19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy. Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I formally announce to the House the following changes in the Ministry: -
Minister for the Interior - The Honorable Eric John Harrison.
Minister for Defence - The Honorable Philip Albert Martin McBride.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) will act for the Minister for the Interior during the absonce of the Minister from Australia. The Minister for Defence will represent the Minister for Trade and Customs in this House.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question which relates to the management of the . business of this House. The Ex-prisoners ofWar and Relatives Association, of Western Australia is very anxious to have a representative at Canberra when the debate on the paper relating to the claim for certain payments to prisoners of war takes place in this House. Can the right honorable gentlemanset aside a definite date for that debate so that I can notify the association when to send its representative to Canberra?
– I shall endeavour to fix a date for the debate and I shall keep in touch with the honorable member on the subject.
– Pursuant to a question that was asked in this House yesterday, I now ask the Minister for Immigration whether his attention has been directed to a recent statement by Mr. G. W. Holland, the acting federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, in which he claimed that 8,500,000 people of German origin - the so-called volksdeutsche - who have been expelled from countries in Europe recently occupied by Russia, in which many of them had been living for generations, and who are outside the help of the. International Relief Organization and who are regarded almost as aliens in Germany, would provide an excellent source of immigrants for Australia, subject, of course, to proper selection and screening.Will the Minister inform the House whether Mr. Holland’s statement is accurate? If it is accurate, will the honorable gentleman give due consideration to making use of this source of immigrants?
– I read a report of the statement by Mr. Holland to which the honorable member has referred and, in fact, I made some public comment at the time in which I commended Mr. Holland for the realistic attitude that he had adopted on this most important matter. I believe that the statement was accurate. It was confirmed by an article that was published in Mufti, the official journal of the Returned Servicemen’s League in Victoria, almost immediately after it had been made. The Government’s advisers have already said that they consider that the body of men and women to which Mr. Holland referred represents a useful source for the selection of immigrants, and steps to take advantage of that source are already in train. But, as I pointed out to the honorable member for Parkes yesterday, the House and the country can be assured that a very strict and close screening in respect of security, health and character will be made in order to ensure that only persons of the types who are regarded by the Government as suitable to settle in this country will be brought here.
– Earlier in the year, a committee was appointed to investigate and report on health matters in North Australia. “Will the Minister for Health inform me whether that committee has concluded its investigations and submitted its report? If it has done so, will the document be made available to b honorable members ?
– The committee has met and has made its investigations, and I understand that, at the present time, it is concluding its report for submission to the three Governments concerned. When they ‘receive it, they will consider it. As soon as it is available, I shall supply a copy to the honorable gentleman.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to indicate the progress of the work of establishing a regional broadcasting station at Mackay, and when is the station likely to commence operations?
– -The work on the regional broadcasting station at Mackay is proceeding for the time being on a temporary basis, pending the completion of the permanent installations. It is hoped that the temporary station will begin broadcasting about the end of this year. It will operate on a power of two kilowatts, and 1,150 kilocycles.
– My question to the Postmaster-General concerns the review of the power of commercial radio stations tha.t has been undertaken by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Is the investigation being made solely upon the basis of the good of the listening public or has it been decided that, if an increase of power is granted to any country radio station, a pro fata increase of power shall be granted to other stations in the same area so that the privileged position occupied by certain broadcasting groups and stations controlled by anti-Labour political organizations may .be maintained ?
– There is no truth whatever in what the honorable member has said.
– I desire to address a question to the Treasurer. I have received an urgent telegram from the Mayor of Forbes in which he speaks of many homes as well as crops being completely ruined by the floods, and points out that adequate financial assistance is essential for further rehabilitation. Widespread devastation has been caused during the last few days by floods in the Lachlan Valley, and the towns of Forbes, Cowra and Eugowra have suffered severely. Crops have been ruined, and the fences enclosing the properties of soldier settlers, vegetable growers, lucerne growers, householders and many other people have been destroyed. In view of that heavy damage, will the Treasurer give consideration to making a special grant to the Government of New South Wales for the purpose of assisting those people ?
– No request for flood relief in respect of Forbes has been received from the Government of New South Wales. However, if such a request is made it will receive sympathetic consideration by the Government.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the suggestion made by Mr. J. A. Ferguson, M.L.C., the federal president of the Australian Labour party, in the course of a speech which he made in the Legislative Council of New South Wales in connexion with the University of Sydney centenary celebrations, that a faculty of labour and industrial relations should be established at the university similar to labour faculties that have been established in about one hundred American universities and colleges? Mr. Ferguson said on that occasion that he could not imagine that any more effective effort could be made to narrow the gulf between capital and labour than to establish such a faculty. I point out to the right honorable gentleman that the proposal was welcomed by Professor Stephen Roberts, ViceChan,cellor of the University of Sydney, who indicated that such a faculty would be established as soon as the University of Sydney had sufficient funds to establish it. In view of the dark clouds now gathering on the industrial horizon, will the Prime Minister take up the matter with the Treasurer with a view to providing funds for the establishment at the universities in capital cities of a faculty along the lines suggested and also, if possible, at the Australian National University at Canberra? Furthermore, if the Prime Minister favours the proposition, will he undertake to endeavour to launch the new proposal at the beginning of next year ?
– Some months ago the Government appointed a committee to investigate the finances of the various universities. An interim report has been received from that committee and it is now awaiting consideration by the Cabinet. I cannot, of course, anticipate what the decision of the Cabinet will be. However, apart altogether from the proposal that the Government should make available funds to assist State universities, I take this opportunity to say that I do not wish to be regarded as an advocate of the proposition that the authority of the universities to raise their own funds and to conduct their own affairs should be interfered with by the Government.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to an article which appeared in the- New Times which criticizes the Government for maintaining the uniform tax system ? Can the right honorable gentleman say whether it is a fact that although he offered, at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, to discuss with the Premiers the whole matter of uniform tax and the return to the States of their taxing powers, the Premiers did not accept the offer?
– I have not had th«advantage of reading the article referred to, but at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers I intimated to the Premiers that if they desired to discuss the proposal to return to the States the right to exercise their taxing powers I was willing to discuss it with them. Four out of the six Premiers indicated that’ they would not contemplate a reversion to such a state of affairs, and, whilst the two remaining Premiers indicated prima facie that they were prepared to discuss the matter, I felt that their expressed agreement to do so was qualified by serious mental reservations.
– I direct to the Treasurer a question relating to tax exemptions for wheat farmers who purchase bulk handling equipment. In order to give an incentive to wheat farmers to purchase such equipment, and thus reduce our annual expenditure on the import of wheat bags, and also to reduce the time spent in unloading operations at wheat silos, will the Minister consider making the amounts expended on such equipment a direct deduction from income tax in the year in which the money is expended, instead of following the present system of allowing a certain proportion of such expenditure as a. deduction for depreciation.
– The expenditure of money on the purchase of such equipment is of a capital nature, and there is no provision in the relevant legislation under which it could be permitted as a deduction. I shall examine the matter and ascertain the merits of the case for special consideration in the direction that the honorable gentleman has indicated.
– In submitting my question to the Treasurer I state by way of explanation that during the war years employees of the American authorities who worked in the small ships section in the islands had amounts deducted from their earnings for payment of income tax. Those deductions were made by the Chifley Government. As a result of an application the High Court ruled that the relevant earnings of those individuals were not subject to Australian income tax laws. I understand that the sums deducted totalled about £200,000 and no refunds have been made either by the present
Treasurer or by his predecessor. Many of the people concerned are now living in my electorate and I ask the Treasurer whether he has given consideration to conforming to the decision of the High Court and arranging for a refund of the deductions.
– I think that the honorable gentleman’s question is based on a wrong promise. If my memory serve, me aright a court’s decision was the opposite to that indicated by the honorable gentleman. I understand that the decision was based on where thu contract of service was made and not where the income was earned. However, I shall study the matter and shall give the honorable gentleman an adequate reply.
– Will the- Treasurer reconsider the rate of sales tax that has been imposed on the item “ Baskets and hampers of all kinds used for private, personal, domestic or office purposes made of cane or wicker but not including bassinettes and other sleeping baskets for babies “ ? The Royal Institution for the Blind in Adelaide teaches blind persons basket-making and I have been informed by blind persons that the ordinary clothes basket which the housewife uses for taking clothes to the line is classed under this item as a luxury and taxed at the rate of 33i per cent. These blind people who have been encouraged to go into business on their own account desire that the 33^ per cent, rate of sales tax be reduced to the old rate of 8 1/3 per cent, so that they will not have to go out of business.
– I am prepared to ascertain whether there are any anomalies in the classification which the honorable gentleman has mentioned. However, :it is the purchaser who pays flu? sales tax, not the seller.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the fact that electric batteries are almost invariably used in country districts, where there is no reticulated current available to operate radio sets in homes? Such batteries are used very largely by the poorer sections of the population such as fettlers, small settlers and so on, who cannot afford to install their own electric power plants. If the attention of the
Treasurer has been directed to these facts, has he been able to give consideration to representations that the increase of sales tax on these batteries might be waived? If he has not yet been able to consider such representations, will he do so?
-^-Consideration has been given to the matter that the honorable member has raised. When the schedules were introduced the anomaly that he has mentioned was pointed out to me by not only the honorable member himself but also by other honorable. members. The anomaly will be adjusted by exempting from sales tax batteries that are used for radio receiving sets in localities where electricity is not available.
– Speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 7th June last I brought to the notice of the Minister for the Navy, who was in charge of the House at that time, the hardship suffered by certain retired officers of the telegraphists’ branch of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, who were in receipt of superannuation pensions following their retirement from the Service. During the war those officers voluntarily returned to duty in order to release younger members of the department for war service, and because they received payment for their services they deprived themselves of their right to receive superannuation pensions during the period of their re-employment. In recognition of their patriotic action the Government undertook to appoint a committee to examine the officers’ claim to reimbursement of the superannuation payments of which they had been deprived. Will the Treasurer now inform the House whether any decision has yet been made by the Government on the matter?
– I shall have the matter investigated to see what information I can give the honorable member regarding the position.
– Does the Minister for Supply know that the Lidcombe engine factory in Sydney is now working at less than half its full capacity? Does he not agree that this factory, which is tooled for precision engineering of a high degree, would be of great use to the community for the production of civilian engineering goods in short supply, provided, of course, that its production capacity is not fully required for defence? If he agrees with what I have said will he investigate the factory’s capacity, as well as its present employment, in order to see that it is put to its best use?
– It is true that the Lidcombe engine factory is given over to the production of Rolls-Royce Merlin engines for aircraft and defence purposes. I have not yet had an opportunity to visit the factory, although it is only seven miles from my home. I think that it is true that the factory is not working to full capacity, but the honorable memoes’ will understand that there are difficulties about introducing civilian production into an aircraft or other munitions factory. We allow such production to some degree because it helps to reduce the heavy cost of maintaining essential defence factories, but we limit it in that we do not embark on civilian production that we consider will be in competition with private industry. In answer to an interjection that I have just heard an honorable member make from the Opposition front bench, I point out that in not engaging in competition with private industry by means of production in defence factories, we are following a practice that was adopted by the previous Government. But we attempt .to assist in the production of goods that are scarce, in cases in which we are requested to do so by private industry. I shall have the matter of the Lidcombe engine factory examined in detail and see what can be done to expand its production, so long as it does not conflict with the principles that I have just mentioned.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether the report is well founded that the importation of prefabricated homes is to be limited owing to the fact that water supplies and other ancillary services can be provided for only a limited number of building sites which are controlled by
State housing commisisons? As many thousands of private owners have home sites which are already provided with these services, could arrangements be made to facilitate the importation of prefabricated homes for private owners? Will the Minister confer with building societies, banks or other financing bodies in order to ascertain whether the owners of private buildings can be assisted to purchase prefabricated homes?
– It is a fact that State housing commissions have told the Government that the total number of prefabricated houses that they can import in the coming twelve months will be limited by the number of sites that can be prepared in advance, which will total about 10,000 for the six States. However, more recently the States of New South Wales and Queensland have shown signs of proposing, to import a considerably larger number which will exceed the number of sites that they have prepared. Evidently they contemplate the erection of prefabricated houses on sites that are not fully supplied with water, sewerage and other services.
– They propose to erect them in the country, in many cases.
– Yes. It is perfectly competent for private individuals to buy prefabricated houses, as one might say, off the peg, and erect them provided that they comply with local building regulations. There is a gap in the financial arrangements for the purchase of imported prefabricated houses by private individuals because there is no provision for the purchase to be financed prior to the commencement of the erection of the house in Australia when progress payments can be collected. I have taken this matter up with the Commonwealth Bank, but it has not yet found a way to overcome this difficulty. I agree strongly that if some means can he evolved of overcoming the problem in the financing of imported prefabricated houses by securing the assistance of State governments, building societies, community improvement associations, the Commonwealth Bank, the trading banks, or insurance companies, a very considerable impetus would be given to the erection of prefabricated houses in Australia.
I shall do my best to see whether some means, can be found of overcoming this obstacle.
– In view of the increase in the basic wage in New South Wales to £8 6s. a week which will take effect from the first pay period in December and will considerably affect prices, will the Treasurer consider giving age, invalid, widow and ex-service pensioners a similar increase in their pensions to enable them to cope with this increase in the cost of living?
– The Government’s financial proposals, which include proposals on pens-ions, are embodied in the legislation which will again, be debated later to-day.
– Is the Treasurer aware of the hunger and poverty stalking amongst pensioners to-day owing to the excessively high cost of living? Will he inform the House whether, in view of the increase of approximately £2 8s. in the basic wage since the Chifley Government increased pensions to £2 2s. 6d., it is the intention of the Government to adhere to the paltry increase’ of 7s. 6d. for age and invalid pensioners contained in the budget”” proposals; or does the Government propose to bring down a supplementary budget a little later in which a further increase will be given to the pensioners-
– A similar question has already been asked.
– Will the Minister indicate to the House whether the Government intends to relax the means test so that pensioners will be able to supplement their meagre incomes? If not, will the Government give consideration to this matter so that pensioners may have a hope of achieving a decent standard of living in the future?
– The earlier part of the honorable member’s question was asked and answered to-day. With regard to the latter part of his question, the policy of this Government is to alleviate the means test as and when economic circumstances permit it to be done. I remind the honorable member that although his party was governing this country for eight years it did nothing in that connexion.
– Earlier this afternoon the Treasurer stated that Labour governments had done nothing about the means test during the eight years in which they were in office. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the permissible income for a pensioner was 12s. 6d. a week in 1941, but had been increased to £1 10s. a week by 1949? If not, will he study the social services legislation in order to learn the facts?
– I am aware of the fact that the honorable member has mentioned. I referred earlier to the easing of the means test generally, a project which the Labour party has advocated for a long time but which it was never prepared to tackle.
– Yesterday, in the absence of the Treasurer, I asked the Prime Minister a question about pensions, and he expressed his intention of asking the Treasurer to give me a reply to-day. However, as the Treasurer is now present, I shall re-direct my question to him. 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-
– Order ! A similar question was asked earlier to-day.
– The Prime Minister informed me yesterday that my question would be answered to-day.
– A similar question has already been asked to-day.
– It has not been answered.
– Recently the PostmasterGeneral indicated to the House that there was an ample supply of telephone instruments in Australia to meet our present requirements. There is, however, a shortage of telephone instruments in Toowoomba and other Queensland centres at present which is delaying certain installations. This shortage affects particularly the magneto type of 1 instrument. As it appears that the shortage is due to distribution problems, will the Postmaster-General arrange with his department to expedite further deliveries of such instruments for use in Queensland ?
– An ample supply of telephone instruments exist in Australia of the automatic and common battery type, but there is a temporary shortage of the magneto type instruments. The department is manufacturing a number of these instruments in its own workshops,, and is also importing quantities of them. It is expected that about 2,500 instruments will arrive in Brisbane from overseas during the next few weeks. Those, together with others being manufactured, will be sufficient to supply all needs in Queensland. The new exchange at Toowoomba, will consist of about 1,000 lines using the magneto type telephones, and I anticipate that that will be opened sometime early in the new year. I expect that there will be adequate telephones at that time.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether TransAustralia Airlines or Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited pay airport or other landing charges for the use of New Zealand airports when operating services from Australia to New Zealand? Does Tasman Empire Airways Limited pay airport, air route or other landing charges for the use of the Solent flying boat service between New Zealand and the flying boat base at Rose Bay, Sydney? If the Minister has not this information available , at the moment, will he be good enough to ask the Department of Civil Aviation to furnish it to him so that he can make it available promptly to the House ?
– The honorable member has placed three other questions on the notice-paper which relate to the subject that he has just mentioned but refer to different airports. It was because he framed those questions in such detail that T asked him to place them on the notice-paper. Now, he has presented a fourth edition. I shall answer the four questions as a whole by saying that landing charges are paid generally. Some of the matters that he has mentioned are the subject of court proceedings and are. therefore, sub judice. I shall supply a written reply to each of the other questions that lit- has placed on the noticepaper.
– I assure the honorable member that the Government is in constant consultation with the British and Canadian governments with respect to defence in the Pacific area. This Government recognizes its responsibilities particularly in that area. I remind the honorable gentleman that we are already giving assistance to the British forces that are operating in Malaya.
– Will the Prime Minister assure honorable members that a complete set of Shakespeare’s works shall be made available for perusal in the Library so that his colleagues may he enabled to emulate, judiciously, his performance during the budget debate last night in applying in scathing fashion the picturesque term “ dogsbody “ to the Minister for Health?
– The suggestion that the honorable member has made is a very happy one. I shall certainly see that, a full set of Shakespeare’s works is made available for the benefit of members of the Opposition, in large type and with long words suitably simplified.
– Can the Minister for National Development inform the House whether any decision has yet ‘been made in connexion with the erection of the American-Australian War Memorial in the Australian Capital Territory? Where will the memorial bc situated, and when is it proposed to commence the work?.
– No final decision has been made. Approval of the site for the memorial is a responsibility of the Minister for the Interior. I am concerned with the project as a result of my connexion over many years with the Australian-American Association. The matter is being considered and I hope that, with the help of the Minister for the Interior, a decision will be reached within the next few weeks.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether there is any restriction upon the entry of Australians into Malaya at present. I have in mind particularly missionaries who wish to go to Malaya.
– I am not aware of any special restrictions, but I shall have inquiries made for the honorable member and will ensure that he is fully informed of the situation.
– I. ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that, at the Melbourne Trades Hall Council meeting last Thursday night, Mr. J. Coull, secretary of the Federated Liquor Trades Union, expressed the following sentiments : -
Australian troops should not have volunteered for the United Nations forces in Korea. It makes me sick to hear these men saying, “ I’m going to do my bit “ and so on. The Koreans should be left to work out their own destinies, and no one has the right to interfere. We would be the first to complain if a band of murderers landed on our coast and dropped bombs on our families and interfered with our affairs.
Is it a fact that the Federated Liquor Union is affiliated with the Australian Labour party and therefore is directly associated with the- body that controls the policy of the Opposition party in this Parliament? Is it also a fact that the secretary of the union is a delegate to the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which, through the Federal Labour Advisory Committee, also influences the policy of the Opposition? It is only fair to add that I understand that, at the meeting-
– Order ! I shall have to discourage the making of speeches under the pretext of asking questions. If honorable members wish to make speeches they should do so on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I ask the honorable member to summarize his question and come to the point.
– I have completed my question, . but I should like to add, in fairness, that I understand that some opposition to the sentiments expressed by Mr. Coull was expressed at the meeting to which I have referred.
– All I know of this matter is that my attention was directed to a newspaper report of the alleged remarks by Mr. Coull. I can only hope that he was misreported, because I can hardly imagine any sentiment that would be more out of harmony with the general good sense of the Australian people.
– Arising from my desire for efficiency in the control of cattle tick in the northern coastal region of New South Wales I ask the Minister for Health to advise the House on the contribution made by the Australian Government to the Government of New South Wales for the eradication of cattle tick. What conditions are attached to .that contribution? Has the money been expended in accordance with those conditions?
– Twenty-five years ago, when I was Treasurer, an arrangement was made with the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland for the Commonwealth to contribute one-third of the total amount expended each year for the eradication of cattle tick. That agreement has persisted and, in addition, special sums have been granted from time to time by various Australian governments. Two or three years ago the Chifley Government made a special grant of £200,000 in addition to the normal .contribution with the object of stimulating tick control work. Unfortunately, that grant was not supplemented in accordance with the agreement. This Government notified the Government of New South Wales at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that it would be willing to subsidize the State to the amount of 50 per cent, instead of 33^ per cent, of the cost of the work. However, the offer was refused. That is where the matter stands now.
– In view of the fact that the basic wage increase will be paid as from approximately the 1st December next, will the Prime Minister do something to stop a consequential big increase of the cost of living by asking the State Ministers, who are administering prices control and are now meeting at Hobart, to freeze all pieces of goods for at least three months from that date so that, in those three, months, combined steps may be taken by the Commonwealth and the governments of the States to ensure that manufacturers will be made to carry about 50 per cent, of the increased charges for their products, wholesalers about 60 per cent, of all additional distribution costs, and retail houses about 75 per cent, of the total additional charges arising from the increase?
– I have already communicated with the chairman of the State Ministers concerned and have indicated that I am very willing to confer with them for the purpose of making the State systems of prices control as efficacious as possible. In the meantime, I strongly suggest to the honorable member that he use his unrivalled influence with four out of the six State Ministers in order to bring about the result that he has suggested.
– In March last, the Government announced that 500 steel-framed houses were to be erected in
Canberra. The figure was later reduced. Can the Minister for Works and Housing now inform me how many of those houses are to be built and when the work will commence ?
– Speaking from memory, about 350 of those houses either have been erected or are in course of erection in Canberra. I think that the number will be increased to about 400 by the end of the current calendar year. Those figures are only approximate, and I shall obtain precise information for the honorable member as soon as possible.
. - by leave - Honorable members will be interested to know what has been decided so far in the way of war pension and other repatriation benefits for members of the special overseas forces in Korea and Malaya. An early decision was necessary in respect of such benefits as war pension, medical treatment and education of children in the event of early casualties in the campaign. These matters and some other items have now been determined. The members of the forces to he covered for benefits are, briefly, those who are allotted to operations in Korea and Malaya. The description of the classes, and the period for which they will be covered, are as follows: -
Category of Personnel. - All members serving in or posted for attachment to His Majesty’s Australian ships allotted for duty in operational areas.
Period of Eligibility. - From the date the ship is allotted for duty in operational areas or from date of departure from last port of call in Australia, whichever is the later, and up to and including date of arrival at first port of call on return to Australia, or where a ship or a member is withdrawn from operational service to an area outside Australia up to and including the date of arrival at the first port of call in that area.
Category of Personnel. - (i) Australian Regular Army and other serving members of the military forces and special enlistees ex civilian life allotted to the special overseas force for duty in an operational area. (Reinforcements for British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan are excluded.)
Period of Eligibility. - From date of embarkation from Australia for operational duty up to and including date of disembarkation on return to Australia unless earlier allotted to other duties or to another force.
Category of Personnel. - (ii) Personnel in British Commonwealth Occupation Forces.
Period of Eligibility. - From date of posting to special overseas force allotted for duty in operational area up to and including the date of disembarkation on return to Australia unless earlier allotted to other duties or to another force.
Category of Personnel. - All members (flying, ground and administrative) of any unit allotted for operational duties against the enemy. (This includes both the squadron based on Japan and the transport and bomber squadrons attached to the United Kingdom forces in Malaya.) (Note. - It was considered that the conditions relating to the squadrons in Malaya were analogous to those obtaining in the squadron engaged in Korean operations.)
Period of Eligibility.- (i) In the case of units overseas - from the date the unit is actually allotted for operational duties against the enemy up to and including the date of disembarkation on return to Australia or allotment to non-operational duties whichever is the earlier ; (ii) in the case of a unit proceeding from Australia on allotment for operational duties against the enemy - from the date of embarkation from Australia up to and including the date of disembarkation on return to Australia or allotment to non-operational duties whichever is the earlier.
The areas of operations will be prescribed from time to time ascircumstances warrant. In addition to the categories mentioned, any member of the forces wherever serving outside the mainland of Australia will be covered to the same extent in the event of incapacity or death due to enemy action. This covers possibilities such as a long range bombing plane attacking troops who have not been allotted to operations in Korea or Malaya.
The classes of dependants eligible for pension or other benefits will be the same as provided in the existing Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The rates of pensions will be similar and the provision will operate whereby a widow’s pension, for the first six months, will be not less than the standard components of service pay and allowance which she was entitled to receive from, or in respect of, the member.
Medical treatment for incapacitated members will be on the existing basis which covers all treatment of whatever description required for the incapacity due to war service. It will include the extension whereby treatment is afforded for incapacity not due to service where pension is payable at the general rate for total incapacity, on the higher special rates. Medical benefits for widows and children and certain classes of widowed mothers, on the lines of the present arrangement, will be available.
Other benefits in the repatriation activities which have been approved by the Government are as follows: -
In addition to the provisions which I have outlined for members of the forces, it has been decided to grant certain benefits for Commonwealth employees, such as official war correspondents, photographers and cinematographers proceeding to Korea on official duties in association with the special overseas force. The benefits willbe similar to those granted to similar employees during the 1939-45 war. They include pensions for the employee and dependants, on the same basis as that provided in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act for members of the forces, and medical treatment for incapacity resulting from employment with the forces. Assistance for education of children and furniture grants will be made where the employee loses his life, or is rendered totally and permanently incapacitated. Consideration has also now been given to rehabilitation benefits, and a statement will be made by the appropriate Minister at a later date. I lay on. the table the following paper: -
Repatriation Benefits - Special Overseas Forces, Korea and Malaya - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 24th October (vide page 1284), on motion by Mr. Fadden-
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely” Salaries and allowances, £13,900 “, be agreed to.
