hardship that might have arisen. I do not know that I have had any communication from the Premier of New South Wales about the matter to which the honorable member has referred, but if the honorable member would be so good as to give me any papers that he may have on the matter I shall be very glad to examine it.
– As in many instances the first port of call for oil tankers from overseas is one of the ports in northern Queensland, would the Prime Minister investigate why the retail price of petrol and oil is higher in northern Queensland than in any other part of Australia ?
– I have a few general ideas upon that matter, hut perhaps it is not to the point to offer them. The best thing for me to do is to confer with the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport and obtain a particular reply for the honorable member from him.
Dr. Hewlett Johnson
– Has the Minister for Immigration read the speeches of the Very Reverend Dr. Hewlett Johnson ? If so, does he agree that those speeches are untrue and are a mischievous form of propaganda ? Is the Minister aware that the Communist party has arranged the meetings for Dr. Johnson ? Does he know whether there is any connexion between the so-called “ peace front “ in Australia and the Communist party? Will he consider overhauling the laws relating to immigration and entry into this country, in such a way as to prevent people from coming here to disseminate Communist propaganda under the guise of religion, as in this instance, or, indeed, under any other guise?
– I have not had the opportunity nor the time to study the speeches that have been delivered in Australia by Dr. Hewlett Johnson; but I have no doubt in my own mind about the real character of the so-called Australian peace congress. In common with similar gatherings that have been held in other parts of the world the Australian peace congress, using the language of peace, has become part of the new Communist technique for the new Communist front. We have no doubt that this method is being employed to further the propaganda and techniques of communism. The honorable member has asked whether I shall have the immigration laws reviewed to see whether it is possible to prevent people from coming to Australia to state views which might encourage Communist propaganda. I see very great practical difficulties in attempting to adopt the course which the honorable member has proposed, particularly as it would necessitate officers of my department making themselves familiar with the views of all sorts of people who may desire to come to this country. The practice which I have adopted in this instance, and would adopt in similar appropriate cases, was to inquire of the Security Service whether any security objection was taken to the Dean’s visit to Australia. The Dean possesses a British passport. I was assured by the officers of the Security Service that no security objection was raised to his mission in Australia. They said that his pro-Soviet views were so widely known that his presence here would merely focus attention on the real character of the congress which he is attending.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed reports in the press to the effect that Senator Morrow has been attending and supporting the Australian peace congress? If these reports are correct, in view of the fact that the Australian Labour party has declared the congress to be a Communist front, is the Prime Minister of the opinion that Senator Morrow’s support of this congress indicates that his connexions with the Communist party are closer than has generally been realized, that his connexion with the Australian Labour party is less close than has been generally realized, or that the opposition of the Labour party to communism is merely a policy of expediency which may be relaxed in certain circumstances?
– I rise to order. As not one portion of the honorable member’s question has anything to do with the Prime Minister or his department, I submit that the question is out of order.
– Speaking to the point of order, the question of communism is one of public policy of the very greatest importance and all aspects of it concern the Prime Minister.
– I shall leave it to the Prime Minister to judge whether or not he should answer the question. So far as I am concerned it is in order.
– Remarkable as it may seem, I am disposed to think that each of the three alternatives stated in the question asked by the honorable member is correct.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. With a view to decentralization and development, will the right honorable gentleman consider co-operating with the States concerned in the provision of adequate railway services to Portland, Victoria, including the construction of a link line from Patchewollock to Ouyen, so that when the breakwater at Portland is completed products from the eastern portion of .South Australia and the western portion of Victoria may be shipped from this decentralized port?
– I should regard that matter as one for determination solely by the State governments concerned. If it is a matter of collaboration between the Australian Government and the Governments of those two States-
– That is what I ask for.
– My knowledge of the subject is inadequate. I fail to see how the Australian Government could come into a matter of that kind. It seems to me to he a matter for the Government of Victoria or one for collaboration between the Governments of South Australia and Victoria. If the honorable member will give me further information on the subject I shall be glad to look into his proposal.
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. When flying from Adelaide to Canberra this morning by Trans-Australia Airlines Skymaster, on which were politicians of various political creeds, I carefully read a copy of to-day’s Adelaide Advertiser, a journal which I know is deemed in some quarters to be thoroughly reliable, but which I admit is not responsible for framing the advertisements which appear in its columns. Page 22 of that journal contains an advertisement inviting applications for the tenancy of a dry canteen at the works hostel at Turner, Canberra. The advertisement appears over the authority of “ Nelson Lemmon, Minister for Works and Housing”. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, in your opinion, this is a case in which the quotation, “ coming events cast their shadows before “, would be quite applicable?
– I have not seen the advertisement to which the honorable member has referred, but I assure him that the resurrection is still some distance off.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister concerning the resurrection of the purchasing power of the £1. I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman has had a chance to read this morning’s press, so I ask him whether he has .been advised that the Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court yesterday announced that the basic wage would rise by 3s. in Melbourne and 2s. in Sydney because of increases of the cost of living during the last quarter? If so, does he agree that this is the second cost-of-living increase since this Government took office and that, in the case of workers in some capital cities, it brings the increases to 8s.? If this is so, is it evidence of the Government’s efforts to put more value into the £1, or, as it would appear logical to suggest, is it evidence of the vanishing value of the £1? If the latter is the case, what does the Prime Minister propose to do in order to give effect to his election promise to make the £1 worth of goods to the value of £1?
– I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in this matter. If he would devote his talents to encouraging an increase of production in Australia he would be serving a very useful purpose. If he does not know it already, the Leader of the Opposition will soon tell him, that that is a basic condition upon which money will buy more. In his question, the honorable member has omitted reference to one significant fact. The price-level began to rise at the rate of about 10 per cent, per annum in 1947, when the honorable gentleman had a seat on the treasury bench. It continued to rise at the same rate during 1948.
– After the defeat of the referendum.
– Unfortunately for the honorable gentleman, it was before the referendum. The rise in price levels began a clear eighteen months before the .prices referendum was held. Prices rose at the rate of from 10 to 12 per cent, per annum in 1947, 1948, in the middle of which year the referendum occurred, and in 1949. Such an alarming rise in the cost of living cannot be arrested overnight. I am, therefore, not surprised to know that the continuation of that momentum has produced the result referred to by the honorable gentleman, but with his co-operation, and the co-operation of the trade union movement and of all those concerned with production in this country, we shall hope to slow down that process, then to arrest it, and then to start a movement in the opposite direction?
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question supplementary to the one just asked by the honorable member for Melbourne. Is it true that the Prime Minister told a meeting at Launceston recently that more value could not be put into the £1 by an act of the Government ? Does the present attitude of the right honorable gentleman constitute repudiation of the solemn promise he made to the Australian people that, if elected, he would put value back into the £1 ?
– Unfortunately for the purpose of the honorable member’s question, I did not make the statement he has attributed to me.
– Was the Prime Minister misreported?
– I simply say that I did not make the statement attributed to me.
– Will the Prime Minister tell us something that he can remember?
– I remember the honorable member’s maiden speech. I should like to inform the honorable member for Hindmarsh that on the occasion to which he referred to in his question I indicated that Governments could and should do certain things which concerned economic policy and which bore on that great problem which concerns everybody - the problem of arresting inflation. But the Government cannot do all about it because no government can do everything on that matter unless it is backed by the resolute efforts of all individual members of the community. When honorable members of the Opposition realize that they, as well as other people, have a task of leadership on this matter, we shall progress more rapidly.
– On the 23rd March the honorable member for Mitchell asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question regarding stimulating the export of flour from Australia, and, by this means, improving the supplies of mill offals, bran and pollard, the shortage of which is causing grave concern amongst dairyfarmers, pig-raisers and other farmers who require these commodities for stock feed. Could the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether there have been any developments which would indicate that increased supplies will become available?
– The Government is aware of the shortage of wheaten mill offals and its effect on the various industries mentioned by the honorable member. As I told the House on another occasion, I have consulted the Australian Wheat Board, and’ also specialist members of the Flour Millers Association, and officials of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and we have examined every possible way of stimulating the export of flour for the purpose, amongst other things, of securing more wheaten mill offals. Obviously, this is not a matter which is finally within the control of the Australian Government. It is a matter of finding markets for the sale of flour. Since this problem became acute we have succeeded in concluding several transactions in respect of flour produced from some millions of bushels of wheat. The Government is not relaxing its efforts to expand the sale of Australian flour in order to meet this emergency condition.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether the Department of immigration subjects to medical examination all persons who apply to immigrate to Australia? Is a chest X-ray included in this examination? If so, is the film of the chest X-ray forwarded to Australia with a medical report? Is it a fact that some applicants for admission to this country have previously suffered from malnutrition and that this has been responsible for evident signs of lung trouble being overlooked by the medical officers? Are large numbers of immigrants now inmates of tuberculosis institutions in Australia?
– It is a fact that persons who apply to immigrate to Australia are medically examined. I have no reason to believe and, on the information in my possession, I would repudiate the suggestion that medical officers overlook obvious evidence of the character mentioned by the honorable member. I have no reason to believe that any great proportion of people who come to Australia are suffering in the manner indicated ‘by the honorable gentleman. After being examined overseas, some immigrants do show evidence of tuberculosis infection upon reaching this country and they are given adequate treatment. I shall endeavour to obtain a full statement on this question for the information of honorable members.
– Has the Prime Minister read the report of the recent conference of the age pensioners association in which certain proposals are put forward for meeting the anomalies in the legislation in relation to invalid and age pensions which are causing great hardship to age pensioners? If he has not seen the report, will the Prime Minister examine* the relevant resolutions, have them investigated and see whether certain necessary steps can be taken to remove the anomalies ?
– I have not seen the report referred to by the honorable member, but I shall obtain a copy of it and have it investigated.
– Prior to the recent parliamentary recess, I asked the Government to consider making a cash grant of £10- each to age, invalid and widow pensioners in order to alleviate their distress immediately. The Minister for Supply promised me that he would refer the matter to Cabinet for its consideration. Will the Prime Minister now inform the House whether Cabinet has considered my request and, if so, whether it has reached a decision?
– Various questions that relate to pensions and pensioners are engaging- the attention of Cabinet, which will lay its proposals before the Parliament or announce its decisions as soon as it is in a position to do so.
– The Prime Minister has asked that the co-operation of the Opposition be extended to the Government in its efforts to ensure greater production by the trade union movement. If the right honorable gentleman expects to get that cooperation, which indeed will be forthcoming, will he consult with the Opposition before he brings down legislation to which the organized trade union movement has deep-rooted objections?
– I have too much respect for the trade union movement to assume that it has a deep-seated objection to proposed legislation that it has not yet seen. That legislation will be explained when it has been drafted and introduced, and I am confident enough to believe that it will enjoy the support of hundreds of thousands of trade unionists.
– Can the Prime Minister’s statement that failure to put value back into the £1 arises from the failure to increase production be taken as an indication that the Government’s plans for stepping up production have completely failed? If so, will the Government now give favorable consideration to the introduction of a system of rigid profit control as an incentive to improved production ?
– The answer to the first question is “ No “, and therefore the second question does not arise.
. - by leave - Earlier in the session I undertook to obtain for the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) certain information concerning the alleged inadequacy of the air service to Flinders Island. I have now obtained the required information and present it to the House. The matter of air services to Flinders Island has been discussed with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the regular operator of the service to that island, and also with Mr. W. T. Dwyer, who operates an occasional service. Prior to September, 1948, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited operated between Launceston and Flinders Island thrice weekly, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but, owing to the poor loadings on the whole service, the Wednesday service was discontinued in that month. The prospects of re-introducing the Wednesday service have been discussed with the company, which has advised that during the six months ended the 31st December, 1949, the loadings on the twice-weekly service were -
Launceston to Flinders Island. - 1,17’J scats available; 433 passengers carried.
Flinders Island to Launceston. - 1,17’J seats available; 434 passengers carried.
The company has stated, and the figures that I have just quoted certainly indicate, that a service three times a week could not be justified at present, and, with the winter season so near, there appears to be even less justification than previously for increasing the frequency of operation of the service.
– It appears that private enterprise has failed.
– On the contrary! If the honorable member is air-minded, he should encourage more people to travel by air. The question whether the Commonwealth should subsidize the service has been examined, but, as a twice-weekly service is now being operated, there is no justification for a Commonwealth subsidy.
Debate resumed from the 30th March (vide page 1479), on motion by Mr. Fadden -
That the bill be now rend a second time.
– I make no claim to any expert knowledge on the subject of banking-
– Hear, hear!
– And that is about the only thing that I have in common with the former Minister! For that reason, my incursion” into this debate will be of the briefest nature. I rise because, like other honorable members on this side, I see in this bill the embodiment of some of the very first principles on which the Government parties went to the people during the election campaign last December. We on this side of the House are intensely gratified to see some of the Government’s electoral promises being put into tangible form so early in its history. I do not want to deal in detail with any of the component parts of the bill, and I propose to refer principally to its main objectives which are, first, the expansion of the activities of the Commonwealth Bank ; and, secondly, the establishment of a board to control the conduct of the bank in the soundest and best possible way.. I am sure that there is no disagreement anywhere in this House concerning the desirability of the first objective. All of us are equally agreed that it is most important that the people’s bank should be encouraged in every way to expand in such a manner as will enable it to meet the growing demands upon it. Earlier in this debate, certain members of the Opposition were pleased to say that members of this Government had never believed in the Commonwealth Bank, but they must have known that their statements were very far from the truth. I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) lent some force to the totally specious argument that the Government intended to hamper the activities of the Commonwealth Bank. Such talk, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) observed in his speech, adds nothing to the debate; it merely unjustly caricatures the arguments of Opposition members. I dismiss it as so much political propaganda in the narrowest sense for we are in complete agreement that the expansion of the bank is a good thing. It is on the proposition to set up a board of governors to control the policy of this bank that the House is divided.
The Government believes that this great bank, upon which the efficient functioning of the whole financial policy of this country depends, can be efficiently, continuously and properly run, only by a properly constituted board. It does not believe that one person can do the job. The Government has embodied that belief in this bill. The Opposition pretends that it is opposed to the setting up of a board, but I have yet to hear one honorable member opposite advance one good reason against such a proposal. The Opposition pretends that it is opposed to boards in general, but boards were made use of in nearly every government instrumentality that the previous Government set up. There has always been a military board to conduct the affairs of the Army, and a Naval Board to conduct the affairs of the Royal Australian Navy. We also have an Apple and Pear Marketing Board, an Australian Wool Board, and many other boards. Many boards were set up by the previous Government because it knew that great Commonwealth undertakings could be best and most easily administered over a period of years by a board. In the course of ite own legislative programme last year the Chifley Government brought in a hill to set up and regulate the shipping industry. The instrumentality chosen to implement that legislation was, in fact, the Australian Shipping Board. This Government says that as it is with shipping, marketing, and the armed services, so also it should be with the very important operation of banking.
I can understand, but I can see no justification for, the resolute opposition to the setting up of a Commonwealth Bank Board. I ask myself, as other honorable members and citizens have asked themselves, what prompts the Opposition so bitterly to oppose the setting up of the board. The Leader of the Opposition said that he feared the setting up of boards because persons appointed to them could not be independent. To use his own words, he said -
I have never yet known any one appointed to a bank board to be an independent person.
Why should any one so appointed be an independent person? Appointees to other boards are not independent persons. On the Australian Wool Board there are representatives of growers, of the Government, of taxpayers and of the consumers. The same principle applies to the Australian Shipping Board. The marketing boards of this country also embrace a diversity of representation. The Commonwealth Bank Board will be possibly the most important body in Australia excepting this Parliament and the High Court. In its hands will lie the financial well-being and stability of this country. It will also administer the broad policy covering the activities of the trading banks. That being so, surely it is reasonable that the governing body of the bank should be composed of representatives who will be able to put the views of all those sections of the people vitally interested in the functions of the bank. Therefore, it is only natural that we should find on this board representatives, for example, of the banks, of the citizens, and of labour. They should all be represented on the bank because they are vitally interested. The proposition advanced by the Opposition is that the only people on this board should be Commonwealth civil servants. If that is so then no one will have any share in the financial administration of this country other than permanent civil servants and the Government itself. Such a point of view is fantastic. For this great bank to be run efficiently there should be the widest possible representation on the board.
The Leader of the Opposition made great play of his fear that those appointed to the board would not necessarily be independent. It does not matter twopence if they are not independent as long as the representation is wide enough to cover all sections of the community. If the Leader of the Opposition is so keen on independent representation why did he not carry out that policy when he was in office? A look at some of the appointments made by the previous Government will show whether independence of politics or interests guided the Government in making such appointments. We need look no further than the appointment of the head of the instrumentality in question, the Commonwealth Bank. Dr. Coombs was appointed to that position. I have not made it a practice to attack public servants in this House and I do not wish to do so in this instance because I know Dr. Coombs, and what I know of him I like. I greatly respect him as does everybody who knows anything about him. He is a man of the highest integrity and of great capacity. However, it is absolutely ridiculous to pretend, and never have I heard it pretended, that Dr. Coombs is any other than a doctrinaire socialist, and that he was put in control of the Commonwealth Bank because he was one of the few men in the country capable of doing the job that the Government required to be done. That was the nationalizing and socializing of the trading banks. There was not the faintest pretence of disinterestedness or independence in the last Government’s appointment of Dr. Coombs. It appointed a straight out fellow-traveller of its own political philosophy, and for any member of tie Opposition to talk about the necessity for obtaining independent people for this board is the veriest piece of humbug, because when the Opposition was in power its only desire was to appoint a man who would do exactly what he was told, not because he did not have the courage to stand up to the Government, but because his own political socialist philosophy was identical with that of those who appointed him.
– Is the Government going to leave him in control?
– The honorable member has raised the very point I wish to discuss. As he knows, this Government intends to retain Dr. Coombs as Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board. I have already said what I think of Dr. Coombs. I have said that he is a most capable and most upright officer. However, since honorable members opposite have made such scathing attacks upon those whom they guess will be appointed to the board, it is only fair to say that, while I do not disagree with the proposal to appoint Dr. Coombs as Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, I believe that he will find it very difficult, as a doctrinaire socialist, to reconcile his duties with his beliefs. I shall be interested to see how the matter turns out. The attitude of Dr. Coombs to the trading banks is the attitude of the lion to the lamb. The banks are there to be gobbled up and to be made part of the socialist system. I shall be very interested to see how a man who holds that belief can effectively operate the Commonwealth Bank in the way this Government intends it to be operated, and so that the trading banks may stay in existence.
I cannot help commenting on the manner in which honorable members opposite have conducted themselves in this debate. To hear them talk, one would thing that the subject of banking and the relation between the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks, were matters completely new to this Parliament. One would certainly not believe that only a little more than a year ago we were debating these very matters in the House, or that, on the 10th December, the people of Australia delivered a verdict on the issue so emphatic that even honorable members opposite can hardly have forgotten it. In their hearts, they know that what the Government is doing now is what the people of Australia wish them to do, and that the proposals which the Labour party are advancing are the very proposals which brought destruction upon it. When this House last considered banking legislation just about eighteen months ago, the position of the parties was almost exactly reversed. The present Opposition was in office, with a record majority, and the proposal that the Labour Government put to the House, and ultimately to the people, was that the trading banks should be nationalized, and that one supreme national banking authority should be set up. Upon those proposals the people delivered their verdict, as a result of which the Opposition is where we see it to-day. The Labour party is out of office, and is represented in this House by a truncated remnant. The Labour party’s banking legislation was the rock upon which the last Government foundered, and the foundation stone upon which the fortunes of the present Government are being built. It is evident, therefore, that honorable members opposite, in opposing the present bill, are engaging in bogus political manoeuvring. They know the will of the people. They also know that the Labour party has a majority in the Senate. If they truly believe that the Government’s banking proposals, including the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board, are not in the best interests of the people they have their remedy. By using their majority in the Senate they can at any time force the Government to go to the country. I hope they will do so, because I am sure that what happened to the Labour party on the 10th December last was a small thing compared with what will happen to it if it invites the decision of the people a second time on this issue. Therefore, I say, let us have less posturing and time-wasting, less talk about the last depression, and less putting up of straw men to be knocked down again. If honorable members opposite are sincere, let them arrange with their colleagues in the Senate to throw the bill out. Let them go to the country, and see what will happen. The Government’s banking proposals are based upon first principles, and upon issues that we took to the country. This Government was elected upon an issue that rang a bell in the hearts of the people. Therefore, I support this bill, confident that it has the support of the people. I trust that honorable members opposite will not waste further time in this debate, and I am confident that they will not give the people another opportunity to vote on the issue.
Mi. FITZGERALD (Phillip) [3.52].- This bill relates to the control of the Commonwealth Bank, which may properly be regarded as the Labour party’s heritage. [Quorum formed.] 1 should have thought that at this critical period, when the Prime Minister (Mr, Menzies) has called for the co-operation of members of all parties, the Government would have refrained from introducing a measure of this kind. Th«s honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) challenged the Labour party to throw the bill out when it came before the Senate. I assure the honorable member that the Labour party will adopt that course. The Government has introduced this measure with indecent haste. As a matter of fact, the banking screw is already being tightened. Credit is being restricted, and higher interest rates are in the offing. In this movement, the Commonwealth Bank is playing its part with the trading banks. Advances for home-building are being curtailed. Cooperative societies that have been in existence for years are being refused accommodation by the Commonwealth Bank, as well as by the trading banks and insurance companies. It is not suggested that there is not plenty of money available for investment. The recent Commonwealth loan shows exactly the amount that the insurance companies had available for subscription, but there is no money for building or developmental works, because it is the intention of the Government to take action to increase interest rates in the near future, and the wealthy financial institutions want to be in for the kill.
