19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER ( (Hon. Archie Cameron) toot the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Having regard to the uncertainty that is evident in the press of Britain and Australia and to the statement which the Treasurer made prior to the last general election in which he reiterated his opposition to, revaluing the Australian £1 in terms of other currencies, will the right -honorable gentleman state whether the Government has any present intention of revaluing the Australian £1 in terms of sterling?
– The honorable member’s question concerns a matter of policy on which an announcement will be made in due course.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Was the Minister for External Affairs speaking on behalf of the Government last night when he clearly indicated that the Australian £1 should be appreciated in relation to the £1 sterling?
– I said nothing of the sort.
– If the Minister was not speaking on behalf of the Government, as he seems to indicate by his interjection, does the view held by the Prime Minister when he was Leader, of the Opposition, that a Cabinet Minister should speak only as a spokesman for the Government, still hold good? Whether the Minister for External Affairs was speaking for the Government or in his own behalf, will the Treasurer take action to ensure that in future harmful speeches on delicate matters such as that made <by the Minister for External Affairs last night in relation to currency appreciation shall not he made by responsible Ministers?
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The statement that is involved in the question-
– The Minister cannot make a personal explanation at this stage.
– I claim that I have been misrepresented.
– I rise to order. The Minister for External Affairs is in a similar position to that of any honorable member of this House who claims to have been misrepresented. He may not intervene while another honorable member is addressing the House and’ he certainly may not intervene at question time until the Minister has replied to the question that gave rise to the matter in respect of which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– I was present during the whole of the speech made by the Minister for External Affairs.
– The right honorable gentleman must have suffered.
– The honorable member for East Sydney has suffered from the Minister’s speeches on many occasions. The question asked by the honorable member for Perth is based on wrong premises, and therefore answers itself.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. If the honorable member for Perth was present when I made the speech to which he has referred - and I doubt very much whether he was - he was not listening closely. What I said was clear enough. I stated that the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, had devalued the £1 in relation to the dollar, and that in my view there was no justification for that action. I also stated that as the result of his action inflationary features that could have been avoided had been introduced into our economy, and that he had thus presented the present Government with an entirely different proposition altogether in relation to the fi to-day. I stated that I did not express any view on that point and that if any opinion at all was to be expressed on it, it would be expressed by the Government.
– Does the Minister for National Development agree that the work of the Snowy Mountains HydroElectric Authority is draining both Commonwealth and State public works projects of technical officers, labour and material? Does the Minister agree, as has been stated in some quarters, that the Snowy Mountains scheme is steadily slowing down the progress of other essential public works?
– I do not believe that that charge can rightly be laid against the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority. The total number of engineers that will eventually be required by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority will be between 200 and 300. Of that number it is at present proposed to recruit in Australia only about 70 engi neers who are being, drawn from all States of the Commonwealth in as equitable a manner as possible. About 1,100 workers are at present employed by the authority. The only materials of any consequence that are now being absorbed by the scheme are those which are obtainable on the spot such as sand, stone, and rock filling. The only other material at present being used in large quantities is cement, which is in reasonably good supply in New South Wales. The Government is also importing cement on a large scale for use in its public works projects generally in order to leave local supplies of cement available, as far as possible, to private enterprise. I do not believe that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority is now causing or is likely to cause at any time in the foreseeable future a drain on Australian resources sufficient to embarrass other public works. The Government is advertising in practically all British countries and in some foreign countries for the engineers over and above the 70 who are being recruited in Australia. A senior officer of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority is at present overseas interviewing engineers who have lodged applications in answer to the Government’s advertisements.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister intends to speak on behalf of the New South Wales Liberal party at the Sydney Town Hall to-night or to-morrow night? As part of this Liberal party electioneering stunt, will the Prime Minister announce a small increase in the rate of age and invalid pensions? If so, does this Government and the Liberal party of New South Wales enjoy playing politics with the poverty and sufferings of the age and invalid pensioners
– I rise to a point of order. Is it permissible for an honorable member to engage, during the course of a. question, in references to stunts and matters of that kind?
– No, it is not in order. At question time the honorable member must only seek information.
– I shall, continue to seek information, Mr. Speaker. Will the proposed increases be adequate to meet fully the rise in the cost of living which has taken place since the Liberal party took office in this Parliament? Does the Treasurer know whether the Prime Minister will also announce to the age and invalid pensioners, and the workers of New South Wales generally, the steps that his Government has taken to put value back into the fi? If it is not true that the Prime Minister will make an announcement of the Government’s intention to increase the age and invalid pensions, is that due to the fact that he intends to take Parliament into his confidence on the matter, or is it due to the fact that the proposed increases are totally inadequate to meet the continually rising cost of living? If the Prime Minister does not intend–
– Order ! How much more does the honorable member intend to put into his question? Questions of this perambulating nature must stop.
– I have only one more sentence. If the Prime Minister does not intend making any explanation of the Liberal party’s policy towards putting value back into the £1, is that due to his Government’s inability to honour its pre-election promises, or is it because he shortly intends to sacrifice the welfare of primary producers by revaluing the £1 in such a way as to reduce their incomes, by anything up to 25 per cent.?
– I shall deal with the first part of the honorable member’s long question first. The Prime Minister does intend to address a meeting to-night in the Sydney Town Hall. Not only does he intend to address a meeting, but he also intends to win the election as a consequence of the policy of this Government. I advise the honorable member to put the remainder of his question on the noticepaper.
– In view of the fact that it is planned to have the aluminium plant at Bell Bay in production in 1952r and bearing in mind that the consequent expansion of the industry will entail a considerable amount of heavy haulage ‘between Bell Bay and Launceston, will the Minister for Supply inform me whether it is the intention of the Australian Government to meet this development byassisting in the construction of a railwaylink between Bell Bay and Launceston ?’ If such a line could be established it would not only cope with heavy haulage between Launceston and Bell Bay, but it would also open up and develop someexcellent country in East Tamar areas. Further, can the Minister inform me whether any requests for .Commonwealth assistance in respect of this matterhave been made by the Tasmanian Government? Can the Minister confirms the report that the aluminium plant will be in production in 1952?
– I am not aware of any request having been received by my department from the Tasmanian Government with reference to the railway mentioned by the honorable member. I make it clear that- the aluminium plant was established at Bell Bay for only one reason and that is to meet the defence needs of the Commonwealth. If it had not been for that over-riding consideration, I do not think that the Australian. Government would have embarked upon that industry. When the plant was established, the means of transport to> it were considered to be adequate, transport being chiefly water portage by barge and haulage by road. I do not” think that it can be said that it is necessary for defence purposes to build a railway between Bell Bay and Launceston, but obviously that can be determined only by the course that the work takes and the. ultimate degree of its development. We shall consider the matter from time totime, and, if defence needs make the construction of a railway line necessary, the Government will give its close attention tothe work. It is expected that the BellBay plant will be in operation by June,. 1952, if hydro-electric power can be made available by that time. The power will be supplied, of course, from the Tasmanian Government’s hydroelectricsystem.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen in yesterday’s Melbourne Sun NewsPictorial a report to the effect that men’s rayon-wool mixture suits will soon be marketed in Great Britain and that the material is so good that only experts can distinguish it from pure worsted? The report states that suits made from the new mixture will sell much more cheaply than suits made with materials that are now in use. The Minister stated last week, in answer to a question, that he would not recommend the fixing of a homeconsumption price for wool considerably below the overseas price as a stop towards a reduction of the cost of living in Australia. Will he now reconsider the proposal on the ground that manufacturers will be forced to switch from wool to cheaper substitute materials, thus threatening the stability of the wool industry, unless the price of wool is substantially reduced?
– I have seen the report that the honorable member has mentioned. As a wool-grower, I have been reading statements of that kind for at least the last 25 years. During that period, the chemists of the world have been trying to synthesize wool completely without success, although they have produced useful materials that can be integrated with wool in the course of fabrication. The development of synthetic materials has never resulted in any serious threat to the wool-growing industry. Nevertheless, government departments and the industry itself are not oblivions, of the potential danger to Australia’s great staple industry, and a constant watch is kept upon new developments by men who are most technically competent to assess the value of synthetic fibres. As the honorable member has indicated, I said last week that I would not recommend to the Government that it fix a home-consumption price for wool. Perhaps I may help the honorable member to understand why it would not be feasible to do so if I make a few explanatory comments. By common consent, public auction is by far the best means of marketing the Australian wool -clip. Under this system, buyers from all parts of the world come to Australia <to bid at open auction for our wool. It would not be possible to have a two-price system and at the same time maintain the method’ of selling by public auction. That is a sufficient reason why a twoprice system for wool, such as has been established for butter, wheat, fruit, sugar and most other primary commodities, would not be practicable.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been informed of the result of the ballot that has been conducted among wool-growers in New South Wales concerning the proposed wool levy? If so, what was the result of the ballot?
– I have not been informed of the result of the ballot which was conducted in New South Wales but during the lunch hour I received a telegram from the Australian Woolgrowers’ Council, the senior body of the Australian wool-growers’ organization, which has been consulting its constituent bodies in the several States on that matter. The State body in New South Wales held a referendum for the purpose of ascertaining the views of its members. I am glad to say that the council has informed me that, by a majority decision, it approves of a principle of a levy on wool for the purposes of establishing the reserve price marketing scheme.
– I desire to address a question to the Treasurer, and, by way of explanation, I point out that widowed dependent mothers of ex-servicemen receive a war pension of £3 a week, but their scope to earn any amount in excess of that sum -is strictly limited by a severe means test. Any amount that they may earn in excess of 6s. a week is deducted from their pension, and that limitation discourages them from contributing their energies to the national effort. Will the Treasurer refer this matter to the sub-committee of Cabinet which is considering war pensions, and use his influence to have the means test which is applicable to war widows extended to the widowed dependent mothers of ex-servicemen? The income of a war widow is not subject to a means test, and I think that the right honorable gentleman will agree that the widowed dependent mother of an exserviceman should be placed in the same category as a war widow in that respect.
– The matter which the honorable gentleman has raised will be referred to the sub-committee of Cabinet, and consideration will be given to it along the lines that he has suggested.
– I ask the Treasurer, in the absence of the Minister for the Interior, whether he will confer with the New South “Wales Minister for Transport with a view to ascertaining whether the national capital can be given a better railway service than is operating at the present time ? I ask that question because my journey by rail from Goulburn to Canberra, a distance of 60 miles, took one and a half hours longer than the time that was taken by the honorable member for Angas to travel from Adelaide to Canberra.
– I shall ask the appropriate Minister to consider the honorable member’s request.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Army a question that arises out of the Government’s decision to withdraw Australian forces from Japan. Will a preference in relation to early return be granted to those servicemen who were not fortunate enough to have their wives and children transported to Japan?
– The details of arrangements for the return of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force to Australia are now being examined by the Department of the Army. The honorable member’s suggestion will receive consideration.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Affairs been directed to a report from Washington in which it is suggested that the State Department is no longer anxious for an early peace treaty with Japan, having despaired of reconciling the military and political situations which are involved in it, and, alternatively, that the United States of America may enter into a unilateral peace treaty with Japan? Can the Minister assure the House that all possible steps have been taken to safeguard Australia’s vital interests in that matter ?
– I read in the press last week a report similar to that which the honorable member has mentioned, but I do not think that there is any danger of a unilateral peace treaty being made between the United States of America and Japan. On the contrary, I think that, as the result of the discussions that have taken place, we are closer to such a treaty than we were some time ago, both in fact and in point of time. We are in close contact with our representatives overseas, and the House may rest assured that the Government, so far as it is able, is safeguarding the interests of Australia in the matter.
– As the Minister for National Development has on numerous occasions since the House met made statements to the press about the Government’s blueprints for development and as these statements have been the only outward manifestation of the Government’s plans concerning development, I ask him whether his attention has been drawn to a report that newsprint is to be manufactured in Argentina from megass which is the crushed remains of sugar cane after the juices have been extracted? Has he any information regarding this new industry? Will he have immediate investigations made with a view to establishing it in this country, particularly as it would he of great value to northern Queensland and also to Australia as a means of saving dollar expenditure?
– I have not made a series of statements to the press as the honorable gentleman has alleged. In fact, I have been very restrained indeed in what I have said about the Government’s proposals with respect to future development. Since the Government assumed office the various sections of the Department of National Development and the Department of Works and Housing, both of which I administer, have been exceedingly hard at work dealing with a variety of problems affecting mining, the development of mineral resources, housing and many other problems. However, as I have informed the honorable member on at least two previous occasions in answer to questions precisely similar to that which he has just asked, the Government’s plans for implementing its developmental projects on a large scale will not be ready for at least two months.
– What about the establishment of the newsprint industry?
– What the honorable member has said about the manufacture of newsprint from megass has been wellknown for at least a generation, and I am surprised that it is only now, in 1950, that that fact has been brought to the attention of the honorable gentleman. That matter has been investigated in Australia and in many other countries. If the honorable gentleman has only now become aware of it, I am afraid that it would take too long to educate him on the subject.
– In view of the announcement made last week that the British Government has once again refused to reduce import duties on Australian wines to a reasonable level, I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government will consider making renewed and stronger representations to the Chancellor of the British Exchequer later in the year on the subject and whether, if necessary, it will consider taking some form of retaliatory action in accordance with the time-honoured principle of bargaining between governments. Maintenance by Great Britain of its present excessive duties on Australian wines is undermining the livelihood of thousands of producers and employees alike in one of our most progressive primary industries.
– I am sure that it would not be in our best interests in our relations with the United Kingdom to engage in retaliatory action of the kind that the honorable member has mentioned, and I am sure that the Government would not consider taking such action. The importance of obtaining more favorable entry of Australian wines into the United Kingdom is constantly in the mind of the Government and in my own mind. I assure the honorable member and the wine industry that we shall constantly keep in touch with the United Kingdom authorities on this issue. We shall not only constantly endeavour to influence the United Kingdom Government in the direction that the honorable member has indicated, but we shall also make formal representations at any moment when it is considered to be to our advantage, or appropriate to do so.
Mr. POLLARD. In view of the healthy state of the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate when it is likely that contributors to the charge imposed in respect of the No. 11 wheat pool may expect to receive a refund of their payments?
– No; I am not able to give any such indication. All I can say is that the matter is now under review.
– I address a question to the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the regular air service between Melbourne and Kerang and Swan Hill, in Victoria, has to be discontinued whenever there is a heavy fall of rain in those country centres, although flying conditions there may be good? Will he make investigations with a view to speeding up work on these aerodromes to enable aircraft to use them despite wet weather conditions so that the regularity of this, valuable air service will not be interrupted ?
– It is true that the aerodromes at Kerang and Swan Hill cannot be used by aircraft in the event of heavy rain. Maintenance work at both aerodromes is continuing as rapidly as possible, but maintenance alone will not make them suitable for all-weather use. That would necessitate the construction of all-weather strips at considerable expense. However, in spite of the expense involved such improvement is now being investigated and estimates of the cost are beingcompiled.
– In directing a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation, I state by way of explanation that yesterday one engine of a fully loaded passenger aeroplane failed about half way across Bass Strait, and it was necessary for the aircraft to continue all the way to Essendon aerodrome on its remaining engine. Fortunately, owing to the skill of the pilot, the incident ended quite happily, but future emergencies may have a less fortunate result. Is it a fact that the emergency landing ground at Yanakie, Wilson’s Promontory, is now unserviceable? If so, will the Minister give favorable consideration to having it placed in operation again, as it is the only landing ground on which aircraft proceeding between .Tasmania and the mainland can possibly land in an emergency?
– I know the emergency landing ground at Yanakie, which, I believe, speaking from memory, is a grass field. I shall certainly have the matter investigated and if the aerodrome is at present subject to periods of unserviceability in bad weather I shall see what can be done about it, in the interests of the safety of aircraft travelling between Tasmania and Melbourne.
– Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate when a suitable runway will be available for use at the West Beach aerodrome near Adelaide? Can the Minister give any details of the increased cost of constructing this airport that has occurred since the work on it commenced ? Is the work being completed according to schedule? If not, will the Minister endeavour to have the rate of progress accelerated?
– The honorable gentleman is referring to the proposed aerodrome at West Beach which, before very long, will be the principal airport for Adelaide, The work on that aerodrome is behindhand because of the very great volume of work that the Department of Works and Housing has to cope with all over Australia. The work is costing appreciably more than was originally estimated. The first runway will be available in about three months’ time and the second runway and, I believe, the operative part of the apron, will be available about six months thereafter. I cannot give the honorable gentleman any estimate of the additional cost of construction of the aerodrome or say when it will be completed. I understand that the additional cost involved is about £100,000. As I have stated, the work is costing more than was estimated, as, indeed, are, practically speaking, all our works, owing to the increased cost of materials and labour and the difficulty of obtaining materials on time. The work will be pressed on with as fast as is humanly possible.
– As a decision was made some time ago that naval police employed at dockyards and elsewhere should receive rates of pay in accordance with length of .service similar to those paid to peace officers, and as the decision has not yet been implemented, will the Minister for the Navy take action to ensure that such adjustments of pay are made and that the increased rates will be retrospective to the date upon which the peace officers received their last pay increase ?
– I shall be pleased to cause an examination to be made of the point raised by the honorable member which has not previously been brought to my notice. I shall give the matter early consideration.
– The matter is being investigated with a view to granting some relief to the local authorities concerned.
– As a new exchange has been installed in the Thornbury district, new telephone numbers have been issued to many subscribers and the numbers originally held by certain people have been re-issued to other subscribers. This has caused much inconvenience concerning which I have received many letters of complaint and I ask the Treasurer whether this difficulty can be overcome.
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General and ask him to supply an adequate reply.
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform the House what conditions apply to the right of entry of Japanese people who wish to visit Australia? Was any exception to these conditions made in respect of the visit of the Japanese Bishop Yashiro of Kobe to Australia? Is Bishop Yashiro visiting Australia solely as a dignitary of a Christian church or is his visit connected with a goodwill mission, conducted at the behest of the Japanese Government?
– The Government’s policy is one of exclusion of Japanese nationals and an exception has been made in the case of Bishop Yashiro. Bishop Yashiro is the Presiding Anglican Bishop in Japan and he was invited to speak at a church congress which was held at Christchurch, New Zealand, in May of this year. The New Zealand Government gave permission for him to visit the Dominion for two months. The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Mowll, at the instance of the Anglican bishops of the mainland of Australia and of Tasmania, requested that Bishop Yashiro be given permission to visit Australia on his return trip from New Zealand to Japan. An entry vise was issued which was valid for two months, the period for which the entry vise given by the New Zealand Government was valid. It has never been the practice to restrict permanent clergymen of established churches from visiting Australia, because, technically, they may have been enemy aliens. Permission was given last year for Pastor Niemoller, a German national, to visit Australia and deliver addresses. This policy conforms to the article in the Atlantic Pact which provides for freedom of religion. Bishop Yashiro visited the Lambeth Conference in England in 1948. With other bishops, he was entertained by the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace. I am informed that Empire troops in Japan, including members of the Australian force, raised the money to enable Bishop Yashiro to attend that conference in appreciation of services which he rendered to the Allied troops in Japan. Taking all these circumstances into account the Government had no hesitation in authorizing his admission to Australia.
– Has the attention of the Minister for External Territories been drawn to a publication called N.I.N.E. which circulates in Norfolk Island?
– What does N.I.N.E. stand for?
– I do not know. Perhaps the Minister can tell me. This issue contains a rather sensational statement, which I shall read to the House.
– Order ! Questions should not be founded on newspaper comments.
– This report affects me personally, Mr. Speaker.
– Is the honorable gentleman attempting to make a personal explanation ?
– No. But if you will hear me you will understand how concerned I am in regard to this matter. The report states - . . the Sydney Daily Telegraph dated the 5th May, 1950, states, “ The newsletter, Inside Canberra, says that the Government will shortly appoint a new administrator to Norfolk Island. Among the people being considered for the job - a prominent member of the Labour party. Inside Canberra suggests that the Labour man’s chances are bright - and his appointment would confound people who’ve accused the Menzies Government nf patronage in political appointments “.
This is the sensational suggestion -
In a letter to the editor, Mr. N. F. Davies, of Cutters Corn, states, “ I have been told that the ‘ Labour man ‘ mentioned is Mr. Calwell - late Minister for Immigration in the Chifley Government “.
If the Minister has not read this paragraph, would he do so and advise the editor of this paper that the honorable member for Melbourne would never accept an appointment from a.n antiLa’bour government and that an antiLabour government would never offer him an appointment? Is it a fact that the appointment of the Administrator of Norfolk Island is to be terminated shortly? If so, what compensation is that administrator to be given for the loss of his position in view of the fact that his appointment was for a period of five years from November, 1946? Is it part of a policy of vindictiveness as advocated by the Treasurer during the last general election campaign, when he stated that the Administrator of Norfolk Island would have his appointment terminated immediately an anti-Labour government came into office? If the appointment of Mr. Wilson is to be terminated, is it the Government’s intention to get rid of a gentleman who is a nuisance in the Cabinet by appointing the Minister for Supply in place of Mr. Wilson?
– It is not very easy to understand the rambling and almost incoherent question that has been put to me by the honorable member. However, with regard to one part of his question, this Government has now been in office for seven months and at no time has it shown any signs of vindictiveness. If it were vindictive there are many appointees of the previous Government whom it could have removed. On the contrary, it is the view of the Government that no appointments should be terminated on the grounds of vindictiveness. The only grounds that should be considered are the appointee’s incapacity to discharge his functions. I did not read the article to which the honorable member referred, but I read a similar statement which I think was contained in Inside Canberra. I sometimes find that some of these newspapers know more than I do about my department. Of course, that is in these days quite natural. If any appointment of any description were to be made, the honorable member for Melbourne may rest assured he would be the last person I should consider.
– Order! Before calling for further questions, I point out that the question which I have just allowed the honorable member for Melbourne to ask was based on a paragraph in a newspaper, which was based on a paragraph in another newspaper and, in my opinion, it is stretching the Standing Orders to breaking point to allow such a question. Further, the subject of the honorable gentleman’s question could easily have been discussed during the debate on the Supply Bill.
– I rise to order. Am I not in order, Mr. Speaker, in asking a question concerning a reflection which has been cast upon me by a newspaper article to the effect that I was open to a charge of bribery and corruption by virtue of acceptance of an appointment from an anti-Labour government? Surely, whatever the Standing Orders provide concerning questions based on newspaperarticles, a question which affects an honorable member’s character and conduct is more important than anything that might appear in the Standing Orders with the object of preventing Parliament from being turned into a forum for the discussion of newspaper articles.
– I regret that I am unable to see anything in the honorable member’s point, which I think is a very blunt one.
– Is the Treasurer aware that there is great disappointment among many poor people over the delay in the introduction of the national health scheme? Is he aware that a prominent doctor in Macquarie-street has put forward a proposal that would assist these people until the scheme is finalized and that this scheme, briefly, is as follows : (1) The improvement of nurses’ salaries and conditions; (2) the withdrawal of tariffs and the re-institution of subsidies on drugs; (3) the arrangement of visiting nurses and relieving housekeepers; and (4) the use of convalescent hospitals and restorative hospitals? Will the Minister give favorable consideration to these proposals until the health scheme is finalized ?
– I shall bring the matter before the Minister for Health.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport the following questions : 1. How many steamships are owned by the Australian Government shipping line? 2. What is the total value of these ships? 3. At what date was that valuation made ? 4. How many privately owned steamships are on charter to the Australian Government? 5. Are any of the ships on charter, on loan or lease to other steamship lines, and if so onwhat terms have the said loans or leases been effected ?
– I cannot give the honorable member a detailed answer to his questions because they involve a number of figures with which at present I am not familiar. However, I happen to know some of the answers through my association with the shipbuilding activities of my department. The Department of Fuel, Shipping and Transport operates about 28 vessels, some of whch are owned by the Commonwealth. From memory, andI speak subject to correction, about twelve are chartered from overseas sources. I am not able at present to give details to the honorable member of the value of ships. All that I know is that there are some 28 ships in those two categories. I shall bring the details of the honoable member’s questions to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, and have an answer supplied.
(No. 2) 1949-50.
Debate resumed from the 13th June (vide page 4178), on motion by Mr. Fadden -
– In speaking on this appropriation measure it is proper that I should occupy a few minutes on the subject of roads. During the war the resources of the States, particularly New South Wales, were diverted to the construction and maintenance of defence roads. I am indebted to a newspaper article writtenby Dr. Emery Bares for some of the information that I shall put before the House about what happened to the materials, resources and machinery of the States, particularly New South Wales, during the war and the post-war period. New South Wales transferred a great amount of its road-making plant to the service of the Commonwealth for the purpose of building defence roads. The article that I refer to was published in theDaily Telegraph, and in it is given a list of defence roads. This article indicates the loss to the States through their defence activities during a critical period in the history of Australia.The roads upon which the State’s plant was used include the Stuart Highway which extends for 954 miles from Alice Springs to Darwin. Many honorable members who were in the services remember that road, particularly the section from Alice Springs to Larrimah or the railhead on the Darwin line. That section was about 700 miles in length and it was all bitumen surfaced. A tremendous amount of machinery from the New South Wales Department of Main Roads was used on that road. The next road mentioned in the article is the Mount Isa-Tennant Creek road, which is 403 miles in length. During the early part of the war that was merely a dust road, but eventually it was made into a good bitumen road which cost £1,000,000. In Queensland an inland defence road, 875 miles long, from Ipswich to Charters Towers was built which cost £2,170,000. The Atherton tablelands road extends for 200 miles, and the East-West Forrest. Highway is 731 miles long and cost £2,500,000. That road is built beside a railway, which because of bad management and lack of coal, could not be used. Then there is Meekatharra-Marble Bar road 700 miles long, the RichmondSingleton road 50 miles long, and the 5,000 miles of Northern Territory stock routes and so on.
That enormous amount of work, including thousands of miles of new construction, was a tremendous drain on the materials, man-.power and technical officers of the States. Therefore, ordinary road construction during that period almost ceased. Road maintenance was confined to the merest skimming of road surfaces by graders. No straightening, reconstruction or improvements of roads took place. I refer to a remarkable statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) to the effect that there was too much straightening of roads at present. For a country man representing a country electorate like Macquarie, that is a. remarkable statement, .particularly from the Leader of the Opposition. The straightening of roads and so on is really the improvement and reconditioning of roads. It appears also that the right honorable member, even at present, has an influence on the policy of the roads departments because many shires and municipalities to-day which have been accustomed to putting in programmes for approval by the New South Wales Department of Main Roads have had their -programmes cut down by the amounts required for the straightening or reconstruction of roads. Patrick Plains Shire put in a programme estimated to cost £13,000 this year. That programme was reduced to £5,000 in order to cut out road improvement. That shire has men in continual employment and it must keep its plant in good condition and must keep supplies of blue metal and bitumen flowing steadily. Such materials are hard to get. I join with the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in criticizing that remark of the Leader of the Opposition to which I have referred. I deplore that statement and hope that the Government will not be at all influenced by it.
