19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 3.15 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– In view of the many confusing reports that have appeared in the press concerning the situation in Korea, is the Prime Minister in a position to make a general statement to the House on that subject?
– I have been assembling some information upon the matter during the course of the day and I hope to be in a position to say something to the House about it to-morrow.
-Will the Minister for Health give consideration to the inclusion of anthralin in the free medicine formulary in view of the fact that tar ointments are. sometimes necessary for the treatment of chronic skin conditions, such as the hereditary skin disease psoriasis ?
– If the honorable member will be good enough to supply me with the exact details of the medicament that he wishes to have considered, I shall bring it before the notice of the expert committee that has been specially appointed for considering such matters, In order to strengthen the case for the inclusion of the medicament in the formulary, I suggest to the honorable gentleman that he should arrange for the doctor who has prescribed it to support his application.
– In view of the statements that have been made by the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. A. E Monk, and by the honorable member for Bendigo, who is a past presidentof the Australian Council of Trade Unions, on the need for greater production, will the Prime Minister consider calling together as soon as possible a round-table conference of leaders of industry and members of the trade unions in order to formulate plans for the fulfilment of thismost desirable objective ?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has been in touch with me about that matter, and certain preliminary talks have occurred on it. In the meantime, I think that, perhaps, I should point out to the honorable member that there is nothing whatever to prevent discussions of that kind from being held in individual industries, and( indeed, I have some reason to suppose that such discussions are now proceeding in certain industries. I do not need to tell the honorable gentleman that the Government attaches enormous importance to the problem of production, and it is for that reason that the talks are taking place between the Minister and myself.
Mr.WARD- Did the Prime Minister, during the last general election campaign, state that production would not increase unless incentives were provided? Did he undertake, on behalf of the Liberal party, that, if returned to office, he would advance plans to ensure that the fundamental basis of the scheme would be the right of the worker as well as of the shareholder to his share of increased profits arising from increased production? If the Prime Minister’s answers to those questions are in the affirmative, will he inform the House when he expects to be able to announce the details of his Government’s profit-sharing scheme?
– I have not with me at the moment a copy of the policy speech that I delivered during the last general election campaign, but in order that the honorable member for East Sydney may be relieved of all his troubles, I shall ensure that he receives a well printed copy of it so that he may direct his attention to it.
– It is now out of date.
– So far from being out of date, it still remains n. first class statement of a’ first class policy.
– All ‘Australia now knows that last week-end, Mr. and Mrs. Ogle, of Moreland, a suburb of Melbourne gave four new Australians to this nation. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he will encourage, by his example, electors in other municipalities to do likewise ? When I say “ encourage by his example “, I mean that I hope that the Government will recognize that great event in Melbourne in the same manner as I believe it recognized a similar event at Bellingen, in New South Wales, some time ago?
– I think that of all the questions which have ever been put to me in this House, the one which the honorable member for Burke has asked is easily the most flattering, but if I may translate his intention into somewhat more practical terms, I inform him that I have discussed the subject with the Treasurer, who will have something to say about it in due course.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, and, by way of explanation, I point out that there is an acute shortage of wax matches in North
Queensland, brought about mainly by the provision in the Navigation Act, to the effect that matches must be carried as deck cargo on ships. That requirement. entails considerable labour, inconvenience and cost because of unloading and loading at various intermediate ports. Will the Minister ask his colleague to consider the advisability of allowing matches to be carried as deck cargo on the sugar boats which return to North Queensland in ballast?
– I shall refer the honorable gentleman’s question to the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, and obtain an answer for him as soon as possible.
– Did the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture have an opportunity, while he was abroad, to investigate the price which the United Kingdom Government is prepared to pay for Australian eggs? Is it a fact that, under a contract entered into by the Chifley Government with the United Kingdom Government Australian poultry farmers are compelled to export eggs at a loss, as the price being paid for them does not cover the cost of production? Does that contract also prevent Australian poultry-farmers from selling in any other market? If that is so, will the Minister ask the United Kingdom Government whether it cannot allow our poultry-farmers a payable price for their produce and also permit them to market their produce in markets outside the United Kingdom?
– While I was in London I took the opportunity to have discussions with Mr. Webb, the Minister for Food in the United Kingdom Government, and other Ministers about various Australian commodity contracts with the United Kingdom, and particularly about the egg contract. The position in connexion with the egg contract is that it provides for the fixation of a price which is subject to review annually. The contract contains no explicit provision for determining the basis upon which the Brice shall be reviewed annually, nor does it contain any provision for resolving a deadlock on the subject of prices. I remind honorable members that last year four months’ negotiation was required in order to obtain agreement for a slight increase of price. The honorable member for Mitchell was not quite correct when he said that the contract debars Australian poultry-farmers from the opportunity of selling their produce in markets other than, that of the United Kingdom. The basic contract did provide that a quantity equivalent to 2^ per cent, of the total quantity of eggs and egg pulp sold to the United Kingdom could be sold in other markets. Since I have been administering the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, I have arranged, by negotiation, for an extension of that concession to permit an additional 2-J per cent, of the quantity sold to the United Kingdom to be sold in the dollar markets, so that altogether a quantity equivalent to 5 per cent, of the quantity sold to the United Kingdom may now be sold in other markets. The substance of my reply to the honorable member’s question, therefore, is that, as the result of discussions between Mr. “Webb and myself concerning the sale of eggs and other bulk commodities, he is willing in principle to avoid deadlocks on periodical price negotiations by prior agreement on some formula, the principal element of which would be the cost of production, as determined in Australia and accepted by the United Kingdom. I have pointed out to the United Kingdom authorities that it was not satisfactory to us, when negotiating for the supply of, say, eggs or dairy produce, that they should cite the lower prices at which they could purchase those commodities from alternative suppliers, but when negotiating for the supply of meat they should appeal to our sentiment to persuade us to accept lower prices than those which would be acceptable by alternative suppliers. We are prepared to discuss food contracts either on an overall basis of either sentiment or business, but we are not prepared to entertain negotiations on a selective basis. There is now an understanding that in future we shall conduct all negotiations for food contracts on a business basis.
– A recent radio announcement stated that in future food parcels for Great Britain could not include tinned butter, but that edible fats to a maximum weight of 2 lb. could be included in each parcel. If that announcement correctly represents the position, will the PostmasterGeneral state the reason for prohibiting the inclusion of tinned butter while permitting the inclusion of edible fats in food parcels?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matters mentioned by the honorable member, but I shall have the matter investigated, discover the reason for the action taken, and inform him accordingly.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Government recently acquired another, large property in Grenfell-street, Adelaide, to meet the growing accommodation needs of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? The Government’s acquisition of that property will result in a further loss of revenue to the Adelaide City Council. “Will the Government agree to accept its share of the cost of such services as street lighting, fire brigade protection and road and footpath maintenance in all municipalities throughout Australia, instead of leaving the burden of paying for such services to ratepayers?
– The matter raised by the honorable member has been receiving the consideration of the Government for some time past. It is very complex and was recently referred to an interdepartmental committee which, I understand, has now completed its deliberations. The matter will be placed before the Cabinet as soon as possible.
– I preface a question to the Treasurer by stating that-many roads in the municipality of Cessnock and in the shires of Kearsley, Lower Hunter and Lake Macquarie are untrafficable as a result of the recent floods having made necessary the transport of coal by those roads instead of by rail. I understand that the Joint Coal Board has made some small grant to help to pay for the repair of the roads, but it was not adequate for that t purpose. Those roads were in use for the use of road haulage of coal, including supplies for States other than New South Wales, for about six weeks. Does the Treasurer not consider that it is time the Government shared the responsibility for restoring those roads to their previous conditions, as it has some measure of control over and responsibility for coal production?
– That matter is entirely the responsibility of t/he New South Wales Government. The Australian Government has given sympathetic and practical consideration to every request that has been placed before it in connexion with flood damage suffered in New South Wales, and has contributed very liberally whenever it has been called upon to do so. The Parliament will have an opportunity very shortly to consider a new Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Bill that will provide for very beneficial consideration to the loan requirements of the States for road purposes generally. The grant to be provided under that bill will represent a considerable increase over the grant that was formerly given and will provide safeguards to local authorities that are under the jurisdiction of the States.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to Standing Orders Nos. 38 and 39, as well as to the notice-paper for to-day, and I ask whether, you can make a statement to the House on the circumstances through which this chamber did not meet at the time appointed, but met .three-quarters of an hour later?
– I gave no instruction for an alteration to be made to the hour of meeting. I understand that an instruction came from the Government.
– In view of the fact that a delegation from the United States of America is visiting’ Australia to explore the possibility of what is known as preemptive wool buying for military stockpiling purposes in the United States, will the Minister say what indication he gave, when he met the United States delegation in London during his visit there recently, that there was a possibility of such a plan being agreed to? Furthermore, in the event of the Government or the woolgrowers agreeing to a scheme of preemptive wool buying, does the Minister not’ consider that it would be natural to expect the United Kingdom Government to make a similar request, and that our other allies, such as France and Holland, would also expect to be able to buy wool pre-emptively for war stock piling! Under what circumstances did the honorable gentleman lead the Americans to think it was worth while for them to send a delegation to Australia to engage in a type of dealing that would almost completely dislocate the wool auction system as it is now known?
– As the Prime Minister and I have said in the Parliament and elsewhere, no undertaking was given in London in connexion with this proposal which will be discussed in Australia by the visiting mission and will be measured against any alternative means by which America may obtain wool, including the ordinary method of open bidding at auction. The United States of America, with which Australia has some common military association, has indicated that it desires to procure sufficient wool for its openly announced current military programme which involves placing 3,000,000 men in uniform by the end’ of next year and that, in addition, it desires to stockpile, not in the form of raw wool but of military cloth, what is described as an emergency reserve of wool. This Government did not indicate that it was indifferent to such an objective of the United States. I hope that no Australian government would indicate indifference to such an objective as that. But no commitment was made on behalf of the Government or the Australian wool industry while I was in London. It will be the responsibility of the industry to offer its opinions during discussions which will take place in Australia. Finally, it will be the responsibility of the Government to make a dension.
– In spite of the industry ?
– I said that it would be the responsibility of the industry to offer an opinion and that, finally, it would be the responsibility of the Government to make a decision. That is quite clear. The honorable member has asked whether it does not naturally follow that the United Kingdom and perhaps other countries, will make a similar request. That point was discussed in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom Government has indicated that it does not follow that it will make the same request if the wishes of the United States of America are acceded to, not because the United Kingdom may not find itself in the same military circumstances as the United States of America, but because the United Kingdom’s wool industry is in a different position from that of the United States. The United States is a very substantial importer of wool for civilian purposes. The United Kingdom is a very heavy re-exporter of wool. Therefore, in an emergency, the United Kingdom would have much more wool te draw upon than the United States of America would have. In addition, the military specifications of wool for use by the United Kingdom are much broader than the military specifications of wool required by the United States of America and for that matter, by any other country. Therefore, there are wider classes of types of wool that can be drawn upon by the United Kingdom. That is a subject which will itself be discussed with the visiting mission in Australia.
– On numerous occasions in this House the honorable member for Flinders and I have drawn attention to an anomaly in connexion with the sales tax on trailers. Trailers with shafts attached have been free from sales tax but similar trailers with draw bars attached have been subject to sales tax. .Has this matter now been adjusted ?
– Trailers, used for agricultural purposes, are to be exempted from sales tax under legislation which will shortly be discussed by the House. This does not, of course, include semitrailers.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is proposed to make an early call-up for compulsory military training of youths aged eighteen and over? If so, has the Government given any consideration to having the names of these lads placed on the electoral roll? If the Government has not considered this matter, has it any intention of so doing?
– It is the intention of the Government to call up youths aged eighteen for .military training. An appropriate bill will be placed before this House, and if possible will be given effect to so that the first call-up will be on the 1st May of next year. No consideration has been given to the suggestion made by the honorable member that these youths should also be enrolled for electoral purposes.
– Arising out of the recent criticism of the administration of the war service homes scheme at the annual congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Hobart, -I ask the Minister for Works and Housing whether he can give some indication of the progress or otherwise of the war service homes scheme?
– I noticed the criticism made at the recent annual gathering in Hobart referred to by the honorable member. That criticism is very difficult for me to understand, because the number of new war service homes has increased remarkably during recent years, and in particular during the past twelve months. The increase has been such as will make it difficult to keep the total government advances during the current financial year in respect of war service homes, down to the record figure of £25,000,000 which has been’ set by the Government. The figure for the previous financial year was about £16,000,000, and for the preceding year it was about £8,500,000. Those figures reflect the spectacular increase in the number of new homes built, the number of existing houses acquired and the amount of money advanced for the liquidation of existing mortgages under the war service homes scheme. There has been a very large and sustained increase in the activities of the War Service Homes Division, and I find it extremely difficult to believe that any valid criticism can lie with the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing say whether the inquiries that were made by the mission that was sent overseas recently to investigate the availability of prefabricated houses have resulted in any greater interest in the Australian market by manufacturers of prefabricated houses? If so, is this development likely to encourage healthy competition and, consequently, a lowering of prices?
– The inquiries that were made by the mission that went overseas to inquire into the availability of prefabricated houses have aroused very great interest indeed in all of the countries that the mission visited. That result is reflected in the fact that overseas manufacturers of prefabricated houses in those countries, including Great Britain, Sweden, Holland, France, Italy and Austria have sent missions to Australia during the last few months. From two to four missions have come from individual countries, and they have been touring Australia, familiarizing themselves with housing conditions here. They have contacted State housing authorities and have given every indication that they are willing and anxious to supply prefabricated houses. I agree with the honorable member that that development should enable Australia to obtain prefabricated houses overseas at competitive prices.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question supplementary to the question that was asked by the honorable member for Bennelong. In replying to that question, the right honorable gentleman said that overseas tenderers were keenly interested in building programmes in Australia, particularly in relation to prefabricated houses. Have any inquiries been made in order to ascertain whether overseas contractors are prepared to tender for the erection of permanent public buildings in Australia, on the basis of Supplying not only the materials, such as cement and steel, but also the tradesmen necessary to complete the work? I have in mind the erection of a permanent public building in Perth, which, if it could be constructed in this way, would meet the requirements of the Public Service in that State and obviate the necessity for building two temporary structures, to which Perth residents have hotly objected.
– The question asked by the honorable member for Bennelong related entirely to prefabricated houses and public buildings. The two principal British manufacturers of prefabricated buildings, such as post offices and schools, have sent missions to Australia, and they have toured the continent. One or two British firms are interested also in orthodox methods of building and a representative of one of those companies is still in this country. The provision of materials and labour by overseas contractors would involve difficulties, but the Department of National Development has the matter under close consideration. It realizes that tha building situation would be considerably alleviated if contracts could be let on the terms that the honorable member has suggested, and therefore, I shall be glad to pursue inquiries.
– Trans-Australia Airlines is at present operating a service from Charleville to isolated centres of population in south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales. I ask the Minister for Air whether the Government will take over the aerodromes or the landing strips being so used and establish and maintain them for that air service ?
– A large number of aerodromes in Queensland have been taken over by the Australian Government and have been supplied with all the aids necessary to air navigation. It is the intention of the Government to ensure that further services are extended into whatis known as the Channel country in Queensland. If the honorable member has any specific aerodrome in mind I should be pleased if he would name it so that I could give him a specific answer. Broadly the Government’s policy is that when a municipality requires an aerodrome, that municipality must go to the trouble and expense of laying it out. If it can then induce Trans-Australia Airlines, or any other company, to operate from the aerodrome regularly, the Government will consider taking over the land so used and supplying the necessary aids to navigation and safe flying.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that many large oil companies that are operating in Australia are refusing to supply petrol to many garages ? Is he aware that such companies are endeavouring to effect a tie-up with certain garages with a view to creating a monopoly similar to that which brewers have established through hotels? In view of the evil effects that such a monopoly would bring about, will he investigate this subject immediately in the interests of petrol consumers?
– I am not aware that any of the oil companies are refusing to supply petrol to garages as the honorable member has suggested. I shall bring his question to the notice of the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport and obtain a reply for him as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior aware that owing to increases of income tax that have become payable in respect of increases of salary recently granted to public servants, which have also increased their rate of contribution for superannuation benefit, plus the tariff increase of 43 per cent., or £80 per annum, imposed on public servants in Canberra who are compelled to reside in hostels that are conducted by the Government, the economic position of such public servants has become practically intolerable? Will the Minister give immediate consideration to the request that I made earlier for a complete investigation by a nonparty parliamentary committee into the administration and control of all governmentcontrolled hostels in Canberra, and will he announce his decision in the matter as soon as possible?
– It is, of course, natural that increases of salary will involve increases of income tax and also increases of the commitments of recipients in respect of superannuation. Prior to my assuming the duties of Minister acting for the Minister for the
Interior a full investigation was made into the tariff rates charged by governmentcontrolled hostels in Canberra. There are about eight such hostels. It was ascertained that the losses incurred in their operation amounted to approximately £52,000 a year, or about £1,000 a. week. Consequently, it became necessary to review their charges with a view to bringing them into line with those that boarders . might reasonably be expected to pay if they were living at private hotels or private hostels. For that reason a new scale of charges has been applied with the object of enabling government-controlled hostels, as nearly as possible, to become self-supporting at least in respect of the cost of food and services without taking depreciation and interest charges into account. Any financial difficulties affecting residents at those hostels should not be met, in my opinion and in the opinion of the Government, by subsidizing their board. There are other means of dealing with such difficulties, such as the adjustment of arbitration awards. The Government’s determination was made as the result of a careful investigation and, as far as I can judge from the examination that I have made of the situation, the decision that was made by my predecessor should stand.
– I have received from the Speaker of this House a communication which included an acknowledgment of the resolution of thi3 House in connexion with the opening of the new House of Commons which was passed on the 24th October. The acknowledgment is from the Speaker of the House of Commons and is in the following terms : -
I received with grateful thanks your letter of the 25th October conveying to me the Resolution passed by the Commonwealth House of Representatives on the 24th October on the occasion of the opening of the new Chamber of the House of Commons.
I read your letter out in the House of Commons where it was received with enthusiasm.
On behalf of all Members I send cordial greetings to all Members of the Commonwealth Parliament in Australia.
I have also received a copy of the Parliamentary Debates of the House of Commons for the 26th October, which contains the text of a resolution passed by that House. The resolution was as follows : -
That this House welcomes the Speakers, Presiding Officers and other representatives of the countries of the British Commonwealth and Empire who have come from overseas to join in the ceremonies on the occasion of the opening of the new Chamber; expresses its thanks to their Legislatures and peoples for the generous gifts with which the Chamber is adorned; and assures them that their presence on this day will be source of inspiration in the years to come.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 2nd November (vide page 1908), 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.
.- I should like to deal with a number of matters’ that have arisen during the budget debate but, as the time available to me is limited, I propose to discuss only one subject, which I consider to be of very great importance. The following item appeared in the DailyNews of Wednesday, the 15th June, 1949 : -
RUSSIA SHUTS DOWN ON METAL EXPORTS.
Russian exports of manganese and chrome to the United States have come to a complete halt.
Commerce Department officials said that the Russian action was the direct result of the world political situation and had no relation to Russian production or the demands of the American market.
They said that the termination of exports was the culmination of the trend of recent months. Russian shipments of the two steel hardening metals had been dropping off sharply for some time.
Since the war Russia has been one of America’s major sources of manganese and chrome, which are classed as strategic materials.
I direct the attention of this committee to the fact that in Western Australia there are large deposits of chromite ore, from which chromium is obtained. Those deposits are believed to be amongst the largest in the world, but they are completely undeveloped. Chromium is becoming more and more important in industry every day. It is an essential constituent of armaments and munitions. It is used in stainless steels, high-speed and . other tool steels and engineering steels. It promotes resistance to corrosion and to high temperatures. It imparts a high tensile strength and generally improves other physical properties of steel. It is used to line basic furnaces and it also has many uses in the chemical industry. The consumptionof chromite ore expands from day to day.
Because of the importance of chromite to the armament industry, the deposits at Coobina in Western Australia are of vital importance. The democracies must have adequate supplies of chrome in order to carry out their defence and developmental programmes. The United States of America imports over 1,500,000 tons of chromite ore annually. Thus Australia has a golden opportunity, by the development of its resources in Western Australia, to earn many millions of dollars. Australia, too, imports many thousands of tons of chromite ore a year, and, therefore, it is essential in our own interests that we develop our own resources of that mineral. The deposits of which I speak at Coobina are situated approximately 255 miles north of Meekatharra, and are within three miles of the main Meekatharra-Marble Bar road. When that road was originally constructed, all hilly country was by-passed, and the road traverses flat country for the entire distance. A power-grader is operating continually on the Meekatharra end of the road, which is in good condition. In the main the road follows a stock-route on which water has been provided by means of government Wells at intervals of fifteen miles. I mention those matters in order to emphasize that there is a main arterial road within three miles of this major chromite deposit.
Honorable members may be interested to learn that the deposit of chromite ore at Coobina is one of the largest of its kind in the world. It has been reported on by various geologists and mining engineers from time to time, and, more latterly, by Mr. K. J. Finucane, M.Sc, whose findings appear in a report issued by the Commonwealth Government Printer. Mr. Finucane states that there are at least 100 separate veins comprising the deposit and that a representative sample of the ore assayed 48 per cent. Cr2O3 The symbol Cr203 represents the chromium oxide content, and it is the percentage of chromium oxide that determines the value of the chromite ore. Ore containing 48 per cent. Cr203 i3 a high grade ore. The report prepared by Mr. Finucane is entitled Aerial. Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia. Report, Western Australia No. 8k- The Chromite Deposits of Coobina, Peak Hill Gold-field, and reads, in part -
More than 100 veins were mapped within an area of approximately one-half of a square mile. They form a rough net-work, one scries striking approximately north and south, another east and we9t, and a third series striking in a general north-east-south-west direction. The veins have a considerable range in size, some of the smaller veins being 20 to 30 feet in length and from three to six feet wide, whereas the larger veins attain lengths of 300 to over 400 feet and widths of from tcn to 30 feet. There are four veins having a length of over 500 feet and a width of from ten to 30 feet, and a large number attain lengths of from 100 to 300 feet, the widths of the latter ranging from three to ten feet or more.
