20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
ISSUE of WRITS.
– I have to announce that I have received from the Honorable Thomas “Walter White a letter dated the 20th June, resigning his seat as member for the electoral division of Balaclava.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
-Order! There is a standing order which provides that the Speaker shall be heard in silence. 1 intend to enforce it. I desire to inform the House that it is my intention to issue writs on Thursday, the 28th June, for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Balaclava, in the State of Victoria, and for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Macquarie, in the State of New South Wales, in the place of the Eight Honorable Joseph Benedict Chifley, deceased. The dates in connexion with both elections will be as follows: -
Issue of Writs - 28th June, 1951.
Nominations - 11th July, 1951.
Polling- 28th July, 1951.
Return of Writs - On or before 22nd August, 1951.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he will make to the House, hh early as possible, a full statement of the financial state of this country, and give as clear a picture of it as he did recently at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. A ‘portion of his statement to that conference has been reported in the press. Will the right honorable gentleman, in the course of the statement, inform the House whether the last Commonwealth loan was fully subscribed ? - [f is was oversubscribed, will he state the amount of the surplus and the reason for issue at a discount? Will he also inform’ the House of the part that thu Commonwealth Bank played in subscribing to the loan ?
– Doubtless the right honorable gentleman realizes that the statement that I made recently to State Ministers was made in my capacity as Chairman of the Loan Council, a statutory body for the establishment of which provision is made in the Constitution. I shall give consideration to his request.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister foi Social Services, with the statement that coal is very scarce in Sydney. Supplies to gas companies have been reduced. Consequently, there is a great scarcity of domestic fuel, which is causing great hardship to elderly people and parents with young children. Will the Minister confer with State authorities and/or the Minister for Supply in order to ascertain whether supplies of domestic coke can be made available to elderly people and parents with young children to assist them during the cold winter months?
– I am astonished to learn that the Government of New South Wales has not done anything to provide winter fuel for pensioners. For as long as I can remember, there has been a free issue of wood to age pensioners in Tasmania during all winter months. I shall be very pleased to take up the matter- that has been raised, and ascertain whether some arrangement can be made by which pensioners in New South Wales may obtain supplies of fuel.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that a number of exservicemen of both world wars are engaged as temporary employees in the mail branch of the General Post. Office, Brisbane? Is he also aware that the Postal Department has recently issued circulars to those employees in which it asks for details of their war service? These temporary officers have been employed by the department for periods up to six years and have given efficient and loyal service. They now fear that they will be retrenched in order to make way for men who recently passed a postal officers’ .examination. Can the Postmaster-General give an assurance that the services of those temporary employees, some of whom are too old to be eligible to sit far an examination to gain permanent employment, will not be dispensed with?
– I shall have inquiries made into the circumstances and will supply an answer to tha honorable member’s questions later.
– “Will the PostmasterGeneral examine the possibility of the higher grade of non-official post offices being made despatching offices for money orders? I make this suggestion because in many isolated townships private people wish to send money to city stores, and what is perhaps more important, school teachers who conduct school banks in such towns have to send the money to Commonwealth Bank head-quarters by means of their own cheques. A money order despatch service would be, in such eases, deeply appreciated by the people concerned.
– -I shall give attention to the suggestion of the honorable member and ascertain in what way it may be practicable to implement it.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether it is a fact, as reported in the metropolitan press, that it is the intention of the Government to increase postal charges by £11,000,000 a year? If so, would the Minister consider, when making alterations of the postal charges, avoidance of the use of halfpennies? I mentioned this matter during the last budget debate. The Minister will agree that the cost of handling a halfpenny nowadays is almost a halfpenny.
– If the honorable member will look at the notice-paper lie will see that notice of motion No. 2 refers to an intention to introduce a bill to deal with this matter. When that bill is introduced he will be able to make whatever suggestions he desires.
– Will the Minister for Social Services give consideration to the placing of adult sufferers from poliomyelitis on the same basis of pension as at present exists for sufferers from tuberculosis? I have in mind particularly the unfortunate financial plight of married men with dependants who are undergoing treatment for poliomyelitis.
– The rehabilitation service of the Department of Social Services makes provision for poliomyelitis victims. We are very pleased to be able to help them in that way. However, I do not know whether we shall be able to make any arrangement by which such persons can receive allowances equivalent to the very liberal pensions that are paid to tuberculosis sufferers. I shall investigate the situation and ascertain what can be done. t
– I ask the Prime Minister” to state the Government’s present attitude to the revaluation of the Australian fi. Is it a fact that the opposition to revaluation has been overcome since a number of knighthoods have been conferred on Government supporters?
Question not answered.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that there is considerable anxiety in the poultry industry concerning reports that the home-consumption price for wheat may be raised to the world parity price? Is this Government responsible for fixing the price for wheat for sale for stock feed or for any other purpose than human consumption, or is that a responsibility of the State governments?
– I have no doubt, as this matter has been canvassed, that there is anxiety amongst poultry farmers lest the price of feed wheat may be raised. The suggested increase arises from a request by Australian wheat-growers that they be given a greater return for wheat sold in Australia for purposes other than human consumption. That price is provided for in the legislation which covers the wheat stabilization plan. The fixation of the price of wheat that is used in Australia for purposes other than human consumption is covered by composite Commonwealth and State legislation, in which the Australian Government has undertaken to guarantee the wheat-growers the cost of production for up to 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported and the State governments have engaged, in acts passed by the six State parliaments, to fix a price for consumption in Australia which is the same as the guaranteed price. Recently, the six State Ministers for Agriculture recommended that there should be an alteration of the plan to ensure a lifting of the price of wheat for stock feed within Australia. That could be done only by an alteration of the seven relevant acts of parliament and in the absence of an alteration of those acts the present legislation will stand for a further two years. The present position is the outcome of a plan that was devised by the former Government in consultation with representatives of the wheat industry ,and the six State governments and which was submitted to the wheat-growers and voted upon by them. The proposal is under consideration of the Australian Agricultural Council.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question relating to the extremely critical situation in connexion with the supply of cornsacks. Present indications are that Australia is not likely to have sufficient cornsacks to meet the needs of the coming harvest. Because of this position, (70-operative Bulk Handling Limited and the trustees of the Wheat Pool of Western Australia ordered from England approximately £1,300 worth of a sack.mending adhesive known as “ “Copydex” “ which is manufactured for the purpose of mending used cornsacks which would otherwise have to be discarded. In view of the fact that the use of this material would enable Western Australia to avoid drawing upon the pool of imported sacks, and in view of the fact that cornsacks are admitted free of duty, will the Minister consult the Minister for Trade and Customs with a view to obtaining the admittance of this substance duty free ?
– I hope that there will not be the critical shortage of cornsacks for the next harvest which the honorable member has suggested. If there is an uninterrupted delivery of orders that have been placed and accepted for cornsacks there will be sufficient for the purposes of the harvest but anything which will enable damaged sacks to be used again would be of tremendous value to this country. It would assist in the avoidance of a shortage and cheapen cornsacks in potato and other vegetable industries. I shall be glad to take up with the Minister for Trade and Customs the very valuable suggestion that the honor able member has made. I am quite sure that if the suggestion is found to be practicable it will be acted upon.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Queensland Government has communicated with the Australian Government and asked for .its co-operation in the development of the enormous coal deposits at Blair Athol and Callide in Queensland, in order to assist in overcoming the present coal shortage throughout the Commonwealth? If so, is it the intention of his Government to co-operate with the Queensland Government in this necessary work?
– In the case of the Callide field, as the honorable member no doubt knows, the Commonwealth took a very active part in arranging for the purchase of a constant supply of .Callide coal, if it were available, by the southern States, and in order to facilitate that arrangement entered into obligations of subsidy in respect of it. There have also been references of a public kind and, 1 believe, some communications on the subject of Blair Athol more recently. I shall find out exactly what the position is in relation to the matter, and if it admits of a statement being made at this stage, I shall make one to the House.
– In view of the conflicting reports concerning the situation in Persia, will the Minister for External Affairs make a statement to the House at the earliest possible moment and indicate the facts and any action that has been taken by the Government to influence the Government of the United Kingdom in the firm handling of the situation? As the Minister is aware, Australia is vitally interested in Persia, as Abadan is one of the sources of supply of petroleum for this country. Would the Minister also include in the statement any information available regarding the extent of Soviet Russia’s influence on the situation?
– The Government has been following with considerable anxiety the course of the dispute between the
Persian Government and the AngloIranian Oil Company, not only because the outcome will affect the supply of oil products from the Abadan refinery to Australia, but also because the dispute may effect the stability of the Middle East. The Government has been -kept informed constantly by the Government of the United Kingdom about the course of the dispute, and, indeed, the facts have been related in the press substantially accurately and substantially fully from day to day. The Government has made certain observations to the Government of the United Kingdom concerning the dispute, although, as the negotiations are between the British Government and the AngloIranian Oil Company on the one hand, and the Persian Government on the other hand, Australia has no standing in the dispute. I understand that the present situation is that a proposal was made by the Persian Government to the AngloIranian Oil Company, which was rejected by the company. A counter proposal was made which, I understand, has been rejected in turn by the Persian Government. One can only say that the situation is one of very considerable anxiety. I do not believe that there is anything else that can be said publicly on behalf of the Government that would do other than complicate an already complicated situation. The Government is following the position with care and anxiety, and can only hope for a satisfactory outcome.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. 1 have been asked by some totally and permanently disabled soldiers to ascertain whether the Government will consider providing free medical and hospital services for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated soldiers in the same way as they are now provided for widows of servicemen. In explanation, I indicate that although the pensions of those unable to work through war incapacity have been increased, they are still insuffi’cient to cover medical expenses caused by the sickness of the wives of totally incapacitated soldiers.
– The handling of matters concerning disabled ex-service men of the recent war, and their dependants, has always been jealously looked upon by the soldiers as the duty of the Repatriation Department. As a consequence this question should be addressed to the Minister for Repatriation
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state the policy of his department concerning the maintenance of telephone services to subscribers on unofficial exchanges where the volunteer operators have resigned and no other local residents can be found to assume that duty? As examples I cite the nonofficial exchanges at Balmattum., near Euroa, and Koorilla, near Bethanga, both districts being in north-eastern Victoria. The former exchange serves. 25 subscribers and the latter ten subscribers, all of whom have been without telephonic service for some time following the resignation of volunteer operators.
– The policy of the department is to endeavour to maintain, non-official telephone exchanges in operation. However, as the honorable member has pointed out, difficulty arises when nobody in the particular locality is willing to operate the exchange. Thedepartment cannot meet that difficulty if it fails to find a resident who is prepared to undertake the work. The department is endeavouring to alleviate this situation by the provision of an increasing number of rural automatic exchanges; but only a limited number of such exchangesis available. Last year the department installed approximately 100 rural exchanges and it hopes to be able to install at least a similar number this year. Apparatus for these exchanges can only be obtained overseas, and its installation calls for a high degree of technical skill. I repeat that unless local residents can be found to serve the exchange when an operator resigns, the department, in the majority of instances, cannot meet thedifficulty except by providing rural automatic exchanges, of which, as I have said, the number available is not sufficient tomeet the demand.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question which issupplementary to the question which- was asked by the honorable member for Indi. When automatic telephone exchanges are installed in small country areas in place of existing exchanges, are arrangements made for compensation to be paid to the non-official postmasters or postmistresses who are thereby deprived of part of their means of livelihood?
– No arrangements are made for compensation to be paid in such circumstances. In most instances, automatic exchanges are installed because the local exchange operators wish to vacate their posts. However, where such employment provides almost a livelihood for a non-official postmaster or postmistress, an effort is made to find another office for the person.
– I point out to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that dried.-fr.uit growers are seriously concerned about the lack of supplies of carbonate of potash for the 1952 season. In view of the fact that supplies cannot be obtained from Europe will the Government allocate sufficient dollars and facilitate the granting of import permits to enable supplies to be obtained from the United States of America, where they are now available?
– The problem that the honorable member has mentioned is common to rural industries generally in respect of a number of chemicals. In order to preserve the dollar balance in the sterling fund it is the policy of the Government to endeavour to procure essential requirements of this kind from within the sterling area. However, when it is shown that such requirements cannot be procured within that area but are available within the dollar area the Government will make dollars available in adequate time and quantity for the purpose.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to the outbreak of an epidemic of black leg among young cattle in the northern rivers district of New South Wales and in the coastal belt in Queensland, where the rate of mortality has been unduly high? Is any action being taken by governmental research officers with a view to eradicating this disease?
– Apparently as the result of the unusually heavy rains experienced in the last two years the current epidemic of black leg amongst stock is far more serious than any previous epidemic. Although the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and private organizations produced vaccines which reduced the rate of mortality among calves suffering from the disease over many years previously the loss of stock in Queensland and in the northern rivers district of New South Wales has increased, particularly during the last six months. Experts from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have visited the affected areas and after examining diseased animals have now produced sera to which have been added strains of cultures that they evolved as a result of their investigations. It would take at least a year to test these new sera properly, but in order to combat the present epidemic, field trials are being held on six different properties in special parts of the major cattle-raising areas. The Government has stated that if cattle-owners will themselves take the risk of using the new serum, which is untested at the present time, and undertake to report the results of their experiments to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, supplies will be made freely available to them.
– My question to the Minister for External Affairs refers to the proposed peace treaty with Japan. Will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether steps have been taken to ensure that the treaty will provide for the payment of adequate compensation to Australian ex-prisoners of war for the hardship and suffering inflicted upon them by their Japanese captors ?
– The Government has made every effort to have provisions of the kind described by the honorable member for Ryan inserted in the proposed Japanese peace treaty. I propose, with the concurrence of the House, to make a statement on foreign affairs this evening, and I shall then deal with the matter in greater detail.
– In view of the serious man-power shortage in the dairying industry which has created a crisis in butter production, will the Minister for Immigration say how many new Australians have been allotted to the dairy industry? What is the proportion of immigrants so allotted in relation to those allotted to other rural and urban occupations? How many immigrants have absconded, and has any effort been made to return such persons to their jobs according to their two years’ contract? Have such persons protested against slave labour and wretched housing conditions on dairy farms and given that as a reason for leaving their jobs? Will the Minister confer with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in an effort to find adequate and efficient immigrant labour to work for dairy farmers under fair Australian conditions ?
– I shall try to get a reply to the details of the general question the honorable member has asked. I have not been advised of any complaints about unsatisfactory conditions having, been made by immigrants who may have been placed on or who may have taken positions on dairy farms. If such complaints have been made they have not reached me. Many dairy farmers are not in a position to provide accommodation for immigrants on their farms, and it would give a misleading impression of our total rural production merely to single out one aspect of it and point to the amount of immigrant labour engaged therein. I can assure the honorable member that the Government is fully conscious of the need to have a much bigger proportion’ of immigrant labour engaged in rural production, particularly in the production of foodstuffs, and more particularly still in the production of dairy products. Our future planning is directed towards that end.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the scarcity of butter is following much, the same pattern as the scarcity of onions ? Is it anticipated that a plentiful supply of butter will be available to the public if the State Ministers who administer prices control can be induced to increase the price of that commodity? Is his statement, to the effect that there is a legitimate shortage of butter which is totally unconnected with price fixation in the Commonwealth, the result of investigation by responsible officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, or is it based on the say-so of those people who seek to exploit the public? Can he explain why there appears to be an abundance of butter in Sydney at the black-market price of 5s. per lb., whilst legitimate grocers cannot obtain supplies of that commodity?
– It seems to happen in any place in the world where there is a shortage of a commodity that supplies of it can be procured on the black market at a high price. No authority anywhere has been able adequately to police such sales, and the ultimate solution of the problem is to have adequate supplies of the commodity, as that condition alone defeats black markets.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Who investigated the position ?
– Order ! If honorable members are not prepared to listen to answers to questions, there seems to be no point in proceeding with them. Only one member at a time has the right to ask a question.
– The suggestion that butter is being withheld from the market by producers in anticipation of an increase of price is not warranted. The only people who could gain from an increase of price are individual retailers or individuals who may be holding supplies of butter in anticipation of a higher price. Producers would not enjoy any benefit from a price rise. They are guaranteed by this Government a certain return, just as they were guaranteed the cost of production by the previous Government from 1947. Even when the realization from the sale of butter overseas has exceeded the guaranteed price, producers have not derived any benefit from it. The surplus has been paid into the stabilization fund. Producers are not withholding butter in anticipation of gaining an advantage from an increase of price. The quantities of butter that are held by factories and wholesale distributors are exactly known to the equalization committee every day of the year, and a price increase would be permitted only on the precise quantities that were added to their stores after the increase had been approved. Therefore, it must be perfectly clear that no commodity in Australia is under more strict statistical surveillance. Only a retailer or an individual person could hope to black-market butter, and there can be no doubt that no substantial quantity is held in such quarters. In conclusion, I answer the first question that the honorable member asked. He inquired whether there was anything of a common pattern between the shortage of butter and the shortage of onions. I believe that there is a common pattern. An artificial depression of the price of a product in Australia conduces to a reduction of production. Because we have had an artificial depression of the price of onions, we are now in the shameful position of having to import onions from Egypt; because we have had an artificial depression of the price of potatoes we are in the shameful position of having to import potatoes from New Zealand; and now we are faced with the shameful suggestion that we should import butter from New Zealand. This situation is not good enough. The dairying industry will have to be put in a position that will enable it to supply Australia’s requirements at all times.
– By way of explanation of the question that I wish to address to the Treasurer, I quote the following letter that I have received from the Cootamundra Chamber of Commerce : -
At a Monster Meeting held in the Cootamundra Town Hall on Friday, 18th May, 1951, the following resolution was passed, and it was decided that it should be brought to the notice of the Federal Treasurer, through yourself as our esteemed local member. “ This meeting recommends that the whole of the petrol tax be returned to the States for the maintenance and construction of roads.”
The meeting was convened to protest against the condition of all roads leading into
Cootamundra, and your co-operation is respectfully requested in bringing this motion to the notice of the Federal Treasurer.
