19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Recently a statement regarding a new national health scheme was made. I believe that part of the statement was attributed to a Government spokesman. Will the Minister for Health arrange for the full statement to be placed before the Parliament as soon as possible, so that it may be open . to discussion and debate?
– I assume that the right honorable gentleman has referred to a broadcast that I delivered last Sunday night. I shall be pleased to supply him with a copy of the statement that I then made.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Health to the following statement that he made when speaking in this House on the 27th October, 1949 -
The friendly societies and the British Medical Association for ls. 6d. a week will give greater benefits than those for which the Government charges ls. 6d. in the £1.
In view of that statement will the Minister explain why the Government now. proposes to impose a contribution of 3s. a week on each person in order to provide hospitalization and free medicine under his proposed health scheme? Has this 100 per cent, increase of contribution been requested by the British Medical Association as a condition on which it will co-operate with the Government, or is it an indication of the rising cost of medicines as the result of the
Government’s failure to put value back into the £1 ?
– No suggestion has been made by either the friendly societies or the doctors that prices should be raised, at any rate to the Government. What has happened, of course, is that during the last 80 years, there has been developed an extraordinary number of new specialties, costly drugs and new diagnostic methods, but no provision was made in the previous Government’s proposals to cover these, nor were they covered by friendly society or government contributions. The amount of the premium for voluntary insurance under this Government’s scheme will depend entirely upon the benefit for which the insurance is taken. The amount of the premiums will not be fixed, but will be variable.
– Does the Minister for Supply agree that there is a need to encourage tourist traffic in Australia, particularly from dollar areas; that earnings from tourists from overseas are important because they do not entail a drain upon our material sources; and that the south coast of New South Wales from Shellharbour to Sussex Inlet, including Kiama, with its famous blow-hole and gorgeous scenery, supplies the necessary attractions? Will the Minister take action to encourage advertising and the establishment of tourist bureau facilities overseas, the improvement of travel facilities in this country and the co-operation of the Commonwealth with the States in preparing for the arrival of a larger number of overseas visitors?
– I am aware of the charms of the south coast of New South Wales and of the famous district of Kiama, which is all the more famous because my father was born there. I am investigating ways and means of attracting tourists to Australia, particularly from dollar areas. Tourist traffic is a potent dollar earner. Americans are great travellers. I understand that they expend approximately £500,000,000 a year upon foreign travel. If Australia can obtain a portion of that sum, it will be to our good. It is hoped that the Government will be able to make a statement about this matter shortly.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer, who is, I am glad to see, back in the House again. In view of the fact that, as announced over the national radio network this morning, the revenue from customs duties is £14,000,000 in excess of the figure for last year, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to putting value back into the £1 by reducing indirect taxes on many articles, particularly as the Chifley Government remitted £26,000,000 in sales tax during its term of office?
– The Government has already commenced to put value back into the £1 by effectively dealing with the root evil in this country, which is communism. The points raised by the honorable member will be examined in the course of the preparation of the budget.
– Does the Treasurer intend to take a part of the basic wage increase in taxation? Is it not a fact, that the amount of the basic wage increase at best is merely sufficient to meet an actual demonstrated increase in the cost of living which has already occurred? If the Government cannot put value back into the £1, will it at least ensure that it does not take further value out of every worker’s pay envelope by immediately exempting the amount of the basic wage increase from all taxation?
– If the Government were to continue to do what the honorable member has suggested it would be continuing the policy of the party with which he has been associated for a great many years. The factors and features to which the honorable gentleman has referred will be taken into consideration when the budget is being presented.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service by saying that, as the Minister knows, the completion of many houses now in the course of erection. particularly in Victoria, is being retarded because of a lack of roofing tiles. As the Minister is aware, the principal cause of that lack is the fact that during the last three years, the output of the roofing tile industry has been severely restricted because of inadequate supplies of fuel and labour. Doe3 the Minister know that many of the displaced persons allocated to the tiling industry during the last three years have not been satisfactory as workers because they were not previously engaged in that trade and consequently they leave the industry at the termination of their contract, or sooner if they are able to submit a convincing excuse to the employment authorities ? Will the Minister arrange for additional labour to be supplied for this industry from immigrants and also that special immigrants who have experience in the terra-cotta tile industry be obtained from overseas countries? Will the Minister endeavour to arrange for housing or hostel accommodation for such labour in close proximity to the tile factories in order that this industry may be provided with the necessary facilities to assure accommodation for permanent labour and, by so doing, cater for the tremendous demand that is being made upon this important industry by housing contractors? Will the Minister confer with his colleague, the Minister for Supply, in order to see that an allocation of coal is made to the industry from the coal to be imported under the Government’s scheme for importing overseas coal with a view to relieving the fuel position, which, in itself, is as important as the labour situation, when accounting for the serious lag in the tile industry? These requests apply with equal force to conditions existing in the brick industry.
– I can assure the honorable gentleman that the Government is, as indeed the previous Government also was, aware of the need to place additional labour in the industries that he has mentioned. During last December and January approximately 100 displaced persons were allocated to work in those industries in Melbourne. ° Unfortunately neither the rates of pay nor the conditions of work in the tiling industry are. very attractive under present conditions. Further difficulty arises from the fact that most of those who have been placed in the industries mentioned by the honorable member have had to travel considerable distances to and from their places of work. We are trying to overcome that particular difficulty by the construction of a workers’ hostel «t Nunawading in Victoria, and when that is completed some improvement should take place. I understand that an additional 14 displaced persons will be allocated to the cement and tile works in that area in the course of the next few days. T shall discuss with the Minister for Supply the allocation of additional coal to the various industries mentioned. I can assure the honorable member that the Government fully appreciates that if we are to bring immigrants here in hundreds of thousands, as is contemplated, we must take care that they make their own direct contribution to overcoming the housing shortage, not only to provide accommodation for themselves but also to help others who so far have not been able to secure accommodation.
– Will the Treasurer give the House an assurance that the Federal Aid Roads and Works Act. which will expire at the end of next J une, will be re-enacted, during the present parliamentary sitting, with more generous provisions than at present ?
– The Government will introduce a measure to renew and extend the provisions of the act to which the honorable gentleman has referred. As far as the generosity of its provisions is concerned, both present and probable future circumstances will be taken into consideration in that connexion.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a published statement of Mr. Eric J. Harrison, Australian Resident Minister in London, the interpretation of which is that Australia is to introduce conscription and train our young manhood for the purpose of fighting communism in the Pacific and South-East Asian countries-
– Order ! Is the honorable member’s question founded on a press report?
– The statement is founded on a statement of Mr. Eric J. Harrison.
– But is it founded on a press report?
– It is founded on a radio statement attributed to Mr. Erie J. Harrison. The interpretation continues that other dominions should follow Australia’s lead and that we must be as ruthless as our forefathers were in building the British Empire. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether ‘ his colleague was stating the views and policy of the Government when be observed that the youth of Australia should be conscripted for crusades against fanatical groups in any country in the South-East Asia Pacific areas?
– I am not aware that my colleague who is referred to in the question has made any statement even remotely resembling the one that has been read out by the honorable member.
– In view of the very alarming fact that, at the recent preselection ballot in Waverley, New South Wales, for the selection of a Liberal party candidate-
– Order ! As far as I can see, the matter to which the honorable member is referring has nothing to do with any Commonwealth department.
– I am leading up to that. It is a security matter. In view of the fact that a well-known Communist was selected as the Liberal party candidate to contest the Waverley seat in the New South Wales Parliament against the present Attorney-General, Mr. Martin, I am appalled-
– I am appalled at the prospect, and I ask the Prime Minister whether ne will assure the House that the credentials of every member of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party in this Parliament have been checked to ascertain whether they have any affiliation with the Communist party.
– I am able to give the honorable member my assurance that no member sitting behind the Government
– That is a pretty -wide statement.
– Perhaps the honorable gentleman had better wait, because the best is yet to come. I can assure the honorable member that no member of the Government parties has any taint of communism. I should be very happy to receive the honorable member’s corresponding assurance for his side of the House.
Home fob the Aged and Infirm - Police.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House whether it is a fact that the previous Government made £20,000 available for the erection of a twilight home to meet the very urgent and dire needs of the aged and infirm people in the Australian Capital Territory? Is it also a fact that a site was allocated a.nd plans prepared and approved for this purpose? If so, when is it expected that building operations will be commenced and completed?
– I am not aware whether the position is as has been stated by the honorable member in his question. However, I shall make inquiries and advise him in due course of the facts of the matter.
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. Has your attention been drawn to a report in a section of the New -South Wales press to the effect that additional police were brought in from outside the Australian Capital Territory to assist the territory police, on Thursday last. If your attention has been drawn to that report, are the matters as stated in it correct ?
– I saw one report on that subject in the Sunday Herald. The report was absolutely untrue. No police from New South Wales or from any other State were here last Thursday. I have an assurance en that point from the local officer in charge.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to the statement made on Monday at the national convention of the Australian electrical, radio and telephone industry by the federal president, Mr. Kennell, that the increasing flow into Australia of imports of certain manufactured electrical goods will speedily bring the Australian industry to a state of near ruin? Will the Government take steps to review the tariff structure on such goods in order that this section of Australian industry will have a chance of survival?
– I have not seen the statement referred to. However, I assure the honorable member that the tariff structure and the proper interests of Australian industry are always under review.
– The question that I shall address to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture relates to a statement by an official of the New South Wales Fruit Shopkeepers Association that a ship left Devonport in Tasmania for the mainland with fruit stacked on two hatches, to make it appear that the vessel was fully loaded, when in fact there was still space sufficient for 2,000 bag3 .of potatoes. Because of the great importance of the mainland market to Tasmanian potato-growers, and the frequent shortages of potatoes in Sydney, Brisbane, and other Australian mainland cities, will the Minister investigate this matter, particularly in relation to a suggestion that has been made that a certain monopoly group in Sydney is preventing Tasmanian potatoes from reaching the Sydney market?
-Although I am not familiar with circumstances such as those to which the honorable member has referred, I understand the importance to the Tasmanian potato-growers of the New South Wales trade. I shall discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, at the earliest opportunity, and if an accident such as the one that the honorable member has described has occurred we shall consider what can be done to prevent a recurrence of it.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that the representatives of the Soviet Union were the largest buyers of Australian wool at the last wool sales and that they paid the highest prices ever recorded, forcing up prices to unprecedented levels which will make clothing correspondingly dearer to the Australian people? Is he aware that the United States of America has imposed restrictions upon the export of strategic materials to the Soviet Union? Is there any sign of reluctance among the growers of Australian wool to get every Russian rouble they can lay their hands on in the sale of their wool? Does the Government propose to examine the export of strategic materials to the Soviet Union in order to prevent capitalists from selling strategic materials to that country at an undue profit?
– The honorable member’s question reveals a complete lack of knowledge of the procedure adopted for the sale of Australian wool. The wool is sold by public auction and the growers have no knowledge of who is to bid for their wool, and, certainly, they have no knowledge of, or control over, those who actually buy it. Grave doubt exists about the reliability of the basis on which the honorable member has based his statement that representatives of the Soviet Union were the principal buyers at the last wool sales. If that were so, it would have been the first auction in the history of Australian wool sales at which Soviet Union representatives were the principal buyers. No government in this country has ever considered the suggestion made by the honorable member that an embargo should be placed upon the sale of one of our basic materials to a country with which we have friendly diplomatic relations. If the honorable gentleman wishes to sponsor the imposition of such an embargo, I hope that he is prepared to accept all of the implications of such a proposal.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether negotiations are proceeding with the United Kingdom Government for a contract for the sale of Australian meat for a period of fifteen years as wa? envisaged by the Chifley Government upon the termination of the existing agreement which I understand will expire at the end of 1951? If so, can the Minister give any indication of what the contract price will be for the next export season?
– The Australian Government is negotiating with the United Kingdom Government with a view to settling in specific terms an arrangement for the sale of Australian surplus beef to the United Kingdom for a period of fifteen years. Obviously, I am not able to disclose details of the negotiations; but it is not desired to arrange a contract for the sale of the whole of Australia’s surplus beef because we have a special responsibility to supply some markets. We have in mind also other markets which we wish to explore. The negotiations with the United Kingdom Government are still proceeding and I am hopeful that they will be successfully concluded. The price for beef for the next export season is fixed under the existing contract, which covers a period of two years and will continue until the 30th September, 1951.
– Does the Minister for Labour and National Service subscribe to the following opinions expressed in the Government publication Coal Facts : -
We know that the New South Wales coal industry cannot provide all the coal that Australia needs from this State in 1950. This is in no way the fault of the miners, and is due solely to the fact that . development work lias not kept pace with the ever-increasing demand …
We do not expect any man to sweat his guts out or put more physical effort into his job ti i an he is doing now.
Will the Minister explain why those opinions differ from the allegation, by the Prime Minister that the activities of the miners’ leaders are responsible for the coal shortage?
– The publication referred to by the honorable member is, I understand, produced by the Joint Coal Board. Insofar as the subject comes within the jurisdiction of any Commonwealth department, it would be that of my colleague, the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport. The honorable member has invited me to say whether I subscribe to the opinions expressed in the publication. I believe that a very much greater quantity of coal could be produced from the coal mines of New South Wales if regular shifts were worked, and if there were not frequent and unjustified stoppages in the mines.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the coal-owners of New South Wales have combined to install machinery in mines for the extraction of pillar coal? Is it a fact that the installation of such machinery is contrary to the Coal Mines Regulation Act of New South Wales, which provides that machines may not be used in mine9 for the extraction of coal from pillars without the permission of the Minister? Is it a fact that such action on the part of the coal-owners is likely to result in trouble in the coal-mining industry as the miners contend, and very rightly so, that they are the best judges of their own safety? If these are facts, will the Minister consider the advisability of intervening in this matter so as to avoid an upheaval in the coal-mining industry ?
– I understand that the chairman of the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. Gallagher, recently made an award in which he authorized the extraction of pillar coal by mechanical means. The effect of that award would be to override the provisions of the State act to which the honorable member has referred. I assume that, in making the award, Mr. Gallagher took into consideration the very important factor of safety. I think that it can be fairly assumed that any employer who proceeded to put into effect an undertaking of the kind indicated would satisfy himself, in the interests of the welfare and the safety of his employees, that the lives of the men were not thereby unnecessarily endangered. I have been informed by one of the representatives of the coal-owners that they propose to constitute a committee to deal with the introduction of pillar extraction so that the work may he properly supervised and any danger involved reduced to an absolute minimum. I do not propose to express an opinion of the merits or otherwise of the decision of the chairman of the Coal Industry Tribunal. I suggest that he is in the best position to decide matters of that kind. No doubt .he will die available .at any time to -hear any representations .that may he made to him arising out of experience of the working .of this policy.. The honorable .member has asked whether I will consider the advisability of intervening in this .matter so ,as to -avoid a possible upheaval an ihe coal-mining industry. J do not propose 4o do so. The Government believes that these .matters should properly 1b left to the decision of the Coal Industry Tribunal.
– It -was stated by Lord Holden recently in the House *>f Lords that Australia .had agreed to relieve Britain <of part of its share of the cost of assisted immigrant passages to this country. Can the Minister for Immigration say whether that is true and, if so, what is the extent of the relief thus afforded the British Government f
– It is tra* that the Australian Government has assumed responsibility for part of the assistance previously given by the Government of the United Kingdom to persons coming to Australia from Great Britain under the assisted passages scheme. The original arrangement was that the Government of the United Kingdom contributed £32 10s. sterling towards each fare, the Australian Government a like amount, and the migrant £10. When the Government of the United Kingdom decided to devalue sterling, Mr. Attlee said that his Government had an economy programme in mind. Subsequently, it was disclosed that, as part of the economy programme it had been decided to reduce from £32 10s. sterling to £25 sterling the amount contributed by the Government of the United Kingdom towards assisted passages. The Australian Government considered this matter and decided that, in view of its desire to secure as many British migrants as practicable this year, and in view of the fact that Australia, because of its remoteness and the more costly fares involved, is at a disadvantage in attracting migrants compared with other parts of the British Commonwealth, the Government should assume liability for the balance of £7 103. sterling and so keep the contribution paid by the British migrant at £10 a passage.
That applies only to migrants over the age of ‘.eighteen years “who come here under the assisted passages schema. No change has been made in respect -of younger .migrants, or ‘of migrants “who come hereunder the free passages -scheme, in respect of “whom die cost of the fare is :paid by the United Kingdom Government.
– Is the Minister for immigration awe that there , ha been .a subtle change in Communist propaganda .regarding mew Australians recently? The new Communist line seems to be to cultivate siew Australians and to build up aird magnify their grievances. This propaganda contrasts with the previous policy of the Communists of bitterly attacking and vilifying these people, many -of whom have had personal experience of the horrors and degradation of Communist slave camps behind the Iron Curtain, Is the Minister aware that this new Communist attitude coincides with Communist boasts that a number of Cominform agents have recently infiltrated into this country under the guise of new Australians in order to build up a new fifth column of Soviet agents in Australia? If the Minister is aware of these developments, can he advise the House whether adequate precautions are being taken to protect us from this new threat to our security and independence?
– I try to follow as closely as possible the official Communist line of propaganda as presented in the regularly published Guardian and Tribune, a pleasure which I am sure the legislation before the House will deny me in the future. I have watched with interest the references that have appeared to the new Australians. From time to time I have received allegations such as those now made by the honorable member that, despite the very strict security cheeks which are made on the other side of the world, some new Australians are Communists. In most cases when these allegations have been examined they have been found to be without substance. Frequently it happens that a new Australian with a grudge against one of those with whom he has come into contact on shipboard or in the camps has made allega-tions of this nature. Generally speaking, these allegations have been found to be without substance, but I am not claiming that the system of selecting immigrants is absolutely foolproof. The Government does what it can to make it so, but if honorable members can at any time notify the Government of eases that they feel are worthy of further examination, attention will be given to them. Under the agreement into which Australia has entered with the International Refugee Organization, the Government has power to return to Europe within two years any new Australians who are found, on further examination in this country, to be unsatisfactory.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been drawn to a statement, attributed to official quarters in London, on the 27th April, to the effect that British-Australian discussions on aid to Malaya will atop short of any request for the despatch of Australian troops? In view of the seriousness of the threat to Malaya, and the importance of the stability of that country to Australia, will the Minister inform the House what discussions, if any, are taking place on this important subject?
– The present struggle which is taking place in Malaya and in which Communist forces are, by assassination, terrorist tactics and disruption, seeking to break down the system of British Government which has been designed to create one political union under the name of Malaysia is one in which Australia has a vital interest. Conditions in Malaya, particularly if Communist forces overran the area, could have vital and farreaching consequences for this country. The question of aiding the British Government to meet its problems in Malaya and in the whole of the area to the north of this continent with which Australia is concerned is one upon which I have no doubt that the Prime Minister at the proper time will make a statement.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement reported to have been made in Melbourne last Sunday by the honorable member for Bendigo that the worker required most of all to be regarded as a man ? Does not the word “ worker “ encompass primary producei’3 and most other people as well as those to whom the honorable member apparently referred? Have not many of these workers proved their manhood by service to Australia in two great world wars and is it not the individual and not the employer who decides whether he should be regarded as a man or not?
– I have seen the headlines of the statement referred to, but I have not yet given myself the pleasure of reading it although certainly I shall do so. I agree that the word “ worker “ tends to be used in a very narrow sense - much too narrow. I believe, and I have always believed, that it is a word which ought to describe in substance all the people in the country.
– In view of the need for economy, will the Treasurer consider reviewing the stamp allowance for private members with a view to a reduction? I find that I use hardly one quarter of my allowance for correspondence with my constituents.
– This Government is so vigilant that it is looking for every avenue of economy and the avenue mentioned by the honorable member for Farrer will be investigated.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that the Tasmanian Government will have paid £250,000 in freight charges on wheat imported from the mainland by the end of June? Is he aware that this has been done to avoid an increase in the price of bread following the Australian Wheat Board’s refusal to continue to meet such freight payment? Is it a fact that the conditions relating to the sale of the wheat specifically state that wheat should be received at the capital cities at a uniform price per bushel and that there should be no discrimination between the States? Has the Government yet decided to remove this unjust anomaly by instructing the board to continue its payments or subsidize freights itself in the interests of justice?
– I have not the figures in my mind with reference to the issue that the honorable member for “Wilmot has raised. I shall make myself familiar with the position and inform the honorable member accordingly.
– Can the Minister for Air give any indication when the aerodrome at Devonport will be completed ?
