19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that next Thursday I shall move - -
That, in the opinion of this House the Federal Government’s efforts to increase the production of open-cut coal in Australia should be continued and intensified; and further, that the present underhand sabotage of open-cut coal production by the New South Wales Labour Government should be checked as far as possible.
– I rise to order. It appears to me that the motion of which notice has been given contravenes a standing order that states that this House shall not reflect upon a State Parliament. It appears that the .proposed motion conveys the imputation that the State Parliament of New South Wales is sabotaging the industries of this country.
– We can deal with that issue when the motion comes before the House. There is no motion before the House yet; the honorable member for Mackellar has merely given notice of his intention to submit one.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which follows a reply to a question given by the right honorable gentleman yesterday in connexion with coal supplies from Queensland. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that in Queensland at the present time large quantities of coal would be made available if they were sought? Does he consider, in view of his reply yesterday that the imported coal is designed to meet an emergent circumstance, that he would get coal more quickly from India or South Africa than from Queensland? If he is convinced that that would not be the case and that, as I am informed, there are supplies of coal available in Queensland, will he kindly forget that there is an election pending in Queensland and get coal from that State, and abandon the idea of importing it?
– It is manifestly clear to the governments concerned that if coal is desired quickly over and above the normal supplies being obtained in Australia, it must be imported. There is no question that the coal will reach us from South Africa much more rapidly than a correspondingly increased quantity could reach us from Queensland.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a report in the press attributing to Professor Wood a statement at the Chambers of Agriculture Convention, Warrnambool, in favour of an appreciation of the exchange rate? Has he also seen a statement in the press attributed to an equally famous economist, Professor Copland, in opposition to an alteration of the exchange rate? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that there is a very grave state of uncertainty in the minds of primary producers, exporters and others about what is to happen in relation to the exchange rate ofthe Australian £1? In view of the circumstances, is he prepared to make a statement in this Parliament in order to remove the undesirable state of doubt that exists in the public mind?
– I have noticed the remarks attributed to ProfessorWood, and I had noticed also that some views in the opposite direction had been expressed by Professor Copland. I was not astonished by thatbecause from time to time one does discern some faint differences of opinion even amongst economists. All that kind of discussion is very helpful, I think, and I find it very informative. If the Government should have anything to say about the exchange rate at any time in the future, it will, of course, say it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to the March issue of the Australian Quarterly wherein the assistant lecturer in economics at Canberra University College says that major contributions that could be made towards mitigating the inflationary situation and the labour shortage existing in Australia are, among other things, reduced expenditures on government administration, defence, development and social services? If so, will he say whether those opinions are the opinions of himself or of his Government? If they are not official opinions, what does the right honorable gentleman propose to do about the propaganda in the Canberra University College and the Institute of Public Affairs about reducing the items of Government expenditure mentioned in this offending article ?
– I have not seen the article to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I find it difficult to believe that the honorable gentleman’s description of it is accurate, because I cannot conceive that any intelligent person could put forward the views that are purported to be the views of the writer of the article.
– Has the Treasurer seen in to-day’s newspapers the report that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the United Kingdom, Sir Stafford Cripps, had announced when bringing down his budget in the British Parliament, that, in reducing income tax, he would concentrate upon that ‘block of income which includes practically all overtime? Will the Treasurer examine this method of income tax reduction before introducing his budget, with a view to increasing industrial production in Australia?
– That matter has been specifically referred to the expert committee that is inquiring into taxation, and it will be considered by the Government when the committee’s report is received.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister in relation to tuberculosis patients in Ward 30 of the State Hospital at Lidcombe. Letters have been Bent to both State and Federal Ministers complaining that the institution deducts 27s. 6d. a week from the pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week allotted to these patients. That is ostensibly deducted for board and lodging, in addition to the 10s. a week . that is forfeited when such patients enter hospital. The patients say that those conditions do not apply in other hospitals that treat persons suffering from tuberculosis, such as Randwick and Waterfall, and they emphasize that the worry caused to married men by such deductions has the effect of retarding their recovery. Will the Prime Minister request the Minister for Health to look into this matter in respect of the tubercular patients at Lidcombe? Will he also request that a special examination be made of the conditions under which aged people are living in institutions such as Lidcombe and Liverpool State hospitals, where it is the practice to deduct from the age pension of £2 2s. 6d. the full 27s. 6d. per week in each case, leaving the patients insufficient to keep themselves in decency? Will the right honorable gentleman ask the Minister to consider the matter especially from the standpoint of bringing those institutions under the free hospitalization scheme?
– I shall certainly see that the remarks made by the honorable member shall be promptly brought to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Health, with a view to his looking into the matter.
– I understand that a mineral survey is being made in northwestern Queensland. In view of the known deposits of minerals in the Cairns hinterland will the Minister for National Development extend that survey to that area ?
– I know how much .this matter has preoccupied the honorable member. It is not going too far to say that he has made ray life a misery about it. The position, is that the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland have reached an arrangement under which the Bureau of Mineral Resources of the Ministry of National Development is to undertake a comprehensive mineral survey of the resources of northern Queensland. This year a start will be made in the Cloncurry area, and thereafter the survey will be extended to what can very well be called the whole of northern Queensland, although that will be a task which will occupy many years. The limiting factor at present, and one that will exist for some time, is the difficulty of obtaining officers who are properly qualified to carry out work of that sort. I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in work of this important developmental nature, and the matter will be pursued.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been directed to a recent statement by an Indonesian Government official, Mr. Palar, who is apparently passing through India on his way to take up a diplomatic appointment in Russia, in which he again referred to Indonesia’s claim to Dutch New Guinea? In view of the frequency of such statements and the great importance to Australia of the future of New Guinea, as well as of the fact that there is a widespread belief in Australia that there is no validity in the claim by the Indonesian Government to any part of New Guinea, will the Minister consider making an official statement of the attitude of the Government to that claim?
– I noticed the statement to which the honorable member has referred, as I have noticed at different times other statements that have been designed to make the same impression on world opinion. I indicated some time ago that the Government was not passive in relation to such matters. The honorable member will appreciate that sometimes it is not easy to reply to them, nor is it always opportune to do so. I assure the House that this matter is occupying the attention of the Government from day to day. 1 indicated that Australia, has vital interests in the Trustee Territory of New Guinea which it would in no circumstances relinquish. The area of Dutch New Guinea involves somewhat similar considerations. All I can say at the moment is that the Australian Government will not countenance any action which it regards as inconsistent with the security of this country. At a later stage - I cannot promise when, but it. will be as early as possible - I shall make a statement on the subject in this House.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Health. In view of the allegedly authoritative statement in today’s Canberra Times that there is no possibility of a national health scheme being implemented until tha British Medical Association meets at the end of May, and in view of previous pronouncements by the Minister for Health that certain vital, life-saving drugs should be included in the free and subsidized medicine formulary, will the Prime Minister request his colleague to make urgent representations to the British Medical Association ,to prescribe these medicines through the existing pharmaceutical benefits legislative machinery, pending the implementation of the Government’s complete national health proposal, thereby saving many lives that might otherwise be lost?
– Not much’ advantage is to be gained by putting a question to me in the absence of the Minister for Health when, before long, the Minister will be back here, and may then answer questions himself. The Minister’s absence is due to his frequent consultations with representatives of the various professions and occupations that are concerned with any health scheme.’ The point raised by the honorable member will not be overlooked by the Minister, who is not wasting time. However, there must be close and detailed consultation before the scheme can be put into its final form.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is a fact that full-blooded and half-caste aborigines employed by the New South Wales Government Railways and other undertakings on the north coast of that State were denied unemployment relief payments while they were unemployed during the coal strike last year, allegedly because they were living at mission stations? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that those people contribute to the national welfare fund on the same basis as other taxpayers contribute? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that those persons pay for .their own upkeep and for the rental of the dwellings in which they live at the respective mission camps ? Will the right honorable gentleman undertake to have inquiries made into this matter, and if he ascertains that the position is as I have intimated, will he order that unemployment relief payments shall be made to every person who was denied them while out of work during the coal strike last year?
– I understand that the honorable member’s question relates to events that occurred about the middle of last year. Naturally, I am not familiar with them, having then been in Opposition. I shall have the matter investigated, and shall provide an answer for the honorable member.
– I address a question “to the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the growing public interest that has been aroused by the publicity that the press has given recently to the situation in Malaya, together with the ignorance and lack of appreciation of the real position there, will the Government be prepared to make a statement showing the causes of the insurrection, the action that has been taken by the British Government, the number of British and Australian civilian casualties that have been caused by the Communists to date during the insurrection, and, finally, the reason why the present situation in Malaya constitutes a threat to Australia’s security? The final point is principally for the edification of certain members of the Opposition, whose sympathies appear to be with the Communists.
– I shall be very glad indeed to have a full statement prepared setting out the position in Malaya. It has been a matter of great regret to me to hear in this chamber charges against the British Government to the effect that its defence of Malaya is for the purpose of protecting vested interests there. In truth, from our knowledge of what is taking place there, it is quite obvious that the situation in Malaya is a part of the pattern whereby imperialist communism hopes to get control of South- East Asia. Already, the lives of many brave men of the services and of civilians who are not members of the armed forces, have been lost because of the activities of the Communists in that area. It is clear enough to those who have followed the matter that an attempt is being made to establish a Communist dictatorship over the whole of the peoples of Malaya, including the Chinese who are there. I say, with respect, that it is most regrettable that any suggestion should be made that British forces are in Malaya to defend the interests of financial institutions, because the truth of the matter is that that defence is of vital concern to the security of Australia. I can only conclude that those who express that view are following, whether they know it or not, the doctrines and propaganda of the Communist party.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs state whether Dr. Soekarno, who was recently his host, has in any degree changed from the Dr. Soekarno who led the rebels in Indonesia against the Dutch Government? Is there anything to distinguish those who led the rebels in Malaya from those who led the rebels in what was formerly the Dutch East Indies? In short, when does a man cease to be an untouchable, so far as the Minister is concerned, in view of the fact that the honorable gentleman has already been dined and feted by an ex-rebel ?
– As far as I know, Dr. Soekarno is the same person who existed, five, ten, fifteen and twenty years ago. But I can tell the honorable member that if he examines what has taken place in Indonesia he will realize that Dr. Soekarno, and those behind him, were not controlled or directed in any sense by Soviet Russia.
– The Minister said on another occasion that they were.
– The honorable member has asked a question and I am answering it. As a matter of fact, for a long time Soviet Russia refused to recognize the republic of which Dr. Soekarno is president. That speaks for itself. Only in very recent days has Soviet Russia done so. It is equally obvious that what is now taking place, and has for a long time been taking place, in Malaya, is the action not of nationalists but of a body of men who are directed from Moscow, whose purpose it is to destroy the system of government existing in Malaya with a view to establishing a Communist system in that country with allegiance direct to Moscow.
– In view of the statement that has been made in this House by the Minister for National Development that schemes for national development will be carried out in conjunction with the States in which the various projects are, or are to be, located, will that Minister give consideration to amending the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act for the purpose of sharing responsibility for those national projects with the States that will benefit from them, and so set, or continue, the pattern of national development in Australia on a CommonwealthState basis, and not, as at the present time, have those projects solely under Commonwealth control?
– The Government now has under consideration proposals whereby the States concerned will have a finger in the Snowy pie.
– Will the Prime Minister say on what date the Federal Textile Labelling Regulations became effective? Are they being policed at the ports of entry in Australia? Will the Prime Minister agree that the purchasing public should be protected in buying suits, underwear and clothing generally, by the labelling of the individual article - wool, wool and cotton, rayon, &c. - with the percentages clearly shown? If the Government’s executive powers are limited in this matter, will he endeavour to influence the States with a view to securing complementary legislation or regulations? Does he not agree that reprocessed wool and “ shoddy “ clothing are basically fraudulent if not so labelled, and that the buyer in all cases should be absolutely certain of the nature of the product that he is purchasing?
– The matter that the honorable gentleman has raised does not come directly within my own department, and therefore I ask him to treat his question as being upon notice, although I shall not hare it placed on the notice-paper. I shall have an answer prepared for him.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, with the combined object of alleviating the shortage of casual labour now existing and of eliminating some of the injustices of the means test, he will consider in due course allowing a higher permissible income to be earned by pensioners? Will he also consider basing the means test on income and abolishing the £750 capital limit? In support of this I point out that if a person had capital of £1,600 invested, particularly in Australian consolidated treasury bonds, he would receive an income of less than £1 a week, yet would be totally ineligible for a pension.
– I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in this matter. The matters that he has raised are, of course, matters of policy which will be considered by the Government in due course.
– In view of press reports that invalid and age pensions will be increased by 5s. a week and in view of the high cost of living and the fact that the basic wage has been increased in every State during the last week, will the Treasurer consider increasing age and invalid pensions to an extent which will enable pensioners to live on their pensions? I consider that an increase of £1 a. week should be given to age and invalid pensioners.
– The honorable member’s question involves a matter of policy that is receiving the consideration of the Government which will disclose its intentions in due course. If it is found desirable and possible to increase age and invalid pensions by £1 a week this Government will have achieved something which the previous Government never attempted in the eight years of its existence.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service arises from the activities of the priority committee in Fremantle harbour. The Minister will understand that the priority committee determines when ships may berth. That matter is not under the control of the Minister’s department. The committee, however, also determines what labour shall be made available for ships, which is a matter that does come under his jurisdiction. By way of explanation I point out that there is a suspicion on the part of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia that the representatives of certain influential firms on the priority committee unjustifiably appropriate to their own firms priority in labour and berthing, regardless of the importance of the cargo involved, and, in particular, that they have discriminated against Commonwealth ships and the ships of a rival firm which has much more efficient equipment in Fremantle harbour. Will the Minister, through his department in Fremantle, have documentary evidence prepared concerning the time of arrival of ships in Fremantle during the last six months, those kept waiting in the Gage Roads, the time they have been kept waiting for labour, and the firms which are the agents for such ships, and analyse the results to ascertain whether such, unwarranted discrimination is taking place?
– No complaints, other than that just made by the honorable member. hare reached me in regard to this matter. I shall bring the substance of the honorable member’s question to the attention of the chairman of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and shall ask him whether it is practicable to secure the information sought. If it is practicable to do so, I shall see that the honorable member will obtain it.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. Does a system still exist whereby the knowledge and training of officers of the Commonwealth military forces is promoted by their attachment, for periods, to formations of the British Army ? If such a system does not still exist, will the Minister consider its revival? Will he also consider exploring the possibilities of making a similar arrangement with the American military forces’?
– There has for some time past been in existence, and there still is in existence, a system of exchange of officers between the British and Australian military forces. At present a number of Australian permanent officers are overseas undergoing courses of instruction and co-operating with the British military forces. I shall examine the suggestion made in the third portion of the honorable member’s question relative to the possibility of making a similar arrangement with the American military forces.
– In view of the importance and extent of the work of the Australian Agricultural Council which was established when the present Minister for Health was Minister for Commerce and in view of the fact that the Council has not met for some considerable time, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture take steps to convene an early meeting of that Council?
– I am anxious that the Australian Agricultural Council which .provides the consultative point between the Australian and State Governments shall meet as soon as possible, and, further, that there shall be regular meetings of the council. Last March I instructed the secretary of the Council to make tentative inquiries as to when a meeting of the council would be convenient for the State governments and indicated that I was prepared to call a meeting whenever it should be convenient to the States. The succession of State elections has made it impossible to decide upon a date for a meeting in the near future which would be convenient to all States. In the circumstances, I directed, a few weeks ago, that it should be suggested to the State governments that there might at least be a meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, which consists of the senior officials of all the governments concerned. At present I am awaiting advice about whether the States desire to meet the Standing Committee. As soon as the State elections have been held I shall convene a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council.
– In view of the report that the Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, promised that the Commonwealth would contribute £14,500,000 towards the cost of the Burdekin Valley development scheme in northern Queensland, will the Treasurer say whether he has been able to locate any documentary evidence of such a promise or, indeed, evidence of any promise that a specific amount would be contributed towards the cost of the Burdekin scheme? Has the Queensland Government, to the knowledge of .the Treasurer, submitted satisfactory plans in connexion with the scheme?
– There is no documentary, official or other evidence of the Prime Minister in the last Government having offered to contribute any amount whatsoever to the cost of the Burdekin Valley development scheme. I am sure that the right honorable gentleman, having a sense of responsibility, would not do anything of the kind, because the committee that was appointed very hurriedly to investigate the proposals of the Queensland Government brought in an adverse report upon them. It raised certain doubts, offered certain criticism, and stated that, on the information available, a lengthy and searching investigation would be necessary to establish the financial soundness and economic benefits of the scheme.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The statement that the Treasurer has made is technically correct, but from a personal point of view, I do not want the matter to be misrepresented. When I was Prime Minister, I heard reports of the Burdekin Valley development scheme, and I intimated .to the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, personally and by telephone, that I was prepared to recommend to the Government that the Commonwealth should join with the Queensland Government in undertaking that project on a 50-50 basis, the Commonwealth to be represented on a commission to be appointed to control the scheme.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it was on the recommendation of the expert committee set up by the Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, that he verbally agreed to share, on a 50-50 basis, the estimated cost of £29,000,000 for the Burdekin Valley development scheme?
– If the Leader of the Opposition agreed to contribute 50 per cent, of the estimated cost of £29,000,000 associated with the Burdekin Valley development scheme, he did so in total defiance of, and contrary to, the recommendations of the expert committee which he set up for the purpose of investigating this matter. This is what that committee reported -
The proposals as officially submitted by the Queensland Government are characterized by a measure of vagueness as far as the proposed land use is concerned. This feature is applicable to many of the references to watering, soils and pasture and crop possibilities. Many of the claims made are unsupported by direct experimental or commercial experience.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. It would appear that the Treasurer is endeavouring to debate a matter that is already before the House. I ask for your ruling on whether he is entitled to do so.
– A question was asked by the honorable member for Griffith supplementary to another question on the matter of whether a certain contribution had been promised by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister. The Treasurer has made a certain explanation, and for the life of me I cannot see why, if there is any documentary answer to the question, the Treasurer should not deliver it.
– I rise to order. If the statement, or rather the speech that the Treasurer is now delivering–
– Order! I will not permit that comment to be made. I am not allowing the Treasurer to make a speech at all. He is answering a question that has been put to him.
– My point of order is that the documentary statement - and I use your own language, Mr. Speaker-
-The Treasurer is quoting from a document, I understand.
– As the Treasurer admits that he is quoting from an official report, my point is that he is making a ministerial statement in reply to a question and that he should make it at the proper time instead of usurping the time that is reserved for honorable members to ask reasonable questions of Ministers.
– I also rise to order. The point that I wish to raise is, I think, one of ethics. Apparently a confidential departmental report has been made by some officer. Is it proper for the Treasurer to quote from a report that must he confidential until it is tabled in the House?
– I shall table it.
– That is the point that I am aiming at. The Treasurer admits now that he is entirely wrong in doing what he is doing;
– I have heard the honorable member rule to the contrary when he was Speaker.
– It is all very well to talk about what happened when I was Speaker. There were better conducted members than the right honorable gentleman in this House then. Getting back to the question-
– Yes. It would be just as well to do so.
– I admire your wit, Mr. Speaker, but all that I want is your protection while I raise my point of order. Is it proper for the Treasurer to quote from a report that he has not placed in the possession of the House, a report that in the very nature of things must be confidential between himself and the officers who made the investigation? I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is proper or improper for him to be allowed to quote from a report that must be confidential and secret until it is tabled in the House ?
– I have no knowledge of whether the report is confidential, secret or public. That matter is within the competence of the Treasurer to decide. It is competent for an honorable member at any time to require a Minister to table a report from which he is quoting–
– That is true.
– And it is also competent for the Minister to quote from it but not to table it if he declares it to be a confidential document. That has been ruled repeatedly in my presence in this House.
– The contents of the report were disclosed in the Queensland Parliament because it was made available to the parties concerned. It states -
The proposals as officially submitted by the Queensland Government are characterized by a measure of vagueness as far as the proposed land use is concerned. This feature is applicable to many of the references to watering, soils and pasture and crop possibilities. Many of the claims made are unsupported by direct experimental or commercial experience . . . In short, the scheme might have to be recast to obtain the best use of available water . . The soils of the region are of a varied nature and range from light levee soils suitable for irrigation development to heavier types of soil which must be ‘ expected to offer considerable difficulty under irrigation. It is probably that sufficient areas of readily usable soils can be obtained to carry the areas of intensive cropping necessary for the sound development of the scheme-
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I submit that the Treasurer is making a statement and that he should have obtained leave to do so.
– I cannot agree with the honorable gentleman. The Treasurer was asked a question, and it is open to any Minister to decide the manner in which he will answer a question. If the right honorable gentleman wants to quote documentary evidence, that is not my affair. If honorable members wish not to hear him any further, they may move accordingly.
– The report continues -
As most of the soils of the region have been subjected to n saline influence at some time, the establishment of a rising water table, as has occurred in most of the older irrigation areas of Australia, may present a problem also requiring a further investigation.
– Mr. Speaker, may I request that the report that is being quoted from be tabled?
– What does the Treasurer say?
– In the circumstances, I am not prepared .to table it. The report states -
The object of the foregoing observations is not to condemn the scheme but rather to demonstrate soma of the existing shortcomings. Obviously several years of field investigations will be desirable before land subdivision
– I rise to order. I understand that the right honorable member for Barton asked that the report be tabled and that the Treasurer merely stated that he declined to table it. Is that a sufficient answer on the part of the Treasurer, or must he not give a reason for refusing to table it?
– I rise to order also. A few minutes ago, Mr. Speaker, you said that it was competent for any member to request that the report from which the Treasurer was quoting be tabled and that then it would be tabled under your direction unless the Treasurer assured you, representing the House, that the report was confidential. In the circumstances, I make that request and ask that you insist that it he complied with.
– Unless the Treasurer declares that the report is a confidential document, having read from it as an official report he is obliged to table it.
– I had every intention of tabling it when it suited me to do so at the end of my reply to the question. However, I have adopted my present attitude because I wa3 very rudely interrupted during the course of my answer to the question.
– That is not a reason.
-Order! I have no intention of allowing proceedings in the House to get out of hand. There is altogether too much interruption. I simply say to the Treasurer that, if he intends to table the document and make it public property, the extracts that he quotes from it should be reasonably brief.
– I have every intention of tabling the document.
– When it suits me to do so.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Is not the Treasurer evading your ruling to the effect that, if he refused to table the report, he must declare it to be a confidential document? He has refused to table it and has not declared it to be a confidential document. I ask that he be made to comply with your ruling.
– My recollection is that the right honorable gentleman said that he would table the document as soon as he had read certain extracts from it. I have asked him to make the reading of those extracts reasonably brief.
– I rise to order again. Very early in your control of proceedings in this House, Mr. Speaker, you drew attention very pointedly to the time that was wasted in asking questions and answering them, and I think that on a couple of occasions also you drew attention to the number of questions asked during a given period. I desire to know whether the policy of making questions and answers brief has been abandoned, because, quite pointedly, if a Minister is allowed to go on to the length that the Minister has gone it is inviting the lengthening of questions by members.
– I am not sure under what heading the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley would come, but I have not deviated from my attitude that questions and answers should be brief. They are becoming increasingly longer. I have kept a daily record of every question asked by every member of this House. On the first day of the present session 43 questions were asked and answered in one hour. Yesterday only 31 were asked and answered in one hour, and on some days the progress has been even slower than that. If I were to apply the Standing Orders strictly, I think that at least 75 per cent, of the questions asked would be ruled, out of order. I strongly recommend that every honorable member should get a copy of the Standing Orders on questions as early as possible, and study it.
– I do not intend to go into all the ifs and buts of the matter, but the report is one upon which no government with a sense of responsibility would commit the public purse to the extent of a contribution of £15,000,000. The report sums the matter up in these words -
The committee does not-
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is the same point that I raised earlier. In asking questions, honorable members are not entitled to bring argument into their questions and Ministers are not entitled to introduce argument into their answers. I claim that the Treasurer is definitely arguing this matter as to merits and demerits, and I claim that the matter is entirely out of order.
– I think that the honorable member for Darling is entirely wrong. The Treasurer so far has quoted from an official report and whether it is open to argument or not is another matter.
– I shall not take up much more time, but I shall quote this passage from the report -
The committee wishes to observe that the volume of water likely to be available under the scheme would not be fully and profitably utilized until solutions have been found for a number of major technical and economic problems associated with crop and pasture production. It is a matter of urgency to develop and proceed with a comprehensive programme of technical agricultural investigations. The committee is reasonably hopeful that, by the time the design and construction of the project have reached the stage where water is available in the quantities envisaged by the Queensland authorities, considerable progress will have been made in resolving the outstanding difficulties as far as soils and land usage are concerned.
In addition to that the scheme is absolutely dependent on the production of 675,000 tons of sugar cane, the equivalent of 100,000 tons of sugar. Three mills would be required to crush it, and there is not one penny provided for that in the estimated cost of £49,000,000. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Burdekin River Irrigation, Hydro-electric and Flood Mitigation Project - Preliminary Report of Inter-departmental Committee, dated 10th November, 1949.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been directed to the reported text of a lecture delivered by Dr. Donald Thomson, anthropologist, at the Melbourne Constitutional Club on the 3rd April, 1950, in which it was stated that the native tribes inhabiting Cape York peninsula were being rapidly decimated? If the Minister has seen that statement, can he inform the House whether there is any truth in the allegation that the number of tribes in the area has decreased from over 300 to less than twenty in the last 30 years? Is it a fact that the entire armament of tribes on the Edward River has been destroyed as a reprisal for the spearing of a native police boy? Is it also a fact that a native manhunt is proceeding at this moment, in what is stated to be a reservation for aborigines, in the Archer River area? If all these statements have not been brought to the notice of the Minister will he cause an investigation to be made and subsequently make a statement to this House?
– I did see the statement attributed to Dr. Thompson. However, the area referred to is under the control of the Queensland Government. If the honorable member desires me to get information from that Government I shall try to do so and shall produce it for his information.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
As I indicated before Easter, it is proposed that the Parliament shall sit on three days this week. It is intended that the House shall meet at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow and, in accordance with the practice that has been followed in the past, it will adjourn at lunchtime.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion o.f CENSURE
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Notice of Motion No. 1, General Business, taking precedence over all other business until disposed of.
– I 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.
I regret that it is necessary to ventilate this matter, which arises out of a statement made by yourself, Mr. Speaker, on the 30th March. I do not know of any more deplorable incident that has ever happened in this House than that the
Speaker should bring to the Chair his personal hates or jealousies or views, whatever they may be, against any individual in the community, or any member of the Parliament, but above all, against the representative of His Majesty the King in this country. I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that in your statement you said that, when assuming office, you took calculated risks. What were those calculated risks? In electing you to the position of Speaker, the only thing this House considered - and it was the only thing that you had to consider, also - was whether you could impartially, and fairly, and within the limits of your capacity, dispense justice in the administration of the Standing Orders. In my opinion, no other risk had to be calculated. Is it that in accepting the Speakership of this House you took into consideration your relationship with His Majesty the King’s personal representative in Australia, or considered situations that might arise in your dealings with him ? If you accepted the position of Speaker - in which capacity you became the representative of every member of this House, irrespective of his opinions - with the reservation that, in certain circumstances, you were likely to come into conflict officially with His Majesty’s representative, you deceived this House, and you offended against the traditions and practices followed by previous Speakers. You know my personal views regarding your character. When you were elected, I said that I believed that you were a man of high personal honour and integrity.
– That is not under discussion. The House is considering a motion of censure.
– I was merely explaining. I do not desire this matter to be treated in a personal way, as was the other matter we are discussing. I suggest that I am entitled to make it clear that I am not dealing in personali ties, or seeking to perpetuate a personal feud. When it was proposed that you should assume the office of Speaker, in which office you would become the representative of every member of the House, and be obliged to uphold the dignity, customs and traditions of the House, you should haverefused the Speakership if you had any mental reservations, particularly as you knew how hitter were your feelings about certain matters towards certain persons. It fills me with misgiving that a man should accept the Speakership of this House, and not be prepared to divest himself of his political or personal jealousies and hates. The duties of the Speaker of this House cannot be discharged unless the Speaker is prepared, upon taking the Chair, to forget all such matters. What, I repeat, were .the calculated risks that you took? Did you believe that you might find yourself unable to follow the customs and traditions of your office as established by previous Speakers? What actually happened? I understand from your own statement that, five days after you were elected as Speaker of this House, you, yourselfand in this respect you could not divert yourself of your position as Speaker - wrote to His Majesty the King’s representative in this country, apparently in response to an invitation to accept hospitality, in terms which sought a reply from him. I have not before me the letter you wrote, and I can say no more about it than that. In the first place, it was a most improper proceeding to address such a letter to His Majesty’s representative because, in my opinion, no communication should go from the Speaker of thi3 House to His Majesty’s representative except with the approval of the House. Thus, while the members of this House believed that the duties of Speaker were being discharged impartially and judicially, you, as Speaker, five days after your election, wrote to His Majesty’s representative and asked him to give some explanation to you - and I repeat that, in such circumstances, you cannot divest yourself of your office merely by removing your wig and gown. You knew that His Majesty’s representative could not give you an answer, because to do so would be contrary to all customs and practice. Thus, while the House believed that impartiality was being observed, we find that a letter was written by the occupant of the chair to His Majesty’s representative demanding or requiring an explanation regarding - what? Was it in regard to anything touching the office of Speaker, or the office of His Majesty’s representative ? It was not. It was in regard to some political difference of opinion. I accept your own statement for that because, previously, I had not seen or heard anything about the incident. You have told us that it related to something that happened ten years ago. So this House has a Speaker who was prepared to rake over the dead ashes of history as far back as 1940 in order to find out who offended or criticized him then. You then wrote a letter to His Majesty’s representative asking certain questions about something that had nothing to do with the position of Speaker of .this House, and nothing to do with the office of His Majesty’s representative in Australia.
I do not propose to discuss at great length the incident which has brought this matter to the attention of the public. I admit that it is within your province, sir, to ask to be excused from accepting an invitation to partake of hospitality, but that point does not now arise. However, I remind you that you, as the Speaker of this House, invited honorable members to accompany you to Government House on a formal occasion to present to His Excellency the AddressinReply to the Speech which he had been pleased to make to the Parliament. In other words, you were the leader of a delegation of members of this House on that occasion. I repeat that I would not quarrel with your refusal, in normal circumstances, to accept an invitation to partake of hospitality if you had reasons for doing so. Such a refusal is within your province, or, for that matter, within the province of anybody else. But I direct your attention to the fact that if every honorable member whom you had invited to accompany you to Government House on that formal occasion had adopted your attitude, it could have been nothing but the grossest discourtesy. It could not have been regarded as anything else.
I refer now to a paragraph which appeared in a certain newspaper about an incident which allegedly occurred at Government House involving yourself. That press report, I assume, emanated from some source where a journalist, who at one time had been your publicity officer, was employed. In your reply to the question to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), you appeared to indicate that you had discussed with a member of the public the matter of preparing a certain document. Your statement, I believe, is one of the most deplorable statements that have ever been made. Some outsider was taken into the Speaker’s confidence to discuss what is, in effect, an indirect attack upon His Majesty’s representative in Australia. I shall go a little further than that, although I admit that what I am about to say is an assumption. I believe that the news of the incident at Government House would not have reached thatparticular newspaper unless it had been conveyed by some one who bad attended that gathering. I have every reason to believe that that information was conveyed in the lobbies of this House in a boasting manner.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition mean by Mr. Speaker ?
