19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer concerning the administration of the Superannuation Act. A large percentage of public servants contribute to the superannuation fund in order to receive a pension at the age of 60 years, but, in many instances, particularly at the present time, they are retained in the Public Service until they reach the age of 65 years, thereby losing five years pf pension. The administration of the act makes no provision for a percentage increase of the Government’s share of the pension in such circumstances. No provision whatever is made for any percentage increase of the Government’s share. Will the Treasurer give consideration to amending the act or altering the system of administration, whichever may be necessary, so that public servants who contribute for pensions at the age of 60 years but do not receive them, until some years later may be allowed to enjoy the benefit of a percentage increase of the share of the pension which the Government makes available to the board?
– I shall have the matter investigated and will furnish the honorable member with a reply.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation why the Narromine aerodrome, which is the alternative international airport for Mascot, was not used so as to enable English footballers to fulfil an engagement at Forbes when the aerodromes at both Dubbo and Parkes were closed owing to bad weather? The aircraft on which the footballers were travelling was sent to Victoria.
– I believe that the Narromine aerodrome was also closed owing to bad weather conditions at that time, but I shall check that information and advise the’ honorable member further on the matter.
– I address a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation, to whom I wrote some time ago in connexion with the nuisance that has been caused by aircraft flying low over Sydney. Following upon the reply I received I now ask whether the Department of Civil Aviation has under consideration the erection of a series of aircraft control stations on the east coast of New South Wales? When will the control stations bo completed ?. When they are completed will it be possible to have all aircraft beamed in over the sea and thus eliminate the present nuisance of noise caused by low-flying aircraft?
– I am not quite clear about what the honorable gentleman means by “ aircraft control stations “ on the east coast of New South Wales. It is admitted that noise in the vicinity of airports, particularly of large airports, causes great inconvenience to people who live nearby, but I find it very difficult to see how that inconvenience could be avoided even by the method that the honorable gentleman has suggested, because it is necessary in certain conditions for aircraft to circle an airfield before landing. I do not believe that it would be possible in other than a small minority of cases for an aircraft to be brought in, on a particular corridor of entry, to land at an aerodrome without first having circled it. In any event, most of the noise made by low-flying aircraft is caused when aircraft are taking off and I do not think that that noise could be eliminated by the method that the honorable gentleman has suggested. I shall examine the matter and let the honorable gentleman have a reply in due course.
– My question to the Minister for Supply arises from the announcement that was made a few days ago that the new Peninsular and Oriental liner Himalaya would make two luxury cruises in the Mediterranean during the next few months. The purpose of the cruises is to earn dollars for Great Britain, and many Americans have booked to make the .trips. Before leaving Australia, Himalaya loaded huge quantities of foodstuffs, which, it was estimated, wouk be sufficient to last throughout the fire months during which the vessel will be absent from the Australian ran. During the two cruises, passengers will live on board the vessel and will call at various places of interest. I mention these facts because I know that the inadequacy of accommodation in Australia has proved a very great drawback to the making of any determined effort to induce Americans to visit Australia and spend dollars here. Will the Minister for Supply use his hest endeavours to persuade the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company to organize similar luxury cruises from the United States of America to Australia with the abject of earning dollars for this country ?
– I shall give consideration to the matter. A tentative proposal has been made to have the vessel Mariposa returned to the Australian run; The vessel has been tied up since the end of the war, and the Matson line is interested in putting it back in commission for precisely the purpose that the honorable member has suggested. It is recognized that one of our difficulties relative to increasing the tourist traffic from dollar countries to Australia arises from the inadequate accommodation in this country, and it is thought by some people who are interested in the industry that one way in which to overcome that difficulty is by cruises of the kind that has been mentioned by the honorable gentleman, in which the passengers would be able to live aboard the ships during the course of the cruises among the Pacific islands and to Australian ports. I do not know whether it is a function for this Government to deal with that matter. All that we have done is to set up a small co-ordinating body to encourage the States and private interests to attract tourists to Australia, but 1 shall give consideration to the matter that the honorable gentleman has raised, and, in particular, I shall bring it to the notice of the Prime Minister, in whose department it now rests.
– I wish to ask questions of both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but I notice that both of them are absent from the chamber. Indeed, only six of the nineteen Ministers are present at this stage. In the circumstances. I ask the Treasurer whether he will be good enough to answer the ques tion which 1 had intended to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I point out by way of explanation that, yesterday, the Minister informed the House that the Australian Wool Growers Council had approved of the legislation which he introduced on Tuesday evening. The Treasurer, who is the Leader of the Australian Country party, will doubtless be able to tell the House whether that approval was subject to very distinct qualifications and conditions. Will the right honorable gentleman say whether one of those conditions is that the council shall be informed of the precise scheme before its approval may be taken as definitive? Will the Government give the House as much information of the detailed scheme as the Australian Wool Growers Council insists on getting before it approves of the legislation ?
– I have no more information about that matter than was given by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture yesterday in reply to a question by the honorable member for Gwydir, and I do not know whether the Australian Wool Growers Council has made its approval of the legislation subject to certain qualifications and conditions. However, the right honorable gentleman’s question will be brought to the notice of the Minister, who, I am sure, will come into the chamber before the conclusion of question time.
– Where is the Minister for Health?
– He is attending to the health of the nation.
– Did the Treasurer make a statement at a recent conference of local authorities associations on the balances held by the various States of moneys made available to them under the Federal Aid Roads and Works Act? If so, did he also set out the responsibilities of the Australian Government and the State governments respectively for the construction and maintenance of roads and give details of the sums of money that had been made available to the various States for that purpose? In view of the claims that have been made that the States are not receiving sufficient funds for road works, did he point out to that conference that approximately £6,500,000 remains unexpended of the total sum of money that has been made available to the States under the agreement? Can he give to the House the unexpended balances held by the respective States?
– I made a statement of the kind that the honorable member has mentioned to a recent conference of local authorities associations and I have given similar information also to various deputations that have waited upon me with respect to the financing of road construction and maintenance. As at the 28th February last, the unexpended balances of the moneys made available to the respective States under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement were as follows : - New South “Wales £1,244,000, Victoria £1,933,000, Queensland £1,117,000, South Australia £373,000, Western Australia £1,734,000, and Tasmania £91,000. It is estimated that the unexpended balances of all funds held by all the States for road purposes will amount to £7,000,000 at the end of the current financial year, compared with a total of approximately £5,000,000 at the end of the last financial year.
– Supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Moore, I direct a question to the Treasurer relative to the appalling condition of roads generally throughout New South Wales. In view of the statement of the State member of the Legislative Assembly for Monaro, Mr. J. W. Seiffert, that more often than no”t Trades Hall officials, who control the Australian Labour party, adopt an attitude of complete neglect of the country point of view, and in view of the fact that the McGirr Government of New South Wales made available for developmental road purposes last year an amount of only £76,000 from its road funds despite the large unexpended balance referred to by the Treasurer, will the Treasurer cause investigations to be made in order to ascertain why the New South Wales Government continues to retain a large unexpended balance in its roads fund and makes only paltry sums available for the repair and maintenance of roads?
– Investigations have been made and, as the Leader of the Opposition knows, reasons have been advanced by the State governments for the non-expenditure of large amounts of money standing in their roads funds. One of the reasons given was that there had been a lack of material and of manpower for road works. The bad condition of country roads throughout Australia is not in any way due to the failure of the Australian Government to provide sufficient funds from Commonwealth sources.
– Will the Minister for the Interior ensure that divisional electoral offices are fully staffed and that proposed transfers, or appointments, of permanent officers shall be made immediately? Will he ensure that divisional maps, showing boundaries and other relevant data, shall he prominently displayed at post offices and public government offices generally? Will he also take steps to ensure that electors shall be fully informed of such details so that accurate and up-to-date electoral rolls will be readily available when they are required ?
– I shall give consideration to the matters that the honorable member has raised and see whether effect can be given to hia requests.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to a report by Mr. Taylor, secretary of the Rice Association, that huge areas in the Northern Territory and the north-west of Western Australia are suitable for rice growing? If that statement is correct, as I believe it to be, in view of the importance of the development of north Australia, will the right honorable gentleman undertake to have these areas put under production at the earliest possible date?
– Proposals have been made to that effect, although I have not seen the report to which the honorable member has referred. I shall collaborate with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. By way of explanation I point out that the Australian Meat Board, in its fourteenth annual report, referred to the development of the Channel country and recommended that the existing railway to Yaraka he extended to Windorah, and that the existing railway to Quilpie be extended to Eromanga. The board considers that the roads at present under construction in that area are not a satisfactory substitute for railways, and recommends that while building road bridges provision should be made for the bridges to carry rail traffic with a view to saving ultimate cost. What progress has been made in the construction of these roads? Has consideration been given to the board’s recommendations? If consideration has not been given to its recommendations, will the right honorable gentleman consider them before it is too late or, if they have been considered and rejected, will he state on what grounds his department disagrees with them ?
– With regard to roads giving access to the Channel country in south-west Queensland, all the plans have been drawn, surveys have been made and the work, I believe, has just begun or is about to start. The report to which the honorable member has referred is not a recent one. I believe that it was made at least a year ago. It was taken into account by the previous Government in arriving at a decision whether it should rely on roads or railways as a means of transport for the Channel country. That Government decided to rely on roads. One of the principal factors that motivated the previous Government in reaching that decision was that however necessary and desirable railways may be, they did not provide a practical proposition for giving quick access to and egress from the Channel country. Because of the amount of steel involved in railway construction and of many other reasons roads were deemed to constitute the better means of providing transport for that area. The subject of the construction of railways in the Northern Territory and in north Australia generally is now under consideration by the Government. I am advised by my officers that; whether or not access by railway is provided roads will eventually he necessary for the development of the Channel country and of south-west Queensland generally.
– In the absence of the Postmaster-General I address a question to the Treasurer about telephone services, and state by way of explanation that I am receiving, as np doubt other honorable members are receiving, large numbers of letters from persons, many of whom are aged and infirm, who have been awaiting the installation of telephones for periods that .they state range to as much as four or five years. Will the right honorable gentleman represent to the PostmasterGeneral the necessity of having a complete schedule drawn up showing the periods, in years, for which people have been waiting for telephones, with the object of securing some fair order of priority in the provision of telephones, especially for people who live in isolated country districts ?
– I shall have the honorable gentleman’s question placed before the Postmaster-General who, I am sure, will give him a reply expeditiously.
– - I understand that the Minister for Supply has been involved in certain negotiations relative to the Silverton Tramway Company’s railway line between Broken Hill and the South Australian border, and I ask him what action, if any, the Government has taken to acquire that railway ? Is the taking over of this service essential to the carrying out of.- the standardization of the gauges of the South Australian railways? Can the Minister say which government instrumentality has agreed to conduct this service ?
– This matter arises out of my activities when I was Minister for Transport, though it has nothing to do with my present portfolio. However, I can bring the matter up to date insofar as the information that I gained up to the time that I ceased to be Minister for Transport was up to date. As the honorable member knows, the gauges of the South Australian railways are ultimately to be completely standardized by an arrangement made between the previous Australian Government and the South Australian Government. That agreement provided that the Peterborough division of the South Australian system from Port Pirie to the border of South Australia near Broken Hill should be standardized, and that the Commonwealth should acquire from the New South Wales Government a 36-mile length of 3-ft. 6-in. railway from Cockburn to Broken Hill to link up with the standard gauge from Sydney. The proposal contained in the agreement is that the 36 miles of railway when acquired shall be converted to standard gauge and vested in the South Australian railways commissioners. When I ceased to be Minister for Transport, the Government was about to open negotiations with the New South Wales Government with the object of arranging for it to resume, under its powers as a State government, the Silverton Tramway Company’s line and thereafter to vest it in the South Australian railways commissioners. This was to be part of the gauge standardization scheme and was to be paid for by the Commonwealth. I think that I sent a letter to the New South Wales Government on this subject just before I ceased to be Minister for Transport, but I am not in a position to tell the honorable member what has happened since then. I shall endeavour to ascertain the present position from the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport and shall then supply the honorable member with the information he has requested.
– In reply to a question which was asked earlier this week by the honorable member for Darling Downs the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicated that negotiations were taking place in London in regard to the price of eggs to be sold under contract to the United Kingdom. If no increase is obtained or if the increase is only small and insufficient to cover the increasing cost of production of eggs, will the Minister give consideration to the granting of a subsidy to the industry?
– That would be government interference.
– Order !
– The cost of such a subsidy has been estimated at about bd. per dozen.
– I am still hopeful that, as a result of the negotiations which are proceeding, a reasonably satisfactory price for eggs will be obtained which will meet the cost of production. If the Government is not so successful as it hopes to be in these negotiations it will, if necessary, give consideration to the circumstances then revealed. I undertake to give some consideration to thu proposal put forward by the honorable member for Flinders, the honorable member for Darling Downs and other honorable members.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs. Have the complaints of the timber industry to the effect that the Government’s action in suspending and reducing tariffs on imported timbers in February of this year is gravely imperilling the native timber industry in Australia been brought to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs? Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House whether it is true that the tariff alteration which was made in February was ante-dated to the 10th December, 1949, and that importers have been asked to make application for refunds of excess duty paid since that date? What steps, if any, have been taken by the Government to see that the importers pass these refunds on to the purchasers of the timber concerned? Is it the intention of the Government to re-impose, after the 30th June, the duties formerly in operation on imported timbers?
– I have no information on the matters raised by the honorable member but I shall direct his question to the Minister for Trade and Customs and obtain an answer for him.
– Has the attention oi the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to the fact that vegetable seed crops in Victoria and other States have been practically ruined because of the recent disastrous floods which have occurred in all States? Has he instituted investigations on whether an adequate supply of seeds will be available for the coming season? Can he indicate what the position is likely to be?
– My department is aware that the succession of floods in the various States have had devastating effects on vegetable seed production from time to time. Arrangements have been made to prevent the export from Australia of any vegetable seeds which would be in short supply as a result of these floods and additional dollars will be made available for the import of such vegetable seeds as can be procured only from dollar areas. Steps will be taken by the Government as far as necessary to facilitate and expedite the importation of vegetable seeds from any other area so that a shortage for the spring and summer plantings will not occur.
– ‘Has the Treasurer seen a newspaper report in which it is stated that the Prime Minister made a speech in the Sydney Town Hall last night during the course of which, in dealing with the onus of proof clause in the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, he explained the nature of the proposal to appoint a committee of five to act in certain circumstances? It is then reported that in referring to the committee of five, he said -
But our Labour opponents won’t have any of that. They say it shall be decided by twelve mcn taken at random. I have never heard of such lunacy.
Was the Prime Minister speaking on behalf of the Government? If so, is the statement attributed to him the considered opinion of the Government about ;our jury system, and does it indicate that the Government is seeking to destroy the system? As a citizen may be tried for his life by twelve men taken at random will the Treasurer inform the House why the Government apparently seeks to deny the same privilege to private citizens who may, by some mischance, come within the scope of the measure to which I have referred ?
– I have not seen the newspaper report of the Prime Minister’s speech which was made last night. However, I am quite sure that those who were privileged to listen to it agreed completely with all that he said.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that the Australian Government has provided funds for the South Australian Government for the payment of a grant to that State’s dried fruit growers who have suffered loss through rain damage? Has the Australian Government received an application from the Victorian Government for similar financial assistance to that State to enable it to give some assistance to Victorian dried fruit growers who also suffered grave losses through rain damage? If so, what action is being taken ?
– Very soon after it was revealed that a disastrous loss had been suffered by growers in the Murray Valley dried fruit areas’, the South Australian Government made a request to the Australian Government for a comparatively small measure of assistance. That assistance was granted. Recently the Victorian Government asked the Australian Government for £250,000 to make good the losses of growers in the Victorian areas. The Victorian Government did not send with its request an explanation or analysis of those losses, but the Australian Government had, some considerable time before, as a result of a visit by myself to Mildura at the request of the honorable member, commenced a comprehensive inquiry into the general financial position of the dried fruits industry. That inquiry was directed particularly to the matter of losses sustained during the last harvest season and the harvest season before that. The investigation has been extended to include Western Australia also. As soon as it has been completed the Government will give consideration to what assistance, if any, should be given to the industry. It will also consider the form that the assistance should take.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs. By way of explanation, I point out that some time ago the Minister for Trade and Customs investigated the possibility of waiving the duty on caravans imported into Australia by immigrants for housing purposes but decided that the duty could not be waived in such circumstances. In view of the fact that motor cars that have been iti the possession of the owners overseas for twelve months or more are admitted duty free when such owners come to Australia, subject to a deposit being held by the Department of Trade and Customs for three years ‘so as to ensure that the importers shall not sell the vehicles during that period, will the Minister discuss with the Minister for Trade and Customs the possibility of admitting used caravans, as distinct from new caravans, on the same basis ?
– I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs and ascertain whether the honorable member’s request can be approved.
– In the continued absence of the Minister for Health, I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that no records were kept of any of the discussions that took place between the Minister and the British Medical Association concerning the proposed national health scheme? If so, why was the practice of keeping verbatim reports of such discussions discontinued? Was it done at the request of the British Medical Association or was it done because the Government did not want any records of the discussions to be made available to this Parliament ?
– I do not know what records of the discussions were kept, but
I know the Minister for Health sufficiently well to be aware that he would have a record.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim that he has been misrepresented?
– Indeed I do, sir. Yesterday, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) directed a question to the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) in which hr suggested that, in the course of a debate, I had said something that he described as having caused damage to the commercial community inasmuch as l had expressed the view that I was in favour of revaluing the £1.
– I rise to order. The Minister made a personal explanation on this matter yesterday. How often can he make a personal explanation on the same matter ?
– He may make a personal explanation as often as he claims to have been misrepresented. That practice has been followed several times to mv knowledge in this House.
– I again rise to order. I submit that, as the Minister made a personal explanation yesterday, he is not in order in making a second personal explanation now on the same subject.
-I rule that the Minister is in order.
– I said at the time, not having the Hansard record of my precise statements, that the statement made by the honorable member for Perth was entirely incorrect. Yesterday, having received the Hansard report, I invited the honorable member for Perth to have a look at it, and I assured him that, if he did so, he would realize that he had been quite wrong. It is appropriate that ] should indicate what I said when I spoke on this matter in the first place. It will be seen that my recollection was strictly correct. I made a reference to the devaluation of the £1 at the time when the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) was Treasurer, and I made it quite clear that I expressed no view upon the present problem. What I said, a? recorded in Hansard, was as follows : -
The Leader of the Opposition was also primarily and directly responsible for the depreciation of the Australian £1 in terms of dollars-
– I rise to order. Is the Minister making a quotation from Hansard of the current session?
-Order! It has already been laid down during this session that, when questions of accuracy arise, a Hansard “ flat “ may be quoted from. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has done so according to my recollection.
– I rise to order. You, Mr. Speaker, have misrepresented-
– I have misrepresented nobody.
– I regret that these interruptions are preventing me from making my explanation. The statement that I made was as follows : -
The Leader of the Opposition was also primarily and directly responsible for the depreciation of thu Australian £1 in terms of dollars at a time when the problem of dealing with the currency was much easier than it is to-day. I contended when that decision was announced, and I continued so to contend, that the depreciation of the Australian £1 would inevitably increase the cost of living. I emphasize that the right honorable gentleman made that decision at a time when the income from the sale of our exports was buoyant and high and when our financial position in respect of overseas funds was as satisfactory as it has ever been in our history.
Then, in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), I continued -
I made my attitude perfectly clear at the time when the previous Treasurer announced the decision to depreciate the value of the £1. [ said that it was fundamentally a had, economic mistake. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) may not be aware of that, because he was not a member of the House at tha.t time. I am not referring to the present situation, because the depreciation of the Australian £1 has produced an entirely different set of circumstances and an entirely different problem.
Later, I made the only other reference to that subject that can be found in my remarks. In referring to the Leader of the Opposition, I said -
He asked, “ What are you going to do about a ppreciating the £1 ? “.
I then proceeded as follows : -
What the Government will do about that matter will be announced at the appropriate time. I do not indicate what will be done about it, one way or another.
Nothing could be clearer-
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order! The Minister is endeavouring to make a personal explanation. Honorable members from both sides of the House make personal explanations from time to time, and I think that the Minister might be heard now in reasonable silence. Certain courtesies should be extended to him.
– First, referring to the devaluation of the £1, I stated that I had said, when that action was taken, that it was wrong. Secondly, I said that it had created an entirely different set of circumstances and had presented a new problem. Thirdly, I said that I did not express any view, in one way or another, about revaluing the £1. I bring this matter to the attention of the honorable member for Perth, for whom, as he knows, I have a high personal regard, in the houe that, in the circumstances, he will be the first to concede that he had no justification for making the remarks that he made.
– I wish to make a brief personal explanation, as it appears to me that I, too, have been misrepresented. Yesterday I asked a question supplementary to a question that had been asked by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). I did not draw attention to any specific statement by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), but I said, and I still believe, that the whole purport of his speech on the previous day and of another speech that he had made on a previous occasion - during the Address-in-Reply debate - had been that the principal cause of inflation in Australia was the present relationship of the Australian £1 to sterling.
– I did not speak in the Address-in-Reply debate.
– I am not sure about that, but I know that the Minister did make a speech on a previous occasion and I think that he ‘did so in the
Address-in-Reply debate. I turn now to the speech that he made on Tuesday.
– Order! The honorable member is discussing what the Minister has said and is not explaining how he, himself, has been misrepresented.
– Exactly, but I suggest that it is necessary for me to do so in order to get down tothe proper facts as they exist to-day.
– My speech on Tuesday was the first speech during the current sittings of the Parliament in which I referred to the subject at all.
– That is wholly untrue.
– I ask for a withdrawal of that statement, Mr. Speaker. I also ask the honorable member to indicate where that reference appears in Hansard.
– The speech may be found
– Order ! The Minister has asked for a withdrawal of the words “ it is wholly untrue “.
– I withdraw the words to which the Minister has objected, but I regard his statement as incorrect, and I shall, in due course, as he has suggested, produce the report of the speech to which I have referred. My question yesterday dealt with the purport of his speech, and with the general tenor of it, rather than with any specific utterances. He indicated clearly that in his view, the appreciation of the Australian £1 would terminate, at least to some degree, the present inflationary situation. He went on to say that it was causing great hardship, and would cause even greater hardship to the people. I asked whether that general view represented the view of the Government, and I found last night that my assessment was correct, because the Age newspaper indicated-
– The honorable member is not making a personal explanation.
– Order ! When the honorable gentleman is making a personal explanation, he should endeavour to show how he has been misrepresented. He will not be in order in referring to a newspaper report.
– I shall show how I have been misrepresented.
– The honorable member is taking a long time to reach the point.
– The fact is that in the last two days, substantial transfers of funds have taken place.
– Order ! That does not misrepresent the honorable gentleman, unless he has been accused of transferring funds.
– The Minister did say to me, “ Read the report of my speech in the Hansard ‘ flat ‘ “, but I replied to the effect that I did not propose to do so because the “ flats “ are marked “ Unrevised and confidential “ and “ Not to be quoted from “. If I have misrepresented the Minister, I regret it, but if my remarks will force the Government to make a definite statement about this matter-
– Order ! The honorable member is not making a personal explanation.
– I ask for leave to make a statement relative to the permanent head of the Department of External Affairs.
– Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to by an absolute majority of the whole number of the members of the House -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for External Affairs from making a ministerial statement.
– I desire to make a statement relative to the Department of External Affairs and its permanent head. Dr. Burton, as honorable members are aware, has been the permanent head of that department for some time. He made application to me recently to be granted leave of absence from bis duties for six months.
– He informed me that he made a similar application to the preceding Administration, but that he was unable to obtain the concession at that time by reason of pressure of work. I think that Dr. Burton has worked at very high pressure during and since the war. He has had eleven short, quick visits overseas, and, in addition, he has bad the responsibility for three years of being the permanent head of the Department of External Affairs. He made the request for leave of absence to me, and I acceded to it. I think that it, is very proper that I should say that during the time that I have been associated with him as Minister, he has given me objective advice as well as I could expect from any permanent head. I have made it clear to him, and he agrees, that if he is to have six months’ leave of absence, it is necessary to fill the position of permanent head of the department. Accordingly, Mr. Alan Stewart “Watt has been appointed to that position.
– by leave - As one who has been closely associated with the activities of government departments, I should like to say a few words about the magnificent work that has been performed by Dr. Burton as the permanent head of the Department of External Affairs. I can only say to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) that if the Government, as a result of some movements in that department, is losing the services of Dr. Burton as the permanent head, it is losing one of the most splendid public servants that this country has produced. He is young, able and enthusiastic, and I feel that there will be some -misgivings about the fact that Dr. Burton is concerned in this matter.
– If the Leader of the Opposition will consult Dr. Burton, he will find that there is no ground for criticism in that respect.
– I hope that that is so. The Minister will recall that certain threats were made in this House last year against Dr. Burton, and I hope that they have nothing to do with the changes that have been announced. However, I rose merely to pay a tribute to the magnificent work that has been done by that splendid young Australian.
Debate resumed from the 14th June (vide page 4312), on motion by Mr. Fadden -
That the hill be now read a second time.
.- The House is discussing two appropriation bills and two supply bills. The purpose of the Supply Bill is to grant supply to the Government for a period of four months. A financial statement that has been issued to honorable members by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) indicates that the Government is facing a deficit in this financial year. That statement will prove most disappointing to civil and service pensioners. It is true that civil pensions were increased at the beginning of last year, but in view of the fact that the cost of living has substantially increased since last December, the rates should have been reviewed before now. We know perfectly well that during the last general election campaign, spokesmen for the Liberal party and the Australian Country party indicated to the wealthy companies of Australia, which are enjoying an era of prosperity hitherto unheard of or undreamed of in the history of this country, that if they were returned to office company tax would be substantially reduced. Is it any wonder, in such circumstances, that civil and service pensions have not been increased by this Government, despite the steep increases of the cost of living since the 10th ‘December last ? As the Government proposes to grant substantial remissions of tax to its wealthy supporters, the pensioners have been penalized in order to make a Roman holiday for them.
Many honorable members who have spoken in this debate have referred to the revaluation of the Australian £1. I recall that almost immediately after this Government took office, that matter was raised, and we know that the Government has been carefully considering it. The newspapers of Australia, which are ardent propagandists for the Government, stand to gain at least £1,000,000 per annum if the Australian £1 is brought to parity with sterling. However, whilst those interests are strong advocates of revaluation, other sections of the community are conscious of the impact that revaluation would have upon themselves. But those sections are not like the newspapers. They fully realize that if the Australian £1 is revalued to parity with sterling they will suffer substantially.
We have been told that revaluation is necessary in order to reduce the cost of living and to halt the inflationary spiral, and also that it is necessary to increase our production substantially. Since 1939 personal incomes have more than doubled. That increase indicates that in that period our standard of living generally has been considerably raised, particularly for the 100,000 persons who were unemployed when war broke out in that year. Those persons are now competing for goods and services and that competition has been intensified by the arrival of over 100,000 migrants in this country. Personal incomes have increased to a greater degree than production has increased. We find in this country to-day the old school of thought that says that the law of supply and demand should operate. If the Australian £1 is revalued to parity with sterling primary producers, including dairyfarmers, wool-growers and sugar canegrowers, will suffer a substantial reduction in their incomes because they will thus lose the benefit of the present premium of £25 per centum. A similar loss will be suffered by manufacturers who, during and since the recent war, have established new industries or expanded their existing enterprises to such a degree that many of them are now exporting a substantial proportion of their production. They will find it most difficult, if revaluation occurs, to compete on the export markets in which they are now able to hold their own with the manufacturers of other countries. They will also be placed at a disadvantage on the home market in competition with imported goods the cost of which will be considerably reduced as the result of revaluation. In view of those facts, the revaluation of the Australian £1 to parity with sterling would cause many bankruptcies, particularly among small business men. That section of the business community would, be squeezed out. Such a development must cause widespread unemployment because the incomes of those manufacturers who might be sufficiently fortunate to avert insolvency would be reduced to such a degree that they would have to restrict their enterprises.
Therefore, the revaluation of the Australian £1 to parity with sterling would cause misery, degradation and widespread unemployment. It would substantially reduce the incomes of primary producers and would most seriously affect those farmers who have managed in recent years to pay off their overdrafts and meet their various commitments. Apparently, however, revaluation is only the first step that the Government has in mind in order to implement its economic policy. If the Australian £1 is revalued at parity with sterling and the levels of personal incomes and production are to be equated, the Government will be only too ready to break down not only the standard of living but also the employment standards now enjoyed by Australian workers. When the Chifley Government was in office it did not oppose the application that was made at that time to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to reduce the working week from 44 hours to 40 hours. That Government left the court to decide that matter on the evidence placed before it by the employees and the employers.
When the court granted that application, the cry went up that it was too early to reduce the working week to 40 hours because the country had not fully recovered from the impact of the recent war. Thus, to-day, we hear the cry that if existing vacant jobs cannot be filled, the only way to equate the levels of personal incomes and production is to increase the standard working week. That is the threat that lies behind the proposal to revalue the £1. It is true that the Australian Government has power to determine the hours of employment of its own employees only. However, State Governments of the same political kidney as this Government will not hesitate to introduce legislation to increase the weekly working hours, just as, conversely, the Queensland Labour Government in 1925 reduced the standard working week of 48 hours to 44 hours by legislation. I repeat that behind the proposal to revalue the Australian £1 lies the threat to reduce not only living standards but also standards of employment. The degree to which it will be possible to put value back into the pound under those conditions will depend upon the ability of Australian manufactured goods to compete with imported products on the Australian market. If Australian-made products cannot compete with imported goods the Australian manufacturer will not be concerned about the value of the £1 because he will have no pounds in his pocket, nor will those who are unfortunate enough to be employed by him. Is it astonishing therefore that, a large body of public opinion in this country should be strongly opposed to the revaluation of the £1.
Yesterday, I asked the Minister for National Development whether his attention had been directed 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, I also asked him whether he would cause immediate investigations to be made with a view to the establishment of such an industry in this country as it would be of great value to northern Queensland and to Australia, and would provide a means of saving dollar expenditure. In reply the right honorable gentleman roared like a bull or a Bengal tiger-
– Order ! The honorable member knows perfectly well that he must not use such an expression in relation to another honorable member.
– The Minister refused to cause investigations to be made or to admit whether or not he had seen the report to which. I had referred. Instead, be hurled personal insults at me apparently because, in the preface to my question, I had referred to the fact that his numerous statements to the press about the Government’s blue prints for development constitute the only outward mani festation of the Government’s plans concerning development. Being greatly interested in the subject of national development I am most interested in statements issued by the right honorable gentleman and I have frequently questioned him about them. On several occasions he has brushed my questions aside. On the last two occasions on which I questioned him on matters of importance he replied that I had .previously asked similar questions on the same subject. On this occasion he begged the question. He was not prepared to give to the House and to the people whom I represent in this Parliament an indication of what the Government proposes to do in relation to the establishment of a new industry which” would play a very important role in the development of the empty north and would provide a splendid opportunity for decentralization, about the necessity for which we hear so much in these days. Here is an opportunity for the Government to render great assistance to the Queensland sugar industry and at the same time to provide opportunities for the development of the empty north. I appeal to the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who has some knowledge of the sugar industry, to cause an investigation to be made of this new industry which is being established in Argentina. During the war the Queensland sugar industry proved its value from a defence standpoint. An increased population in the north of Australia is essential for the development and defence of Australia, and consequently any opportunity for the establishment of new industries in the north should be given the closest consideration.