The Government should have considered other matters bef ore it introduced this bill. The basic wage has increased by 8s. a week in some of the major States since this Government assumed office, and the high cost of living is inflicting severe hardship upon those unfortunate people who are trying to exist upon their meagre pensions. Their dire plight should have been given priority by the Government in its legislative programme, but it has made the big financial interests its main concern. A fortnight after the Government was elected to office, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which is one of the great allies of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party increased the price of steel by £2 a ton, and I am led to believe that that increase will yield to that wealthy organization a profit of £2,000,000 a year. The Government was not satisfied with rendering that service to one of its supporters before it gave some consideration to the dire plight of pensioners, and it proceeded hastily to introduce legislation to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board. The Government desires to repay its debts to the private banks which provided the antiLabour parties with funds for the recent election campaign. Bank managers wrote articles in local newspapers, and special scare letters were sent to depositors about the intentions of the Labour party. I had believed prior to that time that one of the fundamental points of policy of a bank was to preserve secrecy about its deposits. However, the banks employed canvassers who disseminated the lies about which the Leader of the Opposition has spoken so indignantly. They had polling booth workers in considerable numbers, outside and inside, approaching people to vote against the Labour party candidates. Such circumstances had never before been heard of. The Labour party believes that the assistance which the Liberal party and the Australian Country party received during the election campaign has prompted and even forced the Government to introduce this bill as a means of paying off those people who were responsible for its return to office.
The Labour party is opposed to the re-appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and the Government possess all the authority that they require to control the Commonwealth Bank, and the Labour party will not allow this or any other government to shackle the people, or impede the progress of this nation for an indefinite period. The national development will be retarded if the control of the Commonwealth Bank is vested in the board which will act in the interests of the private banks. This Government has no mandate to attempt to govern in perpetuity, or to set in motion any financial machinery that would place the people in thrall for an indefinite period.
If the control of the Commonwealth Bank were vested in a board, the Labour party would need to win a majority of Senate seats in every State in successive elections in order to change that form of control of banking. I realize that the Government desires to bring about circumstances under which the Labour party would be forced into that position before it could undo the damage that the bank board could do. Indeed, I venture to say that it would be impossible for a Labour government to remain in office for more than one term. Honorable members opposite have referred to the Australian Shipping Board, the Military Board, and similar authorities in somewhat derogatory terms, yet they are most anxious to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board. Mr. Reginald McKenna, a former Chancellor of the British Exchequer and chairman of the Midland Bank emphasized the importance of the control of credit when he said -
They -who control the credit of a nation direct the policy of governments and hold in the hollow of their hands the destiny of the people.
Mr. David Lloyd George, who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War I., referred to bankers as absolute monarchs. He said -
The bankers swept statesmen, parliamentarians, jurists and journalists all on one side and issued their orders with the imperiousness of absolute monarchs who knew that there was no appeal from their ruthless decrees.
Similar conditions could exist in Australia if this Government’s banking proposals were given effect to because a Labour government could not easily undo the damage. The Labour party is opposed to this bill, because it believes that the Government has no mandate to constitute an authority which would govern Australia in perpetuity.
Some honorable members opposite have issued a challenge to the Labour party on this bill. They have said, in effect, “Interfere with this bill, and there will be a double dissolution “. We on this side of the House believe that the reestablishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board might result in placing the people of Australia in pawn for years to come, and, in those circumstances, we are prepared to accept that challenge. Government supporters have referred, somewhat belatedly, to the excellent achievements of the Commonwealth Bank, but I think that it will be advisable if I refresh their memories. I cannot do better than read a passage from a speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) in which he described the great work of the Commonwealth Bank and showed how it had saved the people of Australia vast sums of money. He said that the institution had stopped the rake-off and huge profits which anti-Labour governments had been so anxious to pass on to their numerous wealthy friends, the financial institutions. The right honorable gentleman continued as follows: -
I enumerate some of the things that the Commonwealth Bank has clone, many of them under the provisions of the 1945 Act. The Commonwealth Bank has controlled interest rates and has prevented primary producers and other persons from being robbed. It has provided short-dated treasury bills at very low rates of interest ranging from 1 per cent, down to, I think, a half of 1 per cent, at present. Whenever the Government required temporary advances to carry on the administration of the country it did not have to go to the private banks and pay, as it did when Sir Earle Page was Treasurer, interest of per cent, on three-month treasury bills.
At the peak period of borrowing, the Australian Government owed the Commonwealth Bank £343,000,000 on treasury bills. That sum had been advanced by the Commonwealth Bank at low rates of interest to carry on the war and the business of this country. The private banks would have made millions of pounds profit if they had supplied that money. During the period when I was Treasurer the debt of £343.000,000 was reduced to £105,000.000.
During and since the war, the Commonwealth Bank assisted the Treasury to float loans. Not one penny was subscribed by a private bank, because the Labour Government would not allow private banks to contribute to a national loan.
The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) referred to the achievements of the Commonwealth Bank in the following terms : -
Let me mention a word about what the Commonwealth Bank did in connexion with advances in respect of primary products between September, 1939, and September, 1945, that is, the six years of the Second World War. The Commonwealth Bank then made advances totalling no less than £812,000,000 under the various financial arrangements covering such primary products as wheat, meat, butter and cheese, eggs, apples and pears, barley, rabbit skins, peas, and products like tea and coffee and wool sheepskins. That shows the magnitude of the achievements of the Commonwealth Bank during the war years.
What a great rake-off for the private banks if they had lent that money. We shall advise the people of Australia of the system honorable members on the Government benches desire to see operating. On behalf of their numerous friends in the financial world and a3 a repayment for the great work that those friends did to secure the return of the present Government parties during the last general election campaign, honorable gentlemen opposite intend to re-establish a system under which private financial institutions would have made huge profits. The Banking Act 1945 give the Commonwealth Bank general jurisdiction over the advances policy of the private banks and also the power to decide whether their lending should be restricted or increased in the public interest. It also gave the Commonwealth Bank the power to determine what rates of interest the private banks are to pay and receive. Under that act the Commonwealth Bank also regulates the surplus investable funds of the private banks and authorizes the payment of a very low rate of interest on the large sum that it at present holds for the private banks. I know that the 1945 act will not be altered so far as its actual wording is concerned, hut if the means of effective control of the bank are removed the private banks can regain their former position.
The people of this country are not likely to be deluded by the Government’s statements to the effect that the 1945 act will not be altered, because they are aware of what lies behind the Government’s present moves. They know that the Government intends to place the people of this country once more in pawn to the private banks and to thu people who have so shackled this country with huge interest burdens over a period of years. It was stated in the last election campaign that the women of Australia were the camels of this country because of the huge burdens that they had to carry. Such burdens will be nothing to the financial burdens that the people will have to carry if the Government has its way. I shall show how much this country is in pawn through high interest rates. In 1888 the New South Wales
Government raised a loan of £16,000,000 for railway construction. In 1944, when repayment of the loan fell due, the State had paid £26,000,000 in interest charges alone. An amount of £800 has to be paid in interest every day on the capital cost of building the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The same position occurs in relation to concerns like the Sydney County Council, which has to pay 15s. from every £1 that it earns from the supply of electricity as interest on the capital cost of the council’s generating plant. The people of Australia would have been saved those tremendous burdens if there had been a properly controlled financial system i1 Australia in days gone by. It is th? desire of the Labour party to ensure that never again shall such methods of financing public utilities operate in this country. On that basis Labour is prepared to carry on this fight on behalf of the people of Australia and to expose the Government’s proposals for what they are worth. We shall do that also because we do not consider that the people gave the Government a mandate, at the last general election, on this particular issue. A combination of factors was responsible for a change of government at that election, but on this particular issue alone, we hold that the Government has no mandate and consider that at this particular stage of Australia’s development, when co-operation between all sections of the community is so urgently required, it is doing the country a disservice by introducing a measure that will set class against class. I believe that that is an action which the people of Australia will not countenance.
At present the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) is attempting to persuade American “ big business “ to invest in Australian Government loans for national development. In th;> same newspapers that contain news of that fact we find also items concerning the huge unemployed army of America, which has grown to such a degree that President Truman has sent an urgent message to Congress asking it to enact legislation to give relief benefits to about 6,000,000 people. We believe that these conditions could come here, because unemployment can grow with great momentum and we are not unmind- ful of the circumstances that operated from 1929 almost up to the beginning of World War II. We believe that it is our responsibility to the people of Australia to see that the economic conditions of those years never recur. We know that they will not recur while a Labour government is in office, provided that such a government is not shackled by outside interests as Labour governments have been in days gone by. A Labour government, remembering the past, would never allow any form of organization to operate in this country so as to hamper national activities. That is why we shall fight to the death any proposal by the Government that would, in our opinion, lead to a recurrence of the conditions that existed in the pre-waT years.
Some people might be led to believe that the Commonwealth Bank, as it is functioning at present, is almost a failure, but the facts show otherwise. Reference to the balance-sheet issued on the 30th June, 1949, shows that although the bank was originally established with an advance from the Treasury of only £10,000, it was able to produce a balancesheet last year that showed assets of more than £468,000,000. Last year the bank’s aggregate net profit derived from its activities, including the Note Issue Department and the Commonwealth Savings Bank Department after making provision, for contingencies was, in round figures, £7,683,000, which represented an increase of £508,000 over the previous year’s profit of £7,175,000. In such circumstances one might well consider that there would be hardly any need to interfere with an organization doing such a magnificent job for this country. The figure represented in that increased profit would be a magnificent amount to place in the hands of the people who finance and support the parties opposite, and whose mouthpiece the present Government is. I repeat that, despite all threats offered by the Government, the Labour party accepts the challenge .contained in the present measure and will fight against the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board in the form in which the Government proposes to constitute it. The people of Australia recognize that the Labour party is fighting for their protection in this matter, and, in the event of an election, on this issue, will realize that the labour party, in fighting for their protection, has done a magnificent job for Australia as a whole.
– I support the bill. A great deal of criticism has been levelled against the proposal of the Government to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board. The history of the activities of the earlier board has been presented by Opposition members in a distorted fashion. We have been told that the board which controlled the Commonwealth Bank during the early ‘thirties was responsible for the financial and economic depression, In a very moderate and convincing speech, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) told us what the board should have done in 1929 and in 1930 to meet the financial diificulties that then confronted this country. It has been suggested by honorable members opposite that had the board agreed to the proposal of the .Scullin Government to issue approximately £18,000,000 worth of fiduciary notes the troubles and horrors of the depression would have been avoided.
– Not avoided, but eased.
– I hold in my hand a fiduciary note which was issued by the German Government in 1923. It has a face value of 100,000 marks, which at one time would have purchased 5,000 British sovereigns. To-day, it is valueless. It is not even worth a cigarette unless one wants it as a souvenir. As a means of relieving the effects of the depression, the printing of notes in Australia, once started, might have reached the proportions experienced in Germany. It is all very well for Opposition members to be wise after the event. Many people went to race meetings during the Easter holidays. To-day all of them could tell us what horses they should have backed. They know now, but they did not know them. It is all very well to say that the Commonwealth Bank Board should have done this or that in the past. Let us consider the achievements of the earlier board. Australia, which was one of the last countries to feel the effects of the financial and economic depression, was the second country to extricate itself from the difficulties that resulted from that depression. I remind the honorable member for Bendigo that in 193’7 he used the splendid recovery that Australia had made from the effects of the depression as the basis for an application to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a prosperity loading on wages. The Commonwealth Bank Board was responsible for maintaining our financial structure and for so rapidly extricating this country from the effects of the depression.
As the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) has said, the board is being treated as a scapegoat. I know that many members of this House suffered greatly during the depression years, but I do not agree that all of them are seated on the Opposition benches. One Opposition member told us that he was on the dole for eight years. Another has said that he existed on the dole for six years. We all agree that those who were forced to accept the dole suffered a most distressing experience and are deserving of our sympathy. Adversity usually has one of two effects on people. It either mellows them and makes them more considerate, or it embitters them and engenders a hatred in their minds against those whom they regard as having been responsible for their plight. I am inclined to think, from the utterances of those Opposition members who have recounted their experiences while they were on the dole that it has embittered their minds and clouded their judgment, with the result that they are looking for a scapegoat which they can blame for their adversity. They want to blame either the Commonwealth Bank Board or the trading banks. I have demonstrated that the earlier Commonwealth Bank Board considerably helped Australia to extricate itself from the effects of the depression. It guided our finances through a most difficult period and it did an excellent job. Its efforts have been commended by some Opposition members.
In 1945, as most honorable members know, two measures were passed by this Parliament, one being the Commonwealth Bank Act which dealt with the management of the Commonwealth Bank and provided for the appointment of a Governor of the Bank whom it clothed with dictatorial powers, and the other being the Banking Act 1945 which gave to the Commonwealth Bank almost complete control over the trading banks. Under the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 the Commonwealth Bank was placed completely under the control of one man, who was said to be an acknowledged socialist, a product of the London School of Economics and a student of Professor Laski. We do not object to that and the Government does not propose in this measure that he shall be removed from office. The purpose of this bill is merely to strengthen the Commonwealth Bank by the establishment of a board consisting of members whose interests will be so diverse as to enable the outside, or non-banking, view to be represented. It has been said by some Opposition members that the Commonwealth Bank Board should consist wholly of hankers. If this Parliament, whose duty it is to make laws, were composed solely of lawyers, it would be a dreadful institution. We need a diversity of representation in this Parliament so that a little common sense may be brought to hear on the problems that confront us. If only bankers and civil servants were appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board, there would be on it no representative with an independent outlook who would ensure that its decisions were not arrived at merely by rule of thumb. This bill would be considerably improved if it contained a provision that would ensure free and fair competition between the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks. I am not an advocate of the trading banks because I, like many other people, owe money to them; but I believe in free and fair competition. The Commonwealth Bank is a better bank because it conducts its business in competition with the trading banks. Similarly, the trading banks are better than they otherwise would be because of the competition of the Commonwealth Bank. It ils important, however, to ensure that the competition between the private banks and the Commonwealth Bank shall be fair.
Opposition members have spoken of the wonderful success that has been achieved by the Commonwealth Bank.
They have said that since its establishment it has earned for Australia approximately £85,000,000. In the three-year period from 1947 to 1949 the total profits of the Commonwealth Bank amounted to £16,967,285, of which the note issue was responsible for £12,788,989. Out of those profits the Commonwealth Treasury received £15,502,104. During that period the net profits of the Commonwealth Bank, including the Commonwealth Savings Bank, but excluding the profit from the note issue, was £4,178,296.
– That was not bad!
– It was excellent. But during the same period the trading banks paid to the Commonwealth in land, pay-roll, company and other taxes, an amount of £11,060,584. That was not bad, either! In addition, the tax on dividends paid to shareholders returned further moneys to the Treasury. So, during the period of three years that I have mentioned, the Treasury received as much from the operations of the trading banks as it did from the Commonwealth Bank. The point I make is that if we are to have fair and free competition in the sphere of banking, the Commonwealth Bank should pay taxes on the same basis as are those imposed on the trading banks. It might be said that all the profits earned by the Commonwealth Bank go to the Commonwealth Treasury. That is so ; but if we are to measure the efficiency of government trading, all government trading enterprises should be liable to taxation on the same basis as that imposed on private enterprise. If such a course were followed it would tend to promote efficiency in government trading concerns and would give the people of Australia an opportunity to see exactly whether government or private trading concerns were the more profitable for the community. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the adoption of such a principle. Only if that be done can free and fair competition between government and private trading concerns be assured. If we take two racehorses and put a heavy weight on one and a light weight on the other and race them, they do not compete on even terms. Only if government enterprise be placed on thE same footing as is private enterprise can fair competition be assured.
Mention has been made of the difficulty of selecting for appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board a person who will take an objective view of the problems that are placed before him. The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) has said that when Mr. Bruce, now Lord Bruce, accepted the portfolio of Prime Minister of Australia, he resigned from the directorates of all the companies with which he was then associated, but that immediately after he had relinquished office he resumed those directorships. That is true, but there was an inference in the honorable member’s remarks that I should like to clear up. During the period when Mr. Bruce was in the Ministry, first as Treasurer, and later as Prime Minister, he completely dissociated himself from the companies with which he had been formerly connected. Although I took no interest in politics at that time, I knew that he had completely cut himself off from his former associates. At that time I was doing business with one of the companies with which Mr. Bruce had been associated, and I learned the facts. One of its directors complained that he was unable to get advice of any kind from Mr. Bruce while Mr. Bruce held office in the Parliament. Mr. Bruce is not the only Australian who could be relied upon to abandon his personal interests if he were appointed to a board such as the Commonwealth Bank Board.
It is the duty of the Government to protect the people from dictators, whether they be political, financial or industrial dictators. Under the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 the Chifley Government appointed a dictator to control the Commonwealth Bank. Admittedly the Governor of the bank is answerable to the Treasurer, but he could do things which could wreck the finances of this country before the Treasurer even knew anything about them. It has been said that the Commonwealth Bank Board which is to be established under the measure now before us will meet only once a month. What authority is there for such a statement? The hoard will undoubtedly meet whenever it is necessary for it to do so, and I am sure that its members will not be divided into groups as is feared by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). The right honorable gentleman is so imbued with party politics that he seems to think that the civil servants who are to be appointed to the board will aline themselves against the remaining five appointees. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) in his wisdom will see that those whom he appoints to the board may be depended upon to state their honest opinions on all matters that come before them and will be capable of judging the value of the advice given by experts in the field of banking and finance.
– So long as the civil servants outnumber the other members of the board, all will be well.
– The Opposition has said that it will oppose this bill and use its majority in the Senate to reject it. I hope that before the Government takes that threat up and seeks a double dissolution it will proceed with a referendum to alter the method of electing the Senate and the number of senators to be elected. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) pointed out the position that obtains under proportional representation and the present method of electing the Senate and has suggested that nine senators should be elected from each State instead of ten. I suggest that instead of nine senators for each State there should be seven. If members in another place act as has been indicated here, that chamber will become so unpopular that the people will be very pleased to vote for a reduction of their number. I hope that members of the Opposition will remember that and will also realize that a referendum bill can be put to the people after a certain time has elapsed without prior reference to the Senate. I hope that the Government will bear that in mind and will consider reducing the number of senators so that if it becomes necessary to have a double dissolution a stalemate will not eventuate by the parties being evenly divided and so that the Government’s legislation and the administration of this country will not be frustrated.
The Leader of the Opposition argued that as the bill repeals the 1947 banking act that legislation is a dead horse in the track and need not be considered. It may be a dead horse but in the minds of the socialists on the Opposition benches it can still be used to their advantage. To-day we can call those honorable gentlemen socialists and they do not blush. They were very upset about being called socialists during the general election campaign but the Leader of the Opposition has now announced that he is a socialist and, consequently, his members are socialistically minded and can be called socialists without their taking a point of order and claiming that they have been insulted. Honorable members opposite wish to bring about the downfall of the trading banks. They want to monopolize the finances of this country and have them controlled by one man - the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank - whose decisions may be altered at the whim of the Treasurer. It would be totally unnecessary for them to introduce an act of parliament to do that. They have learned that since the High Court and the Privy Council declared to be invalid certain provisions of their legislation. They could attain their objective by slow strangulation. If the terms of the 1945 banking act were enforced the trading banks could be squeezed out of business very easily by resumption of their properties or in other ways. I am certain that it is in the minds of Opposition members that when they get on to the Government benches again they will not bother with acts of Parliament. They will proceed to squeeze out all competition by resumptions and every other little trick that the present legislation allows.
I hope that the Government, when framing its referendum proposals, will include a provision that will enable the people of this country to continue to manage their affairs and to have sufficient power to tell a government that it cannot go any further, and, if possible to revoke legislation, because that dead horse to which the Leader of the Opposition referred is in the track of Australian progress and is causing people overseas to lose confidence in us. Although it does not come within the ambit of this bill, I hope that the Government will see that the referendum proposals will be designed to protect the people against another raid on their savings and on the private trading interests of this country.
.- When the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) was introducing this bill he stated that measures of such great importance should not be approached in a partisan spirit and that the primary principle was that legislation affecting the Commonwealth Bank should not be subject to frequent or violent change. I desire to examine the reasons which have animated the Government and those which have caused the Opposition to consider that this bill is not in the interests of the national economy. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar), who has just resumed his seat, expressed the desirability of approaching this matter in a nonpartisan spirit. Yet the fears to which the Treasurer gave utterance and the statements that he made on this subject were the highlight of partisanship. , Honorable members supporting the Government apparently regard it as their priceless privilege in life to refer to such things as “Raids upon trading banks “, “ Raids upon other types of banks “, and “ The inculcation of socialistic doctrines “ as a good argument. I should have thought that in order to be correct, logical and precise they should have shown that the present administration of the Commonwealth Bank had done something inimical to the Commonwealth’s interest; that it had failed to justify its existence and that as at present constituted, it had committed errors in administration or policy which had made it due for such a violent and summary overhaul as this measure represents. No reasons of that nature have been produced, so I say that there is no justification for the bill.