– The question of the honorable member for Bass apparently refers to Pardoe aerodrome. That work is in charge of the Department of Works and Housing and perhaps the Minister for Works and Housing will supplement my reply if he has any information to add. I am not able to say when the Pardoe aerodrome will be completed, but I think that it will be finished about June this year. It is well in hand and will certainly be opened this year.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to discontinue the rationing of tea and butter at the end of June.
– No decision has been either made or announced on that matter. If and when some decision is made I shall, of course, announce it at the earliest possible time. No meaning is to be read into that statement beyond the words themselves.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any official record of the present honorable member for Dalley having introduced to the Minister for Defence in November, 1943, a deputation which urged the admission into Australia of Herr Egon Kisch. If so, is there any record of the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Dalley on that occasion?
– My attention was drawn to the fact that there had been a discussion on this matter on Friday last, and I therefore made inquiries in order to ascertain whether there was any record. I have obtained the file of the Department of Immigration-
– This would not be a “Dorothy” would it?
– Well, it depends upon what the honorable member calls a “ Dorothy “. I knew that the question would be asked. I make no secret of that. I sent for the file over the weekend and I have it before me now. It contains the notes of the deputation that waited on the Minister for Defence, who was then Mr. Archdale Parkhill, ;it 11 a.m. on Saturday, the 10th November, 1934. The deputation consisted of Mr. J. S. Rosevear, M.P.; Mr. D. Mulcahy, M.P.; Mr. E. J. Ward, M.P.; Professor Fisher, of the University of Otago; a Mr. King, secretary of the Labour Council ; Mr. Smith, of the Antiwar Movement; Mr. Nelson, of the Miners’ Central Council ; Mr. Lloyd Ross, assistant director of the Workers’ Educational Association; Mr. Cramwell, of the Engineers Union; and Mr. Barker, of the Australian Railways Union. The deputation was introduced by the honorable member for Dalley, and there is a note on the file of the remarks that he made in introducing it. He said -
The delegation is approaching you, as representing the Minister for the Interior, in connexion with the prohibition against the landin? of Herr Kisch, a novelist and lecturer, and delegate from the World Conference against War, which was recently held in Paris, and a Mr. Griffin, a delegate from New Zealand.
I do not know that I need read the whole of the honorable member’s remarks, though I shall do so if he wishes.
– I shall have a look at the file afterwards if the right honorable gentleman has no objection.
– Yes, certainly. Perhaps I should read the remainder of the note. It states -
We understand that Mr. Griffin on arrival in Australia was given an educational or dictation test in the Dutch language and was immediately sent back to New Zealand. The intention of these two delegates was to attend the Anti-war Congress, representing many public bodies in Australia, and the purpose of it was to deal with the possibilities of war in the near future. They view the fear of war in this way, that the fears of possibilities of war that were expressed for some years past have turned to a degree of almost certainty, and it is only a question of when the conflict is likely to start. They dread the possibilities of another world-wide war, and all reasoning people are thinking along the lines of how to prevent war. Lord Ponsonby. in the House of Lords recently, dealing with the question on “How to Resist War “, said he personally would even distribute literature outside barracks and appeal to troops not to take part in the slaughter. We also have the spectacle of the British Labour Party taking steps which they think will tend to prevent war.
I want to point out that we have had from time to time people outside this country from overseas who have advocated that the t>est means to ensure peace are increased Armaments. Whilst these people are allowed to advocate the increase of armaments, it is strange that delegates to an All-Australian Peace Congress should be prevented from landing. There is no protection for people who desire to visit this country on a mission of peace. So far as Herr Kisch is concerned, the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday published his itinerary for Perth, which included a visit to the university, a broadcast from the national station, a public reception at the Rechabites’ Hall, and his departure for Kalgoorlie where he would receive a civic reception. This gentleman seems to be a desirable visitor to these shores and seems to mix in quarters usually above suspicion.
After one or two similar paragraphs, the honorable member proceeded to introduce members of the delegation one by one, and each of them addressed the Minister.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Has the honorable member been misrepresented?
– Most certainly.
-I shall hear the honorable member.
– In the course of the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Friday of last week, I said that the present honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) had introduced a deputation to a former Minister for the Interior which urged the admission to Australia of the Communist Kisch. The honorable member for Dalley then rose and said that my remarks were completely untrue, very damaging to himself, and could only have been made by way of a joke. At your instance, Mr. Speaker, I then withdrew the remarks, but I stated that I had some documentary evidence that I proposed to examine during the week-end to ascertain whether or not the honorable member for Dalley was correct. The honorable member then said with considerable vehemence that he was correct, and was in fact so certain of it, that, if it could be shown that he had had the slightest connexion with those matters, he would forthwith resign from this House. He said that that was a challenge, and I replied that it was a very fair offer.
-Order! The honorable member must get back to the alleged misrepresentation.
– I was accused of having said things jocularly in this House which were untrue. Those are serious charges, and I believe that I should review the evidence that is in my possession.
– Order ! The honorable member may not review the evidence. He may only deal with that portion of the statement in which he was misrepresented.
– The misrepresentation was that I was speaking in a jocular fashion. I had evidence in my possession which was far from jocular. I submit that in view of the charge made by the honorable member for Dalley, I am in order in refuting what he said. At the time, I had some recollection of the documentary evidence to which I have referred, and, to refresh my memory. I turn to page-
– Order ! The honorable member is exceeding the limits of a personal explanation. As the incident to which he is referring occurred on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I suggest that if he has anything further to say, apart from refuting any allegations against himself, he should say it when the motion for the adjournment of the House is moved to-night. He will then have an opportunity to speak for ten minutes.
– I shall do that.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that a number pf the members of the present Government, and some prominent members of their political associations outside of this Parliament, a few years ago welcomed to this country and entertained the wellknown German fascist, Count von Luckner. If that is a fact will the Prime Minister have a security check made to ensure that during the term of residence of that gentleman in this country no steps were taken in conjunction with antiLabour parties to set up a fascist organization in Australia?
– To the best_ of my knowledge, information and belief, the suggestion made by the honorable member is not true. I have heard the suggestion made from time to time, but to the best of my belief it is not true. It is certainly true to say that nobody on this side of the House has offered to resign his seat if it could be proved that he attended a certain deputation, and then failed to do so when it was shown that lie had so attended.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service examine the decision of Mr. Gallagher, the Coal Industry Tribunal in New South Wales to determine whether he had any legal power to override State legislation in the matter of the extraction of coal from pillars ? By way of explanation I indicate that this point has been raised, and Mr. Gallagher has claimed that his federal powers give him the right to override State legislation. The validity of Mr. Gallagher’s decision has not yet been tested in the courts. I ask the Minister to request the Crown Law authorities to examine the position to ascertain whether Mr. Gallagher has exceeded his powers in any way. I hope that it will be found he has so exceeded his powers because there will be much industrial trouble if the decision remains as it is to-day.
– I shall consult with my colleague, the Attorney-General, to see whether some inquiry along the lines proposed by the honorable member can be usefully made.
– Will the Minister for Health inform me whether the medical officers of the department that he administers has conducted any research into the effect of the continued increase of the cost of living on the health of age pensioners, who receive a pension of only £2 2s. 6d. a week out of which they must pay rent? If they have not conducted any such inquiry, will the right honorable gentleman request them to do so, and will he furnish a copy of their report and recommendations to the Treasurer, so that the pensioners may receive an increase of their pensions which is long overdue?
– I trust that when the national health bill, which wilt materially improve the future of age pensioners, is introduced, the honorable member for Yarra will help us to pass the measure.
Business of House of Representatives
– by leave - I desire to point out to the House that it has before it during these sittings, not only the banking legislation which is at present at the committee stages, but also the legislation concerning child endowment, which will arrive later to-day from another place. The Communist Party Dissolution Bill introduced by me on Thursday last has to be dealt with and we shall submit certain proposals for the amendment of the Constitution. The Government proposes that those measures should all be disposed of by this House within a measurable time, the idea being that the sittings of the House should not be prolonged beyond the middle of June. Under those circumstances it will be quite clear to honorable members that some attempt will have to be made to allot a reasonable time for these various measures, having regard to their importance. With the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), I propose to have some discussion with him in order to ascertain whether it is possible to arrange limitations of time by agreement. I hope that it will be possible to do so, but in any event the Government will, of course, have to take the necessary steps to dispose of its legislative programme within the limits of the time that I have indicated.
– by leave - I desire to make some supplementary remarks concerning the matter of debate on the adjournment of the House. Unless there- is some particular meson fox a very late sitting - it is possible to contemplate all-night sittings, as honorable members know, but we do not want to have them if it can be avoided1 - the Government desires to avoid very late sittings’, It hies given some consideration to tfe procedure- that ought to- Be followed cm tire1 motion for the adjournment of the House. During the last, week or so we have had. some very protracted discussions om the motion to adjourn the House. We propose, therefore, to adopt the procedure, and we invite the co-operation of the House in this connexion, of rawing; the. adjournment, of the House so that any discussion on the adjournment may be continued for about half an how and terminate©? by 11.30 p.m.
– Not enough: T
Ifr. MENZIES- It is a pity that, my friend, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), should Be so hasty, because. I waa going to say for his .particular benefit that when, we felt that a really powerful discussion waa going to occur on the adjournment we might move the adjournment a little earlier, the idea being that, the discussion might continue for an hour.
– Knowing the right honorable, gentleman’s great regard for me, I do not consider that to be a protection.
– My regard for the honorable member is so great that if I had my way he would never be stopped from making a speech on anything. I repeat, therefore, that we propose that the motion for the adjournment should ‘be moved in sufficient time, on occasions, to permit an hour’s debate, but that as a normal course, we would aim to have the adjournment moved at 11 p.m. so as to enable the House to rise at 11.30 p.m. I think that honorable members will agree lt at it is perfectly futile for a few honorable members to be sitting around until i a midnight or 12.30 a.m., listening to some desultory debate. We therefore pro-pose to introduce some regularity into the procedure.
- -by leaveYon will remember, Mr. Speaker, that an all-party committee inquired into the whole matter o£ the rales of debate, and that the. proposed rule concerning the adjournment o>£ the House is the only ama to which, exception bias been taken., I think that the recommendations made by the all-party committer concerning the rules to. regulate, debate ia the House were, unani- mous. I desire to know whether there can properly inserted m the rules a provision to enable tha gag to be moved at 11.30 p.m., because: I understand that that is the intention of the Government.
– I was- not suggesting an alteration of the- Standing Orders.
– When the previous Government was in office it placed no limitation on the length of time to fee taken on the adjournment. It would be necessary to amend the Standing Orders in order, to permit that procedure. I suggest that the Prime Minister should endeavour to obtain an agreement, as was done previously, instead of adopting an arbitrary method of closing the debate half an hour after the motion for the adjournment has been moved. The Standing Orders Committee could be called together again in order to ascertain whether such agreement could be readied’. I should like to know whether the Prime Minister is willing to consider that suggestion.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong - Prime Minister). - by leave - I am very willing for the matter* that I have raised to he examined by the Standing Orders Committee. My statement was not meant as the adoption of a new rule. I wa.9 merely indicating a general rule of practice which, I thought, would commend itself to the House. If it is considered that these matters should be made, if possible, definite standing orders, I am quite prepared to consider the suggestion, although, for reasons which were discussed by the Standing Orders Committee, I would much sooner have a rule of some flexibility than a rule which is quite arbitrary in its operation. However, if you, Mr. Speaker, agree to convene a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee, Government members will certainly be very willing to take part in the discussions.
– On a number of former occasions, the Prime Minister has expressed himself as finding a great deal of merit in the totalitarian form of government, particularly that which previously operated in the countries of Germany and Italy. Numbers of such quotations have been given in debates in this House, particularly by my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne, and myself. In view of the fact that the Australian people want neither a Communist government nor a Fascist governmentestablished in this country, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he still adheres to the views which he previously expressed in regard to the Fascist form of government?
– The honorable member for many years has been the most complete victim of his own lying propaganda.
Mv. Ward. - I rise to order. I take objection to the use of the word “ lying “, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– I believe that it is very fair comment.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney has asked that the word be withdrawn. The Standing Orders provide that if an honorable member objects to a statement in relation to himself, I am bound to ask that it be withdrawn.
– Very well. I withdraw the word “lying” and substitute the word “false”.
– I again rise to order. I regard the use of the word “ false “ as only an evasion of the Standing Orders. I take objection to it, and ask for it to be withdrawn.
– Indeed, these statements are propaganda and are either true or false.
– The Prime Minister is lying and he knows it.
– The honorable member for Ear t Sydney insisted on the Prime Minister withdrawing the word “ lying “ and he must also withdraw it.
– I withdraw it, and say that the right honorable gentleman’s remarks are false.
– All I desire to add is that I have listened to this nonsenseand clap-trap for years-
– It is not nonsense. It is true.
– If there is any man in this House who ought to refrain from making allegations against others, it isthe honorable member for East Sydney.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must restrain himself. It will be much better for him to do it than for me.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been directed to statements from authoritative sources in the United States of America that vast accumulations of food in that country are perturbing the authorities there and, in particular, that a quantity of egg powder, sufficient to last for ten years, is now in store? If so, will he inform the House of the probable effect of those accumulations upon primary industries of this country, particularly the poultry industry? Will he refer the matter to the Australian Agricultural Council with a view to ascertaining whether poultry farmers and other primary producers could, if necessary, engage in alternative activities and thus cushion the effect of any decrease of prices ?
– I am keeping myself as fully informed as possible upon the matter that has been raised by the honorable member for New England. A short time ago the Commodity Credit Corporation in the United States had an accumulation of approximately 72,000,000 lb, of dried egg powder. Since then it hassold approximately 32,000,000 lb. of that quantity to the United Kingdom at a very low price. It is obvious that accumulations of foodstuffs in the United States of America could have a serious effect upon some Australian export industries. There have been comparable accumulations of potatoes, which do not. affect us, and of dried vine fruits, which do affect us. If the present circumstance.– exist when the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council is held, I shall bring to the notice of State Ministers of Agriculture the existence of these accu- mulations in the United States of America and emphasize the threat that they constitute to some Australian industries, so that consideration may be given to the possibility of making plans to meet the situation.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holt) read a first time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 28th April(vide page 2048).
Part V. of the Principal Act is repealed and the following Part inserted in its stead: - “ Part V. - The Commonwealth Bank Board and the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank. “23. - (1.) The Commonwealth Bank Board shall consist of -
– I do not propose to cover the ground that I have already covered in dealing with the proposal to establish a Commonwealth Bank Board. I have said that the Opposition objects strongly to the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board of any kind. Our opposition to the Government’s proposals has been strengthened by the statement that it is proposed that five of the members of the board shall be private individuals or, in other words, men associated with private interests. For the reasons that I have already given, . I believe that it would be most improper to bring five private individuals into the councils of the Commonwealth Bank, a body responsible to the Government for carrying out financial transactions and deeply involved in the economic life of the community.
Proposed section 26 reads as follows : -
A person who is a director or employee of a corporation (other than the bank) the business of which is wholly or mainly that of banking shall not be capable of appointment, or of continuing to act, as a member of the board.
It has been stated that in the past the method of appointing members of the Commonwealth Bank Board was to approach persons associated with private banking interests and, having secured their resignations from those positions, to appoint them to the board. That was done in some instances; I do not say it was done in every instance. At a later stage it was found that those persons had never really severed their connexions with private banks. One honorable gentleman - I think it was the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Charles Russell) - nearly made me laugh aloud when he talked of the type of men that the present Government parties will appoint to the Commonwealth Bank Board. The fact of the matter is that neither the honorable member for Maranoa nor any other rank and file member of those parties would know anything about who was to be appointed to the board. No rank and file member would have the slightest knowledge of the matter. Appointments such as those are made by the Executive, and are not discussed at party meetings.I am not suggesting that that is wrong, because the Executive does not discuss with members of the Government parties the positions to which individuals shall be appointed. That has not been the practice of any government. Proposed section 26 has been included in the bill for the purposes of camouflage. It is designed to convince the people that, if this bill becomes law, no person associated with private banking will be appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board, but of course the individuals who will be appointed will be associated with all sorts of companies that have direct association with private banking interests. That is true of any important businessman. I read in the press this morning of a man who died in England who had been associated, as a director, with 68 different companies.He was chairman of directors of about 40 of those companies. One can imagine the Government carefully hand-picking prominent businessmen for appointment to the proposed board. First, of course, the Government will ascertain what each appointee’s political views are. There will be no doubt about that. Each of those appointees will undoubtedly have some association with private interests that, in their turn, are associated with private banking. We regard the Government’s assurances that persons connected with banking will not be appointed to the board as merely a gesture to deceive the public into believing that if this measure becomes law the Government will appoint to the proposed board individuals who have no association with private banking. Nobody who knows anything about the subject believes that that will be so. The Government may select an accountant, a businessman and others from the business world, but ali those people will, either directly or indirectly, have some association with private banking. Inevitably we are brought back to the complete unwisdom of appointing to a board that is to deal with the national finances, persons who have had no association in the first place with banking, but whose appointments to the board would place them in the position to use, in i heir own private interests, knowledge gained through their positions on that body. I am not suggesting that they would use such knowledge dishonestly and with intent, but that they might -use it unconsciously. Could anybody say truthfully that a businessman who had been appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board and knew from its discussions that certain things were likely to happen, however honest he might be, would not allow that knowledge to weigh when decisions were being made in connexion with some business with which he was associated? It would not be human to expect him to do anything else and of course he would not do anything else. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) mentioned two instances in which men were able to take direct advantage of the fact that they were members of government boards because of information regarding certain governmental policies that were to be implemented overseas, that came into the possession of that body. The proposed section 26 is a confession by the Government that it realizes that the previous practice of governments of its political colour, of appointing representatives of private banking interests to the Commonwealth Bank Board, was wrong. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has admitted that in the past the Governor of the Commonwealth Rank should have been chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board instead of somebody brought in from private business or “off the street” or indeed, in some instances, a private banker. In one instance a bedsteadmaker was appointed to the board and in another instance a poloplayer was appointed. The first appointee was a very estimable bedstead-maker, but, as an honorable member said recently, he helped to make some very hard beds for the workers of this country because of the policy that the bank board adopted. The right honorable gentleman has said that such people learn as they go along. They did not learn much between 1924 and 1931, -when they were in control of -the finances of this country, having been appointed to the hoard by the Bruce-Page ^Government. They had not learned much in when the depres sion struck us. The people of this country cannot afford to allow such people five, ten or fifteen years in which to gain the knowledge necessary for the proper conduct of the financial affairs of this country. It took sixteen years for the parties at present in office to learn that the Governor ?f the “bank ought to be its principal officer. That is why we oppose the proposed section.
.; The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has my very deep sympathy. To judge by his remarks he has a very low estimate of human nature. I can only assume that he has been unfortunate in his past associations. I have had a wide experience of the world and my summingup of human nature is vastly different from that of the Leader of the Opposition. I have found that if people are taken from various private industries and appointed to public positions they place their own private interests entirely secondary to the public work that they have undertaken. Yet we have heard the Leader of the Opposition say that nobody who has private interests will perform public functions impartially. What about honorable members of this Parliament? Have none of us private interests outside of this chamber? Do we put those interests before the public interest? Of course we do not! The position that obtains in respect of honorable members also applies in connexion with every individual appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board or any other government instrumentality. We have also heard sneers about bedstead-makers and polo-players. I do not know much about bedstead-makers, but I know something about polo-players. I can mention one polo-player whose name to-day is not unknown in this world. I refer to Mr. Winston Churchill. There are others like him. The members of the Opposition, who have often sneered about experts, say that the Government should appoint to the proposed board experts and not men “ taken off the street “. Every honorable member will acknowledge the long superiority of the British banking system. Britain has been predominant in the banking sphere and until a short time ago the Bank of England was, in fact, the bank of the world. .Even to-day half of the monetary business of the world is handled in London. Honorable members opposite talk about a “ small board “. The proposed board is small indeed in comparison with the board of the Bank of England. Until 1920 the Court of Directors of the Bank of England was composed entirely of private bankers and merchants. A change was introduced in 1920 with the advent of Mr. Montagu Norman as Governor of the bank. When making new appointments to the Court of Directors, he did not bring in bankers or experts, but introduced people with a wide knowledge of industry all over England. . The following were among the individuals appointed: the chairman of British Iron and Steel; the chairman of Powell Dufferin, a large coal concern; Lord Stamp, a railway magnate connected mainly with the Great Western Railway; Lord Keynes, an expert and at the same time a university professor; and a mining expert from South Africa who was a director of the Central Mining and Investment Corporation. Finally, among those introduced by Mr. Norman into the Court of Directors was a man who, although not a financial expert, was the editor-in-chief of Reuters Limited, and knew a great deal about foreign relations and what went on in the world outside the United Kingdom. That country, and the Bank of England, with the financial experiences of centuries behind them, depend for advice not upon experts, but upon the widest possible range of people. Why should not we take a leaf out of its book in determining important matters of national finance? Honorable members opposite apparently think that because their leader (Mr. Chifley), a former Treasurer, has a very wide financial knowledge, he is the outstanding financial authority in this or any other country. I remind honorable members that the principle of central banking was not applied in this country until 1924. Yet the Opposition clings to oneman control. As has been mentioned before, one-man control has previously been favoured only by totalitarian countries, such as Spain, Russia, Italy - when that country was a fascist country - and, above all, Germany, where, before the recent war, finance was controlled by Dr. Schacht. I believe that the Government has chosen wisely in deciding to re-introduce the Commonwealth Bank Board.