Recently I asked the Minister for National Development, who is acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation, a question relating to recommendations which are to be made by an airlines committee of inquiry, established by the Government to report on commercial airlines in the Commonwealth. Again, the right honorable gentleman became very annoyed. I have been reliably informed that the committee proposes to recommend the cancellation of the Trans-Australia Airlines service, from Townsville to Mount Isa, which serves Charters Towers, Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek and Cloncurry - Flights Nos. 467 and 468. I understand that the committee also proposes to recommend the discontinuance of the TransAustralia Airlines service from Brisbane to Rockhampton, Aramac, Charleville, Blackall, Longreach, “Winton, Hughenden, Charters Towers and Townsville! - Flights Nos. 473 and 474. Most of the people who live in the areas covered by these services are separated by long distances. The Government has announced that it does not intend to dispose of Trans-Australia Airlines, but there are more ways of killing a pig than by cutting its throat. The initial establishment expenses of Trans-Australia Airlines have already been met and the instrumentality expects to be able to show a profit on its operations this year. The Government, however, apparently intends to strangle it by curtailing its activities. I know some of those who have been associated with the direction, management and operation of this splendid Government instrumentality. Its success is a monument to their hard work. TransAustralia Airlines has been established on sound business principles and like all other large undertakings it must continue to expand. It has not been suggested that services over the same routes provided by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited should be curtailed. The discontinuance of the services now provided by Trans-Australia Airlines will probably result in the doubling of the services provided by the commercial airlines. Is it the policy of the members of the committee to strangle this important Commonwealth instrumentality? I say to the Treasurer that if effect is given to this recommendation it will cause uproar in north Queensland as well as in the western part of that State. It will be a further manifestation of the Government’s policy as disclosed in connexion with the investigation of the newsprint industry, and will be a fresh indication of where the Government stands in relation to the development of northern Australia.
I turn now to another valuable asset of north Queensland, the Blair Athol coal-field. We have heard much about the wish of this Government to achieve a substantial increase of the supply of coal both for the -manufacture of gas and for steam-raising. A great deal has been said about the necessity of increasing Australia’s output of coal in order to meet the ever-growing demand, that is caused by our expanding industrialization, which requires more gas-coal and steaming coal than is now being mined in this country. When I was a boy, which is a long time ago, the Blair Athol coal-field was regarded as one of the wonders of the world. The extent of the Blair Athol seam was not fully realized then, and, as a matter of fact, it is not fully known now. Boring is still continuing to discover just how far this great body of coal extends. It has been estimated that at least 200,000,000 tons of coal lie in the ground at Blair Athol. The Queensland Government has obtained expert reports on the potentialities of the field. In 1945, at the conclusion of the last war, when the Queensland Government realized that the coal position in Australia was such that every State with coal deposits should attempt to contribute something to national coal production and national development, a committee investigated Blair Athol’s potentialities. In 1947, Mr. Kemp, who is well known to the Treasurer as Co-ordinator-General of Public Works in Queensland, furnished a very valuable report on Blair Athol. An overseas company also furnished a similar valuable report to the Premier of Queensland. All the information contained in these reports is available to the Government. The Blair Athol field contains bituminous and subbituminous coal of a calorific value of 11,600 British thermal units, which has a very low ash content and does not clinker. It is not a gas-coal, but it is a steaming coal, and can play an important part in the development of Australia’s industries. We know how desirable it is to produce locally all the coal that is required to carry on and extend industries that are already established.
I have raised this matter for several reasons. Coal is vital to the development and expansion of our industries. There is an acute shortage of coal everywhere. Unless some large-scale coalproducing projects are undertaken now the industrial developments of Australia will be retarded, because industry will require substantially increased quantities of coal within the next few years. The Government has spoken about expending £250,000,000 on development and I cannot see what greater project could be undertaken than the development of a field the limits of which have not yet been finally determined. If the Government intends to do something about the development of northern Australia what better starting point could it have than the development of this field? Southern industry would benefit from the availability of adequate supplies of coal. The diffusion of the sources of supply would be of benefit by providing a form of insurance against the hold-up of supplies. From the defence aspect the production of further power-producing material is desirable. The implementation of such a project would provide a stimulus to the development of central and northern Queensland generally and would thereby increase the Queensland market for manufactured goods .from the south. The large-scale development that is possible at Blair Athol would provide a cheaper supply of coal; this, of course, would depend on shipping freights. I Jj ave been given to understand, and I am open to correction because I have been unable to obtain the official figures, that the overseas shipping freight on the coal being imported to Victoria from overseas is 30s. a ton whereas our shipping companies charge 48s. a ton to carry Callide coal from Gladstone to Melbourne. The shipping companies would therefore also have an interest in this matter.
-Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Before I proceed with my general remarks I shall deal with some of the statements that have been made by honorable members opposite during the last few days. The first matter to which I shall refer is the revaluation of the £1. All I wish to say about that subject is that honorable members opposite are either completely ignorant of matters of international finance and exchange - and I do not believe that they are - or merely trying to cause the Government as much embarrassment as they possibly can, which is what I believe they are attempting to do. It is obvious that no information about any proposed revaluation of our currency could be given by the Government until such time as the revaluation had actually been effected, or at least immediately before it was to be effected, as otherwise a lot of the friends of honorable members opposite and one or two tycoons would make huge profits from illegal transactions.
Another subject with which I shall now deal is that of putting more value into the £1, about which there has been a great deal of discussion lately. I was one of the people who, at the last general election, stated that if the Liberal and Australian Country parties were returned to power they would put more value into the £1. I am quite confident that by the time this Government’s term is over that promised value will have been restored to the £1. I consider that honorable members opposite have merely raised that matter recently in order to embarrass the Government as much as they can. It would be of more benefit to the country if they did their best to co-operate with the Government in this matter, because the matter of putting more value into the £1 is of vital national urgency. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said recently that the activities of the Communist party are one of the main causes of the present decreased value of the £1. Honorable members know what the Government is trying to do to prevent a continuance of that condition. “We have only to .recall what was happening while members of the Opposition were in office as the Government only a few months ago, to realize that a considerable degree of the increase of the cost of living is directly attributable to the general coal strike thaioccurred last year, which the Labour Government took so long to tackle. Honorable members who support the present Government were not in a position to take any action to prevent that strike, but now that they are able to do something to preserve peace in industry honorable members of the Opposition are deliberately trying to sabotage the attempts of the Government to get rid of subversive elements and restore some value to the £1. There are three causes of the present state of inflation. The activities of the Communist party are one cause. The other two can best be summed up in words which a friend of mine uttered recently when he referred to the greed and apathy of the people of our Commonwealth. It is an undoubted fact that some large financial interests and a lot of people individually have for their aim in life the very greedy objective of getting as much as they can regardless of the cost to other people or to the Commonwealth. I suggest to those people that unless they realize that they are greedy they will, without the slightest doubt, get the socialism that they dislike so much and which. I dislike intensely, because a spirit of greed is bound to break any government which does not successfully oppose it. I believe that this Government will do its utmost to eliminate such behaviour. In my opinion, this can be done by the introduction of profitsharing schemes wherever they can. be applied.
Another cause of the inflationary situation! is laziness, or perhaps it would be better to say “ apathy “. Working hours have been reduced and I think that if every man pulled his weight and worked his hardest that reduction of hours would benefit the community, hut, unfortunately, men and women are not pulling their full weight at the present time, and I consider that I should be lacking in my duty to the Commonwealth if I did not say so. Many of the conscientious people in industry realize that one of the greatest drawbacks is that all men and women are not putting all their effort into their work. Perhaps they do not realize the common need for such effort, or perhaps they are actuated by laziness combined with personal greed and the idea of getting as much as possible and giving as little as possible. These people should revise their thoughts and endeavour to amend their actions.
The blame for the trends that I have mentioned can, to a large extent, be laid on the doorstep of the previous Government, which, by its continued unnecessary controls and its fostering of the spirit of reliance on the Government, has weakened the will of many people to work for themselves. It has taught the people that honesty does not always pay because whenever a nation enacts stupid, unnecessary laws the people immediately evade them and once a government starts inciting people to evade laws it encourages all the vices that I have mentioned.
Honorable members have heard something in the last day or so about the erection of a large luxury hotel on Hayman Island, off the Queensland coast. Perhaps in the construction of that hotel there has been an unnecessary and somewhat lavish outlay of materials which could usefully have been put into homes. I am very pleased that a member of the Opposition complained about that. It is a pity that he was not in the previous Parliament because most of the shortages and troubles that are related to building materials are attributable to the lack of initiative and foresight on the part of the previous Government. Honorable members have heard mention of slum areas in large cities and of how deplorable it is that they should exist. By implication, this Government was told that it should be ashamed of itself because, after some six or seven months of office, it had not righted these terrible conditions. That is utter nonsense. The previous Government had eight years in which to do something about slum conditions. Those conditions cannot be laid at its door, but it must bear more blame than the present Government for the fact that slums have not been cleared up. The policy of the previous Government, allied to a shortage of building materials, indirectly contributed to ths formation of slum areas in the future, because the vast shortage of material has limited the size of houses that can be built, a fact which will bring considerable areas of slums into being. Those may not be so bad as slums have been in the past, but they will be bad enough.
I should like to direct the attention of the House to the vast difference that exists between the various audit acts in the States of the Commonwealth. I trust that honorable members will consider, as I do, that this matter affects the Commonwealth, and I urge the Government to use all the influence that it can to ensure, if it be at all possible, some degree of uniformity in the audit Acts of the various States. This matter has concerned Auditors-General in different States for a considerable period. Some of the relevant State acts were passed as long ago as 1874, and others of them have not been revised for quite a long time. In 1931, a conference of Auditors-General was held in Melbourne at which wider powers were sought. Recommendations were presented to the various governments affected. They sought uniform audit legislation and greater discretionary powers for Auditors-General in carrying out investigations of appropriation accounts, as well as an effective system of departmental checks. Whilst this is primarily a State matter, it is of some considerable consequence to the Commonwealth in a number of different ways which I shall mention.
In Queensland there is only one House of Parliament. The’ Auditor-General in that State is appointed by the Governor on the advice of his Executive Council, and that mere fact must, and does, make the position of the Auditor-General extremely difficult at times because his appointment becomes a political one. I believe it was once reported that the Queensland Auditor-General, immediately prior to .his re-appointment, handed his signed, undated resignation to the Government. That is not conducive to good government. In mentioning these things I do not intend to condemn or challenge in any way the probity or honesty of purpose of most high public servants connected with them. I merely point out these matters because I think that they need careful scrutiny and possible alteration. In Queensland, the Minister who administers the department that deals with statutory corporations or businesses has no financial responsibility for the adoption and signing of annual statements. That could well be rectified if a modern uniform audit act were in force in each State. The Queensland Ministers do not disclose by declaration in writing to the Auditor-General any personal interest that they may have in contracts or transactions with the State governments. That is an extremely important consideration. Such things could be altered, and the accounting practice could be made uniform throughout all
States of the Commonwealth. Some years ago in Queensland, ten different trust accounts existed and each account was in debit. The total debit was £750,000. That is rather a fantastic situation. If o private business could get away with it for long before being taken to a court of law. A general tightening up of audit legislation would be very useful, particularly as far as the Commonwealth is concerned. Tt would ensure that both the Australian Government and, to a certain extent, the Commonwealth Bank, would be assisted to ascertain the basic value of the accounts of the various statutory corporations. It would also assist the Government to assess its national works plan. Moreover, uniform statistics on sound lines could “be prepared. Premiers’ conferences would also be helped because I understand that at the present time the States all prepare their financial statements by different methods. It would be of great assistance to the Australian Government if the State accounts could all be prepared by the same method, because such a reform would perhaps allow the Premiers’ conferences to arrive at their decisions * with much more alacrity.
– That would be all right as long as the* decisions were on sound lines.
– That, of course, would depend on who was Prime Minister. Most of these points are covered by the Commonwealth Auditor-General in his report, thus showing that he realizes the necessity for incorporating in the statute such safeguards and provisions. I ask the Government to give consideration to the possibility of getting all States to agree to a modernization and unification of their various audit acts, in the interest of the people who live in the States and of the Commonwealth as a whole.
– During this week I have listened attentively to many interesting speeches. I have heard honorable members ‘ speaking about putting value back into the £1, and I have heard some of them talking in terms of hundreds of millions of pounds. I should like to refer the House to that part of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech in which His Excellency said -
My Government will take all possible steps t.o stimulate the building of homes, including, jim a temporary measure, co-operation with the State Governments in the large-scale importation of prefabricated houses, as a means of meeting the present serious gap between supply and demand.
I do not condemn the present Government for what it has done in that regard. After all it has only done what the previous Government was doing. However, I have been sadly disappointed, because the Government has since said nothing about its home-building policy. The housing shortage in the Commonwealth is very well known to everybody. What has the Government promised during the last six months that it will do?
For the benefit of some of the new members in the House I shall refer to the history of governments in this Parliament. From 1916 to the present time this country has had twenty-two and a half years of Liberal government and ten years of Labour government. The last eight years of Labour government, the policy of which was roundly condemned by the Liberal party before the general election and has been condemned every day since that election, included five years of wartime administration. What was done during that period has never been criticized. During the war the Labour party suffered casualties such as the late John Curtin and the late John Beasley, who gave of their best to this country in those strenuous days. When five years of war is subtracted from the ten years of Labour administration, I think ‘that some of the younger members of the House will realize that the criticisms levelled at the previous Government have not been justified. During the 34 years from 1916 to the present time two world wars and one world-wide depression have occurred. If another great war broke out to-morrow would there be any talk about the possibility of financing it, or any discussion of the interest to be charged on the money to be raised for it? I suggest that there certainly would not be. However, when housing is discussed people immediately start to prove how impracticable it is to raise money and how difficult it is to dothis, that and the other.
– An expanded housing scheme does not depend entirely on finance.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say that. I suggest to the Government that it should introduce a Commonwealth housing scheme financedby large sums of Commonwealth money at, say, 2 per cent. That would be far more profitable, ultimately, than expenditure in ways which would bring less benefit to the Australian people.
– What would the honorable member expend it on?
– It could be expended very profitably if the Government had the right inclination. The only man who makes statements on behalf of the Government, either inside or outside this House, is the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Yet, even at the meeting in the Sydney Town Hall last night, the right honorable gentleman kept clear of any reference to housing. That meeting offered him a great opportunity to spread propaganda on behalf of the Liberal party by telling the people something about his plans for home construction. A member of the country party said earlier in the debate that he advocated the bringing of immigrants to Australia regardless of the housing shortage. The value of the immigration scheme is undoubted, but the Government is entitled to no credit on that account. It is merely continuing the policy that was instituted by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) when he was Minister for Immigration in the Chifley Government. That honorable gentleman has been congratulated time after time by honorable members of all parties upon the success of his immigration programme. This Government is merely following the course that he laid down. However, it wants to bring immigrants to Australia in hundreds of thousands without doing anything to provide accommodation for them. It has often criticized the Labour party for its failure to overcome the housing shortage, but now it is charged with the responsibility of dealing with that situation.
Nobody- can find fault with the importation of prefabricated bornes. However, these structures cost about £2,500 each, without taking into account the costs of land and the installation of electricity, sewerage and other services. When they are ready for occupation, they are worth about £3,000 or £3,500 each. What chance has the average worker to pay the rents for such homes that will have .to be charged’. Rental charges are fixed at about 4 per cent, of the capital cost. The life of a prefabricated home in the countries from which we are importing them is about 20 years. Perhaps it will be longer in Australia. If the cost of these buildings is to be recouped, the tenants must pay rent at the rate of at least 4 per cent, on the original outlay, and that is the rate that applies generally to-day. That means that a worker who occupies a prefabricated home pays about £2 10s. a week in rent. Very often the house is situated a long way from his place of employment, and therefore he must also pay 10s. or 15s. a week in fares. Newly married couples, of course, must buy furniture, frequently on time payment. If all such charges are added, we find that a working family occupying a prefabricated bouse is obliged to pay £3 or £4 a week in rent and other essential expenses before it can provide even for food and clothing. The people should be provided with good homes at rents that will enable them to live in a decent standard of comfort. But all that we hear from the Government and its supporters is a lot of tripe about what the Labour Government did ! I remind them that the Labour party was in power for only ten of the last 33 years and that we were at war for five years of that short period. As I have said, no supporters of the present Government suggested that the war should end because of the lack of money or that we should haggle about the interest rates that were charged for money that was raised for war purposes. Anything can be done in the name of war, and, if war broke out again to-morrow, plenty of money would be found and nobody would worry about interest charges.
I remind honorable members of the dreadful situation that has developed in
States in which Liberal governments have been in power in recent years. In Western Australia, where an anti-Labour government has the whip-hand, the capitalists are assured of their pound of flesh. The workers’ welfare is not considered. A similar situation exists in Victoria, where three political parties are manoeuvring to gain control of the government. I am intimately acquainted with the situation in New South Wales, and therefore I shall explain to the House what liberalism has done in that State in recent years. I am sorry that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) is not present to hear my comments because he is a former Minister of that State. In New South Wales, the Labour party has held the reins of government for approximately the same length of time as it controlled this Parliament. However, it has been hampered almost throughout its term of office by the opposition of a Liberal upper house. Only during the last eighteen months has it been able to get rid of the Liberal majority in the Legislative Council. The presence of an Opposition majority in the upper house meant that Labour governments were prevented from giving effect to the wishes of the people. The Minister for Housing in the present New South Wales Government, Mr. Olive Evatt, has been working not only on week-days, but also on Saturdays and Sundays, for the last two or three years, organizing a progressive home-building scheme and laying foundation stones for groups of workers’ homes. Honorable members opposite may laugh, but the important fact is that 83,000 homes have been built in New South Wales during the last three years. That record of achievement out-shines the record of any Liberal government in either the State or the Commonwealth sphere during the last 34 years.
I was an alderman of the Sydney City Council, which was hampered for twenty years by the forces of Liberalism, which refused to amend what was known as the Corporation Act. When we celebrated the centenary of the second greatest city of the British Empire, we did not have a by-law by which we could compel the owners of residential properties to install bath tubs, coppers, or other sanitary facilities in Sydney homes. I could take honorable members to a home at 379 Crown-street, Surry Hills, where a man, his wife and eight children had to live without a bath or proper washing facilities of any sort. That building was owned by one of the richest landlords in Sydney, Mr.Rolf e. The so-called Liberal Civic Reform party refused to compel such men to provide the bare amenities that decent civilized people would expect to find in any home.
– What about the Labourcontrolled council?
– The Labour party did not have a majority in the Sydney City Council until eighteen months ago. However, since then, as a result of its activities and the activities of the State Labour Government, many of those shacks that were a blot upon the nation have been pulled down and people have been provided with new homes. The Labour party has every reason to be proud of its achievements, which I hope it will be able to continue after next Saturday. I have here a report on a housing scheme that was prepared by the Town Clerk of Sydney at the direction of the City Council five years ago. The council was then dominated by the CivicReform Party. This report indicates the housing conditions that the Liberals expect working people to accept without complaint. It deals with an area that falls partly within the electorate that I represent and partly within the electorate of Cook, and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) can testify to the truth of my statements. He and I, and other members of the Labour party, tried and tried again to do something for the poor people who were living under the shocking conditions that are indicated in the report.
– Is that area in the Redfern district?
– Yes; but the interests that were represented then by the Sydney City Council and the Legislative Council in the State Parliament, led by such men as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), turned a blind eye to the disgraceful conditions that existed and boasted instead of their so-called achievements. God forbid that they shall ever regain power! The report refers only to one instance of dilapidated and degrading housing conditions.Recently a man told me that he had to wear his overcoat to bed because the rain dripped through the roof of the house that he occupied in one of those slum areas.
– Under the McGirr Administration ?
– Yes; but that was the result of the obstruction tactics that were employed by the Liberal forces in the Legislative Council and also in the Sydney City Council. That home was only one of 10,000 such buildings.
– Let us have it!
– The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) was president of the waterside workers federation in Sydney for seventeen years, but he was cunning enough to leave and go to Bendigo. He has been a member of this House for 40 years, drawing salary as Prime Minister, Minister and private member. He has broken up governments and boasted about his fight for the workers on the waterfront in West Sydney. What has he done for West Sydney or for any other area since he became a member of this Parliament? He has been contemptuous of the needs of the workers. This is an extract from the Sydney City Council housing report that I have mentioned -
Details of the survey of the area of 241 houses are briefly recorded.
natural lighting - 82 per cent, substandard.
Permanent ventilation - 90 per cent. sub-standard.
I remind honorable members that this state of affairs prevailed under the administration of the Liberal CivicReform party in the Sydney City Council five years ago.
MrTRELOAR. - Who represented Redfern in the State Parliament at that time?
– The Labour party was in office, but it was restricted by the activities of a hostile majority in the Legislative Council. The catalogue in the report continued -
Altogether, 93 per cent of the homes were classified as sub-standard. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) has asked who represented Redfern in the State parliament at that time. Redfern was represented then by Mr. McKell, who is now the Governor-General of Australia. He attempted to enact legislation to extend the boundaries of the area that was under the control of the city council, just as the State Labour Government did eighteen months ago, but his efforts were without avail. His object was to include such areas as were mentioned in the report so that the slums could be torn down and decent houses built in their place, but he was blocked by the Legislative Council, which the remnants of the Stevens Government, having a majority of the total number of members, controlled. Everybody knows that the Stevens Government was a depression government. Indeed, I describe all Liberal party-Australian Country party coalition governments as depression governments. The Stevens Government expended a substantial sum of money on the construction of the Spooner highway, yet we could not get a bob from it to relieve distress in Surry Hills. AntiLabour governments have been in control of this Parliament and of the Parliaments of the States for too long, and the country has suffered as a result of their administration. Honorable members opposite claim that Liberal party-Australian Country party governments are all-wise, but I reject that statement.
The Commonwealth should introduce a national housing scheme. While the Government is bringing large numbers of migrants to this country, it should not lose sight of the necessity for providing homes for Australians. For 32 years, anti-Labour governments have been making promises to the ex-servicemen of World War I. and World War II, and have failed to keep many of them. I recall that the right honorable member for Bradfield promised the men who fought in World War I. that his Government would make Australia “ a country fit for heroes to live in”. Homes and amenities were to be provided for them-
– What have Labour governments done to provide homes and amenities for the people?
– -They have done a good deal.
– Then what is the honorable member’s complaint?
– The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) does not like to be reminded that the McGirr Labour Government has been responsible for the erection of 83,000 homes in New South Wales in three years. The Labour party has taken practical action to get rid of slums and to improve the living conditions of the people. Approximately eighteen months ago, the Sydney City Council was freed from the administration of the Civic Reform party, and the Labour members of that council have been instrumental in having many sub-standard homes in Redfern and Surry Hills pulled down. Honorable members will be astonished to learn that there are approximately 10,000 such homes in the metropolitan area of Sydney. The position generally is most distressing. Approximately 33 per cent of the homes in Grayndler, and 50 per cent of the homes in West Sydney and in South Sydney are in the state that I have mentioned.
It is the policy of the McGirr Labour Government to resume land for housing purposes and to engage actively in slum clearance. However, the record of the Chifley Labour Government is not now under consideration. What has the Menzies Government done towards solving the housing problem? For that matter, what have any anti-Labour governments done?
– We put the Chifley Labour Government out of office.
– I know that the Prime Minister is not “ game “ to ask the country for a vote of confidence, but the Labour party has the courage to do so. That is the answer to the interjection by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden).
– We obtained a vote of confidence from the people six months ago.
– The Liberal party
Mud the Australian Country party are backing and filling on this matter. The people will not be fooled by specious promises at the next general election. One of the factors that will ensure the return of the McGirr Government next Saturday is its housing record. The progressive policy and administrative record of the Labour party in the Parliament of the Commonwealth will secure its return to the treasury bench at the next general election. The Menzies Government has been in office for six months, yet it has not done anything and does not intend to do anything. The records of anti-Labour governments during the last 35 years are barren.
– The Menzies Government now wants to give honorable members four months’ holiday.
– The Menzies Government will not be distressed if the poor people have an unhappy Christmas.
– Order ! I ask the honorable gentleman to address his remarks to me. Never mind the Government and the Australian Country party.
– I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. You know that what I say is true.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not put words into my mouth.
– I assure you, Mr. Speaker, and the House, that I have spoken the truth, and I sincerely hope the Government will speedily alleviate the distress of the pensioners and the poor people generally, who are suffering so severely at the present time. The Government intends to bring migrants in increasing numbers to this country. If houses were available for our young people, they would marry and have families. It is an old saying that “ The Australian baby is our best migrant “. Unfortunately, the Government puts the interests of the Australian Country party first in all matters.
– -Pahamna siaradwchynsaisnieg ?
– The right honorable member for Bradfield is interjecting in Welsh. What do those words mean ?
– They mean, “ Why do you not talk in English ? “
– The right honorable gentleman has been in politics for many years, but he has not been concerned about the plight of the workers or of ex-servicemen. The House may rest assured that the McGirr Labour Government will be returned to office next Saturday with a large majority. The Premier, Mr. McGirr, the Minister for Housing, Mr. Evatt, and other Ministers, have the interests of their country really at heart. A bureau will be established to give technical advice and assistance to persons who wish to build homes, and practical measures will be taken to reduce interest rates and maintenance costs. The McGirr Government will continue to provide homes for the people at reasonable rents. It has a splendid record of achievement in housing during the last three years, and when it is returned to office next Saturday, it will continue its policy of ensuring for the people the prosperity that they so richly deserve. But I atn not able to make a similar claim for the Menzies Government. I do not believe that it will hold office for eight months.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) has referred at length, but with little regard for the facts, to the housing position in New South Wales. His speech has actually been a condemnation of the housing policy of the Labour Government in that State. During the last general election campaign in New South Wales, the Premier, Mr. McGirr, promised the people that if he were elected to office his Government would build 90,000’ homes in three years. Of course, that promise has not been honoured. The number of houses that has been completed is far short of that figure. The honorable member for West Sydney, if he were so concerned as he would have us believe that he is about the plight of the homeless, and particularly the depressing case that he cited, could relieve their distress by offering them accommodation in one of his chain of hotels. However, that idea would not occur to him as a practical measure for relieving distress. The lag in housing to-day is largely the result of lack of foresight on the part of previous Labour governments, particularly the Chifley Government. In nearly every State with the exception of New South Wales the housing lag has been overcome more rapidly than it has been at any time in our history.
– That is not true.
– New South Wales has the best record.
– Order ! I ask the House to maintain reasonable order, since it seems impossible to maintain silence.
– Reference has been made to the Government’s immigration policy. I remind Opposition members that we are really continuing, and endeavouring to accelerate, the immigration policy that was initiated by the previous Government. If they will devote some thought to the subject, they will realize that, by bringing migrants to this country, we shall be able more quickly to overcome the housing shortage. Migrants are being selected who are trained in the building and allied trades, and they will be able to accelerate the housing programme. Therefore, the statement that was made by the honorable member for West Sydney to the effect that the Government is bringing to Australia more migrants than can be accommodated, is fallacious.
– No, I did not say that.
– Much has been said by Opposition speakers about putting value back into the £1. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) appears to take a special interest in that subject, because he asks a question about it almost every day. He would save himself some trouble if he had a gramophone record made of it. It is interesting to note that the inflationary trend, from which we are suffering to-day, began in 1939, and accelerated sharply during the regime of the Chifley Government. The purchasing power of the £1 in 1939 has declined to less than 10s. as a result of the inflationary policy that was followed by the previous Government.
– No, that decline has been pronounced since the Menzies Government assumed office.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is being ridiculous. The Chifley Government was short-sighted. It believed in full employment, yet it did not concentrate on a policy of full employment in productive works. It was more concerned with increasing the numerical strength of the Public Service, and establishing many unnecessary departments.
– What is the numerical strength of the Public Service now, compared with the number when the Menzies Government took office ?
– I seem to be touching a few sore spots.
– The honorable member cannot even interest us.
– Those interjections only confirm that I am “ right on the beam “. One of the most important measures, if not the most important measure that must be taken to arrest the inflationary trend and to reduce the cost of living is action to defeat communism.
– That is the honorable member’s stock in trade.
– Probably some of the friends of the honorable member for East Sydney were responsible for the disturbance in the Sydney Town Hall last night. If they were not his friends, they were probably the friends of “ Jock “
Garden, who was formerly a friend of the honorable member. The objective of the Communists in Australia is to cause industrial disturbances and to mislead the decent workers into adopting a go-slow policy in order to injure our economic structure. Obviously, a slowing down of production means an increase of costs. If the slowing down process is so pronounced that it takes three times as long to manufacture an article as it should, the cost of production must be considerably increased. Every time the workers are misled into going slow, or expressed in good Australian, “ to see the boss off “, they are, in reality, “ seeing themselves off”, because the boss is able to pass additional costs on to the consumer. He adds a margin to the cost of production, and the worker and everybody else in the land who buys his goods pay an extra amount as the result of that short-sighted, go-slow policy that is preached far and wide by the Communist party and the Communist-dominate( unions. The unfortunate outcome is that every man, woman and child feels the pinch. Every time production is delayed, an additional cost is passed on to the consumer. The housewives are particularly affected, because they have to bear the brunt of the increased cost of living. The workers of this country have been sadly misled by the extreme element in our midst, yet some Opposition members have done everything in their power to prevent the Government from dealing effectively with that definite menace. Every move that they have made has been calculated to destroy the Government’s efforts in that direction. If value is to be restored to the £1, we must prevail upon the decent, moderate elements in the trade union movement to adopt a commonsense, and not an extreme, attitude, and do everything possible to throw out the traitors, disrupters and disturbers of the peace who, if they are not checked, will ultimately rule this country.
– Does the honorable member consider that the worker if always at fault?