– A debate on the budget presents members of the Parliament with one of their rare opportunities to discuss the finances and the economy of the nation as a whole. We are now engaged in a discussion of the first budget introduced by the present Government. No budget can be prepared in vacuo, and it is inevitable that a budget, and particularly the first budget of a new administration, should take part of its colour from the events of the past as well as reflect the purposes and proposals of the Government for the period that lies ahead. We have had the advantage of hearing the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), who was also Treasurer in the previous Labour Administration of which he was the head, express his views on the present budget, and I propose to direct some remarks to certain matters which were brought to our notice. The right honorable gentleman made a claim that from a technical Treasury point of view he had left the finances of this country in first-class order. That was a very modest and, I have no doubt, proper claim. However, he went on to embellish his claim by referring to the reductions of tax that had been made by his Administration, the millions of pounds that had been paid to the United Kingdom and to various overseas funds, and the value of treasury-bills that had been redeemed, and he emphasized the fact that under his Administration our London funds had accumulated to £600,000,000. Of course, those claims are all founded on fact; but I am sure that when the right honorable gentleman made them it must have occurred to many honorable members that those matters did not merit the praise which the right honorable gentleman was claiming for them. At a time of abounding revenues, and when business was going for its life in order to try to fill the gaps in demand created by the disorganization caused by the war, it was inevitable that business should make profits and that there should be full employment. Because of those factors, and because of the high prices paid for our export products, our revenues increased to unprecedented heights and our London funds very largely increased. It was inevitable, therefore, that with such abounding revenues any government which had not been hopelessly profligate would reduce taxes. I emphasize the point that many of the matters for which the former Treasurer seeks credit were due to the fortuitous bountiful 3tate of the revenues and were in no way due to the policy or actions of his Government. As I have said, his claim to have left the Treasury in good technical, order was a modest one, but I think that most people would want to be assured of something more than that. Most people would want to know what inheritances were bequeathed by the Chifley Administration to its successor, because those inheritances inevitably colour the whole economy of the nation and are, of necessity, reflected in this budget.
I propose to discuss some of the conditions associated with the nation’s economy and finances which lie outside the narrow claim made by the Leader of the Opposition that the Treasury was in good shape when he vacated it. After all, the social and economic condition of the nation shapes and colours any budget more than do the balances shown in various Treasury accounts. The Leader of the Opposition will remember that only a few months prior to December, 1949, he not merely acquiesced in, but actually ordered, the Australian currency to be depreciated in relation to the United States dollar.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) applauds that decision. However, I remind him that the decision grossly to depreciate our currency came out of a clear sky, at a time when the economic condition of Australia did not call for any such action. Furthermore, the United States dollar is, we must admit, the principal currency of the world to-day, and that fact undoubtedly aggravated the consequences of the depreciation of the Australian currency. In fact, the Tariff Board has recently recorded its opinion that the depreciation of the Australian currency gives a tremendous impetus to the already existing inflationary pressures in this community, and I believe that a wide range of informed opinion agrees with that view. From the depreciation of our currency, which took place, speaking from memory, in August, 1949, stemmed a big impetus to the inflationary urges that have affected and afflicted this community ever since. Those pressures had, of course, existed in marked form for at least two years previously. That is the first of the inheritances which this Government acquired from its predecessor.
We also took over a condition of low productivity in a number of our essential industries, and it cannot be denied that the Government led by the present Leader of the Opposition made no effort at all to correct that situation. I concede at once that low productivity does not characterize all our industries, but it did undoubtedly characterize a number of the basic industries, in which the production per man-year had been very low for some years.
– To what industries is the right honorable member referring?
– I can develop my remarks on that subject sufficiently to satisfy any honorable member. Members of the Labour party have in recent years prided themselves on their claim that because of their political philosophy they have a monopoly of the business of economic planning. According to them, they ari* the people who are capable of planning the activities and development of the modern state, and we, the members of the non-Labour parties, have no such capacity or intent. What do we find, however, after eight years’ administration by the advocates of a planned economy? Our secondary industries, which had been developing during the war and post-war years, found themselves starved of power, coal, bricks, steel and a wide range of other basic materials. Notwithstanding that the manufacturing industries had been growing during the war and, particularly in the post-war period, they found year by year a growing insufficiency of the very basic materials on which they depended. Notwithstanding that fact, the Labour Government made no attempt whatever to increase the production of raw materials om which secondary industry depends. I compare the attitude . of the previous Government to that of a baker who, although he is continually increasing his baking business, neglects to obtain increased supplies of flour for his bakery. In reply to the claim made by members of the Labour movement that they are the protagonists of a planned economy, I say that after eight years of Labour administration they have left us with planned economy that is the least satisfactory in the world. In fact, as a result of their administration,, our economy today does not possess even the rudimentary beginnings of a plan.
– I thought that the> right honorable gentleman complained that we were socialist planners.
– That is the claim made by honorable members opposite for their political party. Socialists - yes; planners - no. Although they may be planners in theory, in practice their efforts could not compare with the most elementary plan that a schoolboy might sketch on the back of an envelope. The present economic state of affairs is one of the inheritances of the past from which our people are now suffering. I say that our planned economy is the least satisfactory in the world after eight years of labour’s fumbling at the task.
The fourth inheritance of the present Government - and I am not mentioning these matters in order of importance - was the activity of the Communists in Australia, towards the checking of which the Labour Government made no noticeable effort. For example, the right honorable member for Macquarie when he was Prime Minister, went to the coalfields about eighteen months ago when communism was as it is now, rife. He toured about and made many speeches on the coalfields, but be did not mention communism once during the whole of his tour. I have seen every press report from the Newcastle district and other districts that he visited during his tour, and there is not one single mention of communism, at a time when members of the Australian Labour party industrial group on the coal-fields were sweating blood to combat communism and were awaiting some moral support from the man who was and is the leader of their- party. He said not one word.
– Why has not the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gone to the coal-fields?
– It is easy to take the et tu quoque attitude. The Labour Government left this Government with an inheritance of rampant communism that it had taken no steps to curb before it went out of office. The close relationship of communism to lack of production and to strikes, hold-ups and absenteeism is well known. That is another of our legacies from the Labour Government. Still another legacy is the hideous relationship that now exists between the Commonwealth and the States, which finds expression in an absolute dog-fight between them. This Government did not bring that relationship into being. It has inherited it.
– What does the Government intend to do about it?
– I shall tell the honorable gentleman, in a moment what the Government intends to do about it. But I am now telling honorable gentlemen opposite about some of the sins of the Government that they supported. All these matters add up to instability, and if ever a government inherited an unstable situation the present Government has done so. The conditions that we inherited from the previous governments are influencing not only the budget but also the whole- economy of this country as well as the morale of its people. The result is that inflationary pressures which existed for several years before the Labour Government went out of office and which had been rising in an increasing curve without that Government having made any attempts to check them, were left for this Government to tackle. I might almost say,- if I were cynical about such matters, that efforts had been made by the previous Government to encourage the inflationary trend. Nobody can look inside the mind of another man but if 1 were able to look inside the mind of the
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) I think that I would be in a position to say that he tried wholeheartedly until about three years ago to curb the existing and potential inflationary pressures that were then obvious in this community. I venture to think that something happened about three years ago as a result of which the Leader of the Opposition eased his efforts to curb the inflationary trend, and he did not try any more. Since then he has made no efforts to check the inflationary trend. In fact, he has barely given even lip service to a recognition of the problem of inflation. At the time to which I have referred he turned towards nationalization. Nobody on this side of the committee will ever know whether he took that course as an alternative to having to cope with the inflationary trends that existed. In any event, from then onwards he gave all his undoubted abilities, and a great deal of his time and energy, to major attempts to introduce nationalization of banking and other instrumentalities, believing that he could chance his arm o”n a miracle happening. Well, miracles are poor things to rely on, and we do not propose to rely on them for the salvation of this country.
Those are our inheritances and the causes of the instability that we have taken over. The task to which we are now attempting to direct ourselves is to recreate stability and confidence in this community.
– Tell us about the exchange rate.
– I shall tell honorable members opposite about a lot of things that they do not want to hear about. The task we have set ourselves is that of strengthening Australia, not just for the sake of so doing, but, because it is a matter of survival in the years immediately ahead of us. That task leads us into a number of contributory activities, the first of which concerns immigration. Our immigration policy was begun, and begun well by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) when he was Minister for Immigration, and it has been continued and expanded by the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt). Our greatest lack is man-power, and the obvious way to obtain man-power in addition to natural increase is to stimulate an increase of population by immigration. That is being done. The next need is the strengthening of our three fighting services, which is being done to the limit of our ability. The. third need is the strengthening of our economy. That is not by any means the least of our necessities, because it is of no use to have an increased population and armed forces unless we have also a strong, stable and well-balanced economy to back them up. That is one of the tasks to which we are addressing ourselves.
Manufacturing industry is increasing almost of its own momentum all the time, but we have to repair the damage that was done by the previous Government, and to increase the production of essential materials on which all industry depends. I refer to coal, steel, cement, bricks, coke, housing, water, power, and rail communications. Those are the basic housekeeping tasks and a considerable part of them is the responsibility of the two departments of which I am the Ministerial head. The simple fact is that Australia is working right up to the limit of its man-power, which, fortunately, is increasing, and it is also reaching out well beyond the limit of its existing resources. Australia is power starved and power hungry particularly in comparison with other countries, such as America. That position has an effect on our productivity.
– The Minister cannot blame the Labour Government for that.
– I do blame the Labour Government for it, because the means of producing power are not created overnight, but require long preparation. The Commonwealth and the States, particularly the States, are now desperately trying to overcome the lack of power production, especially for industries in New South Wales and Victoria. The task of development is frequently visualized as one of stimulating and originating a few spectacular projects. I believe that these great projects are little more than a side issue of the developmental task. The main task is to bring balance back into our economy; to readjust the balance-sheet df supply and demand of our basic commodities; to survey our resources and . shortages, particularly in respect to basic commodities; and to plan the development and stimulate the production of industries producing basic commodities, so that we shall be able to get some degree of balance into our economy.
– One hundred thousand men were out of work when au antiLabour government was previously in power.
– Yes, but they are not out -of work to-day. The task of discovering the gaps, qualitatively and quantitatively, in our economic structure, is actively in hand, as is the task of stimulating production. Increased local production can only be attained at a certain rate, largely because of the lack of man-power and other needs. It is being attained as rapidly as possible. Meanwhile we obviously have to import to the limit of our ability particularly basic commodities. That is being done actively as rt matter of policy by this Government. That point in relation .to the budget has not yet been sufficiently dealt with. Very large provision has been made by the Government for importations. Fifty million pounds’ worth of imported . basic materials are provided for in this budget excluding the amounts by which it is proposed to build up the stockpile of defence materials. There are probably about £30,000,000 worth of imported basic materials to be stockpiled for defence purposes in addition to the £50,000,000 worth of importations, making a total of approximately £80,000,000 worth of importations ‘ in this £735,000,000 budget. There is provision in the budget for the granting of at least £1,500,000 to the State governments as subsidies on prefabricated houses which will be imported by them. Those subsidies will stimulate the importation of prefabricated houses to the extent of some tens of millions of pounds. The Government has alleviated the conditions of tariff entry of building materials, and importation is now taking place at the rate of about £35,000,000 worth of materials a year.
– Will the State housing commissions derive any advantage from that amount?
– Any one who cares to import materials will benefit from this provision. It is now possible to import a wide range of building materials, free or at a nominal rate of duty if they are in short supply in Australia. That provision has benefited both State governments and private traders. There is a high rate of importation of steel in its various forms which will also be stimulated by the reduction of duty. Basic materials that are the subject of demand by Great Britain and America by reason of their re-armament programmes are becoming harder to get. Steel is a prime example of a commodity which is difficult to obtain. As I. have done on other occasions, I advise any user of steel to import the products that he needs from overseas to the greatest extent that he can because local steel production has no chance, under the best circumstances, of catching up with the demand in Australia in the next three or four years.
The Leader of the Opposition queried t he wisdom of the 100,000,000 dollar loan which the Prime Minister has so splendidly obtained for Australia. I find, it difficult to understand what was actuating the mind of the Leader of the Opposition when he queried the wisdom of raising this loan, because he must know, from his experience in recent years, the extent to which Australia needs developmental equipment, including many thousands of units of earthmoving equipment and essential developmental equipment for primary and secondary industries and public works. In the coal-mining industry and in the mining industry generally there is a great need for labour saving equipment. Secondary industry is in need of tens of millions of pounds’ worth of developmental equipment which can come only from the United States of America. ‘ This 100,000,000 dollar loan is being gradually taken up on a controlled basis for the purchase from the United States of equipment which can be obtained from no other source and which is needed to stimulate the production of basic materials in Australia. How the right honorable gentleman could deny the urgent necessity for obtaining this loan passes my comprehension. He did not explain that point except by saying that it was a good thing to avoid overseas loan commitments whenever possible. That fact is beyond question but the principle, taken to extremes, would result in the development of this country being restricted. I hope very much that the Government -will have further access to dollars. The development of this country has been delayed in a great many directions by the lack of dollars. I could point to 50 different places where development and production is being delayed because of the absence of labour-saving development equipment which now, by the grace of God and the efforts of the Prime Minister, will be made available.
The Government has not been slow in arranging for orders to be placed under the loan. Approximately 15 per cent, of the 100,000,000 dollars have already been committed by the placing of orders in the United States of America. The Government has had to act quickly. The question of availability is a very real one in the United States. Even though our demands are small when compared with the production of the United States of America, Australia, may not obtain all the equipment that it needs from that country .but we shall secure a great part of it. With the assistance upon which we can call in high quarters we may be able to get all of it.
– Is the right honorable member referring mainly to heavy equipment ?
– Yes. There are five main divisions into which the loan will be classified. The first embraces tractors and other agricultural equipment which can be obtained hardly anywhere but in the United States of America. To the degree that it can be obtained from Britain or any other soft currency nation it will be purchased from that source. Only when it cannot be obtained from a soft currency area will the Government turn to the United States. The second division comprises industrial crawler tractors and earth-moving equipment; the third, locomotive and railway equipment; the fourth, mining machinery and equipment; and the fifth, equipment for secondary industry. The Australian Government will be the smallest of the beneficiaries to receive this equipment. The next most important beneficiary will be the State governments. They are to receive a larger share of the proceeds of the loan. A larger part of it - I do not say most of it but the larger part of it - will go to private industries including agricultural industries in one form or another.
The subject of productivity seems to have been much blown upon by honorable members of the Opposition. Some of them realize only too well that Australia’s economic future depends, to a substantial extent, on an increase in productivity. By that I mean production per manyear. That fact was stated in arbitration court judgments from which the Prime Minister quoted so effectively yesterday. His quotations did not suffer from having been lifted out of their context. That Australia’s productivity must increase is widely recognized by all thinking people. I am not indicating all Australian industry, large sections of which are working as hard as they can and using all the means at their disposal. There are other very appreciable sections of our industry where men are not working anything like as hard as they could. I am not speaking “ off the cuff “ in this matter. I am speaking from authenticated figures as honorable members opposite know. [Extension of time granted.] The matter of productivity is one which must be given great thought and attention, and, as the Prime Minister announced recently, it is a matter which will be the subject of much thought and also action in the near future. Much has been said about it and much has been done about it in Great Britain and the United States of America.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about incentive methods in general. Addressing himself to me across the table, he said that I was aware that not more than one third of industry in the United States of America worked under a system of incentive payments. That figure is almost precisely correct so far as my information goes. A percentage between 30 per cent, and 40 per cent, of American industry is working under incentive payment schemes, but probably well under 10 per cent, of Australian industry is so working. In the last few years surveys have been made concerning the advantages of certain Australian incentive systems. I think particularly of one that was conducted in Victoria about two years ago. In that case five or six well qualified industrialists inquired into incentive schemes operating in Victoria. They found that in practice over the years incentive schemes in which 5 5,000 or 16,000 workers are concerned had resulted in the workers’ earnings increasing to between 10 per cent, and 75 per cent, above the award rates. The workers’ earnings increased by an average of about 28 per cent, above the award rates. It was also found that the schemes had resulted in a 20 per cent, to 50 per cent, increase in production. Moreover, the schemes were proved to have been not detrimental to the health of the workers or to the quality of the products. In fact, the schemes had achieved remarkable results for the workers, the managements and the community in general.
This is clearly not the time to discuss at length, incentive payments or any other encouragements to productivity, hut I hope that honorable members opposite will not allow their minds to close against the opportunity which exists for the introduction of incentive schemes in Australia. I expect that a number of honorable members have read the recently written book by Walter Scott, who is one of Australia’s foremost authorities on incentive schemes and on many other related productivity matters. He has written a monumental volume on productivity in Australia, which I commend to honorable members who have not yet had an opportunity of reading it.
– What guarantee have we that incentive payments, if introduced now, will continue when labour becomes plentiful?
– Incentive schemes generally take that matter into account. Incentive schemes are not by any means new. It is well known that they were much abused 20 and 30 years ago, to the detriment of the workers, but since then industry has become much wiser and the modern incentive scheme is introduced, with the consent of the unions and the workers, only after months of study. There are all possible safeguards to ensure that it shall work fairly to the men and the management. The modern incentive scheme is not put into operation, as were some of those of 20 or 30 years ago, after a mere week or two of thought. It is instituted only after many months of consideration. If there is any doubt in the minds of the. management or the man about the fairness of the scheme and what will happen when production is increased or when prices fall or when labour becomes more plentiful, then the scheme cannot succeed. Such carefully prepared incentive schemes have succeeded in Britain, America and to a leaser degree in Australia. There is vast literature on this subject, and the introduction of incentive schemes is almost ‘a profession. My only fear is that incentive schemes will be hurriedly introduced and that they will therefore fail. The one or two dozen examples that I have in mind which are operating in Australia, have taken six or eight months to work out between management, union, men and productivity experts.
– Has this Parliament any legislative power to prevent the abuse of incentive systems?
– There is a good deal of literature on that matter, for it has been fully discussed.
– But has this Parliament the power?
– I do not intend to be sidetracked on this matter to which I have referred. I am trying to establish that incentive schemes are not inventions of the devil. They can be of great advantage to both labour and management as well as to the country as a whole. They can also raise the general living standards of the community. I shall not impose upon the committee at any greater length on this matter, except to say that towards the end of his speech the Leader of the Opposition spoke in terms which gave me some hope. He spoke of the need in this community for tolerance, understanding and confidence. His plea was rather brief, but I was very pleased to hear it, and I venture to support it; but not in any narrow field. I believe that Australia suffers probably more than any other country from schisms, divisions and antagonisms in a very wide field. There is too much mutual antagonism, for our comfort, between various sections of the Australian community. I believe that we could introduce a much greater degree of trust into our relationships, and eliminate the distrust which is now so widespread and so immensely to our disadvantage.
In the sphere of Commonwealth and State relations it is essential for the Commonwealth to reach a better understanding with the State governments. If that does not happen, the departments for which I am responsible for the time being will suffer immensely. I am trying in my particular sphere to create conditions of confidence and trust between the departments which are my responsibility and the State governments with which they have to deal. There are certain sections in Australia which have a vested interest in discontent and have had it for many years. Even in this chamber things said by honorable members opposite from time to time are extremely harmful to our community. I do not refer to what they say against the Government, because the task of the Opposition is to oppose. So long as honorable members opposite direct their shafts at the parties which make up this Government, good luck to them. But they begin to do harm and damage to Australia when they say things directed towards causing distrust and misunderstanding in the country between management and men and between capital and labour.
– The right honorable member knows that when such things are said they are well founded.
– I do not know that they are well founded, other than in exceptional instances. The attitude of honorable members opposite is the well-known one of pars pro toto. Mistaking the part for the whole, taking some small abuse and blowing it up to make it appear to be universal, is the oldest political trick in the world.
– The bosses do it every day.
– I am not saying anything in defence of the bosses. If I were called upon to say upon whom the greater degree of responsibility rests for increasing production, I should say that it rests upon management.
– It is about time that that was said.
– I have made that statement on dozens of occasions and have published it in a book. Our greatest chance of increasing production lies in the improvement of management. That does not mean, however, that a great responsibility does not rest upon the trade union movement.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ryan) . - Order ! The Minister’s extended time has expired.
.- In the limited time allowed under the Standing Orders, it is exceedingly difficult for honorable members to deal thoroughly with a comprehensive document like the budget. In a budget debate honorable members inevitably are impelled to reply to statements that have been made by preceding speakers. I propose to reply to some of the remarks that were made by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey). He concluded his speech by saying, in effect, that it was regrettable that we in the Parliament seem to be unable to refrain from indulging in abuse. However, during the greater part of his speech he poured abuse upon the Chifley Government, and in doing so gave utterance to several falsehoods. He said that the present Government assumed office at a time when the morale of the Australian people was exceedingly low, and added that the Government was faced with the task of reestablishing confidence and stability. He went on to laud the effort of the present Government in obtaining a dollar loan. The fact is that when it assumed office Australia was enjoying a period of unprecedented prosperity. It took over responsibility when the Chifley Government had successfully demobilized more than 1,000,000 ex-service men and women and had practically completed the task of rehabilitating and training them with the result that the services of thousands of additional artisans and skilled professional personnel were made available to the Australian economy. That result was achieved solely through the success of the
Chifley Government’s scheme for the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel.
Usually, persons versed in business affairs point to the share market as an indicator of a country’s prosperity and of the degree of confidence that exists in it. Any one who would say that when the Chifley Government went out of office the share market was not buoyant, that the country was not prosperous and that there was not full employment in Australia - that happy result was achieved for the first time in our history - would be exceedingly blind. “While the Minister was speaking about the need to provide incentive payments in industry in order to encourage greater production, I made a cursory mental survey of industrial development in Australia during the last few years. The Minister would be well advised to do likewise. During the regime of the Chifley Government some of the greatest industries that this country now possesses were firmly established, mainly as the result of the magnificent assistance that that Government rendered to them. When Bruck M!ills (Australia) Limited established its industry at Wangaratta, did it not have the greatest confidence in the Chifley Government which was in office at that time ? A Labour government was in office when an Australian organization, General Motors-Holden’s Limited, manufactured the first complete car to be made in Australia. It owed much of its success to the assistance and encouragement that it received from the Chifley Government. The Minister and his colleagues need reminding of these facts.
When Labour was in office enormous capital in dollars and sterling were invested in undertakings in Australia. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, with the assistance of a Labour government, established its immense chemical works near Sydney. I participated in negotiations that enabled that company to acquire boilers that had been installed in the power alcohol distillery at Warracknabeal. As the result of similar negotiations, valuable ‘ plant that had been used in the manufacture of munitions was transferred to private enterprise. Yet the Minister has the effrontery to say that, when the present Government took over, the morale of the
Australian people was low and that the Ministry was confronted with the task of restoring confidence and stability. That is sheer propaganda,- The Chifley Government assisted the International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited at Geelong to acquire dollar goods with which to establish its huge tractor project. It is true that the present Government has given further assistance to that organization, but the project was actually commenced when the Chifley Government was in office. That Government also assisted the great Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which is probably the most efficient private organization in Australia, by arranging dollar finance to enable it to import its tinplate strip mill. The Chifley Government actually suggest -d to General Motors-Holden’s Limited that it should manufacture a complete motor car, and to-day Holden cars which are being turned out by Australian workmen are to be seen on roads in all parts of the Commonweal th .
The Minister harped about lack of enterprise, the low morale in the community and the need to increase our power resources. The Minister for Works and Housing in the Chifley Government (Mr. Lemmon) established a record that the right honorable gentleman who has succeeded him will never emulate. “ He succeeded after 50 years’ talk by conservative governments in inaugurating the great Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme. The right honorable gentleman also said that the Chifley Government had commenced the dog-fights with the State governments, but his predecessor (Mr. Lemmon) was the first Minister to succeed in bringing into line the States that were directly concerned in that project.
– Under the Commonwealth’s defence power.
– Yes ; but in agreement with the State governments concerned. When the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme was placed before the Parliament honorable members opposite who were then in Opposition were hostile to it. They not only criticized the Chifley Government for using the Commonwealth’s defence power for that purpose but also said, in effect, that when they were returned to office they would alter the terms of the legislation under which that project was inaugurated. Have they done so, or will they do so?No! Like the promise to put value back into the £1, that undertaking was a hollow sham. The people were deceived. The Minister knows in his own heart, if he is frank with himself, that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act represents a magnificent achievement by the Chifley Government and that he will not attempt to filter one line of it. I remind the honorable gentleman of something else. For many years, in peace-time, the wheat-growers were unable to get a nation-wide marketing scheme for their product, but finally a Labour government lined up every State government, for the first time in Australia’s history, and succeeded in enacting a wheat stabilization plan.It gained the co-operation of anti-Labour governments in some of theStates. One of the greatest tributes that could be paid to that achievement is the fact that the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has promised the farmers that he will extend the scheme for a further period of five years. Everybody knows that, the present Leader of the Opposition, when he was Treasurer, supplied the financial needs of the States so effectively that they were able to obtain labour and materials to put extensive public works in hand. The facts are undeniable. It is of no use for the Premiers to ask for millions of pounds annually if they are unable to spend such sums. Competent officers of the Treasury and the Department of Works and Housing assert that the States would not be able to make full use of larger grants than have been made available to them, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently reminded the Premiers of that fact. I do not believe that any State government, whether Liberal or Labour, can expend even the full amount of the money allocated to it this year by the Menzies Government. The achievements of the Chifley Government provide no evidence of any dogfights with the States. The only dogfights of which I am aware have been engendered by the ever-increasing insistence of this Government that the workers are not pulling their weight.
Honorable members opposite have revived the old slogan on production, and alleged statesmen have been talking about production and incentive schemes for generations in all sorts of circumstances and in all forms of society. It is strange that the Government and its supporters still harp on the same worn theme. I believe that every man should pull his weight, but only the workers are blamed by this Government for the weaknesses in our economy. Production has always been supposed to be a cure-all for our economic ills. I remind honorable members of a debate that took place in the House of Commons in 1932, when both Australia and. the United Kingdom were in the depths of an economic depression. Thirty per cent. of the workers in Australia were unemployed and an equally disastrous state of affairs prevailed in the United Kingdom. Those conditions were in marked contrast to conditions to-day, when we have full employment in Australia. Yet at that time the howl was. “ Produce, produce, produce ! “ Mr. Amery, a Conservative politician in the United Kingdom Parliament, said in the House of Commons in 1932-
The one thing that matters to-day is production.