It must be patent to all who understand the problems of local government that the task of the maintenance and construction of roads has got far beyond the capacity of any local governing authority. In fact, these bodies have reached the limit of their resources.
– Order ! The honorable member is making comment instead of asking a question.
– When presenting his next budget to this House, will the Treasurer give effect to the terms of the resolution which was unanimously adopted by the monster meeting of citizens of Cootamundra ?
– Order ! The honorable member is becoming completely out of order.
– Will the Treasurer make all of the moneys that are collected by means of the petrol tax available to the State governments for distribution to shires and municipalities for the maintenance and construction of roads?
– I am amazed that the meeting at Cootamundra to which the honorable member has referred should have asked him to bring the matter to my notice, because he had unlimited opportunities to raise the issue voluntarily, but did nothing about it, during the period of eight years when the Labour party was in power. The problem of allocating petrol tax revenue is well understood by those who are able to survey the situation, and the responsible organizations which receive funds for the maintenance and construction of main roads are fully aware that they receive more money for the purpose now than they ever received previously.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to repeal the Banking Act 1947-48 and to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-48.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 20th June (vide page 175), on motion by Mr. Bland -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
Mav rr please YOUR Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- I support the proposed Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, and I take the opportunity to endorse the statements that have already been made by other honorable members concerning the proposed visit to Australia in 1952 of His Majesty the King, Her Majesty the Queen and Princess Margaret. It ls my fervent prayer that the King’s health will be improved to such a degree as will enable him to come here with the Queen and Princess Margaret as arranged. I have no doubt that every honorable member and all people in Australia will endorse the sentiments that have already been expressed in this debate. We look forward to welcoming those members of the Royal family in 1952 and seeing them in person.
I extend my congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker, on your re-election to office and also to the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) on his reelection to the position of Chairman of Committees. As this is the jubilee year, in which we are celebrating the first 50 years of federation, I make special reference to the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes). I am sure that we all wish to compliment and congratulate him upon the length and distinction of the service that he has given to the Commonwealth of Australia since the Parliament was established in 1901. I also take this opportunity to extend my congratulations to the honorable member for Curtin (Mr. Hasluck), the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes), and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Townley) on their elevation to tie Ministry. I know that the tremendous responsibilities of membership of the Cabinet will rest well upon their shoulders. My colleagues and I wish them well for the future.
Among the problems that confront Australia at the present time, that of defence is outstanding. There are two aspects of it which must be considered jointly. I shall deal first with the internal defence of this country. During the last two or three years, there has been a grea t deal, and perhaps a little too much, said about the Communist menace in Australia, but it was only during those years that revelations overseas showed us clearly the diabolical intensity and scope of the espionage system of international communism. I have in mind the facts that were brought before the democratic nations so vividly by the trials of persons such as Dr. Fuchs and Mr. Gold, and the flight to Russia of Professor Pontecorvo. More recently, we had the classic example of- two trusted members of the British diplomatic service vanishing. I do not want to make any reference to those two persons that could be considered as derogatory, but their disappearance is something which, as a fact, should be considered very carefully by all the democratic nations. Careful scrutiny and watchfulness by our security services has now been revealed to be a matter of major importance.
I believe that the great mass of tha Australian people and all member* of this Parliament are well aware of iiic objectives of the Australian Communist party. They know in their heart3 that it is essential for Australia to win its struggle against that organization. If Australia fails to win the struggle, a new form of authority will be established here that will control and channel the activities of our people to such a degree that, within a few generations, Australians, as we now know them, and Australia, as w3 nov? know it, will have ceased completely and absolutely to exist. It is abundantly clear that that is the ultimate objective of certain people in this country.
In future the defence of Australia itself will rest, I consider, to an increasing degree upon the shoulders of those who are responsible for our air defences. Whereas twenty years ago that responsi bility rested, in the main, upon the shoulders of those who were responsible for naval defence, technical developments in warfare have so altered the position that the responsibility has shifted and we must now look to our air arm as the main functional weapon to be used against any forces that strike at Australia. “VW. are aware of the fact that our potential enemy is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The time has come when .ve should abandon all pretence in this connexion. If Russia went to war, it is probable that Australia would be fairly well down the list of its strategic objectives, but we could expect some form of action against us by long-range submarines and perhaps by aircraft carried by submarines or surface vessels.
It is essential to develop our air force to such a degree that we shall be able to establish aerial supremacy at any given point at any given time. We can only achieve that by concentrating our energies upon the Royal Australian Air Force and ensuring that it has an abundance of the most modern equipment. The reports of plans for building certain types of jet aircraft in Australia are, in relation to the Canberra bomber, very satisfactory, because aircraft of that type will be of immense value to the Royal Australian Air Force, but the position in relation to jet fighters is not so satisfactory. In Korea we have observed recently, to our dismay, that the Russian M.I.G. 15 is apparently superior to all other fighter aircraft that have been operating there up to the present time, including the Meteor TV., the Thunderjet and the Sabre. If that be so, and according to reports by General Vandenberg it is so, we must produce a new fighter aircraft quickly. If we build the Hawker P. 1081 here, it is highly probable that we shall have an aircraft that will solve the problems that confront those who are responsible for our fighter defences. If we want something better than the M.I.G. 15, it is apparent, from what General Vandenberg has said, that we must look for an aircraft that is at the moment on the secret list. During all the years that we have been responsible for our own air defence, we have lagged behind the United Kingdom and the United States of America, mainly because we have not had an aircraft industry of any size. Consequently, we have been getting the cast-offs or aircraft that have been developed in the United Kingdom and tried in squadrons of the Royal Air Force before being made available to the Royal Australian Air Force. I believe that the time has come when that system should be altered. We must evolve a system under which we can begin to build certain types of aircraft here as soon as they are out of the blueprint stage in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. If we cannot function as a team, the result may be unfortunate.
Last year the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and I raised the question of the planning of aircraft production by the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia. I am happy to know that the Canberra bomber, which is supposed to be the world’s best medium bomber, is now to be produced in the United States oi America. It is most important to decide what type of jet fighter should be produced for the United Nations and to concentrate the productive capacity of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia upon the production of aircraft of that type. Otherwise, v.-e shall, be faced with an enormous problem in providing replacements and spare parts for a half-dozen types of aircraft. Those who dealt with this problem during the last war are well aware of the great difficulties that arise when spare parts for one type of aircraft are delivered to a squadron that is equipped with a different type of aircraft. Australia must increase the strength of its air force to such a degree that it will be able to say with certainty that if a. seaborne force approaches our shores we shall be able to establish aerial supremacy over that force at any given moment. If we can do that, we shall survive. I remind the House of the fate of Prince of Wales and Repulse off the Malayan coast in 1941. The great task forces that moved about the seas during the last war were dependant upon the maintenance of their own aerial supremacy. If we can guarantee that no enemy that comes within striking distance of Australia will be able to maintain his own aerial supremacy, our security will be assured.
I do not want to refer at any length to the problems associated with the Navy and the Army. With regard to the Navy, T believe that our present concentration upon the building of high-speed antisubmarine frigates is a desirable thing. Perhaps we should have more of them. There has been a lot of talk concerning what should be done in connexion with the Army. The national service training scheme is about to be launched and I am confident that it will have a great effect on the young men of this country, and that it will provide a basic force which can be used in war-time, by giving the people important training for national defence.
T come now to the most important matter that can be discussed at this time. This is our jubilee year. We have been 50 years a parliament. Now is the time to look around Australia, to think about, and to examine all aspects of our way of life. Let us review the alterations that have taken place in the character of our people. I believe that in 1900, on the average, we were a people of greater initiative than we are now. We were hardier then because, during the last 50 years, certain things have happened which have reduced the hardiness and the capacity for initiative of the average Australian. The Prime Minister referred to what he described as a “ devaluation of civic standards “. The great mass of Australia’s population is in two cities - Sydney and Melbourne. Prom the defence point of view that is a shocking state of affairs and at some stage we may suffer from it. We have produced in those cities a class of person who is a city dweller before he is an Australian, if we associate an Australian with the concept of the1 pioneer of the outback who had to work hard physically and undergo mental strain in order to exist. We have produced a form of troglodyte - a flat dweller who lives and dies in the city and who has no real basic connexion with those essential national characteristics that I have mentioned. In the far north of Queensland I have met people whom I consider typified the men of the Australia of the 1914-18 period, but this type of man is not so evident in the cities. A sense of irresponsibility has been developed. There is not an awareness of civic responsibility to the degree that it should exist. I believe that the imposition of the means test in connexion with our social services has in no small way contributed to the state of affairs that I have mentioned. The means test has forced a large number of people into activity which they themselves would otherwise abhor. They are being made to become crafty and cunning people who will seek by some subterfuge to commit what is basically a social crime. Despite the innate dignity which age brings to most people these conditions force them to become thoroughly embittered and frustrated. One of the most urgent problems of the Government is to evolve a system of social services which will eliminate the means test, because of its profoundly ill effect on the national character.
There has been a tendency toward irresponsible exaggeration of the qualities of this country. During the last 50 years there has been a deterioration in the standard of debate in this House and a tendency to accuse wildly both here and on the public platform. These facts are a reflection on the national character and it is time to realize that it is so. The failure of the recruiting campaign has been a classic example of the trend in the outlook of the Australian people who have a great apathy towards national defence. A battalion of fellows is fighting and dying in Korea, with a squadron of airmen and some naval vessels. The average Australian has no great interest in that fact. There have been certain criticisms of the Government concerning that matter and they have not been without some justification. People have taken advantage of the voluntary system that has been used in the past and, as a result, the weaknesses of that system have been revealed. I believe that system to be completely immoral. It is quite wrong that during two world wars Australia should have allowed one group of the community to carry the burden and responsibility that should rest upon every man, woman and child. I believe that the principle of “ one in, all in “, should be observed in connexion with national service and defence, and that the Government should decide who will fight with the rifle and who will fight with the lathe. The important thing is that the man who has fought with the lathe should not become a house and a motor car better off than the man who has fought with the rifle.
– What about the pro- fiteer?
– Attention should be given to every( section of the community and I should* deal with the profiteer with the same intensity that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) would deal with him. I have suggested that opportunity should be given to some of the younger members of this Parliament to see active service in Korea with the Australian forces. I believe that that should be done because the leadership provided by this Parliament is of vital importance to the nation, and if members of Parliament are prepared to indicate their active sense of responsibility for the defence of the country, the people will follow them. I believe that that is a fact of great moral importance.
The tremendous strain of work in Parliament has been illustrated during the last fortnight in the press, which has referred to our last three great Prime Ministers who have suffered physically to an intense degree because of the enormous responsibility associated with governments of this country. Honorable members must find some way of assisting their leaders and of solving the enormous social problem which has resulted from a general deterioration in leadership throughout Australia. There was a greater awareness in 1914 than in 1939 of national responsibility. I am sure that the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) will endorse that statement. In this Jubilee year the Commonwealth of Australia must look to its future morals. We have every reason to look with satisfaction at the achievements of the past. I trust that we shall realize that our inheritance is not important only because of the fact that we have inherited it, but also because we have to pass it on to those who follow us in a condition as good as that in which we received it. I hope that when that time comes we shall not ourselves feel a sense of shame or defeat.
.- After listening to the speech of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham), I must express my regret that such a youthful honorable member should take such a pessimistic view of the future of Australia and its inheritance. Evidently the honorable member has moved in very restricted circles in his own City of Sydney to have formed the ideas that he has expressed to-day. I suggest to him that he widen his acquaintance by going out into the industrial suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne and meeting the real workers of this country. I feel sure that if he did so he would, in a very short time, revise his views. Unlike the honorable member, I have moved among the great masses of workers in this country for many years, and I find that they have the same characteristics nowadays as those that I found among them both in the country and in the city in my earliest days as an Australian. So I recommend that the honorable gentleman get round among the industrial workers and ask them what their ambitions are and what they are hoping for. I feel sure that the results will make him optimistic about Australia, Australians and their future.
I turn now to some of the statements made in the Governor-General’s Speech. I listened to that Speech with attention and interest, but I was not enheartened by its contents. I then obtained a printed copy of it and read it through but I did not thereby discover anything more hopeful in it. My first impression was that the Speech showed a great similarity to that which was delivered by His Excellency when he opened the Nineteenth Parliament early last year, in that a great many promises were made to the people about what the incoming Government would do. The Speech shows that the promises that were made on that occasion have fallen far short of fulfilment, because the Government is still promising to do the things that it promised to do at the beginning of last year. I think that it will still be promising to do them by the time another general election occurs.
The honorable member for St. George mentioned the means test in relation to pensioners. Labour governments in the past took action in that matter, and on at least two occasions modified the conditions of the means test so as to ensure that a greater proportion of old people would be able to take advantage of the benefits of age and invalid pensions. But I have noticed that this Government has not followed the lead that was given to it by Labour administrations, and that during its term of office it has made no effort to alleviate the means test. I refer to that matter in particular because the Governor-General’s Speech contained the following statement : -
My advisers have in hand a close study, involving further prolonged research, of the incidence of the means tost, with a desire to encourage thrift instead of penalizing it and at the game time not to impair our economic stability.
I believe that that statement unfortunately consists only of very empty words. I have recollections that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when lie was Leader of the Opposition during the general election campaign in 1946, submitted to the people a policy in which he promised a scheme of national insurance which would abolish pensions as we know them now, and entirely eliminate the means test. But he played safe on that occasion and informed the electors that a period of at least three years would be necessary for preparation of the scheme for submission to ‘the electors. Three years passed by and he again appeared before the electors, arid again he made enchanting promises. Another eighteen months have passed. The result of that eighteen months of apparently close study is that the matter is still being closely studied by the Government, and that it is now to involve further prolonged research. I suggest that that prolonged research will be continuing when the life of this Parliament ends. The promise in regard to the means test is similar to other promises that have been made from time to time particularly during general election campaigns. I hope that I am wrong because I believe that something should be done in regard to the means test. I do not ask that it be removed in one day or even one year. But I believe that if this Government is honest and sincere in its promises, then at a very early date we shall see a further alleviation of the means test, as it affects pensions, on similar lines to those that were adopted on at least two occasions by Labour administrations. I turn now to other items in the Speech. One that attracted my attention particularly was the following statement : -
The growing complexity of the problems nf administration, and the added burdens which result from the need for greatly accelerated and extended defence preparations, render it necessary, in the opinion of my advisers, to increase the number of Ministers to twenty. A Bill to give effect to this increase and to deal with the Cabinet Fund will be introduced early in the Session.
That is a. rather remarkable statement when we consider that after eighteen months in office the Government has suddenly discovered that an additional Minister is necessary. But when we look back over the fifteen months between the Government’s assumption of office and the general election, we realize that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who was originally Minister for Defence and was later Minister for the Interior, spent the whole of that period as resident Minister in London, and did not at any time during it take any part in the administration of a government department within Australia. Of course, I can quite understand why the Minister was sent to London. I believe that it was an easy method of disposing of one of the headaches of the Cabinet, as there would have been considerably more trouble in the Cabinet during the life of the last Parliament if the Vice-President of the Executive Council had been present at its deliberations. My experience of him shows that he would have been a constant source of trouble. The office of Vice-President of the Executive Council has usually been regarded as a position to be occupied by some Minister who has reached the stage when he should be placed on the” shelf. It has been regarded as an office for somebody in indifferent health or suffering from old-age so that he might be retained in the Cabinet without having to perform much work. In saying that I hope that I do not reflect unjustly on any person who has occupied that exalted office, particularly the present occupant, because he is not suffering from either old-age or debility, although he may be suffering in other directions.
During the life of the previous Parliament there were only seventeen Ministers administering the departments of State. At present there are nineteen Ministers available and we are told that one more is required. According to the Prime Minister’s statement that contingency has arisen because of the rising tempo of defence preparations, the control of which requires the services of three additional Ministers. Upon examination, however, we find that it is not intended to use those three Ministers entirely in connexion with defence preparations. They will be allotted other work. During the last few months some changes of portfolio have been made among the Ministers, and many interesting suggestions to account for those changes have been published in newspapers. I have obtained most of the information at my disposal from the official organ of the Liberal party in Victoria, the Melbourne Herald. That newspaper stated that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) had proved a failure in his position as Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation, and that it was therefore proposed that instead of relegating him to exterior darkness, for the sake of courtesy, he was to be given the position of High Commissioner in Great Britain. I believe that that position of High Commissioner is an important one, and that it should not be allotted to a Cabinet failure. It was also reported in the Liberal press that the ex-member for Warringah, Mr. Spender, had attempted to undermine the prestige of the Prime Minister in the hope of taking over his position. His sentence for that offence was “ Washington or the bush “. Although Mr. Spender had great ideas of becoming Prime Minister of Australia, he evidently preferred the glory of the post of Ambassador to the United States to the obscurity of being thrown to the back benches of the Parliament.
– How does the honorable member know that this is all true ?
– I obtained my information from Liberal newspapers and I suggest that the honorable member should know whether the articles published in those newspapers are correct or not. Perhaps he would know more about that than I would. The same newspapers reported that it was intended to ship the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) to South Africa or Canada because he had failed in his administration of the Departments of the Army and the Navy. Colour is lent to that report by the fact that on the Minister’s announcement that he had refused to go overseas, the administration of the Department of the Navy was taken from him. We have also learnt from the Liberal press that Senator McLeay was offered the position of President of the Senate because he had failed in his administrative duties. Being a strongminded man he refused to accept the position. He said that he was too young, active and energetic to be placed on the shelf, and demanded that he remain in the Ministry.
– Order ! The honorable member should refrain from discussing the other place.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. In considering the allotment of portfolios it will be noticed that one department has been taken from the Minister for the Army, and the administration of fuel supplies has been allotted to a different Minister.
– This all sounds like another Bryson romance.
– Look at your own newspapers; you will find it all there.
– Order ! The honorable member should address me.