.- The main bone of contention between the Government and the Opposition is whether the Commonwealth Bank Board, which was abolished by the previous Government, should be restored. We have heard some remarkable arguments in favour of such a course being adopted. Probably we could understand them more clearly if it could be pointed out in what way the present system of control of the Commonwealth Bank has failed. Whether honorable members believe that the Commonwealth Bank should continue to exist or not they must realize that during the war period, when we were fighting for our existence, the Commonwealth Bank was the sheet-anchor of this country.
– Its affairs were then governed by a board.
– I do not consider that anybody will contend that since that board was abolished the Commonwealth Bank has not made greater strides than at any other time in its existence.
– Inflation !
– The present advisory board consists of certain wellknown, competent officers of the Public Service, to whom it is proposed to add some new people. With relation to the composition of the board proposed section 23 provides - (1.) The Commonwealth Bank Board shall consist of -
It is obvious that the Government proposes to leave behind the remnant of that organization that has controlled the bank since the abolition of the Bank Board, and merely to add some new people. It will be interesting to hear who those people will be. Included in the last Commonwealth Bank Board was one prominent person who had been the president of a private bank. He resigned that position in order to become a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Subsequently, when his services were dispensed with he went back to his previous habitat in the private bank. We are asked to believe that during the time he was a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board he gave no consideration to his interests in the private bank that he had left and to which he returned after the Commonwealth Bank Board was dissolved, that during the time he was a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board his single thought was to increase the prestige and power of that board. Another member of the Commonwealth Bank Board was a gentleman who has been referred to by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan). His only qualification so far as could be discovered was that he was a member of a prominent polo-playing family. Nobody ever ventured to ask whether he knew anything about banking. We are told that the resurrected bank board will be efficient because, to the people who have been acting in an advisory capacity, there will be added five or six other people, who, according to the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), and one of his ministerial colleagues, will have no knowledge of banking. In his policy speech the present Prime Minister (Mr.. Menzies) said -
But we believe that great financial decisions which, if they are wrong, are wrong on so vast a scale as to injure many thousands of people, ought not be made by one mam without reference to or control by the National Parliament. . . .
Although that might be all very well as an argument, the truth of the matter is that one man, the present Governor of the Bank, has never made any important decisions without the assistance of a very competent advisory committee. It is asking us to stretch our imagination tobreaking point to believe that people picked off the street should, upon appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board, have power to override men withbanking knowledge in the control of this bank in the future. We are asked to believe that it would be possible for one to go out into the street and select five or six people who would be competent to be made codirectors, as it were, of the Commonwealth. Bank.
– That is done in Great Britain.
– A lot of things have been done there that we do not do in this country. For instance, although conservative governments were tolerated overseas for hundreds of years, they were not tolerated here. It is no argument to say that because a thing is done in London it should be done here. The test of the matter is the success that has been achieved by the present management of the bank since the Commonwealth Bank Board was abolished. It is interesting to note that although gentlemen to whom I have referred may serve on the Commonwealth Bank Board for a period of five years those who are at present acting in an advisory capacity, will be subject to instant removal. Those who will have security of tenure will not be those who have proved their value as advisers to the Commonwealth Bank in the past, but people who, in the words of the Treasurer, are to be taken off the street. Possibly they will have no knowledge of banking at all, and no interest in other banking companies. They may merely be individuals who appeal to the Treasurer. If honorable members read the provisions of proposed section 23 they will: find that those who have proved their value as advisers to the Governor of the bank, that is, officers of the bank or of the Public Service, will be subject to dismissal from the board al a moment’s notice and without any reason being given therefor, whereas other appointees who will be appointed merely to make weight on the board and will have no knowledge of banking will be given :i fixed tenure of office and must be given excellent reasons before their services can be dispensed with. This section represents the Government’s pay-off to the banking institutions in return for the services that they rendered in support of honorable members opposite at the recent general election. Those institutions must 1> repaid in some way, and the Government now proposes to do so by appointing to the board only persons who can be relied upon to hamstring the Commonwealth Bank and retard its progress.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One always listens with pleasure to the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), and it is sad to contemplate that he will be with us for only a short while longer now that he is going to take the step that he assured the House he would take in respect of a certain matter. I direct the attention of the committee particularly to proposed section 26 which deals with disqualifications from membership of the board. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) dealt with that provision. Tt properly disqualifies from appointment to the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board any person who is actively employed or interested in one or other of the trading banks. The Leader of the Opposition described that provision as merely a gesture because, he said, all the potential appointees to the board must be associated with banking in one way or another. However, in his second-reading speech he declared that appointees would be straight-out employees of the private trading banks. Now, he has watered down his first statement and said that appointees will be associated with the trading banks in one way or another. That is absolute nonsense. First, the objection of the Leader of the Opposition was that appointees would know nothing about banking. “What exactly does the right honorable gentleman desire? Are honorable members opposite opposed to the appointees defined in the section because they know something about banking, because they are employed by the private banks or because they are associated with trading banks in one way or another? Or, is their real objection that such appointees will have no previous experience of banking and know nothing about it? [Quorum formed.] The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) suggests that any persons appointed to the board will, as time goes on, learn something about banking; but the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Dalley derided that suggestion. They said that it was a ridiculous proposition that people could learn something about banking as they carried on in such positions. But war Dr. Coombs a great banker at the time that he was appointed Governor of the Commonwealth Bank? Did he know so much about banking when he was appointed to that position? Certainly not. He had not been a banker at all. He was most capable and a great economist but all he knew about banking at the time of his appointment wa* theoretical. What did he do ? He learned as he went along, and, as honorable members opposite themselves claim, he developed into a first-class man in his position as Governor of the bank.
I cannot avoid the conclusion that honorable members opposite have advanced arguments merely as pretexts to oppose this clause in one way or another because they have now changed the stand that they took up originally. First, they objected to employees of private banks being appointed to the board because such appointees would know something about banking. Now, they object to such appointees because they would not know anything about hanking. In their approach to this clause honorable members opposite have not a leg to stand on. The fact is that this provision represents the essence of the bill which they detest because it will make it impossible for any Labour Government in the future to socialize the banks through the supreme control of one financial dictator. Honorable members opposite endeavoured to establish such a dictatorship before they were ejected from office. One reason why the Government proposes to place the Commonwealth Bank under the control of a board - there is no maybe about the matter because the bill will go through - is the express purpose of preventing the very thing that honorable members opposite sought to do when they were in office. Should honorable members opposite in the far distant future ever regain control of the treaury bench, the board will be an effective buttress against any attempt that they may make to socialize this country through a financial dictatorship. Honorable members opposite have not been logical in advancing the arguments that they have advanced against the proposed board. They realize that it is useless for them to kick against a brick wall. These proposals were endorsed by the people as an integral part of the policy on which the Government was elected and honorable members opposite know in their hearts that the people fully support them. Indeed, when the issue was brought to a head, they did not seek a division on the motion for the second reading of the bill. They are now staging a monumental filibuster. I have no doubt that if they are permitted to do so they will speak for days on this clause. That they realize that their arguments are so much nonsense is clear from their failure to call for a division on the motion for the second reading of the bill. They know that this measure will eventually become the law of the land. Therefore, they should not delay its passage.
.- With clause 8, this clause is one of the most important in the bill. It deals with the membership of the proposed board and defines eligibility for appointment to the board. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) said that it disqualifies from appointment any person who is interested in one or other of the trading banks. I cannot find anything in this clause that states that any person who is interested in one or other of the trading banks shall be disqualified from membership of the board. Proposed section 26 disqualifies a person who is a director or employee of a corporation, other than a bank, whose business is wholly, or mainly, that of banking. As the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) pointed out, directors of trading banks resigned their directorships in order to accept appointments to the board of the Commonwealth Bank. Then, when they ceased to be members of the Commonwealth Bank Board, they once more took up their appointments as directors of private banks. Obviously, it could not be claimed that they had discarded their interest in the private banks. Moreover, what are we to think of the person who, although he is not a director of a trading bank, retains a substantial holding of shares in the bank? He, apparently, would be eligible for appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board, although he would certainly be interested in a trading bank.
The honorable member for Henty claimed that this bill had been endorsed by the people. Just after the bill was introduced into this House, I read in the press that the Liberal party executive in New South Wales took strong exception to it on the ground that it was not the sort of legislation that had been promised to the people. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during the election campaign, promised that if his party were returned to power he would appoint a small Commonwealth Bank board, consisting of independent and experienced men. It will be noted that the board was to be small. Now, it is proposed that it shall consist of ten members. I have no shares in any public company, nor have I ever attended a meeting of directors of a company, but I have read the reports issued by companies, and I have done some research into the interlocking of various companies. I have yet to learn that the board of any public company has as many as ten directors. Of the ten members of the Commonwealth Bank Board, the names of five have already been announced, but we do not know who the other five will be. We have been told that the members of the present advisory committee will be appointed to the board, and that Dr. Rowland Wilson is also to be a member. He is an experienced man, and we do not object to his appointment, but we are concerned about the other five who are to be appointed.. F remember those who formed the Commonwealth Bank Board when the Seullin Government was in office. Some of them perhaps1 regarded themselv.es as world beaters, but amongst them,, as the honorable member’ for Dalley pointed out,, was as polo player,, as welL as representatives- of Broken, Hall Proprietary Company Limited and the great tobacco- combine?. Evidently,, it is proposed now to appoint- another board of the same sort as- that which strangled the successful enterprise established under the control of Sir Denison Miller. During the first world’ war,, the Commonwealth Bank- was able to> conduct the- financial operations– of the Government much more economically” than: the- private banks would have done it. .Since the- control of the1 Commonwealth Bank was taken: out of the hands1 of those interested hr tie trading- banks and: the- big. financial corporations such as the tobacco trust,, it huts progressed rapidly.. Its- success- has; been due to the fact that, under Labour administration, the Government was responsible for banking policy. The Government was advised on the financial side - not dictated to - by a committee-, and by the Governor of the bank.. All those advisers were well versed in economic matters,, and’ some of them had! au intimate knowledge of banking-. We- do not want to see the Commonwealth Bank, which, was founded by a Labour Government in the- past to operate as a national bank in the interests of the people, destroyed by the present Government..
The honorable member for. Forrest (.Mr. Ereeth) discussed central banking, and referred to central banks behind the Iron. Curtain.. Apparently, he is con.cerned only with the central banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank, but the Commonwealth Bank is more than a central bank. I am most concerned with the ordinary trading section of the Commonwealth Bank, and that is the section which was stifled by the Commonwealth Bank Board in the past.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann),Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
In 1942 deposits rose to- £129,000,000 and advances to customers- to £35,000,000. Thais;, there had been an, expansion of approximately 300’ per cent.. Do- those figures support the charge of strangulation: which Opposition! members have so often made?; That change is so much twaddle and poppycock The honorable member for Dalley (Ma-. Rosevear) has said that under the guidance of the present Advisory Council the Commonwealth Bank has made magnificent progress. I remind- him that some responsibility for the present inflationary spiral must rest either1 ou the head of the previous Government or on. the Commonwealth Bank.. The Leader of the previous Government was: virtually the- dictator of the central bank. What has happened in recent years exposes- the danger of one-man; control of the Commonwealth Bank. If the Bank, had been controlled by a board of men with a wide knowledge of interests of various kinds which affect the economy of Australia, such as the wool industry and other allied industries, the present position would not have arisen. Almost every spokesman of the Labour party, particularly when the proceedings of this chamber were being broadcast, has said of this bilL “ This is the pay-off to the private banks “, or words to that effect. They contend that because a man excels in some form of sport, he is not qualified for appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board. For all they know, Er. Coombs may be a champion marble player. After all, a famous cyclist is now a member of this Parliament. Apparently honorable members opposite do not believe that the first and foremost qualification for appointment to a board of the kind proposed is a sound knowledge of the job involved. Both the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and the honorable member for Dalley have claimed that the Commonwealth Bank had steadily progressed since the war when the previous Government was in office. I am certain that neither has an intimate knowledge of the business of the Commonwealth Bank during the last few years or he would not have made such a claim. The published figures relating to the activities of the bank indicate that it made very much less progress in 1946 and 1947 than it did in the years prior to 1942. Opposition members merely follow the party line and repeat the parrot cry that this measure represents the pay-off to the private banks. They play that story on every possible occasion when the proceedings of this chamber are being broadcast.
I was very interested to notice that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), during his second-reading speech on this bill, .turned around to the Opposition benches and said, “ The Opposition will not have a board “. I advise him and other Opposition members to be very careful, for they may be faced with the alternative of having a board or of losing their seats in this Parliament. They might well be guided by the principle, “ No board, no seat in the Parliament Difficulty has been experienced in maintaining a quorum of members present in the chamber solely because Opposition members have restricted their speeches to a repetition of the parrot cry, “ This is the pay-off to the private banks”. There is every reason why control of the Commonwealth Bank should be vested in a board. We should appoint a board consisting of men with a wide knowledge of economic affairs instead of relying on the advice of a few specialists.
.- A few minutes ago the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) clearly indicated why this bill had been introduced and why the clause we are now discussing was included in it. He said, in effect, that the bill had been introduced to protect the private banks. He also made it clear that the persons who will be appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board will carry out the policy of the
Liberal party, which is to free the private banks of the many restrictions that were imposed upon them by the banking legislation of 1945. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) became very indignant when it was suggested by Opposition members that polo players - pukka sahibs who drink their whisky neat- would be appointed to the board. He could not understand why Opposition members should be so suspicious of the business representatives whom the Government proposes to appoint to the board. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who is present in the chamber, has had a wide experience of the control by a board of businessmen of an industry of national importance. In bis book, Policies and Potentates, which was published last year, the right honorable gentleman states that when he went to Britain as the representative of this country he had to approach a board constituted somewhat on the lines of the board which this Government proposes to establish for the control of the Commonwealth Bank. He states that he had approached Mr. Asquith, the British Prime Minister of the day, and said that Australia and other Empire countries vitally needed ships to transport their produce to Great Britain. Mr. Asquith had said that he could do nothing about the matter as the supply of ships was controlled by a committee of shipping experts representative of the private shipowners. Writing of his interview with the committee, the right honorable member for Bradfield said -
It turned out as I expected, I put my case to the committee, dwelt on Australia’s urgent need for ships to send to Britain her wheat, meat, wool, and other commodities essential to the prosecution of a war. I to’d them that every effort in Australia and Britain to secure shipping had failed. I reminded them that Australia was part of the Empire, that her soldiers were fighting and dying in thousands on the battlefields of France and Flanders, and asked them to allocate ships to transport these vital materials. My appeal evoked a chilly response. The noble Lord in the Chair told me in a stilted voice that I could get what freight was available at the world’s price.
Despite the dire needs of the Empire and the fact that the sons of those noble lords were risking their lives on the battlefields of France and Flanders, the interests of the private shipping concerns came first.
No doubt in their ordinary lives those noble lords were men of estimable character, but their private business interests transcended everything else in importance.
– What has all this to do with clause 10?
– It has very much to do with clause 10. We can expect from a Commonwealth Bank Board representative of private interests just as little as the right honorable member for Bradfield obtained from the noble lords about whom he has written so eloquently. When they had to choose between their own private interests and the dangers that confronted the people as a whole their private interests came first. What will be the attitude of the representative of the wool-growers on the board? When the question of devaluation or depreciation of currency comes before it will he be able to divorce his consideration of the board’s policy from his interests in the industry in which he makes his living ? The board will have to consider vital questions which will affect the incomes not only of its members, but also of those who are associated with them in that industry. That is why the Labour party has always contended that it is not correct to have a great government instrumentality which will determine the policy of the Government on financial matters controlled by people who have outside interests.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) says that honorable members of the Opposition are horribly suspicious people, but everybody remembers what happened in this country during the war. Everybody remembers the chiselling and black marketing which was carried on by people who are considered to-day to be most respectable members of society. In the 1890 s every bank in Australia, with one exception, closed its doors and refused to give depositors their money. The noble knights who then acted in positions of trust on the boards of these banks landed this country in a greater mess than any Communist or Communist party has been able to put it in since. There is nobody on the other side of the chamber who can accuse me of having failed to appreciate the Communist menace. .When members of the Labour party in Victoria were opposing Soviet House and prohibiting its supporters from having anything to do with it, members of the Liberal party were sending cheques to its representatives and were being quoted in the literature of that association as patrons. In the cold statistics of suicides, bankruptcies, ruined families and business, and the unemployment and misery created in this country as a result of banking policy, greater damage has been done to the moral and material welfare of this country than the Communist party has yet succeeded in doing.
– We are not discussing the policy of the board. We are discussing its proposed personnel.
– The proposed personnel represent outside business which has repeatedly failed the people of this country miserably and done tremendous damage to their economy. I will excuse some people of malice and accuse them only of stupidity during the depression, but as a result of their policy more recruits were brought into the Communist party than by all the Communist propaganda since.
This clause is the kernel of the bill. Why’ were not any of the powers of the bank taken away from it? Because the Government decided it would be a bit too much for some of the younger members of the Liberal party if it suddenly removed all the restrictions openly. So instead of taking away from the Commonwealth Bank what powers it has to control the private banks, the Government decided to appoint a board which would carry out the Liberal party’s policy of allowing the private banks to implement their course of action which is determined by the degree of profit they can make. No matter what the effect of their policy on the general welfare of the people, the criterion of the private banks will be whether they are making a profit or not. What will be the attitude of the proposed bank board to the control of the £400,000,000 which the private banks have on deposit with the Commonwealth Bank? That money will be poured on to the market and will make the present inflationary situation look like a garden party. The Government proposes to appoint to the board people whose interests will be bound up with the release of that credit. Is it any wonder that the Labour party has decided to oppose this clause with all its might and all its numbers both in this House and elsewhere? Members of the Labour party will continue to do that in the hope that the Australian people will have a further chance of expressing their opinions on this legislation in the light of their experience of the Government since it took office.
.- If there is to be an academy award this year for hypocrisy I believe that honorable members opposite have earned it already for their outstanding performance of opposition to the bank board and its proposed membership. Considerable time has been taken up with miserable criticism levelled by honorable members of the Opposition at the composition of the board and their general complaint seems to be that a previous board contained two members, one of whom was a polo player and the other a manufacturer of bedsteads. I should have imagined that the polo player would come from the country and would have some knowledge of rural conditions and would, by virtue of that experience alone, be of some value to the board. As a polo player he may have been a worthy son of a worthy pioneer, and such a man, experienced in rural matters and successful in his own affairs, could have brought some knowledge to a banking board. Honorable members opposite probably knew these gentlemen. I did not, but if the polo player brought just one atom of horse sense to the banking board it would have been of considerably greater value than the theory which has been evolved over the past eight years by the long-haired economists who have done so much thinking for the honorable gentlemen opposite.
The criticism has also been made that the proposed members of the board will lack background. Without showing disrespect or indulging in carping criticism in any degree, I ask honorable gentlemen opposite to consider the position and background of their own leader, the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley). Only during the last few years has the right honorable gentleman made a study of banking and finance. Yet he is now accepted as an authority on those subjects by his followers. I cannot for one moment accept the view that the right honorable gentleman is an authority on finance and banking. Honorable members opposite cannot be very sincere in their arguments on this subject of the composition of the proposed board. Their objections to it are offered with a great deal of mental reservation. Their past actions are not in keeping with their present statements. When the previous Government needed a man to govern the Commonwealth Bank it appointed a doctor of philosophy with no experience of practical banking. That Governor of the bank was only a dabbler in finance. Every honorable member realizes that. I know that he had had some experience as a public servant in various departments from the year 1939. In his appointment to the Governorship of the Commonwealth Bank, he was preferred to many officers of that institution. Some of them were exservicemen and others had made a lifetime study of banking. It is true that the Governor to whom I am referring had had a distant connexion with the Commonwealth Bank for two or three years.
– The honorable member is guessing.