Violent change is connoted in this legislation and it means another deviation from the character given to the Commonwealth Bank when it was founded in 1911. There is no justification for that violent change. The Commonwealth Bank, in its present form, is strictly a continuation of the original institution, which was born in the Commonwealth Parliament in 1911. Despite its vicissitudes over the years, the Commonwealth
Bank has become a symbol in the minds of the people. At times its operations have been adverse to the interests of the great majority of the people but, in the main, it has retained the vital principle of being operated and controlled by the people except for the period that commenced in 1924, when its complexion was changed. In order to justify the introduction of this bill, the Treasurer should have shown that since 1945, when the bank reverted almost to its original character, it had done something which had not been justified in the interests of the working people and all other people of this Commonwealth. Such proof cannot be and has not been produced because the record of the Commonwealth Bank since 1945 has been a truly magnificent one. Its record from 1911 to 1924 also was a magnificent one, but from 1924, when it lost its original identity and became a bank which was at variance with the people’s interests, it was one which it may not be desirable to inject into this debate. I agree with the statement of the Treasurer that the determination of monetary policy should be a collective responsibility but contest his contention that this bill gives full effect to that principle. It does not, but on the contrary takes away from an efficient authority its right to make a decision, subject to consideration by the government of the day. There is nothing in this bill which gives to the Parliament the right to alter, amend, or reject any of the decisions which the board to be constituted might make. The mere laying on the table of this House of an Executive Council minute does not give that right to this Parliament of the people. A hypocritical argument is engendered in this discussion when it is asserted that the bill contains something that it lacks. I affirm the negative proposition and say positively that there is no such thing in this bill, which merely provides for a reversion to the old type of board which functioned in this Commonwealth from 1924 until 1945 and which did not give a very great service to the people of this country.
I can quite understand why honorable members now supporting the (government endeavour to ascribe to my party a great deal of personal opposition to the trading banks. I consider that that opposition is justified. The Commonwealth Bank exists, in principle, for the good of the people generally; but the trading banks, which will be the motivating force behind the newly constituted Bank Board, observe an entirely different principle, namely the pursuit of private gain. I submit to honorable members that the passage of this bill will be inimical to the welfare of the Commonwealth. The Labour party makes no secret of its opposition to it and to the private trading banks.
Reference has been made during the course of the debate to the attitude of the trading banks to the elected representatives of the people in the recent election campaign. Evidence has been submitted to show that large sums of money were expended in order that the representatives of the working people might be displaced from their honoured positions in this House. The campaign was directed against me just as it was directed against every other Labour candidate. We expect such opposition and rejoice in it, yet the level to which our enemies sank during the election campaign was something to be wondered at and despised. Even though the Labour party’s strength in this House was reduced, it still constitutes a vigorous Opposition and will continue to defend the rights of the people during the life of this Parliament. Considering the alliance of the trading banks with the non-Labour parties, one would not expect to receive from a Liberal member of Parliament a testimonial to the activities of the banks in opposition to those who disagree with their policy of alliance with non-Labour parties. Yet I received such a communication from a Liberal party member of a State parliament, and I take great pleasure in reading it to the House. I received the letter recently from Mr. John Lech te, the Liberal member for Oakleigh in the Victorian Legislative Assembly.
– Ex-Liberal !
– He had not been expelled from the Liberal party when he wrote this letter. It was addressed to mc personally, and this is what it disclosed concerning the anti-Labour activities of the trading banks -
As I understand that you will be continuing the debate on the Banking Bill when the House resumes, I thought the following may be of interest to you.
– Was that addressed to the honorable member ?
– Yes, and I am reading it now so that the people of Australia may realize the depths to which the trading banks can sink in their opposition to members of parties that disagree with them. The letter continued -
During the last week in February of this year, the Oakleigh State Electorate Committee of the Liberal and’ Country party held a meeting in the Public Hall, Murrumbeena. 1 waa in the building and heard all that wenton although I was not observed. The meeting was attended by Mr. McKinnon and Mr. McConnell, President and Secretary respectively of the Victorian Liberal and Country party. McKinnon and McConnell told the Electorate Committee that even if I were endorsed by the electorate, headquarters would see to it that I was expelled. At this stage, a close friend of mine, Mr. Roy Curtis, Head Teller of the Commercial Bank, Oakleigh, said, “1 do not care what you do, I shall work for Mr. Lechte and intend to form a committee at once to organise his campaign “. To this McConnell replied “We will see about that”. The rest of the meeting is of no importance.
A fortnight later, on a Friday afternoon, Mr. Curtis received instructions from the Head Office to pack his belongings and be prepared to move on Monday. He was not able to find out over the week-end where he was to go, but, on Monday morning, was informed that he was on his way to Sale. He is at present stationed there and has not been in Oakleigh since. 1 make no comment but know that you will be able to draw your own conclusions as to what happened. I would only add this that having had first hand knowledge of the lengths to which the Banks and the Liberal party are prepared to co-operate in an endeavour to crush all who challenge their power, I should think twice before again taking part in any campaign to save these institutions from nationalization.
You are at liberty to make use of these facts in any way you think fit. (Signed)- John LECHTE
The people of Australia can draw from that their own conclusions about the relationship between the Liberal-Country party and the trading banks, whose sole objective is to crush the Commonwealth Bank. Australia has little to gain from this bill if it will bring about a reversion to the conditions that came into existence when a board was established in 1924 to control the activities of the Commonwealth Bank.
My mind is drawn back irresistibly to the days of the economic depression. The policy of the Commonwealth Bank at that time, under the direction of a board, was merely an expression of trading bank policy, and, as a consequence, the Commonwealth Bank was able to call the tune to the government of the day. Such a state of affairs will recur if this bill is allowed to become law. I remind honorable members of the occasion when the late Mr. E. G. Theodore, as the Treasurer of the day, asked the Commonwealth Bank Board to provide the Government with sufficient funds to enable it to ward off the worst effects of depression. The story has been told frequently, but it is worth repeating for the sake of emphasizing the truth that it exemplifies. The chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board at that time, Sir Robert Gibson, replied to Mr. Theodore in these terms -
Subject to adequate and equitable reductions in all wages, salaries and allowances, pensions, social benefits of all kinds, interest and other factors which affect the cost of living, the Commonwealth Bank Board will actively cooperate with the trading banks and the Governments of Australia in sustaining industry and restoring employment.
The truth was that an outside body was able to dictate the policy of the Government of the day. By refusing to grant the financial accommodation that the Government sought, the Commonwealth Bank Board considerably accentuated the most drastic effects of the economic depression. I live in an industrial suburb and represent people who work for their living and, therefore, would be subject to the first and most severe effects of any policy of financial strangulation. I submit most earnestly to this House that any reversion to the old system of board control of the Commonwealth Bank would be inimical to the interests of those people and others like them who constitute a great majority of the population. The board proposed in the hill will be almost identical with the board that functioned so disastrously for the working people during the years of depression.
It is all very well for members of the Government and their supporters to say, as did the honorable member for Gwydir, that the depression was an act of God and that it would have occurred in any case. The fact is that the worst effects of the depression would never have reached Australia if the Commonwealth Bank Board had done its duty. My mind recalls the pitiful daily tramp of unemployed men and women in search of work from factory to factory, from office to office and from door to door. If this Government persists with the bill and the same chain of events ia repeated, it will pave the way for the introduction in Australia of communism on a large scale. A return to the conditions of the economic depression would cause many men who have no deep rooted faith to adopt the tenets of communism. The Government will do a grave disservice to the people of Australia if it alters in any way the present system of management and control of the Commonwealth Bank. What is wrong with the present system? Has it failed in any way that would justify the proposed change? The Treasurer declared that the object of the bill is to prevent violent changes. The truth is that the enactment of this legislation will cause a violent change. In 1911 the Commonwealth Bank was managed by a Governor and a Deputy Governor. It functioned successfully then. It wass able to finance war loans during World War I. at the rate of “>s. 7d. per cent, when the supposedly charitably disposed private banking institutions were prepared to do so at the rate of £2 3s. 6d. per cent. In that way it saved the nation many millions of pounds. During World War II., the Commonwealth Bank, operating almost in its present circumstances, was a bulwark that guaranteed the financial safety of the country. No sound reason has been advanced for the change in the constitution of the bank management that the Government now proposes. I honestly believe that the bill represents an effort on the part of the Government to pay off the debt that it owes to the private banks for the support that they gave to it during the election campaign last year;
The honorable member for Gwydir said that the depression was an act of God. I remind him of the following passage in paragraph 565 of the report of the royal commission that inquired into monetary and banking systems : -
Along with other parts of the system, the trading banks must bear some responsibility for the extent of the depression.
In the more prosperous times preceding the depression, they went with the tide and expanded credit. There was then no central bank to guide their policy, but, even in its absence, the banks might have taken concerted action which would have helped to check the boom, and thereby lessened the extent of the depression. At the outset of the depression the trading banks, in the interest of their depositors and of their own solvency, were forced by the general conditions and by the reduction of their London funds, due to the fall in export values and the cessation of overseas borrowing, to adopt a policy of contraction which intensified the depression.
That view can be supported by reference to another authoritative source. I direct attention to the following statement that, was made by Sir Herbert Holden, director of the Bank of England, in a speech at, Oxford University not many years ago -
Every one knows what caused the depression. The banks caused the depression by following the time honoured custom of refusing advances and calling up overdrafts.
The Commonwealth Bank Board for which this bill provides would he but a pale shadow of the trading banks and, should any recession occur overseas, the, same sequence of events that occurred during the financial depression would be repeated in this country. I reject the Government’s proposals most emphatically. The scheme has not been designed for the good of the great majority of the people. It is a political pay-off to the trading banks, which subscribed wholeheartedly to the cause . of the Liberal and Australian Country parties during the recent general election. I believe that the people of Australia, when they have an opportunity in the future to express their opinion on this matter, will express it unmistakably.
– Oan the honorable member show any documents to indicate that there is any basis of truth in anything that he has said.
– I can cite my personal experience during the recent general election campaign in the electorate that I represent. The spearhead of the campaign of the Liberal and Australian
Country parties in that electorate was composed of the trading banks themselves. A target was set by the trading banks of the sum that was to be expended on propaganda against me and other members of the Labour party. The campaign against me, and this also applies to the campaigns against other Labour candidates, was organized by bank managers and bank clerks who, in a number of instances, were dragooned into working for a cause in which they did not believe. If you are honest with yourself you will know that the trading banks supported your campaign.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron) . - Order ! The honorable member should address me.
– The honorable member who interjected knows very well, Mr. Speaker, as does every honorable member in this House, that in the recent general election campaign the trading banks worked actively against the Labour party. In fact, they sustained the campaign. Proof of the truth of that statement can be produced. Circular letters were sent from the head-quarters of the trading banks to bank managers in various electorates in which Labour candidates were standing for election, urging them to stimulate opposition by personal and financial support of the opponents of Labour-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I have called for order three times, and apparently the House has chosen to disregard my direction. If I am not obeyed I may have to ask that action be taken against some honorable member.
– I have been asked to sustain my point in relation to the support given by the trading banks to the Liberal and Australian Country parties. I say that the trading banks are the force behind this bill. Those banks supported, financially and personally, the campaign against the Labour party. To add point to what I have been saying I shall quote from a leaflet that has been handed to me. It is in regard to the Labour candidate for the electorate of Evans in the recent general election. That leaflet says -
. . Bank officers throughout Australia have been shocked and mystified at the failure of Stanley E. Card, general secretary of the United Bank Officers’ Association of New South Wales, to gain Liberal selection for the new federal seat of Evans. Here is the amazing inside story for Card’s failure. Until the night before he presented himself to the Liberal Party selecting committee he was odds-on favourite . . .
An anonymous three-page circular was received through the post by delegates to the selecting committee bitterly attacking Card. There was no time for Card to defend himself ; he was passed over in favour of a last-minute nominee. . . Dismissing Card, the representative of the employees of the , private banks, the Liberal selection committee selected F. M. Osborne as the Liberal candidate for Evans. A resident of Gordon, Osborne is a solicitor, whose firm has the control of the legal business of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney. Osborne’s brother is general manager of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney. Electors of Evans will see the close relation between the bank and Osborne and through Osborne to the Liberal Party.
And so the leaflet continues. I submit that this bill is the pay-off to the trading banks by the Liberal party.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Griffiths) put -
That the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker. - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- This is a bill to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act, as amended by legislation passed in 1945 and 1947. We have been told by .the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), and by various Government spokesmen, that the purpose of the bill is to give effect to certain proposals to give effect to which the Government received a mandate from the people at the last general election. Because of what they claim to be a mandate from the people, Government supporters claim that the Opposition should accept this bill in its present form. The Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 was passed through this Parliament, and was submitted to the people - as an accomplished fact, it is true - at the general election in 1946. The people returned the Labour Government to power, .thus endorsing its action in amending the Commonwealth Bank Act. The parties that support the present Government told the people before the last general election that, if returned to power, they would introduce legislation to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, and to repeal the Banking Act. It may be debated whether they did, in fact, receive a mandate from the people to do what the Government now proposes, because the present bill does not square with the promises made to the people before the election. Let us assume, however, that the bill does propose to give effect to those promises. Even then, honours are even. The people have given two mandates, one to the Labour Government endorsing the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, and another to this Government endorsing the present bill. We say to the Government, deliberately and finally, that before this proposed legislation is passed into law, the Government should again consult the people so that, in the time-honoured Australian way, the issue would be decided by two out of three. After the Government’s proposals had been explained to the people from every political platform throughout the country, the people could then give their final verdict.
This is not the first, nor will it be the last, bill to come before the Parliament dealing with the Commonwealth Bank. Many attempts have been made to formulate a sound and workable banking system for Australia. Always when the stresses and strains inherent in the economic life of Australia have made their effects felt, the banking structure has proved incapable of dealing with the situation. The honorable member for
Gwydir (Mr. Treloar), in a personal explanation, which I doubt should really have been accepted as such, said that he did not blame God for the depression - generous concession from him - but blamed instead a former Labour government. The fact is that the malpractices, bad administration and stupid financial methods of a non-Labour government were responsible for the worst effects of the depression. The present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) must bear a good deal of the responsibility. During the years it was in office between the two wars, the Bruce-Page Government added heavily to the public indebtedness.
– It did nothing of the sort, as the figures show.
– When prices were high, and the national income was high, and when the ordinary expenses of government might well have been- met out of revenue, the public indebtedness of the country was increased.
– That is not true.
– The right honorable member denies it. I invite him to read a book entitled Thirty Years, written by a prominent journalist of the day, Mr. A. N. Smith, in which a detailed history of events is given. In that book the writer said that the Bruce-Page Government had added heavily to the indebtedness of the country.
– And in a boom time.
– Yes, in a boom time in which the ‘financial and economic conditions were somewhat less buoyant than they are at the present time. The Government added £30,000,000 a year to Australia’s’ indebtedness overseas during the years that preceded the depression. Speaking at the Ottawa Conference, Mr. S. M. Bruce, now Lord Bruce, said that Australia was borrowing in London £30,000,000 a year, roughly the. amount of Australia’s annual interest bill at the time. That was the stupid method of finance that brought about the worst effects of the depression, yet the non-Labour parties in this House have continuously advocated during the last three years that Australia should revert to those unsound practices. It is true that all countries experienced the depression in some degree, but it is not true, as has been claimed by honorable members opposite, that the depression wasshorter and less severe in Australia than in any other country. The truth is that, it was longer and worse in Australia than in most other industrialized countries. Again I quote Mr. S. M. Bruce as having said that the measures taken to counter the effects of the depression could not he much longer sustained in Australia, where they had been greater than in any other country. That statement is recorded in the book, The Australian Price Structure, written by Shann and Copland in 1932.
The economic history of all industrialized countries, including Australia, has been marked by a succession of booms and depressions. In boom times, the banks have expanded credits, thus further accentuating the boom. In time of depression they have hurriedly contracted credit, thus accentuating the effects of depression. During modern times, the tendency has been for the intervals between boom and depression to become shorter and shorter, and foi the depressions to become worse and worse, due largely to the ever-extending use of bank credit. It was for tha* reason that the Labour Government, in 1945, introduced its amending banking legislation. In .part, that legislation wa.« designed to perpetuate controls introduced by the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), when he was Treasurer in the previous Menzies Government. The fact that those controls were imposed by regulations which required the trading hanks to open special accounts with the Commonwealth Bank shows that the activities of the trading banks needed to be regulated. If the trading banks had been themselves capable of dealing with the situation, there would have been no need to introduce regulations, the only purpose of which was to ensure that the trading banks did not bring about a state of secondary inflation by extending credits. The banks themselves could have applied a policy of restriction in order to ensure that credit should not be unduly expanded, but the banks could not trust one another to adhere to such a policy. Therefore, fearful of what might happen if they were left to their own devices, the banks asked the Treasurer to take action, thus demonstrating that government action is necessary to control the banking system, and to prevent the recurrence of booms and depressions, with their ruinous effect upon the people.
The history of banking is an interesting study. Step by step throughout the years, the various functions of the private banks have had to be taken over by governments, either by the imposition of controls, oi by direct acquisition. The first bankers in Britain were the goldsmiths, who issued notes against their gold holdings. They expanded credit in boom times, and contracted it in times of financial stringency, with ruinous effect upon the community. The right to issue coins was taken over by governments, and in England the business of the goldsmiths was eventually taken over hy the Bank of England. Until fairly recent times, the banks had authority to issue their own bank notes, and they used that power to expand credit in good times, and to contract it in bad times, thus accentuating the recurring cycle of boom and depression. Eventually, governments had to intervene, and assume authority for the issue of bank notes in every modern industrial country. However, by the time that action was taken in Australia, the importance of the note issue had largely disappeared so far as its effect upon the general economic life of the community was concerned. By 1924, the expansion and contraction of credit was effected, not by the issue or withdrawal of bank notes, but by the expansion or contraction of bank credit, a process which achieved the same results as had formerly been achieved by the manipulation of the note issue. Therefore, it is clearly proved that, as in the early stages, certain functions of the private banks had to be taken over or closely and firmly regulated by governments, so to-day the control of bank credit must be taken over by governments, either by nationalization, as we proposed, or by stringent regulation such as was proposed in the Banking Act 1945. That act, which this bill proposes to amend, sought to achieve the purposes of the Labour party in two major ways. The first was by a degree of controlled expansion of advances. Of course, no provision was made, and in my view, it could not have been made, against a contraction of bank advances.
However, an endeavour was made to prevent an over-expansion of bank credit in Australia, and, with the Commonwealth Bank guaranteeing deposit accounts in all the trading banks in Australia, we hoped to prevent a contraction of bank credit.
The Chifley Government also encouraged the Commonwealth Bank to expand its activi ties along two natural lines. Thi: first was by taking over the banking business of State government and semigovernmental authorities. That is inherent in central banking practice. It is accepted by all experts and writers, and. indeed, by bankers throughout the world that a central bank that is operated by a central government should have control of the accounts of State governments and semi-governmental bodies. An authority much closer to home - the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems - indicates clearly that that system should be adopted in Australia. The royal commission submitted a questionnaire to the Commonwealth BankBoard on that matter. “We must remember that the members of that board had been nominated by the Lyons Government, a non-Labour administration, and were the representatives of various interests throughout Australia. The royal commission asked the board whether it considered .that the Commonwealth Bank should control the accounts of the State governments. The reply, which was not inspired, I believe, by any political motives whatsoever, was that the Commonwealth Bank should, as a part of its central banking machinery, hold the accounts of all State governments. The board added, of its own volition, the view that the ‘Commonwealth Bank should also hold the accounts of semigovernmental bodies and other authorities that had been established by Act of Parliament or under municipal law. The board pointed out that such power was vital to its functioning as a central bank. However, that section of the Banking Act 1945 was invalidated by a decision of the High Court of Australia, on test, but. the remaining sections remain in operation.
Members of the Labour party say to the people of Australia, quite deliberately, that the purpose of the Government in introducing this bill is to ensure that the
Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 shall never be operated while it remains in office. Honorable members opposite have claimed that a bank board provides a more democratic approach to the control of banking. They appear to believe that a bank board must be more responsible, and expert, and better capable of ensuring continuity of banking policy than is possible under the system of control by a governor who is appointed for a term of seven years. But none of those views is borne out by the speeches that have been delivered by the Treasurer and his supporters on this bill. Unless all the members of the proposed board are financial experts or authorities on statistics and treasury practice, the board will not be an expert authority, no matter how great the ability of the members may be in other spheres. The fact that members of the board will retire from time to time will not provide for the same continuity of policy as does the present system of control by a governor. Therefore, none of the requirements of the test that the Government has posed is answered by the provisions of the bill. We are told that, in the final analysis, banking control will be vested in the Parliament. Of course, that will be so. The bill merely provides that, in certain circumstances, a statement setting out the details of a dispute between the board and the Treasurer shall be laid on the table of the Senate and the House of Representatives ; but, so far as I am aware, neither of the two chambers will be empowered to disallow the decision of the Treasurer. That, in my view, does not fulfil the promise that was made to the people of Australia by the present Prime Minister during the recent general election campaign, and does not provide any control of the Commonwealth Bank that does not exist under the Commonwealth Bank Act and the Banking Act 1945.
