19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speakeb (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Acknowledgment bt His Majesty the Kino.
– I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General the following communication in connexion with the Address-in-Reply : -
I desire to acquaint you that the AddressinReply at the opening of the Nineteenth Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia has been laid before His Majesty the King and I am commanded to convey to you and to honorable members, His Majesty’s sincere thanks for the loyal message which your address contained.
Governor-General. 24th April, 1950.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware of the deterioration of the streets in suburbs located on the fringe of industrial developmental areas, due to the heavy type of transport being used? Is the Minister aware that the money raised from rates is insufficient to repair these streets and that they cannot be repaired with the type of road-making machinery available to municipal councils? In view of the urgency of the situation which has developed will the Minister consider making available to councils on a group or regional basis pools of modern machinery that could be rented by the councils for road-making under an arrangement between the councils and the Minister’s department?
– The difficulties being experienced by a great many localgoverning bodies - in the maintenance of their roads is well known to the Commonwealth Government. The situation arises partly from a shortage of heavy developmental equipment such as tractors, which are in very short supply in Australia. The amount of such machinery in the hands of the Federal Government at present is very limited and most of it is being used to its ‘full capacity. It is quite possible that in some areas it may be possible to make some such arrangement as the honorable gentleman has suggested. I am already examining that possibility. If it is possible to make Commonwealth Government equipment available to localgoverning bodies to any extent whatsoever I can assure the honorable gentleman that, in the public interest, it will be made available.
– A report has reached me that a ban of the nature indicated by the honorable member has been imposed by the Seamen’s Union or some branches of it. I have Bought, so far without success, to ascertain the text of the resolution which was carried. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the practical effect of any . such ban would apply to only one vessel at present engaged on the Australia to United States run, and that is, Aorangi. I assure the honorable member that the matter is receiving my attention and that its implications will be carefully studied.
We have reached new levels of absurdity when a trade union can, on a matter of this kind, arrogate to itself functions and decisions that are properly the prerogative of the Government. Every country retains for itself the right to determine what persons shall be permitted to enter its territory.- That right constitutes the basis of our own immigration policy. Decisions to grant or reject vises for travel in the United States of America are matters entirely within the competence of the American authorities. No government with a shred of self-respect could tolerate the imposition of a sanction of this kind against another country by any trade union acting entirely without responsibility or authority. The matter will be very closely examined by the Government.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister in order in reading his answer to the question?
– He was perfectly in order.
– In tha absence of the Minister for Health, I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the serious outbreak of poliomyelitis in South Australia and other States, which has reached alarming proportions and shows no signs of abatement, he will consider recommending to the Government that a special board of scientists be appointed to inquire into the possibility of discovering the origin of the disease and the most modern methods of treating it. I ask this question in the belief that we in Australia have scientists equal to the world’s best. We are advised to keep away from crowds, yet people who reside in the most remote parts of the country are affected by the disease.
– I know that the Minister for Health has been, directing a great deal of attention to this really dreadful problem. I shall bring the particular points made by the honorable member to his attention when I see him to-morrow. mr. a. m. Mcdonald, m.p.
– I have been misrepresented in a section of the press. In the Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday, the 22nd April, the following paragraph appears in a report of a debate in this House in connexion with the sale of Hotel Ainslie-
– Is this a personal explanation?
– It is a question of misrepresentation. The honorable member is in order.
– The paragraph is as follows:-
When the vote on the closure was being taken, Mr. A. M. McDonald (Liberal, Victoria) walked out of the House and did not take part. He did not return to vote in a second division on the formal motion to adjourn the House.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether there has been any alteration of the usual procedure in these matters. I ‘suffered on one occasion as the result of a - ruling that personal explanations could be given only after the first 35 minutes of questions and answers had passed. I understood that the ruling still applied, and L want to know now whether the practice has been ‘changed.
– Before you make 8 decision, Mr. Speaker, I point out that the ruling mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney was given by you on a previous occasion, when the practice was questioned by the honorable member for Melbourne. The honorable -member for Melbourne said that he had been misrepresented and demanded the right to make a personal explanation immediately. That right was granted to him by you, sir, apparently varying the practice that has been mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney. The reason for that variation, however, was that a personal explanation should be made immediately after the occurrence of the misrepresentation. The practice of deferring personal explanations until the expiration of a period of 35 minutes after the commencement of a sitting applies if the misrepresentation has taken place at another time, in which event the requirements of the Standing Orders cannot be fulfilled by the making of an immediate personal explanation. In such instances, the practice is to allow personal explanations to be made after a period of 85 minutes of question time has elapsed. I submit those comments for your consideration, Mr. Speaker.
– There is a distinct difference between the case of the honorable member for Melbourne that has been mentioned by the honorable member for Perth, in which the alleged misrepresentation occurred in this House, and the misrepresentation of which the honorable member for Corangamite complains, which took place outside the House. I rule that the honorable member for Corangamite is in order.
– I rise again to order, Mr. Speaker. You referred only to the incident mentioned by the honorable member for Perth. In the matter that I spoke about, the misrepresentation of which I had complained had occurred in the press. The circumstances in that case and in the present case of the honorable member for Corangamite were identical, and at that time I was refused permission to make my personal explanation until after the first 35 minutes of question time had expired.
– I cannot remember that occasion but I can look it up. However, I have ruled that the honorable member for Corangamite is in order.
– This statement that I have read is as fantastic as it is false. I voted for the closure, as the records of the proceedings in this House on the 21st April will show. I have been under the mistaken impression that the function of a reputable newspaper with a large circulation is to impart information with knowledge, accuracy and courtesy. The paragraph that I have read to the House discloses profound ignorance, complete inaccuracy and unpardonable discourtesy. I leave the matter there.
– During his recent general election’ campaign the Prime Minister featured a promise to restore value to the £1. His colleague in the Kew South “Wales Parliament, Mr. Treatt, is also making a feature in his own election campaign of a promise to restore value to the £1.
I ask the Prime Minister whether he has conferred with his colleague in New South Wales in order to give him tha benefit of his experience since his election to the office of Prime Minister of this country? I also ask him whether the plans to restore value to the £1, proposed to be put forward by Mr. Treatt are identical with the ones which have so dismally failed in the Commonwealth sphere ?
– I have not had the pleasure of conferring with my friend, Mr. Treatt, the incoming Premier of New South Wales. If I do have the opportunity of speaking to him I shall inform him that while he and I take a serious view of inflation, its outstanding champion in this House is the honorable member for East Sydney.
– My question has reference to the loss of fences during the recentfloods. Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to a reported statement by Mr. E. H. Graham, the New South “Wales Minister for Agriculture, that an approach will he made to the Australian Government with a request that it waive customs duty on all imported fencing materials required for the repair of flooddamaged fences? Is it not a fact that this Government some time ago removed customs duties from fencing materials?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement reported to have been made by the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Graham, on this matter. He is reported to have said that he intends to approach the Australian Government with a view to the abatement of duty on fencing materials. I am surprised that Mr. Graham should have made this statement, because, as was widely published in February last, this Government has decided that there would be an abatement of all duties on fencing wire and wire netting, retrospective to the 10th December last, and operative until at least the 30th June next.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that the Government Statistician’s figures show a 52 per cent, increase in basic food costs since 1948, when price control was transferred to the various States? In view of this alarming and constant increase in prices, will the Prime Minister arrange for a referendum to be held on the question of transferring prices control back to the Australian Government where it proved effective and beneficial ?
– The answer to both of the honorable member’s questions is in the negative.
– My question to the Minister for External Affairs relates particularly to the importance of international affairs, and is prompted by my belief that the House should be furnished with up-to-date information on those matters. Has the Minister considered the advisability of inaugurating a system whereby brief reports on international affairs would be made available regularly to the Parliament ?
– I shall be happy to consider the question which has been asked by the honorable membeT for St. George, but, as he knows, the business of the House is controlled in a certain way, and it is not always easy to interpose the subject of international affairs. When I reply to the debate on international affairs, I hope to bring forward up-to-date information, which I am sure will be of importance to the House. I shall accede to the request by the honorable gentleman on future occasions, as frequently as I can.
– Did the Minister for Immigration read the announcement in the press a few days ago to the effect that the Communist secretary of the Seamen’s Union, Mr. E. V. Elliott, was about to leave Australia for the purpose of attending an industrial conference overseas? Is Mr. Elliott travelling with the concurrence of the Minister? If so, is that to be taken as an indication that the protestations of members of the
Liberal party and the Australian Country party, when they were in Opposition, against the granting of permits to Communists to enable them to travel abroad, were humbug?
– I have seen reports to the effect that Mr. Elliott is seeking to go abroad, and I imagine that, as a prominent member of the World Federation of Trade Unions, which is a Communistcontrolled industrial organization, he would be travelling for purposes connected with that body. The honorable member for Werriwa has used the words “about to leave Australia”. I understand that, at the moment, Mr. Elliott finds himself in that situation. He has sought to obtain a transit visa through United States territory, and the necessary permission has not been granted to him. So far as I am aware, he has not obtained travel rights through any other country. I understand that Mr. Elliott possesses a passport which was issued to him during the term of the previous Government, of which the honorable member for Werriwa was a supporter. Apart from that, I have no other knowledge of the matter.
– As a matter of policy in respect of the possible introduction of compulsory military training in the near future, will the Minister acting for the Minister for Defence give consideration to providing some distinction between those who have already enlisted voluntarily in the armed forces, and those who are called np under the compulsory system? Apart from a distinction in regard to badges, &c, will he ensure that those who are already serving voluntarily shall be placed on a footing in the enlarged forces which will demonstrate in a practical manner the national recognition of their services?
– The Government will consider the matters which the honorable member has mentioned.
DARWIN WHARF. Mr. NELSON.- Can the Minister for Works and Housing inform me when the construction of the new wharf at Darwin will be proceeded with? I remind him that the construction of that wharf was strongly recommended by the previous Public Works Committee, that the timber wharf is now considered unsafe for shipping, and that the old town wharf was badly damaged during air raids by the Japanese. In view of all those facts, will the Minister treat the matter as urgent ?
– I understand that the wharf at Darwin has fallen down lately. I shall he glad to obtain particulars regarding the matter from my department and to supply the honorable gentleman with the information that he seeks.
– Will the Prime Minister consider making arrangements with the Public Service Board to restrict appointments to the staff of the Repatriation Commission to ex-service personnel only, whilst still leaving the avenues for promotion to other branches of the Public Service open to the staff of the Repatriation Commission? My question arises from an appointment that was made to the staff of the Repatriation Commission at Brisbane. Whilst no reflection is cast upon the service or efficiency of the appointee, ex-service organizations would appreciate consideration being given to this matter.
– I shall be very glad to discuss the particular case mentioned by the honorable member with my colleague the Minister for Repatriation.
– Will the Minister for National Development say whether it is a. fact that he flew over portion of northern Queensland last week-end, ostensibly to look at the Tully Falls and other areas where the Queensland Labour Government proposes to develop hydro-electric power? If so, was that flight an effort to restore the fallen prestige of this Government that has resulted from its repudiation of the Chifley Government’s decision to pay half the cost of the Burdekin Valley development scheme inaugurated by the Queensland Government? Was the flight also designed to create the impression on the eve of the Queensland State elections that the Aus tralian Government is interested in parts of Australia other than the capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
– I am very grateful to the honorable gentleman for raising this matter. During the last long week-end I paid a visit to Queensland to inspect a number of potential developmental areas, as indeed I have been in the habit of doing for some considerable time and will continue to do. I saw the Herbert,, the Tully, and the Mareeba areas, the last of which is a potential site for an irrigation scheme, and a number of other areas to the south, including the Burdekin area. The Australian Government on numerous occasions, through the mouth of the present Prime Minister, has expressed its determination to assist in the development of the, at present,, grossly undeveloped northern Queensland area. It persists in that intention, because the population of Queensland, and northern Queensland in particular, has been almost stationary for a generation, which is a very dangerous condition. The Government is determined to> co-operate with the Queensland Government in the development of that area in respect of schemes that are proven to be worthwhile in the public interest. That position has not yet been reached in relation to the Burdekin Valley scheme. The Queensland Government has not yet produced the basic evidence to warrant the co-operation of the Australian Government in a scheme that is expected to cost between £30,000,000 and £40,000,000, and possibly even more. The situation is perfectly simple. As soon as theQueensland Government has established the basic, common sense facts that arerequired by this Government and would be needed by any other Government to warrant an expenditure of anything approaching the sum that I havementioned, this Government will give its most sympathetic consideration to the question of co-operating with the Queensland Government in thematter. The Premier of Queensland has introduced party politics into the Burdekin Valley scheme, which is a very deplorable action. Politics has nothing to dowith national development. The Australian Government is only too anxious- to co-operate with the Queensland Government, of whatever political, colour it may be, and as soon as the basic facts are determined it will be a.ble to make a decision in the matter.
– Will the Minister for National Development say whether any request has been made by the Government to the State governments that those governments organize their respective States into developmental regions for the purpose of more effectively planning for national development? If so, what action has the Queensland Government taken to co-operate with the Australian Government in respect of such a request?
– The Chifley Government propounded a proposal to all State governments that each State should bo divided into regional developmental areas and that those areas should be controlled by councils consisting of local men who, on the basis of their local knowledge, would report to their respective State governments and through them to the Commonwealth Government upon the potentialities of each area. The Queensland Government has not responded at all to that proposal. So far as I am aware that Government, and certainly the Australian Government, have not had before them any proposals for the creation of regional developmental areas in Queensland, nor has the Australian Government received any regional reports from Queensland. It would be of tremendous advantage not only to regions of the State concerned but also to the State Government and, particularly, the Australian Government to have regional developmental councils created and have them report through the State Government to the Australian Government. I am grateful to the honorable member for having raised this matter, and I can only express the hope that Queensland will reform itself in this respect and create these regional developmental councils.
Sale of Hotel Ainslie
– I ask the Minister for the Interior to tell me the amount of the licence-fee that was payable by the Hotel Ainslie in respect of its last year of operations ?
– I have not that information at hand, but I shall obtain it and supply it to the honorable member.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Interior a question which arises out of remarks attributed to the honorable member for Gellibrand in the current issue of the Canberra Times. I should like to ask the Minister -
– Order ! Questions may not be based on newspaper reports. The honorable member may speak on the subject on the adjournment to-night.
– In view of certain statements that were made yesterday by the Queensland Minister for Mines, Mr. Moore> regarding the supply of Queensland coal to southern States, can the Minister for National Development inform the House whether, last year, the Queensland Labour Government broke its contract with the Victorian Government for the supply of Callide coal? Is the right honorable gentleman of opinion that the bad state of the road from Callide to Gladstone as well as the royalties and road haulage charges imposed by the Queensland Government are retarding the development of the Callide field ? Does the payment of Commonwealth subsidy on coal at present being imported from overseas by Victoria and South Australia mean, as Mr. Moore claimed, that no outlet exists for any surplus of Queensland coal?
– Outside the present market in Brisbane there is a potential market for Callide coal in Victoria and South Australia and, possibly, in due course, in other places. The saleability of coal invariably involves quality and cost. The Victorian Government obtained a shipment of Callide coal a few months ago in order to test it for quality, and that shipment proved to be of very poor quality indeed. The quality was so poor that I do not believe that that shipment is typical of Callide coal. As the result of that experience the Victorian Government delayed making a contract for the purchase of Callide coal, and I believe that the South Australian Government has done likewise. The Callide coal deposit is a great national asset and should be developed. However, at the moment, it is up to the Queensland Government to ensure that the coal can be delivered at Gladstone, and what is more important still, at Victorian ports, at a reasonable and competitive price. I, personally, have no doubt about the quality of Callide coal. The Australian Government is interested in the Callide field and in justifiable circumstances would be ready and willing to assist in its development; but the next move in this matter rests with the Queensland Government, which must ensure that coal of the right quality is produced and at reasonable cost. The Queensland Government has a large say in respect of cost, because at present it is levying a toll of 5s. a ton on all coal delivered from Callide to Gladstone, which is the nearest port to the field. If the Queensland Government doe.s its part, I have no doubt that the Australian Government will act as its honest broker in this matter. It may, perhaps, even go further and assist the project generally.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform the House whether it is a fact that there are enormous deposits of high quality seam coal in the Burragorang Valley within 60 miles of Sydney, and that this coal could be immediately brought into production by the holders of some small adjacent leases who are at present working a very limited field? Is it a fact that this coal is being withheld from the public by the New South Wales Government, awaiting some action in the dim and distant future ? Is it a fact that if negotiations with the New South Wales Government resulted in the granting of permission to work this coal tomorrow morning, the output of the mines in the Burragorang Valley could be tremendously increased? Will the Minister take this matter up with the Joint Coal Board and the New South Wales Government or will it be necessary to wait until that Government is wiped out?
– I have read what the honorable gentleman has so very truthfully and usefully written in the public press about the Burragorang coal deposit, and I shall be very glad to collaborate with the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport in respect of the matter raised.
The last matter mentioned by the honorable member is a possibility that is always in the background.
– About a month ago I asked the Prime Minister whether it was the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to increase the rate of pensions paid to aged and invalid persons. The right honorable gentleman then informed me that no consideration had been given to the matter. I now ask him whether the Government has since considered it. If it has done so, what decision has been reached? If not, if there any probability that it will do something in this direction during the preseni sittings of the Parliament?
– That matter hat been under investigation in the Department of Social Services and, in due course, will come before Cabinet. I am not in a position to anticipate when Cabinet will deal with the subject or what it will decidfabout it.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has any discussion been held between the Minister and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board regarding the anomalous and unfair position of waterside workers reporting for the pickup, who are not covered by workers compensation? If so, has any proposal emanated from the discussion! If such a discussion has not been held, when does the Minister propose to discuss the matter with the board?
– This matter was raised some little time ago in the Parliament and the text of the question then asked was brought to the notice of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. At far as I am aware, no communication haf since been received from the board; but now that the matter has been raised again. I shall endeavour to secure a prompt answer to the honorable member’e question.
– I address a question to the Minister for Commerce and
Agri-cultee. In morlih^westenn Victoria wheat-growers ‘aire ‘being forced to ileaive (heir industry, not through -any ifault of their own, but through the provisions of a State law with -which the Minister is well acquainted. Will the honorable gentleman state what .progress has ‘been made in the matter since I last .advocated that a large percentage of the money paid by those wheat-growers to the Wheat Stabilization Fund should now he returned to .them.?
TKv. MeEWEN- A s”b.ort time -ago tne honorable member di’ew nry -attention to t’he ‘circumstances in -which rf-unfls Taised by the Australian ©overirment (have been usecl to make “payments, th-rousr-h #ie instnwneirtality «of the Victorian Gowemment, to farmers in “what wre knoTvn ais the marginal wheat aneas .of Victoria *who have .gone <out -of the business of wheat-growing. .It seems tfehart ithene is a prima facie case for returning -to -such growers the ‘Contributions that -they have been obliged to rpay or that nawe been withheld from them in connexion with stabilization of the wheat industry in which -they are ato longer ;a-b’le to .continue. I ia^e not ‘concluded my investigations into the .practicability >of the cour-se of taction advocated by the honorable .member, .but I assure -him that ,1 am pursuing those investigations, and I nope, at no distant date, to be .able to teU him the results.,
– Has the <atterfeion -of the Prime Minister ‘been drawn to a statement by ithe managing director of the Mortician ‘Company of Australasia in Victoria as published in this morning’s press -to the effect that that company .proposes -to rreduce the price of funerals .’by 20 per cent, in view of the excessive iees being charged by undertakers ‘generally. In view of the Government’* ex-pressed intention to reduce the cost .of living, will it consider doing something :to reduce the cost of dying?
– As the honorable member himself has pointed out, this is a very grave matter and -T shall look into it although, I assure Jjijn. at .a suitably nespectful -distance. !PiB©?PKOT’jBiKuT MEHDICffNES.
– In .the .absence of .the Minister for Health, .will the Prime Minister inforjn .this House whether at is .a ifaat that, .as Tepoiited in the .pness, .& Sydney analytical -chemist ihas described aertain jpro,priatary jparsjaaratian-s as the greatest racket in the country? I* it fa fact -that one vreidely .-adwanbised imediicine, which -costs £ 3 5s., is mamufacturodtfor less than i6d ? Is it .-a j£ac.t that, in -respect of many of these ;pa!epa>rations thwee -or fouT times as anudh money is «pent din advertising the prodwat :a-s is spent in -its ni’anufiaeture ? Will *be Minister ^consider the advisability «f -oonducbiaig am anvestigafitm into this matter with -a viaw to protecting HSbe fpifblic a-gainst this “gang ‘of (thieves ?
– Tie .matters into which .the h-anoi-ahle gentleman ihas inquired ‘are, tfe© :a -substantial extent, aaaatters which iaii within the jurisdiction of the State govornanants. ffo the ‘extent that thsy do Jal] within the jurisdiction of the Austnaliam Government J ^shaU be glad to convey the honorable .member’s question to the Minister for Health -.and invi’trbis attention to it.
Mi-. EUZGEBAUD.. - Ha-s .the Minister for National ©avelopment replied to the request of the N-ew South Wales Minister far Housing te ifehe ‘effect that rents beireducefl for Housing ‘Commission dwellings which ase -controlled jointly by the New South Wales tand Australian (Governments-? I understand thai the INew South Wales Government requested a reduction of interest rates from 3 -per cent, ito 1 (per -cent, which would make is -possible to reduce by about 10s. -6d. a week the rent ?of a house that frost trp to £2,000. If a -reply h as been -for warded, will the Minister state what -it was ? If it has not been forwarded, when may ;a -reply -be expected?
– - I regret that I icannot comprehend -precisely the import of the honorable gentleman’s question but if he will treat it as being on notice I shall provide hten wish an ^adequate reply..
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that recent heavy rains in many parts of Australia have greatly accelerated the process of soil erosion. I would draw the Minister’s’ attention to one specific case in which some of the most productive wheat land in the Darling Downs, Queensland, has been extensively damaged by recent flooding? As the problem is too great to be handled by individuals or local government organizations, and yet is of vital importance to food production, will the Minister consider having an. immediate nationwide survey of the problem of soil erosion made in order to evolve a scheme to deal with it effectively in conjunction with State and local government bodies.
– The Australian Government is very well aware that recent rains, particularly in the eastern Statea of Australia, have increased thedegree of soil’ erosion. The problem of soil erasion and soil conservation is. essentially the responsibility of the State governments. Representatives- of the State governsmieffifls meet those of the Australiana1 Govemmenit on the Australian. Agricultural Council whieh I believe coordinates the activities &i the Statea and CoraacoiBrwealthi in reapeet of this matter. la C&mmomiwealth territories, the pflroMemt is the responsibility of the- Minister for the Interior. I shall be gladi to> collaborate with him and with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to- the extent to which it comes into his sphere of responsibility, in order to see what can be done about it. food for mar aus.
– I desire to ask the Piime Minister a question which arises from statements which he made the year before last and last year when honorable members of the then Opposition moved adjournment motions on the subject of food, for Britain and in criticism of the last government’s gifts of £10,000,000’ and’ £25,000,000 to Britain as being inadequate1 and incorrect in form. The right honorable gentleman then advocated that ai loan of £100,000,000- be raised in Australia for’ the purpose of financing British. food purchases. Now that he is Prime Minister, doe3 he still adhere to his previous view of this matter ? If so, will the policy he enunciated be put into effect by his Government in the near future?
– The question involves a matter of Government policy. I am not prepared, at this stage, to make a statement in relation: to it.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House;, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, a* 10.3* -a.nl.
– In the absence of the Postmaster-General as the result of ill health, I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that no departmental telephone facilities exist north of Carnarvon,, in Western Australia. In view of the need to- develop the north-western portion of the continent, particularly from the point of view of defence, will the right honorable gentleman have an investigation made and, if possible, arrange for the required telephone services to be provided ?
– I shall certainly ask my colleague to have his department investigate the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and’ National Service whether it is a fact that qualified surveyors who migrate- to Australia from other countries are compelled to obtain a degree from an Australian university before they aare allowed to practise their profession in; this country. If so,, is this requirement dme to the fact that the qualifying standard: in other eouatries is lower than it is in Australia? Is it a fact that there is a shortage1 of qualified) surveyors in Australia? Dwe& the qualifying course in Australia take from three years to five yeais to complete?
