19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that Admiral A. W. Radford, Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, is within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair. In doing so, I ask him. to accept this as our method of appreciating the efforts, victories and. sacrifices of the officers and men’ of the United States Fleet during the recent war.
Honorable Members. - Hear, heart
Admiral Radford thereupon entered
– by leave - I am sure that it would be in accordance with the temper and sentiment of the House, and also with the feelings of the Australian people generally, if I indicated on our behalf in support of what you, Mr. Speaker, have just said, with what pleasure we receive and do the greatest honour that we can under the Standing Orders of .this House to a very distinguished sailor of the United States of America. It would be completely unnecessary for any words to be used to establish to any of the listening public that all the people of Australia have in their hearts, as well as in their minds, the people of the United States of America, their sailors, soldiers and airmen who fought with our own people and with the sons and daughters of the British nations all over the world during the recent war. At all times the representatives of £he United States Navy are welcome in any Australian city or town or countryside. It is particularly satisfactory for us to be able to join in welcoming to the Parliament and to Australia one of the most distinquished American naval officers, a man who in himself embodies all our recollections and all of our feelings of deep and undying gratitude.
– by leave - I join with you, Mr. Speaker, and with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in expressing to our very distinguished visitor our warmest appreciation of what his country and his countrymen have done for Australia. As one who, during the days of the war, had a very close association with Admiral Radford’s distinguished colleagues in this country, I take this opportunity to say to him that we appreciated and do appreciate the magnificent manner in which the United States of America and the officers and men of its armed forces co-operated with Australia in the joint war effort of our two countries in which, of course, the United States played the major part. Admiral Radford is here to celebrate the anniversary of the Coral Sea Battle, which was a turning point in the history of this country. That that -battle was won was due almost ‘entirely to- the help of the great American Navy which the. United States of America sent to this country. I do not. think that. I could find words eloquent enough to express the appreciation which I, myself, feel for what his countrymen did for Australia and I extend .to him, on behalf of the Opposition, the warmest welcome to this country.
– Has the Prime Minister given consideration to the desirability of re-establishing the joint parliamentary committee on social security, which body, as previously constituted, did very good work and had a- number of its recommendations translated into legislation?
– I have not, so far, dealt with that matter, but I shall take the honorable member’s suggestion into consideration.
– Bearing in mind that extensive alterations and additions are to be made shortly to the Launceston General Hospital will’ the. Munster for Works and Housing, perhaps in collaboration with the Minister for Repatriation, investigate the possibility of seizing this very suitable opportunity to erect on the site of the Launceston General. Hospital a building- to be used! as an. ex-servicemen’s ward which would, enable ex-service patients from northern Tasmania to keep in closer and more regular contact with their families and friends!
– I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion in collaboration with the Minister for Repatriation.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Labour and’ National Service a question which arises- from- one I asked some weeks ago. I asked the honorable gentleman whether he would institute- an investigation’ into the priorities granted’ to ships in- berthing, reading and unloading in Fremantle. I now ask’ whether the- Minister has-, instituted that inquiry and, if so, when he expects to be able to answer my previous question.
– I think it was the week before last that the honorable member put his question to me. I told him at the time that I would have inquiries made and I gave instructions immediately for that to- be done but I have not yet received a reply. It may be that there is a considerable amount of detail involved in the investigation but I shall endeavour to expedite a reply.
– My question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is supplementary to the question which I asked him yesterday concerning the aggregation of primary products in the United States of America and its probable effect on the price of primary products in Australia. I ask whether it is a fact that we have a long-term contract with the Government of the United Kingdom concerning the purchase of Australian eggs. If that is so, can the Minister inform, the House of the nature of the contract! Can he state- whether it continues until 1953; whether it is subject to review each year; and whether the prices which have been agreed upon are subject to review at shorter periods: than one year? What effect is the agreement likely to have upon the aggregation of the products of the. poultry industry in other countries?
– There is a contractual arrangement that the United Kingdom shall take Australia’s exportable surplus of eggs and egg pulp until 1953.. Prices are negotiated year by year-. At present I am engaged in negotiating the prices for next year for the exportable surplus. L am not yet in a position to reveal any conclusion of these negotiations, but a basic provision of the agreement is that the prices from year to year shall not vary, either upwards or downwards, to a. greater extent than 1i per cent, of the previous year’s price. To that extent, the poultry industry can- be assured that, there can be no steep fall in the value of its exportable products to the United Kingdom until 1953.
– Some time ago the Government stated its intention to set up a committee to investigate health matters in the Northern Territory. Can the Minister for Health inform me whether this committee has been set up? If so, will the Minister state the names of the members of the committee and when it -will start its investigation ?
– The election campaigns in different States have delayed the actual constitution of the committee but already the names of the officials who are to be drawn from each of the governments of “Western Australia, Queensland and the Commonwealth have been communicated to this Government. They will meet to draw up the agenda for that commission and action will then be taken.
– Is the Treasurer aware that as distinct from the ordinary statutory tax deductions from wages, the Taxation Branch has the power to order employers to make weekly deductions from the pay of employees for the liquidation of unpaid taxes owing by the employees? Is the Minister aware that the employer is not only required to make such deductions at the risk of giving offence to employees, but is involved in additional bookkeeping work for which he is not compensated in any way, yet if he fails to make the deductions he is liable to a penalty of £50? In view of this, will the Minister consider curtailing the powers of the Taxation Branch in this regard or, alternatively, compensate employers, possibly on a percentage basis, f or doing what is clearly the work of the Taxation Branch?
– The procedure to which the honorable member has referred is the same as that which applies to an employer who has to collect from the wages of his employee under a garnishee order obtained by the creditor in a court judgment. I shall investigate the matter but having regard to the necessity to collect revenue due to the Commonwealth, I am afraid that there can be no relief in that direction.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the utterances of Mr. Norman Smith, a member of the Taxpayers Association of Victoria at the conference of the Federated Taxpayers Association of Australia in Sydney yesterday ? He said that the effects of uniform taxation operated against Victoria to such a degree that that State would be justified in seeking to secede from the Commonwealth. If the right honorable gentleman has not read the reported statement, will he call for a report from the security service and examine the possibilities of the association being either declared an unlawful association or dealt with under the Crimes Act for permitting one of its officers to advocate the destruction of the unity of Australia or otherwise foment disunity and dissension likely to endanger the security, both external and internal, of the Australian nation?
– The answers to the three parts of the honorable member’s question are as follows : - “ No, no, and no “.
– Will the Minister for the Interior give to this House a brief outline of the terms of reference of the special committees that have been appointed to inquire into the area of office space held by the Commonwealth in the capital cities?
– The committees that have been appointed in all States have been charged with the responsibility of investigating, first, the space occupied by the various departments in government buildings; secondly, the space occupied in leased buildings; and, thirdly, the appropriateness of the space that is occupied by departments in all buildings. The object of the inquiry is to ascertain whether office accommodation is being properly used and whether any adjustment -can ho made.
– I ask the Treasurer whether petrol is still being imported at dollar coat. If so, why does not the Government accept all the sterling petrol that the right honorable gentleman has stated to be available in order to make the dollars saved by that means available for the purchase of essential farming machinery and equipment for vital developmental works?
– Petrol is being imported into Australia on the basis of the best economic conditions.
– In view of recent, press reports of Communist demonstrations in front of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and the statements attributed to General MacArthur hinting at the possible banning of the Japanese Communist party, will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether communism presents a serious and increasing menace in Japan? Will lie also state whether arrangements have been made for the repatriation of all Japanese prisoners of war held by the Russians? “Will he further inform the House approximately bow many Japanese war prisoners are still held in captivity?
– I believe that communism presents an increasing danger to democracy everywhere in the world, not excepting Japan, as is evidenced by the comments that have been published in the newspapers to-day. When a man with the unquestioned democratic outlook of General MacArthur thinks it necessary to indicate that he may be compelled to take the action that he has foreshadowed, it must be obvious that communism in Japan constitutes a force that must be reckoned with. I am unable to inform the honorable member of the extent of Communist activities in Japan, but I know that the evil influence of communism cannot be determined by the actual number of people who happen to be engaged in its cause. The machinery and organization of the Communists, and the directing power behind them, provide them with their strength. I do not know the number of Japanese war prisoners still in the hands of the Russians, but I shall endeavour to obtain the information so that I can supply it to the honorable member. I am aware that the
Russians have not yet returned to Japan anything like the total number of Japanese that they held as prisoners of war.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question relating to Question No. 3 on the noticepaper, standing in my name. As the information sought in that question is readily obtainable, and is usually supplied within a very short period of the figures becoming available, I should like to know when I may expect an answer to my question which has now been on the notice-paper for at least a couple of months.
– The question to which the honorable member has referred relates to the load factors of aircraft operated by private companies and by Trans-Australia Airlines, the numbers of passengers carried, numbers of aircraft, and the like, for a period during the honorable member’s own administration of the Department of Civil Aviation. I found on inquiry that those figures “were not forthcoming. I am altering the procedure to ensure that they shall be made available, and, when I receive them, I shall supply to the honorable member an answer to his question.
Undelivered Mail Matter
– I have been informed that, during the recent Queensland election campaign, letters were posted to every elector of the division of Bundaberg on behalf of the Labour candidate, Mr. Walsh. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General tell me either later to-day, or at his earliest possible convenience, the number of such letters that have been, or are to be, returned to the dead letter office from the Bundaberg post office?
– On behalf of the Postmaster-General who, unfortunately, is indisposed, I assure the honorable member that I shall have the matter to which he has referred investigated and provide him with an adequate reply.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that, since the present Government assumed office, there has been a strange reluctance on the part of displaced person immigrants particularly in New South Wales to join trade unions? Whether this is due to indecision on the part of the immigrants, I do not know; but I have received complaints from two unions. I ask the Minister for Immigration whether he will re-affirm the basic principles of Australia’s immigration policy laid down when Labour was in office, and point out that one of the cardinal conditions of acceptance into the Australian community is that each immigrant shall join the union covering the industry in which he earns his livelihood.
– I assure the honorable member for Parkes that this matter has already received my consideration, and that action which I consider to be appropriate to the situation has been taken. The policy of the Government parties on this matter is well known. We believe that trade unionism in Australia should be supported, and that men who enter a particular occupation should, in general, join the union appropriate to that occupation. However, we are opposed to compulsion being applied to any person to join a union. I have endeavoured to make it perfectly clear that the general practice of the Australian people is to support unionism. In the journal New Australian, which circulates freely amongst immigrants, a message from me has been published informing immigrants that they are expected, as part of their membership of the Australian community, to follow the practice adopted by an overwhelming majority of Australians of joining trade unions. I have made it clear also however that, whilst we expect immigrants to take that action, no compulsion to do so will be applied to them. Any complaints that have been made by unions about failure on the part of immigrants to join trade unions have been investigated and, so far as I am aware, in each instance the matter has been satisfactorily adjusted.
– I have received complaints from representatives of the Australian Workers Union in Gippsland to the effect that there are not sufficient supplies of the magazine New Australian being sent to camps near Sale and Yallourn. Will the honorable gentleman take steps to ensure that sufficient supplies of the magazine are made available to the occupants of those camps?
– I regret to learn that there has been any ground for complaint about the number of copies of the publication New Australian, being circulated in camps for migrants, or in workers’ hostels in Gippsland, but I am glad to know that, by way of implication, it appears that the journal is appreciated. I shall certainly ascertain whether arrangements can be made to increase the number of copies for distribution in that district.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that there appears to be an unreasonably large percentage turnover of controlled migrant labour in some basic industries, particularly in brick and tile works? Is it a fact that, because there is considerable competition for migrant labour in certain industries, some employers are offering to pay migrants at rates greater than those provided for in the appropriate awards? Will the Minister investigate the circumstances in which a large number of migrants have been permitted to change their occupations as a result of the production of medical certificates? The number of changes appears to be much greater in some industries than in others.
– Yesterday I answered a question asked by the honorable member for Isaacs that dealt with some aspects of the labour problem in the brick and tile industries. I pointed out to him that because of the present conditions and rates of pay the brick and tile industries are not among the more attractive industries although they are, of course, extremely important industries from the point of view of home construction. The Department of Labour and National Service has arranged for a considerable number of immigrants to be placed in these industries, and I regret to learn that, as the honorable member’s question appears to indicate, there has been in those industries a substantial turnover of labour beyond what might reasonably be expected. Each immigrant placed in an industry is expected to carry out the work for which he is required during the period in which he comes under Commonwealth supervision. In the instances to which the honorable member has referred, in which a change of occupation has taken place, I assume that each immigrant concerned has secured permission to change his job from the appropriate employment officer^ either on medical or other grounds. If it can be shown that in any instance a change of occupation has taken place without the necessary authority, I shall have the matter investigated to see whether remedial action- can be taken. I shall also have inquiries made into the honorable member’s suggestion that medical certificates are being issued in some instances, rather more freely than is warranted, and I shall call for a report on that aspect of the matter also.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to indicate when additional supplies of rice from Australian crops will be made available for local consumption?
– The Australian rice crop is now in the process of being harvested. Within a comparatively short time the quantity of rice yielded by that crop will be known. Australia has been reserving a proportion of its rice for certain Pacific island areas, and for food deficient areas in the Far East. Some evidence is available that a surplus of rice is now becoming available - in the Far East because in recent months rice has been offered to Australia and New Zealand from India, China and Burma. I have been informed of that offer but I am not familiar with the exact circumstances of it. As soon as the yield of the present crop is known, I shall investigate the matter to ascertain whether it is possible to alter our policy on rice.
– In view of the fact that the Queensland elections are now over and that the Labour party in Queensland has had a magnificent victory for the twelfth time in thirteen successive elections, will the Treasurer now give intelligent consideration to the question of the development of. Burdekin. Valley because, no political advantage is now to be gained by continuing the repudiation of the arrangement made by th«” Chifley Government in connexion with the furtherance of this project. Will the Treasurer now consider whether he will support or oppose the development of the Burdekin. Valley?
– Despite the facts that the honorable member’s question is based on wrong premises, and that the Labour candidate for Burdekin was defeated by an independent candidate at the recent elections, I shall consider- the whole matter on the basis of sound economics.
– With reference to the negotiation, by correspondence, between the Arts Council of South Australia and the Prime Minister, will the right honorable gentleman indicate whether he intends to proceed with the national theatre scheme? Will he also indicate whether he would be sympathetic towards federal subsidization of a State government purchase of a theatre building to be used for dramatic art? Did tin1 Prime Minister give any indication that the Federal Government is prepared to assist theatre art in any way other than by subsidization through State governments? In explanation I mention that South Australia, when its population was one-quarter of what it is to-day, had four theatres. Since that time its theatres have been sold one by one until now, unless drastic action is taken, South Australia will be left with only one theatre.
– The policy of the present Government in relation to what is loosely called the national theatre movement has yet to be broadly discussed and determined. It has recently been suggested that the policy adopted oy the previous Administration included the idea of purchasing or constructing theatres. Although I do not believe that that impression was justified, I shall be happy to discuss the matter with the former Prime Minister, who is now Leader of the Opposition. I rather suppose that what he actually said concerning the encouragement of the theatre related to the training of casts and not to the purchase of buildings or to the conduct of a national theatrical enterprise.
Mr.Chifley. - That is quite correct.
– The present Government has certainly not contemplated at any time that it should purchase buildings for theatres. As the honorable member will appreciate, that policy would involve the Government at one hit in the purchase of seven theatres as a beginning, which is somewhat beyond our scope. However, we shall approach the matter in what I hope will be regarded as a helpful manner, and in due course an announcement of our intentions will be made.
Mr.DUTHIE. - Did the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture notice in the press last week a report that a large primary producing organization representing mainly dairymen had stated that if butter rationing were abolished the dairy-farmers would lose £300,000 annually although 20,000 tons more butter would be consumed in Australia annually, because of the difference between the home-consumption price and the price of butter sold to Great Britain ? If the report is correct, will the Minister say whether the newly appointed Leader of the Liberal Opposition in the Tasmanian House of Assembly had any authority to make the statement attributed to him that if his political party were returned to power next Saturday it would discontinue the rationing of butter? Is not the decision in such a matter one for the Australian Government ?
– If butter rationing were discontinued and more butter were consumed in Australia for a lower aggregate return than is received from the export of butter, the result would be that a smaller amount would be paid into the dairying industry stabilization fund than at present. However, as I am not cognizant of any of the statements that have been made by the rival political parties in the Tasmanian election campaign, I am not in a position to offer any comment.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for National Development concerning the development of the port of Portland and of western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia generally in consequence. I remind the right honorable gentleman that this matter was raised incidentally in a question asked by the honorable member for Mallee on the 19th April. In view of the benefits that will accrue from the development of a port at Portland, the importance to the national defence of the establishment of an alternative deep-sea port on the Victorian coast, and the need, both now and for the future, to relieve the congestion of shipping in Melbourne and Adelaide, will the Minister consider establishing the closest co-operation with the States concerned in developing the vital project that I have mentioned?
-I agree with the honorable member that the Government of Victoria deserves all possible credit for its initiative in seeking to develop a deepwater port between Port Phillip and Port Adelaide, and I expect that the construction of the port will have some significance for national defence. I understand that the Government of Victoria has established a harbour trust with autonomous powers to administer the port at Portland, and I expect that the Government has also guaranteed its borrowings. I understand that the Government of South Australia has also been investigating the possibility of establishing a port on the south-eastern coast of that State. I believe that the establishment of additional deep-water ports on the central southern coast of Australia is desirable in the interest of decentralization and also, I should imagine, of defence. I should also agree with the honorable member that if the Government of South Australia proposes to establish another port the matter would be one of national concern. At the present time the development of the port of Portland is entirely within the ambit of the Victorian Government. I can well imagine its value as an additional shipping port for primary products, but at the moment the matter is entirely one for that Government. However, should that Government and the Government of South Australia desire to approach the Australian Government on the matter of developing further deep-sea ports their representations will he considered.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 2.30 p.m.
– I give notice that, at the next sitting, I shall move -
That leave he given to bring in a bill for an act to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to the Senate.
– Order! I point out to the Prime Minister that I asked whether there were any notices of motion before I called for questions without notice, and no such notices were given.
– It has always been the practice, in my experience, that notices of motion may be given at any time during questions without notice.
– That is right.
– I shall look into the matter. I distinctly asked whether there were any notices of motion after I had asked whether there were any petitions.
– If I may say so, with respect, it is a new one to me, and I have been here for a long time. I ask for leave to give, notice of the motion that I have indicated.
– It is in order.
– In view of the increasing anxiety which is being displayed by church organizations in Australia about the safety of Christian men and women who are labouring in the mission fields of Red China, can the Minister for External Affairs give the House any information about the following matters: - (1) “Whether any advice has been received from China about the position of those missionaries? (2) “Whether any steps will be taken by the Australian Government, through international channels, to assist in safeguarding the lives of the missionaries, and mission property? (3) What will be the nature of those steps?
– I have received no intimation from any of the missionary societies relative to the matters which are referred to in the honorable member’s question. However, I assure him that if any such representations are made to me, I shall take whatever steps are in the powers of Government to safeguard the lives and property of those engaged in Christian work in China. In any event I shall make inquiries independently upon the subject matter of the honorable member’s question, and convey to him any information that I am able to obtain about the position.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether it is a fact that Dr. George, who was a member of the recent conference on Pneumoconiosis, has recommended in his report that rest homes be provided for retired miners? Is it also a fact that many other countries provide such homes, which are of great benefit to the health of the miners? Will the Minister consider the advisability of giving effect to the recommendations of Dr. George by providing such homes as early as possible?
– The report and findings on pneumoconiosis, to which the honorable gentleman has referred, are being examined by my department at the present time. No specific recommendations have reached me for consideration, but I shall ascertain whether the matter which the honorable member has raised has come to the notice of the department, and I shall examine it more closely.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of the quantities of flour that have been despatched from Australia to Malaya, Indonesia, China, and Siam since the 1st January? What quantities have been despatched from each State to each of those countries ? Is it an essential requirement of the wheat stabilization plan that the Australian Wheat
Board shall be the marketing agent for flout and shall buy local flour and sell it overseas? If that is not an essential requirement of the plan, will the Minister consider the advisability of the Australian Wheat Board ceasing to control the export flour trade and, consequently, the Australian flour mills?
– The honorable member for Moore told me that he proposed to ask this question. I am advised that it is not an essential part of the wheat stabilization plan that the Australian Wheat Board shall be the sole seller of Australian flour, but up to the present time that has been considered to be the most appropriate course of action.
– It is an essential part of the plan.
– I have stated the advice that has been tendered to me. The facts can be ascertained by consulting the statute. Recently sound arguments have been advanced in support of the proposition that it maybe advantageous not to retain the Australian Wheat Board as the only seller of Australian flour. I shall consider that matter and advise the honorable member and the House of the decision that is arrived at. I have prepared a table in which are set out the ports of shipment and destinations of exports of Australian flour. With the consent of the House, I shall incorporate it in Hansard. It is as follows : -
– Has the attention of the
Minister for the Interior been directed to a report in this morning’s press that dis missal notices given to some persons employed by Radio Australia have been withdrawn as a result of military protests against the curtailment of our short-wave broadcasts to places overseas? If the report is correct, will the Government undertake that in future some notice will be taken of protests by members of the Opposition against futile and stupid curtailments of public services?
– As far as I am aware, the report is incorrect. Radio Australia is now being operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for a greater number of hours than hitherto and at approximately half the former cost.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 2nd May (vide page 2114).
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 -
.- The proposed new sections that the committee is considering deal with the Commonwealth Bank Board, the Governor and the Deputy Governor of the bank and several other matters relative to the hoard. We regard these proposed new sections as the crux of the hill. We have made that statement before, and we cannot repeat it too often. The Commonwealth Bank was established by a Labour Government many years ago, and the system of management inaugurated by that Labour Government was control by a single Governor of the hank. That Governor was drawn from a private hank then operating in this country. His tenure of office and, indeed, the type of management that he represented, were entirely successful until the relevant legislation was amended in 1924 by a government formed from the parties now in office. No government, no individual, and no historian has been able to find one single act of omission or commission that would condemn that type of administration. Yet that administrative system wa9 removed by the BrucePage Government in 1924 solely, we believe, because that Government yielded to the wishes of the private banks of this country. It placed the bank under the control of a board instead of under the control of one governor as it had been until then. From that time onward the financial policy of the Commonwealth Bank and the policy of banking institutions in Australia generally were less intelligent and less conductive to the general welfare of Australia and its people than was the case when the bank was controlled by a single governor. After bitter experience of the system of management established by that composite government, a Labour government, with the full consent of the Australian people, reverted to- the original type of management. During the period between reversion to the system of control by a single governor instead of by a board and now, no objection has been found to the original system of management. We demand to know, therefore, from the Government, or the Treasurer as its spokesman, why the Government now proposes to reinstate a form of management that failed dismally, and to remove the kind of management that has succeeded. As I have pointed out earlier, this is the crucial matter in the bill. The proposed new Part V. seeks to reconstitute the board and determine its constitution. It sets out that five members shall not be members of a government service. They are not to be experts in banking, but persons drawn from outside the government services altogether. The Government has not given, by word or statement, a single reason why this change should, be made. The Opposition is being accused of seeking retention of a type of administration in the Australian banking system that is favoured by totalitarian countries. I remind the committee and the country that when Labour appointed a single Governor as the manager of the Australian people’s bank there was no Soviet State in existence; there was no Soviet Union ; and there had been no revolution in the country formerly known as Russia. If anybody followed anybody else’s example it must be said that Russia and other countries to which reference has been made followed Australia’s example. In practice it has been proven that the alternatives to control of banks by a governor have failed. Members of the Australian Country party have interjected loudly during this debate. Can any member of that party inform me why the Australian Wheat Board and the Commonwealth Bank Board as it formerly existed-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order ! The honorable member is getting too far away from the clause.