The history of road building can perhaps be best told in figures. A statement was made by the Postmaster-General at a meeting in Sydney recently that during Hie war the States were asked to forego some of their allocation for roads. New South Wales acquiesced in that request and lost its allocation from federal sources for a number of years. Afterwards it requested that that money should be repaid, and it was so repaid. In fact the whole of the money spent by the Australian Government on roads during 1944-45 was £2,000,000. During 1945-46 it was £3,300,000. During 1946-47 it was £4,800,000. In 1947-48 it was £6,300,000. In 1948-49 it was £7,600,000. This year it is estimated that it will be £9,000,000. The first point that I emphasize is that that amount represents only a small part of the total revenue from the petrol tax. It is not enough to enable the road-making authorities to plan ahead and make arrangements for the supply of blue metal and other materials and labour. The other point is that the money is not being used in a business-like and an efficient way. I doubt whether the £9,000,000 will ever find its way to the local-governing bodies because the end of the year is approaching and the authorities are only now preparing their estimates.
Funds were released very grudgingly by the present Leader of the Opposition when he was Treasurer. Pressure would be applied to him by local-governing bodies through members of Parliament and each year, almost at the last minute, he would reluctantly squeeze out another £1,000,000 from petrol tax revenue. The New South Wales share of each £1,000,000 would be £284,000. The Public Works Department of the State would then approach the shires and tell them that, if they submitted their programmes within a few weeks, they could obtain perhaps £2,000 each for works. Each shire council then had to make a quick decision. It might have to take its engineer away from some work upon which he was already engaged in order to prepare a plan or it might have to engage a consulting engineer for the purpose. That procedure led to wasteful expenditure upon road works. But that did not matter! The allocations had to be made quickly because the almighty Treasurer had decided suddenly to release another £1,000,000. The money was most inefficiently expended because of the short notice that was given to localgoverning bodies. When an efficient undertaking is producing blue metal for roads, the metal can be put on rail at ji cost of 5s. a ton. But, if a shire council wants to obtain a few cubic yards urgently because an allocation has to be made by a certain dale, it may have to pay 25s., 30s., it’.’ o’ven 35s. a ton. Thus, blue metal often costs shire councils seven times as much as it should cost. The same disability is suffered in engaging contractors mid employing men. If a council wants to have a job done quickly in these times, it must often pay twice the normal charges, or even more. The money properly belongs to the States and the localgoverning bodies that are charged with the responsibility of constructing the roads. Money should not be doled out bv the Commonwealth as it has been in the past. The allocations should be adequate, and the system of distribution should be so arranged that shire councils would know what they will get years in advance. That would enable them to make proper plans and provide for the economical expenditure of the funds.
The roads of Australia last year were in the worst condition known in recent history. Notwithstanding what the Leader of the Opposition has said, most of them were in a dangerous state.’ Money was scarce, and therefore man-power and materials, already difficult to obtain, became harder still to get.
– Have the shire councils expended all the money that was advanced to them?
– I am grateful for the honorable member’s interjection. I have here a copy of the Local Government Bulletin of New South W ales, which contains some statements that were made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), when he was Minister for Transport, and the State Minister for Public Works, who were jointly responsible for handling road funds. Both of them, declared that the shires and municipalities had not expended all the money that had been allotted to them. The suggestion implicit in such statements is dangerous, and I shall deal with it. It may effect our whole economy unless the false impression that it creates is destroyed. Obviously, if the Commonwealth hands out money inefficiently in amounts of £1,000,000 at a time, the shire councils cannot maintain continuous work so that there is an even flow of expenditure. If men leave employment on the roads, they cannot be induced to return at any time when an additional grant may happen to be made to the employing council. There is plenty of work available elsewhere, and they will not return to an undertaking that has been forced to put horn off. This means that shire councils have been unable to expend the handouts of cash that the former Treasurer reluctantly granted, without warning, a? the result of pressure that had been applied to him.
-There is not an atom of truth in that statement.
– I welcome the interjection because I hope that the honorable member for East Sydney will see my point before I have finished. Obviously he does not see it now. Unless the shire councils are provided with the necessary cash, they cannot maintain gangs of men in employment and purchase all the equipment that they need.
The funds of local governing bodies have been shrinking steadily, as I shall prove. The revenue of all local governing bodies in New South Wales in 1946 totalled about £10,500,000. That was about £500,000 less than the total revenue in 1936. The expenditure on roads and bridges in 1946 was about £5,000,000, which was £500,000 less than expenditure on similar works in 1936. As the honorable member for East Sydney has often pointed out, the £1 is not so valuable now as it was before the war. Leaving out of account the added efficiency of modern plant, local-governing bodies in New South Wales in 1946 achieved less than half of what they normally achieved in pre-war years because of the reduced value of their incomes. They were not able to do all the work that was needed and, when the then Treasurer decided periodically to release an additional £1,000,000, they were unable to engage sufficient road workers and purchase plant, bitumen and blue metal at short notice. Such requirements do not materialize out of thin air. Councils mus* have time in which to prepare for road works. Usually the belated Commonwealth allocations took months to percolate to the local governing bodies. Very often shire councils did not receive road funds until May, and therefore they still had unexpended money in their accounts when their returns were prepared at tho. 30th June. Local governing bodies need four times as much money to-day as they needed before the war. Labour costs have increased and, in addition, the councils need to have an assured income in order that they may guarantee stability of employment. Machines cost five or six times as much to-day as they cost before the war. An American truck tha: formerly cost about £500 costs about £2,500 to-day.
– Have rates been increased by similar percentages?
– Many shire councils have increased rates to the legal maximum, and some of them have even obtained permission to increase them beyond that level! That was a very sound course to follow, because the money would have gone to the Commonwealth if they had not taken it. In the hands of shire councils, the money is under the control of sound, hard-headed men who are on the spot and have intimate knowledge of the road works that must be undertaken. As I have said, most local governing bodies levy maximum rates, but the first charge against that income is administration, which, of course, is costly.
Country people were delighted to note that the present Prime Minister, in his policy speech during the last general election campaign, gave feeder roads pride of place in respect of allocations that would be made from the proposed national development fund.
– Has the Prime Minister attempted to honour that preelection promise?
– If he has not, when does he propose to do so?
– I remind the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) that the Loan Council and the National Works Council usually meet in Canberra in July of each year for the purpose of approving of programmes of works, and making the necessary financial provision for them. The money for the construction and maintenance of roads, in accordance with the present Prime Minister’s promise to the electors, will be allocated at the next meeting of those authorities.
The condition of many of our roads deteriorated badly during World War II., because comparatively little construction and maintenance was undertaken. Approximately 1,000,000 Australians served in the armed forces, and road-making machinery was compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth for the construction of defence roads, aerodromes and the like. Consequently, many roads throughout Australia became sadly neglected. But that is not the whole story. Disastrous floods during the last two or three years have wrought havoc with our roads, with the result that, at the present time, many country roads are in a most deplorable and dangerous condition. Last Saturday afternoon, I saw two young ex-servicemen in charge of a truck which had become bogged on a road. One of its axles had broken, and the two men had been at that spot for two days. They were waiting until the broken axle could be replaced, and the vehicle could be extricated from the bog. Primary producers have been unable to transport milk, eggs, fruit and other perishable commodities to the market because the floods have left them marooned on their properties. I have seen roads inundated with swirling floodwaters. Some roads, on which large coalhauling vehicles operate, have broken down completely. The pavement has gone, and the culverts have disappeared. Those important roads should be kept in an excellent state of repair, because the railways, which lack coal and rolling stock, are unable to carry all the freight.
– Did the honorable member say that the railways lack rolling stock ?
– Yes. Steel is not available for the manufacture of rolling stock.
– The honorable member knows better though he says that.
– Do not delude yourself, because you know-
– Order! I ask the honorable member to address the Chair.
– I shall do so. The honorable member represents the electorate in which the steel works at Port Kembla and the coal mines on the south coast of New South Wales are located, and, therefore, he should be the first to know that the railways of that State lack rolling stock. Such firms as Tullochs Proprietary Limited are unable to obtain supplies of steel for rolling stock. Steel is in short supply because coal is in short supply.
– The steel industry has No. 1 priority for coal.
– There is the No. 1 galah again.
– Order !
– I am sorry. The shortage of coal is responsible for the shortage of steel, and, in turn, the shortage of steel is responsible for the shortage of rolling-stock in New South Wales. Consequently, an unfair weight is imposed upon the railway system of that State. Our highways, trunk roads, main roads, feeder roads and secondary roads have been damaged by constant traffic and floods. What is the effect on the national economy? Bad roads cause damage to motor vehicles, and thereby increase the cost of maintenance. One company which is engaged in hauling coal by road, forwarded to me a list of the breakages in their trucks in a period of three weeks. The list filled four foolscap pages, and showed that each of the trucks had broken two main springs, and that many of them had broken differential housings and U-bolts. It is almost impossible to replace many of those damaged parts, and the cost of repairs must be added to freight charges, which, in turn, must be added to the cost of the goods to the consuming public. When heavy vehicles incur those repair bills while they are transporting coal, the price of coal is increased, and almost immediately the price of gas and electricity is increased. When such transport conditions arise in transporting ham and bacon, the prices of those commodities are increased. When eggs are involved, the price of eggs must be increased, because the Egg Board of New South Wales must base the retail price on the cost of production. The price of milk is partly governed by high transport costs which, in turn, are partly due to repair bills for ‘damage that has been caused to vehicles by the bad roads. The cost of transport is definitely reflected in the cost of living. Yet that is not all. If the roads are not in good order, how can State authorities and shire councils proceed with a sound maintenance scheme? How can the Commonwealth embark upon its great national and developmental works? A sound, efficient, cheap road transport system could be an important factor in reducing the cost of living.
The situation was bad at the end of last vear, when the people approved of the very attractive policy speeches which were made by ‘the Leader of the Liberal party, Mr. Menzies, and the Leader of the Australian Country party, Mr. Fadden, and which referred specifically to the need for improving our roads, but it is doubly worse to-day. I am in a position to express an authoritative opinion about it, because I am the Commonwealth representative on the Flood Relief Committee, and I have travelled considerable distances over many roads in New South Wales. I have noticed that culverts have been washed out to a depth of 20 feet, and have been replaced by temporary expedients. The surfaces of some roads, instead of being pavement or flat metal, have been converted into mountain torrents in which great boulders have appeared. The result of those conditions is that men, women and children on the land are unable to travel to townships, and to bring their produce to market. The milk supply for the city of Sydney has been reduced because of bad transport conditions. I believe that I am correct in saying that Commonwealth revenue for the current financial year is £88,000,000 in excess of the previous year and I consider that a reasonable allocation should be made to improve our roads.
Since the introduction of the system of uniform taxation, the Commonwealth holds the purse more firmly than it was able to do when the States also imposed income tax. If the Commonwealth were to act within its sphere of responsibility to provide money for roads, I believe that it should draw up a five or even a tenyear programme of works. Such a plan would be infinitely more satisfactory than the inefficient method of doling out £1,000,000 at the last minute, as it were, followed by another handout of £1,000,000 at a later date. The Commonwealth should ask the States to submit to it, before the meeting of the Loan Council and the National Works Council this year, a programme of their proposed road works. The States, in turn, should ask the local governing bodies for details of their plans, and forward them to the Commonwealth. The available supplies of metal, bitumen, machinery and man-power could then be examined and arrangements could be made with the States to expend the financial allocations to the best advantage. The money might then be made to go twice as far as it has gone in the past. We should seek to achieve two objectives. First, we should provide more man-power, money, materials and plant for road works for the purpose of making up the lag that occurred during the war years. Secondly, we should ensure that the Commonwealth carries out its responsibility to ensure that the money shall be expended wisely through the States and the local governing bodies. I find no fault with the policy of decentralizing expenditure. The engineers and other experts who live close to works are usually best qualified to give advice about proposed plans for expenditure, because they have had experience of gravels, slopes, and local climatic conditions in the districts in which they live. It is preferable to have, in this stage of our development, small local government areas, and I believe that it does no harm to ask those authorities to make a selection of the works that they desire to undertake, and submit them to their respective State governments with as much speed as possible. Unfortunately, valuable time has sometimes been lost in preparing those lists. Then the Premiers attend the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers which is usually held at Canberra in August when the allocations to meet the States’ requirements are made.
– From loan moneys or by way of grants?
– During the last few years the Government of New South Wales has been the only government that has not expended loan moneys on road works. On such works it has expended only what it has received from motor taxation and by way of grants that have been made to it by the Australian Government for such purposes. For that reason, New South Wales is lagging behind the other States in the provision and maintenance of first-class roads. I point out to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) that in respect of allocations made by the Australian Government from loan moneys the States submit specific programmes of works, whereas they do not submit any programmes of works at all in respect of grants that the Australian Government makes to them from Consolidated Revenue. Those grants are simply doled out to the States, and, usually, when it is a case of giving the States’ another £1,000,000, New South Wales automatically receives £280,000 of that sum. I am now asking that the States should be obliged to su)bmit programmes of works in respect of grants made to them from Consolidated Revenue as they now do in respect of allocations from loan moneys. If that were done we could be assured that greater value would be obtained for the money expended on all works that are undertaken by the States and, eventually, we should be enabled to restore the road system of the Commonwealth to what it was before the wa r.
– Where will the States obtain the men and equipment required to undertake such works?
– I have been president of a shire council, and I am aware of tb at problem. However, we are now bringing to Australia approximately 200,000 migrants annually, and they should increase our man-power resources. If those migrants are to be assimilated in cur economy they must be found employment in spheres that will contribute to the national welfare. One of our most urgent requirements is a first-class road system.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I protest against the Government’s decision to adjourn the House for the winter recess at the end of this week or next week. I often wonder why some supporters of the Government ever desired to become members of the Parliament. It seems that the main abject of those honorable members in seeking election to the Parliament was to obtain entrance to a social sphere which they could not otherwise have obtained. Many supporters of the Government have extensive business interests that require their personal attention and, consequently, prolonged sittings of the Parliament constitute an impediment to them in their business activities. Any person whose ‘business activities are so extensive as to prevent him from attending to the duties of a member of the Parliament should not seek to become one. Once a man is elected to the Parliament he should be prepared to devote the whole of his energies to his parliamentary duties and, if need be, he should be prepared to attend in this chamber for as long as it is found necessary to keep the Parliament in session.
The Parliament has plenty of work to do. Some of the matters now before us require our urgent attention. I should like to know what the Government intends to do with respect to the long list of items that appear on the notice-paper. For instance, what does it intend to do with respect to the situation in Malaya? “When does it intend to tell the country what it intends to do in that matter? It must intend to do something because two of the items listed on the notice-paper relate to that subject. In addition, many people living in rural districts want to know what the Government intends to- do to relieve the grave shortage of telephones in country areas. That is a grave problem but, evidentally, the Government does not intend to do anything about it. It would appear that supporters of the Government have reached a period in the year when, because of the coolness of the nights in Canberra, their social engagements elsewhere are of paramount importance and their social diaries are cluttered up with appointments which they desire to fulfil rather than attend to affairs of State or to matters on behalf of the people who sent them here and who provide their salaries. What does the Government intend to do in respect of the claims made by Indonesia to sovereignty of Dutch New Guinea and Papua? That is a serious development which calls for urgent attention by the Parliament.
– We should now be discussing it if the Leader of the Opposition had not taken up the debate on the bills now before the Chair.
– How will it be possible for the House to consider all these matters if the Government intends to conclude the’ current period of the session early next week ?
– Or Friday of this week.
– Yes ; the Prime Minister has made the fantastic suggestion that the sessional period should end next Friday. It will be utterly impossible for the House in that time to deal with all the matters that are listed on the notice-paper.
– That is because the honorable member wastes so much of our time.
– I am always in my place in this chamber and I am obliged to spend most of my time listening to the specious arguments that are advanced by supporters of the Government. No one can say that I have ever wasted the time of the House. Supporters of the Government have also claimed that the Senate is holding up legislation. The fact is that the Senate has not yet been called upon to consider many important items that are listed on its notice-paper. Why has the Government listed those items if it does not intend that the Parliament should discuss them? This House has made more progress in its consideration of legislation than the Senate only because the Government has resorted to the “ guillotine “ and the gag to stifle discussion whenever debates in this chamber have embarrassed it. The Government has done absolutely nothing to fulfil the many promises made by the leaders of the Liberal and Australian Country parties during the general election campaign. The Government has made worse the difficulties which it sought to remedy. It promised to overhaul the Public Service and to reduce the number of Commonwealth public servants so that the taxpayers would be relieved of the unnecessary burden of carrying a huge army of unnecessary public servants. So far from having reduced the number of public servants which stood at 190,000 in December, 1949, it has increased it to the staggering figure of 200,000. Just imagine, nearly a quarter of a million public servants now on the pay-roll of a government which was elected on a promise to reduce the number of persons in its employment! What is the Government’s answer to that problem ? Does it intend to give this House an opportunity to discuss it? Obviously it has no such intention. Indeed, it is afraid to provide an opportunity for honorable members to voice their opinion of its administration of the public service of this country. What has it done to honour its promise to introduce a bill to alter the Constitution to prevent the socialization of industry without first obtaining the approval of the people in a referendum? We have not yet seen any sign of such a measure. I venture to suggest that it has not given effect to that solemn promise because it realizes that if the people in a referendum authorized the socialization of any industry the time would not be far distant when a move would be made to socialize the private banks which would no longer be a’ble to rely on the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution to save them from their inevitable fate. The Government realizes only too well- that if such an alteration were made in the Constitution the bogy about Labour’s socialistic aims, which has formed such an important part of the Liberal party’s political propaganda since Sir George Reid first referred to the “ socialistic tiger “ in 1904 would no longer serve its purpose. If the Government introduced such a measure, at one sweep of the pen it would destroy one of the Liberal party’s most effective propaganda weapons during a general election campaign.
– Would the honorable member vote for a measure to effect such an alteration of the Constitution?
– Of course I should vote for it, because such an alteration is necessary to enable monopolies to be constitutionally nationalized by the Government. After making a solemn promise that such a bill would be introduced into the Parliament the Government has deliberately shelved the proposal. Obviously it intends to do nothing about it. The people who feared socialism and who were taken in by that false promise of the leader of the Government want to know why he has not gone on with the proposal. If the Constitution were altered in that way the people, by referendum, could approve of the socialization of any industry, irrespective of the limitations imposed by the existing provisions of the Constitution. Is the Government prepared to state why it has not given effect to that part of its policy ?
Another aspect of the policy speech made on behalf of the Government parties was the promise to institute a national health scheme. To what degree has that promise been implemented? For months the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has flitted around the countryside begging his masters, the British Medical Association, to allow the Government to introduce a hotch-potch health scheme. They know that every scheme proposed by the Government has a sting in its tail and they fear that the sting in the tail of any scheme formulated by the present Minister for Health is likely to- prove very potent. Unlike the present Government the Labour Government announced the details of its national health scheme openly and candidly. What does the Government .propose- to do about this matter?
– .Nothing !
– What does it propose to do about the building of hospitals? The Children’s Hospital, in the garden city of Adelaide, is hopelessly inadequate to deal with the number of patients who seek admission to it.
– It was hopelessly inadequate to meet requirements five or six years ago.
– Six years ago the war was still raging. Why should such a state of affairs be allowed to continue now that the war has been over for so many years ? That institution was inadequate to deal with the demands made on it when this country was engaged in a struggle for its very existence ; but there is no reason why that position should con- tinue now. How much longer are the mothers of poor children in Adelaide to be compelled to stand in queues waiting for the admission of their children to that institution?
– Although the Labour Government was in office for eight years it did nothing about the matter.
– Surely it is not necessary for me to have to remind the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) that during the greater part of the eight years in which the Labour Government was in office Australia was engaged in a struggle for its existence.
– Order! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– As tho result of the galvanic efforts of the Curtin and Chifley Governments this country was saved from annihilation during the war. I know of a woman who was recently compelled to wait for three hours at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital to gain admittance for her child who was suffering from pneumonia.
– That is a shocking indictment of the Labour Government.
– Labour governments are not in office in the Parliaments of the Commonwealth or of the State of South Australia. It is useless for the honorable member for Moore to endeavour to blame Labour government for what is occurring in ‘South Australia now.
– Non-Labour governments have been in office in South Australia for the last eighteen years.
– Af ter having waited for three hours this poor woman finally saw a doctor who told her that no bed was available and that she should take the child home again. “When she protested that the child was seriously ill she was told to place the child on the bed at the hospital and to return to her home at Prospect and bring back blankets to wrap around the child. Conditions of that kind should not exist in a country the Government of which does not know what to do with the money it has at hand.
Another matter to which I have continually referred since I have been a member of this Parliament,, and one in respect of which I have waited in vain for the support of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), my demand for the provision of hearing aids free of charge to age pensioners. Nothing at al! has been done about that matter. I shall read to the House an extract from a letter that I received from the Minister for Health in reply to a question that I had asked in the House about the need for the provision of hearing aids to age pensioners. The letter states -
Leading otologists agree that the application of hearing aids to aged people very often causes distress rather than relief. The : ca ion for this is that with gradually increasing deafness over the years, these persons with defective hearing have become unaccustomed to general background noises. When the aid is fitted these noises immediately become magnified, dwarfing the sounds of voices and music that it is desired to hear. It is known that only a small proportion of aged people will persevere with the aids sufficiently long enough for them to become accustomed without distress, to the background noises.
For this reason the Government does not propose to enter this field. At the present time, the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories are supplying and maintaining hearing aids free of charge to pre-school and school children who need them.
Mr. Drummond interjecting.
– It is complete rubbish for the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) to say that old people are not accustomed to hearing aids-
– The honorable member misunderstood me. What I said was that I quite agree that aged people using hearing aids can switch them off when they wish to do so, as I do when I do not want to listen to the honorable member.
– The honorable member for New England denies the statement by the Minister for Health. That honorable member has been using hearing aids for many years. He is one of many aged people in this chamber who has to rely upon a hearing aid in order to hear what other people are saying. He has now said that no embarrassment is caused by the use of hearing aids and that there is nothing to prevent people who use them from switching them off when anything that they do not want to hear is being said.
– Does the honorable member for Hindmarsh consider that hearing aids should be supplied by the State or the Federal authorities?
– I believe that they should be supplied by the Federal authorities and that in instances in which the State supplies them it should be relieved of that responsibility by the Commonwealth.
– “ Billy “ Hughes got hearing aids installed in this chamber.
– Order ! Honorable members must refer to other honorable members in the proper manner.
– If the Australian Government could provide the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) with hearing aids free of charge, why can it not similarly provide age pensioners with them? In fact, the position becomes worse the more one examines it. I am surprised that the honorable member for Sturt should be looking at me with a supercilious grin on his face instead of rising in his place to support me in my demand for some decent treatment for age pensioners.
I turn now to the subject of putting value back into tho £1, which is probably the most important problem that faces us to-day although it has been given no consideration by the Government. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) is smiling at the moment because I have mentioned it. He is probably smiling because he knows that what is supposed to be one of the means of putting value back into the £1 will not be permitted by his party to be used. I refer to the revaluation of the Australian £1 in relation to sterling which the Liberal party wishes to effect, and also the Liberal party’s certain knowledge that if it seeks to re-value the £1 you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and members of the Australian Country party will refuse to co-operate with the Government any longer.
– Does the honorable gentleman reckon that that would put value back into the £1?
– No, but the Liberal party does, and that is why the Government is hastening to its Waterloo. The Liberal party has reached a stage where it must shortly decide whether it will abandon its faith in the Australian Country party or whether it will abandon the people who helped to put it into office. I refer to the big importers and the other vested interests who have so much to gain from the revaluation of the £1. The Australian Country party knows perfectly well that revaluation of the £1 to parity with sterling would mean an immediate reduction of 25 per cent, in the income of every farmer in the Commonwealth, including the fruit-grower, the wool-grower and the dairy-farmer. It is well aware of the fact, as is the Liberal party. The important eventuality that I am awaiting with great interest is the disclosure of whether, when that situation develops thu Australian Country party will remain true to the people whom it claims to represent, or whether it will be prepared to place pomp and power before the interest? of those people so as to retain its position in the Government.
– Honorable members opposite should sort themselves out on the “ Commo “ bill. We can manage this particular matter.
– We have sorted ourselves out quite well on what the honorable gentleman has described as the “ Commo “ bill. We have made it quite clear that our policy is not to vote against the provisions of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill that seek to outlaw the Communist party, confiscate its property and prohibit its members from holding office in trade unions. But we are not prepared to allow the Government to take away from people who are not members of the Communist party the rights, privileges and civil liberties that, as British people, they have enjoyed for centuries. The Government’s intention to take away such rights was not indicated in the Prime Minister’s policy-speech before the last general election. Those liberties are the only things at stake in this matter.
– The Government does not want to abolish the Communist party.
– That is right. The Government parties do not want to abolish the Communist party hecause they are afraid of it, and they have tacked on to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill provisions that they know the country will not accept. No decent, rightthinking person would be prepared to sacrifice the civil liberties that British people have enjoyed for centuries, if such a sacrifice were necessary to dissolve the Communist party. The Labour party and the people of Australia as a whole are not prepared to follow the policy of killing the patient in order to cure the disease.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) had something to say about putting value back into the £1. He stated that the value of the £1 had dropped during the Chifley Government’s regime. That is true. It did begin to fall towards the end of the Chifley Government’s term of office, but not at the rapid rate that has since been experienced. It did not being to fall until after the Liberal party had persuaded the people at a referendum to reject the Chifley Government’s proposal that permanent power to administer prices control should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament.
– Yes it did. It was falling twelve months before that.
– No; the present rate of increase of prices did not take place until after the Australian Government handed prices control over to the States. Every Liberal State government told ihe people that if it had the power to control prices it could do the job. I can recall advertisements that appeared in newspapers in South Australia under the name and photograph of the Premier, Mr. Playford, which stated,
I’ll do the job if you give me the power “. The power to control prices has been given to the States, and we have found that the value of the £1 has continued to fall. The cost of living has continued to rise and nothing has been done to try to prevent that serious situation from becoming worse. What does the Government intend to do on behalf of age and invalid pensioners to correct this situation? How much longer does the Government think that age and invalid pensioners can exist on £2 2s. 6d. a week?
Mi-. Charles Russell. - That rate o1 pension was provided for in the Chifley Government’s ‘budget.
– The cost of living has increased enormously since the Chifley Government was defeated at the last general election. The basic wage has increased by 8s. a week since then, and therefore the age and invalid pensioners are entitled to an increase of 8s.. a week on that score alone.
– -Becauser the basic wage has increased by that amount. The proposition that the costofliving increase is reflected by the basic wage quarterly adjustments does not give a correct and full picture of the real increase of the cost of living, because only a relatively small number of the items that are consumed in the ordinary household are taken into account when the basic wage quarterly adjustments are determined. A large number of items is not taken into account. Tea, butter, flour, potatoes, onions and a few other ordinary commodities are taken into account, but although the Government has decontrolled many items it has retained controls on those which form part of the basic wage regimen, because unless it controls those items the basic wage will increase and the people who put the Government in office - the employees in big industries, the banks and other people who are interested in keeping wages at a minimum rate - will have to pay the piper. The Prime Minister promised, in his policy speech, that a system of incentive payments would be introduced. That has not been done and I hope it never will bo.