– A new department has now been formed called the Department of Territories. One of the new Ministers has been allotted that portfolio. That is all to the good, and I believe that the Minister should give his full time to the administration of the Northern Territory and our external territories, because a great deal of work requires to be done in those areas. Recently I read of an announcement made by the Prime Minister to the effect that a number of changes had been made in positions occupied by departmental officers. In the list of changes and new appointments I saw the announcement of a new appointment to the position of Secretary to the Department of External Territories. I forget the name of the appointee, but the announcement also recited that Mr. Halligan, the previous secretary of the department, had been appointed to the position of adviser to the Minister, and that his duties would involve the administration of the Department of Territories. I have the greatest respect for Mr. Halligan because he is a very capable officer, a fact which the Government has recognized if the statement attributed to the Prime Minister is correct - that, in reality, Mr. Halligan is now unofficial Minister for Territories. The duties of the Minister appear to be merely to sign the papers that are placed in front of him. I suggest that if a fulltime Commonwealth public servant can administer the department there is no necessity for it to be made also a full-time job for a Cabinet Minister who apparently will sit back and do what the unofficial minister instructs him to do. That seems to be a departure from the principle of responsible government. I should, therefore, appreciate a report from the Government about the administrative arrangements in the Department of Territories. I should also like to know whether the statement attributed to the Prime Minister is correct, namely, that the departmental head is the unofficial Minister and that the Minister will perform some other duties different from what one would expect from the Minister in charge of such an important department. That is another example of how the Ministry works.
Explanations should be made about all these matters. We on this side of the House would like to know why it is necessary to have three Ministers more this year than last year to administer the departments. That raises another matter. Time after time, members of the Government, including the Prime Minister, have promised to reduce the size of the Public Service. The Government has stated that the country is overloaded with public servants and that their numbers must be reduced in order that more man-power may be made available for productive work and the costs of government may be reduced. The forming of new departments entails the engagement of additional staff; there must be a secretary, a chief clerk, and staff. If three new departments are to be established I fail to see how the Government will carry out its promises to make more man-power available and to reduce the size of the Public Service. That should also be explained.
Another matter mentioned by several speakers is communism. A paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech . reads -
My Government believes that it has an express mandate from the electors to conduct a relentless campaign against the menace of communism in Australia, and will seek to carry out that mandate by all means which are, or may become, available to it.
Those words have a very familiar ring. We have heard them uttered on many occasions by honorable members opposite. Nevertheless, in this matter the Government has not gone beyond making promises. It doth protest too much in its fulminations against the Communist party. I shall support that statement by relating some personal experiences that I have had in my contacts with the Liberal party in the course of general election campaigns. In 1946 the lady who was elected to this Parliament for the electorate of Bourke succeeded because the Liberal party advised its supporters to give their number two preference to her. She stood as an independent because she had resigned from the Labour party in 1939 in order to become a member of one of the Communist party auxiliaries, the International Peace Campaign. She admitted that fact in the manifesto that she issued during that election campaign. The Labour party outlawed the International Peace Campaign in 1939 and it has fought that organization ever since. That lady was a member of not only that organization but also of other Communist auxiliaries. Yet the Liberal party organization in the former electorate of Bourke exhorted its supporters to give their number two preference to her. I recall that when she first spoke in this House the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), who is a member of the Australian Country party, commented that it was the first time that he had ever heard a Communist speak in this Parliament. The honorable member’s statement is on record in Hansard. The same lady stood as an independent candidate for the electorate of Wills at the general election in 1949. Although at that time considerably more was known about her Communist affiliations, the Liberal party organization again advised its supporters to give their number two preference to her. I have no doubt that they did so ; but on that occasion she was defeated. After all the talk that we heard from Government supporters during the ensuing sixteen months about their intention to suppress the Communist party, the Liberal party again advised its supporters at the recent general election to give their number two preference to this Communist fellow-traveller.
– Does the honorable member know that in 1939 his present leader was legal adviser to the Council for the Defence of Civil Liberties, which, as he knows, was definitely a Communist organization ?
– The point is that although the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has been fulminating in this House for the last sixteen months against the Communists and everything associated with them, the party of which he is apparently a loyal member exhorted its supporters in the electorate of Wills to give their number two preference to a Communist fellowtraveller. Other honorable members may have had experience similar to that which I have just mentioned. After I had been returned at the recent general election for the electorate of Wills I asked a prominent member of the Liberal party why his party had advised its supporters to give their number two preference to a Communist.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Jubilee Year is an important milestone in our history. At this time we may well review the past and look into the future. We should be thankful for the principles that we have received as our heritage. I am grateful that past generations of the British revealed in full measure the will to place service before self regardless of sacrifices. We enjoy our present freedom in this outpost of the British Empire mainly because those principles have been handed down to us. In this respect I need refer to only a few instances. First, I am reminded of the Scottish song in which a Scottish mother says -
I hae but ane son my brave young Donald, But if I had ten they’d follow Glengarry.
I recall the spirit of Captain Oates when he walked out into a blizzard in the Antarctic wastes in order to give his mates a chance to get back to civilization. I think of Nurse Edith Cavell and the great sacrifice that she made. I think also of the people who had the courage to emigrate to strange lands like Australia and Canada and, in earlier years, the United States of America, subduing their longing for their homeland and overcoming the hardships that they were called upon to face. Among those to whom at this time, particularly, we should acknowledge our great debt, I include our soldiers of two world wars. Il is fitting to pause for a moment in this Parliament of the Commonwealth to think of the men in military hospitals throughout Australia who are still suffering because of the sacrifices that they made i1’ defence of this country. Unfortunately, the average man and woman gives little thought to those heroes. In every military hospital are to be found men who have been lying on their backs since World Wars I. and II., in which they made sacrifices in order that the Empire might live. We must cherish the British tradition and preserve the will to place service before self. The British people have always had confidence in themselves. We must continue to have confidence in ourselves and in this country, and, actuated by such confidence, we must do away with elements that are trying to rob us of our heritage. I think of the Welsh people, many of whom came to Australia. I pay tribute to the Right Honorable William Morris Hughes, who occupies a seat close to me in this chamber, as one of them.
-Order ! The honorable member may not refer to another honorable member by his personal name.
– I refer to the right honorable member for Bradfield. I recall the Men of Harlech, whose cry was not “ On to glory if you can “ but “ On to glory “. They had complete confidence in themselves. I think of the Scottish people, and of the confidence that they have shown throughout their long history, which is reflected in the lines -
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory.
I think also of the English, and of Admiral Nelson’s famous signal to his fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar -
England expects that every man this day will do his duty.
The British people have always shown that confidence, and Australians also will need to show it if this country is to attain the status of a great nation.
– Why does not the honorable member think of the Irish?
– I also think of the Irish, and of their contribution to the fame of the British Empire. They must not be omitted. The confidence to which I have referred has come to Australia in war-time, but not to the same degree in peace-time. Song writers and poets frequently crystallize in music and in verse ideas that are peculiar to the people at a particular time. The song that was sung in many Australian homes during World War I. was “ Keep the Home Fires Burning”. The home fires were kept burning for a specific reason. The young men of Australia, who were playing such a noble part on foreign battle fields, would return to Australia after the conflict to resume the work in which they had been engaged before they went overseas. During World War II. English-speaking peoples throughout the world enthusiastically sang the verses of the song, “ Till the Lights of London Shine Again “. That song was typical of the spirit of the English-speaking peoples when their fortunes in the war had reached their lowest ebb. They did not sing, “If the Lights of London Shine Again “, or “ Will the Lights of London Shine Again “. They sang with vigorous confidence, “ Till the Lights of London Shine Again”. The people of the British race have always displayed that kind of confidence and firm resolve to conquer adversity.
Confidence has been a major factor in the discovery and development of Australia, and will be an even greater factor in future. We must have confidence in the ability, honesty and integrity of our fellow men. No set of circumstances and no junta of individuals must be allowed to undermine our confidence, or to sully our reputation. We are proud of our flag, but we shall remain proud of it only while we adhere to the principles that have made it great. The flag is what we make it. In the words of one poet -
We hoist it to show our devotion, To our King, to our country and Laws, It’s the outward and visible emblem, Of advancement and Liberty’s cause.
If the flag is the outward and visible emblem of advancement and Liberty’s cause, it is the spirit of the British people that is the inward element that has given us liberty and freedom. We must retain such a quality if we are to be worthy of our valiant forefathers. We are proud of the achievements of the British people, who have always been mindful of the source of their greatness. People have asked, “ What is the source of that greatness?”, and other questions such as “ Where did Shakespeare get his genius?”, “Where did Mozart get his music ? “, and, “ What hand touched the Scottish ploughboy and made him the world’s greatest poet of the people ? “ The answer to such questions has always been, “ The hand of G od “, and while we in this country continue to believe and proclaim “ Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory,” and act accordingly, our greatness will increase and we shall be an inspiration to all other countries.
Some Australians consider that we are. following America too closely, and that the American influence has been too marked on the Australian and British people. But we should always remember that the greatest influence on the American continent has been exerted by the English-speaking race, and that it has been the Puritan influence. Let us always remember the port from which Mayflower sailed with the Pilgrim Fathers. Let us also remember that any influence that America may exercise at the present time on the British Empire is only a reflection of the greatness of our Empire. Having made our influence felt in the United States of America and in other parts of the American continent, we are witnessing a reflection of it at the present time. A person who can express the sentiment better than I can hope to convey it in my own words said of the British Isles and America -
Take England and America. May there never be any dividing line save the great Atlantic that rolls’ between them.
Let it always be so! I believe that the English speaking people can outlaw war and bring about the state of peace for which we long so fervently to-day. The English-speaking people have banned war among themselves, and have banded together with the object of outlawing war, if possible, throughout the world. Let us hope that this great endeavour will be successful.
Before I began my speech, I thought that it would be advantageous if petty party politics could be excluded from this important debate upon the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech; but my attitude in that respect does not appear to meet with the approval of some Opposition members, and, therefore, I must reluctantly abandon it. Perhaps that decision will give them some cause for satisfaction. I listened with interest to a speech that was delivered from a broadcasting station at Newcastle on the 20th May last by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who was then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He was endeavouring to find fault with honorable members who had .been elected by the people to support the Menzies-Fadden Government, and he said, among other things -
The Government lacks enthusiasm and drive in giving support to ex-servicemen.
T remind the House that while the Labour government was in office up to the 10th December, 1949, members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party constantly asked that greater consideration be shown to exservicemen, particularly totally and permanently incapacitated men. Whenever we raised that subject, we received a negative answer. I shall compare what the Menzies Government has done for ex-servicemen with what the previous Labour Government did for them. A totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman received £5 6s. from the
Labour Government, but soon after the Menzies Government came into office, the payment was increased to £7 a week. The payment to his wife was increased from £1 4s. to £1 10s. 6d. a week, and the allowance for each child was increased from 9s. to lis. 6d. a week. A recreational transport allowance, which had not been even contemplated by the Labour Government, was introduced by the Menzies Government, and a payment of up to £10 a month was authorized for that purpose. Motor cars were given to men whose injuries made it virtually impossible for them to use the public transport systems. Totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen who interviewed representatives of the Labour Government in Canberra with the object of obtaining greater consideration departed frustrated from the national Capital. That did not happen when the Menzies Government assumed office. How many complaints do honorable members receive from ex-servicemen at the present time? I venture to say that the number is microscopic. Exservicemen are satisfied with their conditions because the amendment of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act which was introduced by this Government, represents the greatest progress that has been made in repatriation in the history of Australia. It is absolute rot for the present Leader of the Opposition to voice such criticisms as he uttered in his broadcast on the 20th May last. He also said, in the same speech, according to the note that I made at the time -
Australia must be more vigorous in support of the United Nations.
What a farce! Has the right honorable gentleman and his supporters appeared on a public platform in support of the recruiting campaign for our armed forces? Certainly they have not.
– I shall put my question in another way. Have any members of the Parliamentary Labour party appeared on public platforms to support the recruiting campaign? I tell the new honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) that he will not do so in future. The party executive will not let you do so.
– Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– He is “bludging” On the soldiers.
– Order ! That is an unparliamentary remark and the honorable member for Parkes will withdraw it. I will not allow that remark to be made in this House.
– I withdraw and apologize.
– If any Australian ever tried to take advantage of the soldiers, the present Leader of the Opposition attempted to do so in the remarks that I have quoted. I have noted with amazement that, although this debate has been in progress for some time, the new members of the Opposition* have not spoken yet. Perhaps their abstinence is the result of orders. Every man who joins the ranks of the Labour party in this Parliament must make a definite decision either to keep to the middle of the road in politics or to move to the extreme left. Whether you like it or not, you have to take one side or the other.
– Order! The honorable member must address me.
– Everybody knows that the Labour party has been split wide open and that every member must decide definitely on which side he will stand.
Much has been said about inflation during .this debate and at other times by members of the Opposition. During the last election campaign, Labour candidates all over Australia said, “ Let ns have control of prices and everything will be rosy”. But, while they were making their optimistic declarations, a different view was being proclaimed by an eminent Labour leader in another part of the world. I refer the Opposition to the statement that was made recently by -the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Clement Attlee. At the very time when Labour politicians in Australia were telling the electors what marvellous results would flow from prices control, Mr. Attlee left his sick bed to broadcast to the people of Great Britain in these terms -
The Government is deeply concerned by the rise in the cost of living. But I should be false to my trust if I pretended that there is any short cut to reducing it. There is not, and any politician who tells you he can miraculously bring the cost of living down is deceiving both himself and you.
– That is a terrible indictment of the Australian Prime Minister.
– According to Mr. Attlee, every Labour candidate at the last Australian general election was deceiving not only the people but also himself. That statement was made, not by what the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) calls a Tory, but by the socialist Labour Prime Minister of a country where prices control operates.
Prices control will never cure inflation. It can only reduce the volume of production. Governments cannot force anybody anywhere to sell goods for less than they cost to produce. Any government that attempts to do so merely prevents the man from producing goods. Our chief problem in Australia to-day is the old one of supply and demand. Everybody knows that the supply of money in the community is more than adequate for the needs of the people, whereas the supply of goods is totally inadequate. Until we can produce more goods and overcome shortages, the inflationary trend will continue. This state of . affairs is not peculiar to Australia. Statistics that were issued recently by the United Nations showed that prices were increasing amazingly in 22 of 25 countries. In most of them, the upward trend was much sharper than it is in Australia. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. Eli Harrison who spoke earlier in this debate, obviously regards his representation of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen as being of greater importance than his representation of the electors. Whenever he speaks in this House on any subject, he presents himself to us as the president of that union. I have never yet heard him speak as the honorable member for Blaxland. He must decide sooner or later whether he is a member of the House of Representatives or a union leader. If he tries to act in both capacities, he will develop a split personality that will be of no use either to Australia or to the union. He said that he was strongly opposed to the extension of the Government’s powers to deal with communism and declared that the Government must be very careful not to do any thing that would damage our democracy.
However, he did not say anything about the Communist menace that threatens to drive democracy from our midst.
We hear only one side of the story about communism from the Opposition, but we know what is happening in Australia. Every sensible individual in the country must realize that the Communists must be overthrown. That is why, on two occasions recently, the electors have given to the parties represented on this side of the House an overwhelming mandate to govern Australia. The Leader of the Opposition, who should be able to argue, logically, made a remarkable statement when he said, “If the Government fails the people, it richly deserves all that is coming to it “. Let us examine that remark. What would come to the Government if it failed the people ? Obviously it would be defeated at the polls. That is the logical answer, and it is the answer that the Leader of the Opposition had in mind. What has come to the Labour party twice within the last eighteen months ? Defeat at the polls ! Therefore, following the reasoning of the right honorable gentleman, the Labour party has failed the people. How many members of the Labour party have said since the 1949 election that they would welcome another election because the Government had failed and the people would throw it out of office. Another election has been held. Look now at the majority on this side of the chamber and the minority in Opposition ! Look also at the changed position in the Senate ! The people have given their decision.
I am pleased to know that the Govern-1 ment intends to provide for the holding of secret ballots at trade union elections, and I am glad that such ballots may be conducted by the electoral authorities. One honorable member of the Opposition said yesterday that, in Victoria, the Australian Railways Union had adopted secret ballots. But those ballots are not supervised by electoral officers. There is no valid reason why the Opposition should object to the holding of secret ballots for trade union elections. They cannot lose, and Australia must gain. The law of this country must be obeyed. Everybody should be prepared to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. But some authority must decide what consti- tutes a fair day’s work and what constitutes a fair day’s pay. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court exists for that very purpose. It is the umpire, and it must be obeyed. It represents the law of the land. Any coterie of individuals in this Parliament or elsewhere that incites Australians to take any action in defiance of the law of the land is not worthy to bc. called Australian.
– I wish to discuss several subjects in the brief time that is at my disposal, but my primary concern is to deal at length with the need for certain alterations of our Constitution. First I refer to the slow turn-round of ships in Australian ports, which was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who suggested that some authority should be appointed to conduct a full inquiry into shipping delays. Nobody deplores more than I do the waste of time by ships in our ports. From ‘my home at Port Adelaide in recent months I have seen big ships from overseas delayed at their anchorages sometimes for as long as a fortnight. Unfortunately, the entire blame for this situation is placed upon the waterside workers, who are said to be under the control of Communists. The situation in our ports is so serious that certain shipping companies overseas have declared that they will omit Port Adelaide from their schedules until arrangements can be made for the more rapid discharge of cargoes. That will have a serious effect upon South Australia. However, the fault does not lie entirely with the Communists. The executive committee of the waterside workers at Port Adelaide includes only one Communist. The other members have no dealings with communism whatever, and the truth is that most of the men who work on the wharfs are totally opposed to the doctrines of communism.
Communism is losing support in the Port Adelaide district. During the last three election campaigns I have been opposed by a Communist candidate, on two occasions by Dr. Finger, a noted man in hia profession, who, for many years, was in charge of the Infectious Diseases Hospital maintained by the South Australian Government. He had worked wonders for many children who have been patients at the hospital, and, apart from his philosophy of communism, he is highly respected. As a result of his professional activities he has been able to win a large personal following. “When he opposed me at the election of 1946, he received between 4,000 and 5,000 votes in that portion of the old Hindmarsh division which is now the Division of Port Adelaide. Yet, at the last election, he polled only 1,300 votes in the same area. As I told one honorable member by interjection yesterday, it is not necessarily a fact that everybody who votes for a Communist candidate is also a Communist. Many electors support Dr. Finger at elections because they consider that they owe him a debt of gratitude for his professional services. Nevertheless, even with the huge personal following that he has in Port Adelaide, he could muster support from only 1,300 electors at the last poll whereas I received approximately 34,000 votes. Those figures show that Labour sympathies predominate at Port Adelaide and that the workers, as a whole, are opposed to communism.