Therefore, I look for the reason that has caused the Government to introduce this bill. Every banking measure that has been introduced into the Parliament has been violently opposed by the trading banks. The original proposals for the control of the note issue were strongly resisted by the protagonists of the private banks and the political parties that are now known as the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The establishment of the Commonwealth Bank itself was fiercely opposed. Mr. Alfred Deakin moved that the original Commonwealth Bank Bill be referred to a select committee for investigation and report, his motive clearly being to defeat that legislation. According to the evidence of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, an amendment of the Commonwealth Bank Act in 1920 was strongly opposed by private financial interests. The minutes of evidence of that commission also disclose that the amending legislation that was introduced in 1924 by the then Treasurer, Sir Earle Page, was fiercely opposed by the banking interests of the day. Indeed, one provision of that act has never been proclaimed, apparently because it was opposed so vigorously by the trading banks. I need hardly remind honorable members of the strong opposition that was advanced by the private banks to the Commonwealth Bank Act and the Banking Act 1945. The only hanking legislation in Australian political history that has not been fiercely assailed by the trading banks is the present bill, but, significantly enough, it has been criticized by branches of the Liberal party in various States, whilst the proposal to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board was condemned by the Wheat Growers’ Federation conference in Western Australia only last week. The trading banks apparently accept this bill as a complete pay-off for the part that they played in supporting the non-Labour parties during the recent general election campaign. Honorable members opposite were irate when the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) declared that in a large measure they owed their election to the Parliament to the activities of the trading banks against the Labour party. Recently, I addressed a comprehensive question to the Treasurer about the activities of the trading banks during that campaign, and I shall read to the House a part of it -
Is there any evidence to indicate that the banks have engaged in political activities by (a) opposing any particular legislation, (6) opposing any party or government, (c) financing any party, (d) directing, restraining, or coercing their employees, (e) awarding special promotion to those employees who do their bidding, (/) making special bonus payments to employees on the result of certain public election, and (g) using undue influence on clients or prospective clients?
– That is a war of attrition.
– It may be, but I ask the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) to listen to the answer that I received from the Treasurer.
– I rise to order. It is worth while pointing out that during the whole of the speech of the honorable member- for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), the chair at the table has been occupied by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Dame Enid Lyons). This is the first occasion on which a lady has been in charge of the business of the House, and I think that it should not pass unnoticed.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - There is no point of order.
– I must confess that it is very pleasant to look at the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– What about me?
– Unfortunately, I am not able to make the same remark about the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) . The question that I addressed to the Treasurer appeared to me to be a grave indictment of the banking System. If the private banks had done any or all of those things to which I referred, they probably exceeded the powers that have been given to them in their memorandum and articles of association. The Treasurer, in his reply, did not say that the trading banks had not done any of those things, but, by implication, he agreed that they had done all the things to which I had referred. He said -
The honorable member will be aware that the trading banks were vitally affected by the late Government’s Bank Nationalization legislation, and when the people were given an opportunity to pass judgment on the proposals, they emphatically rejected them.
The Treasurer, by implication, admitted, in far stronger terms, the charge that was made by the honorable member for Hoddle. There are no grounds for argument. We know perfectly well that the trading banks played a discreditable part in the last general election campaign. Indeed, they played a part that is not permissible in most democratic countries.
– They defended themselves.
– If the honorable member has no better defence than that, he had better go back to the trading banks. In the United States of America, which is the home of private enterprise, the trading banks are not permitted to subscribe either directly or indirectly to the funds of any political party. A similar position exists in Belgium. The same is true in Canada and the United Kingdom, in fact though not in law. Therefore, the statement that was made by the honorable member for Hoddle does not admit of argument. It is true beyond dispute, and, in addition, it is a challenge to democracy in this country. The trading banks may exert enormous coercive power. They have an immense power for good if they are willing to be regulated by some authority which has only the interests of Australia at heart. If they refuse to be regulated in the same way as private banks are in other countries, they become an enormous power for harm. They not only do great harm, but also subvert, in my view, the democratic institutions of the country.
I pass to another matter that was mentioned by the Treasurer. The right honorable gentleman told us that the trading bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank would be continued. What we desire him to tell us is whether the trading bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank will be expanded. Under the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, a clear instruction was given to the management to expand its trading hank activities. The Labour party regards that expansion of business as vital to the public interest, and as a controlling factor, if rigorous control should ever again be required in the Australian economic sphere. I believe that it will be. The Labour party also considers that a foolish and uneconomic practice has been carried out in certain sections of banking in this country. A large measure of the financing of the capital works of farmers and business men on overdraft is stupid and even suicidal. The mortgage bank department of the
Commonwealth Bank should be pressed to the limit in the fiercest competition, if need he, with the trading banks. Farmers should not be operating upon overdraft, which may be called up at any particular moment that the management of a private bank decides, and, in respect of which interest rates are variable from day to day. We demand that the Treasurer tell us whether the trading bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank are to be not merely maintained but actually expanded in vigorous competition with the trading banks. In addition, we desire to know the steps that are to be taken in respect of a number of important items. I believe that the Commonwealth Bank Board will be merely a facade behind which the Treasurer of the present nonLabour Government will implement his policy without having the responsibility of taking a deliberate action. Certain decisions of major importance must be made shortly by some authority, or the government. I refer, first, to the Australian exchange rate which is of vital interest at the present time. Incidentally, it has been responsible for attracting many millions of pounds to Australia, if the financial pages of the newspapers can be taken as a guide. Speculators throughout the world are seeking to earn the benefit of the possible appreciation of the Australian £1. We want to know whether this proposed Commonwealth Bank Board will have the power to alter that exchange rate without the Government taking action. It is as simple as that. If all that the Commonwealth Bank has to do is to say–
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Griffiths) put -
That the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron. )
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) opened the debate on this bill I listened to his speech with very keen interest, because he is regarded by the Labour party as the greatest Labour authority on the subject of banking and its ramifications. I hoped to hear the voice of an oracle, but I must confess that I was very disappointed. His speech left me with two impressions. The first was that the bone of contention over this bill would be the proposal to reconstruct the Commonwealth Bank Board; and the second was that he thinks that he is the only authority in Australia who really understands the intricacies of banking. Under the existing banking legislation the honorable member who holds the position of Treasurer of the Commonwealth exercises dictatorial powers over the financial policy of the Commonwealth. The Advisory Council of the Commonwealth Bank is composed of men who hold office only at the pleasure of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth. When the office of Treasurer is combined with that of Prime Minister, the occupant of that office has complete and utter dictatorial powers over the central banking system of Australia. Under the 1945 banking legislation all those who occupy the office of Treasurer of the Commonwealth are given the same dictatorial powers over the financial policy of the Commonwealth Bank and of the Commonwealth itself until this new legislation is passed. Control was placed in the hands of one man. It was to remedy that state of affairs that the present bill was introduced by this Government. To illustrate how in one respect the possession of such dictatorial powers could be inimical to the interests of this country I point out that although the former Treasurer, who is the present Leader of the Opposition, must have known in 1947, from the advice tendered to him by the Advisory Council, that an inflationary trend was commencing, he did nothing about it. Although he had complete control of the financial policy of the Commonwealth, he did nothing to stop that inflationary trend. What credence can be placed on the suggestions of the right honorable gentleman that it is not possible to find throughout the length and breadth of Australia a man competent to be appointed to the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board? Is it seriously suggested that it is impossible to obtain men of the requisite ability and integrity to undertake such a task?
The Leader of the Opposition and ether honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean), have attacked the members of the Bank Officers Association for their opposition to Labour’s banking policy. It is common knowledge that that association is purely a voluntary body and that during the election campaign its members used funds which they themselves had sub scribed to combat the Chifley Government’s proposals. Not only one Labour spokesman, but many honorable members opposite have characterized the members of that association as the tools of the private banks. Let us examine the facts. It is common knowledge that many bank employees, principally the junior officers, were strong supporters of the Labour party. Many of the older employees supported the Labour party in their youth, but as they grew up and gained experience, they realized that they should change their political views. All honorable members on this side of the House are aware of the fact that in the past bank employees in large numbers voted for Labour candidates. Yet from the time that the nationalization of banking was first mooted in 1947 until to-day not one word was said about undue pressure being exerted by the private banks on their employees. We all know how the Labour propaganda machine works. Do honorable members think that during the last three years we should not have heard of undue pressure being exerted on. the employees of private banks if in fact pressure had been put up on them? Honorable members opposite would not have lost the opportunity to draw attention to such a state of affairs if in fact it had existed. To-day, for the first time, such a suggestion was made by the honorable member for Hoddle, who quoted a letter which he had received from one of his political friends. For what purpose did the employees of the private banks form themselves into a voluntary association ? They are engaged in the business of banking and although many of them may not be experts in central banking and the higher forms of banking, they see the trading banks in operation and they realize that the interests of the community are strengthened by the competition between those banks. Honorable members opposite in the speeches they make on the hustings and also in their maiden speeches in this House have grossly distorted the facts about the Bank Officers Association. During the general election campaign the association followed only one line of propaganda - anti-socialism. Were they right? Of course they were. Did not the present Leader of the Opposition say that the election was being fought on the basis of socialism versus capitalism. The right honorable gentleman admitted that the Labour party was playing for big stakes. Yet the employees of the banks have been attacked because they said that the Labour party intended to bring about the socialization of the banks. That same charge was levelled by honorable members opposite against every member on this side of the House.
The private banks have also been attacked by honorable members opposite on the grounds that they favour the establishment of pools of unemployed and that they caused the financial and economic depression that visited this country in the thirties. Those charges were levelled against the banks as a part of Labour’s propaganda of fear. The statement that the Leader of the Opposition made at a meeting of the Macquarie Electoral Council on that subject will have a profound effect on politics in Australia during the next few years. In the future, all Labour members will have to come out into the open. They will have to admit that they are members of the socialist party.
– What has all this to do with banking ?
– I have introduced these matters into my speech to demonstrate the real motive behind the opposition to this bill. It is that honorable members opposite see in the existing set-up of the Commonwealth Bank the possibility of furthering their own socialistic aims. Right through the debate it will he found that the main objective behind their opposition to this bill is to preserve the present position. Let us examine some of the reasons why this Government wants to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board. It was given a mandate to do so by the people and it is acting on that mandate. It was prompted to make this change because under the present system the Treasurer of the Commonwealth has complete dictatorial powers over the Commonwealth Bank and the central banking system. The Opposition wants to retain that power in the hands of one man. Who wields that power at present ?
It is wielded by my respected leader, the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). I put it to the House that at no time during these sittings of the Parliament has the Opposition expressed any confidence in the right honorable gentleman. To spare their blushes I merely remind them that amongst other things they have described him as “ irresponsible “.
– And they were right too.
Mr. CHARLES ANDERSON.They have no confidence in him.
– Neither has the Liberal party.
– Notwithstanding what I have said, they desire to retain in the hands of a person whom they do not trust complete power over the financial policy of this country. What sort of reasoning is that? Do they think that they will not be long in Opposition?
– Of course they do.
– Then they are wrong. I foresee that they will remain in Opposition for a very long time. In a recent tour of my electorate I found that many strong supporters of the Labour party are not at all pleased with the conduct of the representatives of that party in this Parliament. Honorable members opposite will remain in Opposition for a very long time; but notwithstanding that, they are prepared to place in the hands of a man whom they do not trust complete power over the financial policy of this country. Their attitude does not make sense. Is it dictated by .the fact that my leader has so often been proved to be right that they have changed their opinion of him and that they now have confidence in him? It must be remembered that he was right on the subject of petrol supplies, just as he was right on so many occasions when he has criticized the budgets brought down by the previous Government. Although the previous Government invariably rejected his suggestions they frequently took advantage of them. The right honorable gentleman has an uncanny faculty of always being right. Honorable members opposite in furtherance of their own political interests are prepared to sacrifice the national interests.
I have complete confidence in my leader. He is a democrat and does not want to assume the mantle of a dictator.
Another charge made against the Liberal party and the Australian Country party is that they are trying to kill the Commonwealth Bank. That charge has been levelled against them on several occasions. I have taken the trouble to look up the figures relating to deposits and advances. I find that in 1930 deposits in the Commonwealth Bank amounted to approximately £43,000,000 and advances to £13,000,000. In 1942 deposits amounted to £129,000,000 and advances to £35,000,000. That is an extraordinary way to kill a bank! Another fatuous charge that has been made by honorable members opposite is that the Commonwealth Bank Board engineered .the financial and economic depression of the thirties. The private banks have also been continually charged with being responsible for the depression. The honorable member’ for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) was particularly bitter in his attack on the private banks. I do not need to champion the cause of the private banks for they are well able to look after themselves. For some considerable time honorable members opposite have adopted towards the private banks the sort of ugly tactics that one associates with our friends the “ Commos “. They have adopted a smear campaign. They believe in the principle that if a thing is given a bad name for long enough the people are likely to believe that it should have a bad name. “What had the private banks to do with the depression? They had nothing to do with it whatsoever. The depression began in Europe long before it began in this country. The depression in Australia was caused by the fall of export prices. Have honorable members opposite ever taken time to examine the profits of the private banks? I have taken the trouble to do so, and I have found that since 1926 bank shares have yielded a return of not more than 3^ per cent, to 4 per cent., which is approximately 1 per cent, greater than the present yield from Government bonds. A great deal of the talk against the private banks, which are supposed to be making vast sums of money at the expense of the people, is due entirely to the adoption of a false view of their activities. Oan a bank make money in a depression? Oan a man who is unemployed exercise purchasing power? Of course not. The object of the banks is to maintain prosperity. The profits of banks fell during the depression.
The depression is coming up in every speech in every session of this Parliament. It has an ugly note. A depression may never come again. Constant talk about depressions causes an unhealthy attitude to the future. “We now know how to deal with depressions and they should not be brought into arguments in a country with a future such as Australia has before it. During the depression the banks increased their advances although there were falls in their securities. This country owes a tremendous lot to private banks. During the depression there were a few people that went to the wall, but in all branches of commerce there arts some bad risks and if some people suffered by having mortgages foreclosed they were bad security risks and no bank was entitled to take a bad risk with public money. “What guarantee is there that if there had been one central bank there would have been any improvement ? “What guarantee is there that if we had only had one bank the depression could have been avoided? None at all. The peculiar thing is that all the experts on depressions say that if there had ‘been a socialized bank they would have been able to handle the depression better; but the whole world of banking fell down during the depression. I think it was the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) who said that the depression was worse in Australia than anywhere else in the world. That is not true. In 1934, at the International Labour Conference in Geneva, it was reported that Australia had recovered more completely and more quickly than any other country in the world.
Professor D. B. Copland, M.A. D.Sc. in his book, What have the Banks Done? says, with regard to the depression -
But whether by design or by accident, their policy was later shaped to meet the needs of the country in a rather remarkable way. Indeed, it “is not too much to say that the banking policy of Australia was really more enlightened than that of almost any other country. Critics will, no doubt, regard this as an exaggeration but it will be wise for them to withhold judgment until the complete story is told.
I think that Professor Copland has been an adviser of the Labour party on many occasions. Where do all the trade unions bank? Why cannot they bank with the Commonwealth Bank? When the funds of certain unions were frozen it was found that those funds were in private banks. One honorable member of the Opposition even had a safe deposit in the Bank of New South Wales. It has been said that these banks treated people harshly during the depression, yet people still bank with them. Lest honorable members should think that I am biased in favour of the private banks I should like .to say that all my own personal business is done with the Commonwealth Bank.
Throughout this debate and throughout the election campaign and in fact, ever since the passage of the legislation to nationalize the banks went through .this House, we have heard the same scurrilous attacks on the private banks. None of those attacks have been substantiated in any way. They all arise from one motive, which is the socialization of all banks. That is the sole motive that I see behind the opposition to this bill. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) said that when Mr. Scullin was Prime Minister he could not make use of the resources of the Commonwealth Bank because the institution was controlled by a board. But there were ways in which the government of that time could have used the resources of the bank. Behind the attack by honorable members opposite on this bill is the fact that they see in the new bank board, as distinct from the present advisory counil, an obstacle in the way of attaining socialization.
.- The the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) who was the previous speaker on .this side of the House ie erred to the attitude of honorable members opposite in relation to the activity of the private trading banks, their profits and the part they played in the recent depression. Before dealing with the comments of the honorable member I propose to outline to the House the real reason behind the introduction of this sinister measure by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). In the course of his speech the Treasurer stated -
In 1945 we foreshadowed that, when ie-elected to the Treasury benches, we would regard ourselves as being obliged to review the working of the 1945 Banking Legislation, and that we would reconstitute a Commonwealth Bank Board. In 1947 we left no doubt whatever of our intention to defeat the nationalization proposals by every constitutional means at our command.
That promise which he said was given to the electors was given in this House in 1945 even before he had had an opportunity of seeing how the Labour legislation of that time was to act to the advantage of the people of this country. The changes that are being made by this bill are to fulfil the obligations entered into by the Government to . their financial supporters at the recent federal election. The Government has designed this measure in order to repay its election expenses to the private banks of this country.
– The honorable member has no evidence of that.
– The honorable member for Grayndler has alleged that my election expenses were paid by the private banks. That is not true.
– It is an offensive statement and the honorable member for Grayndler should withdraw it.
– I ask for a withdrawal of the statement.
– Did the honorable member for Grayndler accuse the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) of accepting his campaign expenses from the private banks?
– Certainly not. But I would say that if the banks did not pay the election expenses of the honorable member then they were holding out on him.
– The honorable gentleman has not answered my question. I asked him whether he accused the honorable member for Gwydir of having had his election expenses paid by the banks?
– I did not.
– He made the statement regarding all honorable members on this side of the House.
– I said, “ Honorable members opposite”. Distasteful as it is to honorable members, this is a pay-off to the interests that supported them in the recent federal election and spent huge funds in an effort to unseat the Chifley Government. It is just another step in the efforts of honorable members opposite to destroy completely the Commonwealth Bank as we know it. If one studies the attitude of honorable members opposite and their predecessors in relation to the Commonwealth Bank one finds that from the time of its inception in 1911, they viciously opposed its creation and its continued existence.
In 1924, the Treasurer of the day, the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) brought in legislation to set up the bank board. In 1945 and 1947, honorable members opposite, or their counterparts, lined up in an endeavour to destroy legislation in relation to the Commonwealth Bank that was designed to benefit the people. The Treasurer knows that the 1945 legislation is effective. He admitted that in his speech, and the only reason that this move has been made to change the administration of the Commonwealth Bank is that he wants to satisfy those private banks which gave funds to his party to defeat the Labour Government - the people’s government. Those banks paid their employees to work for the defeat of the previous Government.
In 1945, when the banking legislation which is now being repealed was introduced into this chamber by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) said that the legislation was consistent with the Labour party’s policy to convert Australia into a socialistic state. The Treasurer knows that the 1945 legislation is effective. In his speech on this measure, he said that the 1945 legislation was perfect and did not need to be overhauled except for the purpose of the establishment of a bank board. He said that the Labour government intended the banking legislation of 1945 to be the first step towards the socialization of the means of provision for production, distribution and exchange, and that the issue was socialization versus free enterprise. He said that the legislation would affect our standing abroad and that the special deposits amounted to confiscation without compensation. . He criticized the note issue provisions of the 1945 legislation, paid lip service to the statements of the Prime Minister, and told the people what would happen if th? 1945 legislation was implemented. These views were also expressed by honorable members opposite who are the principal supporters of the private banking interests. Having shown what honorable gentlemen opposite thought at that time of the Chifley Government’s legislation, I repeat the words that the Treasurer used when he introduced this measure a few day? ago. He said -
In respect of central banking operations and otherwise, the Commonwealth Bank and the other banks have achieved a considerable measure of harmony and co-operation and the Government is satisfied that the broad purposes of monetary and banking policy are being achieved.
For this reason and the fact that it would be undesirable to make frequent changes in legislative requirements affecting the banking system he said that the Government had decided to preserve the general pattern of control by the Commonwealth Bank over the banking system and the broad structure of the Commonwealth Bank. Yet a deliberate attempt is now being made to undermine the structure of this bank by means of false and insincere statements because outside banking interests demand that honorable members opposite shall take thi3 action.
– “What rot !
– That gets under the skin of the honorable member for Macarthur. He is one, no doubt, who bounced around the country and told the people that dreadful effects would come from the 1945 legislation. He cannot “ take it “ when the falsity of the charges against the Labour party that gained his election to this Parliament is exposed on the authority of no less a person than the Treasurer. His misleading statements will ultimately come home to roost and he will have to face up to his responsibilities on this issue. The Government has executed a complete somersault in relation to the 1945 hanking legislation. Its present attitude betrays the falsity of the charges that it made against the Labour Government.
I have already discussed the Government’s change of front in relation to the sections of the 1945 legislation that deal with competition, special deposits, the note issue, and the establishment of a bank board. Broadly speaking, it has accepted the socialist legislation of a Labour government as the basis of its tanking reform. To use the words of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), it proposes to leave in control of the Commonwealth Bank a doctrinaire socialist in the person of Dr. Coombs, who will be the chairman of the proposed board. The people should realize that the Government intends to leave Dr. Coombs in that position only because, with the establishment of the proposed board, he will be bereft of power and will be at the mercy of the representatives of private interests who will be appointed to the board. At present Dr. Coombs, as Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, is responsible only to the Treasurer in the event of any great difference of opinion arising in relation to financial policy. He has for his guidance an Advisory Council consisting of specialists in finance who ought to know everything that there is to be known about banking policy. But the Government seeks to leave Dr. Coombs only nominally in control of the bank. Under its proposal he will be without power to act because he will be outvoted, by the Government’s nominees on the board. The Government will do what anti-Labour governments did in years gone by when they appointed bedstead manufacturers and polo players to the former Commonwealth Bank Board.