And Dick Casey still says so!
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order
– I apologize to the right honorable gentleman. The Minister for National Development still says that production is the cure-all for every economic ill. Mr. Amery continued -
And that depends on two closely interrelated lines of policy. The first is our fiscal policy and the second is our monetary policy.
That howl is still being raised in Australia. The workers of Australia are reluctant, in many instances, to produce more unless they are assured by their employers that they will receive a fair proportion of the increased production. The responsibility is on the. employers to offer inducements. I have observed that when employers offer inducements they get in return loyalty and increased productionfrom the Australian worker who is the best worker in the world.
– Does the honorable gentleman support, incentive payments ?
– If the employer takes greater returns from his industry, the proportion left for the wage-earners will decrease. The reverse also applies. That is inevitable under our present system, and the fact should be obvious to the honorable member. While that system is maintained, there must be a continuing conflict between employers and employees. Our arbitration system has from time to time increased the employees’ share of the returns from production, and some Christian and well-disposed employers have voluntarily increased the returns to their workers. Such employers are getting good results in industry. However, fights between employer and employee will continue as long as our present system exists and there will be unceasing industrial trouble. These facts are obvious, but they should be emphasized. The situation will not be rectified until ownership of all industry is shared with the workers.
Everybody who has worked as a selfemployed person or who has watched other Australians working for themselves in any capacity must realize that Australians will produce more in that capacity than they produce when they are working for an employer. As a primary producer for many years, I worked on Saturdays and even, be it said to my shame, on Sundays.’ T did so because I was working for myself. I would never work on Saturdays or Sundays for an employer. The repeated complaint by the Government that production has decreased is an unwarranted slur on the Australian worker. It is not supported by facts. Professor Copland has pointed out that over-all production in Australia has increased by 12-J per cent. since the beginning of World War II. It is true that the production of luxury goods has been accelerated to the disadvantage of the production of basic commodities, but the fact is that Australian workers are producing at a higher rate to-day than at any other time in the nation’s history.
– Bricklayers, too?
– I recently did a little labouring work for a first-class bricklayer. That tradesman, working on a chimney, laid 470 bricks for the day.
– That sort of thing isagainst union rules;
– The honorable member knows little about the work of layingbricks, although he has: been exploiting people in the electorate that he represents by selling bricks.
Last night the Prime Minister quoted voluminously from the opinions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court judges in the basic wage case and played on the theme that, if wages were increased and hours were reduced, prices would go up. The right honorable gentleman was implying, because he did not have the courage to say so directly, that wage increases and reductions of hours were undesirable in our economy. He did not emphasize that the judges had pointed out that the remedy for- price increases which flowed from increased wages and reduced hours of labour was political. Because of that fact,, the learned gentlemen were unable to point out that the present economic situation resulted from the failure of the Government to put value back into the £1. However, it is obvious that the judges were pointing the bone fit the Government. An immense volume of production by Australian workers has been unrecorded in recent years. I made a survey recently, and I found that many workers were engaged in spare-time work, that was of great value to the community. In one locality of which I know something, five men are building homes for themselves at week-ends. In summer months, they will work every evening until dusk. The truth is that Australian workers are the best in the world when they are given the proper incentives. Unfortunately, the only incentives that are offered to them in industry to-day are those for which they have had to fight, mighty hard.
– But the honorable member is opposed to incentive schemes.
– The greatest incentive that Australia could offer to its wool producers to-day would not be big enough. But a few days hence, when the wool sales deduction legislation is being debated in this chamber, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) will either absent himself or openly give his support to a sectional tax that will take from the wool-growers one-fifth of their gross incomes, six, eight, ten or even twelve months before their tax obligations fall due. What sort of incentive is that? Of all industries in Australia, the wool industry is the one that serves us best by financing our imports. It makes possible the importation of dollar equipment. The rapidly increasing demand for Australian wool in the United States of America makes it almost unnecessary for the Government to put itself in pawn for dollars. Yet the Government has humbled itself so abjectly that, according to reports, the Governor of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development will visit us in order to give us the once-over and ascertain whether we are using the dollar loan as we ought to use it.
The Minister for National Development said that the Leader of the Opposition was opposed to the dollar loan. That is not strictly correct. The Leader of the Opposition was critical of the dollar loan and said that the necessity for it might have been averted. I agree with him. It was my privilege to act as a member of the dollar committee of the Chifley Government over a long period, and I know of no really deserving basic industry in Australia that did not obtain an allotment of dollars sufficient to meet its essential needs at that time. The fact is that the Chifley Government brought as many crawler tractors and other items of heavy equipment into Australia as were available in the United States of America. At one period we could not have obtained any additional agricultural tractors from America even if we had been able to command an additional 100,000,000 dollars. Some of the importing firms in Australia were absolutely unable to obtain more tractors from their principals in the United States of America. Our difficulties were not caused by dollar shortages then. They were caused by a shortage of equipment in the United States of America. I repeat that no industry in Australia was starved of essential dollars.
– What about petrol?
– Every primary producer in the electorate that the honorable member represented was able to obtain petrol in generous quantities for his genuine requirements.
– That is not true.
– Any hardship that was suffered can be construed only as a scathing commentary upon the effectiveness of the honorable member as the representative of the electors in his division.
This Government pandered to selfish motor cyclists and pleasure seekers to the detriment of the Empire dollar pool. It was able to abolish petrol rationing only by virtue of fortuitous circumstances. Soon after it came into office, the United Kingdom Government was able to make arrangements with the United States Government and the oil interests for the manufacture of tankers in the United Kingdom as an offset against dollar expenditure on oil and other requirements. Members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party sneer at the assistance that was granted by the preceding Labour Government to the United Kingdom, yet they have not an enviable record in that respect. The present Government pandered to the selfish instincts of the Australian people when it abolished meat and butter rationing.
– It is antiBritish.
– That is obvious. At least, the Chifley Government did not dangle before the eyes of the people during the last general election campaign a succulent bait in the form of a promise to abolish meat and butter rationing. We learn to-day that the people of the United Kingdom are as urgently in need of meat and butter as they were a considerable time ago, and that their position is almost desperate. I am stating facts.
– What action did the Labour Government take to provide meat for Great Britain?
– I shall be pleased to give the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) that information. The Labour Government introduced meat rationing, and retained it throughout its term of office. By adopting that policy, it incurred the hostility of the honorable member for Deakin, and of the selfish interests that he represents. The Labour Government constantly had them on its doorstep, advocating the abolition, of meat rationing. I realize that meat rationing ii exceptionally difficult to operate, and that some people suffered as a result of its introduction, but I did not hear of a butcher going bankrupt for reasons attributable to it. However, I have heard of people in the United Kingdom being n» the verge of starvation because they have not sufficient food. The Chifley Labour Government continued butter rationing in order that Australia might supply greater quantities of that commodity to Great Britain, and those increased supplies had a beneficial effect upon the general health of the people of that country. What is more, we did not abolish butter rationing in order to win votes at a general election. Yet this Government was no sooner in the saddle 1 lui n it abolished meat and butter rationing. A few weeks ago, it abolished rice rationing, at a time when people in Korea were dying from starvation. The Government made the decision to abolish vice rationing in order to pander to a few selfish interests here. Members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party, when they were in Opposition, frequently spoke of their loyalty to the United Kingdom, and urged the preceding Labour Government to grant additional assistance to that country. The Labour Government retained meat and butter rationing in order to help the people of the United Kingdom, and, in addition, made gifts in cash totalling £45,000,000. The record of the present Government is not comparable with that of the preceding Labour Government in that respect.
I now wish to refer to the Government’s defence programme. The Chifley Government realized that we were living in a world in which war could occur. We co-operated with the United Kingdom and with other countries that were interested in the defence of Australia and of other parts of the world. We prepared a defence plan that would have involved the expenditure of £250,000,000 over a period of five years, or an average of £50,000,000 a year. The Government has announced a. “ pepping-up “ of defence expenditure, and, during the current financial year, is committed to an expenditure of £S3,000,000. The Prime Minister has announced that, in future, members of the Australian services will be enlisted for service anywhere in the world.
– Why not ?
– I do not believe in that system.
– The honorable member used to believe in it.
– I did not. I do not believe that any one should be forced to serve abroad-
– They will volunteer to serve abroad.
– I did not sign a blank cheque when I enlisted for service in World War I. I knew where I would be sent.
– Was that possible?
– I knew where I would serve. But this Government proposes to enlist men to help extinguish a conflagration anywhere in the world at any time. I regard that decision as regrettable, because members of the existing forces, particularly those in the older groups, will withdraw from them. Others will not enlist for service anywhere in the world in the numbers that are expected by the Government, because they do not know what may be involved. Had the Government continued the defence policy of the Chifley Government, whilst increasing rates of pay and making conditions of service more attractive, Australians would have reacted as they did in the past, that is to say, they would have enlisted for service in Australia, and if a conflagration were to occur abroad, they would have responded as the members of the first Australian Imperial Force and of the second Australian Imperial Force responded, and would have flocked in great numbers from the militia forces to volunteer for service abroad. That has been the experience in this country in the past. Australians have always resisted conscription. During World War II., the government of the day introduced a modified form of conscription, under which members of the militia forces became available for service in a prescribed area north of Australia. The Labour party did not like that change. The Menzies Government has done the greatest disservice that has ever been done in respect of attracting Australians to enlist in the forces. Men who would have enlisted for home service, and who would have transferred to an expeditionary force if hostilities broke out abroad six months, a year or five years hence, will not enlist, or even volunteer to undergo military training. [Extension of time granted.’] That will be the inevitable outcome of this Government’s defence policy. T was ti member of the citizen forces before World War I. I volunteered for service in the Australian Imperial Force, but I knew where I would be sent in the 1.014-18 “scrap”.
– Did the honorable member really know that?
– I knew where the conflagration was, and I had a capacity to reason, which the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) evidently does not possess.
– Was the honorable member sent to France?
– I went to Egypt, Belgium and France.
– Did the honorable gentleman object to being sent overseas?
– The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) will have an opportunity to make his contribution to this debate.
– The honorable member cannot answer my question.
– I enlisted to serve anywhere in the world during World War I., but I knew where the fighting was taking place. I regret that the Government has made a grave mistake in its defence policy, and I advise it to reconsider its decision.
The Government is granting substantial subsidies in respect of butter, tea, wheat and woollen goods for use in Australia, but it has abolished the subsidy that was paid for years on superphosphate. In my opinion, that subsidy wa3 one of the greatest incentives to primary producers that this country has ever known. According to statements that we hear from time to time, the Government ‘ firmly believes in the policy of granting subsidies to various industries. I point out to the chamber that the budget papers clearly reveal that the only reason why the Government is paying increased subsidies on butter and wheat is that the prices authorities in the States would not allow the increased cost of producing those commodities to be passed on to the consumers. It will be futile for the Government to tell this Parliament or the public that it is paying increased subsidies on butter and wheat out of kindness of heart. In Statement No. 9 of the budget papers, the details are given of various subsidies, including the estimated payments for 1950-51 compared with the actual expenditure on them in the last financial year. The estimated subsidy expenditure this year on butter, cheese and processed milk products is £11,300,000, compared with an actual expenditure in 1949-50 of £8,008,500. For some years, the preceding Labour Government paid a subsidy on butter at the rate of 6d. per lb. in order to maintain the price to the Australian consumer at a reasonable level, and, later, approved a guaranteed price to butter producers. It is true that, after the expiration of a year, that Government asked the State prices authorities to pass on to the public an increase of the cost of production, because it was considered that a subsidy of nearly 7d. per lb. was an adequate measure of assistance at that time. However, the present Government claims that it is paying a subsidy of nearly lid. per lb. to butter producers out of sheer kindness of heart. The budget papers contain the following interesting statement: -
The home-consumption prices of butter, cheese and processed milk products are being held at a level lower than is necessary to give the farmer his guaranteed return, and unless the State Prices Ministers agree to a rise in home-consumption prices, the increases in cost of production which have been established in respect of 1950-51 will have to be mct by subsidy. The lifting of butter rationing also adds to the cost of the subsidy.
In respect of locally consumed butter and cheese, the present rate of subsidy is 10.9d.- per lb. commercial butter basis.
The reference to wheat also interests me. It is as follows : -
In accordance with the Commonwealth’s guarantee “to the wheat industry the return to growers, in respect of wheat consumed in Australia from the 1949-50 crop, was increased by 5d. per bushel as from 1st ‘December, 1949, to cover, a rise in the cost of production. The Government decided to subsidize this increase rather than allow the effect to pass into the price of basic consumer goods.
When that decision was made, a general election was pending, and it was not considered that the prices authorities would allow an increase of costs to be passed on to the consumer.
I note that the subsidy for prefabricated houses in this financial year is estimated at £1,500^000. We cannot object to that provision; we can only applaud it, because it will make possible a reduction of prices. The Government proposes to retain the subsidy on tea that was granted by the preceding Labour Government. The provision of an amount of £20,000,000 as a subsidy on woollen goods for home consumption is fully warranted1, but I do not know how the Government will ensure that that benefit shall be passed on to the purchasers of those materials. The charges that are made by wholesale and retail houses will need to be. effectively policed. However, the granting of that subsidy is desirable. Perhaps I shall be permitted to remark, at this point, that it is strange that some time before the Treasurer presented his budget, publicity was given to the socalled Copland plan, and we were told that wool-growers would be subject to a levy of 33$ per cent, on the proceeds from the sale of their wool, and that the funds so collected would be devoted to financing a subsidy on woollen goods consumed in this country.
– Perhaps Professor Copland told the honorable gentleman that, but the Government did not.
– There were repercussions in the Cabinet. The Australian Country party wing of the Government objected to that proposal, and the Liberal party ran away from it. In my opinion, the plan was bad, but the Government has substituted the greatest sham proposal that has ever been devised in the history of the Commonwealth. The wool sales deduction will be imposed upon a section of primary producers who should be given the incentive to produce. It will be a sectional levy. It is true that the incomes of wool producers are buoyant, but the Government proposes to impose the wool sales deduction on their gross returns, whereas such a levy, if it must be made, should be imposed upon the net returns. I note that the Government is not attempting to make brokers, who charge the same rate of commission to-day as they charged when the price of wool was 8d. or 10d. per lb., subject to the wool sales deduction.. The income of the woolbroker has risen in proportion to that of the wool-grower; yet he will not be required to make a contribution. Many people engaged in various forms of business are receiving’ fabulously high incomes that are addingto the inflationary trends. But the woolgrower alone must pay the wool salesdeduction, which is a payment of tax in advance. By that crooked method, the Government expects to extract £103,000,000 from the wool-grower, and expend it as revenue. If the Government is genuinely desirous of combating inflation, it may adopt various methods, such as increasing the incidence of taxation on a graduated scale, and keeping excess moneys out of circulation. Of course, the Government could have adopted the Copland plan, although I do not advocate that. The proposal which the Government has adopted, however, to make a special deduction from the incomes of wool-growers will prove to he no more than a snare and a delusion. There are, of course, hundreds of individuals in all spheres of business activity who are making considerable profits. If the Government is justified in taking surplus profits from the wool-growers, why does it not take similar action in respect of all other people who are making large profits ? What is the reason for the discrimination, which is fantastic? The wool sales deduction does not discriminate between the wealthy graziers and the strugglers. Because of the high prices paid for wool, many small farmers and dealers have gone into the sale yards and paid as much as £6 and £7 a head for sheep, and most of those individuals will need every penny that they can get from the sale of their wool.
The Prime Minister, in the course of his speech last night, had a great deal to say about the wheat-growers, who » make available a large quantity of wheat for home consumption at low prices. However, the point is that that arrangement was made as the result of an agreement between the Chifley Labour Government and the wheat-growers of Australia, which was approved at a poll of the wheat-growers throughout Australia, under which the Government guarantees that wheat-growers shall receive a certain price for their wheat in the event of the overseas price falling below a certain figure. As an illustration of his argument that the wool-grower has no just cause for complaint the right honorable gentleman also mentioned the fact that the metal producers of Australia make available a proportion of their production for sale in Australia at a reduced price, and pointed out that the wage-earners who pay tax suffer some disability because a portion of their wages is withheld from them in order to pay their income tax. However, what the Prime Minister deliberately omitted to say was that every wool-grower-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ryan). - Order ! The honorable member’s extended time has expired.
.- The budget presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) indicates the very remarkable recovery that has taken place in our economy since the present Government assumed office, and that impression is confirmed by statistics which I have abstracted from the latest return that I have been able to obtain from the Commonwealth Statistician. Every business indicator shows that a most remarkable improvement has occurred in our economic position during, the last ten months. For example, the number of wage and salary earners in employment in May, 1949, was 2,451,000, and by May, 1950, the number had increased to 2,544,000, an increase of 93,000. The average weekly earnings of wage and salary earners also increased by 19s. 6d. during that period. It is clear from the judgments of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the recent basic wage case that the basis upon which the general increase of fi a week was granted by the court was not, as has been suggested by members of the Australian Labour party, the needs of the people, but the general economic condition of the community. In other words, the court has decided what is fair and reasonable according to the state of our economy and according to the ability of the community to pay a higher basic wage. On page 25 of his judgment the Chief Judge stated -
From the June quarter 1949 to the June quarter 1950 the Commonwealth Statistician shows an increase in average weekly earnings of 11.2 per cent, in manufacturing and 11.1 per cent, in all industries.
Mr. Justice Foster, who delivered one of the majority judgments, made this observation -
The general impression has come to me from the evidence, particularly from the official statistical evidence, that the economy is very prosperous, and that the prospects for the immediate future are bright - perhaps very bright - and that in the forseeable future no threat to its continued prosperity should be feared.
Following that observation the learned judge made it perfectly clear that, in his opinion,, an increase of the basic wage by £1 a week was justified, not because of the needs of the people, but because of the general prosperity of the country and the ability of our economy to meet an increased wage.
– That was the view of only one judge.
– But that judge was in the majority on the tribunal. I propose to illustrate the improvement that has taken place in our economy and in general living conditions since the present Government assumed office by citing some important statistics. In April, 1949, Unemployment payments totalled £22,062, but by April of this year they had declined to £12,597, which was a decrease of £9,465. Between June, 1949, and June of this year the value of our imports increased by £122,000,000, and during the same period the value of our exports increased by £74,000,000. The number of building permits granted in May, 1949, was 6,801, but the number granted in May last was 10,043. The number of motor cars registered between January and May, 1950, exceeded those registered during the corresponding period of 1949, the increase for the year being 106,724. The average weekly bank clearings, which are a ve,ry good indicator of general business activity, increased during that period by more than £38,000,000 a week. Savings bank deposits also increased by £47,000,000. Coal production in Australia for the twelve months ended July last was 1,000,000 tons higher than production for the preceding twelve months. In addition, the present Government has taken action to import more than 1,000,000 tons of coal, and, as a consequence, all our industries have been working full time during this year, whereas, last year, because of the lack of sufficient coal, during the administration of the Labour Government, a, large number of secondary industries had to be closed and a substantial number of men were unemployed. The improvement of the dollar position is one of the most spectacular achievements of the present Government. The dollar resources of the sterling area increased from 1,320,000,000 dollars in September, 1949, to 2,422,000,000 dollars at the 30th June last. Our former dollar deficit has been transformed into a dollar surplus. If honorable ‘members will examine the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures for the last few months they will notice that for the first time in many years Australia has had a dollar surplus each month.
The Treasurer has recognized that all sections of the community are entitled to share in the existing national prosperity.Not the least important of the many benefits conferred on the community by the Government’s budgetary proposals, are the substantial increases proposed to be granted to recipients of war, war widows’ and age pensions with which I propose to deal in some detail. The basic general rate of war pension for discharged service personnel will be increased from £2 15s. to £3 10s. a week. The basic rate for wives of war pensioners will be increased from £1 4s. to £1 10s. 6d. a week, and for children of incapacitated ex-servicemen from 9s. to lis. 6d. a week. The special rate war pension will be increased from £5 6s. to £7 a week. For many years exservicemen who suffered from total loss of speech were regarded as being entitled to only 80 per cent, of the full pension. Honorable members will realize the very great disability that is suffered by those who have lost their speech. AH the representations that were made to the preceding Labour Administration on behalf of those unfortunate people to have their pension rate increased to the full 100 per cent, rate were rejected, and I am delighted that the present Government has acceded to them, and that the budget provides for payment of the full pension. Similarly, those who suffer from total deafness also endure a frightful disability. Nevertheless, the previous Labour Government was not prepared to increase their pension rate from 70 per cent, of the full pension to 100 per cent. Because I was a member of a deputation that waited upon the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) to urge the Government to increase the rate of pension payable to totally deaf exservicemen, I am more than pleased that the Minister has persuaded the Government to increase the pension from 70 per cent, to 100 per cent. Very substantial increases will also be granted to limbless ex-servicemen, details of which have already been given by the Minister for Repatriation and published in the press. The basic pension of . a widow of a deceased ex-serviceman will be increased to £3 10s. a week, and if she is more than 50 years of age, or has children under sixteen years of age, she will be entitled to an additional payment of 10s. a week. Provision is also made in the budget for payment of increased war pensions to children of deceased ex-servicemen. The rate of pension payable in respect of the first child of a deceased ex-serviceman will be increased from 17s. 6d. to 22s. a week, and in respect of subsequent children from 12s. 6d. to 15s. 6d. a week. In instances in which both parents of a child are deceased, the pension payable for the child will be increased from 17s. 6d. a week in the case of a child under fourteen years, and from 20s. a week when the child is over fourteen years of age, to 40s. a week.
Another anomaly which the previous Government refused to rectify was that incapacitated ex-servicemen of World War I., who married after the 1st July. 1938, received no pension in respect of their wives or children. I still fail to understand why the 1st July, 1938, was selected. Why should the wife of a disabled ex-serviceman be under a disability because she married after a specified date? Why should children born after a certain date be denied a pension? All representations to the previous Government failed to have any effect, so I find it exceptionally pleasing that the restriction has now been removed and that, provided a soldier is entitled to a pension, his wife and children also are entitled to pensions, irrespective of the dates of marriage and of birth.
Provision is also made in the budget for the pensions of parents of deceased members of the military forces to be increased by amounts of up to 10s. a week. The budget further provides that a gratuity shall be paid to the widow of an ex-serviceman, when she re-marries, equivalent to a year’s pension, which is about £182.
For several years complaints have been made about the meagre allowance provided for Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme trainees. Deputations which waited upon Ministers in the Labour Government to make representations about that matter were sent away unsatisfied. I am glad to know that, as a result of a deputation to this Government, provision has been made in the budget for an increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the allowances paid to reconstruction trainees.
Widows’ pensions also are to be increased by 7s. 6d. a week. The committee composed of ex-servicemen members of the Government parties recently made representations to the Government, that motor cars be made available for ex-servicemen who are double amputees. I am gratified that provision has been made in the budget for the supply of a car and an allowance of £120 per annum to cover registration fees, third party insurance and other expenses, to double amputees, so as to enable them to move about. Recreational transport allowances also are to be’ provided for those whose movements are restricted owing to the loss of a limb. Submissions in favour of an extension of benefits to additional classes of ex-servicemen and the Repatriation Department having conferred on it discretionary powers in relation to the provision of extra, facilities to disabled ex-servicemen, were placed before the former Labour Government in October, 194.6, November, 1946, and October, 1948, but were rejected. Provision is made in the budget for the supply of special devices to be fitted to motor cars to enable disabled ex-servicemen to get about.
The allowance for the purchase of books and equipment by trainees also has been substantially increased. Several applications were made to the Labour Government for ‘ the institution of machinery to enable widows to receive their pensions by cheques so that they would not have to leave their homes and their young children in order to collect them in cash. The Labour Government refused these requests. The present Government has now met the wishes of the widows and other pensioners by making arrangements for them to receive their pensions by cheque.
Very substantial benefits have been provided for in the budget for age and invalid pensioners. The age pension is to be increased by 7s. Cd. from £2 2s. 6d. to £2 10s. a week, and the widows’ pension by 7s. 6d. a week from £2 7s. 6d. to £2 15s. a week. In addition, free life-saving drugs are now available to age and invalid pensioners, in common with all other members of the community. Their provision will be of considerable benefit to age and invalid pensioners who are at a stage in life when such drugs are more essential to them than to other people. The budget also provides for an expenditure of £2,000,000 on general medical services and free medicines for age, invalid and service pensioners. I trust that the scheme under which these services are to be provided will be expedited.
Prior to the last general election the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) intimated that it would be the policy of a Liberal-Australian Country party Government eventually to abolish the means test, which is a definite discouragement of thrift. It penalizes those who have endeavoured to provide for their old age and against sickness. The right honorable gentleman made a definite statement about that matter in his policy speech, but he did not make the statement which certain members of the Opposition have attempted to attribute to him. He stated that during this term of the Parliament a plan would be prepared for submission to the people at the next general election, which would have the effect of totally abolishing the means test. It would be futile to imagine that the means test could be abolished without cost. Its abolition will cost about £100,000,000 a year. I believe, however, that it should be, and must be, abolished, and that the people will be ready to make some contribution to a fund that will give them security in their old age and enable them to draw superannuation as a right and not as a charity. Already the Government, in accordance with its policy, has taken certain steps towards abolishing the means test. That test does not apply to the receipt of endowment for the first child of a family. The maximum permissible income of age and invalid pensioners has been increased from £3 12s. 6d. to £4 a week, that amount, of course, including the pension itself. The permissible income of married pensioners has been raised from £7 5s. a week to £8 a week. During the regime of the Labour Government a man who, when he was young, had taken out a life insurance policy for the benefit of his wife and children, found when he applied for the age pension that the surrender value of the policy was taken into account when his entitlement to the pension was being considered. Some time ago I led a deputation to the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) who pointed out_the injustice of that provision and asked that the surrender value of such a life insurance policy, which was for the benefit of a man’s dependants and not for his own benefit, should be totally disregarded in the application of the means test.. Although the Minister has not gone so far as we had hoped he would, he has exempted the surrender value of life policies up to £500 from calculations in relation to the means test for age and invalid pensions. That provision covers the great majority of cases of age pensioners, because few of them hold policies the surrender value of which exceeds £500. Another respect in which the means test has been eased is in relation to the receipt of sickness and unemployment benefits. In the past the pension of a war pensioner was taken into account when his entitlement to sickness and unemployment benefits was being considered. The amount that a grateful nation was paying to him for a disability that he had incurred in action could disentitle him from receiving either of those benefits. The means test has been so eased that a war pension is now to be totally disregarded when entitlement to unemployment or other benefits is being considered.
