19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. G. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Government intends to propose an amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act in connexion with the functions of conciliation commissioners ?
– I am unable to answer that question at present. The Government has had under general consideration the whole matter of any necessary amendments to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but so far it has been impeded in its consideration of that matter by the already great delay that has been caused to its legislative programme.
– Did the Minister for Supply represent the Government at the United Nations celebrations that were held in Martin-place, Sydney, yesterday? If so, can the Minister say whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that Mr. Olive Evatt, M.L.A., who was present as the official representative of the Premier of New South Wales, made an attack on the Australian Government in connexion with the Communist Party Dissolution Act?
– I represented the Government at the United Nations celebrations that were held in Martin-place, Sydney, yesterday, and I am sorry to say that Mr. Evatt did make an attack on the Government along the lines indicated. The occasion was entirely nonpolitical, and should have been regarded as such. The remarks made by Mr. Evatt were very embarrassing to the remainder of the official guests and could not help the cause of the United Nations. Furthermore, the remarks were all the more extraordinary in that they really amounted to an attack on the Australian Labour party which had permitted the Communist Party Dissolution Act to be passed by the Parliament.
– Following the question which has been addressed by the honorable member for Bennelong to the Minister for Supply, I ask the Prime Minister whether the speech of Mr. Olive Evatt, who is alluded to in the question, is, in fact, a disloyal suggestion that Australia should be arraigned before the United Nations because of the provisions of the anti-Red Act? Does the right honorable gentleman recognize that suggestion by Mr. Olive Evatt as following the current Communist line? Can he inform me whether the Mr. Olive Evatt, who made the suggestion, is identical with the Mr. Olive Evatt who was the president of the Australian-Russian Society from December, 1947, to August, 1948, and who was only emptied out of that position under protest when the Labour party very justifiably claimed that that society was a Communist auxiliary? Was not the Australian-Russian Society, under the presidency of the same Mr. Evatt, a treacherous . Communist front? Was the same Mr. Evatt the author of a disgraceful pTo-Soviet, anti-Australian revolutionary speech in November, 1947? Is the same Mr. Evatt the brother of the right honorable member for Barton, who is- the maker of the Opposition’s policy on foreign affairs, and who drew up the Labour party’s amendments to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950?
– Order I
– In view of the known pro-Communist bias so often and for so long exhibited by the right honorable member for Barton-
– I rise to order. I think that the Standing Orders provide that questions must be asked for the purpose of seeking information and must not include any matter that is put forward by way of debate. The question asked by the honorable member is more in the form of a contentious statement than an attempt to elicit information. .
– The question is quite in order, but I ask the honorable member for Macarthur to cease his preliminary explanation and come to the point of his question.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In view , of the proCommunist bias so often and for so long exhibited by the right honorable member for Barton-
– I take exception to those remarks. It is insulting to me that any member of the Parliament should be accused of having a pro-Communist bias.
– Order ! The honorable member for Macarthur will ask his question.
– I take objection to the words used by the honorable member for Macarthur, and ask for their withdrawal.
– To what words does the honorable member for Melbourne object?
– The words “ with the pro-Communist bias so often and for so long exhibited by the right honorable member for Barton “. I ask that they be withdrawn.
– If the honorable member for Macarthur intended those words to apply to the right honorable member for . Barton he must certainly withdraw them, because I have invariably insisted that no personal re flections shall be made on honorablemembers.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I submit that there is no reflection - > -
-Order! No point of order is involved because I have given a ruling. I ask the honorable member for Macarthur to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw. T ask whether, in view of the known bias so often and for so long exhibited by theright honorable member for Barton-
– Order I I now call upon the honorable member to withdraw that remark and apologize, failing which I shall name him.. Does the honorable member withdraw and apologize ?
– I have not heard an apology from the honorable member.
– I apologize. Resuming my question, I ask whether the policy that I have referred to has been formed under the same influence as that which actuated the brother of the right honorable member for Barton?
– All I know about the incident referred to is that a report of the speech made ‘by Mr. Evatt appeared in the press, and from that report I am bound to say that it was an extraordinarily silly speech.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral given any consideration to alleviating the long delays in the installation of telephones in the metropolitan automatic exchange areas by making the duplex system more generally applicable ? Can he say what progress is being made with such duplex connexions, and indicate what objection there is, if any, to applying such a system to. existing exclusive service lines ?
– Considerable progress has ‘been made with the installation of duplex system telephones. When I took over the portfolio of Postmaster-General there were about 86 of these duplex systems installed ‘ in the Sydney area.
There are now about 1,500 of them in that area and we intend to encourage their installation very substantially. I recently had the figures taken out for one particular exchange district in Sydney. I refer to the area of Maroubra which lies within the electorate of the honorable member for Watson. I shall mention those figures as an indication of the need for installing duplex systems. There are 1,938 subscribers connected to the Maroubra exchange. The same figure also applies substantially to Northcote exchange in Melbourne, figures regarding which I also obtained. In the Maroubra area there are 1,214 outstanding applicants who have very little prospect of being connected to the exclusive service system in the immediate future. Of the 1,938 subscribers in the Maroubra area no less than 1,187 do not average more than one or two outward calls a day. I consider, therefore, that it is perfectly reasonable that in such instances such subscribers should not be permitted to retain a monopoly of services that are so desperately needed by other people. I propose, therefore, to examine this matter very closely. At the present moment we are not compelling those who have exclusive services to accept a duplex service on their lines. People who are having new services connected, however, have to sign an agreement that they will raise no objection to the installation of a duplex service. I point out to honorable members that the duplex service provides complete secrecy for each person subscribing to it. A call rings on only one of the two lines, and not on both. The accounts for the lines are separate, as is everything else in connexion with them. The only disadvantage of the service is that when one subscriber is using his line the other subscriber is unable to use the line until the first person has terminated his call. I shall give every consideration to the question raised by the honorable member, and shall take steps in the near future to see that more people have an opportunity to secure telephone connexions by means of the duplex system.
– I draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to the profusion of undertakers’ advertisements in metropolitan telephone directories. These advertisements. are prominently displayed. They are frequently illustrated by drawings of streamlined hearses and feature other inducements towards luxurious burials. Will the PostmasterGeneral consider curtailing this degraded form of commercialism when telephone directories are being compiled in the future? Few of us, when seeking a number before making a telephone call, care to be constantly reminded of our inevitable mortality.
– Advertising in telephone directories is arranged, under contract, by a firm that specializes . in the field of advertising. However, I remind the honorable member that very often when one wants to arrange a funeral it has to be done in a hurry. Thus, the prominent display of undertakers’ telephone numbers serves a useful purpose. However, I shall give consideration to the remarks of the honorable member and will take the matter up with my department.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by stating that experiments have been carried out over a considerable period in the Broken Hill district with radio telephones. Those experiments have proved successful, and I understand that it is the intention of the Postmaster-General’s Department to install radio telephone services in some homes. What progress, if any, has been made with the installation of radio telephones, and when does the department propose to proceed with such installations for people in outback areas?
– A radio telephone system is to be installed at Broken Hill for the purpose of enabling communication with the districts of Menindie and Wentworth as well as other areas that would have no hope of obtaining an ordinary telephone service. Such a system is proving very useful in northern Queensland, where it operates from Cairns, and connects 25 or 30 outback stations that are hundreds of miles apart. It is proposed that the same kind of system shall be operated from Broken Hill, and it will be installed as quickly as circumstances permit.
– Will the Minister for the Interior say whether it is true that the Government has cancelled an order for the magazine Meanjin, in relation to which it has been spending ?400 a year for the distribution of about J, 000 copies? In view of the literary and cultural value of the magazine and the reputation that it enjoys abroad, what is the reason for the Government’s cancellation of its order for this magazine? Will the Government reconsider its decision in view of the fact that the magazine could receive a very serious setback as the result of the cancellation of the order?
– I have no knowledge of the case cited by the honorable member, but I shall have inquiries made to ascertain whether the subscription has been discontinued and shall supply him with the information that he seeks.
Dr. NOTT.; Is the Minister for Work? and Housing yet in a position to state definitely the number of prefabricated houses to be allocated to the Australian Capital Territory and when it is proposed to make them available?
– During the calendar year 1950, approximately 4-00 prefabricated houses will have been erected in the Canberra area. In 1951 that figure should be doubled. I shall obtain for the honorable member the precise figures relating to the number of both Australian and imported prefabricated houses allocated to the Australian Capital Territory.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that there are about 20 or 30 old servicemen who were on parade at the inauguration of the Commonwealth? Will he obtain their names, which” I understand are available at the various barracks, and invite them to be official guests at the Commonwealth Jubilee celebrations to be held next year?
– I was not aware of the facts mentioned by the honorable member and T am obliged to him for bringing them to my attention. His suggestion will receive consideration.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply been drawn to a statement that there was a strike of 400 engineers at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory last Friday? Is this statement correct? If so, what has been the result of the stoppage?
– There was not a strike at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory on the occasion mentioned by the honorable member. Two hundred and seventyfive members who, I think, were members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, held a stop-work meeting of something less than an hour in order to discuss claims for marginal rates. They returned to work after the meeting. That has been the end of the matter. So far as I arn aware, no representations have been made to the department since. About, 250 hours of work were lost as a result of the stopwork meeting and, as far as I know, it has not advanced the claims of the men. It certainly has not improved the position so far as I am concerned. The withholding of munitions from this country in that manner would not be a way of obtaining a quick decision from my department. When the matter is referred to my department it will receive consideration.
– My question to the Minister for Supply is prompted by a broadcast announcement. Can the honorable gentleman inform the House whether it is a fact that the representatives of unions the members of which are employed in munitions establishments throughout Australia, have been authorized by the Australian Council of Trades Unions to call a four-hour stopwork meeting unless he approves, within seven days, of an agreement for higher wages and better conditions?
– I hope that the report to which the honorable gentleman has referred is not correct. I heard the announcement on the news service at 9 o’clock last night, and I have had inquiries made into the position. The facts are that the Commonwealth has an agreement with the unions, the members of which are employed in munitions establishments. It was reviewed from time to time by the previous Government, and is now under review by this Government. For a long time, the previous Government took the. view, and the present Government is of the same opinion, that the wages and conditions of those employees should be determined by the appropriate industrial tribunal which, in this instance, is the Public Service Arbitrator. The unions concerned have not shared that view, and negotiations have proceeded with respect to the matter. I am not suggesting that delay has occurred, but if there has been any delay, it is due, I think, to the attitude of the unions which have not desired to place their submissions before the Public Service Arbitrator. However, comparatively recently, they agreed to go before that tribunal, and, ultimately, the two parties reached substantial agreement. In a series of conferences, the last of which was held last week, final agreement was reached, and the matter will now come before me, as the appropriate Minister, for signature. I have not yet seen the document, but it will be signed as soon as it conies to hand if I approve of it. I may add that it will not be signed one minute earlier or one minute later by reason of the threat contained in the broadcast announcement, if that announcement was correct.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy a question concerning clothing supplies for Navy men who are serving in Korean waters. Part of a letter which was written by an ablebodied seaman on board H.M.A.S. Bataan reads -
The weather here is turning bitterly cold of a night now. Winter is fast approaching. We are getting a raw deal as far as obtaining Navy clothing. We tried to get some from the Jamaica” and Hong Kong. They send the ships up from Australia but they won’t send clothes. My boots unci shoes have worn out. I h«,ve no socks and my overalls are worn out. We tried to get some from the Yanks but they won’t let us have them. *
I do not say that such a state of affairs is general in all our ships, but would the Minister investigate this complaint to see whether it can be rectified ?
– I have the highest; regard for the commanding officer of
II..M.A..S. Bataan. He is one of the most distinguished officers in the Navy, and hu has a high reputation for the regard that lip has always shown for the men under his command. I should be amazed to find any circumstances existing comparable with those the honorable member has outlined in his question. However, I shall have immediate investigations made. There are no shortages of supplies of clothing for the Army or the Navy at the moment, and I am satisfied that all such supplies required for H.M.A.S. Bataan or H.M.A.S. Warramunga can be readily made available.
– Would the Minister for the Navy inform the House whether it i:= correct, as was reported in the press during last week-end, that Great Britain has abandoned work on three 14,000-ton ailcraft carriers of the same type as H.M.A.S. Sydney because these ships, although launched only five years ago, are now obsolete?
– I saw the statement in. the press referred to by the honorable member. I have caused a signal to be sent to the Admiralty to ascertain whether there is any truth in the press paragraph. I arn sure all honorable members know that all press statements are not always all correct. I have not had a reply to my inquiries yet, but this is not the first occasion on which allegations have been made in this House or in the press concerning the obsolescence of H.M.A.S. Sydney. The Naval Board has assured me that H.M.A.S. Sydney is one of the most up-to-date ships of her class. I desire to quote a paragraph from a statement made by Admiral Radford when he was in Australia. He is the CommanderinChief of the United States Pacific Fleet, and he recently visited Australia, as a guest of the Government, upon the occasion of the Coral Sea batt]*’ anniversary celebrations. At a press interview in Sydney the Admiral made the following observations : -
I have nothing but compliments for the way H.M.A.S Sydney is going. It is not correct to say that the Sydney is too slow for operations. It is a very satisfactory aircraft carrier. In about 0.1 per cent, of operation* aircraft carriers would not use more speed than the Sydney can give. In the other a per cent. I would take a chance. In an emergency t would be glad to have Sydney and the more modern light aircraft carrier, Melbourne, which Australia is now getting.
The most recent attacks on H.M.A.S. Sydney have repeated the charge that ships of this class are obsolete. I have ascertained that Great Britain is holding up the construction of ships because of shortage of funds. I am satisfied, from my inquiries on each occasion that this story has been raised, that Sydney is one of the most modern ships of her class.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works and Housing. In view of the ever-increasing cost of home building, which renders it difficult for the average man to aspire to home ownership, will the Minister give consideration to increasing the £2,000 limit on loans granted by the. War Service Homes Division? Victorian building societies recently raised their maximum loan amount to £2,250, and similar action in relation to war service homes would be greatly appreciated by ex-servicemen.
– Other honorable members have asked questions similar to that which the honorable member has just asked, and I cannot do more than repeat what I have said previously. The matter has received due consideration. I cannot give the honorable member any reason to believe that the present limit can be increased in the immediate future. It was raised to the present figure only about fifteen months ago. I do not believe that any hardship is being caused by the retention of the present limit or that any more houses could be built as the result of increasing it.
Opposition members interjecting ,
– Is the Minister for Works and Housing able to furnish any information about whether the lag. in housing throughout Australia is being overtaken, or whether the reverse is the case? If the reverse is the case, is the Minister prepared to take up with his colleague, the Minister for Immigration, the advisability of restricting the inflow of immigrants to Australia until such time as the housing needs of people already in Australia have been met?
– The construction rate of local housing’ in the last twelve months was about 10 per cent, more than it was for the previous year. The lag in housing is being slowly overtaken. The honorable member is probably aware that, in addition to encouraging the erection of locally built houses, the Government is also encouraging the State governments, by way of a subsidy of £300 a house, to import increasing numbers of prefabricated houses. About 10,500 such houses are already on order, and there is every indication that that figure will be exceeded as time goes on. In addition to that, the Government is encouraging the importation’ of building materials that are in short supply in Australia. The last figures that I have seen show that building materials are being imported at the rate of about £35,000,000 worth a year.
– Order! . Too many interjections are being made by honorable members on my left.. If they do not cease, I shall ask honorable members who again offend in that respect to leave the chamber until questions without notice are concluded. Honorable members must allow Ministers to answer questions without interruption.
– In the absence of the Treasurer, I ask the Prime Minister whether in view of the Government’s decision that increases of salaries which it recently announced would be granted to justices of the High Court and to judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and conciliation commissioners are to be made retrospective to the 1st July last, will he give consideration to making retrospective to the same date the increases that it proposes to make in age, invalid, widows and war pensions?
– As the question that the honorable member has asked depends upon a certain assumption of fact on which I am not clear, I shall treat his question as having been placed on the notice-paper and shall ask the Treasurer to answer it to-morrow.
– Some time ago notice was published in the Gazette of the Government’s intention to acquire land compulsorily in Fitzroy-street, St. Kilda, as a site for a post office. As the facilities that are now provided for the public and the staff at the St. Kilda Post Office are inadequate, can the PostmasterGeneral say when some relief may be expected? Oan he indicate when telephone subscribers in ‘ St. Kilda and Elwood who are attached to the Windsor exchange may expect automatic facilities to bc provided at that exchange?
– The acquisition of land in Fitzroy-street, St. Kilda, for a site for a post office and telephone exchange has been occupying the attention of the department for some time. As the honorable member has said, notice of acquisition has been served on the various property owners concerned. However, as the department does not wish to act arbitrarily in the matter, it is negotiating with the owners with a view to agreeing upon terms that they regard as being equitable. If those negotiations fail the usual procedure of referring the matter to arbitration will be followed. The department fully recognizes the need for .a new post office and telephone exchange in Fitzroy-street, St. Kilda, and is preparing plans for a modern structure which will provide ‘ for not only the requirements of the public but also proper amenities for the staff which are now badly needed. At this stage, owing to the very large number of other works which the. department must undertake throughout Australia, I cannot make any promise about when that work will be completed.
– In the absence of the Treasurer I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Treasurer has received many protests against the Government’s decision to impose savage sales tax charges of 33J per cent, in many instances and 25 per cent, in other instances? I refer in particular to the heavy imposts on little boys’ mouth organs and their mothers’ lipsticks ? If such pro- tests have been received, will the right honorable gentleman give immediate consideration to leaving the women and children alone and to obtaining from the wealthy interests which finance the Liberal .party and the Australian Country party during election campaigns the tax revenue that he wants in order to stop the flood of inflation?
– Insofar as the honorable member’s remarks included a question, I can only say for myself that I have received no such protests.
– I was speaking about the Treasurer.
– I shall ask the Treasurer when he arrives later to-day whether he has received any complaints. I. am sure that he will be glad to give the information to the honorable member.
– Has the attention of the Minister -acting for the Minister for External Affairs been drawn to the terms of a cablegram which was sent on the 21st December, 1941, from the Prime Minister of Great Britain to the Prime Minister of Australia .and which was published recently by Mr. Churchill? The passage to which I refer is as follows: -
Will the Minister have inquiries made and inform the House of any suggestions that were made by the Australian Government at that time for a bargain with Stalin involving the forcible transfer of large populations against their will into Communist spheres? I consider that this question is of paramount importance because-
– Order ! The honorable member has explained his question sufficiently.
Mr.WENTWORTH. - May I make one point by way of explanation?
– I shall treat the honorable member’s question as being on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited pays airport dues or other direct charges for the use of airports or air route facilities at Honolulu or San Francisco in United States territory or at Vancouver in Canadian territory. Do Pan-American World Airways or Canadian Pacific Airlines pay airport dues or other landing charges for airport facilities for their aircraft at Kingsford Smith airport, Mascot, Sydney?
– The position is exactly the same as it was during the incumbency of the honorable gentleman when he was the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– In view of the importance of the growing of cotton, flax and tobacco in Australia, will the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me of the action, if any, that is now being taken by the Government to increase the production of those commodities in this country?
– I suggest to the honorable gentleman that he repeat his question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture who will be back in Australia in a few days’ time.
– Is the Minister for
Health aware that hundreds of persons in New South Wales who have been found by X-ray examinations under the Government’s scheme to be suffering from tuberculosis have to return to their families to reside because there is no accommodation available for them for the treatment of that disease? Does the Minister realize that many of the sufferers have large families of small children, who run a grave risk of contracting the infection from them ? Can he say whether he has any scheme in mind to overcome the danger outlined?
– A scheme introduced by the previous Government provided for extensive financial assistance by the Australian Government -to State governments to enable them to build homes for sufferers from tuberculosis. Unfortunately, the Government of New South Wales did not choose to participate in the scheme until comparatively recently, and then agreed to do so only after I pointed out to its members, the loss that they were suffering by nonparticipation in the scheme. The provision of buildings to accommodate sufferers from tuberculosis is a matter entirely for State governments.
– Can the Minister for Health advise the House whether anything has been done to take advantage of the experiments conducted by a young South Australian doctor in connexion with the treatment, by injections of common salt, for that distressing, and often fatal, ailment amongst children known as pink disease? Will the Minister say whether the Government has furnished any assistance to encourage the conduct of the experiments, and, if so, what form that assistance has taken?
– The experiments made by the doctor referred to were very satisfactory, and the treatment recommended by him is being applied extensively in medical practice.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that reports indicate that of the very limited number of free lifesaving drugs made available to the public under the present Government scheme, many of them cannot be obtained because they are in short supply? If that is bo, will the Minister say what arrangements have been made to ensure that adequate supplies of drugs that are in short supply shall be made available to the general public?
– When the scheme was introduced it was known that the drugs referred to by the honorable member were in. short supply not only in Australia but also throughout the world. For that reason the regulations concerning the prescription of those drugs require that a special notation shall be made by doctors on prescriptions in which they are included, failing which the drugs will not be supplied. Since then it has also been “ decided that certain drugs shall only be supplied after consultation between doctors or as the result of permission from a special committee that is being established for the purpose in each capital city.
– A patient would be dead before that procedure could be complied with.