The attempt of the coal mine owners in New South Wales to have the coalmining award altered in such a way as to compel coal-miners to work on five consecutive days immediately preceding and five consecutive day9 immediately following any public holiday before they can claim payment for that holiday is a matter that will have very serious consequences unless something is done about it.- The coal mine owners claim that) payment for annual leave should be made only on the basis of one day’s paid annual leave for each fifteen consecutive days of employment, will also have serious results. This action by the coal owners’ association has been taken in order to provoke a stoppage in the coalfields during this winter. If the tribunal grants the application by the coal mine owners it is inevitable that a strike will occur in the coal-mining industries of Australia, because no worker, no matter how reactionary or puerile he may be, is prepared to take such a terribly backward step as the one which has been (proposed by the coal mine owners’ association. It would be a bad thing for every industrial worker in Australia if the coal.miners allowed any tribunal to impose upon them the conditions which the coal mine owners desire to have inserted’ in the award.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. DAVIS (Deakin) [4.18 J. - The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has spoken at some length and with vigour on the proposal that this House shall adjourn at the end of this week. He has protested with all the insincerity that has characterized his speeches in the last few weeks of this Parliament. It is obvious that the speech which the honorable member has made is a part of the deliberate endeavour which honorable members of the Opposition have made during the last few weeks to delay the legislation that has .been put forward by the Government. The honorable member for Hind marsh, by the speeches that he made earlier in this session, revealed his capacity and knowledge and his ability to place before this House an argument based on reason which would contribute to honorable members’ deliberations. In the last few weeks, however, his conduct has been indicative of the general attitude of the Opposition. He has meandered through a speech for half an hour, threequarters of an hour, or as long as the Standing Orders would permit him, with a series of generalizations that have meant nothing. That is a fair and just criticism, not only of the honorable member, but of honorable members of the Opposition generally.
The honorable member spoke of the grave shortage of telephones. In the words of the old song, the honorable member was almost “ dancing with tears in his eyes “. He was a victim of frustrated fury at the failure of this Government to overcome in six months a shortage that was caused by the government that he supported during the last eight years.
The honorable member stated’ that recommendations which had been made to the coal tribunal in New South “Wales would inevitably result in a coal strike. That statement is characteristic of the attitude of many honorable members of the Opposition who appear to uphold law and order in this House, but encourage elsewhere those forces which brought this country into its present condition. That is characteristic of the arguments that have been placed before this House on the alleged failure by the Government to put value back into the £1. It is significant that .honorable members of the Opposition use the words, “ put value back into the £1 “. It is admitted, by inference, that value was taken from the £1 prior to this Government being elected. Honorable members of the Opposition should be realistic and face this situation frankly. Based on a. figure of 1,000 for the period 1923-27 the retail price index (figure for 1938 was S86. By 1947 it had risen to 1,100, an increase of 24 per cent. In the two years, from 1947 to 1949, the figure rose to 1,394, an increase of 26 per cent. In those two years the spiral rose as fast as it had risen in the previous nine years. During the the Labour Government was in office, period for almost the whole of which the index figure rose by 57 per cent. The same tendency was noticeable in the wholesale price index figures. Again, taking a base figure of 1,000 for 1937, in 1938 the wholesale price index figure was 1,011 ; in 1947 it was 1,601, an increase of 58 per cent.; and in 1949 it was 2,043, an increase of 27 per cent. The increase that took place during the last two years of Labour administration was almost equivalent to the increase that took place during the nine years from 1938 to 1947. During the period from 1938 to 1949 the population of Australia increased by approximately 1,000,000 people - an increase of one in eight.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) said that agricultural producers had achieved a high volume of production and were receiving high prices and that the farmer gained more from the last Labour Government than from any previous Government. From 1938 to 1949, although the population of the metropolitan areas of Australia increased by about 1,000,000 people, the population of the rural areas decreased. During that period, the total acreage under crop decreased from 23,500,000 acres to 20,500,000 acres, milk production in- creased by only approximately 2 per cent., butter production fell by from 20 to 25 per cent, and the production of fresh meat was almost static. It is as true now as ever it was that coal is the basis of this country’s economy, but the record of coal production during the last eight years of Labour administration is not one of which a government can be proud. The quantity of coal produced in 1949 wa.* very little more than was produced in 1939. In the ten years during which the population increased by 1,000,000 and other economic activities were expanded, coa] production was relatively static.
The number of factory employees increased from 565,000 in 1939, to S48,000 in 1949, an amazing increase of 56 per cent. During the last ten years retail and wholesale prices have risen gradually, but during the last two of those years the rise has been relatively rapid and abrupt. The population of metropolitan areas has increased rapidly whereas that of rural areas has declined. Those facts indicate the existence of an economy that is false and unbalanced, a. state of affairs that is due either to planned government action or to governmental mismanagement. During 1949, 1,662,686 working days were lost owing to industrial disputes. When one takes all these facts into consideration one reaches some sort of basis on which to approach the matter of putting value back into the £1.
– Honorable members supporting the Government did not state those qualifications during the general election campaign.
– The honorable gentleman either conducted his campaign under peculiar circumstances in the far west, or was not aware of the general conditions under which the campaign was conducted in the east. In the east it was said from between 100 and 1,000 platforms that the job of putting value back into the £1 was not one that could be done in a few months.
– The problem was expressed in the Prime Minister’s policy speech as being a much simpler one than the honorable member now makes it.
– That may be so, but the Prime Minister Mr. Menzies) stated in his policy speech that the objective could not be accomplished in a day, nor in a few months. I do not think that any reasonable person would assume otherwise.
I shall now deal with the matter that has been mentioned in some detail by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). That is transport. In Australia, during the eventful years from 1939 to 1949, the total mileage of the railways was not increased. On the figures given by the honorable member for Macarthur road transport was neglected, particularly road transport designed to expedite the shipment of country produce to markets in Australia and overseas. As one of my last comparisons in this matter I refer the House to the values of imports and exports during certain years, because obviously they have influenced the inflationary tendency in this country. In 1938 our imports were valued at £116,000,000. in 1936-37 at £209,000,000, and in 1948-49 at £415,000,000. I direct the attention of honorable members to the enormous increase during the latter two years. The value of exports increased even more so, from £140,000,000 in 193S to £309,000,000 in 1946-47, and to £542,000,000 in 1948-49. Again a decided upward tendency is indicated during the last two vital years.
As that is only one side of the picture, let us look at the other side. I refer to the weekly average of notes issued. In 1945-46 the weekly average of the note issue was £193.000,000. During the period from October to December, 1949, the figure rose from £217,000,000 in October to £219,000,000 in November, and to £231,000,000 in December. That rapid increase was reflected in the inflationary spiral. Another indication of rapid inflation was the increase of bank clearances over the same period. From average weekly clearances of £79,000,000 in 1945-46 the increase was to £151,000,000 in October, 1949. to £163,000,000 in November, 1949, and to £173,000,000 in December, 1949. Therefore, in whatever way this problem is approached direct evidence is seen of a rapid and continuing inflationary pressine at the time when this Government rock office. I suggest that I have neither exaggerated nor been unfair in my presentation of that picture.
Another factor to .be taken into consideration, although it is of comparatively minor importance, is the cost of interstate shipping. Such costs have a marked effect on the Australian economy. Before the war a ship was at, spa for twice as long as it was in port. In the last two or three years that position “has been reversed and ships are now in port for almost twice as long as they are at sea. In all transport - rail, road and sea - an additional pressure has been exerted on the economy and has accelerated the inflationary spiral.
– In all the matters mentioned by the honorable member Communist-led unions are involved.
– As I have been reminded, Communist-led unions are involved in the key industries which have exerted inflationary pressure on the economy. That is the position that the Government faced when it took office in December last. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) reminded us that when this Government took over there was a “nice nest egg” of £120,000,000 which had been left in the National Welfare Fund by the Labour party. That is not inconsistent with our general theoretical approach to this matter, because it in fact represents merely n book entry which has no relation to reality and the needs of to-day, other than through a possible further inflation by forcing £120,000,000 worth of treasury-bills into the economy. There may be a more detailed and fuller explanation, but I suggest that that, in essence, is the position. Moreover, it is characteristic of the lack of sincerity in the suggestions of the Opposition. Seven months ago this Government assumed office, and at that time it faced an unbalanced economy; although I do nor lay all the blame foi’ that on the doorstep of the last government because, during its regime, this country fought a great war. After the war the inflationary spiral showed a marked tendency to rise. To say that that was due to the defeat of the previous government’s proposal foicontinuing price control, is to ignore the realities of the situation. The previous government did not withdraw subsidies in a fit of pique or anger, it did so with the deliberate knowledge that prices would rise, and in the hope that such a price rise would succeed in keeping the forces of liberalism out of office. In that, the previous government was wrong, but unquestionably the withdrawal of subsidies was an important factor in accelerating the inflationary spiral.
A further factor which cannot be ignored by those who profess to deal with these matters honestly is the depreciation of the Australian £1 by the Chifley Government. That action caused an immediate increase of the prices of all goods usually bought by those people to whom honorable members opposite so constantly refer in sorrowful terms. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, in the course of his meanderings, said that, during the last five months this Government had done nothing to counteract inflation. One immediate thing that could be done was done. That, was the lifting of petrol rationing. The absurd and mysterious rationing, considered so necessary by the .previous Government and by the socialist Government of England, was removed with very beneficial effects. Petrol, which is the life-blood of transport, flowed more freely in the arteries of the Australian transport system and one of the immediate effects was to reduce the prices of certain goods which had been kept high by the previous lack of road transport.
On the matter of communism the honorable member for Hindmarsh tied himself into a lover’s knot. The plain fact is that if industrial disputes are a factor that causes inflation, then Communist activities, as a factor that causes industrial disputes, having a direct influence upon inflation. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition. with unctuous cynicism, referred to the clothing industries in which, although strikes have not occurred, prices have risen. He said that such price rises had not been caused by communism or shortages of coal. I suggest that the right honorable gentleman knows better than any other honorable member that communism and coal shortages have a direct effect on such price rises. The shortage of raw materials and power, caused by the shortage of coal and by strikes, must be reflected in the prices of the finished articles.
Nobody has suggested that banning of the Communist party will solve all our industrial problems, because industrial disputes arise from a variety of causes. Communist-inspired disputes arise because of the policy of the agents of a foreign power. Such disputes have nothing to do with wages or conditions. If the irritant of communism can be removed, industrial disputes will be confined to their proper level; that is the level of genuine improvement of wages and conditions. The Opposition’s tactics have been to delay, delay and delay. It has used its regimented forces in another place to reinforce its policy in this House. Repeatedly the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) has said that the Government has not, within a reasonable time, put value back into the £1. It is quite clear that that statement is unreasonable in view of the circumstances that I have outlined in regard to the period during which the inflationary spiral gathered strength and impetus. That period was during the regime of the Labour Government, and the evils which occurred then cannot be remedied in six months. The delaying and irritating tactics of the Opposition have contributed to inflation, and are likely to cause more industrial unrest, which is one of the foundation stones of inflation. In the last analysis the job of putting value back into the £1 is, as the joint Liberal and Country parties stated during the general election campaign, a fairly lengthy task. In the attempt to combat inflation the Government is entitled to some support and should not have continued obstruction from the Opposition.
.- If the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) had considered at the outset that the Government’s campaign before the election on the subject of putting value hack into the £1 was grossly oversimplified, he might have saved himself the trouble of speaking for twenty minutes and making explanations with which all honorable members are quite familiar. We are well aware of the difficulties with which the Government is confronted, and we raise the subject only for the sake of twitting it about the seriousness of those difficulties as compared with the simplified view of the problem that it presented prior to the election. However, I do not intend to rake over the ashes of November, 1949.
I support that part of the speech by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in which he referred to the keen disappointment of the Opposition at the failure of the Government to introduce a measure to provide for an alteration of the Constitution so that a referendum would have to be conducted before any industry could be socialized. The fact that the Government has not introduced such legislation in the first part of the session has aroused keen misgiving and disappointment in the Labour party. Section 51 of the Constitution begins with this general statement, which covers all its placitums -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: -
That introduction is followed by the placitums. Members of the Labour party had always believed that the only two industries that the Australian Government had the power to nationalize were banking and insurance. Placitum (xiii.) refers to-
Banking, other than State banking; also State banking extending beyond the limits of the State, concerned, the incorporation of banks, and the issue of paper money.
Placitum (xiv.) refers to -
Insurance, other than State insurance; abo State insurance extending beyond the limits of the State concerned.
Since the attempt to nationalize banking was made, it has been found that the words “ subject to this Constitution “ at the head of section 51 render all the placitums subject to section 92 and to some other sections as well. Consequently, although section 51 appears to vest in the Australian Parliament plenary powers in relation to banking and insurance, it is now clear that power to nationalize banking or insurance does not reside in this Parliament. The Parliament has no power to nationalize anything. Therefore, before it can nationalize anything, it must conduct a referendum, irrespective of whether or not the Menzies Government introduces the legislation that it promised to enact. The whole constitutional problem would be clarified if it would introduce such a measure. In the present situation, if the Parliament attempted to nationalize an industry, the High Court might hold the legislation to be invalid on the ground that it infringed some sections of the Constitution. If the Constitution were amended to cover such grounds, the legislation might be ruled out again on further grounds that had not been anticipated. If the Government is sincere, it will attach two provisos to its promised legislation. First, it will provide that, if the people reject nationalization, the matter will end there. Secondly, it will provide that, if the people affirm nationalization, any section of the Constitution that stands in the way of nationalization shall be automatically amended. If the Government refuses to do so, it will show clearly that its intention is to enact legislation that will provide only for referendums that go one way. The Opposition believes that the whole problem of the Constitution would be greatly simplified if the Government would introduce a sincere measure along the lines that were foreshadowed during the election campaign. However, it seems to have dropped its promise like a hot brick because the possibility that I have suggested has apparently just occurred to it and it does not intend to include in the Constitution any provisions that would enable an industry to be nationalized if the people affirmed their belief in the necessity for nationalizing that industry. I am sure that supporters of the Government, and specially members of the Australian Country party, will readily appreciate that, in the event of another economic depression, a very strong segment of public opinion would favour the nationalization of banking. I notice that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Charles Anderson) shakes his head. He might consult the farmers of “Western Australia about the speeches that were made during the depression by his colleague, the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton). He might also ask the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) to resurrect the speeches that he made at Country party conferences during the years of the depression. Furthermore, he might consider the great strength that such movements as Douglas ‘Credit gathered in rural constituencies during the depression. If he does so, he will realize that the opinions of farmers on the subject of banking have been by no means so immutable as members of the Country party have seen fit, to pretend in recent debates that they were.
I address myself now to the subject of currency revaluation, with which the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) dealt in his speech. The Minister is not often loose in his thinking, but on this occasion, in speaking of the inflationary effect of the decision of the Chifley Government to maintain the relationship between sterling and the Australian fi, he fell short of his usual standard. Members of the present Government have a tendency to speak as though the Chifley Government devalued the Australian currency in relation to sterling. By far the greatest part of Australia’s trade is with the sterling bloc, which includes most of the countries of Western Europe, the Scandinavian countries and Great Britain itself. All that was involved in the Chifley Government’s decision, so far as trade with those countries was concerned, was that our currency retained its former status. There was no change. .The direct inflationary effect of devaluation related to dollar currencies, not to sterling currencies. The Chifley Government’s decision maintained unchanged the relationship of the Australian £1 to sterling. The Minister for External Affairs suggested that, although the present Government could not be criticized for not restoring parity or making some alteration in the direction of restoring parity, the Chifley Government should have seized the opportunity, when it was confronted with the fact that Great Britain was about to devalue its currency in relation to the dollar, to re-establish parity between the Australian fi and sterling. If the honorable gentleman’s speech did not mean that, it did not mean anything.
The relationship of. the Australian currency to sterling is very interesting. The discussion of the subject that has obviously been going on in Cabinet and also in this House has had one very important effect. Holders of sterling balances in London have been repatriating their money at, a very great rate. In fact, some tens of millions of pounds have been repatriated to Australia. The holders would much rather cash their sterling balances now, when they can get £A.125 for fstg.100, than take the risk of losing in terms of Australian currency by the altered exchange rate should we return to parity with sterling. There has been considerable discussion of this subject in banking circles, and, in journals that bankers produce for bankers, we see a refreshing frankness that is quite absent from the journals that bankers produce for the public. A delightful article was published about two months ago in a. bankers’ journal, a. copy of which may be found in the Parliamentary Library. It set out reasons why we should return to parity with sterling. The argument, which presumably would be endorsed by the Minister for External Affairs, was that, with restoration to parity, the 25 per cent, protection that is provided for many Australian manufacturers under the present exchange rate would be removed and many inefficient industries would he driven out of existence. The argument continued that this would establish a pool of unemployed, who could be transferred to more important industries. I do not know how the author adduced the idea that only luxury industries would suffer in the process, thus making labour free for transfer to vital industries, or how he dodged the fact that certain vital industries also would suffer. Therein was the only weakness in the argument that I could see. However, the writer made abundantly clear the fact that the removal from certain manufacturers in Australia of the protection afforded .by the 25 per cent, exchange rate would have the effect of driving the inefficient out of existence. It is very interesting to notice that chambers of manufacturers are doughty defenders of the present exchange rate, whereas chambers of commerce, many of whose members engage in the import trade, have their doubts about its virtues. The only point in common is that neither side avows its motive in adopting the attitude that it has adopted. Obviously, the importer would benefit from an alteration of the exchange rate, and, equally obviously, the manufacturer who wants protection would not benefit from the alteration. The result is that we have a complete division of interest in the commercial sections of our economy. That is quite apart from the farming community, which has a special attitude and interest.
The attitude of the primary producer, of course, is even more important than that of the commercial sections. The Chifley Government had several important factors in mind when it decided to maintain the relationship between the Australian currency and sterling that had existed since 1931. The first of these was the dislocation in metropolitan industry that would have resulted from the sudden removal of protection. The less efficient industries, which were most in need of protection, would have been driven out of existence. There would have been a sudden problem of readjustment. The change could not have been made by means of a series of 5 per cent, alterations. Had parity been reestablished, there would have been a sudden 25 per cent, alteration that would have had very sharp effects upon many sections of the Australian community. In the second place, the Government was confronted with a world situation in which the most urgent problem underlying all questions of political stability was that of providing food. The exchange rate, however unjustified it might have been in terms of the Australian economy, nevertheless constituted what might be described as an export bounty, or bonus, for the primary producer that represented an inducement to produce food. In a world in which the most urgent problem was that of producing food, any government that had taken the sudden step of reducing the incomes of the producers of food, thereby discouraging food production, would have incurred a very grave responsibility.
Another general feature of the world situation that the Chifley Government had to take into consideration was the position of Great Britain. The relationship between the Australian currency and sterling has the effect of cheapening British imports from Australia. Accepting the point of view that the recovery of the British economy was one of the long-term interests of Australia, as any government must have done, it considered that it was justified in maintaining an exchange rate that fostered British recovery. Honorable members opposite usually speak of the inflationary effect of maintaining that exchange rate, but they have not the intellectual honesty - I do not impute dishonesty to them in the accepted meaning of the word - to discuss how the exchange rate contributes to inflationary conditions. They dare not do so, because they would offend the whole of the interests that the Australian Country party represents. The truth is that the exchange rate represents a great augmentation of the incomes of primary producers, which are now at record levels, and that fact means increased buying by the man on the land in the Australian market. Because farmers have more money now than they ever had before, their competitive buying has the effect of thrusting internal price levels upwards.
That is why all Government supporters, when they discuss inflationary conditions, concentrate on wages. Yet wages have been moving upwards very slowly, because of delays in the proceedings of industrial tribunals and for other reasons. To state that wages are the major cause of the inflationary spiral is to ignore completely the vast increases of the incomes of wool-growers. Those increases have been in the vicinity of 450 per cent, over the last ten years, and nobody will contend that the wages of workers in the metropolitan area of a large city have increased by a similar percentage in the same period. Great increases in the incomes of the producers of such metals as lead and gold have also been factors in producing inflation. All those sections that I have named have had greater increases in their money incomes than have those who are working for wages. Therefore, Government supporters who attack the Chifley Government’s decision about the exchange rate should have the intellectual honesty, if they want their arguments to be treated seriously, to declare “ Had we been in office, we should have had equality with sterling, and we should have reduced the incomes of the fanners “. That argument is quite defensible if Government supporters wish to employ it, provided they are willing to advocate it in the hearing of their primary producer constitutents Let them say, “ Had we been in office, we should not have devalued the £1 “. They would be bound to admit that their decision would have decreased the incomes of primary producers, knocked the gold industry sideways, and dealt a sharp blow to the lead industry and the other metal industries. All the incomes that were contingent upon them would have been reduced accordingly. But what was the position of the Chifley Government when it decided to devalue the £1. It was confronted with the decision of the United Kingdom Government to devalue sterling in relation to the dollar, and I believe that, internationally from the standpoint of Australia’s continuing to assist Great Britain and stimulating food production, and nationally, from the standpoint of evading a sharp dislocation of our economy, the decision to maintain the same relation between the £1 and sterling and the whole sterling bloc, which also altered its currency, was the only sound one that the Chifley Government could -make at that time.
I venture to say that the Menzies Government, had it been in office then, and especially had it been influenced by the Australian Country party, would have made the same decision, but it would have done so with much less self-doubt than the late Cabinet showed, because the Australian Country party would have been “ sitting on its wheel “ to assist it to resolve those doubts very much more rapidly than the late Labour Cabinet did.
Therefore, devaluation relates directly to the incomes of all Australian exporters, the most important of whom are the woolgrowers. If Government supporters wish to attack the decision that was made by the Chifley Government, will they kindlycome out into the open and admit that they stand for the policy of reducing the incomes of primary producers ? Their position would be quite defensible. They may consider that primary producers’ incomes are higher than the recipients deserve. Frankly I do not know what kind of argument would be advanced in that respect. .But it is of no use talking in one breath about the interests of the man on the land and in the next breath about the decision of the Chifley Government to devalue the £1 contributing to the inflationary conditions.
The other matter in relation to devaluation that constitutes a problem is the effect of rumours that are causing people to repatriate their sterling holdings. The Government, if it does not intend to alter the exchange rate, should make a firm statement to that effect. The sum of approximately £480,000,000 that we have in London should be kept intact there in anticipation of the time when British industry can honour that I O TJ by underwriting it with British production. The day when the United Kingdom can supply us with British goods in return for that sterling balance is one to which we look forward. We trust that the British will do so. However, the effect of the speculation about our exchange rate is to cause holders of sterling balances in London to repatriate them, and that will ultimately be damaging to the Australian economy. I believe that the presence of those sterling balances in London is a good form of insurance against the day when the prices of some of our major export commodities may slump, and when the price of food may decline, because the world has taken steps towards solving its shortages of food and of basic commodities. Therefore, I consider that the Government, if it intends to continue what has been a traditional policy for 20 years, and one that will serve the interests of this exporting country, should make a clear statement of its intention to maintain the present exchange rate, and thereby stop those speculations that are having a damaging effect on our sterling reserves in London.
– What caused the United Kingdom to devalue sterling in relation to une dollar? Were economic circumstances responsible for that action?
– I suggest that economic circumstances were responsible for that action; but I point out to the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) that my present argument is not designed to pretend that, as a result of devaluation, the whole of the sterling bloc was not damaged in respect of its relation with the dollar area. The only point that I am arguing at the moment is that the Chifley Government had to face the fact that our trade with the sterling area was more important to us than was our trade with the dollar area. Consequently, by maintaining the same relation between the £1 and sterling that had always existed when the whole of the sterling bloc was devaluing its currency in relation to the dollar, it made the decision that was less damaging to the Australian economy.
– The principal subject that has been discussed in this debate is inflation, or, as Opposition members call it, putting value back into the £1. I deny the statement that was made by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) to the . effect that Government supporters avoid that subject.
– I did not say that Government supporters avoid discussing the general subject. What I said was that they avoid discussing the way in whir-h devaluation contributes to the inflationary conditions.
– Then I shall try to clarify that point for the benefit of the honorable gentleman. I suggest that the blame for any drift that has occurred in the finances of Australia, and of the British Empire generally can be laid definitely at the door of the Labour party in Australia and of the Labour party in the United Kingdom. Inflation is not a new economic experience. It has been practiced by governments since the beginning of history. However, it is a dishonest method that does not really hurt the workers and people with property but robs the people, particularly the aged, of their savings.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) referred yesterday to the improvement of the economy of the United Kingdom, and I am sure that all Government supporters are most thankful for any sign in that direction. Nevertheless, I suggest that it is of a rather temporary nature, because it is a result of the various controls that have been imposed under the British economic plan. We in this country are compelled to buy British goods simply because of the existence of currency controls and the like. Consequently, that temporary improvement of the economy of the United Kingdom is made manifest in many ways. Our financial position is directly attributable to the British plan, which was swallowed hook, line and sinker by the Leader of the Opposition when he was the Prime Minister and Treasurer. The right honorable gentleman also paid a tribute to the architect of that plan, Sir Stafford Cripps, and expressed the view that the work of that gentleman was of such value that a statue should be erected to his memory. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition went so far as to say that Sir Stafford Cripps had saved his country from economic disaster. I do not endorse that opinion. I believe that the Cripps’ plan has done more damage to the British Empire than has any other single factor. Sir Stafford Cripps is not a builder of empires. To my knowledge, he has stated on two occassions that he is in favour of the liquidation of the British Empire. Honorable members may be interested in the following report that was published in the Brisbane CourierMail on the 2nd November last : -
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, told a heckler at a meeting last night that he adhered to his 1035 Hull speech in which he stated that the policy of the Socialist party was the liquidation of the British Empire.
That may be the view of the Labour party in Great Britain, but it should not be the view of the Australian Labour party, because the British Empire is of paramount importance to this country. Let us consider some of the aspects of British economic planning that have been exposed, or exploded, during the last few months. The one that is dominant in our minds is petrol rationing. Two months after the Menzies Government had assumed office it abolished petrol rationing in Australia, and the United Kingdom Government, which had strongly urged the retention of petrol rationing throughout the Empire, followed our example a few week ? ago. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), as a spokesman for the Labour party during the last general election campaign, said that Australians could expect petrol rationing to be retained in this country for another two years. Of course, events speedily proved that the honorable gentleman was wrong.
Another example of the inefficiency of British post-war economic planning is provided by the ground nuts scheme in Africa. It was launched in 1946, yet by the end of 1949, it had produced only 2,150 tons of peanuts in return for an expenditure of £23,000,000. That plan obviously defied all the rules of economics. Peanuts can be grown in Queensland for approximately £80 a ton. The ground nuts scheme is an instance of the kind of planning to which the United Kingdom and the British Empire have been subjected at the direction of Sir Stafford Cripps. We are also aware of his participation in economic discussions with the United States of America last year. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) recalled in his speech yesterday that Sir Stafford Cripps, like .Saint Peter who denied his Master thrice, denied three times that sterling would be devalued in relation to the dollar. Yet almost immediately after the conclusion of those discussions, sterling was devalued in relation to the dollar.