The Government’s policy is, as far as possible, to achieve stability of prices. The present Prime Minister in his policy speech made a statement that has proved to be probably the most misquoted statement ever made. I point out to honorable members opposite that it is what the right honorable gentleman said that matters, not what he was misreported to have said. Every honorable member opposite has had cause to complain occasionally that the press has misreported his utterances. We know that persons are misreported on many occasions, and that there are also occasions on which some particularly enthusiastic people exaggerate or extend the meaning of what a person has said. What the Prime Minister did say is set out in his policy speech, which was published in full in- practically every newspaper in Australia. It was also broadcast over the air and printed in booklet form and is correct in every detail. This is what he said -
The statistician will conservatively allow that the £1 of 1939 is now only worth 12s. 2d. in purchasing power, but on the true cost of household requirements it would be nearer the mark to say it is worth only 10s. The greatest task, therefore, is to get value back into the £1, that is, to get prices down.
It is absolutely untruthful for honorable members of the Opposition to say that the right honroable gentleman promised to put value back into the £1. Certain newspapers and supporters of the present Government might have said that but what the Prime Minister said is in black arid white. He said, in effect, that the greatest problem that any government could face was that of putting value back into the £1. That is the greatest problem that the Government of the United States of America has to face; it is the greatest problem that the Labour Government in England has to face ; and it is the greatest problem that this or any other government in Australia could have to face.
There is a lot of alarmist talk about prices. The American Consul in Adelaide returned recently from America and, after mentioning the very prosperous conditions in America-
The; DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The’ honorable member’s time has expired’..
.- I heard the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) deliver his policy speech prior to the last general election. Despite what is in. the book from which the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) quoted, the right honorable gentleman made the clear promise that, if returned, his Government would put value back into the £1. He may have given the matter further thought before the policy speech was put into book form, with the result that it was altered, but that promise was made and millions of Australian people heard him make it.
The honorable member for Sturt boasted about the prosperity of this country. It was not the present Government that brought about that prosperity. It has not been in power long enough to do so, and has not done enough to achieve it since it has been in office. There is no doubt that there is prosperity in this country for some persons. One may see evidence of that if one examines share lists and company returns and observes the huge profits which the Prime Minister has admitted are being made and on which he intends to impose an excess profits tax.
The principle that the basic wage should be based on the capacity of industry to pay was introduced in the dire days of the depression, when the country could not afford to pay existing wages. The court was told that .before wages could be increased the economic condition of the country must be taken into consideration. Ever since then, the worker has been left hi a parlous position. If there is another tendency towards depression in this country the basic wage, because it is computed in that manner, must fall and continue to fall. The honorable member for Sturt stated that the increase of £1 a week in the basic wage was granted not because of the needs of the worker, but because of the prosperity of the country. That is an astounding statement. This £1 will not pay the week-end meat bill of a man with a wife and a couple of children. It will not pay the increase in his rent nor will it meet the’ increases of the prices of potatoes and tomatoes, the latter of which have been selling at 4s. and 5s. per lb-.. When I discuss my home budget with the wife I sometimes wonder how working people manage to live.
The honorable gentleman referred to the dollar loan. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) that this loan is full of danger. When the Bruce-Page Government was in power it adopted a policy of “ borrow and bust “, the borrowing being from Great Britain, a country then under the control of capitalism. It borrowed so much that it left this country destitute of London funds. That was one of the causes of the beginning of the depression. Now that there is a Labour government in Great Britain this Government is switching over to capitalist America and is going to adopt the same policy in regard to borrowing dollars. If the Government continues with this loan policy it will bring about similar results to those that were produced in 1929 by the Bruce-Page Government.
As I listened to the wireless and newspaper reports of the Cabinet meetings that were held before the budget was introduced, I wondered how many budgets had been submitted to Cabinet. According to the newspapers, there were four or five. I should not be surprised if there had been a dozen. It is only because it is now so close to the end of the year and the Government can procrastinate no longer that it has brought down this muddled budget. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) tried to blame the Opposition for the delay in introducing the budget, by saying that it had held up legislation in another place. The fact is that the Cabinet, for weeks and weeks, wrangled over the dollar loan, depreciation and other matters on which the Australian Country party and the Liberal party clashed. Principles incorporated in this budget contradict the inherent policies of both.
Of the Government’s attempts to deal with inflation in this budget it can be said that the mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse. There is not the slightest indication in the budget of anything that will in any way retrieve the economic position of the country. In these days of national stress and rising prices no economist is game to face up to the position squarely. It seems to me that they all follow the old, beaten track, as does the Government, because they suffer from that curse that has afflicted the human race down the ages - a craven fear of change. They are not prepared to test anything new which might alleviate the position.
The honorable member spoke of unemployment. There has been no unemployment in this country during the eight years that have passed since a Labour government took office. Speaking of depressions reminds me of the story of an American professor of economy who, like the Ancient Mariner, used to hold people with his glittering eye and talk economy to them. One could not help but stop and listen to him as the wedding guest listened to the Ancient Mariner. One day while walking through a park he saw a hobo sitting on a bench, so he went over and started talking political economy to him. The hobo said, “ I had a drop of soup in the soup kitchen last night. I have had no breakfast and my clothes and shoes are all worn out. Will economy get me a job ? “ The professor said, “ No. The function of political economy is not to get you a job hut to tell you why you cannot get one “. That story illustrates the attitude of this Government and its economic advisers. There seems to be a deep-rooted conviction in this country that when prices rise and an increase of wages is given, there must be another rise of prices. If that were so, the workers’ position would become worse with every increase of wages. It has been proved beyond all doubt that when prices rise as a result of an increase of wages, they rise to a much greater degree than do wages. I know of an increase of the wages of men in the leather industry in Sydney. Experts calculated that this increase would raise the cost of the leather content of a pair of boots by lid., yet the price of boots went up by ls. 6d. That is the sort of thing that happens in all industries. The conditions of the workers and their standard of living have improved immensely since I was a lad. But if increased wages did not benefit the workers because prices rose in proportion, the wage-earners’ position could never become better unless some other means to assist them could be found. Greater social services such as child endowment can improve the workers’ conditions. Payments such as that are not reflected in prices. ‘ If every wage increase given to the workers is to be offset by increased prices then living standards can certainly not be improved. Just prior to the presentation of the budget the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that he would impose an excess profits tax. To impose such a tax will be of uo use if there are no excess profits. Therefore, the Prime Minister implicity admitted that excess profits are at present being made. In fact he intends to do the same thing that was done during war-time, that is, ensure that the Government shall get a cut. out of excess profits.
– The Prune Minister is going to share the loot.
– Yes, that is so. I am not speaking now of profits made by retailers. The excess price is imposed where the goods originate, that is, in their production or manufacture. Some time ago I mentioned a matter relating to Mr. Portus, a director of tutorial classes in the Workers’ .Educational Association of New South Wales. That gentleman reported that he had trained a young man and encouraged him to pass his accountancy examinations because he was a smart boy and came from a good family. Ultimately, Mr. Portus obtained a position for him in one of the biggest business concerns in Australia. The boy had worked there for only a few months when he came, almost in tears, to- Mr. Portus, and said that he could not continue there because the concern kept two sets of books. He said that one set, which was kept locked in a big safe, was for the benefit of the business, and the other, which was always accessible, was kept for examination by the taxation officials. I suggest that that sort of thing will continue under the regime of this Government. When the war-time profits tax was in force I was in business. On one occasion I visited a warehouse with which I was connected and asked to see the accountant. I was informed that he had left. Upon inquiry I was told that he had faked the books of the business and had thereby saved the firm about £5,000 in war-time profits tax. Then he has misappropriated about £3,000 of that sum and had disappeared. The owners of the business could do nothing about his offence because, had they wished to do so, they would have had to admit to having defrauded the Taxation Department.
Another thing which this Government seems to believe will put value back into the £1 is the sales tax on luxury goods. I cannot see how this will improve our economy because wealthy people will always buy luxuries whatever they may cost. Like the other actions and promises of the Government it will have no stabilizing effect at all.
The Prime Minister has stated that he intends to direct labour into essential industries. When the Chifley and Curtin Governments were forced to do that through the exigencies of war, honorable members of the Government parties said that the Labour party was pushing people round and niching their freedom from them. The right honorable gentleman, as a constitutional authority, should know that he has no power at all during peace-time to direct labour.
-. - The Prime Minister did not say that he would direct people to employment.
– He said that that was one of the things he would do to put value back into the £1. That statement was published in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days before the budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), and I suggest that honorable members should read it for themselves. The Prime Minister said specifically that controls would he imposed in order to restrict the volume of labour entering industries of minor importance. Although I am not a constitutional lawyer, I say that the Government has no power to do such a thing. The Prime Minister also said that he intended to control basic materials, as was done by the Labour Government during the war. He has no constitutional power to control basic materials during peace-time. Any working man or woman in Australia can to-day move on at any time and take a different job. No government has any power to stop them, and the right honorable gentleman knows it. Perhaps the biggest joke of all those in the budget is the statement that there is to be a big savings campaign. If living costs continue to rise as they are doing at present the workers will have no savings that will enable them to participate in any such campaign.
Although the Government has made so many promises about so many things, it has made no attempt to interfere with profits. Profits, right throughout our economic system, have been treated as sacrosanct. The worker is taken into the courts and almost stripped bare. He is forced to say what he pays for his boots, socks and shirts, and how much tobacco he smokes and so on, but all that the boss needs to say, after the worker has succeeded by great labour in getting a small increase in his wage, is, “ We cannot afford to pay the awarded wage unless we put up our prices “. I shall cite a classic example to illustrate my point, although no doubt many younger honorable members will think that it is not true. I have mentioned it before in this chamber, but it is well worth mentioning again. The chairman of one of the first wages boards to be constituted in Sydney was a man named Edward Riley, who was for some time the honorable member for South Sydney in the Australian Parliament. Certain workers applied to the board for a determination. They had to start work at 7 o’clock in the morning, work until tea-time, then go back after tea and dress the windows at night. They worked for 56 hours and sometimes for 60 hours a week. They sought increased wages and fewer hours. The big trading concerns of Sydney opposed their application and swore before the board that their profits were such that if they had to pay the wages sought they would have to increase their prices. Mr. Riley and one or two other gentlemen on the board demanded that an accountant be appointed to examine, under a pledge of secrecy, the books of these concerns. The accountant reported his findings to the chairman of the board, whothen said that every one of the business concerns had committed cold-blooded perjury.
Apparently another method being adopted by thisGovernment to put value back into the £1 is to increase the salaries of members of the judiciary. Those increased salaries are to be made retrospective to the 1st July, 1950. Although the pensioners have not yet been paid their miserable increases I am quite certain that it will not be made retrospective to the 1st July; in fact they will be lucky if they get it by the 1st November.
On the subject of national defence the Prime Minister made three broadcasts that were of such a nature that if anybody else had made them he would have been gaoled for sedition. The Prime Minister stated to the world that Australia was destitute of defence forces and would be a sitting shot for anybody who wanted to come and take it. The Minister for the Army, who is also Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis), made the” same proud boast to the world, that Australia lacked any defence. The honorable gentleman who was the Minister for the Interior, but is now the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), also warned us of our “inadequate state of defences “. When challenged about that statement the Minister said that in any case nothing could be done to stop our press from proclaiming such things to the world. If such things were proclaimed to the world by the press of a nation behind the Iron Curtain, all those involved would be put up against a wall and shot. Yet the Prime Minister and other Ministers have made these astounding statements. I do not suggest that our defences are particularly strong, but my point is that the rest of the world should not be told of their weakness. Such action on the part of the Prime Minister and the Ministers whom I have mentioned was scandalous. They proclaimed to the world that Australia has no defences whatsoever.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) castigated the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis) because they told the world; as he put it, about the state of Australia’s defences. It would appear that members of the Opposition are the only people in Australia who are not aware of the actual state of our defences; and, unfortunately, they do not seem to be very concerned about the matter. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Chifley) declared that Australia was safer to-day than it had been during the last twenty years. It is useless for the right honorable gentleman to shut his eyes to the facts. For the benefit of the honorable member for Werriwa, I point out that during the recent war the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), when he was Minister for Air, addressed a public meeting at Tamworth and, in the course of his remarks, which were broadcast, gave the name of the airport at which he had landed, the name of the pilot of the plane and the name of the aircraft itself, as well as the current weather conditions and forward weather reports. When I drew his attention to those facts he replied, “I did not say anything that mattered “. At that meeting the honorable member accepted money that had been subscribed by the people of Tamworth as a contribution towards the cost of an. aeroplane. I was of the opinion that all of the information that he broadcast was “ hush hush “ at that particular time.
The debate was relatively refreshing until the honorable member for Werriwa dug up the depression. Most of his colleagues harped about putting value back into the £1. They tell that story day in and day out. The Government is endeavouring to put value back into the £1, and it will achieve that objective if it is not obstructed. The Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, made an appeal for increased production. Apparently, he realizes the need for increased production and acknowledges that each employee should do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. We shall not succeed in putting value back into the £1 until we increase production. The first requisite in that respect is harmony in industry. We must establish that harmony at a time when a strongly organized body is endeavouring to destroy industry. For that reason the first step that the Government took upon assuming office was to deal with those disruptionists ; hut, unfortunately, the Opposition in the Senate refused to pass the Communist Party Dissolution Bill until after a delay of many months the threat of a double dissolution was held over its head. Now, members of the Labour party are adopting the attitude that they will prevent the Government from putting value back into the £1. They want to discredit it so that they can get back on to the treasury bench. They do not care what happens to Australia.
If workers in essential industries adopt a go-slow policy and fix dargs of production, the community generally will not derive any benefit from the increase of the basic wage that is to be implemented as from the 1st December next, because, in the meantime, rising costs will outstrip that increase. We must increase not only overall production, but also production per man-hour. If harmony can be established in industry and workers arc not obliged, under instructions from Communist union bosses, to restrict their output, the full benefit of the increase will be reaped by the community. All sections, including employers, wish to see that result achieved. Only a fool would desire that employees should he obliged to live on an inadequate wage. The Government is most anxious to establish harmony in industry and to maintain our present high standard of living. However, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) said that it would not be able to do that because the trade unions would not cooperate with it. He said bluntly that the ‘ Government would not succeed in increasing production. When I pointed out the need for bricklayers to lay more bricks a day, he sidestepped the issue. Bricklayers, under instructions from their union officials, are not allowed to lay more than 350 bricks a day, whereas a bricklayer who knows his job is capable of laying 800 bricks a day. As, in doing so, he would work more steadily and more rhythmically than it is possible for him to work under present conditions he would be less tired at the end of the day. When a bricklayer is instructed to observe a certain darg he reduces not only his own output but also that of the carpenter and the plumber. The same observation applies to brickmakers. Brickmakers who are paid according to their daily output, are capable of making 1,500 bricks a day hut they must observe their union’s instruction not to produce more than 1,000 a day.
– Does not the wool-grower withhold his wool from the market until he can get a higher price for it?
– I am not making any complaint about the worker himself. Honorable members opposite have said that the Government wants to break the trade unions. I say advisedly that if trade unionists do not wake up, they will break themselves because their members are becoming tired of domination and dictation. Stoppages on the wharfs are the fault not of wharf labourers but of the Communist union bosses who tell them what they must do. The recent oneday strike on the railways in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia was a strike, not against the so-called capitalist, but against the transport authorities which represent the people. That strike was called without a ballot having been taken of the employees affected. Those employees did not want to strike. The unions are adopting a similar policy with respect to the employees of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the management of which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) praised very highly in his speech this afternoon. He said that that company was doing a very good job for Australia. However, its production is being held up because Communist union bosses will not allow the miners to produce sufficient coal to supply the needs of the steel industry. The same Communist bosses ensure that sufficient crews shall not be available to man ships to transport the steel produced. I do not believe that seamen really want to stay off ships. The fact is that they are not game to offer as members of crews, because if they do so they will be marked men. We are told that the reason why more coal is not being produced is that fewer miners are now employed in the industry than were employed some years ago. The reason for that state of affairs is that many miners transferred to other industries because they were not allowed to earn as much money as they were capable of earning in the mines.
– But coal is mined under contract.
– That may be so in some instances ; but in most instances the miner is not permitted to exceed a certain darg. If the miner were given a free hand more men would offer for work in the mines. We must face those facts if we are to succeed in putting value back into the fi. Nothing short of a national effort will solve this problem, and I believe that the Government will set an example in that respect.
Honorable members opposite have said that the budget is inflationary. The Government has taken effective steps to halt inflationary trends. The honorable member for Werriwa, relying upon a newspaper report, said that the Government intended to direct labour. Apparently, the honorable member is not capable of understanding plain words. The Government proposes to control capital issues in respect of luxury industries and also to increase the rates of sales tax on luxury goods with the object of diverting the capital and labour employed in such industries to those that are more essential to our economy.
– Would the honorable member describe a radio receiving set as a luxury ?
– Yes. The Leader of the Opposition gave a lengthy explanation of what his Government had done. In 1!)46, when he was Prime Minister, he declared that the golden age was just round the corner. I am afraid that the golden age had rounded the corner and was disappearing in the distance before his Governmnt went out of office. At that time, ‘Communist-dominated unions had succeeded in reducing production. They destroyed the opportunity that was presented to this country to obtain markets overseas and to revert to a peace-time economy more quickly than could any other country, because Australia had not suffered physical damage during the recent war. However, I believe that this country still has a chance to attain a golden age if we cut out all the bitter talk that we hear about the class war. Experience has taught us that whilst a country may win a war it may lose the peace. Honorable members opposite are amusing when they talk about the poor wool-grower and claim to be his friend. Not so long ago they were decrying the wool barons. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) advocated that the Government should impose a tax on wool in order to subsidize the production of woollen goods. Yet, honorable members opposite now endeavour to make out that the prepayment of tax by the wool-growers under the Government’s plan is harsh and unfair. As the Prime Minister fully explained the Government’s plan, I shall not deal with it at this juncture.
Sitting suspended from G to 8 p.m.
– The Opposition criticism of the pay-as-you-sell wool deduction scheme astonishes me. Had the Chifley socialist Government been in power, the wool-growers would have been dealt with in a vastly different manner. They were concerned about rumours that were current before the Government announced its intentions. They were haunted, I believe, by recollections of the methods of the socialist government. This Government has merely placed them in the same situation as that of 2,500,000 wage-earners under the pay-as-you-earn income tax deduction system. Had the Labour Government been in power still, the Copland plan would have been forced upon the wool-growers. The honorable member for Werriwa spoke critically of the Government’s advisers, but the advisors of the Chifley Government, from whose planning we have suffered, would have recommended the adoption of the Copland scheme which this Government rejected. Furthermore, the growers would have had to accept that scheme and like it of sheer necessity.
I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Lalor attack the new conditions of enlistment for service in the Army. The honorable gentleman has an excellent war record and was a very good soldier in World War I. I am sure that he must have changed his ideas very considerably .=ince he became u member of this Parliament and allied himself with the present Opposition party. “ Diggers “ of World War I. were prepared to serve anywhere in the world, and I believe that Australians to-day will be prepared to enlist in the Army under similar conditions, just as many have already enlisted in the Navy and the Air force. Australians are just as courageous and loyal to-day as they were in the past and I believe that they will be propared to serve their country, should the necessity arise, wherever they may be asked to serve.
The honorable member for Lalor also mentioned another subject which ho may later wish that he bad ignored. 1:1 e mentioned the sale of the boilers from the Warracknabeal power alcohol distillery which, as many honorable members will recall, was established in the electorate then represented by ;t gentleman who virtually hold the Labour government of the day in the palm of hi.* hand. The venture cost the nation about £1,000,000 and eventually the distillery was pulled down and the boiler.- wore sold. The honorable member for Lalor may already by regretting his reference to that subject, because the project wa.« one of the failures of Labour’s administration. It was generally considered that the distillery had been erected so that Mr. Alex Wilson would remain on side with the Labour Government.
I listened very attentively for SO minutes last night to the .= speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley).
– I bet that the honorable gentleman learned something from it.
– Yes. For one thing. I learned that the right honorable gentleman was capable of making a host of excuses for his own administration. His remarks scarcely touched the budget, and they finished right along the Communist line. He attacked the government of South Korea and the leader of that government. Apparently he has forgotten that Dr. Syngman Rhee led the Koreans throughout the period of the Japanese occupation of his country and returned to lead the South Koreans after the war had ended. The Leader of the Opposition described as corrupt the Governments of South Korea and the Republic of the Philippines. Those eastern governments could just as easily have attacked the Chifley Government and described it as a corrupt government. The right honorable gentleman’s remarks definitely followed the Communist line. What force are those governments fighting to-day? They ure fighting communism. We did not hear anything from the right honorable member about the corrupt Indonesian Government, which is attacking the South Moluccas and Ambon, which were independent members of the United States of Indonesia until the new republic wm? established overnight. He said nothing about the Government of Indonesia, but instead attacked the Governments of the Philippines and South Korea, which aru fighting communism.
– Would the honorable, member say that Syngman Rhee was democratically elected ?
– I do not think that Eastern governments know anything about democracy, and I am sure that the socialist party, does not know anything about democracy.
However, the Leader of .the Opposition finished his speech on a very fine note. He said that he believed in tolerance and broad-mindedness. That sounded very encouraging, but it astonished me. I had formed a different impression of the right honorable member when I first became a member of this Parliament. During the Address-in-Reply debate early this year, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) made some remarks which rather annoyed the Leader of the Opposition. 1 saw him move about, the Opposition benches and talk to a number of his colleagues, He came close to me, and I heard what he said. It was, “ We want to mark this fellow. We’ll take it out of him later on “. That remark, I thought, revealed the smallest mind that I had ever known in my life. Yet the same gentleman talked last night about tolerance and broad-mindedness!
This budget has been prepared very carefully. Members of the Opposition have said that it was recast seveal times, but that is all to the good. The international situation changed swiftly in the period during which the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) was drafting it, and many other events, have affected it. Notwithstanding the fact that it had to be altered a number of times, I consider that the Treasurer has done a good job. It provides for the welfare of all sections of the community. I was particularly pleased to note in it reference to the plans that had been, made for the benefit of ex-servicemen, age pensioners, invalids and other deserving citizens. Those proposals have already been discussed by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. “Wilson) and I shall not repeat what he said.. I conclude by saying that the’ budget is good. I support it and commend it to all honorable members.
Mi-. CURTIN (Watson) [8.9].- All day to-day I have listened to various honorable members on the Government side of the chamber attacking the trade union movement of Australia with monotonous regularity. The class hatred that they preach is intended for the sole purpose of stirring up dissension throughout the trade union movement. The remarks of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar), for one, almost made me ill. The tenor of his remarks was not unusual, of course, because he is a huge importer and has a large store in one of our big country towns. The only subject that he can think of is that of profit. The honorable gentleman chants from morning to night, “ The worker won’t work. We want harmony in industry. We want more production “. But he does not know the first thing about production. The annual report of the Commonwealth Bank, to which I referred in an earlier debate in this chamber, shows that, notwithstanding the introduction of the 40- hour week, production in Australia has1 increased by 9 per cent. How these big merchants and wholesalers hate the 40- hour week! They are favoured by a sellers’ market at the moment and all that they want to do is make the worker produce more goods so that they can take it out of his hide and bleed the market of extra profits. Honorable members opposite may laugh, hut Nemesis will overtake them.
The Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) said that we should introduce incentive payment schemes so that the workers would produce more and goods would become cheaper. The right honorable gentleman did not know what he was talking about. Let us consider the situation in the clothing trade to-day. It is riddled with incentive schemes, but I challenge anybody to find any establishment in Sydney that can afford to sell clothing to-day more cheaply than it was sold five years ago. All sorts of little factories have been set up in back yards and motor garages with the object of breaking down trade union conditions. They are scattered all over the metropolitan area. Women work at rows of machines in big rooms to produce clothing by the mile. But are dresses and suits any cheaper than they were before? Certainly not! The manufacturers have a sellers’ market and that is why we hear the continual cry for more production.
Government supporters to-day have denied the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to put value back into the £1. They have tried to lay a smokescreen in order to cloud the issue. Promises, like pie crusts, are easily broken, of course, but the Government and its supporters will not be able to disclaim responsibility for the undertaking that was given to the electors last December by the present Prime Minister. I have here a copy of a broadcast script that was. sent to me by courtesy of the right honorable gentleman. It is the script of a speech in which he said -
Let us attack our tasks boldly. The greatest of them all, as I am sure you will agree, will be to arrest the alarming rise in costs and prices and so put value back into ‘the money that you earn and spend.
That speech was delivered by the right honorable gentleman on the 20th December last. Bursting with self-assurance and brimming over with vanity, he told the people what they should do. The change in his demeanor was sudden. He did not appeal to them with tears in his eyes, as he had done during the general election campaign. As soon as his hands grasped the reins of office, he began to tell the people what they should do. He made a series of broadcasts on Sunday evenings, until’ somebody told, him that listeners were writing to the- newspapers stating that they were sick and tired of hearing him tell them what they should do. Even the Sydney Morning Herald, which cannot ‘be accused of being sympathetic to the Labour party, risked the grave danger of hurting the right honorable gentleman’s colossal vanity by suggesting to him that he should terminate those broadcasts, because the people were becoming weary of them. The Prime Minister heeded that advice, and, thank goodness, his voice has not been heard over the air on Sunday evenings for some time.