– Since the Government which was supported by the honorable member and was in office for eight years did nothing about the matter, it ill behoves him to complain about it now. Everything is being -done to conserve the supply of drugs in short supply so that they shall be available for the treatment of complaints for which they are specially suited. Discussions have taken place with wholesale importers of drugs in an effort to expedite the despatch to Australia of drugs from overseas. I can assure honorable members that 9!) per font, of the wholesale drug houses, doctors and pharmacists” are making certain that the drugs are used as effectively as possible.
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, concerning the matter of lobbying, which was raised in the House last week, and 1. suggest that the matter is somewhat urgent because of the increasing pressure that is being brought to bear on honorable members on both sides of the House by various organizations which send representatives to Canberra for that purpose. As a first step towards discouraging lobbyists, I suggest that you ban visitors from entering the lobbies unless they do so by appointment with honorable members. Will yon also take steps to prevent honorable members from being button-holed by persons in the lobbies who come here to advance particular interests ?
– I agree with the honorable member that the practice referred to by him is being engaged in. I do not know what action I can take to prevent it. However, I shall look into the matter to see whether there is anything I can do and will communicate with the honorable member later.
Mi. HAYLEN.- Is the Minister for Immigration aware that in Europe there are many volksdeutsche who are more Nazi in sentiment than persons born in Germany? Is it a. fact that the Minister proposes to bring many thousands of such people to this country during the next f(-w years and, if so, will he assure the ‘ House that special precautions will be taken in the screening of such people? Will he also undertake to place all the facts before the House and permit us to debate the matter?
– As I have frequently informed honorable members in recent months, because of the tapering off of the displaced persons scheme, the Government has been examining the possibility of bringing to Australia, under suitable selection schemes, migrants from European countries to make up the total required under the immigration programme. .Some consideration has been given to bringing German migrants, including German nationals and volksdeutsche, to this country. I know of the criticisms that have been made of tha volksdeutsche and I do not doubt that many people are concerned about their proposed admission to Australia because, undoubtedly, many of the volksdeutsche are ultra-nationalist in their tendencies’ and their history shows that they would be undesirable migrants. It is dangerous, and perhaps mischievous, to generalize on those matters. The same strict systems of selection which marked the displaced persons scheme under the previous Government would be applied, with perhaps some strengthening in the case of the selection from German nationals or members of the particular group referred to. The methods to be employed will have to be fully examined by the Immigration Advisory Council which, as the honorable member- knows, is a very representative body, and we shall ourselves take every precaution to ensure that only people whom we regard as suitable selections for Australia, are brought in under any such scheme.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service give any information to the House regarding the nature of the statement made by the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court this morning in respect of the basic wage?
– I regret that I have not the full details of that matter before me at the moment. I can tell the honorable member and the House, however, that in the course of a statement made, I understand, on behalf of the court, the Acting Chief Judge intimated that the basic wage increase would operate from the beginning of the first pay period in December. He also indicated that, whereas in the past there had been some variation in the amount of prosperity loading as between various industries or sections of industry, henceforth there would be a uniform amount of 6s. a week which would be regarded as the prosperity loading. He referred also to the desirability of the representatives of employers and employees conferring to see to what extent other variations of the wage would come into their calculations - that is, variations other than needs and prosperity loading. It was considered that in view of the knowledge of employers and employees of the views of the court, and the general history of this matter, there should not be very great difficulty about the two sides reaching agreement on what should be the effect of the court’s decision. The Acting Chief Judge intimated that the court would regard itself bound, as a matter of urgency, to consider any case where agreement could not be reached, and where arbitration was considered desirable to have matters determined in order that the payment of the increase could commence at the beginning of the first pay period in December. That is all the information that I can give to the honorable member on the matter, but if he cares to see me later I shall pass any further information that I may obtain on to him.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to make a statement to the House regarding the improvement that has taken place in the dollar position during the last ten months ? Oan he give any indication of whether and when dollar restrictions are likely to be eased in the near future?
– I shall consult the Treasurer to see whether it is possible to make any statement on that matter. It certainly would not be very easy to forecast the date on which complete convertibility could be achieved, but I shall consult the Treasurer, as I have said, and see how much information can be put on record.
– Can the Minister for Immigration state how many new Australians are qualified medical practitioners who are debarred from practising in Australia until they have completed a three-years’ course in an Australian university? Will the Minister give consideration to the allocation of such people to employment of a nature that would make it possible for them to attend a university to qualify for local practice, and ensure that they are not placed in positions in remote country areas?
– I shall be glad to obtain - the information requested by the honorable member and to supply it to him as soon as possible.
– by leave - This week the new, reconstructed House of Commons will be declared open. As honorable members know, the Speaker of this House is representing us on that notable occasion. The House of Commons building, in particular the chamber in which members sat, was, of course, a relatively modern structure. It was, in fact, bombed and destroyed during the war and it has been rebuilt very largely on the lines of the bombed chamber. The area upon which it is built is, I suppose, the most historic area in the whole of the English-speaking world. Immediately adjoining it is
Westminster Hall, which dates back to the twelfth century, in which Simon d.e Montfort’s Parliament and also the Model Parliament sat, and in which for centuries the parliamentary system of government was fashioned. Perhaps I should add to that that opening off Westminster Hall for centuries were the Courts of Law. This was at a time when the common law of England was being fashioned - a common law which has now spread over the greater portion of the English-speaking world and which forms part of our very rich heritage. It is an historic event which will occur this week. Once more, the House of Commons will have been established in its own home and there will gather some of the most famous men in the world - men who have contributed tremendously to the parliamentary tradition. We, ourselves, have the greatest of all good reasons for being interested in this event because we are the inheritors of their system. There is scarcely one rule, one practice, or one custom in this House which has not been inherited from the House of Commons. The whole parliamentary history of the world has, in fact, proceeded from that historic place. So it is very desirable that this Parliament, of all parliaments, should send to. the .Speaker and the members of the House of Commons a message of goodwill and appreciation on so remarkable an occasion.
The chair that Mr. Speaker will occupy in the new House of Commons will have been given by the Commonwealth of Australia to mark this occasion so that there is a reciprocal interest once more since the chair in which you are now sitting, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is a replica of the original chair which stood in the House of Commons in the nineteenth century, and it was presented to this House by the House of Commons at Westminster.
It is also a matter of interest that the original suggestion that the new Speaker’s Chair should be presented to the House of Commons by this Parliament came from a’ former member of this House who conveyed the suggestion to me in a letter whilst I was Prime Minister on a previous occasion. I refer to Mr. E. A. Mann, who was formerly the honorable member for Perth.
I moye -
That Mr. Speaker be asked to convey the following message to the right honorable the Speaker of the House of Commons: - “ We, the members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to offer our affectionate greetings and good wishes to the right honorable the Speaker and members of the House of Commons on the occasion of the opening of their reconstructed and historic House. In peace and in .war the voice of freedom has for centuries spoken from Westminster to all the sons and brothers of the race whereever they might be. May that voice be heard for ever.”.
– I second the motion that has been moved by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the greetings of honorable members of this House be conveyed to Mr. Speaker and members of the House of Commons and that they be congratulated on again being able to occupy the House which, I hope, will prove, as the old House of Commons did, to be one of the citadels of free speech in which all men’s views may be freely expressed. As the Prime Minister has said, this is indeed a very memorable occasion and honorable members of the Opposition and I desire to join with the members of the Government and all honorable members in conveying to the Speaker of the House of Commons, through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, our very best wishes and our hopes that the traditions and the characteristics that marked the old House of Commons will continue in the new abode.
The right honorable gentleman spoke of the structural aspects of the new House of Commons. I am more concerned with the traditions - the right of free speech and the right to express views in a world which, to-day, is filled with intolerance, hate, and loathing.. I hope that in that House men will have the opportunity, as they did in days gone by, even during the most difficult times in the nation’s history, of freely expressing, to the people of the United Kingdom and to the world the views that they hold, however objectionable those views may be to other members.
On behalf of the Opposition I join with the Prime Minister in conveying greetings to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
- (Mr. Adermanm) . - Before putting the question, perhaps I may be permitted, as the temporary occupant of a Speaker’s chair similar to the gift chair that has been placed in the new House of Commons, to join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) in the sentiments that they have expressed. I feel that the chair which I occupy and which, as the Prime Minister has said, was donated to us, will often lead our thoughts to the Speaker’s chair in the new House of Commons and will remind us of the proud and courageous way in which the British parliamentary institution and the British people expressed themselves in the darkest hours of the war period. May I express the hope that our gift chair will endure for many years and be a silent witness of deliberations which will bring peace and understanding to all peoples of the world.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
. -by leave - On the 27th September the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) asked me whether the report of the interdepartmental committee relating to the development of the Callide coal-field could be made public. In reply to this question I mentioned various reasons why I considered it inexpedient to make the report public. However, I promised to endeavour to obtain a general statement on the Callide coal position. I have consulted my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and the Minister forFuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), and we have jointly prepared such a statement. I now lay on the table of the House the following paper : -
Callide Coiil - Production and Marketing - Statement by Treasurer. Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport and Ministor for Supply.
Debate resumed from the 12th October, 1950(vide page 798), on motion by Mr. Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I do not propose to discuss the matter before the House at very great length. I was rather surprised that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) did not give us an opportunity a few days ago to discuss this matter. As the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) is in the House to-day, I shall again raise the matter which was the subject of debate last week. That is the Government’s proposal for the institution in Australia of a system of television. The Opposition feels very strongly that the Government is not proceeding as rapidly with the introduction of television into this country as it should be doing. It was the intention of the previous Government to establish television stations in all our capital cities, but according to a recent speech of the Postmaster-General this Government is not in favour of that proposal and is now calling tenders for the installation of a television transmitter in one capital city only. Although it may be claimed by Ministers that television’ is not essential. I regard it as very desirable that the preliminary work of the previous Government for the introduction of a television system should be carried on. In America there are about 150 transmitting stations, and despite the widespread discussions about rearmament, consideration has been given to applications for another 350 stations. In the United Kingdom, where materials and man-power are in just as great demand as they are in Australia, the Government is encouraging the installation of five transmitters.
– I think that there arc only two transmitters in operation at the moment.
– I believe that there are more in the course of construction, and that the work on them is being speeded up. The important point about television in the United Kingdom is that the Government has not delayed in installing it. Five transmitters are required to relay television programmes throughout the British isles. There are already transmitters in operation at London and Birmingham. There is to be a west counties transmitter which is in the course of construction, a northern transmitter and a Scottish transmitter. It is proposed that the latter three shall be in operation by 1952. I believe that despite the demand for materials, and I fully appreciate the arguments raised by honorable members on the Government side of the House, this new system of entertainment and education is of very great importance and cannot be built into an efficient operating medium in one or two years. It will take at least three years, and perhaps four or five years, before television will be generally satisfactory. It is necessary to train a considerable number of technical men for the operation of the system. I do not know the full reasons for the Government’s delay, but the Postmaster-General had something to say of a derogatory nature about television. I suppose such things could be said about radio, horse racing, the theatre and some of the literature on our bookstalls. But television is the most modern form of entertainment and education. In America there are about 7,000,000 individual licences for television receivers, and in the United Kingdom 500,000 licences are current. Unless this Government is prepared to move on as fast as possible, and a lot faster than it has been moving during the last ten months, we shall not have television in Australia until the dim and distant future. I can. understand the difficulty of arranging for television broadcasts to country districts because of the limiting factors of expense and population, but there is no reason why they cannot be arranged for our capital cities. Moreover, the materials used for the building up of a television system are not of the same type as might be used in housing. I do not know what motive the Government has for delaying the introduction ‘of television, but I believe that we shall lag behind the rest of the world if we do not move fast.
I do not understand why a television transmitter should bc established in Sydney and not one in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. I certainly do not see why a transmitter should not be established in the capital city of isolated Western Australia. I hope that the Government will reconsider the proposal it is now intending to give effect to, which is the installation in Australia of only one transmitter. I ako hope that whatever it does in the matter of television, it will try to cover the field proposed to be covered by the previous Government. There is no reason why Australia should lag behind the rest of the world in this most modern form of entertainment and education.
I now turn to the duplex system of telephones. There was a time when the Postal Department pressed people to become telephone subscribers. Nowadays many people who have telephones do not use them to a great extent. However, many such telephones are essential because of the isolation of the subscribers, or because of the likelihood of sickness in families so situated through ill health or numbers that it is impossible for them quickly to get in touch with a doctor or hospital without using a telephone. I did not quite understand the PostmasterGeneral’s reference to numbers of calls when he was dealing with the relative merits of applications for the installation of telephones.
– I was referring to outward calls.
– Although small businesses, for instance, may require to make only a limited number of outward calls, they may receive a considerable number of inward calls. I take it that the Postmaster-General was not dealing with the needs of small businesses, but with those of private subscribers only.
– That is so.
– I hope that the department will not be unduly harsh in its assessment of the merits of applications, particularly in instances in which it can be shown that an urgent need exists for the installation of a telephone. Whilst I realize that recourse is being had to the duplex system in an endeavour to catch up with the lag in telephone installations, I assure him that duplex telephones are not entirely satisfactory from the viewpoint of subscribers. I base that statement upon a number of instances that have been brought to my notice. The department should not regard the duplex system as being something that will give complete satisfaction to subscribers.
– The duplex system is to be introduced only as a temporary expedient.
– I shall be satisfied so long as the department does not get the impression that if sufficient duplex telephones are installed the position will be satisfactory. Human nature being what it is, many persons, particularly those who have not very much to do, are inclined to occupy an unduly lengthy time when making or receiving telephone calls. I do not apply that observation to females only, because a few males have telephoned me on occasions and I have had a job to get them off the line. In one instance it took me 47 minutes to get a male off my line. Whilst the duplex system will meet a temporary need, I urge the Postmaster-General to ensure that it will not be regarded as being completely satisfactory to subscribers and will not be relied upon as anything but a temporary expedient.
– I give that assurance te the right honorable member.
– I have been impressed with the department’s plans for the installation of automatic telephone exchanges in rural districts. The Labour Government realized the importance and value of providing that amenity in country areas. I have had an opportunity to watch several rural automatic exchanges in operation and to appreciate their value to the communities that they serve. In country districts local postmasters are generally non-official postmasters and the installation of automatic telephone exchanges involves them in a reduction of their allowances. Automatic telephone exchanges have proved to be entirely satisfactory in every isolated area in which they have been installed. There can be no doubt that adequate telephone services constitutes one of the greatest amenities that -can be provided to persons living in remote country districts. I emphasize their value purely as an amenity as well as their utilitarian value. That amenity is widely availed of particularly during week-ends, whilst country residents are greatly re-assured by the knowledge that in an emergency they can get through to a continuous exchange.
I do not propose to deal with all of the new works for which provision is being made under this measure. We shall have an opportunity to examine those works in detail when the budget debate is resumed. I shall be content to confine my remarks at this juncture to the three matters that I have mentioned. I repeat that I do not feel very happy about the Government’s attitude towards the development of television. Apparently, it does not fully appreciate the value of television as an amenity and entertainment Or as an adjunct to education. I believe that during the next ten or fifteen years tremendous strides will be made throughout the world in the development of television. Therefore, one cannot regard as satisfactory the Government’s plan to establish a transmitter in Sydney in the near future and, apparently, leave other capital cities, particularly those in the outer States to wait for ten, or fifteen, years before a television transmitter is established to serve their communities. With respect to automatic exchanges, the PostmasterGeneral might be able offhand to indicate the number that the department is planning to install in country districts. The Treasurer spoke about the Government’s long-range plans for various departments. The Labour Government evolved a plan of works to be undertaken for the Postal Department. It laid down plans for works proposed to be undertaken during the ensuing three years at a total cost of £40,000,000. Having regard to the degree to which costs have risen since, I realize that that programme will have to be revised. The Labour Government introduced a system under which the various departments, including the Department of Defence, would work to definite works programmes and would thus know precisely their commitments for a certain number of years ahead. Such a plan was laid down in respect of practically all public works. Its object was to enable the various departments to appreciate better what they could do within a given period. I dc not suggest that the estimates that were drawn up by the previous Government in respect of public works would be adequate in the light of presentday higher costs. Indeed, when I was Treasurer and was furnished with a set of estimates I usually added 50 per cent, to the totals. It is a long time since I have seen any estimate for public work prove to be accurate. In fact, if the actual cost worked out within 25 per cent, of the original estimate it was a good effort. It would not be possible to carry out capital works to-day at anything like the cost for which similar works could have been carried out a few years ago. Estimates in respect of the works and services that are covered by this measure will have to be altered considerably. The recent basic wage judgment, the increase of the “ C “ series cost of living index and other factors have affected the issue. The most that we can hope for is that the programme originally outlined on behalf of the Government will be carried out. I am disturbed by the Prime Minister’s statement on a certain occasion about cutting down on certain works. I did not know that the Government had on its list any projects that could not be regarded as being of an urgent character. Certainly that was not so when I was Treasurer. Public works undertakings of various kinds were surveyed by a special committee and the Co-ordinator-General of Works usually made recommendations concerning proposed State public works. Therefore, I was astonished to hear that the Prime Minister had been talking about cutting down on public works. None of the undertakings of which I know could be considered to be anything but urgent and essential to the development of the country.
– They are all urgent but we are hampered by our limited resources.
– I shall not discuss that aspect of the matter now because I am sure that other honorable members will take the opportunity to do so at a later stage. I have strong views about developmental works. I readily understand that undertakings planned by the Postal Department cannot be carried out as early as was expected because of difficulties caused by shortages of man-power and materials. However, I hope that the department will carry on with the extension of telephone services and the establishment of new exchanges. Many people may describe the telephone as a luxury, but to country residents it is an amenity that is greatly appreciated. I shall leave the general subject of the development of public works programmes to be dealt with, during the budget debate.
– The purpose of this bill is to provide funds to enable a number of public works to be carried out) particularly in connexion with the development of telephone and postal facilities. The Government intends to push ahead during the current financial year with all works for which it has the necessary resources of materials and manpower. It would be of no use to try to stretch our plans beyond the limits that are set by those resources.
– The Prime Minister talked about a reduction of public works.
– The problem is one of estimating the works that can be done and then, instead of having a large number of incomplete projects throughout the country, pressing on with a lesser number of projects that can be completed. This measure will provide funds for the extension of Postal Department services. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) will be glad to know that the list of works includes a very substantial building for his home town of Bathurst, which will cost more than £300,000. I mention that fact because some honorable members seem to think that because plans have been made for an extension of the telephone exchange building at Lismore in the electorate that I represent, other electorates have been neglected. Nobody is likely to accuse me of giving political preference to the Leader of the Opposition.
– When did the honorable gentleman decide that the work at Bathurst should be undertaken?
– The project was undertaken many months ago. The plans have been drawn and tenders will be called soon.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about rural automatic telephone exchanges. When the present Government came into office, there were about 200 rural automatic exchanges operating throughout Australia. We now have on order about 650 such exchanges. They are being imported in a steady flow. Therefore, there will be a considerable expansion of such facilities in country districts. I agree with the right honorable gentleman that automatic exchanges play a very important part in country life because they enable people in remote localities to enjoy the benefits of a 24-hour service instead of a service that closes down at 6, 8 or 9 p.m. daily. The installation of rural automatic exchanges represents one of the most important steps in the improvement of living conditions in the country. I also agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the use of duplex services must not be treated as a permanent solution of the telephone problem. However, unless we persuade or compel people to share telephone lines which they monopolize now many applicants will have no hope of getting new telephones within the next two or three years Many applicants have been waiting already for four or five years. The shortages of equipment, special apparatus, cables and technicians are so severe that individual services cannot be provided for all applicants for a long time to come. In order to illustrate the difficulties that confront the department, I refer honorable members to the situation at Northcote, in Melbourne, which is typical of the congestion in many centres where there are long waiting lists of telephone applicants. At Northcote, 2,300 residences with exclusive telephone services are connected to the local exchange. There are 1,354 outstanding applications for connexion to that exchange. I had a survey of the calling rate made in that area and I have ascertained that 1.756 of the 2,300 telephones have an average of two outward calls daily. Inward calls were not recorded. The only disadvantage - and it is a considerable disadvantage at times - of the duplex service is that one subscriber cannot use the line while the other subscriber is using it. In all other respects the duplex service is as secret and as convenient as the ordinary service. One subscriber does not know what number the other subscriber is dialling, and only the called set rings in answer to an inward call. I agree that considerable inconvenience and annoyance may be caused if one subscriber talks for a long time and thus monopolizes the line. The department proposes not to connect small businesses or office? to duplex services. That suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition has been forestalled. Only subscribers whoso calling rate has been established to be very low will be obliged to have duplex services. Such people will not be greatly inconvenienced. Unfortunately all of us must be inconvenienced at times, if necessary, for the general good of the community.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government had delayed the introduction nf television in Australia and was not going ahead with its television plans as fast as the Labour Government had been prepared to go. I .shall remind the right honorable gentleman of a few facts. The fi r?t is that the Broadcasting Committee recommended on two occasions, first when under the cb airmanship of Senator Gibson and later when under the chairmanship of Senator Amour, that wo should go slow with television in the initial stages and that the first station should be of an experimental character. Both reports were identical on that matter. The Chifley Government proceeded most cautiously, as was only proper. In 1947, it sent Mr. Fanning, the then Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, abroad to inquire into developments in television, and he made a recommendation in the following year to the effect that television should be introduced into Australia as soon as was practicable. A submission was made to the Chifley Government in which it was suggested that two stations should be erected. The Cabinet, after leaving the matter on the plate for six or nine months, decided that six stations should be built. Tenders for that work were called in Australia, and abroad, and on the 29th August, 1949, they were laid on the Cabinet table with a. recommendation from the PostmasterGeneral of the day. Senator Cameron, that certain of them should be accepted.