The British Empire was not built and cannot be held together by such methods. ‘ The importance of the economic health of the United Kingdom to Australia is not generally realized. It is vital not only to the maintenance of the Empire but also to our wellbeing in Australia. That fact is demonstrated by the present state of our finances which has been brought about by Labour’s adherence to the socialist plan when the Opposition was in office.
– There is no unemployment under the socialist plan.
– Mr. Herbert Morrison admitted that without Marshall aid unemployment would have reached over 2,000,000.
When I referred to this subject in the course of the debate on foreign affairs, I established four points which I should now like to summarize. They are as follows: - First, the importance of the Empire to this country. Secondly, the devaluation of sterling which was a definite admission of failure on the part of the British socialist Government. Thirdly, the wastage of manpower as a result of controls that caused a shortage of man-power and reduced the productive effort, and, consequently, lowered the standard of living. Fourthly, Australia is in the backwash of the British sterling plan. As the socialists in England refuse to admit failure and are carrying on with their planning, it is up to this Government to do everything it can to improve the economy of Australia in particular and that of the Empire generally because the Empire is vital to our existence. The Australian people have thrown the socialists out of office, but we are still feeling the influence of the socialist administration through being tied to sterling. Because of that tie we have been compelled to follow that downward movement of devaluation, and I suggest that if the British people continue to carry on as they are doing to-day we shall have to devalue our currency still further. The Government’s dilemma - if, as members of the Opposition have claimed, it is in a dilemma - is due entirely to the conditions that were brought about by the previous Administration.
I shall refer briefly to the situation in Great Britain and shall indicate the best course of action that that country can follow in order, ultimately, to solve its great economic problems. The plan that was envisaged and worked out by Sir Stafford Cripps in particular and other planners in England has failed. Proof of its failure is provided in the devaluation of sterling. That plan having failed, two courses are open to the British people. First, they can reduce their standard of living; and I am afraid that that course has already been forced upon them. But that will not provide a real solution of Great Britain’s main problem, because a reduction of the standard of living of the British people below that of peoples in other countries will not be conducive to the continuance of British industrial and cultural leadership. As the head of the Empire, Great Britain must continue to fill that role. Unquestionably, Great Britain’s standard of living is being largely maintained by contributions that it is receiving from the United States of America and the Empire generally. Under one head or another the United States of America has been contributing to Great Britain loans which it is not expected will be repaid. Assistance has been given by way of Marshall Aid and in the form of straight-out gifts by the Dominions. Up to date, the value of the gifts that Australia has made to Great Britain is approximately £45,000,000. In addition, the value of food parcels that had been sent to the British people up to February of this year amounted to £S0,000,000. I am not suggesting that the practice of sending food parcels to Great Britain should be discontinued. Such assistance was a proper means of giving the British people breathing space, but it cannot be continued indefinitely. Sooner or later, the donors of such gifts must become tired of making them. In any event, that was not how the Empire was developed, and we shall not hold it together in that way.
I was shocked when I read the statements made by certain responsible individuals in Great Britain to the effect that the United States of America should continue to pay out largess in the form of exports of capital in order to maintain Great Britain’s economy. Those persons argued that that was, more or less, the only way to make the system work. They pointed out that in the past Great Britain itself had always exported capital and that the British economy had been strengthened by that means. To say the least, that is a complacent attitude to adopt. Great Britain exported capital to the undeveloped areas of the world, including its own dominions, which was regarded as an. investment by the British people whether or not the capital was to
Lie recovered, because markets were thu* assured for Great Britain’s huge industrial output. On the other hand it is not possible for the United States of America to follow a similar course to-day because that country could hardly be expected to sell much of its great industrial output to Great Britain in return for the export of American capital.
– Cameron. - What about a. plan under which the United States of America would export capital to Austin Iia?
– I believe that that would be a good plan, because Australia, is an undeveloped country. In the meantime, the British people are living in a false paradise in the hope that the socialist Government planners will bring the country through its present difficulties.
– The honorable member will admit that they are living In a paradise.
– It is a false paradise. However, conditions in Great Britain are not altogether bad. The problem that now confronts the British people is that of how and when they can pay for that aid, the object of which should have been merely to give them breathing space and an opportunity to correct the British economy and that of the Empire generally.
Migration is the second course that is open to the British people in solving their present problem. More definite steps should be taken to relieve the United Kingdom of some of its population. Of course there are many problems involved, but the British people must face up to all of them. If a greater proportion of Britain’s population were to migrate to the various dominions, I believe the Empire would assume a new greatness. I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell)’, who, when he was Minister for Immigration, was responsible for initiating the migration policy that is being continued by the present Australian Government. However, in the course of his speech yesterday he said that the graziers’ associations were opposed to immigra tion for various reasons. As a grazier, I believe that large-scale immigration offers the best solution of-the Empire’s economic problem. Indeed, that problem is as urgent as the problem of war. We should double our present intake of migrants from the Mother Country. It is no excuse to say that we cannot do so because of the lack of shipping or of housing, or because a sufficient number of people in this country will not nominate migrants. Those problems must be overcome, particularly when one of our main difficulties is lack of man-power. The transfer of capital is not enough. On a previous occasion I referred to the scheme that is being sponsored by the British Food Corporation at Peak Downs, in Queensland. That corporation was at fault when it provided only sufficient capital to finance the scheme under which American equipment and machinery manufactured in Australia as well as Australian labour are being used. For that reason the scheme is not producing the results that it was expected to produce. In that instance, the British Government, in addition to supplying the requisite capital, should have sent out the number of English farmers required and should have supplied the necessary machinery for that project. That would have been a proper and more intelligent course for it to follow. It behoves us to do everything possible to strengthen the heart of the Empire.
A question often asked is why British policy ha9 so profoundly affected Australia. The answer is to be found in the vexed subject of currency control. It is not generally understood by the great majority of our people that, as I said earlier, the British Government’s action in devaluing sterling was an admission of failure. The maintenance of sterling at the rate of 4.03 dollars to the fi was a burden which British industry was not able to carry and it was for that reason that sterling had to be devalued. Consequently, the degree of devaluation caused violent reactions, and provided further proof of the disastrous effect of controls upon the general economy of a country.
– Does the honorable member believe that the Australian fi should be revalued?
– I shall deal with that point later. Prior to the present arrangement, which was brought about largely as a result of the recent war, the value of currency was assessed by the banks of the various countries, on the basis of supply and demand. Currency was bought and sold as a commodity and, consequently, it found its natural level in the money markets of the world. Many countries have been obliged to. devalue their currencies. Before the recent war Australia was obliged to devalue its currency in relation to sterling in order to -meet the difficulties in which our primary industries found themselves. However, Great Britain had overvalued its currency. That fact accounts for our present shortage of dollars. The difficulty has been aggravated by the imposition of controls. It may not be advisable to revalue our currency in any hurried way. For that reason, the Government must be very careful in its approach to this problem. Currency controls were introduced in Great Britain shortly after the war because the government of the day thought that, given time, sterling would regain its former strength. Generally speaking, other nations, particularly the United States of America, have been very patient. Under the socialist government the position of sterling, far from improving, has gone from bad to worse. Since the war the population of England instead of decreasing has increased.
– Is not that a good thing ?
– It is a bad thing. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) had followed my argument he would have realized that I regard it as of the utmost importance that some of the population of England should be diverted to the undeveloped portions of the Empire. It is important that we should admit the failure of currency control and seek ways and means of remedying the position. To-day, sterling is a socialist managed currency.
– What was it previously ?
– It was based on gold reserves. Currency con trol alone is the greatest irritant in Empire relations and consequently we must be very careful in tackling the problem as it affects this country. In the days when the Empire was developed and expanded each country stood on its own feet economically, its. currency being managed by the banks and financial institutions, which paid for their mistakes, consequently efficiency was essential. To-day, the currency is being managed by theorists in economics and political opportunists who do not have to pay for their mistakes, and consequently efficiency is not particularly important to them. Currency control is likely to lead to friction and to weaken the bonds of Empire.
– The Empire bonds must then be very weak.
– With the present tie to sterling which is a socialist managed currency Australia has no control over its money market. This Government was left by the Chifley Government a legacy of financial difficulties which will be difficult to remedy. Judged by every test, our financial position is unsound. Evidence of its unsoundness is provided by the sterling balances in London, to which the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has referred, which are now of the order of £500,000,000. The Labour Government failed to use our London funds and by allowing them to increase it, established an impossible position. If any change is made in the relationship of the Australian £1 to sterling, a considerable loss will be involved in respect of our sterling balances. Furthermore, a very large amount of money has been poured into this country for speculative purposes in anticipation of an appreciation of the Australian £1. If the speculators gain - and they hope for considerable gains - the Commonwealth Bank will lose heavily. The present Government is tied hand and foot by the policy that was followed by the Chifley Government. An analysis of the balance sheet as at the 30th June last shows that the Commonwealth Bank would lose £78,000,000 if the exchange rate were appreciated to par. On the basis of the overseas balances that existed when the Labour Government went out of office it would lose approximately £100,000,000. We must utilize our London funds. The Government has already commenced to use them and sterling balances are now declining. It has already used some of our London funds to finance our purchases of sterling petrol. That policy will be continued.
It has been suggested that Australia should pay off its indebtedness overseas with the Commonwealth Bank’s overseas funds. What could we gain by doing so while the exchange rate remains at discount of 25 per cent.? We borrowed when the £1 was worth twenty shillings sterling. It is not sensible to pay ofl with its value fixed at fifteen shillings. I propose to cite the views of some eminent British authorities on this important subject. At the close of the financial year 1948-49 the chairman of the National and Provincial Bank said that Britain had established an economy which made the maintenance of the external values of its currency impossible.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I join with my colleagues on this side of the House who have protested about the proposal of the Government to close the Parliament for four months. That proposal is rather a strange one in the light of the fact that honorable members opposite have told us that this country is passing through a very critical stage - I believe that the expression used was that it is engaged in a “ cold “ war. If the situation is as critical as the Government has indicated it to be, why is the Government so eager to hasten the Parliament into recess for four months? It proposes to do so solely in order to avoid criticism. Surely it is not satisfied with its accomplishments since its assumption of office. During the present sittings of the Parliament it has accomplished nothing whatsoever. Almost every speaker on the Government side has claimed one great accomplishment on the part of the Government, namely, the abolition of petrol rationing. Surely that single accomplishment is not justification for its retention of office for three years. Many and varied problems face the Government and we are waiting for it to solve them, if it is able to do so.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has referred to the failure of the Government to implement its promise to introduce at an early date a bill to alter the Constitution to provide that no industry may be nationalized without the consent of the people at a referendum. No doubt when the Government first conceived the idea of such a measure it regarded the proposal as highly desirable. Evidently it has since had some second thoughts about it. Honorable members opposite foresee some danger in such a measure. They are not democrats. Many of them would undoubtedly do all they could to prevent, the nationalization of an industry even if 90 per cent, of the electors desired it. I do not suggest that it is easy to obtain the approval of ‘the Australian people of proposals submitted to them by way of referendum. History has shown that the great majority of the people have almost invariably rejected proposals that have been placed before them at a referendum. The nationalization of those industries that are controlled by monopolies would be of the greatest benefit to this country. Powers to legislate in respect of certain matters are at present divided between the Commonwealth and the States. Disagreements between the Commonwealth and States are referred to the High Court, which, in the past, has shown a tendency to reject any proposal that appears to savour of socialist policy. Consequently, if any proposal to socialize an industry was referred to the High Court it would be almost certainly rejected on the ground of unconstitutionality. In matters of that kind I have greater faith in the judgment of the people than in that of the High Court.
An alteration of the Constitution to provide that the people shall decide whether or not an industry shall be nationalized is preferable to the existing arrangement. The Government apparently does not trust the judgment of the people in matters of that kind. It fears that the people may not always succumb to anti-Labour propaganda and apparently it has dropped the proposal. As the honorable member for Fremantle and the honorable member for Hindmarsh have said, if such an alteration of the Constitution were made and the people at a referendum subsequently sanctioned the nationalization of a particular industry, their decision should stand, and no appeal to the High Court should be permitted under another provision of the Constitution. Regardless of any obstacles that exist in any provision of the Constitution, the decision of the people should be regarded as final and conclusive. If the people decided that an industry should be nationalized the Government should immediately give effect to that decision. During the financial and economic depression of the early ‘thirties it would not have been difficult to obtain the approval of the people to the nationalization of the private banks. Hundreds of thousands of Australians were then unemployed, bankruptcies and suicides were increasing at an alarming rate, and no doubt existed in the minds of the people that responsibility for the state of affairs that then existed largely rested on the private banking institutions. A royal commission that was appointed by an anti-Labour government found that the private banks were largelyresponsible for the depression and consequently for the miseries and degradation that followed in its wake. The great mass of public opinion in this country would undoubtedly then have approved of the nationalization of the private banks. So the Government has evidently decided to re-examine that proposal. I hope that the Parliament will have an opportunity of providing that the final voice shall rest with the people. I well recall that honorable members opposite demanded a referendum of the people on the Chifley Government’s proposal to nationalize the private banking institutions of this country. They argued then that the people should have the final voice in the matter. It should be made quite clear that if a referendum is held on nationalization, and the people decide that an industry shall be nationalized, that ought to be the final and conclusive decision on the matter.
A referendum of the people should also be taken before any government undertakings are disposed of to private interests so that the nation and not the political party in power would decide the matter. One of the many reasons for the Government’s proposal to adjourn the Parliament at the end of this week is that it does not want a discussion on one particular matter. It wishes a certain intention to become an accomplished fact while the Parliament is in recess, when no honorable member on this side of the House will be able to raise his voice in protest. I refer to a Government scheme to dispose of TransAustralia Airlines. Despite the answers given to questions in this House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who has tried to make out that the Government has given no consideration to the disposal of Trans-Australia Airlines-
– That is perfectly correct.
– Negotiations have proceeded. The Prime Minister may have referred to the fact that the Government does not intend to dispose of TransAustralia Airlines entirely to private interests, but it would not be true to say that there have been no negotiations between the Government and private interests with a view to the formation of a joint company, the control of which would be shared. Negotiations have taken place between the Government and Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited in regard to Trans-Australia Airlines being taken over by that company and being conducted as a joint enterprise, with the Government and Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited sharing control. That arrangement is being made because the Government is not prepared for political reasons, to come straight out and dispose of TransAustralia Airlines entirely to private interests. Instead of being frank about the matter, it intends to dispose of a half interest in this great national undertaking, which has proved such a great success since its inauguration. It will conclude this matter behind the hack? of the people. The negotiations will continue and the decision will be made while the Parliament is in recess. If the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) is sincere in his assertion that there is no truth in my statement let him make an unqualified declaration to this Parliament-
– I say now that to my knowledge there is no truth in the honorable member’s statement.
– The honorable gentleman should say without qualification that no deal will be concluded with any private interests to dispose of TransAustralia Airlines while this Parliament is in recess. That is the real test. I am seriously afraid . that by the time we return for the next sittings it may be too late to prevent this deal from going through.
– That is what the Labour party tried to do in relation to the nationalization of the private banks.
– The disclosure of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) may prevent the deal from going through.
– It may do so. I hope that my disclosure may retard the Government’s efforts to dispose of a great national undertaking.
There is another matter to which J shall direct the attention of the House One of the reasons why the Government wishes to adjourn the present sittings at the end of this week is that, by the time the recess is over, despite all the undertakings to the contrary that the Government parties have given to the people, they hope to have this country fully involved in military operations in south-east Asian countries. I can quite understand the claquers on the Government back benches laughing about that statement, because they would not know in any event what the Government proposes to do. These morons are here just to record their votes when the Government wants the House to approve decisions that it has made behind closed doors. Honorable members opposite should not imagine for one moment that they know what their own Government intends to do, because the Government would not tell them of its intentions. The senior members of the Government parties treat the rank and file of those parties with as much contempt as they treat the Parliament itself. I say now that there is a real danger of this country becoming involved, during the next few months, in military operations in the southeast Asian area. If I am wrong in believing so, let the Government give the House and the country an unqualified undertaking that we shall not be involved in South-East Asia any further than we are at the moment in respect of the sending of transport aircraft to Malaya, unless the Parliament is re-assembled and is given an opportunity of discussing the matter. If chp Government believes that there is no basis for my fear then it should have no hesitation in saying that before Aus1tralia is committed any further than it now is in South-East Asia, the Parliament will be called together, if the necessity arises, so that a full discussion may be held on the matter and the Parliament may make the decision. I believe that it is about time that the Government started to deal with some of the problems with which it was elected to deal.
Government supporters talk about the dangers of inflation. We have inflation with us now. What does the Government intend to do about it? So far it has merely introduced panic legislation and has made the bald statement that once the Communist party has been dissolved we shall have peace in industry, production will increase, prices will fall and everything in the garden will be lovely. The Government will not achieve peace in industry simply by the passing of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. As a matter of fact, I believe that it is quite evident from what has already happened outside in relation to that measure, that the Government will cause a great deal of industrial dissension in this country by proceeding with it. The Government itself does not believe that the bill is the real solution of the problem. It has introduced it merely in an attempt to distract public attention from its absolute ineptitude and its failure to deal with the problems that confront the people to-day.
Let us consider this vexed matter of inflation and peace in industry. T shall remind the House of a very provocative statement that was made only recently. I was amazed when I heard that because miners’ leaders wanted to consult their members about a decision of the Coal Industry Tribunal regarding an application, which I regard as unreasonable, that had been made by the coal-owners for a variation of the industrial conditions of coal-miners, the tribunal, Mr. Gallagher, threatened them and drew attention to the fact that on a previous occasion they had served a term of imprisonment. He said that on the next occasion they would suffer a much longer term of imprisonment in Long Bay penitentiary. I do not believe that that is the way to achieve peace in industry. Honorable members opposite say “ Hear, hear ! “ to that statement. That shows that what they aim to do is to destroy the industrial movement. Surely in a democratic community the members and officials of trade unions have the right to conifer on important matters that affect their interests.
Let us examine the claims of the thu coal-owners, which I have described as unreasonable. It is just as well that the people should understand what the coal owners have asked for. I believe that there are few industries in this country in which workers have to work on more than one day before and one day after a statutory holiday in order to receive payment for that holiday. But the coal-owners have asked for an award provision that before a coal-miner can qualify for payment for a prescribed holiday he must work on the five days preceding and the five days following the holiday. They also suggest that a coal-miner should be granted one clay’s annual leave for every fifteen days of continuous work during the year. The miners themselves are not asking to be granted annual leave for the time that they do not work, but I think that it is reasonable to suggest that they ought not to be denied annual leave in respect of the period that they do work. Their work is arduous and dangerous. In my opinion it is unreasonable to deny them annual leave because they have not worked for certain continuous periods. In any event, whatever the nature of the application that was made to the tribunal, Mr, Gallagher should not have made the comments that he did make on the statement of the miners’ leaders that they wished to confer with their members about the claim submitted by the owners. If public officials are to be allowed to threaten trade union leaders and are to be approved by members of this Parliament when they take such action, things are coming to a sorry pass. Honorable members will realize how much faith the tribunal had in the acceptability to the miners of the owners’ application, when I tell them that Mr. Gallagher told the miners’ leaders that if they consulted their members another coal strike would occur. Surely Mr. Gallagher and the members on the Government side of the House are not aiming to have another coal strike. The Government should make it quite clear that Mr. Gallagher’s job is that of Coal Industry Tribunal, and that it is not within his province to display any prejudice against either of the parties that appear before him.
I turn now to the matter of inflation, and its effect upon the various income groups in the community. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) have dealt efficiently with the subject of inflation and have directed attention to the fact that the first proposal submitted by honorable members opposite who say that production costs should be reduced amounts to, as is usual with anti-Labour representatives, a concentration on a reduction of that section of industrial costs that consists of the wages paid to the workers.
– I have heard honorable members in this Parliament, including the honorable member who has just interjected, voice their opposition to the introduction of the 40-hour week.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) says, “ Hear, hear ! “ He has advanced the same argument that the 40-hour week should not have been introduced when it was.
– I rise to order! The statement by the honorable member for East Sydney that I opposed the introduction of the 40-hour week is not true, and I ask for a withdrawal of it.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will withdraw the statement to which the honorable member for Deakin has taken exception.
– I withdraw the statement in deference to you, Mr. Speaker. I merely state that I believe that I have heard, during debates in this Parliament, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) and the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) arguing that the 40-hour week had been introduced prematurely.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the adjournment I directed attention to the fact that whenever it is suggested that costs of production in industry should be reduced anti-Labour parties think only of achieving that objective by reducing the wages paid to workers. I pointed out also that Liberal and Australian Country party members had repeatedly said that, in their opinion, the 40-hour week was introduced prematurely. It is strange that honorable members on the Government side of the House should make that statement at a time when industries are making record profits. Industry is flourishing to such an extent that since this Government took office just on £2,000,000 has been issued to shareholders in the form of bonus shares. What has happened to the scheme of profit sharing that the Government made so much of during its election campaign? Honorable members have asked the Prime Minister on a number of -occasions to give them details of this scheme. Honorable members of the Opposition have asked how the profits are to be divided, but the right honorable gentleman, as has been his practice of late, has escaped giving a direct reply by saying that it was a matter of policy. Surely, after the Government has been in office for six months, honorable members are entitled to know what it proposes to do in regard to this suggested scheme. It is not the investors but the workers who produce wealth. Much talk has been heard about workers being partners in industry. If they are partners they should be treated identically with employers. Preferential treatment should not be given to one partner to thedetriment of the other. If the employees must appeal to a system, of arbitration and produce evidence to support an-“ claim for increased wages why should not the other partner in industry, the employer or investor, if he believes he is entitled to a greater dividend, have to go to some tribunal and support his claim with evidence? Unless the workers receive better treatment than they have been receiving, industrial unrest and disturbances will continue, and if anti-Labour governments think that by the introduction of repressive legislation and a general process of intimidation and oppression they will be able to prevent the workers from striking for better conditions they will find that they are mistaken. The workers of this country, as of every other country in the world, are becoming conscious of the fact that they are being exploited and robbed bv certain sections of the employers, and if there is any evidence that they are being treated in a fair and reasonable manner they would like to see it.
With regard to the subject of social services, I suggest that no honorable member would claim that the present rate of social services payments was an adequate one or that the payments were computed on any reasonable basis. The age, invalid, widows’ and soldiers’ pensions and the unemployment and sickness benefits are all too little to provide the recipients with anything more than a mere existence. Government supporters have alleged that legislation is being delayed in another place, but the Government has not introduced any legislation to grant improvements of social services benefits although it has the money with which it could do so. When the Chifley Government left office the Treasury was in a flourishing condition. Millions of pounds that had been collected from the people of this country were then in the National Welfare Fund It has been within the Government’s power to grant social services concessions and there would have been no delay in this House or in another place in passing any legislation designed for this purpose. But what does the Government propose to do? It proposes at least for some months more, to pay a mere £2 2s. 6d. a week to these unfortunate people despite the rapidly increasing cost of living. Work that out on the basis of 21 meals a week ! Surely it is not argued that a person who is unfortunate enough, after a lifetime of service to his country, to require assistance, should receive less than three meals a day. This pension does not provide more than 2s. a meal without making any allowance for accommodation or clothing, or such amenities as tobacco. These people have been subjected to miserable treatment by the Government, which cannot claim that it has not enough money to treat them better, because the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) has a grandiose plan for arresting the march of communism by comwitting this country to the expenditure of. some millions of pounds for the alleviation of distress in south-east Asian countries. I do not oppose the idea of assisting the people of South-East Asia to improve their standards of living, but the Government cannot claim that it has not the means to assist its own people when it contemplates the implementation of a scheme of this type. There are people in this country who are living under conditions that are a disgrace to a democracy. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Charles Russell), who probably lives in some sort of mansion, urges the Government to accelerate its immigration scheme. He claims that the Government should bring as many people as it can into the country and that immigration should not be retarded because there is a shortage of housing. It is all very well to talk in that strain if you are not one of the unfortunates who have no proper accommodation. In some industrial areas Australian families are sleeping on floors and there are dwellings with no bathrooms, and no back-yards in which the children can play. Many children have to sleep in the same room as parents who are suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis and other diseases. It is about time members of the Government who live in very comfortable circumstances did something about these conditions.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has- spoken disparagingly of the Labour Government’s eight years of office, but, according to hi? own statement in a. journal known as The
People, he spent most of that eight years, in writing love letters which he did not, post, so he could not know very much about what the Government or the Parliament was doing. Because of the great powers exercised by people representing wealthy financial institutions outside the Parliament a Labour majority in this House has been prevented from doing many of the things which it considered to be necessary in the interests of the people. If the Labour party had been given the opportunity of continuing in office it would eventually have carried out the great humanitarian programme which it espouses. The Minister omitted to state that for four of the eight years during which Labour held office the country was engaged in a life-and-death struggle. Only for half its period of office was the Labour Government in control of the country during what might be regarded as a peace-time period.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not wish to make the kind of marathon speech that has just been made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I should not be able to’ speak as many words as he has spoken, but I am willing to compete with him in the use of the true expressions of thought that should be used in this House. Looking towards this side of the House, the honorable member for East Sydney said, “What are you doing for your country?” The expression used on this side of the House is, ‘ What are we doing for our country ? “ There should be no difference of opinion in this House as to whose country it is. Were I to follow the honorable member’s example, I should say little of a constructive nature. I should spend my time in trying to find fault with the previous Government and should not leave the country any better off for what I had said.
Because this Government seeks Supply for four months, the honorable member, through either innocence or lack of judgment, takes it for granted that the Government is going into recess for four months. Such a suggestion is absurd. The honorable member openly advocates the nationalization of major industries. He then tries to take thi.” Government to task because it has not introduced legislation to arrest the nationalization of industry and calls upon it to say why it has not done so. The honorable member is a very astute and bright member. He is bright in more ways than one. There has been a great deal of kite-flying in what he has said to-night. He has indulged in kite-flying as far as Trans-Australian Airlines is concerned and as far as the Malayan situation is concerned. Honorable members who support the Government and who are fully aware of its policy will not permit the seeds of dissension to he sown in their ranks by a gentleman who, I believe, is capable of sowing the seeds of dissension in the ranks of any party on which he has captious eyes.
If I were to continue in that strain I should be coming down to the standard of one who, I think, is not using the short time at his disposal to proper advantage. However, I wish to draw honorable members’ attention to matters that have been’ discussed in this House to-night. Most speakers on the other side of the House have stated that inflation is something that can be laid at the door of those who now sit on the treasury bench. Inflation is a very sturdy child at the present moment. It is not just six months old. It has a good few years to its credit. The Government seeks to eliminate inflation because of its devastating effect on all sections of the community but it can do so only with the co-operation of all parties. Honorable members on this side of the House do not want to see the man who is not receiving much more than the basic wage hurt any further by it. Inflation has not been born overnight but is a child that was fostered by the previous Government. Its growth was encouraged first by the limitation of prices control when it was thrown back into the lap of the States, which were in no position to take the responsibility of its administration. Another cause of inflation was the withdrawal of subsidies and the depreciation of the pound. To those considerations must be added the fact that for a number of years prior to this Government assuming office no encourage ment was given to men to work harder and produce more.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) mentioned that the Government parties, when putting their policy to the electors before the last general election, advocated incentive payments and profit-sharing. Government supporters did advocate at that time, and they still advocate, such schemes as a major instrument in the work of re-establishing the economy of Australia. Under such incentive schemes much is to be gained by workmen, particularly those who receive the basic wage or a little more than it. When the time is opportune this Government will implement that part of its policy, and will bring the matter before the House. It is to be hoped that profit-sharing and incentive payment systems will ultimately find their way on to the statute-book of this country. No encouragement has been given to people to work harder and produce more. Also, when strikes were prevalent the previous Government treated them too lightly. The production of coal was not regarded as being of major importance to the industrial progress of the country. The slow turnround of ships in port is to our discredit, and has greatly contributed to inflation, which has steadily increased during the last four or five years.