I have had many opportunities to study conditions on the waterfront at Port Adelaide and I have often done so unofficially. . Frequently men whom I have known almost throughout my life have complained bitterly to me about the way in which cargo is stowed in ships. Bad stowage causes long delays for which the waterside workers are wrongly blamed. Recently I visited a ship which had brought a large cargo of Japanese cement and galvanized iron to Port Adelaide. If honorable members had to work under the conditions that prevailed on that vessel I am sure that they would not stay on the job for long. The paper bags in which the cement had been packed had burst in all directions and the men had to work with rags tied over their mouths and noses. Alongside the cement were stacks of galvanized, iron which the men had to unload under the greatest difficulties. Had they gone ahead at the old rate and hoisted the iron out of the holds quickly, chaos would have resulted. The ends of the stacks of iron were under the coamings and, if the men had attempted to hoist it out quickly, the slings would have swung into a great wall of cement in thin paper bags, which would have been torn to pieces. They had to lift the sling, drop the case, shift the sling along again, lift it a little so that it would not strike the cement, and wait for the hoisting signal. Nevertheless, these men are being blamed for unloading less cargo than they unloaded formerly.
– Does the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) deny that there are restrictive practices on the waterfront?
– I deny that the whole of the trouble is caused by the waterside workers. I am stating facts and not indulging in fancy. On many occasions, cargo for Port Adelaide is stowed under cargo for other ports. Before the Port Adelaide cargo can be unloaded, that for the other ports has to be taken from the ships’ holds and placed on the wharfs, while the men unload the cargo for Port Adelaide, and then it has to be loaded into the holds again. On some occasions, huge quantities of wool have been unloaded and reloaded although a little forethought would have rendered that unnecessary. Hundreds of tons of lead have had to be taken from one ship, placed on the wharf while other cargo has been unloaded, and then loaded into the ship again. The South Australian Government has decided to appoint a high government official to inquire into what is happening in Port Adelaide. I could cite many instances similar to those to which I have referred. “Waterside workers in Adelaide have told me that when they pointed out that it was proposed to stow cargo for Melbourne on cargo for Sydney, which would involve unloading and reloading the Sydney cargo at Melbourne, they were told to put the cargo into the ship in the way in which they had been instructed to load it. The officials said that they knew their own business. I repeat that the whole of the blame for the slow turn-round of ships cannot be laid on the shoulders of the waterside workers.
I admit that on some occasion.-; there are not enough men available when many ships are in port. One might ask why more men are not admitted to the union. The simple answer to that question is that the men know what happened in the past When large numbers of men were available for work on the waterfront and a slump occurred, many of them could not get enough work to provide them with a reasonable income. The waterside workers, quite naturally, want to keep their numbers at a level that is adequate to meet, not rush conditions but normal conditions. I support the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that the Government consider the desirability of an inquiry into what is happening on the waterfront.
Before I conclude my remarks upon this subject, let me tell the House of another cause of the loss of hundreds of working hours on the waterfront. In Port Adelaide, a ship takes nearly two hours to come from the anchorage to a berth at a wharf. The harbour board there, a government institution, has only two shifts of men available to man the tugs and the launches that take pilots to the ship. It is usually 8.20 a.m. before the first ship reaches its berth at a. wharf, and others come up the river at halfhourly intervals. The waterside workers are engaged at 8 a.m., and they have to stand idle until the ships on which they are due to work have berthed. Delays of that kind are unnecessary and the waterside workers cannot be held responsible for them.
JJ now turn to a matter that is very close to my heart. I refer to the parliamentary system in this country. I have believed for some time that it must be a system under which a government elected by the people can function properly. If a freely elected government finds itself in a position in which it cannot function properly, a step has been taken along the path to a system of control of this country other than parliamentary control. I know how the members of this Government felt during the first sixteen months after they were returned to power by a majority of the people, when they were unable to give effect to the policy upon which they were elected. A similar situation arose in 1930. In the previous year, the Scullin Government had been returned with a large majority in the House of Representatives, but it was the Ren a te, the members of which had been elected earlier and upon different issues, which controlled the destinies of the country.
I believe that in this jubilee year we should look back over the 50 years since federation and consider whether it is possible to improve the present system. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) suggested that a convention be held to consider the matter.. The Leader of. the Opposition dealt with that suggestion yesterday, and reminded the House of the relevant provisions of the Constitution. I am afraid that we should not get very far if we proceeded in that way, although it is the desire of many earnest people that we should do so. In my opinion, it is the job of this Parliament to institute the reforms that are necessary. Fifty years ago we accepted federation in preference to unification. It was agreed that, to a degree, the Commonwealth Parliament should be based on the American principle of a Senate to represent the States and a House of Representatives to represent the people, on the basis of their numerical strength. In America, which has a large number of States, each State is represented in the Senate by only two senators, but in Australia each State originally returned six senators. It was unfortunate that it was provided that the House of Representatives should be approximately twice the size of the Senate, and I believe that we should consider an alteration of that provision. We should be enabled to approach the matter on the basis only of the number of senators that is considered to be adequate to represent each State. I do not believe that it is necessary for the Senate to be half the size of the House of Representatives. I admit that the policy of the Labour party is the abolition of the Senate, but I know that there are great difficulties in the way of implementing that policy. Regard must be had, not only to what individual people think, but also to the fundamental principles upon which federation was agreed to.
I propose to offer some suggestions that I hope will be considered. Perhaps some of them have not been considered by my own party, but I believe that, as a member of Parliament, I am entitled to offer them for consideration. I do not agree with the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who said just now that the new members on this side of the chamber would find that they were not allowed to express their opinions. During my parliamentary life, in both the State and Federal spheres, I have always said what f believed I should say. I have done that, and remained loyal to the Labour party platform and policy. If we believe in democracy and in the principle that the will of the people shall prevail, we must evolve a system under which the will of the people, having been expressed, can be given effect. We must, if possible, avoid a position in which a political party that has been returned to power with a majority in this chamber, perhaps having obtained also a majority of the Senate seats that were then contested should find that, owing to the fact that three years previously a number of men had been elected as senators who perhaps would not have been elected if the existing conditions had obtained at that time, it was frustrated by a hostile Senate, which controlled the destinies of the country. I believe that the members of the Senate should be elected to serve for the same period as are members of the House of Representatives.
– Why did not the honorable gentleman make this speech three years ago?
– I have made speeches upon this matter from time to time. I believe that it is never too late to suggest something that may be to the advantage of this country. I regret the report that it is proposed to hold a Senate election in two years’ time to test the feelings of the people upon whether the Government should make any alterations to enable it to be successful in an election for the House of Representatives twelve months afterwards. I do not like that kind of thing. I believe that the will of the people should prevail. If it be the will of the people that there shall be a Senate, I suggest that each State shoii 1, return nine senators and that each senator should be elected to serve for the same period as is a member of the House of Representatives. If that suggestion were adopted, we should have the odd number which is so desirable under our system of proportional representation. It may be said that even under that system the opposing parties could be evenly divided in the Senate if three States voted in one way and three States in the opposite way. To meet that situation, the Constitution could be altered to provide that if the numbers iri the Senate were divided evenly between the opposing parties-
– We could create a seventh State.
– I do not know whether we could do that at the moment. I am dealing with the situation as it is. I believe that the Constitution could be altered to provide that, under the circumstances to which I have referred, if the Senate, within three months of receiving a bill from the House of Representatives, had neither passed it nor rejected it, the House of Representatives could pass the bill again and send it to the Senate, giving the Senate a month in which to deal with it and, if the Senate did not make its decision within that time, the will of the House of Representatives would prevail. That would be a democratic procedure. If a majority of members of the House of Representatives believed that a certain measure should become law, and if an evenly divided Senate did not agree to pass the measure, then, instead of having a joint sitting oi” both Houses, the measure would automatically be presented to the GovernorGeneral for his assent. If the Senate refused to pass the bill, the Government, would be able to ask the Governor-General for a dissolution of both Houses of the Parliament on the ground that it could not function properly in giving effect to the will of the people as expressed at the last election. I believe that something similar to what I have suggested should be done in the very near future. The Government to-day is in the happy position that it can say that this does not matter now because it can carry on, but I believe that honorable gentlemen opposite realize that recently, when they went to the people, there was a grave risk of the stalemate in the Parliament being still in existence after the election.
– There was never any doubt about the result of the election.
– I am certain that the main reason for the victory of the
Government parties at the last general election was the people’s fear of communism, but the Government will not 1) able to fight another election on that issue.
One of the greatest catastrophes that could befall this country would be the implementation of the measures to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that were introduced during the last Parliament. When my late respected leader, Mr. Chifley, said that the Government desired “ tame cat “ unions, he was referring to those measures. If they are implemented, the leader of any industrial organization who dares to advise the members of his union to act against the award of an arbitration tribunal will be charged with contempt of court by the Government. What I am about to say is not meant to be a threat, but I know the working man well enough to know that if he feels that he is being compelled to accept awards under duress, he is more than likely to take definite action in the matter. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) was once a trade union official and I know that he will agree with me that in the early days of the trade union movement, when there was a threat against its leaders who were fighting for improved conditions, many trade unionists “ saw red “. I am very concerned about the actions that might be taken by this Government in connexion with what it believes to be an attempt to control communism. I fear that it may do something under that-
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired. Sitting suspended from lS.iS to 2.15 p.m.
– I desire to refer to certain sections of Australian social service legislation which I believe to be to the detriment of economic progress and a great blot upon the otherwise magnificent social services of this country. I refer, first, to what is commonly known as the means test which applies to age and invalid pensions, service pensions, and widows’ pensions. It does not apply to child endowment as introduced by an earlier Menzies Government or to the provision of free drugs as provided by the fourth Menzies Government. It does not apply, either, to war pensioners. The means test is a definite penalty on thrift and on work. If ever there was a time when, in order to arrest the inflationary spiral, it was essential to encourage more work to be done it is the present time. If there was ever a time when it was necessary to encourage thrift in order to ease the pressure on spending power it is the present time. But how can people be expected to save when our social services legislation provides a penalty for savings which may either wholly or partially deprive a person of social service benefits? At a time when we have full employment and are asking for increased production our social service legislation provides, in effect, that if any . of the 400,000 age pensioners work they will be penalized for that work by being deprived of the whole or part of their pension.
I suggest that if the means test were abolished and only 10 per cent, of the 4.00,000 men and women who receive the age pension decided that they would like to supplement their income by doing n little work that 10 per cent, would add £25,000,000 a year to the national income. If all the people who are at present refraining from saving because the penalty for saving is the deprivation of the age, invalid and other pensions, were to. save 1 per cent, of their present incomes that would make a sum of money available for capital investment which would amount to about £25,000,000 a year. The means test has been under consideration ever since I first became a member of this Parliament in another place. I have attacked it ever since I have been in the Parliament. I have heard honorable members of all parties condemn the means test up hill and down dale, but not one government of any political colour whatsc ever has been prepared to take the bold step of ridding this country of the greatest blot on its legislation. On many occasions governments have investigated the question of removing the means test, but on each occasion, when they have ascertained the cost of taking such action, they have stood on the brink, shivered and held back. The bold step has not been taken. Unless the Government is prepared to take the bold step, this country cannot make the economic progress that it should make.
The means test could be removed under a plan which would not be inflationary, and, if necessary, could be entirely self-supporting. I have recently obtained from the Commonwealth Actuary information on the cost of providing a retiring allowance from the age -of 65 years until death on the basis of a weekly contribution by all persons between the age of 18 and 65 years. In the case of a male person that cost would be 3s. 6d. a week, which would entitle the contributor to a retiring allowance of £2 10s. a week until death. If that plan were introduced at present the annual contributions would amount to £22,000,000 per annum. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) has estimated that the total cost of the abolition of the means test for men and women would be £70,000,000 per annum. The cost of its abolition in respect of men only would be £24,000,000. By collecting a contribution of 3s. 6d. a week from each male between eighteen and 65 years of age the Government could provide a retiring allowance of £2 10s. a week for men over 65 years of age without any means test and the scheme would be totally self-supporting except, possibly, for an amount of £2,000,000.
The abolition of the means test would result in a tremendous saving in administrative costs. At the present time, before any person is entitled to the age pension he has ‘to go through a form of inquisition, during which his past and present incomes are investigated ; and the amount of life insurance policies that he holds is questioned; the amount of his capital is ascertained in the most intimate detail. Even what he did with the, £5 that he drew out of his savings bank account two years ago is investigated. This procedure requires a tremendous army of magistrates, inspectors and other people who must police the act. The abolition of the means test “would dispense with the necessity for all such investigations. A person would become entitled to the retiring allowance because he had reached the age of 65 years. All that would be required would be the production of his birth certificate. The huge cost of administering the present age and invalid pensions scheme would be obviated by the simple plan to provide retiring allowances as a right instead of providing pensions as a charity. So far as the male section of the community is concerned, the plan that I advocate could be entirely self-supporting because the contributions of the younger section of the community would provide a sum sufficient to pay the additional costs. I do not for a moment suggest that the whole of the cost should be borne by the individual. A certain proportion should be met from general revenue in the same way as other social service payments are now provided for. It is not for me to say what proportion of the cost should be borne by the individual and what proportion should be borne by the Government. But if the Government abolishes the means test by introducing social service legislation which will provide allowances as a right because people have paid for them by their own efforts it will make the biggest step forward that has ever been made in the history of Australian social service legislation. In the case of women such a scheme would be more costly because they become eligible to receive pensions at an earlier age than do men. They live much longer and earn for a much shorter period. However, as a first step, the Government should provide for the payment of a retiring allowance to men without any means test to replace the age pension, a plan for the payment of such an allowance could be brought into effect quickly without any administrative difficulties, and without any great cost; and it can be proved actuarially sound with a very high degree of accuracy. There was never a time when people were better able to provide for the contingencies of old age than the present. The contribution would not create any hardship and it would give everybody a feeling of real social security.
– What will happen when people are out of work?
– Many grand schemes have been destroyed by over-consideration of minor details. I am not unmindful of the fact that between the ages of 18 and 65 years there will be times when people will be sick and times when they will be unemployed. Those contingencies can be provided for by the setting up of a special fund for the purpose. But that is only a minor detail compared with the great principles that are involved in the scheme that I have put forward. The figures which I have quoted are supplied by the Commonwealth Actuary, the Commonwealth Statistician and the officers of the Department of Social Services from whom I obtained them. I suggest that the Government should give immediate consideration <to the introduction of either this scheme or some scheme of a similar nature.
– The honorable member referred only to people of eighteen years of age. Does his scheme envisage people of other ages contributing?
– Yes. Every man between the ages of 18 and 65 years would be expected to contribute. If this scheme is made applicable at the present time, those who pay their contribution from 18 to 65 years of age will make it selfsupporting. They will provide their own retiring allowances. Those who are 40 years of age or more will not pay for so long, and consequently will not make up the full cost of their retiring allowances. I suggest that the annual contributions to the fund will be sufficient to pay the total additional cost of abolishing the means test for the male part of the population. The plan has been developed on the insurance principle, and therefore those who die before they reach the age of 65 years will not receive any refund of their contributions, just as a person who insures his house for fire does not receive any refund of premium if a fire does not occur.
Under this plan all would agree to pool a minute portion of their incomes. Even to the basic wage-earner 3s. 6d. a week would be a small proportion of his income to provide social security for the whole male community without any means test at all.’ Some arrangement would have to be made by government contribution to cover contributions for participants during sickness and unemployment. The scheme does not cover invalidity, and I suggest that invalids should be provided for by a separate plan because an invalid pension has no real relationship to an age pension, and the principles which apply to one do not of necessity apply to the other. Age statistics can be worked out to-day in the most minute detail, but the same cannot be said about statistics in relation t’j sickness and accident. The cost of administration of the scheme that I am putting before honorable members would be provided by the Government, but as the only investigation that would be required of an applicant’s bona fides, would be the production of a birth certificate and the only work to be done would be to pay the retiring allowance, administrative costs would be infinitesimal and would be more than covered by the saving in the cost of administration of the present age pension scheme.
His Excellency stated -
My advisers have in hand a close study, involving further prolonged research, of the incidence of the means test, with a desire to encourage thrift instead of penalizing it and at the same time not to impair our economic stability.
I suggest that if there ever was a time when the finances of Australia were economically sound it is the present time. If we miss this opportunity to take the bold step of abolishing the means test we might never get another opportunity. I ask the Government to give the most earnest and urgent consideration to this matter, which is one that is constantly present in the minds of almost every honorable member in this House. The abolition of the means test is not a party matter and I think that I have heard almost every honorable member state his objection to it at one time or another. Let us seize this opportunity of making a bold step forward in an attempt to substitute a retiring allowance without a means test for a pension with a means test.
Dir. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) [2.36]. - I join with other honorable members on this side of the House in extending to you, Mr. Speaker, my congratulations upon your election to your exalted position. When you were elected as Speaker in the previous Parliament, most honorable members were of the opinion that you would either be the best or be the worst Speaker ever elected. In case you may have some doubts about the feelings of honorable members at the moment, I think that I can assure you that there is still no unanimity of opinion amongst honorable members on whether you will be the best Speaker or the worst Speaker. Speaking for myself, however, although you are undoubtedly the worst Speaker that I have ever sat under, you also happen to be the best.
– And he will also be the last.
– That is not certain, because the Speaker may not live long enough for that. I sincerely hope that during the life of the Twentieth Parliament I shall not receive at your hands, Mr. Speaker, any more severe treatment than I received during the life of the Nineteenth Parliament.