– That statement is not entirely accurate.
– The relevant document is in roy possession, and I have stated the facts as they have been given to me. On the 29th August, 1949, a submission and a recommendation were laid o:: the Cabinet table to the effect that tenders for six stations, one in each capital city, should be accepted. That stage was reached approximately three arid a half months before the Chifley Government went out of office, yet no action was taken in that matter. I do not know the reason for that delay, but the fact remains that the tenders were not accepted.
– Certain financial matters had to be examined by the Postmaster-General’s Department and by the Treasury.
– Whatever the reason might have been, those tenders were not accepted. When I became the Postmaster-General, I found a submission that had been made to the preceding Government, and I had to re-examine it. Naturally, because this subject is very important, I took action to investigate it. Anything that I have done is completely in accord with the technical and other advice that has been tendered to me as Postmaster-General. As the result of inquiries which we have made abroad, we have been advised very strongly to go slowly on this matter at the moment. The chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission wrote a letter a few days ago to the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Boyer, with whom he had been in consultation in America, in which he stated that great changes were taking place in television, and in which he told us that we should be well advised to go ahead very cautiously.
– Such changes will be taking place during the next quarter of a century.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition. The Government has called for tenders, the closing date for which is, I think, the 15th November next, for the erection of a television station in Sydney. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the arrangement of programmes for telecasts is not such a simple matter as is the arrangements of programmes for radio broadcasting. American and British stations, particularly in the initial stages, found it extremely difficult to obtain suitable programme material for television performances. I shall briefly describe the difference in that respect between a radio broadcast and a telecast. Radio actors who are to take part in the broadcast of a play are not required to attend a series of rehearsals. Each actor has a copy of the script, from which he reads his lines before the microphone, and he does not have to appear in costume. But the actors, who are to appear in a telecast are required to learn their lines before the performance, and they must wear appropriate costumes. They are obliged to attend rehearsals in exactly the same manner as if they were participating in a stage presentation. Consequently, the difference between the cost of producing a broadcast and a telecast programme respectively is substantial. I am advised by all who have studied the subject that we in Australia have not yet the material, the general knowledge, or the technical “ know-how “ for television. Indeed, television is really a motion picture business rather than a radio business, and we have to acquire experience of it in the same way as Great Britain in particular has acquired it.
– And America.
– I have not had an opportunity to see television programmes in those countries, but I am advised that the telecasts in the United Kingdom are far superior in their general character and their beneficial effects on the community to those of America.
– I do not, agree with that view.
– Perhaps it is entirely a matter of opinion. The British system has developed slowly. The first television programme was made from the Alexandra Palace in 1936.
– The slow rate of progress was due to the war.
– Television programmes were made for three years before the outbreak of World War II., in September, 1939, and the advance in that new field was very steady. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the war interrupted developments in television in the United Kingdom, but I remind him that it is only in the last couple of years that any real expansion has occurred there in this new form of entertainment. Although the population of the United Kingdom exceeds 40,000,000, there are only 300,000 television sets throughout that country.
– Approximately 500,000 licences have been issued.
– The number may have increased slightly in the last few months. Only a month or so ago, not more than two television stations were in operation in the United Kingdom. According to the Leader of the Opposition, other stations are being erected, and may be completed by 1952. What we in Australia are doing with television is completely in line with the policy that has been adopted by the Canadian Government. Canada has all the advantages, from being next-door to the United States of America, of seeing and observing the mistakes which, it believes, that country has made with television. Canada is- building only two television stations, one in Montreal and the other’ in Toronto, and they are not yet in operation. The Canadian Government is not granting licences at the present time to any private commercial interests to operate television, although its broadcasting law allows it to do so. It considers that Canadians should go cautiously in introducing this new system, and should acquire their knowledge from the developments in the United States of America and in other parts of the world. We in Australia are doing, in proportion to our population, what Canada is doing. That country has a population of between 13,000,000 and 14,000,000, and we have a population of approximately 8,000,000. The Canadians are not erecting television stations in Quebec, Saskatchewan, Vancouver and other large cities, but are confining their activities to Montreal and Toronto. As I have mentioned, the Canadians have infinitely more technical advantages than we have in this matter, because they are able to learn from the experience of the United States of America, and have no dollar problems, such as we have, in securing equipmentYet their advice to us is to proceed cautiously.
I agree with the policy of the Chifley Government that we in Australia should go quietly indeed with television. The preparation of submissions and recommendations relative to its introduction into Australia occupied from 1946 until 1949, and the Chifley Government went out of office without making a decision on the matter. We have made a decision now. We have called for tenders, and have decided that a television station shall be erected in Sydney. When that station is in operation, and when we have acquired the technical knowledge, we propose gradually to extend the service. A station will be erected in Melbourne, and, later, stations will be built in other capital cities. However, it will be a long time before country people will have the advantage of television. The constituents of the Leader of the Opposition, who live in Bathurst, and my constituents, who live in Lismore and Murwillumbah, will have to wait for ten or fifteen years before they will be able to witness television programmes in their homes. The cost of establishing and maintaining television stations is enormous. I suppose that the cost of establishing the six television stations which the Chifley Government had under consideration would have been not less than £2,000,000, whilst the cost of maintaining them would have been not less than £2,500,000 annually. That charge would have been made on the budget, to which every taxpayer in Australia would have been contributing, yet only a very limited number of people would have had the advantage of seeing the television programmes from those stations. Those facts must also be taken into consideration. The House can be assured that the television station that it is proposed to construct in Sydney will be as modern as possible, and that after a recommendation has been made to the Government by its technical advisers about the acceptance of a tender to carry out the work, the construction of the station will not be delayed any more than is necessary.
– If the one that is to be erected in Sydney proves successful can the Minister say’ when the station proposed for Adelaide will be erected?
– All I can say about that matter is that the stations that are erected subsequently to those in Sydney and Melbourne will incorporate the benefit of any improvements of design that may be suggested by the experience of the operation of the first two stations. I do not believe that I can add anything to my remarks that will be of use to the House. The bill is perfectly straightforward, and proposes to appropriate from the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum of approximately £18,600,000 for Additions, New Works and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure, of which approximately £10,000,000 will be expended on postal works and services. Many of the projects included in that amount to be allocated to the Postal Department were planned by the preceding Administration in its programme for the rehabilitation of our postal services over a period of three years. When I became PostmasterGeneral I inherited that programme, and I thoroughly approve of it. I think that it represents a long-range and far-sighted plan, and the passage of this measure will enable effect to be given to it.
.- The bill seeks Supply for the months of November and December for Additions, New Works and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure. Let me say at once that I regret greatly that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) was unable, probably because of shortage of time, to give to the House in his second-reading speech full information concerning the projects for which provision is made in this measure. The schedule to the bill shows that of the aggregate sum of £18,592,000 that is proposed to be appropriated, £6,621,000 will be expended on various departments and services, £10,530,000 on business undertakings, and £1,441,000 on Territories of the Commonwealth. The appropriation proposed is very considerable, and will provide for expenditure at the rate of more than £2,000,000 a week. For that reason alone, I think that more detailed information concerning the projects on which the money is to be expended should have been made available by the Government. In the absence of such detailed information, the amounts proposed to be expended by various departments appear to be out of proportion to each other. For example, the Department of Works and Housing, the main function of which is to construct capital works, will expend only approximately £200,000, whilst the Department of Civil Aviation will expend approximately £1,500,000. The Department of National Development, the functions of which would involve, one would imagine, comparatively heavy expenditure, will receive only £173,000, whilst the Department of Immigration will expend £2,335,000.
More than half the total amount proposed to be expended will be absorbed by works for the Postmaster-General’s Department. I do not complain about that, because it’ is necessary that the activities of that department shall be greatly expanded if the people are to receive from it the services to which they are entitled.. No other department so closely touches the life of the people as does the Postmaster-General’s Department. Through it the people of Australia communicate, not only with one another, but also with people overseas. The greater feeling of social security experienced by the people to-day has led to a desire on their part for the provision of more amenities. However, the proposed expenditure of approximately £10,000,000 by that department in two months indicates that in a full year it would expend the huge sum of £60,000,000. If the Government contemplates such considerable expenditure on the Postal Department’s works programme, I submit that more’ detailed information should have been made available than has been supplied.
I was pleased to hear the comments made by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) concerning the provision of rural automatic telephone exchanges. There must be many hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of small country telephone exchanges, which play a vital part in providing communications in remote areas but which operate only for limited periods of the day. I know that in a great many country districts continuous telephone facilities are not available, and that in many instances no facilities at all are available on Sundays and public holidays. The replacement of the present manual exchanges by rural automatic exchanges will considerably improve the position in those areas. I was very pleased, therefore, when the PostmasterGeneral said that 650 rural automatic exchanges are now on order, but I trust that that number does not represent the limit of the department’s proposals. I think that the number on order should be doubled, and that plans should be put in hand to replace eventually all country manual exchanges by rural automatic exchanges. I need hardly point out to honorable members the part which such an improvement of telephone communication would play in developing country a i’cas.
I propose to say something now concerning the large number of applications for telephones which have not been disposed of by the department. When the
Postmaster-General was speaking, he furnished statistics of the number of applications still in hand from the Northcote telephone district in Victoria, which indicated that a very large number of applications has still to be dealt with. Of course, all country districts and city areas are experiencing similar delay in the provision of telephone facilities. I suppose that every mail received by any honorable member contains at least one letter from a constituent complaining of the hardship caused by the delay of the department in installing a telephone. The reasons for the delay are largely beyond the control of the department, and the departmental officials invariably exhibit the greatest courtesy, promptitude and efficiency in dealing with applications.
– They arc also the greatest excusers.
– That may be so, but undoubtedly they make every effort to overcome the difficulties that confront them. The real cause of the difficulty at present seems to be that whilst telephone instruments are available there is a most lamentable lack of telephone cable. Unfortunately, the Postmaster-General did not mention that matter in his speech, and I think that he should take an early opportunity to inform the House of the position concerning cable supplies and of the steps taken by the department to obtain a sufficient quantity of it. The Minister should also furnish definite information concerning the period for which prospective telephone subscribers will have to wait before they can ‘be connected to the system. Many of those who are awaiting the installation of telephones are badly in need of them. Many families include aged, sick and infirm people who frequently require urgent medical attention. It is pathetic to find that, notwithstanding the urgency of such cases, the shortage of cable prevents the installation of telephones in many homes in which they are urgently required. The result is that many persons are subject to mental worry, as well as physical sickness, which could be avoided by the installation of a telephone. I hope that the steps that the Department is taking to overcome the lag in installations will enable it, within a reasonable time, to make telephones available to many thousands of people now awaiting telephones throughout the Commonwealth.
During question time to-day an honorable member raised the matter of the Windsor telephone exchange in Victoria. Unfortunately, the answer that the PostmasterGeneral gave to that question did not cover the point raised by the honorable member. I therefore again stress the desirability of converting the Windsor telephone exchange from a manual to an automatic exchange. It was one of the first exchanges to be erected outside the City of Melbourne, and has always been a manual exchange. Considerable difficulty is experienced by subscribers, whose lines are connected to automatic exchanges in Melbourne, in making contact with subscribers attached to the Windsor exchange, who are, incidentally, at a great disadvantage compared with subscribers connected with automatic exchanges. J consider that the House should be given full information about the progress that is being made in the conversion of Windsor exchange from a manual to an automatic exchange, and I hope that at some time in the near future the Postmaster-General will be in a position to give such information to the House. It will certainly be of very great interest both to honorable members and to telephone subscribers now served by that exchange.
One other matter which I desire to raise is whether the amounts that are included in the schedule to this bill make any provision for an improvement of office accommodation for Commonwealth departments in Melbourne. Honorable members will doubtless recollect that some years ago the announcement was made that the Government was taking over au area of land bounded by Lonsdale, Exhibition, La Trobe and Spring streets, in Melbourne, for the purpose of erecting public offices on the site. The various Commonwealth departments in Melbourne are now scattered over a very large area, a number of them being housed in the Commonwealth Treasury buildings in Treasury-place. People wishing to transact business with different departments have to go to various parts of the city and, in some cases, some distance out of the city, in order to do so. As a typical illustration I mention the Albert Park reserve, which is 3 or 4 miles from the city and contains a large number of huts that, are being used by the Department of Air, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Navy. It is impossible for sufficient accommodation for those departments to be found in the city itself. Dm ring the war period they had to secure public land and erect buildings on it to enable them to carry out their very necessary and urgent business. The war has been over for five years, and to all intents and purposes it appears that for many years to come the buildings that have been, erected in the Albert Park reserve will continue to be used to house the administrative staffs of those three departments.
It seems a great pity that, when the land that I have referred to is being taken over right in the centre of Melbourne, where it would be possible to erect uptodate buildings for the purposes of government administration, steps have so far not been taken to enable such buildings to be erected. It is possible that money is provided in- the schedule to the bill for the purpose of carrying on or commencing the construction of those departmental premises. If that is the case, no indication has been given to the House of the fact, and as a result honor.orable members are unaware of whether this very important addition to Commonwealth buildings is likely to be made. I suggest to the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), who is now in charge of the House, that honorable members should be informed of what progress has been made in regard to either the drawing up of plans or for the commencement of construction of the buildings. The construction of the administrative block that was planned by the previous Government would enable the whole of the activities of the Commonwealth to be concentrated under one roof.
I turn now to the need for more Commonwealth buildings in some of the provincial cities in the States. I propose to deal with the position in the city of Bendigo, which is in my electorate, but I have no doubt that the same position applies in other provincial cities in other States. Bendigo has postal buildings that were erected many years ago when, I have no doubt, they were sufficient to meet the needs of the locality. Nowadays, however, as a result of the growth of the City of Bendigo, as well as of the increasing activities in which the Australian Government is engaged, those buildings are no longer sufficient even to house the staff associated with postal activities. As a result, different administrative sections of the postal department in Bendigo have had to seek accommodation outside the postal building. The Commonwealth Electoral Office in Bendigo is located in one set of buildings whilst the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Social Welfare are located in another group of buildings. Certain mail and telephone branches of the postal department are housed in still another building.
– They never pay any rates or taxes.
– That is not the point now at issue. The point is whether facilities are to be made available to enable the citizens of Australia easily to conduct their business with government departments in the capital cities and the larger provincial cities. Where the necessary facilities are not in existence, and no arrangements have been made for their provision sane and sound government demands that steps be taken to have more Commonwealth buildings erected. My remarks apply not only to Bendigo but, I believe, also to the constituencies represented by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pittard) and the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), as well as to constituencies similarly situated in the other States. I have taken the opportunity to put these matters before the House in the hope that steps will be taken to correct the position, and I sincerely hope that they will be given consideration by the Government in connexion with the expenditure of the amounts to be appropriated under this measure.
– I shall deal briefly with some of the matters raised by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). This measure, as the honorable gentleman has quite rightly pointed out, seeks the appropriation of an amount of £18,500,000 for a period of .Supply of only two months. It is not to be deduced, however, that the total expenditure on Commonwealth public works and services for the year would be arrived at by multiplying £18,500,000 by six. Actually the itemized amounts shown against some of the departments in the schedule are considerably less than one-sixth of the works and services programme for those departments for the year, whilst in other instances they are considerably more. It all depends on what works are initiated within the period of two months for which Supply is sought. The amount of £1S.500,000, multiplied by six, would give p. total of more than £130,000,000 for the vear.
– I think that the actual total figure is about £69,000,000 for the year.
– I am not sure that it is not so high as £80,000,000, but it is well below £100,000,000. The honorable member referred to two departments for which I am responsible. One is the Department of Works and Housing, in respect of which the amount proposed to be appropriated by the bill is £200.000. That depart ment, acts as a general contractor for all other government departments.
The sums required for the works that it carries out are shown not in its own estimates but against those of each of the client departments.
– Does that include the War Service Homes Division?
– No. War service homes come under my department, but have nothing to do with the amounts sought to bc appropriated by this bill. The estimated expenditure of £200,000 for two months, in respect of the Department of Works and Housing, represents the amount to be expended by the department on the construction and equipment of its own establishments, or that the department expects that it will have to expend in order to maintain its position as a very large contractor. That money will be required for the establishment of depots and stores and the purchase of equipment necessary to carry out the department’s great responsibilities. The total expenditure by the department for the year will come to considerably more than £20,000,000, but, as I have said, the major portion of that amount is shown in the estimates of the individual client departments concerned.
The estimates in respect of the Department of National Development amount to £173,000. That department does not itself carry out works of any consequence. It. regards itself, I believe quite properly, as a co-ordinating department and frequently as an originating department, but does not itself carry out the developmental works the estimates in respect of which are shown in its estimates. In other words, it works through State governments and other State instrumentalities which give effect to its developmental concept. Perhaps I may be allowed at a more appropriate time to give to the House additional information about the Department of National Development and how it is proposing to set about its task.
The honorable member for Bendigo asked whether the very ambitious scheme for a great ‘Public building, or series of public buildings, in Melbourne, was the subject of any provision in this bill. I do not think that it is. The scheme to erect such buildings in Melbourne is a bie: one. and was originated by the previous Government. It is now in the course of being reviewed by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride), who is generally responsible for Commonwealth property in conjunction with the officers of the Department of Works and Housing. I believe that the project as it stands is too ambitious for us to undertake at this stage. Its impact on the general housing and building programme in Victoria would be very severe, and it would react adversely on the ability of the Victorian Government to undertake that programme.
– The Victorian Government has never said so.
– Whether it has said so or not, what I have said is just ordinary common sense.
– Is it intended to relinquish that land?
– I do not believe so, but that matter concerns the Department of the Interior. The Department of the Interior and my department have, for some months, been reconsidering the whole plan. If it were to be proceeded with it would make such an impact on the building materials and labour market in Victoria that works of lesser magniture would have to stop.
– The Government still intends to retain the land ?
– I believe so, _ but I cannot commit myself on that point.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) AA6].I think that the Government’s attitude towards its building programme is entirely wrong. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), in his speech introducing this bill said - . . ‘ the Government has given the closest scrutiny to all works programmes and has made heavy reductions on original departmental proposals to ensure that there is no undue competition for scarce labour and materials.
The Chifley Government prepared a very ambitious programme for the erection of public offices in the capital cities so that the Commonwealth could relinquish a number of hired buildings for use for private business purposes. The Chifley Government also had a very large programme of public works which it intended to put into effect throughout the Commonwealth. The most noteworthy of these was the Snowy Mountains scheme. This Government has reduced by 20 per cent, the expenditure which the Chifley Government budgeted for in this financial year. That is entirely wrong. If the Government starts cutting down in that way it will not even complete the number of buildings which it has in its present programme. I consider that the Government should proceed with all the schemes of the previous Government because sufficient labour is becoming available to enable it to do so.
Government members have stated that it is difficult to get workers for various projects, apparently in an endeavour to give the impression that the labour force is diminishing. In actual fact, it is increasing. According to the June bulletin of the Commonwealth Statistician, the number of persons employed in building and construction work rose from 188,000 last December to 199.000 in May of this year. I believe that there has been an equally substantial increase since May. The previous government brought 170,000 immigrants into Australia last year from England and other countries and 60 per cent, of that total represented an addition to Australia’s labour force. The immigration programme is ever more ambitious this year, during which it is hoped that 200,000 new Australians will arrive. That would represent a surplus of arrivals over departures of about 175,000 so that the country should have many more additional constructional workers available. I am inclined to think that the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), who certainly works very hard in his office and who has assembled a number of public servants of high quality and merit, is prone to allow these difficulties to upset his judgment on occasions.
– Immigrants have to be housed, clothed and fed.
– Precisely. But we must take risks with their housing, clothing and feeding and .with other things that mav be necessary if we are to progress. When I was Minister for Immigration I was told that I should not bring immigrants into Australia because there were not enough houses for the people who were already in this country.
But I brought people here because I thought that that was a lesser risk to run than would be leaving the country underpopulated. We must take risks. We can never plan for every situation so well that we shall not make any mistakes or involve ourselves in any risks. The Minister for National Development said recently that we really need a planned economy. That sounded like heresy to me, coming from the right honorable gentleman. I though that he believed in free enterprise without controls of any sort. The Minister is now coming round to the view that we must have priorities and-
– There is a. difference between a planned economy and a controlled economy.
– I shall be glad to have the honorable member tell me later, in extenso, what the distinction is. J think it is a distinction without a difference. If the Government adopts the policy of reducing building construction it will not do a lot of things that it could do if it were to take the calculated risks involved.
This great city of Canberra would have developed much faster and to a far greater extent had it not suffered from the effects of two wars and one depression.
– Or had it been placed somewhere else.