Perhaps I should mention that those veins on which Mr. Finucane has reported outcrop for those varying distances on the surface, but the boring of the deposit will most likely establish that they continue for even greater lengths under the surface. Mr. Finucane also stated in his report -
There appears to be a very large quantity of chromite ore available even if individual veins were mined for only a few feet below the surface However, no attempt lias been made to form even a rough estimate of the tonnage.
A fairly representative sample of the chromite was assayed in the Government Chemical Laboratory, Perth, and returned 48.01 per cent. Cr.,03.
One of the larger veins of the deposit is situated on the south-western extremity of what is known as Lease No. 3. That vein is more than 900 feet long on the surface, and from 15 feet to 20 feet wide, and it persists for at least 100 feet in depth. A rough estimate of the quantity contained in that vein alone is 175,000 tons of chromite ore. The actual tonnage would probably be considerably more than that figure. A representative sample of ore from that particular vein assayed not 48 per cent, but 50.12 per cent. Cr203. The report from the Government Chemical Laboratories, Adelaide-terrace, Perth, on that vein, reads as follows : -
No. 7514, lease 3, sample X - on sample dried at 105° C, chromic oxide, Cr.O,, 50.12%.
On the north-western extremity of Lease No. 2, another large vein, which is about 750 feet long and 20 feet wide is known to persist to a depth of at least 100 feet, and still continuing. That vein would contain 150,000 tons, or more, of chromite ore. I repeat that there are more than 100 of those veins in that deposit, which is completely untouched. The assay report on the second vein to which I have referred reads as follows : -
No. 7513, lease 1, sample L - on sample dried at 105° C, chromic oxide, Cr,0 50.11%.
There are many more veins of equal importance to, and some of them considerably wider than, the examples which I have given. Consequently, the estimate that there are millions of tons of chromite ore in the deposit at Coobina would not be an exaggeration. From those particulars, it is apparent that there is only one way in which to determine the extent of the deposit, and that is by diamond drilling. Drill cores will supply definite information about the value of the ore at depth, the true width of the ore lodes and the depth to which they persist. I take this opportunity to suggest that this Government should boro all major ore bodies, and that the holes should intersect the veins at depths of 50 feet, 100 feet and 150 feet.
Until 1949, Russia provided America with the major portion of its chromite requirements, and, in 1948, 380,000 tons of high-grade ore were supplied. Owing to the present world conditions and to the fact that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has now cancelled the export of all supplies of chromite ore to the United States of America, deposits in other countries, preferably the democracies, must now be developed in order to prevent any chance of the curtailment or cessation of supplies of this vital ore in times of crisis. The deposit at Coobina is the only worthwhile deposit of chromite ore in Australia, and, with the deterioration in the world situation, a chromite . deposit of that magnitude should play a major part in the defence programme of the western powers. As I have said, chromium is vital to the armaments industry. All munitions contain 10 per cent, or more of chrome. Plate armour is a chrome alloy. All gears and wearing parts of engines are now made from chrome steel, and the general uses of the metal are continually expanding. In 1924 the United States of America used 210,000 tons of chromite ore. In 1948 consumption for the year had increased to 1,580,000 tons. Taggart, the foremost authority on mineral ores, states that ore containing 45 per cent. Cr2O3 is classed as high-grade ore. The ore at Coobina more than complies with that specification. Large quantities of ore, averaging 48 per cent. Cr203, with a chrome-to-iron ratio of 2 to 1 and better could be supplied “from a number of ore bodies that have been sampled. The United States Government purchases approximately 600,000 tons of ore of this grade annually. At present the country surrounding the Coobina deposits is practically uninhabited. Large station holdings have been abandoned, stock and windmills removed from them, and, generally speaking, the area has become merely a breeding ground for vermin. It is certain that if the ore deposits were worked on a substantial scale the holdings would again be taken up and they could supply the mine workers with meat, in addition to providing wool, mutton and beef for the Australian market,
Mr. Blatchford, a geologist with the Mines Department of Western Australia, reported on the Coobina deposits in 3.924 in the following terms -
At present this deposit is not workable with any hope of profit on account of the mineral being a low priced one, worth at present about 87 s. per ton.
I point out that the present price is four or five times greater than 87s. a ton. The report went on to state -
The deposit is as yet unbroken and in a state of nature, and a good deal of work would be required before even approximate estimates of available tonnage could be put forward. The quantity, however, appears to be large, probably running into hundreds, rather than tens, of thousands of tons. Deposits of chromite of this order of magnitude are sure to become valuable in the course of time.
I remind honorable members that that report was written in 1924. Although the price of the mineral has now increased four or five fold, the Coobina deposits are still completely undeveloped. I have already mentioned that Russia has discontinued the shipment of this strategic mineral to the United States of America, and it seems all the more remarkable, therefore, that no action should have been taken to develop the Western Australian deposit of chromite ore.
An extract from the world mining section of the International Magazine of December, 194S, states -
Abdullah Bilgin & Partners, operating chromite properties in the Iskenderun area of south-eastern Turkey, have contracted to ship 10,000 tons of chromite ore to England, to be used as a refractory material. The ore, which has a content of about 35 per cent. Cr20,, is being shipped every other month in 2,000-ton lots.
The ore at Coobina averages, not 35 per cent., but 48 per cent. Cr2O3, and should be suitable for all purposes. In view of that fact it seems inconceivable that we should still be importing chromite ore.
In conclusion I emphasize the importance of Coobina deposits to the democracies, which so urgently require chromite ore for the implementation of their defence programmes. By supplying this strategic material to our allies we should be contributing to our own defence as surely as if we mined it for our own defence preparations. Furthermore, the development of the deposits would not only contribute to our defence but would also enable us to earn millions of American dollars, which we vitally need for our development to-day. I therefore commend the development of the Coobina chromite ore resources to the Government and I earnestly request that a drilling programme should immediately proceed along the lines I have indicated.
.- A great deal has been said during this debate about the need for increased production. Let me say at once that I believe that everyone, including employers and employees, should accept his full responsibility for the welfare of this country. I propose to direct my remarks to the subject of coal, the production of which is so vital to our economy. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) naturally knows more about the subject than I do because he learned it the hard way, that is to say, by practical experience acquired through many years work in the coal mines. There are many reasons why Australia is not getting full coal production to-day and, believe it or not, strikes are only a minor factor amongst the real causes of inadequate production. I do not know how many honorable members know anything about coal-mining or the conditions under which coal-miners work. For instance, I do not know whether they know anything about the sanitation of a coal mine. However, I can assure them that thousands of miners work in foul air from morning to night, and under conditions which should not be tolerated either below or a bo ve ground level. I do not know whether they have ever stood at the tunnel mouth or at the shaft head and seen the agonized expressions on the faces of the relatives of miners who may have been trapped underground through flooding, fire, explosives, or falls of coal. The conditions under which miners work contribute to our lack of full production of coal. Strikes are only incidental causes of under production.
Enmity between coal-owners and coalminers has arisen from the conditions under which miners have worked for many years, and it will be difficult to overcome. Throughout the years of coalmining history in this country the miners have been fighting for more amenities. IC we wish to achieve full production of coal in this country we must first achieve greater co-operation between the coal-owners, governments of the day and the miners. I do not believe in extremism either on the side of the employees or of the employers, but I do believe that all of us should accept our responsibility in what we ordinarily term “good citizenship”. For a long time coal-miners have been regarded as outcasts, and practically as foreigners in our state of society, by the rest of the commu-
Mr. Watkins. nity. I do not know why that should be the case when one considers their value to the productive effort of this nation. “Without coal Australia would be nowhere, because coal is the basis of practically all our secondary production. I am at a loss to know why miners should have to live under the conditions that they are now forced to live under. I know, as does the honorable member for Hunter, of towns in the northern coal-fields that have died through lack of foresight on the part of coal-owners who failed to establish new mines, when the old mines were being worked out, so that the miners who formed the population of those towns would still have employment. It was not until the Joint Coal Board was established under a Labour government that any interest was taken in the opening of new mines and in the utilization of proper mining methods.
It is a crying shame that gas supplies are not laid on to certain coal-fields towns. Although the people who live in those towns mine the coal that produces gas for other people they have no gas supply for themselves. “Why should they not have the ordinary amenities of life that are available to people living in the cities? Such a position is wrong, because surely the men who win from the earth the basic means of production have the right to the same amenities as people living in cities hundreds of miles away from the coal-fields. That also applies to their women-folk. 1 consider that industries other than the basic industry of coal-mining itself should be established in coal-fields areas to provide the sons of miners with alternative careers to coal-mining and to give those areas a diversity of interests. It seems to me rather stupid that electricity is not generated on the coal-fields, where water is available, and thence reticulated to the places where it is used, rather than that coal should be transported hundreds of miles away to electricity generating plants.
I wonder, Mr. Chairman, whether you have ever visited the New South “WalesSouth Coast coal-fields and have talked to men whose lungs, sometimes after not many years in the mines, are completely dusted. I wonder whether you have ever seen, their condition of health and have realized, as I and some other honorable members have done, that they will be cripples for the rest of their lives because of service in the mines, which is, in- fact, service to this nation. Do not these men deserve some consideration for taking the risk of going underground to produce the coal that we so badly require? “We require more and more coal, due to the expansion of our industries, but many thousands of tons of coal have been wasted in the past because of unsound mining methods. Tt can be proved that in Australia there are hundreds of thousands of tons of coal underground today that will never be mined because of the profit-seeking methods of coal-owners in the past. To prove to the committee how insecure an occupation coal-mining is in areas where no provision has been made for a continuance of mining after the production of existing mines falls off, I shall cite some figures and facts concerning the Maitland coal-field. The following table shows the acreage and present position of certain mines in that field:-
I could go on and cite many instances of reduced output in mines on the Maitland field that has been brought about, in some cases, by mechanization. Mechanization is no good unless all sections of a mine are mechanized at the same time. When mechanization is applied to one section while other sections are still being operated in the old way, it is impossible to get equal production and naturally production must fall. I can only express the hope that in the future this Government and succeeding governments, will take into consideration the fact that the miner produces a basic necessary of this country. The miner wants to be looked upon as an ordinary, good citizen like other people. He does not want to be condemned by the Government or the press. At least, he wants some credit for the job he is doing. There arc extremists in the mining industry as there are in other industries but they are not in the majority. It is under conditions of poverty, and chaos that extremists or Communists arise and cause confusion as they have done over a number of years. I appeal for consideration to be given to the granting, not only of better wages, but also of better working conditions to the miners.
In 1940 after the Prime Minister had returned from overseas and was speaking at ‘a secret session of this Parliament. I well remember the right honorable gentleman saying that he regretted very much that he had to come back to this country and play the diabolical game of politics. I have heard a lot during this debate about honesty in politics. If a parliament is without a soul it is no good to God or man. In 1940, when the international situation was very serious, the Labour party did not play at diabolical politics. Nor did it do so when it was in occupation of the Treasury bench. Not long after the Prime Minister returned from Great Britain in 1940, he virtually abdicated to another leader. Labour formed a government which administered our affairs honestly, both in time of war and in time of peace. It governed not for a section of the people, but for all the people on a fair basis. Honorable members who support this Government indulged in some diabolical politics prior to the 30th December, 1949. They made some diabolical promises to the people because they know that they could never carry them out. That is what I call dishonesty in politics. It is more than terrible. The main promise made by the Government parties was to give thi country more stability. They promised to give more purchasing power to the aged, the infirm and the people generally, but they have not done so. I wonder what the Prime Minister thinks about his Treasurer and his budget? Is it not diabolical politics to put a levy on the. wool-growers to the extent of 20 per cent, and take from them their income, or approximately £103,000,000? If it is not I do not know what is because the Government proposes to take this money from the people whether they can afford it or not. The Government does not know the commitments of the smaller wool-growers, but they have to pay the 20 per cent. The Government will have to pay that money back at a later date so that it is budgeting with money which actually does not belong to it.
For many years the people of ‘Newcastle have been seeking an aerodrome. At present they have the use of the Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome at Williamtown which is approximately ten miles across the harbour from Newcastle. Due to the fact t-hat this aerodrome is used for the training of future pilots, Newcastle has ‘ a very restricted air service, with, I think, about two aeroplanes a day. The people of Newcastle have tried for many years to get the Department of Air to survey land for the purpose of giving Newcastle the aerodrome that it deserves. Newcastle itself has a population of 135,000 people. The Hunter Valley which lies immediately to its north has a population of 250,000. The business people and tha ordinary people who want to travel from that area should have the air services comparable with those of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and other State capitals. I urge the Government to consider the establishment of an aerodrome at Newcastle as early as possible.
I also ask the Government to give the miner more credit for the job that he is doing and has done over a number of years.
.- The budget now being debated in this committee provides for the expenditure by Commonwealth agencies in the Territories of Papua and New Guinea of about £5,000,000. Although this sum is an enormous increase over pre-war expenditure for the same purposes, it is totally inadequate for the present needs of these Territories. I propose to show the House that the purpose of the Government cannot be effectively carried out in New Guinea without the assumption of increased responsibility there.
Australia is now a power having colonial obligations with all the rights, duties and responsibilities that go with that status. The war brought home Australia’s responsibilities to us with great force and post-war conditions haveemphasized them. New Guinea presentsspecial problems in administration. Probably it presents greater difficulties than any other under-developed territory left in the world to-day. The physical difficulties of the country itself are enormous. Because of the jagged, mountainous nature of the country, roads are practically non-existent and flying is always: hazardous. The climate of the territories has serious effects on the health of those who live there unless extremecare is taken. The primitive, native1 people are only slowly emerging from a state of complete savagery. Although, asis now generally admitted, they are of high intelligence, their state of development is such that they have no political or social organization beyond the limits of their small villages.
Then there is the practical problem of welding together two quite different administrations. First there is the administration of Papua, a part of the Commonwealth of Australia, an administration the mainspring of which is still the gigantic influence of the late Sir Hubert Murray. Secondly there is the administration of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea which is different in origin and history, and still manifests many of the problems that arise from its German beginnings and which had a totally different attitude towards native administration. The task of welding togetherthese different administrations calls forskill and wisdom of the highest order.
During the parliamentary recess, in the company of a number of otherhonorable members of this chamber and of the Senate, representing all parties, I travelled extensively in the territories of Papua and New Guinea. With them, I was given every facility by His Honour- the Administrator, Colonel J. K. Murray, to become informed upon the problems of the territories and to see the Government’s policy being applied. I gratefully acknowledge that courtesy.
The basic policy of the Government in New Guinea, as the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender) has stated, is to keep as paramount the welfare and progress of the native peoples and to ensure their increasing participation in the natural wealth of that territory. The aim is also to develop the economic resources of the territories until ultimately they will be self-supporting. J returned from New Guinea fully convinced that this policy is wise and that it is being faithfully carried out by the administration within the serious limits imposed by shortage of material requirements and trained staff. I was also convinced that no appreciable advance could be made within decades unless the salary :scale of the administration is increased very considerably and the facilities for the development of the territory by [private enterprise are greatly expanded. “The time allowed by world events for Australia’s development of New Guinea will be short. The danger to this country’s defence that will ensue from a failure adequately to develop New Guinea has been well traversed by the honorable mem”ber for Higginbotham (Mr. Timson). He made it clear that if we do not satisfactorily carry the burden of the development and defence of New Guinea, others will take it up. Indonesia has made its intention in regard to Dutch New Guinea painfully clear, and although that threat is not adequately appreciated throughout Australia, I assure honorable members that it is very seriously regarded by Australian people who live in New Guinea.
If we are to discharge our responsibility to the natives whom we hold in trusteeship, it is essential that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea should be adequately defended. The worst tragedy that could befall them would be that they should fall under the sway of a new, undeveloped and irresponsible Asiatic republic. Before any adequate defence of New Guinea will become possible, the country must be developed. The’ first requisite for speedy development is an expanded and strengthened adminis trative service. I believe that the future of these territories depends largely on the quality and type, and the adequate training, and equipment, of the men whom we attract to the administrative service. In the past the pay of the administrative officers in New Guinea has been patheticalley inadequate and the conditions of service have not been good enough. This has had two results. First, the quality of the service in New Guinea has become patchy. The best of them are men of whom any colonial administration could be justly proud, but that quality does not extend throughout the service, and there are notable gaps and shortcomings. Secondly, there is a serious wastage of senior officers. I refer honorable members to the salary of the senior administrative officer of the territories, the Administrator himself. His present salary is £2,000 per annum and he is granted an allowance of £500 a year. This may be compared to the salaries of similar officers in the colonial service of Great Britain. The High Commissioner of Malaya is paid a salary of £5,000 a year and an allowance of £2,500 a year. The Governor of Nigeria receives a salary of £6,500 per annum and an allowance of £1,750 per annum. It might be suggested that they are more important posts than is that of Administrator of New Guinea, but it could hardly be argued that the Governor of North Borneo has duties less onerous than those of the Administrator of New Guinea or that North Borneo is more important than New Guinea, yet the Governor of North Borneo is paid a salary of £3,000 per annum and £1,000 per annum as an allowance. Moreover, the emoluments of the British colonial officers which I have mentioned are paid in sterling.
The salaries of high officers set the standard for those under them. The government secretary of the colony of North Borneo receives a salary of £2,440 per annum whereas that of the government secretary of New Guinea is £1,531 per annum. The deficiencies in the salaries and allowances paid to our officials are obvious from this comparison. Recently the administration of New Guinea introduced a new salary scale which has made considerable improvements. However, I suggest that the architects of that salary scale adopted an entirely wrong basis. The method of computing the salaries of these officers is to determine what is an equivalent position in the Public Service in Australia and to allot a corresponding salary to the New Guinea position, and then to add to that sum a territorial allowance of £150 a year for single officers and of £175 a year for married officers. We are asking people to make the administration of New Guinea their career and are offering them salaries that they would be paid in the Public Service on the mainland, plus those small allowances. The allowances are totally inadequate to compensate for the disadvantages of life in the territories. An administrative officer in New Guinea can have no permanent home. His period of duty is 21 months, which is followed by three months leave.. Therefore, every two years he is appointed to a different area, and he and his wife are obliged to move from one place to another. They live in government homes and have none of the satisfaction that comes from having a permanent home of their own. Separation from their children is inevitable. Although the old theory that white children cannot be reared in the tropics without danger to their health is open to increasing doubt, parents in New Guinea believe that their children should have wider horizons and, consequently, it is their invariable practice to have their children educated in Australia. Administrative officers normally serve until they reach the age of 55 years and thus are faced with a long period of retirement during which they will receive only a small pension. Therefore, exceptional inducements must be offered to attract sufficiently qualified officers in adequate numbers to the Public Service in the territories. Fortunately, many of them are imbued with a sense of vocation. Government employees, from the Administrator downwards, are giving devoted service in spite of the inadequacy of their salaries. The Government must make the service more attractive in order to obtain sufficient officers of the right type.
I should have liked to tell the House something of the medical services of New Guinea, which are being carried on under leadership of the highest order. Notable advances are being made in spite of inade- quate equipment. A number of displaced person migrant doctors, who are not permitted to engage in medical practice in Australia, are being employed in New Guinea with outstanding success. However, owing to inadequacy of numbers and equipment, their work is only curative;, they have not yet been able to undertake preventive medicine on any scale. They have not been able to touch the problem of the prevention of malaria. Themelancholy fact is that there is less malarial control to-day than there wasduring the war. That is not the fault of the medical services of the territory. Until those services are substantially expanded it will be impossible for them to undertake malarial control to any considerable degree.
The next requisite for the development r.nd progress of New Guinea is the encouragement of private enterprise. It is generally acknowledged that this job is far too big to be undertaken successfully by the Government alone. With the present provisions for inspection and control of natives, not even the most devoted adherent of their cause need fear that the encouragement of private enterprise will involve the sacrifice of their interests to the profit motive. One is reassured in that respect when one sees at first hand the living conditions and general services, including hospitals, which the gold-mining companies at Wau and Bulolo provide for their native employees. It is clear that those companies can afford to provide better conditions for natives than the Government can provide. I believe that my colleagues share my conviction that the gold-mining companies do not attempt in any way to exploit their labourers. Indeed, their employees enjoy a higher standard of living than that of the natives employed by the Administration. Those companies provide excellent accommodation for native labourers, and generally, their services are not excelled anywhere in the territories. They are able to make substantial contributions to the advancement of the territories. They have established modern sawmills, but, unfortunately, are unable to obtain sufficient supplies of timber to keep the mills working at their full capacity.
The Administration should immediately direct its attention to that situation.
I also urge the Government to introduce a settled policy of land alienation in order to encourage the settlement of exservice personnel and of Australian families generally. For that purpose the Administration should encourage the investment of Australian capital in the territories. Unfortunately, at present, capital is not attracted but is discouraged. Insufficient attention is being given to that problem.