One proposal for combating inflation adopted by this Government is the proposal to ban the Communist party. That is by no means the end of its attack on inflation, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. The Government seeks to avoid a repetition of the strikes that occurred during the regime of the previous Government, to increase production and to help the average man to get a reasonably good living. It also seeks to put value back into the fi.
It has been said by many honorable members opposite that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated at the last general election that a part of his policy was to put value back into the fi. So that there will not be further repetition of that remark by the Opposition, I shall read what was then aid bby tho right honorable gentleman.
He said -
The greatest task, therefore, is to get value back into the £1, that is, to get prices down. That is the only effective way of increasing real wages and salaries and, indeed, all monetary payments. High prices are not a cause; they are ;i result of an abundance of spending money and an insufficient supply of thing? to buy.
An insufficient supply of things to buy is the main characteristic of the present situation. Another factor causing inflation is the lack of continuity in production. If production is to be increased, then work in all sections of industry must flow more smoothly. We believe that when the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 becomes law, production will become much smoother. We earnestly seek the co-operation of all honorable members of this Parliament in our plan to increase production. If they are genuinely interested in putting value back into the £1, they will co-operate with us. It was said to-day that the Government had done very little as far as pensions are concerned. That is altogether wrong. It is ridiculous that a government which has been in power for only six months should be taken to task when the previous Government, although in office until December, 1949, did not alter pension rates after 1948. During its brief term of office the Government has recommended endowment for the first child; it has set up a committee to investigate the claim that sustenance payments shall be made to ex-prisoners of war; it has arranged transport for double amputees, and has shown a very active interest in social services generally. This Government does not believe in maintaining the present unsatisfactory state as far as social services are concerned, and it is giving proper recognition to the pioneers of the country and to those in indigent circumstances. This Government and all other governments have a deep responsibility to the people of this country. The best media through which to manifest that interest and responsibility are local government bodies. As the Government holds the purse strings of the Commonwealth, it should be more generous in its attitude towards those who work voluntarily for muni cipalities, towns, cities, shires and boroughs. It has been said that the moneys held by certain boroughs and municipalities cannot be expended because those bodies have neither the manpower nor the machinery to carry out public works within their areas. But I point out that the source of revenue of local government authorities is restricted. Their opportunities for raising loan money also are restricted. Moreover, their administration costs have risen out of all proportion to their costs of a few years ago. The cost of maintenance of works is more than double compared with ten years ago, and very few municipalities throughout Australia are capable of carrying out new works except through the use of loan moneys. Of course all honorable members are aware that labour cannot be obtained easily at the present time. In many cases machinery can take the place of men, but machinery is nearly as hard to get as is labour. I suggest that the Government should give consideration, perhaps through the Ministry of Development, to the constitution of regions throughout the Commonwealth and the establishment in them of machinery pools from which adjoining local-governing authorities should have the right to draw for maintenance work and new works. The funds for the purchase of machinery for these pools should be found by the Ministry of Development, or it should be a straight out grant to the States by the Commonwealth. The principle upon which the Government is founded is the principle of the representation of the individual. The individual is represented in a very fine manner by the holders of honorary office in our shire and municipal councils. Every encouragement should be given to those who render service to the community through the ordinary shire and municipal councils. If opportunity were to occur more often for one to speak on any matter at all, then I am afraid that time and time again I should advocate help being given to small local government authorities. The possibility of such organizations getting finance from the State governments is infinitesimal. Considering the way in which this Government is able to ladle out some of its huge revenue for departmental works, it should he able to give greater recognition to local government bodies.
.- From all the discussions that have taken place, including casual references to putting value back into the £1, one fact emerges before all others. That is that whatever is to be done about the grave problem of inflation will have to be done by government intervention in the economy of the country. Every honorable member on the Government side who supports government intervention for the purpose of preventing further inflation, reveals the naked dishonesty of the policies preached by his party before the 10th December last. How often prior to the 10th December did we hear talk, particularly by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who is more guilty than anybody else, about leaving the primary producer alone. It was loudly stated that industry should be freed from the stranglehold of bureaucracy, and that the producer should be left alone and all problems would be solved. AH honorable members opposite espoused the free enterprise and noninterference policy. The Treasurer devoted the major part of one of his speeches to the theory of free enterprise as it was supported by the Australian Country party, yet not one member on the Government side has produced any solution of our economic troubles which would not involve grave government interference with our economy. All the talk about the Labour party’s aim to socialize and sovietize the country’s economy, and all the talk about the Government being the champion of free enterprise and the protector of industry from government interference, is now revealed to the people as hollow hypocrisy and obviously dishonest policy. According to the statements that have recently been made to the House, honorable members opposite are now strong believers in government interference. If they so believe then they should be honest when they go to the people on political platforms. They should tell the people that they believe in government interference. Why do they preach on the hustings the freedom of private enterprise and of the farmer and the primary producer, and then come to this House and openly say that if anything is to be done to cure the evils with which our economy is faced it must be done by government intervention ?
– But not by government control.
– If the honorable member who interjected supports revaluation, can he say who is going to revalue the £1 except the Government? That must be done by government control and decision. If he does not support revaluation then he must admit that the present valuation of the £1 is supported and retained by government action and control. Perhaps honorable members opposite intend to reduce the tariff so that the prices to the consumers of some of our basic raw materials will be lowered ; or they may wish to use the sterling balance in London for the purchase of raw materials. Those two things must be done by government interference and control. Every method of checking inflation that might be suggested would require government action in some sphere.
Supporters of the Government would be much more honest, both to themselves and to their constituents, if they stopped talking about the Labour party’s policy of government interference, socialization and all the rest of it because, if their pledge to remedy the economic situation is to be honoured,” government action is inevitable. For instance, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who has just entered the chamber, is a strong advocate of free enterprise, yet he demands government interference for the purpose of establishing wheat pools and paying subsidies. This Government and its followers now accept the fact, which has always been acknowledged by the Labour party, that the National Government has the responsibility of controlling the economy and protecting the interests of the people as a whole. If the advancement of any particular section of the community happens to . conflict with the interests of the people as a whole, the Government has the responsibility of checking the activities of that group for the good of the community. These hypocrites opposite who talk about the Opposition-
– Order ! The term “ hypocrites “ is completely unparliamentary. The honorable member will withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. These people who advocate one policy on the public platforms, but practise another policy when they are in office, leave themselves open to the charge that they follow certain practices which it would be unparliamentary for me to describe. For the sake of the people and the national economy, I regret that they will not acknowledge the fact that government action must be taken in order to correct inflation and other dangerous economic trends. I suppose that their reluctance arises from the fact that any action that they might take must have an adverse affect upon some big vested interests. Whether they revalue the £1 or devalue the £1, whether they raise tariffs or lower tariffs, and whether or not they reinstitute capital issues control or prices control, there will be an immediate unfavorable reaction from some of the vested interests.
The Government has dilly-dallied for the last seven months. It has fiddled while the “ Fadden flimsies “ have deteriorated because it has not had the courage to face the wrath of any of the powerful interests that would be offended if it took positive action to counteract the effects of the inflationary spiral. That is why costs are increasing disproportionately in Australia while costs in every other country are decreasing. According to the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, the increase of the cost of living during the first quarter of this Government’s regime was greater than any increase recorded over a comparable period during the last three or four years.
– That is the effect of the former Labour Government’s policy.
– What the previous Government did does not matter. The fact remains that the Labour party made no promises such as were made to the people by the present Government parties. It merely pledged itself to do everything within its power, if re-elected, to reestablish economic stability. The members of the present Government parties declared definitely and specifically, “ Return us and we will stop the inflation. We will put shillings back into the £1 “. If we are to believe the Prime Minister (Mr. Menizes) and those of his supporters who have discussed the cost of living in this House recently, that promise was made to the people before any proper examination of the economic situation had been made.
– More shillings are needed to make up the £1 now than were needed before.
– Yes, and the Government cannot escape from that fact. Having made wild promises, it now says, “ But this is a very difficult matter. It has all sorts of ramifications. We ha ve to examine this position and that position, and we must be careful not to bolster one portion of the economy to the detriment of some other portion.” Apparently members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party made no examination of the facts before they made their promises to the electors. Either those pledges were given recklessly and dishonestly, or else, having made the promises in good faith, they now find that they cannot fulfil them. Because of their truckling to vested interests, they are unable to check the inflationary spiral and their promises must be dishonoured.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pittard) talked about incentive payments, and told us how helpful they would be in achieving increased production, which, in turn, would help to pull down prices. I have heard a great deal about incentive schemes, but I have always said, and I continue to say now, that the best incentive that any man can have is the knowledge that the profit from the sale of the goods that he produces will go into his own pockets instead of the pockets of somebody eke. In other words, a man produces more when he is working for himself, not for a boss who collects the rake-off from the products of his industry. I challenge any Minister or Government supporter to tell me of one action that has been taken either by this Government or by a Liberal State government to extend private ownership and encourage more individual proprietors to work on their own account.
We have only to consult the stock exchange records and the financial pages of the newspapers in order to realize what is happening. We read about amalgamations such as that which has taken place in the canning and container manufacturing industry. Millions of pounds are coming forward every week in great accretions of capital in various monopolies that are extinguishing the small businessman who employs a few workers whom he can take into partnership’.
– What about closer settlement? That is going on. all the time.
– The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) says that the Australian Country party advocates the increase of private ownership as opposed to socialization, and he points to the land settlement of ex-servicemen as an example. I hope that he will therefore withdraw any accusation that he has ever made against the Labour party on the ground that it stands for socialization. After all, the Labour party founded those land settlement schemes.
– That is silly.
– It is an undoubted fact, which all the interjections and the laughter of Government supporters cannot disguise, that the Labour Government initiated the land settlement schemes that were commenced after World War II. and provided the funds that were needed to make them as successful as they have become. Therefore, I hope that the honorable member for Lyne will give the Labour party credit for what it has achieved. He can ascertain the facts if he will take the trouble to consult the records, and I hope that he will do so and no longer indulge in the loose and dishonest charge that the Labour party has endeavoured to strangle the small farmer. That interjection from a member of the Australian Country party has reminded me that it is our unfortunate fate at this time to have in charge of the nation’s financial affairs the leader of a political party that has never been anything but a sectional party. Its policy has always been to blackmail the community in the interests of the small sections that it represents, and it has been utterly dishonest in its approach to national problems on almost every conceivable occasion.
– Yet the Labour party is going to support the Country party in Victoria !
– You speak for yourself. The Labour party will use every and any political party that is prepared to rush headlong to destruction in order to achieve its objective of safeguarding the welfare of the people. It is a sorry reflection upon members of the Australian Country party that, after all the statements you made about the terrible socialists and Communist support of the Labour party-
– Order ! The honorable member will address me.
– Despite everything that members of the Australian Country party said during the Victorian State election campaign and the Commonwealth general election campaign, they are prepared to forget their declared principles whenever there is a chance for them to grab any plums of office that may be hanging within their reach. That has always been true of members of the Australian Country party. Australian Country party Ministers had to suffer the humiliating experience of listening to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) broadcast to the electors of Victoria and advise them to vote against members of the Country party in the State election. Men who sit cheek by jowl with the Prime Minister in this Government lacked the courage to stand up for their own political party. But, of course, they were in office. They had the plums, and that is all that has ever counted with the Australian Country party or ever will count with it.
Unfortunately, we have a representative of that section of the community in control of the destiny of the nation to-day by virtue of the fact that he controls the purse strings of the Treasury. That is unfortunate for the nation because, obviously, its economic problems will be considered only from the narrow, parochial sectional point of view of Australian Country party interests, not country interests. I emphasize the distinction that I have drawn between Australian Country party interests and country interests. It is a very clear distinction, as becomes evident, when one examines the attempts of the Australian Country party to carry out any sort of administration. Members of the Australian Country party told the Labour Government to leave the primary producers alone. A representative of that party in the corner group declared only a few days ago that governments should not interfere with primary producers, but, about five minutes later, he rose again and said that the Government ought to pay a subsidy of 15s. per cwt. for dried fruits or something of that sort. That was consistent with the attitude that the Australian Country party members have always adopted. They scream to high heaven to be left alone when it suits their purposes to do so, but they have no hesitation in rushing in to demand government interference and control if that happens to advance their own sectional interests. How can they carry out their policy of orderly marketing and control by boards without government interference? How can they promote prosperity in a primary industry that depends upon exports and. overseas prices that are beyond our control unless they have interference by bureaucrats and governments? These people, who are anxious to get every penny that they can from the operations of the marketing boards, come to this Parliament and declare that they are entirely opposed to any form of interference with primary producers and that, if only governments would let the farmers alone, everything would be all right. Their attitude can be summed up very adequately in the words of a former president of the Country party in Victoria, who said -
The Country party exists to exact tribute from every section of the community that it possibly can.
The whole sorry record of that party’s political existence is a story of blackmail of the rest of the community. Its members take everything that they can get. If the opportunity to pluck some plums of office comes their way, all their propaganda about socialism, government control and the Labour party’s nationalization policy disappears like a morning, mist. So long as they can get their hands on a few portfolios, they will sell themselves on any day of the week and twice a day at week-ends. Unfortunately, these people exercise a very powerful influence in the councils of the Govern ment at present and that influence is not directed towards the welfare of the nation as a whole. In fact, it is designed to advance the interests of those small sections of the community who have put Australian Country party Ministers where they are now. The people who talk so glibly about increased production and incentive payment ; would be only too pleased to be able to pay their employees 80s. a week again and to tell them to sleep in humpies on river banks. No members of the community have been or are worse employers than the people represented by the Australian Country party. I am not talking about the decent Laboursupporting farmer. If honorable members who laugh care to study the electoral statistics for various districts, they will see that there happens to be a very large number of decent Labour-supporting farmers in Australia who give a fair deal to the employees who help them to produce their wealth. The attitude of the members of the Australian Country party has always been to grind as much as they can out of their employees, and to blackmail the rest of the community in relation to the sale of their products in a period of shortage. Who have been the greatest opponents of soil conservation? That matter is of the gravest importance not only to this generation but also to every generation that will be born in Australia, yet the Australian Country party has adopted a selfish, short-sighted policy in relation to it. Who have been the strongest supporters of soil conservation by paying lip service to it?
– The Australian Country party.
– If the honorable member for Mallee had been a member of the Parliament of Victoria during the debates that took place on the Soil Conservation Bill, he would know that many members of the Country party in that State paid lip service to the principle, but opposed any practical attempt to conserve the soil. They were not concerned about protecting the rights of future generations whenever soil conservation might have affected the profits that were being made by primary producers. They adopted the attitude that the man on the land should he permitted to grind the last penny of profit from the soil, irrespective of the harm that was done to it. They considered that soil conservation, in principle, was a splendid idea hut they regarded it as a wicked crime to tell the farmer that he was destroying the heritage of the people by not protecting his soil. After all, the farmer holds his land in trust for future generations, because the soil is not for the use of one generation only. The sectional selfishness of the Country party in Victoria was clearly demonstrated in those debates on soil conservation in the State Parliament, as it has been on many other occasions. The Australian Country party is completely bankrupt of any principle and ideal, other than to serve that section of the rural community that elected its candidates to the Parliament.
One of the major problems that arise from the present inflationary conditions has been described by Professor Copland as “ our milk bar economy “. He referred to the fact that the manufacture of ice cream, beer and the like has increased to an extraordinary degree compared with the production of steel and other vital goods. I thought that one of the major leads that the Government would give, even if it was not prepared to exercise controls in order to check inflation, would be to say to the people, in effect, “ Let us concentrate on essentials and forget the non-essentials. In this crisis in the nation’s economy let us use our resources upon things that really matter.” A few days ago, I asked the Treasurer a question about a jaunt that he proposes to make to Queensland shortly for the purpose of opening a luxury hotel in which a guest may board for the “modest” sum of £19 12s. a week, provided he is fortunate enough to obtain accommodation. The right honorable gentleman considered that he gave to me an adequate answer when he said that a permit for the construction of that hotel had been granted by the Government of Queensland.
– The honorable member asked me to inform him how the proprietor was able to obtain a permit for the erection of that hotel.
– I did not. I asked the Treasurer whether he proposed to open the luxury hotel at Hayman Island.
-Order! “Will the honorable gentleman address me? I am almost a permanent institution here.
– Thinking that he was delivering a real counter stroke, the Treasurer informed me that the permit for the erection of that hotel had been granted by the Government of Queensland. I had not asked for, and I did not require, that information. I had a similar struggle with the Hollway Liberal Government in the Parliament of Victoria in relation to the granting of a permit for the erection of a luxury hotel in that State. I realize that the Commonwealth cannot direct the Queensland Government to issue permits for the erection of certain buildings, and not to grant them for the erection of other buildings. The issue of the permit for the luxury hotel at Hayman Island is the affair of the Government of Queensland, and of the electors of that State, and, apparently, they did not disapprove of the granting of the permit, because, fortunately, they returned the Labour Government to office a few weeks ago. However, I was entitled to ask the Treasurer to define his attitude towards the use of more than £250,000 worth of building materials for a luxury hotel, every room of which will have its own bathroom, Chinese carpet and divan bed. I think that an honorable member is entitled to ask the right honorable gentleman whether his decision to open that hotel is representative of the kind of leadership that Australia requires in this present period of economic crisis. Is it the sort of leadership that will enable us to break away from our “ milk bar “ economy? Is the right honorable gentleman prepared to admit now that he made a mistake in accepting the invitation to visit that luxury hotel, and that the baths that will be installed in each of the 99 luxurious rooms might well have been diverted to some of the houses in my electorate, the unfortunate occupants of which are unable to obtain new baths to replace those that have worn out after many years’ use?
– Perhaps the electors of Yarra require a better member.
– No, they require a better government. This subject may amuse the honorable member for Mallee.
– I did not interject.
– Members of the Australian Country party may find it strange to learn that thousands of people are living under conditions under which dogs would not be expected to exist. Is the Treasurer prepared, by his own action, to condone the use of materials for the construction of a luxury hotel that could have been utilized to better advantage in improving the conditions of the poor? Everybody knows that hotel and other accommodation must be increased in order to meet the needs of our expanding population, but no adequate excuse can be advanced for such an affront to our social conscience as is given by the construction of the hotel at Hayman Island at a time when the housing problem is so acute.
– The construction of the hotel to which the honorable member refers was commenced before the present Government assumed office.
– The hotel was threequarters completed while the Chifley Government was in office.
– The Treasurer has given it his imprimatur by accepting an invitation to visit that hotel.
– Oh, go on ! The honorable member cannot decide where I am to go.
– How can you say-
– Order ! I again ask the honorable gentleman to address me. He is not a stranger to parliamentary procedure.
– The permit for the construction of the hotel was granted by the Government of Queensland. So far as I am aware, no member of the Chifley Government undertook to put his imprimatur on the erection of that building by accepting an invitation to open it. The Treasurer has, in effect, given his imprimatur to the use of £250,000 worth of building materials for a luxury hotel at a time when the housing problem in
Australia is acute. He has said, in effect, “ Why should we worry about the fact that £250,000 worth of building materials has been used in this structure ? “ The right honorable gentleman should be urging the people to concentrate on essentials, to forget non-essentials, and to forgo the kind of luxury that is represented by that building. Members of the Australian Country party chortle heartily when I make that statement. What would be their feelings if they lived, as quite a number of people in my electorate live, in houses that have been condemned as unfit for human habitation, and were unable to obtain one sheet of galvanized iron in order to keep out the rain, and. learned that £250,000 worth of building materials had been used in the construction of a luxury hotel? Is it any wonder that, in those circumstances, some people may feel inclined to go a little “ red or begin to feel a little dissatisfied with the existing social order? I urge the Treasurer to admit that he made a mistake in accepting the invitation to open the luxury hotel, that he does not propose to avail himself of the opportunity to walk on the Chinese carpets and recline on the divans, and that he is disappointed that valuable building materials have been used for that hotel while the housing problem is acute.
– The former Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was with me at the Eaglehawk luxury hotel.
– That has nothing to do with the case. The hotel in Queensland to which I refer has just been completed, and I have been expressing my regret that the Treasurer has accepted an invitation to open it. However, I mention that matter merely as an aside, because ‘the real necessity is for the Government to take administrative action, and to give a lead to the people in relation to concentrating on essentials and forgetting nonessentials. Irrespective of all the falsehoods that were told about the Labour party in relation to socialization and socialism during the last general election campaign, let the Government be honest with itself, and admit that the only cure for our present perilous position in respect of the £1 and our internal economy is strong governmental action that must conflict with some vested interests. I invite the Government to take its courage in both hands-
– Order ! The honor- able member’s time has expired.
.- After having listened to speeches by members of the Opposition for a few months. 1 have become more and more confused. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has just completed a spirited attack upon the Australian Country party, which he accused of inconsistency and hypocrisy. Yet I suggest that members of the Labour party themselves provide the outstanding example of inconsistency.
– Now prove it.
– I intend to prove it if the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will give me an opportunity to do so. It is well known, and cannot be denied, that every member of the Labour party, when endorsed as a candidate for a seat in this Parliament, signs a document to the effect that he will support total socialization with all his means. If that is so-
– It is not so.
– The platform of the Australian Labour party, as it is defined in printed form and copies of which may be obtained, describes socialization quite clearly-
– The word “ total “ is not used.
– The platform of the Labour party provides for the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange. That covers every human activity.
– I repeat that the word “ total “ is not used.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) to refrain from interjecting.
– The platform of the Labour party includes the socialization objective, yet Opposition members deny that they signed a pledge to advocate it with all their means. They say that they do not stand for total socialization and the honorable member for
Yarra has just advocated free enterprise. In other words, he has accepted what is popularly known as the “ Blackburn interpretation “, which is not endorsed by the official Australian Labour party. If that is not an example of inconsistency, I have never seen one.
When the honorable member for Hindmarsh was speaking this afternoon, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) interjected to the effect that the Labour Government had won the war, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh then expressed the view that the Labour Government had saved Australia from annihilation. I give full credit to Opposition members who make such statements because I think that they believe them.
– That is true. They do believe them.
– But those statements are made in ignorance. I wonder what kind of a shock they would get if they knew the truth. I feel that I am in a position to throw a little light upon the misconception under which Opposition members are labouring. I feel restricted, but I can say that some incidents and some actions that were advocated by the Australian War Cabinet during the early stages of the war with Japan were not calculated to win any war. I am not speaking irresponsibly.
– Tell us what they were.
– If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) who was Prime Minister at the time, would permit me to do so, I should be only too pleased to give the details of what happened at that time; and the facts would shock some honorable members opposite. I am not talking nonsense. As some members of the Opposition know, I am speaking the truth. Another statement that is made repeatedly, and which must be corrected, is that the Labour Government was responsible for the magnificent war effort that Australia was able to put forward in the recent conflict. I do not want to be hard, but I say deliberately that the war was won not because of, but in spite of, the effort of the Labour Government. I have often heard the statement that the Menzies Government was kicked out by the people because it was doing nothing, and that the Labour Government came in and saved the country.
– The Menzies Government kicked itself out.
– Again, I happen to know the facts at first hand. The truth is that the Labour Government assisted most in winning the war by its inactivity and its abstinence from interference with the planning that had been done and the foundation that had been laid by the Menzies Government during the first two years of the war period.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to maintain reasonable order. The honorable member for I n di does not address the House very often. Apparently, he has something to say, and honorable members should extend to him the courtesy of’ listening to him.
– The fact is that the planning and the general scheme for the organization of this country to gear it to the needs of war were soundly and well laid by the Menzies Government during the first two years of the war period. It was only that sound foundation that produced during the Labour Government’s administration the volume of equipment, resources and trained forces, particularly in relation to the Empire Air Training Scheme, that enabled this country to make ‘the really splendid contribution to the Allied war effort that it did make. As I have already said, I am not speaking from hearsay, and I am not speaking irresponsibly. During those years, I was in a position to learn the facts at first hand.
– Did the honorable member know of the decisions of War Cabinet?
– Indeed, I did, because I attended most of the meetings of the War Cabinet when it consisted of the leading members of the Labour Government from the time that that Government assumed office.
T shall now deal with matters that are more directly related to the granting of Supply. Unfortunately, under present world conditions, every country is devoting an increased proportion of its revenue to defence purposes. This is inevitable in view of the turn that world events have taken. Unfortunately, the world seems to be divided into two mass sections with different ideas, and, human frailty being what it is, people do not seem to be content to hold political ideas without attempting to force them upon others. To-day, the Great Russian nation has a political doctrine the very foundation of which is world domination by violence, and it is trying to bring that doctrine to fruition. We cannot escape that conclusion. Consequently, all nations find that they must devote a great deal of their revenue to defence services. This is particularly unfortunate in a post-war period, because all the money, man-power, effort and resources expended on armed forces in peace-time are completely unproductive. They are, in fact, a complete waste, and particularly so, at a time when we require to utilize the whole of the resources of the country for rehabilitation after six years of a destructive war. Thus a great strain is placed upon the economy of the nation.
Australia, of course, is obliged to follow suit in this respect. In order to ensure that we shall have a reasonable degree of security, we must provide some defence forces. If we come to the conclusion that a defence force is necessary, it is axiomatic that we must have an efficient defence force, because I do not think that any one will deny the truism that anything less than adequacy is wasteful. If we have not thought about the matter before a simple illustration will make that clear. If one expends time, energy and man-power in producing a machine to do a certain job and the machine, when completed, fails to do the job, all the effort put into its manufacture is completely wasted. Having regard to our means, we have to consider the provision of defence forces from the standpoint of providing an organization that will be adequate to ensure a reasonable degree of security and to enable us to fulfil our national commitments. If we accept the proposition that we need a defence force and that any effort, man-power, money or equipment put into it is unproductive, and can ill be spared in our general task of rehabilitating our country in peace-time, then we are driven to the conclusion that the only way in which we can mitigate the difficulty is by providing for an efficient defence force which, though small, will provide adequacy. That presents a great deal of difficulty. The Government fully appreciates the position, and, for that reason, intends to introduce some form of national service. Unfortunately, because of the changes that have occurred in world conditions since the end of the recent war, it is the view of all competent people of many nationalities that the time has passed when a country can expect a breathing space in which to organize for war. In the last two wars we had months in which to gear our resources and to change from a peacetime to a war-time basis. Practically all competent authorities now believe that any future war, if we are unfortunate enough to experience one, will have to be fought with the resources to hand at the outbreak of that catastrophe. I have been through two wars and I have seen the squalor, filth, cruelty and suffering that they caused. I do not want to witness another. I am not a warmonger. But we must face the problems realistically.