– Every one is at fault who fails to pull his weight. Everybody, be he employer or employee, who fails to put his shoulder to the wheel and give of his best is contributing to the higher cost of living. It is the duty of all of us to pull our weight.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I referred to the impassioned condemnation of the McGirr Government by the honorable member for West Sydney in which he unwittingly exposed the hollowness of that Government’s promises with respect to housing. His statements were as irresponsible as those that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) usually makes. During the luncheon recess I took the opportunity to look up some figures relating to housing in New South Wales. The Sydney Morning Herald reported’ that between 1939 and 1949 the construction rate increased by only 3,000 dwellings annually, but whereas population increased by 29,000 in 1939 it increased by 113,000 in 1949. Further, more than four-fifths of the 57,000 .homes that have been constructed in New South Wales during the last three years have been erected by private enterprise in spite of governmental restrictions. So much for the McGirr Government’s sham with respect to housing. I also referred to the inflationary trend for which the Chifley Government has been responsible and which is the principal cause of the present high cost of living. If we are to reduce living costs and restore the purchasing power of the £1, we must get to the root of the trouble by ridding the country of Communist traitors whose sole desire is to disrupt our economy and slow down all productive activities. Although it is gratifying that 14,000 workers ignored the Communist order to stop work in certain industries throughout Australia yesterday, nevertheless many workers are still being misled by the ‘Communists and extreme leftist elements in their unions. Those workers do not seem to realize that they themselves suffer most as the result of the insidious preaching of the go-slow policy in industry. The boss does not suffer when sections of workers are induced to adopt go-slow methods because he simply recovers his loss by adding a corresponding margin to the selling price of his products which are bought by the workers and housewives who, therefore, suffer most as the result of holdups and disturbances in industry.
We shall not overcome this problem until common sense prevails in the trade unions. Moderate unionists have a duty to accept office and to attend meetings in their organizations and thus help to displace the extreme elements now in control of the affairs of their organizations. It is the duty of all clean and decent trade unionists to take an active part in the affairs of their organizations. Every citizen must co-operate in the solution of the problem of increasing the purchasing power of the £1. It is equally important for the boss as it is for the worker to do his share of the work that has to be done. Many bosses could spend less time on the golf courses and in their various clubs than they do to-day. However, it is imperative that every employee should realize his responsibility to the community in this matter. He must recognize the basic fact that he and his colleagues ultimately pay the penalty that is imposed by every industrial holdup. The Government has given a good lead in its approach to this problem. It has placed before the Parliament legislation that is designed to reduce, the cost of living. Its most important objective is to destroy communism utterly. In that work both management and labour, and the Government and Opposition parties must co-operate. The cost of living can be substantially reduced if all concerned will exercise a little common sense and be guided by a common -purpose. Various firms have made sincere attempts to encourage their employees to increase production by providing satisfactory bonuses and by instituting profit-sharing schemes. Several concerns in my electorate have been operating such schemes for some years and individual employees engaged by such firms have said to me, in effect, “As unionists, of course, we are opposed to incentive payments and profit-sharing, tut individually we are all for them because we are doing well out of them “. It is gratifying ‘that some employers have given a lead in this matter. Other employers who have also realized their responsibility to the community have provided greater amenities for their em ployees. All supporters of the Government believe that every industry should do its utmost in that direction. Obviously, the happier workers are at their employment and the more consideration they receive from their employers the more efficient and satisfactory will be their efforts; and to that degree production will be increased, costs will be reduced and the benefit will finally be passed on to the community as a whole.
With sane and moderate leadership we can solve the vexed problem of the high cost of living. It is utterly useless for honorable members opposite to indulge in cheap gibes about the Government’s failure to put value back into the £1 when they themselves are obstructing legislation that is designed to increase production. The community generally should adopt the motto, “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay “. By increasing the purchasing power of the £1 we shall help all sections of the community, particularly those on small incomes and pensioners generally. Honorable members opposite have had a lot to say about the plight of pensioners. They can best help the pensioners .by encouraging the workers to increase production. Every one agrees that, having regard to the cost of living, the present rates of pensions are hopelessly inadequate. However, honorable members opposite did not do much to alleviate the position of pensioners during the eight years governments that they supported were in office. I believe that some degree of relief must be given immediately to the pensioners, and I shall press strongly for immediate action to be taken in that direction. The Government has hinted that it will substantially increase present rates in respect of all classes of pensions, including age, sickness, widow, and service pensions. I know that a number of my colleagues and, perhaps, some members of the Opposition, are of opinion that an immediate interim increase of pension rates should be provided, bearing in mind .the fact that ultimately those rates will be substantially increased. However, this matter is related directly to the Government’s budget proposals. There must be something in “ kitty “ before we can take anything out of it.
– And the Government must obtain the necessary authority to incur additional expenditure.
– That is so. The plight of the aged and infirm is so serious that something should be done immediately to alleviate their position, and I sincerely trust that an announcement will be made before the present sessional period concludes that such alleviation will be effected. I have had brought to my notice many heartbreaking and distressing cases in my own electorate, and I have no doubt that other honorable members have had similar experiences. It is the duty of each of us to see what we can do to give some relief immediately to the pensioners.
I advocate the introduction of a con tributary national insurance scheme which would provide for the contingencies of incapacity, sickness, unemployment, and widowhood as well as social services benefits generally. Unless such a scheme is established we shall not be able to abolish the means test which all honorable members will agree offers no encouragement to the thrifty. A means test is inevitable in a non-contributory social services scheme. The sooner a contributory scheme is introduced the better will it be for the nation as a whole. I have discussed this matter with life assurance experts who have informed me that a contribution of approximately ls. a week from each individual, to be supplemented by government contribution, would be sufficient to finance such a scheme. The platform of the Liberal party provides for the implementation of a national insurance scheme and I should like to see such a scheme introduced at the earliest possible moment, for it would also enable us to remedy many of the anomalies that now exist in respect of social services benefits. In return for the guarantee of economic security upon retirement or in cases of sickness, incapacity, widowhood or unemployment, no person would object to making the small contribution of, approximately, ls. a week. Our social services have failed under existing conditions, to meet the demands of the people. Unless and until we adopt a contributory scheme we shall always have anomalies in our social services system and injustices will continue to be inflicted on certain sections of the community. I make a plea on behalf of the pensioners of Australia realizing as I do, and as I am sure all other honorable members do, that the pensioners are in a very serious plight.
– I wish to make a contribution to this debate. I confess that I did not expect to witness such a humiliating spectacle as that with which I was confronted in this House on Tuesday last when the No. 1 man in Australian politics, the Prime Minister of this country, humbly asked the Opposition when it would allow the Parliament to go into recess. His eagerness to rush the Parliament into recess without first having attempted to tackle the problems that confront him clearly shows the impotency of this socalled strong man in Australian politics. It is well known that a trip to the Continent is in the offing for him. The right honorable gentleman will welcome the opportunity to mix with the upper stratum of English society. For the last ten years he has been looking forward to such an opportunity and he well realizes that it is a case of now or never. He is determined not to miss the opportunity. I am concerned about the plight in which the people of Australia now find themselves. I was elected by the vote of 45,000 persons in my electorate who sent me to Canberra to do a job of work.
– That is so funny!
– The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) appears to regard my statement as amusing. Although I am willing and able to do the job entrusted to me I learn with amazement that the Government now wants to hide its impotency by rushing the Parliament into recess. I am disgusted by the right honorable gentleman’s proposal to close up the Parliament for four months. No doubt it will be the subject of numerous protests from all over my electorate. According to the Prime .Minister and the Minister for External Affairs Australia is on the edge of a volcano, a cold war is creeping down from the north, the Communist armies are on the march, Australia is in grave danger and we must send troops and war materiel to Malaya. Notwithstanding all these dire recitals the Prime Minister is eager to rush the Parliament into recess so that he may forget all about our dangers and about his responsibilities to the Australian people.
Despite the Communist menace, about which members of the Liberal party speak so glibly but know so little, every question asked by honorable members on this side of the House about Government policy on that matter is brushed aside by Ministers. They have not the time either to answer questions about it or to grapple with the many problems that confront the people. The Government wishes to cloak its impotency by rushing behind the iron curtain of recess. The time ‘ is rapidly approaching when the Government will no longer be able to escape the wrath of the Australian people. Gratuitous insults to the workers of Australia have been broadcast to the nation through the microphones installed on the Government benches of this Parliament night and day. Government spokesmen are constantly discrediting the working people of Australia who seek to extricate themselves from the grave difficulties that confront them as the result of the rising spiral of prices which threatens the economic life of this country. What a dismal outlook will continue to confront the Australian people while the present Government remains in office ! Let us recall some of the glittering promises that were made by the present Prime Minister during the general election campaign. In an attempt to gain votes the right honorable gentleman was guilty of lying, deceit and hypocrisy. He said that during the preceding ten years Australia had been in the wilderness, that something must be done about it and that he must again lead the Liberal party back into office. Driven by his own personal ambitions, he stooped to deceit and lies.
– I rise to order. I ask for a withdrawal of the exceedingly unparliamentary statement that the Prime Minister had stooped to deceit and lies.
– The honorable member for Watson may not say that the Prime Minister had stooped to deceit and lies. Such language is unparliamentary.
He must withdraw the statement, and it must not be repeated.
– Those statements were made prior to the general election.
– Order ! I have directed the honorable member to withdraw the statement to which exception has been taken.
– In deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw it.
-The honorable member must withdraw it without qualification. The question of deference to me is not involved. “ I am the least of the slaves in the garden of Allah “.
– I withdraw the statement. The Prime Minister said, in effect, “ Let us put more shillings in your £1. Let us make your £1 buy more ! “ My remarks appear to cause some amusement among honorable members opposite. This may be a laughable matter for them, but it is a matter of the greatest concern to the housewives and the mothers of the community who have to stretch the meagre earnings coming into their homes in order to feed and clothe their families. It is now almost impossible for mothers of working-class families to feed and clothe their children adequately. That state of affairs will continue to exist as long as the present Government occupies the treasury- bench.
– Why not let the Government pay child endowment for- the first child ?
– I shall deal with that ma’tter later. On the hustings the Prime Minister said, in effect. “ Let me talk to the women of Australia, let me tell them what sort of a deal they are getting under the Labour Government’s regime “. I ask the people of Australia what sort of a deal they are getting under the regime of the present Government. I ask the mothers how much does the £1 in their purse buy when they go to the butcher ? How much do the Fadden “flimsies” buy in these days ? How much does £1 buy in clothing for the children of this country? How far will the £1 go in buying green vegetables, which are so necessary for the healthy growth of our youngsters ? What groceries can the housewives now buy for £1? And, most important of all, the mother who cannot afford to buy ready-made woollen garments for her youngsters, how much wool for knitting can she obtain for her £1 in these days?
– The honorable member is obviously talking about conditions in New South Wales.
– I am referring to conditions that exist throughout Australia. The people of New South Wales know that they, at least, are adequately protected by virtue of the fact that the great McGirr Labour Government is in office in that State. And it will continue to remain in office in that State if only because of the weaknesses that have been displayed by the Liberal Administration in the federal sphere.
The honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) asked me a moment ago why we do not allow the Government to pay child endowment for the first child. Last night in the Sydney Town Hall the Prime Minister made some very critical comments about the child endowment legislation now before this Parliament. According to a report in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, the right honorable gentleman said -
Because of delaying tactics by the Labour majority in the Senate, the Banking Bill was still bogged down in that chamber.
I can tell honorable members opposite that it will continue to remain bogged down. That statement is typical of the lying, deceitful and hypocritical statements that have been made by the right honorable gentleman.
– Order! The honorable member may not use such language in reference to the Prime Minister or to any other honorable member.
– The Sydney Morning Herald said that-
– I do not care whether it was said by the Sydney Morning Herald or by anybody else. The honorable member may not use such language in relation to any member of this House.
– I was reading from the Sydney Morning Herald.
-Order ! The honorable member has referred to a statement which, he said, was made by the Prime
Minister in the Town Hall last night. He cannot deceive me about the matter.
– The report continues -
The bill to provide endowment for the first child had been introduced in the Senate-
– Order ! I have asked the honorable member to withdraw the statement to which the Chair has taken exception. He will either withdraw it, or resume his seat.
– I withdraw it, but you did not ask me to do so, Mr. Speaker.
– I should like to know for what purpose the honorable member thinks I called him to order.
– The newspaper report continues -
The bill to provide endowment for the first child had been introduced in the Senate-
– Order ! The honorable member may not allude to proceedings now before the Senate, and he may not quote references to such proceedings, whether they be contained in the Sydney Morning Herald or in other newspapers or documents.
– May I use the expression “in another place”?
-The honorable member may not refer to the proceedings “ in another place “.
– The report continues -
One of its provisions was that the first payment should be made on June 10-
– If the honorable member attempts to proceed along those lines, I shall order him to resume his seat.
– I am somewhat baffled, Mr. Speaker. I do not know where I stand. The bill to provide endowment - -
-Order ! The honorable member may not refer to matters that are the subject of consideration by the Senate. A bill to deal with child endowment is now before that chamber.
– I rise to order. During this debate, Mr. Speaker, you have allowed a dozen speakers to refer to the alleged holding up of the child endowment legislation in the Senate. Surely you should permit the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) to do 90.
– The honorable member for Watson has been endeavouring to deal with a specific measure which is now before the Senate. References to the general question whether the Government has been able to get its legislative programme through the Parliament have been allowed and will continue to be allowed, but I shall not allow the honorable member to engage in a debate on child endowment as legislation covering that subject .is now under consideration in the Senate.
– An untrue statement has been made by a certain person, that because certain people in a certain place are holding up certain things a certain payment will not be able to be made by a certain date. I am concerned about the lies, deceits and untruthful statements that were indulged in in Sydney Town Hall last night.
-Order! I have already told the honorable gentleman that he may not proceed on that line.
– Life is becoming very difficult.
– Nothing was said about £25,000. The Prime Minister said in his policy speech before the general election, “Australian women, this is what we offer you “. Misery, poverty and despair are all that is offered under the Liberal party’s programme. The Prime Minister went on to promise, “ A £l’s worth for every £1 you spend “. I should like to ask the mothers of Australia whether they now receive a £l’s worth for every £1 that they spend. Vicious attacks are being made by the financial interests upon the living conditions of the people of Australia through inflating the value of our currency. These attacks are being led by Government members who protect those financial interests. Mothers, I ask you to bear that very carefully in mind when you next go to the polling booths.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will please address me.
– In his policy speech the Prime Minister also said -
We hope to attack our tasks boldly.
Boldly he attacks his tasks ! He went on -
The greatest of them, I am sure you will agree, will be to arrest the present alarming rise in costs and prices, and so put value back into the money that you earn and spend.
– Who said that?
– The Prime Minister, ably supported by the members of the Australian Country party, or the stooges of that party who haunt the Union Club and other wealthy clubs in Sydney and other pities, but who send members to this Parliament just to prate about thi; virtues of the squattocracy. Let me digress a little. Let me analyse the efforts of the agents of the so-called Australian Country party in this House, the agents for the landed squattocracy who, down the years, have done nothing else but attack the working conditions of the people of Australia and who have resisted all the efforts of Labour to organize so as to protect the living standards of the workers. A book entitled Australia’s Awakening contains the story of the early struggles of the pioneers of Australia in their attempts to form trade unions and to form the first political Labour party. I advise honorable members opposite who are the agents of the squattocracy to read that book and to forsake their petty narrow mindedness and their prating about why the workers do not work harder. In the great strike in the 1890’s the squattocracy of Australia called out the mounted police to shoot down the workers who were crying in the wilderness for some assistance to organize a body to improve their living standards, which were then very low. In the 1917 strike the members of the squattocracy sent their sons from the country to scab in the Everleigh Workshops. During the greater part of World War I., when the manufacturers of Australia tried to tack the Taylor card system on to the workers of Australia, those great patriots the squattocracy wrapped themselves in the Union Jack and proudly declared, “We have the divine right to all the patriotism that exists in this country. We have the divine right to assault the working conditions of the brothers and sisters of the heroes who are fighting overseas “. They sent their sons to scab, but not to go to the field of battle. They sent their sons to scab on the workers who were out on strike against the proposal to introduce the vicious Taylor card system. They exploited the Barnado boys who came out from England in 1912. A public scandal was caused by the fact that those boys were prevented from attending school. They were working at milking cows at 3 o’clock in the morning and were receiving no wages. The government of the day was forced to inquire into the conditions under which those boys were living. Milking cows at 3 o’clock in the morning, working in the fields all day, and milking until 9 o’clock at night-
– Cows are not milked at that time.
– A member of the Australian Country party would milk a cow at any time. I have merely been quoting what is stated in the report of the commission of inquiry that was held at the time. The squattocracy still carries on the same old methods. Last night and this morning we have heard honorable members opposite urging the Government to bring hundreds of thousands of migrants to Australia, irrespective of whether homes or shelter were available for them. They wish us to revert to the conditions under which the Barnardo boys lived. They would be willing to have those immigrants living in cowsheds, or tents, or anywhere else on farms just so long as the squattocracy can exploit them and squeeze the blood out of then] day by day. The very black history of the Australian Country party and of the squattocracy of Australia is tinged with blood. I shall now turn to the achievements of the Government.
– Because it has no achievements. The only achievement of this Government so far has been the introduction, at the behest of its masters, the financiers and the banks of this country, of the Commonwealth Bank Bill. The whip was cracked and down earnt the Commonwealth Bank Bill. We wasted day after day and week after week on that bill, which has fortunately been relegated to limbo with other vicious attempts to saddle the people in the interests of the Government’s financial master. Luckily, the Labour party has been able to thwart, for the time being anyway, the efforts of this Government and the various financiers. We have protected the assets of the Commonwealth Bank that was established and nourished by Labour governments and which is one of the greatest monuments to Labour in Australia. With what avaricious and greedy eyes do the financial interests look upon that great prize! How they wish to get their fingers into the till of the Commonwealth Bank ! How they wish to fleece the people of their hard-earned money! They are the burglars ! One honorable member opposite has denied that they are burglars. “ Burglars “ would be a very moderate name to apply to some of the financiers in Australia, who would even stoop to murder in order to gain their own ends for they tried to murder the assets of the great Australian public in the Commonwealth Bank. As I have already stated, Labour has dealt with that bill in another place.
The newspapers of this country are now urging the Government along another channel. They are very anxious for the Australian £1 to be revalued. Different factions in the Liberal party and the Australian Country party are now engaged iri a fierce tug-of-war over the decision about whether the £1 shall be revalued or not.
– Who will win?
– It is hard to say, but the newspapers have lately withdrawn their support from the present Government, which seems to indicate that thc Government is not doing what the newspaper proprietors wish it to do. Many people are interested in the revaluation of the £1, but the Government is not considering the interests of the great mass of the working people in thai, matter. It is considering the interests of the speculators, the newspaper proprietors and the importers and exporters who supplied the money for the electoral campaigns of the anti-Labour parties. They provided the millions of pounds that were poured out in attempts to defeat the Labour party and to relegate it to the Opposition benches.
– The Labour party will not be in Opposition for very long.
Mr.CURTIN- That is so. The people who would benefit most from a revaluation of the £1 could be counted on the fingers of one hand. They are the importers in general and the importers of newsprint. That is the reason why the newspaper proprietors have been urging the Government to revalue the £1.We have had the spectacle of leading articles in the Sydney newspapers supporting the Labour party’s fight to retain the principle of trial by jury for the people of Australia.
It would not be amiss for me to say something about communism. Our friends opposite who prate so much about, that matter may listen with advantage to what I have to say. The Prime Minister, not long ago, stood at a microphone and declared in no uncertain terms, in relation to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill -
This bill must go through without amendment.
He has certainly weakened a great deal since he made that statement because the members of the Labourparty Opposition, the stalwarts of the people, the protectors of the freedom of the people, have made him climb down considerably. “We find now that 39 amendments have been made to the bill. Yet the right honorable gentleman has told us, and a lot of other people, that the Labour party is holding up the passage of the bill. We have supported the banning of the Communist party, but we have refused, we still refuse and we shall always refuse to allow the Australian people to be shackled by the agents of fascism. The fascist tendencies of honorable members on the Government side will not make progress while the Labour party has the power to defeat that bill. It would be hard to decide whether fascism would be worse than communism.
– They are both the same.
– They could both be the same. Honorable members opposite should be placed in the same category as the Communists. The Labour party is determined, and the great mass of the people can be sure, that trial by jury-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The House may be disappointed with my poor effort after the eloquence to which it has been treated by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), who traversed a wide area in the course of his speech. He professed humiliation at the sight of the Prime Minister seeking the cooperation of the House in completing the Government’s business. He said it was a most humiliating spectacle to see a Prime Minister asking the Opposition to allow the House to go into recess. The Prime Minister has received the cooperation of the Liberal and Australian Country parties throughout this session and, in asking for the co-operation of the Opposition in completing the business of the House, he is doing a very admirable thing, which does not need any comment by the honorable member for Watson even if he does feel humiliated. But having been humiliated he took honorable members through all the stages of an unfortunate lifetime, in referring to the year 1890, to murder and bloodshed, to a strike in 1917, and to the tragedy of the Australian Country party’s representation in this chamber to bring us up to the present clay. I am surprised that any honorable member should express sympathy with the strike of 1917 which was not an occasion of strike breaking by the sons of country people or by Australian Country party members but of a stab in the back to our boys and brothers and relations who were fighting for their country on the other side of the world. I had a brother overseas and I feel strongly about statements that the country people should not have sent their men down to the seaboard to load meat on the ships for those boys. It is a shameful thing that this strike of 1917 should be paraded as something of which the Australian Country party should be ashamed.
The honorable member said that the Australian Country party has been attacking the working people of Australia. Who are the working people of Australia? I should like to know anybody who works harder than the farmer and the dairyman who, in the honorable gentleman’s own words, milks his cows from 3 o’clock in the morning till 9 o’clock at night. .Some people express opinions on matters concerning which they are illinformed. The honorable member should know that cows are not milked that late at night. An example of how the farmer assists, rather than fights, the working people of Australia is the fact that the wheat farmer is accepting ‘7s. Id. a bushel as a home price for wheat when it is’ selling overseas for from 1Ss. to 21s. a bushel. The selling of the farmers’ wheat at the home price represents a free gift by the farmer to everybody in this country. Members of the Australian Country party have been accused in the course of debates of having their eyes only on their own party interests but our party is not a sectional party. That such a view is quite wrong is proved by the fact that people whom we represent are producing wheat for the benefit of the community at a price considerably below that which can be obtained on the markets of the world. An example of how the Australian Country party is considered by the electors is the fact that in the State of New South Wales five. Country party candidates will be completely unopposed at Saturday’s State elections. They and their party have given such good service to the State of New South Wales that those five candidates are not being opposed by any other party and three other Australian Country party candidates are being opposed only by independents. That is a record of w”hich the Australian Country party might well be proud.
It is most fitting that at the opening of a parliamentary session an opportunity should be given to honorable members to discuss matters which came before the electors in policy speeches. That was done in the debate on the AddressinReply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. Whilst the programme of the Government is set out at the .commencement of the session, it is very appropriate that towards the end of the session the introduction of finance bills such as those now before the House should give honorable members the opportunity of reviewing what the Government has done and of discussing the manner in which it should continue its administration during the period of recess. I think it is a very wise thing for Parliament to go into recess. I was surprised when the Leader of the Opposition said very definitely that honorable members were paid to sit in this House. The occupation of a seat in this House does not by any means complete an honorable member’s responsibility to his electors. He has two duties. One of them is to sit in this House and represent his electorate; and the other is. to travel through his electorate in order to familiarize himself with it and learn what his electors are thinking. I can only assume that the honorable member for Watson, if he wishes to continue sitting in this House, must be very glad to keep out of his electorate. I am delighted to go back to my electorate and I travel a thousand miles a week in order to be with my constituents during the week-ends and maintain continuity of contact. It would be unreasonable to suggest that the House should sit continuously and I consider that this has been a very long and successful session. Legislative measures have been introduced but the introduction of legislation is not the beginning and the end of the Government’s functions. There is a considerable amount of administrative work to be done which is not very obvious because it is not brought prominently before the people but which is part of the whole make up of executive government as it exists in Australia to-day.
The Minister for External Affairs and Minister for External Territories (Mr. Spender) has devoted himself to foreign affairs and to matters concerning external territories with studiousness and has achieved satisfactory results which will go on record. It is already on record that the Department of External Affairs is being particularly well administered. A new department, the establishment of which was promised in the policy speeches of the leaders of the Liberal and Australian Country parties, is the Department of National Development. As the representative of a country constituency I have been practically inundated with letters which express approval of the establishment of this department. People are asking in what way they can take advantage of its services to develop the countryside to national advantage. I have received a considerable number of requests for the building of new developmental roads, for the implementation of water supply schemes and for the construction of sewerage works and water conservation projects. The implementation of some of these schemes has been commenced but their progress has been delayed by a lack of money. I know that the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) has organized this new department so that it is now almost ready to commence actual developmental activities. He announced, in reply to a question earlier in the session, that he would look to regional committees to guide him on the type of work that could be suitably performed and I know, from the number of letters I have received, how seriously those committees have taken the matter and how intent they are to cooperate with him.
Honorable members have heard more than enough of communism in this House over the past few months but they have seen far too little action in regard to the matter. The Government proposed to deal effectively and quickly with that subversive element and has prepared legislation and introduced it into this chamber and another place but it has been frustrated in every attempt that it has made to implement its plans. The blame for that fact lies entirely on honorable members of the Opposition who say that they support the Government’s proposal to deal with these people but who do not do anything to implement that proposal.
There has been a passing mention of dollars in connexion with the luxury hotel being built on Hayman Island off the Queensland coast. All honorable members know how very desirable it is to increase the supply of dollars in this country and this project is designed to attract tourists from overseas a large number of whom would have dollars to spend. Yet the very suggestion that the Treasurer should officially open that hotel has been condemned by honorable gentlemen opposite who have said that he should not do so. Honorable members of the Opposition have given no consideration to the benefit that such an hotel offers to Australia by providing accommodation suitable to the people who are likely to be attracted to this country. It is very difficult to attract people from overseas with the accommodation .that is offering at the present time. I venture to say that honorable members of the Opposition will be glad to avail themselves of the opportunity of staying at this hotel in the pleasant warmth of the Queensland winter.
Prior to the last general election the Government parties made a specific promise with regard to petrol and the Treasurer and I were accused of being un-British in advocating the cessation of petrol rationing. Such a statement was made deliberately from several platforms in my electorate and it was stated that the abolition of rationing would cause chaos in the petrol industry and all the horrors that could be imagined. The worst remark passed was that members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties were un-British because they wished to embarrass the Homeland by de-rationing petrol. What has happened? The Government has removed petrol rationing and no ill effects have been felt. On the contrary conditions have improved as a result of that action. Farmers have been able to obtain petrol for the many purposes for which its use is necessary to them. Within the last few weeks the United Kingdom Government itself has removed petrol rationing and has thereby justified everything that the present Treasurer said before the elections.
No pre-election promise was made by the Government parties in regard to taxation but this subject was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. The Government expressed the intention of reviewing the taxation system and of introducing a modified form of tax assessment. A committee “with very wide powers was formed. It has been obtaining evidence and has made good progress in the preparation of a report which, I am sure, will be well accepted when it is placed before the people. The matter of pensions has been much discussed in this House. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), who has just resumed his seat, has almost turned “ increase the pensions v into a parrot cry. The point that honorable members opposite have overlooked is that during eight years in which the previous Government had an opportunity to deal with these matters, and indeed was invited to do so, pensions were entirely overlooked by it. I do not know whether consideration of increased pension rates was overlooked deliberately or casually, but in any case .pensions were not dealt with. Now we have the spectacle of the Opposition saying continually and repeatedly, “What are you going to do about pensions “, and “ Do something for these people who are in such dire straits “, but they completely overlook the fact that they had eight years in which to do something for the pensioners and they did nothing. In contrast to the previous Government’s attitude, this Government has tried to do something for the pensioners. It has appointed a committee which has been meeting recently to consider war service pensions. Recommendations directed to the improvement of pensions have already been submitted by it to Cabinet. At, a suitable time the proposals will be announced to the House.
A bill was introduced to this House a few days ago for the stabilization of the wool industry. I am not permitted, at this stage, to refer to it in detail, but I point out that by introducing that bill the Government has shown its keen appreciation of thu part that the wool industry plays in the economy of Australia. The Government is determined that no tragic happening shall occur to the wool industry which would have repercussions throughout the whole of the country. Child endowmenthas been dealt with by this House. The. Government’s intention to increase endowment by the payment of a sum for the first child was made plain before the last general election. Every attempt was made by the Government to have that promise implemented, and it is due to the Opposition alone that that child endowment legislation is not ai this moment on the statute-book.
Much has been said about th<? cooperation ‘between labour and industrial management, but even in this House honorable members have not been able to co-operate one with another. Those who represent Labour have not co-operated with those who represent industry though, of course, we represent other sections of the community as well. If there is no co-operation at the Seat of Government, what hope is there of getting co-operation in the country generally? During the passage of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill through this House it was stated by the Opposition that the measure was intended as a direct attack on the unions. If members of the Labour party wrongly accuse the Government of making a direct attack on unionists, how can the Government get the support and co-operation of the people outside this Parliament; yet without such support this country cannot progress. The Liberal party has reiterated that the great ideal behind its policy is co-operation between all the people of Australia. I do not claim to represent 44,000 electors, as the previous speaker claimed to do, but I say that although I was elected by a majority of the votes of the electors in my electorate, I still represent the minority who did not vote for me. I am here to see that they also get a fair deal. I shall not have it said, without protest by me, that, by bringing down legislation to deal with the Communist party, this Government i3 making an attack on unionism, because it is quite apparent that such is not the case.
War service land settlement was dealt with by this House early in the parliamentary session. About a fortnight ago a conference was held by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride) with representatives of the State governments. The problem of war service land settlement was thoroughly thrashed out, and now it is merely a matter of waiting until the State representatives make the necessary arrangements for the whole matter to be made public and for land settlement to be brought into line with modern conditions. The previous scheme was upset because .of a High Court ruling, but it is hoped that the new scheme will work more satisfactorily. It has become almost a parrot cry of honorable members opposite to say to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), “What are you doing about your health scheme?”. I can tell them that he has been working day and night since this House met in an endeavour to produce a scheme which will be effective, to-day, to-morrow and for many years to come. The man has not been born who can work harder than the right honorable gentleman. He does not spare his own health in the service of the people. He will bring to this House a scheme which will be put into operation for the benefit of all. It is useless for the Opposition to think that we shall be disturbed by their continual parrot-like interjections. Speeches like the one made by the honorable member for “Watson will get them nowhere. It is the solid work of the Government which will count in the long run, and about which the elec- . tors really wish to be informed.
The provision of adequate telephone services is a matter which is very dear to me because, having lived in the country for many years, I know what telephones mean to country residents. I cannot speak sufficiently highly of the efforts of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) to give good telephone services to the people of this country. Possibly nothing is more difficult to get to-day than telephones, which have been in deplorably short supply for many years. The Minister has honestly find conscientiously tried to alleviate the shortages. He is giving service which is so good now that people write to me in heartwarming terms about it. One constituent wrote -
We have been waiting for years to get this telephone.
Another wrote -
I am an old woman, I am very old, I am 90 years of age and have been waiting years to get a telephone and this is the finest thing that has come to me.
The efforts of the Postmaster-General have been magnificent.
Another parrot cry of honorable members opposite is, “ When are you going to put value back into the £1 ? “ They might ask, “ When are you going to put value back into the Chifley £1, the depreciated fi, the fi that this Government had to take over as a legacy from the previous Government”. Value cannot be put back into the fi overnight. It cannot be done by the waving of a magic wand. Value in our money results largely from the confidence of the people in the Government. During last week, when I” spent a day or so in my electorate, I found that confidence in this Government is mounting among the people. It only remains for a satisfactory conclusion of the election campaign in New South Wales on Saturday for this Government to get really into its stride. Co-operation between the Country party and the Liberal party exists in this House to-day. The co-operation of the Opposition has been asked for but has been refused. The result of that lack of co-operation can be overcome by the co- 0 iteration of a New South Wales LiberalCountry party Government after the next State general election.