The greatest single cause of the present unsatisfactory rate of progress in the development of Papua and New Guinea is the rigidity of Canberra control over the Administration. Inordinate delays occur between the initiation reforms in the territory itself and their implementation through decisions which must be given at Canberra. It is a notorious fact that in the territories Canberra control is both tight and slow. The Legislative Councils of New Guinea and Papua were suspended during the war and in consequence Canberra control has become tighter and delays more frequent and prolonged. I do not suggest that this is necessarily the fault of the Department of External Territories. However, as honorable members are aware from their own experiences, when action is required jointly from more than one government department the matter assumes almost the proportions of an international issue before a decision is arrived at. I shall cite only one example to illustrate that point. I refer to the history of the proposed Land Titles Ordinance which was designed to re-establish titles in place of records destroyed during the Japanese occupation. Plantation-owners are unable to give a proper title to their land and cannot sell it. Trustees of the estates of deceased plantation-owners are in a similar position. Persons who seek to acquire freehold land which was alienated when the territories were under German control cannot obtain a proper title to it. This problem waa urgent as far back as 1945, and it has not yet been solved. Over four years ago a draft ordinance was submitted to the authorities at Canberra, and unless I am incorrectly informed that ordinance is still awaiting their approval. I suggest that the position could be remedied by the establishment of the Legislative Council of PapuaNew Guinea, which, as the result of the amalgamation of the two territories, it is proposed shall replace the two councils that formerly existed. I urge the Government to set up that body as soon as possible. This Parliament will not thereby lose any degree of its control of the territories because whilst the new legislative council may draft and enact ordinances the Minister for External Territories will retain the power to veto any ordinance. Under those conditions the present prolonged process involved in referring all matters to Canberra would be eliminated. Decisions would then be made on the spot, subject only to veto by the Minister. The development and progress of the territories will be retarded so long as the present drag remains on the Administration.
Whilst much can be said in criticism of past administrations in New Guinea I do not propose to say anything that savours of politics. It is my earnest hope that we shall be able to raise this national issue above the level of party politics. I am happy to he able to say that I agree completely with the reported remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), upon his return to Australia, about the necessity for preventing any infiltration across the border of Dutch New Guinea and about the general necessity for improving the defences of the territory. I am also in general agreement with the remarks made by Senator O’Byrne concerning the standard of native hospitals, though I think that the honorable senator will agree that the standard is being rapidly and considerably improved. The people of New Guinea have no politics. They are pathetically grateful for any attention given to them by the Government of Australia, and they even pin hope upon visits to the territory by private members of this Parliament. They received much encouragement from the recent visit of the Minister for External Territories. They also received encouragement from the appointment by the
Government of the Parliamentary Secretary for External Affairs (Mr. Howse). From what I have observed of that honorable member’s enthusiasm and activity, I am sure that the hopes of residents of the territory will not be disappointed.
To sum up, if the Government is to achieve its purposes within reasonable time, it must first provide an expanded and generally a more highly qualified administrative staff in New Guinea and offer the necessary inducements to members of that staff to remain in the territory. Fortunately, the sense of adventure is still very much alive in Australian youth and therefore there is no difficulty in attracting to the administrative service of the territories young men who have the right qualifications. But it is difficult to persuade them to remain there after they reach the age of 35 or 40 years and acquire the responsibilities of parenthood. During my visit, I heard a conversation between two administrative officers who were the sole survivors of a large class of cadets of 20 years ago. The Government must restore a degree of autonomy to the administration on the spot. It must ensure that the administration shall grant facilities to private enterprise and to Australian capital to engage in the task of developing the territory. Finally, it must be resolute in rejecting every threat to the security of New Guinea, whether from Indonesia or from other sources. Our responsibilities in the external territories are relatively new, but they increase in importance every day. The first administrator of British New Guinea, which is now Papua, Sir William McGregor, is reported to have said many years ago that in New Guinea there was the last remaining chance in the world of civilizing a native people without destroying it. I believe that, notwithstanding the interruption of the Japanese occupation and the brutality and destruction which occurred then, that chance still exists. In the present state of world affairs, and having due regard to the importance of New Guinea to Australia’s defence, the task of civilizing the people of New Guinea and of developing that country is one of the greatest urgency.
.- I listened with great interest to the speech, on the Territory of Papua and! New Guinea that was made by thehonorable member for Evans (Mr.. Osborne), and I congratulate him. upon the valuable contribution that hehas made to this debate as the result of his visit to that territory. I am sorry that many members of this Parliamenthave not taken advantage of the opportunity to visit New Guinea and otherexternal territories, because the knowledgethat they would acquire as a result of such tours would be of considerableassistance to this Parliament and toAustralia. Having listened to the honorable member for Evans, I am sure that an extension of the privilege that honorable members now enjoy, which enables them to visit Papua and New Guinea onceevery three years, would be well justified. Honorable members who havetoured the territories recently would beable to gain invaluable information if they could repeat their journey twelve oreighteen months hence. They would.3 then be able to see what progress had’ been made and could report to the Parliament upon their observations.
Recently I visited the British Isles and,, in the course of my travels there, I observed several weaknesses in our immigration system. Before discussing, them, however, I congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) upon! the way in which he is pursuing thepolicy that was so ably laid downby the honorable member for Melbourne(Mr. Calwell) when he was in officeLarge numbers of people in Great. Britain are anxious to migrate to Australia, but little information about thiscountry is available to them. Canada is obtaining many immigrants of a desirable class from the British Islesbecause it has established a system of agencies not only in the big cities but also in the country towns and villages of the United Kingdom. The agents arein contact with farm-workers and arepaid a nominal fee for every immigrant selected. Similar agencies would beof great value to Australia and could: be used for the distribution of information about the attractions of thi* country. I acknowledge the value of the- “work that is being done by the Minister, and I make this suggestion merely with a view to increasing the proportion of British immigrants under our present scheme. Many married couples with families in the United Kingdom would like to come to Australia but they are discouraged from attempting -to do so by the difficulty of arranging for suitable accommodation upon arrival here. Unless they can obtain nominators in Australia, they must remain at home. I consider that the Government should go in for the provision of temporary dwellings for such prospective immigrants, who would be welcome additions to our population. They should be brought here under the assisted passage system. In my opinion, Australia is not obtaining as many people of a desirable class as are migrating to Canada. I visited the immigration office at Australia House on one occasion and saw 25 or 30 men and women waiting to interview our representatives there. Most of those persons were city dwellers. Judging by appearances, I should not select more than 5 per cent, of those who were offering themselves in London for migration to Australia, and I suppose that persons of similar types would be “in the majority at places like Liverpool and Manchester. “We should get a different class of people altogether if our organization operated in the rural districts. I am sure that “thousands of farm workers and other country residents want to come to Australia.
The Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) has talked about the large number of houses that are being built in Australia, but we all know that this Government has no direct authority in relation to house construction in the States. It provides the money for many projects, but the State governments are -responsible for the actual construction work. I am acquainted with the results that are being obtained by the Government of New South Wales, especially in the electorate that I represent, and I congratulate it upon the very fine job that it is doing. However, the costs of those houses are very high and, as a result, the rents are almost prohibitive to the wage-earners who occupy them. The housing problem is of national importance. I recall attending a special conference on housing that was representative of all parties in the Parliament, and was convened during the depression. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) attended that meeting and, when he was asked whether he would favour the use of national credit for housing, he replied, “ Yes. The sky is the limit.” I remind him of that reply to-day, when the shortage of accommodation, which is an aftermath of World War II., presents such a vast problem. The credit of the country should be used more liberally than it is being used now for the construction of houses. Money should be made available at very low rates of interest or even at charges sufficient only to cover accounting costs. The adoption of such methods also would help the Prime Minister to give effect to his announced policy of putting value back into the £1.-
The proposal to re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board does not matter twopence to the people of Australia to-day. They are not concerned about such issues. Their chief concern is the high cost of living. The income of the wage-earner, even allowing for an increase of £1 a week, merely follows in the train of rising costs. The increases are of no value to him in the long run. Something should be done to rectify that situation. The .State governments, both Labour and anti-Labour, are crying out for the re-introduction of prices control on a Commonwealth basis. The inflation of prices will never be checked until we have Commonwealth fixation of prices again. The State governments openly declare that they cannot control prices efficiently. Therefore, it behoves the Government to act. The time is rapidly approaching when the people will deal most effectively with it for having failed them in this period of crisis.
I regret that the increase of pensions for aged and invalid persons, and widows and ex-servicemen, became payable as late in the .financial year as the 1st November, whilst the increase of the salaries of justices of the High Court of Australia, judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and highly paid public servants was made retrospective to the 1st July, last. I do not know why the Government has discriminated against the old pioneers, and has shown such marked favour to justices of the High Court, judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and public servants, and I await with interest an explanation by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) of the reason for it. The increase of the allowance that is paid to ex-servicemen who are taking courses under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme at universities and at technical colleges is completely inadequate. Many of those men are married, and have young families. They enlisted in the armed forces during World War II. when they were youths of eighteen or nineteen years of age, and, in serving their country in war-time, they made a great sacrifice in respect of their careers in civil life. The allowance which is granted to them is insufficient to meet the cost of their training and to maintain themselves and their families.
– That allowance has always been too small.
– I agree with the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). The Government should reconsider its decision, and substantially increase that payment. I know some of the young men who are being trained for the various professions or as artisans under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. One of them has three children. He is studying hard for his examinations, and the anxiety of trying to make ends meet with his small allowance imposes a severe mental strain on him.
The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act has been amended many times since it was placed on the statute-book in 1917, but, unfortunately, a provision that I have consistently advocated for some years has not yet been incorporated in that law. The years are taking their toll of many of the men who served Au&tralia faithfully and well in World War I., and they are beginning to suffer from various illnesses that require medical or surgical treatment. Last week, I brought to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) the plight of an ex-serviceman who receives a 100 per cent, disability pension. His doctor advised him that he should undergo a serious operation. He has applied to the Department of Repatriation for approval to enter a repatriation hospital, but he has been informed that the permission cannot be granted to him, because his disability is not due to war service. Consequently, he is now endeavouring to obtain admission to a public hospital. As he is a pensioner, he obviously has not the means to pay for treatment in a private hospital. I advised him to appeal against the decision of the department, but his condition is so serious that he might die before his appeal can be heard. I am of the opinion that many of the men who enlisted for service in World War I. should be admitted to repatriation hospitals for treatment, even though their illnesses may not be due to war causes. It is a shame that such a man as I have mentioned should be obliged to walk the streets of Sydney when he is in pain, because officials of the Department of Repatriation refuse to permit him to obtain treatment in a repatriation hospital. The shortage of hospital beds throughout the Commonwealth is so acute that even a person who can afford to pay a surgeon to perform an operation experiences great difficulty in obtaining admission to a private hospital. Many of the veterans of World -War I. should be permitted to receive at least medical attention for their illnesses in repatriation hospitals. I feel most keenly about this matter, because many of those veterans are now elderly, and their financial position does not enable them to pay for accommodation in private hospitals.
Australian servicemen who were taken prisoner of war by the Germans or by the Japanese should be paid a subsistence allowance at the rate of 3s. a day in respect of the period during which they were in captivity. Arguments in favour of that payment were repeatedly advanced by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party when they were in Opposition, and the justice of the claim should be recognized by the Government. I understand that a special committee was appointed to consider that matter, but I have not seen a copy of its recommendations. Australia should meet that claim in the first instance, and recover the amount involved from the
Governments of Germany and Japan. Ex-prisoners of war are definitely justified in making that claim.
Before I conclude my speech, I should like to pay a tribute to a former Prime Minister, the late Mr. John Curtin, to the previous Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, and to the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). Any person who has read Mr. Winston Churchill’s memoirs of World War II. must admire the great courage and fine Australian spirit that were displayed by John Curtin during the great crisis in 1942-43. His close associates in the Government at that time were the present leader of the Parliamentary Labour party, Mr. Chifley, and the right honorable member for Barton. I consider that Australia should fittingly recognize the great services that were rendered to this country by John Curtin. I know that provision has been made for the establishment of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University in Canberra, but I consider that a suitable monument to that great Australian should be erected in front of Parliament House.
.- Al: this late stage in the debate, I shall not attempt to make a lengthy and analytical speech of the proposals in the budget, and, in coming to- that decision, I join a distinguished company which includes the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) and nearly all his followers. They were severely critical of the budget, even to the extremity of charging the Government with fraud, and therefore, in the brief time that is available to me, I shall criticize the critics. I base my remarks on the conviction that the budget is a noteworthy attempt to meet a difficult and highly complex situation, which was most grieviously aggravated by factors that were completely unseen when it was being prepared. I confess to a certain difficulty in determining precisely how serious, if at all serious, the national position is. Following the presentation of the budget by .the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), I tried to gauge the public’s reaction to it by reading the newspapers, and I was rather terrified by the discovery that the fate of the nation hung in the balance, not because of the infla tionary conditions, not because of lack of production and not because of a serious threat to our security, but because of the increase of the sales tax on lipstick. Grim pictures were painted for us by Opposition members of hordes of frantic women storming shopping centres in order to obtain supplies of cosmetics before that apparently paralysing tax began to operate. There have been recorded for our perusal interviews with allegedly irate ladies who commented according to their convictions on the proposed increase of tax. The highlight of those comments were as follows: - “ Thank goodness we have a vote “. That is the kind of slender thread upon which the fate of governments, and actually, of nations, hangs. This last comment was eagerly seized upon by members of the Labour party, who regarded it as a kind of fluttering straw which they could grasp in order to try to resuscitate their rapidly failing fortunes. Every Opposition member who has spoken in this debate has referred to that increase of the sales tax on cosmetics. Some have described it as an iniquitous imposition, and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who made an elaborate attempt to be humorous on the subject, spoke with such familiarity about cosmetics that one suspects that he was not speaking only on behalf of the ladies. Last week-end, I made it my business to make a few inquiries into the position, and I discovered that the tax on lipsticks would affect the budget of the most extravagant women by not more than 9d. a year, and that of a great majority of women by not more than 6d. a year. Yet we are told that women expended ten times that amount in tram and train fares in order to rush to the shops for the purpose of purchasing supplies of cosmetics before the higher rate of sales tax began to operate.
– The honorable member does not know much about lipstick.
– I know that the increased rate of sales tax on lipstick will be approximately 3d. a stick, and that the majority of women do not use more than two sticks a year. Consequently, the average woman will pay an additional 6d. a year for her lipstick. History is simply repeating itself. It will be recalled that in 1775 the Americans had a Boston tea incident. Australia has already had a rum rebellion, and the Labour party is now trying to enrich our history by fomenting another incident that will probably be described in history as the “ lipstick hold-up “. The political party which styles itself the “ Great Australian Labour party “ should henceforth be known as the “ Lipstick party “.
We all have been intrigued by the sudden solicitude of Opposition members for the wool-grower. The “ wool barons “ of East Sydney (Mr. Ward), Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), Batman (Mr. Bird) and Parkes almost spluttered with emotion about the tribulations of that downtrodden section of the Australian community. Whilst I have no doubt that there is plenty of wool in those electorates, I also know that none of it came from a sheep’s back. Neither the Leader of the Opposition nor any of his followers who mentioned this matter was honest about it. Until now members of the Labour party have never been able to say anything bad enough about the woolgrowers of this country. The woolgrowers have been misrepresented by the Labour movement as exploiters of the workers, as ruthless “ tyrants and as capitalists of the most vicious kind. Because of the proposed wool sales deduction scheme members of the Opposition sense a certain degree of unrest amongst primary producers, and they are seeking to exploit that unrest just as a drowning man clutches at a straw. However, it was notable that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr, Pollard) who is somewhat more mercurial than his colleagues, was a little more honest than they were in his approach to this matter. He submitted that, in addition to the proposed wool sales deduction, which will not deprive the wool-growers of a single penny, a special tax should be imposed on woolgrowers on a graduated scale which would be irrecoverable.
I cannot help saying something now about certain full-page advertisements that have appeared recently in the Canberra Times in opposition to the proposed deductions. The most recent of those advertisements, which were inserted by a body that calls itself “ The Farmers’ Cooperative Union”, and of which no one has ever heard, contained the most fantastic distortion of fact that I have ever seen. It also included an alleged balancesheet that was a highlight of dishonesty and misrepresentation. I was intrigued to know who was really responsible for the insertion of the advertisements, but I believe that the nigger i3 beginning to emerge from the woodpile. I am convinced now that the advertisements were inserted either by, or on behalf of, the Australian Labour party, and that, in either event, they were inspired by the party. Indeed, I go further and say that the cost of those advertisements was financed either by, or on behalf of, that party. But if the members of that party imagine that they can lead the woolgrowers of Australia up a lane by this pretended conversion to the woolgrowers’ point of view in politics I think they will be greatly disappointed. If the wool-growers cannot see through this attempt to make “ hillbillies “ out of them I shall be astonished.
In spite of all the doleful predictions to which we have listened, I believe that this country is still the most prosperous in the world. The cost of living in Australia is still cheaper than that of any other country which enjoys comparable standards of living. Supporters of the Government admit, of course, that a certain adjustment is necessary in order to avoid a financial embarrassment that is, paradoxically, caused by our prosperity. However, a stranger who listened to recent utterances in this chamber, particularly by members of the Opposition, could be forgiven for gaining the impression that we were engaged in an economic death struggle for our existence. The fact is, as I have just pointed out, that we are enjoying a state of prosperity that is equal to that of any country in the world. Australia has a large number of “ knockers “, most of whom belong to a group whose members are primarily concerned with furthering their own interests and are not greatly concerned about the interests of the country that supports them and to which they belong. The members of this group, not only have boasted that they will resist every effort to restore economic equilibrium, but also have, in fact, opposed every effort made by the present Government to reestablish the balance of our economy. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) actually boasted that he would take part in the fight, whether legal or illegal, to resist the Government’s plan to restore economic stability. Of course, members of this chamber do not regard the honorable gentleman as seriously as he regards himself; but people outside the Parliament should be told that he suffer.* from a phobia that causes him to hate any man who makes a success of life unless that individual happens to be the honorable gentleman himself. To regard his fulminations as important would be to flatter him unduly. Of course, I admit that he cannot be ignored completely, because as an apostle of class hatred he has an influence with that unfortunate section of the people who regard thinking for themselves as a form of unpaid labour. The honorable gentleman makes it difficult for the Government to implement a policy that is designed to promote a sane, healthy outlook amongst our people, which every one agrees is a prerequisite to a prosperous, contented and co-operative community.
We are confronting a period that is unprecedented in our history. It is a paradoxical situation because it has been brought about by a super-abundance of money and a grievous shortage of “goods. All honorable members who have taken part in the debate have advanced suggestions to overcome our difficulties, but, it has been noticeable that whereas some honorable gentlemen have adopted a reasonable approach to our problems, others who have been actuated purely by political expediency, have seized on the opportunity to make party political capital out of our difficulties. Indeed, that has been apparent since the debate began. We all recognize that action to combat rising prices transcends in importance all the other problems that confront us to-day. However, those who adopt the attitude of political expediency include many honorable members opposite who have maintained, ever since the present Government assumed office, a persistent cackle about restoring value to the £1.
Of course, their real reason for doing so has been to divert public attention from their own guilt, first, in taking value out of the £1, and, secondly, in using their majority in the Senate to prevent the Government from implementing its policy to restore the value of our currency.
I shall analyse briefly the thought processes of members of the Labour’ party, and in doing so I shall be actuated not by any unfriendliness to them, but merely by the hope that they may wake up to themselves. I base the observations that I am about to make on certain catch-cries and slogans that members of the Labour party used when they were in office. We all remember the two catch-cries that were invoked during the discussion that arose out of some of the previous Labour Government’s most blatant socialistic measures. One was, “ When we have plucked the fowl no one will be able to put the feathers back “, and the other was, “ When we have scrambled the eggs they cannot be unscrambled “. If we add to those two expressions of view, Labour’s expressed determination to destroy the capitalistic form of society in order to establish in its place a blighted socialist State, we can understand why certain groups want our present economic system to break down. These observations are relevant to Labour’s belief that chaos would provide a prolific breeding ground for socialism. Regardless of who may be hurt in the process, Labour is prepared to gamble on the consequences of its socialistic projects in the belief that the end justifies the means. However, the best laid plans are apt to go astray, and Labour’s plans certainly went astray at the last general election, which proved that the bird that Labour proposed to pluck still had a few tail feathers left. After the election the great Australian Labour party evinced a very unwholesome fear that the present Government might succeed in restoring some of the feathers that had already been plucked from the fowl, and that it would remain for a long period in the obscurity of Opposition. It therefore decided to obstruct the present Government, and commenced by throwing the mantle of its protection over every industrial saboteur and prospective traitor in this country. Later, of course, there was a death-bed repentance, that was occasioned not by any change of heart but by a fear of the consequences of its conduct. However, that change of its attitude did not occur until the Communists had had ample time in which to prepare an alternative front and to make their funds safe from confiscation. 1 hope that honorable members on this side of the chamber will not be deluded by Labour’s apparent conversion, because I shall show that that conversion is anything but genuine. I quote to honorable members the following text of a statement made recently by Mr. Lovegrove, the secretary of the Australian Labour party in Victoria: -
The Australian Council of Trades Unions is concealing its industrial cowardice behind a screen of political expediency.
I invite honorable members to listen particularly to the next portion of the statement, which is as follows : -
Labour should fight the Menzies Government on grounds on which it can heat it. The sooner it can get rid of the Menzies Government the sooner it can remove the bill from the statute book.
When our friends opposite decided to withdraw their opposition to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill they salved their consciences by saying that if they were returned to office they would amend the bill in accordance with the views that they had enunciated during the lengthy period when they were opposing that legislation. Of course, we had a recent demonstration that it is not the members of the Labour party in the Parliament but persons outside the Parliament who decide the party’s attitude on such matters. I emphasize Mr. Lovegrove’s statement that when Labour gets back to power it will remove the Communist Party Dissolution Act from the statute-book.