– I understand that there is ai shortage of qualified surveyors in Australia, and it may well be that the period of the course is of the length suggested by the honorable member, though I have no. knowledge of the facts. I Uindersta>nd’ that surveyors who come from other countries are required to qualify in Australia. Presumably, as is the case with other professional qualifications, that matter is within the jurisdiction of the various State governments. However, I shall have inquiries made and will endeavour to give a more detailed answer to the honorable member. I shall also examine the policy considerations that may be involved.
– I ask the Minister for External Territories whether, when he makes his proposed statement to the House on New Guinea, he will give us a balanced, rather than a generalized, statement, taking into consideration certain aspects of administration that are of grave concern to the Australian people, such as the future of the Christian cooperatives and also the shipping monopoly in the territory and covering, in addition, such matters as indentured labour, soldier settlement, the observance of International Labour Organization conventions, the problems of detribalization, medical planning in relation to tuberculosis and other diseases, and repatriation as it concerns the natives in their villages and in their occupations? Will the Minister make as broad a statement as possible on these very important subjects, as was the habit of the honorable member for East Sydney when he was Minister for External Territories?
– I shall endeavour to give to the House a full statement as soon as the Opposition gives me a chance to do so and I shall deal with the important matters that the honorable member has mentioned. I remark that honorable members of the Opposition are occupying most of the sitting time of the House with discussions of the Commonwealth Bank Bill and other legislation. I do not know when it will be possible for me to make a comprehensive statement because of the heavy legislative programme of the Government, but I shall avail myself of the first opportunity to do so.
Mr. HOLT (Higgins - Minister for Labour and National Service and
Minister for Immigration). - by leave - I take this opportunity to make a short statement about displaced persons in order to correct a misinterpretation of Government policy that has apparently arisen from a reply that I gave yesterday to a question that was asked in this House. The question related to a statement that had been made by an officer of the International Refugee Organization who travelled on a ship that brought immigrants to Australia, and in reply to it I gave some details of the numbers of displaced persons who were to be brought to Australia under the Government’s programme for 1950. Perhaps I did not explain the situation with sufficient clarity, but I have’ noticed that in several newspapers my statement has been interpreted as though the Government had decided suddenly to make a substantial reduction of the programme for the introduction of displaced persons this year. 1 believe that the position is fairly well understood by honorable members but, in view of the misunderstanding that may develop in other parts of the world as the result of the newspaper statements, I consider that I should clarify the situation at this stage. There has been no change of the Government’s plan for the introduction of displaced persons this year. In January, I announced on behalf of the Government that the immigration programme for the year contemplated the introduction of 200,000 persons, of whom 50,000 would be displaced persons. That number has not been amended.
– No; the target figure has not been increased. The previous Government undertook a firm commitment with the International Refugee Organization, as I understand the facts, for the introduction into Australia of 110,000 displaced persons. By the end of 1949, approximately 87,000 of those persons had come to Australia, leaving a balance of 23,000 to be brought here under that programme.
– By the 30th June, 1950.
– Yes. The honorable member for Melbourne, as Minister for
Immigration in the previous Government, had given an indication shortly before the general election last year that his Government would favourably consider the introduction of an additional 100,000 displaced persons. This Government decided at the beginning of L950 that it wanted to bring to Australia a larger proportion of British immigrants than had been contemplated by the previous Government. Having regard to accommodation difficulties and other problems, it considered that a substantial reduction of the second batch of 100,000 displaced persons that had been planned by the previous Government would be necessary. Therefore, our plan provided for the introduction of the remaining 23,000 displaced persons in the original programme of 110,000 and an additional 27,000 displaced persons, t<. make a total of 50,000 for the year. That programme is being carried out and no reduction of the number is contemplated. It may be of interest to honorable members to know that almost 120,000 displaced persons have already come to Australia, leaving a balance of approximately 17,000 needed to complete the programme that this Government announced at the beginning of the year. Most of the 17,000 are actually on the water at present. This means that, in the second half of the year, opportunities will be available to us to increase the number of British immigrants very substantially. That is what we have planned to do. The Government’s decision doe9 not mean that the programme for the introduction of displaced persons has been fully closed. However, that is a matter of policy that has yet to be considerei by the Government, and it will be affected to some degree by the practicability o:c bringing to Australia this year the total number of 100,000 British immigrant! that was previously announced.
- ly leave - I do not disagree with anything that the Minister for Immigration has said, but I emphasize that, when he took office, the honorable gentleman said that he would bring to Australia this year 100,000 British immigrants and 100,000 other people as well - not only displaced persons, but also those who would come here on landing permits. Such permits are issued to relatives and friends in Australia who guarantee to pay the fares of migrants to this country and to accommodate them upon arrival.
– And 10,000 Dutch.
– And 10,000 Dutch. I thank the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) for reminding us of our obligations to bring in Dutch exservicemen who desire to come to this country. They belong to one of the progressive races of the western world. The Dutch, Italians and Poles are the only peoples who are really making any contribution to posterity for Western civilization. For many reasons we should be glad to have such migrants. I think that t1 a Minister
Photogbaphs. Mr. SPEAKER,- After consultation with the party whips, who were in touch with the party leaders, I have given permission for certain photographs to be taken to-night at the time of the introduction of a bill by the Prime Minister. For the first five minutes no photographs will be permitted, but photographs may be taken during the second five minutes of the Prime Minister’s speech. No Kleig lights will be allowed, and photographers will not be allowed to move about in the galleries.
-The honorable member for East Sydney will perhaps have plenty. When the Leader of the Opposition rises to move the adjournment it will be permitted that he be photographed also. He has graciously given his consent to that.
– Would it he too late to ask a question about the matter of photographers ?
– Question time is over, hut the honorable gentleman may ask a question.
– You, Mr. Speaker, may remember that while I occupied the Speaker’s Chair I prohibited the photographing of people about the corridors and other parts of the building because of certain occurrences. I permitted photography only at a given time inside the House, after consultation with party leaders. I have noticed a number of photographers, apparently ready to shoot at anything, walking around the corridors of this building, and I am wondering whether the restriction that I imposed has been eased or whether the photographers have asked for permission generally to shoot whatever they like about the building.
– No request has been made to me for permission to take photographs inside this building, and as far as I know the rule that the honorable member mentioned has not been broken.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for au act to provide for the dissolution of the Australian Communist party and of other Communist organizations, to disqualify Communists from holding certain offices, and for purposes connected therewith.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, the following proposed work be again referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - Extensions to School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Sydney, Xew South Wales.
The extensions are required to provide adequate accommodation for the school in its investigation into modern hygiene and medica] services as well as research over a wide area of the Pacific. It is proposed to erect a new three story wing to the east, west and north of the existing structure, one additional floor over the rear two story portion of the existing building and an additional floor and stairs to the animal house.
This project was reported on by the Public Works Committee on the 1st August, 1945, following the recommendation by the Minister representing the Minister for Health that it should be examined by the committee. The approval of Parliament was not requested following the tabling of the committee’s report but as it is now desired to proceed with the first section of the work it is considered that in view of the increase in the estimated cost the project should again be examined hy the committee. Especially having regard to the fact that in order to conserve housing materials, a steel frame construction has been substituted for the construction in brick, as shown in the proposal examined by the committee.
The total estimated cost approved by the committee in 1945 was £77,881 and this has been re-estimated in the light of present day costs of materials and labour at £145,310 of which the first section is estimated to cost approximately £81,000.
The plans of the proposal are tabled herewith.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 26th April (vide page 1904).
Clause 7 - Proposed section 9a (Difference of opinion between Government and bank on questions of policy).
– The provisions outlined in proposed section 9a endorse the view of the previous Government as embodied in the 1945 legislation, that the Government should have the last say in the general financial policy to be adopted by the bank. It was always understood quite clearly that that did not relate to any of the administrative functions of the bank. No attempt has been made by governments, during the time the legislation has been in operation, or even when the economic security regulations were operating, to interfere with the administrative functions of the bank. This particular provision in the 1945 legislation relates only to the question of general overall economic and financial policy.
I now direct attention to another remarkable matter. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party when in Opposition, objected strongly to the provision under which the Government, through the Treasurer, had power to overrule the bank. All the talk which we have heard about the Treasurer being a dictator is so much eyewash. He is the agent of the Government, and is controlled by Cabinet, and, no doubt, by his own party. He acts only as an agent for the Government. The present Government has completely endorsed a principle to which the Liberal party and the Australian Country party took strong exception when they were in Opposition in 1945, and that is that the Government should have the final say in determining overall financial policy; and, when a disagreement occurs between the Government and the bank, the Treasurer, on behalf of the Government, may give a direction to the bank upon general banking policy. ‘ I do not object to that fundamental principle, because the Labour party incorporated it in our banking legislation. The matter to which I want to direct attention is the fact that the Government has drafted this proposed section in an attempt to delude the public into believing that the Parliament has the final say in giving a direction to the bank upon general financial policy. That is not the position. As I stated in my second-reading speech, this proposed new section does not give the Parliament any power to upset a decision which may be made by the Treasurer, on behalf of the Government, and which is conveyed to the bank. This provision is camouflage and means absolutely nothing, except that it states that the Parliament shall be given information about what has been done. It is perfectly true that the Opposition may move the adjournment of the House to discuss a particular matter relative to a financial decision, but an order in council by the Executive Council cannot be disallowed by the Parliament. When I dealt with that position in my second-reading speech, the Prime Minister interjected to the effect that I had not read the bill. The inference to be drawn from the right honorable gentleman’s remark was that the position was not as I had stated it to be, but it is clear that the fact that an Executive minute is laid on the table does not mean tha.t it can be disallowed by either House of the Parliament. I am not asking that the House of Representatives and the Senate should be given such a power in this matter. I am merely pointing out that this provision is purely camouflage for the benefit of the public. The Government is attempting to deceive the people into believing that the Parliament has &e last say in determining financial policy. It has nothing of the kind. This provision can be very mischievous. I have heard a good deal of talk about the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. Coombs, but I remind the committee that he has not occupied that position ever since the Commonwealth Bank Act came into operation in 1945. Mr. Armitage was Governor of the bank for a part of that time, and I, as Treasurer, did not on any occasion find need to overrule the bank on any general economic and financial policy. When I use the words, “ I, as Treasurer”, I really mean the government of the day, because the Treasurer is only acting as an agent for the Government. As I have stated, that provision can be very mischievous, because, in effect, it compels the Government to lay on the table all the correspondence relative to a disagreement between it and the Governor or board of the Commonwealth Bank. I cannot imagine anything more disturbing to the financial and economic stability of the country than such a procedure. If the Opposition were to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter in dispute between the Government and the bank, an acrimonious discussion might develop on what had been written between the two parties. I cannot imagine anything more foolish than that, and I believe that the Treasurer recognizes it. The Government and the Governor of the hank may have many discussions and exchange a number of letters about financial policy, and the tabling of those documents in the House may allow people to misconstrue what has been written and make all kinds of allegations and charges on matters mentioned in the correspondence. Such a provision is highly mischievous and entirely foolish, and the committee should delete it. If the Government considers that certain matters between it and the bank are in dispute and are causing some public unrest, it has authority, under the exifting act, to introduce the subject by a statement, to the Parliament. But the present provision is simply camouflage, and the only effect, of it will be to compel the Government to lay on the table correspondence that has passed between the Treasurer and the bank.
– Where is the reference to letters?
– The proposed section provides for a statement.
– What would the statement be in the circumstances which we are discussing?
– What has that to do with correspondence and letters?
– How would the Treasurer, on behalf of the Government, convey information to the bank? Would he not send, to the Governor a letter that he, as Treasurer, had signed on behalf of the Government? I say quite frankly that I have not heard a more stupid observation than that of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), since this bill was introduced. How would the Governor of the bank be informed of the Government’s views by any way other than by a letter signed by the Treasurer, or statements sent by him? How could the Governor of the bank compile a statement for consideration by the Government about a matter if he did not sign it in his official capacity? Surely I am justified in describing such correspondence and statements as letters.
– The Leader of the Opposition called them letters.
– I shall call them statements, if that will please the Minister. Or shall I describe them as an exchnnge of communications between the Government and the Governor of the bank? The Minister may place his own interpretation upon them, but the documents would have to be signed either by the Treasurer on behalf of the Government or by the Governor on behalf of the bank.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition has exhausted his time.
.- I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). Under this provision, the position of the Treasurer is unchanged in relation to the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945. If this provision becomes law the Treasurer of the day, whoever he is, may still, as he can under the 1945 legislation, direct the bank upon the financial policy. The 1945 act did not oblige the Treasurer to report any of the negotiations between the Government and the Governor to the Parliament, but the provision now under consideration requires him to report to the Parliament any disagreements that may arise between the Commonwealth Bank Board and the Government. However, that provision does not give the. Parliament an effective say in the matter. No opportunity is provided, once the Treasurer lays the certificate from the Governor-General in Council on the table, for the Parliament to disagree with what lias been done. No regulation will be made under the appropriate act which either House of the Parliament will be able to disallow. It is constitutionally improper to lay papers connected with finance on the table of another place and to give that legislative body the opportunity or the right to disagree. That other place, the Senate, has no right to determine financial policy. That right is exclusively reserved to the House of Representatives. Therefore, I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) was not overstating the case when he said that the Government is merely engaging in camouflage when it states that it is giving to the Parliament, under this proposed section, a right that it did not possess already under the act of 1945. The Parliament will have the opportunity if this bill is passed, to know of disagreements between the Commonwealth Bank Board and the government of the day, which it did not have under the 1945 act. But it will have no effective means of disapproving of what has been done. If the bank board and the Treasurer of the day agree to pursue a policy with which they know some honorable members would disagree, those honorable members will have no opportunity of knowing anything about that policy. The only circumstances in which they could know anything about policy matters would be if by some chance there had been a disagreement between the Treasurer and the board, which had proved insoluble and which had led to the formulation of an order by the Governor-General in Council.
– What chance did they have of knowing about it under the existing legislation that was passed by the Chifley Government?
– If the honorable member had listened to me he would have heard me say that under that legislation there was no opportunity for the House to know of any disagreement between the Treasurer, representing the government of the day, and the Governor of the bank. If the disagreement was of very deep significance the Treasurer’s order became the policy of the bank vi;hout the Parliament knowing anything about ii.
– The honorable member’s point seem9 to be that the bill is good but that it does not go far enough.
– My point is that this bill is not what the private banks paid for. This is not what they expected. Whatever virtue this measure may have, it does not give the Parliament the right to disagree, which the Treasurer glorified-
– In fact, what the honorable member is saying is that his party’s contention that the banks sponsored this measure is not right.
– The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) cannot put words into my mouth. I repeat that this measure is not what the banks paid for. It is not what they expected it would be. This is not what they had a right to expect according to themselves and their press suppoiters. This measure will not disturb the vital relationship between the Treasurer and the bank administration that is established in the 1945 act.
– In fact, what the honorable member wants to do is to withdraw his own party’s previous arguments.
– I listen to the honorable member for Mackellar when he interjects, but I consider that he had better make a speech of his own. Some people might say that this bill does not seem to mean so very much and that they therefore cannot see why the Government desires to proceed with it.
– I cannot see why the honorable member’s party desires to object to it.
– The Government desires to pretend that this measure will give the Parliament some effective say in the determination of banking policy. I do not believe that it will, and I do not believe that the Government should continue to pretend that it will. The National Bank of Australasia very kindly sent me a copy of its annual report, according to which the chairman of the bank, in his address to the annual meeting of the shareholders on the 30th -November, 1949, said -
We believe that, democratically, it is wrong 1£tik vast powers over the financial system -should be so largely vested in the hands of the ““Federal Treasurer of the day.
The present measure will not deprive “the Treasurer of any of the vast powers that we gave the Treasurer of the day !naa4er the 1945 act. That is an important point for the committee to consider. Honorable members opposite say, in effect, “Forget about the bill. It really does not do anything to change vitally the present structure laid down under the 1945 act. So why worry about it? Why not allow the board to be established and to make its mistakes, and allow the Treasurer, whether he is Labour or antiLabour, to continue to direct it ? “ In the final analysis the Treasurer has the say and the board acts only as an advisory committee. After all, the board is administrative, and executive, but it is not the filial determiner of government policy. The power remains where the Chifley Government put it - in the hands of the Treasurer of the day. I believe that system to be democratically right. I believe that financial policy, like defence policy and fiscal policy, is the sole prerogative of the elected representatives of the people to determine and should be determined by nobody else.
– Then the honorable member agrees with the proposed new section ?
– I do not agree with it, because I consider that it embodies a lot of humbug and pretence. It pretends to give to the Parliament something which it does not give to it at all. I have previously said to honorable members opposite that if we desire an effective system of parliamentary control over the bank board we should adopt the Swedish system, in which a committee of the Parliament governs the State bank board. The government of the day has » ma joiiity of the membership of that, committee, which, like every other parliamentary committee, is subject to the decision of the Parliament. If the Government had advanced a scheme such as thai I could understaand that some semblance of parliamentary control was intended. But the parliamentary system of government provides for a legislature, an executive and a judiciary. The Parliament elects the Executive and the Executive controls the administrative and Executive arms of government. It is impossible to mix the two arms of government in the way that the Government is suggesting. This measure will still give the final say to the Treasurer of the day, whoever he is - and we shall be back in office in a year or so and be doing what we want to do in the matter of directing the policy of the Commonwealth Bank, despite what the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board might say. If the bill is passed in its present form it will have done nothing to destroy our power and opportunity to do what we desire to do when we are returned to office. Honorable members opposite therefore should take notice of what the former Treasurer has said and not persist in asking for something that can involve the laying on the table of the House of papers and documents the tabling of which could harm the Commonwealth Bank. If honorable members opposite desire to have papers and documents produced to the Parliament in the event of a disagreement, why do they not desire to have the whole of the minutes of the bank board tabled here so that any honorable member can disagree, at any time, with anything that the board has done ? Or why not lay the papers on the table of the Library, so that all the information relative to meetings of the bank board could be considered.
– Order! The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time.
– I do not think that I have ever heard the former Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) speak in a less convincing fashion than that in which he spoke ten minutes ago. Apparently be gives his blessing to all of the proposed new section 9a except the proposed new sub-section (7.). Of course, he has to do that because, as he has been forced to admit most of the sub-sections of the proposed new section 9a, other than subsection (7.), have been taken substantially, or entirely, from the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945. Let us consider sub-section (1.) of the proposed new section 9a, which reads -
The Bank shall, from time to time, inform the Government of the monetary and banking policy of the Bank.
With certain immaterial variations, that is the same provision as is contained in section 9 of the 1945 act. Sub-section (2.) of the proposed new section 9a reads -
In the event of h 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.
That also is substantially the same as the provision in the 1945 act and, of course, is a matter of common sense. A great banking institution avoids disputes and wranglings if it ca,n possibly do so; and the Treasurer of the day and the controllers of the bank, if they have a proper sense of their responsibilities, will attempt, first and foremost, to reach agreement. This proposal provides for the settlement of differences of opinion, and I am pleased to note that the Opposition gives its blessing to that provision. Another sub-section of the proposed section provides that if the Government and the bank fail to reach agreement on differences of opinion on questions of policy the board shall forthwith furnish to the Treasurer a statement in relation to the matter in respect of which the difference of opinion has arisen, and the Treasurer may submit a recommendation on the subject to the Governor-General as the result of which the Government will determine the policy that shall be followed. If such discussions do not result in agreement, by compromise or in any other way, that is, if the difference is irreconcilable, the Government must take the responsibility for determining the matter. That provision is similar to a provision that was included in the legislation passed in 1945. But, honorable members opposite want to stop there; they want that to be the end of the matter. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has said that publicity should not be given to such differences and, consequently, no opportunity should be given to the people of Australia to form an opinion on matters in dispute, which, in the circumstances, must be vital matters of banking and monetary policy.
Therefore, in respect of sub-section (7.) of the proposed section honorable members opposite pour the vials of their wrath upon the Government. It is little wonder that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) is obliged to give his approval to all of the sub-sections, except subsection (7.), of the proposed section, becausethese provisions were not only included,, in substance, in the Banking Act of 1945- but were also endorsed in the report of theBoyal Commission on Monetary and’ Banking Systems of which the right honorable gentleman was a member, and he.’ concurred with that report in respect of the settlement of differences arising between the Government and the bank. Although the members of that commission thought that, in practice, great differences would bc reconciled, they stated in paragraph 530 of their report -
The Federal Parliament is ultimately responsible for monetairy policy and the Government of the day is the executive of the Parliament. f Quorum formed.’]
I repeat that it is little wonder that the Leader of the Opposition finds himself in a difficulty about the bill because being in opposition he believes, I suppose, that it is his duty to oppose, but, at the same time he was obliged to give his approval to each sub-section, except sub-section (7.), of the proposed section, first, because those sub-sections have been copied largely from the legislation that his own Government passed in 1945; and, secondly, because the Boyal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems in paragraph 530 of its report to which he subscribed, made the statement that I have just read. The only difference between the Government and the Opposition on the proposed section narrows down to sub-section (7.) which reads - “ The Treasurer shall cause to be laid before each House of the Parliament, within fifteen sitting days of that House after the Treasurer has informed the bank of the policy determined under sub-section (4.) of this section -
a copy of the order determining its policy;
a copy of the statement furnished to the Treasurer by the Board under sub-section (3.) of this section.
When dealing with this matter this afternoon the Leader of the Opposition was less convincing than I have heard -him previously. Labouring at his oar he said that the provision was unnecessary and insincere. I do not know whether he contends that the provision should not be made at all, or that it does not go far enough, because he did not quite clarify his own mind, or our minds, on the matter. But the honorable member for Melbourne attempted to clarify the matter. So far as I was able to understand his argument it was that this provision was not contained in the 1945 legislation, apparently because it was not necessary as the Government must determine monetary policy; but now that it is included in the bill, it does not go far enough.
– It does not do what the Minister claims it does.
– Let us see what the provision means. First, it makes provision for something that the Chifley Government did not provide for. It provides for the light of day to be thrown upon disputes that may arise between the Government and the Commonwealth Bank in respect of fundamental matters of banking and monetary policy which may affect the welfare of thousands of citizens. Should an irreconcilable tussle occur between the bank and the Government, on which there must be a final arbiter, the Parliament shall be given the opportunity to learn of the existence of the struggle. Sub-section (7.) provides for that contingency in the only way possible on the premises of the Opposition’s arguments, by enacting that the Parliament shall be acquainted with the facts.
– What did the supporters of the present Government say on this matter during the recent general election campaign?
– We said that the Parliament should be fully informed of such matters. Interjections of the kind just made by the honorable member are rather peculiar, because honorable members opposite are saying, in effect, that the Government is not doing precisely what its leader promised -to do in his policy speech at the recent general election; yet, in the same breath, they object to the Government doing anything at all. They say that sub-section (7.) of the proposed section should not be included in the measure. They cannot have it both ways. Let us consider what courses will be open to the Parliament if it is informed that a dispute has arisen between the board and the Government in relation to a matter of high policy. Quite apart from initiating a discussion by submitting a formal motion for the adjournment of the House, Opposition members could submit a motion of want of confidence in the Government and so arrange for a full discussion of the matter. If they believed that the difference was profoundly important, and that the decision of the board had been right and the Treasurer wrong, they could propose a motion of censure of the Government. They could express disagreement with the action of the Government by using one or other of the forms of the House to initiate a discussion.
– The Minister would then pointedly submit a motion, “ That the question be now put “.
– We would gladly terminate the debate in order to prevent some Opposition members from speaking, but I do not include the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) in that category.
– That is a very witty remark.
– It was a wicked remark.
– The devil comes out in all of us when we are faced by arguments of this kind.
– Order ! I ask the Minister to confine his remarks to proposed new section 9a. I also ask Opposition members to cease interjecting.
– What I am endeavouring to show is that we have introduced an innovation which is designed to allow the people to know all the facts of a dispute between the board and the Government when such a matter is regarded as of fundamental importance. We do not anticipate that such a dispute will arise.
– Having regard to the character of the board the Government has in mind, that is a foregone conclusion.