The members of the present Opposition risked everything in order to give effect to their enlightened policy on banking. They willingly placed their Government in1 jeopardy in order that the people of Australia might be protected from private financial interests. Supporters of the Government may laugh as much as they like and declare that we aTe only making a sham-fight on this issue, but I warn them that, if they press on with this measure, the Opposition, acting according to its principles, will ensure that they face up to their responsibilities before the electors.
We know what will happen if the bill becomes law. The Government will choose individuals from the general community, in addition to a few financial specialists, in order to complete the proposed board. It has announced that it will find people who are not associated in any way with private financial institutions. Perhaps it will choose the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Mackinnon), because he has just sold his shares in private banks. .That is the sort of thing that was done by anti-Labour governments when the former Commonwealth Bank Board was in existence. It might even choose somebody like the honorable -member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who is not connected with banking. How tragic that would be for the nation ! The Opposition has resolved that it will not fall for the Government’s proposition. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, we intend to oppose every clause in the bill relating to the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank board. We want to retain the existing system of control that was established by the 1945 legislation, under which the Governor, aided by the Advisory Council, whose members know all that there is to be known about finance, is responsible to the Treasurer and the Parliament. The history of anti-Labour activities in relation to banking is a sorry story. The Labour party believes that the effect of banking and financial policy generally is so great that it intimately concerns the life of every citizen and therefore that huge instrumentalities that control financial policy should be governed by the elected representatives of the people. In other words, we believe that the Parliament should decide financial policy, irrespective of the political complexion of the parties that command a majority in it.
We have had bitter experience of the control of hanking policy by private interests. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) declared that the trading banks had nothing to do with the onset of the depression, but I refer him to the report of the royal commission that was appointed by a tory government to inquire into monetary and banking systems. This is what the commission reported about those benevolent institutions that are known as the private trading banks -
Along with other parts of the system, the trading banks must bear some responsibility for the extent of the depression. In the more prosperous times preceding the depression they went with the tide and expanded credit.
– Who said that?
– “Joe” Abbott and his friends on the banking commission.
– Order ! There are too many interjections. Honorable members on both sides of the House are entitled to a fair hearing.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker, but I do not mind educating people who have been misinformed by the private banks.
– Order! If the honorable member for Grayndler says anything more like that I shall start educating him.
– The report of the royal commission continued -
There was no central bank to guide their policy, but even in its absence, the banks might have taken concerted action which would have helped to check the boom, and thereby have lessened the extent of the depression.
The re-establishment of a Commonwealth Bank board along the lines proposed by the Government will lead to a renewal of the financial policy that was largely responsible for the sufferings of many thousands of Australians during the depression. The honorable member for Hume said that the private banks did not make profits during that period of stress and hardship. The royal commission reported that the secret reserves of the trading banks at that time exceeded £50,000,000, notwithstanding disbursement of dividends at the rate of 4 per cent, mentioned by the honorable member for Hume. It is interesting to note that the profits of the trading banks between 1893 and 1946 amounted to £128,000,000. During two depressions and two wars, when most of the people were struggling against adverse conditions, those masters of finance still maintained their profits. They continued to prosper while the people suffered. I mention these facts in order to show why the
Labour party is viciously opposed to any scheme for the placing of control of the nation’s financial resources in the hands of any body other than the elected representatives of the people.
Do supporters of the Government, who speak glibly of what the private banks did for Australian industries, realize that during the worst period of the depression there were about 480,000 persons unemployed in Australia ? The number of Australians in receipt of a miserable dole at the 30th June, 1932, was 783,000. There were many bankruptcies at that period, which involved a. total of £7,000,000 worth of assets. At that time, a single unemployed man was granted 5s. 8½d. a week sustenance, and a married man was supposed to maintain his family on £1 a week. That pitiful situation was aggravated by the financial policy of the private banking interests which dominated the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank was powerless to do anything because it was controlled by people who placed profit before the welfare of the people. We believe that a bank board, to which, no doubt, such people as polo players and bedstead manufacturers will be appointed, as happened years ago, would hold governments to ransom.
I need not refer back to the depression in order to provide an illustration of the lengths to which financial interests will go in order to gain their ends. Instead I remind honorable members of something that happened in Victoria not long ago. When the Chifley Government introduced its progressive banking legislation, Sir Frank Clarke, vice-chairman of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, and a member of the Legislative Council of Victoria, decided, at the dictate of a bank with assets worth over £70,000,000, that he would prostitute his duty as a citizen and a representative of the people and serve the interests of the bankers by wrecking a government. The interests that ha represented used the power of finance to destroy the Labour Government in Victoria. That was a typical example of what we may expect if private finance gains control of the Commonwealth Bank. I hope that the people of Victoria will read the circular in which the then
Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament, Mr. McDonald, and the man who later became Premier, Mr. Hollway, received from Sir Frank Clarke their instructions to wreck the elected Labour Government of Victoria. That is the sort of thing that the representatives of financial interests will do and that is why the Labour party opposes the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board and will not allow the Government to putback into power those who seek to destroy the influence of the people’s bank.
I also remind the House of the occasion when the chairman of the former Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Robert Gibson, dictated to the elected Government of Australia the terms and conditions upon which the board would provide for the people, through their own bank, sufficient finance to enable them to throw back the tide of depression. This story will bear repetition over and over again as a warning to the present generation of Australians of the tactics that will be used by financial interests in order to gain their own ends. On the 13th February, 1931, Sir Robert Gibson wrote to the Treasurer of the day, Mr. Theodore, in the following terms : -
Subject to adequate and equitable reductions in all wages, salaries and allowances, pensions, social benefits of all kinds, interest and other factors which affect the cost of living, the Commonwealth Bank Board will actively cooperate with the trading banks and the Governments of Australia in sustaining industry and restoring employment.
Every honorable member who believes that banks and other financial institutions exist for the purpose of serving the ordinary man and woman should bear in mind the attitude that they adopted towards the people on that occasion. The Commonwealth Bank Board should have been the servant of the people and should have been subservient to the will of the Parliament acting in accordance with the mandate of the people. Therefore, it should have provided the finance that was needed to prevent nation-wide suffering. It should not have been necessary for the government of the day to appeal to the board. Mr. Theodore, to his credit, replied to the chairman of the board in the following terms : -
The attitude of the board throughout the recent negotiations, and as disclosed in the letter now referred to, can only be regarded by the Commonwealth Government as an attempt on the part of the bank to arrogate to itself a supremacy over the Government in the determination of the financial policy of the Commonwealth, a supremacy which, I am sure, was never contemplated by the framers of the Australian Constitution, and has never been sanctioned by the Australian people.
That occurrence stiffened the opposition of the Labour party to the Commonwealth Bank Board. We say that governments, no matter what their political colour, should obtain the finance to provide for all the people, and should carry out their policies and implement the mandates given to them. The days have gone when governments could be dictated to, as was the Scullin Government and the Lang Government, by financiers and other interested groups. . We shall not again see a case such as occurred in Victoria; where one man, because of his financial power and his desire to serve financial interests, was able to wreck a government elected by the people. The 1945 banking legislation gave to the people of this country a bank managed in their own interests and subject to the Parliament of the day. No honorable member on the Government side, including the Treasurer, can point to one failing in that banking system. Political control, and domination of the bank by the government of the day to implement its own policy, cannot be shown at any point. Tribute has been paid by all members of the community to the benefits of the 1945 legislation. That being so, why should change be sought? If the bank is being managed in the interests of Communists, and if it is being brought under political control and if the officers are not efficient, why does the Treasurer not say so? He well knows that this hill is only to fulfil the Government’s obligations to interested parties in the banking field in order to give them complete control of the Commonwealth Bank, as they had prior to 1932. Every honorable member in this House realizes the significance of banking in the community. They realize that the salvation of this country during the war and at other times, particularly during the present time, depended to a considerable degree upon the financial stability brought about by the Commonwealth Bank. If the Government is sincere and honest why does it not carry out its policy by selling these great socialistic institutions? It is a shocking thing that honorable members on the Government side, who have bitterly assailed and tried to destroy this bank are not honest and frank enough to show the people clearly their intention, without using this back-door method of removing control from the Government and placing it in the hands of private interests. Why do they not say that they mean to destroy it? If they do so they will get their answer from the people who have learned the value of the bank. The Government may think that the Opposition is opposing this bill for political purposes. Nothing is further from the truth. We oppose banking proposals such as this because we realize the profound effect that financial policy has on the live and welfare of the people of this country. We realize the bitterness of the depression years, although I am not going to dwell on that. We realize that in more recent times our legislation has been attacked by private financial interests. We fully understand the power of finance, as was shown in the recent election, and we realize how it can work under false banners. Above all else, we have the cardinal responsibility, apart from expediency or anything else, of retaining the Commonwealth Bank as the people’s bank which holds the people’s money and should therefore be controlled by the people’s representatives. Only when this Parliament controls the bank, through men such as the previous Government appointed to its staff shall be have full control of the financial structure in the interests of the people of Australia. This sell-out the Labour party will vigorously oppose. The Government’s move to destroy the bank will not stand investigation, and whatever the consequences may be the Opposition will do its best to ensure that the legislation introduced in 1945, in the face of great opposition, shall be preserved. That legislation, even to-day, has won the commendation of the Treasurer who introduced this hill.
.- I rise to support this bill but before dis cussing the merits of the measure I should like to make passing reference to two small matters which were raised during the debate by Opposition speakers. The first concerns the references made to the part taken by bank employees in the recent general election. I should like to make it plain that I am speaking not of banks but of hank employees. I do not speak about the banks because I have no qualification to do so. I know nothing about the banks. I have no connexion at all with them. I am not aware that in my election campaign I had any contact with a banker, using the term in the sense of one who directs the policy of a bank, or even any conversation with bankers unless there were by chance some bankers among the interjectors who occasionally interrupted my meetings. I desire to speak only about things of which I know. I was chairman of my own campaign committee. I directed that organization and I know who worked for me and who did not. I know what money was spent on my behalf in the campaign. I am aware of the existence of a bank employees antisocialization committee. That committee did not work as a part of my own campaign organization ; but it did work in the electorate, and I concede that the work it did contributed to my success. Whatever that organization did was done of its own volition and by its own enterprise and not as part of a campaign organized by me. What I wish to speak of more particularly concerns the charges made against individual bank employees. On my own committee there were men who were employed in banks. They voluntarily offered their services to me, a fact which I appreciated. In some cases they were men that I hai’ known since boyhood and who had grown up in my community. On their behalf I rather resent that they should be attacked simply because they exercised that privilege as citizens to take part in an election campaign. They were all entitled, as adult Australians, to exercise their privilege according to their own consciences. I make no apology or excuse for them. On the contrary, I am proud that such men, as individuals, were associated with me in my election campaign and that as Australian citizens they were ready to accept their individual responsibility to share in the political life of Australia.
The second point I wish to mention concerns the statements by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) on the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. He referred to Dr. Coombs in a way that suggested there, was some deep plot behind the decision of tie Government to retain him’ as Governor. He referred to Dr. Coombs as a doctrinaire socialist, and he referred to him in such a way as to suggest that in his own mind he regarded Dr. Coombs as having been appointed for political reasons and as having some sort of political function as governor of the bank. I suggest that the truth of the situation is that this Government hae perhaps a higher estimate of Dr. Coombs than has the Opposition. It is prepared to accept him as a man competent in his own particular branch of finance whose services are of value to Australia. On those terms we are prepared to continue him in that office. That reflects a soundness of judgment on the part of the Government and a sense of fairness rather than indicating that there is a deep laid plot to outwit some fancied and mysterious move by people of a different political persuasion. The retention of Dr. Coombs is a tribute to his eminence in his own field of study, and to the Government’s readiness to accept a man on his merits until he proves that such confidence is unwarranted.
Turning now to the bill itself it has seemed to me that a great deal of the debate on it has been a mixture of ancient and very much perverted history, and of imagination. Speaker after speaker on the Opposition side has indicated that in his own imagination he has already appointed the bank board. The Opposition members have already decided what policies that board will adopt, and in their own imaginations have worked out certain consequences that arp sure to follow. But have they at any point dealing with anything that is substantial or anything that is within the terms of the hill? I suggest not. They have worried themselves into a state of excitement over the figments of their own imagination and over their own incomplete and very faulty reading of the history of this country. Their account of Australia that history does not do credit to their sources of information.
– Has the honorable member ever read Professor Bland’s account of the history of the banking system ?
– I have not heard it quoted with any exactness by the Opposition. Let us look now at the bill itself. The reason I support the bill is because of its contents. First of all, provision is made for the repeal of the Banking Act 1945. Secondly, there is provision for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank board. Thirdly, there are three amendments of the 1945 act which will allow considerable scope for the activities of the Commonwealth Bank in the Rural Credits Department, the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department. The Opposition attack on the repeal of the legislation specified in the bill has been very much of the order of the remark made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) when he said, “ Why should we remove the dead horse from the track”. He overlooked that dead horses can very soon become a potent smell.
– He asked why we should not remove the dead horse.
– That is exactly what this bill seeks to do.
– It introduces “ stinking fish “.
– I know who has been crying “ stinking fish “ in this House most assiduously. The main opposition was made to the provisions of the bill relating to the bank board. I listened with amazement, perhaps because I am a new member of this House, to the way the Leader of the Opposition developed his arguments against the proposal to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board. My amazement was due to the discovery that behind his air of benignity and homespun honesty there lurked as considerable a mental arrogance as one could encounter in many a day’s march. There was a certainty that he alone in this country was aware of all the implications of financial policy and that he alone was competent to say what was in the best interests of Australia. That mental arrogance extended to his remarks about experts. He spoke of his reliance on experts, and their value, but it became more and more evident, although it was not explicitly stated, that his definition of an expert was a man who thought exactly the same way as he did. And that mental arrogance seemed to reach its peak when he turned to speak in defence of the provisions of the 1947 act for the control of the financial policy of Australia. At one stage, the Leader of the Opposition said that decisions on financial policy should rest with the Government. At that point the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) interjected, “And not with the Parliament ? “ The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) replied with another interjection, “ It is the same thing”. The original remark and the interjection seemed to me to disclose that members of the Opposition have completely ignored the lessons of the last election, when the people clearly declared their desire that they, through the Parliament, wished to retain control over the actions of the Government. They are not prepared to hand over to governments authority to act in complete disregard of the interests of minorities. They are prepared to recognize executive authority in the’ Government, but they are not prepared to abandon their right, exercised through their elected representatives, to set a safeguard upon the Government.
The Leader of the Opposition said something to the effect that no one was better qualified to conduct the financial policy of the country than the Treasurer, or better informed as to how it should be done. He made that statement in support of the legislative provision which enabled the Treasurer of the Commonwealth to exercise what was virtually a financial dictatorship. The point which the Leader of the Opposition missed was that it is not a question of expertness or knowledge or information in the possession of the Treasurer that matters ; it is the question of dictatorship. That is what we object to. Our objection to the Treasurer exercising sole control rests, not on the ground that he is incompetent or insufficiently informed, but on the democratic ground that we disapprove of dictatorship, and a financial dictatorship is just as objectionable as any other kind. There is a close analogy between what the Leader of the Opposition said, and the sort of argument that used to be advanced in defence of fascism in Italy. There, the common argument was that at least Mussolini did make the trains run, and that his government was efficient. The whole justification for a financial dictatorship as advocated by the Leader of the Opposition was that it would be efficient, that it would be expert and knowledgeable. That same argument has been used to justify every dictatorship.
Apart from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, the speeches of most honorable members on the other side have dealt with the experiences of the financial and economic depression of the ‘thirties. The argument was developed in its most concise way by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who reviewed the history of the Commonwealth Bank and its alleged failure to act effectively in 1930. However, the criticisms of the honorable member for Bendigo, and of other members of the Opposition, was not criticism of the form of bank control exercised in 1930 ; it was criticism of the policies that were applied in 1930. For my own part, I admit frankly that the policies applied in 1930 were unwise, but those policies did not arise out of the form of control of the Commonwealth Bank, nor did they arise out of viciousness in any section of the community. I think we ought to learn a little humility from history, and to realize that a good deal of error arose out of sheer ignorance. That ignorance was not peculiar to one side of politics, but was common throughout the political and economic life of this and other countries. A good deal of the trouble in 1930 was due, not to any particular system of banking control, but to sheer economic ignorance of what to do in the circumstances that existed.
Proceeding from that point, I suggest that honorable members opposite should remember that this proposed legislation of 1950 constitutes a very considerable advance over any legislation that a government of the political complexion of the present Government would have been prepared to introduce twenty years ago. Political thought has not remained stationary. We are not living in 1930. The non-Labour Government in power to-day is not the government that was in power in 1929. or in 1932. We have moved with the times. The ignorance that prevailed in 1930 has, in a large measure, been dissipated. Just as we are prepared to credit members of the Opposition with having grown up politically since 1930, so it ought to have entered into the liberality of their thought that we, too, have learned something since 1930. If this hill be examined objectively, not in the light of twenty years ago, hut in the light of circumstances as they exist in 1950, it will be recognized as a moderate, well-intentioned measure designed to provide efficient control of the Commonwealth Bank, and to give ample opportunity for that bank to play an effective part in the financial and economic life of the country.
Therefore, I commend the bill to the House. The arguments advanced against it ave rooted in a condition of affairs that no longer exists. Those who oppose the bill are trying to interpret present events in the light of twenty years ago. Actually, this bill sets out to do three things. First, it removes the danger of nationalization. That is a matter upon which the mind of the people has been made abundantly clear. Secondly, the bill institutes a form of control of thi Commonwealth Bank which pays due deference to the need for expert guidance and judgment, but which also pays deference to the need for some sort of representative or democratic membership of a body the decisions of which will have 30 important an effect on the lives and well-being of a great many people. Thirdly, it retains from the 1945 act those provisions which give the Commonwealth Bank ample opportunity to do the work it was intended to do.
.- On the face of it, this bill appears, as the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) has said, to be a liberal measure. It sets up what purports to be a democratic form of control of the Commonwealth Bank, so that responsibility for decisions will be spread among a number of persons. It even purports to grant additional capital for the bank to enable it to enlarge its activities. On the face of it, the bill appears to be designed to strengthen the Commonwealth Bank. However, we on this side of the House, are vigorously opposed to the bill, and we have very good reasons for our opposition. The honorable member for Curtin suggested that we discovered our reasons by delving into ancient history. As a matter of fact, we can learn many lessons from history, and we should be unwise not to profit from them. Being one of those unfortunate lawyers who are so much maligned in this House and elsewhere, I believe that there is advantage in looking back over similar cases in search of knowledge and of precedents by which we may bc guided. A glance back over the history of the Commonwealth Bank is well worth while if we would realize the inherent clangers of the measure now before the House.
When the Commonwealth Bank waa founded by Andrew Fisher in 1911, it was placed under the control of a governor. Sir Denison Miller was appointed the first Governor, and under his wise guidance the bank progressed. He was Governor from 1911 to .1923, and during that period the Commonwealth Bank assisted the government of the day, particularly during the 1914-18 war, when it saved the people of this country many hundreds of thousands of pounds. A savings bank branch was developed, and gradually the Commonwealth Bank entered more actively into the sphere of general banking business in competition with the private banks. It became apparent that the private banks did not like this new competitor, and they decided that the progress of the Commonwealth Bank should be impeded. I have been interested as a newcomer to this House to note how honorable members opposite are sometimes in favour of free competition and sometimes, but not always are critical of monopolies. During the last election campaign, we heard much about a particular form of monopoly, but nothing about the monopoly known as Australian Consolidated Industries Limited and the Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Proprietary Limited, which I regard as a vicious and ruthless monopoly. It has a firm grip of the glass manufacturing business in Australia, and exploits the people by forcing up the cost of living. Every time a person buys a bottle of milk or a bottle of jam he i3 compelled to pay tribute to the glass monopoly, but honorable members opposite have never criticized it. They extol the virtues of free competition, but when the Commonwealth Bank attempted to become a serious competitor of the private banks, its efforts were not appreciated, and steps were taken to reduce the competition. A plot was hatched to curb the activities of the Commonwealth Bank. It could not be destroyed altogether, because it was too well established, but it was to be rendered ineffective. “What was the method applied in order to render it ineffective? The method was to place it under .the control of a board. In 1924, the Bruce-Page Government appointed a board of eight to take over control of the bank from the Governor. It is interesting to note the similarity between the board which was set up in 1924, and the board which it is now proposed to appoint. In 1924, the board of eight included two ex officio members, the Secretary to the Treasury, and the Governor of the bank. The present bill .provides for the establishment of a board of ten members, ineluding three ex officio members, the secretary to the Treasury, the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. In 1924, the members of the board were chosen from persons who were actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance and industry, and I should like to hear honorable members opposite dispute the fact that those persons did actually represent the private banks.