However, there are a few silver linings in the dark cloud of obstruction that has confronted the Government. I thought that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) was completely sincere when he spoke in this debate a few nights ago. Of course, he went off the beam and departed from the party line when he advocated that all sections of the community should co-operate for the benefit of the people as a whole. His argument amounted to this, that whilst the politi- cai parties can have their battles, and even wage political warfare to the death, they should not do so at the expense of the people of Australia. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), in the course of a realistic address, advocated the adoption of a similar attitude to the solution of our national problems to that advocated by honorable members on this side of the chamber. He referred to the need for ‘greater production, and for more efficient machinery to produce the goods that are so urgently needed. He said that whilst production will not be materially increased by a particular individual working harder, we should begin an effective drive for increased- production which would demand improved industrial organization and more application to the task in hand by every one concerned in industry from managers to workers. The acceptance of his view does not mean, of course, that men should not be asked to work a little harder or a little longer. However, one wonders whether the sentiments expressed by the honorable gentleman, which received merited publicity, were really genuine. If they were, how does he reconcile his views with the attitude adopted by union leaders, that it is the duty of the workers to refuse to co-operate with the present Government and to refuse to increase production ? Of course I realize that, as one honorable member pointed out in the course of this debate, 98 per cent, of all Australians are workers, and I do not want my remarks to be construed as an attack on them. I am directing my criticism at a section of the trade union leaders, who are doing their utmost to combat the Government’s drive for increased production. I repeat that I wonder how the honorable member for Bendigo can reconcile his statements about the need for increased production and improved industrial organization with the militant views expressed by so many trade union leaders whom he defends. What is their attitude to incentive payments, profit sharing and every other move that is proposed in order to achieve greater harmony between management and worker?. Invariably the old “red” cry is raised that an insidious attack is to be made to wreck trade unionism.
Unfortunately, that sort of propaganda is swallowed hy many people. If the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Herbert want to bring about greater co-operation for the benefit of the country they must attack the factors which prevent us from attaining that co-operation. I emphasize that I am not criticizing the workers themselves. My experience of the men of this country is that if they have the opportunity to work or to idle on the job they prefer to work.
In conclusion, I shall say something about the proposals to restore the value of the fi. After all, the restoration of the value of our money involves more than a mere manipulation of the currency. It is a matter of putting value back into our national effort. Of course, the influence of communism enters into any proposal to increase the national effort, and I realize that it might be preferable for me to delay my remarks on that subject until we are debating the Estimates. I wish to make it perfectly clear that there is not one honorable member on this side of the committee who does not delight in seeing the workers enjoying their due amount of leisure. But leisure has to be paid for. Many workers to-day can afford to drive their own cars and to use them as a means of enjoyment at the week-end. But it will not be possible to make either the leisure or the pleasure of the workers secure unless we get more production than we have been getting.
Honorable members opposite have been using for some time past a catchcry about having power to fix prices vested in a federal authority. They apparently regard the fixing of prices on a federal basis as a panacea for all ills. Their propaganda on that subject is the greatest deception that has ever been practised on the public. Prices rose just as steadily when the last government exercised complete control of them. The £1 lost 10s. of its value during the war years when prices were controlled under a Labour government, yet honorable members opposite try to make people believe that the answer to our cost of living problem lies in the fixation of prices. Prices are fixed according to the cost of production, and prices control means control of every factor that makes up the cost of production. The ramifications of such a control would be so vast ‘that if it were introduced practically nothing could be done in Australia without the consent of the Government. Nobody knows that fact better than does the Labour party. Prices control, to be effective, would involve the control of manpower, wages, industry, finance and every kindred activity. It would be impossible to fix effectively the price of a packet of cigarettes without having fixed the price of everything that goes into its manufacture. Honorable members opposite are clutching at straws when they attempt to blame the anti-Labour parties for the loss of the rents and prices referendum. They believe that they can increase the unrest that exists to-day and that arises from conditions that have been brought into being by our prosperity. They wish to stampede the people into giving them the power, allegedly to control prices, but really to control everything else in the nation’s economy, because control of prices would be merely the thin end of the wedge. Control of the nation’s economy by the Government would lead to the socialist state.
– Before turning my attention to the budget, I wish to correct a statement that was made by the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) during this debate last week.
– It was not during this debate.
– In any event, it was during a debate in this chamber last week. The statement to which I refer related to the Queensland Housing Commission. The honorable member stated that the policy of the Queensland Labour Government was that in no circumstances would a house built by the Queensland Housing Commission be sold to a tenant. I understand that the honorable member has since discovered that his statement was incorrect. My only object in raising the matter now is to correct his statement publicly. For 35 years Queensland has been one of the leading States in respect of the number of workers who own their own homes. Workers’ dwellings for sale to the workers were built under a legislative enactment in ‘ Queensland and, according to statistical figures, the percentage of workers owning their own homes has been greater in Queensland than in any other State. Those conditions existed under a Labour government in that State. The Queensland Housing Commission, since it came into being after the war, and since the Australian Government began advancing to Queensland and other States sums of money as subsidies for home building, has given workers the right to purchase the houses it has built for them. The State Minister for Works and Housing, Mr, Hilton, has said in a statement he has made within the last six months that no fewer than 711 Queensland Housing Commission houses had been bought by workers. Houses that are bought from the Queensland Housing Commission are insured so that if anything happens to the breadwinner of a family the house reverts to the widow free of further obligation. The honorable member for Bowman has already indicated that the statement that he made was not in accordance with the facts, but that he believed that it was so at the time that he made it.
The budget is the most deceptive, barren and fraudulent budget that I have ever seen presented in this chamber by any political party. I make that statement in all seriousness, because I have been a member of this chamber for a long period and have witnessed the presentation of many budgets. I am sure that the majority of the people of Australia will agree with me when I say that there is not one gleam of hope in the budget as far as the protection of the people from the ever-increasing cost of living is concerned. This country had never been so prosperous as it was when the present Government took office. That fact has been borne out by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) himself. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) also admitted it, but many other honorable members who have spoken in this chamber recently have not made such an admission. Scores of people who have visited Australia, particularly business people who have come here on behalf of their overseas principals in order to investigate the opportunities of investing capital in Australia, have also admitted the prosperous condition that Australia was in during the former Labour regime. After all, unless Australia was prosperous, financially and otherwise, we should not have had as much overseas capital invested in our industries during the last few years as has been the case. As a matter of fact, more new industries were started in Australia during the previous Labour Administration than had ever been the case previously. Invariably people who have visited Australia to make business investigations have made many statements, both here and overseas, to the effect that they were convinced that, economically and financially, Australia was the most stable country in the world.
– Who was responsible for that fact?
– Labour administration was responsible for it. That was the position when this Government took office after eight years of Labour administration, which included the war period and the greatest crises that had ever faced Australia. The Labour Government had achieved economic stability, even though during the war period it had had to expend tremendous amounts of money for the carrying on of an all-in war effort and for the rehabilitation of our ex-service men and women. Many millions of pounds were provided for rehabilitation. During this debate one honorable member opposite complained that the Chifley Labour Government had never done anything to assist exservicemen. and instanced a 30-point proposal that was submitted by ex-servicemen’s organizations to that Government. It may be true that the Chifley Government did nothing in respect of that 30- point programme because, if I remember rightly, it was submitted immediately prior to the last general election. Every honorable member who was in the Parliament at that time received a copy of that programme. Between 1941 and 1949 Labour administrations did a great deal for the ex-serviceman. I shall not say that they did too much, because I do not think that we can do too much for the ex-service men and women of this country, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due. The first thing that the
Curtin Labour Government did was to constitute an all-party parliamentary committee of ex-servicemen to overhaul the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. No amendment of that act had ever been introduced until the Curtin Labour Government did so at the end of 1942.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The deliberations of the all-party parliamentary committee to which I referred before the suspension of the sitting were presided over by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). That committee took evidence from representatives of ex-servicemen’s organizations throughout Australia and submitted a number of recommendations that were acceptable to them. Not only were all the recommendations of those organizations incorporated in the act, but in addition the Government itself initiated many amendments. That shows that the criticism that has been levelled at the Labour Government’s treatment of ex-servicemen is not in accordance with fact. The Labour Government increased the pensions of ex-servicemen proportionately with the increase of all other social services payments. As a matter of fact the pensions granted to returned servicemen were much higher than were the payments made to other recipients of social services benefits. In addition, the Labour Government did what no other government in Australia had done. It fulfilled a promise that had been made to many thousands of young men who had volunteered for service and had fought for this country and who, before volunteering, had never known what it was to have a job. Many thousands of these young men had no calling and were unable to obtain work as a result of what had happened to them during the depression years. I remember the Government making a promise to T.hAse-brave boys that when they returned they would not be forgotten.
The Labour Government’s legislation for the rehabilitation of returned servicemen is unparalleled in the history of the world. To-day, these thousands of youths who belonged to a lost legion prior to the war are now filling a very useful place in industry. They were sent to colleges and to various other places where they received tuition. In addition to its extraordinary expenditure on this great work the Chifley Labour Government provided financial assistance to Unrra, to the British Government and to others. When money is devoted to such purposes it cannot be regarded as having been extravagantly expended. The Labour Government contributed £30,000,000 to the International Emergency Children’s Relief Fund and to various other relief organizations. In addition it paid to the British Government £45,000,000 in order that it might be enabled to play its part in implementing the Marshall aid plan and in liquidating sterling commitments in Europe. No member of the Government, and particularly the Treasurer, can say that that money was extravagantly expended. I remember that when honorable members opposite were in Opposition they criticized what they called the extravagant expenditure of the Chifley Government.
Notwithstanding the accomplishments that I have mentioned the Chifley Government left to the present Government a sound financial position. In the eight years during which Labour occupied the Treasury benches, under the leadership of the late John Curtin and the present Leader of the Opposition, every budget that was presented in this House was balanced and there was a surplus on each occasion. The Labour Government did a job that was worthy of the respect of the people. When honorable members opposite were in Opposition they claimed that the Government was spending huge sums of money unnecessarily on what they termed “ boosting so-called socialist schemes “. I am very proud to have been associated with a government that did carry out those “ so-called socialist schemes”. The present Government is continuing quite a number of them. Honorable members opposite continually told the Chifley Government that expenditure could be reduced by decreasing the number of public servants. They said that the Public Service was being overloaded with employees who would be better employed in outside industry. But instead of this Government having reduced expenditure on the Public Service in the eleven months during which it has been in office, the number of Commonwealth employees has increased by approximately 5,000. Honorable members opposite claimed that under the Labour Government many departments were superfluous and many employees had no work to do. Yet this Government has increased the number of public servats by about 5,000.
– “What about the extra work that now has to be done?
– There was more work to be done during the war than there is now. Yet notwithstanding all his talk of reducing governmental expenditure when he was in Opposition, the Treasurer is now budgeting for an all-time record expenditure of £738,000,000. During the last financial year, under the leadership of the present Leader of the Opposition, the amount budgeted for was £592,000,000. If any government is undertaking extravagant expenditure it is this one.
This is a fraudulent budget. It does not reveal to the people the true position of the country’s finances. It is deceptive in every possible way. In order to balance the budget the Treasurer proposes to deduct from the wool-growers £103,000,000. Despite what honorable members of the Australian-Country party have said to the contrary, this can only be regarded as a forced loan or a tax and those honorable members will find that the wool-growers will resent the Government’s action in putting £103,000,000 of their money into the Treasury. I oppose this unjust form of taxation. It is a sectional tax which the Government should not impose on our wool-growers; rather should it tax other sections of the community. One has only to peruse the newspapers to find evidence of the profits and dividends that are made and paid by large companies. Large profits have been made by public and private companies during the last seven or eight years, particularly during the regime of the Labour Government. The woolbrokers also have made big profits.
Today I wished to speak of a number of matters, particularly invalid and age pensions and other social services, but my time has almost expired. During the debate on the Estimates I hope that I shall have an opportunity to comment on those matters. The Government has treated invalid and age pensioners in a very shabby fashion. Pensions should have been increased by more than the amount proposed. Honorable members on the Government side have claimed that the Labour Government did not do as much for pensioners as it could have done, but it was a Labour government that first advocated social services in Australia. Honorable members opposite have always opposed social services.
– Not at all.
– Always., Many years ago when age pensions were first advocated, the conservative parties of those days opposed them. However, credit must be given to the Deakin Government for having introduced age pensions. But that Government did it under pressure from the late Andrew Fisher who was really responsible for our first legislation on age pensions and the maternity allowance.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One of the difficulties involved in a long budget debate isi that it ranges over so many subjects and occupies so much time that one has not the opportunity of answering all the assertions that are made. They become lost as the days pass by. However, two matters arose in the course of this debate to which I wish to direct the attention of honorable members. The first is a statement by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). Recently when discussing the Government’s proposal that men in the Army should be invited to volunteer to serve anywhere, the honorable member used these words, which I noted at the time : “ I do not believe in the system of voluntary enlistment for service abroad “. The Government’s proposal is that men in the Citizen Military Forces or in the Australian Regular Army shall be invited to volunteer to serve wherever they might be required to serve, in precisely the same way as members of the Australian Imperial Forces volunteered to serve anywhere in the world during the last two great wars; in fact, that they should be invited to volunteer in the same way as the honorable member for Lalor volunteered to serve in the first world war.
– I volunteered when I knew what the war was about.
– The honorable member tried to dazzle us with science by suggesting that when he went to the first world war he knew what it was all about and where he was going. When he went to Egypt he knew he was going to France, and when he went to France he knew he was going to Mesopotamia, and so on! That is the veriest nonsense, and it does not do the honorable member the credit to which he is entitled for having volunteered to serve his King and country. Our proposal is that members of the Citizen Military Forces and the Australian Regular Army shall volunteer for service anywhere. That proposal has nothing to do with national service, which relates to home service only. The purpose of the proposal is obvious. In a new war we shall not have the time for preparation that we were fortunate enough to have during the last war. ,Six months or twelve months will not be available in which to train men or in which to transfer men from the Militia to the Australian Imperial Force and re-establish the esprit de corps which would suffer in any such transfer. In the changed world conditions the Government considered that it should ask men to volunteer for service anywhere so that their units could be built up and trained, and kept intact and efficient. They are not obliged to volunteer, but when they do we ask them to volunteer for service anywhere. That proposal is not anomalous, because it is merely a provision with regard to the volunteer army which has been the rule with regard to the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy since those farces were established in Australia. Notwithstanding the -Korea incident, which has pointed the moral for all honorable members in this chamber, the honorable member for Lalor made the statement that I have mentioned. One is forced to believe that the old party influence, that curious fetish so reverenced by the Labour party, is so strong that the honorable member can make a statement in terms similar in spirit to the statement that he made on the 12th October, 1938. On that day he is reported in Hansard, vol. 157, at page 641, to have said -
Personally, I would not spend threepence on armament works or on defence works of any kind in Australia.
– I also said that I would not do that while there were thousands of unemployed.
– And when the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) interjected by saying, “ Then why not cease all defence preparations ? “, the honorable member for Lalor replied, “ I would “. I remind honorable members that that sentiment was expressed six weeks after the Munich incident, when it must have been obvious to anybody that Australia and the whole world would soon face a crisis. Now, after the trouble in Korea, when it is obvious to all of us that we are again faced with a position of great gravity, the honorable member says that those who volunteer to serve in the Army should be treated differently from members of the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy.
On the 4th November the United Nations Assembly asked all its members, including Australia, to keep a part of their armed forces ready to fight any aggressor. I now ask the honorable member for Lalor, and indeed all honorable members opposite, “ Does the Labour party believe in the United Nations ? “ The Labour party has stated that it does, and two or three months ago in this chamber its members voted in approval of the Government’s action in sending armed forces to Korea as a part of the United Nations forces. If they are sincere how would they provide armed forces to fight any aggression in terms of the request from the United Nations Assembly if, under the terms of the enlistment to which our troops would adhere, it would not be possible to send those troops to fight an aggressor whereever he might be. I am suggesting that in this matter the Labour party is completely out of touch with the realities of the present time and the sentiment of the Australian people.
The second matter that I wish to deal with concerns the recent statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), that a limit must be placed upon defence expenditure, and that if we go beyond that limit we shall weight ourselves down to disaster. I also took a note of those words. I agree that there is a limit to defence expenditure. I thought that the right honorable gentleman had expressed himself temperately, as it is his duty to do in a matter of such grave national importance as defence, but I have no doubt that the implication in his observation was that this Government was expending too much on defence. It is true that we are straining ourselves in this matter of defence expenditure, but we are doing so because we must do so. This matter rises above mere party thrust and parry. I am bound to point out that the reason we must strain ourselves in making provision for defence expenditure is the neglect of the Labour Government of that very matter during the last few years. One must, of course, look at both sides of the matter. It may be that in 1943 and up to 1947 the Labour Government believed that Australia was entering upon a golden age not only in the sphere of economics but also in the sphere of international affairs; yet many honorable members on this side of the chamber said exactly the opposite of that. When this Government assumed office it found that it had inherited a state of unpreparedness which had to be remedied immediately. We found a regular army with an establishment of about 18,000 troops, whereas the actual number was only 12,000. We also found a militia with “an establishment of about 50,000, but actually only about 18,000 enlisted men. Something had to be done to bring the paper establishment up to a state of reality. When the Korean trouble began we had an air force which, although composed of some of the most magnificent young men that this country has ever produced, was small and inadequate. In fact, we could get together only about one squadron to send to Korea. The navy was in a similar plight.
This Government inherited a position of grave defence unpreparedness espe- cially having regard to the crisis which confronted it shortly after it took office. After the Korean incident the Government had to do suddenly what should have been done gradually during the preceding few years. That has been reflected in the budget, and that is why so many millionof pounds must be expended immediately upon defence preparations.
We propose expending £133,383,000 on defence, and that includes £50,000,000 to be expended on stock piling essential war materials. Some of the things that we are now stock piling were held by the Government at the end of the last war, but. were sold. Let us not be unduly critical because the Labour Government may have disposed of those articles in good faith ; but nevertheless we must now try to buy them, and they will cost millions of pounds. The goods that we are seeking to obtain are of a strategic nature and are scattered round the earth in places which will probably not be accessible to us if another war occurs. Therefore, we must have essential supplies in the country in case we are faced with war. For that reason we are looking abroad for materials which I need not name but which will cost us £50,000,000. Does any honorable member opposite, the Leader of the Opposition or anybody else, say that this Government is doing wrong in taking this precaution of stock piling strategic war materials ? No honorable member opposite would dare to do so. Excluding that sum of £50,000,000 the budget provision for defence amounts to £83,000,000 which is only £33,000,000 greater than the sum of £50,000,000 that the Labour Government proposed to expend annually on defence for a period of five years. Is it suggested that in a time of crisis like the present we should not obtain more jet engines and Merlin engines, that we should not build more aeroplanes in government factories, including Lincoln bombers, or that we should abandon the Hawker and Canberra projects? Some of those projects were indeed commenced by the Labour Government and the present government is expanding them.
Does any honorable member oppositesuggest that Australia should remain unprepared by failing to take the precaution? that are reflected in. the provision that is being made for defence purposes in the budget? Should we not have more ships of war? Should we not encourage the shipbuilding industry which all parties agree is essential to our defence in time of war, particularly in a war of the kind that is most likely to take place in adjacent waters ? Of course, we must continue with these projects for which provision is made in the budget. Should we not bring our army to the strength that the Labour Government laid down as a minimum? And should we not introduce national service for home defence? It is a fetish of the Labour party that young men should not bc asked, or in the last resort compelled, to defend their country and their homes. God forbid that Australia should ever again go howling to other countries to send their conscripts to fight for us in this country when we are nor prepared to conscript our own manpower to fight in defence of our homes! Are we not to proceed with the guided weapons testing range which the Labour Government inaugurated and which is also reflected in the defence expenditure in the budget? The proposed total expenditure of £133,000,000 on defence represents the minimum effort that we must make for our safety. Furthermore, that provision is little enough compared with the expenditure that is being- incurred on defence by other countries. For instance, whilst the United States is expending 15 per cent, and Great Britain is expending- 12 per cent, of their national income last year for defence this year, Australia proposes to expend only 5.6 per cent, of its national income last year on defence during the current year.
– That is incorrect.
– It is not incorrect. 1 invite the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) to examine the figures.
– The figure that the Minister has just given in respect of Australia’s expenditure on defence is not the figure that Professor Copland, the Government’s economic adviser, has given in that respect.
– Professor Copland is not the Government’s economic adviser. In any event, if the Leader of the Oppo sition examines the figures that I have cited he will see that our defence expenditure this year will be about 4.3 per cent, of our estimated national income of £3,000,000,000 for the current year. In view of the conflict in Korea and having regard to our obligations to the United Nations could we dare to expend less upon defence than the sum for which provision is made in the budget? Although the proposed expenditure may strain our economy and impose sacrifices upon our people as a whole and may deny them some small degree of comfort, the fact remains that we must incur it for our own security.