– I point out that the marginal note to the first of the proposed new sections in this clause is “ Membership of Board “. Surely, therefore, the clause refers to that subject.
– Marginal references to clauses always appear in bills. We are discussing the membership of the board.
– That is my immediate point. The membership of the board has to be drawn mainly from outside the public services of Australia. The members have to be drawn, we presume, from institutions or bodies representative df the vested interests in Australia. The Wheatgrowers Federation of Australia, in conference in Perth recently, condemned a reversion to control of the bank by a board the membership of which i3 to be drawn from interests outside the government services of Australia.
– But the wheat-growers want a representative on the board.
– I agree. The fact remains, however, that the wheatgrowers are opposed to reversion to a board the membership of which is drawn from outside interests. Not only the Labour movement but also the wheatgrowers of Australia are absolutely opposed to the establishment of a board similar to that which previously controlled the Commonwealth Bank.
– That is not correct.
– According to reports in all newspapers in Western Australia the Wheatgrowers Federation expressed that view at its recent conference at Perth. Those present at the conference included Mr. H. K. Nock, a former member for Riverina, and Mr. John A. Teasdale who represents the wheat-growers on the Australian Wheat Board. Indeed, Mr. Teasdale informed that conference that he would be willing to accept instructions from it with respect to future action dealing with the exchange rate.
– Mr. Teasdale was not a delegate to that conference.
– He was present at the conference. However, Labour supporters and the wheat-growers of this country are not the only ones who are opposed to this proposal insofar as it implies that public servants are not suitable as appointees to the proposed board. Speaking in this chamber on the 13th June, 1924, on the bill under which the previous Commonwealth Bank Board was established the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), who was then Treasurer in the Bruce-Page Government, had this to say about the private banks -
Chiefly mindful of their own interests, which is but natural, they can have no such regard for the public welfare as is undoubtedly required . . . Banking policy aimed at the maintenance of the interests of the community often requires sacrifice of, or abstention from profit, and without any reflection upon individual banks, I submit it is too much to ask that the ordinary banker shall exercise the self-denial which is involved.
That statement by the present Minister for Health supports Labour’s condemnation of the proposal now before the Chair. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has also spoken in a similar strain. I take the following quotation from Professor Crisp’s book, The Parliamentary Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, in which the following statement is attributed to the Treasurer in the course of a speech that he made on the 5th December, 1936:- .
The United Australia Party gives its allegiance-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member has risen to speak, I shall take my second period now. On the occasion to which I have referred, the Treasurer said -
The United Australia Party gives its allegiance to the big financial and manufac turing interests of the cities, and to the middle-men and monopolists, because it receives its support and power from those people.
– But that party is now extinct.
– The statement continued -
How then can the United Australia Party serve the countryside as well as those in the city who suck the life-blood from the countryside? Primary industries are subjected to repeated onslaughts and are beaten to their knees, preference being extended by the United Australia Party to cheap, foreign, black-grown products so that city importers - the men behind the United Australia Party - should reap a harvest.
In that statement the Treasurer condemned the United Australia party in moTe stringent terms than any spokesman for the Labour party has ever done. He said that the United Australia party could not be trusted. In reply to his interjection that that party has ceased to exist, I point out that those who were its leaders are the leaders of the present Liberal party, and exactly the same people who supported the United Australia party support the Liberal party to-day. The point I make is that members of that party will have a deciding voice in the Cabinet when appointments are being made to the board that the Government proposes to set up under this measure. Therefore, those appointees will not be drawn from the countryside but will be representatives of city interests, that is, to use the Treasurer’s own description of them, those “who suck the lifeblood from the countryside “. The Government cannot claim on any ground whatever to have a mandate for this legislation. The Government cannot, from experience, justify its claim that a board would be more efficient in practice and sound in administration than a governor. We have not said unequivocally that we are opposed to a board of any type, but we say definitely and finally that, while we have the power to prevent it, there will be no bank board representative of outside interests.
– The Labour party will not have the final say.
– No, but the electors will. We shall tell the story from every platform, and if .the people, after bearing the story, decide in favour of a bank board I am mistaken in my judgment. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), by implication, condemned the bank board. He admitted that mistakes had been made, and that lessons had been learned by experience. The truth is .that no economic crisis, whether in Australia or elsewhere, is ever identical with the one that preceded it. The Commonwealth Bank Board failed during the depression, not because its members were wicked in intent, or because they represented interests that throve on the life-blood of the primary producers, but because they did not understand banking and finance. They could not appreciate the results that would necessarily flow from their policy. They believed that if they expanded credit inflation would follow, although Lord Keynes, the greatest liberal economist in the world, told the Australian Prime Minister of that day in a letter that the obvious thing to do at the time was to expand credit.
– He also said that the Premiers plan had saved Australia.
– I repeat that he advised an expansion of credit, though not necessarily an increase of the note issue. He gave the same advice in the United States of America, and President Roosevelt accepted it. Australia did not accept it, and the people suffered extreme hardships in consequence. The advice was not accepted because the Commonwealth Bank was under the direction of a conservative board which could not foresee the result of its decisions. However, if the bank were directed by a man, or a group of men, able to assess the results of policy, we could expect sane and wellinformed decisions. Success in business is not necessarily a qualification for appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board. The conduct of ordinary banking operations is a comparatively simple matter, but qualifications of a special kind are needed in those who will be charged with the responsibility of deciding when to expand or contract credit. Decisions on such matters should not be associated with the profit earning of the institution concerned, and those who make the decisions should always bear in mind the probable effect upon the national treasury. For those reasons, the bank should be controlled by one man, or by a group of men, selected for their knowledge of banking, and having no outside interests to serve. Professor Hytten, giving evidence before the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, was critical of the Commonwealth Bank Board. At that time he was in the service of the Bank of New South Wales, which is the oldest established bank in Australia. He condemned the Commonwealth Bank Board on the ground that its members had been drawn from various interests throughout Australia, and that they were representatives only of industry. He said that the board did not necessarily include men of experience in banking nor did it bring into the councils of the government bank men of proved ability in the banking world. He contended that the limitation of the field of choice of directors of the bank should be removed. Indeed the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems that the limitation of the field of choice should be removed was largely based on his evidence. This bill does nothing to remove that limitation because this Government and its supporters, the banking interests of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide want to appoint their nominees to the board. Such a proposal cannot be justified in the light of past history and is extremely dangerous. We should not be deceived about this proposal to reinstitute a system of administration of the Commonwealth Bank that has so singularly failed in the past.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke). I attended the meeting of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation in Perth only as an observer. I was not a delegate and I did not vote at the meeting. Mr. John Teasdale, a member of the Australian Wheat Board, also attended the meeting as an observer. He, too, did not vote. Mr. Horace Nock-
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his personal explanation to the matter in respect of which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– Mr. Horace Nock attended the meeting as a delegate.
– Order ! The honorable member may not refer to the attendance at the meeting of other gentlemen. He must confine his remarks to his own actions.
– With great respect, Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Perth misrepresented not only my position at the meeting, but also that of Mr. Teasdale and Mr. Nock. If you will allow me to proceed, I shall conclude in a few seconds.
– The honorable member may not proceed along those lines. He must confine his remarks to the misrepresentation of something that he himself has done.
– I bow to your ruling Mr. Chairman. I merely say that if I had attended the meeting at Perth as a delegate, the Australian “Wheat-growers Federation would have adopted a resolution supporting - . -
– Order ! The honorable member is now going far beyond a personal explanation.
– I, too, wish to make a personal explanation. I shall not labour my point. I merely said that 1 understood that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) had been present at the meeting in Perth. I did not say that he had either a voice or a vote at the meeting.
– The inconsistency of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) is exceeded only by the national debt. He commenced his speech by saying that the party with which he is associated has always favoured single control of the administration of the Commonwealth Bank. After having been associated with the Labour party for such a long time, the honorable member should know something of its history. He has said, and rightly so, that the board system of control of the Commonwealth Bank was inaugurated in 1924 by my colleague, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). He also said that the board system of control was abolished by the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945.
That is so. I point out, however, that 21 years elapsed before the disabilities, shortcomings and inconsistencies of the board system of control of the bank were discovered. While the Labour party may have considered that the board system should not be adopted for the control of the monetary system of Australia, happily, the people of Australia, on every occasion on which they have been given the opportunity to express their opinions on this matter through the most democratic means - the ballot-box - have decided against the banking policy of the present Opposition which has been repeated so often by Opposition members during the course of this debate.
– That is not true. Will the right honorable gentleman go back to what happened in 1943?
– In 1943 the political parties of the day were as silent as the tomb on the subject of banking policy. In 1946 the people of Australia were deceived into believing that the then Labour Government had no intention to introduce legislation to nationalize the private banks. Having received an open cheque from the people - which was filled in with red socialist ink - the Chifley Government promptly began to implement the plank in Labour’s platform and policy which provides for the nationalization of banking. The proposal to nationalize the banks was immediately followed by protest meetings all over the Commonwealth and petitions against the proposal poured into Canberra from every part of Australia.
– I rise to order. I ask you to rule, Mr. Chairman, whether the decision of the Chifley Government in 1947 to nationalize the private banks is relevant to the proposed new sub-sections before the committee which deal with the composition of the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– The Treasurer’s remarks are very wide of the provisions of those sections. I ask the right honorable gentleman to confine his remarks to the statements made by the honorable member for Perth.
– I agree that my remarks may be wide of the provisions of the proposed new sections, but I point out, Mr. Chairman, that one must plant the seed before one can grow a tree. It was the 1947 legislation introduced by the Chifley Government which made the people on the 10th December last, so decisively reject Labour’s banking policy. The honorable member for Perth has said that the party with which he is associated has always opposed the system of board control of the Commonwealth Bank and that, in season and out of season, it has consistently advocated control of the bank by a single authority. In other words, it favours continuance of the sole control of the bank by a dictator who is pledged in writing to carry out Labour’s fundamental policy of nationalization of the banking system. Labour members have repeatedly said that the late Honorable E. G. Theodore was one of the best Treasurers that Australia has ever had, and that not only among the supporters of the Labour party but also among the people of Australia generally, Mr. Theodore’s financial knowledge was unsurpassed.
– The right honorable member has waited until Mr. Theodore has died to pay a tribute of that kind. He did not say such things when Mr. Theodore was alive.
– I am not paying him a tribute. I am merely repeating the claim that has so often been made by members of the Labour party. Having regard to the fundamental principles of Labour’s monetary policy, and the method of control of the Commonwealth Bank, it is surprising to find that in a bill which was introduced into this Parliament by Mr. Theodore to provide for the establishment of a central reserve bank and for other purposes–
– That measure was vitally different from the bill which is now before the committee.
– He provided in that bill for the management of the reserve bank to be placed in the hands of a board. That bill stated-
The reserve bank shall be managed by a Board of Directors composed of the governor and eight other directors appointed in the manner set out in this part.
It was provided that there should he nine members on the board in 1930 and yet honorable members are asked to believe that the expansion of the monetary and credit -system of this country from 1930 to 1950 has not warranted the appointment of a board of ten. Honorable members of the Opposition allege that a board of ten would be cumbersome, although that number is only one more than was provided for by Mr. Theodore in his bill of 1930.
– That is not the vital difference.
– Of course it is not. What did Mr; Theodore provide in his bill of twenty years ago?. He provided that-
Subject to this act, the eight other directors shall consist of -
The two Deputy Governors of. the Reserve Bank.
Has the Government provided for the appointment of the two Governors and the sub-manager of the Commonwealth Bank ? Of course it has. The bill provides for the appointment to the board of the Governor and the Deputy Governor so that this board will be exactly the same as Mr. Theodore’s as far as the foundational management is concerned. Mr. Theodore provided for the appointment of the Secretary to the Treasury. Has the Government provided for the appointment of the Secretary to the Treasury? Of course it has.
– Did the Government use that measure as a model?
– It is a model which the honorable member cannot run away from if he is to remain true to his pledge and the principles of the Labour organization over the years. The 1930 bill then states that five other persons shall be appointed. It is coincidental that five is the number of other persons for whose appointment the Government provides in the bill before the House.
– The bill provides for not less than five.
– It does not stipulate “not less than five”. The bill provides for the appointment of five other persons. From what sources did Mr. Theodore’s bill specify that the five members should be drawn? The bill before the committee does not provide for sectional representation nor does the Government intend to allow such representation. The Government is determined to draw the five representatives on the proposed directorate from the best available material amongst the population of Australia. The Government has asserted, and I reiterate, that there is to be no sectional representation. But what did Mr. Theodore and the Labour government of the day provide for in his bill? Did he provide for sectional representation? Of course he did. The 1930 bill reads as follows:-
The Government disqualifies from membership of the proposed board anybody associated with the trading banking system of Australia, but Mr. Theodore was going to appoint members from the trading banking system. “What hypocrisy we have heard during the course of this debate! Mr. Theodore’s bill continues -
That bill provided for sectional representation of the most definite and defined form. Now honorable members of the Opposition ask the committee to believe that in this day of grace, after the effluxion of twenty years and the extension of the banking system of this country, a board of ten is too big although a board of nine was provided for in 1930; that sectional representation is not in the best interests of the banking system; that the bill before the committee provides for sectional representation ; and that the Government intends to appoint to the board people who were associated with the trading banking system of this country. The bill specifically disqualifies from membership of the proposed directorate any one who has any association with the trading banking system of this country and yet in Mr. Theodore’s bill in 1930 specific provision was made for the appointment of members who had been engaged in the trading bank system. There is the position. Honorable members of the Opposition may deny it if they wish but what they have said about the constitution of the proposed board is humbug and hypocrisy.
The: honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) said that the Government did not have a mandate from the people to introduce this legislation. If the Government has not a mandate from the people for the setting up of a bank board I do not know what it has a mandate for, because its policy was stated unambiguously. It said that it would set up a board to control the banking system of this country. It said “ a small board “. Honorable members of the Opposition lay stress on the definition of “ small “. What they mean is a board of small men. The Government did not say that. In the course of my speech yesterday I pointed out the hypocrisy of the criticism with regard to a small board. It has been said by one speaker after another on the Opposition side of the chamber that a board of ten is not a small board. A board of nine was the minimum provided for in 1930. I ask honorable members to compare the activities of the Commonwealth Bank to-day - twenty years afterwards - with its activities in 1930. I have told honorable members, in reply to criticism, that a board of ten was not a small board. I have pointed out that the Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Chifley) who holds a preponderance of shares in a small company at Bathurst the capital of which is made up of 3,000 shares and which publishes the National ‘Advocate, evidently finds it necessary to have a small board of seven. Tet honorable members of the Opposition state that a board of ten is too big to control the monetary and financial system of this country.
– I was particularly interested in the remarks made by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) towards the close of his speech when he waved Mr. Theodore’s bill in his hand.
– Would the honorable member like to have a look at it?
– Yes. That bill was introduced by a Labour party government, which had a hostile majority against it in the Senate. That measure provided for the establishment of a central reserve bank. It did not attempt to set up a board for the purpose of controlling a bank which carried out all the functions of banking in competition with the private banks of this country.
– That argument does not help the honorable member.
– I say that it does. I am in favour of the creation of boards for the purposes of controlling fire brigades, water supplies and other services but I am not in favour of governmental institutions which compete with private enterprise being controlled by means of boards which comprise members of private banking institutions or on which are representatives of private business. If the people of Burke had not elected me to- this Parliament I would have been pleased to have accepted a position upon the bank board, and I would have gone out of my way to do service to my constituents. But now that I am a paid member of this legislature, I should go further to serve those constituents than if the Government saw fit to appoint me to the bank board. This clause is the kernel of the situation. We on this side of the chamber oppose the creation of governmental boards whose members include representatives of private enterprise. Members of the bank board might be selected from pastoralists, or from persons interested in steel or coal-mining or the big emporiums. Does the Treasurer suggest that those persons would be so divorced from their private interests that they would not utilize the instrumentality that the Government had provided to promote their own interests or enterprises?
– There are some honest men left.
– The honorable member states that there are some honest men left. Yet the Treasurer put into the bill this proposed sub-section -
The Governor or the Deputy Governor shall be deemed to have vacated his office if -
He engages in any paid employment outside the duties of his office;
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with that except that the Minister has not inserted a similar sub-section relating to other members of the board. With regard to them the bill states that they shall vacate their office for any of three reasons but those reasons do not include acceptance of any paid employment outside the duties of their office. They would be permitted to have paid positions outside the Commonwealth Bank Board according to the provisions of the bill. They could be interested in the promotion of giant enterprises like the Myer Emporium Limited, The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Newcastle, or pastoral companies. Honorable members supporting the Government ask, “What if they are ? “ My reply is that the occasion will eventually arise when some of those people will prove truer to their private interests than to their national trust. Even if the majority of the people are honorable and the Treasurer’s friends could they be trusted to put their country first? There is still likely to be the isolated case of a man who reaches a high position by pretending to be something that he is not. There must be a safeguard against such persons. The institutions of the nation must be above suspicion. The people must have absolute confidence in those who control their destinies and must be sure that there are no divided loyalties among them. I have heard it said in this chamber and elsewhere that the depression struck like a thunderbolt and that it was something against which no government or organization could possibly take precautions. But in reality the depression was man made. There was a fall in the price of primary products overseas-
– If the honorable member is correct, the depression must have been caused by the Scullin Government because it was in power at the time.
– The Treasurer knows that the depression reached its climax while the Scullin Government -was in office but not in power. When the Government of that time tried to secure bank legislation, it was frustrated by a hostile Senate and the private banking institutions restricted credit instead of expanding it. Actually I do not blame the private bank interests for doing so. Their first responsibility was to their clients and shareholders. When they saw the price of primary products falling overseas, they realized that the inevitable result in Australia would be a reduction of the national income and of the value of assets. Therefore they decided to refuse advances to fanners and others, and recalled money that was out on loan.
– Order ! The honorable member must not go too deeply into policy in the debate on this clause.
– I am endeavouring to show that there may be a conflict of interests, and that the Government should make sure that it does not put people into a position where they have to choose between their private interests and those of the nation. The provision in the bill that the Governor of the bank shall vacate his position if he engages in outside interests is designed to put him above reproach in serving the national interests, but if the bank board should include a number of members, with diverse private interests, they might seek to promote their interests at the expense of some other individual outside the board who is engaged in the same occupation or has money invested in a similar type of business.
– A lot of scoundrels?
– The object of the legislation of this Parliament is to protect the people against those who may be scoundrels. It may be that there are people supporting his party who are scoundrels. No doubt honorable members have noted in the history of all kinds of business organizations, including banks, that men have been found guilty of fraud in that they have taken advantage of the community to grow rich.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Reference has been made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) to a decision which he said was reached by a meeting of the Wheat Growers Federation held in Western Australia recently. The federation adopted a resolution dealing with the proposed re-establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board, but I am afraid that the honorable member placed his own interpretation upon it for political purposes. I have a copy of the resolution before me. It shows that the federation opposed the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board similar to the board that previously existed. The report of proceedings at the conference shows clearly that there was no certainty in the minds of delegates concerning the value or otherwise of board control of the Commonwealth Bank. The resolution declared that, if a board were to be appointed, primary producers should be adequately represented on it and that it should be subject to the control of the Parliament at all times. My interpretation of that is vastly different from the interpretation given to it by the honorable member for Perth. The crux of the resolution was that the federation wanted the management of the Commonwealth Bank, in whatever form it might exist, to be subject to parliamentary control at all times. That is exactly what will happen under the bill. The honor-, able member for Perth appears to have lost sight of the fact that the Government does not propose to amend the general provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act. The Opposition’s criticism of the private banks is beside the point. It ignores the vital fact that the Commonwealth Bank Act provides an effective means of controlling the operations of the private banks and that the Government does not propose to alter that situation in any way. The act gives to this Parliament, through the Government, the power to direct the policy of the Commonwealth Bank, which controls the private banks. The Opposition appears to be eager to deceive the people on that point. The nucleus of the proposed board will consist of experts. They will be the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the Treasury, the Commonwealth Statistician, and Professor Melville. All of those men are experts, and their job will be to express the technical point of view to the Treasurer. The remaining five members of the board will be men who have a knowledge, practical instead of theoretical, of the requirements of Australian industry. With all due respect to Dr. Coombs, with whom I am personally acquainted, I say that he has no practical knowledge of the requirements of industry. With a board constituted along the lines for which the bill provides, the members with a practical knowledge of primary and secondary industries will be able to submit their views in the event of a crisis and thus induce the board as a whole to adopt a reasonable attitude. In any case, the Treasurer, and, through him, this Parliament, will be able to make the final policy decision in an emergency.
I greatly regret that attempts are being made by members of the Opposition to mislead the public on this issue. Their speeches have implied that the Government proposes to interfere with the Commonwealth Bank. It has no such intention. The bill merely provides for a new form of management of the Commonwealth Bank, and its purpose is to place control of the bank in the hands of this Parliament. [Quorum formed.’] I thank the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) for directing attention to the number of honorable members in the chamber. I suggest that the state of the committee indicated the lack of interest and sincerity of honorable members who are opposing the bill.
– The honorable member is only trying to convince radio listeners.
– I am not interested in the radio audience. It is obvious that the people whom I must attempt to convince are members of the Opposition. Unfortunately, the number of those honorable gentlemen present is deplorably small, a fact that indicates the real nature of the Opposition’s attitude to the bill. Too many attempts have been made by members of the Opposition to delude the people of Australia into the belief that the Government intends to sell out their interests to the private banks. That has never been done before, and it is not being attempted now. No attempt will he made to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act so as to destroy the power of the Commonwealth Bank to control the private banks.
– They paid the honorable member’s election expenses.
– They paid not a penny of my expenses. I object to that remark and ask that the honorable member withdraw it. It is a personal reflection upon me.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) to withdraw the remark.
– If the remark is offensive to the honorable member, I withdraw it.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to oppose the clause. I was not inspired by the statements made by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who referred to the late Mr. E. G. Theodore and the Commonwealth Bank Board that was provided for in legislation that he introduced. The Labour party is determined that we shall not have a repetition in 1950 of the state of affairs- that existed in 1930. Clearly the Treasurer is attempting to establish an alibi because he lacks the intestinal fortitude to do the job that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party promised to do in return for the support of the financial interests in this country. The Government has decided that the easiest method of carrying out its obligation on behalf of those private interests is to delude the electors into the belief that it is necessary for the Commonwealth Bank to be controlled by a small board. It is acting under press-ure from those interests, which contributed without limit to the funds of the Institute of Public Affairs and other such organizations for the sole purpose of paying by indirect means the election expenses of the two parties that form the present Government. I make that statement without any reservation.
– The honorable member had better relate his remarks to the membership of the proposed board.
– The membership of the board is to be decided, not by the Government, but by the private banking institutions. The Treasurer said yesterday that the Government had not yet called for nominations. I say deliberately that, in effect, the acceptances have been declared. The Treasurer will be told who must be appointed to the proposed board. That will not be his business; it is a matter that the banking institutions have already decided. No doubt the membership of the board will represent the interests of members of the Union Club. Perhaps it will include, as did the membership of the former Commonwealth Bank Board, a polo player and a bedstead manufacturer. We remember that bedstead manufacturer. His only claim to fame was his family motto, “ Sweet sleep for the homeless “, but the refusal of. the board of which he was a member to issue £18,000,000 sought by the Scullin Government kept 700,000 Australians on the streets looking for jobs. After much argument, an issue of £6,000,000 was agreed to, but was made contingent upon a reduction of the living standards of the great Australian people. I remind honorable members that although the Scullin Government was in office at that time, it had to face a hostile Senate. The position has now been reversed, and there will be no Commonwealth Bank Board because the Labour majority in the Senate will not agree to this legislation in its present form. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) said that he was disgusted by the lack of interest in this bill shown by honorable members opposed to it. I am disgusted at the Government’s efforts to return, with interest, the money that . its financial backers supplied to it prior to the elections. I should much prefer the time of this chamber to be taken up with discussions of increased pension rates, the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen, and the alleviation of distress in the community to-day.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause now under discussion.