.- The House is discussing financial measures which include a Supply Bill, the purpose of which is to grant Supply for four months. In a few days the House will be going into recess, and it is reasonable to believe that the recess will be of four months’ duration. It is not unusual, at this time for the House to go into recess, but it seems rather unusual that it should contemplate a recess of four months’ duration. No information has been forthcoming on this question, and the proposition before the House at least justifies an assumption that the House will be in recess for four months. That being so, I think it is. imperative for the Government to offer some explanation of why there should be such a long recess. The failure of the Government to offer any such explanation leaves it open to a great deal of criticism. 1 should like to draw a comparison between this Parliament and some of the Parliaments of England. There was once a Parliament known as the “ Addled Parliament “, which in the time of Charles I. sat continuously for two months but failed to pass a bill. It was then dissolved. This Parliament has been sitting for four months, but it has not yet passed any bills. The threat of dissolution is poised in the air. The indications are that this Parliament will become the first “Addled Parliament” of Australia. The approach to this matter by honorable members on the Government side has been marked particularly by their failure to present any specific argument in defence of the Government. They have skirted around economic questions and skipped away from questions which have some relation to international affairs and to Australia as a member of the British Commonwealth. Those honorable gentlemen opposite who were members of the last Parliament had a lot to say about these matters, and I suggest that, as they are very important, some reference should have been made to them by members of the Government. Tip to the present time nothing has been forthcoming.
Honorable members on the Government side have attempted to place responsibility for the deplorable dollar position on the previous Government. That matter would take too long to deal with at the moment, but I am concerned about the failure of the Government, or the responsible members of it, to give this House any information at all in relation to the dollar problem.. The dollar problem, as it affects this country, is very important, and although the Government has been in office for seven months not an inkling of its intentions with regard to the matter has been given to the House. It is well known that this country is suffering from a shortage of dollars. Honorable members now on the Government side were not reluctant, in the last Parliament, to criticize the Chifley Government because of this shortage; but we have waited in vain for any proposal on the part of the Government to apply a solution of this problem. What plans has the Government made to cope with the dollar problem and when will it be possible for those plans to become operative? The silence of the Government on this question leads us to believe that it has no solution in mind and that the dollar handicap from which the nation is suffering will continue to hamper our economy. In previous speeches I have suggested various methods of approaching the problem, but the steadfast reserve of the Government suggests that the problem has got completely beyond its control. During this debate Government supporters have proposed no means of alleviating the shortage and, in fact, have scarcely mentioned the subject.
Another serious omission by Government supporters has been their failure to make any reference to Empire relations. When they were in Opposition, one of their best talking points was their frequent criticism of the Chifley Government for its alleged weakening of the bonds of Empire. Yet throughout its seven months of office this Government has failed to make any constructive proposals for the strengthening of the British Commonwealth of Nations or for the solution of the problems that confront the Mother Country. The Chifley Government, on the contrary, contributed greatly to the stabilization of Great
Britain’s economy. Every honorable member must be aware that Great Britain absorbs between 60 and 70 per cent, of Australia’s exports. Therefore, aid for Britain is not merely a matter of patriotism ; it is also a matter of good business. From a national point of view, it is necessary for us to help to stabilize the British economy and strengthen the bonds of the British Commonwealth of Nations. This Government has fallen down on its job badly as it has not made any noticeable contribution to the cause of British recovery, even though many of its supporters repeatedly criticized thu Chifley Government on the ground that it had not done enough to help the deserving people of Great Britain. The truth is that the Labour Government’s efforts contributed in a very large measure to the restoration of British economic stability. The monetary gifts that Australia made to the United Kingdom under the Chifley Administration were of tremendous help to the Mother Country.
The re-establishment of prosperity in Great Britain is related also to the dollar shortage. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) recently suggested that the Chifley Government had aggravated the dollar situation in Australia by depreciating the currency. He failed to point out that the Chifley Government did not act on its own initiative. It depreciated the currency only after the United Kingdom Government and the governments of nineteen other nations had depreciated their currencies in relation to the dollar. That course of action was forced upon the British Government as the result of the depleted state of its reserves. The action of the Chifley Government was an outstanding contribution towards the stemming of the drain upon the financial resources of the United Kingdom. The charge that was made against the Chifley Administration by the Minister for External Affairs was grossly misleading and untrue. The efforts of the Chifley Government contributed very substantially to Great Britain’s recovery, and they are in startling contrast with the “ come day go day “ attitude of the present Government. Members of the Government parties lost no opportunities during the general election campaign last December to tell the people that Australia’s relations with other members of the British Commonwealth would be impaired if the Chifley Government were returned to office. Nevertheless, although they have been in office now for seven months, they have done nothing to assist British recovery. The United Kingdom was assisted to turn the corner as the result of the gifts that were made to it by the Australian Labour Government. I was amazed to hear a member of the Australian Country party state in this House yesterday that Great Britain would be helped if Australia reduced its sterling balances in London. That honorable gentleman and -his colleagues might be interested to learn that the Chifley Government made monetary gifts to Great Britain at the request of the British Government. Before taking any action, it consulted the United Kingdom Government and asked what form of assistance from Australia would be most useful to it. The British Government asked for gifts of money. Therefore, the Labour Government made available to it sums totalling no less than £45,000,000. The effect of those gifts was two-fold. First, British debts amounting to £45,000,000 in Australia were cancelled. Secondly, Great Britain did not have to ship goods to Australia in order to discharge those commitments. Instead, goods of that value were released for disposal in the dollar area and thus were used to reduce the Empire dollar deficit. I have no doubt that, if the honorable member who suggested the unusual course of action of reducing Australia’s sterling funds in Great Britain were to consult his party leaders, he would learn that there are very good reasons why those sterling reserves are not being used.
Certain anomalies in the social services scheme require the urgent attention “ of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). I do not expect the right honorable gentleman to take immediate action, but I presume that he will be preparing his budget in the near future and I hope that he will then give earnest consideration to my representations. First, I refer to the situation of certain superannuated railway workers in New South Wales. This matter was mentioned recently by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa). About 15,000 former railway workers are receiving superannuation payment from the New South Wales Government. That Government recently increased the rate of those payments by 25 per cent., but the Commonwealth Department of Social Services immediately informed recipients that their social services entitlements would be reduced ‘by corresponding amounts. In other words, the benefit of the New South Wales Government’s gesture w.as promptly cancelled by the Commonwealth. I hope that the Treasurer will consider the case of these men sympathetically and agree to rescind the Commonwealth decision. That, of course, will involve an adjustment of the means test, but such an adjustment would be well justified. T also ask the right honorable gentleman to relax the application of the means test to parents of invalids under the age of 21 years. At present, the means test is applied to the parents of such invalids with the result that they often suffer considerable hardships. An invalid qualifies for a pension as soon as he reaches the age of 21 years, but the parents have to provide for the support of an invalid minor if they have a joint income of approximately £9 a week. That injustice is causing a. great deal of unnecessary suffering, and I hope that the Treasurer will regard it in a serious light. I have raised these matters because I know that, unless they are considered by the Treasurer when he is framing his budget, it will be almost impossible for us to have anything done about them until another year has passed.
It is apparent, from reports, that the Government intends to increase exservicemen’s pensions. I congratulate it upon that decision, and I believe that the Parliament will support any proposal for the increase of pensions generally. However, I should like to direct attention to the attitude which the Government has adopted in reviewing exservicemen’s pensions, because it appears to me that it is trying to make political capital out of the position. Honorable members will recall that the Chifley Government appointed an all-party committee, all the members of which were ex-servicemen, to examine representations for increases of servicemen’s pensions from time to time. The present Government has apparently abandoned that idea without consulting the Opposition about its decision to do so. The Government, if I judge correctly from press reports, has appointed a committee which consists of its own supporters to review exservicemen’s pensions. Of course, it was not compelled to confer with the Opposition on such a matter, but the ordinary forms of courtesy required that it should have conveyed its intentions to the House. The Opposition has been treated almost with contempt. I am not authorized to refer to the attitude that the Labour party would have adopted in response; to a request by the Government to nominate members for appointment to a.n all-party committee to consider exservicemen’s pensions, but I voice my criticism of the contemptuous attitude that the Government has displayed relative to this matter. The Menzies Government appears to have discarded the idea of appointing an all-party committee to review ex-servicemen’s pensions, and the only explanation that I can imagine for that decision is that the Government finds that it is able to increase pensions as a result of the successful administration of the Chifley Government. The Government proposes to bask in the glory of that decision and to capitalize the position for political purposes.
I shall now summarize my remarks- [ have referred to the fact that the Parliament, if it continues as at present, will be known in history as the first “ Addled Parliament “ of the Commonwealth. It is indeed interesting, and rather intriguing at times, to listen to the attempts by Government supporters to defend their pre-election promises. They either attempt to run away from the charge that they told the people that if they were elected to office, they would put value back into the £1, or they try to break that promise down. I find it significant that some of them go to the other extreme, and deny that such a promise was made. Their denials are absurd, and I leave it to the people to judge whether that promise was made by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party.
I also referred to the Commonwealth’s dollar deficits. That problem is most important and’, in view of its effect upon the Australian economy, I imagined thai the Treasurer would make a statement upon it. The silence of the right honorable gentleman on the subject is all too significant. The Government either is incompetent, or has no policy for dealing with the problem, and we may confidently expect that the dollar position will continue to deteriorate. I also mentioned the strange silence, and, in fact, the failure of the Government to improve Empire relations, or to strengthen the British Commonwealth of Nations. I recall that honorable gentlemen opposite capitalized that matter very formidably, not only in the last Parliament, but also during the last general election campaign. The Prime Minister has expressed the hope that the House will conclude its business by tomorrow, and the failure of the Government even to mention whether it has plans for strengthening Empire relations deserves strong criticism. Finally, .1 hope that the Treasurer will make provision in his budget to increase all social services.
.- I am glad to have the opportunity that is afforded by this debate to refer to a matter which, I think, may some time become of tremendous importance to this country, and that is the production of oil from shale. I am personally interested in that problem, because on the northwestern edge of the electorate of Paterson, which I have the honour to represent, lies a tremendous field of rich oil-bearing shale at Baerami. The resources of that field are variously estimated at between 10,000,000 tons and 12,000,000 tons. The latter figure was checked by Professor Cotton, who is the Professor of Geology at the University of Sydney. He surveyed the field in conjunction with Messrs. Julius, Poole and Gibson, consulting engineers of Sydney, and the assay showed approximately 58 to 60 gallons of crude oil per ton of shale. In the Mulholland report, which was produced by the New South Wales Department of Mines, the figure was put down at 10,600,000 tons for that part of the deposit which had been explored. Those figures reveal that there is a tremendous field for development.
Unfortunately, the Commonwealth’s undertaking for extracting oil from shale at Glen Davis continues to be used as the yardstick against which all such proposals should be measured. We know from the Auditor-General’s report that the Glen Davis proposition is not by any means economical. If we are to continue to use the comparison with Glen Davis, it seems to me that there are poor prospects of developing the Baerami shale field, unless it is done during a national emergency, such as confronted us a few years ago. The Government of the United States of America on that occasion sent to this country a mission which was headed by Mr. Jacomini, to investigate the possibilities of developing the extraction of oil from Baerami shale, and it was prepared to make a considerable quantity of equipment available under lend-lease for that purpose. Therefore I consider that it -is necessary, for the purposes of illustration, to refer to the Glen Davis project.
At the present time, the Government considers that it is wise to continue production of oil from shale at Glen Davis, even though the process is uneconomic, because of the ease with which Australia may be cut off from its overseas sources of liquid fuel. We may reasonably put that uneconomic figure down to the requirements of national security, provided we are sure that the uneconomic basis upon which Glen Davis is operating is the best basis possible on which that industry can function. The AuditorGeneral has compiled a list of the losses that have been made by the Glen Davis project for some years. It is as follows : -
The total loss for a period of five years is approximately £1,750,000. As I have said, we need the assurance that such a Result is the best that can be produced at Glen Davis. There are two causes of the operative losses at that project. The first of them is the fact that insufficient shale is being mined to keep the plant operating at full capacity. The second is the inefficient retorting of that shale, the retorting being the basic process for the extraction of oil from the hale. Despite the disclaimer which the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) made recently in answer to questions, ample evidence is available to show that, if inefficient retorting is not the major cause of the loss at Glen Davis, it is still a very real cause of loss, and should be subjected to the closest examination. In support of my contention, I propose to quote from the minutes of evidence and reports of two Public Works Committees which have, over the last few years, examined the whole matter of the extraction of oil from shale at Newnes, or Glen Davis, as it is known, and, secondly, at Baerami. I quote, first, from a report prepared by Lord Cadman, the Chairman of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited, of London, and dated the 4th July, 1935, for the then Prime Minister of Australia, on proposals for the establishment of the oil shale industry at Newnes. Lord Cadman wrote -
With regard to retorting, it is apparent that the ideal retort and method of working have yet to be found for this material.
There is also embodied in Lord Cadman’s report a statement by two officers of Scottish Oils Limited, of Glasgow and London, which reads as follows : -
The opinion is expressed that a sound solution of the retorting problem has yet to be found and that the first step towards the development of the Newnes proposition should be a thorough experimental study of the question.
I shall now read to the House paragraph 20 of the report of the Public Works Committee in 1943, because it has a close relation to this subject. It reads -
It is stated that all the processes associated with the production of petrol at Glen Davis are in operation successfully, excepting the vital one of carbonizing the shale. It is claimed that this is due tn the unsatisfactory type of retort in use, and the lack of an adequate water supply.
I now turn to evidence which was given before the Public Works Committee in* 1945, by Mr. A. C. Smith, executive officer, Minerals, Department of Supply and Shipping. Mr. Smith said -
We hope that Glen Davis will be in full production by the end of June next year, but it is my opinion that we still have a long way to go before we can evolve a really satisfactory retort - something that will mark a world advance in the treatment of shale. The Renco retort may be the answer to our quest, but we cannot yet say.
That evidence struck a note of hope. I shall refer to the Renco retort later, but I point out now that other long references to it are made in the reports of our Public Works Committees. The following extract is from the report that was compiled in 1943 : -
The retort recommended by the American mission for the production of ‘the increased quantity of oil projected at Glen Davis is one development by Mr. Jacomini, and known as the Renco retort.
The report of experts on that retort was to the effect that they had - every confidence that the retort designed by him (Mr. Jacomini) on the sound basic principle developed by him will give satisfactory and efficient service.
The Public Works Committee made the following important statement: -
Nevertheless, the Committee is loath to recommend the construction, at a cost of approximately £300,000, of retorts which have not been operated on a commercial scale. However, the retorting is the weakness in the present operation at Glen .Davis, and if there can bc discovered a retort which will give satisfactory service while extracting a greater percentage of the oil content of the shale, the output, as well as the financial aspect of the venture, will be greatly improved.
After discussion with’ the Commonwealth representatives on the Board of Directors of the National Oil Pty. Ltd. and others, the Committee is impressed with the potentialities of the Renco retort and considers it should be tried out under working conditions.
– What are the dates of those reports?
– 1943 and 1945. The evidence that I have cited shows that there is a retorting problem at Glen Davis and the hope exists that that retort may provide some relief and may materially improve the economics of production there. I now wish to deal in detail with the Renco retort. It was invented by Mr. Jacomini, who led the American mission to this country in 1944. The development of his retort was carried out at the direction of, and at substantial cost to, the Standard Oil Company of Australia, which is a major lease-holder on the Baerami field. That company retained Mr. Jacomini to advise it on the production of oil from shale and on the development of its shale leases on the Baerami field. The retort was tested in Newcastle in 1939 over a short period. It was installed by Mr. Jacomini and the tests were supervised by Messrs Julius, Poole and Gibson, consulting engineers, of Sydney, who subsequently reported that the test was sufficiently satisfactory to be made available to the
Government. The results of that test apparently persuaded the Public Works Committee to report, in 1945, as follows : -
In the light nf the latest evidence obtained l.lie Committee is still of opinion that the installation of thu Renco retort offers the best promise of improved results in the future, :ind it is urged that the work of installing mid operating that retort in a thorough test should he completed without further delay.
I should like to inform honorable members also of the opinion that was expressed by Mr. A. K. Butler, who is now general manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited’s steelworks and also a director of National Oil Proprietary Limited, in evidence that he gave before that Public Works Committee. He said -
I have seen the Jacomini retort in operation. 1 am definitely of the opinion that it should be tested under actual working conditions at Glen Davis - for I consider that from a chemical engineering point of view his method of heating is wellnigh perfect. I was astonished as well as pleased at the rate at which the Sh ale went into the retort and was discharged from it seemingly properly carbonized. Subsequent reports from Julius, Poole and Gibson, who acted as consultants on behalf of Mr. Moate and Standard Oil of Australia, showed that up to a given tonnage the plant was most efficient, and the output surprisingly good. When I became a director of National Oil Pty. Ltd. one of my first steps was to try to persuade Sir George Davis to buy that retort.
That is the opinion of a competent engineer upon the Renco retort. The retort was impressed by the Australian Government under National Security Regulations and transferred to Glen Davis in June, 1943. The managing director of National Oil Proprietary Limited, Mr. L. J. Griffiths, when giving evidence before the Public Works Committee, in 1945, said -
We have impressed the Renco retort which was tried out in Newcastle some years ago, and have taken steps to design and build a pilot Renco retorting plant at Glen Davis.
Later he said -
We will not have the Renco in operation before the end of this year.
That seems to indicate that National Oil Proprietary Limited intended to take some action in the matter, and in this respect the following assurance was given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), when he was Prime Minister, in the course of a speech that he made in this House : -
An advance on existing processes will be achieved, it is hoped, from the Renco retort, an American installation erected at Glen Davis and shortly to be given a run of sufficient size to enable its qualities to be gauged.
Thus, from the records it will be seen that there was no dearth of optimism in the minds of people who were well qualified to give an opinion upon the retort. However, despite the apparent success of the tests that were made on the retort under the supervision of competent experts, the recommendations of two Public Works Committees, the impressment by the Government of the retort in 1943, the assurance of action on the part of National Oil Proprietary Limited and the assurance that the then Prime Minister gave, no move was made to have the retort tested under government supervision until January of this year. In that month the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) announced that the Government would place the Renco retort at Glen Davis under a trial to extend over a period of three months. Therefore, the Chifley Government must bear a good deal of responsibility for the failure to test this equipment, which, had it been found successful, would have increased production of shale oil at Glen Davis, and thus had some relation to national security in the development of a domestic source of shale oil. An impartial review of all the circumstances discloses a reluctance amounting almost to unwillingness, to test the Renco retort for reasons that are not apparent and about which I offer no opinion. I simply say that the facts are clear, and they speak for themselves.
– Where is Mr. Jacomini now?
– He has returned to the United States of America. It is now proposed to test the Renco retort again, but in view of past experience in this matter I urge that the test should be conducted under conditions that will allow of no further room for doubt about its efficiency. My interest in the subject arises from my interest in the development of the Baerami field which, on economic grounds, will not in ordinary circumstances be developed in the foreseeable future. However, I believe that I am justified in saying that the prospects of developing that field will be dictated by the success or failure of the proposed test of the Renco retort. That is the importance of the matter so far as I am concerned.
In April, I addressed a series of questions to the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport in which I made certain suggestions relating to the conduct of the proposed test. I suggested that the equipment should be erected by a person who has had extensive experience in the operation of plant of this kind and preferably by one who has no association with the management of National Oil Proprietary Limited. Therefore, I was hardly assured when the Minister simply replied that the pilot Renco retort was to be tested and that the test would be conducted over a period and under conditions which it was hoped would enable its efficiency, or otherwise, to be accurately determined. I am not satisfied with that reply. If the Government is not going to put this equipment under a test that will finally resolve all doubt about its efficiency, it is useless to conduct any test at all, because time and money will thus be wasted, as the results will be inconclusive. One Public Works Committee has already reported that it was loath to recommend an expenditure of £300,000 upon the installation of the Renco retort. If further tests are to be inconclusive, no future committee would recommend expenditure on such work, having regard to the fact that over £4,000,000 has already been expended on the undertaking at Glen Davis. However, as the Government impressed the retort it has a responsibility to those interests who financed the development of the retort and also to the people generally to satisfy itself beyond all doubt on the matter. It can only do so by ensuring that the retort shall be adequately tested. In the questions that I addressed to the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport I also suggested that the Government should engage the services of an independent competent consulting engineer to supervise any test that is undertaken. However, the reply furnished to me on that matter was also unsatisfactory. It was as follows : -
The Government is satisfied that the supervision required for the testing of the retort can bc supplied bv the technical officers attached to National Oil Pty. Ltd.
Therefore, the present position in respect of this matter is totally unsatisfactory. In the light of facts that I have adduced, I urge the Government to reconsider arranging for an independent consulting engineer to supervise the test now proposed. These facts make it clear that there have been continuous and mounting losses at Glen Davis, and all reports have confirmed that the method of retorting is a major cause of those losses. I have given sufficient evidence to show that the Renco retort holds out hope for increased efficiency. Although the retort has been in the hands of the Government for seven years, the Government has not made any move to test it. If the proposed test should prove satisfactory, the members of the Chifley Government and the technical advisers to National Oil Proprietary Limited will be confronted with some awkward questions as to why the retort was not tested earlier. I do not cast any aspersion upon the technical officers of National Oil Proprietary Limited. I do not know any of them personally, and I am not qualified to speak about their work. But the plain fact is that their technical judgment with respect to the retorting of shale can be vindicated only by the failure of a test which they, themselves, are to conduct. If room is left for doubt about the conditions under which the test is to be conducted, and if the results should prove to be inconclusive, doubt must inevitably arise that the test was not faithfully carried out. The Government must resolve that doubt. It must do so in the interests of its own shale oil undertaking and also in the interests of national security as well as of the technicians of National Oil Proprietary Limited, who should not be exposed to the risks involved in the situation that I have indicated. It is most important that the efficiency, or otherwise, of the Renco retort should be established beyond all doubt. There is only one way u> which that can be done. As thi/ Minister has ordered tests to be carried out only after seven years from the time it obtained control of the retort, and eleven years after apparently successful results were shown, he must ensure that the installation of the equipment and the conduct of the tests shall be carried out under the supervision of competent and independent consulting engineers, preferably under the instructions of the inventor of the retort. I urge the Government to review the situation again in the light of the facts that I have placed before the House.
.- I take this opportunity to refer to three subjects that arise in this debate on the appropriation and supply bills now before the Chair. First and foremost is the failure of the Government to put value back into the fi. It is not a new subject, but, perhaps, the Government will be able to throw fresh light upon it. The second matter that I have in mind is the failure of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) to establish a satisfactory medical and health services scheme. The third matter is the failure of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) to maintain close and warm contact with the United Nations in the interests of the preservation of world peace. Much has been said about the Government’s promise to put value back into the fi. I agree entirely with the Government’s view that this is an international problem. However, the Government has made it a political issue, and if from this side of the chamber the Government is bombarded day after day with questions and criticisms concerning this urgent and important matter, it has only itself to blame. It was all very well for supporters of the present Government to make promises on the hustings, but as the future, and, indeed, the fabric, of our economy is at stake, surely we should expect the Government to take a broad rather than a party political outlook on this matter. Throughout the recent general election campaign supporters of the present Government declared, that Menzies would put shillings back in the fi. They stated almost the exact amount they would put back into the flit was to be a piece of legerdermain, almost as much a conjuring trick as that which the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) performs when he conjures up rabbits in the course of his speeches. The obligation now rests upon the Government to fulfil its election promises. One night at my home I heard a broadcast which was accompanied by synthetic applause in which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said -
Return us and we will put shillings hack into the fi.
There was more synthetic applause -
Return us and we shall do something about communism.
And still more synthetic applause -
Return us and we will give you a health scheme free from the tyranny of conscription.
And again there was more synthetic applause. I was amazed at the defence made by members of the Government of its failure to tackle the vast, intriguing, difficult and devastating problem of inflation. Members of the Australian Country party said that the problem arose from the fact that there was something wrong with its very best customers, the people of Australia who live in the cities. They said, “ These people do not work as long as do the farmers ; there is something wrong with that”. Other sections of the Government say that the workers are at fault. If we examine the matter objectively we shall see that none of these remedies provides the complete answer to the problem. Men who control production in the big industries of Australia, who share the view of the members of the Australian Labour party, that this is a world-wide problem which has been brought about by circumstances arising from the war. We must attack it on broad non-party political lines. Honorable members opposite trot out the story, almost as old as the country itself, that it has resulted from the laziness of the workers and the failure to lift production. These propositions have been peddled by the economists incessantly. The position as I see it is that many factors have given rise to this situation. To misrepresent one section of the community, and ‘talk glibly about increased production, as if that, of itself, were the answer to our problem, will achieve nothing. Why is the United States of America facing the difficulties that result from the inflationary spiral in that country if increased production is the answer to all our ills? American production is sufficient to finance the extension of Marshall aid to every country that desires it, yet 4,500,000 of its people are unemployed. To descend to such a level of misunderstanding as to conclude that the worker is always to blame because there is not much value in the £1, or because there is too much money and not sufficient goods in the country, is absurd. Although economists differ on these matters they come to the one general conclusion that these are not the problems at all. Intelligent men in industry who had the co-operation of the workers during the war have gone on record to prove that that is not so. At a recent meeting of the School of Business Executives, held at Geelong, which, I understand, was attended by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), Mr. D. E. Callinan, general manager of the Russell Manufacturing Company, rebuked those people who blame the worker for the loss of production and say that the worker is always the “ nigger in the woodpile “ during periods of national difficulty. I have never met Mr. Callinan but I admire him because he is decent to his workers and is concerned about the future of this country. Listen to what he had to say to the assembly of “ big shots “ about those who say what terrible people the workers are because they reduce production. Like a dash of cold water came from Mr. Callinan this chilling comment -
Management must not pass the buck to workers, asking them to do more and more with outmoded equipment. The employees value cannot bc judged by output alone - his skill and knowledge must he considered. The idea that the worker must do more to produce, more is a fallacy - there is a job to be done by management.
I submit that; in many instances management has not done its job. In relation to that we have only to look at the tremendous number of small factories and undertakings that have grown up in Sydney - backyard factories or little better than that - which are geared to produce from the labour of a few workers a £2,000 motor car for the proprietor, a high standard of living for his family and perhaps a little week-ender at Palm Beach. Yet the equipment in those places, in which men are working to lift production, is most primitive. We know the reason why that is so. No sensible man in business wants out-worn machinery and equipment, but because of dollar difficulties, and for other reasons, many of them are forced to carry on with it. The point I reiterate is that it conies badly from the Government always to refer to any lack of production in such terms that the impression is given that the worker has given the place away. I point out that such is not -the case because several members of the Australian Country party have referred particularly to it.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), who had a long experience in the Parliament of New South Wales and who has been a decoration of the northern part of the State in the political sense for many years, referring to employment in rural industries, said that the number employed in. those industries is now 60,000 fewer than it was some years ago. I am sure that hi3 statistics are out of date, though I have no doubt that the figures he used were the latest available to him. Listen to the productive record of those men who are said to be dragging Australia down, who will not work and are not pulling their weight. I propose to cite from the publication Fact, issued by the Government, the latest statistics relating to employment. Mark that it is dated 1949, because that serves to reply to one reference that has been made by the Australian Country party to the “ dismal days of Chifleyism “. This is what occurred in those allegedly dismal days : -
Employment: Wage and salary earners at work in Australia at the end of 1.0411 totalled 2,407,000 persons, an increase during the year of 80,300. Rural workers and females in private domestic service and defence personnel are excluded from these totals. The Commonwealth Employment Service reported vacancies for 101.394 workers at the end of 1940. On December 23.. 194!), only 705 persons were receiving unemployment benefit.
I have further facts relating to the more dismal days when real disaster came and the Chifley Government was swept from office because of its alleged failure to improve conditions in the country. How wrong the Country party is here is quickly seen. At midnight last night I. went into the vaults of the National Library and consulted the last available record of the financial activities of the Chifley Government prior to the general election, which was dated the 7th December, 1949.I quote the following headings from the Sydney Morning Herald of that date: -
Shares prices up : Buoyant market.
Taubmans Div. agn 17½ pc.
Kauri Timber profits jump.
Increase of £74,695.
Melbourne Cement: Asbestos Coy pay 83 p c.
I could not believe that, and I read it three times. I continue with the headings -
Water Board Loan oversubscribed.
Bank of A’asia announces net profit £280,000 - 8,000 more than last year.
That is the record of the prosperity that existed when the Chifley Government was allegedly taking the people by the throats and squeezing everything out of them. How do members of the Australian Country party think the people of the country feel about these constant cries of misery that the country is done, the wheel of the waggon is broken, and “It ain’t gonna rain no more “ ? Let us consider how the production of milk has increased. The production of milk for all purposes in 1949 totalled 1,250,253,000 gallons, which was 68,770,000 gallons more than the total for 1948. What a way to go out backwards! What a tremendous disaster to the country! Yet members of the Australian Country party have said that the dairy-farmers have sold their stock and that all that can be seen are ruined homesteads. The gate is broken down, the shed is locked ! Let us consider how the production of butter has increased. In 1949 Australia produced 168,756 tons of factory butter compared with 158,589 tons in 1948, and with 60,000 fewer employees. What a lot of valiant heroes those rural workers are who work on what I have always considered to be a minimum award! To press the matter home, letus deal with cheese. Although it may be hard cheddar for the Government it is good propaganda for us. In 1949 the production of factory cheese was 45,152 tons - a record for any calendar year. Production in 1948 was 41,826 tons.
Then we have had the dismal cry that we cannot get coal and so cannot put value back into the £1. The reason is that honorable members opposite stupidly allowed themselves to be sold a propaganda lie. Now they have the responsibility of government they are wriggling and squirming in their seats. They are trying to find a counter, and because it eludes them the poor old miner is maligned. If honorable members opposite study the statistics they will find that the miners have done a very much better job than has the present Government. The production of 15,000,000 tons of coal in the year ended the 30th June, 1949, was higher than that of any previous financial or calendar year in the history of the country, yet honorable members opposite dare to say that the worker must pull his weight. Why not examine the statistics of 1950? The figures that I have cited were furnished by the Government itself. I received them in the post only this morning. In that bleak year of 1949 when the then Government was dismissed for its alleged misdeeds, the Australian population increased by a record number of 250,000 persons to a total of 8,000,000. How thoroughly wrong on almost every subject are the gloom-chasers opposite. We find none other than the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) writing in 1944 with crepe round his head and ice on his forehead -
As things stand, the growth of Australian population is coming to a standstill and we may never reach as high as 8,000,000 before the decline sets in.