However, more is involved in defence preparations than the mere provision of the sum of £133,000,000 to meet essential expenditure. One of the real essentials in defence is economic strength and the key to that strength is an increased productive effort. The two elements are tied irrevocably, and we are not increasing production to a satisfactory degree. It is true that in some industries production per capita has been increased. However, the figures that are usually cited for purposes of comparison, namely those for 1939, are grossly misleading because since that year the population of Australia has increased by 1,000,000. In addition, since 1939 horse-power in this country has been increased by 71 per cent, in terms of electricity generated and by 37 per cent, in terms of gas production. One would expect that such substantial increases of population and horse-power would be reflected in a dramatic increase of production. It is true that per capita production of coal since 1939 has increased by 4 per cent., but that improvement is entirely inadequate in relation to our great and increasing needs. On the other hand, the per capita production of many other essential materials has actually decreased. For instance, since 1939 production of pig iron per head of population has decreased by 16 per cent., ingot steel by 13 per cent., lead by 30 per cent., bricks by 31 per cent., and tiles by 7 per cent, whilst during the same period the production of beef and veal has decreased by 7 per cent., mutton ,by 13 per cent., pork by 24 per cent, and butter by 28 per cent. Indeed, we have been warned by those who speak with authority on the subject that if Australia continues to go the way it is going at present we shall not be able in the not far distant future to produce sufficient foodstuffs to feed our population much less export foodstuffs. Thus in regard to foodstuffs and in the heavy industries, both of which are vital to defence, we are faced with alarming decreases. In view of those facts we must, as a defence measure if nothing else, greatly increase individual effort in. industry.
Much has been said about the necessity for workers to work harder. I propose to deal with the obligations, not only of the workers, but also of the employers. Is it not possible for employers to rationalize their factories to a greater degree in order to. increase production? Is it not possible for them to use more machines and more power and to evolve new ideas for that purpose? Above all, can they not try a little harder to appreciate the needs, difficulties and aspirations of- those who work for them ? I do not think that enough has been said about that aspect of the problem in this chamber. Whilst many employers are making the requisite effort to increase production many are not doing so. When I was in England about two years ago I was greatly impressed by the system of joint consultation in industry in that country. That system has established a degree of understanding between management and labour that does not exist in Australia. That fact is due to many causes. But employers and employees should engage in joint consultations to a far greater degree than they do at present and thereby establish confidence to their mutual benefit and to the advantage of the nation as a whole. It will be said that many factors discourage employers from taking that course. For instance, -they have to contend with the Communist agitator, who is hard to cope with, and also with union officials of a certain type who, although they are not Communists, have a vested interest in discontent and much of whose prestige and authority depends upon their making more and more demands on behalf of employees. Those things aggravate and discourage employers. But the real test of leadership and managerial ability in industry is whether those in control will keep on trying in spite of every difficulty to establish a greater degree of understanding with their employees.
The Government will do all in its power to help employers and employees to increase production, but governments can do very little in that respect. The Government may secure the passage of legislation and may make certain tasks less difficult but the real solution of the problem lies in co-operation between employers and employees. Governments can do no more than guide and assist in specific ways. Ultimately, it will depend upon management and labour themselves whether they will achieve more rationalization and efficiency in industry and greater understanding between themselves. This is a defence necessity. The Government may make the greatest financial provision possible for defence, but without more efficiency and harmony in industry, which are essential for economic stability and greater production, mere financial provisions will not matter a snap of the fingers.
.- After making six weary attempts to do so the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has introduced the budget that is now before us. It provides for an expenditure of £738,000,000. With the provisions of the budget for increasing age, invalid and widows’ pensions and superannuation benefits for ex-public servants and those relating to certain aspects of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Training Scheme I am in agreement. My only comment on those aspects is that the Government has failed to such a degree to stabilize prices that the proposed increases of those benefits should have been considerably greater than they are. At that point my commendation of the budget proposals ends. I shall criticize the failure of the budget as an antiinflationary measure, the Government’s income tax and sales tax proposals, its proposal to impose an iniquitous tax on the wool-growers, and, above all, its falsification of the budget by including in it the sum of £103,000,000 as revenue when it will merely withhold that sum from the woolgrowers at gun-point. That sum will be taken as a forced loan from the woolgrowers who, with their supporters, other than their alleged supporters in this chamber, regard the Government’s action in plain every day language as robbery under arms. That view has been set out on behalf of the growers in full-page press advertisements that have been sponsored by the United Farmers Association. That advertisement states -
Thousands of farmers have pledged themselves to bring every means in their power to destroy this bushranging “ scheme.
Supporters of the Government should also read the view that Mr. Falkiner, who is one of the wealthiest wool-growers in the country, has publicly expressed about its proposal. The Government’s wool plan involves the imposition of a discriminatory tax. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out, other sections of industry which are making huge profits are not to be treated in the same manner. Persons like the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) who are making fortunes as estate agents are not to be taxed on a similar basis. The Government’s wool grab means that the 70 per cent, of the wool-growers each of whom, I understand on sound authority, produces only 30 bales of wool or less annually, will pay the bulk of this tax. In effect, the wool-growers will have the doubtful honour of financing the Government’s proposed expenditure of £67,000,000 in respect of war gratuity payments, the £20,000,000 subsidy on woollen manufactures and the sum of £15,000,000 that the Government will require to finance the provision of endowment for the first child in a family in accordance with the promise that was made by its parties during the last general election campaign. Frankly, it will be useless as an antiinflationary measure, notwithstanding the statements of the Treasurer. In February, 1949, the right honorable gentleman said in this chamber -
A £1 note does not acquire a special antiinflationary sanctity because the Treasurer instead of the taxpayer spends it. The Government touch does not inject into money an extraordinary virus which deprives it of its inflationary tendency. On the contrary, th.j Government will get far less value for £1 than would private enterprise.
This scheme, which is expected to check inflation, will merely transfer the spending authority in respect of the amount of £103,000,000 from the wool-growers to the Government. I shall not cry my eyes out for the wool-growers. They can well look after themselves. But this discriminatory policy can easily be taken a step further. Before long, this Government may tell workers who are earning fairly high wages, “We are going to deduct 10 per cent, of your wages, at the point of a gun, and set the money aside for Government use because we do not think that you can spend it in the public interest “. The Opposition wishes, above everything else, to preserve a system of taxation under which those who receive excessive incomes will bear the main burden of taxation. It bitterly objects to any sectional or discriminatory system. I do not wish to pose as a protector of the wool-growers. However, as further proposals of this type are put into effect by the Government, the primary producers will realize more clearly that the collection of accountants, storekeepers, auctioneers and company directors who sit in “ hillbilly corner “ in this chamber do not represent them truly and that it is time that they were represented by Labour men, who really have their interests at heart.
Another contentious subject which this Government has failed to approach honestly is that of inflation. As I said in this chamber not long ago, I am not interested in the lectures on economics that members of the Government and their supporters have delivered to the Opposition. Every child understands the causes of inflation. What we want to know is what members of this Government and their supporters had in mind last December when, in full-page advertisements that were published throughout the Commonwealth over the name of the present Prime Minister, they promised that they would put value back into the Australian £1. They proclaimed in every newspaper in Australia, in their policy speeches, and by. every other means at their disposal, that they would check inflation and preserve the community from its dangers. For the sake of winning votes, they published such promises as this - “ Lower prices. A £’s worth for a £ spent.”
I refer now to a typical Liberal party dodger of the general election campaign so that Government supporters will not be able to wriggle away from this topic, the most unpleasant that could be discussed in this chamber from their point of view. This bright little dodger, in blue and white - the only good feature about it was the Labour party’s colours - declared -
A practical plan to put the shillings back in the £1! Liberal housekeeping means lower prices, better value. Liberal Government will tackle thu real problem - production. We will get coal, keep industry moving smoothly and destroy the Communists. We will end shortages, black-outs, black markets, “ key-money “.
Was not that a definite promise to face squarely up to the problem of inflation? Yet, after eleven long, weary months, all that we have heard on behalf of the Government has been a series of speed les byits master speaker about rising prices and their causes. Even the budget, which was presented after much futile argument within the Government parties, gives no indication that the Government will take any of the legislative courses, popular or otherwise, that would be necessary to restore economic stability in the face of the approaching crisis.
The Prime Minister constantly appeals to the Opposition and to the trade unions for co-operation and support in his campaign to restore value to the £1. But the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues evidently considered, during the election campaign last December, that they needed no help to put value back into the £1 ! They had a plan all prepared for the purpose. Although I agree that, in the interests of the nation, we must have co-operation between employer and employee and full production, no person in the community would be eager to cooperate with somebody who knocks on his door and then assaults him, which is what the Liberal party did, in effect, to members of the Labour party during the election campaign. This is what the present Government parties said about us then - “ Socialism means man-power regulations . . . Vote the socialists out ! “ The authors of that appeal to the people now demand our co-operation so that they may fulfil the pledge that they gave without any thought of co-operation from the Labour party. Can there be any wonder that we doubt the sincerity of the Govern- ment and its supporters when they as?k us now to co-operate with them in finding a solution of a problem to which they said they had all the answers? Some reasonable proposals for establishing economic stability must have been presented to members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party by their leaders during the election campaign. But we have seen no sign of any such proposals since the Government ha? been in power. Excuses for lack of production have been put forward from time to time and various remedies have been suggested, but no measures to solve our financial problems, such as were forecast before the election, have been presented to us. What has become of those plans since the Government has been in office? Even the budget gives no indication of any practical schemes for restoring the purchasing value of the £1. Nor. one remedy for inflation has been suggested. After eleven months of anti-Labour administration, the only prices that remain in check are the bookmakers’ prices at Randwick ! It is futile for Government supporters to ignore the fact that prices are rising. Beyond all doubt, the average person is having increasing difficulty in making ends meet with every passing day. Almost daily the newspapers publish such head-lines as these -
High posts make wives take jobs.
Mothers’ wages help to pay for food, babies, schooling.
Wives cannot pay for food.
Ferry fares to go up by half.
The costs of almost all essential services and commodities are rising, but the Government has made no effort to stem the rising tide.
The Government prates about production. It tells us that increased production would provide the answer to shortages and rising prices and that production is not increasing because of the activities of the Communist party. I do not belittle the part that the Communist party has played in retarding production.
– The Opposition delayed the anti-Communist legislation.
– That is not true. When the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) was in opposition, he, like his leader, stated that one of the basic causes of the lack of production in Australia was heavy taxation, which was killing the incentive to produce of both the worker and the owners of industry.
Representatives of the present Government parties told the electors last December that, if elected to power, they would increase production by reducing taxation. I shall deal with that vain promise later. They expressed support for incentive payment schemes. I shall show what this Government thinks of incentive payments. They said that they would introduce a system of profit-sharing and that they would reduce the size of the Public Service. Mr. Malcolm Ritchie, the president of the Liberal party, even advocated a 56-hour week. A longer working week apparently was one of their objectives ! They promised that they would foster immigration in order to increase the population, would reduce Government expenditure, would eliminate strikes and would endeavour to atract more workers to essential industries. But what has happened about all these high-sounding proposals since the Government was elected? Has it restored incentives to industry by reducing taxation? One of the basic charges that was levelled against the Chifley Government was that the high rates of taxes that it levied were restricting the productive capacity and the initiative of men in industry, both employers and employees. The Treasurer said in his budget speech that no general reduction could be made of rates of income tax this year but that certain concessions would be made in direct taxation to the amount ‘ of about £7,000,000 a year. On the other side of the picture, he announced his decision to increase indirect taxes so as to take an additional £10,000,000 a year from the Australian public. He said that revenue from income tax in the current year would exceed revenue from the same source in 1949-50 by £34,000,000 and that an additional amount of £6,000,000 would be obtained from the social services contribution. Thus, the estimated income from direct taxes this year will exceed the amount obtained last year under the tax proposals of the Chifley Government by £40,000,000. The average direct tax bill this year will be £54 18s. lid. per head of population, compared with an amount of £39 10s. 3d. last financial year, for one- half of which the Chifley Government was in office.
What incentive has this Government given to the workers to engage in the allout production campaign that it demands ? A man without dependants on an average wage of £600, or slightly more than £10 a week, will benefit by the magnificent tax reduction of £1 17s. a year. In other words, the incentive for him to put his shoulder to the wheel will be an extra 9d. a week, or less than 2d. a day for a five-day week. Can honorable members imagine the wheels of the foundries and workshops turning faster as the result of such an incentive scheme : A man with the average Australian family of a dependent wife and two children will be granted relief to the amount of 2s. lOd. a week, or about 7d. a working day. But, of course, when he brings his wages home, the Treasurer will sneak in and rifle the wife’s purse by taking a couple of shillings extra in sales tax on the cosmetics that she purchases each week. Why does not this Government set an example to industry by offering incentives to the workers? Let the people be encouraged by means of an all-out tax reduction policy such as the anti-Labour parties advocated before the election last year.
What sort of incentives has the Government offered to employers by reducing taxes? It has adopted a very strange policy in relation to that issue. For instance, it has decided to impose an excess profits tax, for which the Chifley Government’s policy did not provide in the latter stages of its regime. How will an excess profits tax encourage the employers to increase production? The facts show that the promises made by the Government parties during the general election campaign were completely false. Their criticism of the Chifley Government was dishonest. They must have known that the Labour Government’s policy was sound and that, but for the fact that they were in Opposition in this Parliament, they would have been obliged, in sincerity, to endorse it. The Government has completely dishonoured its pledge to reduce taxes upon all sections of the community in order to increase production. Let us consider its sales tax proposals. I was very interested in this subject during the election campaign because of a letter that was written by the wife of a Liberal party candidate to the constituents whom her husband hoped to represent in the National Parliament. This is what the good lady wrote -
Long before my husband thought of entering Parliament, I used to tell him about the difficulties we women put up with.
Men so often forget our problems. That is why, when Bill gets into Parliament, I am going to see that he really does watch the interests of the women in his electorate.
The Government talks about the Labour party being controlled by twelve men. That man would have been controlled in the National Parliament by his wife! The letter continues -
Do you know we pay 2s. in the £.1 tax on ice?
Also on baby powder, toothpaste and soap - even the children’s ice creams and lollies. Half the price of petrol goes to the Government so that prevents us getting things delivered regularly.
Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad if the money were used to help us. For instance, use some of it to subsidise washing and sewing machines, to place them in the reach of every wage earner.
The Treasurer’s budget has the opposite effect, because all amenities and conveniences will be placed out of the reach of the wage-earner. The letter proceeds -
The strain is making us look older than we should. We have no 40-hour week. The cost of living has sky-rocketed.
I wonder whether that woman realizes that, under this Government, which is pledged to reduce the cost of the necessaries of life, the people are being taxed at the rate of 6s. 8d. in the £1 on cosmetics, which go to make up the woman’s good looks? That letter was written by the wife of a Liberal party candidate during the last general election campaign. Do the people generally realize what would have happened in the extreme case of that candidate having been elected to the Parliament? He would have been merely a henpecked and hunted individual in the service of a person who was not a member of the Parliament. He would have been given instructions by his wife to remedy the various ills that she mentioned in her letter, yet he would have been compelled to disregard their existence when the Treasurer presented his budget to this chamber, because it susbtantially increases the rates of tax on many of the items to which she has referred.
– Was that Liberal party candidate elected to the Parliament?
– I am not able to give the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) a definite answer to that question. I shall now proceed to show members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party, and the people of Australia, that the Government is not seriously attempting to combat the present inflationary conditions. The sales tax has been extravagantly increased on basic necessaries of life, the effect of which will be to increase the cost of living. In addition, the radio manufacturing industry is henceforth to be regarded as a luxury. I suppose that every one of the hundreds of thousands of people who, I know, are listening to me to-night regards his radio set as a necessity in the home, yet the Government proposes to treat the manufacture of radios as a luxury industry, and the wealthy man and the wage-earner alike will be obliged to pay a luxury tax when they purchase receiving sets. The Government is evidently prepared to sacrifice the welfare of that basic industry, if necessary, in order to prevent the purchase of radio receivers, and seeks to collect revenue at the expense of many people who can least afford to pay the additional sales tax. Indeed, those who depend on their weekly wages to make ends meet have no real wealth with which to meet increases of tax. I make that observation in order to show the manner in which the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, which told the people during the last general election campaign that, if returned to office, they would give them incentives to increase production, are honouring that promise.
The all-out production drive that has been advocated by the Prime Minister is a most amazing scheme. His colleague, the Treasurer, has increased taxation in many directions, and the right honorable gentleman himself is appealing to thousands of men to leave industry and join the armed forces. I do not disagree with the right honorable gentleman’s appeal for recruits, but I point out that he cannot expect a production drive to succeed when he is constantly introducing schemes for depriving industry of thousands of able men. The two policies are not co-ordinated. If that is the kind of policy which, during the last general election campaign, the present Government promised to implement in order to put value back into the £1, the outlook for the economic stability of Australia in future is gloomy indeed.
I mention those few matters in order to convince the Government that Opposition members are serious when they say that they are sick and tired of the apologies that they are always given by it to excuse its failure to honour its preelection promise to put value back into the £1. Members of the Australian Labour party, and the people generally, are tired of the Government’s inactivity, incapacity and inability and have lost confidence in it. If Ministers believe that any one has any confidence in their administration, let them study the recruiting figures. If they do so, they will find that despite numerous appeals to Australians to enlist in the forces, fewer than 1,000 have responded. The cost of recruiting is almost £1,000 a head in respect of the number of men who have enlisted.
– That statement is nonsense.
– According to figures that were supplied by the Government between 800 and 900 men have enlisted. That response, in itself, will give honorable members an idea of the general lack of confidence in the Government at the present time and, clearly, it is justified, because all sections of the community are feeling the strain of carrying on with insufficient income, which has resulted from the inability of the Government to combat the inflationary conditions.
I hold in my hand another election dodger which is well worth reading to honorable members in order to summarize the number of things that the Government has not done to solve the all-impor tant problem of rising prices. The dodger Ls in black and white, and, appropriately enough, a coffin is depicted on it. Issued by the Liberal party, it carries in large black type the caption, “Bury them all on December 10th”. It proceeds to itemize various things that would be buried. The first of them is excess government spending. To what degree has this Government reduced expenditure? Since it assumed office, the Public Service has been increased by approximately 4,000 persons, and the Treasurer is budgeting for record public expenditure during the current financial year. Another item that should be buried, according to the election pamphlet, is high living costs. Honorable members, and the people of Australia generally, are painfully aware of the rate at which costs have risen since this Government assumed office. Another item is excess taxation. The Treasurer proposes to increase taxes during the current financial year. It goes on to say, bury strikes, blackouts, low wage value, fear of the future, and man-power conscription. Every one knows that the economic controls that are proposed by the Government provide for the direction of capital and labour into certain avenues of investment and work. None of these promises has been carried out. These facts should be an indication to the people that the Government is incapable of conducting the administration of this country, and of combating the inflationary conditions.
I conclude my remarks on this sorry and miserable document that has been presented by the Treasurer as a budget by forecasting how people will regard it. I believe, first, that the exploiters and the unscrupulous who thrive and prosper on the sufferings and poverty of the people view it with satisfaction and as a stimulus to their activity, secondly, that the wool-growers see in it an indication that the Kelly Gang in the persons of members of the Australian Country party rides the ranges again; thirdly, that those who believe in a national production effort supported by a sound financial policy receive it with disappointment and dismay; and. finally, those people, rich and poor alike, who labour and toil for the welfare of their country and of their fellow men, regard it as a gross betrayal of the pledge made by, and of the mandate given to, the Government to reduce prices and to put value back into the £1.
.- Obviously, the Government in applying itself to the task of preparing the annual budget, would need to give general consideration to the financial position of the country at that time, and it has been apparent for a considerable period that one of the major factors in our financial position has been the inflationary conditions that have been developing since the end of World War II., and causing prices to rise steadily. As has been pointed out recently in this chamber, the rate of the increase of prices has been somewhat blunted of late, but even granting the accuracy of that opinion, the inflationary situation, and the consequent increase of prices, are a prime factor to which the Government would need to apply itself in preparing its budget. We all know that many factors have produced the inflationary situation, and I do not propose to expend any time in attempting to discuss all of them. It may be accepted that the Government has been well aware of what in its mind constitutes the main causes of the development of that situation. I fully realize that the basic cause is the lack of balance that has existed for a considerable time, and has become accentuated in recent years, between the purchasing power of the community and the availability of consumer goods on which that purchasing power would be expended. That statement can be made without challenge, and, from that point, we must recognize that there is only one of two methods that may be employed to rectify that lack of balance. One of those methods is that which was adopted during World War II., namely, taking away from the community its excess purchasing power by such means as were available, in the main, by excessive and crippling taxes. Whilst that method may be justified during war-time as a proper method and probably the only method by which that lack of balance may be adjusted, it cannot be justified in a young and developing country such as Australia, particularly in a period of relative peace. Therefore, the only alternative to which the Government can apply itself in dealing with the situation is that of strengthening the other arm of the balance, namely, the production of consumer goods.
The fact has been admitted by Government and Opposition members alike, and by many members of the community, that until production is properly restored in Australia, we cannot provide the remedy for the inflationary spiral, with the consequent increases of costs, which has given Opposition members so much ammunition for their campaign against the Government in recent months. One of the first acts of this Government on assuming office was to apply itself to the policy of increasing production. We said then, and we repeat now, that control by the Communists of the basic means of production in Australia has been, and, until it is challenged, will remain one of the principal causes of underproduction in Australia. Therefore, the first task of the’ Government has been to deal with that basic cause. I acknowledge that there are other factors which must be tackled before production can be properly developed. Many honorable members have emphasized the need for greater co-operation between employer and employee, and for the employer to apply himself to the problem of providing better working conditions and the like for employees. I agree that those factors have a bearing on production, but underlying all of them is the fact that, so long as the Communist organizations are able to throttle our basic industries, for just so long shall we fail to increase production. So the Government, in applying itself to its task of smashing that control of the basic industries, believes that it is carrying out one of the first essential acts in order to achieve maximum production, about which Opposition members speak so much.