– In almost all instances history has shown that governments are prepared to accept compromises and that boards of responsible men are prepared to acquiesce in the decision of the Government on matters of policy. The provision to which so much exception has been taken was inserted in the measure merely to cover the contingency if such a. dispute should arise. We believe that should such a dispute arise the people should know the facts and that the Parliament should have an opportunity to express its .news upon them. What more democra.tic process could be provided? A fundamental difference on a matter of policy which might affect the lives of the people should be brought before this national forum which is the only place where’ the voice of the people can be effectively expressed. I do not think that the heart of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) was in the argument which he presented. Perhaps that is why he left the chamber as soon as he had completed his speech.
.- For some extraordinary reason honorable members opposite think that we should not oppose the provisions of proposed new section 9a. They claim that the proposals in it do not alter in any material way the state of affairs that exists under the legislation now in force. I suggest that, in fact, a radical departure is being made from the existing legislation and that members of the Australian Labour party would be recreant to their trust if they did not draw attention to the extent of that departure. On examination, the provisions of this proposed new section are seen to be cumbersome, unwieldy and ambiguous, and, in some respects, they will be unworkable. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that these proposals have been brought before the Parliament for the purpose of hoodwinking the people into believing that the utmost democratic control of the Commonwealth Bank will be exercised by the Commonwealth Bank Board of the future. In my opinion, therefore, they are a sham and a delusion. The provisions of this proposed new section will give to the Government a splendid opportunity to transfer to the board responsibility for any unpopular decision which the Government may be called upon to make in relation to banking policy. For example, the Government, with a board, the majority of the members of which are of its own political complexion, could stage a sham fisht while awaiting the decision of the Parliament on a matter in dispute which had been referred to the Parliament. While the dispute is under consideration in the Parliament the board could proceed to act against the interests of the people. The provisions of the proposed new section will present the Government with a unique opportunity to get out from under and throw full responsibility on a board which will not be answerable to the people. Many months may elapse before a fundamental difference between the Government and the board reaches finality. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has said that he does not anticipate that any great degree of difference will arise between the board and the Government. I remind him that, twenty years ago, a marked difference of opinion arose between the then Commonwealth Bank Board and the government of the day. Similar differences may arise in the near future. Under the provisions of this proposed new section, the Government, by a policy of procrastination, may defer consideration by the Parliament of any differences of opinion between the board and the Government, and thus cause great damage to be done to the economy of the nation. The Government pronoses to adopt a new form of control of the decisions of the board. At best, it will be no better than the existing control, and, at worst, it may easily produce most disastrous results. A cursory glance at the provisions of tse proposed new section leads one to the conclusion that they will be most ineffectual; but a close examination leads one to the conclusion that they will be unworkable.
– 16 the honorable member referring to sub-sections- (1.) to (6.), or to the whole of the proposed new section?
– Sub-sections (1.) to (6.) may be workable, but the provisions of sub-section (7.) may be used to make the section completely unworkable. Subsection (1.) reads -
Tho Bank shall, rrom time to time, inform the Government of thu monetary and banking policy of the Bank.
The wording of the sub-section is ambiguous. If the Government or the board decided to hoodwink people they could, in collusion with each other, use the machinery of this sub-section to delay informing the Government of the monetary and banking policy of the bank. The paragraph merely provides that the bank shall inform the Government “ from time to time “.
– A similar provision is included in the 1945 legislation.
– I realize that that is so. The point I make is that if the Government or the board, acting in collusion, wished to do something about which they do not want the people to know, they could arrange for the official advice to the Government on the monetary and banking policy of the bank to be delayed. The provisions of the sub-section may he used by the board or the Government to mislead the people. The proposed section 9a (1.), taken in conjunction with sub-section (7.), offers unique opportunities for the Government to run away from its responsibility.
Sub-section (2.) gives vise to a similar position. It provides that, in the event if a difference of opinion between the Government and the bank in regard to policy the Treasurer and the board shall endeavour to reach agreement; but while there is this conflict of opinion there can be protracted negotiations. Under the existing legislation, if there is any difference of opinion, the Treasurer gives a direction which is carried out. By tho use of this sub-section the Government can give the people of Australia the impression that the Parliament has final contiol over the bank but by a process of procrastination and connivance between the Government and the board a decision may not be reached for many months. That may suit the Government’s interests but it will not benefit the people of Australia.
With regard to sub-section (3.), if a Labour Government is in power to which the board is hostile3 what is there to prevent the board from delaying a statement? The board can use all the loopholes provided in these sub-sections. I cannot find any part of the bill which provides for a penalty for failing to furnish immediately the statement mentioned in ‘ sub-section (3.).
Sub-section (7.) will prove to be completely unworkable. Fifteen parliamentary working days could extend over four or five months at certain times of the year, and during that period speculators could wax fat at the expense of the Australian people.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is perfectly obvious from the course which the debate has taken up to the moment that it would not be possible to consider all the sub-sections of proposed section 9a without having regard to what has already been decided in respect of proposed section 9. Since agreement has been reached on that section it is logical to relate proposed section 9a to it, otherwise many of the arguments will not make sense.
– A lot of them would not make sense anyhow.
– Yes they would. It is not much use for the Minister to deal with all the sub-sections under proposed section 9a as though that section had been dealt with previously. His reply has been made without due regard for what has already been discussed. Many of the sub-sections under proposed section 9a are machinery sub-sections, so there is nothing much that can be said about them. The first, as has already been indicated, merely calls upon the bank to inform the Government from time to time of its monetary and banking policy, a matter of which the Government will haves beeninformed, inanycase,through the Secretary to the Treasury.
Sub-section(2) provides for action to taken when there is adifferenceof opinion between theGovernment and the bank on monetary and banking policy. It would appear that an attempt is to be made here toreach agreement. There would be a possibility of conciliation, in relation to a given matter provided that it was very small in character. A few years ago, when there was a sharp differences of opinion between the Treasurer and the bank board, the Treasurercame off very much second best. The subsection would appear to be almost futile because there would be no possibility of agreement being reached between the parties if they held opposite views. I believe that the greatest advantage to the people of Australia would lie in a balanced economy and that in order to achieve this a certain amount of direction of capital would be necessary. Consequently, it would also follow that labour would be directed into channels in which the production of basic materials could be assured.
– Do not pursue that line. That is a discussion of policy.
– I intended to link that statement with the statement that is made in the bill concerning the best policy to be followed on behalf of the people of Australia. I wag about to say that with the type of bank board agreed to in consequence of the acceptance ofproposed section 9 it would appear that such a course would be impracticable while such a Treasurer as the country has at the present time is in charge of the Treasury. Laisser-faire in industry will prevail because of the character of the board that has been agreed upon. Business minds will predominate on the personnel of the board. The first consideration of the Government should be the national economy, but there will be no such thing as disagreement between the board and the Government. Therein lies the crux of much of the discussion in this chamber to-day.
Honorable members of the Opposition have objected to the establishment of the proposed board because of its potentialities in the form in which it willbe composed. Such a sub-section asthe one Iam discussing at the presentmoment would seem to have been inserted merelyfor the purpose of misleading those to whom certain promises have been made by the Liberal and AustralianCountry parties during the lastgeneral election campaign.
– The honorable member must discuss possible differences of opinion between the bank and the Government.
Mr. ANDREWS.Thereisno possibility, under these proposals, of there being any such disagreement The board willmakerecommendations which will be acceptable to business interests andwill make provision for the extension of private banking interests.It will be able to do that by using the power to fix interest rates so that money will be controlled in a relative degree. The workers, as has been said, will be kept in their places.
Decisions having been made by the board the Treasurer will indicate that it is unwise for him to interfere with them. Once, the board has been composed of suitable individuals the Treasurer of the day will undoubtedly indicate that it would be, unwise for him to interfere with its decisions; that he had given the board an independent right tocontrol the bank and that the banking businessof the Commonwealth should not be interfered with by him. The section goes on to provide that if there should happen to be disagreement the board must inform the Treasurer of such disagreement in writing and that, after submission of the matter to the executive council, the will of the Treasurer shall prevail. Byno stretch of the imagination is that the provision that was forecast by the present Government parties when they appeared before the people prior to the general election, They then stated very definitely that the Parliament itself would have the final voice on decisionsto be made by the banking authorities. Now the Governmentsays that it will accept the responsibility after the board has made decisions of which it has informed the Government. I believe that therein lies the crux of most of the humbug which the sub-sections under discussion represent. This Government intends that it shall not accept responsibility for decisions which it would like to make itself, but can have made without having to interfere with the control of the bank in any way whatsoever. £ believe that the objections which honorable members of the Opposition are offering to the appointment of the bank board are based on the fact that this Government intends to evade responsibility for the policy which will be laid down by the bank board. Honorable members of the Opposition consider that the Government should accept the responsibility as it was intended that the Government should accept it under the 1945 bill. The Government has made a vital step away from the provisions of that 1945 bill. These sub-sections are merely intended to give the appearance of implementing something which the Government inferred, before the general election, that it would do.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has dealt with sub-section (7.) so completely that I believe it to be unnecessary to continue discussion of it.
.- When I listen to the arguments of honorable members of the Opposition I am reminded of the fact that a great part of Australia has been passing through that period when agricultural shows provide the popular amusement of putting up Aunt Sallies and promptly knocking them down again. The attack made on this bill by the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) and succeeding speakers on the Opposition side of the chamber, have tended to take that direction. The Leader of the Opposition discovered that there would be the very serious business of making public all the letters which might pass between the bank board and the Government in the event of disagreement. 1 noticed that when the Minister in charge of the committee asked where any reference was to be found to the letters there was a discreet silence on that aspect of the matter. Proposed subsection (7.) provides that the matters that the Treasurer shall cause to be laid before the Parliament are - (a.) a copy of the order determining thu policy;
Successive speakers on the opposition side of the chamber have expressed opposing points of view. First, they have said that the proposed provision is mischievous and unnecessary, and then, almost with the same breath, they have described it as humbug and have declared that it will not have the effect that the Liberal party’s policy speech led the people to expect. I direct attention to the initial sub-section of the proposed new section, which states - (1.) The Bank shall, from time to time, inform the Government of the monetary and banking policy of the Bank.
That places the real functions of the proposed board in their correct perspective. The board will not deal with the details of a great organization, or of any minor organization. Its tasks will be to resolve matters of policy. That fact pinpoints the purpose of the Government in establishing a board as well as the object of the proposed section. All the emphasis in every sub-section of the proposed section is upon policy. Sub-section (4.) provides that, in the event of a disagreement such as is mentioned in sub-section (3.), the Treasurer, acting in conjunction with the executive council, may determine the policy to be adopted by the Commonwealth Bank. The Treasurer will then be required to inform the board of the policy so determined, and the Government, will thereupon accept responsibility for the adoptionby the bank of that policy. As soon as a government accepts responsibility specifically in that way for any policy, it becomes liable to any deserved censure that may follow if the policy does not accord with the will of the Parliament or the country.
The provision states that, if a government determines policy by the method that I have described, the Commonwealth Rank must at once give effect to that policy. Under the terms of this legislation, a board will be vested with power to control a great institution. It may decide, in its wisdom or otherwise, that a certain policy is best calculated to maintain the financial stability of Australia by avoiding inflation and yet maintaining the maximum degree of sound employment within the country and firm international relationships. For the sake of argument, let us imagine that the government of the day disagrees with the board. lt might declare, “ We consider that there should be a bolder policy of development “, or “ We consider that this policy is not calculated to maintain employment”. Then it would announce the policy that it favoured. If the bank board disagreed with it, the procedure laid down in the proposed section wouifl then come into effect. The Treasurer would be obliged to lay before both Mouses of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days a statement of the reasons that had caused it to take such action. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has suggested that the tabling of papers in the Parliament would be merely a sort of kindly formality and that nothing more would be done. What are the facts? The Government would have acted in defiance of the advice given to it by the Commonwealth Bank Board and wouln have dictated the policy to be adopted by the bank. Does any practical parliamentarian really believe that there is any substance in the argument that the tabling of the documents would not be followed in this Parliament by very serious consequences to the Government if the Government’s policy was not acceptable to the community and, therefore, to the Parliament? We all know that, if any government action is inimical to the interests of the people, we, as their representatives, are the first to learn of the fact.
– The Parliament could not disallow the Government’s decision.
– Suoh an interjection might be expected from a tyro, but. it surely would not be made by the Leader of the Opposition. Every honorable member should know perfectly well that the Parliament has the right of redress at all times.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. lazzarini (Werriwa) [4.38]. - The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) talked about “Aunt Sallies “. I do not know of anybody who has figured in the political life of New South Wales, at any rate, who has raised more “‘Aunt Sallies” than hasthe honorable gentleman. One “ Aunt Sally” followed another throughout his speech. He put them up and he knocked them down. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Beale), who was in charge of the committee earlier this afternoon, protested vociferously about the statements that had been made by members of the Opposition, but the fact remains, in spite of his declarations, that, if the proposal to establish a Commonwealth Bank Board is to be accepted, the remainder of proposed section 9a is mere humbug. That is crystal clear. The provision means nothing. It merely represents an attempt by the Government to convince the people that it intends to retain some of the provisions of the vital legislation of 1945, which it was not game to attack during the general e’ection campaign and which, in fact, its adherents supported. The proposed section is simply camouflage. The Sydney Morning Herald recently published a hypocritical leading article in which it shed crocodile tears as it criticized the Government. Nobody knows better than do the financial writers and the controllers of the Sydney Morning Herald that the provisions of the proposed new section are merely part and parcel of the Government’s scheme to fool the people into the belief that its banking proposals are still coloured by some of the Labour party’s principles. The Minister for Transport told us that the Government had compromised with the bank board. Of course, it will compromise with the proposed board when it is established. There will be one compromise after another. The Government might ask the board for £50,000,000 and then, if the board refused to accommodate it, would compromise and compromise until finally it accepted perhaps £1,000,000, or even a few hundred pounds. That is the best that we may expect of this Government. Some supporters of the Government believe that there is a great deal of truth in the parrot cry that they repeated throughout the second-reading debate to the effect that Chifley was a dictator under the existing legislation.
An. Honorable Members - Hear, hear !
– Order That is not the way to refer to. the Leader of. the Opposition.
– I am speaking of the present Leader of the Opposition CMr. Chifley)’ when he was Treasurer. The honorable member- who has. interjected “ Bear, hear ! “ has revealed how stupid he- is, as I shall prove in a moment. Honorable- members opposite described the Leader of the- Opposition as a dictator who, when he was Treasurer, sat in a room and issued orders to the Commonwealth Bank. That is hocus-pocus. There is no> truth in the statement. Unfortunately, that propaganda had some influence upon the people because, after all, although the electors of Australia are fairly well educated on party lines, they are- not always well’ informed on fine points of this kind. For that reason the present Government parties are able to get away with it from time to time.
– Who gets away with it?
– The honorable member and his colleagues. I remind him of the famous warning that all the people can be fooled some of the time and some of the people can be fooled all the time but all the people cannot be fooled all the time. He will learn the truth of that adage before long.
Let us examine this fallacy of a dictatorship by the Treasurer under the existing legislation. In the first place, the Treasurer, whoever he may be for the time being, must be elected by the democratic system of this country to represent a constituency in this Parliament. Then he must be elected as a member of a political party that is favoured by a majority of the people of Australia. Next he must go to the party room and be appointed by members of the caucus to the Cabinet. Having become Treasurer, he must refer all his proposals to the Cabinet before he can do anything about dictating to the Commonwealth
Bank Enlesss his. proposals are acceptable to the- Cabinet, he cannot enforce them upon the hank authorities. Furthermore, evens if his plans are accepted by the Cabinet,, he must then submit them to the caucus and obtain its approval before he can refer them to the Parliament. Finally, the Government o£ which he if a member must command a majority in both Houses of the Parliament. Thank God this Government has only a minority in the Senate at present !! However, a government that has a majority ia each House ean do as- it wishes. The honorable member foa- New England, notwithstanding his brave words, is a good party man and will line up with his colleagues in support of the Government. He will vote for his party on every decision that it makes.
– Does not the honorable member do likewise?
– Of course I do. T am not criticizing the honorable member for New England on that account. I know the honorable member well and we are good friends. However, he suggested that, if a government took action in relation, to monetary policy that, in the minds of honorable members, was inimical to the. interests of Australia, the Parliament would force it. to retract. He suggested that he would be prepared to vote against the Government. I say. from my knowledge of him, that he is too good a party man to do that. I do not believe that he would do it. The claim that the Parliament will control monetary policy is sheer nonsense: The honorable member formerly criticized the Labour Government because it would not accept any amendments to legislation that it brought down in this Parliament. He a erased it of having established a dictatorship. W« shall see, as time passes, how many supporters of this Government will cross the floor of this chamber to vote against the Government on any issue, whether it involves monetary policy or anything else. The Parliament, as a Parliament, has no control over monetary policy. The people have control over monetary policy through their representatives in this Parliament only once in every three years. When they elect a government with a majority in both. Houae3, the parties in opposition to that government are impotent. The honorable member for New England, who has had considerable parliamentary experience, knows that that is so. Any government should go ahead and do the job. I am not complaining about that. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) said that when we see these documents we can deal with them and we can move censure motions. Of course we can. How many censure motions did honorable members on the other side of the House move when they were in Opposition? It is significant that none of them was carried.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- All that I wish to say with respect to this proposed section lies within a very small compass. I can understand the Opposition spending time on proposed section 9, sub-sections (1.) and (2.), but it is difficult to comprehend why so much of the time of the committee is being taken up by it in dealing with this proposed section. It provides for an extension of the safeguards established by the Labour Government in its 1945 legislation. Section 9 of the Commonwealth Bank Act provides - (1.) The Bank shall, from time to time, inform the Treasurer of its monetary and banking policy. (2.)In the event of any difference between the Bank and the Government 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 Bank shall endeavour to reach agreement.
If the Treasurer and the bank failed to reach agreement the direction of the Treasurer was to prevail and the bank was to carry out a policy in accordance with the opinion of the Government. That is clearly laid down in the section I have quoted. The proposed section before the committee by, in part, substituting the board for the Governor of the bank, docs precisely what was done by section 9 of the 1945 act. The Government has always contended that it must have the prime responsibility for the determination of national financial policy. I remember that when section 9 of the 1945 act was before this committee I made it clear that I did not object to the Executive having the direction of financial policy. However, I did object to its having the direction of that policy without reference either to the Parliament or to the people. Therefore, this particular section being discussed lays down two very firm principles. The first is that in the final analysis the Government must be responsible for the determination of financial policy-
– It is now.
– The Treasurer is not necessarily the Executive. It is obvious to any one who reads it that that principle is clearly enough enunciated. Sub-section (3.) reads -
If the Treasurer and Board are unable to reach agreement, the Board shall forthwith furnish to the Treasurer a statement in relation to the matter in respect of which the difference of opinion has arisen.
Thereafter the Treasurer will inform the bank of the Government’s policy as determined by executive act. The bank shall then carry out that policy. The important thing is that this bill preserves the right of any government, as it must be preserved in these modern times, to direct in the last resort financial policy. However, the Government leaves the matter in the hands of the bank unless there is a disagreement on a vital point, in which event the Government takes the responsibility of determination upon itself, and the responsibility will not rest on one man. It is not the Treasurer but Cabinet itself that must take the responsibility.
– It takes that responsibility now.
– The responsibility rested upon the Treasurer previously. The point that I make is that the Government is preserving its right of determining in the last analysis what the financial policy shall be. The bill removes power from the hands of one man, who could act behind the back of his Cabinet, and puts it right where it should be - in the hands of the Executive Council. The bill provides that when a disagreement on policy occurs between the bank and the Government, the matter must be placed before the Parliament. The Parliament will then be able to consider the matter, having before it a copy of the order determining the policy, a statement by the Government in relation to the matter in respect of which the difference of opinion arose, and a copy, of the statement furnished to the Treasurer by the board under sub-section (3.). Even if that meant merely that there would be a discussion in the Parliament, that in itself would constitute a brake upon dictatorship in the financial policy of the country. As was pointed out by an interjector, there is no provision for disallowance in thi? proposed section-
– Does the honorable gentleman agree with that?
– Of course I do. An honorable member who preceded me pointed out that there is provision in the Standing Orders whereby if the Parliament disagrees with financial policy, the Government can be challenged at any time. The power of challenge is in the hands of any section of the Parliament, the Opposition as well as the Government, If a dispute occurs between the bank and the Government upon a matter of vital policy, the power of disallowance will not be needed because the power of censure of the Government is in the hands of honorable members. A motion can be made expressing disagreement with the Government’s policy. The important consideration is that policy-making is removed from the hands of one man, the Treasurer, who is at present able to determine policy without Cabinet discussion. The result of the 1945 legislation is illustrated by the action of the previous Treasurer when he altered the exchange rate. This bill will put a brake on the occurrence of that sort of thing. It puts the power where it should be, that is, in the hand of the executive government. The bill finally provides that if there is a disagreement the Government’s opinion shall not prevail without criticism. The Government’s policy will come before the Parliament so that the whole matter may be debated before the people. There can be no real objection to that. I could understand honorable members opposite, whilst disagreeing with their action, taking some time on the preceding proposed section, but, for the life of me, I cannot understand, having in mind section 9 of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, why they are stonewalling this proposed section. They are seeking so to take up time in the discussion of unnecessary matters as to prevent, the Government from getting on with the business of governing.
.- I an: grateful to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) for his explanation of this particular proposed section, because whilst he considers that it does not need to be debated, I believe that discussion of it is essential. In his explanation of the bill the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), for the purpose of windowdressing, informed the House that the Government was removing power over the Commonwealth Bank from the hands of a dictator and putting it into the hands of the elected representatives of the people. 1 think the explanation made by the Minister for External Affairs this afternoon differs from that given by the Treasurer. I am sorry that the Treasurer, who regards this as a most important measure, is not present to explain its various provisions. I believe that he would be serving the interests of his own constituents if he were here.
– Order ! The movements of the Treasurer are no concern of the committee. The honorable member must deal with the proposed section.
– Very well, Mr. Chairman, but the Treasurer’s movements are of importance to me because I should like him to explain certain portions of the bill. As the Minister responsible for it, he should be the most capable person to make those explanations. Instead of electioneering in Queensland-
– Order! The honorable member will keep to the proposed section, otherwise I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
– I want to adhere very closely to it. The point I wish to mako is that whilst in the ultimate result there is no difference between it and the legislation enacted in 1945, many more steps must he taken before that ultimate result will be achieved. It is proposed “that in the event of disagreement there shall be discussions. Then the “Treasurer shall report to the Cabinet, and the Cabinet shall agree with the Treasurer. Then the Executive Council shall make some rule, and eventually the important decision shall be arrived at that the Treasurer has disagreed with the bank board and that the will of the Treasurer shall prevail. Before his will prevails there must be a lot of window-dressing to show that grave deliberations have taken place. The effect of this proposed section will not be any different from that of section 9 of the 1945 act, which clearly states that in the event of a disagreement between the Treasurer and the Governor of the bank the Treasurer’s will shall prevail. As the Minister for External Affairs has explained, the Treasurer, upon disagreement, must, under the new provisions, have the support of the Cabinet. Under the existing legislation the Treasurer must also have the support of the Government, and the Cabinet must have the support of the ministerial party. In effect, the Treasurer must have the support of the majority of the members of this chamber. Unless he has that support his disagreement with the bank will get him nowhere. He is not a dictator, and never has been one. It may be shown that the new section 9a will give to the Treasurer the same dictatorial powers that are alleged to have been exercised by him under the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945. But the Government has been obliged to “ cover up “ after all the false propaganda that was disseminated during the general election campaign about financial dictatorship, and proposed section 9a has been incorporated in the bill merely to hoodwink honorable members and the electors. The position under this legislation will be similar to that under the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945. Under it, the Parliament will have no more power over financial policy than it has under the existing act.- We do not need window dressing of this kind. We can get on very well without this provision. The act should not be cluttered with unnecessary sections and sub-sections that may eventually give leading King’s Counsel cause to argue before the High Court of Australia the meaning of the words they contain. A clause and a proposed section should be couched in clear, concise language that can be understood by the people. They should not contain unnecessary words that are, to my mind, purely window dressing in order to convey to the public the idea that the Government is endeavouring to do something entirely different from what it proposes to do. The Government is attempting to throw dust into the eyes of the people, and mislead them into believing that a different form of control is being instituted as between the Treasurer and the Commonwealth Bank. Yet, in the final analysis, the proposed system of control is exactly the same as the existing system.