It is interesting to recall what the original bank board did, because I think that we should bear it in mind when assessing the likely results of the restoration of the bank board. I direct the attention of the House to three activities that the board set about achieving, after it was established in 1924, in order to strangle the Commonwealth Bank. First, the board set out deliberately to curtail the trading activities of the bank by refusing new business. That policy ensured that there would be no more competition with the trading banks. That fact was well established by evidence before the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in Australia. It is probably within the personal knowledge of most honorable members that the Commonwealth Bank in those days refused to accept new business if that business would have been taken from the private banks. The result was that there was no more active competition from the Commonwealth Bank, so the trading banks achieved their objective in that way.
The second way in which the activities of the Commonwealth Bank were curtailed was by separating the savings bank section from the general activities of that institution. That subtle move was most effective, because the Commonwealth Bank had succeeded in establishing a large savings bank business. By 1927, the deposits with the Savings Bank section of the Commonwealth Bank amounted to £47,000,000. When the savings bank section was separated from the rest of the bank, all the revenue and the profits arising from that side of the business and all the big financial resources that gave the Commonwealth Bank strength and stability, were taken away from that institution, so that its general structure was weakened. That was the second way in which, after the establishment of the board, the Commonwealth Bank was being strangled. It is interesting to note that the separation of the savings bank activities from the general banking activities of the Commonwealth Bank was made on the recommendation of a titled gentleman from abroad, Sir Ernest Harvey, the Comptroller of the Bank of England. The Commonwealth Bank was then developed as a central bank, but not in the sense in which we understand central banking to-day, whereby the central bank exercises some control over the activities of the general financial and monetary policy of the country in the interests of the people. It functioned largely as a clearing house for the benefit of the private banks, without exercising any real or effective control over them. The Commonwealth Bank, operating in that way, was of benefit to the private banks and served their purposes, yet it had no control over them in the interests of the people.
That statement leads me to the third method by which, after the bank board was established, the activities of the Commonwealth Bank were curtailed. Actually, everything had been done but destroy the bank completely. However, it would not have been expedient for the government of the day to make a straight-out proposal to sell the bank, and, therefore, it did the next best thing. In 1938, after the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in Australia had made its report, the then Treasurer in the Lyons Government, Mr. Casey, introduced a bill, the effect of which would have been to sell the assets of the Commonwealth Bank to the private financial institutions of this country. At this point, I pause to remark that a number of the leading members of the present Government were also members of the Lyons Government at the time to which I refer. The bill, which was introduced by Mr. Casey, provided that the capital of the Commonwealth Bank should be increased by the issue of debentures to a maximum amount of £34,000,000. It was quite unnecessary to increase the capital of the bank in that manner. The Commonwealth Bank had commenced with a capital of £10,000, a loan that had been made by the Treasury, yet it had not been necessary at any time for the bank to raise more money. The institution established its own reserves and capital from its profits. However, the Lyons Government proposed that £34,000,000 worth of debentures should be issued to provide capital for the bank, and the interest on them would have been paid out of its profits. Furthermore, those debentures would have been available to the public and the private banks for purchase. 1 emphasize that the private banks would have been able to buy the debentures, and, in that way, would have gained control of the capital of the Commonwealth Bank.
I put it to the House that those are three good and substantial reasons why honorable members on this side of the chamber have grave suspicions about the proposal to revive the Commonwealth
Bank Board. I remind the House again that when the board was appointed in 1924, it curtailed the trading activities of the Commonwealth Bank and separated the savings bank activities from the general banking activities, thus weakening the general banking structure of the institution. By the proposal to issue debentures which, fortunately, was withdrawn because of the outcry from the people, the government of the day would have transferred the bank completely from the control of the people to the private financial institutions.
There is another reason why we suspect this effort to restore the Commonwealth Bank Board. Despite statements by honorable members opposite, we cannot dismiss the lessons of the depression in the airy words that were used by the honorable member for Curtin Q/Lt. Hasluck), who said that the mistakes that were made iri those years were due to sheer ignorance and not to the method of control that was exercised over the bank. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) went further than that, and said that none of the attacks by members of the Opposition on the private banks had been substantiated in any way. I do not propose to say much about the depression, but I may sum up in a few words by stating that it is not true to say that the private banks were responsible for the depression, or that they caused it. There was a general collapse of overseas markets and prices, and, in addition, the gross extravagance of the Bruce-Page Government would have brought any country, however prosperous, to its knees, and reduced it to bankruptcy. But it is equally untrue to say that the banks had no part in the depression and that many of the attendant evils could not have been averted if a wise and enlightened monetary and banking policy had been adopted. I challenge honorable members opposite to deny that, during the years of the depression, the banks called in their advances. During the boom years they had lent bigger amounts than they should have, and when the bubble burst and deflationary conditions set in. they called in their advances.
According to figures that I have obtained, the advances of the private banks between December, 1929, and March, 1932, were reduced by approximately £45,000,000. In those years the depth of the depression was reached, and the trading banks called in £45,000,000 worth of advances. They did precisely the reverse of what they should have done. If they had lent another £45,000,000 during those years, they would have done much to alleviate the misfortunes that were associated with the depression. I challenge honorable members opposite to deny that those figures are correct, and that the private banks, by calling in £45,000,000 worth of advances, contributed to the miseries and misfortunes that were associated with the years of depression. Furthermore, we cannot forget that the Commonwealth Bank Board allied itself with the disastrous policy of the trading banks. It refused to grant a fiduciary note issue of £18,000,000 that the then Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, had requested. That additional money would have reduced unemployment and alleviated the miseries of the people who were suffering from the depression. I have given that cursory sketch of the background of the Commonwealth Bank because we should bear those facts in mind when we are considering this bill.
The Chifley Government made a great advance in banking legislation in 1945. In my opinion, the Banking Act and the Commonwealth Bank Act, which were passed in that year, constitute the most important legislation that has been enacted by this Parliament since its establishment at the beginning of the century. The Commonwealth Bank Act placed beyond all doubt that the Commonwealth Bank should operate as a central bank and should continue with its general banking activities. I was interested to note that the Government does not propose to repeal section 12 of that act, and I shall be interested to see how it is operated in future if the bank board should be appointed. Section 12 (2.) provides -
The Bank, through the General Banking Division, shall not refuse to conduct hanking business for any person, by reason only of the fact that to conduct that business would have the effect of taking away business from another bank.
That provision ensures that the disgraceful policy that was pursued by the Commonwealth Bank when it was controlled by a board after 1924 shall not be repeated. The Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 also provided for the establishment of other departments of the bank to cater for branches of banking business, such as the industrial finance department and the mortgage bank department, ‘which were not adequately catered for by the private banks. The Banking Act 1945, which is complementary to the Commonwealth Bank Act, made provision for the two matters that are the crux of this debate, namely, the establishment of special accounts for lodgment by the private banks, and the control of interest rates by the Commonwealth Bank. Some Opposition speakers have stated that the trading banks, which contributed so heavily to the election expenses of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, were waiting for the pay-off. Whether the private banks made payments to individuals, or made a big fund available generally to those two political parties I do not know; but there is no doubt that the trading banks did contribute a substantial sum of money to the electoral expenses of the Government parties. I know that in my electorate there were teams of from 30 to 40 men out canvassing every day for weeks on end, working in the interest of the Liberal candidate. I have no complaint against those men as individuals. They were sent out, of course, as economic conscripts. They had to do as they were told by their employers. Their wages were being paid by the banks, and that very important contribution was being made to the Liberal party propaganda in the election campaign. It is only reasonable that the private trading hanks, which made such a big and valuable contribution to the propaganda of the parties opposite during that election campaign, must get their pay-off, their rake-off. It is common talk round the country that the pay-off that the banks are to get is twofold. In the first place they want the special accounts system abolished. That system was established originally by members of the present Government when they were previously in office, for a very good purpose. As the Commonwealth Bank has stated in its last report -
The Central Bank has been able, by making calls to banks’ Special Accounts, to draw off from the banking system a considerable part of the additional cash arising from war-time finance and the growth of overseas funds, and to immobilize it, thus preventing its use as a base for a secondary inflation.
If those special accounts were released, the results would be a huge flow of new money on to the market, a great expansion of credit, more impetus to the inflationary spiral and a further disastrous rise in prices. I put it to honorable members that that is one of the prices being demanded from this Government by the interests that supported it during the last general election campaign, and that it is one of the things that will happen if this proposed board is established. If the board system is re-established the new board will, by administrative action, release those special accounts, and all that frozen money will flow on to the market. The people will suffer the consequences by having to pay higher prices and because inflation will get further and further out of hand.
The second thing that will happen if the board system is restored is that interest rates will be increased. It is common knowledge that the private banks are now objecting to the present control of interest rates that was established by the 1945 banking legislation which provided- that the Commonwealth Bank should control such rates in the interests of the people as a whole and so as to maintain a stable financial and economic structure. The interest rate on money lent by overdraft is pegged at 4( per cent., but propaganda has now commenced to flow from the banks setting out specious reasons why it should be increased. It is common knowledge, as I have said, that if the board system is restored the interest rate will be increased to 4f per cent, and then to 5 per cent. Of course the people will pay the price - the ordinary people, such as people who have bought homes and have borrowed by way of a bank overdraft to do so. They will have to meet extra interest. In my opinion there are not enough people buying their own homes, but those who wish to do so in the future by borrowing on overdraft will have to pay an increased interest rate if the Government has its way. Instead of exposing such people to the iniquitous results that will flow from the restoration of the Commonwealth Bank Board and the consequent increase of interest rates the Government, if it were genuine in its protestations that it has the interests of all the people at heart, would be telling this House and the people that it proposed to reduce the interest rate for home purchasers and that it would use the great financial powers that it possesses through the Commonwealth Bank, to provide home purchase loans foi people at a rate of interest of not mon* than 2 per cent. But it is evident that, far from that happening, one of the prices that the trading banks have demanded and that they will receive as a quid pro quo for their help to the parties opposite during the last general election campaign, is that interest rates will he restored to what they were before. We believe that interest rates should not be raised. It is one of the achievements of the Curtin and Chifley Administrations that they were responsible for the era of cheap money in this country. That is an achievement of which they have reason to be proud. We ave opposing this measure because we believe that interest rates should not be increased and that these special accounts should not be wiped out: because we do not want the inflationary spiral to get out of hand; because we believe that inflation must be kept in check, that the money power in this country should not be the master of the people and should not exact such a toll as is inherent in the Government’s proposal, at the expense of the people ; and because we believe that the money power should be the servant of the people. We shall fight against this proposed restoration of the Commonwealth Bank Board because, if it is reestablished, the effects that I have indicated will follow. We are opposed to a recurrence of such conditions in this country, and we are determined to fight the restoration of the board system at all costs.,
– If the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) were honest he would have described this bill as a bill to hand over the people’s bank a second time to the representatives of private interests, because that is what happened in 1924 when the Commonwealth Bank Board was established, without any warrant from the people or any authority from the democracy. In fact, its establishment came as a surprise to the members of the government party of the day as well as to members of the then Opposition. I shall examine briefly what happened in 1924 and in the preceding general election in 1922. At that election the Leader of the Nationalist party, under which name the present Liberal party then existed, was the present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The Leader of the Australian Country party at that time was the present right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). Immediately after the election the Leader of the Australian Country party delivered his ultimatum to the Nationalist party. He said, “ We refuse to serve under Mr. Hughes any longer “. Unfortunately, for him at any rate, the defeat of Sir Walter Massy-Greene, in the electorate of Richmond, by another man of the same name, robbed that gentleman of the chance to succeed to the Prime Ministership and the choice went to the next in line, the then honorable member for Flinders, who is now Viscount Bruce The right honorable member for North Sydney did not mention in his policy speech any .proposal for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board, nor was such a proposal mentioned in the Australian Country party’s policy speech. As a matter of fact, when the legislation providing for the establishment of the board was before this House, the right honorable member for North Sydney voted against it. The whole proposal was forced upon the Parliament of Australia without any authority from the people, and the Commonwealth Bank, which had been established by a Labour government in 1911 as a. people’s bank, became, by virtue of the 1924 legislation, a banker’s bank. The 1924 legislation established a Central Reserve Bank for the first time, but associated with it were the original functions of the trading bank known as the Commonwealth Bank. The Central Reserve Bank set out to destroy the competitive capacity of the Commonwealth Bank in relation to the private trading banks. The Labour party at that time opposed the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board and from the very time that Mr. Charlton, the then Leader of the Labour party, who was the honorable member for Hunter, first expressed the view of the Labour party, we have been intransigently opposed to any board controlling the destinies of the Commonwealth Bank. We have strong reasons for our attitude. Let us consider the milestones in the banking history of this country. In 1893, during a depression period, many banks in Victoria, and some in New South Wales and Queensland, collapsed. There were suicides, destitution on all hands, broken homes, broken hearts and broken fortunes. Some of the wealthiest families in Australia went bankrupt during that period. They included the Bailleaus and the Finks. The Bailleaus paid 1/4 d. in £1. The head of the Fink interests ‘became known as “ Farthing Fink “, but afterwards he paid all the money that he owed.
– So did all the banks.
– They did not. If the Minister for Air (Mr. White) recollects a speech that I made in 1945 when the banking legislation was before this Parliament, he will recall that I told this House that one of the wealthiest banks in this country, the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, which is not an Australian bank at all, but which has its head-quarters in England, as well as its shareholders, most of whom have never seen this country and are only interested in the returns that they receive from their investment, compounded its deposits when it closed its doors in 1893 and turned all those deposits into interminable stock. It paid 3 per cent, interest on the stock, but not until 1945 did it repay to the heirs of some of the original holders and to the other people who had received the scrip one penny of the principal-
– It did pay.
– All it paid was 3 per cent, interest. It had contracted, under a Victorian act, to pay 4 per cent., but by an act of the British Parliament it had the amount reduced to 3 per cent. That is what would be called, in racecourse terminology, an act of scaling or welshing or spieling. It was not until after the position had been exposed in this Parliament that the directors in London decided to repay the principal to those who were holding the stock in Australia, despite the huge profits that the bank had made since 1893. A select committee of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria suggested in 1893 that a people’s bank should be established, but it was not until after federation had been established and the Labour party had come into the Federal Parliament as a small minority party, that anything was done in the way of establishing a Commonwealth Bank. A motion for its establishment was submitted by Mr. King O’Malley in the first Parliament. Mr. O’Malley, who is fortunately still alive at the age of 96 years, became the founder of the Commonwealth Bank in 1911. Who opposed the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank in 1911? They were the tories, the liberals of that day, the Joseph Cooks, the William Hill Irvines and men like them.
– And the Labour party.
– The Labour party put the legislation through. Will the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) ever wake up? The Labour party passed the legislation and the people who opposed it were those who thought as the honorable member for Gippsland thinks to-day. The Fisher Government established the note issue in 1911 and the same opposition was expressed to the Australian Government issuing its own notes. Before that time the private banks had issued their notes and had made a lot of profit out of doing so. The Australian Government taxed the notes issued by the private banks and so made it no longer profitable for them to carry on that line of business. What was the reaction of the press, the tories and their ilk of the day? They joined in one long chorus of denunciation. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) referred to the fact that the tories of that time said that “Fisher’s flimsies”, as the Commonwealth Bank’s notes were then called, would not be worth 5s. on any street corner before six months had passed. To-day, 40 years afterwards, nobody in Australia can say that an Australian note was ever offered anywhere in Australia for less than its equivalent value in goods. The people who were making money out of the note issue were the people who complained about Labour’s legislation. We established the Commonwealth Bank; we established the note issue; and we established the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Out of the activities of all these functions of government a profit of £86,000,000 was made between 1911 and 1949. If there had never been a Commonwealth Bank - and there never would have been such a bank if there had not been a Labour party - and if there had never been a Commonwealth note issue, every penny of that profit of £86,000,000 would have gone to the shareholders of the private banking institutions. That profit was made, not for the shareholders of private banking institutions, but for the people of Australia. It has been paid to the credit of the Government and has been used to expand the capital of some of the departments of the Commonwealth Bank and, in earlier years for the reduction of our indebtedness. All the profits from the Commonwealth note issue are expended by a committee of which the Treasurer of the day is the chairman and the Chief Justice of Australia is a member. We claim all the credit for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. We claim all the credit for taking the issue of notes from the private trading banks and placing whatever profit is derived from them, which has so far amounted to £55,000,000, to the use of the nation. By the Banking Act 1945 we restored the Commonwealth Bank to the position which it had occupied before it was mauled in 1924. There was nothing wrong with the Commonwealth Bank between 1911- and 1924 under the governorship of Sir Denison Miller. It grew and expanded its activities. It financed Australia in World War I. at a nominal rate of interest. It saved the country millions of pounds which otherwise would have had to be paid to the private banking institutions. It also helped to finance the construction of the East- West railway and many other undertakings. But between 1924 and 1945 it was stultified because of the activities of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Who were the men who constituted that board? They were estimable gentleman and good citizens, but none of them knew anything about banking. Sir Robert Gibson became chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board in his sixties. He had been a very successful businessman. He had made a lot of beds. He made large profits out of making beds, but he will be remembered in history as the man who made a hard bed for 700,000 Australians to lie on during the depression years. Mr. J. Mackenzie Lees was another member of the board. He had been chairman of .the Associated Banks of Queensland and manager of the Bank of Queensland, an institution which was pretty “ rocky “ at one stage. Mr. A. F. Bell, the chairman of the Union Trustee Company, was a member of the board of the National Bank of Australasia Limited immediately prior to his appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board. Sir Olive McPherson was also a member of the board of the National Bank of Australasia Limited before he became a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Does anybody believe that those men, no matter how worthy they may have seemed, could possibly have divested themselves of their interests in the private financial concerns of Australia and have given their attention wholly to the promotion of the interests of the Commonwealth Bank? Of course, they could not. Mr. Lees died while he was a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Mr. Bell also died while he was a member of the hoard.
– Obviously there is not much future for a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– If there is a Commonwealth Bank Board.
– There is no doubt about it.
– I do not think that there will be such a board. In fact I know that there will not be such a board.
– You hope !
– .Sir Olive McPherson was a member of the board of the National Bank of Australasia Limited until the day before he was appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board. When we wiped out the Commonwealth Bank Board in 1945 and he was out of a job, he went straight back to the old job which he had formerly occupied on the directorate of the National Bank of Australasia Limited. These were the people who were appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board, yet honorable members opposite have persuaded themselves into believing that the board of the future will be different from the board of the past.
– They do not believe that it will be.
– Some of them have hypnotized themselves into believing that it will be, but they are the only people who do so. The average member of the community does not believe that those selected for appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board of the future will he any different from those who were selected in the past. We do not want a Commonwealth Bank Board. We cannot find anybody on the Government side in this Parliament who can tell us in what respects the Banking Act 1945 is weak. No honorable member opposite can tell us where the Governor of the bank has failed in his duty if, in fact, he has failed at all. None of them can tell us how he could have carried out his duties better than he has done in the past. All that they are determined to do is to upset something which we did because they have to obey the demands of the private banking institutions. They have received their orders. At the annual meeting of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, the chairman, Mr. H. D. Giddy, said -
We would prefer a system whereby the vital aspects of national banking and credit policy would be debated in Parliament.
What right have the private banks to demand anything more than any other section of the community? They seem to think that they have a prescriptive right to lay down the banking policy of this country.
Mi Beale. - Mr. Giddy did not say that he demanded such a system but that he would prefer it.
– When bank managers say to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), “ We prefer you to cast your vote in this direction”, is not that accepted by him as a direction from them? They do not give him any choice. They use the language of their class. This Government is not game to repeal the important sections of the banking legislation. Not yet, at any rate ! It prefers to adopt a more sly and subtle way of getting round the difficulty. It will leave the job to the Commonwealth Bank
Board. The hoard will do the job and the Treasurer will have nothing to do with it. The Parliament will not have a voice in the matter because only when the Treasurer disagrees with the board will he deign to notify us that the GovernorGeneral in Council has expressed an opinion and given a direction to the board. There will be no means by which we shall be able to move to disallow the Treasurer’s direction. All he will be able to do will be to notify us of what he has done. Honorable members opposite say that outside interests should have equal representation on the Commonwealth Bank Board. If they are honest will they not agree that the government of the day should have the right to appoint one-half of the directors of the private banks. How would they react to such a proposition? They would immediately talk about interference with free enterprise and, as you know, Mr. Speaker, free enterprise is merely laisser faire capitalism. Honorable members opposite want to maul the people’s property once more. They want to take control of the people’s property so that, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. “W. M. Bourke) has said, the board oan raise the rate of interest. That is all they are worrying about to-day.
Members of the Australian Country party should not be fooled on this issue. In .1934 the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) submitted a motion in this House which resulted in the appointment of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems which trenchantly criticized the private banks in the terms that were quoted by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) during this debate and have been quoted by other honorable members in earlier debates in this Parliament. Included in the membership of the royal commission was only one democrat, one friend of the people - the present right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley). The commission was so shocked at what it discovered that it made a slashing indictment of the banking system of Australia; but the government of the day, instead of giving effect to its recommendations, extraordinarily enough permitted the present right honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Casey), who was then Treasurer, to introduce a bill in this House to establish a debenture issue for the Commonwealth Bank which was to have been taken up by the private banks. Some clauses of that particular piece of legislation are almost unbelievable. One clause - I am not sure whether it was clause 16 or 62-
– It does not matter much.