It is a well-known fact that members of the Opposition, instead of co-operating, set out from the beginning of this Parliament to impede the Government in its basic task, and, in doing so, either deliberately or otherwise have impeded Australia’s return to normal economic conditions. In that way, they themselves have contributed very largely to the persistence of the high level of prices in Australia. It should be pointed out that if Opposition members are sincere when they speak of putting value back into the £1, the first thing that is required of them is to cease deliberately stultifying the operations of this Government which are designed to achieve that objective. As a matter of fact, we have had several instances in this chamber in recent weeks of the fact that some members of the Labour party do not care one jot whether or not the Government succeeds in its task. For the sake of purely party propaganda, they prefer to see the present condition of affairs continue. Such honorable members as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) have said definitely that they will not only refuse to co-operate with the Government in any attempt to develop proper economic conditions in Australia, but also do their best to ensure that the trade union movement itself will refuse to offer any co-operation in that matter, which can only rebound to the great benefit of all great trade unionists.
– They do not trust the Government.
– I find that it is a matter for some gratification that expressions such as have been uttered by the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Watson do not command the complete support of the organizations that they profess to represent in this chamber. The Newcastle ironworkers attended a meeting of their union on Sunday at which they carried the following resolution: -
That this meeting of Newcastle ironworkers confirms our endorsed policy against Communist control of the union’s policy and acknowledge* tha Australian people’s mandate, given to the present Federal Government, to legislate for the dissolution of the Communist party anil the removal of Communist union leaders.
What would have happened if members of the Opposition in this Parliament had been animated by a similar spirit to that expressed by the Newcastle ironworkers? When the Government first introduced the legislation to ban the Communist party, the Opposition would have co-operated with it and passed the measure. The result would have been that already the Communist control of trade unions, which is referred to in the ironworkers’ resolution, would have been broken and something would have been done to restore value to the £1. After all, a pre-requisite to increasing production, which is necessary if we are to restore the value of the £1, is the establishment of industrial peace. However, members of the Opposition, instead of applying all the serious thought that they could bring to the solution of a national problem, chose to indulge in a vicious outburst that was intended to stimulate class consciousness. That attitude did them no credit whatever. They attempted to inflame the minds of the workers by suggesting that the present Government, cannot be trusted in matters ‘ that concern the industrial workers of this country. They overlooked, of course, the fact that members on this side of the chamber have probably done just as much hard work in their time, and have just as keen an appreciation of the workers’ difficulties, as have honorable members opposite. Even now members of the Opposition are trying to instil into the minds of the workers that the measure to provide for the dissolution of the Communist party was introduced in order to attack the trade unions of this country. The real fact is, of course, that the implementation of that legislation will confer on the trade unions the greatest benefit ever given to them by any administration. The Government knows that the basic cause of the present economic unbalance, which it is seeking to remedy, is industrial disharmony. It set out to introduce a practical remedy for that state of affairs, but so far it has been hampered by the Australian Labour party, which has used every means in its power, including its- majority in the Senate, to obstruct it.
Apart altogether from Communist interference with production, the Government has had to contend with a number of factors, all of which involve additional expenditure. Sacrifices have had to be made in order to improve and expand the defences of this country so as to ensure the safety of our people. Provision has also had to be made for the development of our primary and secondary industries. Large sums of money have to be expended upon migration., The Government is also faced with certain commitments of honour, such as the payment of war gratuity next year, an increase of social services benefits, and the provision of more liberal repatriation pensions and services. In addition, the Government had to meet the demands by State governments for funds with which to carry on developmental works. All those matters had to be taken into account by the Treasurer when he was preparing the budget on behalf of the Government. Members of the Government realize quite clearly that whilst the expenditure of money for the purpose I have mentioned is necessary, it will pump more purchasing power into the community, without producing a corresponding increase of consumer goods, and that it must, therefore, aggravate the present inflationary trend. Honorable members will appreciate that the Treasurer has had a most difficult task to perform in balancing necessary expenditure against the Government’s determination to halt inflation.
As a measure of the success achieved by the right honorable gentleman in presenting the budget, let us consider in some detail the major items of expenditure that I have indicated and the impact that they will have on our economy. First, let us consider defence. For years past members of the non-Labour parties, who were then in Opposition, urged upon the former Labour Administration the need to provide effective defence. “We were told, however, that it was not necessary to expend any very great amount on defence. Members of the Labour party believed that if another war occurred it would probably be a “ push-button war “, and that, therefore, it was not necessary to train men for military service. They contended that if war occurred men would volunteer for service, and that there was no need to give them military training in the meantime. The parlous condition into which our defences sank because of that policy has been well exemplified by the predicament in which we were placed when the United Nations appealed to us for assistance in the Korean incident. ‘ Although we were anxious to assist the United States of America, Great Britain and the British Commonwealth, all that we could supply was one squadron of fighter aircraft and a few small naval vessels. No troops were available for service. Of course, we should have been confronted with an identical situation if Australia had been threatened with invasion, and I emphasize that Australia might well have been threatened, and, indeed, might yet be threatened. Before we could send to Korea even the single battalion which is now upholding our name there, we had to re-enlist members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan and servicemen in Australia. It is significant that the choice of men for enlistment as replacements for our troops in Korea had necessarily to be restricted to those who had received military training in World War II. and could be employed for service straight away. I point out also that when the Korean incident occurred, Australia, in common with the other democracies, had been confronted for some years with the threat of another world war. Almost all other nations had realized the existence of that threat and had taken appropriate steps to defend their countries. The expenditure of the United States of America and of the United Kingdom upon defence preparations had been expanded enormously, and New Zealand had seen fit to take a referendum of its people on the desirability of introducing compulsory military training. Yet, all that time, Australia’s Labour Government was living in a fool’s paradise and refused to make proper provision for our defence. During the previous Parliament I expressed at length my views concerning the defence of New Guinea, and I shall not detain the committee at any length on this subject now. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) devoted most of his speech this afternoon to a fine, instructive address on the matter, in which he emphasized that the proper defence of New Guinea is vital to our national survival. From that point of view, I merely say now that the expenditure on New Guinea proposed by the Government in the budget under consideration is completely justified.
A fair examination of the budget will reveal that the Government has faced up squarely to the need to provide adequate defence for Australia in accordance with the expressed desire of the majority of our people. A recent gallup poll revealed that nine out of ten people in this country are in favour of the proposal to re-introduce universal military training. The Government has been compelled to provide an additional £30,000,000 to cover the cost of strengthening our military forces, which will include expenditure associated with the re-introduction of national military service. Increased rates of pay for all members of the forces, the provision of additional and more modern weapons and equipment, the construction - of additional barracks and other incidental items requiring expenditure will cost a lot of money. The Government has also decided to expend £50,000,000 on establishing a stock pile of materials required for military equipment in case of war. When it decided to expend such a large sum of money on establishing a stock pile it realized that that expenditure would prevent it from making substantial reductions of taxes, about which the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) had much to say a little while ago-. A great deal could have been done with £50,000,000, and therefore the Government deserves credit for the courage that it has shown in deciding to expend that money upon a purpose which, although necessary, may not be politically popular.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) has said that there is a limit to the expenditure that should be incurred on defence, and I construed his remarks to mean that we have already passed the limit. I say that there is no limit to what we should expend in order to ensure our national survival. That fact that thousands of Australians have risked their lives in the interests of this country by offering to serve with our forces in Korea proves that there is no real limit to what should be expended on the safety of this country. It ill becomes the Leader of the Opposition to suggest that a limit should be placed on our efforts to ensure our national survival. Carried to its logical conclusion the right honorable gentleman’s contention is that if we cannot afford proper defences for the country, then we should simply let the country go by default. That is not the attitude of the present Government.
The migration scheme which the Government is implementing was introduced by the previous Government, and was admitted by every one to be necessary for the development and the defence of Australia. The present budget proposes an expenditure of £22,500,000 on migration, which is £6,300,000 more than was expended in the previous year. I do not believe that members of the Opposition can criticize that expenditure, which is, I submit, the minimum amount that can be provided to continue the efficient operation of the immigration plan. Some honorable members opposite have suggested that we should interrupt the fulfilment of the immigration programme until our economic condition has improved. However, the position is that we have to take migrants while we can get them. At present a large pool of the best migrants is available, but if we do not take them now we shall probably not be able to obtain them later. If we hesitate, they may go to other countries. I submit that we have no alternative but to proceed with the programme. At the same time we all realize that the proposed expenditure on migration contributes towards inflation, because it pumps additional purchasing power into the community without providing a corresponding increase of consumer goods to balance that expenditure.
The Government also faces the task of finding the cash to pay early next year war gratuities amounting to £67,000,000. The Leader of the Opposition has already claimed that certain sums were earmarked by the previous Government for that purpose. That is correct, but the fact still remains that this Government is required to find the £67,000,000 in cash because the amounts set aside by the previous Government were not kept in actual cash, as some people outside fondly believe, but were used for the purpose of redeeming treasury-bills at the time. Imagine how great an inflationary effect the payment of that £67,000,000 will have on the economy of this country. Yet that is a commitment of honour that cannot possibly be evaded. The same consideration also applies to our proposals for increased social services and repatriation benefits, which no honorable member opposite has criticized. In fact, knowing that they would not thereby commit themselves to anything, some of them have said that the proposed increases are not large enough. Yet in this financial year we are providing an increase of nearly £36,000,000 for the payment of age, invalid, widows’, war and service pensions, and for the financing of health services. That expenditure is absolutely essential and cannot be avoided, yet it must have an inflationary effect on our economy. Those are some of the main items to which the Treasurer has had to apply himself, and some of the obligations that the Government has to face.
I turn now to a survey of the degree to which the Treasurer has succeeded in the difficult task of balancing his budget on the one hand while, on the other hand, doing nothing to increase the inflationary condition. The summary which accompanied the budget shows how that was done. It is admitted that the Treasurer has been assisted by buoyant and increasing revenue. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) referred to the anticipated increase of the revenue from income tax, and tried to twist it into proof that the taxpayer is to suffer an increase of tax. The fact of the matter is that that increased revenue arises from the continuing buoyancy of the whole of our economy and from our increased earnings, particularly from our exports. In spite of the fact that the Treasurer has been assisted by buoyant revenue, and although he has made provision for some increases of sales tax and postal charges, there would still have been a big gap to be bridged before the budget could have been balanced. The method that be chose for bridging that gap has given rise to a good deal of criticism by honorable members opposite. I say that what the Treasurerhas done in respect of the proposed wool sales deductions is that he has turned to the service of the nation the sensational, favorable development of our wool situation. That is one of the major factors that he has used to enable him to avoid the inflationary process’ of issuing treasury-bills in order to finance the Government’s commitments. Instead of giving the Treasurer credit for what he has done honorable members opposite have misrepresented his action, and he has been the object of pressure politics and of the Labour party’s determination to twist everything to its own advantage. Nevertheless, he has been successful in producing a scheme, the significant factor of which is that under it the woolgrower will not pay one penny more in income tax than he would have paid if the scheme had never been proposed. That fact needs to be driven home, and is the answer to the cry that the proposed wool sales deductions are a sectional tax.
– The wool-growers will he paying their taxes in advance.
– Exactly ! The time of payment has been altered. In other words, the wool-grower has been placed on exactly the same basis as is every honorable member whose income tax is deducted from the salary that he is entitled to receive every month. That, is the position, yet honorable members opposite have described the proposal as a sectional tax or levy, which is simply a misrepresentation of fact. The very satisfactory position that wool-growers are now in is being used by the Treasurer for the benefit of the country. Will any wool-grower deny that he is in a position to offer that assistance to this nation in its hour of need?
.- It is nine years since the reactionaries presented their last budget to this Parliament. Everybody knows what, happened to that budget as well as what happened to the Government that presented it.
– A Labour government later used that budget when it came into office.
– The Labour Government that came into office used an en- tirely different budget. We certainly did not adopt the extraordinary proposal for post-war credits that was at that time being advocated by a number of Liberal/ party members. I have no doubt that the right honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Fadden), who was then the right honorable member for Darling Downs, would have brought forward that proposal two years earlier than he did if he could have persuaded members of the Liberal party to agree to it. Under that proposal we were to tax ourselves to pay for the war and then put the little bit left over into a reserve fund. “When the war was over we were to tax ourselves to pay ourselves a refund^ It is not to be wondered at that the presentPrime Minister (Mr. Menzies) rebelled against that proposal, and that the Treasurer, then the Leader of- the Opposition, uttered his famous words, “ Another stab in the back. Another in the long series for which Mr. Menzies is famous “. But I shall not go back into ancient history, because after all honorable members of the two parties now in office have to live together in such amity as they can achieve. I seem to have an extraordinary effect on honorable members opposite, because every time I make a speech they start quacking like a pondful of Donald Ducks. They do not like to be reminded of their sticky past.
– What about their sticky future?
– Their future will be even more sticky than their past has been. Budgets are adjusted nowadays on their effect upon the interests of the little people who form the bulk of our population - the wage-earners, salary-earners, small farmers and others who produce the wealth of the community. If a budget acts unfavorably upon the interests of the little people then it is a bad budget. Judged by that criterion, this is a bad budget. In the years that have intervened between the presentation of the last Fadden budget and the presentation of this ohe, the Leader of. the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) introduced as Treasurer a number of budgets, every one ofwhich was balanced. In his postwar budgets he budgeted for a deficit and on every occasion finished the year with a surplus. It has remained for the present Treasurer to present an unbalanced budget that will produce a deficit. Mark you, the expenditure that we are asked to vote shows an extraordinary rise over the expenditure provided for in previous budgets. In 1946-47 .the total budget appropriation was £469,000,000. In 1947-48 it was £466,000,000. In 1948-49 it was £554,000,000, and in 1949-50 it was £606,000,000. This year we are asked to vote £7S9,000,000, or an increase of £183,000,000 over last year. Of that amount £103,000,000 is to be taken from the wool-growers, who have been selected as the victims, just as the wheatgrowers were selected a little earlier when they lost their superphosphate subsidy to the amount of £3,500,000 a year. Members of the Australian Country party have a lot to answer for and they had better start now explaining their actions to their electors, because they have not much time in the few months thar will elapse before there is another general election in which to persuade the farmer? that their story is the right one.
– Why wait for a few months to elapse?
– Because in my opinion it will not be constitutionally possible to secure a double dissolution before that period has elapsed. When we go to the people and tell them about the manner in which we managed the finances of thi?country, when we were in power, we shall be able to say that since the war ended we always budgeted for some relief for the taxpayers. Despite the fact that this budget proposes to expend the record amount of £789,000,000. it makes provision for relief of taxpayers, in the form of a reduction of sales tax on some items, of the miserable amount of £l,.50’0,000v At the same time sales tax revenue is to be increased by £10,000,000 by means of the additionarate that is to be imposed on so-called luxury items. Some of them are indeed luxury items, but nobody can convince me that that lipstick, leg tan and children’s mouth organs are in that category, or thar radios can now be regarded as luxuries and not necessaries. This Government always pretends that it wishes to promote the development of indigenous culture because it has so many university products in its ranks. Yet it has brought down a proposal to place an impost upon gramophone records, which many people buy for entertainment and education. There are many protests from people who are interested in good music against the savage impost that the Government intends to levy’ upon gramophone records.
– It has even decided to put a levy on bagpipes.
– Yes, and I have notthe slightest doubt that when Scottish people really realize what is happening every pipe band in Australia will revive the old Jacobite anthem Will ye no’ come bach again? and it will be directed at us. Of course, our exile, unlike the exile of the Stuarts, is not to be permanent. We shall be back, and before we get back we shall tell the people of al] the things that we did for them when
We were in office. As a result of the Labour budgets between 1942 and 1949, the Australian people benefited by reductions of taxes of all sorts by an amount of £1S6,025,000. ‘ That “is a huge sum. Income tax was reduced by £121,500,000. We made concessions in regard to children that benefited the taxpayers to the amount of another £16,000,000. We reduced sales tax receipts by means of exemptions and reductions by £35,000,000. It remained for this Government to reverse the process and to reimpose sales tax that we had taken off. We reduced customs and excise duties by £6,000,000, war-time company tax by £3,500,000, company tax by £1,500,000, estate duty by £1,500,000, gift duty by £50,000, entertainment tax by about £1,240,000, and gold tax by £550,000. Every post-war budget introduced by a Labour government included some reduction of the previous yield from taxation. On the 1st January, 1946, which was the earliest practical date from which reductions could be affected, our reductions represented 12£ per cent, on the previous yield. They amounted in all to £20,000,000. The Labour Government made a further reduction of 11 per cent, on the 1st July, 1946, involving £17,500,000; of 26 per cent, on the 1st July, 1949, involving £33,000,000 ; of 17 per cent, on the 1st July, 1948, involving £26,000,000 ; and of 23 per cent, on the 1st July, 1949, involving £36,500,000.
This budget proposes no worthwhile income tax reduction, but merely a readjustment consequent on a change of the system from rebates to deductions. It proposes no reduction of company tax although the people in a big way who voted for and helped to finance the successful general election campaign of the present Government parties expected a substantial reduction. They were encouraged in that belief by the Prime Minister’s policy speech. I have here a copy of the Sun News-Pictorial of the 11th November, 1949, which is headed, “ ‘ Cut living, costs ‘ policy launched by Menzies. First joint attack by Liberals and Country party “. This Government has cut no living costs. It has seen costs rise and has not only done nothing but is also incapable of doing anything to solve the problem of everincreasing inflation. Mr. Dedman, who was the honorable member for Corio in the last Parliament and previous Parliaments, very clearly showed in a statement that he issued on the 14th July, 1948, that the Chifley Government’s financial plan set Australia on the road to prosperity and enabled it to survive a difficult transition period from war to peace. He said -
The plain fact is that after paying the taxation necessary to finance the services rendered by Government Departments, the total of personal incomes left to the taxpayers in 1947-48 was only 90 per cent, higher than it was when Mr. Fadden and his colleagues were in office. This increase much more than compensated for the 33 per cent, increase in the cost of living, lt is high time . . that the press of Australia should recognize that the fiscal policy implemented by Mr. Chifley ever since he became Treasurer in 1941 is the most important single contributing factor to the unexampled buoyancy of the national economy.
When the Government is told of its shortcomings and is asked when it is going to put value back into the £1 honorable members of the Opposition and the workers receive supercilious lectures from Ministers to the effect that the duty of all Australians is to produce -more, but there is always a masterly inactivity when it comes to doing anything themselves. They have no plan. They have no proposal. They say that if the workers would only produce more everything would be all right. How can a seaman on a ship produce more? How can the girl watching many machines in the knitting mills and textile factories attend to more machines? Some persons may. be able to work a little harder and some may not be working as hard as they should do, but they are the exceptions. The great majority are doing a fair day’s work and are anxious to do so in order to increase the prosperity of this country.
A speech was delivered by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) to a school for executives at Geelong Grammar School on the 21st May, in which he stated -
We must take the measures as a government to unsure that if we ask people to work harder, if we expect of them a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay in return, they do get a fair day’s pay; in return they do get a fair share -of the national dividend, and a fair part of the national production.
We shall not get the co-operation that is needed or the effort required if the worker feels he is merely working for the boss; that so far as he is concerned it is so much more -sweat and stress for no greater return.
It was not a Labour man, but the present Minister for Labour and National Service who said that.
– Did he charge 6d. a time for it?
– I do not know, but he would be entitled to charge anything to honorable members opposite because they would not appreciate it if he gave it to them for nothing. The Labour party docs not view the position in the same way as does the Liberal party. The trade union leaders who use such words as have been quoted in this House lately in an appeal for greater production had no illusions about what will be the result of wages chasing ever spiralling prices. The emergency council meeting of the Australian Council of Trade Unions submitted to mass meetings of unionists throughout Australia in February last a motion, a part of which read -
The ever widening gap between wages anr! prices is a threat to the living standards of workers which must be arrested.
We warn the Menzies Government, therefore, that unless decisive and immediate action is taken to protect the purchasing power of wages, and regulate profits and price*, industrial unrest is inevitable.
Honorable members opposite think that it is only necessary to tell the worker to work harder and longer and the problem of inflation will solve itself. They do not accept the Labour party’s view that profits have to be regulated, that prices have to be controlled and that there should be a uniform companies act. When the
Opposition makes these suggestions honorable members opposite say, “Why not freeze wages also ? “
– They say that you are going to do it.
– That the Labour party is going to freeze wages ?
– The workers could agree to wages being freezed, but the Commonwealth has no power to freeze wages or to fix profits under the Constitution as it now stands. Until the Constitution has had written into it the power to fix prices and to regulate profits, honorable members opposite should not talk to the workers about freezing their wages or ask them to make an extra effort. Honorable members of the Opposition know what is behind the plan of the present Government. The Government wishes to do something which it is not prepared to do openly. For instance, the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), in a broadcast over the Macquarie network on the 1st October last, said, “Inflation anywhere is a tough problem to tackle, as the remedies are unpleasant”. If that is so, why does not .the Minister say what the remedies are ? Why ask the worker to produce more? Why will the Government not say what it would do if it had control of the Senate and if the Constitution would allow it to do what it has in mind to do? The most honest man among the Liberals is the federal president of the Liberal party, Mr. Malcolm Ritchie, who in an address to a meeting of the Liberal party at Launceston on the 5th August said -
If we attacked the position with the realism it deserves, w<> would immediately revert to conditions of the 56-hour week.
The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr, Treloar) holds that view and so do all other honorable members opposite because they are not game to buck the grand panjandrum. They will not tell him that they are not prepared to subscribe to his view, but they tell the worker that he must produce more. A statement by Mr. K F. Coles, president of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, is reported in Australian Coal, Shipping,
Steel, and the Harbour of the 1st September as follows : -
Although five years have passed since the close of the war, some controls then imposed linger on although they were instituted purely as emergency measures. Foremost is price control which has become useless in itf effect and farcical in its implementation under six State Ministers meeting periodically in different States.