I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) upon his election to hia high position. The right honorable gentleman has held higher positions in this country than have been held by any other honorable member of any Parliament. He has been a justice of the High Court of Australia and he stepped down from that position, which carried a salary of £3,000 a year, to serve his country in the Australian Parliament at a salary at that time of only £800 a year. The right honorable gentleman showed by that action, as he has shown by many other actions, that his one desire is to serve Australia, the great Australian Labour movement, and the people whom that movement represents.
– Do you forget that the right honorable gentleman was able to .supplement his income-
– Order ! All honorable members must address me.
– He is a political polecat.
– I disagree with the remark that the honorable member who interjected is a political polecat-
– Did an honorable mem!ber make such a remark?
– I certainly heard it.
– It came from behind the honorable member.
– Then the remark must be withdrawn.
– The remark seemed to come from the benches occupied by honorable members of the Australian Country party.
-Order ! Business will be suspended until it becomes known who made that remark.
– Seeing that you, Mr. Speaker, had the able assistance-
– Order ! The honorable member either made or did not make the remark. If he did make it then he must apologize and withdraw without any qualifications.
– If I made the remark with regard to the political polecat, I withdraw.
-The honorable member must withdraw and apologize to the House for the use of such a term.
– I withdraw and apologize to the House.
– The right honorable member for Barton, who now has the great honour of leading the Australian Labour party in this House, has served with great distinction in the United Nations, having been the only Australian who has ever been elected president of that organization. In his own right he is a doctor of laws and a doctor of letters. He is probably one of the best informed and most accurate of Australian authors. He has written many outstanding books that should be read by every body who wishes to become acquainted with the political development of Australia.
I also extend my congratulations to his very able lieutenant, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). That gentleman served Australia magnificently as Minister for Immigration, and in that capacity he deserved and obtained from all sections of the community the very highest praise. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will in the future be able to render to the Labour movement even greater service than he has rendered to it in the past. I believe that the combination of the right honorable member for Barton and the honorable member for Melbourne will give to Australia at the next general election a government which will be capable of dealing with the problems that the people of the nation desire to have solved.
It is fitting that I should make a passing reference to the unfortunate and sad passing of the late Leader of the Opposition. The Right Honorable Joseph Benedict Chifley was undoubtedly a very great Australian. He was all that the press, since his death, has published about him. He was one of Australia’s greatest sons, who had devoted the whole of his life to the upholding of the democratic principles for which we stand. He was one who had great courage in defending the things that he believed to be right. It is a tragedy that men like Mr. Chifley should have to die before the newspapers are prepared to tell the truth about them. The same newspapers, which after Mr. Chifley’s death revealed his true qualities, were only a few days before describing him as being a supporter of communism, a gutless wonder - a term used by a newspaper in South Australia - a man who lacked the courage of his convictions and a man who wittingly or unwittingly was the agent of the Cominform. He was also said to be a pipe dreamer. The press has used all kinds of expressions in order to make it appear that the late Mr. Chifley was nothing but a traitor to his country, that he could not be trusted, that he was an appeaser of the Communists and sympathized with communism and that he lacked the courage of his convictions. 1 venture to say that before many days have passed the same newspapers will begin to smear the good name of the present Leader of the Opposition. Some honorable members opposite have said, “ Hear ! hear ! “ to that remark. No doubt, they confidently expect that the newspapers, which claim to be free, but which, in fact, are neither more or less than official organs of the Liberal party and the vested interests that that party represents, will continue their smear campaign against the new leaders of the Opposition in this House in an endeavour to fool the people into believing that they, too, as the press claimed in respect of Mr. Chifley, are Communist sympathizers, appeasers of Communists and agents of the Cominform. So, we shall wait and see just how soon it will be before the newspapers commence to publish little scurrilous cartoons depicting the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Melbourne, who has been elected Deputy Leader of the Opposition, as agents of the Cominform and Communist sympathizers.
I listened with particular interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) whose electorate includes part of the city of Adelaide. His constituents will be very interested to learn of his protestations about the Government’s failure to abolish the means test is linked with a proposal that before the means test can be abolished the sum of 3s. 6d. must be deducted weekly from the earnings of all persons of eighteen years of age or over in order to entitle them to receive a pension when they reach the age of 65 years. At present, the cost of social services benefits is met from Consolidated Revenue.
– Who pays that?
– The workers, of course, contribute their share to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, but under the proposal that the honorable member has made vested interests which honorable members opposite represent in this chamber would be allowed to escape making their just contribution towards the cost of age and invalid pensions. If the workers can be compelled to pay for their own pensions those vested interests will have so much less deducted from their profits and their pockets will be relieved to that degree. Such a scheme is obviously foolish, even if the Government should succeed in forcing it upon the people. A contribution of 3s. 6d. a week would represent about 2 per cent, of the present basic wage and it would entitle the contributor to receive a pension of £2 10s. a week which is 27 per cent, of the present basic wage. However, as the basic wage was increased on the basis of cost of living adjustments the amount of pension would decrease proportionately. For instance, if the basic wage were doubled the pension that contributors would receive under such a scheme would amount to only approximately 13 per cent, of that wage. Conversely, if another depression occurs, as, undoubtedly, it will-
– The honorable member hopes.
– I do not hope that it will, but I am certain that the Liberal party is going to oblige its wealthy friends by bringing about another depression through governmental mismanagement and by allowing vested interests which the Government parties represent to collect untold wealth from consumers. If the basic wage were v&duced, as it would be if another depression occurred, a contribution of 3s. 6d. a week could represent approximately 7 per cent, of the basic wage that would then be payable’. The honorable member for Sturt knows of a person in Adelaide who during the depression paid one of his employees a wage of only 10s. 6d. for working seven days a week up to ten hours a day. While some honorable members opposite greet that statement with laughter, I notice that the honorable member for Sturt is not even smiling. A contribution of 3s. 6d. a week by a worker in the circumstances to which I have just referred would represent his wages in respect of nearly two and a half days work.
As my time is limited I propose to refer specifically to only two paragraphs of the Governor-General’s Speech. Those paragraphs read -
My advisers will continue to seek an improvement in industrial relations. They believe that peace and progress in industry will ha assisted hy the closest co-operation between management and labour, differences of opinion being sensibly and authoritatively settled by conciliation or arbitration through appropriate machinery.
Afv Government believes that the greatest progress will be made in the improvement of industrial relations when the members of industrial organizations have an effective control over the selection of their officers. A Bill to establish Secret Ballots will therefore be introduced. In the same Bill certain other disclosed defects in the powers of the industrial tribunals will be dealt with.
If supporters of the Government think that they are going to force upon the trade unions legislation that will compel them to place their affairs under the control of a non-Labour government they have another think coming. In this respect the Government will find, that it will meet the united opposition of all sections of the trade union movement.
– Do not scare us to death.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) was nearly scared to death at the recent general election. How he was ever returned is the eighth wonder of the world. Even if the Government succeeded in forcing upon the trade union movement legislation that it contemplates introducing it would not achieve anything. The Government will be completely disillusioned, as you were, Mr. Speaker, in respect of a certain secret ballot, if it merely relies on secret ballots as a means of abolishing communism. If the Waterside Workers Federation were to hold a secret ballot every day for the election of its leaders, Healy would not be removed from his position in that organization. He has gained that position not because he is a Communist but in spite of that fact. He has not gained his position as the result of crooked ballots as one honorable member on my left has implied. He is repeatedly elected to his present position in the Waterside Workers Federation because its members believe that he is doing a good job on their belief. The only way to get rid of communism in trade unions is to eliminate many of the imperfections of the present arbitration system. One of those imperfections is evidenced by the belief that is held by supporters of the Government that the present judges of the ‘Commonwealth Arbitration Court arc incapable of making mistakes. However, Mr. Speaker, those judges are human like yourself, the honorable member for Sturt and myself. I simply submit that in instances in which judges of the court make mistakes the workers should not be compelled to accept the consequences.
– Who is to decide whether the judges make a mistake?
– After the workers reach the point at which they think that the judges of the court have made a mistake and after they have exhausted every constitutional means of settling disputes, the only way they can settle the matter is to appeal to the court of public opinion. I believe that the present arbitration system could bo made to work more effectively if the trade unions as a whole only knew how to get the most out of it. I do not want honorable members to think that I am against the arbitration system or that I believe that the fault always lies with the judges when they make decisions which the workers believe to be wrong. In many instances the fault lies not with the judges but with trade union advocates who fail to put forward the strongest possible case on behalf of the unions that they represent. Some union officials dc not attempt to present the strongest possible case, whilst others are incapable of doing so. Occasionally, however, judges have given bad decisions after union representatives have made a good case. T recall that on one occasion when dealing with an application by the Australian Workers Union in respect of the pastoral industry, the late Chief Judge Dethridge said to the advocate of that union, the late Mr. Grayndler, even before he had heard the latter utter more than a dozen sentences, “ I do not care what you have to say on behalf of your union in this case; I have decided now that there is going to be a reduction of the rate of pay “. In that instance, regardless of the merits of the case that the union advocate could have presented, the court announced that it had decided to reduce the rates of pay prevailing in the industry. Clearly, the judge was wrong in that case, and I believe that the members of the Australian Workers Union would have been justified in going on strike until they were able to obtain justice by that means.
I regret that the Governor-General’s Speech does not indicate whether age anil invalid pensions, which are at present inadequate, will be increased. I also regret that His Excellency’s Speech does not make it clear that the means test will be abolished immediately. It appears that any alleviation of the means test that may be made will be of only a minor nature, and that before the means test will be abolished, every person between the ages of 18 and 65 years must pay 3s. 6d. a week into a special fund. The age pension should be increased to at least 50 per cent, of the basic wage, so that a man and his wife may receive the basic wage on which to maintain them- selves. An aged couple cannot meet the cost of rent and purchase food, clothing and firewood for themselves upon the pension of £2 10s. a week. I cannot understand how the Government can act in such a heartless manner towards age and invalid pensioners. I sincerely hope that the Labour party will be returned to office at the next election so that the present position may be rectified.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has given the House a remarkable demonstration of intolerance and inflexibility. Irrespective of what may be offered by arbitration or conciliation authorities he considers that the workers are justified in rejecting an award if it does not satisfy their claims. Nearly every sentence that he has uttered indicated that he is living in the past. It behoves all of us to realize that times have changed. Employer and employee may have been at fault in days gone by, but they will have to realize that they have a lot in common if they are to contribute to the welfare of the country. Such statements as have been uttered by the honorable member for Hindmarsh are not conducive to national progress. The honorable gentleman believes that the workers, if they disagree with an award of an industrial tribunal, have every right to go on strike for the purpose of obtaining its review. His attitude is like that of a football team which walks off the field because the decisions of the umpire do not suit it.
– That has been done, too.
– It has happened, I admit, but it does not redound to the credit of the team concerned. The honorable member for Hindmarsh also reproached the Government because the Governor-General’s Speech did not indicate that age and invalid pensions would be increased to at least half the basic wage. I invite the honorable gentleman to reflect upon the fact that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, at the general election in 1949, promised to review pensions, but did not specify a particular amount by which they might be increased. The majority of the people expressed their ‘ confidence in those two political parties by returning them to office. Yet, at the recent election, the Labour party reversed its earlier decision about the wisdom of paying endowment for the first child of a family under the age of sixteen years, and even promised that, if returned to office, it would increase the rate of payment from 5s. to 10s. a week. Clearly the Labour party offered a bribe to the electors, but it was not accepted. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party told the electors during the campaign in 1949 that they would increase pensions by an amount to be determined in the light of economic factors. Even the frustration tactics in which the Labour party indulged in the last Parliament could not prevent the Menzies Government from honouring that promise. I believe that, as is forecast in the Governor-General’s Speech, pensions will be adequately increased at the appropriate time.
Reference has been made by previous speakers to the definite prospect of a visit to Australia in 1952 by Their Majesties the King and Queen and Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret. In common with other honorable members, I express my great pleasure at that possibility, and the hope that the visit will not constitute a drain upon His Majesty’s physical resources but will, by contrast, afford him an opportunity to recuperate, and to recover from the ill health with which, unfortunately, he has been afflicted. Australians do not wear their emotions upon their sleeves, but they have a deep and abiding loyalty toward the Royal family and for the democratic way of life which it symbolizes in this ever-changing world. Australia, with its vast distances and widely dispersed population, could, by the very warmth of its welcome and demands for His Majesty’s presence, impose a strain upon the King that would be to the detriment of his health, which we are so keen to protect. Therefore, whilst we realize that His Majesty has always exhibited a willingness to meet the wishes of his subjects, we should resolve not to take undue advantage of the spirit which has forced him far beyond the norma] call of duty.
Another aspect of the visit to Australia by the Royal family is the great and profound effect which it must have upon the hundreds of thousands of new Australians who have witnessed, in their own countries, the disappearance of law and order, the overthrow of governments and the elimination of democracies, and, in fact, the end of the normal stability that we seek in our way of life. They will see, in peaceful relief in this country, that we display a respected and honoured monarchy as a symbol, and an indication that the British Commonwealth has ideals and traditions which it will not yield in any circumstances.
The allusion by His Excellency to the economic organization of the nation, because of the necessity to be on guard against sudden attack, is in itself an indication of the state of the world to-day. Yet, regret as we may the need for it, we cannot escape our paramount responsibility to defend this country. This Government, composed as it is of persons whose political thought is directed towards free enterprise, views with the greatest trepidation and apprehension any movement towards the reintroduction of economic controls. Only under the pressure and the extreme necessities of the probability of hostilities would this Government consider such action. During “World War II. this nation, freedom-loving and independentminded as it is, volunteered to accept distasteful restrictions in order to retain its freedom. The Australian people knew that they were depriving themselves of a certain measure of liberty, but they were prepared to do so in the knowledge that such a sacrifice was required by the exigencies of war. Unfortunately, our economy ‘ has not recovered from that great conflict, and if controls must be imposed upon the distribution of goods and materials in short supply in order that the national effort may be strengthened, we must regard them as only an adjustment of the moment, and not as a policy which is sought or relished by the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The Defence Preparations Bill 1951, which is foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech, is a reminder to us that, although we may live in an atmosphere of tranquillity, and enjoy a high standard of living, those desirable things can be retained only by constant vigilance. Even though such measures will be only temporary, my colleagues and I regard them as a kind of national hairshirt, to be discarded as rapidly as possible after the penalties which demanded them have been eliminated. Our present position is due, in part, to our unwillingness in the six years which have followed the end of “World War II. to face our responsibilities, including the task of rehabilitating ourselves. If we were truly honest about it, we all would admit that we have missed tremendous opportunities. We have engaged in industrial conflict, which in turn, has led to a shortage of production. Australia should be one of the most favoured nations, yet we have great and grave economic problems, not because if a lack of money but because of a lack of goods.
I know that when I mention the 40-hour working week, the immediate reaction of Opposition members will be to claim that I am opposed to it. . That is not so. However. I point- out that supporters of the 40-hour week, when they were addressing the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration upon the advisability of introducing it, claimed that production would not be affected, l t was a bargain. But the workers themselves now admit that output under the 40-hour working week is not so large as it was under the 44-hour week. In point of fact, many industries have reverted to the 44-hour week, but the cost of production has been increased by the payment of overtime for the four additional hours. I am not opposed to the 40-hoiu working week. It is here to stay. There is no question about that. But- men who work 40 hours a week should give a maximum output, whereas we know that pressures are placed upon some of them to restrict production. Such a policy is rebounding against them.
– What does the honorable member think of Sir Malcolm Ritchie, who has advocated a 56-hour week ?
– That obviously is not applicable to these days. The 40-hour week is here to stay, but the unwise application of it has rebounded against us, and is reflected in the inflationary trends, which affect detrimentally the very people whose conditions the 40-hour week was designed to improve. Let us not forget that the salaries of the unfortunate middle class are not adjusted so readily and so rapidly as are the wages of workers in industry. The middle class, which is a vital factor in the community, is suffering severely. Honorable gentlemen on this side of the House believe that the Communists have taken advantage of the position. Insidiously, they have taken every step that it is possible to take, short of actual violence, in order to disturb the smooth government of this country. They know that shortages provide them with a splendid weapon with which to cause grave disillusionment and frustration and that, if they can make the public unhappy, they have a better chance of winning converts to their cause. Therefore, they try with all their energies to perpetuate the handicaps under which we are labouring. For a short period after the end of World War II. our industries were operating fairly freely, and the production of such goods as refrigerators and washing machines was so great that the manufacturers started to accumulate stock-piles of their products. At that time, a buyers’ market began to develop. Unhappily, that state of affairs did not last for long. The Communists realized what was happening, and they fomented the great coal strike of ‘ 1949, from the effects of which we are still suffering. Had continuity of production been maintained, that fleeting period of sound prosperity would have continued.
Inflation is a serious threat to our economy, but I disagree completely with the member of the Opposition who said that it was the greatest problem that we have to solve. The problem that we should tackle first is that of the’ Communist menace. The Government parties stated that fact clearly during the election campaign, and the public endorsed their policy. Whatever we may try to do about inflation, the Communists obviously will not allow us to check it while their activities remain unhindered, because (they regard inflation as their chief weapon. The Government parties did not raise the Communist issue during the election campaign merely for the purpose of winning the election. Our knowledge of facts forced us to the conclusion that the Communists constituted the greatest menace to the security and welfare of the nation. The fact that the people gave us a mandate to deal with communism proved that they endorsed our view. Anybody who studies the regularity with which disturbances occur in the vital coal, steel and transport industries must realize that the Communists have caused inflation. Therefore, all our efforts to combat inflation will be futile unless we deal with the Communists first. I have always viewed with distaste any proposal to impose restrictions on Australians. As the result of my experiences abroad, I have formed the opinion that we are probably the most independent and freedom-loving people in the world, and I view with trepidation and apprehension any governmental action which seems likely to restrict our liberty. But communism does not stand for freedom. It is a calculated and treasonable theory which has for its object the destruction of our democracy. Just as we have had to take action to control goods because of shortages, so must we take action to suppress the Communists. Members of the Opposition have said that Communists are a minority. They are always a minority. They begin by forming treasonable small groups, but, in some countries, the Communist 10 per cent, has gained complete power and has used propaganda to make it appear as though the population is entirely communist.