In support of the contention that any future war will necessarily be fought with the resources that we prepare in peace-time, and that we shall not have a period in which to muster our resources at leisure, it will not do us any harm to try to visualize what can -happen. Scientific development of war weapons has changed the whole problem. Let us consider what could happen if submarine attacks with atomic weapons were made on our capital cities, ail of which are situated on our coast. “We know that Russia is developing submarines that are capable of launching atomic weapons. Let us suppose that such attacks were launched without warning upon Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, which are the main centres of our population and resources. Such attacks could be made simultaneously. Those cities would become virtually uninhabitable and the whole of the resources of the country would then have to be devoted to succouring our own people because about 2,000,000 persons who would be rendered homeless would have to be evacuated from those cities. Under such conditions, how could we devote our attention to war? Is it not likely that, even with the greatest will in the world to fight, our morale would be seriously weakened? If similar attacks were made upon great cities like London, Liverpool, New York and San Francisco, all of which are centres of war potential, the countries in which they are situated would be confronted with the great problem of housing the people who would be rendered homeless as a result of such attacks. After all, is it not the objective of any nation at war to break the defiance of the enemy ? I do not like to paint lurid pictures of this kind, but we must realize the possibilities and face up to the problem. To provide an adequate proportion of our revenue for defence purposes, is nothing more than reasonable insurance for our security. What will have been the use of devoting all our energies to providing better conditions and benefits for our people, such as higher pensions, with all of which proposals I agree, if we lose our country and are unable to enjoy the fruits of our efforts? We must devote our efforts primarily to insuring the base on which our security rests. Security of the base is one of the first principles of war.
The problem is to effect economy in our defence plan so that it may prove adequate without disrupting our industrial welfare and thus retard the progress of the country. The Government mus; remember that when it introduces its national service scheme, the responsibility for moulding and training this new force will rest upon the permanent services. The Navy, Army and Air Force will be called upon to mould it and to deal with its organization, establishment and training. It is a regrettable fact - but, again, it is useless for us to poke our heads in the sand - that the morale of our permanent services is lower than it ever has been in the history of this country. I say that without hesitation. That is due to a variety of causes, not the least of which is the natural reaction of a people following six years of war. However, it is also the result of lack of liberal treatment of the services by the Government. About a month ago I had the experience of travelling in a railway carriage with five or six young Air Force men. They did not know who I was. I was in the carriage with them for four hours, and I was astonished to find that during the whole of that period they talked about nothing else but how they could get out of the Air Force. They were dissatisfied because it did not offer them the opportunities they had hoped for. They were men of a fine type.
My contention that the morale of the services is low is capable of other proof. I understand that desertions from the Navy alone are equal to recruitments and that the intake of all three services is equal only to the wastage. In other words, the three services - are losing as many men as they are able to recruit. That, in itself, is conclusive proof that the morale of the services is low. The rehabilitation of the permanent forces is a pre-requisite for efficient organization of any national service scheme. Permanent officers and other ranks will be responsible for the training of the troops, whose efficiency will depend on that of their instructors. Therefore, we must look to the causes of the low morale and the dissatisfaction that exist in the permanent services. They are many and varied. The two major causes may appear at first sight to be insignificant but they are of the greatest importance. Permanent personnel in the Navy, Army and Air Force are citizens like ourselves. They have family ties just as we have. They want to go to the pictures occasionally and to enjoy comfortable homes. They are young men who are prepared, if necessary, to sacrifice their lives for their country. They constitute the flower of Australian manhood and because of that, surely I do not ask too much when I say that we should give them treatment equal to or perhaps a little better than that given to ordinary civilians to compensate them for the contingencies of their service life. The housing position in the services is appalling. If service efficiency is to be maintained postings are inevitable, but the postings system is responsible for the resignation of many men who are prevented from living with their families. We shall never be able adequately to develop Australia’s defences while such resignations continue. We should give these ‘men a little more consideration. At least every effort should be made to house married personnel more satisfactorily.
It is obvious to any one who examines the conditions of service in the permanent forces that members of the three services are grossly underpaid in comparison with those in civilian employment who have to accept similar responsibilities and must possess similar ability. Because of that disparity in remuneration experienced and well trained officers in the three services are constantly on the qui vive to obtain civil jobs. Higher remuneration and the personal comfort of their families finally outweigh their patriotism and they are prepared to give up service life in order to reap some of the benefits that flow from civilian occupation. Highly trained personnel are leaving the service in a steady stream to accept civil employment for those reasons. The unfortunate result - and I say this with very great respect - is that only second-rate personnel remain in the services. All the men who have firstclass experience and executive ability are snapped up by civilian employers, and only the mediocre - and again I say this with great respect - remain. We should do everything possible to retain the services of the most highly trained and skilled officers and men.
– We could do so if we paid them well enough.
– I agree with the honorable member that if we improve the conditions of service we shall be able to retain them. Australia is not lacking in patriotic young men who would be eager to serve their country if they were given reasonable consideration. The time has come when we should be prepared to spend a little more money and a great deal more consideration on the welfare of our service personnel. We have budgeted for the expenditure of £50,000,000 a year on the three services as part of a five-year plan to cost £250,000,000. If that expenditure does not provide us with adequate defence forces, the money will have been wasted. To say the least it would be a pity to spoil such an expensive ship “ for the sake of a haporth of tar “. Let us spend a little more money, and devote a great deal more consideration to the welfare and happiness of our permanent personnel. If we did that morale would be lifted. We should then be in a position to train our national service recruits and so organize them as to provide us with some measure of security. If instead we try to save by withholding liberal consideration from these people, we may lose not only the money but also our country.
.- The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) invariably states his case in this Parliament in a most temperate manner. Therefore I was somewhat astonished tonight that he should seek to speak, as it were, from a coward’s castle. The honorable member has said, in effect, that if he could obtain the permission of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) he could make some revelations about the conduct of the war by the Labour Government and about the attitude of the Labour War Cabinet which would startle the people of Australia. May I say to the honorable member, through you, Mr. Speaker, that rather than reveal what are supposed to be secret decisions and discussions, he would be better advised to say nothing at all. The honorable member has a great military record. If not for the whole period of the war, at least for the greater part of it, he was an Air Vice-Marshal in the Royal Australian Air Force and occupied a position in the air forces in the Pacific second only to that of General Kenney of the United States Air Force. In that position he had ample opportunity to be present at discussions of the War Cabinet and to influence its decisions. The honorable member has adopted an attitude that is invariably taken by high executive officers in the armed forces of straining at the leash when subjected to discipline by the government of the day. 1 am not unmindful of the fact that the honorable member was at “ outs “ with the Minister for Air both during the war and after the cessation of hostilities. The statement that by virtue of knowledge which he gained during secret discussions in the War Cabinet he. could startle the people of Australia is unworthy of such a great airman. High executive service officers for whom I have the greatest admiration have invariably strained at the leash when they have been subjected to discipline by the government of the day. Throughout British history the executive government has invariably exercized control over its military commanders. I believe that I am right in saying that during World War I. the Lloyd George Government decided to remove Sir Douglas Haig from his position as Commander of the British armies.
– Not at all.
– At least it acquiesced in the appointment of Marshal Foch as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in France, thereby removing Sir Douglas Haig from bis post. One can well imagine what Sir Douglas must have thought about that decision.
– He requested it.
– We all are aware that diplomatic explanations are made in such cases.
– I rise to order. I served under the late Sir Douglas Haig. Marshal Foch was appointed as Supreme Commander at the request of Sir Douglas. The honorable member’s statement that he was removed from his post as Commander of the British Army in France is objectionable to me, and I ask for its withdrawal.
– Order ! An honorable member may not ask for a withdrawal unless the matter of which he complains affects him personally. As far as I’ know the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) was not implicated in the decision to which the honorable member for Lalor has referred.
– T do not wish to reflect in any way on the ability of Sir Douglas Haig to lead the British Army. As everybody is aware, when army commanders are withdrawn from their posts during war-time suitable diplomatic excuses are cooked up to satisfy the press and the people of the wisdom of the change. Any government which failed to satisfy the people in that way would be guilty of an act that would be calculated to undermine public morale. During the last war the United Kingdom Government, and for all I know the Australian Labour Government led by the late Mr. Curtin, made changes in the command of the forces sometimes, perhaps, with ample justification, and at others without any justification whatsoever. It is regrettable that the honorable member for Indi should make such an unworthy attack on the Curtin and Chifley Labour Governments, which enjoyed the fullest confidence of the people.
– They merely followed the lead given by Mr. Menzies.
– Mr. Menzies was so unconscious of the war danger that when the war broke out he adopted the slogan “ Business as usual “.
– Order ! The honorable member must refer to the right honorable gentleman by his proper title.
– Honorable members opposite will recall that after the outbreak of the war the right honorable gentleman went abroad and remained in the United Kingdom for three or four months.
– That is not true.
– I shall not be adamant about the period of his absence. At least it will be agreed that he was absent for a very much longer period than were the late Mr. Curtin and the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) at later stages of the war. When the right honorable gentleman returned to Australia he disgusted me by inviting all the members of the Parliament to one of the party rooms in this building to witness coloured films depicting the highlights of his trip abroad. Most of them merely advertised the fact that during one of the most critical periods that have ever confronted this country the Leader of the Government of this country regarded as a highlight of his visit to the United Kingdom the fact that he had been in the company of His Majesty the King, Lady Astor, Mr. Churchill, or some other notability. Compare his record with the activities of the subsequent Labour governments in prosecuting the war. I know that the remarks of the honorable member for Indi were perhaps provoked by some statements from this side of the House regarding the war-time effort of the Government that preceded the Curtin Labour Government, and from time to time honorable members-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! I ask the House to maintain order. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is introducing certain controversial views that he is entitled to express.
– Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I did not seek your protection, but I deeply appreciate it. We know that from time to time in the past and also during the debate on this measure, members of the Government parties have claimed that they brought into being the nucleus from which the Australian war affort grew. The present Government parties controlled the destinies of this country from 1932 to 1941, and if in that long period, with the advantage of the information that was flowing into this country from the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, they had not made the preparatory plans that they were in a. position to make, it would not be saying much for them as governing parties. The fact is that they did not make much preparation, and when charged now with their failure to do so they have the effrontery to blame the present Opposition for that lack of preparation for war, although it was not in possession of inside information on the world situation at that time. It is quite true, and we might as well be honest about it, that from time to time in this House the Labour party criticized defence expenditure when it was in opposition prior to1941. I myself on occasions criticized defence expenditure in the period between 1932 and 1941 when, as far as I could then see, there was no warrant for it. But after all the government of the day is responsible for the safety of the country despite opposition, and when the Government controls the Parliament it must put its measures through and stand by them. I know that “the present Government parties were responsible, in co-operation with other Empire, countries, for the inauguration of the Empire Air Training Scheme. That was very good work. I know also that it made a commencement with plans for the establishment of an aircraftbuilding industry in this country. But I know further, that despite the fact that the prewar Liberal Government had information of the imminence of the last war, it did not have one bomb rack in Australia to attach to one aeroplane when the war did break out. It is not much good blaming the Opposition for that position.
From 1932 to 1941 a high rate of unemployment existed in this country. In the early period of the 1930’s the rate was 30 per cent, and at the outbreak of war it was 12 per cent, of our population. The Labour Government that was elected in 1941 devoted the major part of its time to endeavouring to secure the employment in productive work of every employable man and woman in the country. It was not until we became the Government that unemployment practically ceased to exist in this country. It is a tragedy that to-day, through the financial assistance of the banks and other vested interests in the production of the powerful propaganda, that led to the return of the anti-Labour parties at the last general election, it will not be long before the present Government’s activities will precipitate a condition of unemployment again in this country. Honorable gentlemen opposite do not wish full employment to exist in Australia. They look forward to the day when men will be standing in queues waiting for jobs, and when the employing classes will have things their own way. You talk about,-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman should not deprive himself of the pleasure of addressing me.
– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. You have put me off my train of thought. The fact remains that the present Government parties did undoubtedly receive the substantial and mistaken support of the workers during the last general election. They will not obtain that support again. To-day the Government’s supporters are blaming the present inflationary conditions on the introduction of the 40-hour week. Twenty years ago the same class of people blamed the unemployment problem of that time on the introduction of the 44-hour week. Twenty years before that they were blaming whatever economic ills were then in existence on the introduction of the 48-hour week. So it goes on, right back to the time when Sir William Angliss was giving evidence before a wages board in Victoria regarding the claims of slaughtermen and other meat industry employees for better hours and conditions. Sir William is a member of the Legislative Council of Victoria and is a personal friend of mine. He said that if the wages board granted the meat workers of that time a 48-hour week, the meat industry would collapse and his business would have to close down. Every body knows to-day that it is only by virtue of the pressure and advocacy of the Labour movement that the workers now enjoy a 40-hour week. Every body also knows that Sir William Angliss is now a millionaire. He was not even conscious of his own interests as far as the result of improved working conditions was concerned. When I hear Government supporters claiming that an increase of production will provide the answer to inflationary conditions I heartily agree with them that we could do with more production, but I also realize that the implication contained in their statements is always that the increase of production is to come from manual workers alone. They are very careful to exclude from their criticism other kinds of workers, such as business entrepreneurs. I am not conscious of any tendency to slack by workers in this country, but if there is such a tendency it is common to every section of the working community and is not peculiar to any one section. Sir Douglas Copland stated a few months ago, as was reported in the press at the time, that Australia’s over-all production of all commodities, after taking the increase of population into consideration, was then 12-J per cent, better than it was before the last war. As other honorable members have stated, the fact remains that the greatest increase of production has occurred in the luxury and non-essential goods trade. A close examination of the position will disclose the fact that insufficient inducement is being offered now to workers to engage in the hard, dirty and unpleasant tasks of the community. That lack of inducement arises from the opposition of employers and others to any improvement of the conditions of those workers. As a result of that fact people are drifting into the luxury trades instead of seeking employment in the great basic industries such as the steel, wire drawing, iron galvanizing, brick making and cement making industries. I hope that that state of affairs will be remedied, but I do not think that it will be by condemning the men engaged in these difficult and dirty tasks as the sole cause of our present problems of inflation and shortages of goods.
I join with a number of other honorable members in deploring the attitude that has been taken up by the Government regarding an announcement relating to any proposed action in respect of a revaluation of the Australian £1. It is my practice to move a good deal among the country people of New South Wales, particularly at the rural end of my electorate. It is also my practice to move among people who are interested in Australian manufacture at the industrial end of my electorate. I have found that a great deal of grave discontent exists among those people about exactly where they stand. I should not be so critical of the Government if it would make up its mind, but it appears to me to be prepared to leave in abeyance a decision regarding the exchange rate of the £1, as it does in connexion with every other problem that it tackles. We know that the Government parties promised the electors that they would restore value to the £1. We must be fair enough to admit that the Government has had only six months in office in which to tackle that problem, but the fact remains that it now has hardly any legislative programme. The Government has brought down half a dozen bills since the Parliament assembled. It had a recess for a few weeks during which it had ample time to prepare more legislation for introduction to the Parliament, but it did not do so. The three years immediately following the. cessation of hostilities, when the Chifley Government was in office, were epic years in our history as far as legislation is concerned. The legislation enacted by the Parliament in those years will stand unparalleled for many years to come. Its passage has relieved this Government of many obligations. The Government has had ample time to get a good grip on our economic problem and to, at least, outline an economic plan for restoring value to the £1 and for coping with the rising cost of living, before this House is adjourned for the winter recess. Unfortunately, from the point of view of the people the Liberal party now in office is the party that kicked away the very foundations of a plan that would have now assisted the Government to restore purchasing power to our £1 to a sufficient degree to meet the problems of the Australian housewives and others. Having defeated that plan it finds itself in an almost impossible position. The Government knows that during the war the Labour Government was possessed of very great powers indeed and that without long months of consideration that Government, during the critical period of the war in 1942, adopted an economic policy that arrested inflation and controlled prices in this country to a more effective degree than can be achieved by the government of any other country in the world. The basis on which that plan was founded by our respected leader (Mr. Chifley), who was then Treasurer in the Curtin Labour Government, has been destroyed by the pettiness and small-mindedness of the Government parties.
– Who brought in price-fixing ?
– If the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) had eliminated party politics from his mind and with other members of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party had supported the referendum at which the people were asked to grant to this Parliament the power to control prices for five years, the present Government would now have all the implements required to make war upon the grave problem of inflation.
– The powers were asked, not for five years, hut permanently.
– If the powers were to be permanent, so much the better. After all, no legislation is permanent in this country and the honorable gentleman ought to have enough intelligence to know that fact. Legislation can be altered by the will of the Parliament and the Constitution can be altered by the will of the people. Now we find the Government frustrated. It has no weapons’ of war available to it for the fight against inflation. It is dillydallying and praying for the haven of recess. It was not uncommon for members of the Government parties, during the last Government’s term of office, to be exceedingly critical of legislation that was put before the Parliament, and to condemn it outright. I consider that it is a good thing for an Opposition to be critical, but almost without exception every bill that we brought down was condemned and in many cases the members of the present Government parties voted against them. I instance the attitude of the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) to what was, after all, a very important problem for this country. I refer to the legislation that the Chifley Govern.ment introduced in connexion with the International “Wheat Agreement. In the course of the debate on that bill the honorable gentleman said -
This measure stands condemned on all counts.
The counts that he mentioned were numerous indeed. When a vote was taken he avoided the issue, but he had condemned the agreement. Therefore, in order to be consistent, he should now take advantage of the relevant provisions of the agreement in order to extricate Australia from participation in the agreement; but, now that he is the Minister concerned, he knows that that agreement is operating to the advantage of the wheat-farmers. ‘Honorable members opposite condemned the wheat stabilization plan. The Minister condemned the power which the Government had been given to interfere with any uri mary produce board. I have now read in the press, in respect of the control and marketing of primary products under various acts, that wherever a government guarantee is involved this Government will reserve to itself the right to interfere when necessary. The legislation to which I have referred was condemned not only by the Minister but also by no less a person than the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton). But there has been no attempt by the Government to amend the legislation or to discard the wheat stabilization plan. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) provided this House with entertainment when he said “ the produce of the land belongs to the man on the land “.
– Order ! The honorable member shall not dramatize.
– These advocates and friends of the wheat-farmer who condemned the Labour party for enacting this legislation have not uttered one word in favour of its repeal. Some members of the Australian Country party gave encouragement to a former member of this House, the former member for Riverina, Mr. H. K. Nock, to take the case of a small company, which involved considerations that ‘affected all wheat-growers, to the High Court and, subsequently, to the Privy Council. The Nelungaloo case is now being heard by the latter body. The Nelungaloo company is suing the Commonwealth in regard to what it considers to be a just price.
-Order! That case is now before the Privy Council.
– I am afraid that you are right, sir. The House will deal tomorrow with a bill that involves ministerial interference. It occurred to me while I was listening to a cry for more production that honorable members opposite never specify the men who are loafing. They do not name actual loafers. I believe that the average working man of this country, whether he is a carpenter, a bricklayer or a road-=worker, gives a reasonable return for the remuneration that he receives.
– If he is allowed to do so.
– Who stops him from doing so?
– Who stopped the bricklayers?
– Who stops you from having any sense? I have been listening to that same cry for the last 50 years. It if nonsense. The Australian worker determines his own pace and gives good service for what he receives. You go to a ob and accuse them of .being loafers-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will address me.
– There are plenty of houses being built in Canberra. I suggest that the honorable member visit them and tell the workers that they are loafers. If he does, he will probably be challenged to do as much in the same time for the amount of money that those workers are receiving. Honorable members opposite have said that the 40-hour week is a blot on production. The workers of Australia, in the great majority of cases, are putting their 40-hour week to very good advantage for their employers and for themselves. Many workers are building their own homes. In the summer-time, they work before they go to their place of employment and they work again after they return to their homes. When they do not have to engage in their regular employment on Saturdays they work for themselves, building homes, garages, furniture, and mechanical contraptions of all sorts. They now have an opportunity for self employment that they have never had before and in consequence the sum total of production is being added to. Allegations of laxity on the part of workers hardly bear examination. Nobody can be expected to work as hard to-day as people did in our forefathers’ time when they worked sixteen hours a day and. subsequently, twelve hours a day.
– What about the dairy-farmers?
– The honorable member’s interjection reminds me of the interesting story of a dairy-farmer and his son who were working a farm. One of the duties allotted to the son every day was to chop-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The very interesting and sound address of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock) has been replied to in some respects by the honorable .member for Lalor (Mr.
Pollard), but I should like to say that it is obvious that this country suffered tremendously from the fact that, in the critical days of the war, it did not possess a truly national government. The leader of this country at the outbreak of war, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), invited the Australian Labour party to join a national government such as that which existed in Great Britain and other countries during the war, but that party preferred to play at politics. From the remarks that have been passed in this House this afternoon honorable members can see that politics were truly played at that vital time in the history of this country. I shall make no further reference to that fact because one should look to the future and endeavour to devote one’s time and thoughts to some constructive way of dealing w:’.h the future problems of this country.
Honorable members of the Opposition including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) have criticized the Government for what it has not done in the short time that it has been in office. In effect, that criticism has been levelled against a budget which the Leader of the Opposition himself, as Treasurer, introduced as a statement of the requirements of the nation for the present financial year. To-day, honorable members of the Opposition may be heard criticizing their own work because they did not provide for this nation’s requirements in a sound way. The fundamental basis of good government is that a sound financial programme shall be determined at the outset of the financial year to provide for the requirements of that year. That responsibility rested upon the present Leader of the Opposition when, as Treasurer, he brought his proposals before the Parliament for adoption as the considered plan of the then Government’s operations for the financial year. If there are any shortcomings in that proposal the responsibility for them must be laid at the door of the Australian Labour party and not at the door of the present Government. lt will be time to condemn the present Government when the Parliament deals with its planning .of the country’s financial requirements. The Australian Labour party must take full responsibility for the position that exists at the present time because its past actions have brought about the present position.
During the war a world shortage of goods resulted from the absence from industry of many men and women. This fact and the destruction that occurred resulted in the demand for goods becoming greater than the supply. It was inevitable therefore that prices should rise, irrespective of the Government in power ; but later, when the people of Australia refused to give the then Government constitutional power to continue prices control, the Government almost immediately threw aside its responsibility in regard to that control, hardly giving to the States the opportunity of preparing machinery for controlling prices. It withdrew subsidies and brought about an upsurge of prices. Last year the serious coal strike which occurred in New South Wales caused tremendous losses in the production of steel and the commodities for the manufacture of which steel is required. This caused further increases of prices. Those events are the direct responsibility of the Government that was in office at the time. The attempt by honorable members of the Opposition to criticize the Government for not taking action will be recognized by the people as a smokescreen to obscure their own inefficient record. They have referred to the lack of action in regard to pensions. If they consider that the necessity to increase pensions is so urgent why did they not provide for an increase in the last budget? I have no doubt that, when the time comes for the present Government to bring down its first budget, it will produce proposals which will represent a reasonable approach to this important problem.
The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to claim some credit for the Socialist party for the improvement of the economic position in the United Kingdom. That improvement has been very gratifying but the United Kingdom is not by any means out of its difficulties. Honorable members’ supporting the Government are pleased to recognize that the British people have again risen to their responsibilities and are fighting their way back to a sound economic P081 tion, but that state of affairs has not resulted from the work of the SocialistGovernment. It has o’bviously resulted from the work of private enterprise. 7he huge increase of production that has taken place in the Old Country in every class of industry during the last two years stands out as one of the brightest experiences in the history of the world. Those people have agreed to fight on against all the difficulties that may surround them. In spite of the restrictions and the controls that have been imposed by the Socialist Government of that country, the operators of private industry have shown clearly that they can carry on and get good results. Because the Leader of the Opposition has imported this matter into the debate, we should consider some of the figures of production in the United Kingdom.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) yesterday painted a complete picture of the deficiencies in this country in regard to coal production. He dealt with every aspect of the industry, and pointed out how vital was the production of adequate supplies of coal for the welfare of the people and the maintenance of the economic structure of the country. Until we can get full production of coal we cannot deal with the serious inflationary position that exists at the present time. Coal is a basic requirement of industry, and as an emergency measure the Government intends to import 1,000,000 tons. It is also endeavouring to increase production of coal wherever coal deposits are found to exist.
Let us now consider the steel requirements of the country. Steel is a necessity in almost every industry. But when we speak in terms of steel we must automatically speak in terms of coal, because coal is an essential concomitant in the production of steel. The latest reports indicate that the steel production of the United States of America is 1,180 lb. per head of population; of Belgium it is 1,124 lb. per head; of the United Kingdom it is 572 lb. per head; and of Australia it is 348 lb. per head. Those figures clearly show that we have notbeen able to produce the per capita quantity of steel that is produced by other countries, and is required to place our industries on a proper competitive footing. The reason for our low production of steel is our lack of coal. At present our steel production is about 70 per cent, of the possible capacity of the factory equipment that we possess. That TO per cent, is only a 1Q per cent, increase on the 1938 figure. Between 1938 and 1949, in spite of our great drive for an increase, steel production rose by 10 per cent, compared with the pre-war production, although the population increased by 1,000,000 persons. During the same period Canada increased its steel production by 120 per cent, on the 1938 figures. The United Kingdom has increased its steel production by more than 5,000,000 tons a year since 1938, and has now reached the all time record of 15,500,000 tons a year, according to the last returns available. The United Kingdom has been able to achieve this splendid record bpcause it has been able to produce the coal needed for the making of steel. The production of steel has made it possible for the industries of that country to combine in the great export drive that is restoring its economy. If the Government had elevated our steel production by increasing the production of coal in this country or by importing coal, our steel industry would not be in its present serious position. Therefore, I commend the Government for its early action in bringing coal to this country and for its attempts to have coal mined within Australia wherever it may be found.
I also commend the Government for having introduced legislation to deal with the influence of communism in the industries in which production is retarded. By all such actions the Government will increase the production of this nation, and until that is done there can be very little change in our present inflated economy. “When honorable members opposite criticize the Government about its actions to control inflation they should consider the state of the country when the Government took office. They should consider the position of the coal and steel industries when they relinquished power, and if they do so they will see the answer to the question of why inflation has occurred. The full responsibility for inflation lies at the door of the previous Government.
I shall now deal with the dairying industry. The changed Government policy is welcomed throughout all the primary industries of this country. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) had quite an interesting five or ten minutes at the expense of the Australian Country party while speaking about its activities and its friends. The members of that party come to this House with a. reasonable knowledge of the requirements of primary industry and of country people, and I stress that the meeting of their needs is fundamental to the wellbeing of this nation. The economy of any country must be based on its primary production. In advancing the claims of primary producers on every possible occasion the members of the Australian Country party are doing a national duty and are not serving a sectional interest. The honorable member for Yarra, his friends and every citizen of the cities and the country should recognize that the standards that are enjoyed by all who are engaged in secondary industries are almost, entirely due to the prosperity brought to this country by our primary industries through the export of primary products overseas. The exceptional income of Australia at the present time, and the prosperity of every individual, no matter what his occupation may be, are a result of the prosperity of the primary industries. If anything happens to the world prices of the main primary products the honorable member for Yarra and those associated with him will soon know it. The honorable member for Lalor spoke about full employment and high prices as though the previous Labour Government was responsible for them. Full employment came to this nation when the primary industries were able to sell and export at better prices and thus bring additional income to Australia. That meant that money circulated more freely and work was provided. Therefore, all the activities of this nation are connected with the magnificent work of the primary producers.