– I do not think that its location would have mattered much because the two large aggregations of population in .Sydney and Melbourne would still have wanted to destroy ite importance. However, it has survived, in spite of a lot of vicissitudes. The depression presented an opportunity to build Canberra, extensively, but it was neglected. In the days of the Menzies Government several Cabinet meetings were held in Melbourne, because Ministers wanted to be out of Canberra as much as possible. The right honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Fadden) was Prime Minister for about 40 days and 40 nights and during that time Cabinet meetings were held in Sydney. Canberra has grown from a population of about 13,000 in 1939, to about 20,000 last year. Its population increased by about 2,000 last year and, of that number, 1,400 were new Australians. The Chifley Government planed to make Canberra a city of about 40,000 people within ten years and then it would have been a balanced city. At the present time, it is not. A big secretariat which the last Government started at some little distance from this Parliament House is making such progress that I think the -job will be finished in about ten years’ time if we are lucky. The Government must try to build Canberra completely in order to relieve the pressure on the capital cities of the States. Public servants who are housed in the capital cities instead of in Canberra constitute a serious problem to the civic authorities of those cities. I want those departments that should have been in Canberra years ago to be brought here. This Parliament has functioned in Canberra for 23 years, yet many important Commonwealth departments and offices are still in Melbourne and Sydney.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) spoke about the number of huts that had been erected in Albert Park. The Government should transfer the defence services to Canberra as quickly as possible so that the parks in Melbourne may be returned to the civic authorities and so that the homes now occupied by public servants may be made available to other people. The Government needs buildings of its own in capital cities. I hope that the 9^-acre block in Melbourne, in the selection of which I played an important part, will be built on and that the 2,000,000 acre-feet that will be made available will be fully occupied by the public servants who are, by no wish of their own, scattered all round the city of Melbourne instead of being concentrated in one area and thus enabled to function efficiently and to the advantage of the general public.
The Government bought a big block of land in Sydney bounded by Bent, Hunter, Phillip and Macquarie streets. Some progress should be made towards the erection of buildings on that land in this financial year. The previous Government planned extensions to Commonwealth offices in Brisbane and Perth. New buildings are needed in Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart as well as in Sydney for Ministers and honorable members and for the convenience of the public who want to have dealings with them. If the Government postpones all these projects for years it cannot be said to be facing up to the problems that confront it as it should do.
It was suggested recently that one television station would be sufficient for Australia. I consider that television stations should be erected in all capital cities simultaneously. They should be opened together and co-axial cable relays should be established between cities so that they could exchange programmes. A very naive argument was advanced as a reason why more television stations should not be constructed. It was that the discipline of children in the home is upset in America as they will not go .to bed because they want to view the television programme. It was suggested that one television station should be tried out on the city of Sydney and that if the populace of that city would stand it, it could be tried out on the other capitals in turn. I know that the people of Sydney are long-suffering. I know that they have had blackouts and washouts and every other form of suffering which the misdeeds of man and the dissatisfaction of Nature could visit upon them. But I do not believe that because television may have some evil effects the Government should erect only one station and that in Sydney.
I fear for the Snowy Mountains scheme. I am not sure that this Government is going to proceed with that schema with the same enthusiasm, enterprise and determination that, the Chifley Government showed and would have continued to show had it again been returned to office.
– Is it true that the Liberals boycotted the opening of the Snowy Mountains scheme?
– Yes. Opposition members in the last Parliament all boycotted the Snowy Mountains scheme’s opening function and I fear that they have developed a hostility towards it because they did not originate it.
– I was there.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) was there, and so was Senator George Rankin. But, generally, honorable members who now support the Government did not participate in the opening ceremony. The Government should not become obsessed with the idea that it is trying to do too much. It can never do too much. It should attempt as much as it possibly can. If something is held up, that is bad luck, but it must keep on as hard and as fast as it can. It must not start measuring the cloth and then make calculations in some other direction. We have been able to get through before and we shall be able to get through again. I am sorry that the Government has decided to reduce expenditure on this programme; it should have increased its expenditure. In the long run we shall realize that we have failed in this particular period of our history if we do not lay firm and solid foundations for all the works we shall need in this country, if in the future we are unfortunate enough to become involved in another war. If that is not done then when the time arrives for a great effort we shall not have the power which we could have had if we had shown the determination that we should show now.
– I subscribe to and encourage everything that will result in the progress of Australia and the benefit of its people. T agree that it is necessary for us to push on with the jobs that we think are necessary, but I find myself at variance with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) about the procedure to be adopted in regard to such works. The honorable member said that our labour force had increased from 188,000 to 199,000 in a period of six months. That may be so, and for that reason we can look forward to an increase of the number of our buildings and homes; but the honorable member for Melbourne should remember when discussing the building of Commonwealth offices and so on, that the basic materials for such buildings are not available. That is due to one cause only - under-production. That that is so is shown by the fact that during the last twelve months it has been necessary for Australia to import building material on a scale never before known. Cement and steel are fundamental building materials, yet our production of those components has fallen off to such a degree that recently we were confronted with the astounding necessity to import steel with which to build a bridge in the Newcastle district. Because of under-production we are not able to obtain the basic materials for our building programmes. Until some method is devised whereby materials can be produced in the correct order for the construction of those buildings we cannot hope to carry out the grandiose schemes envisaged by the honorable member for Melbourne. This Government would be doing an injustice to the people who need homes and other buildings if it endeavoured to carry out his suggestions. In industry and other spheres of business more important buildings are necessary than the Commonwealth offices which he suggested should be provided.
In this debate the sum of money allocated to the Postmaster-General’s Department has been mentioned. The only objection raised by the Opposition to the Governments television proposals is that we are proceeding too slowly and are experimenting with only one television station instead of six stations.
It is pleasing to honorable members to be informed of the introduction of the duplex system of telephone services. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) that in every instance when honorable members have requested assistance from the Deputy Directors of Posts and Telegraphs to obtain telephones for people urgently in need of them, very courteous replies have been given. Nevertheless the replies have always been courteous refusals. It seems incomprehensible that the department should find it impossible to supply telephones for which applications are made. It is an extraordinary state of affairs if the department is unable to supply telephones in any circumstances. With the introduction of the duplex system people urgently needing a telephone and having a high priority will have some justification for ‘anticipating its installation. I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) to give particular atten- tion to South Australia when installing the duplex system. I believe that the people will co-operate in every possible way to ensure that persons suffering from illnesses shall have the advantage of telephones under that system.
Recent statistics show that in America the number of persons who stay at home to view television programmes has dwindled to a marked degree, and that in recent months large numbers have returned to the cinema for their entertainment. Therefore, although television has become very popular in America, there has been nothing to indicate that that popularity has been the result of an urgent and real demand for it. The growth of television has been caused by the endeavours of business interests to win patronage away from the cinema. That the television experiment has not been proved a success in America is indicated by recent statistics. Television is very expensive, and it has been proved that the cost of equipping transmission stations and televising programmes has been reflected in a rise of the general cost of living. Therefore, I do not think that the time has arrived when we can expect television to become such a success in Australia as a superficial survey of American television might indicate that it would be. I suggest that the Government is proceeding along the correct lines in acting cautiously and in establishing only one television transmitter as an experiment. The Government will then be able to determine accurately whether there is a demand for television in Australia. It has been suggested in this House that television has proved to be detrimental to the discipline of the home. Many honorable members think that that statement may be ridiculed, nevertheless it has been proved to be substantially correct in America. Recently, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, the Most Reverend Dr. M. Beovich, is reported in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 24th October, 1950, as having said -
I would fear that family life and home life so admired in South Australia would suffer with the advent of television . . . particularly will this be so if the programmes instituted in Australia are similar to those I saw in America.
Tt has been the experience in America “that televised programmes are not comparable with films made by film companies, because film productions, for various reasons, are of much better quality.
– That is a good reason why private enterprise should not control television transmitters. Private enterprise apparently televises very shabby programmes in America.
– Whether private enterprise or the Government controls television it will be found difficult to get very good programmes at an economic cost. It is all very well to suggest that private enterprise will not give good programmes and that the Government will, but there is a limit to the amount of money that the Government can expend on television. Moreover, there is no reason to suggest that it is the intention of this Government or any other government to put on expensive programmes to justify the erection of television stations. Therefore, it seems that the Government is proceeding along the correct lines in finding out whether television will be acceptable to the people before expending a large sum of money on it. After all the range of a television transmitter is very small, and except in thickly populated areas it will not benefit many people.
I now refer to the amount of money allocated to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. We have reached the stage where we have to view this particular organization in the light of its being able to help Australia in the future along lines about which science knows very little ‘at present. I suggest to the Government that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should investigate whether this country is adequately equipped for protection against atomic bombardment in case of war. It should also carry out the more important investigations that are concerned with the detection and combating of those by-products of atomic plants which are reported to be so highly contaminating and destructive. Scientists are of the opinion that this important part of cur research programme could be seriously interfered with and delayed probably for many years if research laboratories were contaminated by by-products of nuclear energy. The only way to combat such contamination is to install G.M. counters in order to detect radio-active substances. We must recognize the great part that modern scientific investigation can play in the provision of adequate defence. On a previous occasion I asked whether effective steps were being taken to control the out-going and in-coming of uranium and other nuclear substances. I did so because uranium samples that are sent out of this country, although they are not of much utility value to a foreign power, are distinctly useful in providing a means of ascertaining the volume of the deposits from which they were taken and the value of such deposits in the production of atomic energy. By analysing uranium samples a foreign power can ascertain exactly the extent of the deposits, the purposes to which they can be effectively applied and the degree of refining involved in their treatment. Samples of uranium that are sent out of Australia could be of value in those respects to a foreign power. We must take adequate precautions to ensure that information of that kind shall not be made available in that way to a foreign power. In this matter the Government should rely upon the advice of our best physicists.
It will be useless to defer taking such action until such time as the use of atomic bombs is thrust upon us or upon any other country. We know that the release of atomic power involves merely a pushbutton process. The results of the tests that were carried out at Bikini, Hiroshima and Nagasaki indicate that complete cities can be detrimentally affected by radio-active rays. Those radiations can be detected only through the use of G.M. counters. It will be useless for us to wait until we are actually subjected to attack by atomic bombs before we endeavour to perfect detection measures and to commence the manufacture of G.M. counters. We must not only prevent samples of uranium ore from being sent out of Australia but also ensure that Australia shall have an adequate supply of G.M. counters for use in the detection of contaminated elements that may be brought into this country. As laymen, we cannot very well discuss matters of this kind, but their urgency is such that thu Government should ask the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to ensure that this country shall be supplied with G.M. counters in order to afford adequate protection against attack by atomic weapons. Sufficient funds should be made available to the Commonwealth .Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to enable it to ascertain as much information as it possibly can about nuclear energy, its possibilities and its significance from a defence standpoint.
Mr. THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) [5.20 . - ‘Consideration of this measure affords to honorable members an opportunity to discuss matters that directly affect their individual electorates. I propose to deal with the activities of several departments. I refer, first, to the Postal Department. For many years the department has not made adequate provision for postal and telephone facilities in newly developed areas or in areas in which the population has greatly increased. Three years ago, the Alberton Post Office, which is situated in one of the most densely populated centres in my electorate, was found to be incapable of satisfactorily serving the increased needs of the district. -I was given an undertaking at that time that a modern post office would be erected there. Indeed, the need for a new post office at Alberton was so great that the Premier of South Australia intimated that he was prepared to grant a priority for the work. The existing building is so congested that a part of the 3taff, including letter-sorters and postmen, are housed in another building that is situated about half a mile away. I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) whether provision is being made under this measure for the erection of a new post office at Alberton. Thousands of employees work in this area, and it is essential that adequate postal facilities be provided for them. Indeed, such a project should be given high priority in the allocation of building materials. At the same time, the Government is utilizing materials that are urgently needed for home-building in the construction of expensive canteens ‘ and amenities. I should have no com plaint to make in that respect if the Government ensured that no section of its employees should be obliged- to work, under conditions and in buildings thai should not be tolerated for one moment.
– That state of affairs did not arise yesterday, or a few months ago.
– No. I am not blaming the present Government for it; I am simply stating the position. A little while ago the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) said that it was not desirable to push forward with costly buildings to the detriment of urgent housing programmes. I agree with that statement, but I emphasize the need for the Government to balance its building programmes as a whole. Recently, when a new school was constructed in a rapidly expanding suburb of Adelaide, complaints were made about the large quantities of bricks that had been used in that structure. One also hears similar complaints concerning the use of building materials in the construction of urgently needed extensions at public hospitals. The need for a balanced building programme is just as great as is the need to lay down certain priorities.
– Why have another suburb? Why not encourage development in country areas?
– As drainage and water facilities already exist in the outer suburbs of cities, whilst they do not exist in country centres, the establishment of new residential areas in the country would be far more expensive and difficult than is the development of new suburbs within the boundaries of cities. I urge the Postmaster-General to develop postal facilities at a rate commensurate with the increasing requirements of localities in which population is rapidly increasing. To-day, I received a letter which contains a series of requests from, residents in a district in which the population has increased to such a degree that many people are obliged to walk up to one and a half miles to the nearest post office. I am aware that the department is endeavouring to meet the needs of people in such circumstances by establishing postal depots. Generally, these depots are established at ordinary stores, the storekeepers being licensed to soil stamps, accept telegrams and render other services normally rendered at a post office. That system will not be entirely satisfactory in centres that extend for from two to three miles from existing post offices. All populous areas are entitled to full postal services.
– In many country centres residents are situated 20 miles from the nearest post office.
– At one time I lived in a country district, and I am aware of that. fact. However, it would not. he reasonable to establish a post office to serve say 30, or 40, residents. I suggest that in newly developed suburbs, where existing post offices are unable to cope with the increased business, the department should provide complementary post offices at suitable points instead of replacing existing post, offices with larger and more modern buildings.
Another matter to which I direct attention affects, I think, the Department of Works and Housing. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Casey) told me recently that the department was responsible for the erection of buildings for all other departments, bur when T asked him whether war service homes were included in its responsibilities he replied that he did not think, so. However, the task of the department broadly is to carry out constructional work for the Commonwealth. I am concerned about an anomaly associated with Mie accommodation of immigrants and I do not know whether to lay the blame for it upon the Department of Works and Housing or- upon the Department of Immigration. Some of the British tradesmen who have been brought to this country as nominees of the Australian Government are housed in quarters that lack many of the amenities that ave provided in camps for displaced persons from Europe. Excellent arrangements are marie for the accommodation of new Australians at centres such as Woodside in South Australia and Bathurst in New South Wales. Hospitals have been established and resident doctors are available to treat illness. But the conditions under which newly arrived British tradesmen are housed in the electorate that I repre sent are vastly different. I have raised this subject previously and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has informed me fully of the plans that he is putting into effect to improve the situation. I am not “ having a cut “ at him, but the circumstances merit careful examination by all honorable members. Many British tradesmen and their families have been settled in converted woolsheds without any provision for hospitalization or even a first-aid room. Conditions there are vastly different from those at camps for immigrants from foreign countries. I should like to know who is responsible for that neglect. Men, women and children are housed in the camps and some of the women are expectant mothers. In the event of sudden illness or accident, they cannot obtain medical aid immediately but must summon an ambulance or hire some other vehicle to take them to hospital some miles away.
– Perhaps the Govern-* ment does not want British immigrants.
– I do not think that for a moment. We all want British immigrants but unfortunately we are inclined to treat them as many people treat their children in their own homes. We seem to be more concerned about people, from foreign countries than we ure about British immigrants, just as many parents are more concerned about their neighbours’ children than they are about their own children.
We tell people in Great Britain that they pan come to Australia if people in this country will nominate them and guarantee to provide accommodation for them. However, many of them find that the conditions under which they are expected to live here are intolerable. If they apply to the Department of Immigration for help, the department will do nothing for t.hem. It merely tells them that their nominators are responsible for their welfare. This Government has a responsibility to the immigrants whom I have in mind because they are its nominees. The state of affairs is the worst advertisement for our immigration policy that we could have, yet the men and women affected appear to have no chance of obtaining any redress. If they apply to the State housing authority in
South Australia to have houses allotted to them, it rightly tells them that first priority must be given to Australians who have been waiting for many years. Thus, the immigrants appear to have little or no hope of obtaining ordinary accommodation. I know of case after case of men and women who have been kicked from pillar to post. Under the present system we wipe our hands of all responsibility for them as soon as they leave their ships. The nominators are obliged to take all responsibility and the nominees must take what is coming to them. This sort of treatment contrasts strongly with that given to displaced persons from Europe. The Government spares no effort to settle them in comfort.
Honorable members opposite may say that the Government is merely continuing the policy that was established by the Labour Government. My reply to any such objection is that I should raise this issue even if the Labour party were still in power. This is not a party political matter. It affects all honorable members. I made inquiries from the Minister for Works and Housing recently about the circumstances of 300 British migrants, mostly young men and women with children, who had been accommodated adjacent to a dock area on a site bounded by a swamp. No amenities had been provided for the children, although I have been informed since that this condition is to be remedied. The Minister told me that this unsatisfactory accommodation was provided because a new camp for 2,000 immigrants at Gepps Cross was not ready when- the party arrived in Australia. The truth is that when the people arrived at Port Adelaide, the only indications of building work at Gepps Cross were a few surveyors’ pegs where huts were to be erected and a quantity of building material. Yet excellent arrangement have been made to accommodate the overflow from the Woodside camp for European immigrants at Mallala airfield. Military huts are used at that camp and many conveniences are provided for the residents. About twelve former air force huts at the Mallala aerodrome are being prepared so as to provide for the overflow from the camp at Woodside.
The immigration authorities could do a great deal more than they have done to improve the lot of British immigrants brought to this country by the Australian; Government. I speak of men and women who have been nominated, not by theState governments or by individual citizens, but by the Australian Government. On arrival in Australia they are sent to’ staging camps until employment is found, for the workers, and then they are sent to camps where they are expected to live’ under heart-breaking conditions. A special motion for the adjournment of the South Australian Legislative Council was submitted in order to bring the serious plight of such immigrants in South Australia before the notice of the State Parliament. That was no compliment to the Australian Government. The member of the South Australian Parliament who raised the matter invited me to accompany him to converted woolstores where immigrants were living, and Senator O’Flaherty and I did so. The men to whom we spoke said to us, “ We do not want you to think that we are a lot of growlers who do not want to make good in Australia, but we believe that we have just cause for complaint. We are obliged to live on the edge of a swamp and there is nowhere for our children to play. The fire chief has condemned the camp as a fire risk “. Migrants should not be expected to put up with such conditions. Nobody has been keener than I have been to assist our immigration policy although many people in my electorate and members of the Labour party in South Australia have complained bitterly about the bringing of new citizens to the country when thousands of Australians cannot obtain decent accommodation. I have opposed these critics, but it is difficult to justify a policy that requires people to live under conditions such as I have mentioned. The Government has promised me that it will do everything possible to improve the camp that I have in mind until the new settlement at Gepps Cross is ready for occupation.- I believe that it will do its best to honour the promise.
My object in discussing this matter is to endeavour to ensure that proper and reasonable provision shall be made in future for the needs of British immigrants. These people do not expect to “walk straight into new houses. They ure prepared to live in converted military huts but they rightly expect that each family will be provided with adequate bedroom accommodation. Some of the men to whom I spoke were living with their families in a huge converted store subdivided by partitions about 8 feet high. One man had a bedroom for - himself and his wife, but his daughter had to share a small bedroom with another girl.
– Those conditions applied last year when the Labour party was in power.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) cannot get away from party politics. I have endeavoured to explain to him that I am not making a party political issue of this situation. The immigrants of whom I am speaking arrived in Australia after the last general election.
– But there were others living under those conditions previously.
– British tradesmen were not living under those conditions last year. This matter should be above party politics. It requires human sympathy. We have a duty to speak out in this Parliament if we consider that any department is failing to discharge its responsibilities to the full. As the representatives of the people we should take the Government to task whenever it falls short of its responsibility.
– What about taking the McGirr Government to task?
– The McGirr Government may not have done everything humanly possible, but it has had more houses built than has any other government. A few months ago in this House I cited figures which proved that the McGirr Government had done a very good job indeed. I am prepared to admit that Mr. McGirr has not nearly carried out the promises that he made, but the same can be said truly about the Australian Government. It is of no use for us to try to ease our own consciences by trying to disturb the consciences of other people. Australia has adopted a wise immigration policy, and I make no complaint, about the broad principles of it. But I deplore the fact that some of the undertakings given to British tradesmen before they migrated to this country have not been fulfilled. Artisans have been promised that they will be able to obtain reasonable accommodation for their families in Australia, and they have been bitterly disappointed to find, on their arrival here, that the housing problem is so acute. The authority who is responsible for giving those assurances should ensure that, in future, suitable amenities shall be provided for migrants. Lest my remarks on this matter be misunderstood, I make it plain that I am referring, not to migrants who have come here from displaced persons camps in Europe, but to British people who have had homes in the United Kingdom and have been attracted to Australia by the kind of assurances that I have mentioned.
The remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) about the continued inability of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to meet demands for new telephones will be echoed by honorable members generally. All of us have been button-holed by constituents, or deluged with letters from persons who have been unable to obtain services. The department invariably gives a courteous reply to our representations, but usually, is not able to accede to them. We have received so many replies, all of which are couched in similar language, that we know them by heart. For instance, I made representations to the department on behalf of an ex-serviceman, and the reply, which I repeat from memory, was as follows: -
We have made inquiries into the case you mention. The returned soldier cannot carry on his business successfully without a telephone. Unfortunately, the Semaphore Exchange is fully utilized. We are to make improvements there, hut it will not be for some months, and, unfortunately, we are not in a position to meet the needs of the person
Another letter that I received from the department in reply to my representations stated -
We have the equipment at the exchange, but we have no cable.