– Yes, I do. I believe that Mr. Speaker himself, in a boastful way, indicated the attitude which he had adopted at Government House.
– The Leader of the Opposition proposes to establish that?
– I do not propose to establish anything more than I have said. I am not making any comment about the journalist in question, Mr. Massey Stanley, but it is extraordinary that he should have been, called in to help to prepare what are assumed or are even said to be the facts on which Mr. Speaker’s statement to the House was based. I think that we are entitled to draw some deductions from that state of affairs. I confess that I speak of this matter more in sorrow than in anger. I have not offended seriously against the Standing Orders while 1 have been a member of this House, but the real matter which troubles me now is that Mr. Speaker feels that he can carry into the chair, as it were, all the hates, jealousies and personal feuds of years ago, and yet discharge the duties of his office impartially. You, sir, in your political and private life have not hesitated to hurt the feelings of many people and, no doubt, such hurts have been fully reciprocated. Some of the statements which you have made in political life could have been most hurtful, even to members of the party to which you belong. Some of those honorable members are now sitting in this chamber. I find it difficult to believe that any one of those persons can confidently feel tha* he will receive complete justice and bf treated with the utmost impartialit by you, as the Speaker of this House The incidents on which you based youattitude to the representative of Hie Majesty occurred ten years ago. You, sir, have said that I must not refer to you personally. You know that I have always held you in high personal regard, but I now claim, quite frankly, that the temperamental defects which you have shown very clearly in the chair render you, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the Labour party, unacceptable any longer as the Speaker of this House. I make no comment upon what you do as a private individual, and even as a member of the Parliament.
I should like to point out the remarkable resemblance between the words which were used and the sentiments which were expressed by Mr. Speaker in his statement to the House, and the comments and criticism of a mentally vicious little cliquein this country. When I make that statement, I do not refer to any section of society, but to certain journalists who have expressed themselves in almost precisely the same terms as those used by Mr. Speaker. That statement does not refer to the general press.
The Opposition does not debate this motion with simulated feelings of antagonism. When you, sir, were making your statement to the House, I felt that it was a most discreditable utterance. I listened to it with feelings of deepest regret. Despite your rulings, I have held you, personally, in the highest esteem, and I have the highest regard for your character. I am extremely sorry that it should fall to my lot to submit a motion on this matter, but I feel that it must be ventilated by the Opposition. It may be that other honorable members can find some justification for your attitude. I should have been glad if you could have seen your way clear to give an explanation, or at least if you had made it perfectly clear to this Parliament that one mistake did not mean that you would continue to pursue such a policy. Such an assurance by you would have relieved me of grave misgivings about the impartiality of a Speaker who has raked over the dead ashes of history, called on his memory, and referred to records in preparing a document relative to a person whom he (personally dislikes. An honorable member has the right to reply in the House to statements that are made about him, but, in this instance, the matter is even worse, because Mr. Speaker has referred to His Majesty’s representative. You offered a studied insult. In your own words, you took a calculated risk. If that policy were to persist in this country the traditional respect for the Speaker of this chamber would cease to exist. I recall the very fine words that you uttered when you accepted the position of Speaker of this House. I believe that you were completely sincere when you stated that you proposed to emulate the practices adopted by the Speakers of the British House of Commons. Not by the widest stretch of imagination could one ever imagine any Speaker, at least not any among the last two or three that we have known, descending to the depth of making a statement such as that made by you.
I have moved the present motion with very great regret, but I consider that the issue is one that must be clearly determined. If there is to be any sense of justice and impartiality in the discharge of the duties of the Speaker, matters of this kind must be finally settled. I do not care what the Government may do about this issue. That is a matter for the Government to decide. It, too, has a responsibility for the maintenance of impartiality in this House. You, sir, were the Government’s nomines for the position of Speaker. I do not think that even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), although he may differ with the Opposition on many subjects, has ever differed from us on the question of the need for fair play and impartiality in the transaction of the business of this House. The present issue does not directly involve the question of impartiality, but it is concerned with personal hates and personal feuds, although apparently only on one side. If I may say so, Mr. Speaker, the Speaker’s chair can be a coward’s castle, for nobody has the right to gainsay the Speaker when he is on his feet. I am very sorry that the fine words and promises that you made when you accepted the Speakership have not been fulfilled. I wish only that this unfortunate matter could be removed from memory, and even from the records, by some action of your own. I have sufficient faith in your judgment, sense of honour and uprightness to believe that on the occasion in question you were misled by some temporary feeling into making that statement and into allowing yourself, as Speaker of this House, to be swayed by factors other than those relating to the discharge of your duties as Speaker, which include the administration of the rules of the House.
.- It is my duty to second the motion. “What I propose to do, because of the great importance of this matter, is to deal first of all with the facts, which are based entirely, or almost entirely, upon what Mr. Speaker himself said in this House on the 30th March. Having summarized the facts I propose to invite the House to draw certain conclusions from them. First of all, on the 22nd February Mr. Speaker was chosen unanimously to occupy his present office and undertook that he would, in the discharge of his duties, follow the traditions of the British House of Commons. On that occasion he used the following words: -
I shall he a servant of the House of Representatives.
In making that statement he really reiterated the fundamental principle that the Speaker, in his official capacity, is merely the servant of this House. The second point that I desire to make is that the Governor-General of this country is not the servant of the Government of the United Kingdom. He is the representative of His Majesty the King and occupies, in relation to Australia, a position analogous to the position that His Majesty occupies in Great Britain. That has been the accepted constitutional practice for more than twenty years. After
Mr. Speaker had accepted the office of Speaker, he, on the 27th February, wrote to His Excellency the Governor-General. I assume that he wrote a letter to His Excellency on that date because on the 30th March Mr. Speaker said -
On the 27th February last, in reply to an invitation, I called the attention of the GovernorGeneral to his past attitudes to me.
The “ attitudes “ were not “ to Mr. Speaker” or “ to the Speaker of the House of Representatives “, but “ to me “, the person occupying the position of Speaker. That is, of course, the honorable member for Barker. I am quoting from what Mr. Speaker said on the 30th March in this House, which appears in Hansard at page-
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman is quoting from Hansard of the current session. It is against the Standing Orders for him to do so.
– I point out, Mr. Speaker, that the motion that we are debating reads -
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.
That motion refers to what you said in the House on that date. If I am ruled out of order in quoting from Hansard, I can proceed from my own general recollection, but for the sake of ensuring accuracy, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to permit me to quote another sentence. I do not wish to make any statement that is not correct.
– I shall allow the right honorable gentleman to do so.
– You said, Mr. Speaker -
I informed His Excellency that I had no desire to accept the hospitality of those who spoke of me- not “ of Mr. Speaker “-
. in the terms employed by him-
Again, it was not “ by His Excellency the Governor-General “, but by the person occupying that position to-day who, as appears from other statements of Mr. Speaker, made the statements that offended Mr. Speaker many years ago in an entirely different capacity during the course of his political life. Mr. Speaker then went on -
To that letter, I have received neither an acknowledgment nor a reply.
I submit that it follows from what Mr. Speaker said on the 30th March that on the 27th February, five days after he was elected Speaker, and after undertaking to be the servant of the House, he used his official position as Speaker in an endeavour to extract from His Excellency some form of apology or retraction, not for anything done by His Excellency, but for something said by the person now occupying the post of Governor-General on an occasion many years before he had come to the occupancy of his present post. I submit, with all respect, that that action constituted a complete departure from the official duties and responsibilities of the Speaker. Did Mr. Speaker write that letter as a servant of this House? Of course he did not! He had no authority from this House to do so. The matter was not mentioned to this House when he was elected to the office of Speaker. He acted solely on his own account. To support that submission I rely on hie own statement. The next question is whether Mr. Speaker, in accepting office on the 22nd February, intended to hark back to this matter of a personal dispute between himself, as a member of the Parliament and not as Speaker, and His Excellency, but not in his official position as GovernorGeneral, and we come to the position-
– I rise to order.
An honorable member interjecting,
– Order !No honorable member may refer to another honorable member as a “ rabbit “. If he does so, and I can identify him, he will quickly find himself outside the House.
– Is the right honorable member for Barton in order in continuing to quote from Hansard of the current session when, on numerous occasions since I have been a member of this Parliament, other honorable members who have sought to do so have been prevented from so doing? If the right honorable gentleman is permitted to quote from Hansard in this way, can we take it, Mr. Speaker, that in future we also shall be permitted to quote from the Hansard report of the current session ?
– The right honorable member for Barton asked my permission to quote from Hansard for the purposes of accuracy, and I granted it.
– I come now to the second statement made by Mr. Speaker in which he said -
On assuming the Speakership of this House, T took a calculated risk.
I do not need to elaborate that statement. That statement taken in its context - its context being the relationship of Mr. Speaker to His Excellency the Governor-General - indicates that Mr. Speaker meant that he foresaw the risk of a clash between himself, as Speaker, and His Excellency the Governor-General, and that, with his eyes open he took that risk. He calculated the risk and in the circumstances he was prepared to take it. The question therefore arises: Did Mr. Speaker, in accepting office, intend to bring old disputes with the Governor-General into controversy by writing a letter, as he did on the 27th February, after having received an invitation from His Excellency? To understand Mr. Speaker’s attitude one must have regard to his statement of the 30th March, in which he said -
If, in truth, the Governor-General holds in regard to me the views which he had publicly expressed, he should have informed the House of that fact, and asked it to choose another Speaker.
In other words, Mr. Speaker was again confusing Mr. Archie Cameron, the honorable member for Barker, with the official custodian of the rights and responsibilities of this House. This whole matter has arisen because Mr. Speaker has injected his own personality as a member of the Parliament into the discharge of his official duties. Mr. Speaker added -
If, in truth, he does not hold those view* about me, a well-known remedy is open to him. His failure to acknowledge my letter of the 27 th February leads me to believe that he still holds those views.
In other words, as late as the 30th March, a public invitation was extended by Mr. Speaker to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to make some form of apology, retraction, or explanation of views that had been expressed by His Excellency ten years earlier, when he had no connexion with his present official position, and when Mr. Speaker had no connexion with his present official position. Complete confusion and contradiction resulted from Mr. Speaker’s failure to observe the principle that he is a servant of the House which he enunciated when he accepted office.
I shall be very brief in dealing with the incident that occurred on the 22nd March at the official function of the presentation of the Address-in-Reply. Mr. Speaker in his robes of office, and accompanied by his officers and honorable members went to Government House for the purpose of presenting the AddressinReply to His Excellency. That was an official function in the strictest sense of the word. The incident that took place at that function, which led to this matter becoming public property, was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). His Excellency on that occasion invited those who were present to accept some minor form of hospitality. I shall not go into what was then said. The facts are undoubted. Mr. Speaker then abruptly left Government House in his robes of office, accompanied by officers of the House, but left behind the other members of the House. That fact, in itself, might not have been known except for the newspaper report, but it was an action which was’ calculated to discredit the office of Governor-General and to injure the relationship that must exist between the personal representative of the King in this country and the Speaker of this House. Perhaps I may be permitted to quote another short passage from Mr.
Speaker’s statement to the House on the 30th March. Mr. Speaker said -
The material on which my statement is based– that is, the critical references that had been made by His Excellency in a speech which he delivered ten years ago - is in my office and it has been seen by one of His Excellency’s staff.
As I have pointed out. His Excellency was invited to retract or explain those references to Mr, Speaker. Constitutionally, he could not do so. To those with even a smattering of constitutional knowledge it is evident that the representative of the King cannot answer such an invitation, yet he was publicly invited to do so by Mr. Speaker. These facts are not in dispute. My statement of them is based almost entirely on what Mr. Speaker has said. It is not now a question of a breach of the Standing Orders. That aspect was debated earlier and the House has given its decision in relation to it. We are now dealing with the inferences that are to be drawn, from Mr. Speaker’s statement. The Standing Orders forbid honorable members from making disrespectful references to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. That provision is intended not to protect the personal occupant of that position but to protect the status of the personal representative of the King. The point that I emphasize is that in matters of this kind Mr. Speaker must act only in his official capacity. He must not act, and he has no right to act, in his personal or individual capacity. I submit that the rule was broken, and it seems from what Mr. Speaker has said that it was deliberately broken. Mr. Speaker deliberately invited His Excellency to retract or to explain statements that had been made by him an another capacity altogether ten years before Mr. Speaker assumed office. I submit that this situation is not a mere incident; it will be a continuing situation as long as Mr. Speaker fails to distinguish his own personal position from that of his position as Speaker of this House. The leading article in the Canberra Times of the 31st
March contains a passage which I should like to read because it sets out the true principles that should guide Mr. Speaker in matters of this kind. It reads as follows : -
What Mr. Cameron thinks about any one in Australia is not a proper subject-
– Order ! That is not the question. The question is what the House thinks about Mr. Speaker.
– Am I not entitled to quote the passage, Mr. Speaker?
– I do not think that it meets the issue at all. The question is whether the House and not the press shall censure me.
– The article sums up the true principle that should be applied. That principle is that Mr. Speaker should know no party, and harbour no prejudice, that he should forget old feuds and that he should be the exemplar of propriety in parliamentary behaviour, and that were it otherwise, the person who becomes Speaker might find himself in an invidious position. The article continues -
Were every person in Australia who has known the rough edge of Mr. Archie Cameron’s tongue to hold it unforgivably in store for some future occasion, Ishmael rather than Daniel might be coming to judgment.
Has Mr. Speaker remembered old differences in dealing with the representative of the Crown in this country? I submit that he has done so, and that in that sense he has not carried out the undertaking which he gave on accepting the Speakership of this House. In so acting, he has departed from the traditions of the Speakership in the House of Commons. If this were but one incident, and an end to the matter, everybody would be happy about it. So long as His Excellency is Governor-General of this country and so long as Mr. Speaker occupies his present position, I submit that the point of view put by the Leader of the Opposition is a sound one. This situation cannot be allowed to continue. It must be either mended or ended. I second the motion.
.- Mr. Speaker, this motion of censure on you has been presented by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in two slightly different ways. The Leader of the Opposition succeeded in producing in my mind an air of pensive melancholy. He drew a picture of the functions of Mr. Speaker, and I was gratified indeed to hear him say something that I have never heard him say during the past eight years and that was that Mr. Speaker, on entering the Chair, should divest himself of all personal or political rancour. I think that that is an admirable counsel, but in relation .to it I can regard the Leader of the Opposition purely in the capacity of a penitent. It is a doctrine the promulgation of which at any time in the last eight years would have given great satisfaction to every honorable member of this House. After all, opinions will always differ on questions of taste and judgment. I can recall having the strongest possible views about an attack made on the High Court of Australia by a Speaker of this House.
– Not from the Chair.
-“ Not from the Chair” says the honorable member, but we have already had it explained to us. with a weight of learning, that the Speaker cannot divest himself of his responsibilities when he leaves the Chair and that he can say nothing except as the spokesman of this House. I do not recall that the previous Speaker was regarded as the spokesman of this House in a vicious attack on the High Court nor that the right honorable gentlemen who have moved and seconded this motion offered one syllable of protest against tha.t attack. This virtue comes too late to be convincing.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition gets on to slightly different ground. This, to him, is not a chance medley in a statement which proceeds from circumstances of heat. He represents it as a deliberate plan by Mr. Speaker. But I see no evidence of this alleged deliberate plan. 1 listened to Mr. Speaker’s remarks upon his assumption of the Chair and, in common with all other honorable members of this House, I thought them admirable. I did not read into any remark of his the sinister suggestion that has now been read into them that he was reserving for the appropriate day an attack upon the Governor-General. Let us clear our minds on this matter. I am not here to say that I should have chosen to make this statement myself, nor is any honorable member. That is a pure matter of individual judgment. I recall to the knowledge of the House the fact that the statement has been voted by this House to be in order and therefore the only question that arises about it is a matter of judgment as to whether, in the circumstances, it was an appropriate statement to make. That is not the kind of ground upon which to censure a Speaker. This, in reality, is a mere back-door way of challenging the decision that the House came to that the statement was made within the Standing Orders.
Let us get behind this matter, because I decline to waste too much time in explaining or discussing it. I propose to demonstrate to this House that this censure motion is a piece of arrant humbug, a fact which is very easily demonstrated because, so far from what happened being the result of some deliberate plan on the part of Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker’s statement was the one thing that the Opposition hoped he would make so that they might attack him on it. If I have any criticism to make of Mr. Speaker it is that he fell into the Opposition’s trap.
– That is a reflection on the Chair.
– It is a reflection on the Opposition. I propose to justify my remarks.
– It is a deliberate lie.
– I have heard the honorable member say that many times before. He has become a little repetitive on it. Let us see the humbug that underlies this censure motion. In order to see it in its true light it is very necessary that we should remind ourselves of a few facts. The material fact is that His Excellency the Governor-General, being then Premier of New South Wales, was appointed Governor-General early in 1947, upon the nomination of the then Prime Minister. That is fact No. 1. Fact No. 2 is that the then Opposition, through myself and other spokesmen, protested against the appointment at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place, namely, in this House. So far as I am concerned, the matter then terminated. I had stated my opposition; I had offered my criticism; I had expressed views which I held and which I still hold. But the then Premier of New South Wales, having become His Excellency the Governor-General of Australia, is, as far as I am concerned, for all purposes, His Excellency the GovernorGeneral of Australia. That is the generally accepted view among honorable members. One of the main grounds of objection to the appointment at that time was the appointee’s involvement in party matters and in contentious matters. In other words the very kind of thing that has so unhappily arisen now was the very kind of thing that was in the minds of people who criticized the making of an appointment at that time under those circumstances of an individual so placed. The appointment having been made, however, it of course became the duty of everybody to recognize it and to do their duty to the high office concerned and, in their various ways, to assist in its worthy purpose. I have pursued that course steadfastly myself and I am sure that the overwhelming majority of honorable members have done so.
On the 30th March, Mr. Speaker made a statement in which he referred to attacks made upon him by Mr. McKell in 1940 when Mr. McKell was Leader of the New South Wales Labour party. Indeed, sir, I may point out that the attack seems to have included myself, on the terms you read out. Not that that disturbs me unduly. Mr. Speaker referred to attacks made in 1940. The honorable members of the Opposition claimed immediately, in effect, that while the Speaker’s remarks would have been in order if Mr. McKell were still in politics or had become a private citizen, they were out of order, because he had been appointed Governor-General and that that was a matter for decision at once. Mr.
Speaker was asked to rule whether his own statement was in order and he ruled that it was in order. The Opposition took appropriate steps to challenge the ruling, and the House upheld the ruling. Therefore, the vote of the House cannot be challenged or criticized now. The present motion declares, in effect, that Mr. Speaker’s statement, though in order, was in bad taste, inappropriate, an error of judgment, or whatever, phrase one might care to apply to it. Opinions will differ about the wisdom of making state ments of that kind and provoking debates of this kind, but I do not think that there can be very much doubt that this censure motion is a purely party manoeuvre and that it ought to be rejected. The Opposition, not Mr. Speaker, has dragged His Excellency into the debate. The Opposition goaded Mr. Speaker into defending himself, and now it raises pious hands in holy horror at the success of its own scheme. Could any humbug be more magnificent ? Indeed, from the very day when you assumed the Chair, Mr. Speaker, the Opposition has been, in the homely phrase, pitching for you. Day after day honorable members of this House have witnessed the development of a tactical scheme, the little school getting together and saying, “ Mr. Speaker must be baited. He must be provoked. We must, by hook or by crook, create the public impression that Mr. Speaker is unfair “. We on this side of the House are not blind. We have seen this thing going on for weeks past.
Now I come to the particular incident under discussion. Let me put it in its appropriate light. In the first place, Mr. Speaker went to Government House, at Yarralumla, having invited other honorable members to accompany him, for the purpose of presenting the Address-in-Reply. That was the purpose of the visit. He was accompanied, I am glad to say, by a substantial number of members of Parliament, including myself, and the matter was attended to with due form and ceremony. I should like to say at once that I have never seen the ceremony go off better. Honorable members who were present will recall that we stood in a half-circle and that Mr. Speaker, attended by the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, stood forward. He was flanked by the Clerk of the House and I think also, though my memory is not clear, by the Clerk Assistant. Everything was in order. The Governor-General came in, attended by his military and official secretary and by his aides-de-camp. I thought that the presentation and the reply were conducted with the greatest possible dignity on both sides. It was an entirely gratifying formality. “What happened then? I want to be particular at this stage because I, for one, was unaware that there had been an incident until I read about it in a newspaper. After the ceremony had ended we broke off, began to move around informally and fell into conversation with one another. His Excellency said, “Mr. Speaker, I wonder if your members would care to take some refreshment ? “, and Mr. Speaker said, quite cheerfully - and I quote his precise words, which had a great degree of informality - “ That is up to you, Your Excellency “. Thereupon His Excellency gave the necessary directions and drinks were brought in. There was a perceptible interval of time between the arrival of those drinks and Mr. Speaker’s departure. Everybody in this House knows perfectly well that Mr. Speaker is a teetotaller - I am sure that you do not mind me .referring to that very well-known fact, Mr. Speaker - and that he derives no pleasure from standing around while other people are having drinks. Consequently I, for one, was not surprised when, after a sensible interval of time, Mr. Speaker stepped forward, bowed, and said, “ I wonder if Your Excellency will now give me permission to leave and return to my duties at the House ? “ His Excellency replied, “ Certainly “ and bowed to Mr. Speaker, and Mr. Speaker left.
– It must have been a lovely show.
– If I remember correctly the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was not present, and I assure him that we enjoyed ourselves all the more on that account. I think that I state the feeling of all honorable members who were present on that occasion when I say that it was an entirely happy affair and that Mr. Speaker conducted himself with due form, with complete courtesy and with dignity.
The next occurrence was the publication of a paragraph in the Sunday Telegraph in these terms -
The feud between the Governor-General and Speaker Cameron is not dying down.
Cameron makes no secret of his determination to appear at Government House only on official business.
– Who told that to the reporter ?
– I do not know. I dare say that when the honorable member was Minister for Information be knew exactly how the newspapers got their information, but I do not.
– Well the right honorable gentleman ought to find out.
– Why should I find out? I do not run a gestapo. I do not propose to find out. The paragraph continued -
After the ceremony of receiving the AddressinReply from Parliament in which Speaker Cameron was attended by the Prime Minister and about fifty M.H.R.’s, the GovernorGeneral approached.
Mr. McKell: Now that the official ceremony is over, Sir, I would he happy if you would join me in some refreshment.
Mr. Cameron: The official ceremony being over, I crave Your Excellency’s leave to withdraw.
That was a completely misleading account of what happened. The answer to the invitation was not this abrupt and churlish departure. It was a perfectly courteous and friendly acknowledgment and approval of it. The departure of Mr. Speaker, with the words that I have quoted, took place after a sensible interval of time had passed. The next step after the publication of the story in the newspaper was one to which the House should direct its attention, because it represented what I venture to describe as a clever, unctuous and provocative question by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser). The question was about as provocative as any question could possibly be to a selfrespecting man, and it was delivered with all that intolerable self-righteousness that characterizes the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I shall read the question, though I cannot hope to imitate the voice inflections with which it was delivered. This is what the honorable member asked -
Mr. Speaker, have you read an attack on you - asI trust you will regard it - which was made in the Sunday Telegraph of the 26th March in an article which alleged that you, sir, the chosen upholder of the dignity of this House, used an opportunity arising from the execution of your official duties to indulge a personal feud and vent a personal animosity? Did an incident occur at Government House, as alleged in the article, when the King’s representative offered to you the proper and traditional courtesy upon the presentation of the Address-in-Reply ? If you agree that in stating that your refusal was in pursuit of a personal feud, the article injured the reputation of this honorable House by picturing its presiding officer as a boorish or churlish fellow, will you pronounce the story to be untrue and take any other steps necessary to repair the damage?
The question continued - and Uriah Heep could not have improved upon this -
Is it a fact that in previous centuries it required both courage and dignity to stand up to the King’s representative, but that it requires none of those qualities to show discourtesy to him to-day?
It seems odd to me, Mr. Speaker, that you, of allpeople in this House, should be charged in that direct innuendo with a want of courage or a want of dignity.
No honorable member need be under any misapprehension concerning the point of the question. It was designed to be a scorching, sneering attack upon the Speaker, and, whatever else may be said about you, Mr. Speaker, nobody has ever accused you of a want of spirit or an unwillingness to take up a challenge of that kind. Mr. Speaker replied to the question -
I shall examine the article which has been mentioned by the honorable member. I am prepared to leave the judgment of my conduct at Government House to the honorable mem- bers who accompanied me there.
It is a matter for judgment whether that would not have been the appropriate point at which to leave the matter. But no fair-minded man will complain or criticize you, Mr. Speaker, because, in the teeth of that question, you decided that you would look at the article and that you would then state your answer on the matter. The House will remember that Mr. Speaker’s answer was a recital of attacks made upon him. That was all. The whole point of the matter is what that question was designed to do. If ever a question or an alleged question was designed to drag His Excellency the Governor-General into debate in this House, this one was, by dragging in an alleged incident at Government House involving the Governor-General. Therefore, I describe as the most arrant humbug the process by which the Opposition, through its selected spokesman, cast its bait in the hope that it would produce a specific result, and then raises its hands and says, “ But is not this a scandal, that Mr. Speaker should yield to the temptation that we laid before him?” when the honorable gentleman proceeded to make some observations in effect defending himself from innuendo after innuendo contained in that most offensive and sneering question. It would be a very strange day, and I hope that such a day will never come, when a government would feel obliged to support a censure upon the Speaker for doing something which, after all, it was the determined policy of the Opposition that he should do. This incident reflects no credit upon the Opposition. If we were to put the matter in its proper perspective, we should be moving a vote of censure upon the Opposition., If members of the Opposition want to do a real service to the office of Governor-General, they will cease these petty manoeuvres and let us get on with the business of the House. In order that that may be done, I now move -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 29
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
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.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 29
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 19th April, (vide page 1620).
That the clause be considered by proposed sections.
Clause to the end of proposed section 9 (Establishment and functions of Commonwealth Bank Board).
– I do not intend to go over again the ground that I covered in my second-reading speech on this hill. Clause 7 provides for the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board, to be constituted in accordance with the new Part V. of which it is proposed to insert in the measure. As I have stated previously, the Labour party is opposed to the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board, particularly in accordance with the proposed new part. Banking is a highly technical business. I refer not so much to .the normal business of trading banks, which consists largely in money lending, and the valuation of prospects and security. I refer particularly to central banking, and the Commonwealth Bank, as well as being a trading bank, discharges the functions of a central bank. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Bank, whether controlled by a governor or a board, to watch at all times the economic conditions of the country. One of the functions of a central bank is to evaluate the economic prospects of the future. If, as has been said, there is a strong inflationary tendency at the present time - and it cannot be denied - it is the duty of the central bank, in consultation with the Government which is responsible to the people, to give advice of future trends, and to state whether the inflationary condition is likely to continue for some time. It is the duty of the central bank, however controlled, to advise the taking of such steps as are economically possible to steady or reduce inflation. In past years, bank boards failed utterly to evaluate correctly the effects of a deflationary trend. I do not know of anyone who claims to have a knowledge of economics who would not admit at once that the Commonwealth Bank, acting as a central bank, could have done much better, to put it mildly, at the onset of the last depression. Therefore, .the Commonwealth Bank should be controlled by men who are able to evaluate circumstances, not only in this country, hut also throughout the world. If there is a rapid reduction of prices of primary production, or even of manufactured products, those who control the Commonwealth Bank ought to be able to advise the Government of the probable effects of such a violent deflationary trend. Had that been done at the onset of the last depression, it would have been possible to prevent much of the intense misery suffered by hundreds of thousands of people in Australia, and of tens of millions of people throughout the world. I have been appalled at the callous way in which persons with vested interests were prepared to protect their assets irrespective of the effect on the under-privileged sections of the community. To me, it appears to be absolutely essential that those associated with the management of the Commonwealth Bank should be men who possess first class economic knowledge. It is of no use to call men in off the street and place them in a job of that kind. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) knows that only after receiving cables day after day from various parts of the world, and after studying those cables diligently, is he able to form a reasonably sound judgment on economic affairs, and to advise Cabinet regarding them.. It is all nonsense to talk about placing absolute power in the hands of one man. The Treasurer is responsible to Cabinet. Cabinet is responsible to the party, and the party is responsible to the Parliament. The Treasurer is no more than an agent. The Labour party is opposed to the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board, because it believes that final judgment on national economic matters is the responsibility of the government of the day. No government in the world to-day would deny the truth of that statement. We cannot allow millions of people to be brought to the verge of starvation because of faulty decisions by persons whose judgment might be swayed by consideration of their own private interests. We owe a duty to humanity, which is more important than economic considerations. The issues involved are too important to be decided by persons called in once a week, or once a month, for consultation. Therefore, the Labour party is opposed to the appointment of a Common wealth Bank Board.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has had a great deal to say about this measure, which is a relatively simple one.
It sets out to do two things. They are, first, to re-create a board of the Commonwealth Bank which will be, in a measure, a parttime board; and, secondly, to increase the capital available to some of the important sections of the Commonwealth Bank. The Leader of the Opposition addressed himself to the subject of monetary policy, and he castigated the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks for what he described as their failure to meet the situation which arose out of the depression. He said, I think, that 70 per cent, of the evil effects of the depression - and they were evil effects - could have been mitigated or entirely removed by what he has called, I think, an easier or more liberal monetary policy. I hope he does not wish his reputation to be judged on that statement, because it flies entirely in the face of world experience, and is contrary to the opinion of all economists worth the name, particularly of left-wing economists. It is admitted now that what is generally called monetary policy - and the term needs definition - can have some effect in mitigation of an economic depression, but only some effect. Particularly in recent years, all the best minds have lost faith progressively in the influence of monetary policy, and its ability to ward off a depression or in any important way to mitigate its effects. The right honorable gentleman is judging, with the knowledge of to-day, the events of twenty years ago. Every one who has been concerned with these matters knows now a great deal more about public finance and economics and the business of government than he did twenty years .ago. It is easy to be wise after the event. It is possible that if those of us who had some responsibility for affairs twenty years ago had the same knowledge then as we have now we might have done certain things differently. That is all I am prepared to admit, and that is all that common sense requires one to say about the strictures of the Leader of the Opposition concerning the alleged demerits of the Commonwealth Bank, and of the banking system generally, during the dreadful depression of twenty or more years .ago.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the proposal to restore the Commonwealth Bank Board. He spoke in terms of derision about men being called in off the street - to use his own picturesque expression. The right honorable gentleman overlooks the fact that 90 per cent, of limited liability companies, which control so much of the economic activity of the world, are controlled, by part-time directors.
– Yes, but the Treasurer has stated that the part-time directors who will control the Commonwealth Bank are to have had no previous association with banking.