– It is the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who is guessing, and he does too much of it in this chamber. Dr. Coombs had held the junior post of Assistant Economist in the bank, and that had given him as much knowledge of banking as would be possessed by the bank’s architect. He was either a dictator in his own right or he had to turn to a board for advice. Actually he did have a board of advice and everybody knows that the adviser was none other than the Treasurer of the day (Mr. Chifley). Having the virtue of being Treasurer, that right honorable gentleman carried a great deal of weight in the deliberations of the bank. It is a fact also that the most important decisions made in the eight years before the present Government assumed office were made by none other than the right honorable gentleman, who was a self-constituted authority on banking. This bill permits Dr. Coombs to remain on the board and to retain his Governorship. As his qualification for the position was his devotion to the cause of socialism, this situation has caused a great deal of misgiving among the people of Australia, and I must confess than I share that feeling. Yet behind the appointment and retention of Dr. Coombs as the Governor of the bank, I believe that I see the action of a statesman. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who is anxious to unite all sections of the community, knows that Dr. Coombs is a socialist. As leader of this Government, the right honorable gentleman is prepared to put Australia above party, and the opportunity exists for Dr. Coombs, as Governor of the bank, to prove that he too is capable of putting his country before his personal political views.
The principle of having nonprofessional men on a board to help to control an enterprise has been tried and has proved successful in many branches of human activity in the course of the past century. Such boards of directors have been behind most of the great industrial achievements of this country. But it is not necessary to go to private enterprise to find an example of this; one has only to consider the action of the Labour Government when it was in office. Apart from the appointment of Dr. Coombs, who is a Doctor of Philosophy, to conduct banking, the Labour Government adopted the slogan, “Nothing over 2s. 6d.” when it sought a man to control TransAustralia Airlines, and it appointed to the Australian National Airlines Commission a chain-store man. In case he needed assistance, the Labour Government gave him a good Labour supporter who knew no more about airlines operations than he himself did. The Labour Government appointed a grazier to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and, with him, a union official. The principle was carried further by the Labour Government when it appointed to the highly technical Council of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organization, Mr. Don Mountjoy, whose lack of knowledge on technical matters would fill a text-book. If the Opposition wants to take a stand against the appointment of non-technical men under this clause, it will have to turn more somersaults than a cage full of monkeys, hut I believe that fear of the principle is not so great among honorable members on the Opposition benches as they imagine or would have the people of Australia believe it to be. Their master’s voice has told them not to trust amateurs on the bank board and like children who are afraid of the dark they are ready to start at shadows. From my own observations I believe that the Commonwealth Bank authorities are just babes in the wood in the field of finance. If the trading department of the Commonwealth Bank is to be successful there is need for men on the board who are capable of distinguishing a good from a bad risk and as a consequence will be capable of applying to the Commonwealth Bank’s trading operations a policy which will enable that institution to compete effectively with the private trading banks. For that reason alone, I believe that if men of experience are chosen, they should be of benefit to the Commonwealth Bank.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I oppose this clause, which deals with the personnel to be appointed to the proposed board, because I believe that it is one of the most sinister clauses in the bill. One has only to read the wording of the clause to discern the roundabout method that the Government proposes to adopt to evade the decision of the Parliament. Honorable members have been told during the course of the debate in this chamber that it is intended to set up a board of ten, composed of five members of the Public Service and five outside members. If honorable members will read the clause they will find that it wit be possible to appoint seven persons who are not members of the Public Service at all. The first three persons who are mentioned are the Governor of the bank, the Deputy Governor, and the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury.
They are public officials whose sole interest will be. the welfare of the people of this country. I believe that they will use their influence and powers to make the board one that will advance the interests of the people of Australia. However, in the debate it has been stated that the Treasurer (Mr.Fadden) proposes to appoint to the board persons who will enable him to institute a policy for which he will not have to account to this Parliament. The policy of the bank and its administration will not come before the Parliament unless there is a conflict of opinion between the Treasurer and the members of the board. Even then it will be submitted to the Parliament only by direction of the Treasurer. If the Treasurer can use the persons whom he appoints to implement his policy, he willbe able to get away with all sorts of recommendations and activities without actual reference to the Parliament. The clause puts the case more fully than I can put it. Proposed section 23 (1.) states -
The Commonwealth Bank Board shall consist of -
the Deputy Governor;
the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury;
The most important provision is in paragraph (d), which states -
Seven other members, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General in accordance with the preceding provisions of this Section.
It is proposed to appoint two public servants and five persons who are. not public servants. Sub-section (2.) of proposed section 23 reads -
Of the seven members appointed under paragraph (d) of the last preceding subsection, at least five shall be persons who- are not officers of the Bank or of the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
That provides straight-out for the appointment to the board of five persons who have no connexion with the public service, but will represent private interests, and two other persons who, it is stated, will be public servants and can later he replaced by more representatives of outside interests. Those men will be able to use their influence against the expressed policy of this Parliament in order to force the board to follow courses of action such as were followed by the former board during the depression, when it heaped hardships upon the people. I emphasize the fact that any officer of the Commonwealth Bank or of the Public Service who may be appointed to the board in accordance with proposed section 23 (1.) (d) will hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General, which means during the pleasure of the Treasurer and the government of the day. Although we have been told that the Government intends to include two public servants amongst the seven members to be nominated, it will be able to discharge any such appointees at will. It may honour its. promise, but sack the two public servants from the board at a very early stage and appoint in their stead two representatives of private interests. Thus it will be able to gain control of the bank board by appointing seven persons without Public Service or Commonwealth Bank affiliations so that the policy of the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the. hank maybe overridden. That is a very sinister feature of proposed section 23.
Sub-section (4.) of the proposed section states -
A member appointed under paragraph (d) of sub-section (1.) of this section (not being an officer of the Bank or of the Public Service of the Commonwealth) -
shall, subject to this section, be appointed for a period of five years ;
The succeeding sub-section provides that the periods of appointment of such members shall he so determined as to ensure that at least one appointment shall expire each year during the first five years. That means that, if the provision becomes effective, the Government will have the right during the next two years to sack two of the original appointees and put in their places, for a period of five years each, any other persons whom it may choose. That will enable it to thwart the will of the Parliament by securing the appointment to the board of seven outsiders who could enforce the adoption by the Commonwealth Bank of any policy that they might direct without reference to the Parliament. They might decide to increase interest rates and to restrict the trading activities of the Commonwealth Bank, as happened formerly when the institution was controlled by a board. I had an unpleasant experience of the policy that was adopted by the bant in those days. After I had been elected to this Parliament, I visited the head office of the bank for the purpose of opening an account with it. Although I had not asked for an overdraft, I was asked with what bank I was doing business at the time. When I replied to the question, I was told that the policy of the Commonwealth Bank was not to accept the account of a person banking with another establishment. I was asked my reasons for wanting to transfer my account to the Commonwealth Bank, and T told the officer that I believed that the Commonwealth Bank should be the only banking instrumentality in Australia and believed in practising what I preached. The dangers that we fear, which threaten the people with hardships, can materialize as the result of the implementation of the subtle scheme for which proposed section 23 provides. We have been told that no members of directorates or employees of corporations can be appointed under the proposed section. But we know what happened in the case of Mr. S. M. Bruce. When he was appointed to a certain office he resigned his directorship of Paterson, Laing and Bruce Limited, but resumed it as soon as he was defeated by the present right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) in a contest for election to this Parliament. It is quite easy for the representatives of private interests to renounce their affiliations temporarily.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In analysing the objections of honorable members of the Opposition to the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board, we are forced to the conclusion that they have no real objections in fact. I believe that their arguments are dictated by the policy of “what we have, we hold”. They believe that, under the existing banking legislation, they will be able to gain control of the finances of the country, both private and public, if ever they are again elected to power. The frequency with which they can change their coats, ignoring the facts that are presented to them, is astonishing-. I remind the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) that legislation enacted by a Labour government in 1930, during the depression period of which the Opposition has so much to say, provided for the appointment of a board to control the central reserve bank. The members of that board, apart from bank officers, represented banking, commerce, labour and the manufacturing and primary industries. In other words, the membership of that board was drawn from the same sources as those from which the Government now proposes to draw the members of the board for which this bill provides and to which, members of the Opposition pretend to object so strenuously. The propaganda that is designed to convince the people that the Government intends to appoint a board consisting of men who are not experts in banking and who wish to gain control of the financial institutions in the event of another depression is mere cant. The board that was appointed by the Scullin Government in 1930 was intended to assist the economy of Australia. It included representatives of industry who were able to advise the management of the bank at all times of the requirements of industry so that it could mould its policy accordingly. Members of the Opposition pretend to believe that a board-controlled bank would be less solicitous of the welfare of Australia than would be a one-man controlled institution. I refer honorable members to the events of the ‘twenties. In 1918, 1919 and 1920, Australia experienced a boom period not dissimilar from that which we are experiencing to-day. That was followed by a minor depression - minor only because it was of short duration. That recession struck with particular severity at certain sections of the community, particularly the primary producers. Why did not the one-man controlled Commonwealth Bank of that period, under Sir Denison Miller, do something to avert the crisis? The answer to that question is that the bank was powerless to stave off the recession because its credit resources had been overstrained by the task of financing Australia during World War I. and the years of peace immediately afterwards.
– The bank did avert the crisis.
– It did nothing of the sort. A major catastrophe was averted by an over-night change of financial policy in the United States of America that was reflected throughout the world, just as the dollar crisis to-day affects the economy of the entire world. The government of the day, being forewarned, considered that an obligation rested upon it to reconstruct and strengthen the Commonwealth Bank. The action then taken to enable the bank to reconstitute its management saved the bank from serious embarrassment, and saved the people of this country from even greater embarrassment, in the crisis of World War II. A board of exactly the same composition as that appointed by the Scullin-Theodore Government was appointed. It included experienced business men whose function was to advise the board of the needs of industry. Ever since that time, we have heard from honorable members opposite and their supporters the story of the alleged strangling of the Commonwealth Bank. People who talk in that way ignore the historical records. They speak in platitudes and make false inuendoes which they fondly hope will influence certain elections. In 1922, before the “strangling” began, the assets of the Commonwealth Bank totalled £1341,000,000. At the end of 1942, after the “strangling” had been in progress for twenty years, the assets totalled £481,000,000. In 1922, the Commonwealth Bank’s profits amounted to £405,000; by 1942, that figure had risen to £951,000. If that type of “strangling” were applied to certain other Commonwealth instrumentalities, the taxpayers of this country would profit considerably. The principal argument advanced by Opposition members against this measure is based on the erroneous belief that under one man control, the Commonwealth Bank can make limitless millions of pounds available in time of crisis, whereas, under the control of a board, that cannot be done. My 1923 illustration shows that to be a dream that did not materialize. During World War II. the then Labour Treasurer said that there was a limit to the credit resources of the Commonwealth Bank. He said he did not believe that, even in time of war, when the need was greatest, the credit resources of the bank could exceed £400,000,000. That was in a period of war when money was not nearly so important as certain other considerations. Conditions are considerably different in peace-time when both nations and men seek a quid pro quo. The same Treasurer also warned the country that Australia’s social credit structure could not be financed out of bank credit or loans, but must rely on taxation and other Commonwealth revenue. How then do honorable members opposite sustain their argument that a one-man controlled bank can make available limitless credit in time of national crisis? That is a completely false belief that should be scotched by every speaker. The Labour Treasurer’s opinion to which I have referred, and which I believe to be sound, give us a better opportunity to appreciate the position in 1930, when Mr. Theodore proposed to issue bank credit for £18,000,000. He was asked what he would do when the £18,000,000 had been expended. He said that he would issue another £18,000,000. I am not arguing the merits of that proposition. The proposal may have been sound and, in later years we may have believed that perhaps something could have been done, but, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that, to provide employment during the depression years and to subsidize primary production and consumption generally, hundreds of millions of pounds would have had to be injected into the economy. Those days, I remind honorable members, were not boom times such as we are experiencing now. They were days of depression, and the goods produced as the result of the injection of credit into the economy, would have had no sale. Our credit resources would have been drying up and. continuance of the depression at its existing degree of severity would have made the ultimate position considerably worse than the first.
– The honorable member is advocating what was done in 1930.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) should speak for himself if he is able to do so soundly and logically. What was done in 1930 was probably unnecessarily hard, but it is easy to be wise after the event, as honorable members opposite are to-day.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I oppose this clause because, quite candidly, I have no confidence in the Government’s intention to make suitable appointments to the Commonwealth Bank Board under proposed section 23 (2.). We have been told by almost every honorable member opposite that boards have been successful in almost every other country. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) cited what he claimed to be the successful example of the Bank of England. There is no need to go overseas to find classic examples of the effects of board control. After all, we are a civilized community, capable of making decisions in accordance with logic and frankness, and particularly in the light of our experience over the years. We cannot indulge in ecstatic praise of the last Commonwealth Bank Board which, at certain times, pursued a policy that was diametrically opposed to the best interests of the Australian people. The proposal to appoint some members of the present Advisory Council to the board will meet with general approval. The council has rendered excellent service to the Governor and, despite what has been said from time to time by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), I am sure everybody will agree that the present Governor has done a splendid job. He lias proved himself to be a most capable administrator who possesses a thorough knowledge of the bank’s requirements. The other members of the Advisory Council named in the second-reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) ha.ve also rendered valuable service, and I should like to know why any change in the present system is deemed necessary. We on this side of the chamber have asked Government supporters repeatedly to cite one instance in which the bank, under its present administration, has failed the Australian people. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Mackinnon) made a half-hearted attempt some days ago to prove that the Commonwealth Bank had failed to check inflation; but we were told almost immediately afterwards by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the Government’s legislation to curb the Communists would check inflation. The Government parties should determine just what their policy is on inflation. No, honorable member seriously entertains the belief that the Commonwealth Bank, as at present constituted, is responsible for the spread of inflation. If this clause were agreed to in its present form, the Government would be given a blank cheque, and I for one am not prepared tn give it such a cheque. The kernel of the clause is proposed section 26, which is remarkable, not for what it says, but for what it does not say. The whole policy of the bank is bound up with the three appointments that are to be made by the Governor-General in Council if this bill is passed. I suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, that we must scrutinize the proposed section with particular care before we agree to it. The Government assumes that its inclusion in the legislation disposes of the charge that the board may be dominated by representatives of the private banks because it reads -
It is there provided that a person who is a director of a private bank shall not be eligible for appointment to the board. Reading that, one would think that directors of private banks are the only people who have vested interests in such institutions. I have yet to learn that directors are always the men who hold the most shares in private banks. Because of what I have been told and have read, I am convinced that directors of our private financial institutions are not numbered amongst those who have the larger shareholdings at all. In fact they usually hold comparatively few shares. What is to prevent the present Government from appointing to this proposed bank board persons who have tremendous holdings in private banking institutions but are not directors thereof? Such appointments cannot be objected to under the proposed section 26, bacause those people are not directors. Moreover, no guarantee has been given by either the Treasurer or the Government that persons will be appointed to the board who have no shareholding interest in banks. The spectacle may be seen of men being appointed who have fingers in the pies of large commercial interests. I do not say this in any spirit of disrespect or by way of personal attack, but possibly such men may in most cases move in the same social circles as the directors of private banks. It is quite likely that they will be friendly with such directors, and possibly members of the same clubs. They may have a similar outlook, and from time to time may discuss, during their social contacts, matters of mutual interest. I am not prepared to leave the fate of the Commonwealth Bank in the hands of men who have interests which may be identical with those of the private banks.
The whole system envisaged by this bill bristles with the possibility of action that would not be in the best interests of the Australian people. The matter is too serious for acquiescence on the part of honorable members on this side of the chamber. It seems to be the attitude of honorable members on the Government side that we, in Opposition, should accept the bill as a proper one because we are in a minority. The Government has resolutely refused to give any indication of the identity of the persons to he appointed. Without making myself liable to the charge of having a suspicious mind, I can say that it appears that the Government must have something to hide - something up its sleeve - that it does not wish to produce until the bill becomes law, I am not prepared to accept these proposals at all. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) made a few observations that I cannot allow to pas9 unchallenged. He cited, not for the first time, a bill that he said was brought forward by the Scullin Government in 1930, the machinery provision in which embodied a proposition such as is contained in this hill. I point out publicly to the honorable member something that he should already know. That is that the Scullin Government at that time was in a very inviduous position. It had a minority in the Senate, and in attempting to carry out its policy it drew up legislation which it considered it would be able to pass through that chamber.
That was in 1930. The Australian Labour party has had, since 1930, a bitter example of the machinations of the Commonwealth Bank Board. In 1931 that board bared its teeth to the Australian governments and people. The honorable member for Gippsland claimed that it is easy for us to be wise after the event. I have vivid recollections of the depression and of the great conflict of public opinion that resulted from the bank board’s refusal to grant financial aid to the Australian governments. I remember meetings throughout Australia being called by the Labour party so that it could place before the people the truth about the activities of the bank board. I say to the honorable member that far from being wise after the event, we were wise when the event was actually occuring in 1931. We recognized then what the bank board’s policy meant. For it to be said that we are being wise twenty years after, is a mere subterfuge. We recognized at that time, and we recognize now, what private hank control means to the Australian people. We would be recreant to our principles if we did not oppose the present bill.
I again challenge the Government to point to one example of the failure of the present banking control system to act in the interests of the Australian people. I ask for just one example. Every speaker from this side of the committee has made that request.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Despite the protestations of honorable members opposite, the fact remains that the people of Australia, on every occasion on which they have had the opportunity to indicate their wishes, have decided against the Labour party’s financial reform policy.
– Did they so decide last Saturday?
– Once again they decided in that way on Saturday, the 10th December last. They then decided in no uncertain manner. The two Government parties, as they told the people of Australia, believe that a Commonwealth Bank Board is the best means of governing the financial or monetary policy of this country. The Labour party, throughout the years, has advocated the abolition of the bank board, and when recently it had the opportunity to do so, it transformed its desire into reality. That was done in the face of definite opposition from the Australian electors. From 1931, when banking was first made an important issue, until 1942, when the previous Government was silent on the subject, the people of Australia decided repeatedly against the Labour party’s banking policy, which included the abolition of the bank board. Listening to honorable members opposite one would think that the board method of control is one that they knew nothing about during their term of office. They are asking the people of Australia to believe that board government of the banking system of this country is not a proper method of control because the board will not be composed of the experts that are necessary to deal with the complex system of banking. I remind the committee, and the Opposition in particular, that the previous Government set up no fewer than 157 boards. For the majority of those boards it obtained the services of the leading captains of industry in this country. The civil life of this country was carried on under the board system during the recent Avar. Indeed the ancillary factories producing war-time necessities were carried on and controlled by boards appointed by the previous Government. In many cases such boards were chaired or controlled by leaders of private industry. Yet now, because we propose to appoint five of the leading businessmen of the nation to the proposed bank board, we are told that Australia cannot provide such a number of experts. Wot withstanding that, according to honorable members opposite, 157 boards have been properly managed and controlled in the national interest, they suggest that it will not be practicable to obtain the services of five individuals sufficiently expert in the management of public finance to make the board function effectively. They have also told us that the proposed board will be so large that it will conflict with the Government’s pre-election promise that a small board would be appointed. It is time this humbug ceased. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) himself is interested in a company, which, although its nominal capital is only £3,000,. has a board of seven directors. It is nothing less than arrant humbug for honorable members opposite to assert that a board of ten members Will be too unwieldy to control the finances of the nation. I invite the attention of the committee to the fact that the Bank of England, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of India, and the South African Reserve Bank are all governed by boards of more than ten members. Indeed, the board of the Bank of England numbers eighteen members, only four of whom are required to give full-time attention to the bank’s business. All the members of that board are drawn from the commercial and industrial activities of the United Kingdom. In the light of that fact the board that we propose to establish can only be described as a small hoard, and it is certainly not unreasonable to propose that the body that is to be responsible for the management of the financial affairs of the nation shall be composed of ten members. That number of members is necessary because of the need of the board to’ have well-balanced views on the diversified matters that will come before it for decision.