During the last general election campaign, the right honorable gentleman assured the people that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, if returned to office, would abolish economic controls. Every one will recall that part of his policy speech in which he promised that a government under his leadership would clip the wings of the bureaucrats. Yet, about a. fortnight ago. the right honorable gentleman had to crawl back into his shell, and break another of his pre-election promises, because the Government was obliged to reestablish the Capital Issues Advisory Board. That action was a tacit admission that the control of capital issues by the preceding Labour Government was justified.
The Minister for National Development spoke to-day of the wonderful dollar loan that the Prime Minister had contrived to induce the New York financiers to grant to Australia. He assured us that the loan would enable Australia to buy everything that would shift everything that required shifting in this country, but he omitted to inform the chamber that the loan bore interest at the rate of 3^ per cent, plus 1 per cent, commission. Li other words, the financial experts in New York, who “ get round “ Ministers when they visit the United States of America, took a rake-off of 1 per cent. Nor did the Minister mention that our former enemy, Japan, is able to negotiate dollar loans free of interest. I hope that, during this debate, a Minister will satisfactorily explain that anomaly.
I now wish to deal with the promise that was made by the Liberal party and by the Australian Country party during the last general election campaign that, if they were returned t,n office, they would put value back into the ?1.
– That is a new phrase.
– The Government does not like it. Housewives are sick and tired of the Government’s economic policy, because the ?1 is rapidly losing its purchasing power. Mr. J. W. Allison, who is the vice-president of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, and is not likely to be a supporter of the Labour party, told the annual conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia that prices were rising at a greater rate here than in any other country. He said -
A public, bewildered by the prices, seemed to be clinging to the pathetic hope that controls would keep down prices.
Mr. Allison also stated ;
The federal election result was a mandate to get rid of controls.
Prices continue to soar, and the Government closes its eyes to the tragic consequences of the loss of the purchasing power of our currency. The constant worry of mothers, in their endeavours to buy food for their children from day to day, is undermining their health. What is the Government doing to honour its .preelection promise to put value back into the ?1? The answer to that question is simple. It is doing precisely nothing. Once the budget is agreed to, the Government will seek shelter from criticism by closing the Parliament until next February.
– Or until after a general election.
– Government supporters would not welcome a general election.
– Why does the Labour party avoid a double dissolution?
– We shall have a double dissolution when we want it. Let Government supporters enjoy their present holiday in Canberra. Many of them will not return here after the next general election. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), after six or eight abortive attempts to prepare a budget that would relieve the sufferings of the people, presented to this chamber the breathtaking document that is now under consideration. Why did the right honorable gentleman delay the introduction of the budget for so long? I thought, that the millennium had been ushered in when this Government took office. The outstanding feature of this anti-Labour Government’s budget is that it is the usual betrayal of the workers. The Treasurer assured us that taxation methods would be simplified, and that taxes would be reduced. But what do we find?
– We find that taxes have been reduced.
– For the information of the honorable member for McMillan (M.r. Brown), I shall cite some of the “substantial” decreases of tax that will be granted under this budget. A man with a wife ‘and one child, who is in receipt of an income of .£300 a year, would have paid 19s. a year in income tax under the previous system, whereas under the. proposed system be will pay 17s. a year, a. reduction of 2s. a year. The budget will give him cause to rejoice ! A man with a wife and child who is in receipt of £1,500 a year would have paid £236 under the previous system, but will pay £223 under the new scale. That, is an example of “ greasing the fat pig “.
– I rise to order. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Watson is referring to members ot the Parliament, whose salary is £ 1,500 per annum.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ryan). - I do not think that the honorable member for Watson is referring to members of the Parliament.
– T. omit from my statement all members of the Parliament with the exception of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar). A man with a wife and one child, who is in receipt of an income of £5,000 a year, will pay £39 less tax under this budget than he paid last year. The outlook of the poor old worker, who stumbles along from day to day, is hopeless while an anti-Labour government is in office.
The increases of sales tax will cause consternation amongst the ladies. The Treasurer must feel proud of his decision to increase by 25 per cent, the indirect tax on many socalled luxury items, such as face powder, rouge, lipstick, face creams, hair lotions, nail polish, polish remover, bath powders and dozens of other preparations, many of which have become essential to every woman’s toilet. The increased cost of those articles will impose an additional strain on the housewife’s budget, and will place most of those toilet preparations beyond her reach financially. That statement cannot be denied. She will have to go without those little preparations which she likes to use every day. Even the business girl’s purse will be hit by the budget. She uses considerably more face powder and lipstick than the average housewife uses, and the increased cost of cosmetics and toilet preparations will make such inroads into her weekly earnings that she will bc obliged to use fewer cosmetic.1:, although she regards them a= essential. Toilet preparations are considered by the Government to be luxuries. Imagine, girls, you may have to do without cosmetics because the new tax proposals of the Treasurer will place them beyond your means. Honorable gentlemen opposite laugh. They seem to for set that four honorable senators are ladies, sud I believe that they will have a lot to say on behalf of the womenfolk of Australia when that chamber is considering the sale? tax legislation. I realize that my remarks have caused considerable hilarity, but the Government will find that the hardship imposed upon women by the increased sales tax on their cosmetics will bring about its downfall. The Government has overreached itself in its enthusiasm to “down” the working man and his wife and daughters. It wants to keep them on the breadline, where, in its opinion, they belong. I repeat that it is a serious matter for the average woman that cosmetics and toilet articles will be placed beyond her reach.
The Treasurer has also decided that radio receivers shall become luxuries. Because the Parliament decided some years ago that its proceedings should be broadcast so that the people of Australia could enjoy the luxury of listening to them-, the present Government, which fears that the people of Australia may hear the wonderful message that Labour has to “ put over the air “, decided to discourage people from listening to the parliamentary broadcasts by increasing the sales tax on radio receiving sets to such a degree as to place them beyond the reach of the average householder. Honorable members who take an interest in their electorates realize the implications of the proposal, unlike those who merely sit on their cushy seats in this chamber, wondering how long this has been going on, and who would not know what it is all about. Many members of the Parliament have received an enormous number of protests against the proposal to increase the sales tax on radio receivers and radio parts. In particular, I have received a number of protests from members of the farming community. I mention that fact for the benefit of honorable members in the “ hillbilly corner “ of the chamber, who masquerade as the champions of the farmers, although I do not suppose that one of them has ever done a day’s real farming in his life. All that most of them do is to exploit country people by buying and selling stock on commission, and acting as agents for various high-priced products and machines. If the members of the Australian Country party would join with me in protesting to the Government, something might be done to protect the farmers from the injustice that the Government proposes to perpetrate. It is all very well for members of the Australian Country party to complain in this chamber about the long, arduous days spent by the farmers, but they should not forget that when the tired farmer returns to his home in the evening he looks forward to being entertained by his radio set. When he discovers that the replacement of some perhaps minor part in his receiving apparatus will cost him 334 per cent, more than it does at present, he will be very angry, because he probably cannot afford to pay such a price for his entertainment. Probably, many farmers will not be able to afford radio sets at all. I therefore repeat my appeal to members of the Australian Country party to do something to protect the farmers. After all, the Treasurer is a member of their political party, and surely they should be able to approach him and point out the injustice that will be done by his proposals to the people whom they are supposed to represent. Of course, I am not speaking for the wealthy graziers, who are quite capable *>f look ing after themselves. The rich woolgrowers have browbeaten members of the Australian Country party so much that those honorable gentlemen do not even stop to consider the position of the small farmers.
A great deal has been said in the course of this debate about industrial relationships, and the harmony that is alleged to exist in industry to-day. We have even been told what a good employer the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is-
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that.
– Regardless of the identity of the honorable gentleman who made that statement, I have the right to say what I think. I have worked for employers such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and I know what they do. In fact, I have done much more work than has any honorable member opposite, and I am familiar with the tactics pursued by many of those who batten upon the workers. They are always urging us to work harder and harder, so that they can exploit us even more than they are already doing. In the course of my employment in industry, which has extended over 36 years, I have been associated with some of the finest types of men in the Australian community. Those types are to be found in the working class, and I resent the attacks made upon the workers of this country by honorable members opposite. The workers of this country are the real producers of the wealth of the community, and they are represented by the leaders of the trade union movement, more than 95 per cent, of whom are loyal to them and to Australia. Of course, the present Government would like to destroy the trade union movement. However, it has already discovered that the trade union movement is solid and that it cannot be coerced, and now it is appealing to the Labour movement to co-operate with it. However, I assure honorable members opposite that under no circumstances will the trade union movement ever co-operate - and I use the word “ ever “ advisedly, because I am not afraid to express my views - in any way with the Government of this country until the present Administration is replaced by a Labour administration.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ryan). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) negatived -
That the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) be granted an extension of time.
.- Having listened to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), the first conclusion to which I came was that the age of chivalry was dead. In the course of a most ungallant reference to Australian womanhood, he suggested that a great hardship would be inflicted upon them if the price of cosmetics was increased, because cosmetics were, he said, essential to their appearance. It is more usual, of course, to regard the use of cosmetics by a woman as a mere gilding of the lily. However, I shall not pursue the matter any further than to say that, if the honorable member thought that by adopting that line he would attract the support of the women of Australia, he was very much mistaken.
I turn now to the discussion of more serious matters, particularly of the problems that are raised, by the Government’s budgetary proposals. [ recall that in the first speech that I delivered in this chamber I said that the two principal problems that confronted the present Government were the stabilization of our economy and the development of the country. Since then, a third national problem,, that of defence, has emerged. I do not propose to elaborate upon defence matters in the course of this speech, and all I say now on that aspect is that I -believe that the Government has tackled the job courageously and realistically. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) said, in the course of his speech, that the resources that could be drawn upon for defence were limited, I entirely agreed with him. Undoubtedly, the defence requirements of this country are limited by the prospects of our national survival, but they are not limited, I emphasize, by any other factor. If the country cannot defend itself no proposal of the Government is of any value whatever.
Members of the Opposition like to refer to the subject of restoring economic stabilization in terms of putting value back in the £1. The approach made by. the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to this matter is the only one that the Government could adopt. Members of the Opposition insist on repeating that the right honorable gentleman promised to restore value to the £1. Apparently, they are quite incapable of distinguishing between an undertaking to confront a problem, and a promise to achieve certain results.
– ‘What did the Prime Minister say about the matter?
– In the course of his remarks, the honorable member for Watson quoted a passage from the report of a speech made by the Prime Min ster which showed clearly that the right honorable gentleman stated that the restoration of our economy was a problem that must be- faced. However, he made no specific promise.
– He promised a thousand times to restore value to the £1.
– I invite the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to read the right honorable gentleman’s speech for himself. What is the position to-day in regard to the restoration of value to the £1? The honorable member for Watson complained of the hardships suffered by the Australian housewives. I wonder whether he complained so loudly about that matter before the last general election ? Did not he and his colleagues tell the people during the election campaign that they were enjoying extraordinary prosperity, and that that condition of affairs was due to Labour’s administration? Yet, when we examine the level of prices during the last twelve months, we find that there has not been any appreciable increase-
– Rubbish !
– I invite the honorable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths), who has just interiected to consult the “ C “ series index It is all very well for honorable members opposite to cry “ Rubbish “, but I have here some, figures which show plainly that during the quarter ended the 30th September last the price rise was 2.5 per cent. For the six months ended the 30th June last it was 4.8 per cent.
– It is still rising.
– Admittedly. For the year ended the 30th June, 1949, the price rise was 9-.S per cent. In the year before that it was 9.4 per cent. The last two increases that I have mentioned took place under the Chifley Administration. “ ‘Still rising “, says the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). He admits it. In other words, the price rise has been constant within a few decimal points. Yet now we hear the honorable member for Watson bemoaning the hardships of the housewives, although only a few months ago he was telling them how well off they were, at a time when prices were rising at exactly the same rate as that at which they are now rising. Let us have a little consistency and common sanity from honorable members opposite.
– What about the promises the Government parties made to stop the increase of the cost of living?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member for Wills must not interject.
– I turn now to the problem of production. It is quite easy to utter denunciations, as the honorable member for Watson and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) have done. Yet those honorable members have stated that they will not co-operate in the Government’s drive for increased production. I do not intend to waste time in denouncing people, but I shall ask honorable members opposite two questions. The first is, who will benefit from a policy of restricted production or of non-co-operation in the productive effort? No Australian man, woman or child will benefit from such a policy.
– Lots of employers have benefited by it. They have restricted production and under-supplied the market to suit themselves.
– If employers have benefited from such a policy why do honorable members opposite advocate it?
– We are advocating an entirely different policy.
– I presume that if nobody inside Australia will benefit from the policy of restricted production, then, some one outside Australia will benefit from it. We can only conclude that those who will benefit from it will be enemies or potential enemies of Australia.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is interjecting too frequently.
– If there is any one here who thinks that he can derive some political advantage from a policy of non- co-operation, let him ask himself whom the people will blame if an economic mess results from shortages, restricted production and non-co-operation. They will blame those who have advocated non- production.
-Who has advocated non-production ?
– I heard the honorable member for Watson say to-night that he would not advocate an increase of production.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson), whom I have already called to order, is interjecting too frequently.
– With whom will the public side? With those ‘who have advocated non-co-operation and who have said tbat they will not co-operate in a drive for increased production from the workers ?
I turn from that matter to the impact upon the Australian economy of the increase of the basic wage that was recently granted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I do not think that the founders of the system of conciliation and arbitration in Australia foresaw the tremendous effect on the Australian economy that the decisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would have. That court was designed merely for the purpose of resolving disputes between employers and employees, and, indeed, every case that is heard before it is based - and sometimes almost fictitiously - on the notion that there is an existing dispute between employers and employees. The hearing proceeds on that ground. Any decision of the court has a wide impact on the entire Australian economy. I do not presume to criticize the court, hut I offer certain suggestions with due respect. The court has realized that money wages, as such, cannot determine the standard of living. The court can say that it will award to the worker an increased share of the proceeds of production in the form of more money, but history has proved that as soon as an increase of wages is made, prices rise accordingly and the benefit of the increase is very quickly dissipated. The judges of the court themselves, in the extracts from judgments that were quoted by the Prime Minister, expressed the view that although they had awarded an increase of wages, that fact of itself would result only in increased prices unless some other action were taken, by which, presumably, they implied either that, production must be increased or that some legislative action must be taken. I submit that it is within the province of the court to extend its investigations and inquiries beyond the consideration of the money wages that it should award. It should base its decisions on the actual standard of living, and make any change or variation of that standard commensurate with the contribution to it made by the employees. When all is said and done, if a wage increase in the form of money will not really result in anything but a temporarily increased standard of living for the worker, surely it would be more realistic for the court, to fix what it believed to be a fair standard, basing its decision on the employees’ contribution to the standard.
Air. Clyde Cameron. - What does the honorable member mean by that?
– I realize that the honorable member for Hindmarsh may find difficulty in following me. I have tried to compress within a few observations a line of thought which, I confess, the honorable member would find great difficulty in following.
While I am dealing with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the impact of the level of production on our price level, I shall make a brief reference to the matter of strikes. When two ordinary citizens have a matter in dispute, such as a broken contract or a breach of civil rights, normally one of them does not go to the other and demand satisfaction at -pistol point. He takes the issue to court for determination. The same process has come to be accepted in our arbitration system. This point has been- laboured time and time again but I consider that there are too many people in Australia to-day who are trying to have things both ways. They are attempting to obtain the benefits of arbitration and the benefits of the pistol point remedy at the same time. If the pistol were directed at one employer or another in a case of individual hardship, where there was no court or tribunal open to the worker, there might conceivably be some justification for this rotten tradition about the right to strike that we have in Australia.
– Is the honorable member advocating a revolution or something of that nature?
– I am not advocating a revolution at all. I say that we have developed an absurd tradition that nobody is to interfere with the workers’” right to strike. We might as well say that any individual who finds himself aggrieved by a breach of his civil rights should take the law into his own hands. The Labour party’s attitude to that matter is like its attitude to conscription, compulsory military training or service overseas. It is quite out of step with the times. I say that while we are facing the problem of trying to stabilize our economy the matter of strikes should be closely examined, because to-day we find that strikes are most frequently directed not at any individual employer, but at governments. For instance, although the Labour party is supporting the Country party Government in Victoria, the railway workers in that State are on strike against the popularly elected Government. Where will this law of the jungle end? I suggest that the Government should face with some courage, and with less respect for the traditional right to strike, the problem of strikes in Australia. The same problem exists in England.
– What is the Government going to do about strikes?
– I do not propose to elaborate on that point any further. I have clearly stated my views on the right to strike. I turn now to profits. We have heard the honorable member for Watson say that the Government wished to increase production only to bleed more out of the hides of the workers.
– That is right.
– I thank the honorable member for Hindmarsh for that interjection, because if all Australian industrial profits were distributed among the employees in industries, each employee would not receive more than a shilling a week above what he now receives.
– Do not be ridiculous! Profits in Australia amount to £300,000,000.
– Let the honorable member examine the figures that relate to any industry. I find it quite absurd, therefore, that the honorable member for Watson and other honorable members opposite, like the honorable member for Hindmarsh, should make the rash statement that our only reason for wanting more production is to make possible greater profits for the employers. Honorable members must agree that the standard of living cannot bc increased by a mere increase of wages. The actual standard of living itself must be increased. When honorable members opposite say that we wish to increase production only to provide employers with more profits they are just voicing the old, old slogans that we hear in this place every day, the same old class hatred, uttered a little louder and with a few minor variations. They thereby attempt to gain some notoriety for themselves, but their views are completely valueless so far as assisting in the stabilization of our economy is concerned.
I turn now from the problem of stabilization to the problem of development. I was pleased to hear the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) say to-day that in order of importance he would place encouragement of development by private enterprise before the more spectacular schemes of the .Government’s own initiation, such as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme and other schemes of similar magnitude. In Western Australia there is tremendous scope for development along the lines suggested by the right honorable gentleman. Recently, the Prime Minister made an appeal for an increased production of flax because of the urgent necessity for that commodity in stock-piling for defence. The only privately owned flax mill in Australia is in Western Australia. The other two flax-producing States, Victoria and South Australia, have all their flax treated by government-operated flax mills. Approximately one-fifth of Australia’s total flax output is produced in Western Australia. That State could treat with its existing plant an additional quantity which would raise its proportion to nearly one-half. Yet, there are proposals to increase flax production by expending about £250,000 on Commonwealth mills. With very little extra encouragement to the Western Australian industry to grow more flax, the existing mill could treat up to 400 tons of flax fibre a year.
In the south-west of Western Australia there was a substantial dairying industry, but dairying is becoming unpopular there because of the increased capital required to purchase machinery and equipment in order to enable small farms to conduct dairying operations in a modern way. The dairy farm unit must be increased in size to cope with modern methods, lt will not be possible for the dairying industry to meet Australia’s total requirements in a few year.?’ time unless present production is substantially increased. The problem of development must be met with an overall scheme. Extensions must be uniform. If our economy is expanded it must be expanded as a balloon is inflated - evenly - otherwise there will be distortions which will be disastrous.
There are acres of land in Western Australia which private enterprise is willing and anxious to develop hut, unaided by government finance, find it quite beyond its power to develop in less than one or more generations. It takes the average individual twenty or more years to save sufficient capital out of his current income adequately to expand and increase his farming area. If the Government has embarked on a developmental policy which envisages crowding into ten’ years development which would normally take place in twenty years it must give some attention to these empty areas in Western Australia which are raying out for a little Government assistance in order that private enterprise may develop them. There is a view current that those areas in which, the soil is good and .the climatic conditions are ideal will develop themselves and that there is no need for the (Government to take action. But if the Government is to cram into ten years the normal development of twenty years it must accelerate the development of those areas.
The Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, set up a committee to examine ways and means of developing the .north-west of Western Australia. That committee found that private enterprise, if given a little assistance, would be quite willing to put capital into those areas, and where capital goes, labour follows. There is an illustration of that fact in the progress that has been made in the development .of the Blue Asbestos Mines in the Wittenoom Gorge area where the investment of about £1,000,000 of capital has brought into existence a flourishing township of over 500 people. The committee that was set up by the Leader of the Opposition recommended that substantial tax concessions should be given to people who live north of the 26th parallel just as they are given to the people of the Northern Territory in order to encourage them to re-invest their money in that section of the ‘Commonwealth. That recommendation was not followed up. The Government is trying to develop this country
– What is it doing about the matter?
– I imagine that the Government would welcome suggestions instead of rather futile interjections from honorable members. Surely it would benefit the Government if, instead of expending millions of pounds on carrying out it3 own explorations and investigations of the mineral resources of the country, it encouraged oil companies to carry out searches for oil, encouraged the development of iron resources at Yampi Sound, and encouraged the development of meat works .similar 4o those established at Wyndham. In that way it could assist private .enterprise to carry out a job which, if carried out by the , Government would cost the taxpayer millions of pounds.
I support this budget, but I hope that Western Australia will share increasingly in the Government’s developmental plans for the welfare of the Commonwealth.
.- The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) criticized the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) concerning the depression. There was a large number of unemployed when the Liberal Government was last in power and the Government does not want to hear anything about them again. When the Labour Government took over from the last Liberal Government there were 200,000 unemployed. After the Labour Government had tidied up the country’s affairs and put a nice sum of money into the Treasury it went out of power, hut it will soon be back again. Labour strengthened the country’s economy and because it did so, conditions are very much better to-day than they were before it assumed control.
The honorable member tried to condemn miners. In his view they are terrible men who restrict their output. He said that whatever they were paid, they would not produce as much as they could because they were subject to a darg. Let me explain the nature of the darg. A darg limits the number of skips that a miner may fill in a given period. That is done in order to achieve equal distribution of the skips in the coal-mines. Before the darg was introduced the wheeler was not prepared to go into parts of mines in which some men were working because of the bad state of the roadway. Consequently the miners had to institute the darg in order to ensure an equal distribution of the skips.
The honorable member for Forrest seemed to think that the worker should not have the right to strike. Every man should have the right to withhold his labour if he chooses to do so. When Labour was in power the then Minister for Health, Senator McKenna, endeavoured for many months to reach agreement with the doctors, but without success. The doctors were prepared to practise only on certain conditions. They said that they were not going to work if the Government demanded certain things and they were not prepared to come to an agreement. The same position obtains to-day. The present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has had to adopt a plan that has been approved by the British Medical Association. The only agreement that he could come to was one that the British Medical Association wanted. Every worker must have the right to strike. Even the wool-growers withhold their wool and put it on the market at a time when they can obtain the highest price for it. Wool is a commodity and so is labour and the worker must have the right to withhold that commodity if he thinks fit.
When the present Government went before the people it made all sorts of rash promises in regard to a raising of the standard of living, but it has not accomplished anything of that nature. The honorable member for Forrest alleged that the rate of increase of the cost of living had not become greater. The Government was going to put value back into the £1, yet the £1 has less value now than it had at the time of the general election. Wages have been trying to overtake prices but they have not been in the race.
All that honorable members have heard from Government supporters in this debate has been criticism of the Opposition. No practical suggestion has been made by them. Honorable members of the Opposition have put forward practical suggestions for overcoming difficulties. The Government has asked for the cooperation of the Opposition in its endeavours to get. out of the mess in which it finds itself. The Government realizes that it is in a mess and that it has no chance of getting out of it. I know that the duty of the Parliament is to try to improve the country’s economic position. Honorable members of the Opposition are prepared to do everything in their power to achieve that end. This country is in a serious position. The £1 increase that has been granted to the wage-earner has already been offset. Every time there is an increase of wages, prices more than counteract it. The Government depends on its hillbilly supporters. Honorable members who sit on my left have prevented it from doing what it would like to do. They are afraid to take action because it might prejudice their political position. The appreciation of the £1 to parity with sterling would not entirely solve Australia’s present inflationary problem which is assuming an alarming aspect, but having in mind the enormous prices being paid for our exports, it would have a strong buttressing effect on our economy. The Australian Country party has been criticized even as far away as London. In the London Financial Times of the 2nd September, 1950, this report appears -
Early this year a substantial section of the Australian Cabinet was won over to the view that revaluation was economically desirable. The proposal was not proceeded with mainly because the Country Party element in the Cabinet headed by Mr. Fadden held that it was politically inexpedient. It must be remembered that the Australian £1 was originally devalued as a temporary expedient in the depression period primarily to assist the rural interests. No one cavilled at this, and now the Australian people expect the Country Party and the interests it represents to play their part in tire restoration of the national economy.
Primary exports are bringing in unparalleled prices on overseas markets. Excepting for wheat and sugar and export quotas are fixed for them on the basic domestic needs of that Australian people, with the result that the local consumer is being exploited and forced to pay inflated prices on a depreciated currency.
Few of the Australian workers to-day can pay the prices being demanded for a. lamb chop, a few pounds of beef, or even a leg of mutton or a pound of butter. The national interest must come first and -although as pointed out appreciation of the Australian £1 is not a panacea for the present inflationary crisis, it world tend to halt the present rise in prices and prevent exploitation of the people by primary interests.
The honorable member who recently spoke (Mr. Freeth) said that prices had not gone up.
– I did not say that at all. I said that they had risen at a constant rate.
– I maintain that prices have gone up proportionately far more than wages have. The worker is slipping back all the time while his employer is moving forward. That may be proved by a simple example. Recently I purchased a syphon of soda water and found that its price had risen by 50 per cent, from ls. to ls. 6d. .Stamina trousers have risen from £2 10s. to £3 6s. a pair. Cooked ham has risen from 5s. lid. per lb. to Ss. 4d. per lb., cream from ls. to ls. lOd. a half-pint and beef and lamb by practically 100 per cent. The price of coffee has risen from 3s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. per lb. Yet in the light of those figures the honorable member for Forrest has the audacity to say that prices have noi gone up! A recent quarterly return of the Commonwealth Statistician indicates that clothing prices in Sydney were 182. 2 per cent, higher at the end of September, 1950, than they were at the end of September, 1939. Dr. Roland Wilson, the Commonwealth Statistician, also has shown that the aggregate of certain retail prices in Sydney has gone up by 72.9 per cent, compared, with the 1939 figure. This aggregate is based on the prices of food, rents, clothing, and a. miscellaneous classification including household drapery and other necessaries, lt would be interesting to compare the cost of certain commodities in 1939 with the present cost. In 1949 the price of food was 50 per cent, higher than in 1939, and in 1950, 71 per cent, higher. Rents remained at 3 per cent, higher because they were pegged when they had reached that point. Clothing was 142.4 per cent, higher in .1949 than in 1939, and other items rose in much the same proportion. Those figures should give to the committee a fairly good idea, of the enormous rise of prices compared with the rise of wages.