Under proposed section 9a there will he a grave danger of the people being “ sold out “. I believe that the Commonwealth Bank Board is being established to look after the interests of the private financial institutions of this country at the expense of the general public. Proposed section 9a is an additional safeguard for those private institutions because of the possibility that their representatives will be in a minority on the bank board. Should that prove to be the case, the Treasurer will have an opportunity to intervene on their side, and to ensure that their will shall prevail. That risk is very real. We know that during the depression, the Commonwealth Bank Board usurped the power that rightly belonged to the people of Australia, and I for one am not prepared to agree to any proposal that will take from the elected representatives of the people the entire control of the financial policy of the country. The first essential in good government is that the government of the day shall have complete control of the financial resources of Australia, so that they may be used in the best interests of the people generally, and so that the financial interests cannot grow richer.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to proposed section 9a, which deals with differences of opinion between the Government and the bank on matters of policy.
– I believe that my remarks are closely related to the proposed section, and I should be much happier in my mind if they were not.
– I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to proposed section 9a.
– We must take every possible step to safeguard the interests of the people, and I do not consider that the proposed section will be of any assistance in that respect. It will not improve the existing position, and, indeed, I regard it as definitely a retrograde step, and voice my opposition to it.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– Members of the Opposition have indulged in a good deal of double talk about proposed section 9a, and I propose to bring the discussion back to earth. We are simply considering the changes that the proposed section will make to the existing set-up under section 9 of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945. Opposition members have endeavoured to show that the proposed section is bad because it is exactly what the private banks want, and they have also tried to show that it is bad because it is exactly what the private banks do not want. The two arguments obviously cancel one another. The Opposition is not seriously objecting to the proposed section, but is acting for some motive that has not yet been disclosed. If members of the Opposition had been acting honestly, they would have brought forward more substantial arguments to support their contentions. Let us examine proposed section 9a, and the way in which it will amend section 9 of the Commonwealth Bank Act- 1945. It provides that when a difference of opinion arises between the Commonwealth Bank and the Government, the view that will prevail will be that of the GovernorGeneral in Council, and not simply that of the Treasurer. In spite of the arguments that have been adduced by Oppo sition members, that is a very real difference. We all remember that the original decision by the Chifley Government to nationalize the banking system was made, not by Cabinet or caucus, and certainly not by the Parliament, but by the Trea”surer and two or three senior Ministers, who issued the relevant press statement without even consulting Cabinet. Because that kind of thing happened in the past, we suspect that a real difference of opinion existed between the Treasurer and the Governor-General in Council about the policy. We have known of a dictatorial Treasurer who did not consult even his own Cabinet upon matters of the gravest public importance. The decision to devalue the Australian £1 in relation to sterling was taken by a snap conference in a taxi cab. Again, the dictatorial Treasurer had acted. That distinction between proposed section 9a and section 9 of the Commonwealth Bank Act is very relevant, and I have no doubt honorable members of the Opposition are indignant about it. However, even that point, substantial though it is, is hardly the reason for the vehemence with which the Opposition members are opposing the bill. They must have some motive.
– What does the honorable member think it is?
– What can be their motive? It must be related to one of two things, either to the period during which the present Government will be in power, or to the distant time - perhaps the very far-distant time - when the Labour party will be in power. Let us examine those two propositions. It is obvious that while the present Government is in office, it will have complete power, under section 9 of the existing act, to decide banking policy. Therefore, the Opposition cannot be concerned about the possibility of the present Treasurer and the present Government obtaining more power, because they already have power which, so far from being added to, will be derogated from by proposed section 9a. But as well as the power that the Governor of the bank has at the present time under the existing act, subject to the dictates of the Treasurer, he also has secret powers. Dr.
Coombs, the socialist, who was put in control of the Commonwealth Bank for a socialist purpose, represents the form of control that the Labour party is now defending. From the pointof view of the Opposition, that is the Coombs-Chifley dictatorshipdefence committee.
Mr.Davies. - What is wrong with it?
– The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) will see what is wrong with it. One of the reasons why Opposition members are anxious to avoid the alterations that will be made by proposed section 9a is simply that they want to buttress, as far as they can, the secret powers of Dr. Coombs, the socialist, who has been put in control of the Commonwealth Bank for a socialist purpose. He was appointed over the heads of other men to the position of Governor of the Bank for the sole and simple reason that he was a socialist and would do what the former Treasurer, Mr. Chifley, would tell him to do.
– He is a good man.
– Order! The honorable member for Cunningham is interjecting from a seat other than his own.
– I now come to the second and, I think, the more substantial of the two points that I desire to raise. I have no doubt that the present Opposition looks forward to the very distant future when it will again occupy the treasury bench. It realizes that this bill is only one of a number of bills that will be introduced to give effect to the policy of the Government. Opposition members have doubtless read the policy speech which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) delivered at the beginning of the last general election campaign. The right honorable gentleman announced that, if he was returned to office, he would introduce legislation to prevent the nationalization of an industry unless the people had, at a referendum, approved such action. Of course, the socialists opposite are most concerned about the possible provisions of that legislation. They are frightened that it will get in the way of their plans, but they think that if they can preserve not only section 9 of the Commonwealth Bank Act in its present form, but also their present control of the bank, which can be exercised secretly, it may be that, with Dr. Coombs still with the bank as their socialist “ cover “ man, they will be able to avoid the safeguards and nationalizethe banking system without reference to the people. That objective still remains the professed policy of the Opposition. Members of the Labour party are entirely wedded to the principle of bank nationalization, and all their manoeuvres at the present time are simply the ways of ingenious men to try to get round the people and the Constitution, and nationalize the banking system behind the people’s backs, as they tried to do in 1947.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are rather wide of proposed section 9a.
– I am endeavouring to answer the contentions that have been put forward by Opposition speakers in relation to the proposed section, and to show the committee that they are not genuine, and, furthermore, that there is another reason why they are opposing this provision. But behind all those matters lies the secret reason that alone explains the Opposition’s vehement objections to the proposed section, and, indeed, to all the provisions of this bill. Members of the Labour party are endeavouring all the time to keep their marble good so that they will be able to nationalize the banking system without obtaining the concurrence of the people, if ever they can get on to the treasury bench by fraud and chicanery, as no doubt they will ultimately try to do.
.- The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) indicated, in his last sentence, the way in which he and other Government supporters secured election to the Parliament. He has also argued that the members of the Opposition might resort to certain tactics if they were returned to office.
– I said that the honorable member’s party might do in the future what it had attempted to do in the past.;
– The honorable member referred to a “ dictatorial Treasurer “ and a “ dictatorial Governor”, but an honorable member who has the most practical knowledge of this matter has stated recently that them, is no dictatorial power in the Treasurer or the Governor of the bank because, as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) has said, whether there is a power to disallow or not, the forms of this House provide that any decision of the Treasurer in relation to the financial policy of the Government, can be questioned at any time by any member of this Parliament, and that no dictation can be exerted upon and no secrets can be withheld from this Parliament. The Minister for External Affairs also said that there is no need to have in the legislation placed before the Parliament the power to disallow regulations, because the forms of the House give full opportunity for discussion and full power, in certain circumstances, for disallowance. However, what I rose to discuss, in addition to other matters, is the reason for our opposition to the proposed section in particular. Our aim is to find the motive behind the Government’s introduction of this bill and the inclusion in it of the proposed new sections to which we have directed attention. We had not been informed of the Government’s motives until the honorable member for Mackellar had spoken. No one had said clearly why the board was to be established, but the honorable member for Mackellar, less subtle and less practised in debate than other honorable members, has clearly indicated that this Government fears the financial knowledge and experience possessed by Dr. Ooombs. It fears that he will follow a banking policy in line with the enlightened policy that has been developed and is being enjoyed in modern times. For that reason it intends to have his efforts nullified by the proposed board. If, despite the provision in the bill that the Governor, shall act iu accordance with any directions of the board Dr. Coombs, by virtue of hissuperior knowledge of finance and hisknowledge of world events is able to convince the board of the possible ill effects of a certain policy, the Government will still have the use of theprovision, which its members hotly contested on former occasions, and which it has retained in this bill, that will allow it to override Dr. Coombs. The honorable member for Mackellar is a spokesman for the Government, and is one of itsleading experts in this particular matter and he has indicated that he regards Dr. Coombs as a radical and a socialist. TheGovernment does not dare to remove DrCoombs from his position, and so it is trying to smother his efforts through this proposed board. In addition it is also reserving to itself a power which, as I said earlier, its members fiercely opposed on a former occasion, so that Dr.. Coombs may be defeated by the Treasurer and, as honorable members opposite say, by the Parliament. So we are to witness in this Parliament the very great farce that will result from the provision that in theevent of a disagreement between the board and the Treasurer the point of disagreement shall be discussed, by Cabinet presumably, shall then be referred to the Executive Council that an order shall be made and that subsequent orders on related matters may be tabled in this Parliament. What new power does that give to the Parliament? It gives no power at all that is not provided in existing legislation. The Minister for External Affairs made that abundantly clear. There is nothing new in it and not one additional safeguard. It contains no new democratic process. It is camouflage and, as the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) has called it, window-dressing designed merely to deceive the people of this county. It is designed also to preserve control over the Governor of the bank who, with the knowledge and experience that he has gained, might be able to convince the proposed board that his policy and not its policy on some particular matter was correct. In addition to the fact that the Government is preserving something to which its members previously objected very strenuously, we shall havp a second, and. in my opinion, a very dangerous result arising from the proposed new sub-section (2.). The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) -has said that that proposed new subsection is not only unnecessary, but also mischievous. In my opinion, it is highly mischievous. Let us consider what the possible points of disagreement between the Treasurer and the board might be. I should imagine that there would be about four possible points of disagreement. The first is in relation to the policy of overdraft accommodation. That would not be objected to strenuously and not much disagreement can be expected on it. The second and very controversial point is on the alteration of our present exchange rate. All that will need to happen for that exchange rate to be altered is for the Commonwealth Bank to say that, as from a certain date, it will buy and sell foreign exchange at a rate that it has determined. That decision would come into operation immediately, and what could the Government do about it? It could have a discussion and decide to override the decision, but the act would have been accomplished and the exchange rate would have been varied. The deed would be an accomplished fact. I believe that the Government intends to establish the board because it does not wish to make a decision for which it will be responsible, but wishes to pass the responsibility on to this expert bank board. It is an alibi and an avenue of escape for the Government in relation to a matter that is -pxercising the public mind very actively at the moment. When the decision to alter the exchange rate has been taken and applied there will be no possible hope of its being reversed. The present Governor of the bank, Dr. Coombs, would not dare to take such a step without consulting the Treasurer, but the responsibility would be spread over a wider field if the board took that step, and, therefore, the board might do so. The act would be accomplished and then we should go through this farce of the Treasurer tabling papers in the Parliament and saying why he disagrees with the decision. Why might the bank board decide to alter the exchange rate? Simply because the1 Commonwealth Bank is going to lose on every £1 of accumulated overseas funds when .appreciation .of the £1 occurs.
These funds are piling up daily because of the “hot” money that is coming to this country due to the inaction and indecision of this Government. The bank board will say, “If we do not alter the exchange rate then in another three or six months’ time our losses on our overseas funds will be substantially heavier “. Therefore, the bank board will alter the rate so as to cut the losses and the Treasurer can wring hia hands futilely if he wishes, and table a statement in this Parliament, but the act will have been accomplished. Another point of disagreement could be in regard to rates of interest. The board will return to the old theories about combating inflation and decide that, in order to prevent “ run away “ inflation, it will raise the rate of interest payable on bank loans. Its decision will apply immediately to deposits and overdrafts, and then agaiD we shall have perpetuated the farce of the Treasurer tabling a statement in this Parliament informing it of what has been done. What attitude will the Governmeni take regarding the need to expand credit in a time of falling prices and developing depression ? It will go to the bank board and say, “ We want you to expand credit “. It will not say, “ Expand the note issue “. Shich an action as expanding the note issue is meaningless to-day. The note issue is the small change of economic activity. The bank board will object and say that expansion of credit is inflation, as the previous bank board did on former occasions. So the Government will direct the bank board, through the Treasurer and the Executive Council-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The proposed new section deals with the policy of the bank board and the degree of parliamentary control that will be exercised over its decisions. So far we have heard a number of reason.’ for the Opposition’s objections to the proposed section. Those objections fall into three main categories, the firstof which is that the degree of parliamentary control is to be exactly the same under this measure as it has been under thi- 1945 act. That opinion was voiced by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).. If that is hia real reason I cannot understand: whyhe objects to the present proposal. The second reason that we. have heard from, honorable members opposite is that the Parliament should have less control over, the. board’s decisions- than is- contemplated. The Leader of the; Opposition. (Mr. Chifley) suggested, that great finaai.caaJ secrets might Leak out if documents relating to. matters of considerable- importance* were tabled! in tha- Parliament and! so- brought to. the public: notice-.. It appears therefore- that he adva-. cotes that the- Parliament should. baw? less control oarer the* Commonwealth Bartka-nd thebankboatd’., We have heard: from other honorable member’s opposite, including- the honorable member for Melbourne,, that the Parliament should; have; more control aver the decisions of the board’. 1 suggest that members of theOpposition party should confer- and reach. fi@me degree of agreement upon exactly why tfiey are opposed to this proposed new section, because three very dafferentr reasons have been submitted by therm fJOi far.
– Why does not the- hanoiruble membei’ tell us what he thinks about; the: matter ?
– I certainly shall do so. It has been claimed that no dictatorship was exercised by tha previous Treasurer under the existing provision because in fact everything worked well. People used to defend the dictatorship of Mussolini because he made the Italian trains run on time. That is1 no excuse for allowing the continuance of a dangerous state of affairs which is open to abuse, whether in fact it has or has not been abused in the past. I say that the proposal to establish a board that will arrive at decisions on ordinary banking; an>i financial policy subject to parliamentary control,, is a sane, practieal and democratic one, and I cannot Tanderstand what real opposition can be brought forward against it. [Quorum formed.] The honorable member for Melbourne has suggested that the- minutes of all the meetings of the bank board should be fabled in the Parliament. The honor able member apparently is anxious tohave more parliameittary eontrol. On the’ other handy his leader argued: that financial secrets of the bank might bedisclosed prematurely if the papers relating to any difference of opinion between tha Government, and the bank were tabled in the- Parliament. Therefore,, members of the* Opposition, are not agreed among; themselves in their approach to- this- proposal.. Honorable members opposite have also sadet that there has been no- evidence of a/ dictatorship, und-er- the present system of control of the Commonwealth: Bank. We? eannot say definitely whether a dispute ever occurred between the- Governor of the bank and the; Leader of. the Opposition when he was Treasurer. .Indeed,, it is most unlikely that such a dispute would’ occur, because the Treasurer was’ in a position to> impose his will upon the; Governor; who would realise- that h© depended- upon the’ Treasurer for Ms jobi. In those aia-ciirnstanees there- would be no likelihood of a- difference of opinion if it didi oecur being- aired in pra-Mie. On the other Band, there would be every possibility that amy difference that might arise as- the result of the Treasure of the day,, for party political purposes, giving- a direction to a board wouid be brought into the light of day; and’ the publicity thus given to such a dispute in order- that the people of Australia might express their opinion on it would not involve the premature disclosure of confidential information in the possession of the bank Under the present system of control of the bank the public has no opportunity of ascertaining, whether decisions by the Governor have been really his own. decisions or decisions of the Treasurer. The clause under discussion sets up a system of control whereby the board will carry out its polley subject to the approval of the Treasurer. It p-re-suip-po-‘es that the bank will normally carry out Government policy except in the event of a dispute arising, when each House of the Parliament will be informed of the existence of the dispute. That will provide the most effective check upon arbitrary political interference with the bank in matters pertaining solely to sound banking practice. I should like honorable members opposite to state clearly why they oppose this provision. Let them say whether they believe that control of the Commonwealth Bank by the Parliament should be extended or restricted. As they say this provision does not alter the control provided in the Banking Act 1945 they have no real ground for opposing it.
Motion (by Dame Enid Lyons) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That clause 7 to the end of proposed section 9a be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Dame Enid Lyons) proposed -
That the Chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In the House:
Question put -
That the House will, at a later hour this day, again resolve itself into the said committee,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a matter which I regard as of some importance. I refer to the procedure adopted in regard to the admission to the galleries of this House of members of the public who wish to listen to the parliamentary debates. I understand that tonight’s proceedings-
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule under what standing order the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has the right to raise this matter when there is no business before the House.
– (Hon. Archie Cameron). I am at a loss to know at the moment. Normally, when a motion has been made and accepted by the House that the committee shall be again constituted at a later hour for the further consideration of a bill the next motion is submitted by a Minister.
– I rise to a matter of privilege. I wish to ask you a question.. Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! The honorable member may not ask a question while raising a matter of privilege, which is open to debate.
– And the honorable member must conclude his remarks with the submission of a motion.
– That is the easiest thing in the world to do. The matter of privilege that I raise concerns the right of honorable members to have access to the precincts of the House for the purpose of introducing persons into the House, and the right of some persons to say who shall be admitted and, above all, who shall be excluded. I believe that honorable members have some privileges in this regard. Have the privileges of honorable members been observed? If not, why not?
– The honorable member is completely out of order, because he has not submitted a motion. I have not been able to discover what is the matter of privilegeto which he has addressed himself.
– I desire to move -
That the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) be now heard.
– I do not know that an honorable member may submit a motion in relation to himself.
Motion (by Mr. Clyde Cameron) proposed -
That the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) be now heard.
– Is the motion seconded ?
– I second the motion.
Question put. The House divided.. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I rise to order. If
I may crave a moment of your time, Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the fact that there has been a great deal of dissatisfaction about the issue of tickets for admission to this House. When I made applicacation this morning for one ticket I was told that all the tickets that were available had been issued three or four days ago. I have been informed by other honorable members that they had a similar experience. I do not want to offer any complaint, but I suggest that you examine the matter of reserving to honorable members of this House the right to bring into the House on important occasions either one friend or whatever number you may consider to be reasonable. It occurred to a number of honorable members that to-day was such an occasion.
– Honorable members on both sides of the House.
– Of course. I am not speaking for one side more than the other. One honorable member, a close relation of whom is in Canberra to-day, th is morning applied for a ticket of ad mission to the House and was told that the supply of tickets had been exhausted three or four days ago. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider making some arrangement whereby honorable members may have some privilege in regard to this matter.
– The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), I have been told, has five tickets.
– I have no knowledge of that. I have given a good deal of consideration to this very vexed matter of admission to the public galleries. It was known that a certain measure was to be introduced to-night and it became obvious at the week-end that there would be a great rush to obtain admission to the public galleries. I have insisted that persons who wish to enter the lower gallery, over which I have complete control, shall apply at my office for a ticket. All applications for admission to the top galleries have to be made to the SerjeantatArms. Things have happened lately that have not met with my approval. Certain persons were admitted to the gallery on the lower floor without my permission and against my instructions, and I have an idea about how they got there. If they are found there again they can rest assured that they will be dealt with. I believe that the position became so acute that at lunch-time yesterday 130 applications had been received in excess of the number of seats that could be provided, and that since then the applications have been pouring in. I have had requests from some honorable members for as many as ten seats. The House will realize that I cannot satisfy honorable members to that extent. I shall not try to do so. I have endeavoured to give some consideration to an honorable member who wished: to introduce a friend or, perhaps, a person from another State. In the allocation of seats to-night, due consideration will be given to those people who have come a long way in order to visit Canberra and who will be here, perhaps only once in their life-time, or in ten or twenty years. Because of that I have been obliged to refuse requests from certain residents of Canberra. Except in one or two cases, in one of which overseas visitors were being looked after, they have been told that they could not be admitted. I assure honorable members that my officers and I have given full and careful consideration to this matter. We are endeavouring to do our best, but if the gallery accommodation of the House were twice as great as it is we still would not be able to seat all those who up to last night wished to be admitted to-night.
– My point, Mr. Speaker, was that you might give consideration to reservations for honorable members.
– I shall endeavour to do that. I shall have a talk with the Serjeant-at-Arms during the dinner hour to see what can be done.
– I know the difficulties of the present position. I am speaking in regard to the future.
– Consideration will also be given to future arrangements. If honorable members who have friends intending to visit the House would advise the Serjeant-at-Arms or my private secretary, that would help considerably. There are times when the galleries are almost empty. If on such occasions an honorable member were to say, “ I should like to put half a dozen visitors in the gallery”, I should agree to his doing so.
– I understand that the issuing of tickets for admission to the upper gallery was a recent innovation. Honorable members should have been notified of the change and given an equal opportunity to obtain tickets.
– They were.
-I did not consider that special notification should be given. I regarded to-night’s circumstances as unusual and I do not anticipate that they will be repeated for a considerable time.
– They have arisen before.
– Not since I have been in the Chair. I assure the right honorable gentleman that I shall take his representations into account. Honorable members know as well as I do when an important matter is to crop up and 1 suggest that they give my staff an early opportunity of knowing their requirements. In many cases, requests for seats were made by some honorable members very late to-day, and I found it quit” impossible to accommodate them.
Sitting suspended from 6..!/ to 8 p.m.
: DISTINGUISHED VISITOR.
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). I desire to inform the House that the Honorable W. G. Poison, Minister without portfolio in the Government of the Dominion of New Zealand, is within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable members, 1 shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Mr. Poison thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed ;to with the concurrence of an absolute majority of the members of the House.
That so much of tho Standing Orders be suSipended as would prevent the Prime Minister concluding his speech without limitation of time.
– by leave - I move; -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to outlaw and dissolve the Australian Communist party, to pursue it into any new or associated forms, and to deal with the employment of Communists in certain offices and under certain circumstances. The bill is admittedly novel, and it is far-reaching. It is not an industrial law. It is not a law made under the conciliation and arbitration power. We are, therefore, not seeking by this bill to make any amendments to theCommonwealthConciliation and Arbitration Act. This proposed law is, in a most special and important sense, a law relating tothe safety and defence of Australia. It is designed to deal with, and, incertain cases, to give the Government power to deal with, the King’s enemies in this country. If it touches certain Communists in their industrial office, as it certainly does, that is merely an inevitable consequence of a self-defending attack upon treason and fifth-columnism wherever theymay be found. Let me say at the outset that it will bewithout avail forany honorable member to pointout, ascan be done quite readily, that for some years Iand other persons resisted the idea of aCommunist ban on the ground that, in time of peace, doubts ought toberesolved in favour of free speech. True, that was my view af ter the war, and it was the view of many others.But events have moved. We are not at peace to-day,except in a technical sense. The Soviet Union - and I say this with profound regret - has made perfect the technique of the “ cold-war “_ ft has accompanied it by the organization of peace demonstrations - peace demonstrations, save the mark - designed, not to promote true peace, hut to prevent or impairdefence preparations in the democracies. We in this House and in this country, andpeople allover the British world, havewitnessed the mostthreateningevents ineasternEurope, inGermany, in East Asiaand in South-East Asia. If we have learnednothing from all these things then, in the famous phrase,there is so health inus.
The real and active Communists in Australia present us with our immediate problem - not thewoolly-headed dupes, not the people who are pushed to the front in order to present a respectable appearance, but thereal and active Communists. We have a clear choice, and we must make it clearly. We can attack these Communists frontally, orwe can adopt inaction and justify it by accepting one or all of the arguments that arc used currently to justify inaction. Let me examine one or two of them before I go any further. I have selected merely those (that have the greatest currency. The first alignment that is put is, “ Well, the Communists are wrong, but we must not impair liberty, because liberty as democracy’s cause “. Why, then, didwe fight the Germans? Becausethey sought to overthrow liberty! Can we recognize anddealwith the enemies of liberty only when they actually take up arms? Are we to treat deliberate frustration of national recovery, of economic stability and of proper defence preparations as a mereexercise of normal civil rights? In anyevent, what is liberty ? Liberty isnot an abstraction. It must be related in thisworld And in these daysto the recognitionof the State and, in a democ- racy, to the recognitionofself-governing institutions. Unless that is true there can be no suchthing as treason, no such thing as subversive activity. After all, what liberty should there be for the enemiesofliberty under the law? It is a curious and dangerous error of thought to be prepared to deal with individual sedition but to , give immunity to sedition in the mass.