The proposed board will include the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, who will be the chairman, and the Deputy Governor of that institution, who will also be the deputy chairman of the board. The Secretary to the Treasury will be an ex officio member of the board, because it is only natural, having regard to its general responsibilities and activities, that the Treasury should be represented on the board. Two outstanding experts who will be appointed to the proposed board because of their specialized knowledge of the intricacies of modern banking are Professor Melville, who has bad twenty years experience as economic adviser to the Commonwealth Bank, and is recognized as a leading authority on centralized banking not only in this country but also throughout the world, and Dr. Roland “Wilson, the Common.wealth Statistician and Economic Adviser to the Government, who has an exceptional knowledge of banking, including central banking in overseas countries. By reason of his overseas experience and his knowledge of the functioning of the International Bank, Dr. Roland Wilson is admirably fitted to take his place on the proposed board. Five seats remain to be filled on the board, and in selecting the appointees the Government will be guided by the interests of the nation. There is nothing to fear from the composition of the proposed board. Of course, the Labour party’s real ground of objection to the proposal is that that party is opposed to the Commonwealth Bank being controlled by a board at all. Labour has not hidden its light under a bushel in this matter, but has been consistent in its opposition to the establishment of a board to control the bank. However, the political parties represented on this side of the chamber take the opposite view, and the people of Australia have consistently endorsed our attitude in this matter. At the general elections of 1931, 1934, 1937, and 1949, banking was the salient issue, and in each of those elections the Labour party was defeated. Therefore, we say that we have a mandate to establish the proposed board to control the monetary and banking systems of the Commonwealth, and that, in any event, it is in the national interest that they shall be so controlled. I commend the clause to the committee.
.- Notwithstanding the explanations furnished by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), the proposed board to control the activities of the Commonwealth Bank will obviously be a large one, more so in view of the history of the control of that institution. Even when the bank was under board control the board was never composed of so many members as the Government now proposes to appoint. In consequence, the objection taken by honorable members on this side of the chamber to the number of representatives on the board can be properly sustained. Furthermore, the Government’s proposal to include on the beard five members not drawn from the Public Service indicates plainly that those appointees will be connected in some way with vested interests. Even though the Government believes that it must have a large board to control the bank, and that there is some magic in the number “ ten “, it is an affront to the Public Service to suggest that all the members of the proposed board shall not be drawn from the Public Service, which has proved its capacity and integrity. Over the years the Public Service has established for itself a reputation that is equal to that of the Public Service of any other country. If the Government is determined to appoint a board of ten members, why has it overlooked the undoubted claims of the Public Service in the matter ? Five members of the board will be persons from outside the Public Service. If the Government’s announced intention to appoint persons of ability and experience are bona fide, it is unnecessary to look beyond the Public Service. The Commonwealth Bank has a highly qualified staff that is capable of dealing with any of the problems that would be likely to confront a bank board. If the Government’s intentions in this matter are above suspicion, why has it passed over persons employed in the Public Service who are qualified to act on the board? To my mind, the Government’s decision is a studied affront to the Public Service. As has been rightly stated by Opposition members, the whole proposal is suspect, and from our experience of appointments that previous Liberal governments made to the Commonwealth Bank Board, our suspicions are well-founded. I shall read the names of a few of the persons whose appointment to the board in the past gives us ample reason for viewing with suspicion the present proposal to appoint five persons, as yet unnamed, to the board. They are -
Mr. J. J. Garvan, managing director, Mutual Life and Citizen’s Assurance Company Limited.
Mr. R. S. Drummond, manager New South Wales Compulsory Wheat Pool.
Sir Samuel Hordern, governing director, Anthony Hordern and Sons ; director, Perpetual Trustee Company; director, Royal Insurance Company.
Mr. J. Mackenzie Lees, chairman of the Associated Banks; general manager, Bank of Queensland.
Mr. R. B. W. McComas, proprietor, W. H. Haughton and Company; former chairman, Wool-buyers Association of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
Sir Claude Reading, former managingdirector, British Australasian Tobacco Company.
Mr. A. F. Bell, director, Union Trustee Company.
Those are only a few names that have been hastily collected to prove the Opposition’s contention that it is justified in viewing with suspicion the Government’s proposal to appoint to the board five persons from outside the Public Service.
I cannot understand why certain Government supporters have attacked the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. Coombs. It is apparent that they are using their privileges in this chamber to criticize a man who is not in a position to defend himself. I am being quite frank when I say that I have never met the person in question. Nevertheless I object to Government supporters criticising him in this chamber, yet supporting hie continuance in office as Governor of the bank. That, in itself, is not so much an attack upon that official as an indictment of their own leaders. Cabinet has decided that Dr. Coombs shall retain his position as Governor of the bank, but rank-and-file members of the Liberal party have criticized him. However, their objections ring hollowly-
– Who has criticized Dr. Coombs 1
- His background has been criticized repeatedly in this debate. This afternoon, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) criticized him when describing his alleged background.
– They were not criticizing Dr. Coombs.
– If they were not criticizing him, I do not know what they were doing. Other Government supporters have criticized him. During the past month, he has been subjected to a campaign that does little credit to honorable members opposite. For the reasons that I have enunciated, the Labour party is determined to oppose the provision for the appointment of five persons from avenues outside the control of the Government to the responsible position of determining the financial policy of this country. The Government may be adamant in this matter, but the Opposition is determined to fight the issue to the finish. The Liberal party and the Aus tralian Country party claim that at the general election on the 10th December last, the Government was given a mandate by the people to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board. The real nature of its mandate remains to be seen. I recall that when the Labour Government introduced the Commonwealth Bank Bill in 1945 the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) stated that he would never agree to the abolition of the bank board. At the general election in 1946, the people confirmed the banking policy of the Chifley Government, yet the Liberal party and the Australian Country party continued to express their hostility to it. Whilst the Government claims that it has been given a mandate to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board, it does not follow that its will in that respect will prevail in perpetuity. The Labour party has always looked askance at control of the financial policy of the nation being vested in people who are not in any way responsible to the Parliament. Government supporters contradict themselves when they claim that the will of the Parliament should be supreme, yet transfer one of the most important functions of government to a board.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– There are only a few observations that I should like to make about the personnel of the Commonwealth Bank Board. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has made it perfectly clear that the Labour party does not object to the principle of vesting the control of important activities in boards, because it has appointed numbers of them for that purpose. Not one member of the Opposition has yet informed the committee of the real reasons for the Labour party’s objection to the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Honorable gentlemen opposite express the fear that the board will be controlled by the representatives of private banking interests, yet when we remind them that the Commonwealth Bank Board will not be so constituted, they shift their ground and say that such an authority should be composed only of experts. When they are informed that a wide variety of commercial and other interests will be represented on the board, they begin to talk about the depression. Members of the Opposition, almost with crocodile tears streaming down their cheeks, have told long stories of the depression. They have spoken as though honorable members on this side of the committee have no knowledge of that period, but many of us have vivid recollections of it.
– -“Was the honorable member for Oxley ever on the dole?
– I was not.
– Some honorable members on this side of the chamber were.
– I practised medicine in a country town during the depression and its effects were brought very vividly to my notice.
– In many instances, members of the medical profession gave their services free then.
– That is so. The real reason why honorable gentlemen opposite object to the reestablishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board is that to have the principal banking institution of a country under the control of a board is opposed to the pripciples of socialism. They desire the banking system of this country to be under the control of the Treasurer, because they hope that in the future the Treasurer will be a member of the Labour party. Lenin, the arch apostle of socialism, said that if he were given control of the banks of a country, he would control the people of that country. Honorable gentlemen opposite, as declared socialists, must, in order to be true to their principles, object to the establishment of a board to control the Commonwealth Bank, although they do not object to other forms of activity being controlled by boards.
– I had expected that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), in dealing with this clause, would try to lighten the darkness that appears to have enshrouded the Government side of the chamber by endeavouring to show that the present system of control of the Commonwealth Bank has failed to justify itself, but so far no Government supporter has proved that the present system of control has resulted in anything but gain for the people of Australia.
– It is a dictatorship.
– That interjection is in line with the interjection that was made earlier in the debate by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Because that honorable gentleman could find nothing with which to damn the efficiency of the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, he decided, so- to speak, to throw stones at him by referring to him as a socialist dictator who was carrying out a socialist programme for a Labour Government. The honorable gentleman completely ignored the fact that this Government proposes that Dr. Coombs shall be chairman of the new board.
The Labour party has been consistent in its attitude to the Commonwealth Bank. Having regard to the speeches that have been made this afternoon in support of this clause, one could be pardoned for assuming that reversion to the system of control of the bank that was in operation immediately prior to the enactment of the Banking Act 1945 would restore the bank to its original status. I remind honorable gentlemen opposite of a fact that appears to have escaped their notice. It is that from 1911 to 1924 the bank was governed in accordance with a system similar to that which is now in operation. Its growth during that period, in face of the keenest competition, proved the efficiency of the form of control that the Labour party has always advocated. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) referred to the fact that when the Commonwealth Bank was emasculated in 1924 and placed under the control of a board, certain financial interests were represented on that board. If a person has interests in addition to the interests of a board of which he is a member, he may be, and frequently is, involved in a conflict of loyalties. For that reason the Labour party has always contended that the best system of control of the Commonwealth Bank is the present one.
– It is one-man control.
– That does not matter. The fact is that that so-called one-man control, in conjunction with the
Advisory Council as now constituted, has worked very well for the people of this country. Honorable members on this side of the committee have produced facts and figures which prove conclusively that there is nothing wrong with the present system of control.
The five private persons whom the Government will appoint to the Commonwealth Bank Board may have the best of intentions, but they will be men of some status in the commercial world, their status being derived- from their commercial associations. What would be their position if a conflict arose between their outside interests and their duties as members of the board? As the honorable member for Martin said, it is notorious that some of the members of previous Commonwealth Bank boards were persons who had great and farreaching financial interests that frequently clashed with their duties as members of the board. In identifying the members of the board in 1934, I shall say nothing against their personal character, but shall merely direct attention to their commercial interests. The chairman, Sir Claude Reading, was a director of British Tobacco Company (Australasia) Limited, a director of W. D. and H. 0. Wills (Australasia) Limited, a director of States Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited, a member of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Commonwealth Board of Trade. Sir Claude Beading had a good commercial record and was doubtless animated by the principles for which he stood. But let us suppose that the board had been considering an extension of credit to the tobacco industry that would affect adversely his holdings in the companies with which he was associated. What attitude could he be expected to adopt to the proposal? It is reasonable to assume that, at the very least, the conflict in his mind would probably percolate through to his decision as Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board. That is also true of the persons that the Government proposes to appoint to the new board.
– The honorable member has a very poor opinion of Australian business men.
– I have a high opinion of business men generally, but it is inevitable that a clash of interests will occur if they are appointed as members of the Commonwealth Bank Board. If there were a proposal for an extension of credit by the Commonwealth Bank to some sections of industry, several members of the board might regard their private interests as liable to be menaced by the extension, even though it was for the benefit of the majority of the community. How, then, would they act? That is the motive which very keenly animates the Opposition in its objection to proposed section 23. Another member of the Commonwealth Bank Board in 1934 was Mr. R. B. W. McComas, a director of a firm of wool brokers that speculated in wool. What would be his attitude if he were to be appointed to the board to be established under this measure? I could continue with a list of similar individuals which includes A. E. Bell, Peter Tait, R. S. Drummond, M. B. Duffy, H. J. Sheehan and Sir Ernest Riddle. Two of the last four were appointees of various administrations. The proposed section is in my opinion one of the most important parts of the measure, because upon it hinges the whole of the Opposition’s case. I am astonished that the Treasurer should have tried to bluster and bully his way right through this particular matter. Bullying and blustering are not a fit substitute for the logic that we might have expected from an experienced parliamentarian like the Treasurer. I should have thought that in this debate he would have conducted himself according to the terms that he has used in counselling others. The asseverations that he has made to the effect that the various decisions given by the people in certain of the general elections that have been held since 1931-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
.- I have listened with great interest to the debate and I must say that I am sick to death of the tedious repetition by honorable members opposite of arguments about the proposed reconstitution of the Commonwealth Bank Board. It seems that this is the only line of attack that the Opposition has upon the bill. Honorable members opposite apparently oppose the re-establishment of a board, and want retained the one-man control that Labour introduced in the 1945 measure. I believe that their attitude is one of immense hypocrisy and utter nonsense. The Commonwealth Bank, which is fully supported by this Government, has grown up and matured as Australia has developed. If ever it needed control by a proper board it is now, because of the magnitude of the business that it handles. It would be highly dangerous to retain one-man control, irrespective of what government may be in power for the time being. In the interests of the protection of the people it is essential that a hoard should control the activities of this bank. In view of the attack that has been made upon the activities of the previous board, we should consider the bank’s history. When one looks at the figures of two decades between 1922 and 1942, during most of which period the bank was controlled by a board, one must be amazed at the growth that took place. In 1922, the assets of the bank were valued at £134,000,000. The profits in that year were £405,000, and the staff of the bank numbered 1,800. By 1942 the assets had increased by £347,000,000 to £481,000,000, while the profits had increased < by £546,000 to £951,000. The staff had increased to 6,300. It does not look as though there was bad management by the board during that period.
In 1924 the Bruce-Page Government established a board of eight. In 1930 a bill was introduced into the Parliament by the Scullin Government, for the establishment of a reserve bank with a board of nine. The bill, however, never became law. In 1935 the bank was growing rapidly, and the Lyons Government, which was then in power saw the need for an overhaul of the constitution of the bank. In that year the Government appointed a royal commission in connexion with the activities of the bank, and the findings of that commission were announced in 1937. In consequence a bill was actually prepared by the Lyons Government in 1938, but it was not proceeded with. War broke out in 1939, and during the period of the war the activities of the bank were largely administered under the National Security Regulations. During the process of these regulations much was done that was in conformity with the 1945 legislation. Subsequently that legislation, which was introduced by the Chifley Government, arose not out of the need for certain amendments of the consitution, but out of a deep-seated scheme for the purpose of bringing about complete socialization in this country. One-man control was purposely designed to enable the Government to bring about nationalization of banking, the complete extinction of the trading banks, the bringing about of the longdreamedof wish of the Australian Labour party - the complete socialization of this country. The head of the then Government, now the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), was saturated with his desire to bring about socialization in this country. No one knew better than he that in order to do so he would have to get complete control of the financial structure of Australia. I suggest that the purpose of the 1945 legislation, and particularly of the one-man control of the Commonwealth Bank which it established, was to bring about that effect. Labour soft-pedalled on it for a little while between 1945’ and the general election in 1946. I remind honorable members that the minds of the people of Australia were fogged at that time with the activities of war and its aftermath. It is quite understandable that the people did not at the time visualize the consequences or the implications of that legislation. It went over their heads to a large extent, and nothing of a positive nature was done to draw attention to it. In 1947 an order was issued directing the Melbourne City Council and local governing bodies to bank with the Commonwealth Bank. That was the first step in the process of putting the trading banks out of action and bringing about the deepseated plan to which I have referred. But that was not the only method that was being employed towards the attainment of that objective.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).The honorable member for Bennelong is getting too far away from the provisions of the clause.
– I shall relate my remarks more closely to the clause in a moment. The then Treasurer - now the Leader of the Opposition - issued that direction. It was fortunate for Australia that the Melbourne City Council-
– It is not permissible for the honorable member to labour that aspect of the matter too much.
– I am about to relate my remarks to the Commonwealth Bank Board. I repeat that one-man control of the Commonwealth Bank was established by design under the 1945 legislation. However, when the High Court of Australia found that sections of that legislation were invalid a further measure was introduced in 1947. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to this issue as a “ dead horse “. It is said that there is nothing worse than the kick of a “ dead horse “. We are now experiencing such a kick by reason of the Opposition’s efforts to retain one-man control of the Commonwealth Bank. Its attitude in this matter is due to its leader’s desire to bring about the complete nationalization of banking in this country. The only way that that could be done was by the inauguration of one-man control, which was established by the 1945 legislation. This Government has to alter those provisions in order to restore the matter of policymaking to Parliament. Only in that way can the people’s rights be safeguarded. It is essential that the bank be controlled by a board for the purpose of maintaining that protection.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The proposed sections contained in the clause now before the committee make it clear that the Government intends that the Commonwealth Bank shall revert to- the control of a board of the type that was in existence prior to the depression. That board was set up under legislation introduced by the Bruce-Page Government which then abolished control by a governor. Certainly, this Government is not so direct in its methods as was the BrucePage Government in that respect, because it is adopting more or less back-door methods. Whereas the Bruce-Page Government stipulated that the board be representative of certain sections of commerce and industry, this measure does not stipulate, with the exception of the Governor, the Deputy Governor and the Secretary to the Treasury, who shall be members of the board. It simply says that of the other seven members of the board at least five shall be persons who are not officers of the Commonwealth Bank or of the Public Service. Thus, the only persons who are to be specifically excluded are officers of the bank and of the Public Service. Those officers would be sworn to carry out the policy of the bank and would not be beholden to outside vested interests. Five of the appointees will be persons having associations with outside vested interests. Another important point is that the Treasurer has intimated that in addition to the Governor, Deputy Governor and -Secretary to the Treasury, two members of the present Advisory Council will be appointed to the board. However, under this clause they will be members of the board only at the pleasure of the Government. The Government may remove them at any time. Thus, it will be enabled to appoint as substitutes two other persons having association with outside vested interests in which event the majority of members would be representative of such interests. Members of the board, apart from the Governor, Deputy Governor and Secretary to the Treasury, will be appointed for a period of five years.
The Treasurer has indicated the five persons who will be ex officio members of the board. Why can he not take the committee further into his confidence and inform honorable members who the other five appointees will be? Who are these mystery men? If the Treasurer gave that information to the committee he would remove much ground for suspicion in the minds of the public’ It is important that the Parliament should know the identity of the proposed appointees. Of course, they will be required to take the oath of allegiance and an oath to keep secret the confidential information concerning the bank which comes into their possession. However, they will be only human and, therefore, subject to outside influence particularly insofar as their business associations are concerned. Whilst the clause provides that no appointee to the board shall be a director of a trading bank, it is silent concerning whether appointees will be permitted to have any interests, for instance, as shareholders, in a private trading bank. Should an appointee be a shareholder in a private bank conflict would naturally arise between his duty to the board and his loyalty to outside interests with which he is associated. Therefore, it is essential that all appointees should be absolutely free from outside financial associations. Suppose, for instance, that the subject of the revaluation of the £1, which has been a burning question for some time, should come before the board for consideration. It can be said to the credit of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) when he was Treasurer and Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the bank, that not the slightest inkling of the Chifley Government’s intention to devalue the £1 leaked out. Thus, no opportunity was afforded speculators to gain advantage by foreknowledge of that decision. Should the board be called upon to consider matters of that kind, outside appointees will tend to be influenced by their business associations.
The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) let the cat out of the hag the other day when he addressed several pointed questions to the Minister for National Development concerning certain proposals by the present Labour Government of New South Wales involving a works programme estimated to cost over £400,000,000. The honorable member threw up his hands in holy horror and raised the same old parrot cry, “Where is the money to come from?” Looking at him on that occasion one could almost picture Sir Robert Gibson saying to the Prime Minister of the day in 1930, “Not another penny will you get for public works “. The honorable member’s attitude also recalled the fact that at that time the private financial institutions put the screw upon the Labour Government of New South Wales. It is essential that the proposed board shall consist of persons who have no associations what- ever with outside financial interests, and that all appointees shall have a progressive outlook on financial matters. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) made a significant statement this afternoon when he said that the object of this proposal to place the bank under the control of a board was that the board would act as a buttress against certain actions by any future Labour government. Let us suppose that a government wished to undertake a public works programme estimated to cost hundreds of millions of pounds and sought to finance the programme through the Commonwealth Bank just as a Labour government financed the nation’s war effort to the extent of hundreds of millions of pounds. As the government of the day was able to obtain sufficient finance foi purposes of destruction, surely nothing should be placed in the way of the National Government obtaining sufficient rooney to finance essential developmental works in peace-time.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– All appointees to the proposed board should be absolutely free to carry out the policy of the government of the day in the interests of the nation as a whole. However, appointees by this Government will inevitably have an antiLabour outlook, and as they will be in office when Labour regains control of the treasury bench they will undoubtedly act as a hindrance to progressive legislation. I realize that provision is made in the bill that, in the case of conflict between the board and the Government, the will of the Government shall prevail. Suppose, however, that another economic depression should occur, and that hundreds of men are looking for work.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support the clause in its present form. Every honorable member of this committee, and every citizen throughout the whole of Australia, is vitally interested in the sound and safe management of the Commonwealth Bank. Australia is a democracy, and quite recently the people, exercising their democratic right, gave the present Government a mandate to place the Commonwealth Bank under the control of a board. This clause provides for the appointment of a board of ten members, including the Governor of the bank, the Deputy Governor, the Secretary of the Treasury, and seven other persons, some of whom shall be representative of interests not intimately associated with banking. Thus the board will consist of a group of men, some of whom will be among the best-qualified public servants in the country, while others will represent practical interests not associated with the Public Service. I have no doubt that the Government will select five practical and well-qualified men to represent outside interests, and these men, in association with highly qualified public servants, should constitute an efficient and well balanced board.