I noticed with great interest the reference to dollar currency that was contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. The big dollar loan which was negotiated by our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been of inestimable benefit to Australia in many ways. It has helped not only big undertakings but also small industries and farmers. The loan has enabled us to import agricultural machinery with the result that many farmers, who have been severely handicapped by the shortage of labour, are now able to operate efficiently and contribute greatly to vital production. Many farmers have approached me with the object of obtaining agricultural machinery from dollar sources. The demand for such machinery has increased because of the difficulty of obtaining farm labour.
The Government indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech its intention to provide for the welfare of widows and children of servicemen and to liberalizethe repatriation law generally. We must be careful in our approach to social services because of the financial considerations that are involved, but we should never overlook the debt that we owe to the dependants of men who were killed in defence of our country. During the life of the last Parliament, the Government increased considerably the allowances for widows and children of servicemen but the cost of living has continued to increase and these unfortunate Australians are again labouring under a heavy burden. In these days of full employment, when we are appealing for volunteers for the armed services, we should demonstrate that we have a full realization of the sacrifices which such women and children have been forced to make. A young volunteer, even though he has a high sense of loyalty and duty to this country, wants to be able to walk out of his family circle in the knowledge that, should he lose his life, his wife and children will not be left in want in circumstances vastly different from those which would exist if he remained at home. We must keep a close watch upon Government expenditure in these days of economic difficulties, but the victims of war are entitled to the nation’s utmost generosity. Therefore, I was greatly pleased to hear, in the Governor-General’s Speech, that the Government intended to alleviate their plight. The widows and fatherless children of servicemen are cared for at times by such organizations as Legacy and Rotary, but that fact does not reduce governmental responsibility to protect them against the ever-increasing cost of living.
More than ever before in Australia, we need to-day to encourage good relationships between employers and employees. I believe that tolerance will be fostered if we can eliminate the suspicion that one side is always trying to get the better of the other side. I disagree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who said that the reference to this subject in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech should be regarded with suspicion. It should be regarded as an announcement of the Government’s determination to make a genuine effort to break down the barriers that divide two great sections of our community. We have in Australia what is perhaps the nearest to a classless form of society that has ever been known in the world. Only the consistent efforts of certain groups to maintain distrust between employers and employees are keeping them at cross purposes. Sometimes, when I meet working men who consider that they are given a fair deal by their employers, I wonder whether their leaders are not solely responsible for keeping distrust alive. We know that the average trade unionist is in favour of secret ballots. But the men who hold executive positions in the unions say that the men object to secret ballots.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Governor-General’s Speech, which outlined the Government’s intentions, was more remarkable for what it left unsaid than for what it told us. Almost every member and supporter of the Government still uses the menace of communism as the theme of every speech on any subject in this House. The Labour party is opposed to communism. But, for political purposes, the members of the Government continue to exaggerate the influence and importance of the Communist party in order to cast a cloak over their failure to honour the promises that they have made to the electors from time to time. I do not regard the Communist threat -as being substantia], because the Communists are numerically weak and, in any event, I am satisfied that a great majority of the Australian people would never accept the Communist form of government. Our great danger comes from the right. I am greatly disturbed by the fact that, while the Government is concentrating attention upon the Communists, very little has been said about the grave development of the fascist menace in Australia and in other parts of the world. This threat is looming larger every day, not only in this country, but also in Germany and Japan, where men who were condemned as war criminals are being liberated so that they oan take up their former activities against the democratic nations.
What does the Government propose to do? I have read in the daily press that this Parliament is not to be permitted to sit for a very long period. Unfortunately, we have to depend upon the press for a great deal of information that should be supplied to us by means of statements made in this Parliament. According to the press, a number of important measures will be submitted to us, but very little time will be made available for us to debate them. The Government intends to hurry into recess because it knows that, while the Parliament remains open for business, Labour’s opposition to its programme can be made known and its activities can be exposed. As soon as the Parliament is closed, the people of Australia will begin to realize exactly what they voted for when they returned this Government to power. Not the policy that was placed before the people, but the policy that was decided upon by the real masters of this Government, will begin to come into effect then.
We must consider economic conditions in Australia to-day to determine whether the Communists really are responsible for all our difficulties. I admit frankly that, whenever trouble arises in the industrial field or elsewhere, the Communists do not hesitate to turn it to their advantage if they can do so. It is ridiculous to suggest, however, that they are responsible for every difficulty, but that is the way in which the Government, when it can- do so, excuses its failures. The economy of this country is in a very precarious condition and could collapse quite easily. The present situation could lead to the introduction by this Government of the most rigid controls which would affect the personal liberty of the people. I believe that that is what the Government intends to do. Is not that the reason for its policy of attempting to destroy the effectiveness of the trade union movement of this country? It knows that while we have a powerful and effective trade union and political Labour movement, the plans that it has in mind cannot be implemented. The cost of living is increasing rapidly. Every honorable member, if he be honest, must admit that he is disturbed about the increased cost of living and the possibility of an economic collapse.
Let us consider whether it is true to say that the Communists are solely responsible for this position. Does anybody suggest that the activities of members of the Communist party are responsible for the high price of meat in Australia? One trade union interested in this primary industry is the Australian Workers Union, which is recognized as one of the most antiCommunist organizations in this country. Under its rules, a member of the Communist party is not permitted to hold even a minor post in the organization. Therefore, it cannot be said that the activities of a Communistdominated organization are forcing up the price of meat. There have been no stoppages of work or bans upon overtime in this industry. How can it be said that the high price of meat is due to the activities of the Communists? The same remarks apply to many other primary industries. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had a scheme to deal with the high price of meat. We heard something about it prior to the last general election, when it was stated that the Government proposed to buy meat at times when meat was plentiful and the price was low, store it, and release it to the market when the price rose. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) said that the plan was designed, not to effect a reduction of the price of meat but to prevent the price from rising to astronomical heights. To-day 3s. 2d. per lb. is being paid for lamb in the wholesale markets in Sydney. To what level must the price of meat rise before this vaunted scheme of the Government begins to become effective?
I turn to the question of food shortages. It may be true to say that, when the coupon system was in operation for the distribution of commodities in short supply, there was a black market in those commodities, but it is also true to say that every member of the community was able to get, at the fixed price, the quantity of the commodity to which the coupon entitled him. The Government parties- told the people that it was necessary to remove those controls. Let us examine the present position in regard to butter. I doubt whether butter is as scarce as members of the Government say it is. I know of places in Sydney where one can buy as much butter as one wants, but at a cost of 5s. per lb. Therefore, it is quite obvious that the control and regulation of .the industry, of which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has spoken, cannot be operating very effectively because the black market must be getting its supplies from some source. If the Australian Dairy Produce Board were operating as effectively as the Minister has claimed that it is, the black market could not get the butter which it is now making available to th<> public at exorbitant prices. Action hasnot been taken against the black marketeers because the Government does not care what rackets exist in this country. It knows that the people who control the rackets contribute to the funds of the Government parties and determine the policy of the Government. The same position exists in relation to sugar and other commodities. Very soon, many people who have been depending upon tinned foodstuffs will find that such commodities are also in short supply.
One honorable gentleman opposite spoke about the prosperity of this country. Evidently he does not mix with what I call the ordinary people of Australia. The fact that those people have plenty of money in their pockets does not indicatethat they are enjoying a period of prosperity. In my opinion, having regard to present shortages, the workers of this country were never in a position worse than that in which they are at the moment, and the position is continuing to deteriorate. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech does not indicate any intention by the Government to improve conditions in this country. Does the Government propose to do anything to improve social services, or will it say, as it said during the general election campaign,, that age and invalid pensioners can depend upon it to do the right, thing by them? The Governor-General’s Speech contains the following passage : -
My Government is keeping, a close watch on the rates of pensions and allowances payable under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
We know full well that the Government intends to do nothing or very little for pensioners. They may get a few crumbs from the table, but the Government will excuse its failure to do more than that on the plea that it must proceed with preparations for the defence of the country, which are very costly. Ministers will say that, although their heart bleeds for these people, they are unable to do anything of great consequence to improve conditions. Do honorable gentlemen opposite realize the conditions under which many unfortunate pensioners are living? Have any of them ever given a moment’s thought to how, at a time of rapidly increasing prices, pensioners can exist on a miserly pension of £2 10s. a week? The press has published statements made, not by members of the Labour party, but by members of religious orders who are engaged in charitable work in their parishes which indicate the plight of the unfortunate pensioners. They tell how their organizations are forced to provide pensioners with shelter and food to supplement what is received under the Government’s social services programme.
Although all these difficulties exist, the Government intends to pursue a policy that will impose an increased strain upon our resources and make it impossible to give the people of this country a decent living standard. I refer to the policy of great expenditure upon defence works and upon the immigration programme. In connexion with immigration, all that the Government wants is numbers. It does not care about the colour or calibre of the immigrants. All that it wants is labour that it can exploit. That is the record of anti-Labour’ governments throughout the world. Although the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), when questioned, continually speaks about the very efficient screening of immigrants, the captains of the vessels which bring the immigrants to this country, and who are therefore in close touch with them, continually make reference to the fact that the Government is scraping the bottom of the barrel to get some of the immigrants who are arriving in Australia. Some of the very worst types of persons are being brought here, but the Government does not mind that because it hopes eventually to have the pool of unemployment which Professor Hytten, one of its supporters, referred to some time ago.
I turn to housing. Although honorable gentlemen opposite talk about their great concern for the Australian people, they do not get beyond the stage of making speeches about it. The pages of Hansard are filled with reports of speeches made by anti-Labour members who have talked about their concern for the Australian people, but we find that in Victoria a young Australian mother who gave birth to triplets a day or two ago is very worried because when she leaves hospital she and her babies will have to return to a small tin humpy and take up residence in it with her husband and three other children. Many thousands of Australian families have been condemned to live under those conditions for the rest of their lives, because the housing shortage is becoming more acute each day. Although we have heard members of the Government parties talk about preference for returned soldiers, when it suited them to do so, it is a fact that amongst the people who are living under intolerable housing conditions to-day are many thousands of Australian ex-servicemen who fought in the last world war and in the war that preceded it. The Government has no plans to deal with that situation. The housing shortage i3 rapidly becoming more acute and it is admitted that it is more difficult than ever before to obtain building materials. Nevertheless, the Government plans to bring approximately 250,000 immigrants to this country every year. If the whole of our building activities were concentrated upon providing adequate housing for immigrants, we could not accomplish even that task. I am not criticizing the immigrants, because they have to secure accommodation, but I say that the first responsibility of the Government is to the people who are already in Australia. Immigrants are being brought here in shiploads, without any proper consideration having been given to what their arrival will mean to the people who are already in this country. Does the Government consider it to be more important to build hostels to accommodate new arrivals than it is to take Australian families like the one to which I have referred out of tin humpies and give them a decent home? The Government ought to call a halt to its immigration programme. There should be a drastic reduction of the number of new arrivals in this country until our economy has had an opportunity to absorb those who have already arrived. I believe that we should have an immigration holiday. I hope that the Government will give some consideration to that suggestion.
As the Government’s argument is that almost the whole of our available money must be devoted to the defence of this country, one would expect it to set an example. If it is necessary to exercise economies, they should be exercised from the very top. I agree that it is a great thing to be able to celebrate the fiftieth year of federation in this country, but I believe that the lavish scale on which the jubilee was celebrated in this city was out of keeping with the situation that exists in Australia to-day. The celebrations should have been more austere than they were. There were no shortages of anything deemed to be necessary for their success. Apparently expense did not matter. Thousands of pounds were expended upon this building to alter the dining room, remove billiard tables, and install special sinks and wash basins in the party rooms so that those rooms could be used as drink lounges for one night’s entertainment at a State ball. Special bars were installed at Hotel ‘Kurrajong and Havelock House and were removed as soon as the celebrations ended. There was an abundance of labour available to do all of those things hurriedly in order that the Government could have these great celebrations in Canberra. The local residents were not permitted to participate in the celebrations to any great extent. But the privileged people who were brought to this city were entertained on a most lavish scale. There was no shortage of liquor, during those celebrations. Having regard to the condition in which I found some of the conveniences in this House on the morning after some functions, it was quite evident that there was more than sufficient liquor for some of the people who attended the functions. When the preparations for the celebrations were proceeding I was amazed at the amount of liquor that was taken into the various rooms for consumption by privileged guests. Yet the’ workers throughout Australia are finding it very difficult to get a glass of beer to revive them after their hard day’s toil. Do honorable members imagine that the workers of this country are fools who do not realize exactly what is happening ?
I should like some member of the Government to inform the House what provision was made for the entertainment of the troops who were brought to Canberra last week. I know that an open-air theatre was constructed, but because of the. inclement weather it was impossible to use it. While the privileged guests were enjoying themselves in Parliament House without being asked to stint themselves of anything, the troops were allowed to wander around the roads r.c night without any proper provision having been made for their entertainment. The celebration of the jubilee of federation ought to have been a celebration in which the people could join, but no provision was made for them to do so. What would have been wrong with having picnics for the school children in order to allow them to enjoy the jubilee? Something should also have been done for the pensioners. One member of the Opposition suggested that some special payment should have been made to pensioners. It is not the titled gentlemen who were enjoying themselves here for a week at the community’s expense who built up the country; it was the pioneers who have worked in industry and many of whom are now age pensioners who did so. I have asked the Prime Minister to what degree production was affected by the attendance of these privileged guests in Canberra during the festivities. It is a disgrace to this Government that during a period when it is asking everybody else to step up production and do what they can to help the country over its immediate difficulties, it has conducted the jubilee celebrations in this manner.
I was absolutely sickened by the crocodile tears of certain members of the Government and of certain sections of the press of this country on the occasion of the passing of my late leader, Mr. Ben
Chifley. He was a respected member of our party and probably the greatest leader that the Labour party has ever produced. Up to the very day of his death the press of this country was maligning him and misrepresenting him. When he made his speech to the New South Wales conference of the Labour party did not the press, in articles and cartoons, suggest that he was assisting in sabotage and that he was tainted with communism ? It was only after he passed away that they began to talk about him as a good Australian. The Australian public will not let pass unnoticed this change of front on the part of the press and the members of the Government. The right time to recognize a man’s worth is when he is living, not after he has died. Everybody knows that the columns that appeared in the daily press were sickening as were the crocodile tears of certain members on the Government side of the House who expressed their regret. They sickened me for I was fully appreciative of the exact position.
Although I know that I cannot obtain in this House a direct reply from His Excellency, notwithstanding that it is the Governor-General’s Speech that is under discussion, I am very interested in the subject of titles. I am interested to know how they are distributed and I hope that the GovernorGeneral will be able to furnish that information at some time. I remember reading that in Britain at one time, there was a Lloyd George War Chest. Titles were listed with prices on them and one could pay anything from a low price to a very high price according to the title desired. I do not know the practice in this country but I was absolutely amazed at some of the names that I found on the list of those who received honours. It looked to me as if it was a list of awards given to members of the Liberal party for services rendered against the Australian Labour movement. Consider the case of the Treasurer. I believe that when men have an honour bestowed upon them they should have some outstanding claim or qualification. What special qualifications has the Treasurer? He has nothing beyond a number of years’ service in this Parliament. Is there anything in the suggestion that he may have been given the title as a consideration for his change of attitude to revaluation ? An honour was bestowed on the gentleman who is now .Sir Malcolm Ritchie. What special qualification has he beyond being the federal president of the Liberal party and a man who recommended the introduction of a 52- hour working week? Is that a qualification for receiving recognition in the honours list? I think that Mr. Packer received the C.B.E. I do not know exactly what those letters stand for, but I have heard certain words used in relation to them. They are probably not correct so I shall not repeat them, but I wonder what qualification he had. He certainly assisted the Government parties.
– It is a great pity that the memory of a man for whom I entertain the warmest respect because of his simple dignity and impeccable conduct as a parliamentarian should have been bandied as a subject of debate by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I regard it as extremely unfortunate also that any honorable member should suggest that a lifetime of service to this country in a political capacity need necessarily debar a man from receiving the highest honour that His Majesty the King may confer. .Surely there is no more exacting toll placed upon any man than that which is placed upon men who occupy high office in the political life of a nation. This work is peculiarly exacting in the drain it makes not only on a man’s health but also upon his association with his family and friends and on those ordinary activities of life which a person who lives a more orderly existence has the time and energy to enjoy. It is a great pity that both these subjects have been introduced into this debate.
Honorable members are speaking in the 51st year of the life of this Australian Commonwealth. It is well that when we do so we should remember even if briefly, those men who have served this country so well and who placed this federation of ours on its present firm foundations. We should conjure up a famous saying, “Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us”. I refer to Sir Henry Parkes, Sir Edmund Barton and others who played such a splendid part in the growth of this nation. I refer to men who are living, such as Sir Robert
Garran, and to men who are dead, such as Sir John Quick. These and many others played their part magnificently in the founding of this Commonwealth and it is well that we should recall some of the circumstances connected with their careers. The honorable member for East Sydney had a great deal to say about the effect of immigration on the housing of the community. In the days of Sir Henry Parkes members of the Labour party in New South Wales condemned immigration because, they said, it would create unemployment. Now so much work has been created by immigration that it is exercising the minds of the Government and every thoughtful man in this community. I am sorry that the honorable member for East Sydney did not make one constructive suggestion except that the Government should cease to bring into this country people whose aid we might desperately need within a short space of time in defending the land of their adoption and our birth. Sir Henry Parkes came to this country with a few shillings in his pocket at a time when bread cost half a crown a loaf. The price was not then kept down to a fixed level by the act of a benevolent government. Other necessaries of life were priced similarly. Sir Henry Parkes lived in a bark hut with his wife for six months on a very low wage. Yet he never allowed that to embitter him and by his strength of character and his belief in his own future and the future of this country he earned the title of the “ Father of Federation “. It pleases me to recall that it was in my own electorate, in the town of Tenterfield, that he made that famous speech about ten years before federation in which he urged the people of Australia to take the question of the founding of this federation from the parliamentarians and decide for themselves whether they wanted to be one great nation or a series of six colonies. It was from there that that message rang throughout Australia and it was there that Sir Henry Parkes set in train all of those events which eventually led to the founding of this Commonwealth. Australia’s growth in the last half century gives cause for pride as well as for thought. Fifty years ago our population was less than 4,000,000. Since then it has grown by more than 100 per cent. to more than 8,000,000. That is a fact that is of first-rate importance. We have passed from the stage of being a nation with a simple economy and with few manufactures to the stage of being one of the great secondary-producing countries of the world. Our factories are expanding day by day. We find on the other hand, unfortunately, that there is not relatively the same expansion taking place in our great hinterland. Instead, there is a tendency for our primary production to shrink rather than to increase.