Let us now consider profits. The honorable member for Forrest 9aid that no excessive profits have been made. I maintain that much excessive profit has been made. According to a recent issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, Washington H. Soul Pattinson and Company Limited increased its earnings by £3,114 to £96,018 in the year ended the 31s1 July. 1950. It3 dividend was unchanged at 15 per cent, and required the distribu tion of £29,458. The staff fund received £5,000 and £21,650 went to the reserve account. The total visible reserves amounted to £494,6.11 as against a capital of £463,050. That will give the committee a general idea of the profit made by that company. Carreras Limited, the company which makes Craven A cigarettes, never pays less than a. 50 per cent, dividend. Sometimes it pays up to 70 per cent.
– What is the price of shares in that company?
– I do not think they could be purchased. I also inform the committee that one Sydney motor car trading company paid a dividend of 110 per cent. I now refer honorable members to the trading operations of Myer Emporium Limited, of Melbourne. That firm intends to make a bonus issue involving £1,725,000 to ordinary 5s. stockholders in the ratio of one-to-one. The issue will be financed from an assets revaluation reserve, established from a valuation of the company’s city properties. Nominal capital will be raised from £3,000,000 to £6,000,000 and this issue of bonus shares will raise the paid-up capital to £4,204,950.
– What dividend does that company pay?
– It paid 10 per cent It would have paid more had it not. increased its share issue.
– Can the honorable member inform the committee of the yield of those shares ?
– Not more than 3 per cent, or 4 per cent., but the company has watered its shares in order to delude the public in regard to the profit it is making. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited also has made enormous profits, and so have Burns Philp Limited and other big concerns.
Excessive protection of our industries is leading to excessive’ prices and consequent excessive profits. The Tariff Board Annual Report of 1950, at page 5, reads -
At one time, when there was a pool of unemployed labour in Australia it was part of the Board’s responsibility to recommend protection to those industries which could absorb some of this pool, provided too much excess post was not imposed in the process. To-day the position is reversed. Under conditions of full employment, -the extension of employment capacity through the protection of some industries would promote unfavourable economic reactions, in that such industries would entice labour from more important producers, and aggravate the existing labour shortage.
Obviously a number of companies to-day being protected should not be protected to the existing degree, because it leads to their inefficiency, and to excessive prices being charged to the public. Excessive protection leaves the way open to inefficiency, wasteful expenditure on labour and materials and excessive prices and profits. The report continues at page 6 -
In some countries the trading results of protected industries are examined as a matter of routine to ensure that advantage is not taken of tariff protection. No system of review has been established iri Australia.
Industries have been protected, but such protection has not been reviewed. I suggest that protection should be reviewed in order to see that, protected industries are not taking advantage of it.
Reporting again to revaluation of the £1, in regard to which, I know, there is a great difference of opinion, my view is that the £1 should be appreciated. Any one with any experience of overseas travel will know that it is necessary to pay £125 Australian for £100 sterling. Many elderly people have been saving all their lives so that they will have enough money to travel home to England to see their relatives. No’w they find thai perhaps they cannot go because of the exchange rate. I went to England some time ago and had experience of the adverse effects of the exchange rate. While the ship was travelling closeto the Australian coast, ale co3t 6d. a glass. When the ship had proceeded beyond the 3-mile limit the price was’ raised by 25 per cent. The bottle from which the ale was taken was branded “Tooths Ale”. Therefore, although the beer was made in Sydney we were required to pay 25 per cent, more for it 3 miles out from the Australian coast. That is just a racket and something should be done about it. When the New Zealand £1 was revalued a Sydney newspaper sent a reporter to New Zealand to discover whether revaluation was advantageous or not. He reported as follows : - .
The measure of the success of New Zealand’s revaluation to parity with sterling in August, 194S, lies in the small increase in the country’s living costs since revaluation.
Statistics show that the cost of living fell after revaluation.
For instance, the New Zealand retail price index for August, 1048, was 1105. This figure fell in September to 1098, and continued to decline for some months until arrested by the removal of subsidies.
Prices, to-day, in New Zealand are only 8 per cent, higher than they were in that dominion in 1948. That fact gives some idea of the advantage that New Zealand has gained by appreciating its currency. I do not say that appreciation of the £1 will solve the problem of rising prices. Many other changes also must be made. In New Zealand, retailers are perfectly satisfied with the results that have followed appreciation of the currency in that dominion. I believe that the majority of Australians are in favour of appreciating the £1. However, for one reason or another no decision has yet been made on that very important subject.
I welcome the Government’s proposal to increase the rates of sales tax on furs, jewellery and other luxury articles, but it has not fairly distributed the relief that it intends to provide in respect of this class of taxation. Whilst increases of the tax on luxury goods are long overdue, I cannot understand why the Government proposes, for example, to increase the tax on delivery vans by 10 per cent, at a time when housewives are anxious that business shall restore home-delivery services as soon as possible. I disagree with the proposal to increase the sales tax on musical instruments to 25 per cent. That imposition will be detrimental te the development of Australian culture. Members of brass bands, of which there is a number in my electorate, will have to pay higher prices for their instruments. Bandsmen usually give performances free of charge at patriotic functions, and their activities should he not discouraged but encouraged in the interests of community culture generally. A corresponding handicap will be placed upon members of orchestras. It is also proposed to increase the sales tax on radio sets. Radio entertainment has virtually become a part of the Australian standard of living. Radio broadcasting is also a medium of education. Parents and citizens associations usually provide funds for the purchase and installation of radio receiving sets in schools. I should like to know how the Government can justify its proposal to increase the sales tax on such articles. Even the sales tax on bagpipes is to be increased. If we are to develop community cultural life and imbue our children with a love of music, the Government cannot justify increasing the sales tax on musical instruments.
I am pleased that the Government proposes to increase the rate of the invalid pension by 7s. 6d. a week. However, whilst that benefit is not to take effect until the 1st November, the Government proposes to make the increase of £500 in the salaries of justices of the High Court and the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court retrospective to the 1st July last. In that respect, pensioners will be treated unjustly. I also point out that the allowance that is paid to a person who looks after an invalid pensioner is not to be increased. At present an allowance of about 24s. a week is paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner if she is caring for him. I prefer to believe that the Government has inadvertently overlooked that item. I urge it to consider the matter. I have in my hand an envelope that bears the address of an invalid pensioner who is in receipt of a pension at the rate of 8s. 3d. a week. The wife of this gentleman also receives an invalid pension at the same rate. The envelope hears the imprint, “ Save to control prices “. I should like to know how persons in receipt of so small an allowance in respect of invalidity can be expected to save anything.
The Government has allocated the sum of £3,000,000 to the purchase of coal overseas. That money could be better expended in mechanizing coal mines. At present, the coal-miners are dependent solely upon the Joint Coal Board for any improvement of their conditions of employment. That body has been responsible for the improvements that have recently been effected in the industry generally. The main reason for the present under-production of coal is that in the past the coal-mine owners completely neglected their responsibility to introduce modern methods in the industry. They have been responsible also for a large number of strikes. Personally, I should like the Government to nationalize the coal-mines. It would thus do away with the state of affairs in which there are three parties to every dispute, namely, the employers, the coal-miners and the Government. [(Extension of time granted.] It is the fashion to blame the coal-miners for every hold-up in the industry. As a boy I worked in a coalmine and as the result of my experiences I made two resolutions. The first was that I would get out of the industry as soon as I possibly could ; and the second was that I would ensure that my son would not work in a coal-mine. Every parent who is associated with the industry is determined to do the best that he, or she, can to prevent their children from working in coal-mines. I admit that due to the activities of the Joint Coal Board conditions in that industry have been improved considerably in recent years. In one mine, the miners who had to walk in a crouched position a distance of 2£ miles to the coal-face, pleaded with the mine-owners to install conveyors to transport them that distance, but the owners refused to grant that request. Eventually, the Joint Coal Board expended a large sum of money on the installation of conveyors in mines with the result that production was substantially increased. The Joint Coal Board has also been obliged to provide electric borers and to initiate measures to eliminate dust in coal-mines. It has effected many other improvements because mine-owners have refused to carry out their responsibilities to their employees.
Mr. Justice Davidson, who inquired into the industry as a royal commissioner some years ago, reported that some mineowners had been making a profit of 154 per cent, but had not put any of those profits back into the industry, with the result that conditions in their mines had -seriously deteriorated. I agree with supporters of the ‘Government that the production of coal must be increased. The best way to do so is to mechanize the mines. As the result of mechanization, daily production in the Mount Nebo mine, which is situated on the south coast of New South Wales, has been increased to 15 tons, by each miner, whereas the output at the same mine of those who work with picks and shovels is only 3 tons a clay. Those figures give some idea of the degree to which the production- of coal could be increased if the mines were mechanized. I assure the Government that all members of the Opposition will do everything they possibly can to encourage greater production of coal because they realize that adequate supplies of coal are essential to our industrial economy.
.- Two novel features of this budget have escaped the notice of members of the Opposition so far as we can judge their thoughts from their utterances in this debate. However, I am sure that one of those features has aroused their envy. I refer to the fact that this is the first budget that has been introduced in the Parliament during the last eight years that has not been socialistic in outlook. The people of Australia should be made aware of that fact, because at the polls on the 10th December last they clearly expressed their wish that another socialistic budget should not be introduced in the Parliament. Whatever the Opposition may say about the matter, the people are determined that so long as the once great Labour party persists in its socialistic policy it shall never again be given an opportunity to introduce a budget. Let us imagine for a moment that there had not been a turn for the better on the 10th December last, and that this budget had been introduced by the socialists. Among the items of proposed expenditure that would be included would be an amount to pay for the compulsory acquisition of the private trading banks. Many times during the life of this Parliament, members of the Opposition have said, “ We believe in the nationalization of banking, but it has been proved that there is no constitutional power to nationalize the banks “. Nevertheless, they are still strongly determined to nationalize the banks and to pursue all their other socialistic aims if they ever regain power.
– The honorable member knows that it cannot be done.
– I know very well that it cannot be done because the people of Australia have said that it must not be done and will continue to say so. The banks will not be nationalized because the Liberal party and the Australian Coun-_ try party are in power.
A socialist Treasurer’s budget would have included a sentence or two, or perhaps even a paragraph, about the direction of labour. The socialists made no secret of their intention on this issue. They wanted to gain absolute and unchallenged sovereign power throughout Australia and thus open the way for the entry of communism.
– That is absolute rot.
– The utterances of many leading members of the present Opposition party during the last three years have hinged upon their belief that the economic stability of the nation is dependent upon the compulsory direction of labour.
– Utter rubbish! The honorable member could not make one quotation to support that statement.
– I could produce many quotations. I recall the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) making a statement to this effect, “ This country is not going to be developed if every man thinks that he can hold his wife’s hand every night and see the town clock “. That declaration is imprinted upon the minds of millions of Australians. Many other such statements were made by the right honorable gentleman at various times. One that I recall was to this effect, “ A man must go where his work is, and, if he will not go, it will be necessary to bring in penalties to compel him to go “. The federal president of the Australian Labour party, Mr. J. A. Ferguson, M.L.C., has subscribed to such stupid utterances as that. There can be no doubt in the mind of any thoughtful person, or even in the mind of the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson), that the aim of the Labour party is to introduce a system of compulsory direction of labour. Had this been a. Labour budget, it would have included some amount for the implementation of that policy.
We may be sure that a socialist budget would not have provided for the pension increases for which this budget provides, because over the years the Labour party has disclosed a complete disregard for the welfare of pensioners. Only when they are in opposition do its members raise a pious outcry about the poor pensioners. When they were, in power, they refused absolutely to make any promises about pension increases.
The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies) expressed the view of the entire Labour party when he said that he would like to witness the nationalization of the coal industry. Of course, that is a part of the socialist platform, and it is a part of the Communist platform. There is very little difference between the two programmes.
– The Labour party increased pensions when it was in office.
– It made no promises about pensions during the last general election campaign, and it revealed an utter disregard for the welfare of pensioners over a long period. A socialist government would not stop at the nationalization of the coal industry. It would deal with the steel industry in the same way. We know that that is so, because the main issue at the general election last December was whether Australia should be socialized or not. The Labour party made no secret of the fact that it would regard a victory at the election as the . green light to go ahead and socialize the nation and thus open the way for the Communists to come in and overthrow us all.
A labour party budget would certainly not include any provision for increases of the rates of pay of members of the armed services. The Opposition has stated its attitude towards servicemen and ex-servicemen very clearly. One of the. greatest shocks that Australians have suffered from politics during the last few months has been caused by the disclosure of Labour’s policy towards the defence forces and the Government’s recruiting campaign. A Labour government, follow ing the party’s custom of playing into the hands of the Communists, would havegiven effect to a policy of inflation that would have caused increasing unrest,, hardship and even misery. This would have cleared the way to complete socialism and ultimately to communism.
Another novel feature of the budget is that it has been presented, in the year of Australia’s greatest peril. Never before in time of peace has Australia faced a greater threat to its survival as a nation than it faces now. Great forces that seek to overwhelm us are ranged about us. Many eyes are looking covetously upon our landMillions of people in all parts of the world, particularly where communism is supreme, look hungrily upon our farms and cities. The cheap gibes with which the Opposition has replied to the Government’s plea for co-operation are unworthy even of the Labour party. In this time of peril, there is an urgent need for cooperation not only between political parties, but also between all individual citizens. If this nation is to survive, we must withstand a severe test during the next four or five years. I have been greatly disturbed by the attempts that have been made by members of the Opposition, I believe deliberately, to foment dissension in the community. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) talked about class hatred. If anybody treated his remarks seriously - I do not think that he does so himself - they would cause a great deal of harm. Those utterances were consistent with the conduct of members of the Labour party in Australia ever since the early ‘twenties. Members of the present Opposition party have consistently moved amongst the people saying, “Why should you work? The boss hates you. You hate him. You have to fight for everything”. Such propaganda has implanted in the minds of the young men and women of Australia the seeds of doubt and class hatred. Even in this Parliament, where the representatives of the people meet under a pledge to serve the nation, we hear the same stupid utterances which would cause the gravest disservice to ‘ Australia if people heeded them.
The honorable member for Cunningham cited certain figures in a way that was absolutely misleading and inaccurate. Whether he did so deliberately or whether he did not know what he was doing, I cannot say. He tried to convey the impression that great price increases had taken place during the last few months, -although he ought to know that many of those increases had occurred over the period of a decade. Such statements are made, not to impress honorable members, but to influence the electors and to cause dissatisfaction with the Government aud with employers so that chaos may result. I challenged the honorable member by interjection when he spoke about a 10 per cent, increase of the prices of panel vans. I gathered from his subsequent remarks that he was referring to the increases that would result from heavier tax charges. His statements were completely untrue. The honorable member has some intelligence, and he should be as capable as I am of reading and understanding the information that he had in his possession. I have the facts before me now and I want to place them on record. The official document that I have, which deals with the proposed new rates of tax upon motor vehicles, contains the following explanation of the Government’s proposal : -
The rate of tax on the following goods is increased from 8J% to 10%’: -
Motor cars designed primarily and principally for the transport of persons, including sedans, coupes, tourers, roadsters, racing cars, taxi-cabs, station wagons and estate cars, but not including panel vans, delivery vans, utilities., hearses, jeeps, trucks, lorries or motor buses.
A brief study of those, facts will reveal the utter inaccuracy of the statements that were made by the honorable member for Cunningham. The honorable gentleman was screaming to the’ housewives of Australia, in effect, “This terrible Government, bv increasing tax charges on panel vans, will rob von of your bread, meat, ice, and fruit deliveries “. Perhaps many people would believe him if his statements were allowed to go uncorrected. They were utterly mischievous.
Another notable feature of the honorable gentleman’s speech was his tirade against the profits being made by various companies. In answering his outburst, I remind honorable members of one of the greatest jokes of the last general election campaign. I believe that people still giggle when they hear the name of Abraham Lincoln, because a certain right honorable gentleman who played a prominent part in that campaign was presented to the electors by his supporters, and possibly by himself, as “ the great Abe Lincoln of this century “. Not many persons swallowed that propaganda. The real Abraham Lincoln placed on record some very wise sayings. I refer a few of them to members of the Opposition -
Yon cannot strengthen the weak .by weakening the strong.
You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
How applicable those maxims are to the political party which the pseudo Abraham Lincoln temporarily leads, with his cap of office shaking upon his brow. The joi.) that Australia is called upon to undertake to-day is to put into practice the principles that are expressed in those quotations. There must be complete cooperation between all sections of the community. Such co-operation is vital to the future security of the nation We must get together. and wor together. The jeers and the gibes that are uttered by the Opposition about the farmers are completely unjustified. The whole community depends upon the farmers, without whom we could not exist for a day. We are dependent upon them absolutely.
– We are dependent upon one another.
– That is my point. I am glad that the honorable gentleman appreciates it. I hope that he will tell the Leader of the Opposition something about it, because the right honorable gentleman does not understand such matters.
– I shall have a chat with him later.
– Just as other members of the community are dependent upon the farmers, so are the farmers dependent upon other members of the community. But the requirements of the primary producers are not being met. In the electorate of Capricornia which I represent, farmers require supplies of galvanized iron and wire netting. They are obliged to use bad roads, and there is not a sufficient number of bridges over streams to enable them to travel conveniently to and from markets. Their transport is bad, and they need supplies of the foods that they cannot grow for themselves. The only reason why they cannot obtain their requirements is that the workers in many industries refuse to provide them. Yet those workers are dependent upon the farmers. Why cannot primary .producers get supplies of galvanized iron, fencing wire, agricultural implements and all the goods they need? The answer is that a few Communists on the coal-fields decide that. the coal-miners shall not hew sufficient quantities of coal for the nation’s needs, and certain honorable members of the Parliament, like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), preach in this chamber and in the Sydney Domain all the class hatred and rot imaginable. Honest workers are subject to the persecution that emanates from communism. The coal-miner is dependent upon the farmer for his food, yet the farmer lacks many of the things that are available to the coal-miner. A miner’s’ wife is not obliged to rise at daybreak, go to the dairy and milk cows day after day and week after week.
– The coal-miner has to work down the mine.
– He is well paid to do that work, and he enjoys reasonable conditions of employment. No one has anything against the coal-miner personally, but I believe that until he throws off the yoke of his Communist bosses and produces all the coal Australia needs for its industries, our people will suffer, particularly those who labour from daylight to dark to supply the food that the miner needs.
The necessity for co-operation extends even further than that ; it extends among the workers themselves. The coal-miners are depriving other workers of homes because the shortage of coal is restricting the manufacture of roofing, bricks, cement, and other building materials. The need for co-operation exists within the unions themselves. Indeed, one branch of a union is depriving another branch of work. In my electorate, there are two branches of the waterside workers federation, the members of which are good fellows. There are no Communists among them, and they are prepared to doan honest day’s work, but they cannot be fully employed because not enough ships call at the ports of North Queensland. The explanation is that the wharfies- in Sydney and Melbourne refuse to turn the ships round quickly so that they will be able to return within a reasonable time to Queensland. Shipping is delayed on the waterfront, with the result that people throughout Australia are deprived either of essential goods or of- work. It is essential that employees shall co-operate with the wage-payers, and with those who produce their food, so that the people may have cement, roofing tiles, galvanized iron, water spouting and other materials which are in short supply. If they do not obtain those requirements, there will be awful trouble in Australia.
– Terrible, terrible !
– It is all very well to say “ terrible “ in a sneering tone. I do not believe that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) realizes the implications of that position. We are living in bad times. The Labour party is still “ blown up “ with the same ideas that it tried to sell to the people three or four years ago that we were living in a golden age. Opposition members have not yet got down to realities, and recognized the danger that threatens our country. If they did so, the spark of patriotism which is in them would impel them to exert all their influence on the workers to increase production. Many Opposition members have a great influence in the community, and they should instil in the people a recognition of the need for complete co-operation.
A regrettable feature of the speech by the honorable member for Cunningham was his attack on the medical profession. We all owe a great debt to the doctors. The honorable member for Cunningham and other Opposition members contend that the doctors went on strike, and refused to co-operate-
– Not for the first time, either.
– Opposition members have been prattling the same silly story for many months, and actually appear to believe it. The doctors have never refused to co-operate with the sick people. They leave their beds at any hour during the night to attend the sick, and they do not even draw a distinction against Opposition members. It is completely stupid to deride the work of the medical profession. Just as we cannot exist without doctors in the community, so doctors cannot exist without the help of the workers. Additional hospitals, more beds and new equipment are needed, and those requirements can be provided only with the cooperation of the workers. Unfortunately, there is delay, because the miners are not producing sufficient coal and the wharfies are not turning ships round quickly. Who is responsible for that position ? The agitators of the Australian Labour party 1 Historians in the future will state that the greatest curse that fell upon this generation was the class hatred that was preached and practised by the Australian Labour party when it fell from its high pedestal, wedded itself to communism and tried to influence the people of Australia towards communism.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Capricornia has stated that the Labour party is wedded to communism. That remark is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I did not hear the honorable member’s remark.
– What is your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman?
– The statement is a slander and a lie.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member may proceed with his speech.
– Before I was interrupted by an Opposition member, who could not “ take it “-
– The honorable member should, withdraw the remark to which objection was taken.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The Chair will decide whether or not a remark shall be withdrawn.
– I wish the Chair would do so.
– Despite all that may be said, and all that may be left unsaid, I believe that, during the last twenty years, the people who called themselves the Australian Labour party, and their stalwarts and party organizers in every field of activity, have been preaching class hatred throughout the community. They sowed the wind, and are reaping the whirlwind. All the terrible consequences of their actions are likely to be visited upon our heads. We are living in difficult times, in which it is necessary for all of us to do some serious thinking.
– The honorable member is another Winston Churchill.
– I am sorry for the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who is incapable of thinking. This is not a time for joking or jesting. There is almost no time for leisure in this country. The Treasurer has set the community a huge task which, if it is to be carried out successfully, will require the complete co-operation of every individual, including Opposition members., It will need the support of the Australian Workers Union, which is not very proud of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who, before his election to the Parliament, was its leader in South Australia. I believe that the people will respond to the challenge that is presented by the budget, and I do not think for one minute that the women of Australia will make a protest against it, as has been forecast by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) on the ground that they will have to pay a few more shillings a year for their cosmetics. I have so much faith in the womenfolk that I believe that they are prepared to sacrifice anything in order to keep Australia free for themselves and for their children. That is the call which goes out to Australia to-day. If we were living for this financial year alone, perhaps the criticisms and the cynicisms of Opposition members might have some weight, but if we have one task in life as human beings, it. is to leave the world a better place for others to live in. Therefore, I urge Opposition members to put the country before their socialist and Communist beliefs. Let us work together for the ultimate good of the whole community.
.- The committee has been regaled with a mo3t remarkable speech by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce). I did not dream, when I entered the Parliament, that I should listen to such a diatribe. I cannot believe that the electors of Capricornia either heard him or met him before they elected him. Had they done so, he would not be here. His speech was a collection of inaccuracies, untruths and definite contradictions. His only political experience appears to have been gained from a copy of the Liberal Party Speaker’s Handbook. He seems to have learned a few garbled statements from it, and considers that he is fit to pose as the saviour of the country. The best service that he can render to the Government of which he is a supporter is to remain silent for the rest of the time he is a member of this Parliament, because if his later utterances prove to be similar to those to which we have been forced to listen this evening, he will not. be of any assistance in our debates. He made some most remarkable statements, and he had the effrontery, because of ignorance, to tell the committee that the Labour party supported the direction of labour; in effect, the conscription of labour. The Labour party has always been opposed to the direction of labour. Either the honorable member is very careless of the truth or he simply does not understand the political situation or know anything about industrial relationships. The honorable gentleman also alleged that Labour had neglected age and invalid pensions, that it had no thought for pensioners, and that it had not even troubled to furnish any undertakings in respect of increasing their pensions. I admit at once that Labour docs not make rash promises. It is honest with the people. It tells the people merely that it will do what it can. For instance, it has never told the people that it will put value back in the £1.
– Although it did tell the people that it would oppose the Communist Party Dissolution Bill.
– I did not say that I would oppose the Communist Party Dissolution Bill ; all I said was that I would demand British justice for the people of Australia, and that I objected to legislation of a totalitarian character, such as that which was introduced by thewouldbe fascists opposite.
Dealing with the matter of pensions increases, 1 remind the committee that from 190S, when pensions for aged persons were first introduced, until Labour attained office during the recent war, the. pension rate was increased only to 21s. a week, notwithstanding the enormous increases of the cost of living that took place during that lengthy period. Furthermore, I remind honorable members opposite that during almost the whole of that period anti-Labour governments were in office. Between 1941 and 1949, when Labour was in office, it increased age pension rates by more than 100 per cent., and by 1949 the pension had been increased to £2 2s. 6d. a week. At the same time the means test, about which honorable members opposite?’ complained so much in the last Parliament, was also eased considerably. I recall vividly the utterances made by ninny honorable members opposite when they were in Opposition and advocated the abolition of the means test. In particular. I remind the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who spoke this evening about what the present Government is doing for recepients of age and service pensions, that he has completely forgotten that plank of the platform of the Liberal party, to which he belongs, which provides for the abolition of the means test. I challenge the honorable gentleman to point to any proposal by the present Government to abolish that test.
– The honorable gentleman should not forget that an anti-Labour government introduced the first scheme of national insurance.