– As I have said, limited liability companies, which control so large a part of the economic activity of most nations, are controlled by part-time directors, who are persons not expert in the busines of the companies they control. They are not professionals in the business. That is true of banking, insurance, manufacturing, primary production, and almost every phase of economic activity. Why do companies almost universally run their affairs with parttime directors? Why, during the last 100 years, have people done what some honorable members opposite appear to regard as a peculiar thing? The Leader of the Opposition has described it by the picturesque term of calling men in off the street to help with the formulation of policy and the direction of public companies, large and small. The reason is simple. It has not been done by chance, or for the benefit of the people who have been called in off the street. It has been done for the reason that the man who reaches the highest executive position in any enterprise is almost always an individual of strong personality and convictions, who can override his subordinates. His word counts as almost a dictator’s word over the enterprise of which he is the executive head. That is not a good thing. He could beat down all comment, criticism and opposition from his subordinates or from outside the organization. For that reason, it is becoming the habit in civilized countries to appoint as directors of an enterprise persons who know nothing, in the first place at least, about the organization. But they bring to the business common sense, a valuable knowledge of the world and of other affairs, and a broad experience which they exert to an increasing degree as time passes. In other words, they do not accept as the last word the professional word of the executive head of the company concerned, who may be the general manager or the managing director. Honorable members are well aware of that fact. The system of which I speak has existed for 100 year3. Only in relatively recent times has it been watered down to a certain degree in the United States of America through the appointment of professional directors, who are drawn from the managers of various sections of the business concerned. A considerable volume of literature, which has been written on that subject, reveals that the change has not been made without criticism. Some people have said that it is a bad system and others have said that it is a good one, but, at any rate, the matter was not put before the world for the first time when the Leader of the Opposition threw down the gage in this House. I venture to think that the balance of opinion to-day, even in the United States of America and certainly in every other country that practises the system of free enterprise, agrees that the appointment of the lay director or the non-professional, part-time director, is the best way of managing a concern, small or large, banking, insurance, industrial or what you like. I think I am right in saying that 90 per cent, of the world agrees with that view. Also, it is not by chance that practically every central bank in the world is managed and directed by part-time directors. Again, I think that I am right in making that statement. I believe from my own knowledge, which, admittedly, is not by any means up to date, that no central bank is under the dictatorship of one man. The Bank of England, which, in form at least, was nationalized by the Labour government a few years ago, persisted with the system of non-professional, part-time directors who, if I may use the Leader of the Opposition’s expression again, were called in off the street.
– Can the Minister cite one way in which the present system of control of the Commonwealth Bank has failed ?
– I shall come to that. Speaking from memory, I think that the Bank of England has eighteen directors, of whom all except four are called in off the street. The central banks of India, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa have part-time directors. Many of those countries have or have had Labour governments. Is it by simple chance, and is it in order to placate certain alleged vested interests, that the members of the boards of those central banks have been called in off the street? I do not believe that it is so. One hundred years’ experience in this matter shows that a dictatorship in any enterprise is bad. I refer to control by one man who is uninfluenced by any other ideas or instructions except - and I say this without offence - the narrow technical knowledge which he has acquired in the course of his professional career and which no one may gainsay. The common sense of the situation and the experience of the world lead one to believe that a board of lay directors, called in off the street, if you like, is the best way in which to manage an institution.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- We have just listened to a most remarkable dissertation on the subject of who should constitute a bank board, and who, in fact, should control the financial policy of the nation. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) has stressed that much greater service can be given to a company or financial institution by men who have been called in off the street to be directors than is possible under a system of control by one man. We have had an experience of calling in men off the street to control that great national instrumentality, the Commonwealth Bank. When I describe it as “ that great national instrumentality”, I know of no greater sheet anchor that this country has had in times of stress than that bank has been. For a period, it was controlled by a board, and the qualities of the most of the members of that body seemed to fit the right honorable gentleman’s conception of an ideal director of a bank. Some of the members were excellent polo players and socialites,
– Billiard markers?
– I do not think so.
– What is wrong with billiard markers?
– Not a thing.
– What is wrong with polo players ?
– A polo player who was appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board knew nothing about banking, but he was prepared to take notice of what the vested interests wanted him to do. That is why he was appointed to the board.
– That is quite wrong. It is purely a -statement without any substance.
– The proof of the pudding is in the eating. While the right honorable gentleman was associated with a previous government, the Commonwealth Bank Board consisted of persons who had been appointed for no other purpose than to restrict the expansion, general utility and operations of the Commonwealth Bank.
– That is a dreadful statement.
– I am speaking of a dreadful circumstance. A previous government of which the right honorable gentleman was a member, appointed a bank board, the sole purpose of which was to strangle the Commonwealth Bank and prevent it from expanding.
– That is a partisan statement.
– There is ample proof of the truth of my statement, including the remarkable expansion of the Commonwealth Bank since a Labour government got rid of those well-meaning citizens who had been appointed to the board. Because the Commonwealth Bank has expanded to a remarkable degree during the last few years, the Government proposes to put a brake on its progress by re-appointing the bank board to do precisely what its predecessor did, and did very effectively, and that was to prevent the expansion of the activities of the bank.
– Is that why the Government proposes to increase the capital of the Commonwealth Bank?
– That is not the point. The Commonwealth Bank had an abundance of capital during the financial depression, but because of the policy of the board, none of the capital or funds of the institution were used to relieve unemployment and misery. Everybody knows that that reactionary hoard had the effrontery, through its chairman, Sir Robert Gibson, to tell the Prime Minister of the day, and the State Premiers, that unless they were prepared to do certain things which were, and are still entirely the prerogative of the Commonwealth and State Governments, the bank would not assist .them to alleviate the effects of the depression. That is not my statement. It appears in the records of this Parliament.
– I should like an opportunity to reply to that statement.
– The Minister will have ample opportunity to do so, but he will not be able to disprove my statement.
– I shall attempt to do so.
– The representatives of private banking interests successfully dictated to the Commonwealth Bank Board, and actually used the chairman, Sir Robert Gibson, as their mouthpiece to tell the Prime Minister of the day and the Premiers, who were attending a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, that they had to reduce pensions, public service salaries and other governmental expenditure, otherwise the bank did not intend to assist them to finance measures to relieve the effects of the depression. If that is what the right honorable gentleman is working for by setting up a similar bank board, he may have it.
– Thanks very much.
– I do not know whether the Senate will accept that proposal, but the Minister may have it as far as I am concerned. When the Labour Government got rid of the board, the Commonwealth Bank made remarkable progress. I am gratified to learn that the present Government proposes to appoint to the new board the members of the Advisory Council which has assisted the Treasurer during the years of the phenomenal growth of the bank.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the members of the proposed new board.
– I realize that, and I did not intend for one moment to discuss them. All I desire to tell the committee is that five of the persons whom the Government proposes to appoint to the board have a profound knowledge of finance and have been members of the Advisory Council during the years when the Commonwealth Rank has made phenomenal progress. However the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has pointed out that the other five members of the board will be persons who have no knowledge of banking. I should have thought that if the Government genuinely desired to expand the activities of the bank and to strengthen its ability to deal with financial matters, it would appoint to the board only persons possessing a knowledge of banking. It is no answer to say that the ultimate decision on vital matters of financial policy will be made by the Parliament, because the House would undoubtedly uphold the Treasurer by a vote on party lines. If we were to find that five gentlemen had been appointed to the board for the purpose of restricting the operations of the bank, what effective action could we take in this House to rectify the matter? Should we find the Government repudiating its own nominees on the board if the time should come when there is a conflict of opinion between those competent people whom the Government proposes to appoint to the board and the other appointees who thoroughly lack a knowledge of banking? As a matter of fact, lack of knowledge of banking is to be one of their qualifications. If those appointees with no knowledge of banking are to outweigh the opinion of the competent people who have been responsible for the enormous growth of the Commonwealth Bank up to date, what would happen if that difference of opinion was referred to this House? Should we find the Government which appointed the five members repudiating them ? I venture to say not. All the talk to the contrary is rubbish.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time.
– I endeavoured in my previous remarks to speak to the subject of appointing lay or part-time directors and I believe, at any rate, that I was able to show that we did not invent the method of appointing such directors, because that method has been operating throughout the world for a century in every country and in every industry and occupation.
– ls that a good reason why it should be continued?
– I consider that that fact is a fair indication that there is not a great deal wrong with the system, even if Labour governments in other parts of the world have despised the principle. Let me cast the minds of honorable members back to 1936 when we had a royal commission of inquiry into banking and monetary policy.
– The right honorable gentleman knows something about that.
– I venture to say that I do indeed know something about it. It fell to me, as Treasurer of the day, to select and recommend the membership of that royal commission. Among the people selected and recommended by me to the then Prime Minister was the right honorable gentleman who is now Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). I brought him in off the street.
– Not out of the gutter surely.
– I am using the right honorable gentleman’s own terms. I brought him off the street, not for th<? reason that he had any prior knowledge of banking, because I think that at that stage the right honorable gentleman did not know a bank from a public convenience
– Unless he saw the Minister hanging about in it.
– This is nothing to the detriment of the right honorable gentleman. His experience had been in other directions and was very useful indeed for the right honorable gentleman in connexion with a royal commission of inquiry of that sort. Was there one of the other appointees to that royal commission who had. had experience of banking? Not one. We chose people for their general knowledge of affairs in this Australian community, on a3 wide a range as we could. That royal commission came to certain conclusions and made certain recommendations. The first of these recommendations was as follows: -
The present method of government of the Commonwealth Bank is by a board, appointed by the Commonwealth Government, and consisting of a Governor, the Secretary to the Treasury, and six directors . . . We are of opinion that this method of government is generally satisfactory.
The present Leader of the Opposition did not demur from that first recommendation of the royal commission. He had no objection to it. He had objections in otter directions that are very forcibly put down in his minute of dissent, but, I repeat, he did not demur from that first and most important basic recommendation. In fact, he went f urther than that because he said in his minute of dissent -
I realize, however, that a governmentowned central bank, with ample powers, whose policy is determined and directed wholly toward furthering the interests of the community by men of capacity and courage, is a most important feature of any banking system.
I do not believe that the right honorable gentleman himself would deny that that was an implied and almost direct acceptance of the broad principle. Nobody demurred at the recommendation. I stress that not even the right honorable gentleman, who has well-known views on this and related subjects, demurred in 1936 at the continuance of government of the Commonwealth Bank by a board of men on a part-time basis, although in 1936 the memory of the great economic depression was fresh in the minds of everyone and would probably be at least a little fresher in the mind of the right honorable gentleman than it possibly would be in the minds of average Australians. In those circumstances, having heard all the evidence, he still accepted the principle of control of the Commonwealth Bank being exercised by a board.
Several other aspects of the economic depression have been raised during this debate. I do not desire to be led down all the sidetracks that have been opened up by honorable members opposite, except to refer to the statement of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) about Sir Robert Gibson, a great Australian who was Governor of the Commonwealth Bank when the Scullin Administration took office in the late 1920’s. The Scullin Administration had been in existence for twelve months when Sir Robert Gibson’s term as governor of the bank expired. That first twelve months of the Scullin Administration coincided with the worst and most dreadful period of the depression. All those dreadful iniquities that it is alleged the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks were responsible for, happened principally in that first twelve months of the Scullin Administration. When Sir Robert Gibson’s term expired Mr. Scullin, as Prime Minister, had to decide who would replace him. What did he decide to do? He recommended the reappointment of Sir Robert Gibson for another seven years.
– We all make mistakes.
– I consider that that is probably the most final answer to the alleged iniquities that honorable gentlemen opposite are constantly ascribing to Sir Robert Gibson, the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian banking system generally. A great deal could be said and, I expect, will be said, on this bill and I hope to have a further opportunity of joining in the debate on it.
.- After listening to the antiquated views on finance expressed by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) we can all understand why Bengal had a record famine while the right honorable gentleman was governor of that territory.
– That is a Communist story and the honorable gentleman takes every opportunity to repeat it.
– The private banks were very unwise in their choice of a defender when they selected the right honorable gentleman. He made some reference to the royal commission that was appointed by an anti-Labour Government in 1936 to investigate the activities of the financial institutions of this country, but before he dealt with the recommendations of that royal commission .the right honorable gentleman did not say what part he played himself in regard to colouring the evidence given before it. Probably on some other occasion he will be able to tell us exactly what part he played in censoring the evidence that was to be given by one of the most important witnesses. I refer to the Commonwealth Statistician, Dr. Boland Wilson.
– That is completely untrue and the honorable member knows that it is a most discreditable statement.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) must confine himself to a discussion of the proposal to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– You will perhaps recollect, Mr. Chairman, that you allowed other honorable members much wider scope while they were discussing the proposed board. The facts are, as the right honorable gentleman knows, that this measure has been introduced by this Government at the dictates of the private bankers of this country. It is part of the pay-off for the election expenses and other support that the private bankers gave at the last election to the parties now in office. The right honorable gentleman has tried to defend the bank board system of control by saying that there was no evidence whatever that the previous bank board had ever restricted or retarded tho development of the Commonwealth Bank. Let me read to him a statement made in this Parliament at the time the royal commission on banking and monetary policy was appointed. The statement was -
The policy of the hank board, either with or without the concurrence of the Government, has been to refrain from full and normal competition with the trading banks . . .
This Parliament should not set up a bank for the nation which gives certain of our citizens a better service than they are able to secure elsewhere, and restrict that service to a limited number . . .
That statement was not made by a member of the Labour party, but was made by the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). He was the gentleman who said that the Commonwealth Bank Board was restricting the development of the Commonwealth Bank and the fact that it was doing so is generally recognized. If there was no intention on the part of the Government to change the policy of the bank - and there has been no suggestion during this debate of dissatisfaction with the present control or operation of the bank - then why the necessity for a board at all? That necessity arises merely because the private bankers want a return to the board system because they know that under that system they can re-establish their monopoly of finance in this country, as there is no competition among the private banks. To prove the truth of that statement I shall quote from the evidence of Mr. L. J. McConnan, chief manager of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, who said -
There is a general understanding among the associated banks that we shall not compete with one another on questions of rate. The charges for other services, such as the keeping of accounts, internal and external exchange, &c, are also fixed by agreement between us.
So the only competition in the banking world to-day is the competition of the Commonwealth Bank with the private banks. With the re-establishment of the board system the private financial interests will regain their domination of finance and the Commonwealth Bank will be powerless to offer them any effective competition. Let us examine what the Government proposes in relation to the appointments to the board. It does not say that five of the members of the board shall be men who have no knowledge of banking. It says, in effect, that they shall have no association with banking. Is it not possible that certain prominent members of the managements of private banks could retire from their positions temporarily, or outwardly appear to do so, and thus be eligible for appointment to the proposed board? Honorable members can rest assured that the intention of the Government and of the private banks is to cripple the Commonwealth Bank, and it would not be the first time that the Minister for National Development has consulted and later actually complied with the bidding of private financial interests.
– Rot I
– The right honorable gentleman says, “ Rot ! “ Let me produce some evidence. In 1938, when he was Treasurer of the Commonwealth, the right honorable gentleman introduced the most impudent piece of legislation that was ever introduced into a national parliament. He proposed by that legislation to introduce private capital into the financial structure of the Commonwealth Bank. The reason for that move was that the Commonwealth Bank was earning between £1,500,000 and £1,750,000 in profit every year. Because there are no private shareholders of the bank to draw dividends from its profits it has been a very successful government undertaking. The Minister for National Development, and those whom he represents, knew that if they could get private capital introduced into the structure of the bank all that profit could be drained away in the payment of dividends, and they would later be able to aver that the bank was not a successful undertaking. But the Governor of tho bank never asked for additional capital. The bank had carried on for a number of years without the introduction of private capital. If the right honorable gentleman and the other members of that Government believed that the legislation that he introduced had some merit why did not the government of the day proceed with it? The Government dropped that legislation because of the public outcry about its introduction. The right honorable gentleman said that he did not confer or consult with private bankers in regard to that legislation and that he did not accept their direction. I well recollect that it was only after .persistent questioning in this House by members of the Labour party that he admitted that he had had any conferences with private bankers at all. I shall quote from an item that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 31st March, 1938, under the heading “ Mr. Casey’s Meeting with Bankers “. It reads as follows : -
The Federal Treasurer, Mr. Casey, said last night that the meeting of hankers over which he presided in Sydney, had been very useful. There had been a very frank exchange of views, but obviously he could not divulge the nature of the discussions. The conference was arranged to discuss the report and recommendations of the Royal Commission on Banking, with the object of assisting -the Federal ministry in framing amending banking legislation.
Honorable members opposite have repeatedly castigated the Labour Government for having conferred with the trade unions in regard to industrial legislation, yet the Minister for National Development was compelled to admit that in 1938 he had discussed with the representatives of the private banks legislation which would have greatly affected those institutions.
– That has nothing to do with the functions of the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board.
– On the contrary it has much to do with it.
– Order ! What the Minister may have done in the past in relation to the private banks has nothing to do with the proposed appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board. I ask the honorable member to return to the matter before the Chair.
– I shall return to it by stating that, in my opinion, the direction for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board came from the private banks which financed the election expenses of the parties that now form the Government of this country. A few days later the same journal published this statement -
The Federal Cabinet has agreed to compromise on certain of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Banking to meet objections by the private banks to the form of the new banking bill.
That agreement was made at a time when the right honorable member for La Trobe was Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Why does the Government desire to reinstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board? Despite all of the achievements claimed for the Commonwealth Bank in the past, that bank, under proper control, could have done a great deal more than it did. In my opinion and in that of people who are regarded as financial experts, there is no reason why either semigovernment or outright government undertakings should not be financed by the Commonwealth Bank without recourse to the raising of loans. During the war the Commonwealth Bank advanced to the Australian Government no less than £350,000,000 for the purpose of financing the war effort. Does anybody believe that it produced the £350,000,000 out of its vaults in either notes or gold?
The Commonwealth Bank merely accepted cheques drawn by the government to the amount of £350,000,000. There is no reason why the Commonwealth Bank, properly controlled, should not do as much in peace-time for the development of this country. Let me give an illustration of how the Commonwealth Bank could assist in the development of Australia. When I was Minister for Transport I submitted recommendations to the Chifley Government in relation to the standardization of railway gauges and the financing of that project. I suggested that the project should be financed by the Commonwealth Bank. That suggestion was considered by a small expert committee consisting of Mr. Joyce who, at that time, was Assistant Secretary to the Treasury and is now Commonwealth Auditor-General, Professor Crawford, of the then Department of War Organization of Industry, and Mr. Murphy, the Secretary of the Department of Transport.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire first to reply to a statement made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), which contained a reflection on the right honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Casey). I should not like that statement to go over the air without denial. I wish to make it perfectly clear that the events that took place in India to which the honorable member for East Sydney has referred occurred prior to the appointment of the right honorable member for La Trobe as Governor of Bengal-
– Hundreds of Indians died around the palace walls while the right honorable gentleman was in office.
– Opposition members are always prepared to act as the agents of the ‘Communist party.
– Next I wish to reply to the statement made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) that during the depression years the Australian Government was strangled by the Commonwealth Bank
Board. In those years a Labour government was in office in this Parliament. If the majority of the Opposition parties in the Senate presented a problem to that government at that time, the government had the same rights as has this Government to seek a double dissolution. The Labour Government failed to do so. If the present Labour majority in the Senate causes this Government any difficulty in relation to the bill now before us I hope that the Government will not hesitate to seek a double dissolution. Opposition members have constantly criticized the appointment of boards of various kinds. Strangely enough, not one Opposition member has stated why, when the Labour Government was in office, it appointed so many boards to control its various undertakings throughout the Commonwealth. It is obvious that the hostility of Opposition members to this bill is prompted by their desire that the control of the Commonwealth Bank should remain in the hands of one individual. Among the instrumentalities with controlling boards that were established by the Labour Government are the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Shipping Board and the directorate of Trans-Australia Airlines. The people who returned the present Government to office have greater confidence in a board than in a single individual. At present the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has complete authority to control the activities of that institution, subject to the over-riding authority of the Treasurer of the day. Opposition members have raised all sorts of objections to the proposal that the Commonwealth Bank Board should include five members representing outside interests. Do they think that a person who is Treasurer of the Commonwealth for the time being necessarily has greater ability and capacity than have many other people in the community? If it is competent for the people to appoint members to this Parliament and to give them authority to select a person to act as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, it is also competent for this Parliament to legislate for the selection of five persons who would be capable of assisting in the management of the affairs of the Commonwealth Bank. The appointment of five outsiders to the board will permit of adequate representation of the various interests in the community. For instance, the primary producer-
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing that aspect at this stage. He may do so on later provisions of the bill.
– The Government is taking a logical step in providing for the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board, rather than leaving the control of the bank in the hands of a single individual. It will be the responsibility of the board to control the currency of this country. If control were left in the hands of one individual there would be very great opportunity for manipulation of the currency of this country. Such a system is open to very grave abuses. Opposition members cannot present one reasonable argument why this Government, which has received a mandate from the people on the subject of banking, should not proceed with its policy of reappointing the Commonwealth Bank Board.
Much has been said by Opposition members about the .problems that resulted from the financial and economic depression of the ‘thirties. One of the main factors that retarded the recovery of Australia from the effects of the depression was that in .those days businessmen had an insufficient equity in their undertakings. The price of land was very high between 1920 and 1930 and many primary producers paid unnecessarily high prices for .propertie’4 which they acquired during that period. Business undertakings had endeavoured to carry on by seeking additional capital by way of loans from the banks, and when the depression hit us, they had a very small equity in their undertakings. If many of our large business undertakings had then wanted to establish new departments, they would have had insufficient capital to enable them to do so. If we compare the position that exists to-day with the position that existed at that time we shall find that businessmen now have substantial equities in their undertakings and are much better able to withstand the effects of a recession.
– That is the result of good Labour government during the last eight years.
– In the interests of the people it is most desirable that confidence in the financial structure of this country should be maintained.- It can best be maintained by the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board.
The Chairman having called the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden),
– I rise to order. It has been the practice in this chamber on some occasions to call in turn a member of the Liberal party, a member of the Australian Country party and then a member of the Opposition. An unequivocal assurance was given to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), however, that that practice would not be followed when contentious matters were under discussion. When such matters are under discussion it was agreed that the call should be given to the Government side and to the Opposition side in rotation, the two parties on the Government side being regarded as a combined party for that purpose. That practice, which was laid down by Mr. Speaker, has been followed throughout the years by all previous speakers and chairmen of committees.
– I am quite willing to allow the honorable member for Perth to speak in my stead.
– Order ! The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has been given the call. I intend to treat all sections of the House quite fairly.
– We cannot allow the rule which has hitherto been followed in relation to controversial issues to be abandoned. In allowing two Government speakers to address the House before calling on an Opposition member the Chairman is breaking a long-established rule. Such a state of affairs is intolerable. Such a practice is not followed either here or in the Senate, where the Opposition has a majority. The Chairman should follow the direction given by Mr. Speaker in this regard.
– I rise to speak on the point of protest. During the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, owing to the disparity in numbers in this House, Mr. Speaker adopted the practice to which objection has been taken by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), but he explained the basis of it t6 the Leader of the Opposition. It was clearly understood, as the honorable member for Perth has indicated, that in the debating of contentious matters, such as that now before the committee, that practice would not be followed. I submit that it is wrong for the Chairman to follow it in a debate of this kind. So long as speakers rise on each side of the chamber the practice should be to call opposing speakers in turn. I confirm what the honorable member for Perth has said and I ask you, Mr. Chairman, not to introduce into the committee discussion on controversial matters a practice which is not followed in the House in relation to such matters. Such a practice was adopted by Mr. Speaker only temporarily for purposes that have already been served and it was not intended that it should be repeated.
– I must lay down that every member has the same rights in this chamber. Whilst I recognize the pros and cons of a particular subject I still must recognize the rights of members who, in one corner of the House, have not had a call.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I ask for an assurance, Mr. Chairman, that when an honorable member of the Opposition rises his remarks will not be drowned out by the concerted voices from the Government benches. That is something that has happened frequently. Not only is it the practice of this House, but it is laid down in all the guides available on British parliamentary practice and can be fortified, if fortification be necessary, by the rules governing every meeting of a company or union that speakers are called for and against a motion. This procedure is clearly defined in May, the bible of British Parliamentary Practice. It is a practice which should not be discontinued. It is a precedent that cannot lightly be dismissed. Very reluctantly, I shall have to move dissent from your ruling, Mr. Chairman, if you persist with it.
Ax Honorable Member. - Why waste time?
– Some honorable member says that that would be wasting time. Let me remind those honorable members who are new to this House that Government members, when in Opposition, wasted a great deal of time, very often with less justification than we claim for our actions at the present time. Honorable members of the Opposition do not desire to continue that practice, because it brings the Parliament into disrepute, but principles which have been observed throughout the years should not be discarded at the whim of any Chairman or Speaker of this assembly. If you are going to make a change, Mr. Chairman, I suggest that you should not make it now but only after due consideration of the issues involved and of the authorities that are available to guide you.
– I have heard the honorable member’s remarks and I have nothing further to say at this stage.
– Then I move, Mr. Chairman-
That the ruling be dissented from.
– The honorable member has not handed to the Chairman his motion of dissent in writing.
Mr. Burke. - I point out, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is interjecting from a seat other than his own.
Mr. Rosevear. - I ask you, Mr. Chairman, in the interests of order in the Committee, whether it is correct for the Government Whip to be interjecting from this side of the chamber?
– It is the accepted practice that honorable members should speak and interject, if they must interject, from their own seats. However, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has been a repeated offender in that regard this afternoon.
– I was talking about the Government Whip.
– If it applies to the Government Whip it applies to all honorable members.
– I do not wish to put this motion to the vote if that can be avoided. I move it in order that we may preserve an assurance given by Mr. Speaker to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) and to the senior Government “Whip. Mr. Speaker said -
While the Address-in-Reply is under consideration I propose to give a reasonable call to all sections of the House. I propose to do that because of the present circumstances of the House. I propose also, at question time, as far as possible, to afford to all members an opportunity of getting a question asked and answered, but the moment that controversial matters are raised, then I shall revert to established custom and practice and call one Government supporter and one member of the Opposition.
You, Mr. Chairman, propose to depart from that practice. You are departing from a practice which has been established throughout the years. If your ruling is not withdrawn after more mature consideration has been given to it, you will be establishing a precedent which will operate throughout the years, if it is continued, to the detriment of Opposition members and Government members alike, whatever government may be in power from time to time. I understand that in private life you are chairman of some organization. What do you do when matters are in dispute? You follow a practice that has been adopted from British parliamentary institutions. You call one member for and one member against the. proposal.
– May I inquire what the honorable member is talking about ?
– The honorable member may not ask that question while the honorable member for Perth is speaking. He may do that when he has finished.
– The honorable member who has interjected does not understand the practice. The question is whether or not established practice shall be maintained. I understand that the honorable gentleman and his colleagues are traditionalists and that they believe in British parliamentary practice. They believe in House of Commons procedure and do not believe in departing from established practices without grave cause being shown. Therefore, they should not support a ruling which departs from the practice cf all British institutions from the dawn of responsible government. I say, sir, that you should not place yourself in the position of having to face a charge of partiality at the outset of your occupancy of the Chair. You are placed in a difficult and responsible position. I believe that you will discharge your duties to the best of your ability and with a sense of impartiality, but you will not be credited with the possession of those qualities if, at the outset, you give one member of the Opposition the call against two Government supporters. If you do that, as we proceed to consider whatever bills may come before the House, honorable members and the people of Australia will hear two speeches from the Government side to each one from the Opposition side. The practice of Australian parliaments is not fully understood by the public of Australia and they will say that there is no answer to a case put by the Government.
– I rise to order. I understand that Standing Order 279 stipulates that if any objection is taken to the ruling of the Chairman such objection shall be stated at once and in writing and shall he forthwith decided by the committee. The honorable member for Perth has not stated his objection in writing.
– The matter is quite in order.
– Honorable members opposite have their remedy in this matter. Immediately it is open for discussion they can rise and defend your attitude, Mr. Chairman, and put their point of view. In the meantime, frivolous points of order serve no useful purpose and will not deter me from stating my case. The Government is doing no harm to the Opposition by following this completely wrong practice and procedure. Honorable members of the Opposition will state their views, not only in this Parliament, but also wherever it is required that they shall be stated. But you, sir, are establishing a grave departure from parliamentary practice which has been established and maintained throughout the years. I submit that you should not do that without due consideration and unless you are willing to re-consider the matter and give a decision to-morrow, I shall press my motion.
– I second the motion, Mr. Chairman, because, in view of the fact that certain arrangements were made between the Government and the Opposition, your present decision amounts to an act of bad faith. When the wide disparity of party representation in this House was first established and there were 74 Government members to 49 Opposition members, some Government supporters believed that the call should go twice to their side and once to the Opposition. That would have been an exaggeration of the Government’s majority. When I first came into this House, the government of the day did have to two-to-one majority yet it never attempted to have the call given twice in succession to the Government side of the House. You, Mr. Chairman, are a member of the Australian Country party and are treating it as one that is entitled to a separate call in this matter. As that party has nineteen seats in a House of 123, it would be entitled to less than one call in six if the logic upon which your ruling is based were applied.
Honorable members were given to understand on the occasion of the AddressinReply that when the Opposition indicated that it was opposed to a bill, the call would alternate from one side of the House to the other. A member of the Australian Country party has now risen and you propose to treat him as a member of a. party which is a separate entity from the Government, an indefensible contention considering that this is a coalition government. I feel that your ruling constitutes an act of bad faith in view of the arrangement that has been entered into between the Government and the Opposition.
– I rise to order. 1 noticed that immediately prior to calling the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), Mr. Chairman, you were approached by him. I desire to know whether the honorable member for Gippsland asked you to give him the next call and whether, by having acceded to that request, you did an injustice to a member of the Opposition who had not approached you but had simply risen in his place. If so, I strongly support the case put by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke).
– The honorable gentleman is wrong.
– I made no promise to the honorable member for Gippsland.
– Did the honorable member for Gippsland suggest that he should have the next call?
– No point of order is involved.
– I ask for your ruling, Mr. Chairman. Was the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in order in casting a reflection upon the Chair by suggesting that you had called another honorable member because he happened to belong to your political party? I suggest that the imputation was most offensive and scurrilous and should be withdrawn.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has said that I cast a reflection upon you, Mr. Chairman. I merely asked whether in fact you had received a suggestion from the honorable member for Gippsland. I have not yet been enlightened on that point. I did not cast any aspersions upon your judgment, Mr. Chairman
– The honorable member for Lalor has evaded the point. I. referred to his statement that you had called a member of your own party, Mr. Chairman.
– So he did.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) said that he did not know what my ruling was, and therefore I am wondering why he moved dissent from it. I want honorable members to be clear in their minds that the only ruling that I gave was that each member of the committee would receive his rightful dues in the conduct of any debate.
– I submit that you have misunderstood the position entirely, Mr. Chairman. You ought to understand the situation before you make any further statement upon it. I said that you could not accept one ruling for the conduct of business and at the same time make and enforce a different ruling.
– The honorable member cannot speak again unless he wishes to make a personal explanation.
– This is a personal explanation. You have said that I stated that I did not know what ruling you had given. What I said was that you, Mr. Chairman, could not make a new ruling when your previous ruling was in dispute.
– The incident that ha3 arisen is very unfortunate having regard to the fact that you, Mr. Chairman, have only recently taken the chair in committee. The dissatisfaction that is evidenced by the motion of dissent submitted by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), arises, as he has stated, from the acceptance of an arrangement that was made between the Speaker of the House, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), and I think, the senior Government Whip.