– That is true. It is the effect and not the enumeration that matters. At all events those investments were to have been free of Federal and State tax. Although the government of the day had sweeping majorities in both Houses of the Parliament the proposition was so hot that it was dropped. The banking legislation of 1924 and 1931 has been referred to by several speakers on the Opposition side of the House. We have dealt with the legislation introduced by the Scullin Government. I have referred to the motion made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in 1934 which led to the establishment of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems. I have also referred to the bill that was introduced in 1938 by the present right honorable member for La Trobe. There was also the Banking Act 1 945 and the banking legislation of 1947 which were introduced by the present Leader of the Opposition. Now there is the 1950 bill which is as still-born as was the measure that was introduced by the present right honorable member for La Trobe in 1938. The mental gymnastics in which members of the Australian Country party have engaged on the subject of banking amaze me. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has participated in this debate. In a speech which the honorable gentleman delivered in this Bouse on the 26th May, 1938, he told us of the plight of the dairy fanners of Queensland, which, he said, was due to the fact that they were heavily indebted to the private banking institutions of that State. He said -
Out of 12,275 dairy farmers in Queensland, only 99 had taxable incomes last year in excess of £250.
– A guaranteed price for their products was not then in operation.
– They and the party to which they belonged had not discovered the advantages to be obtained from a socialistic institution like the Commonwealth Bank. At that time less than 100 dairy farmers out of 12,000 had incomes of more than £5 a week. How any member of the Australian Country party can rise in defence of the private banking institutions passes my comprehension. In 1934 the Gepp Commission which was appointed to inquire into the state of the wheat industry found that the wheat farmers of Australia owed the private banks £154,000,000. Notwithstanding that, the representatives of the Australian Country party in the Senate in 1931 voted against the proposal of the Scullin Government to issue fiduciary notes which would have enabled that government to guarantee the farmers 5s. a bushel for their wheat.
– That is a “ beaut “ !
– I advise the honorable member to read the history of this matter. If he did so and were frank he would admit that, of the proposed fiduciary issue of £18,000,000, the Scullin Government proposed to set aside £6,000,000 in order to enable it to guarantee the farmers 5s. a bushel for their wheat. The representatives of the Liberal and Australian Country parties in the Senate defeated thi. measure with the result that farmers on ihe Horsham plains in Victoria took ls. 7d. a bushel for their wheat. That is the truth. Private banks have crushed the primary producers of this country. The Australian people have nothing to thank the private banks for.
– How do you explain that?
– You need to explain a lot. You will need to explain your own attitude in regard to the matter.
-The honorable gentleman should address me. I have not seen his face all .the evening. I have heard his voice.
– I put my back to the wall and my face to the foe.
– I hope the honorable gentleman does not consider that I am a wall.
– Nor a foe. One of the great Prime Ministers of this country, then the right honorable member for Fremantle, made a speech in this House in 1931 concerning happenings to the people of Australia as a result of the depredations of the banking interests all through the years. I quote from what he said then -
In 1914 the surplus of assets over liabilities of the banks of Australia was £5,071,000. After three years of human misery, tragedy and misfortune, during which thousands and thousands of our people suffered indescribably, the surplus of assets over liabilities of these banks had increased to £26,447,000. That was in 1917. In the post-war period, when chickens were coming home to roost and when every industry in Australia was floundering in a morass of difficulty because of the sharp ascent of prices, what happened to the banks? The Leader of the Opposition quoted certain figures to show what the assets and liabilities of the banks were on the 20th March last. I took his figures and by the simple process of subtraction found that the surplus of liabilities over assets at that date was £7fi.792,000.
The misery of the depression had not affected the banks. Their assets had risen and their surplus of assets over liabilities was £76,000,000 in 1931 as compared with £5,000,000 in 1914. The banks did well out of the depression. They always do well out of human misery, and from 1914, they had planted, in addition to the £13,000,000 in reserve funds, amounts to bring those reserve funds up to £33,000,000 in 1928. No wonder honorable members opposite speak with guilty consciences when they try to defend the priva.te banks of this country. The private banking institutions are a collection of traders who have monopolized the credit of the nation for the purpose of making profit for themselves and their shareholders. The private banking institutions have bought governments and politicians, and honorable members opposite largely owe their positions in this Parliament to the fact that the private banks spent large sums of money on their behalf at the general election. Is any honorable member opposite prepared to say he has not taken donations from private trading banks?
Government Members. - Yes .’
– Nobody outside will believe them. Did the Liberal party, as a party, or the Australian Country party, as a party, take donations from private banks?
Government Members. - No !
– Of course they took them. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) is not a leader of his party. How does he know what was done? It is the people at the top who take the donations, and they allow them to percolate down to the people in the lower strata. There are people in this Parliament who have had a lot to do with private trading banks. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Mackinnon) left a bank board when he got into this Parliament, but the press did not announce that until this bank bill had been introduced. I challenge his right to speak here because of his interest in a private bank and I challenge the right of the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) to speak or to vote on this issue because he is the head of a legal firm which is the legal adviser to the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited. He is financially interested. His brother is managing director of that bank. It happens, by chance, that a gentleman named Card, who is associated with a bank employees’ organization, and who was to be elected as Liberal candidate for the electorate of Evans, had to move from that seat so that somebody else could take his place.
– I rise to order. I am under the impression that according to the Standing Orders personal attacks are definitely out of order.
– Go back to sleep.
– I submit that the honorable member who is addressing the House is doing neither more nor less than attacking personally honorable members on this side of the House, particularly the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon), and is even attacking the relatives of honorable members on this side of the House. I ask for your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether this sort of comment has any bearing on the banking legislation. If it is in order two can play a t this sort of game.
– The relatives of an honorable member have no immunity whatever in this place from attack by any honorable member. I heard the honor able member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) refer to two honorable members only and by the names of their constituencies. One, I think, is present. I heard no objection from him, hut I wish to assure the honorable gentleman that honorable members’ wives, other relatives and friends have no immunity whatsoever in this chamber. The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) put -
That the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 27
In division -
An honorable member crossing the chamber,
Question so resolved in the negative.
– We have just heard a characteristic speech by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) on a favourite subject. I made a note of his text, which was for once, accidentally I think, on the beam. It was, “We are now handing over the Commonwealth Bank to private interests”. The title of the bill declares that its purpose is to repeal the Banking Act 1947-1948 and to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-1948. The honorable gentleman was right insofar as the object of the bill is to make the Commonwealth Bank a people’s bank and no longer a politicians’ bank, which it became under the Labour party. Finance is a popular subject with socialists, Communists and all demagogues. Their theme is that they have only to nationalize the Commonwealth Bank and they acquire great wealth and prosperity in some magical way. They will not leave finance to the people who understand how to manage banks. The theme is familiar and threadbare. The honorable member for Melbourne began his speech with a flourish and started to repeat the old story that we have heard so often about the banks robbing the people. When I interjected that they had repaid their debts and had paid interest as well, he made a gallant endeavour to extricate himself from an awkward situation, but had to admit that they had done so. However, he said that they had taken a long time about it and had finally discharged their responsibilities to the heirs of the original depositors. I am reminded of what happened to the Government Savings
Bank of New South Wales during the depression, when a Labour government was in power in that State. One saw many advertisements in the Sydney newspapers offering bank books at 10s. in the £1, and many people sold them at that rate. The only bank of importance in Australia that closed its doors was the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, operating under a Labour regime.
The so-called wizards of finance in opposition want to tell the nation how to conduct its financial affairs. They believe in socialization of everything. Banking is only a part of the pattern of their whole scheme. I have here a copy of the Labour party’s handbook, the Constitution and Platform of the Australian Labour Party, about which members of the Opposition do not talk in this Parliament. The first principle of action stated in the booklet is socialization of industry, the old Marxist idea. In parenthesis, the nationalization of banking and insurance appeal’s at the head of the list.
– Hear, hear ! We are not ashamed of that either.
– I respect the honorable member’s opinion. He, at least, is frank. His leaders try to make us believe that they can do the job of banking better than it could be done by a bank board. It is rather pathetic that the Labour party should continue to flog this ancient and sorry theme, the fallacy of which was exploded long ago. The people have shown that they want to reject socialism. They have taken power away from the Labour party. They have done the Herculean job of cleaning the Augean stable, but the Labour party still has a dead horse there that it believes will gallop. This pathetic situation arises from what has become an obsession in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) . The right honorable gentleman was appointed to a royal commission that was set up by an anti-Labour government to inquire into monetary and banking systems.- Our purpose in establishing the commission was to have a fair inquiry made into the subject of finance, and therefore we appointed a Labour representative to that body.
– One out of seven!
– Yes, a very fair representation of public opinion in my view. I accept some blame for that appointment, because I was a member of the government of the day. We chose a man whom we thought would have sensible views, but we were soon disillusioned. The honorable member for Melbourne has claimed that the Leader of the Opposition was the sole democrat on the commission. He merely followed the line that was used by the Labour party during the general election campaign in referring to the right honorable gentleman as an Abraham Lincoln type who had been God-sent suddenly to the Australian people.
– Hear, hear!
– If he is like Abraham Lincoln, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is a George Washington.
The present Leader of the Opposition travelled round Australia with the perambulating royal commission that I have mentioned. Anybody who studies the voluminous report that it produced will find that the honorable member for Melbourne was quite right. It shows that only one member of the commission could think along certain lines. Only one man was in step! The present Leader of the Opposition was the author of the minority report in almost every instance. But he discovered one truth, a fact of which the honorable member for Melbourne does not seem to be aware. That truth was that the trading banks did not exploit the people. The right honorable gentleman reported that the amount of their profits was moderate. He was a signatory to that portion of the commission’s report.
– Quote what he did say.
– That is the sense of what he reported.
– Produce the report.
– .Order! The honorable member must cease interjecting.
– We heard the honorable gentleman speak at length, and I am now answering some of the fallacious statements that he has disseminated over the years in this Parliament and else where. It is time that these claims were exploded for all time. Does not the honorable member realize that the sort of nonsense that he has been uttering has exiled the Labour party into the political wilderness, and that, through the present Leader of the Opposition becoming obsessed with the belief that he should be a financial dictator and bringing down legislation to give effect to that obsession, the Labour party has been reduced to its now depleted size in opposition? Does he not know that the Victorian State elections that were fought at the time of the hanking issue in this Parliament were won by the anti-Labour parties because an indignant people was not impressed by the slogan “ Let Chif do it “ ? People who had bank accounts or who owned houses admitted that socialism might be a good thing but said, “ We are not ready for it. We happen to have something and we are not going to divide it with other people “.
Socialism is a grand idea to the Communist who has no personal possessions and thus finds it profitable to urge the division of the world’s goods equally amongst the people of the world. Socialism is the theme of the Labour party’s handbook. I shall make a present of my copy to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who is groaning away in the background, and he can read it for himself.
– I think that I gave it to the honorable member as a Christmas present.
– The honorable member has never given anything away. I bought this copy for myself. The price was one shilling. Probably the banks financed its publication, because it is the best piece of propaganda for our side that could ‘possibly have been produced. I remind the Parliament that when the Labour party was in power it brought down an unwanted, wasteful and almost totalitarian piece of legislation, not only to extend the activities of the Commonwealth Bank, but also to liquidate all private banks and forcibly to conscript industrially the 20,000 men who worked in those institutions. If those men had the spirit to fight the Labour machine, good luck to them! The Labour party offered them higher wages in the Commonwealth Bank, but they preferred their freedom, which is a British trait that we should admire. If they helped us to gain victory over the Labour party, good luck to them! That ruthless and dictatorial legislation provided for the liquidation of the private banks in the matter of a few days. They were to be sold up. Tremendous penalties were provided for managers who resisted the plan. That legislation was passed through this Parliament only a, few years ago, and now members of the Labour party bleat from the Opposition benches that the banks were responsible for their defeat. The truth is that their defeat was brought about by an indignant people that was tired of their socialist shibboleths and decided to get back to democratic government again. “What is the great bone of contention in the bill before the House ? What is the piece de resistance’1. Members of the Opposition have tried very hard to mask their real intention to socialize banking. They have found the proposal to be unpopular and they will not talk about it in this Parliament now. Therefore, they are attacking the proposal to establish a Commonwealth Bank Board. What objection can there be to the appointment of a board within the bank in order to give financial advice to the Government?
– The honorable gentleman would prefer to have the bank controlled by a caucus sitting off-stage. That caucus might command a majority of only one in this Parliament. That majority might be himself or his totalitarian playboy, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– I rise to order. I am shocked by the remark of the Minister that the honorable member for East Sydney is a. totalitarian playboy. It is offensive to me. Mr. Speaker, and 1 ask that the Minister withdraw’ it.
– I gladly withdraw it, Mr. Speaker. Probably it was a little exaggerated. The main pretence of the Opposition now is that it objects to the proposal to establish a Commonwealth Bank Board. There has been no objection over the years to the Tariff Board. Who in this Parliament or elsewhere will say that it has not facilitated the economic development of Australia? It holds public inquiries and gives advice to governments on rates of tariff and on ways of helping certain industries. It has done great good over the years. Yet members of the Opposition object because this Government has decided that there shall be a board to advise it on financial matters whose members will know something about trading banks instead of the Yarra bank! They declare that the members of the board will not be the right people and will work for self-interest instead of for the nation.
– That has been proved in the past.
– So says the barracker ! The Tariff Board has done good in the economic field, and bank boards have done good in the financial field.
Members of the Opposition tell tales of misery in the depression, but they do not remind us that the Labour party was in power when unemployment was at its greatest flood. These so-called wizards of finance held the reins of office and, had they wanted a double dissolution of this Parliament, they could have brought it about at any time. But they did not dare to seek a new election and, when the time came, the people swept them from office and elected a government that believed in decent commercial principles. That has happened again. We are now repealing a socialist error, an infamy that was put upon the people, an act of ill-intent that the Labour Government committed in order to destroy a British tradition. The Labour party’s banking legislation is in line with the Russian ideal. Lenin’s great fiat of 1917 was that, if a. Government wanted complete control of the people, it must first seize the banks. Even the Dean of Canterbury says that socialism is the half-way house on the road to communism, and he knows something about both creeds. Yet this dejected and shattered party in opposition still adheres to its socialistic shibboleths. Why does it not take its courage in both hands and say, “ Yes, we were wrong in the past. We followed a pied piper in the person of our leader, who thought that he was a financial wizard, but he only led us into the wilderness “. Members of the
Opposition should realize that a bank board consisting of reputable citizens and presided over by the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, who was appointed by the Labour party, will ensure that the interests of the people of Australia shall be protected. Under the Labour party’s system the Treasurer was undoubtedly the financial dictator of Australia. He held in his hands the destinies of every industry and business and every citizen. Had he had his way, the competition which exists at present between the trading banks would have disappeared. If a man cannot get an advance at one bank now he can try another.
– A man may try all the other banks but not he able to get it anywhere except at the Commonwealth Bank.
– If that has been the honorable member’s experience it has not been mine. Whether an advance is granted or not depends upon the applicant’s credit. It is the financial and the commercial enterprise of the British people that has placed them in such a high position as they occupy among the nations of the world. Following an alien belief, the Australian Labour party adopted in 1921 a policy for the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. A Labour Prime Minister did not attempt to carry out that policy until recently. When it became apparent that the policy was to be implemented the people emphatically rejected it. The Commonwealth Bank will now return to a management that will give the whole of Australia greater prosperity and ensure the welfare of its people.
Motion (by Mr. Griffiths) negatived -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Repeal of Banking Act 1947).
.- This clause is one of the most important in the bill. I am very pleased that it should have been inserted. By it the Banking Act 1947 is to be repealed, and I am sure that the people of Australia will appreciate that because it is a great blow against socialism.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 6 agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. White) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-! rise to direct attention to the failure of the Prime Minister ( Mr. Menzies) at question time to-day to give a straightforward reply to a question I had asked with reference to the statement appearing in the press that the Government contemplated certain activities in connexion with the Malayan campaign. There has .been a great deal of press comment about the possibility of Australia becoming an active participant in operations in that area. I think it is a very serious and important matter for the Australian people, about which they desire some definite information. I therefore directed a question to the Prime Minister to-day seeking some advice as to whether the Government contemplated involving this country in active participation in that campaign. I also asked what were the vital Australian interests referred to in the press articles. In one newspaper the statement regarding vital Australian interests was attributed to the Prime Minister himself. If it be a matter of defending private investments, I believe that they are not worth the loss of one Australian life. Therefore, this Government should state exactly what it proposes to do. According to the press, the Government is not only considering active participation in the Malayan campaign, but also thinks it should become involved in all the Asian campaigns. There is some suggestion that the Government should do something about straightening out the position in Burma. These are very serious matters which are not affected by the fact that people may volunteer for service. From the viewpoint of the nation the important thing is whether Australia should become involved. I believe, myself, that the Australian people would take a very dim view of any action by the Government which would involve them once again in active warfare. It is of the utmost importance to Australia that our people should live at peace with their neighbours. If the matter be one of defending investments, the British or the Americans or any other people who have interests in those areas, if they find the campaign going against them, can retire. They do not have to live in such close proximity to Asia as Australians do. When members of the Opposition direct questions to the Government upon important matters they do not want to be brushed aside by replies which are not answers to the questions. I want the Government to say plainly, and in unmistakable language, whether it is contemplating .any participation in these various campaigns. Any such participation would be a grave mistake from the point of view of the people of this country. The Australian Government would be held up to strong criticism from a large section of the Australian people. This nation which is now short of man-power cannot ‘afford to become involved in any of these overseas adventures. Therefore I ask the Government to state specifically whether any approach has been made to it for the provision of forces for operations in these areas, and if so what attitude it is adopting. I should prefer from an Australian viewpoint, that the Government should say unequivocally that in no circumstances will Australian forces be used in those areas.
– 1 direct the attention of the House to the condition of affairs in the eastern States following the floods that occurred prior to the Easter vacation and which continued in many parts during the vacation. The damage done during those floods has assumed the proportions of a national calamity. I appreciate that the position is largely one to be dealt with by the States, but so grave is it in many parts of the country that I consider it to be worthy of mention here. There are many phases of this damage. In my electorate I heard with much grief that lives were lost. The damage to roads is considerable. Unfortunately it is not possible at .the present time fully to estimate the damage, but in the Shire of Coonabarabran the estimated damage is of the order of £50,000. The Municipality of Mudgee has supplied me with a figure of £1,455 worth of damage in that town, and I expect that .throughout the whole of the electorate of Lawson the damage will be of similar degree. The Castlereagh River, which is one of the streams in flood, is a swift running river and practically all the bridges or the approaches to the bridges over that river have been swept away. Fencing has been extensively damaged. It has not been just rolled over as is the case in flat country, but entire fences have been washed away from both sides of the river. I have a telegram from the Coonabarabran Pastures Protection Board - only one of such boards in my electorate - which reads as follows : “ Estimate flood damage loss Coonabarabran Board £150,000. Five hundred miles fencing lost”. The fencing problem is not one that stands alone because when fences are lost rabbits, which are controlled to some extent by fences, are free to run over the pastures. Moreover, fly-blown sheep present many difficulties because in that area the pasture is pratically one large paddock.
The damage to agricultural land through soil erosion is extensive. That damage is noticed at seeding time, because the ground is so moist that it is impossible to get machinery on it to proceed with the sowing. Ultimately we shall unfortunately have to reap the wild oats through not having the normal wheat crop in. The damage to wool is considerable, apart from fly strike, and is estimated at 25 per cent, in some parts of the area. The stock losses have not been computed because as so much fencing has been lost it i3 impossible to muster, nor is it desirable, because of the flies. As far as domestic damage is concerned, houses have been swept away and people have lost all their possessions. In some cases whilst the dwelling still remains the furniture and personal belongings have been lost. In one small village of 30 houses 25 were affected by flood, fifteen having nothing left in them that was not completely ruined by flood waters., All that adds up to a sum total which is in the nature of a national calamity. .State activities through the medium of the Flood Belief Committee have been very satisfactory.
The committee has given immediate personal assistance by way of food, blankets and clothing, but it is hampered to some extent by lack of funds. I suggest to the responsible Minister that he should urge the federal representative on the committee to see that any distribution of supplies in the nature of fencing materials shall be made on an equitable basis. If it were sent in bulk then the position would be “ first come best dressed “, which would be a most unfortunate state of affairs. The supply of fencing material is a matter for the States, but it is deplorable that at this time, when such material is so urgently needed, it is in such short supply on account of the recent dislocation of industry. I believe that we are still feeling the effects of the coal strike of last year, and that the manufacture of fencing wire, steel posts and wire netting is still being delayed. Every effort should be made by the Government to increase the production of those commodities, which are so urgently needed for the repair of flood damage. I suggest to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) that army engineering units might be used to assist shires in the reconstruction of roads. It is physically impossible for local bodies to do this work with the materials and labour at their disposal. Monetary assistance, not by way of gift, but by way of loan, is necessary to enable land-owners and tenant farmers to get back into production. This is necessary, not so much for their own sake, as for the sake of the nation. The recent floods hit poor and rich alike, without discrimination. Many persons who could ill afford the loss were deprived of everything, and they are deserving of help. Even if money were made available, it would be impossible to repair all the damage immediately, because materials are not available. If the work could be done before the end of June, farmers would be able to claim a reduction of income tax. During the war, sections 53a and 53c of the Income Tax Assessment Act was invoked to allow taxpayers, who were prevented by shortage of materials from carrying out immediate repairs, to deposit the cost with the Treasury, and thus become eligible to claim a tax rebate. I suggest that the provision should now be applied to those. who have suffered from the floods, because the circumstances are similar to those which prevailed during the war. In my district, the damage caused by the flood was very great, and I believe that some other honorable members have even worse tales to tell. I am convinced that the Government will co-operate to ti: fullest extent with the States in alleviating distress. I ask that the Government be not parsimonious, and that it arrange to raise a special loan for the purpose if that is considered necessary.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) [30.50 1 . - I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). It seems incredible to me that in a country which has just passed through one of the worst wars in the history of the world we should have a government that is doing its utmost to invite other nations to engage in another bloody conflict.