The debate so far has made it clear that there is a fundamental difference of opinion between Government supporters and members of the Opposition on this issue. The Labour party has attempted, through the Commonwealth Bank, to socialize economic activities in Australia. The placing of the bank under the control of a Governor was the first step in this direction. The great danger that lies in placing the bank under the control of one man, or of a small number of men, is that he or they may get a wrong impression of the economic needs of the country, and seek to implement a policy that would be harmful to the nation. I happen to know that, after the war, certain action was taken with a view to restricting credit. One man who was in control of such an institution as the Commonwealth Bank might mistakenly apply a policy of credit restriction without possessing a full knowledge of the facts. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose by placing the bank under the control of a board, rather than leaving it under the control of a Governor alone. I am opposed to any attempt to socialize banking in Australia. It is better for the Government to err on the generous side, and to appoint one or two more members to the board, rather than to appoint a board which would be too small. The Government has acted wisely in choosing the Secretary to the Treasury as a member of the board. He will be able to keep the Treasurer informed almost daily on current financial and economic trends, and the Treasurer, in the light of that knowledge, can adjust hanking policy accordingly.
Members of the Opposition have claimed that the Commonwealth Bank has expanded more rapidly under the control of the Governor than it did under the control of a board. However, figures have been cited to prove the fallacy of that argument. The bank has not expanded more rapidly than have other institutions during the same period. Indeed, it has done no more than reflect the general economic progress of the country. I support this clause because it will, I hope, end for all time the control of the Commonwealth Bank by one man, and because it will end the possibility of socializing the banking activities of the country.
– Of all the astonishing statements made from the ministerial bench during this debate, certain statements made by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) this afternoon were outstanding. It is true that the Treasurer seemed a little confused and downhearted. That is understandable, and allowance must be made for him after his disastrous experiences in Queensland. Naturally, he must be in a confused state of mind, but I cannot allow to pass unchallenged his statement that on every occasion when the people have had an opportunity to pass judgment on the financial policy of the Labour party they have rejected it.
– I said the banking policy of the Labour party.
– Very well, the banking policy. That, of course, is not a true statement. It may be true that on a number of occasions, the Labour party has met defeat in connexion with its banking and financial proposals because it is a party of progress and it sometimes makes proposals which the majority of the people do not properly understand or appreciate at the time. It is a significant fact in the history of this Commonwealth, however, that many progressive banking and financial proposals originated by the Labour party have become a part of the statute law of this country. That is made manifest by the measure now before us. If it were true, as the Treasurer has said, that the people have always rejected the banking proposals of the Labour party-
– Order ! The honorable member must not attempt to debate the matter in a general way. He must confine his remarks to the clause now before the committee.
– I was replying in passing to a statement made by the Treasurer, which you, Mr. Chairman, allowed to pass, on the terms of which both he and I are in agreement. If it were true, as he has said, that the people had always rejected the banking proposals of the Labour party, why should the Government introduce a measure such as this, which almost entirely continues the legislation introduced by the Chifley Government in 1945? An honorable member opposite says that, the distinction between that legislation and this bill is that this bill proposes the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board. That is so, and the emphasis that has been placed on that distinction by the honorable member who has interjected shows the tremendous importance which the Government places on the board as a means of undermining the provisions of the banking legislation introduced by the Chifley Government in 1945.
Another statement of the Treasurer which I found interesting, but also not at all correct, was that the question of the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board was decided by the people at the general election on the 10th December last. Among the many issues that faced the people in December, 1949, the proposal to reconstitute a Commonwealth Bank Board was not by any means the main issue. The emphasis given to this question in the 1949 campaign was not nearly so great as in the 1946 campaign when the people voted against re-establishing a Commonwealth Bank Board. In 1945, a year before the general election of 1946, the Labour Government introduced its legislation to abolish the Commonwealth Bank Board and to substitute for board control a system of control by a Governor and an advisory council. The Treasurer will recall that the Leader of the Opposition at that time, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), standing in his place in this chamber, said, with one of those magnificent displays of force and energy which he is so fond of giving, but which he never carries through, that he pledged himself and every honorable member who supported him, including every member of the Australian Country party - he claimed to speak for the joint Opposition parties - to restore the Commonwealth Bank Board and divorce the Commonwealth Bank from all political control if he and his political associates were returned to power. The Treasurer will equally well remember that when the subject of the control of ‘the Commonwealth Bank was directly exercising the minds of the people during the election campaign in 1946, and the temper of the people indicated clearly that they would not permit the Commonwealth Bank Board to be reconstituted, that cowardly lion of an opposition leader said not one word in his policy speech to indicate that he would carry out the solemn pledge that he had given in this Parliament. “Was it then that the present Treasurer said the right honorable gentleman had “stabbed him in the back”.
– Order ! If the honorable member does not intend to deal with the clause I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
-The clause deals with the establishment and membership of the board. The Treasurer has declared that this issue was decided by the people at the general election held in 1949. I am recalling the fact that it was decided at the general election of 1946 when the Treasurer in describing the action of the then Leader of the Opposition used the words which I have quoted.
– I rise to order. The committee has already dealt with the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board in clause 7 of the bill. “We are now discussing the composition of the board. I submit that discussion should be strictly confined to the composition of the board.
– The point of order is upheld. Discussion must be limited to the personnel of the board and matters relevant there to as indicated in the proposed new sections contained in the clause.
– The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) devoted several minutes of his speech to an attempt to justify the appointment to the board of polo players-
– I did not seek to justify the appointment of polo players.
– In serious tones the honorable member stated reasons why polo players possessed advantages over other persons for selection as appointees to the board. That was a most extraordinary attitude for a legislator in this Parliament to take.
– Polo players might have horse sense.
– I agree that they might have horse sense. They could be the sort of men who expected the Australian people to live on hay during the depression years. This is the most important clause in the bill because by its provisions the Government proposes to sabotage the whole of the banking legislation that was placed on the statutebook by the Labour Government in 1945, but which it has not the courage deliberately to repeal. By placing the control of the Commonwealth Bank in the hands of representatives of the private financial interests the Government hopes to be able to undo everything that the Labour Government achieved by the legislation it introduced in 1945. In this matter the members opposite are not political parties but are a conspiracy group against the Australian people. The Australian people will not allow them to get away with it.
.- So far little of the discussion that has taken place on this clause has been relevant to the proposed new sections which it seeks to incorporate in the principal act.
– The honorable member is reflecting on the Chair.
– The clause relates to the personnel of the board and the manner in which the board shall be con stituted. It has little or nothing to do with the way in which the Commonwealth Bank may be controlled by a board. Committee discussions of ‘ all measures should be strictly relevant to the subject before the Chair. In discussing this clause the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) concentrated his attention on proposed new section 26, and he made two statements from which I and other honorable members on this side of the chamber completely dissociate ourselves. In the first place, the right honorable gentleman said it would be impossible to obtain men of capacity and honesty who would completely divorce themselves from their normal business activities. I regard that as a reprehensible statement which should never have been made in this Parliament. Many decent, Christian men would give everything they possess to serve their country on an important institution such as the Commonwealth Bank Board. The right honorable gentleman also said that the five independent members of the board selected by the Government will have financial interests. That may be true but I point out that the fact that they have financial interests will be evidence of their success in business. We shall choose only those persons who have demonstrated that they possess financial acumen and business ability. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has asked in what way the management of the Commonwealth Bank failed while it has been under the control of a single Governor. An examination of the facts proves that it undoubtedly has failed. Under section 8 of the principal act one of the main functions of the Governor of the bank is to maintain the stability of the Australian currency. We have had evidence from the Opposition itself that the value of the Australian fi has depreciated by more than 60 per cent, during the last two years.
– I rise to order. The honorable member’s remarks have no relation to the clause.
– I wish that every honorable member would speak as much to the clause as the honorable member for Lowe is doing. ,
– I am dealing with the points that have been raised. The honorable member for Dalley asked for evidence of failure of the bank under single control. I have given it. The second statement by the Leader of the Opposition with which I disagree relates to the day in September, 1949, when the exchange rate was altered. Every economist of merit that I have met agrees that the previous Government’s failure to appreciate the Australian £1 in September, 1949, was the biggest blunder perpetrated in Australia during the last six or seven years. I do not know whether the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank had any say in the decision on that matter.
– - Does that mean that he failed ?
– The right honorable member for Dalley asks whether that means that he has failed. I say there is strong evidence that he or some one else failed. During his regime an intolerable blunder was committed and further value was taken from the Australian £1. The Government proposes to remove the possibility of making blunders of that kind by appointing men of mature judgment to guide the policy of the bank. The Government wants a board, not a mechanical instrument run by technical individuals. The proposed board will comprise human beings with ordinary human emotions who have been successful in life but who will be guided by technicians. That is the ideal at which the Government aims.
The honorable member for Dalley referred in scathing terms to a polo player. Whilst I do not know this member of the bank board, I do know of him and his writings, and, having read some of his works, I feel that he has as much knowledge of banking and finance as any honorable member in this House with three possible exceptions. If honorable members of the Opposition think that the fact that a man has been a sportsman prevents him from having a knowledge of financial affairs they should remember that the Leader of the Opposition himself was once a prominent footballer and that did not prevent his acquiring substantial knowledge as a financial expert.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) said that the banking system was largely responsible for the depression of the ‘thirties; but other honorable members have shown that the banking system of Australia was as efficient at that time as any other banking system in the world.
I should like to deal with one or two of the provisions of the proposed section 23, which relates to the appointment of a governor. Personally, I do not favour the appointment of the deputy governor to the board. I take no objection to Mr. Richardson because he is a man of outstanding competence and one who follows in . the long line of tradition of general managers of the trading banks of Australia. He is at least the equal of most of the managers and general managers of the trading banks. But I do not think that it is right that a subordinate officer of a bank should be appointed to its board.
The Secretary to the Treasury is a mau who is a direct representative of the government of the day. He is in day-to-day contact with the Treasurer and reflects the Government’s view, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out. Ever since the days when the Secretary to the Treasury was appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board that officer has put forward, not his personal view, but the view of the government of the day.
Finally, there are to be seven other members of the board. As has been pointed out, they can be completely independent and competent men drawn from outside sources. Two, but no more than two of them, can be drawn from the Public Service. I believe that on this occasion the Treasurer has wisely decided that two members of the Public Service shall be appointed to the board. Those persons are to be Professor Melville, one of the outstanding monetary and financial authorities in the Englishspeaking world, and Dr. Roland Wilson, the Commonwealth Statistician. These men are to be appointed, not because they are public servants, but because they are men of outstanding technical ability. I certainly approve of their appointment and applaud the action of the Treasurer in proposing to appoint them.
It has been said by honorable members of the Opposition that the Advisory Council of the bank should remain in existence. I do not agree with that statement because I believe that Dr. Coombs could impose his will on the Advisory Council. He knew and so did the Advisory Council know that he had the confidence of the Treasurer of the day. It is highly improbable .that public servants would dare to act in opposition to the wishes of the Governor’ of title Commonwealth Hank, knowing full well that that Governor had the confidence of the Treasurer and that theircareers in the Public Service were in his hands. The proposed board should not consist of technical experts. The board could rely on technical experts for technical advice. The technical experts could advise the board on which, if -any, policy proposals submitted to it should be adopted. I regard proposed new section 23 as a splendidly devised clause which should be approved by the committee without very much further discussion. It is certainly a credit to the Treasurer of the day.
– Honorable members of the Opposition were chided by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) for indulging in tedious repetition in discussing this clause. Then, to relieve the tedium, he did not discuss the clause at all. In order that I may keep well within the Standing Orders, I intend to reply briefly to some of the contentions made by honorable members opposite, including the Treasurer himself. In defence of the principle of a bank board, the Treasurer produced one of the most startling arguments I have heard. He said that during the war the Curtin Government had had 157 boards operating and that since they were wartime boards, it would be desirable to create the proposed bank board also. I do not think that that argument would even have won the electors of Queensland his way. The 157 boards were expert boards. Nearly everybody who was appointed to the head of a board was the leader in his industry. We are told by the Government that the proposed board is to be an amateur ons, laced together by experts. The 157 boards, largely comprised “ dollar a year men “ who were patriotically devoted to the prosecution of the war and they bore no resemblance to this proposed bank board. The Treasurer knows that very well and his remark was just a little rhetorical flourish which he used to get out of an awkward position.
– Most of those boards were appointed since February, 1948.
– If such boards were appointed by the Treasurer to-morrow it would not make his argument any more valid. I ask honorable members to notice the expansion of words. Before the elections the proposed body was described as a “ small board “ ; then it was described as a “ small, independent board “; now it is described as a “small, independent and experienced board “ ; and as the days go on it will become a board with the power to co-opt other members. The whole thing is a farce. The bill of strength which the Government thought it would introduce has not materialized. All the little things that appear important are being planned on a scale out of all proportion to their real significance. No matter what value the members of the Government put on their defence of this measure, they know, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) has said, that with the exception of the clause before the Chair which the Government finds so tedious and the Opposition finds so important, the rest of the bill is the same as that which was endorsed by the Australian people in 1946. Honorable members are pleased to see the Treasurer in the chamber after his return from his visit to a northern State. When the Labour Government was in office the Treasurer of the day sat in the chamber day after day when banking legislation was before honorable members. I cannot understand how the Treasurer who is now in office can reconcile this important legislation with his absence from the chamber on election business. If this bill is so important that the whole life of the country hinges on it, why was the , Treasurer not at the table earlier? But even when the right honorable gentleman is in his place in the committee, he will not answer any questions. He has been asked time after time to give some indication who the phantom five will be. Honorable members do not know. One may be the lamented former member for Reid, Mr. Lang, or Harry Bridges. Some of the phantom five might be certain people to be declared in conformity with the terms of certain pending legislation, but who are they? The honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) has informed the committee that this will be a good board, yet he does not know who will constitute it. I would not have him to build a house for me. The white ants might be in it from the start.
The Opposition is seeking to test every link in the chain that the Government is forging in the banking system of this country, and we are entitled to consider the legislation now before the committee clause by clause, proposed section by proposed section, line by line and word by word, if necessary. The Opposition objects to the whole of proposed new Part V. because it presages the return of a bank board. Honorable members supporting the Government might ask who am I to criticize the draftsmanship of this bill, but I have some appreciation of words and I note that the Government likes these bank board provisions so much that it has repeated the wording twice. The only aggressive debate on the bill in the committee stages has been produced by the previous clause 7 and the clause the committee is now discussing. Some contribution was made to the debate earlier by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. “Wheeler) who got his polo clubs mixed up with the currency situation. The honorable member made some rather biting comments about a good public servant and referred to the fact that Dr. Coombs was a doctor of philosophy. That is not a bad effort considering that Dr. Coombs was a working man’s son and in the course of a brilliant scholastic career passed his examinations under bursaries. Dr. Coombs qualified in his studies by the hard way. He also proved to those whose interest in politics goes beyond the last general election that he was a magnificent Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction. Every serviceman in the country who is fair-minded must concede that Dr. Coombs did the work brilliantly.
The honorable member for Mitchell tried to justify his claim that good finance is inseparably mixed up with a good polo pony. I am not able to grasp that, but I have only a limited experience of these things and the application of horse sense in such circumstances. I was surprised that the honorable member for Lowe referred to what he alleged to be the mistakes of the Governor of the bank. He should know better since he inherited half of my electorate. One does not criticize the mistakes of a man who turned over £6,000,000 yearly profit to the hank. The honorable member said the Governor of the bank showed inability to grasp the situation or to appreciate the £1. If the Governor had done that every member of the Government would have gone home and sat in sackcloth and ashes for the rest of the session. The honorable member for Lowe said that the Governor was incompetent because he did not make a certain decision but the bank board’s record has been so rotten in the past that the Opposition believes that the Government should not take it on again. The honorable member for Lowe has been so closely associated with the Commonwealth Bank that he should recognize that his comments are unjustified and unworthy of him. If this debate is wearying to the Government and if it has a melancholy flavour the Treasurer can pacify Opposition members by telling them who will comprise the phantom five who will run the bank in the future. Who are these geniuses ?
– Will the honorable gentleman tell us what was on the paper that Elsie gave him?
– The honorable member was informing me that I have two minutes to go. I ask the Treasurer to relax and be happy. The tocsin that has rung in the north will ring in the south, but I invite the right honorable gentleman to tell honorable members, please, who are the phantom five? ‘
– The nominations have not closed yet.
– But surely the Treasurer with his shrewdness and cleverness has a glimmering of an idea who the phantom five will be? If he would give honorable members only a hint they would be more than satisfied.
– I hope the committee will regard this proposed new Part V. seriously. It seeks the appointment to the charge of the Commonwealth Bank of ten persons, consisting of the present Governor of the bank, Dr. Coombs, the Deputy Governor, Mr. Richardson, the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Watt, and seven other members. Two of the names of those seven persons are known to honorable members. They are Mr. Melville, who has been Economic Adviser to the Commonwealth Bank for twenty years, and Dr. Boland Wilson, who is acknowledged to be a leading statistician and is widely known for his integrity and probity. The remainder of the proposed new part deals with the operations of the board. Proposed new section 23 (4.) provides for the period of appointment of the seven persons to whom I have referred and sub-section (6.) provides further - (C.) In the event of a member of the board appointed under this section for a specified period ceasing to hold office before the termination of that period and the appointment in his place of a person other than an officer of the bunk or of the Public Service of the Commonwealth, the period of that appointment shall he the remainder of the period of office of the member so ceasing to hold office.
The proposed new sections in this part state that members of the board shall make an oath of allegiance and that no bank director or employee of a corporation other than the bank shall be capable of appointment or continue to act as a member of the board. The director of a bank or an employee of a bank shall not be among the five persons still not identifiable. The part also contains some machinery sections, and sets out how the board itself shall operate. I submit that the question before the chair and the issue that is being considered, is whether a board of ten men would be better than one man. There has been some fanatical talk about the operations of the bank board in the past. Some very convincing figures given about a year ago showed that under a bank board the assets of the bank increased from £134,000,000 to £481,000,000 and the profits doubled, so there could not have been much wrong with the operations of the board. When the Labour Government was in office it left the board there for four or five years. I return to the question whether a board of ten members would be better than one man - a dictator, under the present system, with socialist leanings. That man can make arbitrary decisions in a closed room, and he need not state his reasons for doing so unless he is very seriously challenged. The Government seeks to appoint a committee. Surely Australians appreciate the value of committees. The country is governed by a Cabinet, which is, in effect, a committee. Every municipality and shire is governed by a committee. Even the Labour party, though it has been ruled by a dictator in recent years, favours the committee system. The executive committee that controls its affairs meets in the famous Boom 32. Water supply, sewerage, electricity and transport services are controlled by committees of various kinds. Any other system is abhorrent to a democrat. The proposal that we are considering now is to appoint a committee that will consist of men from different walks of life with varied experience, who will discuss the problems of banking policy until, from their discussions, the truth emerges. In the time of Cromwell somebody remarked that democracy consisted of government by discussion and somebody else said, “ When you have a number of men discussing together, some one may speak with the voice of God “. The Opposition wants to perpetuate a dictatorship by allowing one man to remain in charge of the enormous institution of the Commonwealth Bank. It i3 fanatically opposed to the establishment of a board merely on account of one or two things that happened in the past. Its attacks upon the former Commonwealth Bank Board are spurious and hypocritical. The system of control by a committee provides the safeguards that arise from the clash of different ideas. Surely this clause merits the support of the committee. I strongly believe in the method of control by a board or committee for such a vast organization as the Commonwealth Bank.
.- The Opposition contends that the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board will be an instrument that will be used as a dagger to be thrust into the back of the Commonwealth Bank. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), on behalf of the Government, will depend upon the members of the board to do work that he lacks the courage to do himself. This legislation represents an attack upon the Commonwealth Bank. The Government has not yet told us the names of the men whom it proposes to appoint to the board. We shall not know anything about them before the appointments are made. The supporters of this Government violently opposed the Chifley Government’s 1945 banking legislation, and surely it must be patent even to a child that they now propose to appoint a board for the purpose of sabotaging that system, which they have criticized so viciously. Who are the people who will be appointed to the board? We do not know. We will be told only when it is too late for us to protest.
Honorable members interjecting,
– The old saying about the loud laugh that speaks the vacant mind applies aptly to supporters of the Government. All that we know about the membership of the proposed board is that the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and the Secretary to the Treasury will be appointed to it. Of the seven remaining members to be appointed, at least five will be persons who are not officers of the bank or of the Public Service and they will be appointed for periods of five years. The other two will hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) mentioned two public servants, whom he commended highly. What guarantee has he that those men, if appointed, will be allowed to remain on the bank board for any length of time if the Treasurer wants to remove them? As public servants, they could be returned to their former positions at any time and any other public servants appointed to the board could be treated in the same way. Eventually, vacancies created by that method could be filled by the appointment of men from outside the Public Service, who would do the work that the Government wanted the board to do.