The second argument that is advanced is, “ You cannot suppress ideas “. That isquite true. Ideas may be the most powerful things in the world. But if ideas give rise to overt action, and that action is against the safety and defence of the realm, we are not onlyentitled but also bound to suppress it. Nothing nauseates me more than to discover the skill with whichthese Communistscan put into their vanguard some deluded Minister of the Christian religion. I should like to say to all of them that I have no hostility to minority movements. Christianity itself is the greatest minoritymovement of history,but they should remember the wordsof its Founder. Christianity from the beginning was never the enemy of law or order. “ Bender unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
The third argument is, “ You must not touch a Communist if he is a union official “. That is an arrogant claim, because it seeks to put the trade unions above the law, and most unionists, as good democrats, will reject it. A brief analysis will demonstrate its want of substance. If communism is just a peaceful political philosophy, then the Communists should go free whether they be unionists or non-unionists. If communism in action is just militant unionism, opposed to arbitration but determined to alter the law by lawful means, no punitive action against communism can be justified. But if communism is an international conspiracy against the democracies, organized as a prelude to war and operating as a fifth column in advance of hostilities and if it is a. subversive movement challenging law, self-government and domestic peace, then the alleged immunity of the official of a union or any other body is utter fantasy. For, once you establish that the Communist is our enemy, the fact that he occupies a key industrial position with power to hold up work, so far from being a ground of immunity, is the best reason in the world for removing him from that position.
At the last general election, 87,958 persons, a small fraction of the total number of electors, voted for Communist candidates. The importance of the Australian Communist is, therefore, not numerical but positional. It is the position he occupies that counts. In order to establish that fact, I propose to refer, at the risk of being tedious, to a list of Communists in high union office. In the first place, eleven prominent trade union officials are members of the central committee of the Australian Communist party. Now let us have their names. Let us look at the jobs that they hold in order to see how this comparatively small handful of men have got into positions from which they can do damage to this great and beloved country of ours. Their names are -
They are the names of eleven men, all of whom are members of the central committee of the Australian Communist party. I add to that list, not for the purpose of completing it, but by way of illustration, because these names are not by any means all, the names of other Communists who hold important union office in key industries. I hope that honorable members will be patient with me because there are more names than ten or twenty on this list, but every one of the people detailed in the list is in a key industry. The names are -
It takes some time to read even such a short list as that, but I hope that it will be well observed in this country that these Communists are not to be ignored as if they were a mere handful. They occupy key positions in key organizations in the industries upon which this country would have to depend if tomorrow it were fighting for its life. The choice before us is a grim but a simple one. We can do nothing, and let a traitorous minority destroy us, as they most assuredly intend to do; we can leave the Communist free to do his work so long as he is a union official, but deal with him in any other capacity; or - and this is the answer to the choice - we can fight him wherever we find him, leaving him no immunity and no sanctuary at all. It is an insult to the Australian unionist to treat him as a man incapable of reason, or as a citizen indifferent to the march of communism in the world or to the safety of his own land.
So far I have dealt with three arguments that have been raised. I turn now to the fourth. That argument is that by banning the Communists we shall merely drive them underground. In the light of what we now know of the international and domestic activities of communism, that argument is not to be taken seriously. Some of the deeds of the Communists see the daylight, but their planning is done by stealth and in secrecy. In short, they are underground already. One thing that we can be certain about, and that I am grateful for, is that once the taint of illegality is placed on this organization of conspiracy its capacity to delude well-meaning people into providing it with a “respectable “ front “ will be sensibly diminished.
I turn now to the recitals set out in the bill because, as honorable members will see, this bill is introduced by a series of recitals which, first of all, set out the power that the Commonwealth is using to deal with the Communists; and, secondly, set out what I shall roughly describe as the case against the Australian Communist. If honorable members look at the first three recitals they will find that reference ia made in them to the power of the Commonwealth of Australia to make laws with respect to the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the States. The Executive power to maintain the Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth, and the general incidental powers of the Constitution are also mentioned. I refer to those, not because I want to take up time dealing with them, but because I want to emphasize to all honorable members that in dealing with this menace we stand on two great principles. The first is the defence of this country, and the second is our right and duty to maintain the Constitution and the laws against any wrecking attack whatever. I emphasize throughout that this is no ordinary act of Parliament. It is not a bill about conciliation and arbitration; it is a bill for an act about the defence of this country. Having recited our power, the bill goes on to allege five sets of facts which the House is asked to accept as the justification for the Government’s action. There are five counts in this indictment, and I accept at once the responsibility of demonstrating their truth. Indeed, as I proceed, the House will discover that I propose, during the course of this speech, to call as witnesses to sustain these five counts, the most authoritative persons - Lenin, Stalin, Australian Communist leaders, and the Australian Labour party in the person of my friend the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They shall all be giving evidence in respect of this indictment before my remarks end. Each of the recitals, I believe, can be readily demonstrated to be true. In total, they establish a state of affairs both menacing and alarming, and one which no democratic parliament can ignore. It is a state of affairs that cries aloud for strong, united and positive action. I shall take the material recitals in their order. I consider first, the fourth recital in the order in which they appear in the preamble. That says -
And whereas the Australian Communist party, in accordance with the basic theory of communism, as expounded by Marx and Lenin, engages in activities or operations designed to assist or accelerate the coming of a revolutionary situation, in which the Australian Communist party, acting as a revolutionary minority, would be able to seize power and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.
I apologize for the long words included in that recital, but they are not ours. The world “ proletariat “ is one of those dreadful words that the Communists have foisted on to the world. I have here a copy of the constitution of the Australian Communist party, and a fascinating document it is. If one were to read it, with the omission of one passage that I shall refer to, one would almost think that the Communist party was the right wing of the Labour party. If ever there has been a fraudulent document, it is this constitution of the Australian Communist party. It is, on the face of it, fraudulent, because it piously claims that the party is a firm supporter of the United Nations, that it believes in world peace, and that it does not aim at establishing a totalitarian State. It even professes to adopt the democratic method, because it talks about the necessity for winning a majority of the Australian people. Such a fraudulent affair I have rarely looked at. It is a case of “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it “. If we look for the serpent under it, we shall find it at once. The whole thing is so inconsistent with the beliefs of Russian communism that I felt rather thankful to find that the Australian Communist, forgetting for the moment this air of respectability, put himself, to use his own words, “ into line with the great teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin”.
Now let us have a look at what those great teachings are, on the line of which the Australian Communist party goes out to its task. A little more realism emerges from the Australian edition of The Foundations of Leninism, by Joseph Stalin, which was published here in 1942, and reprinted in 1943 and again in 1944. It has a foreword by the celebrated Australian Communist, L. L. Sharkey. He is one of the leading Australian Communists, and in that foreword he forgets about the respectable words that he is going to write into the constitution of the party some day, and writes as follows: -
This little book, The Foundation of Leninism,* is as invaluable for us to-day as when it was first penned, especially for the understanding of the developing world-wide people’s movement: its organizations before and after its victory and, in particular, the role and form of organization of the advanceguard of the working class.
So here it is, ushered in by the Australian Communist Sharkey. We have in this book a look at Stalin’s interpretation of Lenin, and Lenin’s interpretation of Marx and Engels. This is not ancient history. Here is an interpretation by the modern ruler, the man who at this moment rules Russian communism, of the former distinguished ruler of the same movement, and of the classical founders of it. In that book Stalin cancels the later false pretences of the Australian Communist party with one sweeping gesture. This is what he says -
Concerning the prerequisites for the seizure of power by the proletariat. The opportunists assert that the proletariat cannot and ought not to seize power if it does not itself constitute a majority in the country. No proofs are adduced, for this absurd thesis cannot be justified either theoretically or practically.
That is a very interesting revelation of the Communist mind. In the same important book, the greatest modern Communist emphasizes our words in the recital, “ assist or accelerate the coming of a revolutionary situation”. I invite the attention of all good Australians who love their own country and who value their own traditions and freedom to pay heed to them. They are as follows: -
But the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and establishment of the power of the proletariat in one country still does not mean that the complete victory of socialism has been ensured. After consolidating its power and taking the peasantry in tow, the proletariat of the victorious country can and must build up a socialist society. But does this mean that it will thereby achieve the complete and final victory of socialism, i.e., does it mean that with the forces of only one country it can finally consolidate socialism and fully guarantee that country against intervention? . . . No, it does not. For this the victory of the revolution in at least several countries is needed. Therefore, the development and support of revolution in other countries is an essential task of the victorious revolution. Therefore, the revolution in the victorious country must regard itself as a means of hastening the victory of the proletariat in other countries.
Lenin expressed this thought in a nutshell, when he said that the task of the victorious revolution is to do the utmost possible in one country for the development, support and stirring up of the revolution in all countries .-
Those are strong words. We are dealing here not with the mild exercises of the debating society, but with a programme deliberately considered and explained to us by the man who, perhaps, at this moment, exercises more power over more people than does any other human being in the world.
The next recital in the bill to which I shall refer, is in the following words : -
And whereas the Australian Communist Party also engages in activities or operations designed to bring about the overthrow or dislocation of the established system of government of Australia and the attainment of economic, industrial or political ends by force, violence, intimidation or fraudulent practices:
No person who is familiar with modern history will require much proof of those allegations, but if needed, it is available in abundance. I go back to Stalin himself. In his book from which I have already quoted, he makes, at a certain stage, some rather contemptuous remarks about orthodox Labour governments like that of the late Ramsay MacDonald in Great Britain, and he states -
The dictatorship of the proletariat does not arise on the basis of the bourgeois order; it arises while this order is being torn down, after the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, in the process of the expropriation of the landlords and capitalists, during the process of socialization of the principal instruments and means of production, in the process of violent proletarian revolution. The dictatorship of the proletariat is a revolutionary power based on violence against the bourgeoisie.
I have not been able to put my hand on the precise text during the last few days, but I well remember a statement which was made by Lenin himself when somebody said, in effect, “Yes, but the word ‘ revolution ‘, you know, has an ugly sound. Does it not simply mean reform’ - to get something by pressure, by arrangement, by bargain ? “ Lenin’s reply was in line with what all the great Communists have said for years. It was as follows: - “Reform! The reformists! We reserve the lowest place in hell for the reformists. ‘Revolution’ means what it says. It means guns, rifles, bayonets “. Let no one be woolly-minded about this matter. When Stalin talks about revolutionary power based on violence, he means exactly what he says. Honorable members are familiar, of course, with the jargon of the Marxist writers. They talk about the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Indeed, they seem to be incapable of saying things in what we would regard as a simple way, although their meaning, I am afraid, is all too clear and their actions are even clearer. A “ bourgeois “, wretched creature, began life in France as what we call a “burgess” - that is to say, the citizen of a city or a burgh as distinct from a country dweller. But as Marx and Engels and their successors use the term, it describes what would be called in other countries the middle classes, the capitalists, great or small, the people with money saved, the shopkeepers, the farmers and all those who are not wage-earners and not those who, in the words of Engels - having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live.
The latter are the proletariat. I pause to make that short explanation because, clearly, we in this Parliament, whether we like it or not, belong to the bourgeoisie, and so, thank Heaven, do many hundreds of thousands of other Australians dwelling peacefully in their homes and among their children. I quote another statement by Stalin. I assure the House that I am not trying to overload this matter, but these are pregnant words -
To put it briefly: The dictatorship of the proletariat is the domination of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, untrammelled by law and based on violence and enjoying the sympathy and. support of the toiling and exploited masses.
The same man is even franker a little later in his celebrated lectures when he talks about the destruction of the bourgeois State machine, of the bourgeois army, of the bourgeois civil administration and of the bourgeois police. He then makes the following statement: -
In other words, the law of violent proletarian revolution, the law of destruction of the machinery of the bourgeois state as a condition precedent for such revolution, is an inevitable law of the revolutionary movement in the imperialist countries of the world.
We may as well face up to the fact that to-day we are, in the view of the Communists, one of the imperialist countries of the world. There is a reference in the preamble to fraud. Stalin, in his lectures, has given us a sidelight on fraud. He has stated -
The revolutionary will accept areform in order to use it as a means wherewith to link legal work with illegal work, in order to use it as a screen behind which his illegal activities for the revolutionary preparation of the masses for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie may be intensified.
Does not that ring a bell in the minds of Australians? Have they not seen, time after time, the Australian Communist with all this wicked scheming in his mind, getting in alongside people, and claiming the merit for some reform, and the credit for some wage increase or for some advance, because, as his leader has said, it is necessary to link the legal with the illegal so that the fraud may be all the more successful. Such quotations as I have given may be multiplied. I shall not multiply them, because they are more than sufficient to establish not only that modern communism is prepared to adopt force, violence and fraud, but also that these diabolical doctrines enjoy the goodwill, and, indeed, are written on the banner, of the Australian Communists. Sharkey, to whom I have referred, published in 1942 and 1943 a pamphlet on the trade unions. Let us not forget what happened in those years - the battles of the Coral Sea and the Kokoda Trail. Sharkey called the pamphlet The Trade Unions. In his preface he acknowledges, I am happy to say because it may be useful to us hereafter, the services of a number of “comrades”, particularly Comrades Miles, Dixon, Thornton and Wright. Their names will not be overlooked. In that pamphlet Sharkey attacked quite candidly the problem of the relationship between the Communist and the trade union. Like all Communist writers, as I have said, he uses the most abominably prolix langauge, but the meaning is clear enough. He says -
Marxism-Leninism thus places a fundamental task for us in regard to the trade unions, the defeat of reformism . . . for which almost every honorable member opposite has stood, I venture to say, all his life - and their transformation into revolutionary bodies fighting for the Proletarian Dictatorship.
Here is the united front coming out of the mists, this notion that has been peddled for the last few weeks, chalked on walls in such words as the following: -
Make a united front against the Government.
He then goes on to expose the hand of the Communists - the hand that has been exposed in this campaign with which we are all familiar. If any of the hundreds of thousands of decent, honest, patriotic Australian trade unionists have been tempted to accept a call for a united front under the good old name of “solidarity” they should pay attention to what Sharkey says in this pamphlet, because here are his words -
The main task of the Communist parties of the west at the present time is to develop the campaign for unity in the trade union movement and to bring it to its consummation; to see to it that all Communists, without exception, join trade unions, there to work systematically and patiently to strengthen the solidarity of the working class in its fight against capital, and thus attain the condition that will enable the Communist parties to rely upon the trade unions.
Sharkey, having quoted that statement, says -
These words were spoken by Stalin sixteen years ago, but they might have been said yesterday, for they still hold force for us.
The same Australian Communist leader, as an earnest disciple of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin has nothing but contempt for the “ reformers “. The words “reformer” and “reformist” run through all the writings of all the Communists. They are stingingly used by them to describe those who seek what we in Australia call “ constitutional action “, and who are opposed to bloody and violent revolution. This is what he says about them -
Reformism no longer has 100 per cent, domination of the Australian union movement. The Communists are now a growing and powerful force, challenging the whole position of reformism and transforming the trade unions into organs of revolutionary strusrgle for socialism. In the process, the trade union movement will be freed from the paralysing grip of arbitration.
Finally he refers to that apparently innocent body, the shop committee. Again he is uncommonly frank, so frank indeed that it is a pity that some of the fools who are deluded by these people should not know what they really stand for. He sees the shop committee as a weapon for dastardly Communist designs. This is what he says -
The shop committees play a most important role in the preparation and mobilization of the workers for strike action. They play an important Tole in leading the stnke and combating betrayal and reformist misleadership. In a revolutionary situation, the Shop Committees would be one of the chief instruments for drawing the whole of the workingclass into the fight, into the street, and the general revolutionary struggle.
Let us understand that all those things, so good in their fashion, so capable of being well used, are seized upon by the Communist, if he is in the right position to use them, as a means of engineering his own ends.
Having called those witnesses I turn now to the best proof of all of the gravity of this problem and of the temperate nature of the language of the recitals. That proof comes from the Labour party itself. Honorable members will recall that last year, during the great coal strike, the then Government inserted in the press a series of advertisements that carried the line “ Authorized by the Prime Minister of Australia”. I shall quote a few passages from those advertisements, not only because they emanated from the Labour party but because the present Government agrees with them and considers them admirably expressed. Here are the words used in one advertisement -
This strike was planned months ago by the Communist section of the Miners’ leaders. They did not want the claims to be dealt with by Arbitration. Miners ! Do not be misled by Communists who want to wreck the Arbitration system.
Here is another advertisement -
This is a strike against Arbitration engineered by the Communist party as part of a conspiracy to prevent Miners from obtaining any gains from the lawfully-constituted tribunal. The imprisonment of J. H. King (secretary of the Western Minors’ Federation ) and another union official is the direct result of this conspiracy and nothing else.
Another advertisement read -
Britain and the Dominions face crucial problems in the very near future . . .
How true that was and is. The advertisement continued -
Miners! Stand by your own country. Miners! Stand by Britain. Do not be misled by Communists who want to destroy the democratic way of life.
Those are the words of the honorable gentlemen sitting opposite. Finally, because I have saved the most powerful statement to the last, we have the declaration of the 1948 conference of the LabouT party. I am not clear, and am open to correction, about whether the declaration came from the Victorian branch of the party or its federal body, but that does not matter because in any event it is a powerful statement. It was printed in 1949 by the Victorian branch with its constitution and its platform, and I quote from pages 66 and 67 of that Labour party publication. I ask honorable members to listen to these words carefully. They refer to the position of the Australian Labour party. They have perhaps, in that respect, a limited application, but as a denunciation of real communism the declaration would be hard to improve upon. Here are the passages^ -
Conference declares the Communist party to be an organization receiving both iti inspiration and its major directives from the Russian Communist party, and warns members of the Australian Labour party and its affiliated organizations that Communist policy towards both the defence and the economic rehabilitation of Australia is governed by other than Australian considerations. This situation is emphasized by increasing evidence of a plan for the obstruction of economic recovery and the promotion of social disorder.
Such endeavours to destroy the influence of the Australian Labour party and thereby prevent the democratic accomplishment of social reform are an integral part of world Communist policy for the creation of economic chaos, social disorder and weakening of democratic institutions, as a prerequisite for a revolutionary seizure of State power, Government by Communist dictatorship, and ruthless suppresion by secret police of these civil liberties which the Australian Labour party is pledged to defend.
Those are not the words of some reactionary tory body. Those are the words of the Australian Labour party. They constitute an indictment of communism right here in Australia, so severe and so profound in its implications that I cannot believe that any party that propounded them could say to the people about whom it expressed them, “But all the same, you may go free to do your work and to occupy whatever place you choose to occupy from which to do it”. The passage continued -
The conspiratorial nature of the Communist organization with its secret factions in other bodies, calls for the greatest loyalty and vigilance by members of the Australian Labour party and its affiliated organizations. The Communist philosophy uses both falsehood and chicanery as instruments of penetration and domination.
Here is the final summing-up-
Within the democratic constitution of the Australian Labour party there exists adequate scope for discussion and dissent. There can be no scope for sabotage and treachery. Nor, in view of the gravity of international outlook, can there be any excuse for members of the Australian Labour party, however well meaning, who permit themselves to be actively associated with Communist influences directed against the Australian Labour party, the Commonwealth Labour Government and the Australian nation.
Those were the words of the Australian Labour party in 1948. Now, that great party presents itself with its own dilemma in dealing with the bill before the House. It has categorically admitted that the Communists are disloyal; that they are wreckers ; that they are directed from outside Australia; that they are engineering to create economic chaos and social disorder; that they are bent on destroying democratic institutions ; that they are aiming at a revolutionary seizure of state power; that they are enemies of civil liberty; that they are conspirators, and that their weapons are falsehood, chicanery and sabotage. Those are the words of the Labour party. And yet, we are told, although we have not yet been told by His Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament, that whatever else may be done to those enemies of Australia, they are to be untouchable if they bear office in a trade union. They are apparently not to be untouchable if they bear office under the Commonwealth, which represents the whole of the people. The immunity that has been claimed for them in some quarters is to attach to them as office-bearers, not under the whole community, but in a particular organization. Surely, it must be clear to all honorable members that the more skilfully the Communist in a trade union, carrying out the Communist tactics to which I have just referred, plays his cards for office and power, the more likely he is to delude many of his follow trade unionists into voting for him. Indeed, that kind of delusion is his business. Yet, if he is sufficiently skilful in his destructive task, we are told, though as yet not in this House, that the unions, or some of them, will regard this as a good reason why the community should leave him alone with all his power and special facilities for working out his evil designs. The Government cannot believe that that represents the sober judgment of the Australian wage-earner -
The next recital in the bill is -
And whereas the Australian Communist party is an integral part of the world communist revolutionary movement, which, in the King’s dominions and elsewhere, engages in espionage and sabotage and in activities or operations of a treasonable or subversive nature and also engages in activities or operations similar to those, or having an object similar to the object of those, referred to in the last two preceding paragraphs of this preamble.
Communism is not an Australian phenomenon only. It is a world move ment. In its principal home - and let us be candid about this matter - it is the prime mover in the world’s present disorders and want of peace, and the prime cause of the fears which now distract hundreds of millions of peace-loving people all over the world. The point of view of the Russian Communists has been admirably stated in a report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the United States House of Representatives issued by the American State Department in 1948 under the title The Strategy and Tactics of World Communism. I shall read one passage only from that report, because it sums up the position. It is as follows: -
An examination of all aspects of Soviet and Communist policy and tactics leads directly to some simple conclusions -
The Communists have one goal - world revolution.
They assume that the revolution will be violent.
They are incapable of accepting the idea that peace can endure from now on, and they expect one more catastrophic war.
The Soviet Union is regarded as the main force of the revolution.
They fear a coalition against the Soviet Union.
They therefore fear reconstruction or federation in the non-Communist world.
They utilize the most modern and effective means of cold warfare to strengthen their own forces and to weaken all others.
The Communist parties outside the Soviet Union are junior partners or auxiliaries.
The tactics are based upon a definite theory, and the central propositions of that theory do not change.
That is a report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives of the United States of America. I need not dwell on events that are fresh in the minds of honorable members in relation to others of His Majesty’s Dominions. The Canadian royal commission disclosed a grievous state of affairs which indicated that espionage in that dominion had assumed great and deadly dimensions. The recent trial of Dr. Fuchs in Great Britain disclosed circumstances of a precisely similar kind. Certainly, the Australian Labour party had no illusion on this point on the 14th
May, 1947, when its Federal Executive passed a resolution in these terms : -
The Federal Executive of the Australian Labour party congratulates the Prime Minister- that is my friend, the Leader of the Opposition - - and Dr. Evatt on the firm stand taken by the Government against the proposed black ban on the rocket range project. It is apparent that the propaganda recently issued by the Communist party in connexion with this undertaking is for the sole purpose of defeating the Australian defence policy in the interests of a foreign power.
The Australian Labour party did not stop with that resolution of its Federal Executive, because the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and who was then Attorney-General wrote a pamphlet in which he undertook to prove, and did prove, exactly the same thing.
The next recital of the bill is -
And whereas certain industries are vital to the security and defence of Australia (includ ing the coal-mining industry, the iron and steel industry, the engineering industry, the building industry, the transport industry and the power industry).
That recital calls for no argument. The security and defence of Australia are dependent not only upon the valour of our troops in time of war and upon the industry with which they are supported in the factory and on the farm, but also upon the continuity of those great industries that are vital to a national effort should war come. It is a childish idea that the fifth column springs miraculously into existence when a war is on. It is carefully prepared and organised in advance. By strike and sabotage, it conducts its own cold-war and the success of that war depends upon the strength, or weakness, of the community in which it operates. We would not have tolerated a fifth column in Australia from 1939 to 1945. We, certainly do not propose to tolerate one in 1950, at a time when militant communism, checked for the time being in Western Europe, is moving east and south-east to carry out its plans to put down democracy and to usher in the revolution. Coal-mining, iron and steel, engineering, transport, building and power are key industries. There may well be others which under this legislation the GovernorGeneral may from time to time proclaim. In the considered judgment of His Majesty’s Government in Australia it would be an act of criminal folly to leave revolutionary Communists in key positions in those industries so that with all their smallness of numbers they may achieve destructive results which five army corps could hardly hope to achieve.
The next recital is -
And whereas activities or operations of, or encouraged by, the Australian Communist party, and activities or operations of, or encouraged by, members or officers of that party, and other persons who are Communists, are designed to cause, by means of strikes or stoppages of work, and have, by those means, caused dislocation, disruption or retardation of production or work in those vital industries.