During theregime of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) as Minister for Immigration the population of the country exceeded 8,000,000. The statistical calculation of the honorable member for Mackellar has proved to be merely a figment of his imagination. These half-baked “cheesy” statistics show lack of faith in one’s country. The trouble with the Government is that it has acquired such a grand inheritance from its predecessor that it is suffering from financial indigestion and does not know where to turn because the task has already been so well done for it. The economists on both sides of economics - the economists of the left and the economists of the right, the Liberal and the Conservative economists - have come to varying conclusions, but they have come to one common conclusion. They agree with Professor Copland, who is sceptical about the efficacy of full employment. He regards it as accidental. He doubts whether plans to maintain full employment are adequate. Shades of his fellow professor, Hytten, of happy memory, in the “ Apple Isle “ ! I had the pleasure of writing a little dossier ou him and my colleague had the pleasure of getting a writ from him.
– I did not get the writ.
– This appeal for increased production, like the bill for the dissolution of the Communist party, is cleverly disguised to enable industry to lift production :by putting a further press on the workers. Evidence is abounding that that is not the whole answer, but only a segment of it. An honorable member opposite referred to clean and decent trade unionists. I do not know what to say about that. He probably meant that in a nice way because he may have a clean and decent mind upon these matters, but I remind him that the answer to all these things is planned production. As the former Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) told the House of many occasions, it is possible to plan an industry into a depression by overproducing. Planning frightened the people into returning the anti-Labour parties at the last general election. The people put the anti-Labour parties in power because they were misled by all the sophistry of the Government parties about putting value back into the fi. What the anti-Labour parties did at the last election was a scandalous thing to do to the people of this country. Those parties used political catch-cries at a time when the country was in the throes of inflation. They told the people a story about putting value back into the £1. Inflation is an international disease. It is one of the maladies of capitalism. There are methods of dealing with it but there is no sudden cure for it. It is the cancer of the economic system.
Under a capitalist economy inflation ends in a depression. Fairly and squarely upon the Government rests the responsibility for the panic fear that is in the minds of the people about the value of the £1. The present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has been Treasurer before and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) nas been Prime Minister before, and they - knew full well when they went out canvassing among the people with their promises to put value back into the £1. that Mandrake himself could not do what they promised to do. But they considered that anything was all right so long as it won them votes. As a result of their election promises the Government parties are now, and will be for the remainder of the life of this Parliament, faced by this frankenstein monster of their own creation, which will eventually devour them. I shall shed no tears when it does.
The next point with which I wish to deal is the utter disregard for the welfare of the workers, from whom the Government wants more production, that has been displayed by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) in connexion with a national health scheme. I have seen nothing more disgraceful in the seven years that I have been a member of this Parliament, than the complete abdication of the Minister for Health to the British Medical Association. Why is he not now in this House to give us a report on the progress of the proposed scheme? All we receive are reports that come to us through the medium of the press, that he is attending another meeting with this or that collection of medical men. The people are asking why, when taxes amounting to £4,300,000 annually are being collected from them - about £2.000,000 for the provision of a national medical service and a similar amount for the provision of pharmaceutical benefits - and when an amount of £30,000,000 is either in hand ar is available from the processes of taxation, something has not been done about the provision of a national health scheme. The people of Australia have already paid for a national health service and yet the Minister for Health talks about providing them with a free medical scheme. Some people are beginning to think that the cunning of the Treasurer has something to do with the attitude of the Minister for Health in this matter. They believe that the half of the £30,000,000 that is available for a national health service is to be devoted by the Government to the payment of endowment for the first child and will be one of the little cross-entries in the Treasurer’s little black book.
I cannot continue the hunt-in that direction, however, not because of the lack of game, but because I have not sufficient time to direct the attention of the. House to the shortcomings of the Treasurer. I shall confine my remarks at the moment to the Minister for Health and his patch:work, hotch-potch voluntary scheme under which people, if they wish to be well, may pay 3s. a week or join a friendly society, or take out a policy with an insurance company. This scheme is something like the old panel scheme in Britain. There are many good lodge doctors but the fact remains that the lodge patient obtains only second-class medical treatment. He always feels that he is not a first-class patient as far as the doctor is concerned. That is a matter of psychology. The statute-book contains legislation for the provision of free medicine to the people, but instead of receiving the benefit of that legislation the people arc now confronted with this patch-work and almost fraudulent scheme under which they are to be asked to pay again for something for which an amount of £30,000,000 is already available and would enable them to have it free.
The last comment that I make on that matter is this: Surely no man, no matter how exalted or lowly his position may be, can witness unmoved the sufferings of the poor in the bitterness of winter. I refer particularly to the old people in the community. These benefitwere promised to them, but have not been given to them. The legislation that provides for these benfits to be given to the people is already on the statute-book, but the Minister is looking for some other scheme while the people who require the benefits are passed by in a most callous manner.
The Government stands indicted regarding its propaganda about putting value into the £1. In that respect it has played polities in a way that will result in its ultimate destruction. The Minister for Health stands indicted because of his stupidity, his lack of cohesion and his absenteeism in relation to one of the great needs for which this country is clamouring - a standard, watertight, well-based national health scheme.
The final point that I desire to make is in relation to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) and the statement that he made recently regarding the United Nations. The Minister is inexperienced in his new position. I do not know whether he has ever been to Lake Success. It is his difficulty and his disability that he has succeeded as Minister for External Affairs the former President of the General Assembly of the United Nations (Dr. Evatt), but his inexperience does not warrant the attack upon the institutions of the United Nations that he made in this House recently. Are we to jeopardize peace in this nation because of this man’s spleen against the United Nations? If he disagrees with the work of the agencies of the United Nations as a means to maintain world peace will he give us the other formula for peace? The alternatives before us are : the United Nations or the atom bomb. That is abundantly clear, yet we have heard the United Nations and its agencies damned with faint praise by the Minister. He is inexperienced in these matters, and has not himself visited the United Nations and had first-hand experience of the vast functions of that body. Is it that he dislikes the International Refugee Organization, which is the special agency that is bringing immigrants to this country and so is assisting us to develop our nation? Is it that he dislikes the Food and Agriculture Organization which has fed million.-! of starving people in Europe and Asia ? Is it that he dilsikes the United Nations Children’s Fund which has saved the lives of at least 70,000,000 children in Europe and Asia?
Honorable members on both side of the House must get some concept of which side we shall support in the world battle. If the members of the Government subscribe to what the Minister for External Affairs has, in effect, said, then they are not for the United Nations. If they are not for the United Nations then they are for plans for peace that come from outside the United Nations. Those plans include Soviet Russia’s plan for peace. Remember that this whole regearing of th<? foreign policy of this country is dangerous. There is nothing wrong with a new government restating a policy, hu* it has been traditional in Britain, which is our model in so many of these matters, that foreign policy is continuous and does not change with changes of the government. The Minister for External Affairs has gone out of his way to gibe at the United Nations. Although Australia has subscribed generously to all the United Nations’ projects, and particularly to its special agencies, it is the special agencies that were selected by the Minister for a particular attack. Those agencies are such as, in present world conditions, would have to exist even without the machinery for world peace that is provided in the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations. It does this country of 8,000,000 people., with a valiant democratic record, very little honour in the eyes of the world for its Minister for External Affairs to be belittling the United Nations, which has 59 member nations.
I have noticed also that administration comes largely into this matter and that the whole of the tone of the foreign affairs despatches has been altered to include sinister, insulting, sarcastic references to the activities of the United Nations. Coming nearer to home we have a victim of this administration in Dr. John Burton, who is on leave at the moment simply, in my opinion, because he is being victimized for his political convictions. During the war and since I have been able to observe that Dr. Burton was a most hardworking and conscientious member of the Public Service. Suddenly he has been sent on leave without pay. Could any one say that that was a fitting tribute to pay to a good public servant? Perhaps the Minister may know nothing about these things, as he has said in his short statement. Perhaps it is the admin- istration of the Public Service Board itself that is at fault. If this man’s crime be that he happens to be a supporter of the Labour .party - and I am sure that that is his only crime - then why does not the Minister admit it? Has the fact that a high officer of the Commonwealth Public Service Board has a brother in South Australia who is the head of the Libera] party organization there, anything to do with the matter? The Government should remember that the time will come when the present position will be reversed. If it considers that its members can permit such things to happen because it has won the general election, it should not forget that some day we, and not they, will be the winners. It is a serious- thing when high public servants are the victims of politics. The Government is mouthing the highest principles of democracy in connexion with bills now before the Parliament but is engaging in actions that are anything but democratic.
I shall now summarize what I have said in relation to the three points that I rose to speak on. If I were to highlight one of those points it would be that of public health and the callous and indifferent way in which it has been treated. When the Chifley Government was in office the Cabinet consisted of nineteen members and those nineteen were always present in the House at question time to answer any questions that were put to them, unless there were very special reasons for the absence of any of them. That is not now the case.
– Do not forget that there are half a dozen Ministers in the Senate.
– The Ministers who are members of this House are absent half the time. They are away doing other jobs and an honorable member who wishes to ask a question does not know whom to ask. When we ask a question of a Minister who is representing an absent Minister we always get the statement, “I do not know, but I shall see what can be done about it”. That brings me to the absentee Minister for Health. I agree that he must have conferences with doctors about bringing a health scheme into operation. But we should have in this House more Ministers who are able to tell us, the representatives of the people of Australia, what is going on. But not one line have we had from the right honorable gentleman concerning his proposed national health scheme, upon which depend the health and wellbeing of the people of this country. His attention has been directed to our lack of information about the scheme, time and time again, but he just laughs the matter off. To-day the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked six questions about him.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In a debate of this kind it is only natural that some wild and irresponsible statements should be made. I should like to confine my remarks to the measures before the House. Some rather startling statements that have been made should be corrected as far as possible. One of the outstanding features of the debate has been that the most responsible persons on the other side of the House who have had experience in handling the financial affairs of this country, have admitted that the job of putting value back into the £1 is a tremendous task which is difficult, heart-breaking and complex. Since honorable members opposite have that realization of the immensity of the task it seems to me that instead of continually criticizing the Government their duty is to assist it in every possible way. After all, they are elected representatives of the people, and I consider that if they assume their responsibilities in the way in which I have to assume mine it behoves them in the interests of the people generally to give proper consideration to the problems that confront this Parliament. It must be admitted that in seeking a solution of the problem of the depreciated value of our currency it is necessary to find first the reasons for its existence.
There are many reasons why value has gone from the £1. It has been agreed on all sides of the House that the £1 has been greatly depreciated since 1939 and 1940. The fact that the £1 is worth to-day in the vicinity of only 10s. is not due to one cause alone. It is not due to the fact that we have a Liberal-Australian Country party Government, but it is due to an accumulation of circumstances over the years. 1 venture to affirm, in spite of what the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has said about misleading the people at the general election, that no right-thinking person in Australia considers that any government could put value back into the £1 in the short space of six months when it had been steadily depreciating for a period of ten years. That statement cannot be contradicted by even the most astute financial experts on the Opposition side of the House. Lack of materials, decreased production, shorter working hours, higher wages1, high taxation, increased cost of government administration, industrial disputes, unnecessary and unauthorized hold-ups, reckless spending and withdrawal of subsidies - all of these are factors which have taken value out of the £1. It would be possible to rectify some of these matters in order to put value back into the £1. Let us not try to mislead the people. If honorable members of the Opposition occupied the government benches now they would not be able to put value back into the £1 any more quickly than this Government can do so. Let us tell the people that this House will do everything that it can to put value back into the £1, but that because of some of the circumstances I have mentioned it is impossible to restore to the £1 its entire previous value. Because of arbitration court decisions the people now have shorter working hours and higher wages. I have no complaint to make about that because every one in Australia is entitled to the best conditions of living and working and the greatest possible number of hours of leisure so long as the economy of the country is not. seriously affected thereby. Because of the evidence that has been given before the arbitration courts it is natural to assume that they have considered those matters in their true perspective. Shorter working hours and higher wages must at least be given a trial, so it is impossible to put value back into the £1 by altering those conditions. There is no doubt that because of decreased working hours and increased wages it is not possible to produce goods at the cost at which they have been produced in the past and therefore their prices have risen. The cost of living also has increased because of the rise of the cost of services such as transport. Transport expenses have risen considerably. In 1940 the working expenses of the railways were £36,380,000. Tn 1948 the cost was £84,888,000. The working expenses of electric tramways in 1940 amounted to £6,000,000; in 1948 they had risen to £11,000,000. These increases are due to a set of circumstances over which no government has any control, but the ordinary individual has to bear the brunt of them. Therefore the. value of the £1 is being constantly decreased.
Although honorable members of the Opposition generally have said that they have every sympathy with the Government in its task of trying to put value back into the £1 because it is so difficult and complex, one of them has said that it is not the Opposition’s task to co-operate with, or to support, the Government in matters that are of vital interest to the people of Australia. He has claimed that the task of the Opposition is to criticize. That is a most unusual way of accepting responsibility as a representative of the people of Australia. If value is to be put back into the £1 the possibilities of increasing production must be considered with a view to keeping the cost of goods at a reasonable figure. It is true that the Government favours a system of incentive payments. One honorable member of the Opposition asked what the Government, had done about incentive payments. I think that those honorable members opposite who have done much intelligent work in the trade union movement know that a government cannot lay clown any policy in respect of a system of profitsharing or incentive payments. Such a system must be worked out by the employer and the. employee to their mutual benefit. A government could not do more than say that it really supported such a plan, that the plan had its blessing and that it would assist in every way possible.
– Employers use that system to increase the rate of work and then take the incentive payments away.
– I know that that has been said, but there has been proof time after time in some of the industrial concerns that I know of that the incentive payment system is not instituted for the purpose of making a worker do more. I had a discussion yesterday with an industrialist in Adelaide who recently introduced a system of incentive payments. I asked him how his incentive payment system worked. He told me that the men themselves would have nothing but an incentive system and that as a result of its use in his last year of trading £9,000 was to be divided among 200 employees. He assured me that his men were quite happy with the arrangements that were operating. Increased production can be obtained by giving the employee due recognition for it.
Taxation has been a factor in taking value out of the £1. No government could possibly carry on without sufficient taxation to cover the expenses of administration, but there is a point at which it is possible so to limit expenses that taxation may be reduced. Although the Government has not been able to make any pronouncement it has had analyses made of the various methods by which savings may be effected in government administration and some of them will be introduced. Of course, practical results cannot be achieved in that way at - a moment’s notice. It will take time to put value back into the £’, just as it took time to take it out.
It is necessary for the Government to give some indication of how it intends to put value back into the £1, and I suggest that, because of the shortage of materials, Australia may have to purchase . capital equipment and machinery from England, the use of which would make it possible to increase output and lessen production costs. Australia has a large credit in England, and I believe that it should be applied to meeting the cost of purchasing equipment which can be made available to farmers and graziers for the purpose of increasing their production.
There are many other ways in which value could be put back into the £1. Eventually, the Government will assist people to meet many of the expenses that, occur in family life. “We have heard a lot about the hold-up of the health scheme. Any health scheme which will be of lasting benefit to the community and will not merely blossom forth for a few years and then fade away, cannot be devised in a few moments. I know that it is a good point for electioneering purposes to say that the Government has done nothing about the health scheme, and quite recently I noticed that history was being repeated. I refer to the action of King Canute, who thought that he was so important that he could order the tide not to rise. Similarly Senator McKenna believes, according to his famous health plan, that he can not only drag a horse to water but also make him drink. No health scheme has any possibility of success unless it has the whole-hearted, co-operation of every one participating in it. This Government is not able to produce at a moment’s notice a health scheme that will satisfy the Opposition, but when a scheme is produced it will be of lasting benefit to the people. That is one way in which value can be put back into the £1.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) made great play about some matters which he said had suffered from the “ sheer neglect of this House “. He suggested that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) had belittled the value of the United Nations, and said that if the democratic world desired peace with Soviet Russia it could get it only through that organization. Instead of accusing us of belittling the United Nations honorable members opposite would do well to remember that it was belittled no fewer than fifteen or sixteen times by Soviet Russia, when its representatives walked out of meetings that were vitally important to other countries. Therefore, throughout this debate a a total lack of sincerity has been exhibited by the Opposition. That is quite a. serious indictment of the Opposition, because all these matters are of vital interest to the people of Australia. As honorable members are here to represent all sections of the people, they must realize that all matters which affect the interests of the people and are of national importance, should be dealt with on the common basis of the protection of the people of Australia in the international field. The people have every right to expect that this Parliament will do those things which they sent honorable members here to do.
The promises that the Liberal party made before the last general election have been mentioned many times by honorable members opposite. It has been said that we have not fulfilled those promises. In the first instance we promised to abolish petrol rationing. Petrol rationing was abolished, although the Opposition, when in power, had stated quite definitely that it was impossible to do so. If this Government had been so disposed it could have made great play of that situation, but because it has fulfilled its promise to the people it is quite prepared to let the people judge for themselves the value of its action. Our next promise was to ban the Communist party. The people know to what lengths we have gone to fulfil that promise. I think they realize that we have not so far been able to ban the Communist party because of obstruction by the Opposition.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) mentioned that this Government had done nothing about hospitalization. We all realize that the previous Government, although in power for eight years, did nothing in that regard. The honorable member mentioned a. sad and an urgent case which needed attention at the children’s hospital but was unable to get admittance because of inadequate accommodation at the institution. It may be true that hospital accommodation is inadequate, but that has been the position during the last four years. The previous Labour Government did nothing about it. In many instances the people themselves have had to set up committees to purchase and maintain community maternity hospitals because the previous Government did nothing about that matter at all. I realize that the Chifley Government was faced with many difficulties, and I do not want to criticize it. Moreover, other governments may also have been remiss in not providing adequate hospitalization. But to lay the neglect of past governments ‘ at the door of this Government, which has been in office for only six months, is unreasonable. Honorable members opposite when in power did absolutely nothing in this regard. I know of cases of young mothers who bad to travel many miles to country hospitals for confinement, yet the Labour Government was able to set up the most scientifically equipped hospitals at landing stages for the benefit of migrants. I do not complain about that, but if the Labour Government could do that it could also have done something towards helping Australian mothers. This Government has not put into effect a scheme of hospitalization because it has not yet had an opportunity to bring down a budget. Therefore, it is not reasonable to accuse it of having done nothing. There is nothing more untrue or more insincere than that statement by the Opposition. While this debate proceeds, I ask the Opposition to remember that, although its criticism may appear to it to be a good form of propaganda and party publicity, it is falling upon the very deaf ears of the Australian public; because nothing that it can say can justify its claim that the Government has failed to implement its promises. The reason for that is that the Opposition had eight years in which to do the things which it accuses this Government of not having done within six months.
With appropriation and supply bills we find it necessary to proceed on very cautious lines so that we shall eventually be in a position to place before the people a proposal that will put value back into the £1 and help us all on to greater prosperity.. .Surely the people realize that this Government has done everything within its power to carry out its promises.
.- The Appropriation Bill before the House offers an opportunity to honorable members to discuss ‘problems which are vital to the nation’s interests. By general consent the most vital problem confronting this nation is that of inflation. Everybody agrees upon the effects of inflation, but there are several schools of thought about the causes of it. The task of any Government is to devise corrective measures while there is yet time. The sands of time are running out in this country, as far as the inflationary spiral is concerned. We understand from press reports that the Cabinet is in the process of making very vital decisions about the future economy of Australia. Those decisions are designed to combat inflation. Whatever decisions the Government may make, they are bound to hurt somebody.
Any effective anti-inflation programme is certain to evoke fierce controversy. The Government will not be doing its duty towards the Australian people if it is not prepared to make decisions quickly and effectively. Perhaps the Government is delaying the making of those necessary decisions because when they are made it will be found that they are at variance with the ideas of some of its friends. However, a continued policy of drift will lead to inevitable disaster. It will be necessary to invoke drastic measures effectively to combat inflation. Those measures might cut across the political philosophy of the Government. For example, it may be necessary to impose some economic controls, but any idea of planning is anathema to the Government. The only alternative is for the Government to let things drift on and allow private enterprise to continue untrammelled. If that happens our people will have to face most difficult days. It might be necessary for the Government to give attention to what Professor Copland has termed “ Our milk bar economy “. In an article in the Melbourne Herald,. Professor Copland wrote -
Too much emphasis is being placed on nonessentials and too little on goods necessary for long-term improvement in productive capacity.
I believe it will be generally agreed that one of the features of Australia’s production in recent years has been an increase of the output of non-essential goods while the output of certain basic commodities has remained almost stationary. I do not indict any government on that account. An example of that fact, which might be thought to be frivolous, but which nevertheless indicates the general trend, is that production of ice cream has increased by 238 per cent, during the last ten years whereas the production of steel, which is essential to the national economy, has decreased by 10 per cent, over the same period. Industrial statistics generally indicate that there has been a great expansion of nonessential and luxury industries. This has had an adverse effect on the production of steel, coal, bricks and tiles, which, in turn, has been detrimental to our housing programme.
I realize that the Government does not relish the prospect of taking positive steps to increase the production of basic industries because of the fear that, in doing so, it will offend some of its wealthy supporters. .However, if it i9 inflexibly determined to harness the inflationary spiral, it will have to take action of some kind that will restore equilibrium to our economy. There cannot be the slightest doubt that our economy is unbalanced, and, in the process of balancing it, the Government must lose some of its political friends. However, it will be acting in the best interests of the people if it accepts that risk and implements an intelligent anti-inflationary plan. If it decides to proceed along the lines that I have indicated in order to develop some of our basic industries, it may be forced to expedite the .mechanization of primary industries. Also it may have to institute a policy of granting selective bank credit and that, I imagine, would not be looked upon with enthusiasm by its supporters. Certainly, some means will have to be devised to induce workers to transfer from non-essential work to employment in basic industries. I know from my own experience that employment in vital industries is often hard and unpleasant, but it is essential to the prosperity of the” nation. Many employers have treated their workers fairly, but others have consistently refused to improve conditions of labour, provide amenities and pay generous wages, and therefore I am not astonished that men are not prepared to seek work in basic industries. They are attracted to less strenuous occupations where more amenities and more remunerative wages are provided. Production in basic industries might be considerably increased if the Government could prevail upon, some of its supporters to establish better conditions in their establishments. Our bread-and-butter industries should not be hampered by adherence to the political creed that prescribes the elimination of all forms of government control irrespective of the consequences. I shall await with considerable interest the announcement of the Government’s plans for the solution of the problems that I have mentioned.
All sorts of organizations are prepared at all times to make weighty pronounce ments about economic inflation and thu corrective measures that should be applied to check it. One of the most recent comments of this nature- that I have seen was published in Melbourne newspapers a few weeks ago. It was a statement by the retiring president of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Kimpton, who outlined a number of major steps which, in his opinion, ought to be taken to combat inflation. His remarks we lavery interesting, but he appeared to think that the responsibility for checking inflation rested upon the shoulders of everybody except the members of the organization that he represented. He said not a word about the responsibilities of managements. In his view, everybody else had to make sacrifices. The highlight of his retiring presidential address was a declaration that we should return to the 44-hour working week. He said that the Australian Government should be courageous enough to approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and submit that the 44-hour week be re-instituted because the shorter working week had been a tragic failure and had been conducive to inflation. My experience has led me to the conclusion that such statements cannot be supported by facts. The only facts that we are entitled to use in forming any judgments in matters of this kind are official statistics. The cursory opinions of individuals should be discounted. The statistics that I have obtained completely contradict the argument that Mr. Kimpton advanced. For example, the total volume of production in Australia was 3 per cent, greater at the 30th June, 1949, than it was at the 30th June, 1948. That shows that production is increasing. Furthermore, the average output of individual workers is increasing at the rate of 1.1 per cent, per annum, compared with a rate of 0.6 per cent, per annum over the ten-year period that ended on the 30th June, 1939.
The Commonwealth Arbitration Court declared unmistakably when it established the 40-hour working week that it expected all sections of the community - employers, employees and consumers - to co-operate in giving it a fair trial. Unfortunately, in my opinion and the opinion of many trade unionists, many employers have bluntly refused to co-operate and have ceaselessly criticized the shorter working week. Those individuals, of course, are the first to criticize the trade unions if they refuse to accept the decisions of conciliation commissioners, but they campaign for the abolition of the 40-hour week in season and out of season. Their professed allegiance to the arbitration system is mere lip-service. They want the workers to make all the sacrifices while they sitback and take all that they can get. There is more behind their attitude to the 40-hour week than meets the eye. Many of them are not motivated merely by a spirit of cussedness. They have adopted their attitude for the sake of cloaking their own managerial inefficiency. Many industries are deficient in initiative, vision and methods of organization, and, by their failure to secure the most effective fusion of the several factors that affect production, they have failed to increase output. Therefore, they use the excuse that the worker is going slow on the job. Fortunately, certain sections of management are highly efficient, as Tariff Board reports have proved. The following newspaper comment on various reports of the Tariff Board are of considerable interest : -
A number of companies surveyed reveal that by better management, improvements in plants, economics in “ overhead “ staffs, output under the 40-hour week can be maintained, and even improved.
Before criticizing the alleged go-slow tactics of the workers, Government supporters ought to look round and- study the go-slow tactics of some of the employers who are not prepared to bring their obsolete plants up to date. They clamour for increased production, but workers cannot work more quickly than their machines will allow them to work. In my private capacity as an engineer, I have seen many industrial plants that were in a disgraceful condition. It is futile for managements to say that the condition of their mechanical equipment is due to the effects of the war. Many of those plants were in operation before the war. I suggest that, in striving to promote increased production, we should first of all attempt to impress upon employers the nature of their responsibilities.
Supporters of the Government have declared almost ad nauseam that incentive payments would provide one of the most successful means of decreasing the inflationary trend. Their comments have indicated a considerable amount of eonfused thinking, although the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Handby) had the right slant when he asserted that incentive payment schemes were not a matter for the Government. Many honorable members on the Government side of the House have talked about the glories of the incentive payment system, and one honorable gentleman said that he would not rest until .provision for the adoption of that system was placed upon the statute-book of this Parliament. The truth is that the Parliament has no authority in relation to industrial matters. In any case, incentive ‘payment systems would not stop inflation. If that were not so, the economic troubles of the United States of America would have been solved long ago, because incentive payment schemes operate in almost every industry in that country, where prices are extraordinarily high and where there are now 5,000,000 unemployed workers. The example of the United States of America is not looked upon favorably by most Australian trade unionists. In order to prevent inflation in 1946-47 we should have had to increase production by S per cent, in that year. The increase in 1947-48 would have had to be 6 per cent, and in 1948-49 it would have had to be 9 per cent. .Such increases are not within the bounds of possibility. Production has never increased in any one year by more than 3f per cent., and it would be impossible to achieve the rate of increase of 9 per cent, or 10 per cent, which supporters of the Government envisage. The serious situation that has been caused by rising prices would not be rectified if every employee in the country worked flat out. Inflation has many causes, and it occurs inevitably after every war. That is largely due to the fact that, in time of war, large numbers of men are withdrawn from industry and large sums of money are placed in circulation for the purposes of munitions manufacture. With a great amount of money in circulation and a small volume of goods entering the market, high prices are inevitable.
It must be obvious to every honorable member that the effect of the constant flow of additional money into the country as the result of high export prices for our primary products cannot be offset by any increase of production. I do not complain about the high overseas prices that farmers are getting for their products. I say good luck to them. Our total income from exports in 1945-46 amounted to £197,000,000. The figure rose progressively to £309,000,000 in 1946-47, to £406,000,000 in 1947-48, and to £547,000,000 in 1949. I understand that it will be even higher in the current year.From those figures it ought to be obvious that people who hope to cure inflation by persuading employees to work harder are merely having a pipe dream. Our problem is not so simple of solution as that. It is tragic, though somewhat humorous as well, to hear men who ought to know better saying that the only cure for inflation is hard work. The president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, Mr. Atkins, made the following statement in an article that was published in the Melbourne Herald a few months ago : -
The cure for inflation is not by way of contentious economic measures but rather by increasing output by universal acceptance of incentive payments in Australia generally.
I do not believe that Mr. Atkins would be so naive and innocent as to believe that statement. However, it was repeated in other newspapers, and the cry was taken up by all sections of the employers. Studious workers who realize that many other factors influence the inflationary trend are annoyed by such irresponsible declarations.
I join forces now with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pittard), who said last night that the Government should provide financial assistance for municipalities throughout Australia. As a municipal councillor of over twenty years standing, I have a fairly good knowledge of the circumstances of municipal councils to-day. Nearly every municipality is finding it impossible to carry out its responsibilities efficiently without some form of governmental assistance. The Australian Council of Local Government Associations recognizes the parlous position into which every municipality has drifted, and will ask the Commonwealth to appoint a commission to make a comprehensive survey of the functions and financial responsibilities of local authorities, and to report on the measure of assistance that should be granted to them by the Commonwealth and the States.
Briefly, the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, at its inaugural meeting in 1947, placed in the forefront of its objectives the appointment of a commission or a committee by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the State governments to - (1.) Define the functions and responsibilities of Local Government which are local in character and in benefit and which local authorities should be allowed to exercise unfettered by government control or supervision. (2.) Define the functions and responsibilities of local authorities with respect to -
Every local authority in Australia has, since the inception of self government in this country, rendered yeoman service to the functions of local government. I say in all seriousness that local government, whilst it may not receive so much limelight as theparliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States receive, plays a most important part, particularly in providing local services. Local governing bodies are certainly in touch with the people to a greater degree than are members of the Parliament, and their functions are most important in relation to the welfare, health and success of the people generally. I say emphatically that local governing bodies cannot continue to function successfully unless they have adequate financial resources. The cost of constructing and maintaining roads has increased greatly during the past 10 years. Recently, the various municipalities in the Melbourne area met in conference to consider the crumbling condition of arterial roads within their boundaries. Arterial roads should not be wholly a local responsibility, because they serve the purposes of the entire metropolitan area, and of motorists who are proceeding to and from country districts. In my opinion, the construction and maintenance of arterial roads are definitely a national responsibility. Almost the entire income of a municipality could be absorbed in maintaining the arterial roads within its area. Municipalities will find it impossible, if the present conditions continue, to maintain arterial roads.
The cost of constructing roads imposes a serious limitation upon the functions and services that are performed by local authorities, but even more important than that, new duties and responsibilities are being imposed upon them. Those new functions require money, but the amount that a State government occasionally hands out to local authorities is conditioned by the temper of the Minister for Public Works at the time when the request for assistance is made to him. The present method of financing the functions of municipalities is hopelessly outmoded and inadequate. I refer, of course, to the system of levying rates on property. The revenues that are derived by local authorities from that source are insufficient to enable them to provide the new services that are demanded by the people. The revenues that may be obtained from the present system of rating are strictly limited, and that position must be remedied. I have not referred to this subject with the object of obtaining a party political advantage, because all the municipalities throughout the Commonwealth are in agreement upon this matter. They are demanding assistance from some governmental body, Commonwealth or State, and, of course, the only government that has the resources and capacity to provide that aid is the Commonwealth. The municipalities are facing the problem of ever-increasing costs, and the tendency of the Commonwealth and the States to purchase additional properties for governmental purposes, on which rates are not payable, is an additional embarrassment to the localgoverning bodies. It is estimated that in Melbourne alone, the municipalities as a whole incur a loss of revenue of from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, as a result of the exemption of government properties from rating. I was gratified when the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) stated in answer to a question yesterday that the
Government was considering the possibility of altering that system. I realize that, at the moment, it is only a possibility, but I hope that the right honorable gentleman will see his way clear adequately to recompense the local authorities in respect of the rates that should be paid to them on governmental property.