The Chambers of Commerce want no control. They want to implement the old, hoary theories of Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Ricardo. who were mentioned by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer). They want free enterprise, and really free enterprise means no controls at all. Unfortunately for honorable members opposite they find that the theories of Adam Smith do not work to-day. Quite recently the Minister for National Development said that Australia needed a planned economy. One cannot be an ‘advocate of free enterprise and at the same time believe in a planned economy. The Liberal party is reaching the state of a semi-socialist body. The Australian Country party is becoming a demi-semi-socialist party.
The Textile Journal of Australia is the official journal of the “Woollen and Worsted Manufacturers of Australia, the Associated Cotton Textile Manufacturers of Australia, the Society of Dyers and Colourists of Australia, the Knitted Outwear Manufacturers, the Full Fashion Hosiery Manufacturers Association, and the Textile Society of Australia - in short, all the people’ who run to the Labour party because it is a protectionist party and want it to support their tariff proposals. An article in the July, 1947, edition of this journal read, in part - lt is considered essential that there should be, say, 10 per cent, of unemployed with which to stimulate the efficiency of those already in employment.
That statement was not made during a depression.
– It is barbarism.
– What is capitalism but barbarism? I heard it said 30 years ago that capitalism .was only anarchy plus a police force. Capitalism is tin* law of the jungle.
– That is the first mutter I have heard from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) to-night. Perhaps he will listen to this: In May of this year, Mr. Kimpton, the chairman: of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce,, said -
The 40-hour week has proved a tragic failure. Let us have a 40-hour week when, economic circumstances justify it, but in the meantime a 44-hour week should be worked! until the production crisis lias been mastered. The Federal Government should ask the Arbitration Court to increase weekly working hours, to 44.
The workers have every justification for being a little suspicious about theintentions of the Government, which tellsthem to produce more. They have nofaith in this Government. They have no faith in the Treasurer because hehas produced a bad budget and is a blunderer. The great tragedy for Australia to-day is that the right honorablemember for McPherson (Mr. Fadden) holds the destinies of Australia in tilehollo w of his head. Australia needs a. programme designed to lead it to a greater future. The programme of this Government will lead it back to an unhappy past instead of to a better and” a greater future. That programme, in all respects, is of doubtful constitutionality and of even more doubtful economic validity. It proposes a schemethat will not work, that may be thrown; out in the courts, particularly the proposal to re-establish control over capital’ issues. Honorable members have heard of that proposal, but no bill has been introduced to implement it. The Government also proposes to bring in a bill toimpose an excess profits tax, but honorable members have not seen that eitherand may not see it until the next session is in progress. The Prime Minister, whoat the time was Leader of the Opposition,, said in his policy speech of the 10th November, 1949, “The greatest task,, therefore, is to get value back into the £1, that is to get prices down”: Honorablemembers may not have heard that before,, so I shall repeat it - “ The greatest task,, therefore, is to get value back into the- £1, that is to get prices down “. In a. national broadcast on the 20th December.. 1949, after he had successfully fooled the people, he said -
With our departments re-organized and a proper charter in the hands of Ministers we hope to attack our tasks completely. The greatest of them, as I am sure you will agree, will be to arrest the present alarming rise in costs and prices and so put value back into the money you earn and spend.
So that for months past in weekly broad- casts and in daily answers to questions in this chamber and in another place, Ministers have been saying things which they do not believe and about which the people have become nauseated. On the 23rd February last the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) said in the Senate, “ The Government will prevent the cost of living from rising. In this chamber the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), our absent friend, said, “ Value will be put back into the £1 “. The people now want to know when value is to be put back into the £1, because if it is not put back this country will gradually sink into another financial disaster. Only the Labour party can lead in a crisis, whether it be in peace-time or in war-time. Only the Labour party can pull this country out of the morass into which anti-Labour parties drag it. It is all very well for honorable members on the Government side to be blanketing the air as the Prime Minister has done, annoying the children because he takes up the time usually allotted to their serials, and even enters into competition with the second Mrs. Obbs, but the whole thing is becoming so ludicrous that the people are sick and tired of hearing ministerial views. They want a, little sense occasionally from Ministers, but they certainly do not want to hear them all the time.Recently a friend of mine underwent an operation in a hospital. When he was taken back to the ward a nurse was there to help him out of his comatose state. A radio was blaring near by, broadcasting the proceedings of this Parliament. As my friend slowly recovered consciousness, the nurse asked him, “ Do you know where you are now? “ He replied, “ I know I am not in Heaven “. She asked, “ Why do you say that ? “, and he replied, “ Because I can hear Bob Menzies talking “. The people are getting a little annoyed be cause this Government is talking too much and doing too little. They want to see something concrete taking shape, but the Government cannot be trusted. The leopard does not change its spots nor can the Government parties change their character. The absent Minister for the Interior (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who should be looking after the interests of the Northern Territory and Canberra, is in London. The various activities of the Department of the Interior are neglected because that gentleman believes that it is better for him to be in London than in Australia. He is a dangerous man in a crisis. He was Postmaster-General in the early days of the second world war, and in a speech to theRotary Club of Sydney, reported in the Daily Telegraph of the 1st May, 1940, he said this -
I am pleased to know that the Government proposes further to restrict the press. It is high time this was done. . . We have shown a great deal of tolerance in times gone by, but in time of war it is necessary to hand over the liberty of free speech to the Government.
The honorable gentleman is deputy leader of the Liberal party in this Parliament. Therefore the workers are very worried about the political position to-day, and they have good reason to be worried. All is not well between the Government parties. This was revealed at a conference of the Northern Queensland Country party a few months ago, at which the chairman, Mr. Hudson, said -
I am more suspicious each day of the Liberals and their idea of mutual co-operation. . . I think their idea of co-operation is that we grow the potatoes and they eat them. Do not kid yourselves that they have any time for our friend Fadden. They just put up with him.
I suggest to honorable members that that is what we also do. At Wimmera in Victoria, on the eve of the last general election the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) addressed a meeting. A part of a newspaper report of his speech is as follows : -
Mr. Turnbull said that people shouldn’t be led astray by “Liberal and Country Party piffle “. They were Liberals in Canberra, and Liberal and Country Party in Victoria. They changed their name on the way over to Canberra, and changed it on the way back.
The Country Party would join a composite Ministry only on the condition that certain concessions were granted to producers. The Liberal Party represented the octopus of the city.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is very difficult to follow the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and a good deal of mental agility is needed to keep pace with him. He expressed regret at the sales tax on gramophone records having been increased, and as most of his speech consisted of quotations from speeches of people who are not members of this chamber and who are little concerned in politics, I agree that it would be a good thing if some more economical way were provided for him to talk about the matters that he discusses.
The honorable gentleman attacked the budget and made great play of the tax concessions granted by the previous Government. Like every honorable member opposite who has spoken, he either omitted to mention the defence of Australia or skidded lightly over it. I suggest that the committee might take some notice of a certain matter which the honorable member did not mention. From the end of the last war until July, 1949, the previous Government sold £185,000,000 worth of war material which is now desperately needed by Australia. It was possible to reduce taxation and therefore to get a great deal of credit because of the sale of this essential war material. It is true that the previous Government proposed to expend £50,000,000 a year for five years on defence, but it tackled the matter in such a dilatory way that it proved that the defence of Australia did not occupy its time to any considerable degree.
It is pathetic to hear honorable members opposite putting themselves forward as champions of the wool-growers. That is the most amusing thing I have heard for a long time. I represent a country electorate and I do not think that any wool-growers will be likely to be hoodwinked by the protestations of honorable members opposite, particularly as they represent a party which introduced bank nationalization and was not competent enough to initiate legislation on civil aviation and medical benefits which would stand the scrutiny of the High Court. The memories of people’ are not short and the extraordinary action taken by the Labour Government in 1947, which has not yet been finalized, has not been forgotten. Nor has the fact that three of its enactments were not constitutional.
There has been much talk about the desirability of controlling prices, but the Australian Government has no power to control prices. The people, at a referendum, decided that the Government should not be given such control permanently, and I am sure that any number of referendums would give the same result. When I rose to speak I proposed to deal with matters outside the party sphere, but I considered it to be essential to reply to some of the ridiculous statements of honorable members opposite. I hope all honorable members will bear in mind the fact that £185,000,000 worth of war material sold by the previous Government, thus jeopardizing Australia’s defence for the sake of gaining popularity ensuing through a reduction of taxation.
The contributions made to this debate by the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson) and the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) were very valuable. They spoke of the responsibility of the Parliament and the people for the development of our external territories. I have studied for a long time the problems of native development and administration and at one period I served, for only a short time because of health reasons, in the British Colonial Service in Nigeria. I agree with everything that has been said about the necessity to develop our territories and in regard to the recruiting of staffs for administration and their adequate payment. I agree that they should have proper conditions of service to keep them happy and contented and to enable them to do the work that must be done. However, none of these things reaches to the bottom of our responsibility in New Guinea and Papua. One of the most solemn responsibilities that can devolve upon a community is that of the tutelage of an uncivilized people. Throughout the history of colonial development genuine and grand attempts have been made to raise less civilized people to the standards of civilized nations, but none of them has been very successful. I should like to know what we are aiming at in the development of Papua. We talk about development of economic resources and the exploitation of valuable timber supplies and so on, but what, basically, is behind our activity? When I was in the Colonial Service the Duke of Devonshire, who was Colonial Secretary in the British Government, wrote an instruction which became the guiding principle of British colonial administration. That minute was that in all matters under consideration the interests of the native peoples should be paramount. We should be wise enough to write that minute into our ideas with respect to the development of the territories. What are we going to do? Are we going to civilize the natives by inflicting upon them the kind of civilization that we have inflicted upon ourselves? Are we to tei. them that the best that we can offer them is to develop their country until they have all the things that Australians in Melbourne and Sydney enjoy? We should not proceed along those lines. Can we not tackle the problem of the wellbeing of the native races on a better basis than that? We must get the line along which we wish to proceed, and stick firmly to it, We shall not make much progress if we offer to the natives as an alternative to the simple and primitive beliefs and customs that they solemnly observe, a kind of atheistic materialism. We must so develop those races as to enable them of land and to develop cultural and .economic conditions that will best suit their requirements. It will be useless merely to offer them socialism, capitalism or some other ism. It is our fundamental duty to enable the natives to develop the kind of culture, civilization, and way of living that they themselves wish to follow. I trust that it will be possible to develop among our colonial administrators some thoughts along those lines. The contributions that have been made in the course of this debate with respect to our growing consciousness of our responsibilities towards the territories under Australia’s control have been of immense value. I trust that this problem will always be approached in this chamber on a non party basis. I am not suggesting that we should not attend to the economic development of the territories. If we are to provide for them health services, including hospitals, roads and communications we must enable them to earn sufficient to pay for such services and, no doubt, as we shall need their products they will need to receive the proceeds from the disposal of those products. I trust that honorable members will agree that the best culture that we can offer to the natives is of a kind that the natives themselves wish to develop and that we should not impose upon them a system that they do not want. 1 experience some difficulty in discussing the next point that I wish to raise because in doing so I may easily lay myself open to misrepresentation and misunderstanding. The time has corns when the Parliament must consider the impact upon the community of our present system of industrial conciliation and arbitration. 1 do not attack that system. My purpose is to endeavour to clarify what should be our approach to this problem. We have subscribed to tha principle that we must maintain certain freedoms at all costs. It is said that a man who has only his labour to sell is perfectly entitled to withhold it in order that he may gain suitable rewards for it. With that principle I agree entirely, but it is being whittled away. For instance, it might be argued with equal force that the wheat-grower has only his wheat to sell and that he is entitled to withhold it from the market until he can obtain a more profitable price for it. However, the wheatgrower is no longer entitled to say, in effect, “I can get 18s. 6d. a bushel for my wheat on the market and I will withhold it from sale until I get that price “. The fact is that the Government is empowered to acquire the farmer’s wheat and to say to him that it will guarantee him a price of, say, 7s. Id. a bushel for all wheat consumed in Australia and a fair price for the proportion of his wheat that is sold overseas. I do not quarrel with that view. However, my point is that that trend of thought is in line with that which underlies our system of industrial conciliation and arbitration in industry.
At present, .a most disastrous railway strike is occurring in Victoria and South Australia. I do not question the merits of it or the right of the men who are directly affected to go on strike. The point I make is that those men have already lost £546,000 in wages and that if they achieve what they set out to achieve about 2,000 men will receive an increase of wages of approximately £16 each a year. In view of those facts, the strike is a very wasteful way of tackling the problem that caused it. As a civilized community we should think along sounder lines. Not only has £546,000 been lost in wages in order to gain a total additional sum of £32,000 a year but in addition the life of the community as a whole has been dislocated. I repeat that I am not condemning the arbitration system. Indeed, it has worked well despite its defects. However, it has produced among employers the attitude of mind that they will obey awards rigidly to the letter and that when they have done that they have fulfilled their social duties as employers. I do not agree with that attitude. Employers must go further than that. If industry is to progress and the rewards of industry are to be spread more widely the community must receive from employers not merely rigid acceptance of awards of the arbitration courts, but also genuine and real leadership in industry.
On the other side - this criticism may be unfair, but it is worth examining - the trade unions, possibly because they approach the court in a position slightly inferior to that in which the employers approach it, adopt the attitude that they are suppliants; but, at the same time, they believe that they have power to decide what the result of the proceedings shall be; in fact, they are the judges as well. That attitude is not common among trade unions most of whom faithfully accept the awards of the courts ; but the danger is arising that trade unions believe that by direct action they can force the arbitration courts to take action which might otherwise be delayed. That attitude which is adopted by some of the more powerful trade unions Ls unfair to the numerically smaller and less powerful organizations. We should examine how the present system works. The time’ has arrived! to improve upon a system under which, for instance, all painting operations throughout Australia may be held! up because the union concerned believesthat one painter, who may perhaps beengaged in painting the doors of Parliament House, is not receiving justice. It should not be beyond the intelligence of a civilized community to devise a bettersystem.
.. - In the budget the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has manipulated various figuresin order to hide from the public theGovernment’s failure to deal effectively with the most urgent problems that confront the nation. The budget has beendrafted mainly with the object of satisfying the demands of the Australian Country party which hasprevented the Government from appreciating the Australian £1. It hasfailed to propose ways and means of” winning sufficient coal to meet the requirements of industry. It has failed to curb the inflationary trend and it holds out no hope for the sick, aged and” infirm who are confronted with increasing living costs and are unable to purchase the bare necessaries of life. On theother hand, the Government proposes toimpose a tax of £103,000,000 upon thewoolgrowers. Members of the Australian Country party, all of whom incidentally are absent from the chamberat the moment, claim that that sum will be withheld from the wool-growers as a loan.
The statements referred to in thebudget speech show that whilst in-. 1949-50, £95,416,302 was collected in income tax and £100,559,869 was collected in social services contribution, it is proposed this year to raise thecolossal sum of £157,000,000 in income tax, and the sum of £71,000,000 in social services contribution as well as the sum of” £103,000,000 from the wool-growers, making a total revenue from those three sources of £331,000,000. How will the Government be able to repay the woolgrowers the so-called loan of” £103,000,000? They cannot reasonably expect to get back that colossal amount of money for a number of years, and the-
Treasurer has not explained how he proposes to return it to them. Meinbers of the Australian Country party say that the deduction will merely represent the early payment of income tax. But what will happen in 1951-52? Clearly an amount of £103,000,000 will be missing in that year. Admittedly a certain proportion of the expenditure for which the budget provides will be non-recurring. However, the Treasurer has not made provision for the vast increase of expenditure that will be caused by the £1 a week addition to the basic wage and the quarterly cost of living adjustments. 1 ask supporters of the Government to face the facts, make a few simple arithmetical calculations, and determine for themselves the direction in which their policy is leading the country. The needs of the ordinary person have been overlooked. For instance, the provision that has been made for the aged and the invalid will be hopelessly inadequate.
The Prime Minister announced a grandiose plan for the development of the nation and the Treasurer made the following declaration in the final paragraph of his budget speech : -
Let me make clear, however, that the policy embodied in this budget is in the best sense progressive. As evidence of that, let me point out to the very large provision we have made for developmental works and immigration, for roads and other payments to the States, for increased war and civil pensions, for child endowment and, above all, for an adequate defence programme.
However, soon after the budget had been presented, the Prime Minister informed us that he intended to reduce the public works programme substantially. That -destroyed all hope that great progress would be made with developmental works. Furthermore, the Government proposes to impose controls on labour and thus intro.duce a form of industrial conscription. The insincerity of its promises in relation to the development of the nation has “become obvious. Notwithstanding the bold statements that were made by the. “Treasurer in his budget speech, grants to the States, which will be responsible “in the main for the carrying out of works, including house construction and the maintenance of roads and railways, will ^exceed last year’s total by only £10,000,000. The Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, complained bitterly about the treatment of the States by Lue Commonwealth when he presented his budget to the State parliament. He said, in effect, that this Government had faked its returns, and I consider that the figure . support the truth of the accusation. Thi following newspaper report summarise.. Mr. McGirr’s attitude to this Govern ment : -
Mr. McGirr told the Legislative Assembly last night that the uniform tax formula hari completely broken down and had become a negation of responsibility in government.
The Federal Government could have eased inflationary pressure by giving the States a reasonable share of income tax revenue to keep down the basic .transport costs.
At the last Premiers Conference he hail pointed out that the Commonwealth had a revenue of at least £90,000,000. “ I challenged the Treasurer, Mr. Fadden, to deny that, had the Commonwealth been required to show a true Commonwealth revenue budget, the.1t would have been a surplus of at least £90,000,000 last financial year. The challenge was not accepted.
How can the Prime Minister and thi; Treasurer expect to obtain the close cooperation of the State governments in carrying out a vast developmental programme if they increase the grants to the States by only £10,000,000? The nation cannot be developed properly unless the Government co-operates with the States much more actively than it has done in the past.
Devastating floods have occurred throughout New South Wales and in other States in the last two or three years Rivers in the northern part of New South Wales have been choked with silt because, as a result of heavy rains and increased agricultural activity, vast quantities of top-soil have been washed into the streams. Thousands of acres of good dairying lands are still under water in the Maitland district. The waters can not escape from the river because it is blocked with mud. A similar condition exists in other rivers. This Government should provide the State government with sufficient funds to enable it to purchase dredges of the latest type similar to the. vessel that has just been constructed at Newcastle. If suction dredges cannot be built in Australia, dollars for their mirchase overseas should be made available so that river beds may be cleared. Ships which a few years ago could navigate the Hunter River as far as Morpeth cannot reach even Hexham now. Recently I took soundings in the Hunter River and I found that, just above the steelworks, there was an average depth of three feet across the stream. It is time that provision was made for the development of our agricultural resources so that farmers in coastal areas will not be stricken by recurring floods. Silt dredged from the Hunter River could be deposited on the large islands in the stream so that the land could be reclaimed for the establishment of great industrial works in the future. Mangroves are growing along the foreshores of the Hunter River to-day where such obstructions were unthought of years ago. A vast job of dredging for the purpose of reclaiming land and preventing future flooding is waiting to be undertaken in the vicinity of Maitland and other important centres. Years ago, floodwaters did not lie on valuable land for months on end. However, thousands of valuable acres are under water to-day and will probably remain inundated for months to come.
Government supporters have laid great stress on the need for increased production as a means of checking inflation. Many of them have gone out of their way in order to lay the blame for the lack of production at the feet of the workers, especially the miners and the wharflabourers. The Treasurer declared recently, when he opened the Ninth Security Loan campaign, that nobody could profit from the absurd system of wages chasing prices, with prices always in the lead. He said that the Government would correct the situation and that everyone could help by increasing output. I agree that we must increase production if we are to halt the spiralling of prices, but that does not mean that men must work and sweat harder. There must be a better utilization of existing machinery and our mines must be developed. I shall say more about that matter later. Before honorable gentleman opposite criticize the miners and waterside workers, they should take stock of the position. Coal is the crux of the problem, and if we are to secure increased coal production we must have a greater understanding of the problems that confront the miners. A grave responsibility rests upon the politicians and employers as well as upon the workers of this country. I have heard honorable gentlemen opposite criticize the waterside workers. Let me tell, them of something that occurred in Newcastle last September. A stoppage of work on the waterfront there was proposed. I say in passing that the Newcastle waterfront is not controlled by Communists. The day before the stoppage was due to take place, I got into touch with the Minister for Labour and. National Service (Mr. Holt) in an effort to prevent it. I asked the Ministerto direct the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Board to order the men back to work upon pre-stoppage conditions, because I was of the opinion that, for once, they were in the right. I explained to the Minister my view of the position. He told me that he would get in touch with Mr. Hewitt, and he did so, but it was not until the following Tuesday that the Stevedoring Industry Board took any steps or made any form of inquiry into the dispute. Then the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. “Watkins) and myself, together with representatives of the waterside workers, employers and the chairman of the local board, began an inquiry.
– Is it not a fact that the local representative of the board had dealt with the matter previously?
– That is my information.