– And, I understand, the Prime Minister.
– I am sure that you knew nothing of any such arrangement.
– Nothing at all.
– I certainly did not know of it. Knowing you as I do, I am convinced that you would be the last person to seek to repudiate any such arrangement. Dissatisfaction has arisen from the order of the calls that have been given from the Chair to honorable members wishing to speak in committee, and you have been accused of having called the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) because he is a member of the Australian Country party. That accusation is quite unfair. It has been made only because you, in the discharge of your duties, conscientiously believed that the order of calls should be in the ratio of two to one in favour of the Government parties owing to the relative numerical strength of the respective parties. We are at cross purposes only because of a misunderstanding, and I suggest that the matter be reviewed in the light of what has been described as an honorable arrangement, which I am sure you would not seek to repudiate in any circumstances. The honorable member for Gippsland, having been called, should proceed with his speech and you should review the situation in the meantime in the light of the arrangement that is alleged to have been made.
– I do not think that conditions in -a State Parliament, of which I have had considerable experience, are vastly different from conditions in this Parliament. As I understand the position, all Australian legislatures operate according to the old standards and traditions of the United Kingdom Parliament. The House of Representatives, constituted as a house, is different from the same body constituted as a committee. The House deals with broad matters of principle involved in legislation that is brought before it, and party bias and strength play their part in such debates. In committee, we accept the decision of the House on broad principles and deal with legislation in detail. In my view, we should now be acting, as members of the committee, according to our individual views. I declare explicitly that, although I am a member of one of the Government parties, I reserve the right to endeavour to amend the bill if I consider that any such amendment is necessary. That should be the right of every member of the committee. I have accepted the bill in principle, but if I consider that its clauses should be altered, I shall seek in committee to give effect to the dictates of my conscience in that respect. Our duty as members of the committee is to shape the bill in the best interests of the community. For that reason I consider that you have acted correctly, Mr. Chairman, in calling members of the committee as individuals regardless of their party attachments. I can see no objection to a departure being made in committee from any practice that may have been accepted by the Speaker of the House and the leaders of the respective parties for the conduct of business in the House. I was aware that an arrangement had been made regarding the distribution of calls from the Chair during proceedings in the House, but I was not under the impression that the arrangement was expected to apply in committee. The Chairman of Committees could not possibly be aware of the attitude that any honorable member might adopt towards any particular clause of a bill. The Chairman may exercise his discretion in calling honorable members who rise to speak, and I have no doubt that he will share the calls equitably between both sides. I am prepared to uphold the decision that you have made, Mr. Chairman, and I hope that you will adhere to the idea that we have our rights as individuals in committee discussions regardless of our party attachments.
– This is not the first occasion upon which the division of strength between Government and Opposition parties has been on the same scale as at present, and I challenge contradiction when I declare that the practice invariably has been to give the call from the Chair first to Government supporters and then to the Opposition. I can see no other fair method of conducting a forthright -discussion on any subject. There are advantages in calling speakers for and against any proposal alternately. By that means, both sides of a question can be clearly stated, particularly in committee. I have often heard vital points raised in that way. All knowledge and all wisdom do not repose exclusively with Ministers or ex-Ministers.
– Or with ex-Speakers !
– I agree with the honorable member, although I am sorry that he has not sufficient courtesy to refrain from interrupting. The practice of alternating calls from the Chair equally between Government supporters and members of the Opposition has been in vogue for many years. It was accepted long before a Labour Speaker was elected in 1941. The custom is time-honoured I have great confidence in your integrity and honesty, Mr. Chairman. Make no mistake about that. I am not seeking merely to embarrass you. However, all people are liable to make mistakes, and I think that, without allowing a bitter argument to develop, you might appreciate the wisdom of distributing calls from the Chair in committee first to Government parties and then to the Opposition in regular alternation. That, method gives general satisfaction. It ensures that both the supporters and the opponents of any measure are heard equally if they wish to be heard. I suggest with great respect to you, and in an endeavour to be helpful, that you adopt the policy that has remained unchanged, both in the House and in committee, for the last twenty years to my knowledge.
– In order that there shall be no ambiguity, I repeat that the decision that I made was that I would recognize the rights of all honorable members. I certainly intend to adhere to that decision, as honorable members should expect me to do. When the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) questioned my ruling, I said that his comments would be noted but that I had nothing more to add at that stage. Surely the honorable gentleman understood from that statement that I intended to consider what he had said but that the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) would be allowed to proceed with his speech as he had been given the call.
– I considered that you should not establish a new practice by doing that.
– I intimated that my intention was to keep the honorable members’ comments in mind. I shall certainly do so.
– Do you, Mr. Chairman, propose to review your previous decision? If so, the Opposition may be prepared to withdraw its motion.
– That was the intimation, I believe.
– I do not think that there is any honorable member in this chamber, especially among those who were members of the last Parliament, who would regard your decision, Mr. Chairman, as being anything but an attempt to be fair to all sides. Parliamentary procedure has been mentioned, and its history has been detailed by members of the Opposition, but I suggest that the whole incident is merely a lot of humbug for the purpose of wasting time. The Opposition has demonstrated its intention of wasting as much time in a frivolous way as is possible during this session of the Parliament. Although it has been stated that such a thing as has happened to-day has not occurred before in this chamber, I say that it has occurred before in this chamber, I say that it has occurred on numerous occasions in committee, but not because the Chairman wanted to give two calk at a time to one side. That can be proved by reference to Hansard. How often was the previous honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) kept out of debates by two calls being given successively to one side of the chamber? I suggest that that happened on numerous occasions. But now the Opposition, very righteously, is trying to find fault on that account with a chairman who is absolutely fair and who called the honorable member for Gippsland because no member of the Australian Country party had taken part in this debate. Three members of the Opposition have spoken in the debate, but the honorable member for Gippsland is the first speaker from the Australian Country party who has had a call. The Chairman apparently wanted to give every party in the House a fair proportion of the calls, and he did so. I believe it is right that a member from each side should be called alternately, but if, in the light of the actions of previous chairmen of committees, such an action is taken by you, Mr. Chairman, it ill behoves the members of the Opposition to kick up a row in order to try to embarrass you who have just taken your place in the chair. The Chairman, whose fairness cannot be doubted in any possible way, will give absolute satisfaction to this chamber in the discharge of his duties. The Opposition’s tactics are designed to try to prevent the passage of legislation that the people of Australia have trusted the Government to put through. Such tactics cannot serve any good purpose and the people outside this chamber must be able to perceive quite clearly what is going on. Such perception will reflect no glory on the Opposition.
– The series of ridiculous utterances that we have heard from the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) are entirely unsatisfactory. He. has made a number of wild and foolish statements, which upon reflection he will realize are entirely wrong. He referred to past practice in this chamber, and said that two members from one side had been called in succession. I have seen two members from one side getting the call in succession, but for only one reason. It often happened that two, three, or even four Opposition members in previous committees obtained the call in succession because no members on the Government side desired to speak. However, where members on both sides of the committee desired to speak the practice has always been that one should be called from the Government side and one from the Opposition. If the honorable member for Mallee likes to look through the records he will find that what I say is correct. His bringing of the previous honorable member for Reid into the discussion did not help the argument because that gentleman was a member of the Opposition who sat on the Government side and therefore was not always entitled to the call when he thought that he should have it. To-day, members of the Australian Country party, who are members of one of the governing parties, are sitting on this side of the chamber only because there are not sufficient seats on the Government side. If there were sufficient seats on that side the members of the Opposition would have the whole of this side of the chamber and there would be no question about whether an honorable member was being called from one side or the other. I suggest that a new line should be drawn between the Government and the Opposition so that all honorable members will get a fair deal.
I heard your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and I think that it is a little ambiguous. I want to ensure that members of the Opposition will get a reasonable opportunity to speak. You have said that you are observing the rights of all honorable members. If you will say that in order to do so you will give, without fear or favour, one call to the Government side and the next to the Opposition, all honorable members will know exactly what your ruling is, and there may be no necessity for a vote to be taken on this motion. I do not make any accusation against your motives, but if you will make your ruling a little clearer we shall probably be able to understand it and all our misgivings will be removed.
– There is no misunderstanding now.
– The honorable member for Gippsland says that there is no misunderstanding at the moment. As far a9 I am concerned there is a great deal of misunderstanding. If the honorable member for Gippsland is suggesting that two supporters of the Government should get the call to one member of the Opposition then there will continue to be misunderstanding on our side, because we have equal rights, when sitting in committee, with m embers on the Government side. Because we are in a minority we refuse to sacrifice any of the rights of Opposition members that have been gained during the centuries of parliamentary government. We shall continue to demand the right to get every second call when the House is in committee.
– The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) has intimated that in his view no unfairness was intended by the ruling given by the Chairman. It has also been intimated by some honorable members opposite that there have been occasions on which there have been two or more calls from one side of the chamber, even though other honorable members were anxious to speak. I myself was once a victim of that very thing, but I realized that it was completely accidental and I made no protest. On this occasion, in view of the admitted fact that the Chairman of Committees knew nothing of the arrangement which has been mentioned, this can quite well be called an accidental occurrence. I suggest, in the light of all that has gone before, that the proper, wise, and sensible thing to do is for the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) to withdraw his motion of dissent, knowing full well that the Chairman, having given his ruling, will continue to accept the speaker who has been called but will take cognizance in the future of the proper arrangement, having discovered precisely what that arrangement is. I should say that in view of the obvious good faith of the occupant of the Chair, this course should commend itself to the honorable member for Perth, who is also regarded by members of this House as a gentleman of good faith.
– The Opposition has been given a virtual assurance that existing practice will be maintained after this incident, and that further consideration will be given to the matter in the light of the arrangement that allegedly has been entered into. That being the case I ask for the permission of the committee to withdraw the motion standing in ray name.
Leave granted; motion withdrawn accordingly.
.- It is so long since there has been any mention of the matter that the committee is debating that I shall repeat it. It is the proposal to establish a board to manage the affairs of the Commonwealth Bank. The mock battle being waged by honorable members of the Opposition in an attempt to discredit the proposal can be reasonably described as “ much ado about nothing “ because they studiously avoid any mention of the vital difference between the proposed new board and the board of 1924. That is, that in the event of any conflict between the bank policy and the national policy, the issue shall be decided by the supreme instrument of the people, the Australian Parliament. Nothing could be less dictatorial than that, nor more democratic. The Opposition is trying to win a modern battle with obsolete weapons. It has frequently dragged in its old stalking horse, the depression, in order to give it a new airing. Honorable members of the Opposition talk of the depression, which occurred twenty years ago, as though it happened last year. That subject is worn threadbare and is resorted to only to engender class hatred and to erect ‘social barriers. It is so used by desperate men in their losing battle against the national advantages that democracy offers to its adherents. Australia is a part of the new world and is fortunate in that it has not traditional hatreds. The inclination of its free citizens is to get together for the common good. However, there are organizations that do not desire harmonious relations to exist between the different categories of people. Such bodies as the Communist party continuously flaunt their old world hatreds and antagonisms in an attempt to disrupt the harmony that exists between the people of Australia.
The Labour party, whose administrative record is notorious for the number of boards or commissions it established, or proposed to establish, to manage everything under the sun, pretends to see something sinister in a proposal to establish a board to manage the Commonwealth Bank. The board appointed in 1924 is stigmatized as a group of evil men whose one objective was to destroy the bank that they were appointed to manage. That was the old parrot-cry.
– Quite true.
– I just heard one of the parrots. The slightest investigation of the progress of the bank during that period will reveal the fallacy of that argument. The 1945 Commonwealth Bank Act - and this is the reason for the proposal to reconstitute the board - gave to the treasurer of the day, whoever he was, power to override the decision of the management of the bank in matters of policy whenever circumstances arose in which the expert opinion of the management of the bank was in conflict with the probably inexpert opinion of the Treasurer of the day. That provision was considered by the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the present Prime Minister, to be potentially dangerous, having regard to the possibility, under the Australian system of voting, that the Treasurer might be a man whose financial ideas were unusual, or, perhaps, completely unorthodox, and whose interference with the financial mechanism of the nation could produce greater chaos than that which he sought to prevent. Members of the Labour party have asked almost plaintively what justification there is for introducing this bill. They have challenged the Government to point to a single instance in which the present method of administration has failed. It is quite possible that the Government cannot do so, hut I ask the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), who made the point, to say in what particular the Commonwealth Bank, under the control of a board, failed him or his predecessor in office, during the war. If there was never any such instance, then where was the justification for the present act, which we are now seeking to amend? There was no justification. I should like to know whence originated this new-found antipathy to boards as such. The Labour party pretends to believe that from 1924 onwards it opposed the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board.
– That is correct.
– The more the honorable member makes that assertion, the heavier he will fall. I have here a copy of the bill introduced by the Scullin Government in 1930 to provide for the setting up of a “ Central Reserve Bank of Australia, and for other purposes “.
– Hear, hear !
– I am glad to hear the honorable member’s applause. Opposition members when challenged on the point, said that Mr. Scullin had no power to abolish the Commonwealth Bank Board. If he could have done so, they said, he would have created a modern eldorado in Australia.
– The Scullin Government did not have a majority in the Senate.
– The Scullin Government had a majority in this House, and it was in this House that the bill was introduced. Clause 13 of the bill, which dealt with the management of the bank, read as follows: -
It will be noted that there were to be nine members of that board. Yet Opposition members are making a great song about the proposal to appoint a board of eight. Now let those honorable members listen to this, and then for ever hold their peace. The clause continued - (2.) Subject to this Act, the eight other Directors shall consist of -
This is the answer to the claim of the Leader of the Opposition that the bank should be under the control of bankers -
Five other persons representing respectively the following interests: -
Those are exactly the same sources as those from which the members of the board of 1924 were drawn. It is evident that Mr. Scullin had no desire to abolish the Commonwealth Bank Board, but that he, on the contrary, wished by legislation to make it a permanent institution. Therefore, it is reasonable to ask again, what is the reason for this newly developed opposition to a bank board among members of the Labour party?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) made some points which are worthy of respect, and which should be answered, as also did the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), but the honorable member for Gippsland described as a mere parrot-cry the claim of the Labour party that the Commonwealth, under the control of the Commonwealth Bank Board, was stifled. He claimed that the Labour party had no objection to the board during the first few years of the life of the Curtin Government. That Government, however, did not have a majority in the Senate, and therefore was not in a position to alter the situation. The answer to the point was given by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). The truth is that, by means of war-time regulations, the supremacy of the government over the Commonwealth Bank Board was established. The Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 merely gave permanent statutory form to the war-time regulations. Therefore, to speak of the situation that existed in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank Board under the Curtin Government as unadulterated board control is to misstate the position, and it is absurd to describe as leftist propaganda claims that the Commonwealth Bank Board stifled the trading activities of the Commonwealth Bank. In proof of my point, let me quote the evidence given by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Sir Ernest Riddle, before the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems of Australia in answer to a series of questions asked mostly by the present Leader of the Opposition. I quote from the minutes of evidence as follows : -
By Mr. Chifley.- Do I understand from your answer to Question 2 that your bank will not take a customer for a trading bank? - We take creditor accounts without any restriction. In regard to advance accounts, if the banks are giving what we consider satisfactory service at a satisfactory rate, we do not interfere with them.
From what has been said here, I take it your rate for advances is lower than that of the trading banks. Supposing a customer of a trading bank wants to transfer his business to your bank, would you refuse him? - Yes, we have given an undertaking to the banks that, if they maintain their reserves with the Commonwealth Bank, we shall not use those reserves in competition with them.
We were informed by witnesses on behalf of the trading banks that there was no understanding with the Commonwealth Bank that if they maintained their reserves you would not compete with them? - We have stated publicly from time to time that we shall not use their funds in competition with them. We use our own bank funds, but not the banks’ funds.
Does that mean you have given them an undertaking that if they leave their reserves with you, you will not, in effect, take customers from “them ? - We will not use their funds to take customers from them. The amount of money we have available does not permit us to compete largely with them.
By the Chairman. - Your answer does not quite meet the question. The question put to you was whether you had given that undertaking to the banks. From what you have said, I understand that you stated publicly that you would not use their funds to compete with them; you are being asked whether you ever gave that undertaking, as it were, directly to the banks? - Yes, it has been said to the banks when we have been speaking to them. There has been no written agreement, but we have told them verbally that we would not use their funds in competition with them, and we have maintained that attitude.
By Mr. Pitt. - How do you differentiate between their funds and the other funds? - We know what the other bank funds are, and we know what funds are available for ordinary trading purposes, and we keep our trading advances well within our own funds.
By Mr. Chifley. - Do I understand that, if you did have funds available you would not make an advance to a customer of another bank nor allow him to transfer his business to you? - There is no definite undertaking that we will not do it, but as a general rule, we will not.
Have you done it at any time ? - Yes, in some cases we have.
Has it ever occurred that a trading bank, through its head office, has communicated with you regarding the activities of your country managers in seeking custom? - Yes, frequently.
That is, a trading bank has got in touch and informed you that your country manager is seeking to take custom from it? - Yes.
What action do you take when you find your managers doing that? - We tell the managers we do not wish them to do it, if the other banks are giving satisfactory service.
Who would determine what constituted “ satisfactory service “ ? - That would be determined by us at head office in most cases. We would see the representative of the bank in Sydney or Melbourne, as the case may be, and find out if they were willing to give the services which we consider were satisfactory.
As the Commonwealth Bank is the bank of the public, what is the reason for not giving all the service it can at the cheapest possible rate to the community? - We have to bear in mind the fact that we are acting as a central bank as well as a trading bank.
Does that mean that, because you are a central bank, you cannot operate to your full capacity as a trading bank? - Yes.
So that by becoming a central bank you have crippled your activities as a trading bank? - We have restricted our activities.
There was more cross-questioning of high officials of the Commonwealth Bank, whose evidence was to the effect that, under the management of the Commonwealth Bank Board, a deliberate policy was applied with the intention of stopping competition with the private banks. According to the evidence I have quoted, a country branch manager of the Commonwealth Bank could be subject to rebuke if he sought to take custom from a private bank. If any honorable member opposite claims that the statements of Sir Ernest Riddle and other witnesses on this point are untrue, we should like to hear his authority for the denial.
The Minister for National Development drew a misleading analogy when he said that limited liability companies had prospered and expanded under the control of what may be described as amateur directorates, men with a. broad, practical background, but not necessarily experts in the affairs of the company with which they became associated. The fact is that the director of a company is usually either a shareholder in, or receives fees from the company. He has an incentive to promote the interests of the company. Has any honorable member opposite ever heard of a director of a company stating, as did Sir Ernest Riddle, that it was the policy of his board to prevent competition ? When the representative of a private business is appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board, what incentive can he have to see that the activities of the bank shall be expanded, unless he is actuated by a desire to do his job well? The director of an ordinary company has a. direct financial interest in the prosperity and expansion of the company, but a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board will have no incentive to further the expansion of the Commonwealth Bank should a conflict arise between the Commonwealth Bank and private business interests. The point is not whether the directorates of ordinary companies are virtuous, but whether private directors are interested in the expansion of a government bank. Of what use is it to pretend that the Commonwealth Bank, from the time of its establishment in 1910, has not been a centre of controversy between governments and private enterprise? There was conflict in 1910 about whether the bank should exist at all. There was conflict in 1924 about whether the bank should be under the control of a board representing private business interests. The honorable member for Gippsland said that the Scullin Government sought to perpetuate the system of control by a board. Well, are we going to pretend that the bill now before us was not modified in the knowledge that there is in the Senate a majority hostile to the Government? In the same way, the proposed legislation of the Scullin Government was modified in the knowledge that there was a limit to what it could get through the Senate. Therefore, there is no virtue in the argument of the honorable member for Gippsland. It is not just a matter of some crank on the Yarra bank asserting that the activities of the Commonwealth Bank were deliberately restricted. I have read extensive passages from Sir Ernest Riddle’s evidence, and I say that there is no virtue in the argument that has been advanced by the Minister for National Development concerning private directors. The question is, how faithful will private directors from private enterprise be to the concept of a government bank?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As I view the matter, our opinions on the advisability or otherwise of establishing a board to control the Commonwealth Bank are governed by our answers to one of two questions, namely, whether we believe in a government organization that is vital to the economy of the country being completely under the control of one man who is not necessarily responsible to the Parliament, or whether we consider that the better system is to have the control of the bank in the hands of a group of individuals who are responsible to the Parliament. Under the existing arrangement, the Treasurer is virtually the controller of the policy of the Commonwealth Bank. I believe that, in different circumstances, at different times, it is possible that a virtual dictator of the bank may be more useful than a large board, or as we choose to call it, a small board. But it is also extremely dangerous, in some circumstances, to have the whole of that control in the hands of one man. “We have only to recall that in the previous Government the Treasurer was also the Prime Minister. We know also that the purpose of the Banking Act 1947 was to place the control of the whole of the finances of the country in the hands of the Commonwealth Bank, and, through that institution, in the hands of the Commonwealth Treasurer, who also happened to be the Prime Minister. We recollect the speed with which the Banking Bill was passed by the Parliament in 1947, and, in all the circumstances I see a great danger in placing tremendous power in the hands of one man in respect of matters that will be of vital importance to our country.
It has been said that the members of the board of a government bank would not have an incentive to work for this expansion of that institution. It may be possible that, in the past, that has been the experience, but I believe in the. sincerity of the Government that is now in power, and I consider that it r-an and will appoint to the proposed bank board men who will perform their duties conscientiously, with a full sense of their responsibility to the bank and to the Commonwealth. It is ridiculous to say that it is impossible to select from the millions of people in Australia outside the Public Service five men who could give valuable advice and who would possess the necessary knowledge or experience to justify their appointment to the board. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) made a good point when he said that in the conduct of a bank general knowledge and experience are equally as useful as specialized knowledge. I studied economics for some years, and by the time J had completed the course, I had come to the conclusion that the first sentence that I read in my first text-book was the most accurate. That sentence stated that economics is the most inexact of the sciences. Five specialists in banking could be chosen, but I do not believe that they would be infallible. In exactly the same way, I do not believe that the other five members whom it is proposed to appoint to the board would necessarily be infallible, but I think that their balanced, considered judgment would, on an average and over a period, be more valuable to the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Bank than would be the opinion of one man. I assure honorable members that it would not be nearly so dangerous.
.- I disagree with the views that have been expressed by the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm), who has suggested that the Commonwealth Bank is subject to the dictatorship of one man. In actual fact, whilst full power rests in the hands of the Governor, the management of the bank at the present time is subject to two checks. The first is the Advisory Council, an expert body that is capable of giving sound advice on economic, social and banking matters. The second is that, when the policy has been determined, it is, in turn, subject to the Treasurer, who has the right to override the decision of the Governor.
– The power is in the Treasurer’s hands.
– I have described the actual position, and the present system of management has worked satisfactorily. Honorable members opposite have not suggested that it has been unsuccessful, has resulted in grievous errors, and has done damage to the financial interests of the Commonwealth either as a government or as a community. Therefore, I find it necessary to consider carefully a proposal to re-establish a somewhat similar system of control of this most important institution as that which operated from 1924 to 1945. I take objection to some of the remarks by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey). The leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) expressed a correct opinion when he said that, if the policy of the Commonwealth Bank Board in the period 1929-32 had been different, at least 70 per cent, of the destitution, bankruptcy and tragedy caused by the depression could have been avoided.
– That was not the statement of the Minister.
– The Minister stated that he disagreed with that view. His expression was that at the very best the depression could have been mitigated to only a very small degree. I disagree with that statement for the reason that I shall proceed to elaborate. The policy that was pursued by the Commonwealth Bank Board at that particular time wa9 to increase the effects of deflation. It was obvious to all who were studying the economic position then. that it was necessary to stimulate the demand for raw materials. A world-wide deterioration of prices and demand for raw materials gave the first indication of the most difficult and tragic experiences that were to befall the people of Australia and other countries. Professor “Wood is reported as having said a few days ago of present conditions that, with the inflationary tendency now in evidence, the only corrective that can be taken is to adopt some form of deflation. Exactly the same economic position occurred in 1929-30. Had a different policy been followed by the hank board at that time, the demand for raw materials within Australia would have been stimulated, and that, in turn, would have had a most beneficial effect upon the economy of the country. Yet the bank board applied the reverse policy. Deflationary methods were put into operation that further accentuated the deflation, with the result that, in 1932. Australia reached the lowest depths of the depression. I do not desire to repeat the views that I expressed in my second-reading speech, but I should like to point out that the admissions to the effect that the bank board made mistakes, and the confident predictions that the new board is not likely to make mistakes in future, are not a satisfactory reason for re-establishing a Commonwealth Bank board. If it were possible for six or seven serious mistakes to be made between 1928 and 1937 that considerably retarded the recovery of this country from the depression, a bank board could make similar mistakes in future. It is idle to say that our general knowledge of economic matters has greatly improved. As was so rightly pointed out by the honorable member for Bowman, economics is, to a large degree, an inexact science. Views that are held to-day on economic problems may be changed to-morrow. On matters of philosophy, we are at all times in a state of flux, and our views vary considerably. The accepted principles of economics may be different to-day from what they were yesterday, and may change again to-morrow. The result is that if men made mistakes between 1928 and 1937, they could, even though they have the best intentions in the world, make the same mistakes again.
The Commonwealth Bank occupies a peculiar position in relation to the economic and financial life of Australia. It is the central bank, and gives leadership to all other banks. It is also an instrument by which Government financial policy is put into operation and by which the Government is advised of economic trends and financial requirements. Such an institution, because of the very nature of its powers and activities, must make decisions quickly. Its discussions of policy should not be deferred for weeks, and, above all things, its decisions upon important financial policy should be made in such a manner that likely decisions may not be the subject of speculation. I instance two things. The fact that the Commonwealth Bank proposed to initiate a policy to increase or reduce interest rates, if known to the outside world, could lead to speculation and be the means of enabling some people to get rich quickly. A similar position exists in respect of the alteration of the exchange rates. If the fact that the Commonwealth Bank Board was considering an alteration of the exchange rate between Australia and another country became known to the public, it would be easy for unscrupulous persons to make fortunes. Those considerations make it necessary that the management of the Commonwealth Bank should be such as to enable the
Government and the bank to make decisions, and for those decisions to be made in the best interests of the people without any possibility of some persons being able to make gains, or be ruined.
My final point relates to a matter that has been raised by a number of honorable members, and that is in respect of the method of control of private institutions. lt has been pointed out with effect, and quite rightly, that the overwhelming bulk of private corporations are managed by boards of directors. In fact, there is no escape from that position because the company laws of all the States provide for that system. I have not the slightest doubt that if a company law were passed, by this Parliament it would contain the 3ame stipulations that the articles of association of a company must provide for the appointment of a board of directors to govern the company, that the board *o appointed must be chosen by the shareholders and that the persons so appointed to that board must be holders of stock in the particular company.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- One thing that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has proved very conclusively is the importance of the proposed section that we are now discussing. In his opening remarks he took another honorable member to task for having suggested that it was a bad principle for the Commonwealth Bank to be controlled by a single person who would, in fact, be a dictator. He said that that was not at present the case and that in fact the Treasurer of the day, under the present system, would have to take cognizance of the board’s views. There is no board in operation to-day, but only an advisory council, and the Treasurer of the day. under the present system, would not require to take any cognizance of any opinion expressed by the advisory council. That is the one reason why this provision is of such great importance. In effect it seeks to destroy the one-man control of the bank that now exists and to establish in its stead control by a board composed of ten members. The people of Australia are suspicious of one-man control of the Commonwealth Bank, particularly if that person, the Treasurer of the day, happens to have extreme socialistic views as we know the former Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has. We know that to-day, in effect, the modus operandi of the Commonwealth Bank consists of the wishes of the Treasurer of the day. The people of Australia very rightly considered that such a system would be extremely dangerous if that Treasurer of the day had extreme left wing or socialistic ideas. It would be more dangerous still if the Governor of the bank had views that coincided with the Treasurer’s in respect of socialism or any other “ism”. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) yesterday praised the character of the Governor of the bank, but added that the views of that gentleman on socialism were apparent to everybody in the community. The people of Australia still believe that it is very dangerous to have the control of the bank in the hands of one man, the Treasurer of the day, when the Governor of the bank holds the same views as that man. I consider that this bill provides a necessary measure of safety in the conduct of the bank. We on this side support it because we believe that there is greater wisdom in a multitude of counsellors than in any single person.
– Too many cooks spoil the broth.
– Admittedly, but we shall discuss that point later on. The speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), during the second-reading stage was vastly different from the speech that he delivered to-day. The speech that he delivered last week during the secondreading stage was. full of rancour, and in my opinion contained few real facts. The implication that he made both in his second-reading speech and in his speech in committee to-day was that the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board will commit all the sins of omission and commission that were committed by the board that was in operation in 1931. I remind honorable members opposite that many of the sins of omission and commission that the Commonwealth Bank Board committed in 1931 arose from the fact that it was an object of criticism, because at that time there were two opposing schools of economic thought. One of those schools of thought held that the depression could best be overcome by inflation, in accordance with the theory of the late Mr. E. G. Theodore of which we have heard so much during this debate. The other school of thought was that supported by the Commonwealth Bank, which held that deflation or, in other words living within our income, was the best means of pulling ourselves out of the depression. Those two schools of thought were very much in conflict in the Labour party at that time. The Labour party then was just as divided on the opposing theories as any other section of the community was. Neither school of thought was prepared to say which was the right solution but we know that noted Australian economists at the time believed that the ideals and principles then -expounded by the Commonwealth Bank were correct. Distinguished economists overseas also took that view. I refer to men like Keynes, the noted British economist, who said during that period -
I am sure the Premiers’ Plan saved Australia from a worse depression than it otherwise would have been subject to.
– They all were capitalistic economists.
– The Premiers Plan was in substance an acceptance of the views that were propounded by that school of thought that was represented by the Commonwealth Bank. Therefore, I consider that it is foolish for the Leader of the Opposition to attack honorable members on this side of the House because of their decision to support the appointment of the proposed bank board under a system that has already had world-wide approval. The Leader of the Opposition is expressing an opinion that is contrary to the opinions of the well-known economists of the day regarding deflation.
– They all were supporters of capitalism.