– State governments should also be liable in that respect.
– Recently, State governments made a slight concession to .the local authorities. The Government of Victoria will pay to municipalities in the Melbourne area one-half of the cost of the construction of new roads and footpaths in the front of State offices and buildings. In the past, the municipalities have been obliged to meet the whole of that cost. The community as a whole is demanding an extension of local government activities, such as community centres, recreation and cultural facilities, child welfare centres, kindergartens and libraries. The provision of those amenities is beyond the financial resources of the local authorities. They are eager to provide them for the people because they recognize that, in modern society, such amenities are inevitable and are essential to progress. Yet, because of the lack of finance, they cannot be provided for the benefit of the people. I hope that the Commonwealth will see fit to grant the request of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the inquiry to which I referred a few minutes ago, and that the present system under which the activities of local authorities are financed will be altered.
– The Treasurer promised to review the whole matter.
– A promise of that kind is often a convenient way of shelving a matter. However, proposals for improving the present method of financing the activities of local-governing bodies cannot be kept in a pigeon-hole permanently and I, for one, will not be satisfied indefinitely with the Treasurer’s answer. I also know that the municipalities will not be content to allow the matter to remain in abeyance for very long, and their wrath will descend upon any government which in future is not prepared to grant them adequate assistance. It is definitely unfair that ratepayers should be called upon to pay for services in a municipality that are benefiting all sections of the community. That is a community responsibility. Why should the ratepayers in a particular municipality be required to shoulder the responsibility for a community service? After all, there is ample precedent for local authorities to seek aid from the Government. In the United Kingdom, large amounts are paid by the Government to the various municipal councils. In the United States of America, the councils have entered the field of income tax, amusement tax and sales tax because the outmoded system under which they obtained their financial requirements by levying rates on property proved inadequate for their requirements. Local authorities in South Africa are in a similar predicament, and a. committee was appointed recently to consider the whole position with a view to assisting them. This vexed subject threatens the whole basis of municipal government, and I am not speaking as an alarmist when I say that, unless government aid is forthcoming, nearly every municipality throughout the Commonwealth will be threatened with bankruptcy. I hope that the Government will accede to the request by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations to appoint a committee to investigate the financial position of municipalities. The Commonwealth, since the introduction of uniform income tax, is the principal ‘taxing authority in Australia. There is no reason why some funds from Consolidated Revenue should not be diverted to municipalities that have important responsibilities and obligations in the local government sphere. Why should not some of the income tax that is collected from the wage and salary earners who live in a municipality be returned to the local authority that is providing important services for them?
– Does the honorable gentleman mean that financial assistance should be granted to all municipalities?
– I suggest that the Government should appoint a committee to consider the present system of financing the activities of local-governing bodies, and to formulate a policy for assisting them. A new approach should be made to this matter of granting governmental aid to municipalities. At present, an occasional hand-out is made by a State government at the whim and caprice of the Minister for Public Works at the time. I contend that municipalities should be assured of a definite income annually from the Commonwealth to enable them to carry out functions that are on a community basis and should be paid for by the community as a whole, and not by one section of it. I trust that the Government will look upon this matter sensibly, because if the present position is allowed to continue unchecked, the consequences will be serious for one of the important units in Australia’s selfgoverning system. I contend, as one who has had municipal experience for twenty years, that local-governing bodies are reaching the end of their tether, and unless they receive assistance in the near future, the standards of local government throughout the Commonwealth will seriously deteriorate.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to remind the House of an address that was delivered here last night by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). Frankly, I was most disappointed with it. In his earlier speeches, the honorable gentleman gave promise of being a useful member of this chamber. He exhibited a nice choice of English and he spoke fluently. I did not agree with his subject-matter, but I considered that he had great possibilities as a member of the Parliament. Yesterday, however, he made a most extraordinary and inconsistent speech, and concluded it with a virulent attack upon the Australian Country party of which I have the honour to be a member. He began by attacking the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), who i9 the Leader of the Australian Country party, and said that the right honorable gentleman displayed a sectional view in financial matters. The honorable member for Yarra forgets his own inconsistency. Under the banking policy of the Labour party, the Treasurer is all-powerful, and controls the financial destinies of Australia. Yet the honorable member for Yarra accused the Leader of the Australian Country party of displaying a sectional view in his approach to the national finances. If he is of that opinion, why did he vote against the Government’s proposal to reestablish the Commonwealth Bank Board, which would afford protection against the very fault of which he complained ?
The honorable member for Yarra then attacked the primary producer. I could not ascertain his reason for doing so, but he made a most virulent attack upon the man on the land. I regard the honorable gentleman’s action in that respect as being akin to biting the hand that feeds him. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) pointed out that the primary producer not only feeds the nation, but also bears some of the cost of doing so. I need only cite wheat as an example of that. The honorable gentleman did not appear to know that the great wealth of Australia was established by the man on the land. Even secondary industry relies on the primary producers. The wool-grower, the wheatgrower, the dairy-farmer and other primary producers established Australia’s national economy. Would the Chifley Government have been able to maintain its prolific spending during the last five years had not the primary producers obtained abnormal prices for their products, in consequence of which the Treasury collected large sums of money ? That position continues to exist.
The honorable member also referred to the bitterness between employer and employee in the rural areas. What does he know of conditions in the country districts? I venture to say that he knows absolutely nothing about them. I come from a country district, and I know that relations are extremely happy between employer and employee in the primary industries. The two work side by side. The honorable member did not refer to their frustrations. They always produce, and they do not go on strike, yet they are denied the basic materials that are essential to our economy. The honorable member has no knowledge of the struggle that is waged by primary producers and their employees against flies, rabbits and floods, or of the hard work that they do from day to day without complaint, whilst always delivering the goods. His attack was unwarranted.
The honorable member for Yarra then entered the class war and stigmatized the Australian Country party as a sectional party. I cannot understand why, recently, members of the Opposition have been consistently attacking that party. I entered politics with the greatest diffidence. I had no personal liking for politics which, in the minds of manypeople, was associated with intrigue. However, I have found it to. be a great honour to be a member of the Australian Country party, which is a party of friendship and of democratic ideals and has as its leader one of the greatest democrats in Australia. What is the reason for Labour’s attacks upon the Australian Country party? Is it that Labour is losing so many country seats? The country people are realizing just what the Labour party stands for. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) reminded the House that in the current general election campaign in New South Wales five of the sixteen Australian country party candidates have been returned unopposed, whilst three of them are being opposed only by independent candidates. The Labour party can show nothing in its record to equal that achievement. All the people .who vote for Australian Country party candidates are not primary producers. Whilst that party has the support of the great majority of rural residents, it also represents other sections of the community. It stands for the development of the country .as a whole. It advocates decentralization, a fair distribution of the national wealth and the provision of adequate defences.
However, the .theme of socialism runs right through the speeches of members of the Opposition. Whilst I may be simple, at the same time I am honest, and I cannot understand the tactics that honorable members opposite adopt so far as socialism is concerned. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), when speaking at Bathurst after the recent federal general election campaign, declared that the issue was “ socialism versus capitalism “, and added that Labour was playing for large stakes. I admire the right honorable gentleman for his honesty and sincerity. However, I have just been taking part in the general election campaign in New South Wales, and I have found that all Labour candidates for rural seats invariably deny that they are socialists. Yet their leader has declared that the issue to-day is socialism versus capitalism. Capitalism is the Australian way of life, and Labour members wish to sabotage it. No Labour candidate who is standing for a country seat in the current general election campaign in New South Wales will admit that he is a socialist. I have in my hand a copy of the rules and constitution and the policy and platform of the Australian Labour party, which is the bible of honorable members opposite. In that booklet is reprinted the famous pledge of the Labour party and its famous objective, “ Socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange That is Marxian socialism. What do members of the Labour party say about that brand of socialism? I shall cite no less an authority than the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). Speaking at the AllAustralian Trade Union Congress that was held in Melbourne in June, 1921, the right honorable gentleman said -
Socialism of industry was the culmination of the teachings of Karl Marx.
When I was speaking at a meeting during the current general election campaign in New South Wales, I said that that pledge means no more nor less than Marxian socialism, and a member of the NewSouth Wales Government interjected, “ Prove it “. I have just cited proof of that statement, because I am certain that the right honorable member for Melbourne Ports is regarded as an authority on the objectives of the Labour party. At least, he is honest. He says that Labour socialism is Marxian socialism. Why then do his colleagues try to evade the issue? I sought election to the Parliament simply because Labour, which was once the good party of men like John Storey and Andrew Fisher, is now seeking to bring about socialism. One of the greatest inconsistencies in the actions of Labour members is their preparedness to take an undemocratic pledge. I cannot comprehend how any man, after having taken such a pledge, can present himself to the electors and say, “ I will represent your views “, when he knows that he must be bound by that pledge and by the decisions of the Labour caucus. Further evidence of this inconsistency is provided by the fact that before a man can stand as a Labour candidate for election to the Legislative Council of New South Wales he must take the following pledge : -
I hereby pledge myself on all occasions to do my utmost to ensure the carrying out of the principles embodied in the Labour pintform, including the abolition of the Legislative Council.
That pledge is a part of the constitution and rules of the Australian Labour party. Fancy a man seeking election to a body that he is committed to destroy! And while he is bent upon the attainment of that objective he is being paid by the taxpayers. I do not wish to see the Labour movement destroyed, but 1 urge members of the Labour party to come out into the open and declare themselves for what they are. That is the honest and democratic course that they should follow. Whilst disagreeing with the political philosophy of the Leader of the Opposition, I concede that he is sufficiently honest to say that Labour members art socialists. Quietly and insidiously Labour is destroying Australia’s democratic institutions. Regardless of his party-political affiliations, Mr. McGirr, the Premier of New South Wales, is the first citizen in that State. Yet, recently, we witnessed a sorry spectacle when he went cap in hand to a small body of men outside the Parliament who control the destinies of New South Wales while Labour is in office. Labour members of Parliament are not free agents. They are controlled- by an outside body. Under such conditions for how long will our democratic institutions last? However highly we may esteem honorable members opposite personally, they are not, in fact, members of the Parliament, but are merely delegates, who represent outside interests which are not related to the electorate. Those interests have a grip upon democracy.
We have heard a lot about putting value back into the £1. That problem will be solved only by a national effort and not by action that any party may take independently. The honorable member for Yarra said that value could be put back into the £1 hy legislation. That is not correct. One reason for the decrease of the purchasing power of the £1 is under-production, and the joint effort of the Australian Government and the State governments is needed to increase production. However, New South Wales, which is the key State, has been cursed for many years with the most dreadful form of government that has been known in the history of this country. Industrial disputes have contributed largely to the decrease of the purchasing power of the £1. Let us examine the figures in this respect. Whilst 771 industrial disputes occurred in New South Wales in .1946 under a Labour Government, only 25 industrial disputes occurred in that year in Victoria, which has enjoyed Liberal and Country party administrations. In the following year, 921 industrial disputes occurred in New South Wales under the magnificent McGirr Government, whilst in the same year only seventeen industrial disputes occurred in Victoria. In 1948,” there were 1,071 industrial disputes in New South Wales and only 21 in Victoria, whilst for the first three quarters of 1949 there were 576 industrial disputes, including a serious coal strike, in New South Wales, but only seventeen industrial disputes in Victoria. Who pays the penalty for industrial disputes? The taxpayers do so through higher costs of living.
Another factor that contributes to rising costs is the 40-hour week. No one would deny that he would like to have a 40-hour working week. The National Parliament has not the power to alter the standard working week, but it was reduced to 40 hours principally as the result of action taken by the McGirr Government, that has been mainly responsible for industrial disputes in New South Wales. However, since governments of that kind are in office in several States, including the key State, of New South Wales, let us try to make the 40-hour week work. When hours of work are decreased, let us try to make up for that reduction by increasing industrial output. Although mechanization of coal mines has been increased by 30 per cent., the production of coal has not increased to a corresponding degree. Indeed, it has decreased.
In 1947, 11,000,000 tons of coal was produced in New South Wales and as the result of increased mechanization alone the production should have increased by at least 3,500,000 tons by 1949, yet in the latter year it was less than 100,000 tons in ‘l947. That decrease of production was caused by industrial disputes. If we want to have national discipline we must have a government that will enforce it. All people accept the principle that a man will work only for a. profit or because he is forced to work. The honorable member for Yarra said that the Australian worker would work better if the profit made out of his labour went into his pocket. A man must work in order to live.’ No one wants to force any one to work. But what is the alternative? The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said that all members of the Opposition were opposed to incentive payments. No man can be made to work merely by the passing of legislation, he must either be forced to work or be given an incentive to do so. Even Russia, with its slave system, has found that it cannot force men to work. Consequently, the government of that country has introduced a system of incentive payments. Go slow methods in industry are the whole cause of the rising cost of living and of the deterioration of our economy generally. Whereas before the war a bricklayer laid, on the average, 700 bricks a day, he now lays, on the average, only 300 bricks a day. All sections of the community, but principally the workers themselves, must pay the penalty. This country requires a government that will put a stop to industrial disputes by providing incentive payments and by giving to the average man a fair chance to improve his condition in life. Every’ other country is well on the road to economic recovery, but Australia is lagging behind because we have had Labour governments in office for many years past in this Parliament and in the key State of New South Wales.
I have noticed an increasing tendency on the part of members of the Opposition to use the word “ fascism “. Every one knows that fascism, nazi-ism and communism stem from socialist stock. There is a bitter fight between the adherents of each, of these isms, yet it is easy for the adherents of any of those parties to switch over to one of the others. The worst thing that a Communist can call a man is a fascist. Judging by the increasing tendency of honorable members opposite to use the word “ fascism “ one can only conclude that they have been mixing with those who employ that term in a derogatory sense. Thus, I suspect the company that they have been keeping. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), in his admirable speech last night, when he referred to the weakening of the nation’s will to resist in the face of attack with atomic weapons, failed to identify the army that would enter this country should our national morale be broken. What could it be but an Asiatic Army? This is not a time for political intrigue. All elements in the community should unite in the interests of the nation as a whole.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Andrews) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) - -by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) from concluding his speech in the Committee of Ways and Means on the Wool (Contributory Charge) Resolution without limitation of time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 13th June (vide page 4148), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the Tate of the charge imposed * . . (vide* page 4142).
– It was not possible for me, when I submitted the resolution last Thursday, to give any indication of the attitude of the Australian Wool Growers Council towards the principle of a levy. Yesterday I received the following telegram from the Council: -
Australian Wool Growers Council now in position to indicate approves by small margin principle of levy subject to conditions discussed with you by Chairman 9th May. Annual meeting of council end of month will further deal with marketing proposals.
The conditions referred to in the telegram are those that I mentioned in my speech last Tuesday and had previously announced. It is therefore unnecessary for me to repeat them. The Government has now received the approval of three wool organizations, the Australian Wool Growers Council, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Primary Producers Union, for the imposition of a levy. As soon as the legislation has been passed by the Parliament it will be possible to impose a levy in respect of the. forthcoming wool clip. As I have- made clear, the approval by the wool-growers organizations of the principle of a levy does not bind them to accept any scheme that may be evolved.
.- For any government to introduce a measure such as that introduced by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), which provides for the imposition of an export levy in anticipation of other action to be taken three, six or twelve months hence by the Government in consultation with the woolgrowers, is unprecedented. However, I do not offer criticism of the measure because of the unprecedented manner in which it has been introduced. After all, I am not one of those who believe in sticking to precedents, and in the circumstances, and because of the character of the proposal, the Opposition is prepared to assent to the bill. The power sought by the Government will enable it to levy a tax as from the beginning of the’ forthcoming wool season. In any wool plan providing for the establishment of a reserve price it is imperative that an opportunity shall be given to the growers to contribute the necessary funds to ensure the financial stability of the plan. This bill proposes that that shall be done and it is therefore acceptable to the Opposition.
Wool exports account for approximately one-half of our total export revenue and accordingly the satisfactory marketing of that commodity in the world’s markets must have very great effect on our economy. Therefore it is all-important that this Parliament should take every possible step to safeguard the stability and soundness of the wool industry. The purpose of the plannow under discussion is not to exploit the wool buyers of the world, even if it wp.ro possible for us to do ‘so, but to endeavour to iron out the variations of price that occur from time to time in the world’s markets. We support this legislation as an attempt to protect the national interests. The Australian Labour party, which represents the great Labour movement of Australia, is just as concerned about the welfare of the national economy as is any other section of the community, if not more so. The principles of the plan are in line with the attitude of the Labour movement towards the marketing of all forms of primary products, particularly of export products. I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that when we were in office we introduced schemes for the stabilization of primary industries which were designed to equalize the incomes of primary producers and to establish a home-consumption price. In conjunction with other countries we negotiated agreements covering primary products on on international plane. In 1943 the Australian Labour Government was largely responsible for the formation of the great joint wool organization and it established a subsidiary organization in Australia and charged it with responsibility for the marketing of the carry-over wool from the Empire wool purchase scheme. Therefore it is only natural that we should support the -principles of this bill.
Many proposals have been made for a wool marketing plan. Fundamentally and bii.sicn.lly we must take into consideration the fact that the ultimate success of any plan must largely depend on the economic circumstances of the people of those countries that purchase our wool. If they ire suffering from a severe economic repression the success of any plan that we may put into operation will not be so certain as it will be if they are enjoying a period of economic prosperity. I am glad to associate myself with the Government’s plan which is in line with Labour’s outlook on the principles of the Atlantic Charter and with the United Nations objective of full employment for all the peoples of the world. I have already made it clear that it would be impossible for Australia to establish, a monopoly in the world’s wool market for Australia produces only approximately 34 per cent, of the world’s export apparel wool. The remaining 66 per cent, will obviously be a material factor in the world’s markets, therefore I believe it to be essential that the dominions of New Zealand and South Africa be brought within the ambit of the plan. New Zealand at present contributes 10 per cent, and South Africa 8 per cent, of the world production of apparel wool. If those dominions were included in the plan the three participating countries combined would contribute 52 per cent, of the world’s apparel wool production. The inclusion of our sister dominions would place the plan on a very sound basis. If it be desirable to make provision for the ultimate participation of other wool-producing countries, such us Argentina, which produces approximately 14 per cent, of the world’s apparel wool, the necessary arrangements could be made at a later stage. Experience has shown, however, that it is exceedingly difficult to obtain the cooperation of Argentina in schemes of this description.
The value of the Australian wool clip in 1939-40 was £65,000,000; this year it is estimated at £250,000,000. The severe price fluctuations that have taken place in the world price in the period between the two wars, and the very great difference between the estimated present value of the clip and the value of the clip in 1939-40, demonstrate that the international wool situation presents all the elements that may make for future substantial slumps. It is desirable therefore that every opportunity shall be taken to fortify the nation against the disasters that could follow from a severe contraction of the amount that we receive annually from overseas countries that buy our wool. If it is possible to bring into the scheme the countries that I have named it may also be possible by good management to offset the effects of some of the major fluctuations that might occur and to assure the growers and the economy of the nation generally of a desirable degree of stability. It is quite true that substantial difficulties will accompany the inauguration of a scheme of this kind. One problem that confronts the country and the wool-growers is the competition of fibres other than wool. At the moment, with world prices at what might be termed almost fantastic levels, it is reasonable to believe that the time may come when our wool industry will suffer increasing competition from other fibres, particularly synthetic fibres.
The figures in respect of the raw materials that are used for the manufacture of wearing apparel throughout the world are revealing. In the period between 1909 and 1913, for instance, cotton provided 85.6 per cent, of the principal raw material used to make the world’s wearing apparel. In the period between 1939 and 1.943 it provided 73.6 per cent. On the other hand silk provided only .5 per cent, of the principal raw materials used for making wearing apparel between 1909 and 19.13, and was again at that figure in the period between 1939 and 1943. We find on the other hand - and this should disabuse the minds of those who have no fear of the competition with wool of rayon and artificial fibres- - that whereas between 1909 and 1913 rayon and staple fibre provided only .2 per cent, of the raw materials used for wearing- apparel throughout the world, they provided 14 per cent, in the 1939-43 period. It is possible that if the world continues to use an increasing quantity of artificial fibres such as rayon, inroads will be made on the world’s wool market, that will have a very adverse effect upon the great wool-growing industry of this country. But if a satisfactory scheme to cushion severe price fluctuations, such as have occurred in the past, is in operation, then at least the wool industry, and the wool-growers in particular, will be in a position, by virtue of increased efficiency in the industry and also by virtue of the stability that stems from an assured annual income under a reserve price system, to meet and resist competition of that dangerous character.
It is essential that any scheme that the Government puts into operation shall have very strong financial backing. It is also essentia] that the scheme shall embrace other countries like South Africa and New Zealand, which, conjointly with Australia, should be the strongest buyer and the strongest holder of wool. When I say that they should be the strongest buyer of wool I mean that -in the event of a reserve price being fixed, the countries conducting the scheme should be so strong when prices fell below that reserve price that they could buy in at the reserve figure and satisfactorily hold on until the market could absorb the wool that they had bought in. I emphasize that point, perhaps on the one hand in an endeavour to assist the Government to persuade the wool-growers to accept its plan, and on the other hand because I know only too well that primary producers, of whom I am one, tend to shy away from any scheme that involves the payment by them of levies or special taxation, even though such payments are imposed chiefly in their own interests. For that reason I am glad that the Minister has provided in this measure that the Government may levy an amount up to 10 per cent, of the value of the wool clip in order to preserve a satisfactory reserve fund and give to the scheme the financial strength that is visualized. It is to be hoped, of course, that it will not be necessary to impose a levy of more than from 2 to 5 per cent., but an examination of certain figures in respect of reserve prices shows that vast sums may be involved in a reserve price scheme. I have discovered from some figures that I have obtained that the imposition of an 18d. per lb. reserve price on the Australian wool clip would enable the controllers of the scheme to purchase, in the event of a collapse of the market, at least one-third of the current clip. That operation would cost £26,500,000. It must be obvious, therefore, to both the woolgrowers and the Government, that such a plan as the Government proposes must have strong financial backing so as to give confidence on each side, as well as confidence so far as buyer operations are concerned. If the reserve price were fixed at 24d. per lb. a sum of £43,000,000 would be required. In these days of high priced economy nobody could say that a reserve price of 24d. per lb. would be extravagant. As a matter of fact approximately 24d. per lb. is the reserve price under the scheme that is now in operation and is conducted by the Australian Wool Realization Commission as the subsidiary Australian body operating under the Joint Organization plan. If, on the other hand, a reserve price of 30d. per lb. were fixed as the point below which growers need not sell their wool, under a plan that required the purchase of one-third of the clip the amount involved would be £52,000,000 annually. I emphasize those figures in order that those who are interested in this matter will fully realize that a scheme of this - kind requires strong financial backing. The sums that I have given are those that would be required under certain reserve .prices. On the other hand I must point out that if we had a major recession, with a catastrophic fall in the price of wool, and had to buy in two-thirds of the wool clip at any particular period, we should have to pay double the amounts that I have cited. It is true that the authority that bought in the wool would be in a position to obtain financial accommodation from a financial institution up to a percentage valuation of the wool that had been bought, pending its satisfactory unloading on to the market.
I believe that a plan of this kind should be supported by the Australian woolgrowers. Our experiences in World War I. and World War II., as well as during the period that intervened between those wars, has shown us that it is imperative that this country should have a plan of the kind envisaged’ in the measure. Those who remember the operations of the Central Wool Committee in World War I. will recollect that that committee was established to handle the sale of the Australian wool clip to the United Kingdom Government. It was a new instrumentality but it operated in an entirely satisfactory manner. After the cessation of hostilities that committee found itself with a surplus of wool on its hands that had not been used during the war, and as a result’ the government of the day established an organization known as the British Australasian Wool Realization Association, which was known shortly as Bawra. That organization carried out most satisfactory work and sold onto the market in a sane and sensible manner that met the wishes of the growers and the government of the d’ay, the whole of the surplus carry-over wool that it held at the end of World War. I. In World War II. the Menzies Government contracted to sell the wool of the Australian wool-growers, without consulting the growers themselves, to the United Kingdom Government for the whole period of the war and for twelve months thereafter. The then Labour Opposition considered that price at which the wool was to be sold was very low and was below the cost of production. The Curtin Government, which succeeded the Fadden Liberal Government, took action to have that price increased and was successful in doing so. The point I want to make is that whilst it is true that the operations of the Central Wool Committee in World War I. were eminently satisfactory, and that the winding up organization, Bawra, did a good job, and whilst it is also true that the operations of the Central Wool Committee in World War II. were of a highly efficient character and that the Australian Wool Realization Commission’s work in World War II. was magnificent, it must be obvious to the wool-growers and to all those who study the problem that between the cessation of hostilities in World War I. and the outbreak of hostilities in World War II. the Australian wool-growers, like the Australian wheat-growers, were thrown to the wolves and had to depend upon the old chaotic open-market system of marketing their product, and the price of wool fell to such a shocking degree on many occasions that many wool-growers went bankrupt and other experienced nearbankruptcy.
– Wool was sold at under 8d. per lb.
– It is good to know that the situation in respect of the marketing of wheat has been satisfactorily resolved, and that to-day the wheatgrowers know that .they will be protected over a period of years. The right honorable member for Bradfield ‘(Mr. Hughes) was the man who threw the wheat-growers of this country to the wolves in 1921 when as Prime Minister he forced them to return to the wicked old open-marketing system. The same action was taken in respect of wool. It is good to see that after the passage of time and as a result of our experiences between the two world wars, the Government lias at least some consciousness of the necessity to put into operation an organized plan for woolmarketing in the present post-war era. We have available to us the experience of highly trained personnel as well as very valuable property that will enable us to put into operation at any time as highly organized a woolmarketing plan as could be put into operation in any country in the world. I refer to the Australian Wool Realization Commission which is the successor to the Central Wool Committee. This committee, during the war, actually constructed in this country 407 wool stores capable of storing S,000,000 bales of wool. The Australian Wool Realization Commission is successor to the control of this property. Fortunately, owing to shipping being available to a greater degree than was at times thought possible during the war, the whole of that storage was not used for wool purchases and much of it was made available to the American forces for air force and military requirements, and to the Allied Works Council and other war-time instrumentalities. The successors, I assume, still have at their disposal, a storage capacity at least sufficient to store up to 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 bales of wool at any time. It is true that that storage capacity is actually the property of the United Kingdom Government, which paid the Central Wool Committee three farthings per lb. on all wool purchased for handling, storage and other services. But I am quite sure that in the event of a plan being put into operation satisfactory arrangements could be made with the United Kingdom to take over this great storage capacity and the ancillary equipment that goes with it. It is much easier to put a plan into operation when all the equipment, technical knowledge and highly-trained staff that are essential for its successful operation are available to it.
Most honorable members will recollect that when the Australian Wool Realization Commission took over its functions of a subsidiary organization to the Joint Organization which represented the three dominions and the United Kingdom Government, the legislation intro duced by the Curtin Government provided that it should be entitled to impose a levy on the wool-growers of this country for the purpose of meeting administration and other costs. At the inception of the Australian Wool Realization Commission’s activity a levy of 5 per cent, was struck on all wool marketed by the Australian woolgrowers. As time went on it was discovered that that levy was more than adequate to cover the expenses of the commission and the primary producers commenced an agitation to have it substantially reduced. Under the pressure of that agitation the Government of the day with which I was associated unfortunately consented to reduce the levy from 5 per cent, to 5 per cent. It is true that to-day the commission is still operating and that the $ per cent., plus some moneys in the fund raised when the 5 per cent, levy operated, adequately covers the cost of that organization’s ordinary functions. But the Governments of South Africa and New Zealand, encouraged by their growers, decided to continue their 5 per -cent, levy and have set aside in a special fund the moneys collected surplus to the requirements of administration in order to form the nucleus of a scheme of finance that may be put into operation in the future.
– Order ! The conversation of honorable members is becoming too audible.
– The Minister has told the House that his Government is fixed in its intention not to deal arbitrarily with other people’s property. He varied that comment at a later stage of his speech by saying that the Government would support a joint organization scheme by providing a guarantee, that it should have the final voice in the determination of the level of reserve prices, and that it would be concerned with the rate of re-offering in respect of wool that, was bought in. How the Minister reconciles his two utterances I do not know. If the Government determines the reserve price and the rate of re-offering of any wool bought in it can either make or break the scheme. If that power were taken from the Government the scheme, from the point of view of the national economy, would be worthless. No Government could support a scheme that fixed a reserve price guaranteed by the Government and sold bought-in wool at any price and under whatever circumstances it wished to do so. If the Minister would be a little more frank I think that wool-growers and primary producers generally would find it refreshing. I have no doubt that he has recollections of the manner in which I was criticized when I introduced many marketing bills to this House. On those occasions he caustically criticized governmental interference and control over marketing organizations. It is interesting to see him eating his own words and taking to the Government final and complete control of any scheme that may be put into operation. I found during the course of my talks with the council of the most conservative of woolgrowers’ organizations in this country that it was so keen to have a plan, at that particular time at least, that it was even willing to concede that the Government should be the final arbiter in any plan that might be put into operation. I am sorry to see that since then white ants have been at work. Tonight the Minister announced the result of a poll that wa9 taken by the Australian “Wool Growers Council but only 4,500 growers voted at that poll out of the 9,000 who were issued with voting papers and the majority in confirmation of the principle of the scheme, not its details, was only 122. The Government is insistent that it shall have the final voice in respect of a reserve price and I concur with that principle. It insists also that it shall have the final voice as to how and to what price bought-in wool shall be sold. In to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, a reference to this poll by the secretary of the Australian Wool Growers Council is reported as follows : - Mr. J. W. Allan said yesterday that a small majority of associations affiliated with his organization had said they agreed to the principle of a levy, subject to certain conditions. These conditions were: - That the percentage and the total amount necessary for the capital fund be subject to the approval of the Australian Woolgrowers’ Council.
My interpretation of that statement is that the associated bodies do not want a scheme unless the council is in a position to express approval of the percentage of taxation to be levied and, in effect, unless they can approve of that percentage they will not have anything to do with the scheme. The Minister has made it clear to thea gentlemen that the Government must be the final arbiter. Yet, Mr. Allan says that the majority of his members have made it clear that they will not allow the Government to be the final arbiter of a reserve price. In one of the wool marketing measures before the House the Minister has provided for consultation before reserve prices are fixed but these people apparently want more than consultation. They want the right of approval. It appears to me that some of the conservative elements in these organizations are endeavouring to destroy the possibility of formulating any wool disposal plan in this peace-time era.