I listened last night to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) talking about the alleged misdeeds of the Government, pointing to the fact that primary production had fallen and saying that we had not sufficient food to maintain this country. He made not one statement about some of the causes of that decline, and he made no really constructive contribution to the question of how the decline could be combated. Speaking without bitterness but with a technical and personal knowledge of primary production, I say that the misguided policies adopted by the previous Labour Government were a major cause of our present shortages. That Government took unto itself a number of advisers, many of whom were very brilliant men who were the product of a period of depression. Throughout the last war they were sounding the warning that we should be faced with a surplus of primary production and that we might thereby head straight into an an economic depression. Everywhere there was a cutting down of acreage under primary production.
– That is not true.
– We had policies which kept potato production down.
– The total acreage was not kept down.
-The honorable gentleman may make his own speech later.
– Well, do not tell lies.
– The honorable gentleman must take what is coming to him. In my own electorate, where a large proportion of the potatoes produced in this country are grown, I saw in operation at one time a production target which was set at 750,000 tons, a portion of which was to he raised in that area. Because production that year was 800,000 tons instead of 750,000 tons all sorts of miserable subterfuges were adopted to diddle the primary producer out of the full results of his production.
– That is not true.
– I remember the occasion when a former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, went to Guyra, which is a great potatoproducing centre, and received a deputation which showed him great piles of beautiful potatoes that had been rejected on the purely technical ground that they did not conform to a certain shape.
– That was done by individuals in the honorable member’s own State of New South Wales.
– As a result of that stupid short-sighted policy thousands of tons of potatoes were never dug, and the people who grew them went out of production.
I turn now to the dairying industry. A price for butter, associated with the basic wage, was fixed by the former Government. It was a parsimonious price which had no relation to the true facts of the case, and it drove out of the butterproducing industry every person who was employing labour and who could possibly get out of it. When that fact is analysed it means that this country is living on the sweated products of those butter producers who have carried on production with the aid of their own families. The price of butter has always been a lap and a half behind the cost of production. If anybody wishes to find out why we are short of butter to-day all he has to do is to study the steady decline of butter production that has taken place in this country. I have here the Quarterly Review of Agricultural Economics published last April by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, which contains a report of a survey in Maclntyre Shire, New South Wales, which was conducted by the Department of. Commerce and Agriculture. I know the Maclntyre Shire, because I was a young farmer there more than 40 years ago. It is ohe of the richest stretches of country in New South Wales, where men should be able to prosper. Yet the report survey stated -
Statistics for the Macintyre Shire reveal that, since 1939, there has been a decline of almost 50 per cent, in the number of male rural employees working for wages, although there has been little decline in the number of working owners, except temporarily during the war.
They never failed to come to the assistance of this country at any time. The report continued -
The total population of the Shire has decreased from 5,021 in 1933 to 4,057 in 1947, a decline of almost 20 per cent, in fourteen years.
Then it went on to say that in that shire, which has an area of 720,000 acres which is mostly undulating rich black and red soil, 55 per cent, of the properties are smaller than 600 acres. Then it stated -
The average size of holdings rose from 1,040 acres in the five years ended 1933-34 to about 1,140 acres in 1949-50, while the total number of holdings declined from 623 to 573 in the same period.
That has happened in one of the richest and most prolific districts in Australia. It is a tragedy of the first magnitude for this reason, that for several years, with the aid of federal-guaranteed finance, the Government of New South Wales has been cutting up large properties such as Gragin, Waterloo and King’s Downs, and settling ex-servicemen on them. Yet despite the fact that land is being purchased at considerable cost for the settlement of ex-servicemen there is this calamitous record, which includes a drop of 50 per cent, in the amount of rural labour employed. I say that that is not proof that work on the land is particularly attractive, nor is it anything else than an indication of the result of the policy of the former Government. It is not the result of the policy of the Government which I support, because that Government came into office only eighteen months ago. This continued drift in rural industries has been brought about by wrong policies adopted during the war and later continued by Labour administrations to the detriment of the primary producers, not only in the Macintyre Shire but also in other parts of Australia. The report of the survey contains proof of the statement that large holdings are built upon the ruins of closer settlement, and it is a tragedy that in this country, where we derive and have derived for so many years, such a vast income from primary production, nobody has thought it worthwhile to establish faculties of rural and agricultural economics so as to carry out, continuously and scientifically, research into and teaching of this most important subject.
Why did the founders of the Commonwealth adopt a federal system of Government? I have seen all sorts of reasons given for their action, which vary from a belief in a federal system as such to a compromise between six jealous States and their representatives who wished to retain the greatest possible amount of power that they could salvage from the wreckage that federation itself was forcing on them. I believe that the philosophic and physical reason why federation was adopted by the majority of the founders of this Commonwealth was because they understood human nature. They knew that human nature can never be trusted with absolute power. They examined every constitution in the world. They looked at Europe, where millions of people at that time were struggling up towards freedom and democratic control of their own affairs, in many cases ineffectually. They looked, in particular, at France, which already was beginning to suffer from the evils of centralization in Paris. They looked at the growing republic of the United States of America and at little Switzerland in the centre of Europe. They knew that, in a country as vast as Australia, there is a danger in placing too much centralized power in one spot and, bearing in mind the fact that absolute power corrupts absolutely, they decided that it would be in the interest of the Australian people to have a federal system of government which would distribute the power and would place, as. far as humanly possible, in local hands the power of local self-government. I believe that those were the reasons. I have recently seen a statement by a learned professor that the federal system is a weak system of government, that the people of Australia never really believed in it, and so on. But we can only judge by the broad results. It is possible to find weaknesses in any system of government. We could take the history of the United States of America and find black pages in it. It is, perhaps, possible to say that even to-day there are many evils in the United States of America, but when we look at the broad result we must admit that there must be something of strength and abundant vitality in a system that insists on thrusting back onto the people the necessity for making their own decisions and their own mistakes, and for paying for those mistakes. That is the essence of democratic government. But all the time we have creeping into our system this paternalism which states, in effect, “ You must not trust the people because they may do the wrong thing. You must not put fire in their hands because they may burn their fingers “. All the time we have that insidious doctrine creeping in here, and behind it is the unexpressed idea that if you can only have a lovely big bureaucracy with a lot of executives at the top issuing orders you will be sure to have all the happiness and prosperity you want. God save us from such a thing.
One hundred and seventy years ago, the United States of America was in the position we are in to-day, with the same population that we have, but spread over 30 States. To-day that great republic comprises 48 States with 150,000,000 people. It has brought people of many races of the world to its shores and fused them together in two of the greatest wars that the world has ever known. To-day it stands as the greatest power in the world. It stands for freedom of government. In spite of any weaknesses it is the greatest citadel and bastion of Western democracy and Western thought. I trust that our people, when they are judging the results of federation in Australia, will take the broad view and will stop looking at some tiny aspect of it through a microscope.
Look at Switzerland, with its 15,000 square miles divided into 22 cantons and three half cantons, with a total population of 4,000,000 or 5,000,000. Commencing about 600 years ago with a loose federation of three States, Switzerland has held its place in Europe against the strong tides of war and destruction that have threatened to submerge it. In . Switzerland, four nationalities give the lie to the oftrepeated statement that people of different nations cannot combine for a great and peaceful purpose. Those living facts are a trenchant reply to the people who say that federation is a weak system of government. There should be, throughout Australia, a new education campaign to inform our people of the reasons why the founders chose the federal system of government and why it is the system which will enable this country to develop its potential greatness. We are suffering many of the ills which burden us to-day because many of the provisions written into the Constitution have been overlooked or ignored by the parliaments of the States and the Commonwealth. The time has now arrived, as was suggested by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) in his very able speech, to review the Constitution and our attitude to it, and to endeavour to make it work. If we ever throw away our Constitution and establish a unitary system, then the evils from which we are suffering to-day, caused by the strangulation of the natural initiative of the people, will increase apace
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I believe that the Government would be wise to take notice of the suggestion made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) of an immigration holiday. If honorable members would move among the people in their own electorates and investigate the housing position, they would find that there are many thousands of young Australian parents who are to-day trying to rear their families in very poor homes, often in only one room. The best new Australians that this country could have are those who come from its own cradles. If the parents are forced to bring up their families in one room I am sure that the proportion of native Australians will fall and our population will be swelled by the undesirable types mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) referred to present shortages, for some of which he blamed the last Labour Administration. I suggest that that is unfair criticism because during the regime of the last Labour Government Australia was involved in the greatest catastrophe in the history of the world. That was World War II. During four years of the administration of the last Labour Government, Australia was forced to strain all its resources successfully to prosecute that war. We all knew that there were certain things required to be done on the home front, but we also knew that it was first necessary to defeat the enemy so that Australia could be made safe to enjoy the fruits of its own labours.
Some shortages were caused by the switching of our economy to war production. Other shortages that we are suffering from to-day stem from the depression days. I do not blame any particular government for that depression. It was world-wide. I believe that it was man-made, but was not made in Australia. The governments and the ruling powers at that time could have ameliorated the effects of the depression if they had taken a course different from that which they did take. There was a. Labour government in power in Australia at that time-
– In office.
– I thank the honorable member for his correction. There was a Labour government in office, but a bank board controlled the monetary system of the country and deprived the government of the credit that it needed to carry on the development of the country and so mitigate the effects of the depression. We should in no circumstances stop the development of Australia. The credit of the nation should always be available to the Australian Government for developmental purposes. The Snowy Mountains scheme could have been commenced during the depression days to the advantage of the workers and the nation. It would have been started if our monetary system had been of the right kind. Today in all directions we are suffering from the bad judgment of past governments, and the fact that the control of the nation’s money was not in the hands of the National Parliament but in the hands of private individuals who put their own interests first.
I now wish to refer to His Excellency’s Speech. I examined that Speech in conjunction with the policy speeches delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr.
Menzies) in 1949 and 1951. We all remember the many promises made by the Prime Minister in 1949. Most of them have not been kept. In 1951, however, we find that the Prime Minister promised nothing at all.
– He will be able to keep that promise.
– Yes. At the recent general election he asked the people for a “ fair go “. I do not know how much more of a fair go he wants. During the time between December, 1949, and March, 1951, the Prime Minister had every opportunity to carry out many of the promises that he made to the electors. Of 67 bills introduced into the House by the previous Government the Labour party voted against only one - that was the Commonwealth Bank Bill. We voted against that because we felt that we had every justification for taking the stand that we took. At any time in the future, in like circumstances, we shall take similar action.
– It will “be a long time before honorable members opposite get an opportunity to take any action.
– I do not think that it will. When certain senators are eligible for re-election in two years’ time honorable members on this side hope that Labour will get a chance to take office again. His Excellency’s Speech omitted statements on many important matters, but it indicated that no action would be taken about the most important internal problem with which Australians have to contend to-day. That is prices control. The promise that the Government made about putting shillings back into the £1 seems to be a dead letter. Nothing is said about that in His Excellency’s Speech. There is no mention of the excess profits tax that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) promised so many times during the life of the last Parliament. On several occasions he was asked when he intended to introduce an excess profits tax bill and his reply on each occasion was that it would be brought down in the next session.
– The Treasurer definitely promised such a bill, before the end of this financial year.
– That is correct. Again, as the honorable member for East Sydney said, there is no mention of the relief of pensioners and of people who are in receipt of social services payments. There is merely a promise that the matter will be reviewed. There is no indication that anomalies in the social services system are to be rectified.
Another matter that I mentioned to the. Prime Minister several times last year is not mentioned in His Excellency’s Speech. That is the necessity for paying compensation to those retired superannuated officers who returned to work during the war years in the Commonwealth service and who lost their superannuation payments during the time they worked. They served this country to the best of their ability during the war and in return for that they lost their superannuation. The Prime Minister promised several times that he would attend to the matter and bring down a bill to cover these people.
His Excellency did not indicate that the Government intends to do anything about the problem of altering our horse-and-buggy Constitution, which is responsible for the bad “ isms “ that exist in Australia to-day. I was interested by the speech of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), who referred to the Constitution on many occasions. However, I should say that, according to his many publications in the Sydney Morning Herald, he is an opponent of federation and a real States righter. He said that we should examine our Constitution to ascertain whether it provides opportunities for making the progress that is desired. It certainly does not contain those opportunities, and the Constitution has how outworn its usefulness. That is why I am dismayed at finding no mention in His Excellency’s Speech of the Government’s intention to revise the Constitution. The honorable member foi Warringah suggested that a convention of the States should be held. I remind him that such a convention was held at one time, and the Premiers of the States agreed to an alteration of the Constitution in a way that would be of real benefit to our community. When the Premiers returned to their States-
– They “ratted”.
– Yes, they “ ratted “ on the convention that they had attended. It was only in the States governed by Labour that attempts were made to implement the decisions of the convention. The honorable member for Warringah also said that the Commonwealth should examine what functions it should retain and what functions should be made the responsibility of the States. It should be clear to any democrat that it is primarily the responsibility of the National Parliament to perform the supreme functions of government. However, so far as this Parliament is concerned it is a case of the dog being wagged by six little tails ; and that fact accounts very largely for the difficulties that confront the nation to-day. The honorable member for Warringah also expressed regret that socialization still flooded many fields that were showing signs of clogging under bureaucratic administration. He was concerned about the consequential growth and increased cost of the Public Service. He said that every addition to the army of officials carried with it a threat to the liberties of the individual. He was also much concerned that public servants should be permitted to engage actively in party politics. The honorable member’s allegation that development of the Public Service constitutes a threat to the liberties of the individual has been completely refuted by events in New South Wales. Recently, Sydney Ferries Limited reached the end of its tether and because it was unable to make further profits it decided to discontinue the ferry services that it was rendering. In order to ensure the maintenance of such essential services the State Government was obliged to undertake to provide them. Is that an instance of the kind of bureaucratic administration to which the honorable member for Warringah referred? Labour governments have always been ready to maintain essential public services in spheres in which private enter prise has failed or has refused to venture because the prospect of making profits has been’ lacking. Private enterprise would not be capable of undertaking schemes such as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electricity scheme which a Labour government initiated.
References in the Governor-General’? Speech to social services are particularly vague. That is, indeed, unfortunate because the Government must be aware of the numerous anomalies that have become apparent in the administration of social 1 services benefits. The rate of age, invalid, widow’s and other pensions is totally inadequate to meet the needs of recipients. The rate of the age pension is only 27 per cent, of the current basic wage, which is supposed to be sufficient to enable a married couple to maintain a reasonable standard of living. Although the rate- of pension was 36 per cent, of the basic wage in 1948 when a Labour government was in office it has now decreased to 27 per cent, of that wage, and the proportion is likely to decrease still further. In order to restore the rate of pension to its 194S level in relation to the basic wage the Government should increase the payment to £3 5s. a week. I trust that it will do so when the budget is introduced. However, I should prefer that the Government increase the rate to 50 per cent, of the basic wage, as the pensioners themselves have requested. Such an increase would be little enough.
The Government has failed entirely to realize the hardships that confront age and invalid pensioners and other groups of aged persons who are not even receiving the age pension. I refer to persons who depend for a livelihood upon the meagre rent that they receive from a house. Many persons who would otherwise be eligible to receive the age pension are disqualified under the means test because they are in receipt of rent from a house which is valued at £750. In many instances, such persons are widows or widowers. I urge the Government to rectify that anomaly. I know of many persons in my own electorate who come within that category and are struggling to make ends meet on an income of 30s. a week which they receive by way of rent of a house. Another anomaly is that the benefit payable to a married couple who are eligible to receive an age, or invalid, pension represents only 55 per cent, of the basic wage. An even worse anomaly exists in respect of a husband who is an invalid and who has a wife who has not reached the pensionable age. The wife of such a pensioner receives a benefit at the rate of only £1 4s. a week, which represents only 13 per cent, of the basic wage whilst the joint benefit payable to the husband and wife amounts to only £3 14s. a week, which represents only 41 per cent, of the basic wage. Out of that sum they are obliged to pay rent and purchase the necessaries of life. In many instances the wife of an invalid pensioner is obliged to remain at home in order to nurse her husband. The adequate maintenance provision harshly affects married couples who are eligible to receive social services benefits. For instance, if the joint income of the parents exceeds £6 a week the invalid pension is not payable in respect of an invalid son or daughter when the child reaches the age of sixteen years. A normal child would be able to earn income upon reaching that age whereas in the instance that I have cited the parents must rely upon their own meagre resources to maintain an invalid of employable age.
Another anomaly exists in respect of a widow who owns a house but is unable to gain possession of it. If the property is valued at over £1,000 the widow is disqualified from receiving a pension. Many widows who come within this category are unable to engage in employment and, therefore, are obliged to subsist on a meagre income derived from the rent that they receive.
I again urge the Government to take immediate action to check the rising cost of living which is the most serious problem that confronts this country to-day. Rising costs cause severe hardships, not only to pensioners, but also to persons who are on fixed incomes as well as those who come within the categories that I have mentioned. I also urge the Government to increase the age and invalid pension and to remove- the existing anomalies in respect of social services benefits. I repeat that the Government should also endeavour to take action immediately to modernize our horse and buggy Constitution .which in my view is primarily responsible for most of the difficulties that now confront the nation.