– That is the kind of red herring that honorable members opposite keep dragging into this debate. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) quoted at length what was said in the report of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems. After all, have not the people of Australia got some ideas about this matter? Have they not heard all the stories and proposals on the subject of banking advanced by members of the Opposition during the last twelve or eighteen months? Did they not very seriously consider these arguments and show at the last general election that they preferred to have the board system of control of the Commonwealth Bank? The Government now has an obligation to give effect to the wishes of the people as expressed at that election. I believe that those wishes will eventually be put into operation. If they are not, then it will mean perhaps another election to confirm the desires of the people in this matter and I am sure that the result will be the return to office of the present Government. I have heard a great deal of criticism during the committee stage regarding the personnel of the proposed board. Honorable members opposite have held their hands up in holy horror at the suggestion that any representative of other banks should be associated with the board. In this matter I consider that the Government is being extremely generous by deciding that the Commonwealth Bank Board shall not include some one to represent the private banks. After all, is not the Commonwealth Bank a central reserve bank, operating to some degree with the money of the associated banks ? Are not the depositors of those banks, whose money the Commonwealth Bank holds, entitled to some representation? I know that honorable members opposite would be most annoyed and critical of the Government if a commission were established to-day in relation to industrial matters and did not include a representative of the trade unions.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- This is a most vital proposed section so far as we on this side of the House are concerned. I was particularly interested to hear the remarks of the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), which included two statements that require some consideration and, indeed, may cause some concern. The first statement was a footling statement and the second was a frightening statement. In the first place, in reply to some remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), the right honorable gentleman referred to a part-time board conducting this great banking institution of the country, whose annual profits, according to the latest balance-sheet, have risen to more than £6.000,000. He referred to-day to pulling these men in off the street. I do not suppose that P. G. Wodehouse, in his heyday, could have thought of a silly, jolly sort of idea so ridiculous as that, that it was the darling dream of private enterprise that nobody with any brains is to be found anywhere; that one merely picks up a jolly fellow here and another jolly fellow there and puts them in control of a tremendous institution and promptly makes pots of money. The right honorable gentleman talked of amateur directors. The whole point that he missed, most purposely and purposefully, was that among those amateur directors there would be one who knew all about the business and whose word would not be gainsaid. The same class of person is found on boards of (private companies, associated with amateurs. That kingpin is the chairman of directors. So, out of the Minister’s own mouth has come a denunciation of the Government’s bill. The Government will wrap the amateurs whom it will appoint round the nub, which will not be the Governor in this instance. The Government is in some way trying to reproduce in our banking system the domination that private enterprise has in its own industries. The second point I make is that the right honorable gentleman referred to the economists and their changing points of view. I remind honorable members before we discuss that point that it was a member of the House of Lords who said, only recently, that if all the economists were laid end to end they would not reach a satisfactory conclusion. Of course, there are differences of opinion among the economists of the classical and the radical schools and of the right and the left, and the poor old worker and toiler and businessman, in fact, the human being iti general, is squeezed between the millstones of these opinions. The Minister said that it is now conceded that banking practice had very little to do with the economic depression, that what bankers could or could not have done could not have had a very great affect in correcting the maladjustments that were caused by the depression. Is not that the first indication that the economists consider that there must be a depression under private enterprise, and that the monopoly capitalists of the world are to-day preparing and conditioning the people for such an eventuality? Once upon a time the solemn conclusions of banking investigations and royal commissions, the decisions and the writings of economists, put the blame for economic depressions fairly and squarely upon bad banking practices. Now the Minister says that banking practice has nothing whatsoever to do with the case. In the first place, he says that a board will be appointed in substitution for the Advisory Council and the system that the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) has described as a one-man control of the bank. Let us have a quick look at the so-called one-man control of the Commonwealth Bank. In 1947, the bank’s total profit was £5,083,493. In 1948 it was £5,639,594 and in 1949 it was £6,244,19’8. That is a good advertisement for the present control of the Commonwealth Bank.
I refer now to the minority report of the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) which is incorporated in the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, which has been quoted in Jauncey’s latest book Modern Banking. Dealing with banking generally, the right honorable gentleman said -
Banking differs from other forms of business because any action - good or bad - by a banking system affects almost every phase of national life.
Is not that the point? If, in fact, good or bad results may follow from the direction of the Commonwealth Bank’s affairs, should we not look very closely at the successes of the Advisory Council, the very great work that has been done by the bank under the guidance of that body, the bank’s profits, the development of the central banking system and the consequent development of this nation? That story has been told a hundred times in this chamber. If we declare the record of the Advisory Council to be good, we must also declare the record of the Commonwealth Bank Board of the past to be bad. Every historical fact will bear out my statement. In every volume of Hansard the record of the board of the past has been proved to have been had. The whole sorry story is that honorable members opposite have never allowed and can never allow the Commonwealth Bank to remain progressive and competitive. They are sworn to do otherwise. The right honorable member for Macquarie has warned us that we may destroy the bank by putting bad management in place of good management. We can rely only on the established facts of history. Under the direction of Sir Robert Gibson, the Commonwealth Bank Board was dangerous and subversive of national progress. He was the big boss who cajoled or directed others to do hi9 bidding. He held up governments - a greater feat than was ever performed by Ned Kelly. He followed the classic deflationist line of the period and plunged this country into great misery. We have been condemned by the Government because we so frequently refer to the financial and economic depression of the ‘thirties. When we are discussing banking, full employment and many other political issues, we must of necessity refer to the calamities of those days because they are the. very basis of our story and the very reason for our existence as a political party. We contest the view that money has nothing to do with a depression. That is the basis of the whole problem. Maladjustments of money and manipulation of finance have an evil influence on the body politic. I am amazed that a responsible Minister who, in 1938, introduced legislation to permit the Commonwealth Bank to issue debentures, thus making the bank a plaything on the stock exchange, should be prepared to bring in any Johnny off the street to take part in the direction of the Commonwealth Bank. For the benefit of the party on this side of the chamber
I hope that many millions of our people listened to the broadcast of the Minister’s speech. Was anything so footling, so futile and so nonsensical as his contribution to this debate? Referring to a part-time board he said that 90 per cent, of the world agrees that the lay director, the nonprofessional, part-time director, offers the best way to manage a banking or insurance concern. To-day he admits that free enterprise, the merit of which has been dinned into our ears ever since this Parliament assembled, has no formula for meeting a depression, recession or whatever else we may call such a calamity. Because of that, honorable members opposite are indulging in a great campaign of propaganda against U9. We believe that if the Commonwealth Bank Board is reconstituted, as i3 proposed in this hill, banking policy will be endangered. It is obvious that the Government has considered gravely how beet it can implement its policy of restoring the Commonwealth Bank Board. Most of the matters that are being discussed in relation to this bill have already been accepted in previous legislation. The proposal to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board is the thin edge of the wedge. It is merely another variation of the attempts that have, been made in the past to gain control of the people’s bank which has financed the requirements of this country most efficiently and work of which is attracting the admiration of the world.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In the course of this debate argument has wandered thither and thus. I shall endeavour to confine my remarks mainly to principles that may determine whether control of the Commonwealth Bank should be by a board as distinct from control by one man. Opposition members have consistently endeavoured to discredit the proposal that a group of experienced men selected from a wide variety of interests in the community would constitute a useful board of directors for the Commonwealth Bank. I was rather astonished that Opposition members should raise such a point. There is a very great business in this country beside which even the Commonwealth Bank pales into comparative insignificance. I refer to the business of Australia. Within the walls of this chamber are men who have been gathered more or less at random from all over Australia. They have been elected by the people and sent here to assist in the direction of the business of Australia, of which the Commonwealth Bank is not an unimportant part. That group of men is representative of every walk of life in the community. From among its number about twenty have been selected to conduct the business of governing Australia. The remainder constitutes what may be termed an advisory body and the advice given by it, whether it comes from representatives of the Liberal party, the Australian Country party or the Australian Labour party, is drawn from the inexhaustible fund of experience that has been gained from contacts in life. All of us here can bring to our discussions some experiences of life which impinge on the thoughts of others and so modify them we are able to device a policy for Australia which we hope will give the greatest good to the largest number of our people. Frankly, I am completely mystified by the pitch of fury which Opposition members have imported into their discussion of the measure now before us.
I pass from the general to the particular. We are now considering the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Because of the trend of modern organization of society, the bank had to be organized as a central bank, and charged with responsibility for co-ordinating all the functions of banking throughout the Commonwealth. The successive steps that have been taken over the years to bring the bank to its present position have demonstrated that the original intentions of the” founders of the Commonwealth Bank were sound and that there was need for a central bank that could meet the requirements of a society organized in great bodies of employers and employees and other forms of national organization. No objection can be raised to that. Evolving conditions of human society demanded the establishment of such a bank. Opposition members argue that it is much better for one man with a number of public servants as advisers to control the Commonwealth Bank than for the bank to be controlled by a Commonwealth Bank Board. Honorable members on the Government side of the chamber argue that in order to achieve that purpose it is better to bring into a common pool the experience of men of outstanding knowledge from a variety of walks of life, including the commercial, industrial and . professional spheres. That is where the conflict between us occurs. Consciously or unconsciously Opposition members have allowed themselves to be infiltrated by the idea that something in the nature of a dictatorship over the Commonwealth Bank is necessary. If we have a dictatorship over finance we shall very soon have a dictatorship over other activities of the community. We, on this side, are liberal in our views. We believe that a financial dictatorship is inimical to the success of this community, its freedom and its happiness. Opposition members argue that we should do better by providing for something in the nature of a civil service control over our great national banking institution. With the deepest respect for the able men who are in our public service I say that that view is very effectively answered in a work by former Lord Chief Justice of England Hewart, in which he recalled that when Mr. Winston Churchill went to the House of Commons on one occasion one of the leading civil servant advisers said to him, “Why are we wasting all this time? A civil servant administrator could do this much more effectively and in a much shorter space of time.” Mr. Churchill replied, “ My dear fellow, I do not think that there is the slightest doubt about the accuracy of what you say, but there is one hitch in what you suggest. In six months there would not be sufficient lamp posts to accommodate all the public servants who would be involved.” When we are dealing with an institution which so intimately affects every aspect of our national life as does the Commonwealth Bank it is of the first importance that the services of the best available men should be obtained to determine its policy. We should obtain the services of men who have had long experience in the intricate working of community life. There is such a thing as a complete knowledge of administration. Practically every expert in charge of a business corporation, a limited liability company - call it what we may - possesses that complete knowledge. The industrial expert has a considerable knowledge of the process of industry yet a board of directors is appointed to bring an independent view to bear on the problems that confront an organization, to shape policy, but not to bother with the detailed running of the organization. It is my profound belief that if we bring to the service of the Commonwealth Bank men who have had experience in primary production, agricultural and pastoral pursuits, and manufacturing and commercial undertakings, their presence “will have a leavening effect on the Public Service viewpoint. Too often because of his secure position the public servant tends to lose intimate contact with the requirements of community life.
– Order ! The honorable member’s- time has expired.
– I wish to add my protest to those of other honorable members against the Government proposal to implement board control of the Commonwealth Bank. I oppose this measure because I feel that the only way in which the activities of the bank board can be judged is by examining its record and seeing whether it has rendered service of a satisfactory character. It has been pointed out in this chamber to-day that, on the inception of the Commonwealth Bank, there was no bank board, that the intention then was that the Commonwealth Bank should become the main instrumentality of financiaL government in this country and that it should act for the benefit of the people of Australia. But in 1924 a board was established and the policy then laid down was that the Commonwealth Bank should not enter into trading competition with other banking institutions. That policy was carried out by the board. When boards of that character are established the Parliament seeks to hide behind them. A special committee has been appointed to deal with taxation reforms. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has been asked questions in this chamber in rela tion to taxation reforms and he has always sheltered behind that committee by pointing out that the matter is one for the committee to decide. That is an example of how the Government hides behind boards and committees. One of the chief objections to the proposed bank board is that a government may get behind such a board and allow it to carry out a policy that the government would not have the courage to carry out itself.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has endeavoured to establish that a bank board could give and has given benefits to the people of this country. In 1930 the Labour government of the day experienced the inefficiency of the bank board of that time. During the depression years much unhappiness and suffering was experienced by the people of this country when it could have been prevented by’ a financial and economic policy different from that which was applied at the time. The bank board of that day was chiefly instrumental in laying down a wrong policy and was guilty of standing over the government of the day. Control of finance is control of government. The people elect their representatives to this Parliament to govern them and to be responsible to them. If a bank board is set up to control finance and credit the people will have no control over it. The Commonwealth Bank is the people’s bank and the people’s welfare should be protected by this Parliament. If the Parliament fails to do its job the people can deal with it, but they cannot, deal with a bank board.
The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is responsible for the policy and administration of that institution. He has the assistance, of an advisory body composed of men who are well qualified to advise him both from inside and outside the bank. They are men who are in the Public Service and have no private interests. The Governor has to administer the policy of the bank in the interests of the people of this country. If the Treasurer of the day believes that he is not doing his job in the national interest it is for the Treasurer to lay down the policy of the bank and to tell the. House what directions he has given to him. It is now proposed to set up a board to which the Government will be able to appoint a controlling interest. Such a board would be able to implement policy and to stand over the governor and administrator of the bank, and its acts would never come before the Parliament because there, would be no differences of opinion between the Government and the board. That is one very important difference between the present arrangement and the proposal of the Government in relation to the bank board. During the depression years, not only did some persons lose their jobs, but others lost their rural property, others their homes, and still others their businesses, whilst many were seriously embarrassed for years. Had credit been provided to augment the spending power of the people a different set of circumstances would have prevailed. During the depression I lived in a country area in which a large proportion of the people were practically insolvent because of the pressure of the private banking institutions. Because of the policy of the Commonwealth Bank and the associated banks many people were unable to obtain adequate finance to carry them through their difficult period. Some of them were brought out, and their properties were handed over to other individuals who took up the mortgage. That set of circumstances might arise again if we had a board which would carry out a similar policy in a time of great stress.
We do not want a board that will carry out the policy of .private banking interests because those interests are diametrically opposed to the national interest. When there is an abundance of money available and plenty of opportunity to lend it the private banks seek all the business that is offering and make all the loans that they can. They lend an- umbrella when the weather is fine and take it away when rain falls. National banking policy should be on different lines from that. When conditions are good and people can get along on their own resources they should do so and the banks should not extend the same credits as should be allowed in difficult periods. In times of difficulty the national policy should be to make credits available to the people in order to provide employment and spending power.
– I listened with astonishment to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), vociferously supported by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), boasting about the profits that have been made by .the Commonwealth Bank. I had understood that profits were anathema tothe Labour party. Hearing honorable members of the Opposition boasting of profits is something new. Profits, tothem, have always been a crime. Apart from that, the rest of the speech of the honorable member for Parkes was sochildish as not to merit comment.
The constitution of the board proposed in this bill will ensure a non-partisan approach to our banking and financial problems. It is essential that a nonpartisan approach shall be made to matters of that kind. The contention that the previous board failed is spurious. During the very difficult war years the board was asked to face vastly expanded financial problems which were entirely new to it and met them very expertly indeed. It did not fail. No satisfactory argument has been advanced by honorable members of the Opposition against the re-establishment of the bank board. I have not heard one logical argument in that respect. Obviously, the deliberations of a board would be far more comprehensive than those of an individual. The position was most aptly described by the Prime Minister (Mr., Menzies) when he said in his policy speech that great financial decisions, if they are wrong, are wrong on so vast a scale as to injure many thousands of people. Government members, therefore, believe that such decisions should not be made by one man either in the Commonwealth Bank or in the Government. What’ could be fairer or clearer than that? Originally, single-handed bank control was so designed that strangulation of the trading banks could eventually be brought about and that is one of the most contentious issues that have been brought before this House. Obviously, a board can give far more comprehensive consideration to a problem than can be given by any one individual.
.- There is little doubt that the proposed section now being debated is the most important in the bill. I regard it as the entire bill. It represents the fulfilment of a promise which the Prime Minister (Mi-. Menzies) made in his policy speech to those who supported him and his colleagues who sit on the Government benches to-day.
Why the unseemly haste to bring this legislation before the House a month or six weeks since the opening of the Parliament? Is it that accusations are being made against the present control of the Commonwealth Bank or does the Government contend that the administration of the Commonwealth Bank is not conserving the interests of the Australian nation? Is a charge laid against the Governor and the Advisory Council which have operated so successfully during the Curtin and Chifley regimes? There has not been one complaint from any fairminded Australian. No charges have been made against the present administration. Honorable members opposite have asked repeatedly why we are opposed to the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board. I ask them to tell us why they are so anxious to abolish the present administration. I believe that, if the proposed board is appointed, one vital change in the administration of the Commonwealth Bank that will seriously affect the people of Australia will be made. That change will suit the private banks, because it will provide them with the opportunity to fix interest rates. I do not believe that anybody will deny that, but, in any case, time will prove the accuracy of my prophecy. No greater financial crime could be committed against the people of Australia. The policy of the Commonwealth Bank under the present system nf control was to reduce rates of interest, and that was a grave offence in the eyes of the satellites and friends of the trading banks.
Those honorable gentlemen who advocate the alteration of the present system of administration of the Commonwealth Bank may one day stand condemned for crimes similar to those that were committed during the period of the depression. I was amazed this afternoon to hear the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) say that we should not delve into the past because the mistakes of the past would not be repeated. The fact is that this bill proposes the establishment of a system of control of the Commonwealth Bank similar to that which existed during the depression, and we must look back to events that occurred in that sorry period of our history, when 750,000 good Australians were reduced to penury and despair. I could understand why there should have been poverty and starvation in Australia in those days if the nation had lacked natural resources. In .those circumstances, I could appreciate that the Commonwealth Bank Board might have said, “Well, here is the money, but we have no resources upon which to use it “. However, we had all the natural resources that were needed. We had everything necessary for the building of houses, the standardization of railway gauges, and the feeding, clothing and accommodation of our people. But the Commonwealth Bank Board refused to make a paltry few millions of pounds available to the Government in Order that those resources might be used. That board was similar in constitution to the board that the Government now proposes to establish. Would we, as members of the Opposition, be faithful to the Australians who fought, and bled, and died for their, country, if we were prepared now to sit back and accept the proposal that the committee is considering, the effect of which, if it becomes law, will be to change completely the system of management of the Commonwealth Bank ? We owe a duty to those men and women who have done so much for their country, and to the pioneers of Australia, and we must not, by word or deed, condone the transformation of the constitution of the Commonwealth Bank so that a board similar to that which existed during the days of depression and starvation may again control the -financial destiny of the nation. We must remember that the former board refused to make available the money that was needed to develop our industries, although we had everything that we required in the form of physical resources. I oppose the entire bill, and especially that part of it that the committee is now considering.
– Too little attention has been paid to the fact that, under the provisions of the bill, ultimate control over the policy of the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board will still remain with the Parliament. The Treasurer of the day may ultimately determine the bank’s policy under the existing legislation, and that will be so under the new legislation. The only difference will be that, whereas the Treasurer is able to act in secret at present, he will have to let the people’s Parliament know what he does in future. Honorable members who say that they want the Parliament to have more power may well pause to reflect that this bill will take power away from the Treasurer and hand it to the Parliament.
– Order ! I remind the honorable member that we are not discussing that aspect of the bill now. The proposed section before the committee deals with the appointment of a board and its functions.
– I also remind honorable members that the Government has a specific mandate to appoint the proposed board. Some members of the Opposition have said that, because the people approved the 1945 banking legislation at the general election of 1946, the Labour party has an equally strong mandate for its policy. That, of course, is nonsense. The people did give a mandate to the Chifley Government in 1946, but they took it away in 1949. The later mandate cancels the earlier one.
Why do members of the Opposition object so much to the establishment of a board ? I believe that there is a reason - a good reason from their point of view - although it has not yet been stated in this chamber. The bill before the House will not affect the ultimate power of the Treasurer over the Commonwealth Bank, except insofar as it will remove the provision for secrecy of action by him. Therefore, members of the Opposition aTe concerned about something that the Treasurer will not control - the secret policy, the policy that does not come before the Parliament. They are not interested in preventing the appointment of a board, but they are interested in perpetuating the system of one-man control of the Commonwealth Bank by their socialist nominee, Dr. Coombs. The Opposition attack is not really an attack upon the proposed board. In fact, it is a form of defence of the socialist whom they placed in control of the bank. The Labour party believes that, while that socialist remains in power, he will be able to sabotage to some degree the policy of the present Government and to act in favour of the Labour party’s objective of complete socialization. Dr. Coombs is an honest and professed socialist. He was appointed over the heads of senior and more experienced men simply because he was a socialist. He was made Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to do a job and, while a socialist government was in office, he was able to remain in that position with, honour. However, he is now placed in a position in which, if he remains, he must do one of two dishonorable things. He must either abjure his honest socialism or be treacherous in the public service, because, this being an anti-socialist Government, the proper performance of his duties is incompatible with his professed and, I believe, honest, socialist beliefs. Such a situation has not previously arisen. Some honorable members say that anti-socialist administrators of departments continued in their positions while the socialist government wa3 in office. That may be so, but that Government, however earnestly it may have believed in socialism, at any rate professed that it was not entirely socialist. Furthermore, those public servants, though they may not have been socialists, were not necessarily anti-socialists. Only the revolutionary socialist feels the need to overturn society in the belief that the existing form of society is bad. Only such persons feel a driving internal compulsion to be treacherous to any government that is opposed to their creed. For the reasons that I have stated, I do not believe that the Opposition is concerned about the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board. I believe that instead it is concerned with perpetuating in office the dictatorial power of management of the socialist whom they appointed for a socialist purpose. That explains the attitude of the Opposition to this bill.
It is unfortunate that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has referred so often to the experts who, in his view, are admirable in all respects, provided that they are willing to agree to his proposals in. a taxi cab. The right honorable gentleman told us that the depression occurred because we had amateurs instead of experts in control of the financial affairs of the country. I and other people agree that much that was done during the depression was wrong, but does not the right honorable gentleman recall that the experts were even more wrong than were the amateurs?
– Will the honorable member prove that?
– Otto Niemeyer and Gregory, experts brought to Australia by the Scullin Labour Government, were more at fault than was any amateur. “To he an expert is no guarantee that one 3.s always right. I can remember what certain experts said quite recently about petrol. They were the kind of experts found particularly persuasive by the Leader of the Opposition, but they were proved to be almost unanimously wrong. The gifted amateur in that case happened to be right. An expert is very useful in some positions, but not necessarily in positions of control. Control is best when it is exercised by people who know how to use experts without themselves being subject to the narrow and doctrinaire limitations under which those experts so often labour. Remembering, as I do, the history of the early days of the depression, and remembering also that the experts were more wrong than anybody else - as far as England was concerned they were also wrong for longer than most people - I think it is necessary that experts should be put in their proper place. Their place is in a position in which they can give advice and can exercise some measure of control, but not complete control, and not control divorced from all reality. In other circumstances experts become very dangerous.
– Have them on tap but not on top.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) £5.33]. - I was astounded to hear the remarks of the previous speaker when he spoke on the one hand of his support of this bill and on the other hand of the danger of putting experts in charge of an organization in which their function would go beyond the realm of advice. If ever a case was made out in favour of the Opposition’s view of the approach that should be made to this problem, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has made it out. Either this Government will appoint experts to the bank board or it will not. If it is not going to put experts in these positions it would bc most damaging to the future of this country to appoint to the board people who know nothing about controlling banking institutions. The difference between this measure and the view of the Opposition is the difference between executive authority and advisory capacity. One of the strongest cases put from the floor of the chamber in favour of the Opposition’s viewpoint was that put by the honorable member for Mackellar. The Opposition says that in its view the Advisory Council under which our bank at present functions is the proper authority. The honorable member has some regard for experts, but he suggests that they should be used in an advisory capacity, which is just the way in which they were used by the Chifley Government. The machinery provided in the present bill alters the way in which the experts will be used, and if the Government acts upon the recommendation of the honorable member for Mackellar it will appreciate the very grave reasons why the Opposition is opposing the setting up of a bank board. In .this bill the Government signifies its intention of doing the very thing that the honorable member for Mackellar is afraid of, whereas the Chifley Government supported the principle that he enunciated just before he resumed his seat; that is that the experts should act in an advisory capacity. To support this measure and yet to express a belief such as he did discloses an ignorance of the intention of the bill.
– Dr. Coombs is not in his position in an advisory capacity - don’t be silly!
– Let us consider the reasons for this bill. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) referred to the operations of the Commonwealth Bank Board during the war, but he displayed complete ignorance of the functions of the bank during that period. In June, 1941, when the present Treasurer was in charge of the country’s finances, with the Commonwealth Bank Board behind him, the extent by which the board was able as assist the government in the prosecution of the war was the miserly sum of £1,750,000. When the Curtin Government came to office and found itself confronted with the responsibility of waging total war it discovered that the administration under the Commonwealth Bank Board was completely unable to finance the waging of total war. As a consequence of that, a few weeks after that government assumed office, on the 26th November, 1941, it became necessary to promulgate the National Security (War-time Banking) Regulations which were the forerunner of the 1945 Commonwealth Bank Act. Then a great change took place of which the honorable member for Bass has shown complete ignorance. The maximum sum which the Commonwealth Bank Board was able to make available, to the government at the 30th June, 1941, for the purpose of waging war, was £1,750,000. By the end of 1943, under a similar arrangement to that embodied in the 1945 act, the amount of £243,000,000 was made available to finance the war effort of this country.
– By the Bank Board.
– No, by the Governor under the regulations which were later embodied in the 1945 act. That act was a copy of the regulations which gave power to the Governnor to make that vast sum available. When honorable members consider what tha honorable member for Mackellar said, together with the remarks of the honorable member for Bass, they will see that both gentlemen displayed complete ignorance of the operations of tho bank in this country. When that picture, showing how the war was financed, is looked at, it will be seen how effective were the arrangements made by the Labour Government .to ensure that the bank should operate in the best interests of Australia.
– By the Bank Board.
– Not at all. I think my friend must have had a cocky that said, “bank board” every morning when he got up. From the very day on which the National Security Regulations governing banking were introduced, the Commonwealth Bank Board went out of existence. From November, 1941, it no longer existed as a controlling entity. Having assisted the country through the war the relevant National Security Regulations were embodied in the 1945 act so that the industries of this country could be assisted during peace time. That act. has brought to this country the greatestprosperity that it has ever been the good! fortune of any young country topossess. It made available to investors and to the business people generally of this country millionsof pounds to finance the return of great national projects to private enterprise. It was the legislation introduced by the Chifley Government that enabled private enterprise to take those great instrumentalities over for peace-time use. In the light of that fact, to accuse the previous Government of being a socialist body is not playing the game in Australian politics. I have been waiting since this debate commenced to hear a member of the Government parties point to any failure of the regulations to serve the people of this country from the time of their introduction on the 26th November, 1941, or to any such failure of the 1945 banking legislation. I have waited in vain.
– There was danger ahead.
– There is danger ahead if the Government does what is projected here. There is danger ahead if the Government hands back to an executive body the power that it alone should exercise. If that is done the Government will do the very thing that the honorable member for Mackellar is afraid of; that is, hand back to an instrumentality the decisive authority which should be exercised solely by theGovernment.
– Order.’: The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The issue in this proposed section is simple. It is whether the Commonwealth Bank should be controlled by a Commonwealth Bank Board or by a one-man dictatorship. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked, “ What is wrong with the present control? “ The answer is that the present control is a dictatorship. Communists, and some Socialists, believe in dictatorships, but honorable members on this side, as Liberals, do not. We believe that the bank should be controlled’ by the elected representatives of the people. The administrative control is exercised by a board of experienced men, but the ultimate control rest3 with the Parliament. Under the present system the Governor of the bank is not only a dictator, but also a dictator who is able to act in complete secrecy. The honorable member for Dalley also asked, “ What has Dr. Coombs done wrong? “ The Government does not suggest that he has done wrong, but the point is that under the present system he has the power of a dictator over the financial affairs of this country. It was asked in Germany during Hitler’s regime, “ What has- Hitler done wrong?” The point was that he was a dictator and as such had the power to do wrong. In 1939 he exercised that power and plunged the world into war. At the present time Dr. Coombs has dictatorial power over the Commonwealth Bank and therefore over the financial policy of the whole of the country. He has the potential power to do wrong. We propose to alter that, and to place the power in the hands of the elected representatives of the people. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) seems to have unlimited faith in economists. We place great value on economists, as well as on other expert advisers, but they should be in their proper place as advisers, and not a 9 controllers and dictators. It is amusing to hear members of the Labour party harking back all the time to the depression. In one breath chey praise economists, and claim that the Commonwealth Bank should be controlled by, or governed according to the advice )f, economists; and in the next breath, :bey tell us of the great mistakes that were Made during the depression. At that time % Labour government was in power. headed by Mr. Scullin. He, as Prime Minister, introduced a plan, which was an economists’ plan, drawn up entirely by economists, and adopted by the Commonwealth and the States. It became known as the Premiers plan, which honorable members opposite have criticized year in and year out. Those whom honorable members opposite now tell us should control the Commonwealth Bank, are the same expert economists who recommended the Premiers plan. Economists, like all other experts, have a valuable part to play in the community, but they should not be in control of an institution like the Commonwealth Bank.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked why it was proposed to vary the present method of administering the Commonwealth Bank. As a matter of fact, it is proposed to continue to benefit from the experience of the present administration. The present Governor of the bank will be a member of the board. The new proposal has all the advantages of the existing system, and none of its disadvantages. Under it, we shall have the benefit of the experience of economists and of trained business men. We shall have the benefit of the experience of other officers of the Commonwealth Bank. We shall continue to have the benefit of Dr. Coombs’s advice, and of the advice of officers of the Treasury and of the Deputy-Governor of the bank. In addition, we shall have the advantage of the sound business knowledge of men who will be brought in to control the bank. They will be experts in their own line of business, but they will not be bankers. They may not know very much about banking, but they will he knowledgeable men, and experts in their own spheres of life.
– What are they?
– I do not know. There is something much more important than theoretical knowledge. The most important thing is ability to manage men, an understanding of human beings. It may be - I do not know - that the board will have on it a trade unionist, just as a trade unionist is associated with the management of the State Bank in South Australia. Trade unionists have an understanding of human beings. The board may be composed of mcn who have been successful in various business activities. They would be experts in their own spheres, and know how to manage men and to control businesses, as well as to exercise sound judgment, even though they know nothing about banking.
– They may even be lawyers.
– They may be, but I venture to say that a board composed entirely of lawyers, or of men like the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), would not be a good board. What we want is a board composed of men drawn from various occupations, men who understand the management of men, and of material.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said that the Commonwealth Bank Board went out of existence in 1941. That is not correct. The board remained in existence until it was abolished by the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945. If the statement of the honorable member for Blaxland was correct, why did the Labour Government continue to pay the members of the board their salaries right up to 1945? Of course, the truth is that the board continued to function until 1945. lt very successfully administered the war-time finances of this country, and the war ended in 1945. It did a magnificent job, and we are entitled to ask why the bank should not be controlled by a board. During the second world war, it enabled the Government to finance the country’s war effort.
.- This proposed section embodies the most dangerous provision of a very dangerous bill, and for that reason I believe it to be my duty to oppose it as strenuously as I can. I have listened to Ministers and Government supporters allegedly explaining what the bill means, but most of the speeches from the other side of the chamber have been similar to that just delivered by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). They have been a mixture of inaccuracy, evasion and deliberate misrepresentation. The honorable member for Sturt said that the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board would restrict the dictatorial powei-3 of the Governor of the bank, and he claimed that the Governor had exercised dictatorial powers in secret. Nothing could be further from the truth. Under the legislation of 1945, the Governor of the bank has not enjoyed dictatorial powers. He has directed the operations of the bank, but in matters of policy he ha9 been subject to the overriding authority of the Treasurer who, in turn, has been subject to the direction of the government of the day. I challenge honorable members opposite to explain in what respect the method of control under the legislation of 194”. differs from that proposed in this bill.
– The honorable member would not understand.
Mi-. BEYS ON. - I should try to do so if the honorable member were capable of giving the explanation. I listened to him this afternoon, and he did not make a very good impression on me. I challenge Government supporters, from the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) down, to explain what real difference there is between the system of control as proposed in this bill and that which operated under the 1945 act.