Those men have worked fairly long hours. In the dairying industry they have worked very long hours, and have made it possible for this country to attain its present prosperous condition. They have also enabled the city people to have an enjoyable life and a shorter working week. Not one honorable member in this chamber wishes that the people shall not have all the leisure to which they are entitled and shall not work the least number of hours that the economy of the country requires, but the stage has been reached when the main export industries of the country are trying to carry on with limited manpower and equipment. It is doing a magnificent job, but the secondary industries, because of the shortage of coal and steel, are not doing their part in maintaining the balance of the nation’s economy. If the members of the Labour party would devote some of their time to an attempt to increase the production of secondary industries and so make it possible for primary industries to expand still further, all of us would enjoy reasonable incomes and wages. No honorable member, and .1 suggest no man anywhere, wishes to have a return to low wages. We all like the
– For many years the people paid a price higher than the world price so that the primary producers could be compensated for selling overseas.
– Yes, but the people in the dairying industry regard the home consumers as a responsibility, and while making a. very substantial sacrifice compared with world prices for dairy produce, they recognize that there have been other times when the country has stood by the industry. That has been done, not because of consideration for those engaged in the industry, but because it was necessary for the welfare of the country as a whole that food should be produced in this country. In spite of the increase of 1,000,000 in population since 1938, and the fact that those extra people must be supplied with essential dairy products, the production in this country is not yet equal to the pre-war figure. That means that the Government has a responsibility to give the greatest encouragement to the rehabilitation of this industry as soon as possible. For the nine months ended the 30th March, 1939, 149,764 tons of butter was produced in Australia. For the nine months ended the 30th March, 1950, in spite of the fact that we had enjoyed wonderfully good seasons throughout the dairy areas, the production was only 140,632 tons. Therefore, a good deal of leeway must be made up so that the needs df the growing population can be met.
Some months ago, by way of a question in this House, I mentioned the need to do something to maintain reasonable fertility in the highly productive land used by the dairying industry. I referred to the need for government assistance to secure lime for application to dairying lands so that production would be not merely maintained but increased. The Governments of both the United Kingdom and New Zealand pay subsidies in order to assist dairy-farmers to make regular applications of lime to their properties so that the mineral content will be maintained and production will steadily .increase. That policy has been most effective, and production figures in both countries have improved. Unfortunately, we have not yet reached that stage in Australia. Many farmers apply lime to their pastures and cultivated areas with marked success, but the financial responsibility for the development of this practice should be shared with the National Government. Soil improvement is of great importance to the country, especially in regions of high rainfall. It represents an investment. Any expenditure in the form of a subsidy would undoubtedly be returned as the result of increased production and the improved quality of milk and stock, as well as taxes, though that would not be so important as the extra output of food. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has promised to refer this matter to the Australian Agricultural Council for consideration soon, and I am confident that he will do so. I hope that the Government will be able to persuade the State governments to cooperate in a general scheme to facilitate the supply of lime to dairy-farmers by means of subsidy payments.
Australia urgently needs an active programme of road improvement. Members of the Labour party would be greatly enlightened about certain omissions of the Chifley Government if they would make a careful survey of country roads. The situation in New South Wales can well be cited as an example, because that. State was exclusively under Labour administration, both State and Commonwealth, for eight years. Roads have never been in a worse condition since the advent of modern means of transport, such as the motor vehicle, than they are in to-day. Local government bodies are charged with the tremendous responsibility of restoring our roads to a useful state as rapidly as possible. In the northern coastal district of New South Wales, even the State highway has not been completed and other roads have fallen into such a state of disrepair as the result of floods, bad weather conditions generally, and the lack of finance for road works, . that it will be necessary almost to recommence the work of laying and constructing them. The sums that have been made available to the State by the Commonwealth for road works in the past have been very limited and local authorities have not been able to keep pace with requirements, especially since costs have increased. A fundamental necessity for any worthwhile road plan is au agreement between the Commonwealth and the States that will operate for a period of at least ten years. Local government bodies and State instrumentalities should be able to plan confidently for years in advance if they are to carry out the work of road recovery effectively. Three-year terms, such as have operated under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, are not adequate. Under such conditions, local government authorities are unable to accept responsibility for the purchase of expensive plant and machinery and cannot plan effective works programmes. Longer periods are essential and financial help must be more generous. Unless our road and railway systems are restored to a condition of full serviceability, the nation’s production effort will be sadly hampered.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) had a great deal to say about some new hotel that has been erected on an island somewhere on the Barrier Reef, and which the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) is to declare open. I remind the honorable member that Australia can earn dollars by fostering the tourist industry, which has been grievously neglected. If we could attract thousands of visitors from the United States of America and other parts of the dollar area, our financial worries would be considerably eased. Therefore, if an organization has set to work to establish a hotel that complies with the best modern standards, I think that this Parliament might well congratulate it instead of allowing honorable members to waste time in criticizing it.
The Government has discharged its responsibilities to the nation in a most creditable fashion up to date, especially in dealing with the matters that I have mentioned. I am sure that, when it has an appropriate opportunity to present a complete financial statement to the Parliament, it will disclose effective plans to den.1 with the menace of inflation that threatens us as the result of eight years of Labour administration. I am confident that it will cope with the problem soundly and efficiently so that our troubles will be dispersed within a reasonable space of time.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) asked why the Labour Government did not, when in office, increase the rate of age and invalid pensions in accordance with the cost of living. The question has been asked by a number of honorable members on the Government side of the House. It reveals an astonishing lack of knowledge. Whatever other faults the Chifley Labour Government may have had, it did keep faith with the pensioners. In its eight years of office, by successive steps, it doubled the rate of age and invalid pensions and it made successive ameliorations of the means test. The present Government has done nothing to keep faith with the pensioners of this country, and I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), at a turbulent meeting in the Town Hall in Sydney to-night, once again disappointed the hundreds of thousands of aged and invalid persons who are so eagerly awaiting substantial relief from the desperate plight in which they find themselves.
The honorable member for Lyne was unfortunate in his reference to the dairying industry. From his very close knowledge of that industry he is aware that the dairy farmers called in vain to the Menzies-Fadden Government of pre-war and early war years, that that Government left them to starve, and that the case built on behalf of the whole dairying industry in all States was completely neglected by it. Indeed, we well remember the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) pointing out that, in the home State of the Leader of the Australian Country party, fewer than 400 of the 12,000 dairy farmers at that time had taxable incomes, exceeding £5 a week. Whatever other faults the Chifley Labour Government may have had, it did keep faith with dairy farmers and it did raise their incomes to a reasonable level though, in my opinion, a level not high enough yet . in comparison with the rewards of other and easier callings. I believe that we on this side of the House will have a tremendous task’ in keeping the present Government faithful to its pledges to the dairying industry. I wait with much interest to see whether it will do what ought to be done by importing the profit factor into the price structure of the industry so that the dairy farmer will not have to work merely for the cost of production. Since it believes in profit and in free enterprise, will it give to the dairying industry, for which it professes to have such sympathy, the right to have the profit factor included in the price structure? That request, I believe, is entirely reasonable but I do not imagine, from the past records of Liberal and Australian Country party governments, that this Government will honour even that promise to the dairy farmers without a great deal of prodding from the Opposition. I do not propose to follow the honorable member for Lyne into his numerous other errors because I wish to speak of another matter.
This matter is causing disquiet in city and country alike. I refer to the mounting evidence of the growth of the practice of witch-hunting in Australia. This is the odious practice of victimizing men who try to maintain unorthodox opinions. At present a Communist hunt is in full swing in this country. In the guise of that hunt, the pack is being turned on numerous individuals who certainly are not Communists. People in Sydney and Melbourne are to-day being interrogated and their families are being intimidated. Some of the questions that are being put and some of the procedures that are being followed are such as would have been undreamed of in Australia a few years ago. Indeed, we once looked with rather superior gaze upon the American scene and congratulated ourselves that such, proceedings could not occur in a British country. But now, unfortunately, they are occurring in Australia. They are only on a small scale as yet, but they are growing rapidly. It is disquieting to have indications that the whispers of anonymous informers are being eagerly heard in official quarters and are being quickly translated into action against men against whom no charge is offered and by whom no defence is permitted. This matter is of great concern to all citizens. It is of particular concern to the Government, because the Government is seeking powers of the very widest character to deal, as it says, with traitors and subversive elements in the community. In seeking those extraordinarily wide powers, the Government submits that they are necessary for its task but that the country can rely upon it to administer them wisely and to use them only against the known and the definite traitors amongst us.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) in order in discussing a measure that has already been passed by this House and that is now before the Senate?
– I have been’ listening very carefully in order to ascertain whether the honorable member has been alluding to that legislation. He is not in order in doing so.
– The point that I make - and I proceed with your approval, Mr. Deputy Speaker - is that the Government should be particularly careful to ensure that an answer shall be provided to every reasonably substantiated charge that witch-hunting proceedings are being taken against persons without any proper warrant. If the Government docs not make a careful investigation and give a proper answer to charges of that kind, it will undermine faith in its use of the tremendously wide powers that it claims to require in order to deal with traitorous elements in the community. I propose to cite, in some detail, one ease that has already been raised in this House, not because of the importance of the individual himself or of his particular case, but as typical of what is alleged to be happening in many parts of the Commonwealth to-day. I refer to the case of Dr. P. R. James, a resident medical officer at the Repatriation General Hospital at Heidelberg, Victoria. I raised that matter by way of a question in this House a few days ago when I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether he was able to give the House any information about the dismissal of that gentleman. I pointed out that on the 29th May last, Dr. James, who had been in the service of the hospital for several years, had received one week’s notice of dismissal, for which no reason of any kind was given. I did not know then, and I do not know now, whether or not the dismissal of that gentleman was justified. I do not know him personally. I do not know the reason why he was dismissed at such short notice after years of satisfactory service, hut in view of the fact that he is an acknowledged member of the Australian Peace Council and of the Democratic Rights Council, I considered that it was proper that the Government should investigate the charge that his dismissal had occurred because of the political opinions which he privately maintained outside his work in that repatriation hospital.
The Prime Minister gave me a very fair and sympathetic answer. He said that he, personally, knew nothing about the matter, although he said that it had been brought to his notice on the previous day in Melbourne. He informed me that it was then within the jurisdiction of the Department of Repatriation, and he proceeded to say -
I do know that the Minister for Repatriation is at present actively inquiring into the case, and that he proposes to makea statement at the earliest possible moment. I shall, of course, convey the honorable gentleman’s remarksto him.
That promise was given by the Prime Minister. Since then, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), has ap parently completed his investigation, and has made his statement which, as he has said to-day, is his final word on the subject. I invite the attention of the House to the nature of the reply that has been given by the Minister to definite charges that this ex-serviceman, this competent doctor, this gentleman, who, admittedly, has been doing most useful work in the Repatriation Hospital at Heidelberg, has been discharged peremptorily for no reason other than that he maintains certain political opinions outside his work in the hospital. The Minister stated in his reply that Dr. James v.as a competent and capable medical officer. He admitted that the doctor was employed as a resident medical officer at the Repatriation General Hospital. Heidelberg, fromthe 14th April, 1948, until the 7th June, 1950. He confirmed the statement that had already been made to the effect that Dr. James had six and a half years’ service with the Australian forces, including a period in New Guinea and in other islands of , the Pacific. The Minister was asked whether it was a fact that Dr. James hadbeen given a week’s notice without any reason, and he simply replied, “ Yes “. To the question whether Dr. James had been victimized for his outside political opinions and to the request for a board of inquiry into the circumstances of the dismissal, the Minister tersely replied, “ No “. He added -
This is my last word on this subject.
I did not know, and I still do not know whether the dismissal of the gentleman was justified. There may have been some reason to justify it. However, certain important circumstances must be taken into consideration. The Minister for Repatriation acknowledged that Dr. James’s work in the hospital was efficient and competent. No complaint was made about the way in which he performed his duties. After he graduated at the University of Adelaide in 1940, he was continuously in the service of the Commonwealth, first with the Army, and then with the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg. In view of those circumstances, surely there is a case to answer. His services were terminated at one week’s notice without one reason being given. It was not as if he had been engaged on work that had come to an end, so that there was no longer need for his services. Indeed, he was engaged mainly on laboratory work, and on research into certain types of arthritis with reference to schizophrenia tuberculosis and nitrogen mustard treatment. He was actively engaged on all that important work on behalf of ex-servicemen in the repatriation hospital at Heidelberg when he received a letter, which was marked “ confidential “, from Dr. S. McLennan, the medical superintendent of that institution. It read as follows : -
Appended is copy of confidential memorandum dated 29th May, 1950, received from the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation.
The writer proceeded to quote the memorandum, as follows: -
I have to inform you that advice has been received from the (permanent head to the effect that the Public Service Board has decided that the temporary appointment of Dr. P. E. James, resident medical officer at the hospital at Heidelberg, has been terminated.
Accordingly Dr. James is to be notified by you in writing that his services will not be required after Wednesday, 7th June. Dr. James will not be eligible for pro rata payment in lieu of recreation leave.
That letter is signed by Mr. H. C. Laussen, the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in Victoria. Dr. McLennan added the following note in his communication to Dr. James: -
It is therefore to be noted that your serviceswill be terminated at the close of business on Wednesday, June 7th.
Dr. James claims that he knows of no reason whatever for the action which has been taken against him. He states that no complaint of any kind has been made about the way in which he has performed his duties in the hospital, or about hisconduct as an officer of that institution. The medical superintendent, Dr. McLennan, in conveying the notice of dismissal to him, informed him in specific terms that there was no complaint whatever against the competency or efficiency with which he discharged his duties in the hospital. That statement has been confirmed by the Minister for Repatriation.
The point which I desire to make is that under section 82 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act the board is given power to dismiss a temporary public servant without furnishing any reason whatsoever for its action. It may be that it is desirable that power should exist to enable dismissal of a. temporary employee without giving reasons for that action. It may be that many men recognize the justice of the termination of their services, and may not wish the reasons for it to be published. But the power which is given to the government of the day under that section is very wide indeed, and the present Government is exercising it in an extremely unreasonable manner. It says in effect, “ We have the power, we shall use it and we shall not give any reason for doing so “. The Government’s action in relation to Dr. James is, in my opinion, an act of the utmost injustice and it places in jeopardy all the arguments that have been advanced by the Government in recent weeks to the effect that it can be trusted to use exceptionally wide powers in such a way as not to injure the interests of any loyal and decent citizen.
Who can declare that Dr. James, who served for six and a half years in the war and who is now devoting his life to the care and attention of disabled exservicemen in a repatriation hospital, is a disloyal citizen? I imagine that nobody could do so, and, in fact, that nobody
Las done so. No charge of any kind has been made against him. He has never, according to his own statement, engaged in any political controversy inside the hospital. He ha3 never, again according to his own statement, engaged in any attempt to persuade members of the staff of the hospital, or patients, to accept his political views. He has been careful to keep them outside his work. I have no doubt that it is true that at afternoon tea, when various subjects are discussed, he may have expressed his particular political views to many of his colleagues in the service of the hospital, but, even so, no complaint or charge of any kind has been made against him. He has been dismissed with a week’s notice. It was the original intention to prevent him from obtaining the value of the recreation leave which, it was claimed, he had deferred at the request of the hospital authorities. That appears to be the only point which has been remedied by the publicity that has been given to this matter. The amount of pay which is due for the recreation leave that he has not taken is, I understand, to be given to him. Apart from that, he leaves the hospital with a slur upon him and upon his reputation.
The manner in which the action ha* been taken appears to me to be completely derogatory to the reputation of the medical profession. This man, as I said, was not engaged in some form of casual employment which normally would be terminated by a week’s notice. He had been continuously employed in the service of the hospital for several years, and was engaged on work of a kind which 13 acknowledged to be of tremendous value to the ex-servicemen who are patients in that institution. Surely he has the right to be told whether some charge or complaint has been made against him ! Yet he was summarily dismissed, and not one reason was given for that action. But that is not all. He claims that there is no justification for his dismissal, and that the only ground for it is that he has been a member of the Australian Peace Council and of the Democratic Rights Council. Surely, then, his claim for an investigation into the reason for his dismissal should be granted by the
Government. His case has now been presented in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the Government has been asked to examine the circumstances, and to make a report to the Parliament which will at least reassure the people that this gentleman is not a typical example of victimization and witchhunting in this community. Surely it is a shocking state of affairs that the only reply which we have received from the Minister for Repatriation is a complete and blunt refusal to make an investigation, to grant a board of inquiry or to state any reason for the action which has been taken.
In those circumstances, there is, in the mind of any one who. dispassionately examines the case, strong ground for believing that the reason for his dismissal was connected with a report, or whisper, of an anonymous informer and that the grounds upon which action was taken were insufficient to. justify it. One can only conclude that this i9 the reason why the Government is unwilling to allow any investigation of the circumstances of the dismissal. This is the reason why, standing upon its power in the matter, it refuses to make any statement of any kind at all with respect to the matter. In view of all the circumstances, I ask the Government, once again, to permit an investigation of the dismissal of Dr. James. It is not even as though he was, or is, a member of the Communist party. According to his own statement, he has never been a Communist. He has a record of service to the nation which justifies consideration by the Government. He is reasonable in asking that a board of inquiry should be set up to review the circumstances of his dismissal and that he should be informed of the reasons for his summary dismissal which has resulted in the sudden cessation of useful research work that he was performing at the hospital. His dismissal is a slur upon his reputation which must cause him injury for many years to come unless he obtains the redress that he seeks.
– This measure is one of six financial bills that were dropped in the laps of honorable members last Thursday afternoon. I do not wish to take up the time of the House in dealing with matters that can be more appropriately dealt with on “ Grievance Day “. I should like to seek information concerning governmental finance if I shall be in order in discussing financial matters on financial bills, because, in the course of this debate, we have heard a lot of talk about hotels, the Australian Country party, the dismissal of a doctor from a repatriation hospital, and many other subjects but not very much about the subject with which the bill deals. I have had about twenty years’ experience in dealing with State budgets but I find myself somewhat in the position of a novice, or a political babe in the woods, in the Federal finance jungle. I have tried to find my way through it but at every turn I seem to come up against a somewhat prickly bamboo thicket. I have not been able to find any definite signposts such as are contained in State budgets by which I could proceed to find out where expenditure of revenue begins and ends and where expenditure of loan moneys begins and ends. I should like to know whether, as appears to be the fact, the Australian Government proceeds to expend all the revenue that comes into its coffers on items of all kinds, including capital works, until its revenue runs out. It would appear that after its revenue runs out, it pays the wages of its typists out of loan money. If that is the procedure, as it seems to be, the budget and estimates and details of supply are neither more nor less than an accountant’s nightmare.
The Constitution provides that if the Australian Government finishes a financial year with a surplus, that surplus must be divided among the several States. Apparently, that is why the Australian governments for years past have seen to it that they have not ended a financial year with a surplus. When the Financial Agreement was made there was no such thing as uniform taxation, but now that uniform taxation has been related to that agreement, it seems to me that the Australian Government is working a first-class “ slanter “ or racket, in order to keep the .States in the most abject poverty that it can possibly devise. If we are to continue the federal system and not carry out what is part and parcel of the Labour party’s policy, the abolition of State governments, there is one thing that this Government ought todo, and that is to call a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers to review the whole of the Financial Agreement, to see how it has -worked since its inception, what has been the result of uniform taxation in relation to it and what alterations should be made in the present system in order that the States shall receive a fair deal. As a State Minister I had the experience of attending conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers and meetings of the Loan Council. At one of those conferences the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) who was then Prime Minister and Treasurer, called for a vote on a certain matter and after the majority voted in the affirmative, he said, “ The vote is in the affirmative, but the decision is in the negative “. In those circumstances, the State Premiers need not bother at all to attend conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, because before they arrive the Treasurer makes his decisions which he can forward to the various Premiers and thus avoid incurring the expense involved in erecting a facade for such conferences. Supporters of the present Government do not believe that that is how the federal system should be administered.
I shall give a specific illustration of the point I am making by comparing the methods of financing the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, which is a Commonwealth project, and the Kiewa River hydro-electric power project which is being undertaken by the State Electricity Commission in Victoria. The purpose of both of those schemes is the production of hydro-electric power to produce electricity to be consumed by the people. One of the documents that I have before me dealing with the Government’s financial proposals shows that the sum of £1,000,000, probably the first £1,000,000 to be allocated for the purpose, is required for the Snowy River scheme and that that sum. is to be provided out of revenue. In respect of similar projects the State Electricity Commission in Victoria is budgeting to expend £16,000,000 this year in the development of electricity supplies for the people of that State and every penny of that sum will have to be provided out of loan money. Interest and sinking fund charges will have to be paid in respect of such money and, consequently, the tariff charges to consumers will include provision for such payments. As the Snowy Mountains scheme is to be financed out of revenue similar charges will not be brought against it, and, therefore, the controlling authority will be enabled to supply electricity more cheaply than the Electricity Commission in Victoria will be able to supply it. At one meeting of the Loan Council, the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister and Treasurer, told the Victorian representatives, of whom I was one, that State business undertakings, such as railways, must bring their revenues closer to their expenditure, otherwise the Australian Government would not take their losses into account when financial allocations were being made to the States. “Whilst some of the Commonwealth railways have been financed out of loan moneys, many items of expenditure incurred by those railways have been financed out of revenue, but the States are obliged to finance similar items of expenditure out of loan money. Consequently, the States must charge higher freights and fares in order to meet interest and capital charges on such loan moneys. Thus, the Australian Government is running a racket at the expense of the States because it says to them, in effect, that it can carry on its business undertakings and capital projects more cheaply than they can carry on similar works. The States have to bear the stigma of increasing the cost of living by increasing freights and fares and electricity charges because they are obliged to finance their capital works out of loan money on which they must pay interest and sinking fund charges.
It may be quite all right for the Australian Government to tell the States that if they can finance their works out of revenue they should do so because that method of finance will act as a check, however small, upon inflation. However, if that is correct, surely the States as partners in the federation have an equal right with the Australian Government to finance a proportion of their capital works out of revenue and it is certainly not right for the Australian Government to say to the States, “ We are going to pay for our capital works out of revenue, and the States will have to pay for all their capital works out of loan money Therefore, I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to give this matter urgent consideration. I know that it involves many difficulties. I also ask him to consider calling a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers with a view to establishing a fairer and better financial arrangement between the States and the Australian Government. It may be very nice for the Australian Government to say, in effect, “ We collect all the money. We have the financial power, and we can dictate to the States “. That is what happened under the Labour Government, and the present Government would appear to be maintaining that attitude because the States are still being told that they can have certain sums but only for particular purposes. They are not being allocated additional sums which they are permitted to expend on works in the order of priority that they desire to observe. The State’s are being allocated sums only for specific purposes.
We were told some years ago that the Australian Government was going to make available the sum of £100,000 to finance some such body as the National Road Safety Council which it proposed to establish. For that purpose a Director of Road Safety was appointed and a new Commonwealth department was set up. Although some of that money was expended through subsidiary State bodies, the council consisted of five representatives from each State, and those representatives met each quarter in a different capital city. The expenditure incurred in respect of travelling and accommodation for so many persons was so absurd that I reduced Victoria’s representation on that body to one person. When all . is said and done the States are responsible for maintaining roads in repair. If this additional money is available, it should -be given to the States to expend in any way which they consider most desirable. Instead of establishing another Commonwealth department, increasing the number of public servants, and saying to them, “ You must expend this money in such a way as we think fit “, the Government should make the money available to the States. We cannot teach adults road safety merely by advertising media such a3 the “ Death is so permanent “ series on the radio or in the press. The only way in which to prevent speeding is to increase the number of road traffic police. Another way in which the problem may be tackled is by teaching the children road safety. The police should visit the schools, and give talks to the children on the principles of road safety and establish friendly relations with them. That factor is important. In other words, we should educate the rising generation- in the principles of road safety. We should also ensure that the traffic laws shall be obeyed by keeping a check on the present generation.
The financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States are in a mess. I can only describe the present situation as a complete federal racket. I want to put in a word in this House for the States. I have been present at two conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and at two meetings of the Australian Loan Council, and, therefore have some knowledge of the methods which are adopted in relation to Government accountancy, but I have been amazed by the manner in which Commonwealth accounts have been presented in this House.
The Government proposes to continue to provide £100,000 or £200,000 for the national fitness campaign. It proposes to make the money available to the States, but it reserved to itself the right to dictate to them the manner in which the money shall be expended, and to appoint the SH;ate directors of the campaign. That activity means another government department or semi-department, and more public servants or semi-public servants. One State had to insist that the Commonwealthappointed director of the campaign should not make money available to the Eureka Youth Movement, because it did not approve of that body. Those who have kept the national fitness campaign in operation throughout the years are the officials of the amateur sporting bodies throughout the States. Fortunately, they occasionally get a small “ handout “ for the purpose of defraying expenditure which is incurred in connexion with such activities as the Olympic games. The States have not sufficient money to provide for the erection of stadiums for the holding of Olympic events. Only one indoor swimming pool is available in Melbourne for those who wish to train during the winter-time with a view to participating in the Olympic games.
Another matter which is causing concern to the people is the increasing number of Commonwealth public servants. That problem is associated with the overlapping that exists between Commonwealth and State activities. Too frequently, Commonwealth authorities intrude into State spheres of administration. Such intrusions were particularly noticeable during the eight years in which Labour governments were in office. I am well aware that it is a part of the policy of the Labour party to intrude into the spheres of the States in an attempt to make them beggars at the federal table. The Labour party advocates the abolition of State parliaments, and favours the centralization of government in Canberra. I trust that such a deliberately designed method of infiltration into the State spheres, which proceeded steadily, surely, and not too slowly during the eight years in which Labour governments were in office, will not continue. Even since the present Government came into office-, the number of public servants has increased. I trust that the Government will give close and early attention to that matter.
Another factor which has a vital bearing on the finances of the Commonwealth and the States is the subject of transport. I notice in the papers that have been presented to us that a large amount of revenue is being expended on tha construction of aerodromes and on the provision of meteorological and other aids which are essential to the safety and progress of civil aviation. I have no desire to criticize the Department of Civil Aviation, because I think that it is doing a magnificent job and is making splendid progress with its tasks. However, I point out to the
Treasurer that we are fostering services which compete with the existing road and rail services that are provided by the States. The companies which provide aviation services have to pay only a nominal charge for the use of aerodromes :that have been constructed by the Commonwealth, but they offer serious competition to the State railways, which have to pay interest and sinking fund on the capital expenditure involved in their undertakings, and have to adjust their fares and freights accordingly. If it is right for the Commonwealth to allocate large amounts of revenue for civil aviation purposes in order that the public may be given the best possible service and that aviation may be able to progress as rapidly as we think it should, a similar measure of financial assistance should be :granted to the States in respect of their railways, so that the services provided by the airlines and the railways may be placed on something like a competitive basis. If grants of Commonwealth revenue are not made to assist the State railways, at least the States should receive increased allocations of Commonwealth funds to meet the deficits which accrue as the result of the competition of airline services with State rail and private road services.