– It is a pity that they do not send the honorable member.
– This gang of bloody war-mongers, of whom the honorable member who has just interjected is a leading member, is now embarking on a campaign to foment another war.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member has misrepresented me, and his remarks are personally offensive to me in that he said that I was a war-monger. It is offensive to me to be called a warmonger, and to be described as the kind of person who is working to bring about another war. If the honorable member had the experience that some of us have had he would not use such an expression.
– Will the honorable member withdraw the expression that has been objected to?
– I did not use the expression about the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). As usual, there were about twenty honorable members interjecting.
– I heard the honorable member use the words “warmongers “. If he did not apply the expression to the honorable member for Henty, to whom was he referring?
– I did not mention any one by name. So many honorable members were shouting out, that the remark could have applied to any one of 20 or 30.
– The honorable member must surely have applied it to some one.
– I am quite capable of making up my own mind on the matter.
– I point out that the honorable member for Henty has taken exception to a remark, which, he says, was directed to himself. That is the point which has to be cleared up.
– It was not directed to him.
– I rise to a point of order. I heard the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) say that the honorable member who had interjected - and that was just after the honorable member for Henty had interjected - was a leading member of a gang of war-mongers. That remark was offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I will not withdraw it, because it was not directed to the honorable member.
– The honorable member has said that the remark was offensive to him. Does the honorable member for Hindmarsh assure me that it was not directed to the honorable member for Henty?
– I give that assurance. This Government is hellbent on another war with some one, for the obvious reason that it represents the persons who always profit from wars. The Government represents those who become millionaires overnight from war. The Government was put into power by those who profit while others die. What the honorable member for East Sydney said about Malaya is true. If this invitation by the British Government to Australia to participate in the conflict is merely an invitation to assist in defending some millionaire’s capital in Malaya, then the whole of the capital involved is not worth one Australian life. Let us look at the position in Malaya, and con sider the circumstances that brought about the present conflict. It was brought about by British Imperialism. The cold, hard fact is that the persons whom this Government represents are interested only in the exploitation of raw materials and the people of Malaya. Now the Government is doing its very best to persuade the British Government to permit it to intervene in the dispute in order that good Labour men may be shot in the defence of British capital, and so that the capitalists of Australia, whom the Government represents, can make a few more millions, as they did during the last war, and during every other war. This Government claims to be democratic, and to represent the ordinary people. Well, the ordinary people do not want war. The ordinary people do not want to fight in Malaya. The Malays have as much right to be allowed to mind their own business as we have to mind ours. What is happening in Malaya has nothing to do with this Government, or with any other government. It is a tragedy that there should be in office in Australia at this time a government that is bent upon making another war, and that it should be going out of its way to invite the British Government to permit it to send decent Labour men to defend the capital invested in Malaya by British, Australian and American millionaires.
– I propose to discuss a matter that affects the Department of the Interior. It relates to charges made in government hostels, and I have been informed that representations made to departmental officials on this point have been unsuccessful. The practice is to grant a rebate of board to residents of hostels who take advantage of holiday week-ends to absent themselves from Canberra in order to visit Sydney or Melbourne or places in other States. This practice has been followed for many years, but within the last few weeks an alteration has been made which limits the period of time for which a rebate may be claimed. I am quarrelling, not with that, but with the way in which the provision is applied. The present situation appears to be Gilbertian, and I am sure that it will be corrected by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride) now that it has been brought to his notice. Over the Easter week-end, the stipulation was made that a rebate of board would be allowed to those who were absent from the hostels over the holiday period, but only on the condition that they appeared in the dining-room of their hostel on Tuesday morning for ‘breakfast. It is impossible, so far as I can ascertain, to find a reason for this curious stipulation. Nevertheless, representations made to departmental officials by residents of the hostels have been unsuccessful, and the only course open to me, therefore, is to bring the matter to the notice of the Minister. It is important to the residents since an absence of four days may involve a rebate of £1 15s., which in these days of high and rising costs means much to the men and the women who live in government hostels. In one case that was brought to my notice a resident, having been absent for four days over Easter, paid £5 5s. as board for a fortnight. That was accepted, because it was recognized that he had been absent for four days. However, on the following day, he was informed that he must pay an additional £1 15s. because he had not appeared in the dining-room for breakfast on Tuesday morning. Apart from other considerations, many people do not eat breakfast, and it may be that after a holiday period some persons might regard breakfast with particular aversion. If it is necessary to restrict the period of absence for which a rebate may be claimed, it should be done without making it a condition that the claimant shall partake of breakfast on Tuesday morning. The rebate could be limited to the actual days of the holiday week-end. If a guest were absent for more than those days he should, perhaps, be not allowed to claim a rebate for the extra period of absence. That there should be any physical necessity for him to partake of breakfast on Tuesday morning in order to obtain the benefit of the rebate for the period during which he had been absent from the hostel, appears to me to be entirely absurd. I commend the matter to the Minister for the Interior and trust that, upon investigation, he will have thi9 apparent anomaly corrected.
.- I cannot allow to pass without comment the accusations of warmongering that have been made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) against honorable members on this side of the chamber. I find it incredible that the honorable member for East Sydney should even consider, on the basis of a report in some newspaper that he did not name, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had made a statement that might commit this Government and the country to an act of war. The minds of the people of Australia should be set at rest on this matter, and I believe that unless the Government makes a specific announcement, they should disregard any mention of war that has been made by the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The majority of honorable members on this side of the chamber have known the horrors of war, and only those who are in that position realize the futility of it and the necessity of preserving this country from further conflict. I feel certain that the Government will do everything that it possibly can to prevent this nation from being embroiled in further hostilities. The two honorable members to whom I have referred have, without just cause and on the flimsy basis of a press report about which we know nothing, accused Government supporters of warmongering. If such accusations are to be made, they should be levelled against those two honorable members. For the peace of mind of the people of Australia, this House should treat those statements with the utmost contempt. An honorable member should not speak of such a catastrophe as another war without having some firm basis for his remarks, or in the absence of an authentic statement by the Prime Minister. In all sincerity, I urge honorable members to dismiss from their minds anything that they may read in the newspapers about the matter to which the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Hindmarsh have referred, because I believe that if such a decision involving Australia were made, this House would be aware of it before any newspaper could publish it.
– I desire to submit to the Government a plea for assistance in the extermination of rats.
Government members interjecting,
– I hasten to assure honorable members opposite that my request is not related to them - yet. If the representatives of country electorates had the interests of their constituents at heart, they would have already raised this matter. I have ‘been asked by the Botany Municipal Council and the Randwick Municipal Council, which are two of the largest councils in New South Wales, to raise this matter in the Parliament, and, in deference to them, I, as the local member, intend to do my duty on behalf of my constituents. They showed their confidence in me when they elected me to the Parliament, and they know that their confidence was not misplaced.
– What does the honorable member propose to do? Take poison?
– One thing that I will not do will be to accept money from the private banks to finance my election campaign. However, I am dealing with a serious matter. Lest honorable members opposite are not aware of the position, thousands of rats have invaded various country towns following the recent floods. Even the near suburban areas and the metropolitan area of Sydney itself are suffering from an invasion by those rodents. The Randwick Council and the Botany Council desire, in co-operation with the Bathurst Municipal Council, to assist to exterminate the pests, and for that purpose it will be necessary to employ a considerable number of rodent exterminators and to purchase a considerable quantity of rat poison. I earnestly request the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) to refer this matter to Cabinet, and to treat it with expedition and not in the usual manner. We have become accustomed to making requests and being informed, two or three weeks later, that we cannot be given replies because the matters involve Government policy. The extermination of the rats is necessary in the interests of national health, and I ask the Minister, in all sincerity, to endeavour to persuade Cabinet to comply with the requests of those municipal councils and to subsidize the employment of rodent exterminators and the purchase of rat poison.
.- The matter of rat killing will receive the attention of the Government; but with what success I do not know, because it does occur to me that we are reaching a most extraordinary state of affairs when an appeal is made to the Parliament of the Commonwealth in order that rats may be killed in the suburbs and country towns of a particular State. Apparently, it is because somebody concerned has no faith in the particular State government to do something that is obviously a State responsibility. I do not share that lack of faith. My knowledge of State administration-
– I rise to order. The two municipal councils to which I have referred are asking the Government to consider granting a subsidy.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - That is not a point of order. If it were, I am afraid that we should have many of them.
– Then it is misrepresentation.
– The honorable member wants the Government to consider granting a subsidy. Very well! We shall consider it, but if I were the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) I should not be very optimistic about the result of that consideration for the reason that I have indicated, namely, that somewhere or other there must be a limit to what the Commonwealth is to be called upon to do.
– It is a national matter.
– Very well. The honorable member believes that the extermination of rats in country towns and the suburbs of the large cities is a matter to which the Australian Government should devote its time and energies. I believe that State governments and municipal councils are not only able but also willing to undertake the responsibility of killing rats. What I desire to suggest at the moment is that we should show some common sense and a sense of proportion in this Parliament in respect of the things that we are supposed to do for the people.
The matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Lawson (Mr.
Failes) is of another quality. A great national catastrophe has taken place. Floods have swept across great parts of the country, injuring many people and damaging many industries. The honorable member, as distinct from the honorable member for Watson, who has spoken about rats in country towns, has quite properly directed the attention of the Parliament to that disaster. I assure him that his representations will be considered by the Government in due course, because we realize that people have been injured and industries have been damaged.
I am not familiar with the matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), but I shall bring it to the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride).
Before I resume my seat, I should like to make a comment in answer to the statements by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). There has been no decision by the Australian Government to send troops to Malaya. Any suggestion that the Government has made such a decision is false, and because an honorable member cooks up something either out of his own imagination or out of some disreputable journal-
– Read the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
– There has been no decision to send troops to Malaya.
– The Prime Minister said that the matter would he considered.
– Of course! At the request of the honorable member for Watson, we shall even consider the matter of rats in country towns, but that does not mean that we shall do anything about it. There has been no decision to send troops to Malaya. The honorable member for East Sydney has implied that the Government would send troops to Malaya. The Government will consider the matter.
– I am afraid that the Government, having considered it, will send troops to Malaya.
– One implication arising from a statement by the honorable member for Hindmarsh requires comment. The honorable member made an attack, by implication, to my way of thinking, upon the British Government for its action in defending itself and its citizens in Malaya. Let us consider what is really happening in that part of the world. Everybody knows that the red tide is flowing down the Malay peninsula. Everybody who has any brains knows that the constituted Government in Malaya is fighting to preserve, not the property but the established institutions of that country. The British Government; - the British socialist Labour Government, by the way - is sending its troops there to defend what it regards as the right. I assume that every honorable member, with the exception of two odd persons opposite, agrees with that decision. It does not lie in the mouth of the honorable member for Hindmarsh or the honorable member for East Sydney to make such snarling and disreputable attacks on the British Government and its troops in Malaya. If we keep our noses out of that sort of thing, we shall do more to establish the reputation of this Parliament and this country than will the comments of those two . honorable members. I believe that what has been happening in Malaya is of profound importance to Australia, and that the action that the British Government has taken in attempting to defend the existing condition of affairs there should have our sympathy and blessing.
– We should take action.
– Whether or not we take action we shall decide in due course ; but at least let us not make snarling attacks suggesting that our brother or sister Government in the United Kingdom is doing something wrong and disreputable. Blood-thirsty Communists are murdering their way down the Malay peninsula, yet the honorable member for Hindmarsh makes an attack of the kind that I have described. I say, for God’s sake, let us have no more of it.
– I should not have taken part in this discussion had the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) not seen fit to chide the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) for having raised certain matters in this House.
– I did not chide him.
– The Minister rebuked him. He said that the honorable member was wasting the time of the House in referring to the necessity to exterminate rats - a matter that vitally concerns national health - because this Parliament has more important matters to engage its attention. All I desire to say is that if the honorable member for Watson is asked by two representative bodies in his electorate to make representations in the House on their behalf, he is entitled to do so. In the three previous parliaments of which I have been a member, I have heard all kinds of matters raised, and the Minister himself wasted time on two occasions on the motion for the adjournment when he told us about a chemist who had not been able to obtain certain drugs from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne. On those occasions the honorable gentleman told an extraordinary story which, of course, was not substantiated. The chemist took the honorable gentleman for a ride. He kept plugging away at that particular subject regarding one chemist, one supply of serum and the payment that was demanded by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories c.o.d. in consequence of some disfavour in which the chemist found himself.
– And proved my case up to the hilt.
– You did not prove your case. You lost it on every count, but whether you won it or lost it-
– Order ! The honorable member for Melbourne will address me. I am most patient.
– And most attentive too. The honorable member in the course of his remarks about that simple solitary chemist, wasted the time of this House, whether his story was right or not, on one individual case, not on one night but on two nights. Yet now, in the most solemn fashion possible, he tries to ridicule the attempt of the honorable member for Watson to advance a case for his electors. There are other honorable members here who have talked on night after night about extermination of rabbits. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who was the honorable member for Wimmera in the last Parliament, is an authority on that matter. Nobody denies his right to raise it. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis), when he was in Opposition, used to tell during the debate on the adjournment, about the buffalo fly. He is entitled to speak about the buffalo fly. Every honorable member is entitled to raise any point that he likes to raise and it ill becomes any Minister, when he rises in his place to give what should be a considered reply to the representations put to his as Minister, to attack an honorable member.
.- I desire to raise a matter that may come under the jurisdiction of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride). I am not quite sure whether the Department of the Interior still controls the Commonwealth Railways, so I wish the matter to be considered by whatever Minister is responsible. It is only incidental to the operations of the Commonwealth Railways. I refer to the aborigines at Ooldea in South Australia. Recently, for the first time in four years, I came east on the Commonwealth Railway. When the train stopped at Ooldea we were, as on the previous occasion, approached in the dining car where we happened to be, by a number of aborigines. It has been customary for passengers to hand fruit to aborigines at Ooldea and for the cooks on the train to do the same thing. The aborigines were in a very poor physical condition, especially the old ones, and some of them had white growths over their eyes, which I understand to be one of the symptoms of dietary dificiency over a long period. It would not seem to be a very difficult thing that the Commonwealth, which operates the transcontinental railways, should put on board the train some sacks of fruits, such as oranges or any other fruit that scientific advisers state has the necessary vitamin content, to be off-loaded at Ooldea for those aborigines. If it is desired that they should make some payment for it, there are enough museums all over the world to buy specimens of aboriginal work such as boomerangs and other implements to recoup the Government for the cost entailed. I am quite sure that there would be no demoralization involved if the Commonwealth Railways distributed this sort of largess to the aborigines. Fruit could be placed aboard at Kalgoorlie when the train was going east and at Port Pirie when the train was going west. I am aware that the natives at Ooldea are not a responsibility of the Australian Government but are under State jurisdiction, and I believe that the States are not permitting the Australian Government to enter into the matter of aboriginal welfare whilst at the same time they are not themselves doing a decent job. At successive conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers they jealously keep the Australian Government out of this matter. I am not suggesting any large measure of reform of aboriginal policy. This is only a relatively minor matter but it might do something for the well-being of these people. I therefore ask the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Railways to determine whether or not it would be possible to make this fruit available to supplement the diet of the aborigines, using the trans-continental train as the medium of supply.
– Would I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in asking the Minister in charge of the House a question?
– No. The honorable gentleman has spoken to the motion. He will have to leave his question until to-morrow.
– in reply - I know that the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) arise from humanitarian considerations. It is very sad to see the aborigines on the trans-continental railway line. In the honorable member’s own State of Western Australia the policy is to keep the aborigines away from that line. It does nothelp to encourage them to come there. Mrs.
Daisy Bates has lived among the aborigines at Ooldea for many years. She has done great work among them. The care of aborigines at Ooldea is a matter for the South Australian authorities, but I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s submission to the notice of the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and
Transport (Senator McLeay), who comes from South Australia, so that he may confer with the Government of South Australia to see whether fruit may be provided in an emergency. I think that the honorable member will agree that fruit should not be provided regularly, because it would only attract the aborigines to the line.
– That would be the worst thing for our tourists to see.
– Exactly. It is not edifying to see these people, who would he better off in reservations where proper care can be given to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment Certificate - G. R. Brown.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Defence - G. Barrett, J. Hepburn.
Interior - T. A. Miller.
Labour and National Service - J. N. G. Gartside.
Social Services - K. H. Corvan.
Trade and Customs - R. R. Bull, N. F. Walker.
Works and Housing -C. F. Bode, J. E. Carney, A. Green.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 17.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 13.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 12.
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 14.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (3).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 15.
Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 16.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land,&c., acquired for-
Defence purposes -
Mount Gambier, South Australia.
Richmond, New South Wales.
Wollongong, New South Wales.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Ceduna, South Australia.
Department of Works and Housing pur poses - Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.
Postal purposes -
Albany, Western Australia.
Loomberah, New South Wales.
Loxton, South Australia.
Rydal, New South Wales.
The Entrance, New South Wales.
Toukley, New South Wales.
Waikerie, South Australia.
Whyalla, South Australia.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1950 -
No. 2 (Alice Springs Administration Ordinance).
No. 3 (Licensing Ordinance).
No. 4 (Licensing Ordinance).
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1950 - No. 1 (Leases Ordinance).
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at Bankstown, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 11.22 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
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 for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
On the 9th December, 1940, the General Assembly restated its intention that Jerusalem should be placed under a permanent international regime which should envisage appropriate guarantees for the protection of the Holy Places, and requested the Trusteeship Council to complete the preparation of the Statute of Jerusalem, to approve the statute, and proceed immediately with putting it into operation. The draft statute had been drawn up by the Trusteeship Council in 1948 at the direction of the General Assembly. During its present session which began in Geneva, on the 19th January, the Trusteeship Council has been engaged in the first part of its assignment, namely, the revision of the Statute of Jerusalem. The Australian representative has taken full part in the council’s discussions. Our latest reports indicate that the revision of individual articles of the statute is almost completed. When the Trusteeship Council has finally approved the revised statute it will probably forward the statute tothe governments most directly concerned, namely, the Governments of Israel and Jordan, with a request for co-operation in its implementation. It is true that, although both the Israel and Jordanian Governments have said they are willing to protect the Holy Places and give guarantees of freedom of access thereto, they have expressed strong opposition to the General Assembly’s decision regarding the internationalization of Jerusalem. However, the stage at which they will formally be asked to carry out the Assembly’s decision by helping to put into effect the revised statute, has not yetbeen reached.
Australian National University.
n. - On the 21st March, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott) asked the following question : -
Will the Treasurer inform me whether public funds are made available to the Australian National University in Canberra through its representatives, to participate in bidding at local auction sales, and so, wittingly or unwittingly, bid against the public? Will healso state whether the university, in its urgent and understandable desire suitably to accommodate its staff, could not be served better by negotiating through the appropriate department?
I now desire to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Although until the 30th June, 1951, the annual grant to the Australian National University is subject to the Treasurer’s approval and any additional funds for the erection or purchase of buildings it requires are subject to parliamentary approval and the usual Treasury procedures, the university is, nevertheless, a statutory authority, and responsibility for its action lies with the interim council appointed to manage its affairs. I am, however, satisfied that the activities of the university in buying houses in the Australian Capital Territory are not such as would have any appreciable effect on property values and I can assure the honorable member that the university keeps closely in touch with the appropriate Commonwealth departments on this matter.
Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen.
– On the 28th March the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) referred to the disastrous fires which had occurred in Western Australia, and asked whether I would consult with the appropriate State authorities to ensure that adequate relief was available to settlers under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme who may have suffered losses. As promised, I have had inquiries made and find that only one settler under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme lost farm buildings during the recent fires in Western Australia. These buildings were insured and arrangements are in train to have them replaced. No settlers suffered loss of hay-stacks, but some lost green feed. The State Settlement Authority has ample reserves of hay available for soldier settlers in need and can also make available to private farmers at cost approximately 100 tons. I am assured that the position of settlers under the War Service Land Settlement Scheme is satisfactory.
t asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
When will the report on the proposed or suggested expansion of the milk supply in the Australian Capital Territory, which at present is inadequate, be made available to the honorable member for that territory?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The report of the committee examining the milk supply in the Australian Capital Territory has not yet been completed, but I understand it will be submitted to me shortly. I have previously informed the honorable member by letter that when I receive the report I shall communicate with him.
s. - On the 29th March, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked me whether I would give consideration to the issue of towels, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste to members of the Citizen Forces who are required to attend military camps of training. I have investigated this matter, and I find that at the present time hand towels are issued to all personnel in Citizen Military Forces camps of training. Toilet soap is also provided. They are not, however, issued for week-end bivouacs. With regard to toothbrushes and toothpaste, these are personal items which the member uses in civil life, and he can readily bring them to camp with him. There is, therefore, no necessity for an official issue tobe made.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 April 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500419_reps_19_207/>.