The Government will not be satisfied until the Commonwealth Bank becomes the servant of the private banks. That was what happened to it in 1925, and a board was used for the purpose of reducing it to that status. The members of the former board did exactly what the government of the day wanted them to do, and the Commonwealth Bank became a sheet-anchor for private finance.
– But the honorable member does not know who will be appointed to the board.
– I have a good idea who will be chosen. I am not a babe in the wood like the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham). I have had some experience in this Parliament of snide legislation of the kind that we are now considering - legislation that looks all right on the surface but which can be used for purposes other than those proclaimed by its sponsors. The Treasurer hates the Commonwealth Bank and loves the private banks, as he proved during the election campaign and by the speeches that he made when he was a member of the Opposition. He will carefully select the five representatives of private interests who are to be appointed, and later he will devote equal care to the choice of other men to replace the two Public Service representatives, who will be removed from the board.
– The honorable member has a suspicious mind.
– I need to have a suspicious mind. I know a great deal about the Government and its supporters.
– Order! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– If the Chair will prevent honorable members from provoking me, I shall not answer interjections. I have had quite a lot of experience in this chamber and it has left me with suspicions about certain people. The Commonwealth Bank, established by a Labour government, was under the control of a governor for many years. That man proved himself to be one of the greatest bankers in the world, and, under his administration, the Commonwealth Bank was able to render valuable service to this country during World War I. It was becoming a flourishing institution when its destinies were placed in the hands of a board, members of which sabotaged the institution completely. They directed the bank not to provide financial accommodation for private individuals. Prospective customers were informed that the handling of their accounts was a job for the private banking institutions and not for the Commonwealth Bank. This policy persisted until Labour again assumed office in this Parliament in 1941. Labour restored the original charter of the Commonwealth Bank, and so enabled it to perform its proper functions. Throughout World War II., the Commonwealth Bank proved itself to be a most valuable national asset. Now it is to be sabotaged again. Neither the Treasurer nor any of his supporters has the courage to insist that the Commonwealth Bank shall function in the interests of the nation rather than in the interests of private individuals and institutions. Members of the new Commonwealth Bank Board will be hand-picked by the Treasurer. When we hear who they are to be, I am quite certain-
– The honorable member himself might be appointed.
– The Treasurer told me once that there was no answer to financial arguments that I advanced. I say to him now, “Appoint me to the Commonwealth Bank Board and I will do a good job for the nation “.
.- The clause under discussion deals with appointments to the Commonwealth Bank Board. The sole issue between the Government and the Opposition is whether the bank should be controlled by one man or by a board. In advocating one-man control, the Labour party is being consistent in its policy of socialism. Socialism inevitably results in dictatorship - one-man control. That is why honorable members opposite are fighting this clause so bitterly. They want to retain the present system under which one man has complete dictatorial power over the bank. In view of the very narrow issue now before the committee, it is time that we finished with the clause. It has been debated for many hours, and the bill itself has now been under discussion for some weeks. Urgent matters of public importance, including child endowment and pensions, await attention. I urge the Labour party to cease its delaying tactics so that the Government can get on with these important matters instead of wasting time discussing issues that are absolutely clear.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) said that he had strong objections to a board and favored oneman control. He then proceeded to say that he really had no objection to the five members of the board who have been named, but had violent objections to the five who, so far, have not been named. Obviously he could not have personal objections to those members, because he does not yet “know their names. Why does he object to them? He objects to them simply because they are to be drawn from the field of private trade, commerce and industry of this country. In other words the honorable member for Kennedy, like all socialists, hates private enterprise. We on this side of the chamber are proud of private enterprise. We are proud of the way private enterprise has developed this country, and we believe that the Commonwealth Bank Board will be tremendously strengthened by the inclusion of men of sound judgment who have taken an active and successful part in private industry.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) suggested that the unnamed members - “ phantoms “ as one honorable member described them - would act contrary to public interest. I remind the committee that, during the war, Labour governments sought the aid of the “best intellects in the Australian business world. That aid was given in generous measure, and the contribution made to our war effort by business men was the subject of glowing tributes from present Opposition members; yet they are still steeped in hatred of private enterprise. As I have said, we on this side of the chamber believe in private enterprise. We believe in individual effort, and we believe that great social undertakings such as the Commonwealth Bank should have the assistance of men from private industry, trade, and commerce.
The honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) said that the bill was an affront to the Public Service. What utter nonsense that is ! Half of the members of the board will be public servants - men especially selected because of their magnificent service to this country. Of the ten members of the board, five are to be public servants. Therefore, any move by the other five that is considered to be contrary to the public interest, could be blocked by the Public Service vote. The Governor of the bank will have a casting vote, so that in reality, the Public Service will have a majority on the board. To suggest that men from private enterprise will act as villains, and contrary to national interest, is utter nonsense, but, even granting everything that the socialists say, it will be impossible for the five representatives of private enterprise to succeed with any proposal in the face of opposition by the Public Service majority. Every Australian who reasons the matter out will realize that, in a multitude of counsellors there is safety. I have no objection to Dr. Coombs as the Governor of the bank. I recognize that he has done an excellent job, but say that neither Dr. Coombs nor any Treasurer should have dictatorial control over the whole of the financial structure of this country. We believe in democracy and are opposed to dictatorship. That is why we believe in control by a bank board as opposed to oneman control.
– I oppose clause 10 of the bill. It is a, long clause containing many proposed sections that are objectionable, but my main objection is to section 26. That section reads -
A person who is a director or employee of a corporation (other than the Bank) the business of which is wholly or mainly that of banking shall not be capable of appointment, or of continuing to act, as a member of the Board.
I object to that proposed section because of its hypocrisy. It is well known that this Government intends to appoint to this board, which in any event will not be established for the next three years, persons who will not have the interest of the bank at heart. Those of us who remember the tragedy of the last depression, brought about by the deliberate act of the Commonwealth Hank Board, know perfectly well that this bank board will be similar in character to the previous board. We know that proposed section 26 is a piece of hypocrisy and is mere camouflage designed to hoodwink the people into believing that the stooges who will find their way to the Commonwealth Bank Board will not be connected with private banks. I should like to know, as would many other honorable members, the identity of the five men to be appointed to the board. No one can tell me that the Government has not already selected them. It is being freely rumoured in certain quarters, that are usually well informed, that one of the individuals to be appointed to this bank board is Professor Hytten. I noticed that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) assumed one of his smiles when I said that, but I challenge him to state that Professor Hytten will not be appointed to the bank board.
– Would the honorable member like to bet on it?
– Yes, I would certainly bet on it.
– Order ! Betting is not allowed in the chamber.
– I challenge the Treasurer to say that Professor Hytten will not be appointed to the board. Professor Hytten is the person who, prior to the last election, announced that the ideal economic state of affairs in this country would be the existence of a permanent pool of from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent, unemployed. Therefore, it is only natural that he should be chosen to occupy one of these positions. We all remember that Professor Hytten threatened to take action against the Labour party for repeating the statement that I have just made, but it is a remarkable thing that he was not game to go on with his action.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I rise to a point of order. The discussion of an individual, such as Professor Hytten, has nothing to do with this bill.
– The committee is discussing the personnel of the board; therefore the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh are in order.
– The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) will find, after he has been a member of this committee for some time, that when we are discussing such a question as the appointment of the members of the proposed Commonwealth Bank Board, it is quite in order for any honorable member to canvass the possibility of any individual being selected.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! There are far too many interjections. The honorable member for Hindmarsh should be allowed to proceed uninterrupted.
– It is a very serious matter that a proposition should be made to this committee which will lead to the appointment of such a person as Professor Hytten, whose economic plan has already been advertised publicly throughout the Commonwealth. I am also prepared to say that the other four members of the board will be persons having the same political views and the same economic ideas as Professor Hytten has already announced.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Honorable members from both sides of the House are interjecting far too much. I ask them to cease such interjections.
– Honorable members opposite do not like the truth, and they cannot “ take it “. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate), who has left the chamber, stated that the Governor was able to make decisions in a closed room, and that nobody knew anything about the making of those decisions. That is a deliberate lie.
– Order ! That is not parliamentary language.
– The honorable member for Macarthur knows very well that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank is subject to the control of the Treasurer of the day. It is all eyewash to say that there is a personal dictatorship of the Commonwealth Bank.
There is nothing of the kind. There is no dictatorship in the Commonwealth Bank to-day. The Treasurer who is sitting at the table of this chamber at the present time has every right to veto the decision of the Governor if that decision does not meet with the approval of the Government. As the Treasurer is the representative of the Government in the Treasury it is crystal clear that a most democratic state of affairs exists. It should not be altered. The honorable member for Macarthur, who has not yet returned to the chamber, spoke of control from room 32. I wonder whether he has ever heard about the control of the Liberal party from a little room in Collins-street. I wonder whether he has ever heard about the I.P.A. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who has just shouted out at the top of his voice something which I could not understand, is one of the I.P.A. stooges who write silly little pamphlets about socialism and bank boards and other such trash. He knows perfectly well and has known it for a long time, that theI.P. A., which is his political boss, compels him to write trash about socialism. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) complains that the Labour party, during the war, sought the use of the brains of the captains of industry and of the leaders of private enterprise. Has it ever occurred to the honorable member that those very same captains of industry would not have been prepared to assist the Government had it not been for the fact that their own hides were in danger?
– What did the honorable member do for the country?
– I have something that the honorable member has not. We, on this side of the House know perfectly well that the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board will bring back the old conditions that existed during the depression. The farmers were then being sold up by the private banks. They were denied the assistance of the Commonwealth Bank, when the private banks deliberately refused them finance and sold them up, because the Commonwealth Bank Board had directed its officers not to compete against the private banks. We hear a lot from members of the Australian Country party. They claim to represent the farmers, but they are arm-in-arm with, the’ representatives of big business and the private banks. It is also significant that members of the Liberal party rarely deny that they are the representatives of the millionaires’ and. the private banks. As I have said, the Australian Country party claims to represent the farmers- of Australia, who were so poorly treated1 during the depression by the former Commonwealth Bank Board. _ Nevertheless, because the whips are cracking members of the Australian Country party in this chamber are now prepared to vote for a bill that they know must ultimately do* harm to the farmers of .this country. I oppose the clause.
..- The principal purposes of the clause are, first, to provide for the appointment of the controllers of the bank, and,, secondly, to provide that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank shall be the chief executive officer of the proposed board. In the course of the debate two important points have been, consistently overlooked. The first is that no provision is made in (he bill concerning the continuity of policy of the board. I hope that the present Governer of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. Coombs, will forgive me for pointing out that if he were unfortunate enough to be killed in an accident to-morrow, his successor would not necessarily be the Deputy Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, but might be any one. In other words, his successor would be appointed by the present Administration, which, if it followed the precedent established by the previous Government, might not necessarily choose even an officer of the Commonwealth Bank. The Government might adopt the attitude of saying to his deputy in the Commonwealth Bank, “ We know that you have done a good job, but this position is not for you “, and appointing some one with known strong political views on its side, as happened when the of6.ce was filled a couple of years ago. Honorable members opposite are in a difficulty. If they do not approve of the proposal that a board shall be appointed with a permanent official as chairman - in this instance the Governor of the Commonwealth
Bank - they can oppose the clause. But if they believe that the political party in power should be able to appoint the. head of the proposed board by choosing some one of its own political view to- be Governor of the Commonwealth Bank - if. necessary, some one brought in from outside that bank - then they must agree with- the clause and let it go through.. Failing that, they must admit that what they really favour is a. one-party Parliament with, an irreplaceable government,, because that is the only logical conclusion to be drawn, from their arguments.
The other point that I desire to stress is the continuous tirade of abuse and suggestion from honorable members opposite that everything, that emanates from this side of the chamber is false and loaded’ with chicanery, whilst every proposal that emanates from them is honest and accurate. That really invites us to review their own record in the matter of banking. In 1945 Labour introduced certain legislation, which the clause now under discussion seeks to alter. In 1947 the Labour administration directed the Melbourne City Council to bank with a certain bank. The High Court subsequently ruled that its direction was invalid, and almost immediately the Banking Act 1947,. which is now almost forgotten, was introduced. In order to throw some light on the attitude of Labour in this matter of banking, I remind honorable members that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who was then a senior Minister, said that by the time they had plucked the fowl, nobody could put the feathers- back. That statement reveals the falsity of Labour’s protestations to the Parliament and to the people, and that is why we distrust its intentions in relation to banking matters now.
– The honorable member’s remarks are wide of the clause under discussion.
– I am developing the argument that people who are appointed to control banking should be beyond suspicion. Honorable members opposite believe that the present Administration is incapable of appointing to the proposed board men who will act honestly. In reply to that contention I suggest that
Labour’s own record in banking shocked the people of Australia so much that at the recent general election they completely rid themselves of the Labour Administration. The special merit of the present clause is that it proposes to achieve, as far as it is possible to do so, continuity in the control of the bank because a mere change of administration will not present an opportunity to change the directorship of the bank. In the course of my second-reading speech on this measure, I pointed out that it was important that the persons appointed to control the bank should not be individuals with strong political views. I made it clear that a large number of interests are affected by banking, and cited as an example, the exporting interests which are of considerable importance to this country. In conclusion, I content myself with repeating that the clause is a vital and beneficial part of the measure for the reasons that I have outlined, and I commend it to the committee.
– Two statements have been made by Government supporters to-night that supply adequate justification for the objection to the clause taken by members of the Opposition. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) stated that because Labour had introduced legislation to give effect to socialism, he wanted that legislation altered and that was the reason why he supported the present measure. In other words, he made it quite clear that the Government hopes to establish a board that will prevent socialization.
Government Supporters. - Hear, hear !
– I am pleased to hear honorable members opposite say “ Hear, hear ! “ Their interjections make the position quite clear. I desire to refer now to the statement made by the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon), who is, I think, the only honorable member opposite who has given a reason why the bank should be administered by a board and not by a governor. As an instance of the alleged failure of the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, he contended that that official should have advised the Government to appreciate the £1.
– That was a statement of the honorable member’s personal opinion.
– I dare say that it was, but we cannot forget that he is a representative of his political party. “When he stated that the Australian £1 should not have been devalued when sterling was devalued I do not know what his colleagues of the Australian Country party thought. The inference to be drawn from that statement is that a bank board would not have made such a mistake, because it would have been prepared to appreciate the Australian £1. I am sure that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) did not listen to the honorable member for Lowe with very great pleasure.
– I certainly did not place on the remarks of the honorable member for Lowe the interpretation that the honorable member for Adelaide has placed on them.
– I am merely repeating what the honorable member for Lowe said, and I am not placing an interpretation on hi3 remarks. I assume that Government supporters are quite prepared to place an interpretation on my words, yet they do not like it when I place an interpretation on their words. Honorable members opposite exclaimed “ Hear, hear ! “ when I stated that the purpose of the Government in reestablishing the Commonwealth Bank Board was to prevent the application of socialist policy-
Government Members. - Hear, hear!
– Do Government supporters want to get away completely from the socialist experience that they have had of subsidies, and of the practice of the Commonwealth, during the last few years, of making generous sums of money available to enable people to get payment for their goods, whilst the treasury was recouped at some future date? The Commonwealth Bank must be controlled in a way that will serve the best interests of the whole of the people.
I am sorry that the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) thinks that the
Labour party has shown a hatred of private enterprise. We do not hate private enterprise, but we have a hatred of its policy that brings the people right down into the gutter.. Although the memories of honorable members opposite may be short, I cannot forget that, just twenty years ago–
– Oh! Are we to hear that again?
– I realize that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) does not like to he reminded that a Commonwealth government twenty years ago was not able to obtain a loan from the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose of relieving unemployment because the Commonwealth Bank Board controlled the policy of that institution. No matter how honest the representatives of outside interests on the board might he, they would work as they have always worked, to restrict the activities of the bank. Even the best private employer in the land tells his employees during a period of economic recession, “ I am sorry that I shall have to stand you down. Conditions are not good”. He dismisses his employees, not in a spirit of bitterness, but because under the system of private enterprise, he is compelled to make retrenchments in order to withstand competition. We say definitely that under the present system of control, whereby the Treasurer may give a direction to the Governor of the bank, the Government is able to control the financial policy of the nation. What is the Commonwealth Bank ? Is it not a financial institution that has been established by a’ Commonwealth government? Members of the Labour party contend that the Commonwealth Bank should be controlled by the Government in the interests of the people. Government supporters claim they are endeavouring to give effect to that principle, and are trying to bring the bank under the control of the Parliament. Can a system of parliamentary control be more effective than the present system of control by the Treasurer, who confers with the Government in order to give effect to financial policy through the bank?
– Did honorable members have any control over the previous Treasurer?
– We had every control over him, and it is very satisfactory to know that the confidence which we reposed in him was not misplaced, and that he did not at any time give us cause to question the wisdom of his actions. If the honorable member for Lowe had been a member of the Labour party in the last Parliament, he would certainly have queried the wisdom of the decision of the Treasurer against appreciating the Australian £1 to parity with sterling. The Labour Government did not take action to appreciate the Australian £1 because it knew that the farmers, the small manufacturers and the exporters depended upon the favorable exchange rate with sterling to give them an advantage over their competitors in the world markets. The only instance which Government supporters have been able to cite of what they believe to be the failure of the Governor of the bank to have regard for the interests of the people is his decision not to appreciate the Australian £1 at the time sterling was depreciated. If that is their only objection to his administration, I conside that he has a good record indeed.. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has expressed many of my thoughts on the proposed new sections in this clause. I stated in my secondreading speech that two of the seven members of the Commonwealth Bank Board referred to in proposed section 23 (2.) will not necessarily be appointed from the Public Service. Proposed section 23 states - (1.) The Commonwealth Bank Board shall consist of -
The proposed new section does not state that the seven members of the board referred to in sub-section (2.) shall not be other than members of the Public Service, and it is quite possible that the Treasurer will say to one of the two members who have been appointed from the Public Service, “ We shall not require you on the board any longer. Your services will be valuable in another capacity, and we shall appoint an outside man to the board “. In those circumstances, the board would not be dominated by representatives of the Public Service. I oppose the clause.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to support the clause, and I desire, if I can, in the few minutes at my disposal, to do whatever lies in my power to relieve the obvious distress of members of the Opposition about who will constitute the Commonwealth Bank Board.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear !
– I have been making frantic signs to the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), and I think I can assume his permission to reveal the hand of the Government, and say who those five men will be. I am astonished that Opposition members themselves have not already arrived, by the process of elimination, at a reasonable conclusion. Proposed new section 23 provides that the Commonwealth Bank Board shall consist of ten members. Five of them have been either nominated in this bill or named by the Treasurer in his second-reading speech. The Labour party has not objected to the appointment of the Governor of the bank as the chairman. Nor has it opposed the appointment of the Deputy Governor as the deputy chairman of the board. I suggest that the reasons why no objections have been expressed to that appointment are precisely the same as those that may be applied to the appointment of the chairman of the board itself. It is also obvious that members of the Opposition have no objection to the Secretary to the Treasury being a third member of the board. There has been no objection to Mr. Melville, who has been economic adviser to the Australian Government for the last twenty years, being the fourth member of the board, or to Dr. Roland Wilson, the Commonwealth Statistician, being the fifth member. The reason why there has been no objection is that those five members will be appointed, and may be dismissed at the will and pleasure of the GovernorGeneral. To that degree, they will be subject to discipline or restraint. There has been no objection to those appointments from members of the Opposition.
– We are still waiting to hear who the other five members of the board will be.
– I shall relieve the tension as rapidly as I can by a process of elimination. I suggest that there would be no objection by honorable gentlemen opposite if the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) and the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) were appointed as sixth and seventh members of the board respectively. There would be no objection by the Opposition if the Government appointed the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) as eighth member of the board. The honorable gentleman would he a very useful member. Not only would he be ornamental, but he would also add to the proceedings a gaiety that up to this stage they have sorely lacked. If the Government appointed the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) as the ninth member, that would pacify him and cause no objections to emanate from members of the Labour party. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) would be completely satisfied if he were appointed as the tenth member of the board, as also would be other members of the Opposition. If those appointments were announced, no member of the Opposition would rise in his place and object to this clause being agreed to without a division, as was the motion for the second reading of the bill.