– Perhaps I was getting a little off the track, but I have the interests of the great masses at heart. The proposed reconstitution of the Commonwealth Bank Board is just another dark page in the black history of LiberalAustralian Country party governments which have always sought to stifle the Commonwealth Bank. The prosperity of the bank as shown by figures relating to its operations between 1942 and 1948, makes the private banks envious. The Government parties are all out to place the- finances of this country back in the hands of the private banking institutions. We intend to ensure that that shall not happen again. Consider the audacity of this attempt to sell one of the greatest assets of this country to a few grasping money changers who think only of profit ! They give no thought to the misery caused by their profit-making. Their only concern is their own selfish interests. They care little for the welfare of Australian women and children whom they would willingly condemn to slavery. They have no interest in the development of this country, and no time for anything constructive. Their sole aim is to destroy the living standards that the great Australian Labour movement established during the war years. The Labour government used its powers to erect a sound financial structure, and we shall take care to ensure that it will never be pulled down by the passage of this iniquitous measure.
– We have just travelled with the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin.) from Dan to Beersheeba, and, lest some honorable members become worried about the protracted nature of this debate, I suggest that we now get down to the clause before the committee. The Opposition’s case against the proposal under discussion rests mainly upon its invitation to honorable members on this side of the chamber to cite one instance in which the present control of the Commonwealth Bank has failed to be satisfactory. Just prior to the 1946 elections, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) promised, the people of this country that they were on the threshold of a golden age. That apparently impressed the general public and had some influence at the subsequent general election, because Labour was returned to office. However,, honorable members opposite had not been back on the treasury bench for very long before the same Prime Minister, in his capacity as Treasurer, said that Australia was on the eve of a recession. I shall try to show this committee how that kind of advice, which presumably came from the controlling forces of finance in Australia at that time, and which prophesied a wholesale fall, in the export prices of primary products including the staple item of wool, led. this, country sadly astray.
I shall read to the committee figures showing the average prices of greasy wool for the four years after the period of which I speak. In 1946-47, the average price of greasy wool in Australia was 24.4d. ,per lb.; in 1947-48, 39d. per lb.; in 1948-49, 48d. per lb.; and in 1949-50, 61d. per lb. The price of 61d. is an estimate for the wool clip of the present season. The general development of the country would have suffered severely if its economy had been planned on the information submitted to the Treasurer by the controllers of the financial structure at that time. Based on a forecast that wool prices would fall, the whole economy of the country would have suffered. Experts have a very definite place in modern life and they make a great contribution to the welfare of the people by the use of their specialized and detailed knowledge of financial and monetary matters. It is obvious that if there had been available to them, during the period when they were so wrong in their forecast of the trend of export prices, one or two or more men who knew the practical side of primary industry, our financial position might not have been as desperate as it is to-day. The £1 might not have depreciated to its present level. Various references have been made, mainly by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), to the appointment of bedstead manufacturers and polo players to the Commonwealth Bank Board. I inform the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) that the polo player he mentioned is a personal friend of mine. Not only was ho a very good polo player and a great ambassador for this country overseas, but also he is a man for whose judgment in matters of pastoral finance I have the greatest respect. I refer the honorable member to certain of his politica] colleagues who sat on the same board with Mr. Ashton. If he should ask those gentlemen their opinion of Mr. Ashton I think they will say that he brought to the board a wise and broad outlook on pastoral industries, and that he displayed sound judgment and common sense. The debate that has taken place in this chamber on that subject has stirred me to make this reply. If the same principle is applied to the Leader of the Opposition, honorable members opposite might not be pleased with the result. The right honorable gentleman has been a magnificent footballer. If it is alleged that because of his wonderful record as a footballer he cannot possibly have any financial ability, honorable members opposite well perceive the fallacy of their argument.
I deprecate the outlook of certain members of the Opposition, particularly that of the Leader of the Opposition. He said that it is imposible to select from the 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 people in Australia men who will subordinate their selfish ends to the national welfare. It was suggested that it was impossible to get men who would bend their whole efforts to attaining the financial welfare of this country. That argument, taken to its logical conclusion, indicates that everybody would be precluded from assuming a prominent position in Australia. I ask honorable members opposite whether their argument would apply to Cabinet Ministers because, by the very nature of their office, they have at their disposal information of great financial value. I believe that I am speaking for an overwhelming number of the people of Australia who have good moral standards when I say that I deprecate the outlook of the Opposition in this matter. Surely, this chamber will agree with me that the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, that it is impossible to select five independent’ men for appointment to this board who will subordinate their own interests to those of the nation, is a great reflection upon the people of Australia.
.-After hearing criticism of the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. Coombs, by honorable members on the Government side, I am amazed that he is still to be kept in his position as chief administrator of that institution. Much criticism has been levelled at Dr. Coombs. He has been described as a doctrinaire socialist and as a socialist stooge for a socialist treasurer. It has been suggested that he has had no practical experience in finance, and even that he is incapable of satisfactorily performing the duties of his present office. If all that is correct, it may be asked why he is to be retained in office. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) said that the only financial experience Dr. Coombs had was during his term of office as Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction. Surely that is the one position above all that would qualify him to control the financial affairs of this country because finance is the most important factor in post-war reconstruction. However, the Government proposes to place a muzzle on him, because in the words of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), the proposed board will act as a buttress against any financial legislation that a later government may attempt to introduce. If that is so, then the will of the people of this country will be frustrated through the appointment to the bank board of men of orthodox financial views. Such members, in the course of time, will control the voting strength of the board. Their activities must retard the progress of this country. Great national development schemes such as the Snowy Mountains scheme and the Burdekin Valley scheme are closely connected with finance. It is doubtful whether such schemes can be implemented if orthodox financial views prevail, because the Commonwealth Bank is the only institution that can adequately finance them. Finance from the Commonwealth Bank can be made available at the cost of issue, whereas finance by private institutions is bound up with the question of profits.
If men such as those described by honorable members opposite are appointed to the board, then the bank will revert to the policy of the original board and so retard the progress of Australia. During the regime of the previous board this country was virtually in pawn to overseas bondholders. The financial outlook of the country’s leaders in those days is illustrated by some of the remarks of the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) and of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) himself how the schemes that I have mentioned are to be financed. The object of the appointment of a bank board is to take up again the old policy that disappeared with the abolition of the previous bank board. Home-seekers and others will be again thrown into the hands of the private banks which, I repeat, are concerned only with profits. A good illustration of the type of mentality of the financial experts on the old bank board is seen in the administration of the housing fund under the Commonwealth Housing Act by the Bruce-Page Government in 1927. That fund was for the purpose of providing, in certain circumstances, homes for the people. Despite the fact that that fund was in existence for nearly 20 years, not one loan was made from it. Home-builders, farmers, and others may be driven into the hands of private financial institutions, and should a depression occur their houses, farms and other equities will be seized by those interests. If representatives of private financial institutions are appointed to .the board they may very well take the view, quite sincerely, that the way to get the best out of the workers is to discipline them by having a pool of unemployed so that there will always be plenty of men to compete for jobs. It has been suggested that people like Professor Hytten may be appointed to the board. As a former economic adviser to the Bank of New South “Wales, and as a sympathizer with the Liberal party, Professor Hytten would undoubtedly adopt the view that I have mentioned.
Government supporters interjecting..
– The fact remains that the challenge thrown out by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) to the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to deny that Professor Hytten would be appointed to the board was not accepted. If the Government did not intend to appoint him, why did not the Treasurer say immediately that no such appointment was contemplated? Of course, in comparison with those who controlled the policy of the bank in the days of Sir Robert Gibson, Professor Hytten at least has the merit that the pool of unemployed that he advocates is only of from 8 to 10 per cent., whereas the members of the Commonwealth Bank Board of other days believed that the pool should be much greater, even up to 40 per cent, of the working population.
– I rise .to order. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has repeated a statement that is not only untrue, but has also been admitted by the newspaper that published it to be without foundation. I also object to the honorable member’s assertion that Professor Hytten is connected with the Liberal party. That statement is offensive to members of that party in the Parliament because of its falsity. Furthermore, the honorable member knows that the statement that be made is quite untrue, and the Australian Labour party, to which the honorable member belongs, has admitted that the statement was made merely as political propaganda. I ask the Chair to request the honorable member to withdraw the statement.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has requested that the remarks made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) be withdrawn because they are offensive to him, and the general rule is that an offensive remark must be withdrawn.
– If you so rule, sir, I withdraw the remark. I can appreciate that it might be embarrassing to members of the Liberal party. However, we shall let Prof essor Hytten go by the board. I come now to other suggested appointees to the board. It has been suggested for instance that Professor Copland might be appointed to the board. That gentleman was one of the authors of .the famous, or infamous, Premiers plan, although n.o doubt he has since revised his “views in the light of subsequent experience. The names of other prominent directors and ^ex-directors of trading banks have also been mentioned as likely appointees to the board. Whilst it is perhaps unfair that their names should be canvassed in the Parliament, the Government could prevent such an injustice by making some statement of its intentions concerning the identity of the appointees. The fact that the measure does not disqualify an exdirector or a shareholder of a trading bank from appointment to the proposed board is perhaps significant. For instance, I have in mind a gentleman who may be appointed to the board. He is quite a worthy citizen, and, as a banker, knows his job. The point is, however, whether he can dissociate himself from the interests that he has represented in the past. After rail, the decisions that will be made “by the proposed board will depend on the point of view of its members. Section 8 of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 provides that the bank must be operated in the interests of the people as a whole and with a view to ensuring full employment. Of course, we all appreciate that Dr. Coombs, the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, understands the need to provide full employment. However, as I have already pointed out, we have no assurance that the other members whom the present Government will appoint will not regard the incidence of, say, 5 per cent, unemployment as controverting the policy of full employment.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I believe that the clause has been prepared with great care in order to ensure tb at the proposed board shall consist of men with proper qualifications and with diversified knowledge and wide experience, so that we may expect to obtain a’ body comparable in those respects with this Parliament. Although the Parliament appears at times to move ponderously and slowly I am sure that all phases of any matter brought before it are properly and fully discussed. It is hoped that hy providing a board of ten members, of whom five shall be chosen from outside the Public Service, we shall obtain a board that will be competent to discharge its functions properly.
Another provision of the clause to which I invite the attention of members of the committee is that which provides that after the first year one member of the board must retire every year. That will ensure that the board will maintain a continuity of contact with current affairs and still leave opportunity for new men with new ideas to be included. I do not propose to detain the committee further, because I believe that almost everything that can be said concerning the clause has been said. However, before resuming my seat I should like to comment on the observation made by the honorable member for Watson (Air. Curtin) concerning the unparalleled prosperity of this country from 1942 to 1948.. Prosperity exists only when all section of the people are prosperous in all respects. Having regard to the sacrifice made and the privations suffered by servicemen during the war and to the anxiety and suffering of their dependants and relatives, I think that the use of the term “ prosperity “ was shameful. For instance, we need only recall that 1942, the first year of the period mentioned, was the year of the battles of the Coral Sea and El ‘Alamein. I would like all honorable members to remember these sacrifices and anxieties when they talk about prosperity which I believe this proposed bank board can help bring to the people of Australia.
.- The promise made by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during the recent general election campaign was that a small board to control the Commonwealth Bank would be appointed. In my opinion, a board of ten members does not fulfil that promise. The only explanation that I have heard in an attempt to justify the use of the word “ small “, as being applied to that body, is that ten must be a small number because the boards of certain other banks have eleven, thirteen and even fifteen members. In my view, ten is a rather large number. When we examine the personnel of the hoard, it is interesting to note that the first individual mentioned is the Governor of the bank, who will be the chairman. We have been informed by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) that the present Governor, who was appointed by the Chifley Government, will be the first chairman of the new board. During this debate, I heard the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) describe the Governor as a doctrinaire socialist–
– So he is.
Mr.BRYSON- Those honorable members also said that he was doing a socialist job for a socialist Treasurer. They referred, of course, to the previous Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). I should like the Treasurer to inform me whether those two honorable members spoke with authority, or whether we should regard their statements as completely irresponsible. If they were speaking with authority, we are definitely being misled by the Treasurer and the Government about the position of the present Governor of the bank. Despite the Treasurer’s assurance that he will be the first chairman of the board, I cannot be confident that he will occupy that office for very long if the criticisms that have been voiced by the honorable member for Mackellar and the honorable member for Henty are authoritative. They have attempted to ridicule him, and show that, in their opinion at least, he is not a suitable man for the position of Governor of the bank, and the chairman of the new board. The Treasurer should clarify that matter by informing us definitely whether those two honorable members spoke with authority, or whether their utterances were completely irresponsible.
Proposed new section 23 (1.) states -
The Commonwealth Bank Board shall consist of-
the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury; and
seven other members, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General in accordance with the succeeding provisions of this section.
I direct the attention of the committee to the fact that the Deputy Governor and the Secretary to the Treasury are members of the present Advisory Council. Proposed section 23 (2.) provides -
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.
We have been informed by the Treasurer that two of those seven persons will be Mr. L. G. Melville, who has been the Economic Adviser to the Commonwealth Bank for 20 years, and Dr. Roland Wilson, the Commonwealth Statistician, and Economic Adviser to the Government, both of whom are now members of the Advisory Council. I believe that those assurances have been given in order to make the Government’s real intentions appear innocuous, and I should like the Treasurer to clarify a point that relates, not to the other five persons who will be appointed from outside the Public Service, but to the seven persons who are referred to in proposed section 23 (2.). Of those seven persons, at least five will represent upon the bank board what may be termed outside interests, and it is possible that, in the near future, Mr. Melville and Dr. Wilson may disappear from the new board and two persons who represent outside interests may be appointed in their place. Such a rearrangement would provide outside interests with seven representatives on the proposed board of ten members. I invite the Treasurer to explain that point, so that I may know whether the maximum number of outsiders who may be appointed to the board will be five or seven.
As I have emphasized in my previous speeches on this bill, I consider that a bank board of ten members is unnecessarily large. Since 1945, the Commonwealth Bank has been functioning under the control of the Governor, who has had the benefit of the assistance of the Advisory Council. For five years the Commonwealth Bank has been progressing at a rate that was greater than at any other period in its history. Government supporters cannot deny that that statement is true. The Treasurer and other honorable gentlemen opposite have not been able to show that the present system of control of the bank has failed in any respect. Until they can prove that the existing set up is faulty, it is not fair and reasonable to ask the committee to alter it.
– It is a socialist form of control.
– Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to arouse in the people feelings of panic by employing various catch cries such as “ socialism “, but the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) is a week behind the times. The popular catch cry of the anti-Labour forces at present is “communism”, but –I have no doubt that the honorable member will gradually become aware of that change.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the provisions of clause 10.
– I regret that I have digressed, but a disorderly interjection caused me to do so.
– Let us get back to the socialist Commonwealth Bank.
– I agree with that description of the institution. It has been, is and will be a really socialist bank, operated on the same socialist lines as many other government-controlled organizations have been successfully conducted for many years. The Government is re-establishing the bank board in order to ensure that the bank shall be operated in the interests, not of the whole of the people, but of the private banking institutions, as it was under the previous board, when the bank was, in effect, merely an adjunct of the private banking institutions. I believe that we have advanced beyond that stage. We cannot afford to allow the private financial institutions of this community to obtain another strangle hold on the Commonwealth Bank, such as they had from 1924 to 1945. The Chifley Labour Government evolved a system of control that is working most satisfactorily and successfully, and until the Government can prove to this committee that the bank has failed under the existing system, it should not be altered. We know why the Government proposes to appoint a board of ten members to control the bank. The purpose is to ensure that the private financial institutions shall be able to pull the strings behind the scenes in order that they may control the decisions of the board, particularly on overdrafts and interest rates. The Commonwealth Bank, since it has been subject to what has been referred to as socialistic control - a phrase to which I do not object - has been responsible for the reduction of interest rates upon overdrafts and loans. That is something to which honorable members opposite and the private banking institutions object.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The people, by their endorsement in December last of the policy of the present Government parties, expressed their wish that the competitive banking system of this country should be preserved. The Government is now being attacked because it has proposed that the present one-man system of control of the
Commonwealth Bank shall be discontinued and that responsibility for the conduct of the affairs of the bank shall be placed in the hands of the elected government of the country, acting through a representative Commonwealth Bank Board. The reconstitution of the Commonwealth Bank Board will merely re-establish a position that was completely satisfactory to the Labour party until 1945. In that year the Labour Government that was then in office and which possessed dictatorial powers as a result of war-time legislation, saw the possibility of taking a quick and easy road to socialism by assuming control of the financial institutions of this country. I believe that the real reason for the abolition of the Commonwealth Bank Board in 1945 was that it was an obstacle in the way of the achievement by the Labour party of its socialist objective. The best evidence of the intentions of the Labour party is provided by the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 and the subsequent attempt to dictate to local government authorities where and with which banks they should conduct their banking business. The failure of that attempt was followed quickly by the introduction of the banking legislation of 1947, which provided for the complete nationalization of banking in this country.
The Opposition has decided that in opposing the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board, it must shift to safer ground. Therefore, honorable gentlemen opposite, following their normal practice in debates of this kind, have gone back to the depression of 1931. Apparently they forget nothing, because they have learned nothing. It is quite possible that the Commonwealth Bank Board made an error of judgment by not agreeing to a fiduciary note issue in 1931.
– Does the honorable gentleman believe that it did make an error?
– I do not say that it did. In view of our war-time experiences, 1 am inclined to believe that it did make an error of judgment then, but nothing will alter the fact that we are now paying dearly for the inflation that occurred during the war. The Commonwealth Bank Board of 1931, not having the experience that we have now, might reasonably have been afraid, as indeed it was, of the effect of inflation upon the Australian economy. It was in 1931 that the Commonwealth Bank Board did not do what some persons wanted it to do, but I know from hitter personal experience that the depression was in progress even in 1929. It is easy to criticize a decision some years after it was made, but it would be an entirely different matter to accept the responsibility for making that decision in a time of crisis.
The members of the Opposition apparently believe that all Commonwealth Bank boards must conform to a certain pattern and that all independent members of the boards must be stooges of private banks and they are prepared to use every cunning device possible to sabotage this bill despite the extensive safeguards it provides against that possibility. The Government would have no difficulty in finding five or, if necessary, 50 men who are prepared to act as members of the Commonwealth Bank Board and to put the national interests above their own interests. As one honorable gentleman on this side of the chamber has said, the presence in the Parliament of so many members who at times have been in possession of information that they could have used to their personal advantage but have not done so is the best possible evidence that there is no limit to the number of persons of ability and experience who are prepared to put the national interest above their own interests. The Government proposes to retain the services of Dr. Coombs. “We abhor his political views, but we respect his ability as a banker. Provided Dr. Coombs does not allow his loyalties to become confused, we shall be quite happy for him to continue to serve as Governor of the Common-* wealth Bank, because we believe that he will be a competent servant of the public in that position.
The fact that the Government proposes to appoint to the Commonwealth Bank Board five independent men constitutes a safeguard against the board doing what the Opposition has said it is afraid it will do. During the last three months honorable gentlemen opposite have made repeated attempts to drive a wedge between the Australian Country party and the Liberal party in relation to revaluation of the Australian £1. If one member of the Commonwealth Bank Board were a grazier and another the representative of a commercial, undertaking, would .they easily reach agreement upon revaluation? The private interests of the five independent members of the board will, except on a few occasions, be conflicting interests. That is putting the worst possible construction upon the matter and suggesting .that the independent members will have no desire other than to look after their own interests. I believe that the wisdom of the board as a corporate body and the diversity of the interests of its members will act as a safeguard of the national interest.
In dealing with the persons who will be appointed as members of the board, it is interesting to refer to the provisions of what will shortly be the late unlamented Banking Act 1947. That measure provides that the Governor- of the Commonwealth Bank shall have power to appoint directors to .the boards of private banks that are taken over by the Government and that those persons may hold office notwithstanding any lack of qualifications or any disqualification under any law. The Labour party threw its net very wide in framing that measure. I do not suggest that it was looking for stooges, because I believe the proposition that persons appointed to positions of authority thereupon divest themselves of a proper sense, of responsibility to be one that this community dare not contemplate. If honorable gentlemen opposite approved of the provisions to which I have just referred, they should also approve of this clause, but because they have objected on principle to the reestablishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board they must necessarily object also to the persons whom the Government will appoint to the board. I believe that this clause is one that commends itself to the Australian people, not only because it is designed to implement a mandate that was requested and given last December, but also because it constitutes the best method of safeguarding the interests of the people and the national economy.
– The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall.) touched upon an important aspect of .this clause when he referred to alleged attempts by the Labour party to drive a wedge between the Liberal party and. the Australian Country party on the question of revaluation.
– It would be impossible to do that.
– I agree that it would be impossible, because the Australian Country party no longer represents the primary producers of this country. If it were truly the representative of rural interests, it would not be very hard to drive a wedge between its policy and that which the Liberal party holds dear. If’ the Australian Country party is prepared to support the policy of the Liberal party in relation to revaluation, it is showing an utter disregard of the interests of primary producers.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must deal with the clause.
– The clause seeks to establish a Commonwealth Bank Board, which will consider, among other things, revaluation of the currency. Proposed new section 23 provides that the Commonwealth Bank Board shall consist of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, the Deputy Governor, the Secretary to the Department of the Treasury and seven other members, at least five of whom shall be persons who are not officers of the bank or of the Public Service. Doubtless the new board will consist of bedstead-makers, polo-players, socialites and commercial racketeers. The commercial racketeers will be well represented on this board.
– What about putting a trade union official on it?
– There will be no trade union official on it.
– Order ! Honorable members are interjecting too much. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has the floor.
– There will be no rat-catchers on it.
– For the benefit of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), I say that there will be no rabbit-catchers- on it. On it, however, there will be some willing stooges of the private banks, the commercial interests and the millionaires of this country. One honorable member opposite took strong exception to an accusation made by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) to the effect that the members of the Government parties had had their expenses during the last general election campaign paid by those who are now directing the policy of the Government.
– The honorable member said that last week.
– I am saying it again this afternoon, but in a different way. Collectively the Liberal and Australian Country parties had the majority of their newspaper and radio advertisements and of their election literature paid for by their political masters, who are the private banks and big insurance companies.
– Order ! The honorable member for Hindmarsh will direct his remarks to the clause.
– I am just showing the danger-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I know what the honorable member is showing, but he must come back to the clause itself.
– I am attempting to show the motives that are actuating the Government in its decision to appoint the proposed board. Proposed new section 23 (3.) states -
A member appointed under paragraph (d) of sub-section (1.) of this section who is an officer of the bank or of the Public Service of the Commonwealth shall hold ellice during the pleasure of the Governor-General.
That means that if any one of those two appointees who, according to the provisions of the bill, will he’ drawn originally from the Public Service, should offend the five direct- representatives of big business in any way, big business will go to this Liberal-Australian Country party Government and say, “ These two men are dangerous. They have dangerous thoughts. Have them removed ! “ Then, willingly and with a look of subservience in his eyes, -the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) will immediately carry out that instruction. The Treasurer, who is glaring at me at this moment-
– Not glaring, but just looking.