– It is a fact that a previous anti-Labour administration introduced legislation for a national insurance scheme, and that that legislation was passed through both Houses of the Parliament. But what happened to it? The scheme did not suit the bosses of the anti-Labour parties, and it was never implemented. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was a member of the administration which introduced that legislation, resigned from it because of its failure to implement the scheme. I recall, further, that the present Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), who was a member of that Ministry, also supported the scheme. However, the introduction of that legislation was but a sample of the misrepresentations indulged in by the political parties opposite. If honorable members opposite appeared before the people and told them the truth, explaining exactly what they stood for and what they intended to do, they would never win an election. It is only by means of the lies and misrepresentations in which honorable members opposite indulge that they manage to mislead the people. One need only look at the handbook and printed propaganda of the anti-Labour parties to realize that their protestations of concern for the social welfare of the people are sheer hyprocisy.
The honorable member for Capricornia referred to the attitude of Labour towards communism, conscription of man-power, and pensions for the aged. I shall not say that his remarks amounted to a pack of lies, because I believe that he is too immature politically to understand the control exercised over the anti-Labour parties by their bosses outside.
– What did the Leader of the Labour party, to which the honorable member belongs, say at the Sydney trades hall recently?
– The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) opens his mouth far too often. If he had a little more intelligence he would not need to ask so many questions.
M’.r. Wilson. - By how much did Labour increase pensions last year?
– The honorable member knows that Labour did not increase pensions at all last year. However, the increase which the anti-Labour parties propose to make now is most miserable and amounts to nothing more than a gesture. If honorable members opposite had any real sympathy with the aged people in the community they would increase their pensions by at least twice as much as is proposed.
I listened attentively to the speech made hy the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) when he introduced the budget. I had hoped that on that occasion the right honorable gentleman would explain the reason for the prolonged delay which preceded the introduction of the budget, lt is the custom of Treasurers to present their budgets early in September, and there was no real reason why the present Government should not have adhered to that practice. I have heard it said that the budget was prepared in six successive forms, all of which were unacceptable to the Cabinet or to one or other of the coalition parties. However, the Treasurer forgot to tell us why he had delayed for so long the presentation of the the budget, and I twitted honorable members opposite in an endeavour to discover the reason for the delay.
– Why should they give a reason?
– Why should they not do so? When the Treasurer and his colleagues fail so lamentably in their duty to the people that they fall six weeks in arrears with their duty, even after they have had the benefit of a recess of three months, it is only reasonable to inquire the cause of their inaction. Were they engaged in a sit-down strike?
– Why did the Opposition hold up the country by obstructing vital legislation and then squib the issue?
– The honorable gentleman should not be so silly as to ask such a question. I ask honorable members opposite why the Government has adopted a go-slow policy. If the coalminers, the waterside workers or the seamen of this country decided that they would go slow and, as a. consequence, in a period of three months fell into arrears with their work by six weeks, we should hear a great deal of condemnation of them from the anti-Labour parties. Of course, the matter is different when the members of the present Government adopt a go-slow policy, and their supporters attempt to defend them by asking, why should they not go slow? Apparently, there is one law for the present Government and another one for the ordinary workers. I want to know the real reason for the adoption of the go-slow policy.
Dealing with the proposals in the budget, I point out that the budget was ostensibly intended to correct inflation. Indeed, that was announced as the primary purpose of its introduction. However, although governmental expenditure for which provision was made in the budget introduced by the Chifley Government last year amounted to £556,000,000, the so-called anti-inflation budget introduced by the present Government proposes to expend £738,000,000. Of course, the increased expenditure will reduce the cost of living and restore value to the £1 ! A lot of criticism of Labour’s financial proposals was uttered by the present Treasurer during the last Parliament when he was in opposition, and he freely criticized the manner in which the proposals contained in that government’s budgets were presented. In particular, he complained that the last budget provided for wildly extravagant expenditure ; yet he has now introduced the most inflationary proposals that have ever come before the Parliament. Of course, that is only a part of the story.
After analysing the speech made by the Treasurer when he presented the budget and examining the figures it contains, it is clear that the right honorable gentleman could not balance his budget by ordinary means, so he decided to bridge the gap between expenditure and revenue by extorting a forced loan of £103,000,000 from the wool-growers of Australia. If he had’ decided to finance the deficit by borrowing there might have been some merit in his proposal. In an attempt to justify his proposal to penalize the wool-growers he has. stated that they will not be deprived of all that money, but that it will be used as a set-off against their future tax liabilities. Of course, some of it may be so used-
– A portion of that sum may be used for the payment of the tax for which woolgrowers will be liable this year.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) should stick to the discussion of rabbits because he does not know anything about the matter with which I am dealing at the moment.
The wool sales deduction will be a forced’, loan on which no interest will be paid and it will be extracted from only onesection of the community. As I havesaid, the sole purpose of that extraction is to enable the Government to balanceits budget. However, the financial problem that will confront the Treasurer nextyear will be even greater than are its present problems, because the woolgrowers will then have paid in advance a very large portion of their income tax for that financial year, so that in the result the revenue from taxation will be reduced considerably. It is clear that the budget now before the committee will not check the present inflationary spiral, but will aggravate it more and more as time goes on.
The Treasurer also said that he intended to simplify the preparation of income tax returns in the interests of the taxpayers, and that a part of his proposals would provide for the elimination of the present method of showing on taxation assessments a dissection of the total amount owing by a taxpayer so as to indicate the allocation for social services and for income tax. In future income tax assessments will merely show the gross amount payable by the taxpayers. I cannot perceive any improvement in that innovation. The Treasurer also proposes to instruct the Commissioner of Taxation to set out on the back of the assessment forms the rates of tax payable on various incomes so that taxpayers will be able to check the assessor’s calculations of the amounts of tax payable. The result of that change will be merely to encourage taxpayers to engage in controversies with the taxation authorities. Unless a taxpayer’s calculations agree with those of the tax assessors he will feel an immediate grievance with the Commissioner of Taxation. Nevertheless, the Treasurer says that his proposal will be of great help to the taxpayers. It is very simple. The Government tells the taxpayer this, that and the other, but the Treasurer will still take just as much money from taxpayers as the previous Treasurer took, and their financial position will not be improved. The Treasurer has also told us that he proposes to reduce income tax payments by about £7,000,000 a year through an alteration from the rebate system in respect of allowable deductions, to the straight-out deduction system. He has provided tables on that matter, and it is very interesting to note from them that the people who earn small wages and who cannot afford to pay taxes, will have the benefit of a very small reduction of the amount of tax that they have to pay whilst people on incomes of £5,000, £10,000 or £15,000 a year will receive great benefit. That is a complete departure from the system that we have had in operation in Australia for a number of years, which is, taxation according to ability to pay. This Government is taking care of its friends as best as it can. I suggest that the Prime Minister has taken the “ Tragic Treasurer’s “ mantle from the shoulders of the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) and has placed it upon the shoulders of his present Treasurer. Last night the Prime Minister referred affectionately to the Minister for Health as “ Dogsbody “. I do not know why he should have given the Minister for Health such a name, but I suppose that he had to find something new for him after he had handed over the title of “ Tragic Treasurer “ to the right honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Fadden).
I turn now to the sales tax, which provides another example of how the Government is carrying out its promises to the people to reduce taxation and the rate of Government expenditure. I have shown how the Government has kept its promise to reduce expenditure by actually increasing expenditure from £566,000,000 last year to an estimate of £738,000,000 this year. I shall now show how it is reducing taxation on the people by making alterations to the incidence of sales tax. The Treasurer has stated that he proposes to reduce sales tax. As a matter of fact he has exempted a number of items from sales tax. Those exemptions will mean a ‘reduction of £1,000,000 a year in the revenue. That sounds very good. It sounds as if he is reducing taxes on the people, .but when we look further we find that he intends to increase sales tax on other items so as to bring in another £7,500,000 in this financial year. In actual fact the Treasurer will receive from sales tax £6,500,000 more than was received last year.
An examination of this method that the Treasurer has adapted to sales tax will prove interesting. I shall not mention many of the items that are the subject of proposed alterations of sales tax, but I shall mention several of them. For instance, floral tributes, including bouquets, posies, floral baskets and sheaves containing natural flowers, have had sales tax removed from them entirely. But other items that the Treasurer apparently regards as real luxuries, because the rate of sales tax on them has been increased to 33^ per cent., include body powders, deodorants and other toilet preparations that women use, such as leg tan lotion and liquid hosiery which save them the expense of buying silk and nylon stockings. Those are considered luxuries, but a wreath to be placed on a coffin or a bouquet of flowers that a man might take to his girl friend are not luxuries, according to the Treasurer, but are necessities, and therefore are not to be subject to sales tax. Motor cars, which are used for pleasure only are considered by the Government to be luxuries, and the rate of sales tax on them has been increased from 8-J per cent, to 10 per cent., an increase of If per cent. Motor cars are a luxury to many people. However, we find that wireless receiving sets are apparently a much greater luxury than motor cars, according to the Government, because the rate of sales tax on wireless receiving sets is to be increased from 8J per cent, to 25 per cent. But a wireless set is not really a luxury nowadays. Such sets are used in homes all over this Commonwealth, and are among the few means of entertainment that the ill-paid worker can afford. But if the worker is to be called upon to pay 25 per cent, sales tax on wireless sets many of the poorer members of the community will not be able to purchase them. People who need wireless sets for the purposes of entertainment or of listening to the news and thus save themselves the price of a newspaper, or of listening to a broadcast by the Prime Minister, will not be able to afford the additional 25 per cent. But if they wish to huy a motor car they will have to pay only 10 per cent, sales tax, because according to the Government a motor car to be used for pleasure is not so much of a luxury as is. a wireless set that is to be used for the purposes of entertainment and education.
Among other luxuries listed are watches and clocks. The Government thinks that the people now should not have the means of telling the time. ‘ I believe from the speeches of honorable members opposite that Government supporters have the idea that the mentality of the people is so low that they will not be able to read the time by a watch or clock. However, there are still a number of us who are able to tell the time, and I suggest that a watch or clock is not a luxury but is a necessity. How is the unfortunate worker to be able to arrive at work on time if he cannot afford to buy a watch or a clock? Also listed among the luxuries are collar-studs and sleeve-links. A collar stud is not much of a luxury when it falls on the floor and rolls under the wardrobe, and a man has to get down on his hands and knees to find it. But collar-studs and sleeve-links are a vital necessity because of the few buttons that manufacturers now put on shirts. However, as far as the Government is concerned, collar-studs and sleeve-links are luxuries and we can do without them.
I turn now to several of the items that are to be subject to the 25 per cent, rate of sales tax. One item the inclusion of which in that list should interest Australian Country party supporters, is “ cowbells “. How will the electors be able to find members of the Australian Country party who have not got cowbells hung around their necks? They will be lost forever without cowbells, so they should be raising their voices in protest about this particular item. Evidently the heavy duty on cowbells is part of the price that Australian Country party supporters have to pay for the privilege of being represented in the Government. Other items that are subject to heavy sales tax are mouthorgans and harmonicas that children like to play. ] should not mind if there was 100 per cent, tax on bagpipes, as I am not a Scotsman, but if tax-free bag- pipes were necessary to keep Scotsmen in a good temper, then bagpipes could be entirely free of tax so far as I am concerned.
The items that I have mentioned provide a sample of what the country is being given in the budget. There is some humour to be found in the budget, but there is also a great deal of seriousness. The Government, which is a combination of members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party or, as I have said before, a combination of incompatibles, is treading the same ruinous path that was followed by a previous Government of its ilk, the Bruce-Page Government. It is applying a policy of borrow and bust. The Government is borrowing from a section of the people, by means of a forced interest-free loan that it proposes to take from the woolgrowers which it intends to use to balance its budget. It has borrowed 100,000,000 dollars from American financiers at a rate of 3- per cent, interest, and has made preliminary arrangements to borrow another 100,000,000 dollars in America. It has put itself into pawn to overseas capitalists in exactly the same manner as the BrucePage Government did in the late 1920’s. I remind the committee that during the eight years of Labour administration, when we had to face the greatest expenditure in the history - of this Commonwealth, and when the most expensive and devastating war ever fought by this country was in progress, the Labour Governments financed the whole of the war and the whole of the business of governing this country, without borrowing one half -penny overseas, either from Britain or America. Now - I use those terms in a time of peace and prosperity, despite the fact that some members of the Government have been endeavouring to paint a very dull picture of conditions in Australia - at a time when the country is more prosperous than it has ever been, when more money is available than ever before, and when we have more money than we know how to spend-
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity to discuss what I can only regard as a very remarkable development that has occurred to-day. I refer to the announcement by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) of his appearance before the High Court of Australia on behalf of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and a Mr. James Healy. I say that that is a very remarkable development.
– I rise to order. I take the point that the matter now being raised by the Minister is sub judice. It is not possible to speak about the case which the Minister is referring to without mentioning the act which is affected by it. The ruling has been given on previous occasions that cases such as this mint not be discussed in this House. I take the point of order, that any matter closely associated with the act is out of order.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have no intention of discussing the merits or otherwise of the issues before the High Court, nor do I propose to canvass the merits or otherwise of legislation which has been passed by this Parliament. I propose, with your concurrence, to examine the political significance of the development to which I have referred as it affects the parties in this Parliament, and the Parliament as an institution. I submit that I am entitled to do that, and I suggest that you hear me. If I go beyond those limits, I shall how to your direction.
– I am prepared to listen to the Minister on that basis.
– This is a remarkable development. I do not challenge the right of an honorable member, who is a member of the legal profession, to appear before the courts of this country. That has occurred from time to time. But this is no ordinary case and the right honor able member for Barton is no ordinary barrister.
– What do you mean by “ no ordinary case “?
– This is no ordinary case in the sense that the right honorable gentleman himself was one of the leading actors in the issue which is now before the court.
– What issue?
– The Leader of the Opposition took the point a moment ago that I must not discuss the issues, and now invites me to deal with them.
– I renew my point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister has completely evaded the point. What is the issue about which he is now talking? Is it the legislation which was passed by this Parliament, and is now the subject of consideration before the High Court of Australia? If not, what other issue is he ref erring to ?
– The Leader of the Opposition has not stated the Standing Order under which he take* his point of order. I am prepared, at this stage, to allow the Minister to develop his argument.
– Let me read a passage which appeared in one of the leading Melbourne papers this afternoon. It states -
It is being forecast that Dr. Evatt will probably be a leading member of the antiGovernment bar when the main arguments on the validity of the Act begin.
– What act?
– The act which is at present before the High Court. I put aside the issues involved in the act and concern myself with the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House, who is the right honorable member for Barton, will, according to this forecast, play a leading part in challenging legislation before the High Court.
– What legislation ?
– I am no longer concerned with the legislation. For the purpose of my present argument, it could be any legislation. My argument is that the Deputy Leader of the Labour party and of the Opposition, is apparently seeking to challenge legislation which has been passed by both sides of this Parliament, with the full concurrence of both Houses, and without a dissentient vote from honorable members, including the right honorable gentleman. I shall confine myself to that issue, because, rightly or wrongly, the people of Australia will read very great significance into it. Rightly or wrongly, they will read into the appearance of the right honorable gentleman a sympathy and support for the cause which he seeks to defend on behalf of those for whom he appears.
– Will they be right or wrong?
– That is one of the questions which I hope will be determined as the result of this discussion. The public will read into that appearance a deep significance, and, that being so, honorable members are entitled to know what significance honorable gentlemen opposite read into the fact that the deputy leader of their party is proposing to challenge legislation, or some parts of it, which they, as a party, have fully endorsed without a dissentient vote. Honorable members on the Government side of the House, and the people of this country are entitled to have these questions answered. Is the right honorable gentleman, in making this appearance, doing so with the knowledge, support, and consent of the party of which he is deputy leader?’
– What has that to do with it ?
– I think it has a lot to do with it. The people of Australia will be very interested to know whether the right honorable gentleman-
– The Minister is trying to prejudice the standing of the right honorable member for Barton before the court.
– I am not. I am trying to elicit information about whether the right honorable gentleman has acted with the full support and approval of his party, and with the knowledge that he has that full approval and support.
– The Minister cannot blame the party for the action of an individual.
– I am not concerned with that as an issue. I desire to know whether honorable members of the Opposition approved of their deputy leader appearing in this case when they must know, as he must have known, the significance that the public would read into his appearance. I should be doing the right honorable gentleman less than justice if I imagined that he did not, himselfknow that great significance would be read into his appearance. I should be doing him less than justice if I were to assume that he went into that court without any consciousness that he would, in some way, be committing his party to the action that he was taking. That is the point. Did he go into court knowing that he was committing his party to a certain line of action, and that he had the approval and support of his party ?
My second question is, if the right honorable gentleman has the approval and support of his party honorable members are entitled to know-
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
– Yes, and I will deal with you too.
– The honorable member for Lalor will apologize to the Chair for that remark.
– I apologize, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– If the right honorable gentleman did not go into court with the support and knowledge of his party, did he go in with the approval and the knowledge of the leader of his party? I can hardly assume that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have taken a course of this kind, which he must have known would have repercussions so far as his party was concerned, without having consulted hisleader. Honorable members are entitled to know whether the Leader of the Opposition gave his approval to the adoption of that course by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. [Extension of time granted.] Assuming that the answer to both those questions is “ No “, and that the right honorable gentleman did not have the full approval of his party and his leader in taking this action, my third question is whether he took this action on his own initiative knowing, as he must have known, that by so doing, he would give a very wide circle of people in this country the belief that he had acted on behalf of his party, and would thus create in their minds doubts and questions on where his party would stand on this issue.
It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to take points of order on this matter. He would be doing his colleague and his country a better service if, instead or trying to smother this issue, he would state where the party stood and where he stood on this matter. This is not a challenge on the part of those who sit behind me in this place, nor on my part to the right of the right honorable gentleman to appear as a barrister before the courts of this land. But honorable members have the right to know the political significance of the action which the right honorable gentleman has chosen to take. He could not, even if he wished to do so, dissociate himself in the public mind from the stand that he has taken in this place. His resentment of actions which have occurred in this place is known, and his declared sympathies have been made public. He cannot dissociate those tilings from the public conception of what is going on. Therefore, it is of great’ importance and it is very desirable in the interests of good government that the people should know where this Parliament stands in relation to the issue which’ is under challenge.
I repeat the three questions which I have asked. Did the right honorable gentleman have the support of his party as a whole? If not, did he act with the knowledge and support of his own leader ? Assuming that the answer to both those questions is “ No “, it can only be assumed that the right honorable gentleman took this course with the full knowledge of the significance which would be attached to his action, and with a reckless disregard of its consequences to his party or because he believed that what he was doing was justified in the eyes of his party. Unless these questions are answered frankly and clearly, the people will only have their bewilderment increased on this subject, and this Parliament will have no clear indication of what its course is to be in relation to the legisla tion under review.
– I have not heard in this Parliament a more disgraceful speech than that which has just been made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). I raised a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on which I do not think you gave a direct ruling. I should have thought that when any issue was the subject of discussion by a court of the country, a Minister of the Crown would have been the last person to have raised any discussion on it, particularly a Minister of the Crown who was also a member of the legal profession. The Minister’s attack is characteristic of the smear campaign, and the generally miserable and petty attitude which is being adopted by members of the Government whenever they happen to disagree with anybody whose character they can damage by innuendo and inference. The. Minister has not had the courage to refer to a particular issue in this case. Would any honorable member of this House who had no knowledge of the particular matters which are now being referred to, understand what the Minister for Labour and National Service was talking about? He certainly would not. That is the plain fact, and I suggest that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, also have no knowledge, by virtue of your office, of matters which have not been directly referred to and stated in this House in clear and unmistakable terms. I shall say briefly what I intend to say because I do not desire to take up the time of the House in engaging in recriminations such as these, which are a disgrace to both the Government and the Minister. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) is appearing in a case in a Melbourne court, so I understand. My knowledge has been gained merely from a report appearing in an evening newspaper. As a member of the legal profession he is acting on behalf of clients who have engaged him in that capacity. He is not acting in any other capacity that I know of. The question whether the right honorable gentleman should appear in any court, in fact the question whether any honorable member of this House should appear in any court, does not seem to me to be material. Whether the Minister for Labour and
National Service should go to court and in his capacity as a lawyer represent a client, does not seem .to me to be a matter that thu Liberal party would discuss. The legal members of this House are under no obligation to approach their political parties every time they go to court to represent a client, merely to ascertain whether the party agrees with their proposed action.
– All we want is an answer to the questions asked.
– I do not want any cheek from the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick). The honorable member for Bass has become a member of this House quite recently, but he endeavours to assert himself by making insulting remarks and references. I have been a member of this House for some time and I have not found it to be necessary for honorable members to speak to one another in the particular tone and manner adopted by the honorable member for Bass. I think that be should take a course in parliamentary manners.
– You just cannot take it.
– A s the Minister for Labour and National Service knows, the right honorable member for Barton holds a particularly privileged position in the legal profession, and is under an obligation to act in accordance with the ethics of that profession. My clear-cut answer to the questions of the Minister for Labour and National Service will be given directly, but I hope that the Government does not intend to allow this discussion to proceed about an act which is now being considered before the court.
– I have not heard any reference to legislation as yet.
– No, because every honorable member avoids mentioning it.
– There is no objection to referring to the anti-Communist act.
– I took the point of order that no act, or case before a court relating to an act, should be referred to.
– The right honorable member’s point of order was not upheld.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker has not yet given a ruling on it.
I suggest that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) does not understand what he is talking about. My clear reply to the Minister for Labour and National Service is that the right honorable member for Barton has not consulted with the Labour party at any time about any case in which he has appeared or may appear in his legal capacity, except in regard to the banking case. I do not think that any other honorable member who is a member of the legal profession ever consults his party on such matters. The right honorable member for Barton is acting before the court as a member of the legal profession. He is representing clients by whom he has been engaged and by whom he will be paid. There is no question of this party having discussed that representation or having discussed any action of the right honorable member for Barton in appearing in that particular case. I take the view that any member of the legal profession, or in fact of any other profession, has a complete right to practice his profession outside this House, without his motives being questioned by this House or by any one else. A man is entitled, as a member of the legal profession, to defend murderers and all sorts of criminals. I suggest that because such members of the legal profession defend murderers they certainly cannot be accused of being in sympathy with murder. The whole thing is completely ridiculous, and I am astounded that the Minister for Labour and National Service should lend himself to an act of this character against a. member of his own profession. He knows very well that the members of that profession, or indeed of any other profession, are- entitled to practice their profession without reference to their political party and without . any endorsement from anybody. That is exactly what the right honorable member for Barton is doing in this case. I remind the House that a number of other eminent King’s Counsel are appearing with him in opposition to certain government measures. Those gentlemen stand just as high in Australia’s legal circles as does the Minister for Labour and National Service, or anybody else. Mr. Weston, K.C., Mr. Hardie, K.C., and others are appearing on the same side as the right honorable member for Barton, but nobody casts any doubt on their integrity and honesty. They are not members of the Labour party. Probably they are members of the Liberal party. The right honorable member for Barton is doing whatever he is doing purely as a member of the legal profession. He is not acting on behalf of his party, or as a result of any discussion with this party and not as a. result of any decision that he should represent this party in any particular case in any particular court.
.- As a member of the legal profession I would be the first to recognize the right of any member of my profession to appear for any client in any court in the country. But the absence of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) from the Parliament to-day and the circumstances of his absence are entirely peculiar. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) mentioned that other eminent counsel are engaged in certain proceedings. They have not taken a leading part in the political background of the matters that are under discussion in the court, nor have they been engaged for a long time solely in political activities. I think that it is correct to say that the absence of the right honorable member for Barton from this House to-day, in order to appear in a court, is the first occasion on which he has been absent for that purpose since he ceased to be Attorney-General. The Minister has plainly stated the political aspect of this matter. He has called upon the Leader of the Opposition to state where the Opposition stands to-day, but the Leader of the Opposition has failed to-do so. Honorable members of this House and the people of Australia are entitled to know where the Opposition stands in relation to the appearance of the right honorable member for Barton in the case now before the court. In view of the complete failure of the Leader of the Opposition to answer that question, we must seek for the answer ourselves. I suggest to the House that there are three possible reasons why the right honorable member for Barton is appearing.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) is apparently going to launch an attack on the right honorable member for Barton.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I remind honorable members on the Government side, who are so consistent in their interjections, that my point of order will be heard by Mr. Deputy Speaker, who I presume does not take instructions from honorable members. An attempt is being made to attack the standing of one counsel appearing in court. Honorable members on the Government side have already spoken of his identity with the legislation recently before this Parliament. That is an attempt to influence the mind of the court by lowering the status of the counsel concerned.
– The Parliament is quite entitled to discuss the activities of any of its members. In 1934, there was a motion of urgency to discuss the activities of a member of the Parliament in relation to certain government contracts. A debate on that matter was permitted. I rule, therefore, that the activities of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) may be discussed by the House. The other point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has not yet arisen, and there i9 no need for ‘me to give a ruling on it.
– I repeat that the Leader of the Opposition has completely failed to answer legitimate inquiries about the political implications of the absence from this chamber of the right honorable member for Barton. I contend that we are entitled to discuss this matter and to seek some explanation of this extraordinary procedure. The first explanation that comes to my mind is that the right honorable member for Barton is demonstrating his disapproval of the decision forced upon him and his party by the Opposition’s extra-mural masters. As we all know, the Opposition stated again and again that it had adopted a stand on a certain issue as a matter of vital principle. We saw that stand shamefully abandoned. One possible explanation of the right honorable gentleman’s actions, therefore, is that he is taking this opportunity to demonstrate his own, and his party’s disapproval of the decision that was forced upon them. That is the only explanation that suggests itself if the right honorable gentleman is absent with the approval of his leader and of his party. However, if he is absent from the House and engaged on this work without the approval of his party, another possible explanation is that the dissension which so obviously existed among honorable members opposite has reached such a stage to-day that the right honorable gentleman is seeking to establish his leadership of one section of the Labour party. If that is not the explanation, the only other one that remains is that, in defiance of the wishes of his own leader and colleagues, the right honorable gentleman is demonstrating the depth of his own convictions. The Opposition can have any .of those alternatives, but I submit that the House is entitled to a statement by the Leader of the Opposition of which explanation is the correct one.