That process of elimination could be carried on indefinitely, but there comes a time when we must face up to the position. The persons to whom I have referred are subject to discipline either by their social and professional circumstances or by their political affiliations. The same remark would apply if the Government went outside this chamber to the trade union movement and appointed representatives of trade unions to the Commonwealth Bank Board. There would be no objection to those appointments from honorable gentlemen, opposite because the appointees would -be subject to their restraint and their discipline. They, too, would have to. do what they were told -from time to time.
Proposed new section 26 excludes from appointment to the board all persons who are associated with banking in any of its forms. That marrows the field and brings me to the point at which I consider I am at liberty to divulge who the last five members of the board will “be. I have no hesitation in saying here and now, to relieve the distress of members of the Opposition, that they will be free men, men of independent minds and .men of experience and capacity who are competent to Teach their own decisions in their own way. Admittedly, honorable gentlemen opposite have cause for complaint. To appoint to a board of this kind five free men who will sit with their heads in their hands And solve problems in a manner that will be to the best advantage of the public will be to bring to an end all that has been happening politically in this country for the last eight years. I appreciate the perplexity of honorable gentlemen opposite and- the tortures from which they have suffered since they first read this bill. I believe, as do the electors whom I have the honour to represent, that the five free and independent men who will be members of the board are of greater importance to us than are the five public servants, no matter how exalted they may be and how valuable their services. The five independent members of the hoard will be free from the chains that so obviously bind members of the labour party and members of organizations close to it. They will be able to reach their decisions in their own personal way. For that reason alone, I support this clause.
The honorable member for Parkes said that a board consisting of five public servants and five free and independent men would tend towards divided loyalties. That is not true. The duties of the members of the board are perfectly clear. They will have to administer the Commonwealth Bank as it will be constituted under this measure. It is to be presumed that they will apply themselves to that task to the best of their ability. If disputes arise between “the various sections of the board, if I may use that phrase, it .is the manifest duty of the members to report that fact to the Treasurer. It will then be the Treasurer’s duty to see whether he can compose the difference that has arisen within the board and, if he fails to do so, to go to the GovernorGeneral in Council and ask that the question be resolved by the Executive Council.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Some very pertinent questions have been asked by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) and other honorable members regarding the composition of the Commonwealth Bank Board as proposed in this clause. The honorable member for Riverina suggested that there would be no objection by honorable members on this side of the chamber if some members of the Opposition or some trade unionists were appointed to the board. He suggested, in other words, that no objection would be raised by the Opposition if the wealth of experience of humanity that is possessed by members of the Labour party and of the trade union movement were represented on the board. It is interesting that the honorable member for Riverina should reason in that way. One of the reasons why the Labour party will oppose this clause viciously and vigorously is that men who were representatives of the real interests of this country were not considered by antiLabour parties when appointments were made to the Commonwealth Bank Board and other boards. In days gone by, the men who were appointed were men who represented all that is bad in society in Australia. They represented wealth and influence which takes away from individuals in this community the freedom of which the honorable member has just spoken so glibly. We know that when this board is established those five phantoms about whom the Treasurer has spoken will be representatives of these vested banking interests which put the Treasurer, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar), and other Government supporters into this Parliament at the last general election. We know that those five men, whose identity the Treasurer will not reveal, are to be appointed as recompense for the support of the private banks in ensuring the defeat of the Chifley Government at the last general election. That is one of the reasons why we oppose the establishment of the board.
If we thought for one moment that there would be any possibility that competent people who represent, large sections of the community would obtain some representation on the proposed board we might view the whole matter in a slightly less unfavorable light, but we know that that will never happen. We have been told that the members of the proposed board will be men of integrity and will be divorced from politics and banking interests. To use the words of the former Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), they will be “ brought in off the street “. In other words they will be completely incompetent so far as banking is concerned. Yet they are to control the greatest financial instrumentality in this country. The former Treasurer also told us that in this community men have been brought in off the streets to sit on company directorates, and that the business firms in Australia and the British Empire were conducted by men who knew nothing about it. They were part-time directors who had been brought in off the street without having any knowledge of the businesses that they were to control. Let any one whose business knowledge is limited to his experience as an office boy, for instance, go to Anthony Hordern and Sons Limited, the big retailing firm in Sydney, and apply for a job as a director of the company, and see how he would get on. Honorable members opposite think that a man who probably has no capacity in industry is competent to manage a huge concern like the Common- wealth Bank. Do they” say that any man in a humble position can be placed almost overnight in control of a big establishment in a city such as Sydney and manage it efficiently? I -do not believe that any honorable member would support such a contention in earnest. Honorable members opposite say that the men who are to control the Commonwealth Bank are to be men with a knowledge of all the fundamentals of banking like those whom the last Labour Government appointed to control the bank under the 1945 legislation. We have been told that this proposed board will not be representative, to use the Treasurer’s own words, of sectional interests. The right honorable gentleman, when he introduced the bill, said -
In appointing these members, who will not be representative of any sectional interests within the community, and will not have any association with other banks, the Government will be fully conscious of the need for men of wide knowledge and experience.
Such men will be very difficult to find, and it is significant that the Treasurer and other members of the Government repeatedly refuse to give any indication of the identity of the individuals to be appointed. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Handby) asked why the Opposition objects to men from private enterprise being on the board. I shall tell him. why we oppose that principle. The reason is that in 1924 the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), who was known at that time as the “ tragic Treasurer “, established a Commonwealth Bank Board and appointed to it the following persons:Mr. J. J. Garvan, managing director of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited ; Mr. R. S. Drummond, a wheat-grower; Sir Samuel Hordern, governing director of Anthony Hordern and Sons Limited, a director of Perpetual Trustee Company of New South Wales, and a director of the Royal Insurance Company; Mr. J. Mackenzie Lees, who had been chairman of the associated banks in Queensland, and general manager of the Bank of Queensland; Sir Robert Gibson, a director of a number of companies; Sir Claude Reading, who had been managing director of the British Australasian Tobacco Company Limited, and a director of other companies; and
Mr. A. F. Bell, a director of the Union Trustee Company of Australia. That is why we oppose this bill. We do not intend that the people’s bank shall be put under the control of vested interests, which in years gone by, brought the people of Australia to their knees in order to maintain the profits of the interests whom they represented on the board. That is the kind of board that the Treasurer refuses to admit will be put in control of the bank if this measure is enacted. That is the kind of board with which the Government intends to replace the present management by the Governor, Dr. Coombs, supported and advised by an expert advisory body. Come what may, among those five men to be appointed to the board, who allegedly will have no connexion with private banking interests, there will undoubtedly be such wealthy men as I have mentioned. On the new board there will be men of greater financial capacity, if such can be found, than those whom I have mentioned, because they will undoubtedly be representatives of the private banking interests of this country which control the destinies, the policy and indeed the political existence of honorable members opposite. We challenge the Government to say who these men will be. Will Professor Hytten be among them? Will the representatives of those interests that fought tooth and nail to defeat the Labour party at the last general election be among them? The Government should let us know why it intends to replace the system of control established by the Chifley Government under the 1945 legislation, which was viciously opposed by the present Treasurer on the ground that it was a socialistic move, but which was endorsed by the people at the general election in 1946, which since then has not been responsible for one act to which the Treasurer has taken exception in this Parliament and which, in the last complete financial year of its management, netted for the bank a profit of between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000. Those are the questions that the Treasurer has to answer for the enlightenment of the people. Let him tell the people why the Government is throwing overboard a system of management that has been endorsed by the people themselves.
He must tell the people why he is throwing that system of management overboard without any good reason. He will tell them, if he is truthful and sincere, that he is doing it because the private banks have told him that they must control the Commonwealth Bank. Let the Treasurer answer my challenges. I suggest that he should act honestly by revealing the names of the men to be appointed, instead of coming before us at a later date and telling us that directors of private banks and private companies are to represent the people of this country on the board of a bank that really controls the destiny of the people. Come what may in this chamber, no matter what arguments the Government may put forward, or what it may say about who is to be appointed to the board, so long as there is a Labour movement in this country and a Labour Opposition that has control of the ‘Senate, the Government will never place this proposed board in control of the bank or put this measure on the statute-book. The people really want to know why the Government is making its present proposals and why we oppose them. We oppose them not for sheer political motives, not because we want to gain any party political capital out of our opposition, but because we sincerely mean, once and for all, that the private banking interests, whose control of the Commonwealth Bank was ended in 1945 - an act which won the commendation of the people - will not be given control once more, and that the system of administration of the bank that was established by the 1945 legislation shall prevail.
.- It is most refreshing to learn at last who is the spokesman for the Labour party in this matter. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) took the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to task on the ground that he was being dishonest in not naming the members of the proposed board.
– The mythical proposed board, because, according to the honorable member for Grayndler, it is not going to be established.
– It was equally dishonest of the honorable member for Grayndler not to mention that the original board included a representative of the trade unions, Mr. Duffy. He also omitted to tell us that the majority of the members of the board that was abolished in 1945 by the Chifley Government had been appointed by Labour governments. Did those appointees have a thorough knowledge of finance?
– That is why the Labour Government appointed them.
– Exactly. The honorable member for Grayndler, speaking on behalf of the Labour party, stated that that party will fight this measure to the last ditch because it believes that the Government intends to appoint to the hoard people who are so traitorous to their country that they will do something inimical to the general interests of the people. I shall try to tell honorable members, if the Chairman will allow me, just why the board is to be appointed at all. The reason for the proposal is not difficult to understand. I believe that it was the original intention of the Labour party, under the act that it is now proposed to amend, .to institute complete socialistic control over the finances of this country. It will be remembered that a beginning was made with the municipalities. An attempt was made to coerce them by an order, which, for sheer contempt of public right9, has never been equalled in our time. When that failed an attempt was made to use what was considered to be a constitutional power to socialize banking. Without elaborating on that aspect of the matter, I say that that is still the intention of the Labour party. It is for that reason that honorable members opposite oppose this bill. Conversely, the reason for the introduction of this measure was to ensure that the Labour party should not again have an opportunity to get its hands upon the public and private banks of this country. The honorable member for Grayndler supported the attempt that was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) to give the impression that no man taken off the street would be competent to take a position on the proposed board. .
– Unless he was a Labour supporter !
– That is so. The honorable member told us that during the investigation by the banking commission only two men were found that had any knowledge of the function of the central bank. They were general managers of banks. He did not tell us who were the judges of the qualifications of those who had given evidence, but implied that a body of laymen who, in no conceivable circumstances, could themselves attain a position such as that of general manager of a bank, had adjudged as lacking in financial knowledge men who had devoted the whole of their lifetime to banking. That is what we are expected to believe. Desperately seeking for other grounds on which to discredit this proposal, the Leader of the Opposition referred to men being dragged off the street. I think that he was much too modest. How do we know what posterity has in store for us? The time might come when the right honorable member himself would be dragged off the street to serve on the board. I am quite certain that he would never agree that he had no knowledge whatever of banking. As Opposition members have claimed to know at least what should not be done, it is a very reasonable assumption that they claim knowledge of what should be done. It is evident that utter hypocrisy has been associated with their statements. They overlook that the five members to whom they are objecting will, in effect, constitute less than one half of the board, because the chairman will have both a deliberative and a casting vote. Therefore those five members could never in any circumstances impose their will upon the whole of the board. A socialistic set-up is associated with the management of the Commonwealth Bank. It has been claimed that the Governor had no knowledge of banking prior to his appointment, and that he was appointed because the previous Government considered that he would be amenable to reason if the Treasurer wanted something done that would be of use to the Labour Government, but of no use to the country in general. The clause provides that this gentleman shall be chairman of the board. The arguments that have been advanced by honorable members opposite are sheer humbug. The party that they support believes that it must erect a facade of objection t«> a board in order to appease some people who are still weak enough to support them on election day.
.- I have been following the debate in order to learn exactly what the Government seeks to engineer by the clause before the Chair. We have been told by some of its supporters that they are endeavouring to remove the Commonwealth Bank from political control. Yet it is apparent from the secondreading speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and the wording of the measure itself that, in the final analysis, the Treasurer, as the representative of the Government, will still have control of the .policy of the bank. It would appear, therefore, that no attempt is being made to remove the bank from such political control as may have existed in the past. Still there is a suspicion in the minds of honorable members on this side about the Government’s intentions, because we have not yet been given any idea of who the five men to be appointed will be. We were told by a supporter of the Government last week that men of a certain type will not be appointed. We are interested not so much in what is the wrong type of man for appointment as in the type of person that is to be appointed to the board. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) stated a few moments ago that the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank had been appointed by a Labour government because it was- considered that he would be amenable to the dictates of the former Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). Strange though it may seem, however, the Government proposes to continue the appointment of that man. It is indeed extraordinary that a man who ha3 been described by a number of Government supporters as an outandout doctrinaire - and might be described on another occasion as a citizen against whom certain action should be taken - is to be left in his present position.
The honorable member for Gippsland stated that even if five outside appointees were definitely of one opinion, and were likely to support a private interest rather than the interests of the people, they could do nothing, because, after all, they would command less than one-half of the votes on the board. If the honorable member reads the clause carefully he will find that six members, including the chairman - who shall have a casting vote - shall form a quorum. Therefore four of the five men about whom this committee knows nothing, of whose interests we have no knowledge at this stage, and from whom applications have not yet been invited, can, because of the provisions in this measure, dictate the policy of the bank by a majority vote. What is worse, it is .provided that the exercise of the rights of the board shall not be affected by reason of there being vacancies on the board. The services of the five members of the board mentioned in the bill could be dispensed with at the will of the Government. If, then, the board did something that was unsatisfactory or undesirable from the point of view of the Government, and the services of three members were dispensed with, the remaining seven members, five of whom would be these unknown nominees, would be quite competent, in terms of the measure, to carry on and formulate the policy of the bank. I am not concerned about individuals; the Labour party has a definite objection to the proposed form of control of the bank. Another fundamental objection to this proposal, judging by the speeches of honorable members opposite, is that the Government is concerned that the bank should be regarded solely as a business undertaking. We do not agree with that view. When we realize the excellent public service that the bank rendered during the recent war, it appears to be much greater than a business institution. It is a public institution. It is the credit authority of the nation and it should not be prevented in any way from rendering the greatest possible degree of service to the people as a whole. Therefore, the bank must be regarded not from the stand point of profit and loss but from a national .stand point. During the recent war it was obliged to underwrite government loans and to provide credit for various purposes when financial institutions were not able, or willing, to do so because such undertakings did not offer what in their view was a reasonable margin of profit. The Commonwealth Bank has been carried on as the people’s bank. It rendered fine public service by financing public works when private banks found it utterly impossible to do so. Therefore the Government should not select appointees to the proposed board on their ability to make profits in private businesses. It should appoint men whose history .shows that they pay some attention to the welfare of the community and are not interested exclusively in profit-making.
Of the seven other appointees apart from the Governor, the Deputy Governor and the Secretary to the Treasury not more than two will have any knowledge of the bank’s history or of the principles of the Public Service. I am not of the opinion that the board should be composed exclusively of public servants ; but, at the same time, officers of the bank and of the Public Service should not be ignored by the Government when it ‘is making these appointments merely because they are public servants. After all, who knows more than such officers about the banking requirements of the public?” I am aware that members of the Australian Country party are prone to look down on public servants. But any government would- find itself in a mess if it were not for the capable work of public servants, particularly in supplying information and advice upon which governments largely determine public policy. As a rule public servants are well trained and have a standard of morality that is not always to be found among men drawn from private businesses. Those who were charged with the responsibility of departmental administration during the recent war will admit that fact. It was then found that in 99 per cent, of cases persons responsible for official action that was most unpalatable to the public were not permanent members of the Public Service, but men who were engaged temporarily in the Service, mainly as investigators, because under war-time conditions they had to abandon luxury occupations. That fact cannot be denied. During the recent war I was in charge of a small staff of men of that type, and I found that the men who had to be watched most closely were those who had been temporarily appointed to the Service and had no appreciation of the traditions of the Service.
– Order ! _ The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Gordon Anderson) has thrown a good deal of light upon the Opposition’s attitude towards the proposal to place the Commonwealth Bank under the control of a board. From his remarks it would appear that the Government could make the bill acceptable to honorable members opposite either by retaining the existing system of control, which is a dictatorship, or by setting up a board consisting exclusively of members of the Public Service. The honorable member said that during the war men who had been trained in private enterprise had failed in their work as temporary members of the Public Service. I was not astonished to hear that, because in private enterprise men are trained to rely upon their own initiative, independence of judgment and determination, to accept responsibility, and to deal with circumstances as they arise, whereas the average public servant proceeds by rule of thumb. The latter knows that there is always some -one higher up to whom he can refer any difficulty and that there is always some one lower down upon whom he can place the blame for error. On the other hand, private enterprise is not conducted by rule of thumb. That is why men trained in private enterprise do not usually succeed in the Public Service.
Therefore, if the proposed board were to be composed exclusively of public servants it would fail to achieve the objective for which it is to he appointed. The board will be virtually responsible for the economic welfare of Australia. That being the position, do honorable members opposite claim that the bank’s activities should be conducted simply by rule of thumb ? What is needed is the initiative that is the product of private enterprise. The Government could avert continuation of this debate by taking the easy way out of falling in with the Labour party’s policy of continuing the financial dictatorship that exists to-day, or by setting up a board consisting exclusively of public servants who would be subject to the dictatorship of the government of the day. I do not feel happy about the establishment of boards of any kind, but I realize the necessity for setting up a board to control the Commonwealth Bank as an alternative to continuing the present financial dictatorship. Honorable members opposite have referred to the fact that by returning the Labour government at the general election in 1946 the people endorsed the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945. The people did nothing of the sort, because prior to that election they did not have an opportunity to learn how that legislation would operate. In any event, the people did not realize that that legislation represented the first rung of Labour’s ladder for the absolute socialization of banking. At that general election Labour candidates were very careful not to say a word about the nationalization of banking, yet after a Labour government had been returned to office on that occasion they had the cheek to claim that the people had given it a mandate to nationalize banking. But in 1949, when nationalization of banking was made an issue the people expressed their will in no uncertain fashion. We are faced with a choice between continuing the present form of control of the bank, or substituting for it the form proposed in the bill. The committee has already accepted the principle of control by a bank board. We are now concerned merely with the constitution of the board. I believe that the members of the board should possess a wide knowledge of affairs apart from banking. If mistakes were made in 1930 in regard to Commonwealth Bank policy, they were due to the fact that the bank was under the control of a band pf experts who attempted to deal with exceptional circumstances by orthodox methods. We must get away from that. Members of the Opposition, have attributed the expansion of the Commonwealth Bank since 1945 to the existing form of control. Just as no government can claim credit for the prosperity of our exporting industries, so. no government can claim credit for the expansion of the Commonwealth Bank since 1945, nor attribute it to a particular form of control. As a matter of fact, no circumstances have arisen to test the qualities of the existing form of control. In the event of circumstances arising which call for initiative, determination and perhaps the application of an orthodox method, I should prefer the bank to be under the control of men with that knowledge and experience which are not available to men trained in the Public Service. There are men in industry who possess the necessary qualifications. Members of the Opposition have referred in most uncharitable terms to likely appointees to the board. They condemn every Australian by suggesting that, search the land as we may, we shall not find an honest man unless he happens to be a public servant. I am confident that we shall be able to find honest men who, when appointed to the board, will realize the importance of the responsibility they are called upon to discharge, and will guide Australia along sound, economic lines. It will not be their job to decide whether Hugh Leslie or George Bowden or Charles Adermann shall be granted an overdraft of £500. Such decisions merely involve an assessment of individual character and judgment of security, which any bank teller can learn. The members of the Commonwealth Bank, Board will have to decide isues that will affect the economic future of the nation. For that, we need men of wide knowledge who are capable of deciding the economic road along which the nation is to travel. I have not heard from the Opposition any reason why the proposed board will be unable to do the job that it will be called upon to do.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations - 1950 -
No. 9 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union.
No. 10 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 11 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 12 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 13 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia and Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 14 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia.
No. 15 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia; and others.
No. 16 - Electrical Trades Union of Australia.
No.17 - Vehicle Builders Employees’ Federation of Australia; and Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen.
No. 18 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 19 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 20 - AustralianWorkers’Union and others.
No. 21 - Association of Railway Professional Officers of Australia.
No. 22 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 23 - Australian Workers’ Union. Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department-
Defence -R. B. Dodman.
Repatriation- R. S. Kennedy, N. P. G. Little.
Social Services - B. P. Bate,M. H. Ramsay.
Defence (Transitional Provisions). Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations -
Orders - Inventions and designs (8). Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Emerald Hill, New South Wales.
Mount Barker, South Australia.
Sandigo, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 May 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500502_reps_19_207/>.