That has only to be stated to prove itself to any Australian who, since the end of the war, has witnessed a series of strikes, mostly political, many of them against governments or government authorities, and obviously designed to dislocate production, to accelerate inflation - make no mistake, it is part of the considered Communist technique to accelerate inflation - and so to break down the existing social, business and industrial order.
It will be recalled - indeed, I hope that it has not been forgotten - that until Russia was brought into the recent war by Hitler’s invasion, the Australian Communist party was opposed to the war, that it did its best to sabotage the war effort and that it denounced the war as “ an imperialist, capitalist struggle for supremacy”. I hope that we shall not forget that right through the vital stages of the Battle for Britain, and at a time when our own troops were performing immortal exploits of courage and endurance in the Middle East, the Australian Communists were our mortal enemies, and that it was only when Russia came in, after being invaded, that they decided that patriotism was to be their new line. When the war was over, they reverted to type. The Communists in Australia may get a few dupes of both sexes to sit on their platform, to attend their bogus peace conferences and demonstrations and to put out stupid and pernicious propaganda to the effect that the Soviet Union is the only friend of peace and that its territorial aggressions in the last six years which, perhaps, are unequalled in history, ought to be regarded as friendly gestures. But the truth is that once more the Australian Communists are, in the words of the Australian Labour party Declaration, creating “ economic chaos, social disorder and weakening of democratic institutions as a prerequisite to the revolutionary seizure of State power”.
I turn now to the operative provisions of the bill. I shall sum them up sufficiently to convey them to the House by saying that the bill does six main things. First, it declares the Australian Communist party unlawful, dissolves it, and appoints a receiver of its property. If there is any surplus over liabilities, that surplus will be paid into the Commonwealth. Secondly, the bill deals with affiliated associations or bodies controlled by the Communists, though from these bodies are excluded trade unions. We are not going to suggest that a trade union should be dissolved because its management committee happens to have a majority of Communists on it. A trade union of itself is a legitimate organization and, therefore is excluded from these provisions. Leaving the trade unions apart, these provisions deal with bodies controlled by the Communists and bodies advocating communism in a way that I shall describe. Honorable members may be interested to know that one of the bodies associated with communism, the Eureka Youth League, has gone to the ingenuity - it seems to have a lawyer in its ranks - to show that the league is not affiliated with the Communist party, but that the Communist party has affiliated itself with the league. It has gone round the corner to get over a difficulty, but that will not help it because clause 5 of the bill deals with bodies affiliated with the Communists and bodies controlled, in effect, by Communists as well as bodies advocating communism. That clause does two things, and about this we must be clear. Where the GovernorGeneral finds a body of that kind and he is satisfied that its continued existence would be prejudicial to the defence or to the execution or main tenance of the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth - that is that the body answers the description; and, secondly, that the Governor-General is satisfied that its existence is prejudicial to the existence of the country - he may declare that body unlawful and appoint a receiver of its property. Any body so declared– other than the Communist party, of course, because under this measure that party is being disposed of with no right of appeal and no humbug - may appeal to the High Court; and the onus is placed upon that body to satisfy the court that it is not a body to which this legislation applies. Let us face up to that, because it will be suggested by some people of liberal mind - and I appreciate their attitude - that to reverse the onus of proof is wrong. I have only to remind the House that in time of war we have not hesitated to do that very thing. In time of actual shooting war we have not hesitated to use Executive discretions against which there was no appeal at all. We are not now dealing with ordinary private litigation or with the ordinary domestic laws of the country. In this bill we are dealing with a conspiracy against the life of this country, and if we are going to deal *ith that in a realistic sense it would be foolish to expose to the Communists all our material and sources of information and knowledge of those who are conducting these investigations. Nothing would suit the Communists better. This is one of those few occasions on which it is right to say to a man who is declared, or to a body which is declared, “ If you want to demonstrate that you are not within this net, prove it, because, after all, you should be the one who knows the facts “.
Thirdly, the bill provides that officers and members of unlawful associations - that is to say, any of those associations with which I have been dealing - are under penalty of imprisonment to cease their activities as such. They are not to seek any direct or indirect support for any unlawful association, or carry on any activity in which that association was engaged. Fourthly, the bill provides that where the Governor-General is satisfied that after the 10th May, 1948, and before the dissolution of an association a person was a member or officer of it, and any activities of that person are likely to be prejudicial to defence or to the execution and maintenance of the Constitution or laws of the Commonwealth, His Excellency may make and publish a declaration accordingly. Let me cite a specific example and for that purpose use the name “ John Smith “ as describing nobody in particular. John Smith was a member of the Australian Communist party after the10th May, 1948, and before the Communist party had been dissolved by this legislation. In addition, if the Governor-General is satisfied that John Smith is a person whose activities - not his past views, but his activities - are likely to be prejudicial to defence or to the execution and the maintenance of the Constitution or laws of the Commonwealth, His Excellency will proclaim that fact by declaration, and his proclamation will go out to the world. John Smith, having been so declared in the Gazette, may appeal to the High Court. In making his appeal he will have the onus of satisfying the court that he was not, at any material time, a member or officer of the association in question. What happens to him when he is declared? That is covered by the fifth principal provision in the bill. A declared person who answers to those two descriptions - first, that he is a Communist; and, secondly, that his activities are prejudicial to the defence of this country - shall be disqualified from employment by the Commonwealth or by a Commonwealth authority. As far as the Commonwealth services are concerned he will be “ gone “. We have not undertaken to deal with State employment for obvious reasons. State governments and State Parliaments can attend to State employment as such. That, after all, is why the views of the State governments on this matter are of very great importance.
I now turn momentarily to the position of organizations. If the GovernorGeneral - and, as honorable members know, that means the Governor-General in Council - is satisfied that a substantial number of the members of an industrial organization are engaged in what I shall call key industries - one of those industries to which I have referred such as coal-mining, iron and steel, building, engineering and so on - or in some other industry which in the opinion of the Governor-General is vital to the security and defence of Australia, His Excellency may declare that organization accordingly. I shall cite an example. The Governor-General may declare that he is satisfied that a substantial number of the members of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association are engaged in what he regards as a key industry. He thereupon declares that association. Nothing happens to the association. It is merely declared to be an organization a substantial number of the members of which are engaged in a key industry. No disability is imposed on it. The important result of the declaration is that a declared person, John Smith, to whom I have referred, who has been declared in the Gazette to be a person whose activities are likely to be prejudicial to defence or the execution and maintenance of the Constitution or laws of the Commonwealth, is thereupon disqualified from holding office in that organization or any branch of it. To sum up, such a declared person cannot hold office in a declared organization associated with a key industry. In effect, a Communist whose activities are likely to prejudice the defence or the orderly government of Australia is to be debarred from holding office under the Crown or in an organization which is concerned with activities that are vital to the security of the country. In other words, the enemies of the peace of the country are not to be allowed to occupy positions in which they can give the greatest effect to their evil designs.
I should add that the date - the10th May,1948 - has been selected because it was the last day of the National Congress of the Australian Communist party by which the constitution of that party was adopted. Not one of us in this House has any love for retrospective legislation. But quite clearly, as a matter of plain horse sense, if this bill dealt only with those who could be shown to be Communist party members on the date on which this bill becomes an act obviously there would then be no party members or officers to be affected by it and the legislation would be a complete futility. We are not prepared to facilitate a farce of that kind. Our Communist enemies are known ; they have been active at least since the selected date, the 10th May, 1948, and they come within the purview of the bill accordingly.
The whole matter can be summed up in this way : If the recitals in the preamble of the bill are in substance true, its operative provisions are most obviously just and reasonable. If the recitals are in substance, false, then, not only is the bill unjust, but also the Dean of Canterbury is right, the North Atlantic Pact is mere hysteria and both British and American policy are wickedly wrong. We are now bound to make our choice.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chifley) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 1994).
Clause 7 - Proposed new sections 9b (Management of the Bank) ; and 9o (Bank and Treasury to establish liaison).
– Sub-section (3.) of proposed new section 9b, which contains perhaps the most important of the provisions now before the committee, reads as follows: - (3.) In the management of the Bank, the Governor shall act in accordance with the policy of the Bank and with any directions of the Board.
The operation of that provision will depend upon those that have already been agreed to by the committee. The Opposition wishes to make it perfectly clear that it will oppose every provision in this bill which relates to the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board. I have spoken at some length on that proposal and I do not intend to repeat what I have already said. I was interested to hear certain statements made by Government spokesmen during the earlier stages of the committee debate, in particular those made by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey). New members who, with the blessing of the press, have come into this chamber to raise the dignity of the Parliament could not have been edified by the language used by the right honor able gentleman. He is a senior Minister and therefore his views cannot be disregarded. The right honoraible gentleman has indicated that he would select for appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board, and to other boards that may be established by the Government, men who had no knowledge of the subject with which they would have to deal. He has said that a very distinguished gentleman, the Chief Justice of South Australia, and another gentleman of high standing in the world of economics who is attached to the University of Sydney, have no knowledge of the subject of banking. He has indicated that in the past he had selected for appointment to boards established by the Government of the day persons who had no knowledge of the work that they were called upon to do. I do not think that a more remarkable statement has ever been made in this Parliament by a responsible Minister.
The CHAIRMAN’ (Mr. Adermann).The committee has already dealt with the establishment and functions of the Commonwealth Bank Board. It is now dealing with provisions relating to the management of the bank and the liaison that shall exist between the bank and the Treasury. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to confine his remarks to the proposed new sections under discussion.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I was leading up to the fact that under sub-section (3.) of proposed new section 9b, the Governor of the Bank will be obliged to take directions from at least five men who know nothing at all about the subject of banking. I make no attack on. the personal character of those men. I merely point out that the Governor of the Bank, who is skilled in national and international economics and banking practice will be forced to accept directions from men who know nothing about those abstruse subjects. I do not know what is meant by the words “the policy of the bank” in sub-section (3.) of proposed section 9b unless they infer the bank board itself. If that is so it means that the policy of the bank is to be laid down by the bank board. I do not want to depart from your ruling, Mr. Chairman, in the slightest sense. If it is considered that this matter can be more adequately dealt with under Part V. of the bill I shall not make any further remarks on it at present. I think it has been admitted by members of the Opposition that the present Governor of the Bank and the previous Governor of the Bank - who was appointed not by a Labour party but by a Conservative Government - were men skilled in the art of banking. The Governor is to be told what to do in regard to banking - I use the expression again - by someone called in off the street for one day a month. Under this proposal the board will learn as it goes along. The bank boards that were previously appointed to direct the policy of the bank operated from 1924 until 1931 and learnt nothing about banking. And apparently the Conservative Government of this country also has learned nothing about banking because the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) pointed out in his speech that the mistake was that the Governor was not chairman of the bank board. It has taken from 1924 until 1950 for certain elements in this community to realize that the Governor is the proper person to be the principal officer of the bank. Under this proposed section, the principal authority is to be the bank board. Because the Commonwealth Bank Board will direct the central banking activities of this country as well as the trading bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank, the Opposition must oppose that portion of the bill.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) [9.351- - In view of the remarks made by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) earlier this evening, a close analysis of this portion of the bill is desirable. Sub-section (3.) of proposed section 9b Taises two doubts in my mind and I believe that if the honorable member for Forrest was sincere in advocating parliamentary control of banking he would find himself in the same position. The sub-section reads -
In the management of the Bank the Governor nhall act in accordance with the policy of the Bank-
That is the first point - and with any directions of the Board.
I ask the honorable member for Forrest to remember what has gone before when considering this sub-section. The committee, by its decision, has affirmed the proposal to appoint a bank board. It has agreed to the determination of policy by the board. Finally we have arrived at what must be regarded as the final slamming of the door on any possibility of the Government having any control over the board either through the Treasurer or otherwise until such time as a decision has been reached by the board. That is the danger in the whole of these proposals and is the reason why honorable members of the Opposition are so much opposed to them. I am astonished that members of the Australian Country party support this measure. Immediately the bank board has been constituted it will be able to decide to revert to some international policy in respect of internal or international exchange and neither the Australian Country party, the Treasurer, nor the Government will have a voice in the matter, either in determining the policy or in an advisory capacity, until after the decision has been made. This sub-‘section confirms that fact. If the honorable member for Forrest examines it he will find that this proposed section slams the door finally against any parliamentary control of the decisions to be made by the proposed board.
Sub-section (3.) provides that the Governor shall act in accordance with any directions of the board. I do not think anybody will deny that leading articles in the Sydney Morning Herald are usually on the side of the Government; yet that journal published the following comment in a leading article on the 17th March, 1950, in respect of the proposal that the head of the bank shall be subject to the provisions of this subsection : -
Thus the head of the bank is to have his own subordinates at each board meeting laying down instructions which he must carry out. In practice, either the Governor must dominate the proceedings or else intolerable friction will arise within the bank itself.
That is what will be affirmed if this subsection is adopted in its present form. The reason why the Governor of the bank should have some overriding authority is obvious. I agree with the honorable member for Forrest that there should be collaboration between the Government, through the Treasurer, and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank because the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank will not otherwise be in a position to know what is happening in respect of international financial matters. It must be accepted, particularly in these days of fluctuating world finances, that the Treasurer will receive confidential information that could not possibly be placed before a part-time board. Because of that fact, the proposed board will not be capable of making sound decisions. If the committee approves of this subsection it will slam the door finally on the very thing for which some honorable members on the Government side have been clamouring during this debate, that is, parliamentary control over decisions of the bank board. Is it to be wondered at that honorable members opposite were challenged this afternoon to indicate clearly their real position in regard to the other sections ? On this sub-section, it is easy to state the position. Honorable members of the Opposition agree with the consensus of opinion that parliamentary intrusion into the affairs of banking is necessary. Under the provisions of the 1945 legislation that was possible. Those provisions do not correspond with the provisions of this proposed section because, under them the Treasurer will have no voice until the decision has been made. Under the 1945 act the bank had to advise the Treasurer of its policy. In the event of difference of opinion and failure to reach agreement the Government made the decision and the bank had to give effect to it. A reverse procedure is now being proposed.
– The honorable member is discussing what the committee dealt with before the suspension of the sitting. The management of the board is now under consideration.
– The management of the board and the policy of the bank-
– Policy was dis-“ discussed under proposed section 9a.
– The management of the bank and the policy of the bank are specifically mentioned in the nroposed sub-section that I. am now discussing. I suggest with respect that consideration of the policy of the bank involves the relationship that should be established between the Government and the bank.
– No. The subject of differences of opinion between the Government and the Bank Board was discussed earlier to-day when proposed section 9a was being considered, and it cannot be discussed now.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. In all its directions to the Governor on policy, the Bank Board, under this provision
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. I thought that he was speaking of the Government when in fact he was referring to the Governor of the bank.
– I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I was trying to keep to the point, which is that the proposed section provides for the Governor to be instructed by the board but makes no provision whatever for any relationship between the board and the Treasurer or between the board and the Government before any decision of the board is imposed upon the Governor. For that reason, I oppose the proposal and urge the Government to reconsider its decision.
– Order I _ The honorable member’s time has expired. [Quorum formed.]
.- Members of the Opposition have been accused throughout the discussion of this measure of repeatedly going back to the days of 1930 and suggesting that this legislation will, in fact, re-establish the state of affairs that then existed. Indeed, if any further proof of that contention were needed, the provision that is now under discussion would amply meet the situation. Proposed section 9b (3.) statea -
In the management of the Bank, the Governor shall act in accordance with the policy of the Bank and with any directions of the Board.
That provides for a complete reversion to the situation that existed in 1930, because there is very little distinction between the management of the bank and the making of; decisions in relation. to the policy of the bank. Let us consider who is to be directed and who is to do the directing. Under the 1945 banking legislation of the Chifley Government, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is supreme in the management of the bank. He is unfettered except in the event of a conflict arising with the Treasurer in relation to matters of policy. In other words, a person employed full time in the management of the bank, an expert in close touch with day to day financial and economic developments overseas that have any bearing upon Australia’s economic affairs, is in control of the bank. He is prohibited by statute from having any outside interests that could possibly conflict with his interest and duties as Governor of the bank. He must not engage in industry or commerce.
This Government now proposes to give to a board the power to direct that gentleman, who is independent of private interests. The board will have ten members - ‘‘ten little nigger boys” - of whom at least five will represent outside interests. In accordance with the intention of the Government, they will be business men interested in industry and commerce. Obviously their outside interests will conflict with their interests as members of the board that will determine the policy and the management of the bank. I do not say that in derogation of their honesty or integrity. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has announced in this chamber and also through the press that one purpose of the proposed change in the control of the Commonwealth Bank is to enable the private banks to function free of many of the restrictions that have been imposed upon them by the 1945 legislation.
– The honorable member is rather wide of the mark. He should be discussing the management of the Commonwealth Bank.
– I am suggesting that the management of the bank is so closely bound up with the determination and administration of policy that it is very difficult to separate the two subjects.
– The committee dealt with the subject of policy when it considered proposed section 9a, and that discussion cannot be revived.
– Then I shall confine my remarks to the management of the Commonwealth Bank, one aspect of which must be the continued operation of its many branches in competition with private banks and its continued expansion, as proposed by the previous administration and by the present Governor functioning under the 1945 legislation. The Government now proposes, through this bill,’ that any decisions in relation to the expansion of the Commonwealth Bank in competition with the private banks that may be made by that independent gentleman, protected by law against outside interests and prohibited by law from having outside interests, may be overruled by the “ten little nigger boys” of the proposed board, five of whom will be interested in outside industry and commerce and therefore in the decisions that will be made by the board. Those men will have a personal interest in the bank’s policy in relation to advances for home building and the interest rates that it is likely to charge. Such matters are vitally bound up with the management of the bank. Under the 1945 legislation, the Governor can make decisions on matters of that nature completely free of outside influence, but can we be certain that the five members of the board who will be appointed by the Government to represent industry and commerce will be free of any interest in private building societies or other financial institutions that are competing directly with the Commonwealth Bank in making advances for home building ?
– The honorable member is discussing policy, not management, and I shall not allow him to continue to do so.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I should like to have a much clearer definition of the distinction between Dolicy and management. I consider that, in the management of the bank, decisions of the nature that I have mentioned must be made :by the Governor himseK. Proposed subsection (3.) provides -
We are entitled to consider how that policy is likely to be determined, particularly as the board will have power to over-rule the Governor.
– The committee itself decided to sub-divide clause 7 into three parts, and it has discussed policy for two days. The honorable member will not be allowed to revert to the subject of policy. He must confine his remarks to proposed sections 9b and 9c.
– I rise to order. What Ls the meaning of proposed section 9b (3.) ? It states-
In the management of the Bank, the Governor shall act in accordance with the .policy of the Bank and with any directions of the Board.
Surely that involves the whole question of policy and anything that may be laid down from time to time.
– There is no point of order in the honorable member’s submission. The matter is one for determination by the Chair. The committee has decided the manner in which the clause shall be considered.
– Apparently I am prohibited by your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as other honorable members will be prohibited by the application of the gag shortly, from discussing this part of the clause further. I return therefor to the main point of the discussion, which is the vast change that is to be made by these proposed new sections in the management of the bank. Previously, the bank was managed by one independent and impartial person, clothed with statutory authority. The Government proposes now to appoint a board which will be able to overrule that independent and impartial person. Our experience of control of the bank by outside business interests has not been very happy. Undoubtedly when this new outside body is called upon to decide what directions shall be given for the management of the bank, the unhappy experience of the Australian people in relation both to the previous administra tion of the bank, and to industry generally, at the hands of leviathans of finance and captains of industry, will be repeated. I assume that the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) can not be accused by anyone of being a strong critic of business interests, yet in his recently published book Policies and Potentates he describes how, in the dark days of the 1914-18 war, when the British Empire stood in great peril, he went to a committee of business men of the kind that the Government proposes to appoint to the Commonwealth Bank Board to overrule the Governor of the hank, and asked for ships to be provided.
– ^Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The proposed new sub-sections now before the committee deal with the future management of the bank, and provide for the appointment of a Governor and Deputy Governor. It is true that, according to proposed new sub-section 9b (2.) the management of the bank is to be in the hands of the Governor, but I direct attention to the words “ Subject to the next succeeding sub-section . . . . “ The next succeeding sub-section states -
In the management of the Bank, the Governor shall act in accordance with the policy of the Bank and with any directions of the Board.
That provision, I contend, discloses the Government’s hypocrisy and its real motives. The Government has admitted that the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is a very capable man who posesses great ability, and that, under his guidance, the record of the bank has been good. If that is the case why is it necessary to make this change ? Why is it necessary to constitute a board that will virtually muzzle the Governor in future? If the Government is sincere in its professed interest in the future of the bank, it should let well alone and not interfere with the present administration.
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) is referring to matters that have already been disposed of by the committee.
– The Chair will deal with that matter.
– In future, the Governor will be subservient to the board, and. will be obliged to carry out the directions of the board, whereas, in the past, he has had full control of the administration while maintaining a close liaison with the Government. Under that arrangement there has been perfect harmony between the Governor and the Government. The appointment of a board with power to direct the Governor is a retrograde step, and is in keeping with the policy of past antir Labour administrations which only in times of national crisis such as war have been prepared to allow the Commonwealth Bank to remain under the sole control of. the Governor. During World War I. the Commonwealth Bank, under the Governorship of Sir Denison Miller, rendered yeoman service to the people of this country. Similarly, during World War II. the resources of the bank were used to the fullest degree in the interests of this country - treasury bills amounting to £400,000,000 were issued - but now that the period of reconstruction has been reached, a change in the administration of the bank is sought to be made by the Government. This, as I have said, is a retrograde step which will shatter the people’s bank. The Commonwealth Bank will once again be a bankers’ bank, as it was described on one occasion by the Melbourne Age. Clearly, the Government’s aim in making this change in the control of the bank is to ensure that it shall be administered in future in accordance with the Government’s policy; The Commonwealth Bank is vital to tha development of this country but it is clear from the remarks of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and the Minister for Development (Mr. Casey) that the resources of the bank are not to be used fox developmental purposes.
– Order! That matter has no relation to the proposed sub-sections under consideration.
– I bow to your ruling; Mr. Chairman, but I submit that by tying the hands of the Governor, proposed new section 9b will cripple the bank and hamper the developmental programmes of not only the Australian Govern ment but also the State Governments. If the administration of the bank were to remain under the control of the Governor, the bank’s resources would be utilized to the fullest possible extent in the national interests.
.- The fact that a number of Opposition speakers have been unable to confine their remarks to the portion of the bill now under consideration shows how “ woolly “ their thinking is on this measure. The last three speakers have been unable to appreciate the difference, between policy and management. To my mind, proposed section 9b is simple and straightforward. It provides for the appointment of a Governor and a Deputy Governor who will carry out the policy laid down by the board. This system is on all fours with that operating in the business world. In most companies, policy matters are determined by a board of trained people. As the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) pointed out in his second-reading speech, overseas banks such as the reserve banks of South Africa, India and New Zealand are managed by a board of directors. He said that the Bank of England, although it was nationalized in 194’6, retained the system of management by a board. Nobody in his senses would suggest that the managing director of an ordinary limited liability company should himself lay down the policy of the company. Policy must be decided on the timer’ honoured principle that several heads are better than one. It is on that system that this particular section has been framed. The policy to be laid down will be carried out by the Governor in his official capacity, the details of management being left in his hands. The several members of the board will decide the policy that he,, or in his absence the Deputy Governor, shall carry out. The matter of liaison is fully covered by proposed section 9o which states clearly that the Governor of the bank and the Secretary to the Treasury shall establish close liaison and keep each other fully informed on all relevant points. I fail to see that the argument put forward by the Opposition on this portion of the bill has any weight whatever.
– Section 9 of the 1945 act dealt entirely with differences arising on policy between the Treasurer and the bank board. It is proposed to repeal the whole of that section and to substitute new sections. The matter of differences of opinion between the Governor and the bank board has been dealt with, and I shall now deal with the management of the bank. Under this bill the management of the bank is not to be the sole responsibility of the Governor. I should think that if a board is to be established, then it will decide matters of policy, and the management of the bank will be left to the Governor. But under proposed section 9b the management is to be shared by the Governor and the board. I think that is wrong. The proposed -section reads -
In the management of the Bank, the Governor shall act in accordance with the policy of the Bank and with any directions of the Board.