I remind wool-growers that after World War I., when Bawra carried out a very good job in disposing of surplus wool, a number of wool-growers considered it would be a good thing if the organization was continued in the peacetime era so that the wool-growers might have its protection. As a small grower I was astonished to receive from my wool broker an advice to vote, so they said, in my own interests, against the Bawra plan. Naturally, I voted for the continuation of a plan similar to Bawra but the majority of other wool-growers, acting on the advice of their brokers, voted against the proposal. I am afraid that the wool-growers of this country may be led by the nose in a similar manner before long.
It is unfortunate that the Minister has said that his Government will not implement the scheme unless it has the assent of the wool-growers. I understood him to mean that the scheme will not be implemented unless the Government has the concurrence of all the varied organizations, including the Australian Wool growers Council with its affiliates, the Australian Primary Producers Union, and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. There are thousands of wool-growers in this country who are not members of those organizations or of any organization. How is the Minister going to ascertain their viewpoint an any plan that may be under consideration? Knowing what happened in the period between the two world wars and the highly efficient organization of the Central Wool Committee, and of the Joint Organization and its subsidiary, as well as the vast collection of plant and technical staff at their disposal, 1. think that the Government should be courageous enough to say, “At least two primary producers’ organizations which represent the greatest number of wool-growers support this scheme and we shall put it into operation providing that we obtain the approval of about two-thirds of the members of those organizations “.
– -Is this not a scheme to escape taxation ?
– I would not say so. ft is true that under the measure introduced any levy imposed will be free of income tax, but, inevitably, if the scheme operated, will be payable by’ growers later when prices are prevented from falling to too low a level. If, on the other hand, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has said the funds collected under this measure are not utilized because of the strength of the market, the proposal is that the money shall be returned to those who had contributed it in the form of a levy. At the point of return the levy would become taxable.
– On the lower incomes.
– I know that certain people will escape some tax provided it remains at the present rate or is lowered. That is one of the exigencies for which provision cannot be made.
I commend this bill to the committee. The party of which I am a member supports the principle that it embodies. We hope that the Minister will screw up his courage and tell the wool-growers associations, particularly the conservative body, which, I must say, was very cooperative when I was in office, that even though they have a large membership they alone do not represent the majority of this country’s wool-growers. In the absence of complete agreement amongst wool-growers’ associations - and I believe that dissension will be sown amongst them - I hope that he will take the bit between his teeth and put into operation a plan, which will give stability to a great industry and security to the woolgrowers, and will help to preserve financial equilibrium in times of hardship. This plan, if proceeded with, and the proposed levy, if imposed, will provide a counter measure against the inflation that is so apparent at the present time.
.- I compliment the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) on his clear explanation of this matter to the committee, but I regard the speech of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) as being at least three jumps ahead of the matter with which the resolution deals. I- hope that the people who support the principle of establishing a reserve price for our most important primary product will not accept the arguments that he has put forward as affording reasons for acceptance of the plan. One of the biggest stumbling-blocks to the success of schemes such as this is the natural suspicion of the wool-growers of government control. The honorable member for Lalor said that the Government had taken a. chapter from the book of Labour’s policy of stabilization. In saying that he was very, very far from the truth. This scheme is completely different from an, stabilization scheme introduced by the Chifley Government. Under the schemes of that Government which controlled the marketing of wheat, butter, and other commodities, the whole produce of the farmer was taken under government control and was sold under a pool system. Under this scheme the provision made for purchase from a grower is to come into operation only in the event of wool not reaching the reserve price. In all other respects this scheme corresponds with the present method of selling in the open market. I say that to reassure any of the growers whose opinion of the scheme might waver after having heard the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor. The bill takes the preliminary step towards carrying out the policy announced by the joint government parties in which they promised to supply a stabilization plan to industries requiring it. In this case the plan applies to wool.
The capital is to ‘be provided by a levy. Various propositions discussed by the wool-growers’ associations embraced other methods of providing capital. I remember that discussions in the past were centred on the point that the profits made by the appraisement and joint organization scheme should be employed to provide capital for the fund. Because of various legal difficulties which are obvious upon consideration, such as the difficulties associated with deceased persons, trust estates, and companies, it was impossible to implement such a scheme. Therefore, a system has been devised whereby the industry itself will provide its own capital, assisted by a government guarantee. At the present time we are enjoying a period of great prosperity because of the high prices received for our exports, particularly wool. The time is ripe to provide the nest-egg, while the funds are still coming in. I know that honorable gentlemen like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will say that the scheme is to the wool-growers’ advantage, but I think that the honorable member for Lalor proved clearly to what extent the economy of Australia depends upon the stability of the wool industry. Not only the workers in our secondary industries, but also the population of our rural towns and districts, depend on the prosperity of the wool industry. Other people to whom consideration must be given are the new settlers who are taking up blocks under the ex-service land settlement schemes. One of the objections to a scheme of this nature voiced in the past was that many growers were prepared to carry their own insurance. If men are well established, they are confident that they can take the market risks in the ordinary course of business. That might be satisfactory to them, but it has been said very often that the huge fluctuations that have taken place in wool prices in the period between the two world wars have in many cases inflicted great hardship on people who are not so fortunately placed. The Government believes that the industry must provide its own stability. Its stability is essentia] if our new settlers on the land are to succeed. The wool industry is the corner stone of our economy, and it must be made stable. A scheme of this nature will provide the necessary stability. If there is any alarm in the minds of woolgrowers after hearing the previous speaker I think that they should consider the safeguards provided in the bill. If the scheme is not accepted by the representatives of the growers, then the money levied under this bill will be refunded; that is, if the scheme is not implemented by the 30th September next year.
The legislation to enforce the levy will not be proclaimed until the Government has been shown clearly that the principle of it is approved by the growers. Those two safeguards cover fully the first step in this legislation. Proceeding to the second step, we see that any conjecture about it would be out of place at present. The object of any minimum price scheme is to level out price fluctuations. Such a levelling in the wool industry will benefit, not only the wool-growers, but also all the people of Australia. Critics of the scheme say that under the previous scheme, the Joint Organization that is now being wound up was never tested by wool reaching the minimum price. In view of the buoyant demand for Australian merino wools such a criticism is particularly appropriate to that kind of wool. But it should be realized that the minimum price was tested with regard to wool of certain types. I refer particularly to New Zealand cross-bred wool during the 1946-47 season. In that connexion I quote this statement from the Pastoral Review of November, 194S -
Discussing the commissioner’s schedule of prices, these brokers stated that from a fine wool point of view the schedule was well below the actual market price, but for cross-bred qualities up to 52’s, the J.O reserve price was pretty well the sale-room price, and that as those qualities take in 70 per cent, of the New Zealand clip it can be readily realized how useful J.O. protection was to the Dominions as a whole. In fact, they state it can be truthfully said that had it not been for the floor price, medium and inferior cross-breds might have receded to near their pre-war basie.
That brings out the important point about wool marketing which is the backbone of the confidence of the trade generally. It is obvious that buyers in Australia who have commitments to supply people in other countries must be in a position to buy with some certainty of a future price. They should not be faced with sudden falls in prices after having committed themselves. If there is any weakness in the market there is nothing more frightening to the buyer than the possibility of being faced with a lot of dear wool which he cannot satisfactorily place. With a system of reserve prices that liability is largely eliminated.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member has risen, I shall take my second period now. This system will prevent the situation arising of a buyer being faced with a calamitous fall in price and it will give to him that confidence in his own market that will enable him to go ahead without fear with normal purchasing.
Another point in regard to the reserve prices that should be brought out is that the consumers should not think that they represent a scheme to. extract money from them. This is not a scheme to preserve a high price; it is designed to resist a price fall which would knock the bottom out of the normal wool market. It is not designed to keep wool prices at the fantastic levels of to-day. That should be clearly brought to the notice of the consumer. The whole point upon which this scheme will turn is its practicability.
One of the most important points put forward by the honorable member for Lalor had reference to finance. At present it would be almost impossible to anticipate the capital necessary, but it is reasonable to assume that a levy of 10 per cent, on the Australian clip would provide substantial capital to resist a price fall equal to the value of up to almost half a pre-war Australian clip. In the worst circumstances that can be visualized the whole clip would have to be bought in for one season. Definite provision for capital must be made in a scheme of this nature. Another point to be considered is the provision of storage space. Storage space is available as a legacy from the appraisement scheme. Fortunately wool is a commodity that can he stored for indefinite periods without loss of value. That means that one of the normal difficulties associated with marketing schemes will be avoided in the case of wool. That is the storage of large quantities when a fall takes place in the market price.
In conclusion, I urge on the House that a number of hurdles must be jumped before this scheme can become law. This is the preliminary stage and if the growers approve the scheme the necessary finance can be obtained to carry it out. But the other wool-growing countries, and probably the consuming countries, will have to be consulted. Great difficulty would be experienced in implementing a scheme of this nature unless agreement were reached at any rate between the British countries that produce a very substantial part of the world’s wool clip. Probably the greatest difficulty of all will occur in promoting agreement within the industry. However, unless a start is made, the plan may be postponed indefinitely or even dropped altogether. I urge the growers to take advantage of this opportunity in view of the extremely high prices that they are now receiving for their product.
– The Opposition would like to have been presented with a more detailed account of the scheme of reserve prices for wool before giving approval to it. However, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. (McEwen) has been good enough to explain to me personally the object of the scheme and the necessity for passing the legislation promptly. It is obvious that, as the shearing season is about to commence, it would be unwise to delay the passage of the legislation until the Parliament resumes after the forthcoming recess. By that time a great portion of the wool clip would be in hand and the levy might apply inequitably. Furthermore, it is advisable to introduce the reserve prices _scheme when wool prices are high. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has intimated, the Opposition agrees that now is the time to strike a levy, if one is to be struck. I assume that some wool will have been shorn before the levy can be introduced even if we pass the necessary bill at once.
The Opposition supports the general principle of stabilizing prices in order to guarantee the security of primary producers. The wool industry contends that, apart from subsidies that have been paid upon fertilizers, it has not had any direct assistance from governments when wool prices have been low. The Minister has referred to the fact that any moneys levied under the scheme will be deductable for the purposes of income tax. Some people may cavil at that arrangement because the incomes of many wool -growers are now exceedingly high. Certainly it can be argued that those growers will benefit in the long run as the result of the deduction of the levy from their incomes. Because of their prosperity, they are now paying tax at high rates. Any refunds that may be made to them will obviously be paid in times of low prices, when their incomes will be small and therefore will not be liable to tax at the high rates that now apply. 1 consider that the Government is obliged to offer some inducement to the growers to support the plan because they have never been eager to join in stabilization schemes, except, of course, when they have been in financial difficulties. That attitude is not peculiar to wool-growers ; most people are strongly in favour of being left alone when conditions are good, but they always ask for Government assistance when conditions are bad.
All honorable members know that the wool market is likely to. fluctuate suddenly. I well remember the period after the war when we had an accumulation of about 7,000,000 bales of wool in Australia. Mr. Justice Dixon, of the High Court of Australia, who was then chairman of the Centra] Wool Committee, and Mr. Justice Owen, of the New .South Wales Supreme Court, who succeeded him as chairman of the committee, were very alarmed - in the interests of the country, of course, not in their own interests - ‘about the possible effect upon the world market of the release of those stocks. They feared that wool prices would slump heavily and they advanced forceful arguments in favour of their view. The government of the day sent the .present Deputy High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, Mr. McCarthy, and the then .Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. McFarlane, to London to meet representatives of South Africa.
New Zealand and Great Britain and they helped to prepare the plan for the establishment of the Joint Organization, lt appeared to me at the time that the arrangement was essential, although it involved a Treasury liability of between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000. As events proved, the Joint Organization plan was wisely drafted, but at first there appeared to be a considerable risk of a serious loss to the Treasury. Fortunately, *wool prices took a trend that had not been anticipated by the two learned gentlemen whom I have mentioned or, indeed, by those associated with the woo! industry. Nevertheless, I consider that it is always wise for a. government to ensure that it shall he properly protected in such matters. I assume that, if a reserve prices scheme is finally prepared, the Parliament will be given the opportunity to discuss it in detail before it is ratified.
– That is so.
– The Government will be able to establish a very substantial fund if it makes a levy. The amount of the fund, of course, will depend upon the rate that is fixed for the levy. I repeat that the Opposition would like to have more details about the scheme, but I fully appreciate the fact that the Minister is not able to be more explicit because the matter is still the subject of discussion, and other countries are involved.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member has risen, I shall take my second period now.
The high prices that are being received for Australia’s primary products to-day contribute in a marked degree to the inflationary spiral. I do not think that anybody will attempt to deny that. Some people have said that, had the primary producers been able to obtain all the goods that they wanted to buy, including farm equipment, those high prices would not have had such .an inflationary effect as they have had. But that is only partly true; it is not even half true. A great dea] of the money that has been received by wool growers and other primary producers has been expended on luxury items. In fact, they do not always seek to buy essential commodities. I make these statements without any intention of disparaging anybody. I do not participate in all the social revelry that goes on, but I scan the society columns in the newspapers sometimes and I hear about people who purchase motor cars worth £6,000 for their prospective brides. After all, that sort of expenditure contributes substantially to the inflationary trend in our economy. Therefore, one virtue of the proposed levy will be that it will drain off some of the excess purchasing power that is now in the hands of the most prosperous wool growers. Many producers are not particularly affluent. In fact, some of them have only just been able to pay off their debts and get on their feet again. Of course, if the very prosperous growers were wise enough to set aside their excess funds oeven invest them in the loans that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) will be floating in the not distant future no ill effects would accrue. But unfortunately, we all are subject to human weaknesses and, when the coin rolls in, most of us have a good time if there is one to be had. I do not blame people for that, because many of them have not had much fun in the past, and that is particularly true of primary producers. However, I am glad that the levy will drain off some of the surplus spending power of the producers and concentrate it in a fund that may be used to protect the industry on some rainy day. If such assistance should not be necessary, as the Minister ha? pointed out, the money in the fund will be refunded to the growers.
I am not sure of the Government’s intention, but I assume that administrative expenses, apart from those for which the Department of Commerce and Agriculture will be responsible in the ordinary course of events, will be chargeable to th? fund. Is that so?
– Then it seems quite satisfactory to me. The Minister has had some excellent officers at his command. Perhaps I may be permitted to digress a little in order to pay a sincere tribute to the men who are associated with the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and, to a lesser degree in this instance, to officers of the Treasury for the magnificent advice and assistance that they gave to governments of which I was a member. The present Deputy High Commissioner in London did magnificent work in that respect, and that remark also applies to Mr. Tonkin, who is the First Assistant Secretary (Marketing) and his associates in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and to officers of the Treasury, particularly the former Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. McFarlane who is now the representative of Australia on, and one of the members of the board of, the International Monetary Fund. Those gentlemen did a really magnificent job. The Minister will agree with me when I say that, in devising the Joint Organization, they set a pattern that has improved the possibility of the acceptance of this particular scheme by growers. I may say, in passing, that I was disappointed with the ballot that was held, because many graziers did not bother to record their votes. However, I suppose that we may conclude that silence gives consent. Of course, sometimes silence does not give consent, but I believe that, on this occasion, we can assume that it does.
I shall not speak at length on this proposal, and I am sure that the Government will appreciate assistance from the Opposition to pass at least one bill rapidly through all stages. We shall accept the assurances that the Minister has given to the committee to the effect that the Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss details of the plan as they become available. Certain agreements in relation to guarantees, will require ratification. I understand that an amount has been appropriated to establish a basis for the organization. If a scheme that is acceptable to all the parties cannot be formulated, that money will be refunded. I advise the Minister to ensure that proper records shall be kept- of the wool on which the levy is paid. Some difficulties arose in that respect in the past. Staff problems in war-time tended to cause some confusion, and physical reasons prevented all the records from being kept together. Perhaps the Minister will endeavour to guard against such difficulties in future.
– That matter has been kept in mind.
– I have taken part in this debate principally for the purpose of obtaining an assurance that honorable members will be given details of the scheme as they become available. The Minister has been good enough to give me an outline of the scheme, and certain figures in relation to the total reserve fund that may be established. I shall not ask him to deal with them now, because they can be only approximate. As he has been so obliging, I do not think that I should speak at great length on this resolution. The Opposition approves of the several principles involved, subject to the condition that further details shall be given to the Parliament at a later date.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) touched upon an important point when he said that this is the first proposal during the session that has been dealt with from an administrative standpoint, and, consequently, has the approval of the Opposition, subject to certain minor criticisms. It is unfortunate that we have had to devote so much time to other matters, yet they were so fundamental to the respective policies of the Government and the Opposition that it was right and proper that almost unlimited time should be granted for their consideration. I have certain differences of opinion with the Leader of the Opposition on the wool marketing scheme, but I believe that his approach to it, on the whole, was what may be expected from a man who has occupied the position of Prime Minister and Treasurer for some years.
This proposal should be considered against the background of what has been done in the past, and the impact of war upon the Australian economy and upon the marketing schemes that existed before 1939. Large quantities of wool had banked up at the end of the war, and not even the most optimistic person would have believed that, in the comparatively short period that has elapsed since controls were abolished, that vast accumulation, totalling approximately 10,000,000 bales, could be reduced to a nominal quantity. It is all very well to be wise after the event. Those who object to the proposed scheme must have regard to the inescapable fact that, had it not been for orderly marketing, wool prices might be permanently at low levels. It is quite true that, with the exception of those classes to which the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Mackinnon) referred, the floor level that was placed by the Joint Organization upon the sale of wool was so low in comparison with the prices that wool was bringing, that it did not seriously affect the position. I am reminded of a discussion that I had in Washington with the head of the Farm Credit Administration. I asked him, “ What would happen if somebody tried to corner the bond market on which you are raising funds for the assistance of farmers at a low rate of interest ? “. He merely smiled, and said, “Well, of course, there is the .credit of the United States of America “. In this instance, people who may have been tempted to use the position were undoubtedly restrained by the fact that the Joint Organization would prevent the precipitation of great quantities of wool on to the market, and in that way protect it at any given time. Critics of the scheme should bear in mind that the Joint Organization provided a stabilizing factor. In my opinion, the floor level is beside the point. The real stabilizing factor was the knowledge that wool would not be recklessly thrown on to the market. Consequently, I consider that a strong case can be made for the continuance of a satisfactory scheme.
As I understand the proposed scheme, it is designed to carry on an international system of orderly marketing of wool by the post-Joint Organization that is to take the place of the Joint Organization. The control of the scheme will be placed in the hands of a majority of growers’ representatives, and from the standpoint of growers, that consideration is most important. The purpose of the scheme is to ensure that, in the event of a war, or of a financial and economic depression, the wool industry shall have an organization which will control it, and which will be in first-class running order, as it were, to protect it from chaos or partial chaos. I do not wish to be either a war-monger or a herald of an economic depression, but. I believe that vp must provide for any eventuality.
No person who examines the international situation to-day can say that it is so stable that the possibility of war can be ruled out for the next ten years. The threat of a possible dislocation of international relations is hanging over us at all times. I do not wish to see that break, come, and I do not say that it will come, but I do regard the international position as highly unstable. Therefore, T ask the wool-growers of Australia to believe that that fact alone renders it essential that we should not scrap the Joint Organization that has all the material- and personnel requirements to carry on the industry until such time as it may be considered desirable to revert to the conditions that operated before World War II.
Another purpose of this scheme is to enable wool-growers, presumably by a maximum levy of 10 per cent, on the gross proceeds, to finance their own scheme. Protection is given to the equity of those who contribute to it. That factor is most important, because the failure to give that protection in previous schemes brought them into disrepute. Let me elaborate that point. If a man who has been engaged in the wool industry dies, his widow should be able to realize on his equity in the scheme. If a wool-grower has a bona fide breakdown of health, he should be able to withdraw from the scheme. However, a woolgrower who wishes to withdraw from it, but intends to continue in the industry, must be content to allow his insurance to remain in the fund. The denial of the elementary right of the widow of a wool-grower and of a wool-grower who, as a result of a bona fide breakdown of health, wishes to withdraw from the scheme, to realize on their equity, brought previous schemes into disrepute. I am sure that the Minister would not expect the Government to be a party to that injustice.
Another point that I wish to make i3 that the scheme envisages the maintenance of a system of open and free auctioning of wool. I know that that matter has been cavilled at, but I simply reply that I do not know of any reason why the two should be inconsistent. From 1939-40 to 1941-42, the prices received for wool, which were then fixed bv appraisement, averaged 13.44d. per lb.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member has risen, I shall take my second period now. From 1942-43 to 1945-46^ the prices received for wool averaged 15.45d. per lb. It is interesting to note that as soon as sales were resumed on the open market, the prices received averaged approximately 24.49d. per lb. and in 1949-50 averaged 54d. In that development the price for fine wools, which was singularly depressed under appraisement, rose substantially. The first rise indicated the confidence of buyers in the fair working of Joint Organization and the demand for wool increased as the price continued to rise. The total value of wool exports rose from £50,000,000 in 1941-42 to £69,200,000 in 1945-46, to £239,000,000 in 1948-49, and to approximately £300,000,000 in 1949-50. In 1948-49 wool accounted for 45 per cent, of the value of our total exports, and this percentage increased to 50 per cent, in 1949-50, whilst during the same period the value of wool exports rose from 11.7 per cent, to 13.5 per cent, of the national income.
The incidence of these percentages in relation to total exports and national income renders a stabilization scheme imperative in the interests of the nation. It is appropriate, then, to indicate briefly the value of the proposed scheme to the wool-growers. First, it will provide a cushion against a sudden fall in wool prices; and secondly, it will ensure that smaller growers shall not be sacrificed. Past experience has shown that the failure of the small man to stand up to a slump has acted to the detriment of other growers by causing a tendency to bring down prices generally and to that degree it has adversely affected the national economy. Thirdly, the scheme will lower the incidence of the present rates of tax levied upon growers; and, fourthly, it will place in reserve for their benefit a sum, the greater part of which would, in any event, be drawn off in taxes. That point was made by the Leader of the Opposition.
What benefits will the nation as a whole derive from the scheme? First, it will curb inflationary tendencies on a market that is understocked and will thus help to put purchasing power back into the fi. If this money were allowed to flow into circulation ad libitum, it would be practically impossible to curb inflation. Secondly, the scheme will protect the national economy against the effects of a marked drop in prices; and, thirdly, it will ensure continuity of employment in the pastoral industry and in other industries as well. If there were a very marked drop in the prices that are received for the products of an industry that accounts for 50 per cent, of the total value of our exports, it is clear that not only that industry but also our industrial economy as a whole would begin to take it “ in the neck “.
In the limited time at my disposal, 1 suggest to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) that there is something to be learned from the Marketing of Primary Products Act that was passed by the New South “Wales Parliament in 1927. Much has been said about trower control in marketing schemes. That act has stood the test for over twenty years. It was enacted by the Lang Labour Government. It provides that growers may by referendum petition for a pool and a marketing scheme, and at the end of a period of three yearn they may petition for another referendum to decide whether the scheme shall be continued. Should the voting be unfavorable to its continuance, the scheme must be wound up within twelve months. It would be wise to make similar provision in this measure. The Government should say to the growers that if, after giving the scheme a trial for three years, they petition foi- a referendum and the voting at the referendum is unfavorable to the continuance of the scheme, it shall l>e wound up within a period of twelve months. Although the New South Wales net to which I have referred has been in operation for nearly a quarter of a century, I cannot recall one marketing scheme that has been wound up during that period. That act gives to the growers complete control of the marketing of their product and thus accomplishes precisely what the Opposition says it is impassible to accomplish. Clause 2 of the bill provides that the proposed board shall not be deemed to represent the Crown for any purpose whatsoever. If the Government gives a guarantee similar to that which it has given to other marketing boards it will find that the wool-growers will rise to their responsibilities. The Government should exercise control only in respect of the maximum price. It should not exercise a general power to interfere with price arrangements or with the methods employed in the handling of the wool. The proposed board should be given powers similar to those that are vested in boards that control the marketing of primary products under the New South Wales Marketing of Primary Products Act.
– Order! The honorable member’s second period of time has expired.
.- I rise simply to seek information with respect to several aspects of the matter now before the chamber. Every honorable member realizes the importance of our exporting industries in building up Australia’s overseas credits. However, it should be of concern to honorable members to know what use is made of the additional funds that are obtained by those interested in our exporting industries. It is generally admitted that if the stocks of wool that had been accumulated when the war terminated had been thrown on to the open market prices would have collapsed, to the detriment of the national interests as well as of those engaged in the wool-growing industry. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that whilst the wool-growers will benefit by the better prices that they will receive on the overseas market, under this scheme, the Australian community will be penalized by having to pay higher prices for woollen goods. I am astonished that the growers’- representatives and the Minister for Commerce, and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) have not. indicated whether the scheme will have that effect. Concurrently with the scheme the Government should fix a home consumption price for wool. The Australian buyer should not be asked to pay higher prices for woollen clothing merely * in order that those engaged in the woolgrowing industry shall receive increased incomes. Every honorable member “who has spoken in support of the measure agrees that the industry is prosperous. However, the Australian community, in addition to having to pay higher prices for woollen goods, will be obliged to help the industry by contributing towards the premium of 25 per cent, that is represented in the exchange rate, through which they pay a subsidy indirectly to all exporting industries. Furthermore, they are to be asked to guarantee the wool-growing industry against any loss that might be incurred under this scheme. That is a serious matter because, while Ave are talking about putting value back into the fi, we must remember, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) has admitted, that this is a deflationary measure. That fact would appear to indicate that certain sections of the wool-growers are receiving a higher income than the Government believes it to be necessary, or advisable, that they should receive from the standpoint of the national interest. Under this scheme the Government proposes to withhold from the wool-growers 10 per cent, of their income and to place that money into a fund.
– The wool-grower has never received a subsidy from the Australian Government or from the people.
– That statement is only partly correct. It is true that the Australian Government has never paid a subsidy direct to the wool-growing industry, but the Australian people have, in fact, subsidized that industry by having contributed to the premium that is represented in the present exchange rate of £25 per centum, the benefit of which is derived by all exporting industries. Unless a lower consumption price for wool is provided for, the Australian consumer, by supporting this scheme, will penalize himself because he will in future have to pay higher prices for clothing manufactured from woollen fabrics. Thus, he will virtually pay a subsidy to the wool-growers although not in a direct way. Over the years the Aus tralian wool industry has received considerable assistance from the Australian community.
The honorable member for New England has said that this scheme will affect the incidence of income tax because the levy collected from a WOOgrower in a year of high tax rates may he refunded in a year of low tax rates. Obviously, wool-growers generally will benefit from such an arrangement. If they were taxed on their actual incomes larger sums would be available to the Commonwealth for the extension of social services and other worthwhile purposes. I do not know what qualifications a wool-grower must possess to be eligible to participate in any referendum that may be held. No statement has been made of the number of sheep a growe.r must own or the quantity of W001 he must produce in order to qualify for a vote. From the meagre information we have been able to glean about this scheme apparently it was supported by the large growers and opposed by the small growers.
– Just the opposite.
– If the scheme possesses all the virtues that honorable members opposite have claimed for it, surely it would have been supported unanimously by al] wool-growers.
– Only approximately 50 per cent, of the wool-growers voted on the scheme.
– As the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has reminded me, only one-half of the wool- growers voted on the scheme and even then it was sanctioned by only a very narrow margin of votes. I shall be astonished if the small wool-growers derive any great benefit from it. If the levy is to be allowed as a deduction for income tax purposes, obviously the growers in the higher income brackets will benefit most. Most of the small wool-growers would probably prefer to retain what money they have for the purpose of improving; their properties and flocks. Honorable members who have more knowledge than I have of rural conditions will no doubt be able to tell me whether I have correctly assessed the position.
I rose principally to direct attention to the need for the establishment of a homo-consumption price for wool. I, and other members of the Australian Labour party, believe that whenever it is possible to do so all industries, both rural and urban, should be stabilized. I do not believe that one section of industry should enjoy a measure of protection while others remain unstable; but I contend that such benefits as may accrue from stabilization should be enjoyed by all sections of the community. We should have been in a much happier position if the details of the scheme had been available to us. All Ave have had so far is legislation for the imposition of the levy and a promise that the details of the scheme will be announced later. I do not know why it should have been impracticable for the Government to finalize the details of the scheme before it introduced the legislation for the imposition of the levy. We should know exactly what sort of scheme we shall be asked to approve later. If the Government hopes to retain the support of the Opposition for proposals of this kind, it will have to include in them provisions for the establishment of a homeconsumption price. Only by that means can the interests of the consumers be safeguarded.
If the Government wishes to put value back into the £1, it should do everything possible to guard against contributing to the rising price spiral. Many of the wool-growers for whose benefit this scheme has been devised receive more money than they need. Most of the expensive motor cars that are imported into Australia are sold to country purchasers. [Extension of time granted.’] I do not contend that those who live in country areas are not as much entitled as are those who live in the cities to the best available motor vehicles; but they are entitled to no more than a fair proportion of them. Those who are engaged in the primary industries of this country, particularly in the export industries, are now enjoying a period of unprecedented prosperity. The high incomes that they receive as a result of the existing high prices of their products in the markets of the world tend to accentuate the inflationary spiral. There should be a levelling off of all incomes. A number of Labour members fear that such schemes enable some sections of the community to avoid the payment of their just proportion of the taxes levied by the Government, and also have the effect of forcing up prices to unreal levels, thus penalizing those who are dependent on social services payments and workers who are dependent on their weekly wage, without sufficient compensating benefits to the community generally. If the Government wishes to restore value to the £1 it should do everything possible to keep prices down. The price of clothing has risen considerably in recent months. We could and should do something to rectify that position without seriously penalizing any section of the community. Those who are engaged in our export industries are well able to bear the expense of financing such a plan as this. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that, when the details of the plan are brought before the Parliament, he will include in them a proposal for the establishment of a home-consumption price for wool in order to protect the Australian consumer from an unnecessary increase of the price of woollen products.
.- 1 support this proposal, because it represents, as all the legislation introduced in this session has done, the fulfilment of a portion of the Government’s pre-election promises, in this instance in connexion with the primary industries. During the last general electioncampaign, we told the people that we should endeavour to introduce stabilization schemes for all phases of primary production. We assured them that the schemes would be controlled by the growers, and that we were opposed to socialist schemes of any kind. I regard this scheme as an earnest of the Government’s intention to honour that part of its pre-election policy. All the legislation that has been introduced by the Government is in conformity with its pre-election pledges. The evils that are to be remedied by this legislation have not, as has been suggested by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), resulted from the dislocation brought about by the war.
The evils in the wool industry existed prior to the war. The price of wool on the world market fluctuated unduly, and was completely out of balance with the world’s general wool requirements. In other words, an undue degree of speculation and organized buying disturbed the ordinary requirements of the world for wool, and brought about great disturbances of prices. Those factors had an unsettling effect on wool-growers. It is clear that the adoption of a flexible scheme will, in the long term, adjust the world demand for wool, but, in the short term, it will give to the grower an opportunity to make stable plans for production. The average wool-grower is in control of a large amount of capital. It would not be easy for him to switch at short notice from the production of wool to the production of another primary product. If the price of his principal product were unsatisfactory he’ might be able to switch his production over a term of years, but not at short notice. This plan should also have a stabilizing effect upon the price of land. Wool lends itself to a scheme such as this, because it can be withheld from the market at will, whereas primary products of a perishable nature must be marketed without delay. The fact that wool can be withheld from the market for a long time makes possible the introduction of a scheme to level out prices over a period. In other words, the necessity for government acquisition of the product is avoided.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has asked why so many woolgrowers have been opposed to the scheme.