– The Treasurer may rest assured that neither his glares nor any statement that he might make will satisfy the people of this country that the proposals contained in this bill are not a pay-off to the private interests that support the Government. I ask the Treasurer or any other honorable member on the Government side what the present Governor of the bank has done wrong that justifies the. Government’s intention to transfer his authority to a board of directors whose members probably will not know the difference between a bank and the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey). The honorable member for Mallee said that members of this Parliament represent all interests. That remark was offensive to me, as I want that honorable gentleman to know that as a member of this Parliament I do not represent all interests, and I never seek to represent all interests. One of the interests that I do not represent and never wish to represent is the private banking interests that that honorable member himself represents.
– The boodleiers.
– Yes, the boodleiers, the commercial racketeers, the shipping companies, the controllers of private banks and the like. The reason that I do not want to represent those vultures is that I recollect only too well what they did to me and to my brothers during the last economic depression, as well as what they did to other people at that time. The Treasurer should have the courage to take the responsibility for decisions that might be made in connexion with the bank’s policy. On occasions when the Governor of the hank is wrong, the Treasurer should have the courage to tell him he is wrong, and not shelter behind a hand-picked board. The Treasurer is not without courage. Unfortunately, he may not be over-richly endowed with grey matter.
– I have not a monopoly in that respect.
– If the Treasurer found it difficult to advise the Governor surely he could enlist the assistance of an economist or some other person who has a knowledge of finance, even if it were done surreptitiously. I have no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has sufficient sense of national responsibility to help him with advice if it is required, as no doubt it will be. I do not mind an “L.C.L.” Treasurer having control over the Governor of the Bank, because, if the people are silly enough to elect such a government to office they should take the consequences.
.- After listening to the various assertions that have been made during this debate, I have been forced to the conclusion that money is indeed the root of all evil, because surely no measure has aroused so much suspicion and conjecture as has this one concerning persons whose identities are at present unknown. I am forced to the conclusion also that the members of the Opposition have approached this matter on the basis that even if the bill is good they are determined not to approve of it. At times honorable members opposite concede that the establishment of the proposed board would be a good idea, but they then proceed to cast doubts upon the characters of the prospective members of the board and to refer to their association with polo playing or to the likelihood of their meeting a bank manager at a business conference which might render them unfit to act on the board. Honorable members opposite have had a great deal to say about the activities of the previous bank board during the depression. If we on this side of the committee believe that- that board has been proved not to have caused that depression then we can rightly contend, as we do, that its reestablishment is justified now. It is necessary to visualize the situation that existed in 1930 through the eyes of the then board. We must remember that during that period the world was given an exhibition of frenzied finance in Europe, and above all in Germany, which country supplied the most horrible example of it. Because the German
Government continued to issue credit the value of German money vanished. But we are not looking at those days through the eyes of the then bank board. When the economic depression first struck Australia the £1 was dropping in value because of the 10 per cent., 15 per cent, and 25 per cent, devaluations which in quick succession were made by the Scullin Government. Although the Australian £1 was devalued to that extent for external trading, its internal value was maintained and still bought a pound’s worth of goods in Australia. Its value, however, declined by the percentages that I have cited, when it was used to purchase goods overseas and instead of being worth 124 francs, it reached the level of 57 francs. Travellers had the humiliating experience of finding that European money-changers would not change Australian £1 notes. They first had to change their Australian money into English currency in order to obtain value for it. Those who claim that internal credit should have been issued in Australia, as was done in Germany, overlook the fact that our purchasing power on the other side of the world would have been adversely affected as a result. It was necessary that we should develop both our import and our export trade. In such times of turmoil and stress the integrity of individuals determines the quality of the nation.
– The honorable member for Corio should relate his remarks to the clause before the committee, which deals with the membership of the proposed bank board.
– It is essential that there shall be included on the hoard experienced men with a logical and clear outlook. Australia managed to emerge from the financial depression of the ‘thirties because both its import and export trade were increased until its position became very buoyant compared with that of other parts of the world. It is, therefore, essential that there shall be appointed to the proposed board five men with the requisite outlook and experience to balance the opinions of Public Service appointees. Those who have studied the development of business undertakings in this country know that usually the executives are men with banking and monetary instincts. In fact they could not fill such positions successfully otherwise. It is but right that we should not regard a public servant as an omnipotent person merely because of his position, and irrespective of hie experience. His position alone does not render him competent to guide the destinies of such a large undertaking as the Commonwealth Bank. It is realized, of course, that it will be necessary to obtain the services of men of high integrity and a national outlook. It is highly desirable that five men possessed of business acumen should be appointed to the board to balance the views of the Public Service members.
Some honorable members have referred to the banking ability and political affiliations of the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. I consider that his political views are somewhat extreme. An extremist must always be harnessed, and it is then impossible to obtain the best results from a person under guidance.
– Order ! There is altogether too much audible conversation. I can hardly hear what the honorable member for Corio is saying.
– In view of the statements that honorable members opposite have made from time to time about their socialistic objectives, it is not to be wondered at that the people of this country want an assurance that the Commonwealth Bank - the biggest undertaking in Australia - will not be nationalized and controlled under a strict dictatorship. It is the responsibility of the Government to honour the promises that honorable members on this side made to the public during the general election campaign. The Government also has a responsibility to the people to ensure that the right type of men shall be appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board.
.- I shall refer to various matters that have been raised during the debate on the clause before the committee. For instance, the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) described the management of the Commonwealth Bank as one-man control. It is true that the Governor of the bank has a responsibility to the Government. However, it is entirely improper to say that the Commonwealth Bank is entirely under the control of one man. It has been stated that Labour was satisfied with the control exercised by the bank board until 1945. I point out that the bank board was established by the 1924 legislation. Labour members of the Parliament made it clear at that time that they disagreed with that principle, proclaimed their belief that the system of management that had first been inaugurated by Sir Denison Miller was the correct one, and indicated that it was their intention, when the opportunity came, of amending the legislation in order to revert to the form of control that had operated between 1911 and 1924. Proposed section 23 seeks to replace the present system of control by the establishment of a board of about ten persons. The question for decision is whether that type of control is better than the existing method. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) in his second-reading speech, gave certain reasons for the Government’s proposal that this change shall be made. It is significant that he was careful in his references to the results expected from the provisions of this clause. He merely said that the proposed change would be likely to bring about better results. He had first made it clear that during the period of approximately eighteen years when the bank had been previously controlled by a board some sort of understanding had eventually existed between the board and the government of the day. We must consider whether the proposed system of control will, in fact, give the best results to the Government and to the nation as a whole. I have great objections to the setting up of a board according to the principles embodied in the clause. Whilst it is true that the Governor, the Deputy Governor and the Secretary to the Treasury will be members of the board, it is proposed that seven other persons shall be appointed, two of whom, presumably, will be public servants, whilst the remaining five will be selected from the community generally. The question we have to resolve is whether we can obtain better results from five, or perhaps, seven outside persons acting in conjunction with the appointees who are public servants than we are obtaining under the present system of control of the bank. I can foresee grave difficulties and dangers in a body of this kind having on it seven persons who may be drawn from various- sections of the community. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) illustrated one of those dangers. I suppose’ that one of the most urgent financial problems that the nation is concerned about to-day is whether or not the Australian £1 should be revalued. Any decision on that subject would be made originally by the proposed board.
– But not. the final decision.
– That may be; hut the- important point is that if the board made a decision on that matter the Treasurer would need’ to have very good reasons before he would veto it. However, any appointee to the board who was directly interested’ in commerce or industry would be influenced largely by his outside associations- in arriving at a decision on such a- matter.
– Does not that observation apply to the present Advisory Council ?
– The members of the Advisory Council are not drawn from industry at all. The council is a. small body consisting, mainly, of persons: who have- expert knowledge of economics and finance. Should the- proposed, board be called; upon to consider whether the £1 should be revalued it is conceivable, that appointees having direct association; with manufacturing, or importing,, interests could honestly and conscientiously and with great conviction recommend that as a. means of reducing the cost of living and making supplies available, more cheaply, such action, ought to. be taken in the interests of the community. On the other hand, it is also conceivable that appointees drawn from. rural industries could with equal force and sincerity recommend that revaluation of the £1 would be disastrous to not only primary producers but alao secondary industries as. a whole. Therefore, outside appointees, even when they may conscientiously endeavour to do what they believe will be of the greatest benefit to the community as a whole, will be inclined to consider such problems from the standpoint of the security of the commercial or financial interests with which they are associated. We must consider whether a board composed of such appointees may cause confusion and thus give rise to greater problems to the detriment of the nation.
– Does the honorablemember suggest that such decisions should he made by one man?
– At present,, as I havealready pointed, out, decisions- on mattersinvolving policy are not made by oneman. The decision to devalue the Australian £1 that was made some months ago was the result of discussions between the Governor of the bank and theTreasurer of. the day. The Government now proposes that decisions on such matters shall be made by persons- whowill have no responsibility for the effect of their decisions upon the nation. Such persons will not even be answerable to the Parliament. They will not be shareholders in the bank itself. They will be- appointed to the board merely because of their reputation in the community. Yet they will be called upon to make decisions, responsibility for which should rest completely with the Government and the Parliament. The Commonwealth Bank is a big organization that is owned by the. people ; but the Government: now proposes to hand over responsibility for its administration and the formulation of its policy to persons of whose qualifications the Parliament as yet has no knowledge^ Those appointees are to control the policy of not only the Central Bank, but also one of the wealthiest organizations established, by the Commonwealth.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Honorable members opposite have had much to say about the mistakes that they allege the Commonwealth Bank Board made during the depression, and they have challenged Government supporters to point to any erroneous, or unjustifiable, decision that was made in the name of the bank since 1945 when the board was abolished and the institution was placed under the control of a governor. I am not satisfied that the Governor of the bank or the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), who was then Treasurer, did not make mistakes that might well prove to be as disastrous to the nation as was the depression of the early thirties. Last September the Chifley Government decided to devalue the Australian fi. I should have felt a great deal happier had that decision been made by a board of the kind that the Government proposes to set up under this clause, because it would have been based on the considered judgment of men with practical experience, without any possibility of its being a snap decision. Economic history proves that, invariably, the greater the boom the deeper and more disastrous is the subsequent depression. There can be no doubt that the decision of the Leader of the Opposition when he was Treasurer, and of Dr. Coombs, the present Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, to devalue the £1 has contributed to the boom conditions that we are now experiencing. Perhaps, we might have cause, a few years hence, to realize that that decision was a disastrous mistake. Therefore, having regard to the short period during which the bank has been controlled as it is at present, honorable members opposite are over-confident when they say that no mistake has been made under the present system. Members of the Labour party have been guilty of making statements of which they should be ashamed. They have always professed to oppose class distinction, and I, too, oppose class distinction and snobbery;- yet they now suggest that a man, however humble his origins, or whatever he may achieve, should be disqualified from sitting on the Commonwealth Bank Board because he makes a success of his own private affairs. That is an absurd and ridiculous suggestion. To whom are we to look for sound judgment in the affairs of the country if not to men who have made a success of their own affairs, whether in banking; commerce, agriculture, or any other economic activity? Members of the Opposition have said, in effect, that we must look to persons of lesser qualifications, and lesser ability, to tell us how the financial policy of the country should be conducted. Some honorable members opposite have suggested that the board will be packed with stooges. I am glad to think that members of the Opposition are resigned to the fact that the Government will be in power for so many years. The clause now under consideration provides that the five members of the board, other than public servants, shall hold office for periods of up to five years, one to retire each year. Presumably, therefore, if the board is to be packed with stooges the present Government will have to remain in power for a long time. Honorable members opposite have apparently overlooked the fact that when they get into office they will have an opportunity to nominate members of the board, and I hope that they will not make political appointments of the kind they suggest the present Government intends to make. The Government, by appointing men representing various sections of the community, and by providing for their retirement in rotation, will ensure continuity of direction, and at the same time ensure that each year a new member shall bring to the consideration of the bank’s affairs a fresh outlook, and one that will be representative of public opinion. I fail to see how Opposition members have made out a case against the Government’s proposals, even if the worst of their allegations regarding the Government’s intentions be true. Perhaps they suggest that the Government will be guilty of fraudulent practices but even suggestions of that kind do not constitute an argument against the proposed constitution of the board.
Members of the Opposition have also claimed that there are to be too many members on the board. They have been reminded that in 1930 a Labour government proposed that there should be nine members on the Commonwealth Bank Board. Now, in 1950, the present Government proposes to appoint a board of ten. Not long ago, a Labour government increased the size of the House of Representatives from 75 members to 123 , because the population of the country had increased and because of the greater complexity of public affairs. How, then, can they argue that the Commonwealth Bank Board should be smaller now than the board proposed by a Labour government in 1930? Probably, the Labour .party would not have wanted a larger Parliament had it not hoped to gain something from it. Fortunately, it was not successful. The proposed bank board will be a democratic institution, and the Government’s proposal deserves the support of the committee. Honorable members opposite have repeatedly suggested that the five members of the board, other than the public servants, will be capable of all sorts of base actions. Such a suggestion is in keeping with the Labour party’s own political record.
– I am not yet convinced of the need for this clause, or of the need for the bill itself. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) that the principal question to be determined is whether the country is likely to get better services from the bank under the present method of control or under the method proposed in the bill. So far, no evidence has been adduced that can justify the proposed change in the method of control. Actually, no matter whether the bank is controlled by a governor or a board, policy will be determined, in the final analysis, by the Treasurer, who represents the Government. Therefore, on the face of it, the bill is unnecessary, and the persistence of the Government suggests that there is more in this matter than appears on the surface. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) admit that the Commonwealth Bank Board had, perhaps, made mistakes in 1931. We do not say that perhaps the board made mistakes; we know that it did. Every one familiar with the history of that time knows that the board committed a terrible crime against the working people and the small businessmen of Australia when it refused to make credit available to cushion the effects of the depression. Honorable members opposite have criticized us for harking back to the depression days, but we cannot forget them. Fortunately, I was not one of the many who suffered because of the callous attitude of the Commonwealth Bank Board at that time. All are now agreed that the bank .board made a grave mistake during the depression. But other mistakes also have been made in the past. I was young at the time, but I can remember the fierce opposition that was aroused by the proposal to establish the Commonwealth Bank. I remember the sneers about “Fisher’s flimsies “. The reforms proposed by the Labour party have always been opposed by the interests that support the present Government.
I was somewhat intrigued by the statement of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), who represents a section of primary producers, that there was some element of calamity in the decision of the ‘Commonwealth Bank to adjust the exchange rate last year. I trust that the honorable member will repeat that statement in his electorate. I invite him to make a speech on similar lines in my electorate at any time he cares to do so, for it would suit my purposes admirably to hear him tell the people in the metropolitan area that there was some element of doubt in the decision of the bank to alter the exchange rate. The result would please me very greatly.
A Government supporter said yesterday that only in the last few years had the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) gained a knowledge of the subject of banking, and that prior to the appointment of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems the right honorable gentleman had no knowledge of that subject whatsoever. It is not my purpose to defend my leader, for he himself is well able to do so. I merely point out that long before the appointment of the royal commission the right honorable gentleman possessed an extensive knowledge of banking practice in Australia and in Europe which was far in excess of that now possessed by any honorable member opposite.
It is evident that much harm could be done to the people of Australia by the improper utilization of the provisions of proposed section 30. I paid some attention to this matter yesterday, and I return to it again to-day because of its importance. The section provides that the board shall meet from time to time, that six of its members, including the Governor or the Deputy Governor, shall form a quorum at a meeting of the board, and that any questions that arise at a meeting shall be decided by a majority of the votes of the members present and voting. Assuming that this Government is honest in its expressed intention to make a wise selection of the five independent members of the board who are to represent sectional interests, if this bill be passed in its present form, any future Government may, for purposes sufficient to itself, be able to dispense with the services of four of the ten members of the board when it would consist of only five persons representing sectional interests who, with the Governor or Deputy Governor, would be sufficient to constitute a quorum. Those six persons could make decisions which might wreck the whole structure of the bank. Proposed section 28 provides that the rights, powers and functions of the board shall not be affected by reason of the existence of a vacancy in the office of a member. The improper use of the provisions of proposed section 30 might well be detrimental to the people’s bank and to Australia itself. I cannot understand why honorable members opposite are so adamant in their demand for board control of the bank as opposed to control by a single individual. I remind them that many Commonwealth undertakings are controlled by a single individual. I instance .the Post master-General’s Department, the Health Department and our education services, the activities of all of which are controlled not by a board hut by a single individual. It may be .true that in administering our medical and health services the Department of Health has the assistance of an advisory committee, but sole control of the department is vested in one man. Honorable members opposite do not object to the control of such important undertakings in the Commonwealth sphere being exercised by a single individual. Why, then, do they so vehemently oppose continuance of the control of the Commonwealth Bank by a single ‘individual? Even when control of the bank is exercised by one man, decisions on matters of policy lie with the Treasurer of the day, and, through him, with this Parliament.
All the talk about a dictatorship of the bank in which honorable members opposite have indulged is just so much humbug. 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.
I wholeheartedly approve of that provision, but I do not think that it provides a sufficient safeguard to ensure that representatives of vested interests shall not be appointed to the board. A director or an employee of a private bank may resign from his position on one day and be appointed to the board on the following day. The Treasurer should strengthen the provision to guard against such a possibility by adding after the word “ employee “ the words “ or for a period of five years immediately preceding the passage of this act has been a director or employee “. If the Government were sincere in its expressed intention to protect the people against private interests it would be willing to accept an amendment on the lines I have suggested.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) objects to the proposed composition of the board bceause he believes that the independent members of the board may consciously or sub-consciously reflect not only their own personal views but also the views of their particular sectional interests. The bill to establish a central reserve bank which was introduced by Mr. Theodore in 1930 provided that sectional interests should be represented on the board to control the new bank. The intention was that those members should be able to represent to the board the manner in which their interests would be best served. For the very reason that has been advanced by the honorable member for Bendigo the Government decided that the independent members of the board, far from advancing their sectional interests, should give the board the benefit of their wide financial experience and business acumen. The Government’s aim is that the appointees shall he men of vision and maturity. There are to be seven independent members of the board, two of whom may be drawn from the Public Service. It may well be that one of the remaining five will represent a sectional interest, and that his views will influence the deliberations of the board; but the others could just as easily advance different views with a consequent clash of opinions. It would be almost impossible to select seven members who would reflect the views of one sectional interest. The Public Service members of the board will reflect the views of the Treasurer of the day and the Governor and Deputy Governor will reflect the financial view. All views will be pooled and it is hoped that the board will he able to reach a common conclusion. That, however, is only a part of the story, for the decisions of the board must be approved by the Treasurer of the day. If the Treasurer believes that a sectional viewis too strongly represented in a decision of the board he may refer the matter to the Governor-General in Council, which in turn, may decide to place it before the Parliament. The final decision and ultimate responsibility will rest, as indeed it should do, with the government of the day.
I wish to make only one other observation in relation to the statements of the honorable member for Bendigo. Under the existing system the Treasurer of the day may make a decision which affects the policy of the bank, and no one may know or be informed of his reason for having made it. Surely he would have far greater capacity for reflecting a sectional, political or socialist view than would a board of seven men acting in cooperation with three tried and trusted public servants, each reflecting his own departmental view. Does it not stand to reason that a Labour Treasurerwould be more likely to have a socialist viewpoint reflected in the policy of the bank than that amember of the proposed board would be able to have his private interests taken into consideration by the other members of the board ? The argument of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) is indeed plausible and persuasive, but it is no more than that.
Honorable members on this side of the chamber do not ever expect to achieve perfection. We are looking for the most practicable and sensible way of handling the financial and credit affairs of the Commonwealth and we consider that under management by a board the credit and monetary policy of the Commonwealth Bank will he far more satisfactorily handled than it would be under a system of control by a single, dictatorial Treasurer with socialistic ideas.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– The clause which has been before the committee yesterday and to-day concerns the composition of the proposed bank board. When the Treasurer addressed honorable members this afternoon, he seemed to think that he had brought forward conclusive evidence of the inconsistency of the Labour party. He recalled that a CentralReserve Bank Bill was introduced by Mr. E. G. Theodore and stated that the board proposed under that bill was to be composed of nine members. When I interjected and asked what had become of the bill, the Treasurer replied that the Labour Government of that time was not prepared for a dissolution on the measure. Much has been said on similar lines by other speakers, although honorable members have been reminded from time to time that the then Opposition was greatly superior in numbers in the Senate of that period and would not give the Labour party a dissolution. I have taken the trouble to refer to the bill about which the Treasurer spoke to-day in order to suggest that the right honorable gentleman who spoke about the inconsistency of the Labour party in 1931 should consider the inconsistency of the present Liberal Government. The CentralReserve Bank Bill was carried in the House of Representatives and was sent to the Senate. The second reading was moved in the Senate on the 27th June, 1930. There was a great deal of debate subsequently and on the 17th April, 1931, the following record appears in Hansard at page 987 : -
Debate resumed from the 15th April(vide page 818), on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator McLachlan had moved, by way of amendment -
That the word “ now “ be left out with a view to add the words “ this day six months “.
That shows how brave the Liberal party wa3 in those days. I find that on a previous division the Labour party had sis honorable senators who were able to vote in the Senate, and that again on a previous division in the Senate the numbers were 21 for the Liberal party and six for the Labour party. To-day, the Treasurer told honorable members in this chamber that the Labour party could have had a double dissolution in 1931 but when the measure was before the Senate at that time the Liberal party majority voted to discuss it in six months time. The clause now before the committee proposes the establishment of a bank board very similar to that suggested by Mr. Theodore and if the Senate is consistent, it will politely tell the Government that it will consider this proposal six months hence. Honorable members on the Government side seem to think that because the Labour party has the greater number in the Senate, the Opposition in this chamber should bow to the will of the Government.
– The honorable gentleman says that it is the will of the people now, but he cannot say that the Senate, which in 1931 voted by 21 to six to postpone the Central Reserve Bank Bill for six months was carrying out the will of the people. If it was the will of the people to put the Liberal Government into office last December, it was the will of the people that the Labour Government should hold office in 1931. If it was good enough for the Liberals at that time to delay a measure that they thought was against the best interests of the people, it is good enough for the Labour party to delay the bill that is now before the committee. This afternoon the Treasurer asked why there was not a double dissolution on the bill. My reply is that the right honorable gentleman can have a dissolution if he wants it, but I have no fear of the Government seeking a double dissolution on this bill, because it knows very well that it would not be a,b lf to swing the electors on a bill of this nature. The Australian people have always believed that the Government of the country and the Parliament should be responsible for vital policies. The Government to-day is not prepared to accept that responsibility although it has the power. The Commonwealth Bank has a governor now and the Treasurer can direct him. If the Governor is not prepared to accept the direction of the Government, it can easily find a way to replace him with somebody else who will do so.
– So could the Scullin Labour Government have done so.
– At that time the bank was controlled by a board, not a governor, and the Labour Government had no hope of removing it with the voting 21 to six against the Labour members in the Senate. Six could not prevail against 21 who voted to postpone the measure for six months. The position to-day is that the Labour party has the majority in the Senate, and although the Government can force the bill through this chamber, it cannot do so in the Senate. Honorable members on the Opposition side believe that a bank board composed in accordance with this bill would not operate in the interests of the people.