Wherever we look in the documents that have been placed before us, we see evidence that the States are getting a raw deal. Indeed, they have been getting a raw deal since the system of uniform income tax was introduced. I realize that every honorable member wishes to simplify the method of collecting taxes from the people. Most of us favour the principle of uniform income tax, but I suggest that we cannot continue to keep the States in the position of beggars, while the Commonwealth Treasury continues to overflow. It i3 unfair for the Australian Labour party 4o blame the Victorian Government, as it did during the recent State general election, for the increasing cost of living in that State when the Chifley Government forced the State to increase fares, freights and electricity charges. The Labour Government did not give the States one penny more than it had to give them. It financed its own capital works out of revenue, but it forced the States to finance their capital works out of loan funds. I trust that the Government will give this matter very serious consideration. If Commonwealth and State Ministers could meet in conference and discuss their financial arrangements on a non-party political basis they should be able to evolve a system which would give the States a fair deal.
There seems to be something wrong with the Commonwealth accounting system when supplementary estimates of expenditure for 194S-49 are presented twelve months after the expiration of the financial year to which they relate. Although I realize that the wider ramifications, of the Commonwealth involve much more complex accounting procedures than are involved in the State sphere, it should be possible for the Government to introduce supplementary estimates at a very much earlier date than has been the custom in this Parliament. 1 sympathize with honorable members who are new to parliamentary life who have had tossed into their laps in one afternoon no fewer than six financial measures. I have no desire to speak at length. I merely want to give to the House a few ideas that occurred to me when I was trying to find my way through the first batch of Estimates that have been presented to me since I have been a member of this Parliament. A better form could be devised for the preparation of the documents that have been placed before us. The whole method of their preparation and presentation in this House, constitutes to my mind nothing short of an accountant’s nightmare which should not be continued.
– In the wide scope of the discussion permitted on these measures I have been particularly interested in what has been said on what I regard as the most important problem that faces Australia to-day. I refer to the inflationary spiral and the everincreasing cost of living. I listened with great attention to the speeches of honorable members opposite in an endeavour to ascertain what proposals the Government has in mind to deal with this pressing problem. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pittard) in seeking to help the Government to put value back into the £1 and to check the everincreasing cost of living suggested that the solution of the problem is to be found in increased production. Admittedly there is scope in some spheres for increased production. As the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has said Australia has a milk-bar economy. The figures relating to the production of ice cream, beer, iron, steel and bricks during the last few years are very interesting. Between 1939 and 1949, the production of ice cream increased by 23S per cent, while the production of iron and steel decreased by 4 per cent. During the same period the production of beer increased by 64 per cent, while the production of bricks decreased by 13 per cent. I agree with the general thesis that Australia needs increased production of iron, steel, bricks and other basic materials, but the honorable member for Ballarat must realize that increased production of itself is not the answer to the problem of rising prices. In the United States of America the production of all goods has rapidly increased during the last few years, but despite the general all-round increase in the production of all classes of commodities, prices are continually rising. Apart from the inadequate suggestion advanced by the honorable member for Ballarat only one statement was made by an honorable member opposite relating to the means by which this problem should be tackled. That statement was made by no less a person than the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when in answer to a question yesterday about the Government’s plans to put value back in the £1 he gave a reply that must go down in history as containing the most remarkable proposal that has ever been made by a member of this Parliament. He said that the Government could not do anything about putting those missing shillings back into the £1 until the Communist Party Dissolution Bill had been passed. He said, in effect, “ When that bill goes through we shall be able to deal with Communists and that is the Government’s programme for putting value back into the £1 “.
Because of the scarcity of constructive ideas from honorable members on the other side of the House about what should be done in this matter that is of such vital concern to everybody in this country,. I consider that it would not be out of place for me to recapitulate the disastrous effects that the inflationary spiral is having upon the community at large. It would also not be out of place to check over the bad effect upon the ordinary people of the community of the Government’s failure to live up to its pre-election promise to counter the rising cost of living. I think that we all agree that our money to-day is losing its value. The £1 is diminishing in purchasing power, one result of which is, of course, that the savings of our people are decreasing in value. We are inclined to draw encouragement from statistics that show that savings bank deposits have increased to £741,831,000 compared with £245,000,000 in 1939. Our satisfaction over the increase of the savings of the people is considerably minimized when we realize that those pounds have not the value that they had previously. We must also have cause for concern when we consider the plight of wage and salary earners due to the fact that the Government has not taken any positive and concrete action in the matter of reducing, the cost of living.
The latest figures from the Commonwealth Statistician on the number of wage and salary earners in Australia are rather illuminating. They show that there are 2,514,000 wage and salary earners in this country. All those people are in receipt of fixed incomes. Whatever their employment may be they are feeling the effects of the inflationary spiral that has decreased the value of their money. In effect, because they are on fixed salaries the amount of money that comes into their homes each week is now insufficient to enable them to keep pace with the increased cost of living, and as a result they are finding that their effective standard of living is steadily deteriorating. The artisan, the workshop employee, the white collar worker in private industry and the public servant are all feeling the effect of the inflationary spiral and are all asking when the Government intends to do something about the deterioration in the nation’s standard of living. Even worse than their plight is that of people on fixed incomes derived from pensions and superannuation, who do not enjoy the benefit of cost-of-living adjustments that are enjoyed by wage and salary earners. That class of person, includes age, invalid, widow and service pensioners, all of whom are finding that the amount of money that they receive as pensions, which was fixed before the £1 had deteriorated to its present level, is insufficient to enable them to purchase the bare necessaries of life. The same applies to other sections of the community such as retired public servants who made provision for their old age by contributing to superannuation funds, and to other people who saved during their working lives and perhaps invested some money in Government bonds or made ‘a modest investment in property, and hoped to live on the income from those investments in their old age. The income that they considered at the time when they made their investments would be adequate for their purposes, is now insufficient for them, because of the decrease of the purchasing power of money and they now have not the wherewithal to live decently. Because of the iniquitous means test thrifty people find that they are ineligible for some of our social service benefits, and in many instances are ineligible even for age and invalid pensions.
The burden due to the ever-decreasing value of money falls particularly heavily on -young couples who have married during the last few years and are faced with the necessity of purchasing furniture and of endeavouring to buy homes at the present inflated prices. They are finding that the task of maintaining their standard of living and of getting a home together is becoming increasingly difficult. It may be considered that I am repeating myself, but as we have not had any really worth-while suggestions about this problem from the Government side of the House, I am merely reminding honorablemembers opposite of the effects of its failure to take any action. I remind them that all sections of the community, and in fact a great majority of the people, are feeling the effects of the Government’s failure to act. That is particularly so in the case of housewives. In my opinion the housewives feel to the greatest degree the effects of the Government’s failure to check the fall in our money values. After all, our womenfolk have to go out and seek bargains and have to try to stretch out a weekly housekeeping allowance so . that it will buy all the things that are necessary to maintain a family at a reasonable standard of living in face of the everincreasing rise in the cost of the basic necessaries of life. It is the womenfolk who are particularly concerned to see that the children of the nation are adequately clothed for all weathers, and receive sufficient nourishing food, including plenty of meat, vegetables and fruit, all of which are becoming dearer in price.
I specially draw the attention of honorable members opposite to the fact that, the health of our womenfolk is suffering because of the ever-increasing cost of living and the failure of the Government to deal with it. I have noticed while walking along Chapel-street, Prahran, in the heart of my electorate, that women have a look of strain and worry. Our womenfolk are trying to keep up with the increasing cost of living, and are showing the strain of doing so. I discussed this matter with a doctor recently. He commented on the fact that nervous troubles among housewives are increasing at an alarming rate. He said that many married women are now coming to him to seek advice about their health, and that the trouble is that they are suffering from nerves and he cannot do anything for them beyond giving them a tonic and telling them not to worry about things. This deterioration in the health of ourwomenfolk is due to the fact that they worry about keeping their families on a decent standard of living. The responsibility for the fact that the health of our womenfolk is deteriorating lies at the feet of the Government because it is either not prepared, or not capable, of doing anything to lift the burden from people who are trying to make ends meet during the present inflationary period. One very bad effect of the inflationary spiral, from a social point of view, which is causing worry and strain among the mothers of Australia, is that many women are now forced to go out to work and to leave their young children at home in the care of older children. They are being forced to go out to work, not because they want to leave their children at home, uncared for, but because they need the extra money to give their families the reasonable standard of living that is the right of every Australian. It is a tragedy that, in this wonderful country, in which everybody should be enjoying a high standard of living, the mothers of young Australians are being forced to go out to work.
That is a brief survey of some of the disastrous and appalling effects of the failure of the Government to take any action to arrest the deterioration of the purchasing power of our money. All sections of the community are suffering. They are looking to the Government, and wondering what it proposes to do in- the matter. Since the Government assumed office, Ministers and other honorable gentlemen opposite have indulged in a considerable amount of talk. If words were sufficient, this and all other problems would have been solved by now. But what we need is action. Talk by the Government is not helping to solve the problem. It is not getting us anywhere. The Melbourne Herald of the 3rd June published an article written by Mr. P. M. Weate, a bachelor of commerce and a member of the finance staff of that newspaper. He made the startling announcement that inflation in Australia has reached a higher peak than is the case in ether countries. He said -
Prices are now rising faster in Australia tha.il in any other major country - a trend which is already harming some Australian secondary industries which sell part of their output overseas. In contrast with this high rate of inflation in Australia in recent months, the Canadian and New Zealand price levels are steady; United States is rising slightly after a fall, and United Kingdom is still rising, but not at our rate.
That damning indictment was published by a newspaper that is a staunch supporter of the present Government parties. It is interesting to compare that article with advertisements that were published by the present Government parties during the last general election campaign. Those parties said - .and the people accepted the statement - that if they were returned to power they would restore value to the £1 and check the inflationary
Mr. TP. M. Bourke. spiral. They had all the answers. The Governor-General, in the Speech that he delivered at the opening of the Parliament, said -
My Government views with grave concern the increase which has been taking place in recent years in the cost of living. It is realized that the solution of this problem is not easy and calls for the closest co-operation not only as between Commonwealth and State Governments but also between all sections of the community. An intensive review is at present being made by my Government of the causes of present price trends with a view to determining the most effective measures which can be taken to remedy the current inflationary situation.
The people of Australia believe that the Government has now had ample time in which to make that intensive review. We are waiting to hear the effective measures that it proposes to take. Although the Government has now been in office for six months, it was not until last week that it made any real effort to take some action, or so we were told. Presumably the period of six months has been devoted to making an intensive review of price trends. I was interested and expectant last week as I was considering this matter from the point of view, not of party politics, but of the Government doing something to solve this very urgent problem. . We have been told that during last week-end all members of the Cabinet remained in Canberra and that all the Government’s experts and advisers were standing by. We waited expectantly to learn what would result from those comings and goings and conferences. We waited to hear what action the Government proposed to take. We believed that, at last, some kind of programme would be announced. The headlines of the newspapers during that period were very exciting and interesting. They created an air of expectancy among the people. One headline was, “ Cabinet Examining the Problem of the Pound “. Another read, “ Pound Appreciation Arises at Special Cabinet Meeting “. The people believed that, at last, the time had arrived when the Government was going to take some action, but although the mountain laboured it did not produce even a mouse. Not one positive act resulted from those comings and goings, conferences and calling together of experts. There was apparently some discussion regarding the appreciation of the Australian £1, but, because of the conflict between two sections of Cabinet, no decision was arrived at upon that matter, or indeed upon any other matter that would tend to cheek the inflationary spiral and the drift in the purchasing power of our money. The alarming feature is not merely that the Government failed to act or that it brought the people of Australia to a pitch of expectancy, but that it has given no indication at all of when it will act and of what it proposes to do at any time in the future.
The question of the appreciation of the Australian £1 to parity with sterling is one that concerns all thinking people in this country. The problem must be tackled. The Government, which is responsible for the economic destinies of this country, owes a duty to the people to make some announcement of its intention, even if it has not the courage or the initiative .to take positive action or do anything worthwhile. If the inflationary spiral is to be checked, action will have to be taken. That action, whatever it may be, will hurt some sections of the community.
– What does the honorable gentleman think of it himself?
M.r. W. M. BOURKE. - What do I think of what?
– The appreciation of the £1. He said that thinking people were worried about it.
– Apparently all sections of the community, except the Government parties, are worried about it. The Government has not given any indication of what it proposes to do. It is its duty to give a lead in these matters. We aro waiting for it to give a lead, or at least to indicate when something will be done. There are arguments for and against an appreciation of the Australian £1 to parity with sterling. Some people argue that if the £1 were appreciated to that degree, the cost of living in this country would fall, because imports would be cheaper. They argue that the general effect of appreciation would be to check a vise in the cost of living and ultimately to cause a fall in prices. Against that is the argument that certain basic industries, such as the gold-mining industry and the lead and zinc industries which rely for their prosperity on the price that they obtain overseas, would suffer and possibly be made bankrupt if such an appreciation of the £1 took place. There is the further argument that if the £1 were appreciated to parity with sterling the income of the primary producers would be reduced by 25 per cent, and that that would have an important effect upon the inflationary situation because it would reduce the total amount of money competing for the fixed amount of goods in the community. I believe that the latter argument is most important and if the Government is prepared to consider the interests of all the people rather than of sectional groups it must do something about the huge sum of money which is coming into the country as a result of the high prices being paid for primary products.
In suggesting that there should be a reduction in the amount of money coming into the country as a result of the high prices being received for primary products, I am not expressing hostility to the primary producers. I do not begrudge them the high incomes that they are at present receiving. The primary producers are the backbone of the community. I agree with honorable members who say that “Australia rides to prosperity on the back of the sheep and I agree with the argument that the man on the land has to put up with a. lot of vicissitudes which are not the lot of the man who is in business in the city. The man on the land has to face the problems, not only of marketing, but also of seasonal difficulties, of fire and tempest, and of bad seasons which are likely to deprive him of the value of the whole of his year’s hard work. But, bearing those points in mind and the fact that the man on the land must be prosperous if Australia, is to be prosperous, I think that the Government is aware and the Prime Minister has made it clear in public utterances that the vast income arising from the fantastic prices being enjoyed by primary producers, particularly wool producers, is producing a bad effect on the economy of the country. Australia’s income from the export of wool for the present year is expected to reach £270,000,000. Before the war Australia’s income from wool was about £40,000,000 annually. The additional money is now pouring into the nation’s economy, although there is no extra supply of goods which it can he used to purchase. That circumstance is forcing up the general inflationary spiral. The Government could freeze some of that money or take it off the market in some other way if it wishes to check the inflationary spiral and put value hack into the £1. There are different methods by which that objective could be achieved. Appreciation of the £1 to parity with sterling would be one method. The fixing of a home-consumption price for wool would be another method, for it would mean that the people would be able to buy woollen goods at a more reasonable price and that the wool industry would preserve itself from future competition from artificial substitutes. A third method would be the freezing of a certain amount of the money obtained for wool, a9 suggested by Professor Copland. It would not be confiscated, but would be frozen so that it would not go into the wool-grower’s pocket immediately but would be put aside to provide for a rainy day. However, it is not the province of honorable members of the Opposition to say what the Government should or should not do.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. LESLIE (Moore) ‘fjll.41] .- At this time of the night I do not expect to have a very attentive or friendly audience, but, as a representative of the only section of the Australian working class that has no 40-hour week, I consider that I should speak on this measure. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), who has just resumed his seat, paid a tribute to the primary producers of Australia. Since the beginning of the present session, honorable members of the Opposition have made one attack after another on the primary producers, who have been accused of being greedy and gluttonous, of demanding more than their pound of flesh and of robbing the consumer.
– Order !
– I call you as my witness, Mr. Speaker, that these things have been said by honorable members of the Opposition. Not only in this place has the primary producer been condemned because he asks for an opportunity to obtain a reasonable share of the goods which he provides to the. community. He does not receive that share when the Labour party is in power. At least one honorable member of the Opposition frankly and openly confesses that fact. I have here a statement made by Mr. J. W. Seiffert, Labour member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for Monaro, who has said -
When the small city group of trade union officials override the wishes of the people of Monaro I have only one choice - to desert those who have given ma their loyal support or to contest the election as the candidate endorsed by the Monaro State Electorate Council. It is a source of pride to me that I can face my friends and supporters with their official imprimatur. For nine years I have in every way attempted to secure recognition of the claims of this important country constituency. During that time I have had to make a strong stand against the sectional outlook of Trades Hall officials, whose attitude more often than not has been one of complete neglect for country viewpoint. Because of this I have had to pay the penalty of being loyal to the electors of my constituency, rather than to certain individuals in the Labour Party as it is at present constituted.
I realize that such a statement by a member of the Labour movement hurts honorable members opposite.
– What rubbish.
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) should refrain from interjecting so frequently. Interjections are disorderly at any time, but are extremely disorderly when the honorable member who. interjects is occupying another honorable member’s seat.
– I thank the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke) for his generous references to the primary producers. The constant reiteration of statements about the difficult times through which the people in this country are passing appears to be worrying honorable members opposite. It is indeed strange that this position should worry them so greatly now, because the present conditions have not developed in the few months that the present Government has been in office. The Government cannot be expected to right in six months the wrongs committed by the former Labour Governments during the eight years that they were in office. The people of Australia will judge whether the Government has fallen down on its promises or not. I remind honorable members of the Labour party that when they asked the people to return them to office on the 10th December last the people said, in effect, “ Your record is damned rotten “.
– I rise to order. As that remark is offensive to me I ask that it be withdrawn.
– What was the remark that the honorable member for Watson complains about?
– I should not like to repeat the disgusting language that the honorable member for Moore used. Could I write the remark on a piece of paper and hand it to the Chair?
– That would be wise.
– The people turned the former Government down on its record. I make it clear that, as a supporter of the present Government, I should be prepared to go to the country on the present Administration’s record during its short term in office.
– What a record!
– Order ! The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) is consistently and loudly interjecting. We are getting to the stage of deliberate interjections when certain honorable members are addressing the House. If an honorable member does not get a fair hearing I shall have to consider whether his time should be extended.
– Does the Chair expect to use a . 303 ?
– A . 303 would be quite useful, as the magazine holds ten rounds.
– I repeat that the conditions existing in this country to-day have not come about as a result of the administration of the present Government, but as a result of the former Government’s maladministration. The conditions that developed during Labour’s regime could not be adjusted in five or six months. The Opposition has paid a remarkable tribute to the Government by suggesting that it could remedy the defects and faults which resulted from Labour’s term of office, in such a short period. However, honorable members opposite should not be bitterly disappointed if the Government is unable to perform miracles.
– When does the Government expect to commence to restore value to the £1 ?
– I believe that the Government should alter the present basis of taxation in order that the economy of this country may be directed along proper lines. Labour favoured a class system of taxation. I refer to the method of sales taxation whereby the workers are compelled to pay the same rate of taxes on necessaries as the more fortunate members of the community pay on luxuries. The sales tax should be graduated. I do not agree with class taxation, which has the effect of dividing industry into various channels. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) has referred to the fact that Professor Copland stated that this country was being run on a milk bar economy. However, I point out that the professor made that statement three years ago, during Labour’s administration. Manufacturers have been concerned more with the production of dressing gowns and toys than of suits of clothes and machinery. Honorable members opposite are continually implying that production has increased since the introduction of the 40-hour week. We should analyse the position carefully to see whether the country has in fact benefited as a result of the shortening of the working week.
– What hours does the honorable member suggest would be a fair thing in industry?
– I know the hours that I should like to see the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) work. I hope that the Opposition will not expect spectacular developments by the Government. I point out that nine-tenths of government is administration. The administrative acts of this Government during its short period in office have earned the commendation of the people of this country, but the people speak in commendation of the Opposition for its obstructionist tactics in denying the Government the opportunity to establish a firm basis on which to right the wrongs in Australia to-day. The Opposition realizes that it is on very dangerous ground. Current events prove that the supporters of Labour are wrong in attempting to deny the Government the means to prevent sabotage of the economy of this country. The action of the Government in attempting to stop disruption and sabotage and to restore in the Australian people a spirit of confidence in themselves and in the country is endorsed by the very people whom the Labour party professes to represent in this Parliament. The Labour party has no compunction in disrupting the economy of Australia in order to register a protest, perhaps one can say an inspired protest, against the legislation now under consideration in another place. It is time that honorable members of the Labour party got into a huddle and re-orientated their ideas. I suggest that their present ideas are out of date. If I were seeking only political advantage, I should say to honorable members opposite, “ Continue along the road you are taking, because along that road lies your political extermination “. But amongst those honorable gentlemen are some who are whole-heartedly sincere in their desire to do some good. Being a generous man and a member of the Australian Country party, which is a democratic party, I should not wish to see them exterminated. In the interests of Australia I suggest that it is time their policy was re-orientated. The constant reference from the front benches of the Opposition to the enormous amount of money that the previous Government left in the Treasury for the benefit of this Government has become tiresome. We heard a great story from honorable members opposite about the National Welfare Fund and the £100,000,000 in it. I inspected the Commonwealth accounts and found that this money is not invested according to the best interests of the people.
– It is in the boxes on the table.
– I do not think that it would be secure even there. The sum of £99,800,000 of the National Welfare Fund is invested in Commonwealth treasurybills. That is money invested at short call which the Government uses from day to day.
– Then it has no right to use it.
– I agree. That money is supposed to be a reserve put safely away. If it is being used by the governments to carry on their functions from day to day, then where is the rest of the money that was supposed to have been left by the previous Government?
Thursday, 15 June 1950
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I must ask the House once and for all to give the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) a fair hearing. If certain honorable members are not prepared to do that then I shall have to take action, even though it is midnight.
– As the honorable mem- . ber for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) said earlier in this debate, it is difficult to follow the system of accounts used by the Australian Government. However, it is easy enough to find out how trust moneys are invested. All government moneys including the National Welfare Fund, are a sacred trust. Trust funds which are far less important than the National Welfare Fund are invested in long-term loans. The money invested in treasurybills is the money that we are so constantly told was accumulated for the purpose of building a secure social services system in Australia. It was intended for the purpose of providing free medicine, free medical attention, increased age pensions and widows’ pensions, child endowment and all the other social services. Yet this fund is being used from day to day. It should be set aside for use in the future. I consider that in all governments, and I do not blame the past government except that it was inclined to mislead the people about the amount of money in hand, there is a tendency to misuse the trust moneys that they hold.
– To bribe union officials.
– I am sorry to hear that interjection. I do not suggest that any government moneys are applied wrongly from that point of view, but I do say that some moneys are applied wrongly from a national point of view in that the position of the country’s finances is not shown correctly either to the members of this House or to the people. I draw attention to the report of the Auditor-General, in which he recommends the appointment of a parliamentary committee on public accounts. I have already referred to this matter in a question directed to the Prime Minister. I urge him to make provision for the appointment of such a committee. The deliberations of such a committee should help to effect great economy in Government expenditure. The committee could be the medium through which memburs of this House could be kept conversant with government financial activities. I ask the Treasurer to confer with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) upon the re-constitution of the committee to function along similar lines to those of the committee which was suspended in 1932. I have not yet heard any acceptable reason given why the previous committee was suspended. No accusation was made that it did not perform useful functions. I notice a reference in the annual report to the effect that £6,100,000 has been transferred from the war damage fund account to the war gratuity fund account. Parliament made that decision, and I therefore do not quarrel with it; but I suggest to the Government that the War Damage Fund account should bo continued as a national disaster account. Hardly a year passes but some part of Australia suffers on a large scale from a. disaster. This year floods have occurred in the eastern States and Victoria. Fires have also caused damage in Western Australia. We also have recurring droughts. Every time such a disaster occurs, an appeal is made by the government of’ the State concerned to the National Government for financial assistance to succour the people concerned.
– What about the sufferers from the grasshopper plagues?
– That is a matter on which I could also make a constructive suggestion. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) need not worry about me. I can take care of my electors, and of the State in which my electorate is situated, without his assistance. I understand that about £600,000 has been accumulated in the War Damage Fund, and I believe that that money might well be appropriated to a fund to provide assistance for sufferers in disasters of considerable magnitude, such as those which have affected the States this year. Payments could then be made from that fund to victims, and it would be a matter for the government of the day to decide, according to the circumstances, whether the money should be paid as a free gift, or as a temporary loan.
According to the answer furnished by a Minister to a question that I asked recently, the Railway Commissioner of Western Australia will shortly visit Canberra to discuss the proposal to standardize railway gauges in that State. When he approaches the Government, I trust that it will treat him as generously as it can. I believe that the financial assistance which he will seek from the Government i3 much too small in view of the magnitude of the real needs of the railways of Western Australia. Possibly the Government of Western Australia is asking for too little because ot the old fear that the National Government will not consider generously a request from a State. However, I have sufficient confidence in the present Government to believe that it will deal fairly and squarely with the people of Western Australia. I think the Government should take advantage of this opportunity to dispel the idea that it is not mindful of the just claims of the less populous States.
– Surely the honorable member does not fear that the Government will not be sufficiently generous?
– I am afraid that the Government might be influenced by the minutes and memorandums that have been placed on the file by its predecessors. However, I trust that the Government will endeavour to convince the Government of Western Australia of the wisdom of embarking upon a national scheme of standardization of the whole of the railway gauges such as was proposed by a previous national administration, but I also hope that the financial assistance offered by the present Government will bc much more generous and attractive than that offered by its predecessor.
I should like to deal briefly now with the re-arrangement of the staff engaged in the former Department of Post-war Reconstruction. This matter concerns the Treasurer, because the finance for the operations formerly discharged by that department is supplied direct by the Treasury. Whilst I am not sorry that the department has disappeared as an independent department, I am concerned that . the experienced officers who administered it may be replaced by inexpert officers of the Repatriation Commission. As a representative of Western Australia, which is particularly concerned with developmental projects that require the employment of skilled young men, many of whom are dependent upon the Australian Government for their opportunity to acquire training, I am particularly concerned about this matter. I suggest that before the Government dispenses with the services in the States of the senior officers of the former Department of Post-war Reconstruction, who have acquired by the hard way, unusual experience in such matters as the training of apprentices, the relationships between employers and employees and industrial matters generally, it should retain their services in the same capacity where they will be of assistance to our industrial economy. In conclusion, I appeal to members of the Opposition, to cease their attempts to use the bludgeon or misery merely to build up a case to support their political affiliations. After all, they; as well as we, have a responsibility to the people of Australia.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Riordan) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fadden) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you give consideration to installing some device, either by way of a light or some other signal, to warn honorable members when the time allocated for their speeches under the Standing Orders is about to expire.
– I shall consider the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.13 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Dollar Deficits: Timber and Petrol.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 June 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500614_reps_19_208/>.