The speaker who preceded me mentioned the conduct of private business, and said that boards of directors manage such concerns. I have not been a member of a board of directors and I do no know exactly what they do, but I presume that the title of managing director connotes management and the carrying out of policv laid down by the board of directors. I should think that the responsibility of a managing director to the board of directors is complete in regard to management. There would be no interference in the ordinary affairs of management by a body which meets once a fortnight or once a month. I do not think that the Commonwealth Bank could continue to function if the board, at infrequent meetings, attended by public servants, bank officials and parttime directors, was to concern itself with the ordinary affairs of management. Let us consider what the affairs of management might be. They might concern a big overdraft to a large company, or a matter not of interest policy. They might be concerned with differential rates of interest to be charged in special cases. Such management might concern the giving of a benefit to
Borne firms or some individuals in the light of certain circumstances which did not apply generally. I submit that such matters are for the Governor and the Deputy Governor to deal with, and will only clutter up the work of the board if it is given the responsibility of management as well as the direction of policy. I take it from the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) that the board should sit with the Governor and deal with decisions of policy and management.
Under the present act the Governor has an Advisory Council which deals only with matters of policy. The sole management of the bank, under the 1945 act, is vested in the Governor, and through him in the Deputy Governors who manage the various departments of the bank. Proposed section 9c mentions the necessity of establishing a close liaison between the Governor and the Secretary to the Treasury. Those words seem meaningless. Surely a close liaison exists between the Governor and the Secretary to the Treasury while the latter is a member of the board. Surely the association cannot be made any closer by a further provision. The “ liaison “ is not defined at all. The provision merely states that a liaison shall be established between these two gentlemen and that each shall keep the other fully informed of all matters which jointly concern the bank and the Department of the Treasury., How is this liaison to operate? Are the two officers to telephone each other at 9 o’clock every morning, or write a letter to each other every evening, or consult once a week or fortnight? How close is this closeness to be, and who is to define how close it shall be? If the Governor, in his wisdom or lack of it, does not want a close association with the Secretary to the Treasury and ceases to communicate with him, what provision is there to compel the Governor to take the advice or to obtain the opinion of the Secretary to the Treasury in any matter which presumably it is intended to cover iby this provision of dose liaison? All matters relating to the differential treatment of the clients of a bank are within the province of bankers and not the Secretary to the Treasury, or those estimable people who will be taken off the street, be made directors of the bank and be kept in office for periods up to five years. In other proposed sections provision is made for the appointment of these gentlemen for five years.
I am concerned that if management and policy become intermingled the bank might be prevented from carrying on its work. Ten people wishing to express opinions on management will not be so useful or effective as two. It is always better to have one person as manager because then you can depend on unanimity of decision. If ten people are to decide on matters of management decisions will be made by a show of hands, and it is possible that persons experienced in the business of the bank will be overridden by others who are inexperienced in the management of such a large institution. When considering what has happened in the past we discover that many eminent people in the field of commerce, industry and trade union management, have sat with the Governor of the bank. I do not think that any of them interfered in the actual work of management. I believe that a board is normally associated with a governor but the members of the bank board let the governor decide such matters. In the 1924 act there was no provision that the board should manage the Commonwealth Bank. I conclude by stating that for the reasons I have given I consider that the passage of the proposed new sections would be a retrograde step.
.- In opposing the insertion of proposed new section 9b the Opposition is hard pressed to find any arguments that are either relevant or cogent. The right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) erroneously said that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is liable to be badly directed by some one called in off the street on one day a month. The plain fact is that there is to be a board of ten directors and that the Governor of the bank is to be the chairman of that board. In addition to the chairman four other members of the bank board will be public servants, two of whom will be Professor Melville, the economic adviser to the bank, and Dr. Roland Wilson, the Commonwealth Statistician. Those men will help to formulate the policy of the board. They will be in continuous consultation and five other men, who will be chosen for their general competence and ability, will assist them. It is clear, therefore, that the statement of the right honorable member for Macquarie that the Governor of the bank will be in a position inferior to that of the other members of the board is incorrect. The Governor, as a member of the board, will have right and status at least equal to those of other members. I think that the right honorable gentleman will agree that the technical experts who will join the board will be at least the equal of Dr. Coombs. Therefore, I say that that part of the argument of the right honorable gentleman falls completely to the ground.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) discussed the matter of management, and said that the management of the bank is to be handed over to irresponsible outsiders. That statement indicates how difficult it is for honorable members opposite to remain cogent in this matter, because the proposed new section specifically states that “ the bank shall be managed by the Governor”. The management of the bank, including the appointment of staff, the day-to-day operations of banking, including the making of decisions concerning large advances, and all such matters will be in the hands of the Governor of the bank or, perhaps, it would be more correct to say in the hands of the Deputy Governor of the bank. Everyone who has had anything to do with the Commonwealth Bank knows that the Deputy Governor manages the ordinary business of the bank. He attends to all important staff matters, supervises the activities and efficiency of officers of the bank, and generally manages the day-to-day operations of the bank. However, matters of overall policy, such as the fixing of interest rates, the nature of the security on which advances are to be made, and a dozen other matters will be attended to by the board. There is a clear-cut distinction between management and policy. Management will be in the hands of the permanent officials of the bank, whereas policy will be directed by those who will be appointed to give advice as occasion demands.
The honorable member for Melbourne in referring to proposed new section 9o committed a foolish blunder. He asked whether the Governor and the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury are to have liaison every month or once every week. The simple fact is that they have day-to-day liaison, and that that has been the practice ever since the banking legislation of 1945 was passed. Any one who has any knowledge of the internal working of the Commonwealth Bank or of the Government knows that Dr. Coombs, as the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, maintains the closest liaison with the Secretary to the Treasury, as also does the Deputy Governor of the bank. They do not restrict themselves to any fixed rules in their association because they maintain that intimate relationship which is so essential in the conduct of any great commercial concern.
Proposed new section 9b is, of course, a subsidiary one. If one accepts the idea of board management then one must accept section 9b in toto. If one rejects the powers proposed to be conferred on the board under sub-section (2.) of proposed section 9 then one must necessarily reject the powers proposed to be conferred under proposed section 9b; consequently, I do not think that proposed section 9b should receive the great amount of attention that has been devoted to it. That section provides for the appointment of senior executive officers. It also provides that those senior executive officers shall have the power of management of the Commonwealth Bank. Proposed section 9 (2.), which is a complementary provision, vests in the Commonwealth Bank Board the power to determine the policy of the Commonwealth Bank, and provides that the management of the bank shall always be subject to the policy enunciated by the board. Proposed section 9c merely provides that there shall be the closest liaison between the Treasury officials and the Commonwealth Bank Board, in order to ensure that the Government shall always be properly advised on matters of financial and monetary policy. It is not possible to raise substantial ob jections to those provisions, because they are logical and sensible. I wholeheartedly support their adoption.
– I oppose the proposals under discussion because they will have the effect of compelling the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to act in accordance with the policy of the board and to comply with any directions of the board. If we compel the Governor of the bank to act entirely in accordance with the directions of the board I have a pretty good idea of what will happen, which is that, through the Commonwealth Bank Board, the private banks will direct the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to carry out some of the most diabolical policies that we have known. I can quite imagine the kind of board that will be appointed by the present administration. My friend the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) might even be appointed a member of the board, and Mr. Isaacson, of the Bank of Adelaide, might also be appointed to the board. Can honorable members imagine a more dastardly act of parliament than one that would compel the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to obey the decisions of a bank board composed of people such as the two gentlemen I have mentioned? I can assure the committee that if it accepts proposed section 9b, which includes a provision to compel the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to carry out the decisions of the Commonwealth Bank Board, we shall have little hope of averting another depression, and when it comes we shall have still less chance of alleviating its consequences. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank should be completely independent of the “ stooges “ who are likely to be appointed to the board.
– Does the honorable member think that he will be appointed to the board?
– I have no hope of that, because I represent the ordinary people, such as the farmers and the industrial workers of the country. My heart goes out to the poor farmer when he is robbed by the wealthy interests represented by the Australian Country party, which walks arm in arm with .the
Liberal party - the direct representative of the private banks. The Australian Country party and the Liberal party intend to compel the Governor of the bank-
– Order! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the subject of proposed section 9b, namely, the management of the bank.
– I am endeavouring to show that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party intend to compel the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to accept the decisions and dictates of a board.
– Yes, that is correct.
– My contentions in that respect would not be complete if I “were not permitted to refer to the likely decisions of that board. The present Governor has rendered magnificent service to the country and its people, and he is in a position to render even greater service to them in the future, but I believe that the “ stooges “ of the private banks, who will be appointed to the board, will compel him to stay his hand, and will veto the allocation of money for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, and other national developmental projects. I regard this proposed section as one of the most important in the bill.
– It is a pernicious provision.
– I agree with that opinion. It is a sinister provision. The purpose of it is to destroy the independence of the Governor of the bank. At present, he is answerable only to the Treasurer, the people’s elected representative, but under this provision, he will be compelled to take directions from a board that will be answerable to a combine consisting of the big wheat merchants who have fleeced and robbed the poor farmer for many years, the private banks, and the big aviation and shipping companies. Those vested interests will be represented on the board, and their views will be forced upon the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. I am amazed at the lack of interest that is shown by honorable members opposite in this debate. Sometimes I refer to them as “members of the Opposi tion because I am thinking of the future, when they will again constitute the Opposition in this chamber. It is almost impossible to maintain a quorum in the committee, although a matter of such vital importance to primary producers is being considered. But the farmers and the industrial workers will be able to thank the Senate, because the Labour party’s majority in that chamber will save them from the destruction that, in other circumstances, would assuredly befall them if the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank were compelled to accept the directions and dictates of members of a board who were the representatives of the private banks, and of commerce and industry.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has warned the committee about the sinister method that the Government is employing in order to deprive the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of his authority in the management of that institution. Emphasis has been placed by Government supporters upon the fact that, in future, the management of the bank will continue to be exercised by Dr. Coombs, who was appointed by a Labour administration. Some of them have described him as a doctrinaire socialist, and have cast certain reflections upon his ability, yet they have stressed at all times that, as he was appointed by the previous Government, the Opposition should not object to proposed new section 9b, because he will continue to control the management of the bank. The real motive of the Government in retaining him in that position is revealed in proposed new section 9b (3.), which reads as follows: -
In other words, his wings will be clipped, and he will be deprived of his influence. Manufacturers of bedsteads, polo players and individuals with similar interests who have little or no knowledge of banking will be appointed to the board and will control the management and destiny of that great financial institution. Some Government supporters have criticized the management of the bank by
Dr. Coombs, but have omitted to mention that, under his control, it made a profit last year of between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000. They are somewhat envious of the successful administration of a man who was appointed by a Labour government, and they now seek to undermine that institution, as they have always attempted to do, to reduce its efficiency and to substitute influences that are not conducive to the welfare of the nation. I refer, of course, to the representatives of the private banks and of big business. When they are appointed to the bank board, they will remove from the Commonwealth Bank its control of the monetary policy of the nation. Under proposed section 9b the Governor must act in accordance with the policy of the bank and any directions of the board. I mention in passing that proposed section 9 (2.) provides -
Subject to this Part, the Board shall have power to determine the policy of the Bank or of the Savings Bank in relation to any matter and to take such action as is necessary to ensure that effect is given by the Bank or the Savings Bank to the policy so determined.
In other words, no matter who the Governor may be, the policy of the board will be the policy of the bank. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has not yet furnished the names of those persons who will be appointed to the board. He is not “ game “ to debate the bill with us, and is gallivanting round Queensland -
– Order ! The movements of the Treasurer have nothing to do with the proposed section under consideration.
– The Treasurer should bc in the chamber to answer our questions. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who is in charge of the committee, has little or no knowledge of banking, and is not attempting to reply to our submissions-
– Order ! Does the honorable member intend to defy my ruling ?
– The honorable member for Grayndler did not hear the Chairman intervene.
– He did not stop to listen to my ruling. He must resume his seat when the Chair is addressing him.
– I am sorry, but I did not hear the Chair.
– The honorable member knew what I was saying.
– He said that you must not attack the Australian Country party.
– Order ! I said that the movements of the Treasurer had nothing to do with proposed section 9b, and I expect the honorable member for Grayndler to observe my ruling.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I say in passing that this measure was introduced by the Treasurer and that the right honorable gentleman should be present in the chamber when it is being discussed. It is significant that no reply has been made to the repeated charges by honorable members on this side of the committee that this is a sinister reprisal against the Labour party for the efficiency that it brought to the Commonwealth Bank when it was in office. There has been no answer by the Government to the charges that the bill is a “ payoff” to the interests that secured the election of honorable members opposite at the last general election. It is a pay-off for the vicious propaganda in which those interests indulged on behalf of the members of the present Government parties. It is an attempt to make the Commonwealth Bank subject to the control of a board that will implement the policy of the interests that paid the election expenses of members of the Liberal party and other honorable gentlemen opposite. Let there be no mistake about that. Honorable members on this side of the committee and members of the public who can read between the lines know that the interests that expended money during the general election campaign on behalf of the present Government parties will demand from honorable gentlemen opposite a return for their efforts.
– That has nothing to do with these proposed new sections. The honorable member for Grayndler must not pursue that line of argument.
– If this bill is passed, the management of the affairs of the Commonwealth Bank will be in the hands of representatives of the private institutions that financed the Government parties during the last general election. It will make the management of the bank ineffective. The management of the bank will be taken from a Governor who is well versed in finance and banking and will be placed in the control of any favourite of honorable gentlemen opposite that the Government cares to appoint to the board. Honorable members on this side of the committee oppose these proposals. We desire our charges to be answered by the Treasurer and not by the Minister for Labour and National Service. It is an indication of the type of persons who will be appointed to the board that the Government has not asked a Minister who is qualified in finance to debate this issue. If the Government treats honorable members on this side of the committee in that contemptuous way now, how will the bank be managed when it appoints its favourites to the board? The men appointed will have as little knowledge of finance and banking as has the Minister who sits at the table.
Honorable members on this side of the committee viciously oppose these proposals. We ask for a reply to our allegations that this measure is a “ pay-off “ to the private banking institutions. We hope that there will be a better showing from the Government on these subsections than there was in the second-reading debate, when only one Minister spoke and another one sat down hurriedly so as to expedite the passage of a bill of which the Government is ashamed, without giving the Opposition an opportunity to discuss it fully. We want to know who will be appointed to the board and who will be made responsible for implementing the policy of the Government. Why does the Government wish to alter the method of management of the bank provided by the Banking Act 1945, under which the bank has been well and efficiently conducted and has earned profits? In the words of the Treasurer, it has brought to the banking structure of this country a stability that had not been attained previously. The present management does not need to be replaced. It is efficient and competent. It has won the admira tion of the people of this country. Honorable members on this side of the chamber oppose viciously the proposal to put on the board supporters of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party and representatives of private banking interests, to the detriment of the bank and of the people.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 20
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That proposed sections9b and 9c be agreed to.
The com mittee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed sections 9b and 9c agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take this opportunity to mention again a very important matter that the Government keeps avoiding. I refer to its failure to provide adequate housing for Australian citizens. Within recent times I have hada number of very distressing cases brought to my notice. I was rather amazed to hear the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) state this morning that the Government intended bringing to this country during the next twelve months approximately 250,000 people. Anybody who has ascertained the facts must know of the very desperate position that is developing in this country as a result of the failure of all governments - particularly the Australian Government, which controls finance - to initiate an adequate building programme, and at the same time to consider further the matter of immigration. The Government is bringing hundreds of thousands of people to this country at a time when we are unable adequately to absorb them into our community.
I heard earlier this evening a speech dealing with what was said to be the threat of communism. I should like some honorable members opposite to pay a little attention to what I am saying, because I consider that the possibility of the form of government that was mentioned being established in this country is very remote. The form of government under which we are required to live today leaves the people exposed to the evils of capitalism. We should ask ourselves what we are doing to improve the lot of the people. It cannot be wondered at that large numbers of people are now turning to other political movements. In their desperation they feel that they have no alternative if they want some changes to be effected. Let me cite a few cases. I shall not mention names, although I am quite prepared to furnish them to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Casey) if he requires them. One instance that I have in mind is that of a mother, father, four daughters aged twenty, eleven, three and two years, and a son aged six, who are living in a garage that measures 20 feet by 12 feet. That is in Australia, not in South-East Asia or one of the other countries that we have heard so much about of late.
Yet this Government has the audacity to continue to bring to this country hundreds of thousands of additional people. I am not blaming the new settlers. They were probably anxious to escape from very bad conditions in their own countries. However, it is unfair to them and to the Australian community in general to continue to bring to Australia large numbers of migrants, when the Government is unable to provide accommodation for the people already in the country. The Minister for “Works and Housing also enjoys the title of Minister for National Development, although as yet there has been very little indication that there will be any worthwhile development under Liberal governments. They merely send abroad allegedly expert fact-finding committees. That is all that Liberal governments ever do. Is there any wonder that unrest and discontent are growing? I shall mention several other cases that have come to my notice. One is that of two families who are living in two rooms with a kitchenette attached. One family consists of a man, his wife and two children - a boy aged seventeen, and a girl aged eleven years. The other family consists of a man, his wife, and two children aged two years and one year respectively. Fancy two Australian families being required to live under such conditions! Another case is that of a mother, her son aged nineteen years, and a married daughter with two children aged three years and two years respectively, who are living in one room with a kitchenette attached. Yet another case is that of four adults, and three children suffering from asthma, all of whom are living in two small rooms with a kitchenette attached. I have heard of hundreds of cases such as these. I understand that a similar state of affairs exists in all the Australian States. Governments have been unable to provide even emergency accommodation for these people. If this Government wants to prevent the spread of communism in this country it should do something to relieve the housing problem. I could mention people in this country who own mansions that are occupied by only a very few persons. As I am reminded, also, some supporters of the Government own more than one dwelling,
Mr. Ward. and use them only occasionally. It is of no use to feed the people on statistics about how many displaced persons are being engaged in the building, steel, and associated industries. That will not bring the people any nearer to obtaining homes if the demand continues in excess of the number produced. The Minister has admitted that our normal requirements are 90,000 homes a year. Only approximately 50,000 homes are being erected each year, so that each year many more unfortunate people are forced to live under unsatisfactory conditions.
– What did the government in which the honorable member was a Minister do about it?
– Under Labour’s administration the production of homes was greatly accelerated. The honorable member who has just interjected can tell his story to the unfortunate people who lodged applications with the various housing commissions over four years ago and have not yet been given the opportunity to secure even emergency accommodation. The Government should do something to increase the production of houses in order to ameliorate the conditions of these people. Home-building is falling short of the demand, and each year the hopes of thousands of people of securing permanent accommodation are receding. Although Union clubs and Banker’s clubs exist in the various States and provide elaborate accommodation for the occasional use of members, little is being done to ease the position of the unfortunate people to whom I have referred. Every time honorable members on this side of the House ask what the Government has achieved since its election, Ministers say that petrol rationing has been abolished. That is all that the Government has done in the five months during which it has been in office. It has not passed any legislation. Now it intends to try to distract the attention of the people from the real issues that concern them. The Government is trying to arouse a panic-hysteria in this country. I remind honorable members of the exhibition that was staged outside this building to-day. What necessity was there for padlocking all the doors and securing the services of large numbers of police-
– The honorable member is now reflecting on a decision of the Chair. That can be done only on a substantive motion.
– Probably that can be done on some other occasion. I repeat that this Government is trying to arouse a wave of hysteria in this country in connexion with a matter, the gravity of which I contend has been exaggerated by its supporters. That has been done deliberately to try to make the people forget the conditions under which they are being asked to live by an anti-Labour Administration. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to ask what Labour did about this problem when it was in office. The fact is that this Government was elected on a programme
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I listened with increasing regret to the remarks that have just been made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He has attempted to condemn the Government’s immigration policy by relating the inflow of migrants to the present shortage of houses. His intention is entirely mischievous. The shortage of houses, of which supporters of the Government are as much aware as are members of the Opposition, is due to a number of causes one of the most important of which is the shortage of labour. The Government’s immigration policy in itself will be the means of increasing our labour force and, in the course of time, will thus assist to overcome the housing shortage. Honorable members opposite, of course, are well aware of that fact but the honorable member for East Sydney is seeking to inflame the minds of thoughtless people who may be foolish enough to believe his statement that the inflow of migrants will aggravate the shortage of homes in this country. So long as substantial numbers of migrants are employed in the basic industries and in the building trades, a policy that the Government is pursuing to the greatest possible degree, they will greatly help in the near future to relieve the present shortage of houses. The Chifley Government demonstrated that fact when its Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) made available 200 migrants for employment in the brickmaking industry in New South Wales, with the result that last November the production of bricks in that State was the highest since before the recent war. That is a shining example of the value of the Government’s immigration policy which, after all, is a continuation of the policy of the Chifley Government; and I believe that many members of the present Opposition are justifiably proud of the record of the Chifley Government in that respect. It is regrettable, therefore, that the honorable member for East Sydney should seek to destroy that policy in order to serve his own mischievous purposes. Such an attitude can have only the most harmful results for the country as a whole. The honorable member said that many large mansions could be subdivided in order to provide more housing. He knows perfectly well that such action can be taken only by the State Government concerned. If he directed his suggestion to the appropriate quarter, he might render some useful service to the community. Instead, he endeavoured to impair the reputation of the Government by charging it with failure to do something that it had no authority to do. Supporters of the Government fully appreciate the effect that the shortage of houses has upon the community. Indeed, housing is one of the most serious problems that exists in Australia to-day. However, the honorable member for East Sydney will not help to solve that problem by making speeches of the kind to which we have just listened.
.- I wish to raise a matter, Mr. Speaker, which I might have raised under the heading of privilege this morning. However, as it is largely a personal matter I thought that I could ventilate it in some other way. When 1 endeavoured to enter the building this morning I found that it was not possible to gain entry except by the front steps, but for medical reasons it was not advisable for me to enter at that point, at which I should have had to ascend approximately 30 steps. Consequently, I went to the rear of the building, where I found that the only point of ingress was through the kitchen, the door of which had been left unlocked. I know that the locking of all other external doors was decided by Mr. President and yourself; and I intend later to approach Mr. President on this matter. However, I should now like to know for how long the present blockade of Parliament House will last, because I have no intention of risking my health in the way that I have indicated, because of circumstances that merely provide a sort of side-show for the Communist party. I am not afraid to face any band of Communists in any circumstances, but I do not intend to risk impairment of my health merely because some one is afraid that some Communists might gain entry to this building.Will you, Mr. Speaker, be good enough to inform me when we shall be able to enter and leave the building under normal conditions ?
– I shall answer the honorable member’s question immediately. I hope that conditions relating to the entry to Parliament House will be normal by to-morrow morning. I remind the honorable member that the action to which he has taken exception was decided upon by agreement between Mr. President and myself.
.- I remind the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who has just complained about the shortage of houses, that during the closing period of the final session of the last Parliament I brought to the attention of the House the case of a man and his wife and five children who had been living in a tent near Geelong and had been obliged to vacate it while other persons used it during their Christmas holidays. When I cited that case the honorable member who was a Minister in the Chifley Government at that time merely sat in his place in this chamber and grinned. He made no attempt to support my representations with respect to the shortage of housing generally. The greatest political humbug one can meet is the man who, for party political purposes, without a genuine case against the Government, plays upon the sympathies of people who find themselves in difficult circumstances. The honorable member for East Sydney has just given a glowing example of that practice. I remind the Opposition that the present Government has been in office for only five months. What did the Labour governments that were in office for the last eight years do in the direction advocated by the honorable member and if he was not satisfied, why did he not complain earlier ? He complained that the Government was bringing too many migrants to this country. Whilst the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has said that he intends to reduce the intake of migrants by 50 per cent., the policy of the Chifley Government was to bring to Australia increasing numbers of migrants. Apparently, the honorable member for East Sydney is the only one in step in the Opposition party on this matter. Widespread tributes have been paid to his colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) upon his administration as Minister for Immigration in the Chifley Government. Even when that Government was in office the honorable member for East Sydney criticized its immigration policy outside the Parliament. Whilst he has been consistent in the attitude that he has adopted to-night, he has not previously spoken in that strain in this House. I have no doubt that had the immigration policy of the Chifley Government, in which he was a Minister, been tested on a division in this chamber, he would have absented himself while the division was being taken. He gave such a performance by absenting himself when a division was taken upon that Government’s proposal to approve the Bretton Woods Agreement. He went throughout the country like a lion attacking that proposal, but when the matter was submitted to a vote of the House he acted in as cowardly a fashion as he has acted to-night.