Supplies of cable were eventually received, and were laid, but the department was then unable to allot skilled mechanics to the work. Three months ago, I was informed that a cable had been laid in a particular area but on account of the shortage of skilled tradesmen it would not bie available until after next Christmas. The department requires not only sufficient equipment but also additional skilled man-power in order to overtake the lag in providing telephone services. I realize that, it has considerable difficulty to overcome in meeting all the demands for new installations, and I should like to pay it a tribute for having always endeavoured to provide a service for an extremely urgent case. The Government considers that the numerical strength of the Public Service should be reduced, but I believe that, if it is to give effect to the many representations that are made by honorable” members, it will have to be increased. Earlier, I stated that a balanced building programme is required. That objective will not be achieved unless suitable controls are introduced in order to ensure that the most urgent projects shall receive priority in the allotment of materials. In conclusion, I express the hope that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will accede to my representations in respect of the Alberton Post Office.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.51 to S p.m.
In Committee of Supply : Consideration resumed from the 12th October (vide page 793), on motion by Mr. Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances,- fi 3,!)fJ0 “, bc agreed to.
– I propose to deal first with one or two points raised by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) concerning the general position. Some of the statements made by the right honorable gentleman in reply to criticism of the Government voiced by the Opposition had no basis of fact. I refer to the statements only briefly now because I do not wish to detain the committee unduly with them. In reply to statements that I had made about the sound financial position of the Treasury when thepresent Government took office, the right, honorable gentleman said that that wasan illusion. Let me say now that there is no truth in his assertion. I do not require any more confirmation of my statement than that which is supplied by the speeches made by the Treasurer himself when he was in Opposition and by the conservative press which supported him.. They stated again and again that the position of the Treasury was the soundest in the history of the country.
The right honorable gentleman endeavoured to infer that certain moneys, such as the balances of the War Gratuity Fund and the National Welfare Fund, did not exist at all, but were merely paper credits. It is a fact, of course, that the money did not exist in the funds, except in the form of credit balances; but there is nothing unusual about that because it is normal Treasury practice. So that the position may be made quite clear, I point out that when money is paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and a particular sum is to be set aside for a certain purpose, that sum is merely credited to the fund concerned. All the surplus cash possessed by the Treasury, after its commitments have been met, is paid into the Commonwealth Bank to redeem treasury-bills. It must be clear, therefore, to every one that the previous Administration was merely following normal practice when it credited the two funds mentioned by the Treasurer with certain sums without actually paying the moneys into those funds. As I said on a previous occasion, it is immaterial in what way the Treasurer presents the figures of the national finances because, whatever method of presentation is adopted, it will be found that the amount set aside by Labour for the reduction of treasury-bills was greater than the sums set aside by the present Government for the War Gratuity Fund and the National Welfare Fund.
Reference was made by the Treasurer to the sum provided by the present Government for economic assistance to other countries, but I remind the committee that Labour, during its term of office, contributed more than £30,000,000 to Unrra, to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Relief
Fund, and to various other international relief organizations. In addition, it paid to the Government of the United Kingdom £45,000,000 in order to enable that Government to play its part in the implementation of the Marshall Aid plan and in liquidating its sterling commitments in Europe. The contribution made by the Australian Government to the Government of the United Kingdom had the effect of enabling that government to release £55,000,000 of sterling credit. In addition to making those payments, Labour also reduced the overseas indebtedness of Australia by more than £A. 100,000,000. Furthermore, it was able to effect that reduction of our indebtedness despite the huge and unprecedented drain on our resources caused by the recent war. It also reduced the indebtedness of the nation to the Commonwealth Bank from £345,000,000 to approximately £150,000,000. It is clear, therefore, that Labour’s accomplishment was outstanding. I repeat, for the sake of emphasis, the statistics that I have just cited. Australia made direct contribution to the United Kingdom and the United Na tions amounting to £75,000,000, it reduced our overseas indebtedness by more than £100,000,000 sterling, and, after the war, it reduced very considerably our indebtedness to the Commonwealth Bank. Amongst the criticisms t.ha’t used to be made of Labour by our political opponents, when referring to Labour’s plans for the development of the Commonwealth Bank, w’as that which asserted that resolutions would be adopted by the Labour caucus to provide for additional credit. Without entering upon a discussion of banking matters, I point out that although Labour exercised considerable control over the Commonwealth Bank under the National Security Regulations, and, later, under the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, it did not commit any of the financial crimes of which it had been convicted in advance by the non-Labour parties. As a matter of fact, one result nf Labour’s occupancy of the treasurybench was to reduce the indebtedness of this country. I also remind the committee that Labour reduced the annual interest payments very considerably. Not only did it reduce the principal sums on which interest had to be paid, but it also reduced the rates of interest payable on our overseas debts.
I shall say something now concerning the internal economic situation. During and after World War I., when various non-Labour members occupied the position of Treasurer, it was not unusual for 5£ per cent, interest to be paid on treasury-bills to finance the country and to protect the interests of those who were charging such high rates. What did Labour do during the recent war? Throughout the war, and despite all the financial exigencies that confronted this country, Labour never borrowed £1 from any private bank. As a matter of fact, the private banks were not permitted to subscribe to government loans, and the rates of interest at which Labour floated loans were the lowest in Australia during the last 25 years. The matters that I have stated are cold, hard facts, and cannot be denied.
The present Treasurer asserted that Labour had increased the national debt by £1,300,000,000. In reply let me ask him, did it do so extravagantly, or did it incur that huge expenditure in protecting this country and in assisting the United States of America and the United Kingdom in the conduct of the war? Is it suggested that £1 less should have been expended ? Is it suggested that we. should have provided any less financial assistance for the American or, say, for the British Fleet when it was in our waters, or on any other commitment that arose out of the war?
– What about the lives?
– I do not catch the point of the honorable member’s interjection, and, in any event, I do not want to delay the committee unduly on the matters that I have been discussing. I merely state plain, simple facts, that are available for any one to read in the budget-papers, and I know that the Treasurer is already aware of them.
I turn now to the discussion of a point that was raised by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) about the provision of a subsidy on prefabricated houses. A subsidy for that purpose was provided by Labour before it left office. The Treasurer has referred to the payment of subsidies by his Government on butter and -wheat in order to keep down the cost of living. I remind him that subsidies on those commodities were provided by Labour before it left office, so that no new principle is involved in their present payment. The Minister for National Development also referred to the fact that in order to assist the community customs duties have been remitted by the present Government on certain goods imported into this country. I remind him that Labour waived the customs duty payable on goods imported to this country in hundreds of cases where that was believed to be justified. Of course, I admit that in many instances the duty was waived only to ensure the importation of particular goods, such as machinery, and for a specific purpose. For instance, the former Minister for Trade and Customs permitted the entry duty-free under by-law of machinery for factories to manufacture newsprint and for the manufacture of rayon and woven piece goods. I mention those matters only in order to reply to statements made by the Treasurer. I know that the right honorable gentleman cannot afford to sit down and say nothing in reply to criticism by the Opposition, and that he has to put up a defence of some sort. The point I make now is that the statements made by the right honorable gentleman in reply to Labour’s criticisms of the Government will not bear examination.
I come now to the famous promise made by the non-Labour parties to restore value to the £1. During the last general election campaign, when antiLabour parties were in Opposition, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the present Treasurer made a clear promise to the people that they would restore the value of the £1. In fact, that was one of the baits held out to the people to gain their votes for the anti-Labour parties, and the promise was made because inflation was even then occurring. I do not deny that the magnitude of the problems that confront the Government, and the existence of the inflationary trend in Australia and in every other country, make the Government’s task a most difficult one. The point I emphasize, however, is that
Labour made no promise during the election campaign about restoring the value of the £1. I repeat that the substanceof my present criticism is that the Government did make a serious promise tothe people about restoring the value of the £1, and that that promise has not been kept.
Although we have heard a great deal from honorable members opposite about the delays caused to legislation introduced by the Government, I remind the House that although the present Government has been in office for ten and a half months this is the first economic measure that has been placed before us by the Government.
– The right honorable gentleman should read the policy speech made by the present Prime Minister in order to see what was promised.
– First of all, it was the Communists who were responsible for the present inflation, but now we are being told that the wool-growers areresponsible for it. Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways.
– That is mere humbug.
– All right; but we need only make a brief analysis of the budget in order to see what a fraudulent political document it is.
– Read the Prime Minister’s policy speech, and do not misquote it.
– If the Government has made any attempt at all to restore economic stability - I am not speaking now about restoring the value of the £1 - it has been the most miserable and pathetic effort ever made by any political party elected to office. I do not need to elaborate my remarks. The average man or woman who has to go out and purchase anything-
– Voted against Labour !
– Honorable members opposite may interject as often as they like, but nothing will alter the fact that they did hold out to the people an inducement to vote for them by promising that if they were returned to office - and there was an inflationary trend in progress at the time and the £1 was losing its value - they would put value back in the £1.
– The Labour party made it clear that it would help the Communists to defeat us.
– The Prime Minister, who has just interjected, made a statement scone years ago that was published in the Melbourne Herald under the heading “ Exclusive Interview “. I do not want the people to think that this talk about believing in the Communists having the right to exist was associated only with the Labour party. I intend to digress to read the Prime Minister’s statement because the right honorable gentleman has taken an opportunity to interject. This is what he said in the exclusive interview to which I have referred, which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 22nd June, 1946-
In times of peace it is a very, very serious step to prohibit the association of people for the promulgation of any particular political view. Therefore in time of peace we do not propose to place a ban on the Communist party.
The right honorable gentleman was then speaking not only for himself but also for the members of the Liberal party generally.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition suggesting that the Government has not a mandate to ban- the Communist party?
– The Leader of the Opposition is reading only what the Prime Minister said on behalf of honorable members opposite.
– I rise to order. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) is not audible to the committee because of the interruptions that are coming from the Government benches. I ask the Chair whether it is not possible to keep order.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN” (Mr. Ryan). - The Chair will keep order in the committee.
– All that I have been reading to honorable members is a statement by their own leader on behalf of their party. It is no more than that. I ask honorable members opposite whether they say that the present Prime Minister was prepared, in 1946, to protect Communists.
– He might have been.
– If that is the view of his supporters, I shall leave the matter at that.
– He did not say so in 1949.
– There was a time when Judas supported our great Master, but he did not support Him all the time. Anybody can change his mind. After all, I am just giving honorable members opposite the facts, but apparently they cannot stomach them. I point out to them, however, that I listened in complete silence to the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). I have touched only on general matters that arise from the budget statement. Now I come to the budget itself. It is a most amazing budget. No more extraordinary financial document has ever been presented to this Parliament. The Government parties stated during the general election campaign that if elected to office they would reduce expenditure very greatly. We have only to look at the budget to see by how much the Government has reduced expenditure. They said that they would reduce the number of Common.wealth public servants. Only a few nights ago the Treasurer told the House that the strength of the Public Service had increased by 4,000. So there are some other promises that the Government parties have not kept. Despite their statement that they would reduce expenditure the opposite is the case. The Treasurer stated, when he introduced the budget, that the estimated expenditure for the year would be £738,000,000. That statement appears on page 22 of the printed copy of his budget speech. I have a copy of it in my hand in case the right honorable gentleman has not read it. Despite all the talk by the Government parties about reducing the national expenditure it is to be higher this year than it was when we were in the middle of a war. Then let us look at the way in which the accounts are to be balanced. I do not think that I have ever seen anything like this. One of the items shown is the wool sales deduction amounting to £103,000,000. That sum will not really be revenue, but will be a cash receipt in the form of a forced loan. It is accounted for in the budget as revenue so as to balance the expenditure for this financial year. It is nothing more than a forced loan. It is not money that belongs to the Government. It belongs to the woolgrowers, and in some future year will be used to pay off the income tax indebtedness of the growers.
– That is the same as the right honorable gentleman’s Government did to the wage-earner years ago.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order !
– That is all right. The honorable gentleman who is interjecting from a Government back bench apparently does not know anything about the pay-as-you earn taxation system.
– He seems to know as much about it as the Leader of the Opposition does.
– I remind the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that the pay-as-you-earn taxation system was examined by a parliamentary committee, two of the members of which were, the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) and the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender). I am not saying that they did not give valuable assistance, because they did. But the principle of pay-as-you-earn taxation was that a man paid his tax in respect of his year’s income in the year in which he earned it. No man had to pay tax on some of his income before it was due. In other words, he always received the money before any tax was taken from him.
– That is untrue.
– He did not receive the money that he paid in tax, because it had already been deducted from his salary.
– It is just as well that this matter should be made completely clear. No wage or salary-earner ever pays tax on money that he has not already received. The deduction that is made from hi.; wage or salary is intended to meet his tax for the year in which hi? income is received and the deduction is made. But the position of the wheat-grower or farmer is different, because he is not in receipt of salary or wages. Provision was made in the payasyouearn taxation system for him to pay a provisional tax at a rate based on bis income of the previous year.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct. It is undeniable that if a wool-grower earned £1,000 last year - I am taking a round figure for the sake of example - his provisional tax for this year would be based on the assessable income that he received last year. I do not think that anybody, including the Treasurer himself, will deny that. But what do we find now? First of all there is a 7£ per cent, tax on the wool-grower’s earnings, which we approved of as a means of stabilizing the industry.
– That is not a tax.
– I accept the correction. A levy of 7i per cent, is taken from every wool-grower in respect of the proceeds of the sale of his wool for the purpose of establishing a stabilization fund. It is perfectly true that that is not a tax insofar as its proceeds do not go into Commonwealth revenue. But now we find that in addition to that levy the wool-grower is this year to have deducted from the proceeds of the sale of his wool, irrespective of his expenses, his overdraft or the debts that he might have to face, no less than 20 per cent. That amount is to be deducted irrespective of any provisional tax that he has to pay. It will be deducted whether he is a big woolgrower or a small wool-grower, except for certain exemptions that the Treasurer has mentioned. If the intention were to keep the proceeds of that levy out of circulation so that the spending power it represents would not be released on to the market, then it should be placed in a trust fund, because, budgets are never balanced by drawing upon trust funds.
– I thought treasury-bills were used for that purpose, according to the Labour party.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry) is interjecting far too often.
– I do not mind honorable members opposite interjecting if only I can make some of them understand the position in regard to this matter. The 20 per cent, levy is to be a deduction from the proceeds of a woolgrower’s sales, irrespective of his debts, overdrafts and everything else. In addition to that deduction he has to pay
Lis levy of 7£ per cent, and, I presume, his provisional tax, although the Treasurer was not very clear on the last point. That 20 per cent, is to be credited to Consolidated Revenue for certain purposes which the Treasurer has explained. At the moment I arn not attempting to deal with the injustice of this wool sales deduction. What I arn trying to show is that the Government intends to use, for the purpose of balancing its budget, money that it is not entitled to treat as revenue.
I shall refer briefly to the wool sales deduction itself. It is difficult to understand why wool-growers must have special deductions made from their incomes. I know that some woolgrowers are doing very well, but there are plenty of other wool-growers who operate on a small scale. I cannot conceive why a. man who is making a substantial profit on his wool has to have a special deduction made from his profits while people who own shares in companies, some of which have declared dividends of 100 per cent, whilst others have declared dividends of 60 per cent., are not subject to the same conditions. Indeed, many people associated with wool, but who are not wool-growers, are making enormous profits. I cannot see why there should be any special singling out of the wool-grower for these deductions. My remarks are directed to the discriminatory principle associated with the proposition.
The Treasurer has said that the Labour Government taxed the people extravagantly during the war. I do not know what he meant by “ extravagantly “. I assume that he wanted to convey that taxation during the war period and afterwards was too heavy. My colleagues and I observed a simple principle of taxation which was that when a country is prosperous it should pay its way and try to put something aside. This budget contains a purely fictitious amount of money which is not entitled to bc credited to this year’s revenue, but has been put in for the purpose of obtaining a balance.
The reason given for imposing this discriminatory levy on the wool-growers has been that it will check the inflationary tendency. If that £103,000,000 went to the wool-growers, it has been said, they might spend it, and thereby bring about an excess amount of money in circulation while there were not sufficient goods on which it could be spent. But,N although the Government proposes to take the money from the wool-grower in order to prevent him from spending it in an inflationary manner, it intends to spend the money itself. Whether the woolgrower or the Government spends the £103,000,000, the inflationary effect will be exactly the same. If £103,000,000 is to be taken from the wool-growers and expended by the Government, will the inflationary effect be any different from what it would be if it were spent by the wool-grower ?
– Yes. Otherwise the Government would have to issue treasurybills.
– The honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) has advanced .the only really sound contention that I have heard on the matter. But it is not correct to say that an expenditure of £10^,000,000 by’ the Government will not be just as inflationary as an expenditure of £.103,000,000 by the woolgrowers. The honorable member for Lowe has said that if the Government does not obtain the £103,000,000 from the wool-growers it may have to obtain that amount by issuing treasury-bills. The honorable gentleman contends that if the wool-growers were to spend £103,000,000 and the Government obtained another £103,000,000 by means of treasury-bills, more inflation would take place than if the Government expended only the £103,000,000 obtained from the wool-growers. But if the Government were to raise £103,000,000 by way of loans from the public the effect would not be inflationary.
– But it cannot be so obtained.
– -I do not like to be a prophet in my own country.- It is said that such a one is never very highly regarded. But how does the honorable member for Lowe know whether the Government can get £103,000.000 from the public or not ?
– The right honorable member knows what the loan programme is.
– I do. But I rather gather that some members of the Government do not know much about it. I do not think that I have made one statement to-night that can be contradicted. It might be evaded, but it cannot be contradicted.
As the Treasurer has said, the Government proposes .to introduce capital issues control again. I know the difficulties of enforcing capital issues control because I have received legal advice on the matter. The ‘Government has not indicated how it proposes to re-introduce this control which, as I have said before, should be maintained in either peace or war. Four or five months ago the Government made to the press the striking statement that it was going to discontinue capital issues control. According to the press statement, that was one of the Government’s achievements. Now, honorable members are told that the control is to be brought back again. We are not told how that is to be done. All my political life I have believed that there should be capital issues control, in peace and in war. My only objection now is, not that the Government is re-introducing the control, but that it boasted about abolishing it.
I believe that the Treasurer said that the Government had placed private companies on a taxation basis which was similar to that which affects partnerships. There is no justification for private companies being placed in the same position as partnerships. I know that the Government’s experts, who are very estimable gentlemen whose integrity I do not question, have advocated the easing of taxation on private companies. Why should a private company whose liability is limited to the value of its assets be placed in the same category as a partnership in which there is no limit to the liability of the partners? Although I have not the full details of the right honorable gentleman’s proposals, it seems to me that some special privilege is to be extended to private companies, and I do not know why. I can only assume that it is because the Government’s advisers advocated that such a concession should be given.
I was very interested in the Government’s proposal concerning progressive reductions of taxation. Honorable members have heard about the camel which takes one step forward and two steps back. I asked the Treasurer to have prepared a table showing the effect of rebates and deductions. I understand that it is difficult although not mathematically impossible to do that. It has been assumed that the change from the system of rebates to the system of deductions will give substantial concessions to the taxpayers in the lower income groups. That is not true. However, I understand that it will be difficult to prepare the schedule for which I asked, and I therefore forgo the privilege which I sought from the Treasurer. This budget does not give any real concessions to the lower-grade taxpayers, but it does provide for very substantial concessions to be given to people on high incomes. Under the old system a man could be allowed a maximum of £45 in deductions. I understand that under the new system a man on a high income can be allowed up to £78. So the change from rebates to deductions will mean that the taxpayer on a higher income will receive a substantial advantage. It will make little difference to the man on an income which does not exceed £500. The taxpayer in the lower bracket was just as well off under the old system as he will be under the system of deductions. Under the system of deductions a man on the top ranges of income will have an advantage of 12s. or 14s. a week.
I have just been told that the explanation of the simplification of the taxation system covers 58 pages. After I had listened to the light honorable gentleman explaining the simplification I had to go and have a cup of tea because it was completely incomprehensible to me. I know that the right honorable gentleman did his best, but taxation cannot be simplified. It might be possible to make it simpler but 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of taxpayers are not concerned about whether taxation involves decimals or rises by £50 brackets. All they are concerned about is how much money is taken out of their pay dockets and whether, at the end of the year, they will owe the Treasurer money or the Treasurer will give them something back. The Commissioner of Taxation could tell of tens of thousands of people who, when making out their returns, even forget to state that they have a wife. When they do mention her and give her name and. address they do not even state whether she is being maintained by them or is maintaining herself. When you talk about simplification of taxation to the average man! or woman you are just fooling yourself. If, at the end of the year, the average man or woman learns of an entitlement to £3, £4 or £10 as a rebate of tax, he or she regards the Commissioner of Taxation as the Angel Gabriel and the Treasurer as Santa Claus. That i9 the psychology of taxation. I do” not say that there are not some clever people who can calculate their own income tax and assess their own deductions, but having lived amongst the working people I know that they do not bother about such things. All that they want to know is how much a week will be taken out of their pay envelopes and whether at the end of the year they will have to pay the department something or the department will have to pay them something;. When the Government talks about simplifying taxation, I suggest that it should keep those words in mind.
I turn now to the sales tax. During the last general election campaign I gathered that the present Government parties, if elected,, would progressively reduce taxation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) from concluding his speech without limitation of time.