The Treasurer told the committee this afternoon that in 1931 the then Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, was trying to declare who the five members of the bank board would be, and that one would represent bank interests. Honorable members on the Government side took p the cry that that was a dreadful thing to do. But the Minister also read a statement that one member would represent the Labour interests on that board, and I believe that that had something to do with the postponement of the consideration “of the measure for six months by the Senate of that time. The Treasurer also said that five men who were not directly concerned with banking or financial institutions were to be members of the board it is now proposed to appoint but the committee ha9 no guarantee of that. The only guarantee that is given to honorable members in this bill is that those five members would not be connected with a banking or financial firm when they were appointed to this board. Honorable members know very well that members of Parliament cannot be appointed to certain positions, but often they are appointed. One day they resign from Parliament and the next day they are appointed to another position. A banker is not eligible to become a member of the proposed board while he is a banker, but should he resign or cease to be employed by the banks, he would be eligible in the terms of this bill to be placed on the board. Honorable members know that that is the correct interpretation of the clause that is before the committee. That amazes rae in view of the case against the bank board that has been put forward by Opposition members. The Government has failed to show that the Governor of the bank has not made a success of the bank, nor has it proved that the bank has been conducted in a manner contrary to the interests of the people under the direction of the Treasurer. The bank has been a success. Again and again figures have been quoted to show that its business has expanded. The management of the bank during the past eight years has been highly successful, and there have not been any complaints about it from anybody. The Government is seeking to alter the system for political reasons only.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.. - I have no intention of delving into ancient history, which, of course, is less familiar to me than it is to honorable members who have sat in this chamber for longer periods than I have done. However, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) spoke of what could be done by a Senate in which the Opposition commanded an overwhelming majority, it is appropriate that I should refer him to section 57 of the Constitution, which states, inter aiia -
If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of representatives simultaneously.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide made a strong point of the fact that a former Opposition majority in the Senate, representing the anti-Labour parties, had moved for the postponement of a bill for six months. The section of the Constitution that I have quoted specifically refers to the possibility of the failure of the Senate to pass a bill after a period of three months. Therefore, the Labour Government on the occasion to which the honorable member referred could have taken advantage of the Constitution in order to secure a double dissolution of the Parliament. That disposes very briefly of the objection that the honorable member has raised. An argument that has been consistently used by members of the Opposition in this discussion is that there is no necessity to place control of the Commonwealth Bank in the hands of anybody who has not entered the Public Service as a career. That line of debate was pursued by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), to whom we listen at all times with a great deal of attention because of the reasoned and dispassionate way in which he presents his side of any case. I exposed at an earlier stage the weakness of that objection to the Government’s proposal. I shall not repeat the arguments that I used then, but I repeat that the submission made on behalf of the Opposition is entirely fallacious. It is based upon an assumption that men who have great experience of the theory of economics, and perhaps also of the practice of banking, are in possession of all of the facts that would enable them to frame a sound banking policy. However, a clause that the committee has already discussed provides that the proposed board shall deal only with policy. The Opposition is arguing that the only individuals who can deal fairly, reasonably and soundly with banking policy are members of the Public Service who are engaged in occupations that involve administration rather than practical dealings with affairs of life. I have had considerable experience of life, and
I consider that men engaged in practical business acquire, before they pass the age of, say, 55 years, a background of experience that enables them to determine whether a certain course of action is wise or not. Every honorable member who has knowledge of the conduct of limited liability companies, for example, knows perfectly well that such companies always have first-class accountants to advise them on certain aspects of their businesses. They would not attempt to carry on their affairs without such assistance. Nevertheless, the directors do not always accept the suggestions made by their accounting experts. They weigh such advice against the dictates of their own experience before determining their policies. The determination of banking policy requires the influence of men who are accustomed to make decisions and to pay for their mistakes when their decisions are wrong. Without the balancing factor provided by the hard-earned experience of such persons, the framing of banking policy would be fraught with grave economic dangers. There is a vast gulf between theoreticians and experts in administration and men who have had long experience of the actual conduct of business affairs. The theoreticians and administrators do not know what it means to take the knock as the result of bad decisions. When their decisions are unwise, the taxpayers must take the knock. Therefore, their point of view is entirely different from that of the practical man. The Opposition is arguing against the weight of experience and the dictates of common sense when it contends that the Government would not be able to select from 8,000,000 citizens of Australia five men, or more if need be, with backgrounds of experience that would enable them to weigh and assess the opinions of theoreticians and administrators against their own knowledge, and arrive at wise conclusions.
.- The Opposition regards this provision with a great deal of suspicion, and its doubts have not been removed by the speeches that have been made by supporters of the Government. I believe that the Government proposes not only to appoint a bank board, but also to stack that body with members who will give the sort of decisions that it wants. If that is not the intention of the Government, why did it not decide to establish a board with fewer than ten members? It has deliberately decided on a membership of ten after the present Prime Minister declared in his policy speech that it wa3 intended to appoint only a small board. The proposal to have a board of ten has been made merely because the Government believes that it can gain some advantage by making room for such men as Dr. Coombs, Professor Melville and Dr. Wilson to be appointed to it. It is rather significant that the Government has not told us the names of the men whom it will appoint to five of the vacancies, although it has announced its intention to appoint Dr. Wilson and Professor Melville. There has been a great deal of speculation about the names of the other five members. If the Government is able to tell U3 that Dr. Wilson and Professor Melville are to be appointed to the board, why can it not tell us who the other members are to be? I have heard a number of names suggested. One was Professor Hytten, and another was Mr. Eric Campbell, a friend of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender). That just goes to show the type of men that the Government intends to appoint to the board.
Let us examine some of the arguments that have been advanced by Government speakers. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) - I do not suggest that he can be regarded as a very responsible member of this Parliament - made an attack on Dr. Coombs, and spoke of his socialistic policy. The Government has announced its intention to retain Dr. Coombs as Governor of the bank, but is it not feasible that other men will be appointed to the board deliberately to prevent the implementation of what is regarded as the Labour party’s .policy? That, I am sure, will be the purpose of the appointments. In any case, not much effort would be required on the Government’s part to remove Dr. Coombs, Professor Melville and Dr. Wilson from the bank board if it so desired. In fact, if we can take any notice of what the honorable member for Mackellar had to say, and if certain legislation now before the Parliament were to become law, I should not be surprised if the Government were to name Dr. Coombs as a “ declared person “. We on this side of the chamber ask ourselves what the purpose of the proposed Commonwealth Rank Board is. The answer is that the board is to be reconstituted to prevent the implementation by the Commonwealth Bank of any policy that might injure the private banks. For instance, the policy of the board will be to keep interest rates up. Honorable members opposite have the most peculiar ideas about socialism. According to them, if the Commonwealth Bank Board decided to provide money for home-building or home purchase at a low rate of interest, say 1 per cent., that would be socialism, because it would cut into the interests of the private banks. I am quite confident that the proposed board will be very similar to the last one which sought to prevent the Commonwealth Bank from entering into active competition with the private banks. I agree with honorable members who have said that, for all the work that members of the board will be called upon to do, there is no need for them to know anything about banking. The board will only have to do what this Government instructs it to do, and that, of course, will be what the private banks want it to do.
Honorable members opposite protest when Opposition speakers describe this legislation as the pay-off to the private1 banks for their financial support of the present Government parties during the last election campaign. I do not doubt that some of those who protest may have been left out of the “ cut up “, but there is no doubt that the private banks did contribute to the financial resources of the Government parties. The banks have never tried to hide that fact. I recall repeating from public platforms the statement that some weeks before the actual voting date one private bank in Sydney had on its accounts the amount of £39,000 for campaign purposes. That information had been given to me. I stated further that there was shown on the bank’s hooks as a charge against the campaign account a payment for the travelling expenses of a prominent member of the Australian Country party. The truth of that statement could have been ascertained quite easily, as I said at the time, by the bank agreeing to allow the Commonwealth Auditor-General to examine its accounts.
– Order! The honorable member must deal with the personnel of the hoard.
– In dealing with the personnel of the board, I believe it is quite relevant to ask ourselves why the Government should nominate as members of a board people selected by the private banks. If the Government is lo do the bidding of the private banks, surely we are entitled to examine the reasons why private financial interests were able to exercise such great influence with governments of the same political complexion as the present Administration. Let us consider what the previous board did so that we may know what to expect from the new board. The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) spoke of the need to preserve a competitive banking system. Surely he is not foolish enough to believe that there has not been for very many years past a banking monopoly in this country. The Commonwealth Bani competed with private enterprise only after the Commonwealth Bank Board was abolished. In 1945, when the Labour Government passed the Commonwealth Bank Act, it was discovered that a direction had been issued from the bank board to every branch manager of the Commonwealth Bank, that no new business should be accepted if it meant taking that business away from the private banks. ls that what the honorable member referred to as competition? I suggest that he should read the evidence given to the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems some years ago by representatives of the private banks. Let him read the evidence of Mr. McConnan, who recently retired from the position of manager of the National Bank of Australasia Limited. That gentleman made it quite clear that the private banks had determined interest rates and other matters of financial policy by agreement.
– Order ! I remind the honorable member that the committee is not discussing policy.
– But we are discussing the appointment of a bank board which will deal with policy. Surely if I am able to show that a previous Commonwealth Bank Board so crippled the development of the Commonwealth Bank that the progress of this country was retarded, that is relevant to the discussion. In fact, with all due respect to you, Mr. Chairman, I contend that my remarks a*e much more relevant to this discussion than were the statements of the honorable member for Paterson about wool prices overseas; yet he was permitted to make those statements. The policy that will be pursued by the proposed board is of the utmost importance. When the original Commonwealth Bank Board was established, and the private banks of this country raised their interest rates, the Commonwealth Bank .Board immediately followed suit.
– If the honorable member continues to defy my ruling I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I am not defying your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I am arguing that the personnel of the proposed bank board will be similar in character to that of the original board. If I am able to show that previous boards acted against the interests of this country, and prevented the development of the Commonwealth Bank, I believe that I am entitled to do so. The original hoard followed religiously the decisions of the private banks, and the Commonwealth Bank did not, during that period, compete with those institutions. This, afternoon, I heard the Australian Country party being accused of having deserted, the interests that it is supposed to represent in this Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member is again wide of the clause.
– Is it not a fact that the present Speaker of the House of Representatives, who is your superior in this chamber, Mr. Chairman, resigned his leadership of the Australian Country party because that party had deserted country interests?
– Is the honorable member going to obey my ruling?
– I am doing my best.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has aspired.
– The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) has just returned to this chamber after having been absent for some time. Just before the suspension of the sitting he delivered a speech that honorable members have heard 45 times previously. I am certain that the notes he spoke from have been passed from member to member of the Opposition. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mt. Ward) has spoken four times during the committee stage of this bill, and each time he has made the same speech. The reason that actuated the Government in providing for the appointment to the bank board of some persons from outside the. Public Service is that at present the bank is operating under one-man control. The Government has informed the Opposition that it is not in favour of one-man control and that it desires the broad type of control represented by a bank board. Honorable members opposite have been given that information time and time again, but they still stubbornly refuse to accept the Government’s reason for the proposal to appoint a bank board. I suggest that the Labour party does not practise what it preaches. It is quite obvious that it does not believe in one-man control in some things. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) is considered, by his supporters, to be the greatest Australian leader of all time. He is thought to have the best financial brains in Australia. In fact he has been described as a second Abraham Lincoln. This morning the socalled Abraham Lincoln held a caucus meeting. If honorable members opposite say that they believe in one-man control I suggest that they consider what happened at that caucus meeting. Did they all accept without question what their leader said ? When they consider that situation they should be able to understand why the Government wants to put a board in control of the Commonwealth Bank instead of retaining . one-man control.
– I rise to a point of order. I am sure that the Chair will agree that the honorable member is speaking of matters outside the scope of this debate.
– I do not consider that that is a valid point of order. The honorable member was discussing one-man control of the Commonwealth Bank, or was attempting to discuss it amidst a great amount of noise. However, I shall ask the honorable member to confine himself to a discussion of the proposed new sections before the committee.
– I refer as I have done to one-man control so that Opposition members may realize that a large section of the people dislike it, just as those honorable members will not tolerate it in their caucus meetings. In caucus they do not accept one-man control, so why should it be accepted by the Government in relation to the Commonwealth Bank? It has been said that this bill is a pay-off. During the passage of this bill honorable members have not seen any bank managers walking about the King’s Hall, although there were a lot of other people there to-day.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! If the interjections continue as at present some honorable members here will get the payoff.
– Surely amongst the people of Australia there are five men who understand the ideals of service. There are such men serving on local councils. Men who have high ideals of service have been mayors and shire councillors; many members of the Opposition have been among them. Persons who hold such offices are all men who do not seek office for private gain. Surely five people can he obtained for the Commonwealth Bank Board who are honest and who will work in the interests of the nation. It is also said that the Government cannot find five men who have a sufficient knowledge of central banking to carry out effectively their duties on this board. I put it to you, Mr. Chairman, that after the 1946 election the Labour caucus had to choose its cabinet. It filled such positions as that of Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, and Minister for Air with men who pre sumably had had experience in dealing with the work of the relevant departments. I do not want to be personal, but 1 do not suppose that the Minister for the Navy knew the difference between a hornpipe and the highland fling. Nevertheless he was, the Opposition consider, a successful Minister. There is no reason why the Government should not find five men who would make a success of the administration of the Commonwealth Bank. Furthermore, honorable members opposite have said a number of times that men appointed from outside cannot divorce their private interests from the interests of the bank. During the term of office of Labour governments there have been Cabinet meetings of the Ministers on finance, when the governments have brought in budgets. Did those gentlemen disclose anything that was being dealt with in the budgets ? If they did not, why should not these outsiders who are to be appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board be just as honorable as the members of Labour cabinets?
– That is said to be impossible, but I point out that the Labour party is not the only organization the prerogative of which is to enrol honorable men. With regard to the morality of the individuals who will control the bank the five public servants are presumed by the Opposition to be of good moral character. They are not denied the right to invest in private bank shares. It is not only in the Public Service that honorable men can be found. To suggest otherwise is plain nonsense. The whole of the opposition to this bill has been based on spurious grounds. The amount of rubbish that has been introduced into this debate is enormous.
The Government intends to retain the services of Dr. Coombs as Governor of the bank. The Labour party does not understand what that means. The Government is quite aware that he is a doctrinaire socialist, but it is an honorable Government and realizes that Dr. Coombs, although he was literally brought in off the street, has acquired a sound knowledge of central banking. He is to be retained in his position because of that knowledge. That is really of considerable credit to this Government, which does not make political appointments. If it finds that a political appointee of a previous government is worthy of the job it will leave him in it. It has been said that the Labour party is the sole protector of what it is pleased to call the people’s bank. I do not suppose that 5 per cent, of the members of the Labour party in this chamber bank with the people’s bank. Furthermore, I suppose that not 5 per cent, of the trade unions of Australia bank with the Commonwealth Bank. Therefore I claim that these defenders of the people’s bank are lot of hypocrites. It has been said on numerous occasions that the Government has no mandate from the people for the establishment of a bank board. Honorable members have been told that the Government has no mandate for the Communist Party Dissolution Bill; but neither has it a mandate, for its social services legislation. In that regard it is pertinent to ask what the extent of the Government’s mandate is. The only thing that I can think of is that it has a mandate to introduce an amendment to the Constitution to deprive any government of the right of socialization.
.- I rise to oppose this bill. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) stated yesterday, and his remark was headlined in the press, that Labour members have talked arrant humbug. I assure you, Mr. Chairman, that we recognize that there is no humbug by the Government in this measure. It means business. It is significant that the measure that we have been considering is the first one to be introduced by the present Government, and undoubtedly it represents the pay-off to big business for continued support to the anti-Labour parties. Why is the Commonwealth Bank, which is such an outstandingly valuable instrumentality of the people, to be sabotaged? It has saved the people of Australia millions of pounds, and it controls and regulates the interest rates that can be charged, which is a. matter that should particularly concern members of the Australian Country party. A great deal has ‘ been said by honorable members opposite about one-man dic tatorship, as opposed to the form of control that the Government proposes to introduce. Let us inquire who really controls the Commonwealth Bank to-day. The Governor, Dr. Coombs, and the Deputy Governor, Mr. E. B. Richardson, are assisted by the Advisory Council composed of Dr. Roland Wilson, Professor Melville, Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Watt. That does not suggest that the Commonwealth Bank is controlled by one man, but rather that it is controlled by a group of the highest financial authorities in this country, who are quite competent to advise the Governor and the Treasurer. Why should the system be changed now ? What is the reason for the present Government’s desire to change it? I suggest that the reason is to be found, amongst other things, in statements made by members and supporters of the present Government when they were in Opposition. For instance, on the 6th June, 1945, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he was Leader of the Opposition, made the following statement, according to Hansard of that date : -
If elected to office the Opposition will appoint to control the financial policy of this country a bank board of the same type as was appointed in 1930.
The right honorable gentleman was referring to the notorious Commonwealth Bank Board of which Sir Robert Gibson was chairman during the terrible days of the depression. We recall that it was Sir Robert Gibson who said : “ I whipped them ; I lashed them into submission “. Of course, he also lashed the people of Australia into submitting to the dole and the degradation which characterized this country at that time. The Opposition is determined that such conditions shall never recur in this country. In order to remind honorable members of the methods used by Sir Robert Gibson I propose to read portion of a letter written by him to the then Treasurer.
– Order ! I hope that the honorable member will link his remarks with the clause under discussion.
– I am endeavouring to show the kind of people whom this Government will undoubtedly appoint to the proposed board ‘by recalling one of the past appointments of an antiLabour administration. In that letter Sir Robert Gibson said -
Subject to adequate and equitable reductions in all wages, salaries, and allowances, pensions, social benefits of all kinds, interest and other factors which affect the cost of living, the Commonwealth Bank Board will actively co-operate with the trading banks and the Government of Australia in sustaining industry and restoring employment.
That letter speaks for itself. We are convinced that the individuals whom the present Government will appoint to the proposed board will be selected because they will be connected with big business and will give big business an opportunity to’ resume the domination of the economic life of this country that it has always exercised. The history of this country shows that practically all appointments made by anti-Labour administrations have consolidated the grip of big business on the people. As an example, let us review the membership of the former Commonwealth Bank Board, which included, in-addition to Sir Robert Gibson, who was a director of numerous companies, the following gentlemen: - J. J. Garvin, later Sir John Garvin, managing director of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited; Mr. Drummond, wheat-grower and manager of the former New South Wales compulsory wheat pool; Sir Anthony Hordern, managing director of Anthony Hordern and Sons Limited, the Perpetual Trustee Company Limited, and the Royal Insurance Company Limited ; J. Leeds, general manager of the Bank of Queensland Limited, and chairman of the associated banks of Australia; R. B. W. McComas, wool-grower, proprietor of William Haughton and Company Proprietary Limited, and chairman of the Woolbuyers Association in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania; A., P. Bell, director of the Union Trustee Company of Australia Limited; Sir Claude Reading, who was prominently associated with the Union Bank of Australia Limited, and was deputy chairman of the British-Australian Tobacco Trust and of W. D. and H. 0. Wills (Australia) Limited; and the distinguished polo player J. H. Ashton, who was formerly a member of the Graziers Association of New South Wales.
As I said in my opening remarks, it is strange that the present measure should be the first to be introduced by the Government, although it is confronted with so many problems of national importance. The Prime Minister stated yesterday that he intended to introduce certain measures before the House rises in June, but he did not give any indication that he intended to do anything to relieve the miserable plight of age pensioners, for instance.
– Order! The honorable member must return to the discussion of the clause.
– In conclusion I assert that the arguments adduced by honorable members on this side of the chamber prove that we are quite justified in our contention that the measure is mere camouflage designed to enable vested interests to monopolize and control the national economy.
– I remind the committee that we are still discussing clause 10 of the bill, and that the point at issue is whether there should be ten members of the proposed board. This is a tremendously important clause, not only because the proposed board will control the policy of the bank but also because its decisions will have most far-reaching influence on the present and future economic welfare of this country. A most important royal commission inquired, in 1934, into the monetary and banking systems in operation in Australia, and one of the members of that body was no less a person than the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley)-
– A good man, too!
– The right honorable gentleman, we understand, was recommended as a member of that royal commission because he approached monetary and banking problems from the standpoint of the layman, the man in the street.
– Because he had brains.
– Yes, because he had brains. That interjection by the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) will help me to prove my point. We now know that the right honorable gentleman probably had more experience of the subject of monetary and banking systems than those who recommended his appointment to that royal commission imagined. I regret that he is not in the chamber at present, because I am about to read a recommendation of the royal commission with which he must have agreed. It is as follows: -
The present method of government of the Commonwealth Bank is by a Board, appointed by the Commonwealth Government, and consisting of a Governor, the Secretary to the Treasury, and six Directors, who hold office for a term of years and retire in rotation. The Board elects its own Chairman. We are of opinion that this method of government is generally satisfactory.
But that was not sufficient. The royal commission had more to say about the method of government of the Commonwealth Bank by a board, so the following extract from its report shows : -
The six Directors other than the Governor and the Secretary to the Treasury should be appointed for a term of six years, instead of seven as at present, one should retire each year, and be eligible for re-appointment, but provision should be made that no director shall continue to hold office after reaching the age of 70.
Substantially the same provisions are contained in the proposed new sections now under consideration. But the recommendations of the royal commission with which the Leader of the Opposition must have agreed went even further. One of them states -
The members of the Board should be selected for capacity and diversity of experience and contact, and not as representatives of special interests.
A provision of that nature is contained in clause 10.
– Is the honorable member sure that the present Leader of the Opposition agreed with those recommendations ?
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) should not be in the chamber. He undertook to resign his seat, but he has not yet done so. In the circumstances, he should not interject.
– Is the honorable member sure that the recommendations which he has just read appear in part of the report which was signed by the Leader of the Opposition?
– The honorable member, who should not be in the chamber, has asked me whether I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition took part in drafting the recommendations which I have read. For his information, I shall read again the last extract that I quoted. It is as follows : -
The members of the Board should be selected for capacity and diversity of experience and contact, and not as representatives of special interests.
I shall now read an extract from the part of the report of the commission entitled, “ Dissent, Reservation and Addenda by Mr. Chifley”. Paragraph 3 is as follows: -
I realize, however, that a government-owned central bank, with ample powers, whose policy is determined and directed wholly toward furthering the interests of the community by men of capacity and courage, is a most important feature of any banking system.
Honorable members who carefully read that part of the report will not find in it any objection by the right honorable gentleman to the system of government of the Commonwealth Bank by a board. That is to say, he supported and recommended the very means of control which the proposed sections in this clause will re-establish.
– That is not true.
– A very insignificant and obscure member of the Opposition has cast doubt upon the accuracy of my statement. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has a pugnacious jaw, but he is not pugnacious when any real fighting has to be done.
– That also is not true.
– During my absence from the chamber, the honorable member used the un-parliamentary expression, a “ deliberate lie “-
– “Why was the honorable member absent from the chamber? Why was he not here attending to his parliamentary duties?
– It so happens that I suffer from slight attacks of malaria. I do not desire to he shown any consideration on that account, but I understand that the honorable member for Hindmarsh has not subjected himself at any time to conditions under which he could contract that fever.
– Order! Will the honorable member relate his remarks to clause 10?
– The views which were expressed by the Leader of the Opposition when he was a member of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in Australia demolish the arguments that have been advanced by Opposition members against the reestablishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Members of the Labour party have also expressed the fear that five members of the board, whose names have not yet been announced, may exercise a sinister and baleful influence on the policy and activities of the Commonwealth Bank. An examination of the proposed new sections in clause 10 show that such a fear- is unfounded. Five of the ten members of the board,- whose whose names are already known, are persons in whom the Opposition seems to have great confidence. One of them is the Governor of the bank, who will he chairman of the board, and who will have a casting vote. That means that any opinion which may be expressed by members of the board in whom the Opposition has confidence will be supported by six votes to five. Proposed new section 30 (3.) reads as follows: -
Six members, of whom the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman shall be one, shall form a quorum at a meeting of the Board.
In other words, four of the six members who will constitute a quorum may decide the policy of the Commonwealth Bank. If the five public servants, in whom the Opposition members have complete confidence, attend the meetings of the board regularly, as they should do, they will be certain of carrying their opinions by at least five votes to one. The chairman will have a casting vote, and that will give at least six votes to one in favour of the views of the persons who have the confidence of the Opposition. Those facts should dispose of the argument that the board may be dominated by the representatives of outside interests.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) said that the Common wealth Bank Board would be beyond the control of the people’s Government. I shall examine that contention. The Leader of the Opposition stated that, as Treasurer, he had not found it necessary at any time to use the Government’s power to direct the Governor of the bank on financial policy. The right honorable gentleman said that he merely had expressed his wishes, and the controller of the hank immediately gave them weighty consideration, and tried to fall in with them.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not say that.