– It is the difference between dictatorship and democracy.
– More childishness.’ We want some facts. We have been fed for too long with specious propaganda from honorable members opposite. Ever since this Government has been in office we have had arguments of that kind thrown at us, and we know where they originated. T was a member of this House when the banking legislation of 1945 was being considered. While it was being debated in the House, and in the committee, at least six representatives of private banking interests were present in the Speaker’s gallery taking notes, and instructing members of the Opposition on what arguments they should use. I travelled between Melbourne and Canberra with some of the employees of the banks, and I know that members of the then Opposition obeyed their instructions.
– What has that to do with the proposed section?
– It has a great deal to do with the functions of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Since 1945, the private banks have been pouring their money into the coffers of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party.
– The honorable member should get back to the proposed section.
– I shall do so as quickly as possible. Because of the money that has been poured into the coffers-
– Will the honorable member obey my ruling?
– Yes, I am obeying your ruling. We have before us to-day a proposal to institute a Commonwealth Bank Board. The appointment of that board will represent a pay-out to the banking institutions, in return for the money they spent in helping this Government to secure election to office. Honorable members opposite cannot deny that. One honorable member opposite told us that he had no bankers on hi3 campaign committee, and that he received no money from the private banks, but he innocently admitted that members of the Bankers’ Defence League went into his electorate, and distributed literature week in, week out.
– Will the honorable member get back to the proposed section ?
– I am well on it. The institution of the Commonwealth Bank Board is the pay-out to the private banks. If they had not provided the money that enabled this Government to gain power we should have had a different proposal before us. The Government is seeking to evade its responsibility. It is the responsibility of the National Parliament, through the Government, to control the financial institutions of the country. The Government is attempting to hand over its responsibility to a board, which will include among its members five persons whom we do not know. We have been told that they will not represent banking interests or sectional interests, but we are left entirely in the dark regarding whom they will be.” To those men will be given the responsibility of controlling the Commonwealth Bank.
Under Labour governments, the Com monwealth Bank has become an institution of which we have every reason to be proud. The bank, in developing from a small beginning into one of the strongest financial institutions in Australia, has interfered with the profits of the private banks, and with the incomes of a small group of shareholders. Therefore, the financiers have said that the Commonwealth Bank must be crushed.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The history of the Commonwealth Bank shows conclusively the form of control that has been satisfactory. From 1912 to 1924, the bank, under the control of a governor, made rapid progress. It was responsible for the financing of Australia’s war effort in 1914-18, and for safeguarding the interests of the private financial institutions during that period. The Bruce-Page Government established the bank board in 1924, and from that time until 1941 the bank did not progress to any appreciable extent. It became a bankers’ bank, and its policy was dictated by the private banking institutions. The Commonwealth Bank, instead of playing a leading part in our banking system, was merely an adjunct to the private banking system. The Curtin Labour Government took office, in 1941, and began to control the financial policy of Australia. The Commonwealth Bank then came under the direction of the Government, and was able to finance Australia’s part in the most expensive war in history. Indeed, it provided for our war effort an amount exceeding £300,000,000. Yet in 1930-31 the bank board declared that the Commonwealth Bank was not able to provide £18,000,000 for the purpose of relieving unemployment during the financial and economic depression. History shows that under the control of a governor, the Commonwealth Bank has functioned in the interests of the whole of the people, and I for one am not prepared to allow the control of the bank to pass to the private financial interests as the result of the reconstitution of the bank board although I know that the private banks are demanding this as their pound of flesh from the Government. They were not prepared to expend at least £1,000,000 in the recent general election campaign to defeat the Labour party without the expectation of some reward.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The statement has been made in this chamber on numerous occasions that control of finance means complete control of this country.
– Who has said that?
– Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have made such a statement, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is well aware. It is the aim of the Labour party to continue to work for the nationalization of banking. That objective was reaffirmed at a recent conference of the Australian Labour party.
– What is wrong with that ?
– The Labour party is working towards that end, and its objection to the proposal to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board is that such a body would obstruct its efforts to nationalize banking. Undoubtedly, there are advantages in having a strong Opposition
– The Government has one in this Parliament.
– That may be in the interests of the country, but there is no opposition when the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is of the same political faith as the Treasurer of the day.
– It depends on who is the treasurer at the time.
– The establishment of a bank board will provide strong opposition to any socialist tendencies. The previous Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was able to move the Governor of the bank to do as he wanted him to do. The right honorable gentleman recently made the following statement: -
During the eight years that I was Treasurer, including the period since the 1945 measure has been in operation, I did not at any time overrule the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. There was never any need for me to do so, because I was always able to evolve a satisfactory decision. 1 ask honorable members to note the word “ evolve “. The statement of the Leader of the Opposition continues -
I expressed my views about what I thought ought to be done, but at no time was it necessary for me to exercise that power.
The Governor of the bank was a man to the right honorable gentleman’s liking, and, therefore, it would have been rather extraordinary if the Governor had offered strong opposition to any of the right honorable gentleman’s financial proposals. The right honorable gentleman, as Treasurer, endeavoured to nationalize banking in Australia, because that would have given him complete control of the financial assets of this country, and a Labour government would then have been able to nationalize and socialize other industries.
Some members of the Opposition have challenged Government supporters to produce evidence to show that the Governor has made mistakes in controlling the Commonwealth Bank since 1945. The administration of the bank may have been conducted quite satisfactorily, but the Labour party is only waiting for another opportunity to give effect to its policy to socialize banking.
– What is wrong with socialization?
– So much is wrong with socialization that a member of the Opposition who represents a Victorian constituency, has advocated that the word “ socialization “ in the party’s political platform should be changed. He said, in effect, “ The people do not seem to like socialization “. The people have rejected nationalization and socialization of industry. That is why the Labour party is now represented by a minority of members in this chamber. The introduction of the Banking Bill in 1947 for the purpose of nationalizing banking was a self-inflicted death-blow to the Chifley Labour Government. I object to the system of one-man control of the Commonwealth Bank, particularly if that man is amenable to the ideas of the Treasurer of the day, and to a political party whose objective is the socialization of industry, production, distribution, and exchange. -The Government has a clear mandate from the people to clear the way for private enterprise. The people realize that the stability of the country in the future depends on the factor that has increased the national prosperity which is private enterprise. The longer the Labour party pursues the policy of the nationalization of industry, the longer it will remain in the wilderness of Opposition in this Parliament.
– Government supporters appear to believe that if this bill becomes law, a Labour government in future will be prevented from giving effect to it3 financial policy. I do not know where those honorable gentlemen got that idea. They remind us that the reconstitution of the Commonwealth Bank Board will not deprive the Parliament of the right ultimately to determine financial policy. I contend that the Treasurer of the day, through the Executive Council, has the last word. I do not know whether honorable members opposite have carefully considered the provisions of this bill, but I emphasize, for their information, that the only power which the proposed board will have will be to direct the policy of the bank. Members of the board will not be administrators who will tell the Governor what he is to do from day to day. All that they will be able to do will be to direct the Governor on matters of policy.
Proposed new section 9a (2) provides -
In the event of a difference of opinion between the Government and the Bank as to whether the monetary and banking policy of the Bank is directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia, the Treasurer and the Board shall endeavour to reach agreement.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the Treasurer may submit a recommendation to the Governor-General.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the proposed new section under consideration.
– The committee “is considering clause 7.
– The committee is considering proposed new section 9, which is contained in clause 7.
– From time to time, the Chairman has asked honorable members to direct their remarks to the clause. I am relating my remarks to clause 7, and I believe that, under Stand ing Orders, I am entitled to refer to any part of it.
– The committee decided to consider the proposed new sections in clause 7 separately. It is still dealing with the first of them.
– Then I must abide by that decision. However, that will not prevent me from expressing my views about the proposed bank board. Other honorable members have discussed at great length reasons for and against the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board, and, therefore, I should have plenty of latitude. I object to this prosal because I believe that power will be given to an outside body to decide thpolicy of the bank. There is no question that that will be so. The Government is determined to give that power- to an outside body. The Treasurer already has power to direct the Governor of the Bank, but, under this bill, the Government desires to constitute a board which will be empowered to prescribe the policy of the bank. I object to that proposal, because history shows that in difficult times, the Parliament or the Government of the day should be in a position to provide money for the purpose of meeting the needs of the people. I was amused by some of the remarks of the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), who said that the manner in which finance was controlled might have only a small influence on conditions during a financial and economic depression. I doubt whether the right honorable gentleman worked hard on a farm for twenty or 30 years, and then, in a difficult period when he required financial accommodation, was refused an overdraft by his bank. If he were ever in that position he would know whether policy matters very much or haa very small effect.
– It is just the same as the income tax system under the Chifley regime.
– If the honorable member who just interjected desires to talk about income tax I am ready to accommodate him. If he is growling because he has to pay too much income tax all I can say is that he has sot a thundering lot more money left after paying his income tax than has the man down on the bottom rung of the ladder. However, this debate is not concerned with income tax, but with a bank board. Honorable members opposite have told plausible tales about what the proposed hank board will do, but they have been unable to show us one instance during the eight years of the regime of the former Labour Government of the Commonwealth Bank having done anything detrimental to the interests of the people.I know that honorable members opposite might say that the Commonwealth Bank took some money from the private banks, held it and would not allow the private banks to use it as they pleased. Let me tell them that in administering that policy the Labour Government was only following the policy of a previous government of the political ilk of honorable members opposite which introduced that system. The present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) had quite a lot to do with it. So the only thing that the banks can be sore about to-day is something that was inaugurated by their own brand of government and put into good effect by a Labour Treasurer. It appears to me therefore that all this talk about a bank board doing something special for the people is just specious speculation by honorable members opposite. I say to the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) that if he had been Treasurer of a State in 1930, and had wanted to obtain some money to relieve unemployment, to help people on the dole and to aid farmers who were going bankrupt and had suffered under the policy of the Commonwealth Bank Board of that day, he would know very well why we do not want a return to that kind of control of the Commonwealth Bank. I agree that the board proposed under this bill is not to be as powerful as the board of the 1930 period. The existence of a board such as that proposed in this measure would not matter if a Labour government were in office,because the Treasurer and the Executive Council would have the power to tell the board what to do. But the bother is that when we have an anti-Labour government in office, as we have to-day, which is, to all intents and purposes, committed against the Labour system of finance and against the Commonwealth Bank system that has been proved to be successful, it will appoint men to the board who will be amenable to the Government’s ideas. It may not be necessary for the Government to say to the board, “ Do this “ or “ Do that”, because I can easily see that once the board is appointed, with the five men mentioned in the clause, there is nothing to stop the other two members to be appointed from being men of a type that we object to on such a board. I am not quite so sure as some other honorable members appear to be that the board will not contain a representative of the banks. The bill provides that -
Of the seven members appointed … at least five shall be persons who are not officers of the Bank or of the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
It does not say that the other two members out of those seven shall not be bankers. The Treasurer has told us whom he intends to appoint, but there is nothing to stop him at another time from appointing someone else, should he desire to do so.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
. -We have heard a great deal from honorable members opposite about suggestions of a pay-off in relation to the appointment of the proposed board. If it is a pay-off to any one, it is a pay-off to the people of Australia who elected this Government, because we stated clearly during our election campaign that the Liberal and Australian Country parties, if returned to office, would establish a Commonwealth bank board. The whole principle of democracy, of course, is for a government to do what it was elected to do. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) stated that if that is the case, the people of Australia, indulging in a sort of game of political football, have made the score one-all, because they expressed approval of the Banking Act 1945 by returning the Chifley Government to office in 1946. I remind honorable members that since the 1946 election was held we have seen the passage of the 1947 banking legislation, which was introduced with the avowed object of extinguishing the trading banks completely. A very great fear arose in the minds of the Australian people, when that legislation was declared invalid, that some other means might be taken by a socialist government to extinguish the trading banks. I might say that as a result of remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) in commenting with very great vigor on the Privy Council’s decision in the banking case, in which he said that the trading banks would be given all the competition they wanted, suggesting possibly a bit more than they could take, with the resources of a government bank backed by a socialist government bent on extinguishing them, the people of Australia rightly had a suspicion that the present system of bank control would be used to the detriment of the trading banks.
– Order! The honorable member is getting a bit wide of the proposed new section now before the committee.
– The establishment of the proposed board is necessary as a protection against the unfair competition that was suggested on that occasion by the Leader of the Opposition. If, as the honorable member for Perth has said, the score is now one-all, he should remember that the people of Australia still have a very vivid recollection of those dark days of 1947-48, when the threat of the total extinction of the trading banks was a very present fear in .their minds. We have heard the views of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the appointment of alleged experts to this board echoed by many of his supporters. I consider that the Leader of the Opposition has rather changed his tune, considering the specious reasons that he advanced for the appointment of an individual named Mountjoy to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research some time ago. If any further illustration were required for the necessity of a board to prevent secret decisions being made on important financial measures and principles, we had it to-day when we learned that an advisory body gave certain advice that was completely disregarded by the men in control, who were prepared to give away £14,500,000 in connexion with a scheme that was not recommended by a body of experts. That i3 a very good illustration of the hopeless position in which an advisory body devoid of authority is placed. We feel very strongly that the opposition to the proposed board is not sincere opposition to the board itself, but is an expression of resentment of the fact that if a Labour government is ever returned to power while the proposed board is in control of the bank, it could not carry out the socialist policy of extinguishing the private banks. Some honorable members opposite have suggested that the creation of the proposed board will deprive the Government of its power to make decisions on important matters of financial policy. I say that in Australia the decision on matters of financial policy has always rested with the Parliament and, in the long run, with the people. Even in 1931 and 1932-
– Where was the honorable gentleman then? He was at school and would not have known.
– In 1931 and 1932 it was not the trading banks or the Commonwealth Bank Board that frustrated the financial policy of the Scullin Labour Government.
Mr. Bryson interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Wills is persistently interjecting. I ask him to keep quiet.
– Why does the Chairman not ask the honorable member for Forrest to talk sense?
– In 1931, if honorable members opposite will read their history books-
– History books !
– The honorable member for Herbert must remain silent.
– I cannot keep quiet when the honorable member for Forrest is talking of history.
– I ask the honorable member for Herbert to apologize to the Chair for disobedience after the Chair had asked him to remain silent.
– I point out, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member is talking about history books in relation to the year 1931, at which time I was carrying my swag, and I refuse to apologize.
– I name the honorable member for Herbert.
Mr. Beazley. - I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, what is your criterion in determining when interjections are orderly or disorderly? At no stage was the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), who was interjecting earlier while he was seated at the ministerial table, called to order for more persistent interjecting than that of the honorable member for Herbert.
– All interjections are disorderly. I asked the honorable member for Herbert to keep quiet and he refused to do so.
The committee being required to await the arrival of Mr. Speaker,
– I rise to order. Can we be advised of the reason for the delayin proceedings, and of the action that is contemplated in regard to the honorable member who has been named?
– The procedure is stated in the Standing Orders.
– They have sent to Government House to get the Speaker.
In the House:
– I have to report, Mr. Speaker, that I have named the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) for disobeying the ruling of the Chair.
– I rise to order. The Standing Orders require the Chairman to report the circumstances to the House. I have not yet heard him state what the circumstances were.
– The circumstances were that the honorable member disobeyed the ruling of the Chair. I called the honorable member for Herbert to order but he continued to make disorderly interjections. I again warned him, but he still continued to interject. I then asked him to apologize to the Chair for refusing to obey its direction and he said, “I refuse to apologize”.
– That is not correct. The Chairman did not give the honorable gentleman all those warnings.
– The question is-
That the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 22.
Mr. Ward.- Not 303?
-Order! I shall not require a .303 to put any one out.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Herbert thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
.- The Labour party opposes the reestablishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board because its members recall the dark days of the depression and all that happened during that period. Many of them suffered severely during those years. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) among the Labour members, were all on sustenance during the depression period, and those of us who were in work and had only our labour power to sell suffered 10 per cent, wage cut3 and other wage reductions. We know that what happened once may happen again, and we will not have a Commonwealth Bank Board which is representative of private interests. Where are the monuments to the last Commonwealth Bank Board, to be found? They are at Happy Valley, Sydney; Dudley Flats, Melbourne,
End wherever else the bankers left a trail of human misery because they refused the governments of the day. Labour and antiLabour governments alike, the money needed to put public works in hand, to keep the farmers growing wheat and to maintain Australians on a reasonable, frugal standard of living. In the depression, it was not a living, it was only an existence. If honorable members opposite want a Commonwealth Bank Board why did they not have the ingenuity to profit by the experience of other countries? In Sweden, a committee of the Parliament manages the State Bank of that country. The committee includes a majority of members appointed by the government of the day. That constitutes a much saner approach to parliamentary control of a State bank than do the propositions contained in this bill. Some honorable members opposite have said that the Labour party does not want the Commonwealth Bank Board to .be re-constituted because it fears that the board will interfere with some of its schemes when a Labour government is again returned to office. Nothing in this legislation will prevent a Labour government from giving directions to the Commonwealth Bank to do all the things that can now be done under the provisions of the Banking Act 1945. We, the democrats of this Parliament, have lived to see the day when the tory reactionaries, the Philistines, arp prepared to swallow so much of Labour’s financial policy. I never thought that I should live to see the day when an antiLabour government - and a tory reactionary government at that - would leave untouched that section in the banking legislation which provides that the Commonwealth Bank shall compete actively with the private trading banks. I never thought that I should live to hear the right honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Casey) announce that the Government had a great surprise in store for the Opposition, only to find that that surprise was represented by the extraordinary moderation of the Government’.: banking scheme as presented to the Parliament. Ey looking into the past we can get a glimpse of the future. We know what happened in other days and we know that similar happenings may take place in the event of another depression. Everybody knows that another depression is coming. My authority for that statement is the latest issue of a booklet published by the Institute of Public Affairs in Victoria. The masters of honorable members opposite say that a depression is coming. Already they have said that this Government should cut wages, stop development, reduce defence expenditure and slash social services payments. We fear that if this Government is in power and the board that it wishes to establish is in control of the Commonwealth Bank during another depression, the methods that were used in the past will be used again, because capitalism knows no other way to extricate itself from its contradictions and difficulties than to make the worker take less in wages so that the capitalist may be assured of his profits. That is the capitalist method and that is why we are opposed to capitalism. We are opposed to the exploitation of the many in the interests of the few. We remember the stygian blackness of the days of the depression years. We know what our people passed through at that time. It is because of our fears that what has happened once will happen again in similar circumstances that we are concerned. In the dark days of the depression there was no money for anybody or anything. The right honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Casey) was Minister for Supply and Development when the war broke out and he said that in the matter of war finance the sky was the limit. Why cannot the sky be the limit if it is a matter of saving human life and protecting the growing generation? If the Government can control finance in time of war there is nothing wrong with it controlling finance in time of peace in order to guarantee the happiness of the people. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot have the banker determining financial credit in time of peace and then, when war comes, proclaim that the sky is the limit. We could argue about one-man control as against board control in respect of many things. We have one man, not a board, controlling the postal services, and the control is very satisfactory.
An honorable member says that the Postal Department is showing losses. It is not showing losses. It is showing profits. If it is showing losses this Government is a greater bungler than I thought it was. Under the Labour Government the Postal Department was making a profit. It is the best example of socialism in Australia. The Government, would sell the postal services if it could only muster up enough courage to do so. There have been boards that have failed in various respects. There is a board in Sydney which does not give the people of Sydney light, and the bank board of other days did not give the people money.
– Is the Joint Coal Board giving us coal ?
– It is giving the people more coal than they had when honorable gentlemen opposite were in power last time. They should not remind us of how they tried to get coal with secret funds that led to the appointment of a royal commission. The Labour party’s slogan is, “ Hands off the Commonwealth Bank. Hands off the people’s bank. Hands off the people’s savings “.
.- I listened carefully to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to see whether he would state the reason why this measure was passed without division in its second reading last night. The honorable member has said that there was nothing in this board that is objectionable.
– I did not say that.
– That is practically what the honorable member said. He said that he could do all sorts of things with it. If he felt so easy about it last night I cannot understand why all this heat has been generated to-night in this discussion. I have listened carefully to the remark the honorable member has made about the depression, of which we have heard so much (luring all these years. I have waited for many years to hear one Labour man admit that the reason the Commonwealth Bank management was retained as it was when there was a hostile Senate was that the Labour Government did not have the courage to bring down a measure and insist on a double dissolution so that the matter could be dealt with. The Labour movement, twenty years afterwards, is now trying to put across this alibi, but it will not go down. It did not go down in 1931 when all the circumstances were known to the people of Australia. What did the people do at that time? They swept out the Labour Government. I think the Labour party came back with 22 members in a House of 75. The people had the facts and they knew that the conduct of the finances of this country by the Labour party had been such that every minute four men went out of work during that period. I think that figure is correct. What was done when the 1945 legislation was introduced? The capital of the Commonwealth Bank was diminished. In this bill the Treasurer is providing more capital to enable the work of the Commonwealth Bank to be extended. The story we hear from honorable members c-f the Opposition in regard to the manner in which this bank has declined under non-Labour governments is a pure fabrication. In twenty years the number of branches of the Commonwealth Bank increased from 62 to 275; profits increased from £400,000 to £950,000; and the staff increased from 1,800 to 0,300. What happened when that board was in control ?
– The people starved.
– They did not starve because of the conduct of the Commonwealth Bank Board. The Labour Government did not have the courage to do anything about the board till the war was over. The board raised approximately £2,000,000,000 to carry on the war. It was not until the Chifley Government was out of the war period that it had the courage to alter the control of the Commonwealth Bank as it did. The provision now before the committee is the first step towards putting back into our banking legislation the essential factors which are necessary to make the bank what it should be and what I made it in 1924 - the pivot of Australian finance. This bank was established only because of the activities of Ring O’Malley’s topedo brigade which forced the government’s hand. Even then the government did not put into the hands of the bank the control of the note issue. That was something that I did in 1924. At that time the bank was placed under the control of an independent board. One of the functions of the board has been to -control the currency of Australia.
– The Minister is getting too wide of the matter that is under discussion.
– The functions of the board are described in the proposed section now before the committee. The honorable member for Melbourne has pointed out that one of those functions is to ensure that the currency and the credit of this country shall be controlled by the proposed board, but he has shown that he does not know anything about the position or he would not be so stupid as to talk as he has done. The principles I incorporated in the organization of this bank are still there and the structure which I designed has made it strong. The Labour party objects to the board as it objects to nearly everything. Honorable members of the Opposition lopped about £30,000,000 off the capital of the bank in 1945. Now they say they will not have a board. What is the usual practice in relation to these matters? There are boards of directors throughout this Commonwealth and every trading country in the world. It is the general way of conducting business. Just as one speaks of a goggle of geese or a herd of elephants or a pride of lions so one talks of a board of directors. But tha Labour party, which is so allergic to the word “ board “, does not mind the word “council”, especially the words “ advisory council “. Under the provisions of .the 1945 act an advisory council of six members was established. The council acted in association with the government, but the governor of the bank, who was the chairman of the council, did not have either a deliberative or a casting vote. This board will be of some real value because like the previous board it will be representative not merely of thebank and the Treasury but also of financial interests. It will include representatives of great interests outside who use- the bank. I have in mind men like Professor Melville. What has been the position since 1929? There was always a trade unionist on the board and he was re-appointed by non-Labour governments for the purpose of making certain that the board would be able to give balanced judgment on all matters and it did give a balanced judgment. The proof of that lies in the fact that the Labour Government did not touch the management of this institution until the war was over. All the money that was raised during the war period that honorable members of the Opposition have boasted about was raised by the Commonwealth Bank under the old board and the old constitution. But after the war ended honorable gentlemen opposite said, in effect, “ We are out of the wood., We shall wipe the board “. They wiped it. Has the conduct of the bank been any better? Has there been any improvement? Despite the fact that there are enormous reserves at the bank’s disposal difficulties exist in connexion with all sorts of financial transactions. All sorts of trading advice is given and persons are told that they may not do this, that or something else. This bill will bring into being again the old type of board which will be representative of all interests in Australia just as this Parliament of all parties is representative of all interests. That is the only way in which the affairs of this bank can be properly conducted.
.- A mass of misleading jargon has come forth from Liberal and Australian Country party members in this debate. Prior to the last general election a definite promise was given to the electors by the Government parties that a board would be set up which would be under the control of Parliament. Everything that has been provided in this bill shows very clearly that the Government is trying to evade the promise it gave to the electors in the propaganda it issued. Five members of the proposed board are already known. Five have yet to be appointed. One of the members of the board, the Secretary to the Treasury, will undoubtedly represent the Treasurer, and there are five still to be appointed. It is in the appointment of those extra five that the mischief will be. It is very easy to set up a board to carry out a certain policy provided one knows the minds of those who are to be appointed. I make that statement very deliberately. Concerning the five people to be appointed we have had all sorts of suggestions during the debate. Some honorable members have said that representatives of trade and commerce will be appointed. Others have spoken about the possibility of experienced business men or representatives of rural industries being appointed to the board. Of course nobody on this side of the chamber has the slightest idea who will be chosen. A blank ticket has been presented to us and we are asked to place complete faith in the Government. I know many business men, with whom I have become acquainted in the course of my public duties, and I know that the average citizen of that class is entirely favorable to the private banking institutions.
– I rise to order. The honorable member is discussing clause 10, which is not now before the committee.
– I remind th» honorable member for Darebin that the personnel of the board will be discussed when clause 10 is under consideration.
– I am discussing the board. I know that most business men are favorable to the private banks for a variety of reasons. Perhaps many of them at one time or another have depended upon private banks for financial accommodation and are grateful for the help they have received.
The Labour party is not making a sham fight on this issue. It is genuinely opposed to the establishment of the proposed board, and its objections arise principally from the fact that most of the members will be . appointed to give effect to the views of the Government, with the result that this Parliament will virtually lose its right to review any decisions of the board. There will be nc suggestion of any control of the Commonwealth Bank by the representatives ot the people in this Parliament. The Government is absolutely determined to use all of the subtle means at its disposal to evade any responsibility for the evolving of financial policy. It will hide behind the decisions of the board. The board will make a decision by the vote of the majority of Government nominees, and the Government will simply say to the people, “ There is the decision of the board. We did not interfere with it in any way “. The existing legislation provides for parliamentary control of the Commonwealth Bank because the Treasurer is responsible to hi3 party and, in the final analysis, to the Parliament. Therein lies a very great difference between the existing law and this proposed enactment. The Labour party is not shamming on this matter. It will not allow a bank board to be established, and it appears that very little persuasion would be needed to influence the minds of Government supporters against the proposal. The gradual enlightenment of the non-Labour parties has been evidenced by the fact that the legislation which we are now considering leaves untouched many of the provisions of the 1945 legislation. We may yet see the, day when the Government will accept the 1945 legislation in its entirety. There has been a great deal of talk about men being called in from the street and appointed to the proposed board. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) earlier to-day spoke of the virtue of choosing men from, the street, whose opinions as independent individuals would be of great value on the board. The Government’s real proposal is to deprive the elected representatives of the Australian man in the street of any authority in relation to the Commonwealth Bank. Responsibility is to be shifted from the Government to a board yet to be appointed and about the membership of which the Opposition has no knowledge whatever.
The appointment of a board is a matter of very great importance because of the extreme powers that the Government proposes to vest in it. It will determine policy in relation to the amounts of loans and the industries to which loans may be made. Australia’s economy is in an unbalanced condition at present, with luxury industries developing at the expense of the production of basic materials. The Commonwealth Bank can exercise very great influence upon that economic situation in the future.
For example, the proposed board could’, determine that loans should not be madeto luxury industries, and applicants for loans could be influenced to establish industries that would produce the basicmaterials that are badly needed to-day. Such a policy would also have the effect of directing labour along suitable economic channels. The composition of theboard is a matter of first rate importance from that point of view. If unsuitable individuals were appointed to it, the national economy could become more unbalanced than ever as the result of loans being made to industries which should not be given financial accommodation. That is a strong reason why weshould not allow financial policy to be influenced by private business concerns. The Commonwealth Bank should be completely independent of private interests, which could encourage the granting of loans to industries that should not receive loans. The bill retains some of the wide powers that are embodied in the existing legislation. That legislation was enacted in 1945 with the present form of administration of the Commonwealth Bank in mind. That administration is entirely divorced from private business interests. This Government now proposes to place the important and powerful machinery of the 1945 legislation under the previous form of administration by a board. The result would be disastrous and I hope that the Government will see the light and withdraw the provisions providing for the establishment of a board. It should be intelligent enough to acknowledge now the ultimate inevitability of a Commonwealth Bank completely divorced from private interests.
.- I have listened with very great attention tothe arguments that have been advanced’ during this discussion. I am one of thosehonorable members who really set out toseek information, and I had hoped that I would hear from members of the Opposition some argument of real value in relation to the subject that we are considering. I am a very disappointed man. Even honorable members for whom I previously had a great deal of respecthave not given any substantial reason why they object to the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board. All that I have heard has been a re-hash of the old party argument that was first adduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). The same parrot cry has been repeated by every member of the Opposition whom I have heard on this subject. The principal objection te the bill is based upon the proposed appointment of a board. Apparently members of the Opposition want to have one-man control of the Commonwealth Bank. They have referred to the terrible -things that happened to Australia allegedly as the result of the operations of a former Commonwealth Bank Board. But that board had no resemblance to the board that is proposed .to be established under this measure. The former board operated under the legislation that existed prior to 1945. The proposed new board will operate under the 1945 legislation, which will be very little changed by the bill that we are now considering. Thus, the new board will be set up under an act that was introduced by the Labour Government in. 1945. That legislation contains many good features although, perhaps, as some members of the Opposition have said, the egg, having been scrambled, can never be unscrambled. The new board will be charged with the responsibility of administering the provisions of the 1945 legislation. “We all know that members of the Opposition in their hearts do not seriously object to the bill. Their arguments have been adduced merely for the purpose of satisfying the ego of their frustrated leader. For many years the Leader of the Opposition made no secret of .the fact that he desired to enact legislation that would have the effect eventually of destroying the activities of the trading banks in Australia. The operation of the 1945 legislation under the administration of a single Governor of the Commonwealth Bank was intended surreptitiously to destroy the activities of the trading banks. The people have pronounced their verdict in relation to that plan, but now, notwithstanding that verdict, the Opposition asks us to retain the system of control by a single Governor instead of control by a board. We should be recreant to our duty if we did so and we should deserve to be thrown out of office neck and crop at the first opportunity.
Sufficient power was contained in the 1945 legislation to enable the trading banks to be completely crushed.
The people of Australia have declared that they envisage great benefits to Australia as the result of the continued activities of the trading banks as well as those of the Commonwealth Bank. This Government favours the existence of a strong and substantial Commonwealth Bank having equal rights with the trading banks, but it also believes that the trading banks can serve a great and useful purpose. Members of the Opposition have attempted to cast aspersions upon the persons who may be appointed to the new board merely because the desire of the Leader of the Opposition to exterminate the trading banks has been frustrated by the verdict of the people. I have heard many honorable members refer sneeringly to the unknown prospective members of the board. Some have suggested that the nominees may be polo players or gardeners. We do not know who will be chosen. . The Government might oven select enginedrivers
– Or wharfies.