– I thank the House for its indulgence. The statement setting out sales tax and exemptions is really a most humorous document. It is quite apparent that the Treasurer has a very queer sense, of human values. For instance, neon signs and: luminous discharge lighting equipment are placed on the exempt list. Wreaths, and floral tributes are also free of sales tax. Apparently,, a gentleman’s floral tribute to his lady is not going to be taxed by this Government. But the Government is taxing heavily what it calls luxury items and non-essentials but which the ladies of the community certainly do not consider unessential. The. tax on beauty preparations such as lipstick and lip salves has been increased up to 33^ per cent. It is rather ludicrous that wreaths purchased as tributes to a deceased person are free from tax and yet lipsticks and other essential aids to beauty purchased by women are very heavily taxed. If the Government believes that women regard lipsticks and beauty preparations as non-essential it does not know much about human nature. The tax on body powders and deodorants has been raised to 33£ per cent. I submit that such articles are certainly not luxuries.
The next matter with which I wish to deal has been mentioned quite often recently. That is the possible appreciation of the Australian £1. A lot may be said for and against appreciation, but it is interesting to note that when the previous Government depreciated the Australian £1 against the American dollar and maintained its relationship with the £1 sterling, it did so purely upon economic grounds. No political consideration entered into that action at all. The appreciation of the Australian £1 could have many effects. It has been said that all goods imported into this country would be cheaper. That is perfectly correct. When the previous Government was considering depreciation of the Australian £1, it also considered the effects of appreciation. It discovered that if the £1 were appreciated to parity with sterling the gold-mining industry in Western Australia, in general, would not be able to carry on. One or two mines might continue to be worked, but not all of them. I say that with some knowledge of the matter because when the West Australian mining industries applied for a federal subsidy, the officers of the Treasury investigated the matter and reported that appreciation of the £1 would drive those industries out of existence unless they were subsidized. That is true also of some other metal mines: in Australia, but perhaps it is not true of the big mines at Broken Hill. Another effect would be reflected in the contracts made by the British Govern- ment with Australia for the supply of primary products. They all are made on a sterling basis, except the contract for the supply of wheat. Unless the British
Government was prepared to re-negotiate, all those contracts at the new prices after appreciation of the El, the dried fruits industry, the canned fruits industry, the wine fruits industry and the industries producing eggs and butter could not carry on profitably.
Again, from £70,000,000 to £80,000,000 worth of secondary industry goods are exported. It is estimated that £40,000,000 would be lost in that field if the £1 were appreciated. It is also true that many Australian secondary industries could not continue to exist for very long against foreign competition if the £1 were appreciated to parity with sterling. That position could be dealt with by tariffs, but international agreements and other factors would cause complications. Over half the Queensland production of sugar is sold abroad. If the £1 were appreciated to parity with sterling the present stable position of the sugar industry could be maintained only by a higher home-consumption price. I know that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer could draw up a list of points in favour of appreciation and against it, but ultimately they would have to reach a decision in the best interests of Australia. My own judgment at the time of depreciation of the £1, and the judgment of every qualified officer of the Government, was that it would benefit Australia economically to take the action that was then taken. I suggest to the Government that on the balance of what is good for Australia it would be unwise to appreciate the £1.
There has been much talk of building up large London financial reserves. I think that even the Government will admit that one of the wisest things ever done was to build up London reserves. It is true that much pressure was brought to bear on me during the term of office of the previous Government to pay off our overseas debts and not to renew loans. At that time in a conversation that I had with the then Chancellor of the British Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, I said that I believed that the day would come when the United Kingdom and Europe, particularly Prance and Italy, would benefit greatly if we had surplus funds in London that would enable us to import from those countries many of the things which they were able to make and for which they desperately required markets. One of the bulwarks against shortages of materials in Australia is our present ability, because of the London balances, to embark on. an important trading programme which would otherwise be far beyond our ordinary capacity. If a drought occurs, or perhaps two droughts, the overseas earnings of this country will be greatly reduced. They might drop by £100,000,000 or £150,000,000 in one year.
I shall now turn to the 100,000,000 dollar loan recently arranged by the Prime Minister. I do not say that there may not be sound reasons for a dollar loan, or that there are not goods required, by Australia which are unprocurable in soft currency areas and for which dollars are needed, but one of the most fatal things that any country can do is to engage in an excessive overseas borrowing programme. The previous Government sought always to avoid borrowing from America because when plant, aeroplanes, bulldozers, printing machinery or any other machinery is bought from America, not only is a primary debt incurred which carries a commitment for interest, but in addition a very big liability is commenced in regard to the purchase of spare parts and replacements for the plant. Everybody knows that the cost of spare parts for American . built aeroplanes runs into large figures and that the Americans are charging top rates for everything that they sell. We are told that at the recent conference on wool that was held in London the American representatives suggested that a ceiling price should be fixed for wool and that auctions should be abolished. That has not- yet been told to .the wool-growers. Statements to that effect have been made, not by this Government, but by representatives of other governments, including the representatives of the New Zealand Government. I repeat that Americans charge top prices for whatever they have to sell. By borrowing overseas the Government will incur, not only a large external debt, but also a recurring interest bill whilst in respect of plant for the purchase of which such funds are used there will be a heavy yearly expenditure for replacements. The Government may have special reasons for borrowing in the United States of America, and, as I am not aware of all the facts, I shall not be too critical. However, I emphasize that the Government will be foolish to load itself down with an American dollar debt. It should borrow only to the absolute minimum of its needs, if at all. History affords very striking instances of countries having borrowed themselves into bankruptcy by borrowing abroad. In that respect I cite the Ottoman empire. Coming nearer to home, the Government in which the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) was Treasurer borrowed this country into bankruptcy; but, fortunately for Australia, the stage was reached at which investors overseas would not lend the Government any more money,
I and that which had been borrowed came from an easy currency country. I warn the Government not to borrow in the dollar market.
I read recently that some financial experts are likely to come to Australia for the purpose of looking over developmental projects in this country. When the Government borrows money abroad it should, itself, decide how it will expend that money. I have perused the statement issued by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development dealing with the articles on which ,the Government proposes to expend dollars, but the people of Australia will be extraordinarily suspicious if it allows any overseas financial experts or bankers to come to this country to look over its developmental projects. If it does, we shall probably hear a repetition of the criticism that was voiced about similar action that was taken by the Government in 1930 and 1931. It will be totally different if the Government brings to this country technical experts to advise it on its developmental projects. The relevant files will show that when I was Prime Minister I approached President Truman through the Australian Ambassador at Washington with a view to arranging for technical experts to come to Australia to advise the Government with respect to projects like the Snowy Mountains scheme. Technical assistance is all right, but in the interests of the community I warn the Government not to bring American bankers and financial experts here to help to develop Australia. If members of the Government do not know how to develop their own country in the light of their own association with it, things are pretty bad.
I shall now deal briefly with the subject of defence^ I have said on previous occasions, and I again emphasize the point, that some limit should be placed upon defence expenditure.. The limit can best be determined by those who are in charge of the finances of the country. They should know what amount this country can afford to expend on materials and men. If the Government goes beyond the. limit it will tend to weigh itself down with debt and responsibilities which, finally, will lead to disaster.
– Was the right honorable gentleman of that opinion when the Japanese were invading Australia?
– As I have already taken up so much of the time of the committee, I shall not be diverted from the point that’ I wish to make. We require an efficient air force and an efficient navy. First-class atomic scientists are of the opinion that the greatest atomic threat in the future will be not from bombs that are dropped from the air but from bombs that are laid by submarines. The Government will be ill-advised to call up large numbers of men to build camps all over the country and to requisition unlimited supplies of materials. The Army authorities invariably requisition about five times the volume of materials that they really need. If the Government applies that policy it will place an economic burden upon the country that it will not be able to shoulder and, consequently, will retard our national development.
This is not the most appropriate juncture at which to deal with the subject of external affairs. I presume that when the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) returns to Australia he will make a full statement to the House. I realize that the Prime Minister has many other duties which preclude him from making such a statement. However, in view of the position that exists in the international sphere at present and as it is a part of the Go- vernment’s scheme to recruit men to fight anywhere in the world, I point out that it has not madeany mention ofthe United Nations in its defence plan. It intends to recruit men for service anywhere in the world,and recruitscould be sent overseas, not at the request of the United Nations, but , at the discretion of the Government.
– The United Nations is not running this country yet.
– The Government was using the United Nations very strongly a little while ago.
– The right honorable gentleman gave that action his blessing.
– I am not retracting anything that I have said about the United Nations. In respect of any request that may come from the United Nations, we should continue to give assistance within our capacity ; but that does not involve calling up men to serve in any part of the world on any pretext at all. I shall summarize the position. I shall be astonished if the United States of America does not, before many more years have passed, withdraw from the work that it has been carrying on in Asia, and recognize Communist China. I shall be very astonished if the struggle that is now going on in Indo-China does not bleed France white. France has expended at least £400,000,000 in Indo-China. An essential condition of the Labour party’s support of the Government in any respect - I am referring to our support of the United Nations through it - is that we shall support honest government. That condition did not exist in respect of the aid that the United States of America gave to Chiang Kai-shek. The Communists did not succeed in China because of Russian aid.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that the Chinese Communists did not receive aid from Russia ?
– That is what I say; and I say it on the authority of writers of world repute and on that of men whom President Roosevelt sent to China as special envoys. The latter made statements to that effect to members of my Government. The Chinese Communists did not need to get anything from Russia because all the supplies that the United States of America sent to Chiang
Kai-shek were either sold or found their way to the Communists. In any event, the Chiang Kai-shek Government was completely corrupt. Now that the United Nations forces have saved South Korea, the president of that country, Dr. Rhee, is proclaiming what he wants. His government is completely corrupt. We learn from the report of the United Nations Commission on South Korea that prior to the outbreak of the present conflict the Rhee Government was guilty of incredible brutality and torture.
– Has not the Russiansupported North Korean Government been guilty of similar crimes?
– I am not attempting to defend the Russian-sponsored government in North Korea. The Labour party has no time for it. I want this Government not to have anything to do with corrupt governments in Asia. We know that the Bao Dai government in Indo-China was corrupt. Bao Dai collaborated with the Japanese during World War II. We learn from press reports that during the last few months he has been taking the waters at a health resort in France. When the Annamites supported him, the French promised to give them complete independence. I emphasize that whenever and wherever we attempt to fight communism, we must fight it with honest government. We must always deal with it honestly, because if we fail to do so, we shall not be any better than communism which itself is dishonest, brutal and cruel and stands for the police state. I was struck by the following statement that was made by Dr. Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a broadcast that he made on Sunday last -
The Communist creed appealed to people who have throughout the ages known nothing but poverty, starvation and hardship.
Dr. Fisher went on to say that unless other nations had something with which to uplift their peoples, communism could not possibly be defeated. That is the judgment of a very high dignitary, and it is worth repeating. Communism cannot be defeated with corruption. The same thing is happening in the Philippines to-day. The administration of that country is corrupt. We can defeat an evil thing only with honesty, courage, sympathy and help. If the Government believes that the position in Asia to-day has been brought about because of communism, it does not understand the facts. The fundamental cause of the upsurge of the peoples of Asia is their desire for self-determination and self-government. I do not think that any one who studies the facts will deny that statement. It is perfectly true that communism has climbed on the backs of nationalist movements. For instance, the Communists say that they are fighting for the independence of Indo-China. In view of the facts that I have given, and having regard to the policy of the United States of America, which is the guiding factor in the provision of assistance to Asian countries, American capital must learn to live and work with other political creeds. Japan will not be able to carry on in the future without supplies of foodstuffs from Manchuria or supplies of raw materials such as iron ore, coke and coal from north-east China. It will be impossible for Japan, with its increasing population, to exist without supplies of raw materials from those countries. Communism is a pernicious creed, which we join with everybody else in decrying and which we have always fought within the Labour party. The plain truth is that 1,200,000,000 people in Asia cannot be brought under the domination of the white race again. We must realize clearly, no matter how many phobias we may suffer from, that there must be some re-arrangement of ideas in Asia. China is not going to become a puppet or satellite of any other nation.That is completely clear, and no sane man thinks otherwise. I do not think that many of the other Eastern countries are capable of governing themselves, but, as Campbell Bannerman said, good government is no substitute for selfgovernment. Pandit Nehru has told us that the best way to kill communism in the East is to ensure that the people in Eastern countries shall have the right of self-determination and to help them in various ways to raise their standards of living. The policy of Government supporters seems to be to declare that anybody who disagrees with them is a Communist or a Communist sympathizer. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) made suggestions about the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) because my colleague had not denied that he was a Communist. It is easy to smirch a reputation. It was easy for the Minister to utter cheap gibes.
– I did not make any charge.
– The right honorable gentleman did so indirectly when he said that sombody had called the honorable member for East Sydney a Communist and that the honorable member had not denied the charge. If I called the Minister a Communist and he did not deny the charge, would that be proof that he was a Communist ? Of course not 1
We must approach the great international problems of to-day with clear, open minds. Intolerance and miserable phobias finally produce nothing but the disasters that we want to avoid. Whatever steps the Government may take in relation to defence and assistance to Asia, it must have regard to the capacity of Australia to bear the cost. No gibe, no taunt, and no sneer that may come from the Prime Minister - I have noticed that a few have been reported in the press recently - will ever goad me, at any rate, into departing from the policy of speaking the truth as I see it. I try to approach our international problems in a spirit of reasonable tolerance and understanding of all the toiling masses of mankind, black or white. I ask honorable members to answer a few simple questions. Who ever bothered about the coolies of Indo-China before the war? Who ever bothered about the toiling coolies of Malaya before the war? Who ever bothered about the Arabs of the Middle East, whose average income is £7 per annum? Why are we now interested in these great problems? Are we actuated by humanitarian motives? Are we interested in these people because we have finally learned that they must be helped by any means that lies within our power, or merely because we want to make them pawns in the great fight between Russia on the one hand and the United States of America and ourselves on the other hand? What are the real reasons? Whatever comes or goes, I shall never avoid speaking the truth as I see it.
Mr. Menzies having been given the call, Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) from concluding his speech without limitation of time.
– I can undertake to follow the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) only in point of time. I cannot undertake to follow him in point of space because, during the last80 minutes, he has circumnavigated the entire globe of irrelevancy and has ended his speech by giving us a complete and faithful repetition of his speechon foreign affairs, which made me wonder why he complained that we had not had a debate on foreign affairs, because I had a most vivid recollection of having heard his remarks before. I have only one comment to make upon his essay on international affairs. This country has recently exchanged diplomatic missions with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, and it is entirely a novelty to me to hear an immediate past Prime Minister, speaking from his place in this Parliament, publicly and for the second time accuse a government which has accredited a representative to us of being a corrupt government. This is indeed a novelty in international relationships; such a novelty that it makes me happy that our international affairs are now under more civilized control. We now have a foreign policy that is designed, in particular to get friends for this country and an internal policy that is designed to make us fit to stand beside our friends in the event of trouble.
The right honorable gentleman ventured an observation on the subject of defence and, as far as I could follow him, he criticized the decision of this Government to enlist people voluntarily - not by compulsion - for service anywhere in the world. He condemned that decision by saying that these citizens, once enlisted, would be used at the judgment of the Australian Government, which, after all, means at the judgment of the Australian Parliament, because no government in this country can defy the Parliament. He said that that was wrong. Apparently, he does not believe that Aus tralian forces ought to be under the control of the Australian Government and Parliament. He believes that they ought to be under the control - apparently the sole control - of the United Nations, whether or not the Australian Government and Parliament believe in any particular project of that organization.
I should like everybody in Australia to understand clearly that, in the opinion of the Labour party, as expressed by its spokesman here to-night, the Parliament chosen by the Australian people is not fit to determine where Australian forces should be engaged in war if war should come.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not say or imply that.
– On the contrary, he said it in the plainest of terms. My great comfort is that every body who has taken the trouble to listen since 8 o’clock, either in this chamber or elsewhere, will know exactly what has taken place.
The Leader of the Opposition ended his singularly dyspeptic narrative by saying that, whatever came or went, he would speak the truth as he saw it. It is about time somebody on the other side of the chamber got up and said that. It at least adds to the gaiety of nations, because the fact is that the Opposition speaks the truth, not as it sees the truth, but as it is seen by its twelve masters outside the Parliament. We have heard all sorts of heroics in this chamber and we have heard of heroics in the Senate, and time after time we have heard the most violent denunciations of the antiCommunist legislation. All that honorable members opposite did was to avoid saying, “ And when I say this about the bill, I. speak the truth in spite of what may come “.
– We are not ashamed of our masters.
– I am sorry that the honorable gentleman, who has interjected from the front Opposition bench, is not ashamed, because he ought to be. It is not a. matter for pride - let us put it mildly - that honorable members opposite rise in this place and say, “ We speak the truth, whatever comes “, when they know perfectly well that only last week they swallowed all that they believed to be the truth in order that they should not be dragged bowling to the electors. Honorable members opposite, the Leader of the Opposition not least among them, are plainly suffering from a species of undulant fever. I have not consulted with my distinguished medical colleague, the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), but it seems to me, as a mere layman, that an undulant fever might be a sort, of fever in which the victim is red one moment and white as a ghost the next.
Having offered those few entirely friendly observations by way of a preliminary, I should like now to pursue the Leader of the Opposition along the tortuous course of his arguments, though I shall not be able to cover the ground completely because, after all, there is a limit to the time available. I shall deal with a few of the matters that he discussed, leaving others to be dealt with by my colleagues who will speak later in the debate. The right honorable gentleman began by talking about interest rates. He claimed some credit for the fact that the Labour Government, during the course of the war, had borrowed at low interest rates, which it undoubtedly did. But, in order to take extra unction to his soul, he first of all forgot that the low-interest-rate policy was established and put into operation by his predecessors during the course of the war. And. having forgotten that, it was not unnatural that he should also forget a few of the dates in the past. Seizing upon the Minister for Health, who is a sort of Dogsbody on financial matters - if I may use the expression with his permission - the Loader of the Opposition said, “ Ha ! The Minister for Health was Treasurer during World War I. and borrowed money on treasury-bills at an interest rate of !>i per cent.” ft is a grave misfortune, for the right honorable gentleman that the truth is that, the present Minister for Health became the Treasurer of Australia in 1923, four years after the end of World War I., and therefore had singularly little opportunity to borrow money on treasury bills during that war at 5*) per cent, or at any other rate. Indeed, during the time when those unnameable crimes were being committed, the present Minister for Health was actually engaged in the operations of war and wa9 not a politician. He entered this House in 1919.
– Is the right honorable gentleman referring to “Dogsbody”?
– I have used that term with the permission of my colleague because, when honorable members opposite weary of every other device, they usually have a crack at somebody and in the process falsify a little history.
– The Prime Minister will have to think of another explanation.
– Dogsbody is most unfortunate.
– I should like to say to the Leader of the Opposition that there arc worse things than being a Dogsbody, and he may take his change out of that. The right honorable gentleman then turned to mc - I was bound to receive some attention in the course of his speech - and produced what has now become the last; fading slogan of the Labour party, “ When are you going to put value back into, the £1? “ It is quite true that not one member of the Opposition wants value put back into the £1. It. is also quite true that that, is their one despairing slogan, because they have abandoned everything else, and every other principle for which they have ever spoken.
– When will the Government put value back into the £1 ?
– If it depends on the honorable member’s friends, value will never be put back into the £1. He may quote me on any platform anywhere, including the electorate of East Sydney, or Marx House, as having made that statement.
– Why does not the Prime Minister come to East Sydney and make that statement?
– I am scarcely to be taunted on that matter. I do not suppose that any political leader has spoken more often in the honorable member’s electorate than I have.
– Not lately.
– The honorable member has nothing to worry about on that score.
– I have spoken in the Prime Minister’s electorate of Kooyong.
– I am delighted to know that the honorable member went to Kooyong. For once, he was in eminently respectable company.
– That is a matter of opinion..
– Indeed, it is! I return to the joint statement of policy of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party during the last general election campaign. I stated -
The greatest task, therefore, is to get value back into the pound, that is, to get prices down. That is the only effective way of increasing real wages and salaries and, indeed, all monetary payments. High prices are not a cause; they are a result of an abundance of spending money and an insufficient supply of things to buy. A production policy, which I have already discussed, is therefore of the essence of price control.
What do we hear from Opposition members about production? A few days ago, a distinguished trade union leader, rocked by the unexpected size of the increase of the basic wage, made a statement to the effect .that there was only one way in which the possible dangerous effects of such a steep rise could be overcome, aud that was by increased production. How was that statement received by Opposition members? How was it received by the honorable gentleman who recently interjected from the front Opposition bench? Within 24 hours, he denounced Mr. Monk, and said that one thing was clear, namely, that no Labour member and no Labour leader would help to increase production.
– He did not say that.