– If the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) will read the report of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in Hansard, he will find that the right honorable gentleman did make that statement. He said that he had only to mention his views to the Governor of the bank, and that official would try to fall in with his wishes. The honorable member for Bendigo said that the board would remove the bank from the control of the people’s representatives. I am not permitted to discuss the previous clause, although indulgence was- granted to the honorable gentleman to do so, but I inform him that if he will read it carefully-
– The honorable member for Macarthur may make a passing reference to the clause.
– It is sufficient to say that suitable machinery is provided in that clause to enable the people’s representatives to control the board effectively. That should dispose of the arguments which have been advanced by the Opposition against the proposed new sections that are contained in clause 10. I now return to the argument about the relative merits of control of the Commonwealth Bank by a board as distinct from one dictator. The honorable member for Hindmarsh was guilty of using unparliamentary language when he said that we on this side of the chamber state a deliberate lie when we say that a dictator can make decisions in a closed room, without consultation with, or reference to, any other person. I admit that there would be an outcry against big revolutionary decisions, but from day to day and from week to week, a dictator iscapable of gradually making minor decisions which are unnoticed by the general public or members of the Parliament, but which slowly build up the socialist state in a very sinister way. I believe that the committee system of government, which is accepted by this country, this Parliament and other deliberative assemblies, including shire councils, is most satisfactory.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Somebody once said that it was better for a man to keep his mouth shut and appear to be a fool than to open his mouth and remove all doubt about it. I confess at once that in relation to banking that remark could apply to me, but it could apply with equal, if not with greater force, to some honorable gentlemen opposite who have contributed to the debate on this clause, particularly the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). That honorable member referred to a passage in the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, a copy of which he then had in front of him, and stated that the report was signed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). If he had desired to approach this matter honestly and truthfully, he would have told the committee plainly that the right honorable gentleman did not sign the majority report, but submitted a minority report. The honorable member for Macarthur touched only briefly on the fact that the Leader of the Opposition submitted such a report.
You have ruled, Mr. Chairman, that we must confine our remarks to the composition of the proposed board. I have every desire to obey your ruling, but I shall find it almost impossible to go more than half way towards doing so because only one half of the ten men who will be appointed to the board are referred to in this clause or have been mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has described the other five members as “ the phantom five”. I am not greatly interested to know who they will be, because I believe that they will carry out the wishes of the Government. Doubtless they will be representatives of big business in Australia and, if I may use the word, stooges of the Treasurer.
– We have heard that before.
– The committee will hear it again, because there is nothing wrong in stating the truth. I am convinced that the history of the Commonwealth Bank Board is a bad one. In the final analysis, it will not matter very much who the remaining five members of the proposed board will be.
One honorable gentleman said that in making his contribution to the debate on this clause he did not intend to go back into the dim past, whereupon the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who rarely interjects, said that it would be embarrassing to the Government if he did so. It would be embarrassing. I remember when the Prime Minster and the Treasurer of this country approached the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board and asked for the loan of a paltry £18,000,000 in order to relieve, to some degree, the starvation and misery from which approximately 700,000 men and their wives and children were then suffering. The request was made, not by members of a municipal council or the proprietors of a small business but by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer of Australia. The chairman of the board had the temerity to tell them that the Commonwealth’s own bank would give them the money for which they had asked only under certain conditions.
– What has this to do with the clause?
– It has everything to do with it. We cannot discuss the personnel of the proposed board because the Government will not tell us who five of the members are to be, hut we can discuss the activities of previous boards. The events that I have just related were embarrassing to the then Prime Minister and the then Treasurer, and they were even more embarrassing to the hundreds of thousands of people who were starving in Australia at that time. The chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board said that the loan that was required would be granted only on the condition that all governments in Australia took action to reduce salaries, wages, pensions, superannuation, &c. He said that if that were done, he would condescend to make available to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer money that was needed to relieve, at any rate in part, the sufferings of unemployed persons in this country.
– “Who invited Sir Otto Niemeyer to Australia?
– The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Charles Russell) should be thankful that his aeroplane landed on an airstrip and not on a mountain top when its engine cut out the other day.
Government members interjecting,
– Order ! Interjections must cease.
– I was thrown out for less than that. I have already said that it is difficult to confine my remarks entirely to this clause because the Government has refused to announce the names of the whole of the members of the proposed board. We can talk about Dr. Coombs, Professor Melville, and Dr. Roland Wilson. I say in passing that I am amazed at the references to Dr. Coombs that have been made by members of the Government parties. Almost every supporter of the Government who has spoken on this measure has talked of him as a socialist. We know that the people of Australia have become confused in their minds about socialists and Communists. They have been told that anybody who is a socialist must be a Communist.
– Hear, hear !
-“ Hear, hear ! “ says the bloke with the squeaky voice.
– Order ! That is not the way in which an honorable member should refer to another honorable member. The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It is obvious that the Opposition is not really concerned with the merits of this clause and that its object is to delay the passage of this measure. The clause deals with the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board. In contrast with existing legislation it vests the management of the bank and the direction of its policy in more than one person. The Opposition has had a great deal to say to the effect that to establish a Commonwealth Bank Board is simply to deliver this country into the hands of iniquitous people. In short, honorable members opposite contend that only one man can control the Commonwealth Bank properly in the interests of the country. It is well, therefore, to study the provisions of the proposed section, which are that in addition to the Governor, the Deputy Governor and the Secretary to the Treasury there shall be on the board seven members, five of whom shall not be members of the Public Service. That is a summary of the provisions. Such is the Opposition party’s lack of faith - which is completely justified - in regaining office before very many years have passed, that it is opposing proposed section 23, despite the fact that it provides that any one of the five members of the board about whom the Opposition has made such a fuss may under the provision contained in sub-section (3.) be removed at the pleasure of the Governor-General. If the Opposition party had any confidence in the truth of its oft-reiterated statements that it will regain power, if it in fact really believed that it would be returned to office in the foreseeable future, it would not be so hasty as to oppose that provision because it could immediately remove the evils of which honorable members opposite have expressed fears when it was returned to office. The board will deal with policy under the proposed section 9. If the board’s view on policy differs from that of the Government, the Government’s view will prevail and the matter will be brought before the Parliament for discussion and debate. I can imagine nothing more democratic. But we see on the part of the Opposition a complete denial of democracy. The concept of honorable members opposite is to give power to one man who alone will determine the vast problems connected with the financial policy of this country. During the present debate the Opposition has brought up, over and over again, the economic depression of the early 1930’s. Those of us who have been here for some time know very well that the Opposition’s mind is bogged down in the depression. Honorable members opposite never get away from it. They live in the 1930’s. They do not realize that 20 years have passed by and that tremendous causes and effects have had their influence throughout the world.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister in order in now discussing any matter other than the personnel of the proposed board ?
– I have allowed all honorable members who have spoken in this debate to answer statements made by other honorable members. That is what the Minister is doing.
– Every argument advanced by honorable members opposite during this debate could be summed up in the words, “ Look at the depression “. It will be informative to examine precisely how the Labour Government that was in office in 1930 dealt with the problem that we are debating now. The Labour Government that was in office in 1930 introduced the Central Reserve Bank Bill. Clause 13 of that bill provided that a reserve bank was to be established. At that time Mr. E. G. Theodore was Treasurer. That bank was to be controlled by a board that was to consist of the governor, not more than two deputy governors, the Secretary to the Treasury, and five other persons. The bill provided that those five other persons were to be persons representing agriculture, commerce, finance industry and labour. Those were the limitations placed upon the five other members in 1930, the period of which the Labour party has had so much to say in this debate, and when Mr. Theodore introduced a bill that was much more far-reaching in its limitations about the appointees than the present bill is, and that indeed gave approval to the proposition that the Commonwealth Bank should be controlled by a board and not by one person. I am indebted to the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon), who has been good enough to draw my attention to Hansard report of the debate on that bill. I recommend honorable members opposite who have been spending so much time in stone-walling this bill so as to make it appear to the people of this country that there is real merit in their arguments, although in fact they are only doing it for political purposes, to study what Mr. Theodore proposed. Mr. Theodore was perhaps the greatest Treasurer that the Labour party ever produced, not omitting the last Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). In 1930 Mr. Theodore was asked by an honorable member why certain people were designated as governors. His reply, which appears in volume 123 of Hansard at page 1341, was -
I know ca” no other nomenclature that is more suitable. The chief executive officer of the Bank of England is termed the governor, and there is also a deputy governor. We are providing for a board of directors, which will consist of a governor, two deputy governors, the Secretary to the Treasury, and five other directors, representative of the commercial banking, and other interests of Australia; nine members in all.
Our board is to consist of ten members in all. So what is all the argument about? Mr. Theodore continued -
It has been suggested that the governor of the bank should not be the chairman of the board of directors; but there is a good reason for having the governor the principal executive and the principal controlling officer of the bank.
Members of the Opposition have spent two days in this chamber repeating verbatim what their publicity officer gave them to repeat and exercising no real intelligence in dealing with the clause that we are debating. Some of them have repeated the same speech that we have had to suffer for ten or fifteen years past, but that can be adjusted to any particular debate. I recommend that they read the debate on Mr. Theodore’s bill to which I have referred. Under that bill the. Governor-General was to make the appointments to the board. That same provision is contained in the present measure. Honorable members opposite have asked the Government why it does not tell the committee who the appointees to the board are to be. “Would honorable members opposite tell me how we could appoint people to the board before wc have any legal authority to so appoint them? The present bill still has to pass through this chamber and, we are told by the Opposition, will not pass the Senate, in which the Opposition has a majority. Let there be no doubt about that matter so far as this Government is concerned. We are not going to be thwarted by threats of what will happen in another place. The people will speak very definitely indeed if any attempt is made to thwart their will as expressed at the last general election. The relatively few honorable members who now sit in Opposition will be much fewer in number should it become necessary for us to have recourse to the country. Let me add a few more remarks to show how fantastic the Opposition’s arguments are. Consider what has taken place in other parts of the world. In England, where a Labour government is in power which, I gather, the Opposition contends is of the same ilk as itself, the Bank of England has a governor, a deputy governor and sixteen directors. The Bank of Canada has a governor, a deputy governor and eleven directors. The South African Reserve Bank has a governor, a deputy governor and nine directors. The Reserve Bank of India has a governor, two deputy governors, four directors nominated by the Central Government, six other directors nominated by the Central Government, and one government official also nominated by the Central Government. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand, where a Labour government was in office until recently had, during that Government’s regime, a governor, a deputy governor, the Secretary to the Treasury, and seven other directors. I have given the position in relation to every part of the British Commonwealth except Pakistan and Ceylon, and it bears complete similarity to the position desired to be established under the bill before the committee. So why all this nonsense in which the Opposition has indulged?
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- It is very refreshing to hear a member of the Government referring to the late Mr. E. G. Theodore as one of the greatest Treasurers that this country has ever had.
– I stated that he was one of the greatest Treasurers the Labour party had ever produced.
– That remark by the Minister gives extra emphasis to the fact that after the death of Mr.
Theodore recently, no newspaper, no public man, and in fact nobody in this country referred to him other than in the highest terms in connexion with hi? policy and the banking and financial legislation and proposals that he introduced from time to time in this Parliament.
– They might do that, too, in respect of the honorable member when he is dead.
– Possibly they will do it in reference to the present Leader of the Opposition and his legislation to nationalize banking. Before we can give adequate consideration to the clause before the committee we must -take into consideration the fact that this measure incorporates all of the powers that were provided in Labour’s banking legislation of 1945. By preserving those provisions in relation to monetary and financial policy the present tory Government of this country agrees with the principle that banking and monetary control is a very great public utility. At this point it is necessary to emphasize the real reason for Labour’s objection to the constitution of a board having as part of its personnel people with outside private interests. That is the gravamen of our objection. I emphasize that it is not so much a matter of one-man control compared with board control as it is a matter of objection to a board largely comprised of people with outside interests. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has pointed out that other boards exist in this country. He cited the Tariff Board, on which there are representatives of commerce and grazing interests. The honorable member asked what was wrong with that board. What he did not mention was that that board has no executive authority whatsoever. It is purely an advisory body. Whether its recommendations are accepted or not is entirely within the jurisdiction of the Minister of the day. When this great banking function becomes a public utility its policy and management should be controlled entirely by people who have no outside interests whatever. It is in fact a department of the nation. It stands in a position equivalent to that of the Department of Trade and Customs. Just imagine any government, even a tory conservative government, contending that in order to reinforce the administration of that great department it should bring in from outside some prominent merchant, primary producer, or other individual most competent in a private capacity, to have a finger in the pie in the administration and policy of that department!
– An excellent idea!
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson), who is a supporter of the Australian Country party interjects that that would be an excellent idea. I should be delighted to see the reaction of the bed-mates of that political party - the members of the Liberal party - if the Australian Country party advocated such a state of affairs. So far as I know, such a preposterous proposition has never been entertained by any previous government of this country. I hope that it never will. This observation, relates equally to the administration of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Treasury, and all of the other great departments that administer the laws and statutory requirements of the people.
– Including TransAustralia Airlines?
– If the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) were to refer to the legislation under which Trans-Australia Airlines was established he would find that the Minister of the day, not the Parliament has the final word. That is precisely what Labour wants in this instance - that the Treasurer of the day should be the final authority. The Government’s proposal is preposterous. Just imagine five outside appointees endeavouring to decide a difficult problem such as an alteration of the exchange rate! The honorable member for Mackellar contends that those men should have the right to deliberate and decide whether the exchange rate should be appreciated or depreciated. The members of the old bank board were excellent gentlemen; some were importers and others were exporters. According to the direction of alteration of the exchange rate any one of them stood to lose or gain a fortune. Even the most human individual carrying out the normal functions of his business would experience considerable difficulty in such circumstances. As far as I know the only two men in this country who knew anything about the proposed alteration of the exchange rate when Great Britain devalued its currency last year were the former Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. In view of the provisions of this measure, the Governor of the bank could not fail to consult his co-directors on a matter of policy.
– Who fixed the exchange rate in 1931?
– It was fixed by the then Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, in the Scullin Government. The honorable member for Hume, who has just interjected, ought to realize that at that time this country was in the depths of a financial depression. These proposals are manifestly absurd. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Bank is a great public utility, control should not be removed from the ambit of the Public Service. Surely amongst its staff there are men of sufficient administrative skill to carry out the administration of the bank. I do not think that either the Minister or any other member of the committee would contend that either in the bank staff or in the Public Service there are not high executive officers competent in every way to undertake and carry out efficiently all the functions that would be involved, subject to the Minister of the day, who, in turn, would be answerable to Cabinet and ultimately the Parliament. Let us consider the real reason behind the present proposal, apart altogether from considerations of the fitness or otherwise of the proposed board to run this concern. It is a public utility, and has complete control vested in it. This is the “ payoff”. I have not the slightest doubt that the people who financed the election campaign of the present Government have taken into consideration that during the war period, and immediately following, in every Australian city and every large country town the Commonwealth Bank embarked on a vast expansionist programme.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- During the last few hours I have been attending to- my correspondence in this chamber and at the same time listening to the debate. Even if I had not listened to the debate during the last 24 hours I should have had no difficulty in keeping abreast of developments, because of the repetitious nature of the contributions to the debate by members of the Opposition. I do not pretend that I have the ability to introduce new matter into the debate at this stage. However, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) said that the main consideration is how best can the people be served. I agree with that statement; and I contend that the people can best be served by the Government using every possible constitutional means to ensure that this country shall never again be faced with the threat of socialism. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) are fiery speakers, whilst the honorable member for Bendigo speaks in a quiet way, but we must remember that all honorable members opposite have signed the Labour party’s objective - the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The reason why they oppose this clause is obvious. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), in the course of his second-reading speech, said -
I did not at any time overrule the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. There was never any need for me to do so, because I was always able to evolve a satisfactory decision. I expressed my views about what I thought ought to be done, but at no time was it necessary for me to exercise that power.
How easy would it be for a socialist government against the will of the people to further the interests of socialism through the Commonwealth Bank if that institution continued to be controlled by one man over whom the leader of the government of the day had complete power; but how much more difficult would it be for him to exercise such control over a Commonwealth Bank Board consisting of soundbeaded businessmen who do not believe in socialism. The people have told this Government to outlaw socialism. Whilst the Government has already done much to honour its election promises, it will fully justify the confidence the people placed in it on the 10th December last if it does nothing else than stem the flow of socialism.
Honorable members opposite harp about the appointment of “ outsiders “ or persons with “ outside interests “. Can they say truthfully that even Dr. Coombs, the present Governor of the bank, or the Leader of the Opposition has no outside interests? Listening to honorable members opposite one might be led to believe that the Government proposed to appoint to the board persons who are outside Australia. All of the appointees will be good Australians.
– Who are they?
– I urge the Government to include primary producers among the appointees to the board, because the community as a whole is dependent upon primary producers, and their representatives on such a body will be able to keep the Commonwealth Bank Board cognizant of what is going on in the main industries in this country. The primary producers are entitled to representation on the Commonwealth Bank Board commensurate with their importance to the nation.
.- I shall mention the word “ board “ at least five times and I hope that I shall keep to the question before the Chair. When I heard the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) praising the late Mr. E. G. Theodore, I was reminded of the following couplet: -
Seven wealthy towns contend for Homer dead,
Through which the living Homer begged his bread.
In the eyes of our opponents, Labour men are always great men when they are dead, when they have retired from politics or no longer have any interest in politics or, still more to the point, if they desert the Labour party. The late Mr. Theodore did not receive the honour that was his due- from the predecessors of honorable members opposite in this Parliament or from the people when he fought the Commonwealth Bank Board in 1931. Supporters of the Government talk about all the wonderful things that the proposed board will do, but they have not said anything that is new. The Government has not offered to consider any amendment of this measure. It has simply placed the bill before the Parliament expecting its supporters not to reason why, but simply to come into the chamber and vote for each clause. One Government supporter was temerarious enough to suggest a minor alteration, but when he did not get beyond the question stage I was reminded of the following lines from Cowper: -
While sloth seduces more too weak to bear
The insupportable fatigue of thought,
And swallowing therefore without pause or choice
The total grist unsifted, husks and all.
Honorable members opposite are swallowing the husks in this bill. Reference has been made in this debate to proposed section 26, which 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.
Honorable members might imagine that the object of that provision is to prevent a person who is at present a director of a private hank from being appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board in future. It is a dishonest provision, because it is merely a copy of section 15b of the Commonwealth Bank Act, as amended in 1924. That section reads -
A person who is -
a Director of any corporation (other than the Commonwealth Bank) the business of which is wholly or mainly that of banking; or
an officer of any corporation (other than the Commonwealth 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 Director or a member of the London Board.
In spite of that provision, three persons who had been directors of private banks were appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board at different periods from 1924 to 1945 when the board was abolished. “When those persons resigned their directorships of private banks they were immediately appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board. On a previous occasion I gave the names of those three persons. They were Sir Clive McPherson, Mr. A. F. Bell, and Mr.
The Money Power preys upon the Nation in times of peace, and conspires against it in times of adversity.
A time of adversity is coming, and we fear the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board because of the harm that it might do. Capitalism cannot continue to exist unless it has its business cycles. The end of the present cycle is approaching, and with it comes the next depression. When the depression hits Australia, we want to be sure that the Commonwealth Bank Board will be free from interference by big business.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) was wrong when he said that not more than 5 per cent, of Australian trade unions banked with the Commonwealth Bank. If he makes a search in the office of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court he will find that the rules of practically every trade union provide that it shall bank with the Commonwealth Bank.
The board which the Government proposes to appoint to control the Commonwealth Bank cannot be compared with the board of directors of a joint stock company. The directors of a company exercise complete control over the management of that company, and their decisions cannot be upset by anyone, except by the shareholders in certain circumstances. The decisions of the Commonwealth Bank Board, however, will be subject to the veto of the Treasurer of the day, who may override any decision on policy that the board may make. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) made a great deal of the fact that, in 1930, a bill was introduced into the Parliament by the late Mr. Theodore which provided for the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board somewhat similar in character to that provided for in this bill. However, it was because of what was done by the Commonwealth Bank Board after 1930 that there was a revulsion of feeling in the Labour party against that form of control. In answer to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) and the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon), I point out that, no matter who may be appointed to the hank board, their decisions will be influenced by the conditions of the time and by their own habits of thought. It is true, as the honorable member for New England pointed out, that the members of the board would have all the facts before them, but the members of the Commonwealth Bank Board had all the facts before them during the period from 1930 to 1937. Nevertheless, all honorable members of this House will now admit that those directors made some extraordinary blunders even in the light of the knowledge then available to them. I shall give one illustration to prove my point. In 1930, when the prices of primary products were falling, and the demand for manufactured goods was declining, when all the signs of an approaching depression were evident, and the people urgently needed assistance to enable them to carry on, the Commonwealth Bank Board increased the rates of interest. Primary producers were forced to meet the difficulties resulting from falling returns for their products and at the same time to pay higher rates of interest on their overdrafts. When it was evident that the Commonwealth Bank, the leading bank of Australia, should take some action to protect the falling purchasing power of the primary producers and to increase London funds, the board, with all the facts and figures at its disposal, failed in its duty. It was left to the Bank of New South Wales, a private trading bank, to take the necessary steps to pre vent disaster. That was the second error made by the board. When it was obvious, as every economist now admits, that our only chance to correct the economic conditions brought about by a period of rapidly increasing deflation was to make money available for capital expansion and thus provide a demand for our raw materials, the prices of which had fallen, that action should have been taken by the Commonwealth Bank. What action was taken by the bank? When the government of the day proposed a fiduciary notes issue of £18,000,000 as a means of creating a demand for capital expansion, the Commonwealth Bank refused to sanction the proposal. We cannot afford to allow the errors made by the Commonwealth Bank Board of the past when the nation was in the direst peril to be repeated. With all earnestness I suggest to honorable members opposite that if the Commonwealth Bank Board be reconstituted and should similar conditions again prevail in this country the same kind of mistakes may again be made. The board which controlled the leading bank of the nation, the Commonwealth Bank, failed dismally in its obligation to provide the corrective for the falling prices of primary products and our rapidly diminishing bank balances in London.
– The honorable member cannot claim that that situation arose because of the existence of a Commonwealth Bank Board. The Bank of England was then and is now controlled by a board.
– The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) propounds a specious argument. The necessary action to correct the then existing state of affairs was taken, not by the Commonwealth Bank Board, as it should have been, but by the board of directors of the Bank of New South Wales..
– The honorable member objects to the proposed personnel of the board and not to the principle of board control ?
– The board of the past was drawn from representatives of all shades of society and, as I have pointed out, one’s policy is determined by one’s experience. Had the majority of the members of the board not been importers, the chances are that the exchange rate would have been increased at an earlier date. Naturally the importers on the board opposed a variation of the exchange rate.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The new sections proposed to be incorporated in the bill by clause 10 deal only with the membership of the board, but most Opposition members who have spoken to the clause have discussed almost every other subject but the membership of the board. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) dogmatically stated that the Commonwealth Bank Board of the past had made errors of judgment and that because of that, all boards can be of no value. Although I do not agree that the board made errors, even if we admit that it did so, it does not follow as a natural corollary that control of the Commonwealth Bank by a single individual, is better than control by a board.