– Who knows but that there may be a union secretary or two! Why should the honorable members of the Opposition cast aspersions upon the five people proposed to be appointed before they know their identity. Does it not occur to honorable members opposite that whilst they express their distrust - and their leader specifically stated that he would not trust these five people - the electors told the Leader of the Opposition in no uncertain terms that they did not trust him on the question of banking? Doss it not occur to the Opposition that the people of Australia have stated that they do not trust them or the Australian Labour party when it comes to the matter of banking? If honorable members opposite do not realize that then they are’ not facing realities because that is the real position. This Government is backing the bill with a mandate from the people. It must introduce its reforms by the creation of a board. We know that the present Government was especially elected by the people to bring about a certain result. It has been stated in thi* chamber that the present governor, Dr. Coombs, is a socialist. There is no doubt that if the Opposition had had its way with the banks the public would not have been informed of the things which would have occurred until they had actually occurred, and until the whole banking structure in Australia had been brought into the socialized condition desired by the Labour party. This Government could do nothing else but introduce a bill of the kind now before- the committee. The bill has the great merit that it is in line with the public opinion of Australia. Its merit from the point of view of safety in the management of the bank is that the Parliament will have the direction of the policies of that institution. That safeguard is preserved in this bill. There is no question that if the Commonwealth Bank Board attempted to administer the bank contrary to the policy of this Government as expressed by the people then the bank board would be told what to do about it.
– By whom?
– By this Government. Moreover, the people of Australia would know what the difference of opinion was that existed between the Government and the bank board. The document would be tabled in the Parliament, and that method, would be more democratic and more in the interests of the people than the method provided by the 1945 act. There is a tremendous waste of time in this chamber through the continuous rehash of the type of opposition shown towards this bill. The bill is logical, it is in the interests of the people of Australia, and it expresses their will.
.- After listening to the argument adduced by the previous speaker I am more than ever convinced that this proposed section has been conceived in the spirit of calculated and deliberate intent to bolster up private banking system at the expense of the enormously successful people’s bank. It is also a proposal by which the Government abdicates its power and avoids it3 responsibility. If this bill is passed it will mean that the Government has deliberately excluded itself from participation in the making or changing of monetary policy. Obviously it would then govern only in a secondary degree, and for any self-governing community that state of affairs is certainly not good. The Labour party maintains that in the light of successful administration in the past the Treasurer should have the final voice in the determination of national monetary policy. Under this bill that will not be the position. The Government wants it both ways - it wants power without responsibility. The Government intends to cast the responsibility for the making of monetary policy upon an outside body that in every sense of the word will be responsible neither to the people nor to the Parliament itself. The Labour policy in relation to the bank is based upon an inflexible determination never again to tolerate the arbitrary action of the former bank board in implementing a policy that caused untold misery to many hundreds of thousands of well-deserving citizens. We, on this side of the committee, are constantly accused of dragging up the past, but I submit that there is nothing new under the sun. After all, only twenty years have passed since h world-wide depression came into existence. Economic circumstances operated then that could operate again to-morrow. The same condition of society existed then as exists to-day. The same political system existed at that time as exists to-day, and I would remind honorable members that history has an unfortunate habit of repeating itself. It is well known that during the depression the bank board dictated financial policy to the elected representatives of the people - the government. There is no knowing whether, if the same circumstances occurred to-morrow, the same state of affairs would prevail, and the people of this country would see the unedifying spectacle of the newly appointed Commonwealth Bank Board telling the government of the day what it should do. I shall quote from a report published in the Melbourne Age of the 25th March, 1936, in respect of an edict issued by the bank board in that year, which caused n great deal of public perturbation. The report stated -
Whether the reasons are sound or not, the fact that impresses and startles the community is that in matters nf such vital importance, the Federal Government can be a mere cypher and the great institution which is owned by and acts for the people - the Commonwealth Bank - instead of making policy is forced to follow a course dictated by others.
No guarantee has been given by the Government that a similar state of affairs will not come into existence if a board is appointed in accordance with the provisions of this bill. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said earlier, out of the past the future arises. That being the case, we should consider .past policy in relation to these matters in order to get an idea of what the future may bring forth. In this case we hear only grandiloquent phrases in which the Government expresses the opinion that the bank board will do a good job. After all, they are mere words. “We can point to definite action on the part of the previous board which had a deleterious effect on the economy of this country. The last bank board refused business, under its calculated policy of restriction, in order to ensure that the private banks should not lose customers. That that is a fact will be seen directly from my quotation of ‘a statement made in 1932 by the Governor of the bank, who was then Mr. Riddle. These things are not mere fantasies in the minds of honorable members on this side of the committee. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) quoted evidence given by Sir Ernest Riddle, as he then was, in relation to the facts that I have mentioned. I now quote from the Sydney Sun of the 22nd November, 1932-
Addressing a meeting of the Fellows of the Royal Empire Society at a luncheon in October, 1932, dealing with the policy of the Commonwealth Bank, Mr. Riddle stated that although the Commonwealth Bank continued to conduct general business, that side of ite activities was not pushed.
When a customer of a private bank asked the Commonwealth Bank for accommodation the Commonwealth Bank undertook to investigate his position and if satisfied he was entitled to the accommodation private bank3 were notified and informed by the Commonwealth Bank that if they were prepared to do business they, the Commonwealth Bank, would withdraw from the negotiations. If not, the Commonwealth Bank would make the advances. In nearly every case, said Mr. Kiddle, the private banks made the advances.
In other words, the resources of the Commonwealth Bank were used in such a way that a business proposition which was likely to lead to a profit was handed over to the private banks. Public money was squandered in the interests of the private banking institutions. That sort of thing became so much of a scandal that in 1945 the Australian Government provided that such an unhappy state of affairs should not be allowed to operate in the future. Tt provided, in the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 that-
The Bank, through the General Banking Division, shall not refuse to conduct banking business for any person, by reason only of the fact that to conduct that business would have the effect of taking awa)7 business from another bank.
Quite a lot has been said by honorable members on the Government side about private enterprise using boards to conduct their businesses so successfully that they have been able to build up gigantic financial empires. The Commonwealth Bank, in relation to a board of directors, is in an entirely different category from private commercial enterprises. In a private enterprise working under a board of directors, the members of the board appear yearly, or every second year, before a meeting of the shareholders for determination of whether they shall be re-elected. Every shareholder in the business has the right to say who the directors shall be. In this case the shareholders of the Commonwealth Bank, the people of Australia, have no such right. I understand that the bill in a subsequent provision proposes that the directors shall be appointed for five years. Despite the fact that they may give great dissatisfaction and do a great disservice to the economy of the nation, the shareholders, who are the people, will have no right to say whether they shall continue in office or not. I object to the bill because such legislation will give powers which may be used detrimentally to the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth. It leaves the way open for private business and private finance to have a voice in deciding whether or not the Commonwealth Bank shall extend its operations in the public interest. That is too big a responsibility to leave in the hands of a board, and I am at present wondering who the personnel of the board will he.
– Order ! The time of the honorable member has expired.
– A great many speakers from the opposite side of the chamber have said that their opposition to the constitution of a bank board stems directly from their experiences of the depression. Almost every Opposition speaker has condemned out of hand the bank board of that day for all or most of the misery that existed in Australia at that time. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament I have heard the depression story over and over again, but at different times a different culprit has been mentioned. On some occasions it has been the private banks and on the other occasions the government of the day. On this occasion it is the bank board. I think that we should refresh our memories a little regarding the history of those days. One honorable member became very heated to-night - he was subsequently suspended from the service of the committee - because he was one of those who suffered during the depression. I suggest that hp should look at this matter from an objective point of view and not from the point of view of his emotions. There arp honorable members in this chamber who have heard these distorted stories so often that they have come to believe them and do not consider the depression as it should be considered - that is, in the light of reason and of history. First of all, i3 there any proof that, had the Commonwealth Bank been controlled by other than a bank board of the kind which it is now proposed to appoint, a different policy would have been applied? I have conducted a little research into the position of the Governor of the bank of that day, and I can find no evidence that he at any time disagreed with the board. However, I point out that there was in Australia at that time one man in a position of authority who did propose a course of action in line with that favoured by members of the Opposition as being a proper solution of the problem which then faced the country. I refer to the Treasurer of the day. the late Mr. E. G. Theodore. He did bring forward a proposal to give effect in some degree to the policy now favoured by the Opposition, and what happened? Did the Labour government of the day, which honorable members now so loudly acclaim, support that proposal to theutmost? Did it back up its Treasurer through thick and thin, and take the fight through the Senate to the country, where the matter could havebeen finally settled in such a way that even the bank board must have bowed to the decision? It did not.. Instead, it preferred to bow to the will, of the Senate of that day. It capitulated to those who were opposed to the Treasurer, Mr. Theodore. Was that the action, of a government which really believed in the course of action that its Treasurerproposed? Was that the action that a courageous government would have taken ?’ Every one knows that it was not. If I were a member of the party sitting onthe other side of the chamber to-night,. I should blush to recall the history of those days. The government of thattime adopted a plan, since known as thePremiers plan. It has since been disowned and repudiated by the Labour party, and the blame for its provisions, laid upon the Commonwealth Bank. Board, but the government of that day cannot escape the responsibility for what was then done.
I ask, however, whether the actiontaken at that time was as wrong as is now supposed. I have not the slightest doubt that the action taken then would not and’ could not properly be taken to-day; but the reason for the Government not then going to the people on the issue was that it knew that the people were against itsproposal. The people of that day, and for many years after, stood by the action that was then taken. As a matter of fact, the people threw the Government out of office when it repudiated thePremiers plan.
A very important point was made today by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). We have been told that thegreat virtue of the present system by which the Commonwealth Bank is controlled is that it is under the direction of experts. The honorable member for Sturt pointed out that the Premiers plan, although it is known by that name, was evolved not by the Premiers, but by experts in economics and finance. For the most part, the experts of that day believed that what was then proposed was the right course of action. Moreover, let us never forget that Australia, in spite of all that has been said about the misery that was rampant in the country during the depression - and I am not one to minimize it, because I know something of what happened - was the first to come out of the depression of all countries in the world except Sweden, which was not hit by the depression as Australia was. In 1937, the present honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), on behalf of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, applied to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a prosperity loading based upon Australia’s recovery from the depression, although at that time the United States of America was still wallowing in the trough of the depression - the United States of America, where every type of fancy finance was tried.
I propose to make one further point on the subject of the depression, although to many honorable members it may seem not to be relevant. Who of all the younger members of this Parliament, those who must refer for their information to the history books, as some one sneeringly said to-night, knows how many men from Australia died during the 1914-18 war? No one has spoken. I doubt whether any of them know that 58,000 young Australians died during those four years. Their death has left no impression at all upon some of those who speak about the depression. Why are not the young people of this country told of that tremendous sacrifice? Nothing is said about it, but they are told of the miseries of the depression, when people did tighten their belts, certainly, and suffered hardships, but when there was no loss of life. I put that before honorable members opposite not as an argument against anything they may say in support of financial measures designed to prevent another depression, but as showing that there is a false sense of proportion, or perhaps a complete lack of any sense of proportion, in the minds of those who never tire of speaking of the depression, while that other tremendous incident in our history is allowed to remain in oblivion.
.- I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) say that very few persons in this chamber could state the number of men who made the supreme sacrifice in the 1914-18 war. If I do not misunderstand the intention of the honorable member, she intended to convey the impression that very few people in this Parliament or elsewhere are conscious of the fact that the 1914-18 war was largely responsible for the evils of the economic depression.
– That is not what I sought to convey.
– I am sorry if I misunderstood the honorable member. During the period from 1932 to 1939, production in Australia was at a high level. As a matter of fact, more wheat was produced in Australia in 1932 than at any other time except during very recent years. Honorable members will recall that there was at that time a “grow more wheat” campaign. In 1935, dairy production achieved an all-time record. Nevertheless, during that period, there existed a state of affairs that was a reflection upon all intelligent men, and a reflection, also, upon the monetary policy of the nation. That state of affairs obtained in varying degrees from 1929 to 1939, notwithstanding the claim of the present honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) before the Arbitration Court for a prosperity loading. There are degrees of prosperity. It might be claimed that it was a sign of prosperity that unemployment declined from 15 per cent, to 10 per cent., but by no stretch of imagination could it be understood that the mass of the people at that time were prosperous, having regard to the production of the country.
I think it is fair to say that, prior to the rise of the Labour movement, the banking and monetary systems were shrouded in mystery so far as ordinary men and women were concerned. Before 1S93, no Parliament in Australia had ever attempted to impose any control on the banks. The people believed that the only function of the banks was to receive the people’s money on deposit, and then to advance that money to other people by way of loan, or to advance it to governments. Very few realized the effect of monetary policy on people who neither deposited money nor borrowed it. From that time on, however, as a result of the propaganda of the Labour party, the people began to think about those matters to such effect that to-day the Government, and all its supporters, are prepared to swallow, lock, stock and barrel, the Commonweath Bank Act 1945, without any attempt to alter it except to provide for the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board. The present Government is supported by those who, when in Opposition, opposed the 1945 banking legislation with all their might. When we now find that they are prepared to accept that legislation almost in its entirety, we are justified in looking for the nigger in the woodpile. The nigger is the provision that the bank board is to include five persons other than bankers or members of the Public Service. This is a subtle move by which the Government knows full well that it will be able to defeat the intentions of the legislation which it has stated it is prepared to leave intact, notwithstanding the fact that its supporters opposed that legislation when it was introduced in 1945. I have listened attentively to the second reading and committee debates on this measure. Honorable members opposite have claimed consistently that they have a mandate for their proposals, but I remind them that Opposition members have a mandate from their constituents to oppose, by every constitutional means in their power, the provisions of this legislation, particularly the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board. No Opposition member has suggested that we on this side of the chamber propose to take other than constitutional action. In the course of the debate on the Banking Act 1947, the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), who has had quite a lot to say about communism, totalitarianism and dictatorships, made a statement that is worthy of repetition. Speaking on behalf of the banks and the other sectional interests that he represents, he said -
We shall fight this Communist Tamp by every means in our power, political, legal, constitutional, and, if need be, physical.
What did the word “physical” imply? Obviously it meant that, if necessary, the right honorable gentleman, who is nor- mally a pacific individual, would be prepared to take up arms and to encourage the people to resort to physical violence.
Doe3 any honorable member believe that the Minister and his colleagues who felt so keenly about the 1947 Act, and had just as vigorously opposed the 1945 Commonwealth Bank Bill, would meekly allow the latter legislation to stand intact unless they knew that in the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board, they would have an instrument that would enable them to put the Commonwealth Bank back into the position that it occupied from 1924 up to the outbreak of war if We are told that the Commonwealth Bank progressed under the board control instituted in 1924. Of course it did, but it made nothing like the progress that it should have made. In 1932 I walked into the Collins-street branch of the Commonwealth Bank in Melbourne with the intention of opening an account, and depositing a sum of money. I was directed to a room where an officer asked my name, address, and business. I gave him the details that he sought, and told him that I wanted to open an account. He said, “ First I must ask you whether you have an account in any commercial bank ? “ I told him that I had a current account in a commercial bank at Woodend. He said, “ In that case, we cannot accept your account “. By insisting on that policy the Commonwealth Bank Board, members of which included representatives of the private banking institutions, was able to thwart the progress that would normally have been made.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The .proposed section now under discussion provides for the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board. For the life of me I cannot see any cause for astonishment, consternation, or chagrin amongst members of the Opposition. To the best of my knowledge and belief it is a traditional custom that a Minister who proposes to introduce a bill shall give notice of his intention. There is no obligation on a Minister to notify in advance the details of a particular clause of a bill. In this instance, however, the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has given notice, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, of his intention, if elected to office, to introduce a provision of this type. I say again, therefore, that there is no justification for the consternation that appears to exist in the ranks of the Opposition. Had there been a Commonwealth Bank Board there would have been no necessity to repeal the Banking Act 1947 - that grim and ghastly experiment that served no useful purpose, but senselessly divided the people of this country. Had there been a Commonwealth Bank Board in 1947, or at any period since that time, there would have been no justification for what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) so aptly described as a “dead horse”. That horse wa9 never of any use to this country. When it was alive, it was a vicious recalcitrant animal that no one could handle and the people themselves, at the first available opportunity exercised their rights as knackers to destroy the beast. That is the brief history of the bank nationalization legislation. If any honorable member of the Opposition has any justification for grief, it is the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) who bred the animal. Its pedigree was “By socialism, out of communism, and a full brother to human misery “.
– Who trained it?
– It was the kind of horse that cannot be trained, and is useless for any purpose; yet we find the Opposition opposing this proposed section, which provides for the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board. The board is to consist of ten members. No objection has been raised to the first five, but apparently there are grave objections to the subsequent five. The first five were named by the Treasurer when he introduced the bill into this chamber. They include the Governor of the bank. No objection has been taken to the appointment of the Governor of the bank as the Chairman of the new Commonwealth Bank Board. That is understandable to those of us who know the political background and history of that gentleman. Yet this Government, with all the courage that characterizes a truly democratic government, has decided to appoint him chairman of the proposed new board. The Deputy Governor will be the deputy chairman of the board, and honorable members opposite have not taken exception to that proposal. The third member will be the Secretary to the Treasury, and no objection has been raised to the appointment of that most responsible official. The fourth appointee will be Mr. Melville, who has been the economic adviser to the Commonwealth Bank for twenty years. Opposition members are not perturbed about that appointment.
– Order! The honorable member may discuss the personnel of the board when the committee is considering clause 10.
– I desire to make the point that the character of the board in itself, apart from any other reason, justifies its establishment by a truly democratic government. All the criticism that has been voiced against the proposed hoard, and the bill itself, is based on the objection that authority over the bank will be removed from the Governor solely and will be vested in a board. The speeches of some honorable members opposite against that proposal echo bitter class-conscious hatred of the trading banks. I submit that th,people of Australia, like the people of every other democratic country, have always reserved the right to have their banks managed by boards, and it is entirely wrong to suggest that the trading bank system, as we know it to-day, has been thrust on a dumb and stupid people by some callous mediaeval king - probably an English king, too. It is equally foolish to suggest that the trading bank system was thrust by a pressure group on people who were incapable of defending themselves. The trading bank system, as we have known it in this country, was conceived in the minds of ordinary men and women to serve ordinary people, and there its function begins and ends. It has constantly sent out a challenge to the intelligence and experience of the people whom it is designed to- serve, that if any need for an alteration arose, the people themselves should express their views on the matters in dispute and give them legislative interpretation. If there were any faults, flaws or frailties, the people themselves would be able to correct them, and change the trading bank system until it measured up to what might be called the changing circumstances of modern society.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I have listened to a good deal of uninspiring talk about dead horses, and I am able to inform the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) that, figuratively speaking, he has a dead horse on his hands. I .refer, of course, to this bill. I find it remarkable that some honorable members opposite are prepared to protect the trading banks. The Government claims that it has a mandate to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board. The voting at the last general election does not support that contention. Of the total number of votes that were cast, the Liberal party received 39 per cent., the Australian Country party - the tail that wags the dog - polled a paltry 11 per cent., and the Labour party, as a single unit, mustered 49 per cent. Which party received the mandate from the people? It was not the conglomeration of parties that constitute the coalition government.
– But we are the Government.
– The Liberal party and the Australian Country party certainly form the Government at present, and if the Labour party did not have a majority in the Senate, the people of Australia would be treated to the spectacle of the greatest sell-out in our history. All the assets of the people would be sold to that miserable clique, the trading banks of Australia, that poured money into the coffers of the consultative council and the Institute of Public Affairs.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to proposed section 9, which deals with the establishment and functions of the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– One of the functions of the trading banks, which hope to be represented on the proposed board, is to try to bribe political parties. They have succeeded in this instance, and, unfortunately for the people of Australia, the Liberal party and the Australian
Country party are now in office. What is the new Government’s legislative programme? Is it concentrating its attention on controlling the cost of living, which is spiralling alarmingly? Of course it is not! The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) told the people during the general election campaign thai if he were returned to office, he would put value back into the £1. This bill is designed to put more money into the bankers’ £1 and not into the aged and invalid pensioners’ £1.
One honorable member opposite referred to certain events that occurred in 1915. I remember that year very well. My family suffered in the first world war. The honorable member mentioned that 58,000 Australians were killed in that conflict, but omitted to state that the survivors who had the fortune, or, perhaps, the misfortune to return to Australia at that time, had to beg the so-called trading banks to cash their gratuity bonds. They went to a particular music store in Sydney, the proprietor of which is now a millionaire with floating palaces on the harbour. That millionaire evolved the snide trick of getting these men to sell music from door to door. They sold “ Boys of the Dardanelles” and other patriotic songs to the people which they received in part payment of their gratuity bonds. Then we pass on till we come to the miserable period that ensued in 1930. The present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) can tell us what the Scullin Government did in 1930, because he had been Treasurer in the previous anti-Labour administration. That administration was cramped in its actions, and no one knows that better than the “ tragic Treasurer “ himself. Nevertheless, the right honorable gentleman tries even now, with his tongue in his cheek, to delude the people by asking why Mr. Scullin did not act to obtain a double dissolution. Mr. Scullin had no more chance of getting a double dissolution than has the present Government, which does not want one. We are not afraid of the double dissolution. The Labour party will fight, and we are going to challenge the Government on this bill to see whether it has the courage to seek a double dissolution. It has not the courage to go to the people and tell them that the first measure that it has introduced to the Parliament is one to protect the wealthy interests of Australia.
Let us be honest and look at this matter from the point of view of the working man. I notice the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) putting his hand to his ear. I often have to put my hand to my ear to hear him when he tries to put his snide tricks over about bank boards. He talks down his sleeve. The good people of Australia will shortly hear him going through his trickery again. However, I speak on behalf of the working people of Australia, who produce everything in order that the rich may live in the lap of luxury. The trading banks of to-day will see that the worker is ground further and further into the dirt. They are alarmed because the workers have reached such a peak of organization; and that organization also has the antiLabour political parties frightened. Those parties are now seeking by some devious means to get the people’s savings out of the banks. They have hit upon the simple notion that by bringing about an inflationary period they can bring the people to their knees. But the workers of Australia have clearly in their minds a picture of what their enemies have concealed in their sleeves. I do not mean the politicians opposite, because they are not the real enemies. They simply bow their knee to the financial interests that make payments to the consultative council. It was those subscriptions that put the coalition parties back on the treasury bench. Honorable members opposite have to vote for the interests of their masters whether or not they want to do so. The price of their service is their endorsement at the next election. Do not ask me why I know that, because I may have to repeat something that I said in this chamber previously. I feel very keenly about the efforts of the Government parties to reduce the living standards of our people, and I object most strongly to the snide methods that are adopted in this chamber to try to shackle the people of Australia once again to the private banks. I was one who suffered in 1930; and I am prepared to say that any working man who has had to work for his living during the last 40 years has not during that period earned an average wage of more than £3 a week.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The proposed section that we are discussing provides that there shall be a Commonwealth Bank Board, which shall be constituted in accordance with Part V. of the bill. This has been included in the measure in fulfilment of a promise that was made by the Government to the people of Australia and accepted by them, because I remind members of the Opposition that on the 10th December last the people decided in favour of the political parties that are now occupying this side of the chamber.
– What did the farmers say about it?
– That does not matter; the fact is that as a result of what was said about the matter, Labour is now occupying the Opposition benches. The Government therefore claims that it received a definite and unambiguous mandate from the people to implement as a foundational necessity its policy for the establishment of a bank board. It is not the first time that a mandate has been given by the people of Australia for the establishment of a bank board as an indispensable factor in banking in this country. A great deal has been said to-night about the sins and the shortcomings of the original bank board that was established by my colleague the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), when he was Treasurer in- 1924. We have heard that the basic reason for the Labour party’s definite and consistent opposition to the reconstitution of the board is that that hoard did .not carry out its functions in the best interests of the national welfare, that it was incompetent, and that it was, a9 has been stated so often by Labour members, the actual cause of the world depression. Let me remind honorable members at once that Australia was the last country to be affected by that depression and was the first to emerge from it.
In 1924 the Commonwealth Bank Board was constituted and it functioned until 1945. During that period it was the controlling body, and it financed Australia’s war efforts and controlled all the financial activities connected with the prosecution of the war and the preservation of the country’s safety. It was not until 1945 that the Australian Labour party, which is now in opposition but was then in office, discovered the necessity to dispense with that board. I remind honorable members opposite that Labour did not have a mandate from the people to dispense with the board, which had given 21 years of faithful and valuable service to the people of Australia. In its place Labour established a body of a purely advisory nature, which had no definite authority nor any means of implementing its recommendations. That advisory council or board was subject to the control or dictation of only one individual in Australia, namely, the Treasurer. By virtue of section 29 of the act which established the Advisory Council, even the Governor of the bank was not compelled to accept the advice of that body. It was a very simple matter to get into consultation with the Government and, in some respects, no doubt, to ventilate the desires and opinions of the Treasurer, because the Advisory Council functioned under his control. As I have said the method of board control was dispensed with in 1945. Let us review the period that intervened between 1924 and 1945, and let us realize how many times the people of Australia were told by the Labour party during that period that a board was neither desirable nor necessary, and that that party desired a mandate from the people to dispense with it. The general election campaign of 1931, when people were acutely mindful of the depression and had every opportunity to make up their minds on who was responsible for it, was contested on the basic issue of banking. At that time Labour accused the Commonwealth Bank Board and everybody else of being the cause of the depression conditions through which we were passing. The basic principle of the Labour party’s policy at that time was bank reform to the extent that it regarded it as a first necessity to abolish the board that had been instituted by the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) in 1924. “With the depression, unfortunately, fresh in their minds, what did the people of Australia do? They decided without any doubt whatever against the Labour party and the policy of banking reform that it desired to inflict upon the people of Australia.
– The people suffered in consequence.
-Then we come to the 1934 general election, which also was fought on the main issue of banking reform consistent with the Labour party’s banking policy qf abolishing the Commonwealth Bank Board and of reconstituting one-man control, although that intention was concealed at one time. But the people again, in no uncertain way, with all the facts and the evidence of history about the board’s activities or inactivities or shortcomings before them, decided against the Labour party’s desires. We move now to 1937, in which year the salient issues and principles of the general election were connected with banking reform as the Labour party desired. The basic principle again in the Labour party’s policy was to abolish the bank board and the system of board management and control of the monetary policy of the Commonwealth Bank. Again the people in no uncertain way turned the Labour party’s proposal down and returned to office a government opposed to those principles and that policy. Then we move to 1940. The issue of banking reform was, of course, not ventilated at the general election in the year because we were then in the throes, or prospective throes, of war. Again, no banking issue was raised when the Labour party sought re-election in 1943-
– My word it was !
– In 1946, the Government, after it had passed the 1945 banking legislation, was again silent about any banking reform or in what direction it intended to move and what it proposed to do if it received the endorsement of the people at that election.
Having received an open cheque from the people of Australia, having obtained a renewal of the people’s confidence on false pretences, the Labour Government in 1946 immediately set about carrying out the principal plank of its platform, the nationalization of the banking system. That is why the people decided at the last general election that they would not tolerate any interference with banks, banking principles, or banking policy in this country. It is, of course, history now that the people would not return the Labour Government on the last occasion, but returned parties opposed to the principles of nationalization, and that is why the Labour party, with its policy of banking reform, now constitutes the Opposition.
– But it will not he the Opposition for long!
– Let us see just why it is desirable to re-apply the principle of the board method of government of the Commonwealth, or Central Bank of Australia. A royal commission was appointed to inquire into the Australian monetary and banking systems, and presented a report in 1937-
– The then Liberal Government did nothing about its recommendations.
– That royal commission made one of the most searching investigations ever carried out in Australia. It took some years, and evidence was called and collated from every available source.
– What did the commission find?
– It did not blame the Commonwealth Bank, the Commonwealth Bank Board or the banking system for the economic depression. It recognized that the depression was world-wide and that the economic position of Australia during the depression was a result of circumstances over which this country had no control, which were the collapse of our export prices and, in consequence, our export industries. However, in the light of all the available and present information, in the light of all the evidence and all the criticism that could be levelled against the board principle of government, what did that royal commission decide in a majority report? It decided that the central bank should be the Commonwealth Bank, organized mainly in the form in which it then existed, the form instituted by the present Minister for Health in 1924. Then it went on to say this -
The members of the Board of the Commonwealth Bank should be chosen, not only for their wide financial knowledge, proved capacity and determination, but also for their breadth of outlook and for those qualities which make it likely they will obtain the co-operation of other institutions and of governments in their task of administering the affairs of the central bank. The present method of government of the Commonwealth Bank is by a board appointed by the Commonwealth Government and consisting of a governor, the Secretary to the Treasury, and six directors who hold office for a term of years and retire in rotation. The board elects its own chairman. We are of opinion that this method of government is generally satisfactory.
That was the decision of the royal commission that was authorized to carry out the most searching investigation of monetary reform in this country that had ever been instituted. That investigation embraced all the available evidence of the effect of the depression through which the nation had passed and with that evidence before it the commission came to the decision that I have recounted. So we have the decision of the electors on every occasion on which their view about banking reform has been sought, and we have also the decision of the royal commission, composed of competent men, that was appointed for the specific purpose of obtaining the views of people capable of giving views about the method of government to which the Commonwealth Bank should be subjected. It is no novelty for the method of control of a central bank to be the board method because, as a matter of fact, the only countries that do not have boards to govern their central banks are Spain, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and, of course, Russia. Now, it will be noted that the policy consistently advocated by the Labour party is similar to that which is implemented in Communist countries and Fascist Spain. Let us see what the position is in relation to the socialized Bank of England, which has eighteen directors, only four of whom are employed to give exclusive service to the bank. The remainder of those directors-
– Who are the others?
– I shall tell the honorable member who one of them is. He is no less a person than Sir Otto Niemeyer, of whom the honorable member knows, because it -was the Scullin Labour Government that brought him out here, and it was on his recommendation that the Premiers plan was” instituted. He is a member of the directorate of the Bank of England.
– He used to be.
– Criticism has been levelled to-night at the directorate that we intend to establish - at the proposed appointment of five outside directors, and at the fact that they are to be only part-time directors. Although that aspect has been criticized and ridiculed, yet the Bank of England, the socialized bank of the financial centre of the world, has a directorate of eighteen, of which only four directors have to give full-time service in the. interests of the bank. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has nine directors whilst the Bank of Canada has eleven directors who are selected from diversified occupations. That was the practice previously followed in this country in the appointment of members of the Commonwealth Bank Board. However, I do not believe that there should be sectional representation on such a body. In appointing members of the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board the Government will adhere strictly to the principle of selecting only appointees who possess the requisite qualifications and experience for such positions. The Government will endeavour to obtain the services of the five best men in that category in Australia. The Reserve Bank of India has fourteen directors, the South African Reserve Bank eleven directors, the Bank of France twelve directors and the Bank of Sweden six directors. The Bank of the Netherlands is controlled by a president, a secretary and a board, whilst the National Bank of Denmark has five managers of whom two :are Government appointees and three are elected by shareholders. The Central Bank of Eire is controlled by a governor and thirteen directors, whilst the Bank of Portugal is controlled by a governor and seven directors. The Bank of Roumania is controlled by a governor and six directors and the Bank of Finland is controlled by a governor and four directors.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) referred to evidence that was given under cross-examination’ by Sir Ernest Riddle before the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems to the effect that the Commonwealth Bank did not compete with the trading banks in the use of the reserve funds that the trading banks deposited with the Commonwealth Bank as the Central Bank. As a matter of common decency, one would not expect that a bank with which trust funds were deposited would use those funds in competition with the banks that owned them.