.- Honorable members on the Government side of the chamber seem to be very hard to convince. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has stated that the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has not consulted his party about his present activities in the High Court, nor do we consider that it is necessary for him to do so. Acting in his professional capacity, he. is as much at liberty to take a brief as is any other honorable member of this House in similar circumstances. Is it suggested that a person who is accused of an offence in any court of this country is not entitled to engage the best available counsel to defend him? Although it is a matter of opinion, I think it is generally conceded that the right honorable member for Barton is one of Australia’s leading jurists - and I include in the comparison those in this House who have been recently elevated to the position of King’s Counsel. It may be an indication of the way the Government is tending when its supporters argue that, because people hold particular .political views, they should be denied proper representation before the courts. I have heard legal members of this chamber talking about the ethics of their profession. When did it become necessary for a member of the legal profession, before accepting a brief, to ask an intending client what his political views were? In my opinion the right honorable member for Barton is quite within his rights and his action should not suggest to any reasonable member of this House, or of the Australian community, that he necessarily accepts the view of the client that he represents. To show the hypocrisy of honorable members opposite I have only to cite the recent trials of Japanese Avar criminals. Not only were the accused provided with counsel, but the Commonwealth paid the cost of the defence. Yet honorable . members opposite would deny to Australian citizens who have not even been charged with an offence against the laws of this country the right of adequate representation! The Government wants to prejudge the matter. As we said it would when we were discussing a certain measure, the Government intends, by its own decision and nobody else’s, to decide who were to be declared as Communists. I have looked down the list of counsel briefed in the present proceedings, and it is clear that, including both sides, the bar is the strongest that could he obtained in this country. The only member of the bar shown in the list of appearances who I know to be an avowed Communist is Paterson. I also notice that the bar includes a particular legal friend of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), Mr. Simon Isaacs, who, rather strangely, seems to secure a great deal of Communist work. I say to the Minister for Supply that in many quarters Mr. Isaacs is believed to be not only sympathetic to the Communist party, but also a member of it. It is also true that when certain elements of the Liberal party were concocting evidence and trying to “ frame “ me, the Minister for Supply and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) were advising Isaacs. When I dealt with that matter in this Parliament, I produced evidence to that effect. Therefore, although we have at the table of the House to-night in the person of the Minister for Supply, an associate of people who are believed to be Communists, it is not suggested by any Government member that he is doing anything improper.
I pass on from that matter because I realize the honorable members opposite are eager to know what is the position of the honorable member for Barton. Is it not a fact that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on a number of occasions was paid to give legal opinions to unions that had Communist officials? Was there anything improper about that? Was it suggested that, because the right honorable gentleman gave those opinions, he held ‘Communist views or supported the philosophy of communism? This is only a pretence on the part of members of the Government calculated to cloud the issue and to create in the minds of the people the very impression that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has suggested will be created. The Minister asked what construction the Australian public would place on this act by the right honorable member for Barton. In doing so he suggested the construction that Government supporters want to put on it, which is that members of the Labour party are eager to defend the Communist party. “ During the debate on a certain measure both in this House and the Senate, I heard legal men express some doubts about its validity. Is it not only proper that if people believe that an action by this Government is invalid, they should have the right to challenge it before the High Court? For what reason does the High Court exist? Or, is it to be presumed that access to the court and the proper methods of defence are to be denied to people who desire to approach it because they hold certain political opinions? It would be a sorry day for this country if the Parliament ever accepted the view expressed by the Minister for Labour and National Service as a guiding principle in respect of our judicial system. A cowardly attack is being made upon the right honorable member for Barton in his absence. As he will be returning to the House within the next day or so, those who wanted to launch the attack could have done so when the right, honorable member was present in the chamber and was thus able to defend himself. I understand that there is a body known as the Bar Association - not that I have much confidence in it - that is supposed to protect members of the legal -profession against unprovoked attacks upon their integrity. That body might give some attention to the action of the
Minister for Labour and National Service and the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), and also the Minister for Supply, who, no doubt, will follow me, in their attack on the right honorable member for Barton and in trying, to establish a principle that would deny to accused persons, because of their political opinions, the best counsel that could be briefed. There is no doubt that the Government is trying to make political capital out of something which should not be the direct concern of the Parliament at all. The right honorable member for Barton is acting upon his own initiative as a member of the legal professon. He has accepted a brief that has been offered to him. He has not sought the view of his party with regard to his act, because he has not had any need to do so. When he appears in the role of counsel before the High Court he will not he speaking on behalf of the Opposition, but will be representing a client. Government supporters are endeavouring to make a great deal out of nothing. No doubt the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) will take this opportunity to add a chapter to The Garden Path so that it may be quoted in future as another instance where it alleged the right honorable member for Barton has defended the Communist party. Judging from the expressions that supporters of the Government have uttered this evening, it is no idle talk on the part .of members of the Opposition when the latter accuse them of having fascist tendencies.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is perfectly fitting that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) should come to the defence of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) in’ the absence of the latter from the House on this occasion. He is worthy of that role. Indeed, does not an obligation rest upon him to come to the defence of the right honorable member? Was it not only on Thursday night last that the righthonorable member for Barton came to the defence of the honorable member for East Sydney? On this occasion the honorable member for East Sydney is reciprocating in that he has come to the aid of and in the defence of the right honorable member. However, the right honorable member is giving legal aid to the Communist party, whereas in this House on Thursday night last the honorable member for East Sydney said that h» would take illegal steps if necessary to defend the same party.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I ask that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) withdraw that statement.
– What statement?
– The Postmaster-General stated that I took steps on another occasion to come to the aid of the Communist party.
– He did not say that.
– He said that I was prepared to take illegal action to support the Communist party
– I did not say the Communist party at all.
– As the words used by the Postmaster-General are not unparliamentary, he need not withdraw them. If the honorable member for East Sydney claims that he has been misrepresented he may make a personal explanation later.
– I hold in my hand an absolutely correct record of what the honorable member for East Sydney said on Thursday night last. I shall read it, and I challenge the honorable member to deny that he used the words.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral quoting from Hansard?
– Never mind what I am quoting from; I shall not fall into any trap that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) may try to lay tor me. On Thursday night last the honorable member for East Sydney said -
That is the action of the Communistcontrolled unions - to lie illegal or otherwise, 1. propose to support the unions with all thu power that I possess, both inside and outside the Parliament . . .
The words “ illegal or otherwise “ were used. I challenge the honorable member for East Sydney to deny that he used those words, because they are in the records of both the press and the House. It is perfectly right that the honorable member for East Sydney should go to the aid of a colleague who is trying to do that in a legal way. Between the two of them, they should have unbounded success, because each is operating in his own particular department. The right honorable member for Barton has the utmost right to go to the aid of the Communist party if it is in distress. Did not the same right honorable member lift the ban on that party in 1942? Did not the same right honorable member, when he was AttorneyGeneral, release Ratliff and Thomas, the two Communists whom the previous Government had interned for subversive activities? Did not the same right honorable member do his best to prevent the Parliament from passing into law the Communist Party Dissolution Bill?
– Order !
– The right honorable member for Barton is probably the most qualified person in this country to be doing the very joh that, of his own volition, according to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), he has elected to do to-day. The Leader of the Opposition has disowned the action that the right honorable member has taken by saying that the right honorable member had not consulted the Opposition and that he had had no need to consult himself as Leader of the Opposition. But every member of the Labour party will be bound up with what the right honorable member for Barton is doing at present. There is no escape for them in that respect. The right honorable member is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House, and ho cannot divorce what he does at one stage as a member of the Parliament and from what he does at another stage outside when he is acting in a legal capacity. It is very significant that, so far as we know, the only actions in which the right honorable member has been engaged in a legal capacity before the High Court have been, first, when he attempted to nationalize the trading banks; secondly, when lie tried to socialize the medical profession of Australia; and, thirdly, on this occasion. In deference to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker; I shall not say anything about the legislation that this occasion involves- As every one knows what that legislation is, it is not necessary for mo to indicate it. It is perfectly proper for the honorable member for East Sydney to wax indignant. Indeed, when he made his statement on Thursday night last, the first member of the Opposition to come forward in his defence was the right honorable member for Barton, who, with indignation in his voice, denounced those who hud denounced the honorable member. There we have the complete set-up. One honorable member is working inside this House and the other is working outside it. The people of Australia will form their own conclusions about where the real sympathies of these honorable gentlemen lie. I regret to say that unfortunately in doing so they will also include in their condemnation many members of the Australian Labour party who have not the slightest sympathy for those whom the right honorable member for Barton and the honorable member for East Sydney are striving so strenuously to protect and defend. ‘
.- This is the most disgraceful episode that I have witnessed during my membership of this Parliament. It is significant that this discussion has not the endorsement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for the right honorable gentleman is absent from the chamber. Notwithstanding the fact that the Prime Minister disagrees with me and my political party, if he were present in the chamber I am sure that he would hang his head in shame.
– He always gets the Postmaster.General (Mr. Anthony) to do the dirty work.
– Order ! The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) must remain silent.
– When the honorable member for poison bait-
-Order! The honorable member must withdraw his unparliamentary reference to another honorable member.
– I withdraw. When the honorable member for Macarthur asked a question of the Prime Minister to-day one had only to look at the right honorable gentleman’s face as ho rose to reply to see his disgust that such a question should have been asked in the Parliament. It is disgraceful that a member of the legal profession, a member of the Ministry, and one of His Majesty’s Executive Councillors, should come into this Parliament and, without naming a particular legal action, should endeavour to belittle in the eyes of the justices of the court one of the legal representatives of a party to a High Court- action. I have never witnessed a more shameful spectacle in this Parliament. I repeat that the absence of the Prime Minister from the chamber is most, significant. Undoubtedly the right honorable gentleman is ashamed of what is going on. This matter was left io the initiative of one of his senior Ministers, who has shamed himself and the honorable profession to which he belongs. It has been said that lawyers are very queer individuals. I propose to relate the story of an incident, which has some relevancy to the issue before us, which took place in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria many years ago. At that time the present Prime Minister hold the Nunawading seat and I had been gibing bini about the fact that, for the sake of filthy lucre, he had appeared in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on behalf of a certain union, the members of which had lodged a claim for a reduction of hours of duty and an increase of wages, and that a fortnight later he again appeared before, the same court on behalf of the Victorian Railway Commissioners to oppose a claim by mother union for the reduction of hours of duty and an increase of the rates of pay of its members. Replying to my gibe, he said, “Well, Mr. Speaker, I won both ways, didn’t I?” That incident illustrates the point that I am making, that members of the legal fraternity do not necessarily hold the same views as their clients. I suspect that the light honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) has very strong views in relation to the case in which he is appearing and accordingly the filthy attempt that has been made to prejudice bis standing in the High Court is most despicable. I am sure that when the justices of the High Court read of this disgusting episode they will be ashamed that it should have been initiated by a member of the legal fraternity who may at some time in the future be himself a member of the court. I have observed- that certain honorable members opposite who served with the Australian Imperial Force have given some backing to the case that was presented by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) . They know very well that during the course of military operations soldiers occasionally commit offences for which they are court-martialled and that the King’s regulations provide that if a soldier accused of having committed an offence cannot find a soldier’s friend to defend him an officer shall be appointed’ to present his case. Do they contend that any reflection should be cast on the selected officer in such cases? The contemptible members and supporters of this Government would deny to a member of this House merely because of his political associations the privilege that is accorded to an officer who acts in that capacity, and endeavour to damn him in the eyes of the justices of the High Court. This is the most deplorable episode that has ever occurred in any parliament in the world. ‘ ‘
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), with his usual charm, has prevailed on me to enter this debate by hurling a few insults at me across the chamber. I am delighted to do so. It is time that the issues were made clear. As far as I know, no personal attack was made on the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), but very significant and interesting questions were raised but not discussed by members of the Opposition about where the Opposition stands in relation to this matter.
– The Minister has been told.
– I do not believe a word of it. I cannot believe that the right honorable member for Barton, who is the Deputy Leader of the Australian
Labour party in this House, did not consult his party or his leader before he absented himself from his duty in this House. As a member of the profession to which I also belong, the right honorable member was quite within his rights in appearing in the court for anybody for whom he wished to appear. We all concede that right. Indeed that is an obligation of which barristers have been very proud for hundreds of years. If a barrister is asked to appear in a case which falls within the jurisdiction in which he usually practises, and if satisfactory fees are offered to him and he is not otherwise engaged, an obligation rests on him to accept the brief. If the case is regarded by him as distasteful, it is well known that there are plenty of ways in which he may avoid accepting it. He can at least plead that he is otherwise engaged. If, however, the case is not distasteful to him, and he thinks that it is his duty to accept the brief, he does so. None of that is in dispute in this case. The question in dispute is this: Has he an obligation, first of all as a member of .this Parliament, and secondly as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, primarily to be in his place in this House? I should have thought not only that an excuse for declining this brief was available to him, but also that he had some sort of an obligation under which he might well have said, “ My primary duty is in the Parliament of which I am a member, and I am paid to attend to it by the taxpayers of Australia “. Let us have no misunderstanding about this matter. The right honorable member for Barton is appearing in Melbourne for Mr. Healy in a challenge against the Communist Party Dissolution Act. Nothing that is sub judice is involved in that statement. There is no attack upon the court, and there is no attempt to influence the court. It is merely a bald, simple statement of fact. What is the inference to be drawn from that fact? I do not suggest that there is an inference against the right honorable member personally because I say, as I have said before, that he is perfectly entitled to appear in that capacity. But to what degree are the people of Australia entitled to assume that the Labour party is involved? It must be remembered that the Labour party, for which the right honorable member acts as Deputy Leader in this House, first bitterly opposed this legislation ana then turned round, ran away from it, and, later with complete insincerity, accepted it.
– Order ! The Minister is out of order in referring to the legislation.
– I return to the theme. Now the Labour party is seeking to destroy it.
-Order! The Minister will withdraw that statement.
– What is your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
– The Minister must withdraw the reference that he made to the legislation after I had asked him to desist from mentioning it. Will he withdraw that reference ?
– In deference to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I withdraw it.
– I submit, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the practice, when an honorable member is asked to withdraw a statement, is to make an unqualified withdrawal. A member is not entitled to say to the occupant of the chair, “ In deference to your ruling”.
– The Minister may proceed. He has withdrawn the statement.
– The point that I seek to make - a simple one that has not been answered by the Opposition because it cannot be answered - is that the irresistible inference to be drawn from this set of circumstances is that the Labour party and the right honorable member for Barton are acting as part of a plan to do something outside the Parliament that circumstances made it impossible for them to do inside the Parliament.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
-Does the honorable member consider that he has been misrepresented?
– The honorable member may proceed.
– The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), in addressing himself to the matter now before the House, quoted what he said purported to be a report of a statement that I had made during the adjournment debate last Thursday night. In doing so he interpolated into the report certain worlds of his own. Those words were “ Communist-controlled unions “. At no time during my speech last Thursday night were those words mentioned. I agree that the remainder of the report that the honorable gentleman quoted appeared to me, at first hearing, to be an accurate record of what I said. However, I emphasize that I did not at any time mention the words “ Communistcontrolled unions “. What I said, and I repeat it in a few words, was that if the trade union movement, when defending the rights of the trade unions to organize, to agitate and to work for better conditions for their members, were challenged, I should support the unions, regardless of whether the Government considered their action to be illegal or otherwise. That was exactly what I said. I shall not go any further or argue any legal points with the Postmaster-General because he has the advantage of me that I have never had any police court convictions.
– I claim that I-have been misrepresented and ask for permission to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable gentleman may make his explanation.
– This is what I said when I quoted the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) - . . regardless of whether this Government considers their action to he illegal or otherwise, 1 propose to support the unions with all the power I possess, both inside and outside the Parliament.
The honorable member did not qualify his remarks in any way on that occasion. He has denied on every occasion until now that he used those words.
– I have not.
– Now he admits that he did use them. As for a conviction in a court, I remind the House that, despite the verdict of two juries, it took a royal commission and £20,000 to exonerate the honorable member for East Sydney.
– I think that the Parliament will be very much ashamed in future of the proceedings in. this House to-night. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has chosen to attack the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) because lie accepted a brief from a union and an individual to appear in a certain case before the High Court in Melbourne. The Minister pointed out that lie did not attack the right honorable gentleman professionally. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) later said that he did not ‘attack him personally. And so, ns the right honorable gentleman has been exonerated both professionally and personally, the attack is now directed at the Labour party, which is alleged to have approved of the decision of the right honorable member to appear in a certain case. The Minister for Supply has been guilty of such rudeness and vulgarity a..= to say that bc does not believe the assurance of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) that the Labour party has never discussed the matter. That assurance, of course, is true. The Minister for Supply has said that the right honorable member for Barton ought to be in this Parliament, attending to his parliamentary duties instead of appearing in the courts of the country. Such a statement comes oddly strange from the Minister for Supply because, during the life of the last Parliament, that honorable gentleman was rarely present in this House; he was usually outside it, earning all that he could in the courts of this country. The present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) also came to the Parliament only, on an average, once a week. He was appearing in the courts at other times and he. won for himself the soubriquet of “ Once-a-week Percy “. I am no lover of lawyers. I have never had any mason to love them. I am not concerned very much about their ethical standards and all the rest of the argument, but, if it be right for certain people to appear in the courts because of their brand of politics, it cannot be wrong for somebody else with a different brand of politics to do likewise. The Prime Minister (Mr.
Menzies) himself has been revealed in some strange associations .during his long and very distinguished legal career. There was a time when he was AttorneyGeneral in the State of Victoria and the Government of which he was a member established a royal commission to inquire into the operations of the Shell Oil Company. The Attorney-General of the State of Victoria, accepted a brief from the Shell Oil (ompany to appear for it before that royal commission. There was also a. time when the right honorable gentleman who is now Prime Minister appeared in the James case in London. He could not accept a fee as Attorney-General for the Commonwealth of Australia when bv was appearing for the Commonwealth in support nf the High Court’s decision on section 02 of the Constitution, but he did the next best thing and accepted a brief from the State of Victoria for which he was paid £2,000 to argue the same case, before the same tribunal.
The Minister forgets those incidents in our history. He says that the right honorable member for Barron (Dr. Evatt) because! of the circumstances which surround this case in which he !.J appearing, should not have identified himself with the proceedings. On-1 person for whom he is appearing is a Communist named James Healy. The Prime Minister of this country has given opinions at Mr. Healy’s request and h:is received payment from Mr. Healy for such opinions. The Minister who leads the attack to-night has, in recent months, received. Communists in his office. He has interviewed them and he has got on so well with them that Mr. Idriss Williams, the leader of the Communist-controlled miners’ federation, and Mr. Wright, who is another Communist and is secretary of the Sheet Metal Workers Union in Sydney, reported to the Sydney Trades and Labour Council that they got on very well with the Minister and as a matter of fact received better treatment from this Government than they received from the Chifley Government. They said that this Minister who leads the attack on Communists has a better understanding of the needs of the miners than had the Chifley Government and that he has promised to fix up their long service len r, demands in a manner that the Chifley Government would not consider. The right honorable member for Barton, like the Prime Minister of this country, ha? had a long and distinguished legal career. He may have lost cases before the High Court, but he has also won cases before the High Court, and what is worrying the Government to-day is that in that famous case of “Walsh and Johnson in J 926 he succeeded in defeating the opinion of the then Attorney-General, who is now the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, and persuaded the High Court to declare the legislation invalid. It is because the validity of this legislation may be upset by reason of the. acumen and the brilliance of the right honorable member for Barton, that this attack is being made upon him.
There may be a case against a lawyer who is in politics appearing in litigation of this nature, but there is no justification, above all for Ministers in a parliament, to try to prejudice the result of that litigation by attacking the character or the standing of one person. In view of all that has been said, I think it might be a good thing to declare that all .lawyers should be out of the Parliament. The Minister for Supply laughs. If such a rule were applied it would not affect him ordinarily, because, if my memory serves me aright, during the war period the Chifley Government, at the instance of the right honorable member for Barton, who was then Attorney-General, kept him out of the Bankruptcy Court with the briefs it gave to him on behalf of the Commonwealth. It is all very well for honorable members opposite, and Ministers in particular, to be leading this campaign against the right honorable member. I point out that last week he appeared for the clothing trades unions before the Commonwealth A rbiitration Court, and there was no objection taken, although it would have been equally valid to have objected then as it is now. Are we to take it from the Government’s attitude on this case that it objects to Labour lawyers appearing for trade unions in a court of any jurisdiction? Perhaps it did not want the right honorable gentleman to appear in the clothing trades case cither. It is sig nificant that this attack is made on him. In the clothing trades case he led thu Bar and was associated with Mr. Barwick, K.G., of Sydney, in the fight for the unions. In the case to which reference has been made, Mr. Barwick is leading the case for the Government against the right honorable member for Barton. There is no objection to Liberal lawyers having views and expressing them, but there is an attempt, not only to smear and smudge, but also to belittle the efforts of Labour lawyers and of a lot of other people.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) did not say the things that were alleged against him in the vapourings of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony). The PostmasterGeneral did not quote from Ronsard ; he has a “ cooked “ report of his own. He refused to say that it was identical with the Hansard report. What the honorable member for East Sydney said was -
If trade unions are to bc declared under this bill-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– in reply - The Opposition opened its reply on this matter by a series of personal charges against those members of the Government who have had the temerity, in its eyes, to raise this subject in the Parliament. Honorable members of the Opposition talk about shameful and disgraceful conduct, but humbug is humbug, whether it is expressed in the home-spun terms of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) or in the ranting terms which characterized some of the other speeches. It is humbug because I can recall other occasions in the life of this Parliament when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was made the object of the most bitter and personal attacks by honorable members who are criticizing members of the Government here to-night because he had appeared in court on issues on which they thought he should not have appeared at that time. But now it becomes shameful and disgraceful on our part to make any reference to such matters.
Coming to more recent times, I can remember that the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) challenged the propriety of two judges of the High Court sitting on the Banking case. There was no regard paid to the shameful or disgraceful character of that conduct.
I should like to clear up one or two matters which have been left in the air as the result of the discussion that has taken place. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said we have chosen to make this attack, as he calls it, on the right honorable gentleman in his absence. It is not of our choosing that he is absent, and if the Government could usefully have deferred discussion on a matter which is of such lively public importance it would have done so. I at least can claim that I did the next best thing. I do not act in this House without some sense of responsibility, nor have I made it a practice in this House to make personal attacks on members of it. Before I raised this matter at all I went to the Leader of the Opposition and told him that I was proposing to do so. I also indicated to him my reason for doing so.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) stated that this is something that is being done without the knowledge of the Prime Minister, and something of which the Prime Minister would be ashamed. Just as I had some sense of responsibility in the one direction, I also had sufficient sense of responsibility to notify the Prime Minister, who is attending an official engagement, of what I intended to do and my reasons for it. The Prime Minister, while stressing that the Government does not challenge the right of any member of the legal profession to appear in the courts of the country, entirely endorsed the political aspect of this matter to which I drew the attention of the House when I embarked on what I had to say earlier to-night. So, on those counts, we on this side of the House have acted with a sense of responsibility, and we have not endeavoured to “ put over “ the Labour party something that it has not had a reasonable opportunity to analyse. We set out by asking a number of questions which we considered that the Parliament and the country were entitled to have answered, a.nd this discussion at least has had the useful purpose of bringing out into the open the fact that the right honorable member for Barton, who is the Deputy Leader of the Labour party in this House, in involving himself in an issue of this character, did not seek the approval of his party, acted without its knowledge and did not have its support in doing so. That point at least has been answered. ‘
I now wish to direct attention to the second aspect. The right honorable member for Barton is not a novice in political matters. He is not so unintelligent that he does not realize that when he goes into this particular case, not merely as a barrister but being at the same time the Deputy Leader of the Labour party in this House, he must inevitably implant in the mind of the public the belief that he is acting in a way of which his party would approve. Knowing that, the right honorable gentleman, either reckless of the consequences, or hoping that the public will believe that, although the Opposition in the action, is hoping that the public will believe that although the Opposition was not able to carry the day in this Parliament against the decision of the executive of the Australian Labour party, it will be able to carry the day by a challenge in the courts. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. Either it has endorsed that action or approved it, or its Deputy Leader has gone into this action, recklessly involving his party in the consequences of what he is doing. He is no novice, and honorable members opposite are men with some political knowledge of these matters.
I shall conclude by referring to the action of my own leader, the present Prime Minister, in a somewhat comparable case. The Chifley Government’s banking legislation was under challenge. As members of the Opposition at that time, we had attacked it most vigorously in the Parliament and the act finally came before the courts. Because our leader is also a man who is not without some forensic skill and reputation in this country, he was one of the first persons approached with a view to ascertaining whether he would go into court and argue the case against the Government’s legislation. The right honorable gentleman not only refused to take that course, but alao discussed the proposal fully with his colleagues in his own party. I find it almost incredible that, in a matter of this kind, the Deputy Leader of the Labour party should involve it in the political repercussions which must inevitably flow from his action without having had the common decency to notify his colleagues of his proposal, and to seek their endorsement of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Works and Housing - N-. I. Davey, D. W. Hancock.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Twentysixth Annual Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board, for year 1946-50, together with Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act. - Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for postal purposes - Bathurst, New South Wales.
Northern Territory ‘(Administration) Act - Regulations - 1950-No. 8 (Darwin Administration Ordinance).
House adjourned at 12.3 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Yes. (b) Yes.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Fadden. - On the 24th October, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) asked whether, as increases proposed in the salaries of justices and judges of the HighCourt and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and Conciliation Commissioners were to operate fromthe 1st July last, the Government would also make increases proposed in civil and war pensions retrospective to that date. I would inform the honorable member that it is not customary or considered practicable to make increases in pension rates retrospective. I would remind the honorable member that none of the pension increases introduced in recent years by the previous Government was made retrospective.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19501025_reps_19_210/>.