The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald), at the conclusion of a speech which lasted ten minutes, said that in discussing this matter at such great length we were wasting the time of the Parliament, which could be better employed in the consideration of more important matters. I agree with him. I do not think that it can be denied that too much of the time of the committee has been devoted to the consideration of these proposed new sections. The Government is perfectly satisfied with the case it has made out for the reconstitution of the Commonwealth Bank Board. All that remains for us to do now is to answer the arguments advanced by Opposition members, most of which had no bearing on the subject before the Chair. It has been claimed by Opposition members that the Government has no mandate for this legislation. I answer that statement by quoting the following paragraph from the joint Opposition ‘policy speech delivered by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in 1949: -
A bank board of experienced and independent men would afford a guarantee, that no policy decision by it would be lightly swept aside by the political head of the Treasury. We therefore propose -
to set up under control by Parliament, a small board of directors of the
Commonwealth Bank, of which the Governor of the bank shall be chairman.
If that represents equivocation in relation to the banking policy of the parties now in office, the English language has no meaning. Some Opposition members have complained that the proposed board is too large, but not one of them has defined what he regards as large or small. Having regard to the responsibilities which the Commonwealth Bank Board will have to carry, a board of ten men cannot be considered to be too large. The Government proposal that the board shall have a membership of ten persons, three of whom have been indicated in the bill and an additional two named by the Treasurer in his second-reading speech, has been tacitly approved by the Opposition. Labour members have approved of the appointment to the board of members of the Public Service but they oppose the proposal to appoint five members other than public servants on the ground that they do not know who will be selected for appointment. How can they expect to be told the names of the selected appointees until the bill becomes law?
– “We have already been told the designations of five members of the board. “Why should we not be told the names of the remaining five?
– It is absurd for Opposition members to ask the Government to disclose the names of the five independent representatives until the bill has been passed. Honorable members of the Opposition have suggested that no one outside the government service should be a member of the proposed board. By what right is it suggested that the Government should not appoint some one who has enlarged his mind in his associations in the world instead of some one who has restricted his outlook, as he might have done, by membership of the government service? Honorable members of the Opposition say that a man must be specially trained for membership of the proposed board. During the war men from all ranks of society and conditions of life were taken into the services and they did a remarkably good job. It was a very short time before they were capable of performing practically any job that they were given to do. To suggest that the members of the proposed board should be thoroughly trained in the affairs of banking before they are appointed is ridiculous. Honorable members of the Opposition have also referred in slighting terms to the occupations of members of the previous bank board. I think the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) commented on the occupation of some of the men who had been appointed to the previous board of the Commonwealth Bank. It is not what a man does, but how he does it, that counts.
– Then the honorable member will not be here for long.
– That is a matter of opinion. The electors whom I represent will decide whether or not I am worthy of the confidence they have shown in me.
– What about the banks? Does the honorable member represent them?
– To what does the honorable member refer when he says “ banks “ ? Does he refer to the directors, the shareholders, the depositors or the employees of the banks? All this loose talk about a “ pay-off “ to the banks is something which I can only believe has been conceived by honorable members of the Opposition as being what they might do if they found themselves in the same position as the Government parties. They would then probably consider this “ pay-off”.
The suggestions which have been made by honorable members of the Opposition as to what the members of the proposed board might do are absolutely shameful. Men whom they do not even know have had their reputations dragged in the dirt. It has been said that these men are going to do all the obnoxious things that could be imagined. Honorable members of the Opposition entirely overlook the fact that the bill provides that the Governor will carry out the directions of the board to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia. That provision is contained in a clause which has already been agree to. Honorable members of the Opposition have said that if a proposed appointee is a director of a private bank he should resign that position before he occupies a place on the board.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Despite the endeavours of honorable members on the Government side of the chamber to justify the establishment of the proposed board they have failed to do so. They were making such heavy weather of it this afternoon that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) himself had to step into the breach and make a spirited declaration in favour of the clause. He rose with a gleam in his eye and gleefully waved a copy of the bank bill introduced by the Scullin Government in 1930, dealing with the establishment of a central reserve bank. He dealt, very delightfully from his point of view, with a provision for the appointment of a board and said that in view of that provision, he was incapable of understanding why honorable members of the Opposition opposed the present proposal for the appointment of a board. Surely it is perfectly obvious why the Labour party has changed its attitude, if that term can be used, between 1930 and 1950. When the bill of 1930 was before the House the people of Australia generally and the Labour party in particular did not realize the inherent disabilities of control by a board which became manifest from the operations of the bank board when the depression started in earnest. When the Scullin Government in particular and the Labour party in general realized what dangerous implications there were in such a method of control - and they were dangerous because they meant untold misery to the people of Australia - that party determined that if it had the opportunity to do so in the future it would bring about a different state of affairs. At that time resolutions were passed all over Australia, castigating the board to the utmost extent for its decisions and the callous attitude which it had adopted. Labour men from north to south and from east to west of this continent said that if they had the chance in the future they would eliminate any Commonwealth Bank Board. The Australian people have changed their attitude to the appointment of a bank board since 1930. As has already been stated by an honorable member of the Opposition, it must also be remembered that the Labour Government could not get its bank bill through the Senate in 1930.
The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Failes) said that it was ridiculous to talk about the appointment to the proposed board of men whose identities were not yet known, yet the Treasurer in his second-reading speech gave the names of two men’ who would be appointed when the bill had been passed. He said that it was the intention of the Government to appoint Dr. Roland Wilson and Mr. R. G. Melville. If the Treasurer is able to name two proposed appointees, why cannot he name the other five ? It is because the Government realizes that if it made known the other five members at this juncture it would be so castigated by the public that it would not survive for many months. So the Government wants to get the bill through as soon as possible and then make the appointments to the proposed board. The Treasurer stated that the Government intended to ensure “ the appointment of the best possible men “. Those words are capable of various interpretations. Men who are the best possible in the opinion of the Treasurer, may not be so in the opinion of this committee. Honorable members do not know who will be the “ best possible “ men. All that they can do is look back and see what “ best possible “ men were appointed when the bank board was previously in existence. I have no doubt that when a bank board was formed in 1924 the right honorable gentleman who was in charge of the bill at that time said, “ We shall appoint the best possible men for the job “. But “ the best possible men for the job “ were not the best men from the point of view of the Australian people. I shall quote to honorable members from the book, Caucus Crisis, by Warren Denning. It is a survey by a gentleman who sat in the press gallery of this chamber about the time of the Scullin Government and it relates to events in this Parliament during that regime. It states -
The relationships between the Ministry and the late Sir Robert Gibson, then Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board and the most powerful figure in Australian “ depression finance “, illustrate vividly the real status of the Government itself. This cautious old Scotsman was more definitely Prime Minister of Australia, than Mr. Scullin was at any time.
I ask honorable members to note the phrase that Sir Robert Gibson “ was more definitely Prime Minister of Australia than Mr. Scullin was at any time “. The quotation continues -
Standing rock firm on the conservative principles of finance of which he had been reared, Sir Robert Gibson possessed just those rigid qualities of character which Mr. Scullin lacked, a supreme confidence in his own opinion and a granite like capacity to withstand every assault on any position of principle which he took up. He maintained throughout the independence of the Commonwealth Bank Board, refusing to submit to anything that savoured of political domination, and making it clear enough that if the Government attempted to force his hand, he was a power to be reckoned with. His rare visits to Canberra, it seemed, were undertaken with obliging condescension. Sir Robert Gibson stood as the representative of the financial interests of Australia, to whom all Ministers and all governments should come and genuflect. From the sharp, clear-cut path which he set himself in a period of grave responsibility and intense anxiety, he deviated not one iota.
That statement demonstrates what was meant 25 years ago by the appointment of the best man for the job and honorable members on this side of the chamber do not want a repetition of the situation in which a gentleman like Sir Robert Gibson sitting on the bank board could assume the position of de facto Prime Minister of Australia. In his enthusiastic survey of the situation, the Treasurer airily disposed of the Government’s proposal to prevent private bank directors from sitting on the board. He cited with great gusto proposed section 26 which proposes that private bank directors shall not sit on the board, but he refused to answer a request from this side of the chamber for an explanation of the position of private bank shareholders. I cannot see any difference between the position of a bank shareholder and a bank director. Both are interested in the policy of the private banks and wish them to get as large a profit as possible for the shareholders. Their points of view are similar. Why does the Government discriminate between them? It proposes to disqualify directors but not shareholders. That attitude shows its hypocrisy. This clause demonstrates adequately that the Government is attempting to humbug the people hut I am satisfied that it will not succeed.
The indictment by Opposition members of the proposed personnel of the bank board is not based on private grounds. The business talents of the persons to be appointed are not questioned. They may be captains of industry, hut because of their affiliations in certain quarters, honorable members on this side question their capacity to make the wisest decisions in the interests of the Australian people. That point of view has been expressed clearly by honorable members on this side of the chamber. It is our opinion that consciously or unconsciously the Government appointees to the board will possess bias which may react to the detriment of the Australian people. Because that might happen, we are not prepared to take a chance of its doing so.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It has been interesting to listen to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) who has just resumed his seat because I have wondered for a long time just where the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) got the pattern on which to model himself. I think honorable members have been given the pattern in the description of Sir Robert Gibson which has been quoted by the honorable member for Batman - a granite-like character who moulds the Government. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) was interesting and refreshing because, although he made points which honorable members had heard mentioned previously, he sugarcoated them so beautifully that it was a little difficult to recognize them until one had thought about them for a while. Unfortunately honorable members had heard them stated so frequently that they were becoming extremely tedious. Honorable members on the Opposition side are looking back, not without some cause, to the days of the depression. Honorable members on the Government side are looking forward–
– To the days of the depression.
– If the honorable member wishes to do that, I shall repeat the argument that I advanced recently that in the event of a depression the Treasurer of the day will have exactly the same power, under the existing legislation brought in by a Labour government, as the present Government proposes to give to the bank board. Whilst honorable members may have some justification for saying that a bank board possibly could do in the future the things that a similar board did in the past, they have no centainty that that will happen. But the people of Australia know definitely what would happen under a socialist government with a socialist Treasurer who would not be responsible to this Government. The Government and the people have not the slightest doubt about the dangers that would lie ahead under the existing system and for that reason, if for no other, a bank board is fully justified. Honorable members opposite have no complaints to make about the Public Service representation on the proposed bank board.
– I call attention to the state of the committee.
– Ring the bells.
The bells being rung,
– I notice that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) are leaving the chamber after attention has been called to the fact that there is not a quorum of members present. They must return to it.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) thereupon returned to the chamber.
– The honorable member for Lalor not having returned to the chamber, I ask the Serjeant-at-Arms to secure his attendance.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Chairman. I am sure that I was outside the chamber when you called for a quorum.
-i am afraid not.
– I was outside the chamber. I did not hear the Chairman call for a quorum. I was some distance ahead of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), and when he was returning I stood outside the chamber and held the door open for him. I could not hear what you were saying, Mr. Chairman, although I heard you call back the honorable member for Bendigo. I should not like you to think that I was defying your order.
– The honorable member’s explanation is accepted.
– May I say how deplorable it is that members of the Opposition should deliberately entice their colleagues outside in order to obtain an opportunity to call for a quorum as a result of the depletion of the attendance in the chamber. Such actions reflect upon the sincerity of their professed intentions. Apparently, their only objection to the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board arises from their fears concerning the integrity of the “five phantoms of the future “, the gentlemen whose names have yet to be announced. They have no grounds whatever for concern on that score. They should realize that the Government intends to serve the people of Australia honestly and well and that they merely confuse the issue when they raise such objections. Under the existing system of management of the Commonwealth Bank, which was established by a Labour government, the Governor is assisted by an Advisory Council. If there were any justification for the objection that has been raised by the Opposition, it might reasonably be suggested that the same objection applies to the members of that council. Unless the members of that body were scrupulously honest, they could use for their own advantage information that reaches them in that capacity. I do not suggest for a moment that any of them would do so and I am sure that the members of the proposed board will conduct themselves with equal integrity. Having been chosen by a sincere government, they will be sincere and honest men.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Menzies, M.P. - Communism - Canberra - Commonwealth Economic Conference on South East Asia - Radio Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed) -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer briefly to an incident that occurred in this House yesterday. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that, on that occasion, you suggested that instead of seeking to make a personal explanation, I should raise the matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House last night. Unhappily, I missed the call last night, and I should like to deal with the subject now. When I spoke about the connexion that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) had had with the Kisch affair, I had before me certain explicit documentary evidence contained in a recently published book, The Garden Path. That evidence shows in some detail the connexion that has existed in the past between the Australian Labour party and the Communist party. However, the honorable member for Dalley rose, and, with evident sincerity, said that he had never been concerned in the Kisch affair. I told him that, during the week-end, I should consult the original documents. I did so, and I found quite a lot of references to the deputation to the then Minister for the Interior and to the actions of the honorable member for Dalley. For example, the Labor Baily of the 12th November, 1934, set out in some detail the circumstances of the deputation, and the introductory speech of the honorable member for Dalley. There were also other press references to the matter. I further found that, on the 14th November - three or four days later - the honorable member for Dalley had voted in this House with a faction that was trying to get Kisch into the country, and that, on the 21st November, the honorable member- had asked a question obviously designed to embarrass the then Government which was endeavouring to keep Kisch out. It was not until yesterday that I learned that there was available in departmental files an official record of that public deputation. The How will believe, I think, that the honorable member for Dalley was quite sincere in his denial of his alleged part in the deputation, and that, although mistaken, he said what he believed to be true.
It may be instructive to examine the full circumstances. The Kisch incident was a world-wide plot and was a deliberate attempt by the Communist party to sabotage an Anzac defence conference, the
Hankey-Pearce talks, which were to take place in New Zealand. The Communists were defended, not only by the honorable member for Dalley, but also by virtually the whole of the Labour party, which, at that .time, vociferously embraced thi’ Communist cause. Five or six months later, however - probably in April or May - the Labour party woke up to what had happened and, although it was too late to undo the damage, tried to dissociate itself from the Kisch affair. My view of the matter is that the honorable member for Dalley remembered that. Perhaps he did not like to remember what he had done earlier, and had honestly forgotten the part that he had played. I believe that he was honest and did not try to mislead the House. However, there are two observations that I should like to make. They apply not so much to the honorable member for Dalley as to his party as a whole.- The first is that one of the most powerful weapons of the Communist party is its practice of enlisting the support of non-Communist dupes t do what it wants done. I do not believe that the honorable member for Dalley ha? at any time been a Communist; but I do know that, in this instance, duped, and perhaps without knowing what he was doing, he did in point of fact do what the Communists wanted him to do, and participated in a Communist plot that was directed against the defence of Australia. The Communist party is very dangerous when it is able to use dupes, and that point should strike home with honorable members opposite.
My second observation is that these dupes unfortunately are found very largely in the ranks of the Australian Labour party. The history of that party over the last twenty years is a disgraceful record of co-operation with the Communist party from time to time. I could cite many hundreds of instances of that co-operation. I note, that, whereas the honorable member for Dalley was so ashamed of what he had done that he had forgotten about it, there is no evidence of similar feelings on the part of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who is at least equally guilty because he was equally concerned in the shameful Kisch incident. One of the great troubles in our present political situation is that the Communist party is able to use Communists, near-Communists, and non-Communists, who seem to act together in one amalgum, sometimes called the Australian Labour party. To-day when we have a so-called Communist peace demonstration directed at the sabotage of our Empire defence in exactly the same way as the Kisch incident was directed to that end, it would be most regrettable if we found any members of the Australian Labour party lining up with the Communists as they did then. It would be even more regrettable if we found them trying to excuse the Communist party, or worse still, trying to excuse secret Communist organizations that are nominally non-Communist, and with which, unhappily, so many members of the Opposition remain connected.
.- First I apologize to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and to the House for having been unwittingly misleading when this matter first arose. The Kisch incident referred to by the honorable member happened on the 10th November, 1934.- The honorable member said last Friday, referring to myself-
Let me remind him that it was he who, some time ago . . .
I submit that “ some time ago “ can have only one meaning.
– Yes - “ some time ago”.,
– It means not very far back. I should say a little earlier than the time when a certain relative of the honorable gentleman was in trouble. It has been alleged that some time ago I introduced to a responsible Minister a deputation consisting mainly of Communists. I direct attention to the fact that a file, which is apparently a security file, was produced very readily in this House for the purpose of answering a question.
– It is not a security file.
– The honorable gentleman will have an opportunity of answering after I have completed my speech.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I consider that I have been misrepresented. The document ia question is not a security file.
– If the honorablemember has been misrepresented he will have the right of reply when the honorable member for Dalley has completed his speech.
– If it is not a security file it is one that deals, under the Crimes Act and the Immigration Act, with a certain person who proposed toenter Australia. Strangely enough, when, the honorable gentleman asked the question, that file was in the House. Therefore it is quite clear that the PrimeMinister (Mr. Menzies) himself wasassociated with an attempt at character assassination.- I shall deal first of all with, the charge that the persons who composed the deputation were Communists.. The deputation consisted of myself, Mr. Mulcahy, Mr. Ward, Professor Fisher of the University of Otago, Mr. King thesecretary of the Trades and Labour Council, Mr. Smith of the anti-war movement, Mr. Nelson of the miners’” federation-
– He was a Communist.
- Mr. Nelson, of theMiners Central Council, was never a Communist. The honorable member is now maligning a man who is deceased. Another member of the deputation wasMr. Lloyd Ross.
– A member of the central council of the Communist party..
– The honorable member for Mackellar should refrain from interjecting.
– Another member of the deputation was Mr. Lloyd Ross, assistant director of the Workers Educational Association of the University of” Sydney-
– An endorsed Communist.
– At that time he was not a Communist and in that year hewas permitted to attend a Labour conference at which no Communist was permitted to be present. Another member of the deputation was Mr. Barker, of theAustralian Railways Union. He is at present a conciliation commissioner in New South Wales and was never a Communist. They were the members of the deputation that accompanied me to meet the Minister. The speech that I made- was amongst the matters read by the Prime Minister from the departmental files. I do not intend to refer to it in full, but want only to refer to a part that he forgot to read. I said -
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.
That was to be his itinerary after he left Sydney. This is what the Prime Minister omitted to read -
This gentleman seems to be a desirable visitor and seems to mix in quarters usually above suspicion. The privilege of a broadcast from a national station seems to indicate that something very radical must have happened between the time of that engagement to the decision to prevent him from landing.
The other gentleman is a British subject bom in Ireland and has lived in New Zealand for 20 years. There is nothing against his personal character or record that would warrant the Government taking the action they have.
The gentlemen here present are representative of various sections of public thought, particularly the trades union movement, and the first speaker I would like to introduce is Mr. King, who is secretary of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council.
I shall now direct the attention of the House to subsequent occurrences. This matter went before the High Court. That court ruled that Kisch had been wrongly prevented from landing. Is the High Court a Communist outfit? Further, the Full High Court decided that he had been wrongfully ordered to be deported after he had been given an illegal language test. That test was in Scottish Gaelic. Therefore, there were two decisions of the High Court: First, that Kisch had been wrongfully prevented from landing, and secondly, that he had been given an illegal language test. The officer who gave him the test was not able, in court, to translate the Lord’s Prayer from the same language, with which he had tested Kisch. All those facts have been printed- in the law reports and cannot be refuted. I repeat that the High Court ruled that Kisch had been wrongfully prevented from landing. The refusal to allow him to land was all that the deputation sought to place before the Minister. The High Court ordered Kisch’s release. He addressed meetings all over Australia for two or three months and finally the Government, which was composed of members of the parties in office at present, paid the whole of his legal expenses. What has the honorable member for Mackellar to say about that? The party that he supports paid the whole of Kisch’s expenses and allowed him to remain in the country for three months. During that time he lectured all over Australia.
– Does the honorable member intend to resign his seat?
– That question has been put to me and I propose to answer it. First, I am not a free agent in my party in the matter of resignation. Secondly, I think that it would be stupid to believe that a by-election, in an electorate which returns me with a majority of 17,000, would be likely to result in a decision against me. Such a by-election would be a waste of public funds. However, I propose to carry out that threat, which I admit was idly given, when all honorable members in this House who during their lifetime have promised hundreds of pounds to local hospitals if their statements could be disproved, pay up to those hospitals.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to correct the misrepresentation of myself by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the course of an answer that he made to a question that I asked yesterday. It seems rather significant that throughout this discussion honorable members opposite have tried to suggest that some association has existed over the years between the Australian Labour party and the Communist party. Of course, I deny that, as do all other members of the Labour party. However, I am able to produce some documentary evidence to prove that the Prime Minister, who said that I was lying, was himself lying because, when I charged him with having Nazi and Fascist sympathies and said that he had expressed those views on a number of occasions in the past, the right honorable gentleman contradicted me. I am not going to attempt, during the time allotted to me this evening, to cite all the instances in which the Prime Minister has expressed . sympathy with the former Fascist and Nazi regimes; I propose merely to cite only one or two illustrations of the many that are on record. As a matter of fact if the. honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), who, to support his allegations against the honorable member for Dally (Mr. Rosevear), produced a lying publication in this chamber to-night, took the trouble he could find plenty of evidence of the association of the political party to which he belongs with the Nazi and Fascist regimes. Of course, he would find that he required a much larger volume than the one that lie produced. However, I shall quote now from a speech made by the present Prime Minister which was published in the press at the time, and I remind honorable members that at that time a lot of people believed that it was a good thing to express approval of the Nazi and Fascist regimes. In the course of a speech to the Constitutional Club in Sydney on the 24th October, 193S, the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said -
Australians should realize that democracies have much to learn from other systems of government. Democracies cannot maintain their place in the world unless they are provided with leadership as inspiring as that of the dictator countries.
At that time he had just returned from overseas, and although he was not the leader of his political party then, he aspired to the leadership. In the same speech he also said -
Why was Hitler able to tear up the Treaty of Versailles, absorb Austria and the Sudetenland without firing a shot? The dominating reason why he was able to do it all is that he ;:ives the German people a leadership to which they render unquestioning obedience. If you and I were Germans sitting beside our own fires in Berlin, we would not be critical of the leadership that has produced such results.
Surely such a statement cannot be construed as meaning anything other than complete approval of the Nazi regime in Germany. As I have said, there is any amount of evidence available, and I propose to quote now from the Daily Telegraph of the 2nd February, 1939, in which he is reported as having made the following statement: -
For myself, I repeat what I said when I came back from England last September - it is imperative that we should get to understand the German point of view, and so help to destroy the German delusion that the democratic countries do not understand her, and have no sympathy with any of her ambitions.
The right honorable gentleman admitted in the course of that statement that he sympathized with a great number of the ambitions of the German Nazi Government. In the course of a letter to the Daily Telegraph that was published on the 29th March, 1946, a correspondent recalled some more of the remarks that the right honorable gentleman had made before the war. On the 28th March, 1939, he had said-
Why should war be inevitable between Italy and ourselves when Italy is ruled by a man of first-rate ability?
Evidence is available in Government records to show that certain Fascist, elements are even now endeavouring to re-establish the New Guard. I invite the Minister who is responsible for internal security to say whether it is not a fact that during the period of office of the Chifley Government investigations were commenced by the Commonwealth Investigation Service in this matter and that evidence was obtained, particularly in the City of Melbourne, which indicated that the New Guard organization was being revived, in order to remove, by unconstitutional action, Labour governments from office in the National Parliament and in the State Parliaments. As a matter of fact, the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Harrison), who is now supposed to bc representing this country overseas, was a member of the New Guard organization. I listen to the claquers on the benches opposite and look at them, and no matter where one looks one sees young Fascists. All the potential elements of fascism are present opposite to me. It is a very fine thing that the honorable member for Mackellar has given such a good illustration to members of the Australian Labour party of how careful they ought to be in dealing with the legislation that is now before the Parliament. The honorable member has indicated in his statements in the Parliament that he himself believes that under that legislation-
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that legislation.