– That is deceit.
– If that practice is deceitful, I point out that it is provided for in section 22 of the Commonwealth Bank Act that was enacted by a government that the honorable member supported. That section reads -
The Special Accounts established by banks under Division 3 of Part II. of the Banking Act 1945, and the accounts established by banks for the purpose of section fifty-two of the Banking Act 1945, shall not be kept in the General Banking Division.
That section relates to the control and use of moneys deposited by the trading banks in the special accounts.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. I submit that a discussion of the special accounts is not relevant to the question before the Chair.
– The Treasurer is in order.
– The section of the 1945 act that I have just read provides a necessary safeguard relating to the control of the special accounts, which are trust accounts.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. I was called to order on two occasions when I digressed slightly from the. subject-matter of the proposed section now before the Chair. I submit that the special accounts have no relation to the appointment of members of the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board. The Treasurer should observe the ruling that you gave when you ruled me out of order.
– The proposed section before the Chair deals with the appointment and functions of the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board. It involves a consideration of the policy of the board, and a fairly wide discussion has been permitted on that aspect. The Treasurer is quite in order.
– It is obvious that the trust funds deposited by the trading banks with the central bank must be under the control of the board. I am now dealing with the constitution of the board as well as with its functions, which include control of the special accounts. What I have said is consistent with the evidence given by Sir Ernest Riddle before the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems to the effect that the Commonwealth Bank has not used those funds in competition with the trading banks which own them. It would be totally immoral and indecent for the Commonwealth Bank to use those funds in competition with the trading banks and thereby strangle the activities of those institutions-.
It has also been stated in this debate that the control exercised by the Commonwealth Bank was materially strengthened as a result of the regulations that were enacted under the National. Security Act and were confirmed in the Banking Act 1945. At that time, when I was Treasurer, I explained to the Parliament that those regulations were being implemented in order to control the trading bank system. However, I also pointed out that they were embodied in an agreement that I had been able to negotiate with the trading banks. In dealing with that matter in this chamber on the 25th September, 1941, 1 said-
It is, moreover, in keeping with the views expressed by the Banking Commission that it is by co-operation between the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks that the regulation of credit will be best achieved. With that end in view I have asked for and have obtained a firm undertaking from the banks that they will accept the procedure I have outlined above and co-operate fully with the Commonwealth Bank in carrying it out. The value of co-operation in working’ a plan of this kind is very great, and it should be given a fair trial. I shall have all the data before me upon, which to judge its effectiveness, and, should it be necessary, the Government will not hesitate to invoke the National Security Act to ensure the results required, namely, the prevention of secondary expansion by the trading banks, and an assurance against excessive banking profits.
The terms of the undertaking referred to are as follows: -
The trading banks have no intention and no desire to make excess profits arising from war conditions.
As a war-time measure and with the object of ensuring that additions to their funds owing to war conditions will not be used to make excess profits or to expand advances in any way contrary to the national interests, they agree to place all surplus investable funds accruing in their hands on deposit with the Commonwealth Bank as special war-time deposits, and agree to the Commonwealth Bank making appropriate variations in the rate of interest thereon to ensure that no excess wartime profits arise.
To achieve the objects set out above the trading banks give the following firm undertaking: -
They will not make new advances or grant increases in existing advances except in accordance with the policy laid down by the Commonwealth Bank from time to time and to ensure conformity therewith will supply to the Commonwealth Bank a monthly analysis of new and increased advances in a form approved by the Commonwealth Bank.
Before purchasing or subscribing to government or semi-government loans, the trading banks will obtain the concurrence of the Commonwealth Bank. . . . They agree to supply the Commonwealth Bank with such certificates from the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation as will enable that bank to satisfy itself that the undertaking herein regarding profits is being observed.
The undertaking contained other conditions to which, I shall not now refer. The terms of the undertaking are fully recorded in Hansard. The undertaking formed a part of the budget proposals upon which the then Government was subsequently defeated. The successful co-operation of the Commonwealth Bank with the private banks, to which so many references have been made to-night, was made possible as a result of the foresight of a government formed by the parties that now again sit on this side of the chamber. It resulted from a voluntary agreement that was made between the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks on the distinct understanding that if there were any violations of the intention or the spirit of. that undertaking the provisions of the National Security Regulations would be invoked so that the terms of the undertaking could be adequately and properly implemented.
– That was only a wartime arrangement, but we made it a permanent feature of banking law by incorporating it in the Banking Act 1945.
– It was originally designed to prevent inflation. It resulted from the efforts of, not a Labour government, but a government formed by the parties that now sit on this- side of the chamber. It is of no use for Opposition members to claim credit for something with which they had nothing to do. This Government is determined to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board by constitutional means, because it believes in board control of the Commonwealth Bank. The Labour party opposes that proposal. We are fortified in our intention by the indisputable fact that on every occasion on which the electors have been given an opportunity to reject Labour’s policy on banking reform they have done so in no uncertain manner, and have affirmed and reaffirmed the banking policy of the parties that sit on- this side of the chamber, which is diametrically and unequivocally opposed to the policy of the nationalization and eventual strangulation of the private banks which is advocated by the Labour party. On the 10th December last, the people, in no uncertain way, rejected the overtures of the Labour party on the subject of banking reform.
.- I cannot understand why the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has become so -heated over this matter, because there is nothing for him to become heated about. Although we may indulge in a theoretical argument concerning whether control of the Commonwealth Bank by a board may be good or bad, a Commonwealth Bank Board will not be appointed and there is no need for the right honorable gentleman to become heated about the matter. We should -be able to discuss this matter dispassionately.
I should perhaps answer some of the arguments that have been advanced by honorable members opposite who have made a great feature of the claim that they have been returned to office with a mandate from the people to give effect to the banking proposals enunciated in the policy speeches of their leaders. There may be some merit in their claim, but I remind them that the private banks, which recently had a narrow escape, must not regard this matter as being necessarily finalized. In 1911, there was so much vicious opposition by the anti-Labour forces to the proposal of the then Labour Government to establish the Commonwealth Bank that had the people been given an opportunity to vote on it at that time they would probably have rejected it. In the past Labour has suffered many temporary reverses as the result of misrepresentation on the part of the antiLabour parties. If Labour adheres to it); banking policy, inevitably the day will come when the private banks will be nationalized. No really responsible government will be possible in this country until the government of the day controls the nerve centre of the economic system, which is the banking structure itself. Since the Commonwealth Bank was first established certain forces in this country have endeavoured to destroy it or to retard its progress. Now that the Commonwealth Bank is in such a strong position that it is impossible for them to destroy it completely, they have decided upon the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board as a means of giving effect to their desire to further retard the progress of the bank. Honorable members opposite have claimed that this Government has a mandate to give effect to its policy on banking. I remind them that the Commonwealth Bank Board was abolished in 1945 and that in the following year a Labour government was returned to office in this Parliament. If it can be claimed that this Government has a mandate to give effect to its policy we can claim with equal justification that when the people returned the Labour Government to office in 1946 they indicated their approval of the abolition of the Commonwealth Bank Board.
The Treasurer and the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) have twitted Opposition members with not having sought a division on the second reading of this bill. The failure to do so did not indicate in any way that Opposition members were not violently opposed to certain provisions of the bill. It is true that the Opposition does not object to some of the provisions in the measure, and, consequently, there was no need for us to contest its second reading. We do not object to the proposal to increase the capital of the bank or to the repeal of the 1947 legislation. At the moment, we regard the latter as a dead letter and, consequently, we have no objection to its repeal. On the other hand, we have very strong objections to the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board, and we shall vote against that proposal in this chamber. No doubt we shall be defeated; but in another place we shall be able to defeat the Government and, as a result, a Commonwealth Bank Board will not be appointed. The contention that Opposition members, by refraining from dividing on the second reading of the bill, indicated their approval of the measure is groundless.
The Treasurer has stated that there is no evidence to prove that the private banks had in any way been responsible for the financial and economic depression of the ‘thirties. The right honorable gentleman made a great play on the findings of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, which was appointed by an anti-Labour government. If there was then no criticism of the activities of the private banks, why was the royal commission appointed? If the anti-Labour government of the day was perfectly satisfied with the way in which the private banks were operating, why the need for any inquiry? The royal commission was appointed because there was a great public demand for a close examination of . the activities of the private banks of this country. Complaints about the private banks had been made not only by members and supporters of the Labour party but also by very many other people who were engaged in primary and secondary industries. The commission itself was loaded because the views of the majority of its members on the subject of banking were already known to the government of the day. Despite this fact its report contained the following statement regarding the responsibility of the trading banks for the depression : -
The trading banks must bear some responsibility for the extent of the depression. In some cases they caused hardship by forcing realization of assets and by refusing credit to some credit-worthy borrowers.
Why does the Government want a Commonwealth Bank Board? The Commonwealth Bank is doing very well without a board. In 1948 it had 410 branches, compared with 70 in 1924, when the Commonwealth Bank Board was first established. Let us consider the intolerable position in which a government is placed when a bank board has the right to determine what that government shall do in the legislative field to deal with an economic crisis. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) mentioned Sir Robert Gibson. Everybody knows that at the time he was chairman of the bank board he was virtually the director of government policy. On the 13th February, 1931, in a letter addressed to the Federal Treasurer, the Honorable E. G. Theodore, Sir Robert Gibson wrote -
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 Commonwealth Bank Board wa3 prepared to co-operate with the government of the day in the restoration of employment only on its terms. The Government was powerless. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Dame Enid Lyons) told honorable members that she would blush when reviewing the history of this period if she had then, been a member of the Labour party. She would have reason to blush irrespective of the side of the House on which she was. If she examines the history of that period she will learn that when the Premiers plan was discussed in the Parliament it split the Labour movement, and that her late husband, who was then a prominent member of the Labour party, deserted our ranks and helped to give effect to the plan to slash the living conditions of the people of this country. Those are the facts. The Minister does not like to be reminded of the part that her late husband played in that sorry period, of the history of this country.
When the Commonwealth Bank Board was abolished in 1945 by a Labour government, there was in existence a document instructing the manager of every branch of the bank that he was not to take any new business if the taking of that business meant that it would be taken away from a private bant That instruction was issued because the board desired to protect the private banks. Do Government supporters believe that if the board is re-established it will proceed with the work of expanding the activities of the Commonwealth Bank and the establishing of new branches throughout the country? On the contrary, it will restrict the development of the Commonwealth Bank and try to make it possible for the private banks to be restored to the position that they occupied until 1945.
It is obvious that the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has not 0 studied the 1945 Banking Act. I objected strongly to certain provisions in that measure, although I approved of many of the principles contained in it and voted for it in the Parliament. The honorable gentleman said that that act was designed to crush the private banks. My objection was that the measure made it impossible for a private bank to fail, when it found itself in difficulties as a result of active competition with the Commonwealth Bank. Under its provisions, a private bank that got into difficulties could approach the Commonwealth Bank. Alternatively, the Commonwealth Bank, if of the opinion that a private bank was in difficulties, could instruct the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral to examine its affairs and, if the Commonwealth Bank decided that it was necessary to do so, it could assume control of the activities of the private hank, but there was a further provision that, after the Commonwealth Bank had controlled the affairs of the bank concerned until it was again placed on a stable footing, the control was to be handed back to the private interests who were formerly in charge of its activities.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), an anomaly that arises from the administration of the Superannuation Act. The Postal Department utilizes the services of retired Commonwealth public servants who are in receipt of superannuation payments as escorts on days when pensions are paid and on other occasions. These men are paid at an hourly rate, which is based on an annual salary and a 40-hour week.. The hourly rate of pay is approximately 4s. 4d. In the case which I shall use to illustrate my point, a man is employed on approximately five days a month for six hours a day. He is paid for each hour’s work at the hourly rate; he does not receive a full day’s pay on each occasion when, he is employed. For the first 2S days of his employment in any one year he receives £1 6s. 3d. a day, and after that the payment is reduced by 6s. a day, which is alleged to be the portion of his pension that is attributable to the contribution paid by the Commonwealth. Instead of working for 4s. 4d. an hour, he works then for a lower rate of payment. The anomaly arises from the fact that each day on which he performs any work is regarded as a day for the purpose of arriving at the period of 28 days, irrespective of whether he has received a full day’s pay or only one hour’s pay for that day. When it is said that he has been employed for 28 days, on the basis of a 40-hour week he may actually have done only 21 days work and have been paid for 21 days work, notwithstanding which the deduction is made from that period of time. If he were employed on escort duty after that for only one hour a day, the Postal Department would pay him 4s. 4d. and 6s. would be deducted from his superannuation payments. In those circumstances, he would pay the Commonwealth1s. 8d. for the privilege of working for an hour. I believe that that interpretation of the meaning of section 50a of the Superannuation Act is wrong and that it gives rise to an obvious anomaly. I ask the Treasurer to examine this matter. I should also like him to examine the possibility of paying the full hourly rate to men who never work more than one day a week during the year and are performing a very necessary service to the Postal Department. If that cannot be done under the present act, a minor amendment might be made so that these men may be adequately recompensed. They are armed and act as guards for officers who are handling a large amount of money. To take away a part of their pension because they earn £1 6s. 3d. is a very niggardly method of administering the act.
Mr.Fadden. - For how long has that been happening?
– It has been going on for years. A letter dated the 15th October, 1948, from the Secretary of the Superannuation Board reads -
With reference to the pension paid to you under the Superannuation Act, advice has been received from the Postmaster-General’s Department that you were temporarily employed for 75 days from 1st May, 1947, to 2nd September, 1948. Section 50a (1) of the Superannuation Act provides that where a pensioner retired on attaining the maximum age, is re-employed by the Commonwealth, that portion of the pension payable by the Commonwealth should be cancelled during the period of employment in excess of 28 working days in any twelve months.
During the abovementioned period therefore you were entitled to your full pension for 28 days from 1st May, 1947 and again from 6th May, 1948.
The Commonwealth’s share of the pension has been overpaid for 27 days, the amount being £8 2s. 2d.
In order to adjust the overpayment it is proposed to hold the Commonwealth’s share of pension (£4 4s.1d. per fortnight), and to make payment as follows: -
The fortnightly amount thereafter will be £5. After you have worked for 28 days it will be necessary to again cancel the Commonwealth’s share. Up to 2nd September, 1948, 20 days have been worked.
I believe that that is a rank injustice which should be investigated by the Treasurer. I ask him to look into the provisions of the act and to give as liberal an interpretation to this section as can be given, particularly in regard to the non-payment of pensions after 28 days work. I ask him to see that the period of 28 days shall be taken as 28 full days and to consider the possibility of paying these people the full hourly rate for the time they work without any deduction being made from their superannuation.
.- Whilst the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) is in charge of the House there is a matter to which I desire to direct his attention with a view to seeing whether something cannot be done to rectify the difficulty which faces taxpayers who are unable to make replacements and repairs to their premises and equipment because of lack of essential materials. To-day, this country is very short of materials that are essential for replacements and repairs in industrial establishments and primary industries. Despite the heavy incidence of taxation to-day, these taxpayers are being deprived of a considerable amount of the money which they would be spending on replace ments if they could do so by virtue of the fact that they are deprived of taxation deductions because of their inability to spend money on very necessary maintenance and repair work. The time will soon arrive when this lack of materials and man-power will be overtaken. When the material and labour become available, these taxpayers will be without the finance they will need to carry out the necessary work. I submit that it would be reasonable for the Taxation Branch to allow taxpayers to provide for deferred maintenance. In the Income Tax Assessment Act there is a provision for this deferred maintenance, but it refers only to maintenance deferred as a result of the war. I question whether the Taxation Branch would be prepared to concede that to-day’s shortages of material is due to war. Its obvious retort would be that they are due to industrial disturbances, and that the taxpayer can not take advantage of the provision I have mentioned.
I can not see that the Treasurer would find any difficulty in making provision for deferred maintenance. The taxpayer could detail what essential maintenance is required for his plant, machinery and equipment when submitting his return, and that could be recorded. When the opportunity arose for that work to be carried out the taxpayer could notify the Taxation Branch. He could pay his tax in the ordinary way, but could be given a credit for that year, as though he had carried out the maintenance. When he produced evidence of the maintenance work having been done, the matter could be adjusted and a refund be made if necessary.
There may he some difficulty in implementing this scheme, although I cannot see any. I know that the Treasurer will say that it would reduce the Government’s revenue at some future date, but that could be provided for. The proposal is a just one. Were it not for the fact that these deductions cannot be claimed at the present time, the tax collections would not be as great as they are to-day. The taxpayer’s inability to avail himself of these deductions not only makes his assessable income higher but also increases the rate of tax. Not only does he pay an additional amount of tax. on income that should be spent, but he also pays a higher rate of tax on the income upon which be would normally be assessed, so the Government is getting it both ways.
The Treasurer has told the House that a committee is investigating the whole subject of taxation. I ask him to refer this matter to that committee so that it may be examined, not only in the light of the necessity for the Government to raise revenue, but also in the light of doing common justice to taxpayers who are suffering in consequence of conditions over which they have no control. I emphasize that we are suffering from industrial disturbances that are causing low production. If the Treasurer were to instruct the committee to examine the matter in that light I am confident that the taxpayers concerned would receive some relief.
.- I shall not delay the House very long. However, I wish to bring to the notice of tie Government a matter that is exercising the minds of several of my constituents in the Jervis Bay area. An injustice has unwittingly been done to a body of men who have been working for the Department of the Interior in that area since before the war. This body of men - or what is left of them - consists of eight men who are permanently employed in the service of the Department of the Interior but have not received, as did all their fellow employees, any war-loading money for services rendered in the period during which the Jervis Bay Naval Base was actively engaged in the defence of this country. Many applications have been made by these people to be placed on the same footing as other men beside whom they worked during the whole of that period. They were engaged on the waterfront, which, at that time, was regarded as an area of active warfare, yet they have never received any recognition in the shape of a war-loading payment, which was received by other people. With three exceptions all of them are still actively employed by the Department of the Interior on very important work. They worked throughout that period, cheek by jowl with the naval ratings and others who carried out war service, but up to the present none of their claims in that regard has been met. Not a great deal of money would be involved, and the principle involved makes the claim a fair one. I repeat that an injustice has been unwittingly done to these people. I ask the Government to look into the matter as it has been presented to me to see whether an adjustment may be made in their interests.
.- I rise to make a complaint about the nature of an answer that was given to a question that I asked in this House, and which a further answer by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) completely refutes. Honorable members will recall that on the 29th March the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) asked the Minister whether it would be possible to have the basie wage case before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration expedited. In reply the Minister said, amongst other things, that the basic wage case had been before the court for one year, and that therefore there should be no further delays. I wish, particularly, to direct the attention of honorable members to the following important portion of his reply, because it is incorrect: -
I remind the honorable member that the case put forward by the representatives of the employers is now in its first week, and the time so far has been taken up, no doubt very properly, by the representatives of the unions in putting their case before the court. It cannot seriously be argued, therefore, that there are delays attributable either to this Government or the representatives in the case of the employers.
I asked a supplementary question, a portion of the Minister’s reply to which was -
I make it clear that my previous answer did not imply criticism of the representatives of the unions for the length of time which they had considered it necessary for them to take in ‘presenting their case to the court, and in the examination and- cross-examination of witnesses.
The honorable gentleman went on to say -
In my reply to the previous question, I was merely seeking to refute any suggestion that delays had been occasioned by the Government, or that the case had been unduly protracted by the advocate for the employers.
There is not the slightest doubt in the mind of anybody who heard the question of the honorable member for Shortland and the reply of the Minister to it that the implication was that the cour t had been meeting for over twelve months and that, with the exception of a couple of weeks, the whole of the time of the court had been taken up by the unions in the presentation of their case. I shall now quote a. further reply by the Minister, which indicates how utterly wrong was his original reply to the honorable member for Shortland and to myself. Quoting from the diary of events of the court, he said -
This diary of events summarized indicates that up to and including 17th April, a total of 87 sitting days had been devoted to the case by the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
I want honorable members to take particular notice of the following dissection of that 87 days : -
Fourteen days were taken up with procedural matters,
There is not the slightest doubt that the Minister intended to convey that the unions, in presenting their case to the court, were responsible for these delays because he put down the whole of the days of the meeting of the court, with the exception of the few days that were taken up by the employers, as the responsibility of the unions. He continued -
I do not think any reasonable man could put any other construction on the replies of the Minister to the honorable member for Shortland and myself than that the court had been delayed for over twelve months, and that the responsibility for the delay rested at the door of the trade unions, not at the door of the court or of anybody else. In his reply to me after his reply to the vital matters raised by the honorable member for Shortland, he very properly said that he did not blame the unions for this delay, but that they were responsible for it. To-day he gave me the information that 39 days of the whole number were taken up by representatives of the unions. Only 39 days in thirteen months have been taken up by the unions in the presentation of their case. Yet the Minister said deliberately, in reply to two honorable members of this House, that the whole responsibility for the delay rested upon the unions. The reply continued -
On the 14th November an adjournment was made at the instance of the Court which, I am informed, thought it undesirable to continue in view of the references made during the election campaign to increased child endowment, and its connexion with proposals relating to the family unit basis of the Union’s claims. During this adjournment the Court dealt with other matters arising in Melbourne including the ordinary Melbourne sitting, and from the 6th to Oth December, with the ordinary Sydney sitting so that, although it did not resume the Basic Wage case until the 12th December, actually only seven days available for basic wage sittings were lost.
Thus the honorable gentleman ascribed the loss of only seven days to the statement that had been made by the then Leader of the- Opposition (Mr. Menzies) concerning his policy in relation to child endowment. There is not the slightest doubt, that the Minister intended to convey to the House the impression that the unions were responsible for the delay. I could understand his making, a mistake once, hut he stated deliberately twice, that the basic wage, hearing had been protracted for twelve months by the actions of the unions when,, in fact, only 39 days in thirteen months had been taken up by the unions’ representatives.. I protest against this, kind of answer to questions asked by honorable members. I know that the Standing Orders provide that Ministers have no: obligation, to answer questions, but I consider that honest dealing in the proceedings of this House requires that,, whena Minister chooses to answer a question,, he shall do so truthfully. The Minister for Labour and National Service in this instance should not have told the House that the unions had been responsible for a delay of thirteen months in the proceedings of the court when-, in fact, they had? occupied the time of the court in the presentation of their case for only 39 of 87 sitting days in thirteen months.
.- The subject that I bring to the attention of the House is related to the acute shortage of coal in Australia that has led to negotiations for the importation of coal from overseas. At Collie in Western Australia, there are large deposits of coal which, contrary to popular belief, are eminently suitable for export to the other States. In fact, German ships used Collie coal extensively years ago, as did vessels of the Orient Line also. The coal-miners of Collie have an enviable record of peaceful productivity, and they have expressed eagerness to increase the output of the mines in which they work, a most refreshing attitude that contrasts with that of some unionists in the eastern States. Unfortunately, these men are labouring tinder severe handicaps, notably in connexion with transport. I suggest that the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) should make a very close examination of the immediate potentialities of the Collie coal-fields with a view to relieving the nation-wide shortage of coal. One of the matters that he should examine closely is the prospect of removing the bottleneck in the railway system in that area which caused a loss to industry of 20,000 tons of coal during the last two months. I have been, advised that the construction of 20 miles of railway line to by-pass the existing line through Dardanup to the port of Bunbury would, competely eliminate the bottleneck. I have also been advised that production could be greatly increased by carrying out deep-boring operations in order to determine the situation of faults that exist where coal is being mined. There- would be little difficulty in improving the productivity of the Collie field within a comparatively short time so as to increase substantially the quantity of coal available to all States. Development could be carried out more expeditiously and successfully there than at the Callide field in Queensland. The Minister could also obtain expert advice concerning the further mechanization of the Collie field. I understand that the Government has a great quantity of machinery at its disposal which cannot be used in the eastern coal-fields because miners there object to its use. I assure the House that the Western Australian miners are extremely anxious to extend the mechanization of the mines. If they can make use of the machinery, it should be sent there immediately. I suggest that the Minister send an expert to Collie’ to prepare a detailed report for him upon the matters that I have mentioned. The suggestion is worthy of the most earnest consideration in view of the urgent need for coal in all parts of Australia and the deplorable fact that we have to expend money overseas in order to satisfy our needs in part while vast deposits of coal in our own soil remain untapped.
– I take this opportunity to refer to the financial needs of surf life-saving organizations throughout Australia because the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) is at present in charge of the House. The right honorable gentleman may recall that, in the early days of this Parliament, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) asked the Government to grant a subsidy to surf life-saving organizations. There was some misunderstanding amongst honorable members on this side of the House concerning the reply that was made on behalf of the Government, but the Treasurer said that he would consider making a grant to the organizations if they approached him.
– I said that I would give the matter consideration.
– That is correct. Some weeks later, I discussed the same subject with the Treasurer in the precincts of this House and he gave me an assurance that, if the life-saving organizations approached him, he would see what he could do to help them. He mentioned a sum of £100,000 in a safety fund.
– I did not give the honorable member any assurance.
– No, I agree.
– That is what the honorable member said.
– The right honorable gentleman said that he would do everything in his power to give some assistance to the organizations. I have now received a communication from the Surf Life-Saving Association of Australia which states that, about a fortnight ago, it had received word that a joint appeal by it and the Royal Life-Saving Association had been refused .by the Government. The Treasurer may not have seen the communication from the two bodies, and I raise the matter now in view of the encouragement that he gave to us previously. The needs of these organizations are urgent. The right honorable gentleman is no doubt aware that they are doing a wonderful service throughout Australia by patrolling our coasts. They are badly in need of Ross safety belts and other equipment. Although winter is now approaching, they are already making plans for the purchase of such equipment for the next surfing season. It is essential that money should be allotted by the Australian Government. Small grants are made by State governments, but for these clubs to get any substantial sums, grants must be made by the Commonwealth. I ask the Treasurer to give consideration to this matter and to grant to this organization the money that it requires.
.- I wish to bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, a matter concerning the members of this Parliament, particularly those who sit in the vicinity of my place in this chamber. That matter refers to the microphones and to the acoustics of the House generally. In my position it is exceedingly difficult on many occasions to hear even a vague outline of what honorable members on the Government side are detailing from the table. It is also difficult to hear members of my own party. To-day, when one honorable member was speaking, several honorable members had to approach the Chairman after the speech in order to ascertain what he had said. I ask you whether you would look into that matter to see whether it would be possible, hy installing bigger or better amplifiers, to provide better facilities for the hearing of speeches of members from the table so that we may follow more closely the trend of legislation. I also suggest that when honorable members are speaking at the table they should at least turn occasionally to the members in the chamber instead of sometimes facing directly away from us, when their speech goes to the table and is carried to parts of the chamber where other members may at all times be able to hear quite easily, irrespective of whether the speaker is facing them or not. I ask that consideration be given to improving the hearing facilities of members on the back benches so that they may be enabled to follow the speeches. Knowing the difficulties of the acoustics in this House, and realizing that you have made efforts to improve them, I still ask that you investigate the matter with a view to further improving them.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has raised a question which has been previously raised during my office as Speaker. Last month, in company with the engineer responsible for the microphone system in this chamber and another officer of the House, I thoroughly tested the hearing facilities when the House was not sitting. When only one person is speaking there is no difficulty in any part of the chamber in hearing what is said. The difficulties of which honorable members complain, and the honorable member for Grayndler is not the first of them, are due entirely to themselves. That is because they carry on conversations with one another. There are times when the House is so noisy that one would think it was the Tower of Babel rather than a house of parliament. If honorable members complain about the noise then they should not complain next week, when I insist upon silence during debates except on the part of the honorable member addressing the Chair. In regard to honorable members turning their backs on some parts of the House and speaking across the table, I assure the honorable member for Grayndler that the microphone system which provides the amplification of sound in this House operates from the table. If the member addressing the House faces the table he speaks right into the microphones which are put there for that purpose. This is quite an important question, but I assure honorable members that I tested the system thoroughly last month.
– Was that in an empty House?
– The conditions would be different in a full House.
– That is because honorable members will not keep quiet. If honorable members will cease conversing in the chamber, I am sure that hearing would be considerably improved. Their conversations are picked up by microphones in different ways and are magnified to such a degree that the voice of the member addressing the Chair is diminished.
– The atmospheric conditions would be different in an empty chamber and if you tried it out now, Mr. Speaker, you would notice the difference from your previous test.
– I cannot try it out when I am in the House because my duty is to remain in the chair. The engineer has tried it out during the sittings of the House and I shall ascertain whether anything further can be done, but the remedy is largely in the hands of members themselves.
– in reply, - The various matters brought up by different members will receive the consideration of the appropriate Ministers. As far as the matters referring to my department are concerned, I shall give them due consideration. I assure the honorable member for Wills that I should be very pleased to arrange a conference for him with the appropriate responsible officer to try to iron out and remedy the complaint he has made as it may amount to an anomaly which calls for some adjustment. As far as the honorable member for Phillip is concerned, I do not want any misunderstanding of my attitude towards the life-saving clubs. I did not give any assurance or make any promise, excepting one to the effect that I would have the matter thoroughly investigated with a view to rendering some financial assistance to those very worth-while bodies. I have not to be convinced of the worthiness of those organizations, and my colleague, the Minister for Air, is repeatedly bringing the matter under my notice, not in his ministerial capacity, but in his capacity as president of the Australian organization.
– The Treasurer, by correspondence, has refused assistance.
– It has been refused at the moment, but the matter is being further investigated to see what can be done. The representations demanded a reply and a decision, and on the present information before the Government an adverse decision has had to be given, notification of which was conveyed to the interests concerned. However, that does not close the door as far as I am concerned. I am fully aware of the good work that these clubs are doing but we must consider the matter on a proper basis having regard to financial responsibility and other implications. I hope that some adjustment can be made on the basis of general safety, because it is my opinion that the matter of lifesaving, and the honorary work of the life-saving clubs is something that can well come within the category of general safety devices for which the Australian Government provides money. I am sympathetically seised of the very good job that these fine lads are doing in an honorary capacity, very often by the expenditure of their own time and money.
The matter brought forward by the honorable member for Moore has not been overlooked. Provision for deferred maintenance is amongst the items referred to the advisory committee on taxation. There is a lot in what the honorable member has said. I am conversant with the features of that matter myself. Some consideration will have to be given to maintenance which has had to be deferred on account of inability to obtain the necessary manpower and materials. Obviously when the man-power and materials are obtainable there will have to be provision for the carrying out of accumulated work that has had to be postponed. Some method should be evolved to provide for proper and equitable maintenance, and the matter is receiving the consideration of the select committee. The matters raised by honorable members which concern the Ministers of other departments, will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Ministers in due course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes -
Archerfield, Queensland. Cairns, Queensland.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Blackall, Queensland. Coonamble, New South Wales.
Postal purposes -
Goulburn, New South Wales.
Smithtown, New South Wales.
Taree, New South Wales.
Telephonic purposes - Bega, New South Wales.
Seamen’s Compensation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 18.
Wheat Industry Stabilization Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 19. ‘
House adjourned at 11.35 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 April 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500420_reps_19_207/>.