– How did the honorable member vote on the proposal to approve the Bretton Woods Agreement?
– I voted against it after I had told the people my opinion of the proposal. I had the courage to stand up to my convictions. No Honorable member opposite can say that the honorable member for East Sydney displayed ‘courage on that occasion, and he has not done so in making the remarks that he has just made. It is easy for any honorable member to criticize the present shortage of housing. The honorable member forgets that the Government has been in office for only five months and he completely overlooks the record of the Chifley Government on this subject. When he was a Minister in that Government he did not complain that people within his electorate had been unable to obtain houses. Some new members do not know these things, and it would be better if they kept quiet and listened. When I say that, I have the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) particularly in mind. It is not to the credit of any honorable member to speak as the honorable member for East Sydney did to-night. He asked what could be expected from the present form of government, and made the veiled suggestion that there was another kind of government that might do better. He referred to a speech that had been made earlier this evening, and we can draw our own conclusion as to what he meant. Talk of that kind does not tend to raise the standard of government in Australia.
– In to-day’s issue of the Adelaide Advertiser there is published an article under the name of the present Minister for the Army (Mr. Erancis), but I cannot believe that it correctly states his opinion. I am sorry that the Minister is not present to-night; I believe he is in another State; but the misstatement in the article should be corrected. I quote from it as follows: -
Canberra, April 26. - The raising of South
Australia to the status of a military command is an outcome of the Federal Government’s intention to introduce national military service and to intensify recruiting for permanent army units. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) said to-day that the strength of both A.R.A. and C.M.F. personnel in South Australia would be increased.
That statement is wholly incorrect. Before I took office as Minister for the Army, the military districts on the mainland were the Northern Comma: 1, which included Queensland ; the Southern Command, which included Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Darwin: the Western Command, which consisted of Western Australia; and the Eastern Command, which consisted of New South Wales. I realized that it was not in the best interests of the defence of South Australia that it should be attached to the Southern Command. When a decision touching South Australia had to be made, the Commandant of the Fourth Military District, which is South Australia, had to get in touch with Southern Command, in Melbourne, which made the decision, and then sent it back to South Australia. I decided that South Australia was entitled to a separate command, and I made representations to that effect to Cabinet which, in due course, decided that South Australia should become the Central Command, by which name it has been known ever since. The change was due to my action, and the nresent Government cannot take any credit for it.
.- Even the most prejudiced critic of the Labour Government, which preceded the present Government, must admit that it was responsible for introducing social benefits of which it has reason to be proud. It attempted to do justice to the indigent, the infirm and the aged, and its action in this regard is remembered with affection by the people concerned. Among the benpfits introduced by the Labour Government was the funeral benefit of £10, and the time has now arrived when the amount should be increased. My electorate consists almost entirely of working-class suburbs) in which live over 3,000 pensioners. To my constituents, social benefits are of great importance. It has been estimated by representatives of the Old-age Pensioners Association that the cost of burial has increased by 36 per cent, during the last three years, although it is difficult to make an exact assessment because such factors as the cost of the casket, and the number of mourning coaches, are variable. The increased cost of burials falls severely upon the relatives concerned, and the £10 benefit provided by the Curtin-Chifley Administration is sufficient to cover only a part of the cost. The Government might well consider increasing the amount, and thus confer an important benefit upon a deserving section of the community.
.- To-day the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was asked whether it was proposed to deal with the urgent claim made by aged pensioners for an increase of their rates and he said that the question involved a matter of policy and that he could give no indication of when the Government, proposed to deal with the matter. Since this House met in February over a dozen questions have been asked on this subject. On every occasion the answer has been that the question involved a matter of policy and that in due course the House would be informed of what was proposed. From the tone of the Prime Minister’s answer it would seem that the pensioners are as far away as ever from obtaining an increase of their pensions from this Government. I ask the Minister at the table (Mr. Holt) and honorable members on the Government side of the House whether they would like to live on £2 2s. 6d. a week at the present time. It is not possible to obtain a room for less than a rent of £1 a week and after paying that sum the pensioners have £1 2s. 6d. left to buy food and clothing., The position of pensioners is not one that can await the pleasure and convenience of this Government. Whatever else it may have in view in the way Af legislation, it has a responsibility to do something urgently about the plight of the aged in the community. Without any political bias I put it to the Minister and to the members on the Government side of the House that they should see that the Government is fully seized with the necessity for doing something about this problem immediately. It is over twelve months since the aged pensioners had any increase of their pensions in order to offset heavy increases of the cost of living, and now the basic wage has been increased by a further 3s. a week, but still no increase has been given to the pensioners.
The Minister and the Government has a responsibility not to treat the Opposition’s inquiries in the airy way it has adopted, and it should not defer a decision to deal with the matter, which ought to be treated as one that involves an urgent, humanitarian claim.
– It seems to me that if we are to discharge our duties to the people of this country, the Government must make a new approach to the problem of housing. It was my idea some years ago that the defence power of the nation should be invoked by the Commonwealth Parliament and that the Minister in charge of War Service Homes should authorize the building of as many homes as are required by ex-members of the forces. About 900,000 people served in World War II., and every one of them should be eligible to be provided with a home. If the Commonwealth was to tackle the problem of housing through the War Service Homes Division, it would build all the homes that this country requires. It would solve the housing problem and difficulties in regard to supplies and labour power could be overcome.
I consider that the problem of housing is almost as important as a major war operation. The housing of the people is the most vital duty which the Government, has to discharge at the present time. 1 know that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has held the view, as I did for some time, that unless the construction of houses could be accelerated the immigration scheme would be rendered ineffective. I ask the Minister at the table to suggest to Cabinet that the War Service Homes Division might be used to a greater extent as a constructional authority. The previous Government discussed this matter some years ago, but it was considered that as the States have the responsibility of housing construction the Commonwealth would be attempting too much if it tried to control the whole problem of the housing of the people. However, the country has now reached a stage at which something different ought to be attempted. I have here some figures supplied by the Acting Director of the Ministry of National
Development regarding housing activity during 1948-49. They read as follows : -
The annual requirement of houses for people coming of age and marrying each year is about 50,000. The lag is very great and is not being overtaken. It is great because of the war, and the failure of governments to employ people to do anything but pull out weeds from the gutters during the depression. The country is in a tragic position. It may be that the Government will have to do something drastic about big homes and about people who have two or more homes. We cannot have very good people, many of whom are ex-servicemen of the last war, breaking their hearts trying to find homes. Every honorable member is finding that people are saying to him, “Can’t you help me to get a house ? “ I am continuously being met with that request in Melbourne. I do my best with the emergency housing authorities and others but the position is getting worse. Something very imaginative will have to be tried. Some new approach will have to be made. The only suggestion that I can make is that the War Service Homes Division prepare plans for building more homes. If the problem of housing is not solved this country will be subject to a lot of social upsets. There are divorces which have been caused because young people cannot obtain a home in which they may live together. There will be a lot of industrial trouble and social unrest unless we can give to the head of every family something which is his by natural right - the opportunity to obtain sufficient of the wealth of this nation to be able, not only to keep himself and his family in health, but also to secure a home in the country for which he has made sacrifices.
.- There are two matters of urgent importance that I wish to raise. A matter that I bring to the attention of the Minister at the table refers to the value of the £1 and the payment of ex-servicemen’s gratuities which will amount to a figure somewhere between £40,000,000 and £60,000,000. What does the Government intend to do in regard to gratuity payments ? Does it intend to release this money on an inflated market? On the basic of statistics, is it going to give the soldier only10s. for every £1 that he earned? The money has already been set aside. Provision for payment was made before this Government took office. The indebtedness was more or less provided for before the Chifley Government was defeated. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who is interested and knowledgeable, to say whether there can be some solution of this grave and serious problem. If the £60,000,000 to be provided will have in effect the value of only £30,000,000, will that be a reasonable thing to do? Would it not be better to consider the plan applied after the 1914-18 war under which bonds were issued which were not to mature until national stability had reasserted itself, and money had the value that it previously had, or had reached a level very close to it? The most alarming statistics have been issued and have been cited in this House. They show that in the last quarter the rise in the cost of living has been to an all time high. “With that flood of inflation in existence, the money for the serviceman, his blood money as it is called, will have to be paid under an ‘ agreement made under an act. It is a serious matter for the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Cabinet to consider. Following closely on the lines of that matter is the decision that is likely to he made, I believe, in the next few weeks about payments to ex-prisoners of war. They have been variously estimated to total between £3,000,000 and £6,000,000. That means that another heavy current of money is to be released upon a flood of inflation, and will have the same disabilities as far as the real value of the money is concerned. I suggest that the Minister give consideration to means whereby this money may keep its face value for the benefit of the ex-servicemen. It is money that has been hardly earned. I put the matter forward most strenuously and ask for a pronouncement upon it.
The second matter that I wish to mention was raised by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). It relates to American films, the fleshandblood theatres, and the general decay of the ordinary standards of entertainment, and, for lack of a better word, the culture of this country. I agree with what the honorable member has said regarding films. There are 8,000,000 people in this country. Most Australians are on a standard of living that is comparable with American standards, yet Australians are the greatest hick buyers of “ B “ class programmes that cannot be sold in America. Whereas there are standard productions of British and American films, and the good British films are of superlative quality, the general level of two-feature programmes sold in Australia is that of what are known in the trade as corny “ B “ class films. That is the entertainment generally provided for the people of this country. The flesh and blood theatre is a thing of the past. In the city of Sydney, which has 1,500,000 people, there are three flesh-and-blood theatres, all of which are devoted to vaudeville. One straight play is running at present. Recently in Adelaide one theatre was sold for some reason, and despite strenuous efforts by honorable members from South Australia, aided as far as I could aid them through my interest in the National Theatre, nothing could be done to prevent the sale, because of constitutional restrictions on the giving of direct grants to the State. So the position is that very bad films are having a bad effect on the cultural development of this nation, and members of the National Government can do nothing about the establishment of a national theatre. There is nothing wrong with films in general, but there is something drastically wrong with those that youngsters must go to see screened on Saturdays. They are not sold as entertainment for children. They are rough “ B “ class films that are examined casually to ensure that they have no sex but plenty of blood and thunder in them. That is the pabulum that is provided for the children on Saturday afternoons. The counter to it is to establish an Australian national theatre and an Australian national drama, and if the move cannot come from the National Government, where in the name of Heaven is it to come from? If a nation of 8,000,000 people with standards that are comparable with the best in the world cannot produce its own drama as it produces its Olympic runners, cricketers, boxers, soldiers, politicians and statesmen, there is something drastically wrong. The wrong lies in the fact that there is a solid wall of indifference between the aspirations of the nation and their realization. That must be broken down by the Government. Some plan must be evolved so that the real aspirations of Australia may be given expression in other than the field of sport. It must appear in the field of drama. A speech of this kind is not popular and is even considered highbrow. Nevertheless I say, most sincerely, that this is a work of national development that has been delayed for far too long., If one wants to find the true significance of a nation one must examine its culture and drama. If anybody dropped in from America or
Mars he would find nothing to read about this country except what is published in 200 or 300 books. Where is our drama? The answer is that it has been stifled and not allowed to develop. It is useless to complain about the films we receive. We have given ourselves over commercially to films and cannot therefore complain about their inartistic qualities. Plans were made in regard to the national theatre by the Chifley Government. They did not provide for a very expensive venture. They were little feelers that were put out to the the States. Can some champion for the national theatre be found in the Government? The honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck), who is interested in this matter, might give some assistance in seeing that somebody shall be gingered up to keep the ball rolling. Here is an example of the tragedy that is developing in this country. A wealthy woman in Sydney, the daughter of a grazier, and the possessor of a considerable personal fortune has been sold out of her theatre in Sydney, the Minerva, where good sound plays were presented. She has had to leave it after losing £66,000. The pioneering women have not entirely disappeared from this country if, in the fields of artistic endeavour, one woman is prepared to sacrifice from £66,000 to £70,000 to keep the flame of drama alight. All credit to Miss Kathleen Robinson. I think that she should be paid a public tribute in this House although I am sorry about the result of her venture. A moving picture show has moved into the Minerva Theatre and that is another indication of how far down Australians have gone culturally. When honorable members have the time and opportunity I ask them to consider these things. 1 also ask that the desirability of establishing a national theatre for Australia be considered in the National Parliament.
.- I did not intend to participate in this discussion until I heard the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). If at any time in any quarter a reasonable plea for more attention to housing is raised, I believe that there are many members on this side of the chamber who would wish to support it. I do not wish to develop the theme at any length and shall confine myself to three observations. The first is that it was very pleasing to notice the contrast, both in manner and in matter, between the approach of the honorable member for Melbourne to the subject and that of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The second is that any approach to the problem of housing must necessarily be bold and imaginative. We cannot approach the subject successfully by doing the conventional things in the conventional way. The problem is too big to be dealt with by half measures. The third observation is by way of qualification of what was said by the honorable member for Melbourne. It seems to me that the problem is one not only of construction but also of the supply of materials. Any bold and imaginative scheme must have regard, not only to methods of construction, but also to methods of producing materials.
.- I was filled with regret to-night when, after the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had appealed for an acceleration of the housing programme, he was attacked by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and accused of being a political humbug. It is regrettable that the honorable member for Mallee should be so unconscious of the acuteness of the housing situation in the electorate of East Sydney and in other city industrial areas as to engage in personalities of the character that he employed when dealing with the subject. If we hark back to the political record of the honorable member in this House, we must recall that, during the regime of the Chifley Government, he moved the adjournment of this House and wasted its time by indicting the Chifley Government on account of its alleged failure to deal with the menace of rabbit infestation. He did so notwithstanding the fact that he was well aware that responsibility for the enforcement of rabbit destruction rested with the respective State governments and that the Commonwealth’s function was to promote scientific research through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in co-operation with
State Departments of Agriculture. He knew that the menace could be virtually eliminated if .the State governments shouldered their ^ responsibilities. The present Government has failed to expend even ls. by way of contribution to the expenses of the State governments in the extermination of rabbits on private lands and on Crown lands, although its coffers are bulging as the result of the wise financial policy of the Chifley Government and the continued high wool prices and customs revenue. In support of my statement that the extermination of rabbits is a State responsibility, I refer to the fact that the McGirr Labour Government of New South “Wales recently sst the machinery of the law in operaion and prosecuted no less a personality than the Honorable John Lienhop, a wealthy landholder in Victoria and a former colleague of the honorable member for Mallee. This gentleman owns . 7,000 acres of land in the Riverina area in New South Wales that was absolutely infested with rabbits. So serious was the situation that seven neighbouring landholders came to court in order to give evidence against him. Yet the honorable member for Mallee had the temerity to-night to accuse the honorable member for East Sydney of being a political humbug and previously to indict the Chifley Government for its alleged failure to deal with the rabbit menace. I remind him that, since the present tory Government came to office, he has done nothing but ask a few harmless questions of the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), obviously in the knowledge that the answers would be in the same strain as the answers that were given to him by Ministers of the Chifley Government. The Chifley Government accepted its responsibility for prosecuting scientific research through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and it expected the State governments to accept their responsibilities by putting the boots into those neglectful landholders in various parts of Australia who had failed to perform the duties required of them under the various State acts relative to the destruction of vermin. It is time that people who accuse others of political humbug examined their own records.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has been doing some heavy electioneering because an election will be held in Victoria a fortnight from next Saturday, but I do not think that his heavy verbal attack upon rabbits will help the Labour party in Victoria. That party will have no more success at the election than it had on a previous occasion. I had not intended to reply at this stage to the matters that have been raised, but just to gag the debate, which appears to be going on indefinitely
– So the Minister intended to gag it?
– That is a shocking admission.
– However, some of the remarks that have been made in this debate require replies. I largely agree with the comments that have been made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) about the theatre. He has raised this matter constantly. He wants to have a national theatre in Australia, but the solution that he proposed for the problem would not be effective. The legitimate stage is languishing, and many films as well as many gramophone records that are imported, might well be done without. Those honorable members who have heard the “ Eight O’clock Rhythm “ broadcast in the mornings will realize that many dollars might be saved by refusing import licences for such records. Some films come within the same category of undesirability in my view. However, that is a matter of selection by the people. If the people like such records and films, they will pay for them. It should be remembered that England had a population less than half the size of Australia’s present population when Shakespeare did his great work. If there be a Shakespeare in Australia, he will materialize in due course. Art and music are flourishing in this country, but we have not reached the peak of our literary development. The Government of Victoria has encouraged the appreciation of music by sponsoring open-air concerts, upon which it has expended a great deal of money. Generally, I consider that progress is being made, though it may not be so rapid as the honorable member for Parkes may wish.
The honorable gentleman also referred to the payment of subsistence allowances to former prisoners of war, a subject that we may thank the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) for keeping alive in this Parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated in his policy speech that something would be done on behalf of the former prisoners of war and that a committee would be appointed. His promise will be honoured, and the matter will be adjusted when the committee completes its deliberations. The other subject mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes was that of the war gratuity. He asked whether gratuity payments could be made now. He knows that the Government that he supported undertook an obligation to pay war gratuity on a certain date. Many men are applying now for their gratuity and are getting it. Those who want the gratuity badly and have good supporting reasons, such as the needs of their dependants or their intention to build properties, are being accommodated.
– Yes. Many applicants are being paid now.
– Not for the reasons that the Minister has stated.
– Yes. I receive many applications, and I pass them on to the proper authorities.
– I can tell the Minister of many men whose applications have been rejected.
– Yes, because they cannot prove their claims. However, many applications offer satisfactory evidence in support of their requests, and they are dealt with sympathetically. As for the alleged falling value of the £1, the fact is that value is fast returning to the £1.
Much has been said about housing tonight, and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has asked that the War Service Homes Division be made a constructing authority. His speech was like an echo of some of the speeches that we made over the years when we were in Opposition in this House and appealed time after time for something to be done to improve the housing situation. How little was done by the Chifley Government! Pew houses were built by the War Service Homes Division over a period of many years. Although it is a good organization, it is not a constructing authority. However, it is now producing houses at a faster rate than it ever achieved during the past six or seven years. It contracts with private enterprise for the construction of homes, a policy of which the Labour Government disapproved. The Labour Government in fact succeeded in reducing the rate of construction of war service homes to a very low level. Everybody agrees that the general shortage of houses is acute and is not being rectified as fast as should be possible. A great many prefabricated houses are being imported. We have been told of the sufferings of people in the electorate of East Sydney. Such conditions are common to many parts of Australia. In eight years of office, the Labour Government did not get anywhere near a solution of the problem, but, in a few’ short months, we have accelerated the building programme considerably. Amongst those who are suffering most because of the housing shortage are members of the services. Some of our best .men are being lost to the services because no provision is made for their families at distant stations. A higher priority is now being given to the construction of houses for members of the forces in remote areas. The Government has removed customs duties from many building materials. It is true that the Labour Administration initiated this action, but we have extended the exemption to a huge range of materials. The greater the production of building materials that can be achieved in this country, the more houses will be built. The measure introduced into this chamber earlier to-night will purge the trade unions of the wreckers who are hampering production to-day. Seduced output of coal means that fewer houses will be erected.
Honorable members opposite now have their great opportunity to ensure that production will be increased. I know that honorable members opposite do not like to hear these things. Although they rise on the motion for the adjournment of the House and bleat about the shortage of housing, they themselves contributed little to the solution of this problem when they held ministerial office. Let them now do something positive. Let them support the Government’s endeavour to purge the unions of disruptionists, then more houses will be built. Talk does not produce houses. Let honorable members opposite do something for a change, and they will assist to improve production, and to put value back into the £1. I move -
That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Will he give consideration to the establishment of a means of appeal, such as an Appeals Board with discretionary powers to deal with special necessitous cases not covered by the Social Services Consolidation Act?
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following information : -
Provision already exists in the Social Services Consolidation Act to meet cases of persons ineligible for an age, invalid or widow’s pension or for an unemployment or sickness, benefit. This provision is made in section 124 of the act, which gives the Director-General power, in his discretion, to grant a special benefit to such a person if, by reason of age, physical or mental disability, domestic circumstances or any other reason, he is unable to earn a sufficient livelihood for himself and his dependants (if any). The rate of a special benefit cannot exceed the rate of an unemployment or sickness benefit which would be paid to the person if he were qualified to receive it. The provision mentioned would probably cover most of the cases referred to in the question, and, in the circumstances, it is not considered necessary to establish any means of appeal for such cases.
k asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Will he furnish a statement listing the international organizations of all kinds of which Australia is a member, together with the annual contribution, the annual cost of representation and the annual cost of attending conferences in respect of each of them?
– The following details for the year 1949-50 are supplied in answer to the honorable member’s question. No means are available to dissect the expenditure incurred on representation and the cost of attending conferences : -
Other international organizations to which Australia belongs are -
t.- On the 19th April, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked me the following question: -
I ask the Minister for Immigration whether the Immigration Department subjects to medical examination all immigrants ‘coming into Australia? la a chest X-ray included in this examination? If so, is the film of the chest X-ray forwarded to .Australia with a medical report? Is. it a feet that some applieants for admission to this country have previously suffered from malnutrition and that has been responsible for evident signs of lune trouble being overlooked by the medical officers? Are large numbers of immigrants now inmates of tuberculosis institutions in Australia?
In my reply to the honorable member I promised, to supply a full statement on the question and I now furnish the following information : -
As the honorable member is aware, Australia’s immigration policy admits ‘migrants under three main categories - (o) British migrants introduced under the free and assisted passage schemes; (6) displaced persons under an agreement with the International Refugee Organization; (c) landing permit-holders, i.e. full-fare paying aliens. In the case of British migrants they must pass a thorough medical examination made by approved medical officers before being selected for settlement in Australia. Although up to the present chest X-ray has not been compulsory far British migrants, where any doubt exists in the mind of the examining medical officer they .are required to produce a satisfactory chest X-ray result before being finally approved. The difficulty in regard to the compulsory X-raying of British migrants is that there are not sufficient facilities at present for this throughout the United Kingdom. In conjunction with the Commonwealth Department of Health, investigations have been proceeding for some time with a view to the Commonwealth setting up its own X-ray facilities in London and making suitable arrangements in other areas in the United Kingdom for applicants to be X-rayed. When these arrangements have been completed it will be practicable for all British migrants, in addition to undergoing present stringent medical examination, to be chest X-rayed also. Concerning group (6) - displaced persons; they are all medically examined and X-rayed in Europe by Australian medical officers attached to our selection teams. Medical records and X-ray plates of the selected migrants are sent to Australia when the migrants embark. Whilst some displaced persons applying for resettlement in Australia have suffered from the effects of the conditions under which they were forced to live in Europe, it is most definitely incorrect to conclude that because of this, abnormal lung conditions have been overlooked by Australian medical officers. Indeed, our physical criteria for selection has on several occasions been claimed to be too severe by both the International Refugee Organization and other interested bodies. As an added health precaution all displaced persons on arrival in Australia are subjected to a further medical examination and chest X-ray. Where there is any indication of abnormality, and it is possible for this to develop between time of X-ray in Europe and arrival in Australia some months later, the migrant concerned is given any necessary curative treatment which often . only involves rest and suitable care for a short period. The number of cases so treated has been particularly low and is between one and two .persons per thousand. This, in itself, demonstrates the high standard of medical examination in Europe where unfit migrants are rejected at source. Regarding group (c) - landing permit holders; they are required to produce a satisfactory medical certificate in a prescribed form, including a radiograph of their lungs, and the result of any bacteriological investigation deemed, necessary, before a visa may tie .granted by an Australian immigration. officer or British passport officer in the countries in which, the; reside. These medical certificates and X-ray photographs must be produced by landing permit-holders on arrival at an Australian port. It will be seen that ever; precaution is taken ‘ to ensure that migrants suffering from tuberculosis or any other adverse health condition are not selected for settlement in Australia and that a high physical standard is insisted upon for all categories of migrants.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 April 1950, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500427_reps_19_207/>.