– A very fair question, too.
– I agree with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). The obvious answer is that during the administration of the Labour Government, wool-growers had learnt to distrust all government schemes, because inevitably they resulted in complete government control of the industry, and government fixation of prices. When growers realize that the scheme has really been initiated by themselves, and will be financed, operated and controlled by themselves, their fears will vanish. In considering a scheme such as this, we must endeavour to foresee the dangers that may arise from it. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has suggested a possible danger in the competition of synthetic materials. I agree that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that, at some time in the future, synthetic products may offer serious competition to wool; but to date, no adequate substitute for natural wool has been discovered. The honorable gentleman has said that, for the period from 1909 to 1913, cotton represented 86 per cent, of the constituents of manufactured materials and he pointed out that that percentage dropped to 73 per cent, in the period 1939-43. He has also said, in respect of rayon and artificial fibres, that the figures were Q.2 per cent, and 14 per cent, respectively. Those figures indicate that rayon and artificial fibres are merely replacing cotton, and that there has been, in effect, no substantial displacement of wool in the manufacture of materials. Nevertheless, such a possibility exists. Research into wool substitutes is continually being pursued, mainly because of the tremendous world demand for wool that cannot be satisfied at the moment. The danger of competition from synthetics will, I suggest, be alleviated by the wool stabilization scheme because it will prevent panic in the world’s markets. Violent panic in the international markets has largely been responsible for the disturbances that have occurred in world prices.
In the second place, the scheme will tend to ease the heavy demand on wool in periods of shortages by allowing some of the accumulated stock piles that have been bought up in periods when prices were low to come on to the market. I suggest therefore that the danger from synthetics can be met to a certain degree by its means. The second danger that we must face, and that has not been brought to the attention of the committee, is the danger of undue pressure by growers for a high reserve price to operate when the market is falling; and coupled with that would be a possible lack of capital in the reserve fund. I should like the fund to be raised to a very high level before any repayments are made to growers, because I consider it to be inevitable that the wool market must fall and the later that fait comes, on present tendencies at any rate, the higher will the wool-growers’ costs of production have become and the stronger will be the pressure that they will put on the committee controlling the fund for the fixing of a very high reserve price.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McKinnon) directed attention to the fact that criticism of the Joint Organization had been based on the argument that it had not been tested out when prices were low - in other words, that the operation of a reserve price for wool had not been tested out under severe conditions. I regard that as a danger which the operators of this scheme must take into consideration; nevertheless I believe that, provided that the fund is carefully administered-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable gentleman has risen I shall take my second period now. If the fund is administered by people who are skilled in estimating the condition of world wool markets, then its operations can only be beneficial. Some criticism of the proposed fund has been based on the ground that ultimately the Government will have the final voice about what the reserve price is to be. I agree that that is a very great difficulty from the point of view of some people, because, as I have said previously, some primary producers have come to distrust such schemes, having found in the past that they have simply meant that the Government has come into the business and said, “ This shall be your reserve price. We do not care what you recommend “. We on this side of the committee have given undertakings to the wool-growers that the final approval of the Government of the reserve price will be necessary only in the event of any danger of the Government being called upon to meet its guarantee of the reserve fund. In other words, if the fund is operated wisely and is expanded to reasonable proportions, there will be so much the less likelihood of any government control operating.
This scheme should commend itself to those individuals mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon, who suggested that many large wool-growers prefer to carry their own insurance. For several reasons they cannot carry ‘insurance in this case as effectively as it will be covered by this scheme. Despite their distrust of government schemes, and ihe fact that in the past they have found the cost to them of such schemes to have been unduly high, they cannot at the present time establish adequate reserves for themselves because of their high rate of tax. Therefore, by putting into a government fund such as this, tax-free, a certain portion of their incomes, they will provide for themselves a more adequate insurance than they could otherwise have.
The scheme should commend itself to them for the second reason that there is no doubt that the present high prices of wool are having an inflationary effect. As a result of that fact their costs of production are rising substantially, and if they endeavoured, in the face of those increasing costs, to establish a reserve they would find that their ability to meet the fall of wool prices when it came, as it must come, would be lessened, because their high costs of production would have prevented them from being in a position to compete with other outside producers whose costs of production had been lower.
I turn now to the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney. In spite of the fact that honorable member? opposite have generally indicated that they support this measure, that honorable member as usual can be relied upon to be difficult, to say the least. He wishes us to consider introducing a home-consumption price for wool. I suggest that if he had any knowledge of the wool industry, and if he analysed the figures relating to the cost of manufactured woollen goods in Australia, he would know that the actual market prices of wool play a very small part in the final cost of manufactured goods. For instance, in a. man’s suit of clothing that costs anything up to 25 guineas or more, there is approximately only 25s. worth of wool at present prices. A similar ratio applies to the cost of all other woollen goods. The fixing of a home-consumption price for wool would, therefore, not affect the cost of clothing very materially. The price of wool has a microscopic effect on the price of clothing. The great increase of the price of clothing has occurred because of the increased costs of manufacture that have resulted from higher wages and higher prices for other materials. I was interested to observe that the honor.able member based his advocacy of :i home-consumption price for wool on the fact that overseas prices for wool are very high. He asserted that the home-consumption price should therefore be lower than it now is. I do not know what his views were in the 1930’s, and whether he would ha.ve been prepared to suggest then that the home-consumption price for wool should bi> higher because overseas prices ranged between 7d. and lid. per lb., but I have no doubt that his excuse then would have been that the poor workers of his electorate would be unduly penalized by a high home-consumption price for wool. I dismiss his views on the exchange rate as; irrelevant to this debute, but I was rather interested to hear that he apparently favoured an upward revaluation of the Australian £1 when he supported the Chifley Government, which last year devalued the £1. As I have said, the honorable member for East Sydney can always be relied upon to be difficult in m ny circumstances.
– I. am led to make a very brief contribution to this debate only because of some slight confusion of thought that appears to me to have been shown in some of the earlier contributions to it. Since it is merely designed to strike a levy, there seems to be very little that needs to be said about the resolution itself, except that it should be generally commended. There is at present no detailed plan, before the committee for the establishment of a reserve fund, and indeed it seems very doubtful at this stage whether the approval of a sufficient proportion of the wool-growers will be obtained to enable such a detailed scheme to be put into effect. I recognize the merit of bringing forward the legislation for a levy at this stage so that it can apply for the whole of the wool year, in case at a later stage it is possible to proceed with a detailed scheme. 1 rose chiefly to deal with the suggestion that the wool industry has in some way, over a period of years, been a beneficiary at the hands of the Australian people. . I have no doubt that the wool industry has benefited from the exchange rate as, of course, have many other interests in this country, but to suggest that as a whole it has been a beneficiary at the hands of the Australian people seems to me to be entirely incorrect. The wool industry has itself been of very great benefit to the Australian economy. Over the years it has been the bulwark of the Australian economy. It certainly cannot be described as a mendicant industry or one that has received benefits from this community that have far outweighed the value that it lias provided to the community. I am always rather astonished’ when it is suggested that rural industries are particularly favoured when they receive subsidies, especially when the suggestion comes from people who accept as perfectly normal the view that the rural producer and the Australian consumer as a whole should be prepared to pay prices much higher than world parity prices, for the products of Australia’s secondary industries. I am not now objecting to the protection that the national policy sees fit to provide for sections of the Australian manufacturing industry, but I think it is also fair to recognize the justice of a proposition that, when protection is given to secondary industries, and the rural consumer has to pay the additional amounts that are necessary to maintain that policy of protection until these industries are so developed that they can compete in the world’s markets, the rural producers should be equally entitled to the protection of the Australian financial and economic policy. In these circumstances any subsidy that the Australian primary producer receives is no more than he is fully entitled to. The wool industry of course has never received any subsidy but has merely received the indirect compensation of the exchange rate which offsets the additional costs that the industry has to meet because of the policy of the protection of secondary industries.
I was also very interested in the suggestion that we should establish a home consumption price for Australian wool. It is true that, very considerable incomes are being earned to-day by a number of wool producers in this country, but it is also true that spectacular incomes that have been cited are received by only a very small proportion of wool-growers. The majority of wool-growers are undoubtedly enjoying prosperity greater than they have known in previous years, but their position is not to be judged by the position of a small number of wool-growers who now receive very large incomes. The average wool-grower to-day is obtaining merely a just compensation for the very low prices that he has had to accept in previous years. -The suggestion that is often put forward that the primary producer of this country should sell his product to his fellow Australians at less than world parity prices has always interested me exceedingly, because it comes from the very people who in the same breath advance the argument that the rural producer and the country dweller generally should be prepared to pay not less, but more, than world parity prices for all their purchases of Australian manufactured goods. Apart altogether from the question of whether a home consumption price for wool is workable it appears to me to be an unjust proposition that the primary producer should supply the city consumer with goods at prices lower than world parity while at the same time he is expected, as a matter of course, to pay more than world parity prices for the products of the secondary industries in the cities. In any event with the system of auction sales of wool in Australia, it would appear that a home consumption price for wool would he quite unworkable.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-The measure which the committee is considering is extremely unusual in character. 1 think it can best be described as provisional legislation because its ultimate proclamation is dependent upon at least two factors, one of which is that the growers must approve of the scheme and the other is that it must receive the blessing of the Government. Of course that is only natural because the Government will have a contingent liability through its provision of a guarantee in order that the scheme may operate. The scheme is also unusual because it provides that the growers themselves, who are the owners of the product, shall finance it. subject only to a government guarantee which is unavoidable and is necessary because of the extreme importance of the wool industry to Australia’s economy. The growers themselves are asking only that they be given the opportunity to protect themselves. The history of the primary producing industries in past years is a very sorry one because of the lack of provision for the growers to protect themselves.
– The scheme would have to be compulsory upon every one.
– It would not. The average man is intelligent enough to cooperate. The Government proposes to provide machinery which will operate in exactly the same way as the law under which a man may protect himself from his neighbour who may attempt to do him an injury. I think that the necessity for this scheme is obvious to all honorable members. That it is necessary is indicated by the Opposition’s acceptance of the bill and the expression of its intention to co-operate in dealing with it speedily in order that it may operate as soon as possible. The wool industry is of such great importance to Australia that it would be wrong to revert to the old conditions under which the wool-growers and all other producers were disorganized and markets were unstabilized. The producers were between conflicting interests, like a lemon in a squeezer. The wool producers in the past have been more fleeced than the sheep they shore. They have been ton1 between conflicting interests who wanted as much as they could get from them in return for as little as possible. Legislation of this type provides the grower with the means of protecting himself against exploitation from everywhere that it came from in the past because of the haphazard and disorganized system of marketing. The grower asks no more than that he be given the opportunity to organize for himself. The vital difference between this and other legislation is that he is given that opportunity and that the Government is not going to. act arbitrarily and take possession of his goods and dispose of them as it likes. Under this proposal the Government has the power to make ultimate decisions but that proposal is vastly different from a system which takes the growers’ product, dictates where, when and how it shall be disposed of, and calls upon the grower to bear any loss or sacrifice. If, at times, it is necessary for the Australian Government to make reciprocal arrangements under which Australian goods are exchanged for goods from foreign countries, the whole of the nation should bear any cost incurred or sacrifice suffered. In this case, the woolgrowers need have no fear that they will be called upon to bear losses of that nature. It was the fear of that possibility that aroused a disinclination on the part of some growers to express their wholehearted willingness to participate in an organized scheme. Such a thing could not happen under this bill.
The purpose of the proposed marketing scheme is to guard against the extreme fluctuations which take place during and between wool-selling seasons. In the past, those fluctuations have had a disastrous effect on the national economy and on the wool industry. Such fluctuations have not permitted the wool-grower to have security and they have restricted expansion.. I know wool-growers who raised splendid flocks of sheep in anticipation of a good return from the particular type of wool that they would get from them. Then the market went haywire, and, over a period of years, they attempted to readjust their farming methods in order to meet what they thought would be a new demand, but by the time they had changed their product the market had reversed and they found themselves worse off than they had been in the beginning. That is what has given rise to the suggestion that farmers conduct their operations inefficiently. They cannot help but operate inefficiently when, from month to month, they do not know what is going to happen to their products, but they will be encouraged enormously if their position is made secure.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member has risen I shall take my second period now.
The methods of cultivation being adopted to-day in what have hitherto been purely agricultural areas are such that those areas are contributing more largely to the wool industry. In a few years time the quantity of wool that will come from what have been called agricultural areas will equal the quantity that will come from the grazing areas. Conditions are more reliable in those agricultural sections of the country. The adoption of a marketing scheme such as that which has been proposed will encourage their development to the benefit of the industry and of the whole nation.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to a home consumption price and to subsidies. It is possible that his references to the exchange rate may have deceived some people into believing that the wool-grower receives a benefit from the exchange rate for home consumed wool. There is a considerable misconception in regard to what producers of all export goods actually receive from the exchange rate. The exchange rate does not cost the consumer of homeproduced goods one penny. The price of wool retailed in Australia does not include any amount in the form of an exchange rate. The manufacturer has to pay only the ordinary market price and the manufactured article reaches the buying public with no exchange rate added. A homeconsumption price can be established in respect of a commodity only if its producers are given a guaranteed price. The wool-growers do not ask for that. If a government is prepared to give the protection of a guaranteed price it is entitled to something in return. Certainly the exchange rate has some effect on the price of imported woollen goods to the user. The producer benefits from the exchange rate on the wool that he exports and when it is imported in the form of a manufactured article it carries the added cost of the exchange rate. However, the wool-grower pays his portion of that added cost because he pays the same as every other member of the public for the imported manufactured article. He pays no more and no less and the buying public contributes no more and no less by way of the exchange rate to any particular industry than it does to the wool industry, lt cannot be ‘said that the exchange rate is of particular benefit to the primary producer only. It is of enormous benefit to every exporting industry in Australia. There is no exchange rate borne by homeconsumed home-produced goods and so in respect of most essential commodities such as the food- we eat and the clothes we wear the exchange rate does not affect the cost of living in those respects. I hope that we shall hear no more about the exchange rate being of enormous benefit only to the primary producer, at the expense of the non-primary producer. It U no such thing. The wool industry has never been subsidized, and it is not seeking a subsidy now. All that it asks the Government to do is to provide the machinery to enable it to help itself. To my knowledge that is all that the wool-growers have asked of any government during the last 30 years. All that they want is an opportunity to help themselves. They do not want their industry to be the subject of government exploitation.
– I have risen to speak on this measure only because of the statements made by the honorable member for -Moore (Mr. Leslie) and by the Minister who introduced this bill. After hearing their speeches honorable members on this side are wondering why the Government parties, when they were in Opposition, made such an outcry against the Chifley Government’s so-called interference with the rights of the individual. Honorable members who were then in Opposition said that the individual did not want government interference, but the very essence of this legislation is that the wool-growers want the Government to interfere in their affairs. This measure will compel every one of the woolgrowers to participate in it.
– Only at their own request.
– Assume that there are 50,000 wool-growers in Australia and that 45,000 of them want this scheme to be introduced. If the other 5.000 do not want it, they will certainly not be relieved of their obligations under the legislation. “When this measure is put into force all the wool-growers, even those who do not want to participate, will have to pay the levy. If the woolgrowers could operate their industry efficiently without government interference, they would not want this legislation. I think that the measure is of great value, but I also think that it is in accordance with much legislation that the previous Government thought was of great value but which was roundly condemned by the then Opposition. .! believe that although this legislation may be enacted, a long time will elapse before it is put into force. I am of the opinion that a sufficient number of wool-growers will not be prepared to participate in the scheme and so it will be rendered useless. I hope I am wrong, because I think that it is a good scheme for assisting tinman on the bottom rung of the woolgrowing ladder. It has been suggested that the big wool-growers are of the: opinion that they can ensure the wellbeing of their own futures while woo! prices are high. If the big wool-grower? 01)nose this measure, then it is almost certain that it will never be proclaimed and put into operation. My main reason for rising is to try to expose as false the statements made by the honorable member for Moore that the wool-grower oan please himself about whether he participates in the scheme or not. It is quite apparent that if the majority of the woolgrowers want the scheme then every pound of wool sold, whether it comes from them or from the minority who do not want it, will be affected by the provisions of the legislation. Honorable members, when speaking to this measure, should be honest and say straight out that they believe that the Labour party was right when it advocated schemes for orderly marketing.
In the past the Government parties opposed the referendum which was held to seek power over the marketing of primary products, but the Labour party believed that something should have been done to ensure orderly marketing. Provision should now be made so that if wool prices fall some f funds will be available to cushion the effect on our economy. It is to be left to the Government to declare a minimum price.
If the wool-grower is not satisfied with the declared price, that price will still be enforced. That provision is designed to protect the industry against future low prices, and also to ensure that although the consumers pay high prices for wool to-day the wool-growers, when prices fall, will not unduly suffer from the effects of the full. The honorable member for M’oore said that the exchange rate benefits the producer in regard to the wool exported, but not in regard to the wool sold in Australia. That seems to be very poor reasoning to my mind. The exchange rate of 2” per cent, has an effect upon the incomes of all the people. If a wool-grower buys machinery from overseas, or a Rolls Royce motor car, he has to pay more for it because of the difference of 25 per cent, in the exchange rate. It does not matter whether the wool is sold overseas or in Australia, the man who bids the highest price gets the wool. I think that Labour policy is now bearing fruit. When a Government tries to link communism and socialism with the Labour party, and then puts forward a measure such as this is, it is showing that its own ideas are not so far removed from those of the Labour party. The Government intends to save some of the receipts from the present high price of wool so that that money can be used to offset low prices in the future. I quite agree with that policy, but honorable members on the Government side should not mislead the people by pretending that private enterprise is introducing this scheme on its own initiative. If private enterprise were doing what is now proposed the need for this legislation would not exist. Therefore, it cannot be said that this measure is not a form of government interference. If the majority of those engaged in woolgrowing want this scheme, then the minority will have no option but to participate in it.
– The honorable member «h,ys that that is wrong?
– I do not say that it is wrong, I believe in that system; but 1 say that the honorable member for Moore has been indulging in some sort of trash to induce the people to believe that this legislation is not a scheme of government control, but is merely a kind of private enterprise. The answer to that is that, if the majority want this scheme, the minority have no option but to participate in it. This scheme is ‘to guard against the effect of possible low prices for wool in the future. That is orderly marketing in accordance with the policy preached by the Labour party in the past. I. am very pleased that the Minister for. Commerce and Agriculture, and many of the wool-growers, have at last seen the light.
– I support the proposal to provide a fund by way of a levy on all wool sold. As a wool-grower I will welcome the formation of a stabilization scheme. Recognition by the Labour party of the importance of the wool industry was demonstrated in 1945, when legislation dealing with this subject was first brought in. I am pleased that a majority of members of the Opposition support this present .proposal. The importance of wool to the national economy can be realized when we recall that wool account for no less than 25 per cent, of the national income. The Government is aware of its importance, and is prepared to do everything possible to assist a stabilization scheme, and to underwrite it if necessary. It was most gratifying to hear that the Australian Wool Growers Council has approved of a stabilization scheme in principle. There was some misunderstanding on the subject, and it. was thought for a while that the council would not agree. A considerable section of the wool-growers is still opposed to the basic principle of a scheme, as was shown by the fact that the proposal was carried in New South Wales by only a small majority of growers*.
– What is the reason for that?
– The growers are afraid of government control of the kind that has operated in so many, other primary industries. Members of the Australian Country party are in favour of organized marketing; but, under the Labour Government, marketing schemes were operated in such a way that the home-consumption price of commodities was too low, and the industries became dependent upon a high export price. That is true of the wheat industry to-day.
Such an arrangement creates a dangerous situation, because the whole price structure becomes based on the consumption price. The Government now is in somewhat the same predicament as that of a man riding on the back of a tiger. Once he is on he dare not get off. Further, this method of marketing tends to give a special privilege to one section of the community. It offends my conception of economic freedom, which after all pervades all liberty, that a government should give a special privilege to any section of a community. We want the wool market to remain free, and the only way to ensure that is to retain the auction system. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) suggested that there should be a home-consumption price for wool; but, if there were a home-consumption price, there could not be a free market, and that is why the growers oppose that idea. Many growers would prefer to suffer from the vagaries of a free market, with all its -risks, rather than be thrown to the wolves on some socialistic plan. The scheme envisaged is a growers’ scheme, as the Minister has explained, and its most important feature is that it preserves the system of free auctions. The Government will collect a levy on wool sold, and will have a say in determining the reserve price. There is no need to fear government control if free marketing is retained. Certain legislative enactments have already proved of great benefit to wool-growers, particularly the abolition of the draft concession, and the provision for the marketing of wool in the order of its arrival in store.
The growers want a marketing scheme that will ensure a floor price based on the cost of production, and the American “ real “ price. America is one of the few countries with a sound currency to-day, and it is also the greatest single consumer of manufactured and raw wool. lt has been suggested that the American price should be adopted as the base price, having regard to our own costs, and with this I agree. A possible formula might be the American price less import duty, with, say, a reduction of 10 per cent. One of the objections raised by those opposed to a stabilization scheme is that we cannot dictate to the world what the price of wool should- be. For my part, I have a liking for a free market with its natural correctives, but the fact is that manufacturers fix the price of their commodities according tothe cost of production, and wages are fixed by arbitration tribunals. Even the value of our currency is arbitrarily fixed. Therefore, those who benefit from the fixing of the prices of manufactured goods, and from the fixing of wages, cannot have it both ways by insisting on a free market for wool.
Under this scheme, both the growers and the buyers of wool will be protected. Baw wool is worth no more to the manufacturer than the price at which it can be -purchased by his competitor. Losses incurred in the trade are duo more to the competition of cheaper wool on a falling market than to mistakes in valuing on the part of buyers, or in the competition of other fibres. It is believed that once a dependable minimum is fixed, buyers will be able to advance their prices 20 to 30 per cent, with a confidence that they do not now feel. It is astonishing that any one should oppose a stabilization scheme after the remarkable success achieved by the Joint Organization. It may be argued that the rising market was responsible for the success achieved, but let us see what happened when the Australian Wool Realization Commission was operating. Then there were in effect two floor prices. There was the base .price at which wool was taken from the growers, and the price at which it was placed on the market for sale by the * British Government. Eventually, there stood to the credit of the Australian and the British Governments an amount of £200,000,000 representing profits earned in that way. We shared it equally.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As no other honorable member has risen, I shall take my second period now. The point is that the wool was sold for £20,000,000 above what was considered to be a payable price.
Many growers object to the proposed scheme because they consider that the finance that will be needed for it will be beyond the capacity of the industry to bear. The Government envisages a levy of 10 per cent. That estimate is unnecessarily high in my opinion. In fact, the amount of money necessary to conduct such a scheme will not be very great. Assuming a floor price of, say, 24d. per lb., and assuming we have to buy in, say, 50 per cent, of the clip, the amount required will be about £50,000,000. The levy contribution on that, amount would he approximately £5,000,000, which would leave an amount of £45,000,000 That wool would be worth something. We can assume a bank would advance at least 60 per cent, of its value, and that suggests that we could raise on it an amount of £30,000,000, leaving £15,000,000 that might be regarded as a risk. As the Minister has informed us there is a total of about £7,000,000 derived from the profits of the previous wool realization scheme that cannot be identified with any particular section of the growers. This money could be used as a nucleus for the proposed new scheme. That would reduce the amount needed for the fund in this instance, to about £8,000,Q00, which is less than the excess of the budget estimate of wool-growers’ tax payments. That fact conveys some impression of the importance of wool and indicates how comparatively easy it would be to raise the funds necessary to ensure continued stability in the industry. I have stated the case on a most conservative basis. Actually we could reasonably expect that the first 50 per cent, of the wool sold would be of high quality. The remaining lower grade wool to be bought in would not represent a heavy potential liability. Having regard to earlier experiences, it is more likely that the buy-in would be 5 per cent, of the clip instead of 50 per cent. If that were the case the nucleus of £7,000,000 that I have mentioned would be sufficient to finance the scheme.
Our experience in recent years has shown that wool has unique storage qualities. It is non-perishable. Wool that has been in store for as long as ten years has been used without any apparent bad effects. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has pointed out, the necessary storage facilities and the organization already exist. The objections of certain wool-growers are therefore difficult to understand.
The present transient boom suggests that the wool industry is enjoying great prosperity, but the truth is that the situation is not so good as it appears to be. The price of wool is a “ real “ price, and it serves as a measure for the degree of inflation in our economy. The present situation is not without precedent. In 1924-25, the price of wool reached the level of 29-^d. sterling, which, allowing for exchange adjustment, represented about 36d. in Australia. The £1 .to-day is worth only half as much as it was worth then, and .the adjustment on thai account brings the 1924-25 figure to the equivalent of 72d. to-day. The average price to-day is 80d. Taking into consideration the present high rates of tax and the problems of shortages of labour and materials in the industry, it becomes obvious that the situation to-day is more difficult than it was in 1924-25. The exchange difference of 25 per centi between Australian currency and sterling was applied in order to help the wool industry in particular during the period of economic depression.
– It does not need help now.
– Probably not, but it needed help then. The situation reminds me of a man who takes an aspirin tablet to cure a headache. Figuratively speaking, the wool industry took an aspirin tablet when the depression caused a headache, but it continued to take more aspirins after the headache had disappeared. I do not know what we are to do if it gets another headache. After all, the present high prices for wool are not likely to be maintained. The problems of the wool industry to-day arise largely from currency inflation, which has been attributed largely to the effects of the financial policy that was pursued by the Chifley Government. It is not reasonable to blame the industry for the inflation. It may be placed in a difficult situation soon because of the rise that is likely to occur in all commodity prices. The amount of money in the community to-day is 500 per cent, above the level of 1939, but the quantity of goods and services available to be purchased with the money is only 30 per cent, above the 1939 level. According to Professor Gifford, of the University of Queensland, this situation will cause a general price rise of about 50 per cent. Professor Gifford has made his own calculations, and I do not know whether it is an accurate prediction or not, but, if such a rise eventuates, wool prices will not appear to be high at all when costs are inflated to this extent. “We should bear those facts in mind and remember how important the industry is to the genera”! economy of Australia. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion.
– In view of the late hour and the keen desire of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) and his colleagues to repair to their couches, I shall not delay the committee for long. For the first time over a long period, all parties are in agreement on this issue. We know that the proposed plan is only a provisional measure. The Government’s intention is to take time by the forelock so as to enable the wool-growers to formulate amongst themselves a scheme to stabilize their industry. If this measure had not been introduced now and if the woolgrowers had decided later on that they wanted a scheme of this kind, a valuable year would have been wasted. There has been much painful repetition in this debate, and I do not propose to indulge in it.
– The honorable gentleman has already done so.
– If I were as spiteful as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), I should detain the committee for another twenty minutes, but I do not propose to do so because I have some consideration for my fellows. Having regard to the lateness of the hour, I say merely that I support the measure and that I trust that other honorable members will do what I shall do from now on, that is, keep quiet.
– As the debate upon this motion has been, by common consent, treated as the debate upon the issues raised by several bills, I take this opportunity to thank honorable gentlemen on both sides of the chamber for the manner in which they have supported the proposal.
Bill returned from the Senate withamendments.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) proposed -
That the Senate’s- amendments be takeninto consideration, in committee of the wholeHouse, on the next day of sitting.
.- In supporting the motion, I suggest to the Government that, for the convenience of honorable members, there be printed, or roneoed, copies of the bil] in the form in which it would appear- if the amendments made by the Senate were incorporated in it.
– I shall bring the suggestion of the right honorable gentleman to the attention of the Government, and I have no doubt that it will be acceded to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.1.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
t asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r. - On the 11th May, the honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked the following question : -
I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has approved of the phospate rock project on Christmas Island which is a joint project which the Chifley Government entered into jointly with the New Zealand Government. If the Government intends to proceed with this most important project when will the working of tire Christmas Island sulphate rock deposits commence? I ask this question in view of the growing demands On super sulphate by Australian primary producers?
The Prime Minister then intimated that the matter raised is not one for attention by his department and that a. full answer would be prepared. I am now in a position to advise the honorable member as follows: -
Tha Christmas’ Island phosphate undertaking was jointly purchased by the Australian and New Zealand Governments as a going concern as at the 3 1st December, 1948, and since that date the production of phosphate has been continued and expanded by the British Phosphate Commissioners’ as managing agents for thu two Governments. The phosphate from Christmas Island, which had previously been purchased by the British Phosphate Commissioners under an ordinary commercial supply contract, has continued to be released to fertilizer works in Australia, principally in Western Australia, thereby releasing a corresponding tonnage of phosphate from Nauru and Ocean Island for delivery in eastern Australia and New Zealand. An agreement, us authorized by the Christmas Island Agreement Act 1949, has been concluded between the Australian and New Zealand Governments to cover the joint conduct of the undertaking.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, uPOn notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n. - (On the 26th April, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) asked a question concerning the granting of export licences foi poultry feed. Queensland has the utmost difficulty in obtaining adequate supplies of bran and pollard for poultry feeds while protein meals are equally difficult to obtain in sufficient quantities. As the position in regard to these commodities in other States is also difficult, the export of these commodities, and of feeding meals containing them, is subject to control and is permitted only with the prior approval of my department. It is assumed that the question asked by the honorable member has relation to poultry foods containing ingredients which are on the restricted export list. This list has been in operation for several years. However, if the firms desiring to export poultry foods will make application to the DirectorGeneral of Agriculture, Melbourne, indicating the quantities involved and the constituent materials in the poultry foods which it is desired to export, consideration will be given on the merits of the case to whether any export can be permitted.
n. - On the 9th May, the honorable .member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) asked a question concerning the
International Grasslands Conference held in Paris on the 3rd May this year. I can now inform the honorable gentleman that the Commonwealth Government was not represented at the conference, but I shall endeavour to obtain a copy of thereport of the proceedings and, in due course, ma’ke it available to the honorable member and to any other honorable members who may be interested.
n. - On the 10th May, the honorable member for Bass asked a question concerning the practicability of broadcasting various types of seed from aeroplanes over recently flooded areas to produce supplies of feed throughout the affected areas. I understand that certain air companies are interested in aerial sowing of seed in Australia and that some work has already been undertaken in that direction. Officers of my department have recently had discussions with the air companies’ representatives and I propose to provide an opportunity for the permanent heads of State Departments of Agriculture to discuss the question in conference at the forthcoming meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture.
N asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr. SPENDER - The matters mentioned come within the province of the Minister for External Territories and the answers to the ‘honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Generally the import duty under the tariff is at the rate of 10 per cent, ad valorem, but there are many items duty free,
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 June 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19500615_reps_19_208/>.