– What I have said is correct, and the honorable member for Newcastle will confirm that that is so. I attempted to get in touch with persons in authority because I believed that I had a responsibility to ensure, if possible, that the port should not cease to work. The men were unloading spelter from the steamer Age. It was stacked across the hold of the ship and they were working in four sections. Three years previously, the employers had directed them to adopt that method. Then the men were ordered to stand in the hold and allow the slings of spelter to be taken up over their heads. They replied, “ We shall not sacrifice a safety principle. We have only one life to lose “. Eventually, the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Board, Judge Kirby, went to Newcastle. He went into the hold of the ship and watched the men at work in a demonstration. As the first sling was taken out of the hold, Judge Kirby walked under it and everything was all right. Fortunately, he did not walk under the second sling, because, as it was going over the top of the hold, it broke and the spelter fell back into the hold. Judge Kirby directed the men to resume work and they are now working under the conditions that obtained prior to the stoppage. An important feature of the dispute was that the men did not cease work voluntarily but were sacked because they would not abandon a safety principle. I contend that the men who were sacked should be compensated. The other men who were involved in the strike struck in sympathy with their mates. I have said that politicians have a responsibility in this matter. While the strike was in progress, the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) visited Newcastle, but he did not bother to make inquiries to ascertain the cause of the dispute. I believe that the Minister for the Army (Mr.- Francis) also was in Newcastle at that time. Apparently the two Ministers were not worried about the port being closed for ten days owing to a dispute in which the men were eventually found to be in the right.
– It is very hard to keep pace with industrial troubles in Newcastle.
– If every other port and city in Australia were as free from industrial trouble as Newcastle is, you would not have the inflationary tendencies that you have to-day. We are singularly free from industrial trouble in Newcastle. You cannot point-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ryan’ . - Order ! The honorable gentleman must address the Chair.
– Newcastle is very free from industrial troubles as far as the workers are concerned.
It is generally accepted that it is necessary to obtain more coal, but coal production will not be increased until the Government has taken some action to solve the problems that confront the miners. Miners are victims of their environment. They have been, as it were,, locked away in small country towns in which coal-mining is the only industry. On many occasions the people of Melbourne and other cities have complained because gas supplies have been reduced owing to insufficient coal being available, but in many instances miners do not have gas or even water laid on in their homes. They do not have even decent seweragesystems. The men who hew the coal do not, in many instances, enjoy the amenities which coal provides. Mr. Justice Davidson, in his report, referred to what happened to the miners almost half a century ago. He pointed out also what happened in 1929, when the miners were locked out for seven months. Hundreds of thousands of tons of coal were stacked in Newcastle, and the miners were told that there was no work for them. Those who have lived in Newcastle will remember that years ago, sailing vessels waiting to be loaded with coal for export were anchored five deep in Newcastle harbour. When the depression occurred, the miners were told that there was no work for them to do, and they had to live on the dole. To-day they say that they will not give the country enough coal to accumulate a stockpile, because if they did so they could again be thrown to the wolves. I do not think that even the Chifley Government did as much as it could have done in relation to the coal-mining industry. One writer recently said that key jobs should carry special wages, and I agree with him. Would any honorable gentleman opposite work in a coal-mine for £9 a week, from which he would be required to pay between 8s. and 10s. a week in subscriptions to unions, hospitals and eye specialists? I venture to say that not one honorable member would work in a pit. Even with the recent increase of the basic wage of £1 a week, the lowest paid miner, the secondclass shift man, receives only £10 5s. 6d. a week, a first-class shift man £11 5s. a week, and a first-class machine man employed on a mechanical unit £12 9s. a week. Coal-miners do not work overtime. Men are able to earn substantially higher wages in other industries, in which they are able to work a little overtime, or under shift conditions. Who would willingly work in a coal mine for such wages as I have mentioned? I have no fault to find with the Coal Industry Tribunal, because I consider Mr. Gallagher has done a good job, but he has framed awards for the coal-mining industries on the basis of the method that Judge Hibble and Judge Edmonds adopted late in the nineteenth century, and I do not regard that system as suited to presentday conditions. If the output of coal is to be increased substantially, the conditions of the miners must be made so satisfactory that men, instead of leaving the industry, will be encouraged to continue to work in it. It may be necessary to create a precedent in order to achieve that objective, but it is necessary to give miners something out of the ordinary in working conditions.
Honorable members will be interested in the decisions that were reached unanimously at the proceedings of the International Labour Conference in 1945, when a tripartite assembly of the representatives of miners, owners and governments throughout the world adopted an eightpoint programme for the industry. Some of the provisions of that programme were, first, that an opportunity for steady employment should be given through stabilization of production and the development of alternative uses for the products of the coal-mines; secondly, that wages should be paid at rates which would be attractive compared with the incomes of employees in industry generally, so as to provide adequate man-power for the mines and an improved standard of living for those who worked in them; thirdly, that adequate holidays with pay should be provided for; fourthly, that the working time in mines should be effectively less than working time in industry generally; fifthly, that the work should be done under conditions conducive to the safety, health and comfort of “the workers; and, sixthly, that an adequate scheme for accident prevention and workers’ compensation should be formulated. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to implement those decisions of the Internationa] Labour Office.
I am sure that some Government supporters, if they were to visit the bad coal mines,” would quickly change their adverse opinions of the coal-miners. Some of the mines in the Newcastle district are positively filthy. The men who work round the pit tops have no protection from rain, hail and sleet. No amenities and conveniences are provided in the mines. It was not until the establishment of the Joint Coal Board by the Chifley Labour Government in conjunction with the McGirr Labour Government in New South Wales that conditions in the industry began to improve. Water was not provided in the mines until two years ago, but even at the present time, the miners sit on heaps of coal when they are eating their lunch. The miner who leaves his home between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. works until 3 p.m., and when nature calls him, he has to go like a dog behind a pillar or cut-through, and scratch a hole in the ground, where, perhaps, his mate had been during the previous week. Hundred? of the men are working in the rotten, foul air in the pit. Would any member of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party work under those conditions? I venture to say they would not do so. Day after day the miner goes down the pit with his little lamp. Years ago, he carried a naked light, and some miners contracted a dreadful eye disease known as nystagmus.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Ryan). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Sheehan) proposed -
That the Deputy Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
– I move -
That the question be now put.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- In order to avoid confusion, I shall state the question. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) has moved that progress be reported, and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has risen to move that the question be now put. The motion before the committee is that progress be reported. If the honorable member for Cook would like to withdraw his motion-
– No, I shall not withdraw it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Then the committee will divide.
Question put -
That the Deputy Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
The committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr. R. S. Ryan.)
Majority . . 31
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr, R. S. Ryan.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
First item agreed to.
The general debate being concluded,
Remainder of proposed vote - Parliament, £451,000- agreed to.
The Parliament: MELBOURNE Cup Race - Petrol and Petroleum Products - Civil Aviation.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjuorn
.- I propose to say something about the arrangements for the meeting time of this House to-day. In doing so, I make it quite clear that I am not offering any comment on the way in which other people take their pleasures, nor do I wish to make a comparison between the way in which some people take their pleasures and the way in which other people enjoy their pleasures. However, there are two matters involved in the deferment of the time of meeting of the House this afternoon which seem to deserve the attention of the House. I wish to speak both of what was done and the way in which it was done. First of all, and in order that there shall be no misunderstanding, I shall recite the facts as they appear to me, so that Ministers or other honorable gentlemen may correct me if my statement of the case is wrong. According to my recollection, when we rose last Thursday the sitting of the House had been adjourned until 2.30 p.m. this afternoon, and the notice-paper shows clearly that the House was to meet at 2.30 p.m. In answer to a question directed to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this this afternoon, you said that it was not by your direction that the House met at 3.15 p.m. From some information that I have gathered elsewhere, it appears that after the Senate had agreed to meet at an hour later than 3 p.m., some sort of informal canvass was made of members of the House of Representatives. That canvass did not, incidentally, include myself, but I am not raising any objection whatever on that omission. Apparently by some sort of informal agreement, which involved not only the Government but also the Opposition, it was agreed that the ringing of the bells should not take place until a time to allow the House to meet at 3.15 p.m.
The procedure that was followed to-day seems to raise matters which may affect the whole functioning of the Parliament.
I direct the attention of the House to Standing Orders 38, 39, 40 and 48, which set out quite clearly the provision concerning the times of meeting and rising of the House. Those Standing Orders make it clear that the meeting time of the House shall be as set out in the Standing Orders unless otherwise ordered. An examination of the remainder of the Standing Orders, and particularly of Standing Orders 13 and 104, as well as the practices of the House this session in regard to those Standing Orders, make it indisputable that the words “ unless otherwise ordered “ mean “ unless otherwise ordered by this House “. If it is desirable that the House should take action such as that which was taken this afternoon to postpone the time of meeting, the matter should be decided inside this chamber and not outside it.
The whole matter is of much more serious importance than whether or not honorable gentlemen may wish to listen to the broadcast of the description of a horse race. If the ringing of the bells can be deferred for three-quarters of an hour by some informal agreement reached outside the House, there does not seem to be any reason to prevent the sitting of the House from being deferred for a day or two days, or even for longer, even in defiance of the expressed will of the House. As I have already pointed out, the Standing Orders provide quite clearly that the time of the sitting of the House shall be as is determined by the House, and I should therefore like honorable members to give their consideration to that aspect of the matter.
I pass now to another aspect of this afternoon’s happenings. “We, the members of the National Parliament, by doing what we did this afternoon, made a public demonstration of our’ sense of values. When we reflect on what happened we must surely realize that we, the members of the National Parliament, formally demonstrated and declared to the people that anything that we might have done between 2.30 and 3.15 p.m. was far less important than finding out whether one horse could get its nose in front of another horse in a certain race.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! Honorable members must remain silent and allow the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) to state bis case.
– I submit that we displayed a distorted sense of values. I am making no comment on the fact that there was a certain race meeting, and I am not offering any comment about whether the people should or should not be interested in a race meeting. However, I repeat that our demonstration this’ afternoon indicated that we regarded that horse race as more important than anything that might have been done in this Parliament. Looked at fundamentally, what happened was that we were threequarters of an hour late for work; and if our masters, the people, asked us why we were late for work, the only answer we could furnish would be that we were listening to hear what horse won a particular race. Undoubtedly, we shall make up the lost time. I recognize that I am in a minority over this matter, but the fact that I am in a minority will never deter me from saying what in conscience I believe I should say. I ask honorable members to consider carefully the two points I have made. The Parliament should seriously consider the procedural matter of deferring the meeting time at the instance of instrumentalities outside of the Parliament. Honorable members should also give some thought to the fact that we have made a public demonstration of values which underrates the work that the Parliament was elected to do.
– Whenever a Prime Minister has felt that there were reasons why the House should meet later than the stipulated time, it has been the practice to approach Mr. Speaker with a request that the time of meetingbe postponed. That has been done dozens of times, especially when prominent visitors have been entertained at luncheons or dinners, and the speeches have carried on beyond the normal meeting time of the House. It cannot be claimed, therefore, that a precedent was created by deferring the time of meeting to-day. For that occurrence, the Opposition accepts its full share of responsibility. I myself would have been pre pared to come into the chamber at the ordinary time, but a great many people regard as important the event which constitutes the reason for a public holiday in Victoria where, on this day, year after year, public offices are closed, and even the judiciary ceases to dispense justice. Through the Whip, I conveyed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a message that the Opposition would be quite happy to have the ringing of the bells deferred until 3.15 p.m. Although there was no formal agreement with the Prime Minister over the matter, we accept our share of responsibility. There was, in addition, an understanding that the Prime Minister would reduce the period allowed for the asking of questions so as to make up some of the lost time. I have never known a Speaker to refuse to accede to a request from a Prime Minister to defer the ringing of the bells for some reason deemed to be sufficient. I make no apology for our share in what was done. As a matter of fact, I listened to the race myself.
.- I wish to bring before the House a matter of considerable importance to Australia’s defence programme. At the present time, Australia does not manufacture high octane gasoline, which is so important for aviation ; and a great part of Australia’s motor spirit is refined abroad. Recently, there was developed in America, a new type of refining plant which, if it lives up to what has been claimed for it, would enable both of these disabilities to be overcome. The refining plant is called the “ Platformer “.
An Australian company, Bitumen Oil Refineries (Australia) Limited, applied for an allocation of dollars to obtain this plant, and the Australian Government, I understand, obtained a report on the matter from its leading oil authority, Dr. McFadyen. Subsequently, dollars were granted in record time for the purchase . of the plant. Government experts, apparently, regarded the plant as of first-class importance to Australia. Indeed, its importance is obvious. At the present time, the big refineries in Australia are mostly owned by foreign companies. Aside from the fact that we cannot produce high octane spirit, these companies naturally prefer to do part of the processing outside Australia, where they will not be subject to Australian taxation.
The new Platformer plant is capable of handling practically any type of crude oil. Thus, if war cut off our supplies from any source, or if oil were discovered in Australia or New Guinea, the refinery would be able to adjust, its operations to the new conditions without much trouble. This is not true of our present refining facilities. In addition, the new plant is claimed to be much cheaper in capital cost than the old types, a fact which would make for cheaper production. Bitumen Oil Refineries (Australia) Limited was floated about four years ago. The California and Texas Oil Company, known as “Caltex”, subscribed for 40 per cent, of the shares, and had the right to nominate three directors. Australian investors provided the remaining 60 per cent, of the capital, and elected four directors. The importance of the proportions of directors is well worth bearing in mind in view of events that have taken place subsequently.
About six months ago, a difference of opinion developed between the Australian directors and those nominated by Caltex. The Australian directors wanted a better deal with regard to the type of crude oil purchased. Australian supplies from Caltex amounted to really a residual crude from which most of the petrol and some other products had already been extracted. It was mainly suitable only for the production of bitumen. The Australian directors wanted a crude capable of giving a full range of other products.
When the Platformer process became known it seemed to be the answer to Australia’s need, and immediately a man was brought out from America to talk about it. I understand that certain directors are fighting to prevent the importation of this new plant. They apparently wish to keep the Australian company down to the status of a manufacturer of bitumen. It does not suit their purpose commercially that Australia should produce its own aviation spirit, and increase its production of motor spirit. When the directors representing the Australian interests overruled them and ordered the new plant, the American company apparently decided to use its influence to prevent it from being delivered. The seriousness of the situation could not be overstressed if Australia should be cut off from overseas supplies in the event of war.
Apart from this matter of plant, there is also a dispute about the purchase of crudes. The Australian directors recently made arrangements to obtain their crudes from Anglo-Iranian sources at a price about £3 a ton cheaper than that being paid to Caltex. The arrangement would also result in an appreciable saving of dollars. However, if Caltex should obtain control of the Australian company’s organization, it may not approve of the agreement between Bitumen Oil Refineries (Australia) Limited and the Anglo-Iranian company. As at least 150,000 tons of crudes a year are involved, the importance of this is obvious. It will affect not only the Australian interests, but also our overseas balances and the price of petrol in Australia. Summarized, the position seems to be that there is an Australian company which is anxious to introduce into Australia a new oil-refining .process that will be of vital importance both in times of .peace and in times of war ; and, if my information is correct, an American campany is trying to stop that effort from being made. My reason for raising this matter at this stage is because I believe it is of national importance. I repeat that if, as I am informed, the Government made dollars available for the purchase of the Platformer process, and if that process is as valuable as the Government report seems to indicate, no obstacle should be allowed to prevent it from being brought into this country. No hindrance should be permitted to operate against the right kind of crude oil being brought into this country. Above all, Australia should not be hindered from setting up a refinery capable of producing high octane aviation spirit as well as other petroleum products. I ask that the fullest investigations be made into the matter and that the Government should ascertain the full facts of this matter and take action, if necessary, to ensure that the production of high octane spirit a ad petrol be carried out in Australia. An action such as this could have a big effect on the development and possible defence of the country.
.- Now that the shouting and the tumult are hushed, and I may anticipate the sympathy at least of those people who wish there had not been any Melbourne Cup, I wish to- protest against the wholesale diversion of aircraft by Trans-Australia Airlines to special Melbourne .Cup services. My protest becomes emphatic when I refer particularly to the withdrawal of the only south-bound service from Newcastle this morning. It may be that, due to a variety of conditions associated with an unsuitable aerodrome and continued bad weather, the air service out of Newcastle is not a particularly payable proposition. But I point out that Newcastle is Australia’s industrial heart, that it is the capital of the rich agricultural area of the Hunter River and that it serves a population of 200,000 people. It would be completely true to say that that city’s air facilities are entirely inadequate. If the Government is to use, and lose, public funds in the operation of Trans-Australia Airlines its only justification must surely be the provision of public service, particularly in such cases as I have outlined. There may be some justificationfor a reduction of some services if the ordinary commercial traffic offering can be handled adequately; but when the reduction of service is to the stage where there is no service at all, then I believe the attention of the Trans-Australia Airlines traffic division should be drawn to the importance of Newcastle and the lower Hunter River area, and to the moral obligation upon it to maintain continuity of an already inadequate service.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) in respect of the difference of opinion that appears to exist among the directors of Bitumen Oil Refineries (Australia) Limited, because I believe that the subject is very important. In addition to the matters raised by the honorable member, there is another very important reason why the Government should examine this subject to ensure that activities are not sabotaged, because they could well be. Such an action would have a very detrimental effect upon the supply of oil fuel which may be necessary, in an emergency, to maintain essential power supplies in Sydney. I remind the House that the Sydney County Council has spent more than £1,000,000 to provide an oil tank and subterranean pipe-line to draw oil direct from tankers in Botany Bay to supplement the lack of adequate steamraising quality in coal supplied to Bunnerong power house. Had it not been for that action and the arrangement made by the Sydney County Council with Bitumen Oil Refineries (Australia) Limited for the supply of fuel to Bunnerong, the whole of Sydney would have been in a tragic state during the last general coal strike. Essential services in Sydney were maintained in that dreadful period only because of the arrangement and the equipment to which I have referred. I consider, therefore, that that is another reason why the Government should consider the matter raised by the honorable member for Mitchell. I cannot vouch entirely for the accuracy of the statements that that honorable member made, but I know that something disturbing is afoot, and I consider that it is of sufficient national importance for the Government to acquaint itself with what is happening and to see in what way it might be able to assist in overcoming any difficulty.
– I inform the House, in reply to the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), and th = honorable member for Bennelong (Mr Cramer) that I have some information on the subject they have raised. However, I should prefer to investigate the matter more fully before making a statement. 1 should be greatly obliged to the honorable member for Mitchell if he would let me have any further information on the subject that he may not have cared to make public in the House, so as to enable me to investigate the matter more fully. I shall then do my best to see that insofar as the Government has status in this matter, the public interests may be given the protection that the honorable gentleman has suggested they may not now be receiving.
– In reply to the statements by the honorable member forPaterson (Mr. Fairhall) in regard to the diversion of aircraft from the Newcastle service to-day, I inform him that I do not know whether that diversion had anything to do with the racing event that took place in Melbourne. I shall have inquiries made and, if necessary, I shall bring his complaint to the notice of the management of Trans-Australia Airlines.
I wish to tell the House with very great regret that two Mustang aircraft that were engaged to-day in exercises from Williamtown aerodrome, which is shared, as is Canberra aerodrome, between the Royal Australian Air Force and the Department of Civil Aviation, have been lost. A search has been made by many aircraft and by crash boats and other craft, which may have disorganized other services. So far no trace of the pilots has been found, but the search will go on to-morrow.
– in reply - This afternoon the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck) asked you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, why the House had not been called together at the usual time to-day. I suppose that I am the most notorious nonracegoer in the House, but I am bound to say that when I arrived to-day I had in mind whether the business of the House might be suspended for a few minutes while the broadcast of that very celebrated race, the Melbourne Cup, was on. Then some one suggested to me that in the circumstances it would be just as well to defer the meeting of the House and to reduce the time available for questions. That suggestion seemed sensible to me and I acted upon it. I accept full responsibility in this matter. I had a message sent to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) about what was intended, and he indicated his complete concurrence with the suggestion. Then you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were good enough to fall in with our wishes. I point out to the honorable member for Curtin that this business of altering the time of the ringing of the bells is by no means without precedent. It has occurred many times within my knowledge. The whole thing is a matter of some sensible arrangement that fits in with the wishes of honorable members. I am perfectly certain that none of the 4,000,000 people who listened in to the broadcast to the race this afternoon will have any bitter complaint to make about the fact that honorable members also listened in to it, although, no doubt, about 3,500,000 of them will have bitter complaints to make on an entirely different ground. However, I cannot fail to notice that the clock stands at twenty to twelve and that therefore one proverb has happily come true - what we lost on the roundabouts, we have made up on the swings.
– While I am guardian of the House, acting for Mr. Speaker, I shall have the fullest possible regard for the Standing Orders. I must, of necessity, however, recognize the wishes of the Government in regard to the business of the House. I am not apologising for any action that I have taken. I have no authority to override the Standing Orders, nor have I sought to do so. The Government, through the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), has taken responsibility for the delayed meeting of the House to-day, but if honorable members are dissatisfied they may take the matter up if they so desire. However, in view of the Standing Orders that have been cited by the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck), I believe that it would have been far better had the House decided last Thursday to alter the hour of meeting to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Health- R. H. Farrant.
Interior - B. J. Grant.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (2).
Papua and New Guinea Act - Ordinances -
No. 22 - Ratavul Lands.
No. 23- Dog (Papua).
No. 24 - Fire Brigades.
House adjourned at 11.42 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 26th October the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott) asked the following questions : -
November against politicians occupying governmentcontrolled hotels who will be seriously inconvenienced and suffer considerable financial loss by the proposed action?
I now inform the honorable member as follows : -
y. - On the 31st October the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asked a question concerning the breakdown of the vessel Culcairn. The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answer: -
The breakdown to the vessel Culcairn involves only minor repairs. After loading additional cargo the vessel is expected to sail from Brisbane on Thursday or Friday of this week. There is no necessity therefore to consider the allocation of another vessel to transport this cargo to Darwin.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Mr. ANTHONY. - The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 November 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19501107_reps_19_210/>.