– I was referring not to the honorable member for. Herbert (Mi-. Edmonds), but to another member of the Opposition. I do not want him to misunderstand me. I said that an honorable member, who interjected a few moments ago, said, “ We shall not assist to increase production “. In other words, his policy was, “Let production remain low. It is perfectly true that if it does, prices must continue to rise, and we shall not be doing anything for the Australian people, but we shall be able to point to honorable members on the Government side and say, ‘Ha, you said yon were going to put value back into the £, but we have settled you ‘ “. If that is the kind of triumph that Opposition members are looking for, I warn them that it will be a Pyrrhic victory. The people of Australia are not fools, and they can understand those tactics to perfection. As a matter of fact, it may interest honorable members, particularly Opposition members, if I make a passing reference to the judgments that were delivered in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court a few days ago in the basic wage inquiry. I shall refer, not to the minority judgment, although it was delivered by a very distinguished judge, but to the judgments of the majority judges, who granted the increase of the basic wage, namely Judge Foster, who was also a party to the 40-hour week award, and Judge Dunphy. Judge Foster, in the course of his judgment, said -
I shall be concerned with the fact that an increase in tha basic wage which will inevitably permeate the whole wage structure will increase prices and so add its modicum of inflationary pressure . . .
That was a perfectly fair recognition of the fact that there was an inflationary element. His Honour then proceeded to say-
I must assume that the proper authorities will take such steps as they are advised to safeguard the community from the effects of in inflation . . . 1 shall say a few words about that in a few moments, and shall have particular regard to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. Later, the same learned judge said -
The general impression that has come to me from the evidence, particularly the official statistical evidence, is that the economy is very prosperous-
That comment is a little disappointing to Opposition members. The learned judge continued - that the prospects for the immediate future are bright, perhaps very bright, and that in the foreseeable future no threat to its continued prosperity should be feared.
Having made that statement the learned judge stated later -
Any increase in wages tends to increase prices and reduce the value of money and there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that the increase I propose will cause a rise in prices in Australia and this in turn will cause a redistribution of the national income and affect some sections of the community including, of course, workers, adversely.
Judge Foster then referred to the devaluation of the £1, and the spectacular increase of the price of wool, as serious inflationary factors. He said -
But price increases are inevitable if wages are raised and that must be their effect ; this is regrettable but as the Court pointed out in the Standard Hours case, there is a corrective remedy in relief of these sections easily available to the Parliament but beyond the Court’s powers.
I shall return to that statement, because the problem is very fascinating. The same learned judge then said -
It is often said that increased productivity will relieve the inflationary position. It seems to me that this is only half the story; it should read - increased production at the same wage cost would reduce prices.
I now crave leave to read two other brief passages from the judgment of Judge Foster. He referred to the 40-hour week decision, in which he was one of the majority judges, and said -
The Court itself indicated in its judgment that a fall in production and rise in prices was expected to follow a shorter working week and as far as one can judge (though a solidly based judgment is not possible) the expectations of the Court in this respect have not been exceeded.
Finally, at the end of his judgment, His Honour referred to the effect of wool prices on inflation. The other learned judge who made up the majority in the basic wage case, Judge Dunphy, made two observations about which, I think, the committee should know, and which, indeed, should be widely known.
– Is the Prime Minister suggesting that the increase of the basic wage should not have been granted?
– I am reading, with great respect, the weighty observations that fell from the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that that increase should not have been granted?
– I am suggesting nothing. I am reading the words of the learned judges with complete accuracy. The words, after all, can speak for themselves if they are allowed to do so. Judge Dunphy said -
On many occasions during these proceedings material shortages have been alleged to depend almost entirely upon shortage of coal, andin the coal-miners of New South Wales, in particular, could be induced to supply the nation’ s demand for their essential product, material shortages of Australian produced goods would be reduced to a minimum. This is an undisputed fact, and, in the presence of coal-miners’ leaders, evidence was given that Australia is being deliberately deprived of a full and sufficient supply of coal. This sworn testimony has never been contradicted and must, therefore, be accepted as the plain and inescapable fact.
Speaking of the 40-hour working week, the learned judge said -
The 40-hour week must have added a substantial quota to internal inflation in the inevitable decline on a comparative basis of total production with a necessary increase in overtime work with its penalty rates, which have themselves increased tremendously.
His Honour then made a statement which I venture to underline.
– I notice that the Government has introduced legislation to increase the salaries of judges by £500 per annum.
– I recall that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was a Minister in the preceding Government, which increased the salaries of judges about three years ago.
– But the Prime Minister is moaning about increased wages.
– The honorable member is so anxious that no one shall hear these facts that he is screeching like a parakeet from the front Opposition bench. He does not want these quotations to be heard.
– That is not an answer.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ryan). - Order! I ask the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to refrain from interjecting.
– I venture to say that these statements will be heard, and I shall proceed to read this passage, which terrifies the honorable gentleman so much -
However, the community should by now realize that if it requires greater leisure and a higher all-round standard of living, it has to pay for it. Shorter hours and higher wages must result in higher prices, and no financial wizard can wave a magic wand to alter those fundamental facts.
– Who said that?
– Judge Dunphy, one of the two judges who delivered the majority decision in the basic wage case, which, I am sure, has been so well received by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin).
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN”. - Order ! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) is out of order in interjecting from a place other than his own.
– I have referred to those pertinent passages from the judgment of the majority judges in order to indicate to honorable members that when we have said, in the course of political controversy, that production is vital to the prevention of a rise of prices, and that if people want all the luxuries obtainable these days they must be prepared to pay the price for them, which is on a much higher level, we were speaking in terms that have been adopted by the judiciary. Although the Leader of the Opposition had something to say about that topic, he failed, I think, to make any convincing impression.
– The anti-Labour parties destroyed the prices referendum.
– I thought that King Charles’s head would emerge. The honorable member for East Sydney, who has interjected, reminds me so much of a character in David Copperfield. I must point out the resemblance to him at some time. King Charles’s head will keep bobbing up, and in the case of the honorable member, it is the prices referendum. That is the one thing to which honorable members opposite always return. Having uttered the cry that the Government must restore value to’ the fi, they all jump up, or one or other of them jumps up - sometimes they are a little divided until the whip cracks, and then they all jump together–
– Then they hand in their rifles, like the right honorable gentleman did.
– Does the honorable member for Watson know what he is laughing at?
– Then it must be the first time that he has known that.
– I am laughing at the time when the right honorable gentleman was a “ digger “.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member for Watson is out of order in interjecting from a place other than his own.
– Honorable members opposite say that we are not to touch the Communists, although they know that until the Communists have been dealt with there cannot be a sufficient increase of production. Now, the Leader of the Opposition, speaking on behalf of his followers - .although a number of them have expressed a contrary view - says that we must not alter the exchange rate, and that we should not borrow dollars. In fact, the borrowing of dollars is almost an unpardonable sin - although I suspect that the only sin about it is that the present Government was able to do so, whereas Labour did not even try to borrow dollars. We are told that we must shorten working hours, and increase wages and social services. Members of the Opposition advocate all those things, and most people will agree with them for asking for those things. But the Government is told by the Opposition that it must not appeal for increased production. We were told that only the other day. Apparently we should not do anything about our economic problems, except to hold a referendum on prices control. I” suppose the question asked at. that referendum would be: “Are you in favour of having prices reduced ? “ Of course, everybody would vote “ Yes “. I suppose that honorable members opposite contend that prices would then be reduced automatically! I have never heard such an absurd contention. Members of the Labour party have even been wasting the time of the Senate, for their own good and heroic reasons, in discussing a bill to authorize this Government to conduct a referendum on prices control. I find it a fascinating thought, because the power to control prices is now exercised by the Labour Governments of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania and the semiLabour Government of Victoria; and honorable gentlemen opposite have only one thing, one bone in the truck, to peddle up. They say to the people, in effect : “ Now, if only you can get the power to control prices out of the hands of McGirr, Cosgrove and Hanlon, and put it into the hands of Menzies, all will be well “. Not one member of the Opposition believes that when all the factors that enter into the price structure are running free we have any hope of preventing price rises merely by deciding to control prices. When the Leader of the Opposition was Treasurer during the war and set out to introduce a prices ceiling, what other powers did he have? He had the power to peg wages, to control capital issues and raw materials, and to direct man-power. I should like to know from honorable members opposite, when they get round to thinking about these problems, whether they intend to advocate wage-pegging. If so, when? Now, or after the margins granted in the recent basic wage increase have been adjusted? When? Are they going to the people - when they are at last dragged reluctantly before the electors, although I admit that they will not be dragged there any sooner than they can help - to say, “ We are in favour of wage-pegging and man-power control ? “ Of course not ! They are not going to stand up before an intelligent community and say : “ There will be prices control, but no man-power control, no wages control, and everything is to run free. Of course, the prices of our imports may rise, and all sorts of things may happen; but put us into office and we shall fix prices so that they will never rise again “. If they think that that will deceive an ordinary child, let alone the Australian adult community, then they are deluding themselves.
– Now say something about profit-pegging. How is the right honorable gentleman on that?
– If I were the honorable member for East .Sydney I should not say too much about that because, after all, the announcement made by my colleague, the Treasurer, that an excess profits tax was to be introduced, was not greeted with much applause by members of the Opposition. The only remark made about it so far was made by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), and I gather from that remark, so far as I understood it, that he was unfavorable to the proposal.
– Tell us something about restoring value to the £1.
– I have been talking about that subject and I shall have my remarks turned into whatever choctaw the honorable member prefers so that he may understand them.
I do not propose to detain the committee much longer, but I should like to say something about wool. After all, novelty has a certain charm; and the spectacle of honorable members opposite coming out strongly as the defenders of the woolgrowers is one of the most delightful things in the history of politics. It is perfectly true that the payasyouearn system of taxation has been applied to approximately 2,000,000 salary and wage earners ; but when the Leader of the Opposition was reminded of that fact he made some fuddled excuse to the effect that the introduction’ of the present system of taxation was Recommended by a joint committee of the Parliament. I suppose it was ; but is the scheme any better or any worse for that? Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that the system was forced upon him by the Opposition? Are we to be told that when the Leader of the Opposition was Treasurer he introduced the present taxation system because of some species of duress that was exercised upon him by the political parties then in Opposition? That is nonsense. Yet now it is suggested that some form of duress is to be applied by the present Government to the woolgrowers.
The right honorable gentleman said, first of all, that the Government’s proposal amounts to demanding a compulsory loan from the wool-growers. All right. If that be true it is equally true that a compulsory loan is being made by every Australian wage-earner who has a single penny deducted from his wages towards payment of his income tax. If the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies), who is interjecting, does not agree with the contention that I have been putting forward, I do not mind, but I should like him to be a little lucid in explaining his objection to my statements. The Leader of the Opposition complained that the wool sales deduction will be most unjust to the woolgrowers because, he contended, it will be discriminatory. Of course, I have read that criticism, of the proposal in advertisements in the newspapers. It is the line of country that is opposed to taxation.
However, before the right honorable gentleman becomes too anxious about his new friends, who will turn out to have more sense than he credits them with possessing, let me remind him that the wheat-growers have for many years sustained a deduction for stabilization of more than 2s. a bushel on their wheat in order that they may provide wheat for home-consumption at a price very much lower than that charged to overseas purchasers.
– But the wheat-growers, after a democratically conducted pool, agreed to that arrangement.
– I am not concerned with that at the moment ; I am concerned with the present position of the wheatgrowers. After payment of tax in advance, and the sale of a certain quantity of wheat at a lower price for home consumption, the wheat-grower has had about 27-J per cent, deducted from the average gross price of his wheat. He has not been moaning, however, because he is getting a decent price for his wheat. The Leader of the Opposition complained that the proposed discriminatory deduction for tax purposes will be applied only to wool. Does it not apply also to sugar? The Australian sugargrower sells sugar on the world markets at ls. 4d. per lb., but he also supplies sugar for home consumption at 5d. per lb. We hear at times about the companies at Broken Hill who mine lead and zinc. Let us admit in fairness to those companies - which are not poor companies, or they could not do what I am about to describe - have for years provided lead and zinc for the Ideal market at £25 and £30 a ton respectively, although the world market price is from £90 to £110 a ton, and is still rising. I am speaking from memory of the prices, and it is immaterial for my purpose at the moment whether lead is £25 a ton and zinc £30 a ton, or vice versa. The fact is that the companies which mine those metals have been prepared to subsidize the local market, and even to-day, when the prices of lead and zinc have been increased by the Prices Ministers, of the Stale governments to £65 a. ton - that being, in the view of those authorities, the current cost of production - the companies are providing for the local market, again speaking from memory, 54,000 tons of lead and 50,000 tons of zinc. In other words, they are providing 104,000 tons of those metals at £65 a ton, although they could obtain more than £100 a ton for them overseas. I do not want to deliver a eulogy of the companies concerned, because I think that that is a perfectly proper thing for them to do. However, I say that it is monstrous for the Leader of the Opposition to suggest that because the present Government has introduced a scheme,, which involves no more nor less than the pre-payment of tax on current gross earnings, it is doing something to the wool industry which discriminates against that industry. After all, the proposal is parallel to the treatment accorded to other industries.
The last argument advanced by the right honorable gentleman against our proposal in relation to the wool industry amounted, in substance, to this: but for this pre-collection of tax the Government would be standing out of £103,000,000, and the woolgrowers would have the spending of that sum. That is a simple form of argument. However, I remind the right honorable gentleman that but for the income tax that is collected by the Government from all wage-earners, it would be standing out of from £20,000,000 to £40,000,000 and the taxpayers would have the benefit of that money. That sort of argument does not butter any parsnips. What the right honorable gentleman leaves out of account is that because of the enormous expenditures which governments have to meet to-day - and every honorable member knows how those expenditures have grown, notably in the last few years on such matters as migration, and in the last six months on such matters as defence, which are concerned with great national policy - if the Government did not have the £100,000,000, it is quite true that the wool-growers would have it, and that the Government would have to go to the Commonwealth Bank to discount treasury-bills in order to obtain finance. In other words this matter is not one of who spends £100,000,000, the Government or the wool-growers. The question is: Is it to be spent once or is it to be spent twice ? Because if it remains in the hands of the wool-grower, it is true enough to say that., he will spend what he can of it and, I trust, will get some benefit from it. Then the Government would raise £100,000,000 of new money, not represented by any production, but obtained by discounting treasury-bills, because it would be in deficit by that amount. It. would then expend that £100,000,000. If. any former Treasurer can tell me that it is not inflationary to spend £100>000,000 twice or, rather, to be more accurate, to spend two different sums of £100,000,000 than it is to- spend one sum of £100,000^000, then I shall, in accordance with the old saying, “ eat my hat “. Indeed, I shall borrow a straw hat from an honorable member opposite and eat that.
I do not wish to detain the committee any longer, but I want to say in conclusion that the feebleness of the dying intersections on the other side of the committee are the best proof of the fact that honorable members opposite know now, if they did not know before, that the public will understand perfectly clearly that they are in favour of everything that will raise prices and are determined, until their masters instruct them otherwise, to put up a fight about the price level. I should hardly have thought it possible that a party which I repeat, was once a great party, should have sunk to such a level of futility, of abject surrender, of sheer humbug. If honorable members opposite think that the people do not understand them, then I hope that they will take such opportunities as they have and let us go to the people, and let the people deal with them.
– I wish to make two observations that are very pertinent to the speech that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has just delivered. The first observation is that his speech was entirely destructive. There was not one word of constructive argument and not one constructive -proposal in the whole of his utterance. The second observation which is very pertinent to his speech is that in his constant search for flattering laughter from his supporters he has stepped to-night more completely into the role of the political clown and has portrayed that role more obviously than it has ever been portrayed in this
Parliament by the responsible leader of a great party.
In referring to some of the. misstate^ ments made by the Prime Minister I direct attention- first to his extraordinary comment on the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr.. Chifley) that the government of the Philippines is corrupt. The fact that that- government is corrupt is, of course, fully documented by responsible authorities, but I am not dealing with the fact itself. I am dealing- with the Prime Minister’s extraordinary comment, because it is a remarkable illustration of his mind. Bie said that he had never in his life heard such a. reference made to a country that- had a Minister accredited to this country, as if he, himself, within recent weeks had not made references far more serious than that to a nation that has a Minister accredited to this country! The statement shows the Prime Minister’s complete failure to recognize his own position in these matters. He arrogates to himself a right that he immediately proceeds to deny to every one else.
He further completely- misrepresented the Leader of the Opposition by presenting that right honorable gentleman’s argument in relation to defence as being a Statement by him that the Parliament of this country was not to be entrusted with power to decide where Australian forces should serve. Of course, no such statement was made by the Leader of the Opposition- I do not think that any honorable member on the other side of the committee will honestly say that he believes the Prime Minister’s states ment to be a fair representation of the argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition. But what was the Prime Minister trying to avoid when he attempted to put that argument into the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition? The fact is that it is not objected to that men should be voluntarily enlisted for service outside Australia if they so wish. The point, which is worthy of argument and contention, is that this Government has made a change that vitally alters the system of army recruiting that has existed in this nation since federation. That change was made without previous referrence to> the people. It prevents a man from enlisting voluntarily for the defence of his country unless he agrees to serve any where in the world to which the Government chooses to send him.
But I consider that the Prime Minister reached the depth of his own inconsistency when he referred in contemptuous terms to what he called the “ Twelve outside masters of the Opposition “. There has never been any secret about the way in which the policy of the Labour party is framed. It is extraordinary for the Prime Minister to use such a term when lie himself in recent weeks has been guilty of a most gross betrayal of principle to which he had previously claimed to pay allegiance. Is it not true, and has it not been stated in every newspaper in the country, that the Prime Minister believed that iA order to fulfil his pledge to reduce the cost of living it was essential to revalue the Australian £1? He made a pledge to the people that purchasing power would be put back into the £1 and, on the evidence of every newspaper in Australia, he believed that in order to do so it was “first essential to revalue the Australian £1.
– That is a complete invention.
– It was reported in every newspaper in the country. He took the matter to the Cabinet and the voting in favour of revaluation of the Australian £1. was ten to seven. After the Prime Minister had submitted to his fellow Ministers the necessity for that step, and had carried the day, the minority group in the Cabinet, composed of the Australian Country party Ministers led by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), a right honorable gentleman who had declared previously that revaluation would occur only over his dead body - and I dare say that when he made that statement he had clear memories of the stabs in the back that he had previously received from the Prime Minister - delivered the ultimatum that unless the Prime Minister withdrew from the position that Cabinet had decided was correct, the Australian Country party itself would withdraw from the Government. The Prime Minister, faced with the alternatives of adhering to a principle that he believed was vital to the welfare of the people, or of backing down and obeying the behest of a minority group that is not even of his own party, but is of another party, gave way in order to retain his Prime Ministership.
– How many Australian Country party Ministers does the honorable member believe are in the Cabinet?
– There are five.
Honorable members interjecting.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN” (Mr. Ryan). - Order ! There are far too many interjections on both sides of the” committee.
– The five Australian Country party members -of the Cabinet were unanimously against revaluation of the £1, and had the support of two Liberal party Ministers. The Prime Minister to-night has done one thing in his desire for laughter and applause that he will regret for a long time. He has hung a tag on his colleague the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), which that right honorable gentleman will doubtless carry for the rest of his political career. He has named him “ Dr. Dogsbody “ - a tribute from a friend and colleague, but a tribute that, I suggest, contains a sneering nickname that nothing in the career of i the Minister for Health really warrants. That was another example of the fatal inability of the Prime Minister to avoid such references as will assist him to maintain unity. . If he cannot maintain unity between the Government parties he has no chance whatever of making a successful appeal for national unity.
Then the Prime Minister came to the matter of putting value back into the £1 which is of tremendous importance to all the people of this country. Every honorable member listened carefully to what he had to say about it. I think that every honorable member, as well as every person who heard the Prime Minister’s speech on the wireless, will agree that he dealt with that subject without giving the slightest indication of what steps the Government can or will take to put value back into the £1. Instead he relied upon a quotation from his policy speech, which he read to indicate that he had never made any such promise.
– Read it!
-The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) is taking the stand that the Prime Minister and his supporters never promised to - put value back into the £1. It is claimed that no such promise is contained in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. Can the honorable member for Canning and other honorable members opposite deny now the full-page advertisements that appeared over the Prime Minister’s signature, and were accompanied by his portrait, in every great newspaper of this country, which gave a definite and specific pledge to the people that the Government parties would put value back into the £1 if they were elected to office. I have half a dozen copies of such advertisements here, and I shall read one of them.
– From which newspaper is the honorable member quoting?
– I could quote similar advertisements from half a dozen newspapers. This one states -
The Liberal Party will reduce living costs. The Liberal Party will increase real wages The Liberal Party will. put the shillings back into your pound. The Liberal Party has a practical plan for increasing the purchasing power of wages and for reducing the cost ot living.
The Prime Minister to-night has pretended that no such promises were made.
– Read the Prime Minister’s policy speech !
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order !
– But the memory of the people is not so short. It is characteristic of the Prime Minister that he bases his whole alibi for his failure to put value back into the £1 on the ground that the Opposition has not done it for him. During the general election campaign he made not the slightest suggestion that he would require the cooperation of the Opposition in that matter. He did not say, “ We cannot do it unless the Opposition does it for us “. On the contrary, he declared that he would do it by methods that were diametrically opposed to those favoured by the Opposition. He took, a3 did honorable members who supported him, the full responsibility for doing the job. The Prime Minister, tonight could quote for a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes from the judgments of the Commonwealth Arbitra tion Court, but he would not, by doing that, take one iota away from his personal responsibility. The question is not whether value can be put into the £1. It is whether, when these pledges were made to the Australian people, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Australian Country party and their party candidates really believed that the pledges they made could be carried out. Did- they have a plan by which they could be put into effect? If so, why are they not taking action to implement those pledges?