– I am not discussing the legislation and I do not propose to discuss it. I propose merely to deal with the arguments that have been advanced by the honorable member for Mackellar, and to point out to my colleagues on this side* of the chamber that according to the honorable member many members of the Parliament on this side of the chamber ought to be “ declared “ under the legislation now before the Parliament. That ought to indicate quite clearly to them exactly what could happen if this fascist Government were to have its way. Honorable members will recall that when I asked the Prime Minister the question to which I referred earlier in my remarks, he did not answer it because he could not do so effectively. I merely asked him whether he still held the views that he expressed some years ago, but he was not prepared to give a straight-out answer. In any event, the people know full well that the right honorable gentleman is the same individual who was a fascist at heart in the days preceding the recent war. He is still a fascist, and if on some future occasion honorable members want me. to do so, I shall produce other statements made by the right honorable gentleman, because there are numbers of them, in which he upheld, not the democracy that he professes to uphold to-day, but the totalitarian state that was typified by pre-war Germany and Italy. Indeed, if the right honorable gentleman had the opportunity now he would like to be the fuhrer of an Australian totalitarian state.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, .because I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– What is the misrepresentation?
– The honorable member said that I brought a lying volume into the chamber. The volume to which he referred is honest, factual, and correct, and is not a lying volume.
-Order ! The honorable member cannot refer to the contents of the volume in the guise of refuting an alleged misrepresentation.
– I do not propose to speak at any length, but I consider that something should be said concerning the remarks that have just been made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– Why worry about him ?
– I do not worry about him at all, but I consider that I should reply to statements of the kind that have been made about the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who is absent on important official duties. All ‘ I want to say, however, is that apparently the honorable member for East Sydney has been stirred into uttering the vituperation to which we have just listened by the charge made against him that over a period of years - indeed, as long as my parliamentary service has extended - he has been, if not a- “ fellow traveller’”, then a sympathizer with the Communists and a regular expounder of their point of view The best witnesses I can bring to confirm that statement are those who have sat beside him and with him on his own side of politics during the last fifteen years. I have never heard the honorable member for East Sydney utter a critical word about communism, the imperialist expansionist policies of Soviet Russia, or any of the atrocities- against the human spirit and human freedom that have been perpetrated in that country. The record is on the board.
– Do not forget “Jock” Garden.
– His most intimate associate for years in his own office, who attended to the affairs of his constituency, was a man who founded the Communist party in Australia and who, a year or so ago, at the time of his apprehension, was found to be in possession of a “live” Communist party membership ticket. That man, who sat cheek by jowl with the honorable member for East Sydney when he was a Minister, and attended to the affairs of his constituency, became his closest confidant. Those facts confirm my earlier statement that during the years, the honorable member, so far from offering a word of criticism against the Communists or their policies, has been the most articulate channel of expression for them that they have found in this House. I know that he has never admitted to being one of them, but I say that they had no more vocal or vigorous friend and champion in this Parliament than the honorable member for East Sydney has been.
The honorable member has made certain charges against the Prime Minister which may be answered very readily. In the first place, he has tried to give the impression that, in some way or other, the Prime Minister supported the policies of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The answer to that is short and simple. It was the proud privilege of the present Prime Minister to be able to announce, on behalf of the Australian people, on the same day on which the Government of the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany, that the people of Australia also were at war with that country, in defence of their principles of freedom and democracy, for which this country and he have always stood. If any further answer be required on the part of the Australian people, it is this : With all the things that the right honorable gentleman has said and all the policies he has pursued and despite the years he has spent in Opposition as leader of a political party in this country, he is today, by the free vote of the people of his own electorate, and by the free vote of those who sit behind him in the Liberal party, in the highest position of trust that a democracy can give to any of its citizens. That is how the people of Australia and the members of his party feel about him. I think that, with that knowledge, he can afford to ignore in the future as he has in the past, with the contempt that they deserve, any charges by the honorable member for EastSydney such as he has made to-night.
– I direct the attention of the House, as a matter of urgency, to the shortage of hotel accommodation in Canberra. The present situation has been aggravated by the lack of foresight on the part of previous governments in providing for the requirements of the ever-increasing population of the national capital. The circumstances associated with the sale of Hotel Ainslie about a fortnight ago were discussed on a motion for the adjournment of the House by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott), the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), and the Minister for the Interior (Senator McBride) ; but, unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to speak on the subject at that time. The residents of Canberra are most concerned about the sale of Hotel Ainslie, and they fear that Hotel Acton and Hotel Canberra are about to meet a similar fate. Everybody knows that Hotel Ainslie was practically given away. I am not one of those who say that if that hotel were offered for sale next week it would bring substantially more than the price at which it was purchased. £85,000, because I realize that it is difficult to secure a buyer for an hotel or utility that is valued at £100,000. However, I blame the Government for bad management in selling Hotel Ainslie. The purchase price was £85,000, and as the buyer was granted a 99 years’ lease of the site, the average price per annum was less than £1,000. I realize that provision must be made for interest and sinking fund. A few days ago, I asked a question about the licensing-fee that was paid for Hotel Ainslie, and I was informed that the amount was £1,286. I point out that the trade of the hotel is only in its infancy. The liquor licence was restored to it some months ago, and, naturally the trade of the establishment at the time of the sale was far below what it is likely to be twelve months hence. Hotel Ainslie has 52 furnished rooms, capable of accommodating 70 guests, but the whole concern, bar and residential, was sold for the reserve price of £85,000. The Sydney City Council, of which I have the honour to be a member, leased an hotel in Oxford-street, City, for a period of two years in 1948. The licensing-fee for the first year was £973, and for the second year £971. The gentleman who successfully tendered for the licence was required to furnish the establishment, and keep the place iii proper repair. He paid for the two years’ lease an amount of £7,500 per annum. The hotel in Oxford-street has fourteen rooms, compared with 52 in Hotel Ainslie, and the trading of Hotel Ainslie is much greater than that of the Sydney hotel. I leave honorable members to draw their own conclusions, but I believe that the Government has given away Hotel Ainslie, which may, in the near future, double its present trade. Is there cause for any wonder that the people are concerned about rumours to the effect that the Government proposes to sell other hotels in Canberra? If the deal in respect of Hotel Ainslie is an indication of what may be expected from the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board, the people of Australia are in for a bad time. I find it strange that whenever a Liberal party Government is in office, it3 first action is to sell Commonwealth or State assets. A Liberal Government in New South “Wales sold the State brickworks. A Liberal council, of which some honorable gentlemen here have been members, tried to sell to their friends four hotels for approximately £15,000 or £16,000. The Labour party members on the Sydney City Council were instrumental in that body leasing five hotels, which return it approximately £50 a week. I hope that the people of Canberra will be saved from another “ sell-out “ like the disposal of Hotel Ainslie.
.- I should not have risen at this hour had it not been for some references by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) in relation to what may well go down in parliamentary history as the “ Kisch-and-Tell “ case. However, I should like to refer to an incident in this House yesterday that caused me some concern. The honorable member for Mackellar introduced into this chamber a book that was luridly illustrated, very badly written and very horribly bound - a shocking example of the bookmaker’s art - and copies of it were distributed here. I have never witnessed such an incident before, and I suggest that if the author needs the sale of the hook to be boosted a little, “ remainders “ should not be distributed in this House of books that are selling at 2s. a. dozen at “ Paddy’s Market “ at this moment.
I was astonished that the distribution was allowed to pass unnoticed, and I seized the first opportunity that I had to take a copy publicly from my seat, and put it into the wastepaper basket. I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether it is a contravention of the Standing Orders of this House for a book agent, from his seat in the chamber, to arrange for the distribution of literature to other honorable members in an attempt, on behalf of a friend, to boost its sales. If that is not a contravention of the Standing Orders, is there any standing order under which honorable members may be protected against such conduct? We can shut the doors of our houses and get away from book salesmen at home, but if high pressure salesmanship, is to be indulged in here, we must ask for your protection.
I wish to refer also to the forthcoming South-East Asia conference, which is a development from what has become known as the “ Splendiferous Spender Plan “. That plan envisages the expenditure of huge sums of money by Australia in South-East Asia. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), with whom I sympathize, has not yet made a statement to the House about it. What has happened to the plan? Is it the intention of the Minister to abandon the conference, having regard to the adverse publicity that it has received throughout the world? The plan and the proposed conference have been criticized by the Wall Street Journal. Although the Government may pay no attention to some publications, I am sure that every ear on the Government benches is attuned with infinite care to the .comments of the Wall Street Journal. It has referred to the proposed South-East Asia conference as “ an attempt to wangle money from the United States of America “ and “ a gimme conference”. It has stated that the Asian countries will show up at the conference with outstretched hands. At the head of the conference table will be the sponsor of the plan, who will ask the United States of America to provide the money with which to implement it. Another comment by the journal is -
Uncle Sam isn’t tipping scads of money into South-East Asia . . . this Australian plan has American money and goods as its basis.
The Malaya Tribune has made the following comment: -
The Sydney conference shows all signs of a flop.
I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether, in view of the general opinion that there will be empty benches if the conference is held, he considers that, for his own benefit as well as for the sake of the good name of Australia in international affairs, it should be cancelled, even at this late stage ?
When the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) was Minister for External Affairs, the whole of the present Minister’s opposition to the right honorable gentleman’s actions was based on the assertion that he was putting Australia forward as a country with great potentialities and was attempting to secure his acceptance as the representative of a great power. Is not that what happened at Colombo? Having been shown Buddha’s Tooth and having been taken for a ride on a sacred elephant, the Minister took this nation for a ride in relation to international affairs. We want to know where we stand. We on this side of the House have a proud record in regard to international affairs. We do not want to appear as fools in the eyes of the nations of the world. If the Spender plan is in fact a “ gimme “ plan and if it is envisaged that the Americans are to be those who “ gim “, I suggest that the holding of the conference should be reconsidered. Will the Minister, even at this stage, make a statement about the matter? Will he admit frankly that his attendance at an international conference at Colombo shortly after his appointment to his present position swept him off his feet temporarily? I understand that he is swimming strongly now. I hope that, for the sake of the dignity of Australia, we shall not be dragged into a conference which, on the evidence of the Wall Street Journal, the Malaya Tribune, the Sydney press and foreign affairs commentators, is doomed to failure. If we are sincere in our efforts to help the nations of SouthEast Asia, let us tell them that the goods and services that this small country can supply to them would, of themselves, be only a drop in the ocean of the East. If the Minister has made a faux pas let him say so, because he is only a beginner. If he has made an unfortunate gaff in an attempt to emulate the work of his predecessor in office, let him admit it. We have already had occasion to chide the honorable member for Mackellar about the same thing, and the Minister, by making a wholesome confession to-night, could add his quota to the record.
I say in conclusion that I have not raised this matter in humorous vein or in an attempt to belittle the Minister. I ask him to face the fact that all strength has departed from him so far as international affairs are concerned. When Horatius was defending the bridge, the ranks of Tuscany could scare forbear to cheer, but if the proposed South-East Asia conference is held, it will be remarkable for empty seats rather than for the cheers that were anticipated when the Spender plan was launched.
.- I wish to refer to a question that I asked this morning about the curtailment of shortwave broadcasts by Radio Australia. J directed my question to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride) because I understood that he was the Minister responsible for short-wave broadcasts from that station, but it was answered by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). I asked whether, as a result of representations by the military authorities, the curtailment of the broadcasts had been abandoned. The Minister denied that that was so, and said that Radio Australia was now broadcasting to overseas countries for more hours than it had done previously. The answer disclosed that the Government has been guilty of muddle in relation to this important activity. In the course of the recent debate on international affairs, I referred to the concern of officers of the Department of External Affairs and of other persons at the projected curtailment by the Government of short-wave broadcasts from Radio Australia. I was told that no harm would result from the deliberations of the Cabinet subcommittee that was considering the matter. We heard nothing further until it was made known that Russia was broadcasting on a frequency that this country had abandoned.
– That is incorrect in point of fact.
– It is not incorrect. On one occasion Russia did broadcast on a frequency that Australia had abandoned.
– That statement was made by one of the persons who was dismissed from the short-wave station. It is his idea of the position. It is not true in fact.
– The Minister will have an opportunity to give his version of the matter. It is true that the Government issued dismissal notices to approximately three-quarters of the journalistic and announcing staff of Radio Australia. It is also true that dismissal notices issued to five announcers have been withdrawn. The issue of the notices meant that plans had been made for the curtailment, to a great degree, of overseas broadcasts from Radio Australia, but apparently the Government has now been forced into a position in which it must attempt to provide, at any rate for some time to come, at least the same service as was provided by Radio Australia previously. Unfortunately, the journalists and other persons who were given notices of dismissal sought other employment, and it will not be possible for the Government to repair the damage it has done to what may well be a vital instrument in the political warfare that we are compelled to wage at the present time. An international radio conference is to be held in Florence this year, and undoubtedly Australia will then be asked to explain the use to which the frequencies are being put that we abandoned temporarily. Unless we can show that we are not using those frequencies only to re-direct to Germany, Holland and other overseas countries our broadcasts to northern Australia but are also trying to arrange programmes that may be regarded as a specific service to those countries, we shall undoubtedly lose them. I suggest that when Ministers give answers to questions, if they do not know the facts they should not attempt to get out of their difficulty by telling falsehoods. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) deliberately told a falsehood to-day when he stated that Radio Australia was now broadcasting more hours than it had done previously. That is not a fact. If the Minister did not know
Tj the real facts he should not have attempted to mislead the House. I hope that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) will take heed of the views of his own department in relation to the damage that has been done in this particular matter and will ensure that we shall continue to use to the fullest degree the facilities that are available to us instead of curtailing them, and also that he will take steps to extend them in the near future.
. I ask the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) to keep the House advised of the discussions at the impending South-East Asia conference. It is very important to the people of Australia that they should know what happens at that conference. We should not have to depend entirely upon press reports for a knowledge of what transpires at the conference. In any event, the press “will probably not be admitted to its deliberations. An authoritative statement on the matter that we can1 debate should be presented to thisHouse. Certainly we should know what are the prospects in relation to South-East Asia and particularly what are the chances of any aid programme being underwritten by America. If th, Americans do not agree to spend money in South-East Asia we might as well not have the conference and abandon the whole idea of Australia and other countries in the Pacific being able to do anything to halt the march of communism throughout South-East Asia by making gifts of food and clothing to the peoples that are likely to be affected by that onward march. It would also be a good idea for the Minister to tell us, either through the medium of a separate statement or when he concludes the debate on the foreign affairs paper that he tabled, what is the present position in Europe and what are the possibilities of trouble developing there in the next few months. Autumn will be on the way in Europe in August. At that time of the year the ground hardens and the crops are in, and that is when trouble usually starts. The people of this country are somewhat worried about what is likely to happen in Europe and . I think that the Minister might take the House into his confidence and let us know, as far as security considerations will permit, what is happening in Europe and what it is expected may happen in the dangerous months of August and September next. I hope that he will be able to comply with my request in that regard, and also that as soon as the South-East Asia conference concludes we shall have a statement upon it presented to the Parliament.
– in reply - I inform the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), who has made certain observations in relation to short-wave broadcasts to South-East Asia and to short-wave broadcasts beamed overseas, that he has been completely misinformed about Russia having taken up a short-wave frequency that had been relinquished by Radio Australia. I have no doubt whatever that the honorable member expressed his views on that matter in good faith, but as a result of investigations that were made after I had heard his first observations on the matter, f can assure him that his belief is quite unfounded in fact. I was a member of a special committee that dealt with the subject of broadcasts by Radio Australia and I believe that during the regime of the Chifley Government a great deal of nonsense was broadcast on short wave to foreign countries.
– That is very unfair.
– I have read some of the scripts. Listeners overseas were told about the love life of the koala bear. If that is what the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) regards as being up to the standard that is required of overseas broadcasts of a country of the dignity of Australia, it certainly does not correspond to my views of what that standard should be.
– That is a cheap and silly statement.
– The observations of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) never bother me at all. In point of fact, that special committee was concerned to ascertain how the broadcasts overseas could best be improved and also how they could be con centrated specially on an area that is of particular concern to this country. The House may rest assured that what is now being done in consultation between the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Department of External Affairs will be directed to broadcasting to the nations of that area information that will convey to them how we are thinking in this country and what our views are about the problems, the ways of life, and the related ratio of the peoples of the area. I consider that it is much more important to make such broadcasts than to broadcast matter such as I have stated was broadcast in the past. I can assure the honorable member who raised, the subject that there is no intention to broadcast overseas the programmes normally broadcast for home consumption in the regular Australian Broadcasting Commission programme. Certain items of those programmes will be broadcast, but the emphasis will be upon other items the purpose of which will be to indicate from time to time to the area in which we are specially interested the policy of the Australian Government, which will be objectively placed in relation to foreign affairs and similar matters of importance.
The only other observation that I wish to make relates to the South-East Asia Conference. I know that it would satisfy the Labour party no end if the conference should prove to be completely unsuccessful. All I have to say to the Labour party and to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who said in his speech a few minutes ago that he did not intend to he humorous but really was quite serious - because he would have people believe that he is specially interested in and concerned about the affairs of the people of SouthEast Asia-
– So he is !
– Nobody who listened to him to-night would be convinced of that. What the two honorable members who spoke upon the matter hope is that the conference will fail utterly. A suggestion has been made that it will not be well attended and that it is a flop already. The public will determine that matter for themselves. In point of fact, apart from the advisers, the conference will be attended by 50 delegates who will represent each of the Commonwealth nations that have accepted an invitation and will include nien of the highest standing in their own countries. If the honorable member is really interested in the matter I shall give him a list of the delegates so that he may inform his mind before making any more of these bright and obviously political statements upon a matter that I should have thought would have encouraged the Labour party to assist the Government in the task that lies ahead.
– The “ Spender scheme “.
– I have not called it the “ Spender scheme “. I went to Colombo and advanced ideas that I believed I should advance in the interests of this country. I am not a pennyworth concerned about whether my name or somebody else’s name is applied to the scheme, but I am very much concerned about the security of this country and about stopping the penetration of communism in this area. These are two matters which, it seems to me from the remarks made by honorable members opposite to-night, in no way cause concern to them but are used by them only for the purpose of making party political capital out of them. I shall not say any more than that the conference will meet. I believe that it will bring together men who are most earnestly concerned to find some means, both short-range and long-range, for dealing with the difficult problems that confront this country. I say to the honorable member for Melbourne that these are not matters that ought to be made the subject of party discussion. They should stand above party politics altogether if we are concerned about the interests of our country. I understand from statements made in the past by the honorable member for Parkes, who rose to-night to make his usual bright remarks in his usual customary manner-
– It is almost automatic.
– It is automatic for the honorable member. He makes the same bright remarks every time he rises in this chamber. I understood from his previous statements that he was very concerned about raising the standards of living of the depressed masses of SouthEast Asia.
– Why does the Government not do that job properly?
– The policy that I put forward is the policy of the Government. The Government hopes to make a real contribution to the solution of the problem of South-East Asia and the security of this country. A report of the deliberations of the conference will be furnished, and upon those deliberations we shall be prepared to judged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented: -
Bankruptcy Act - Twenty-first Annual Report by Attorney-General, for year ended 31st July, 1949.
House adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
2’he following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following infor mation: -
s. - On the 26th April the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked me a question based on a statement by a political commentator in the Sydney press that the reorganization of the Department of Information involving Radio Australia had led to Russia taking over a wavelength abandoned by Australia. In answer to a similar question addressed to my colleague, the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in the Senate, the Minister replied as follows: -
Following on the decision of the Government to place the short-wave broadcasting operations under the control of the PostmasterGeneral and to restrict certain transmissions to overseas countries, discussions are now proceeding regarding the extent to which the transmissions from Radio Australia should be re-arranged and the short-wave services integrated with transmission for reception in isolated areas in Australia and the territories. It is not expected, however, that any changes made will affect the high frequency channels registered for use by Australia. When definite proposals have been formulated a statement will be issued in connexion with the matter.
y asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What amount of fees or rent has been paid to the Commonwealth by private companies, private airline operators and individuals for the services shown at Kingsford-Smith aerodrome for the twelve months ended the 31st December, 1949 - (a) landing fees; (b) accommodation of private aircraft in government hangars; (c) rental from areas leased for building of hangars; (d) charges for night facilities, and (e) any other services
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The references to private companies, private airline operators and individuals, and private aircraft, have been interpreted as relating to all persons, firms and companies, and aircraft, other than(a) airlines wholly owned by the Commonwealth or in which the Commonwealth is a partner with other British Commonwealth governments (Trans- Australia Airlines, Qantas Empire Airways Limited, and British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited; (b) aero clubs, and (c) aircraft owned by such airlines or by aero clubs, and the answers are based on this interpretation.
Landing Fees. - Landing fees are not charged nor are charges made for night facilities, as such. In August, 1947, the Commonwealth introduced a scheme of charges designed to recoup a portion of the cost of providing aerodromes, air route and airway facilities and meteorological services. The charge is a composite charge for the right to use Commonwealth aerodromes and navigational aids. The method of computing charges varies in accordance with the type of operations in which aircraft are used. Each type of aircraft Is given a unit rating based on the all-up weight of the aircraft. In the case of private aerial work and charter operations, an annual fee is imposed which permits the operator to use all Commonwealth-owned aerodromes and facilities. In the case of regular air services, a separate charge is payable in respect of each flight computed by multiplying the unit charge for the type of aircraft by a unit rating for the particular route flown. For this purpose, air routes have been classified in accordance with the availability of facilities, &c., on the route. At present, no such charges are imposed by the Commonwealth on international airlines. The major private operators have contested the validity of this scheme of charges and the matter is now before the High Court.
There are no separate charges for night facilities as such, as the scheme of charges referred to in the answer to (a) above permits landings and the use of navigational facilities at night as well as during the day.
Areas leased for erection of private buildings other than those covered by “ c “ above, £201 : rental of Commonwealth buildings, £10.248.
e asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. Negotiations with various bodies: are proceeding to enable details to be worked out to implement the proposals whichI have recently announced. These negotiations are not being delayed by the ‘British Medical Association.
s. - On the 20th April, the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) asked me questions about the Commonwealth Textile Labelling Regulations. I now inform the honorable member that the regulations in question came into operation on the 4th November,1949. As they apply to imported goods only they are naturally policed at the ports of entry. Technical difficulties have been encountered, however, in the administration of some portions of the regulations and these are being reexamined. A conference of State Government Ministers met to consider this question in January last. I understand. the conference agreed that legislation; uniform with the Commonwealth regulations, should be brought into operation in each of the States by the 1st October this year.
t.- On the 27th April, the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) asked me a question regarding waterside workers proceeding to the pickup in relation to workers’ compensation. I now inform the honorable member as follows: -
The question of extending the benefits of workers’ compensation to waterside workers proceeding to and from pick-up centres was considered on a number of occasions by the various waterfront tribunals which preceded the Stevedoring Industry Board, but until raised by the honorable member it had not been brought to the notice of that board. The records show that the question was last considered by the then Stevedoring Industry Commission in November, 1948, and that the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation stated on that occasion that he intended to apply, on behalf of the Waterside Workers Federation, to the Premiers of the States in which workers are covered for workers’ compensation purposes whilst going to and from their employment, for similar cover for waterside workers going to and from . pick-up centres. The records further show that an application was in fact made to the Government of New South Wales. All aspects of the matter raised by the honorable member are being re-examined and a further reply will be furnished as soon as consideration of the matter is complete.
h asked the Minister representing the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information : -
It is the policy of the Government to encourage private enterprise to erect refineries in Australia. Before embarking on anysuch project or making a decision as to the location, of a- refinery no doubt the oil industry would have regard to the many economic factors involved. The Government is at present seeking information from the various companies as to their future policy and proposals in this regard.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 May 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500503_reps_19_207/>.