The height of political clowning was reached by the Prime Minister to-night when he dealt with the matter of a prices referendum. The Prime Minister could not make any housewife believe that the proposal that would be put to the Australian people would be, “Are you in favour of having prices reduced ? “, that the people would say “Yes”, and that prices would then be reduced. The Prime Minister described that as childish nonsense and that is what it was. The Prime Minister and those who have been associated with him in the last two or three years have expressed tremendous faith in the principle of the referendum. They campaigned all over Australia for the use of that system on a matter that was not thought to be affected by the Constitution. This is a matter that is entirely affected by the Constitution and that cannot be dealt with effectively in any other way than by referendum. Yet the Prime Minister produced no argument against the referendum. He indulged in a piece of clowning that was followed by a contention which I do not imagine any one who listened to him believed. He said that the power to control prices was in the hands of the Labour governments in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. Therefore, why should it be transferred to him as Prime Minister? It has never been the contention of the Labour party that State Labour governments could successfully control prices in Australia. It was that party which, on the occasion of the prices referendum, some years ago, insisted that the separate State governments could not effectively control prices. It was the parties which at present form the Government which insisted at that referendum that the six separate State governments could effectively control prices. In full-page advertisements, they pledged that if the people would only defeat the referendum they would guarantee that, by the destruction of this great temple of bureaucracy, and the resultant decrease of government expenditure, prices would be reduced throughout Australia. Experience has shown that the six State governments cannot effectively control prices. Does any honorable member believe that prices are being effectively controlled in Australia at present? Does any one contend that the State governments are not doing their best ?
Is it not obvious that the Australian people should be given the opportunity to decide whether the control of prices should be restored to the Australian Government? That is the question that the Prime Minister completely avoided in his speech.
The Prime Minister said that he heard no applause from the Opposition when the Treasurer announced the intention to impose an excess profits tax. I am quite sure that he did not, because what the House heard from the Treasurer was merely the announcement of a pious intention to take action at some future date. There was nothing in that announcement to arouse applause. No plan of action has been disclosed. The Government has only given one more promise for the future and, on its record, the Government’s promises cannot be believed.
This budget is politically fraudulent because, despite everything that the Prime Minister said to-night concerning the wool sales deduction, there is no doubt that it is based on a huge forced loan from the wool-growers which the Treasurer is treating as current revenue and will expend in the current year. The Treasurer might choose to be represented as a modern Robin Hood, who is politically robbing a small and wealthy section in order to distribute largess among the many. That concept is not true because he is placing this impost on the small as well as on the large wool-growers. From the man who has received a gross income of £2,000 the Treasurer proposes to take £400. leaving to him £.1,600. From the man who has received £100,000 as gross
Mr. Fraser. income he will take £20,000, leaving to him £80,000. He will then say, “ Now I have taken from each of you so much that neither of you will be able to spend that money unwisely and cause an inflationary situation “. That is absurd. Buteven if it were true that the Treasurer is taking from the wealthy few in order to distribute largess among the many, the danger and injustice of sectional taxation should not be overlooked by any one just because it does not happen to hit him. If that can be done to one section to-day it can be done to another to-morrow. This cannot be justified as a genuine measure which is designed to combat inflation because it does not apply to everybody who has unusually large incomes, but will affect only wool-growers. It cannot be justified as a measure against inflation because a levy of one-fifth of the gross wool cheque will make a bigger inroad on the net income of one wool-grower than on that of another and will leave a larger sum in the hands of one than in the hands of another. Whilst the Treasurer has endeavoured to justify his action on the ground that the wool-grower cannot be trusted to manage and spend his own money, he proposes to manage and expend every penny of it himself. If the woolgrower received all his money there would not be the least doubt that he would invest some of it. But the Government will expend every penny of it as revenue in the current year.
This proposal cannot be justified even as a withdrawal of purchasing power as it could be if the money were to be put aside in a special fund of which the Government would act as an honest trustee, holding it for return to the woolgrower at a more suitable time. If the money is to be returned to the woolgrower, is it not clear that the government of the day will have to raise it afresh because it will have been expended before the year in which it is due to be paid as tax has begun? This levy will not reduce the amount of spending power in the community because, since the Government is using £103.000,000 to finance current needs, it would obviously have had to raise that from some other source if it had not chosen, for reasons of political expediency, to obtain it from the wool-growers.
The crowning absurdity of the Prime Minister’s speech was the statement that the only alternative to this proposal would be to finance this expenditure by the issue of treasury-bills. The real alternative would be to finance it by a properly graduated tax on all members of the community with an abnormally large income. Because the Government does not wish to offend those who gave it financial support at the last general election, it is placing the burden on a few thousand woolgrowers who can have no certainty that their money will ever be returned to them.
The law should be no respecter of persons. That principle applies to taxation laws as much as to others. Taxation should apply to income groups, not to persons. The Government does not propose to make its levy apply to all those who have unusually large incomes. It will not apply to the shareholder of the motor distributing company which has just paid a dividend of 100 per cent. It does not apply to the bookmaker who has made an unusually large profit. It is not to apply to many other people who are making very large incomes out of the present high prices of wool. Because this budget is based on political expediency and hits at one small section of the community very hard instead of spreading the burden equally, I describe it as politically fraudulent. The action of the Treasurer in this matter indicates the shakiness of the foundation on which the whole structure of social services payments is erected in this country. He is using that £103,000,000 which belongs to the next financial year without making any proper provision for the future financing of social services payments.
The pension rate of £2 10s. a week, announced by the Treasurer in the present budget will beworth less in demonstrable purchasing power than was the £2 2s. 6d. a week at the time when theChifley Government established that rate. At a time when prices are rising at an extraordinarily rapid rate the Government has seen fit to give to the weakest section of the community purchasing power which is not even equivalent to that which they possessed two or three years ago when prices were very much lower than they are to-day. Failure to do anything to ameliorate the means test will have the result that, in terms of purchasing power, the means test will be more rigid than it has ever been. The position of a man who owns £750 worth of property to-day does not more than compare with the position of a man who had about £200 worth of property when the pension law was instituted. Yet the possession of £750 worth of property debars a single man completely from any pension payment by the Commonwealth. The previous Government took steps to ameliorate the means test in both the income and the property provisions and it was pledged to further progressive steps. The present Government went to the country with a series of pious statements and half promises, but, in actual fact, it has not even preserved the existing position. Because of the decline of the value of money the means test has become more onerous than it ever was before. In these circumstances the final paragraph of the Treasurer’s budget calls for some attention. He said that the Government did not stand for restrictionism, but, on the contrary, believed in giving the fullest play to worthwhile initiative. Yet, in the same budget he has made social services provisions which will act as a bitter discouragement to every man and woman who, by their own efforts, have got together a few pounds for their old age. [Quorum formed.]
.- I listened attentively for 30 minutes to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) in the expectation of hearing him discuss the budget, which is the subject of this debate. For 27 minutes the honorable member spoke about the proposed wool sales deduction and for three minutes about the budget. In that three minutes his remarks consisted of a wail because this Government had not fulfilled the promise made by the Labour party during the last general election campaign to the effect that if the Liberal and Australian Country parties assumed office social services would be lost to the people. I listened for one hour and twenty minutes to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley). I waited also for him to deal with the budget, but he did so only in his opening remarks. Listening to those two speakers, I was led to believe that honorable members opposite must acknowledge this to be a good budget, and consequently, are refraining from discussing it. The Leader of the Opposition appeared to me to speak with a definite inferiority complex because he devoted his attention to the justification of budgets which he had introduced in the past. He neglected to discuss the present budget, and having tried unsuccessfully to justify his own past budgets, he took honorable members on a tour round the world.
We should consider the main problem that confronts us to-day, and that this budget has made a definite attempt to attack. That is the problem of inflation. All honorable members know that the basic cause of the present-day inflation is that in Australia, there id a preponderance of spending money and a relatively small quantity of consumer goods to be bought with it. While that volume of money continues to increase, as it will because of the recently announced increase of the basic wage, the unfavorable ratio between the volume of goods and the volume of money will give impetus to the inflationary process that is discernible in our internal economy. Today Australia stands at the crossroads. If we. seize the opportunities that arepresented to us to-day, through our unparalleled prosperity, to develop our industries and increase our primary production, we shall make a definite attack upon the inflationary spiral. Then the opportunity will be presented to put some real value back into the fi.
It is the responsibility of the people to co-operate with the Government to increase the volume of goods in this country. If one section of our community stands aloof our efforts will end in failure. Unless there is complete co-operation between the workers, the executives, the Opposition and the Government, we cannot succeed. The executive must see that his industry is run efficiently, and must provide satisfactory working conditions and incentives for his employees. Unless the people of Australia realize that in order to put value back into the fi there must be a full effort by every body, then the Government’s attempt to avert the evil consequences of inflation will be of no avail.
The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) referred to defence in his budget speech. No honorable member in this chamber could fail to appreciate, considering the international situation, that an adequate system of defence is imperative for the security of Australia. That is made all the more plain when our strategic position is studied. The Treasurer stated that he intends to provide £83,000,000 for expenditure on defence, and f50,000,000 for the building up of a stock pile of essential goods which can be used in the event, of an emergency. The Government realizes that the expenditure of that £133,000,000 will add to the inflationary pressure, but even so, the people of Australia are so conscious of the necessity for these defence preparations that they are prepared to suffer that pressure. The Treasurer said on page 7 of his budget speech -
These measures include the introduction of National Service, under which training will commence in the course of this financial year. The establishment of a Citizen Air Force Active Reserve, the re-establishment of Women’s Services in the Navy, Army and Air Force, the production in Australia of the latest highspeed bomber and of the latest development in jet-propelled fighter aircraft as well as extension of .present contracts for a type of jet fighter now in production in Australia, the modernization and conversion of existing destroyers and a new naval construction programme which will extend over several years.
Provision has been made in the above estimates for the forces in Malaya and Korea . . .
When the bill to introduce national service is placed before the House the Government expects to meet with strong opposition from honorable members of the Labour party. National service will exert a further inflationary pressure. During the general election campaign many questions were asked and answered about the attitude of the Government parties towards national service. The people then endorsed our views. The experience of two world wars taught us that to send inadequately trained troops into battle is equivalent to sending them to certain death. This Government, which consists mostly of ex-servicemen whose’ knowledge was gained through their service, is not prepared to send troops into action untrained and unprepared. We believe that every youth born in Australia owes something to this country. We believe that the people of Australia must recognize that troops must not be sent into action untrained and unprepared. I commend very strongly the Government’s attitude on defence. Indicative of its appreciation of the services of Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen, the Government has already made certain increases of the rates of pay. We remember very well how little consideration was given to those who served in the last war by the then Government, the supporters of which now sit as an Opposition. We remember only too clearly the difficulty and humiliation to which the men who wore uniforms were subjected, and the many unfortunate actions of the government of the day, due to the entire ignorance of its leader of the conditions of soldiers, sailors and airmen. That state of affairs will not be allowed to recur while the Liberal and Australian Country parties are governing this country. There is provision in the budget for £106,000,000 for war and repatriation. There have been substantial increases of all pensions, and we who have come into close contact with the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are fully conscious of the difficulties under which they have been labouring. They cannot earn their own living, and are dependent entirely on the totally and permanently incapacitated pension. Many of them are young men who were married just prior to going to the war. They have been struggling to maintain their families, and, perhaps, to pay off a war service home and to provide their children with a sound education, on the miserable pittance that was handed to them by the Chifley Government. When representations were made to that Government by returned servicemen’s organizations for increased pensions they were ignored.
– That is not true.
– I say that it is true. When the 33-point pension plan was introduced the federal executive of the returned servicemen’s league came to Canberra and lobbied. They interviewed the then Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the members of his Cabinet, but not one point of that 33-point programme was granted. Supporters of the present Government stated from the hustings that they were fully conscious of these shortcomings and would remedy them. The Government has kept its word, and adequate pensions are to be paid to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. The double amputees and paraplegics have been granted motor cars to get about in. Do honorable members opposite think that that is too much to give to men who gave their limbs fighting to keep this country free and some members of Parliament nice and safe in politician’s jobs in Canberra?
There is to be an increased allocation of £9,000,000 for war service homes making a total of £25,000,000, which should be sufficient to build 15,000 homes during this financial year. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has given generous and liberal consideration to the men who fought for this country. I believe that this is the part that hurts honorable members like the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. Considerable assistance has been granted to all people in the lower income groups.
Proposed subsidies will assist those on the lower incomes considerably. It is estimated that the subsidy for butter will cost the Government £11,300,000 for this year, compared with £8,008,500 in the last financial year. Imported coal will be subsidized to the amount of £3,200,000. The tea subsidy will involve an expenditure of £7,000,000, whilst £1,500,000 is to be provided to subsidize the importation of prefabricated houses. This proposed subsidy indicates that the Government is conscious of the fact that members of the younger generation who have married since the war have been unable to obtain homes. It was quite impossible for them to do so while Labour was in power, and, unfortunately, it is still impossible for them to build homes, because of the present exhorbitant cost of building. This Government is doing everything in its power to reduce building costs and to provide adequate accommodation for younger people. Further assistance will be given by the provision of a subsidy in respect of woollen goods. The proposed wool sales deduction has come in for a considerable amount of criticism from the Opposition. This is not an additional impost. The intention is that the wool-growers shall be in the same category as all other wage and salary earners in Australia, and that they will pay as they earn. One-fifth of the wool cheque will be deducted as prepayment of income tax. Each wool-grower will be credited with that amount, and when his assessment is subsequently issued to him that amount will be deducted from any tax due. Considerable attention has also been given to invalid, age, widows’ and service pensions. The Treasurer stated in his budget speech -
The Government will also propose amendments to raise from £200 to £500 the exemption for means test purposes of the surrender value of life insurancepolicies and to exclude war pensions from income in assessing unemployment and sickness benefits.
To-day, the Treasurer informed me that an anomaly that has existed for some considerable time has now been remedied. Recipients of Imperial service pensions and Imperial war pensions have, in the past, had their pensions taken into consideration in the application of the means test to assess unemployment and sickness benefits. Imperial pensions should be inalienable, as are Australian war pensions in connexion with the assessment of income tax. That matter was brought to the notice of the Treasurer and to-day I received his assurance that the matter would be given consideration by the special committee that is investigating such matters. There is every hope thatthese pensions will soon be regarded as inalienable contributions in the assessment of the income tax of the recipients.
I shall conclude by reiterating that Australia, as the Treasurer said in the concluding portion of his budget speech, is presented with an opportunity to make great advancement. That advancement can be sustained only if all . sections of the community co-operate in the interests of the nation. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde -Cameron) have intimated that they will not co-operate with the Government. That attitude is dictated by bitter and childish party politics. Any honorable member who adopts it is not worthy to be called an Australian, because by doing so he permits his party political affiliations to override his loyalty, patriot ism and love for his fellowmen. If the Government fails to deal effectively with the economic problems that confront it, every section of the community will suffer, but those who will suffer most and pay most dearly, will be the people whom the honorable member for East Sydney claims that he represents because they will not be able to afford to buy the bare necessaries of life. If that honorable gentleman and the honorable member for Hindmarsh and their colleagues attempt to sabotage the Government’s effort to increase production, particularly in basic industries, the people and not the Government will suffer.
Motion (by Mr. Beale) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In each of the States there is a law that obliges persons who issue printed leaflets to attach the printer’s imprint upon them. I have in my hand a leaflet which, in order to give the appearance of authenticity, bears the imprint, “Standard Printers Proprietary Limited, 524 Victoriastreet, Melbourne, C.l.” There is no printery at that address. The leaflet deals with the passage of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill and states -
This bill was ordered by the United States State Department and the Australian millionaires to silence all opposition against their aggressive war . . .
Calwell, who recently, after he had been paid a bribe of £15,000 by the espionage agency of the American State Department, changed overnight from verbal opposition to advocating its complete acceptance.
The leaflet attacksnot only the integrity of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), but also that of the representatives of the United States of America in this country. The publication of leaflets of this kind is not an isolated practice. Hundreds of such leaflets are published yearly and are circulated throughout the Commonwealth in order to attack public men and public institutions. They are issued by the Communist party in an attempt to destroy the faith of the people in democratic institutions. Although this leaflet attacks the. integrity of the honorable member for. Melbourne, to-morrow the Communist party’s attack will be directed against the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or some other public man. They are a part of a plan of treachery, subterfuge, and lies. They attack the integrity and morality of all who dare to oppose the Communist party which shoots these poisoned darts as from an ambush. By character assassination, the Communists seek to destroy all who oppose them. I admire the people of America and the honorable member for Melbourne is a colleague of mine and one whom I am proud to call a friend. But I should oppose just as strongly attacks of this kind upon persons who do not happen to be my colleagues or friends. The security service should ascertain who the culprits are and bring them to justice. I object strongly to anonymous libellers being permitted to go free in this country, particularly when they attack representatives of nations that are friendly to lis and seek to destroy democratic institutions by impugning the integrity, morality and honour of all men in public life.
– I direct the attention of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior, to the deplorable condition of roads in the Australian Capital Territory, including arterial roads that are used by large numbers of tourists. Much of the prosperity that Canberra enjoys in summer is derived from the tourist traffic. Whilst every effort is being made to attract tourists to the Australian Capital Territory, I have received numerous communications from tourists deploring the bad condition of the roads in the territory. At present little or nothing is being done to maintain roads in repair except by filling in erosions with dirt or sand which is immediately scoured out during the first shower or as the result of concentrated traffic. The road from Canberra to the Cotter dam, which carries a very heavy stream of traffic over the week-end, is in a deplorable condition, and motorists oan avoid the worst spots only by breaking the rules of the road. The roads were never meant to carry the heavy traffic that is now passing over them., particularly vehicles of the semi-trailer type. The surfaces are being cut to pieces, and the authorities do not seem to have any plan for solving the problem. I hope that a positive plan will be evolved, and that roads which are at present only lightly sealed with tar or bitumen will be reconstructed after the manner of permanent highways.
– in reply - I shall bring to the attention of the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) the matter mentioned by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott), and I am sure that it will receive his attention.
I agree with every word said by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters). All of us have seen pamphlets of the kind mentioned by him, some bearing the names of the printers, and others not. They are scurrilous publications, full of falsehoods, and couched in defamatory terms. In such matters, the powers of the Commonwealth are not so wide as the honorable member seems to believe they are. During election time, the Commonwealth has wide powers to compel publishers of pamphlets to put the name of the printery on them, but at other times - I speak from memory - only the States possess such power. When the present litigation in connexion with the Communist Party Dissolution Act is disposed of, the Commonwealth Parliament may possess power that it did not have before, and lie honorable member may rest assured that action will be taken to ensure that this pernicious propaganda shall be dealt with effectively. The Government is obliged to the honorable member for directing attention to the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations- Statutory
Rules 1950, No. 66.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Labour and National Service- L. L.
Forbes, V. C. Routley.
Supply - C. L. Alchin, B. H. Arndt, D. R. Lt. Callow, I. B. Campbell, J. J. Charles, D. P. Melrose, J. D. Robinson.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, Nos. 57,64.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No.63.
Pharmaceutical Benefits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No.62.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Australian Capital Territory for year 1949-50.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 11th October the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked a question concerning the shipment of steel products for Tasmania. The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answer : -
The Commonwealth Government has no control over the actual allocation of steel products. In regard to the shipment of steel products, this is a matter which is closely watched by the Central Traffic Committee which allocates vessels to lift whatever steel products are available. The present position in regard to Tasmania is as follows: - Talune departed Newcastle the 5th October with 1,600 tons of steel and general cargo for Hobart; Wanaka due at Newcastle week ending the 28th October to load approximately 237 tons for Launceston; Karno due Newcastle week ending the 21st October to load approximately 1*20 tons f<)T Devonport and 110 tons for Burnie. These three vessels will clear practically the whole of the -steel products at present available for Tasmanian ports. Further vessels will be allocated as steel becomes available.
– On the 3rd October, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) asked a question requesting information concerning a proposal submitted at the recent Premiers -Conference for the establishment of a meat stabilization plan. The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has informed me that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has furnished its comments on the question of the stabilization of meat prices in Australia for transmission to State governments. I understand that it is the department’s view that the ramifications of the meat trade are such that it would he administratively impossible to operate a satisfactory price equalization scheme for meat. Also that a combination of special factors has created abnormal conditions which will not last indefinitely, but which may be expected to make the orderly marketing of meat difficult while they continue to exist.
s. - On the 27th September, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked me a question relating to the supply of, and price of, meat in Brisbane. I assume that the question refers to a prominent meat export concern operating in Queensland which handle’s’ the bulk of the beef shipments to Singapore. This company is licensed by the Australian Meat Board, and is issued with meat export permits in accordance with arrangements agreed upon by the British Ministry of Food. Inquiries reveal that this company has not purchased any beef in Brisbane for export to Singapore since the 16th August last. Immediately prior to that date the company’s reservation from its kill at the Brisbane abattoirs: for Singapore orders WAS negligible, their slaughterings being, in the main, utilized for the Brisbane local trade. I am informed that the bulk of the meat which the company ships to Singapore is drawn from stocks accumulated at North Queensland works during the beef-killing season. Insofar as prices are concerned this is a matter for the State Government, and the honorable member might care to refer this matter to the State price-fixing authority for investigation.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 October 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19501024_reps_19_209/>.