.- I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, upon your election to your high office. I also congratulate the right honorable member foi Barton (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who have been appointed Leader and Deputy Leader respectively of the Opposition. I take this opportunity to congratulate the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Townley), who is one pf my Tasmanian colleagues, upon his appointment as Minister for Social Services. I thank honorable members generally for the welcome that they have extended to me upon my election to this House and for the manner in which they have made my entry to the Parliament most gratifying to me. As the honorable member for Darwin, I succeed Dame Enid Lyons, who will long be remembered for the services that she rendered in the Parliament. Undoubtedly, she won the highest esteem of the people as a whole and upon her retirement she took with her the good wishes of persons of all creeds and all political parties. I sincerely trust that she will soon be restored to health.
I am pleased to know that plans are well advanced for the visit that Their Majesties, the King and Queen, and Princess Margaret propose to make to Australia next year. I trust that His Majesty’s health will permit him to make the visit. I also hope that should he be able to do so, he will have the opportunity to enjoy a health-giving holiday in this country and that the Royal visit will follow the pattern of that which the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester made to Tasmania when His Royal Highness was our beloved GovernorGeneral. On that occasion the people of Tasmania respected the request of His Royal Highness that he and the Duchess should be permitted to enjoy a real holiday in that State. In similar circumstances, I’ am sure that the health of His Majesty would be greatly improved as the result of a visit to Australia.
We are now celebrating the jubilee of the Commonwealth of Australia. Although the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) described the Constitution as a horse-and-buggy constitution, it has withstood many strains during the’ last 50 years. Much of the credit for the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia must be given to several notable Tasmanians. First, I refer to the late Sir Edward Braddon. He was intensely patriotic and he rendered outstanding service in the interests of the nation as a representative of Tasmania at the various constitutional conventions. Furthermore, the Constitution itself was largely the work of another Tasmanian, the late Honorable A. I. Clark, who in 1897 submitted to the Adelaide convention a draft which, with slight amendments, was ultimately accepted as the Constitution as we know it to-day. It is perfectly true that an examination of the Constitution, in the light of presentday requirements, reveals some important omissions, and I am certain that the statesmen who drafted that document’ did not foresee the slow strangulation of Australia from within. It is gratifying to know that one important omission may soon be rectified, and I assure Opposition members that I shall support that proposal for the alteration of the Constitution.
I shall deal now with a matter that is causing the people of Tasmania deep concern. This morning a deputation consisting of the ten senators and the five members of the House of Representatives who represent that State waited on the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), to direct attention to the inadequacy of the shipping services between the mainland and Tasmania. Yesterday, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) stated that the development of the natural resources of Australia was dependent upon the rehabilitation of our railway and road systems. He did not mention at any time the importance of sea transport, and, indeed, I suppose that many honorable members are equally unconcerned about it. Tasmania ‘depends entirely upon ships to transport goods to and from its ports. Admittedly, air services operate across Bass Strait, but air freight amounting to £30 and £40 a ton is completely uneconomic compared with shipping freights. Obviously, Tasmania cannot be served by road and rail from the mainland and delays in the turn-round of ships, and the inability to secure an adequate number .of ships for the Tasmanian trade, are having a serious effect upon the economy of the State. The Governor-General, in his Speech to the Parliament last week, made the following reference to shipping matters: -
Shipping problems continue to be of the greatest urgency and difficulty. There are not enough ships, and those which are in operation have a portion of their capacity destroyed by the slow rate of turn-round in our ports.
My advisers, convinced that these conditions cannot be fully remedied until their causes have been competently identified and examined, are obtaining the services of a highly experienced and competent port expert from overseas. In association with Australians of experience in these matters, including a leading Trade Unionist, he will examine our problems of port operation, including allied questions which affect the delivery of goods to and their clearance from the ports. Meanwhile, the associated questions of ship procurement from abroad, shipbuilding in Australia, and the operation of shipping on the Australian coast, are being closely studied by my advisers.
The problem of transporting passengers between Tasmania and the mainland has assumed emergency proportions. The ship which normally trades between the mainland and Tasmanian ports has been taken off the run for an indefinite period in order to undergo a major, overhaul. That work will take at least four months, and judging by the speed at which employees work in the dockyards to-day, it may take not less than six months. In the meantime provision has not been made to replace that vessel with another passenger ship. Some persons are forbidden by their doctors to travel by air, and no arrangements have been made for them to travel by sea to and from the mainland for the purpose of receiving medical attention. Such persons are in an almost desperate plight. If Australians were missing at sea or were lost in the mountains, many thousands of pounds would be expended on exhaustive searches for them in the hope that they would be found alive. The cruiser Australia was despatched hurriedly to the Antarctic a few months- ago when a doctor who was accompanying the scientists on Heard Island suffered an acute attack of appendicitis. When an explosion occurred on a ship in the Atlantic, Queen Mary was immediately diverted to rescue the crew. Expense has been no object in such emergencies, because human life is invaluable. But nothing has been done to provide temporary transport by sea for persons who are forbidden by their doctors to travel by air, and who must go from Tasmania to the mainland to receive medical attention. I hope that such a necessary service will be provided without delay.
The resources of Tasmania, such as the scheelites on King Island, copper from Queenstown, zinc from Rosebery, and tin, silver-lead, timber, and manufactured goods, are of great economic importance to the whole of Australia. The national economy would be seriously affected if such valuable resources were not available. However, they must be shipped to the mainland. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Shipping and Transport assured the deputation of honorable senators and honorable members who waited upon them this morning that they would do everything possible to ensure that cargo ships would call at Tasmanian ports, but they could hold out little hope at the present time that a passenger vessel would replace the ship that is now in dock.
Reference has been made during this debate to the means test and to age and invalid pensions. In my opinion, the Government and Opposition parties should not use pensions as a political shuttle-cock during an election campaign. Such a matter should be above party politics. Pensions should be stabilized at a reasonable figure. Most honorable members will agree that, at one period, the amount was reasonable in proportion to the cost of living. I am certain that, there was no serious agitation for an increase of pensions in 1948. The political parties that are represented in this Parliament should reach an agreement under which age and invalid pensions would be automatically adjusted in accordance with the fluctuations of the cost of living. I believe that there are many life insurance companies in various parts of the world - perhaps not in Australiathat would be prepared, in return for the payment of weekly contributions, to pay a pension to every person in this country on attaining the age of 65 years, and 1 doubt whether the amount of the contributions would cause concern even to the man in receipt of the basic wage. With the introduction of such a contributor- scheme, the means test would be automatically abolished. Under the existing system, many men have no incentive to work hard and to do a little more than their share. Why should they worry? At 65, they receive a pension which is equivalent to the income derived from five houses, computed on the basis that, the owner would live in one of the houses and with the rents that he received from the others would meet such charges as taxation, rates and maintenance, and purchase his requirements of food, clothing and firewood.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) have expressed the opinion that the Government should declare an “immigration holiday” until the shortage of housing has been overtaken. I have a knowledge of housing and production, and I assure the House that the housing position can be improved, and the immigration policy continued. Many materials that are urgently required for the erection of houses are not available in this country because no real effort has been made to produce them. Approximately 4,000 tons of copper are awaiting smelting because of the shortage of cokeThat quantity would supply the needs of many new homes or enable the Postal Department to overtake many deficiencies in its telephone services. We are importing essential iron for roofs and bringing steel from Japan and Germany. The market for such commodities in the United Kingdom is drying up because of the demands of Britain’s defence programme. I am certain that, if the workers would make up their minds to produce the goods that we need and if all of us put our backs into the job, we should not even have to think about a holiday from immigration. Timbers are being imported from Norway and Sweden for ordinary housing purposes. I know that it is necessary to import some essential timbers for specific purposes, but it is shameful that we cannot provide our own requirements of other timbers. Many of the trees which future generations of Australians will need have not yet been planted. I commend to the House the necessity for the development of planned tree-planting programmes so that in the future this country will not be hampered by stagnation and delay in house construction. After having heard many members of the Opposition speaking, I am certain that they talk customarily with their tongues in their cheeks. The people of Australia must doubt whether there was any necessity for increasing the number of members of this House. From the brief experience that I have gained in this Parliament I am sure that all honorable members could work together for the benefit of the nation if they would only make up their minds to do so. They should give a lead to the people of Australia, who are looking forward to an era when all factions in the community will unite to serve the common good. I trust that its advent will not be long delayed.
.- The opening of this Twentieth, or jubilee, Parliament was an historic and significant event which denoted the end of an era and the beginning of a new era. This aspect of the Jubilee was dramatically highlighted last week when, in the midst of the celebration of 50 years of federation and full nationhood, we were called upon to mourn the passing of one of our outstanding statesmen, the leader of a political party who had been a Prime Minister and who had helped to guide the nation through the greatest crisis that it has experienced in its brief history. His death was all the more tragic because of the vast knowledge and experience that he had gained, both during World War II. and previously, especially in the years that immediately followed the onset of the great economic depression in 1929. From his experience, he understood the weaknesses of our social and economic system and he had hoped to overcome . them and lay the foundations of a system of social justice and economic security for a happy and contented community. Fate had decreed, however, that this was not to be. His lot was to carry the burden for a time, like’ other great pioneers and leaders who had’ gone before him, and then to lay it down before he would witness the fruition of his labours and personal sacrifices for the people of Australia. We, on this side of the House, now have the duty and responsibility of taking up the burden under our new leader where he laid it down.
But the sad end of our esteemed- leader in the midst of all the rejoicing has helped to place the facts of our situation in their true perspective. It was like the hand of fate descending upon us in order to bring us back .to our senses. We have good reason to be thankful to the Almighty, and to our forefathers, for the great progress that this country has made in 50 years of federation. But how far . has humanity really progressed in 2,000 years of Christian civilization? When one considers the world situation to-day, little ground for rejoicing can be discovered. Our celebrations may be premature and illusory. Admittedly, we have advanced far in the fields of trade, commerce and scientific discovery. But, by comparison with those advances, we have progressed very little in the ‘‘field of human relations. In’ fact, science, especially in the discovery and development of weapons of destruction, has far outstripped the cultivation of friendship and understanding between members of the human race. The Second Commandment is still honoured more in the breach than in the observance by many persons who claim to be civilized human beings. When one contemplates the quickening tempo of preparations for war throughout the world, it would seem that man’s inhumanity to man is still the order of the day. The numerous references in the Governor-General’s Speech to the need for increased expenditure on armaments and defence generally bring this fact forcefully to our minds. It is idle for any government to promise economic security and prosperity on the home front while the state of international tension remains as it is at present. It would have been more to the Government’s credit if it had summoned up its courage and honesty and made the situation clear to the people during the election campaigns of 1949 and 1951 instead of dangling promises before them in the knowledge that it could not fulfil them. Now the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has admitted that the Government is faced with serious financial problems, which may demand increased taxes and restrictions on finance in order to overcome the shortages of essential materials. Even petrol rationing may be reintroduced, notwithstanding the assurances that were given to us when the Government discontinued rationing in 1950.
The workers are being told, in effect, that they must tighten their belts and go without many of the essentials of a full life. But it will be interesting to learn whether the Government will impose an excess profits tax on those organizations and individuals who are continuing to rake in greater profits than they ever received before. Only recently I read in the financial columns of the newspapers that York Motors Proprietary Limited had earned a net profit during the last financial year of over £1,000,000, which represented almost three and a halt times its net profit for the previous financial year. This enabled it to declare, as a first gesture to the shareholders, a 30 per cent, dividend. What attitude will the Government adopt towards such companies ? Will their shareholders be called upon to make sacrifices equal to those that will be demanded of the workers? Even if we make allowances for some exaggeration by the Treasurer, it is obvious that difficult times lie ahead of us. This calls for greater co-operation and the development of a spirit of tolerance and understanding throughout all sections of the community, irrespective of class or creed. While the democratic nations continue to be divided by racial and religious differences, and by class hatreds, we shall always be in danger of being overrun by Communistdominated countries, which at least have a semblance of unity on those levels even though it may be merely superficial. There are forces both of the right and of the left which are aggravating the differences that I have mentioned on the principle that to. divide is to conquer.
Unless we develop some over-arching philosophy above race, class and creed, we shall inevitably fall before our foe3 of either the right or the left. Democracy, like charity, begins at home. If we are to foster a better spirit in the community at large, we must set a better example in this Parliament. We commence the day in this chamber with a prayer. How often do we end it with curses? As one who has fallen by the wayside at times, I realize that the way to hell is paved with good intentions. Most honorable members come here with good intentions to do something constructive for the people of Australia as a whole and a spirit of goodwill prevails in the early stages of every sitting period. But only too often we leave with a feeling of frustration and utter disillusionment. The British parliamentary system has served democracy well; but, in some respects, it needs modernizing and streamlining so that it can cope with fast-moving events. In particular, the committee system of this House has become too rigid and futile. It is merely a glorified debating chamber. The fact is that the Government that happens to be in power ignores anything that private members may say, and tends to bulldoze its measures through the committee stage irrespective of any constructive suggestions that may be made by the Opposition. Such arbitrary conduct must tend to foment a spirit of bitterness and intolerance and to detract from the best traditions of our parliamentary institutions. One cannot but be sad and ashamed at times because of the level to which we sink in such an atmosphere. I hope that, in the interests of the people, the Government will alter this state of affairs and heed constructive advice and suggestions, and even accept reasonable amendments which the Opposition may propose during our deliberations in the present session.
I trust also that the Government will reconstitute some of the joint parliamentary committees which operated during the regimes of, the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government. Much good work was done by such bodies as the Social Security Committee, which submitted many recommendations that were eventually transferred to the statute-book. I cannot understand why the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) refrains from reconstituting the Social Security Committee, notwithstanding the repeated representations that have been made to him on this subject by a number of honorable members. Our social services system contains numerous anomalies and many citizens who deserve aid are not provided for by the existing legislation. The reconstituted committee could investigate the anomalies and help the Government to overcome them. Many problems of government could be solved by bringing groups of honorable members together in committee around a table away from the acrimony of party-political debate in this chamber. There is no real conflict between the opposing parties on many issues, and agreement could be reached in relation to them by the means which I have suggested with considerable benefit to the people. As an illustration of the effectiveness of the joint committee system, I refer to the work of the Broadcasting Committee, which served for a number of years under the chairmanship of various members of the Parliament of differing political complexions. Its first report contained 72 recommendations. Upon 71 of them, the members of the committee were completely unanimous and the recommendations were implemented. The remaining recommendation related to the nationalization of commercial broadcasting stations and, naturally, there was a- difference of opinion upon it.
A house divided against itself is bound to fall. If our Christian democracy is to survive, there must be unity and harmony among us in facing the dangers that are common to all of us, not only those in the international sphere, but also those that arise from poverty, insecurity, disease and the elements, which are the real enemies of mankind. If we can conquer these, there will be fresh worlds for us to conquer and ample scope for human genius and courage instead of involving the youth of the community in perpetual warfare. In considering these problems, although we may differ, owing to our different political philosophies upon points of principle and the ways in which they should be approached, let us at least discuss them calmly and dispassionately in the House and in committee, in a spirit of tolerance and understanding of the other man’s point of view. I am not much given to prayer myself, but 1 admire the way in which you, Mr. Speaker, read the Lord’s Prayer when you open a day’s proceedings in this chamber. It has occurred to me that you might add to that prayer the words, “ Give lis this day a greater tolerance and understanding of our neighbours “. There are two points of view to most problems. Personal abuse and insults get us nowhere.
They even play into the hands of the common enemy. The tongue and the pen can be vicious weapons, as was proved during the recent general election campaign.
Some reference was made during this debate to the tactics that were adopted in that campaign. Some of them reached an all-time low in intolerance, perversion of the truth and unjustified attacks upon those who were endeavouring to give of their best to the people of this country. The most vicious propaganda was directed against Labour members and leaders. Lel me refer the House to a classic example of low propaganda. On the 11th April, a full-page advertisement was inserted in the Sydney Daily Telegraph and a number of other newspapers by the Institute of Public Affairs, New South “Wales. It was authorized by R. S. Coates, director, of 19 Bligh-street’, Sydney. The Institute of Public Affairs is apparently one of those mushroom-like organizations that are financed from sources behind the scenes and always support the anti-Labour forces- during election campaigns. The advertisement read as follows: -
Tomatoes Won’t Grow When Diseased
The same applies to the nation. It can’t produce enough goods and services while the blight of communism spreads unchecked in the basic industries. In their ignorance many Labour leaders have turned a blind eye on - or actually encouraged - the blight of communism, just as many a careless gardener neglects the blight on his tomatoes. When blight gets too busy among tomatoes, the only .thing to do is to destroy the plants - burn them and disinfect the ground where they have grown. That is what Australia needs to do with the Labour party.
Shades of Hitler ! -
Destroy it by your vote on April 28th.
When I think of the untimely death of the late leader of my party, I could wax bitter about similar advertisements and propaganda and some of the cartoons that appeared in the press during recent months, but to do that would be to depart from the theme and spirit of my argument, and I shall not do so. That advertisement is an example of the cruelty and injustice that can be perpetrated by the poisoned barbs of the pens of the cartoonists and propagandists. There is good in all. Why do we have to wait until a man has departed before v.e recognize the good in him? “Why do we hasten another man’s demise by vilification and abuse? Many good men die of broken hearts.
When you were first inducted into the chair in 1949, Mr. Speaker, you quoted some excerpts from the Good Book. I was astonished and disappointed when you did not do so again last week. I was disappointed to hear you say then that men do not change after they have reached the age of 50 years. I had always thought that good Christians could change at any time. As you did not do it when you were inducted into the chair last week, perhaps you will forgive me if, in answer to the tomato, advertisement, I quote an extract from the sixth chapter of St. Luke. It is as follows: -
No sound tree bears rotten fruit, nor again does a rotten tree bear sound fruit. Each tree is known by its fruit.
The soil in which the tree is planted is important. The Labour party believes that the establishment of social justice is the best means of eradicating communism. A just social order is Labour’s answer to totalitarianism, whether of the right or the left. Revolutionary communism thrives only in a society in which poverty and insecurity are rife. That is the best soil in which the Communists can sow the seeds of strife and discord. If we remove the causes of civil war and bloodshed, communism will die a natural death. I commend to honorable gentlemen opposite a book entitled The God that Failed, written by a number of former prominent Communists. They were not ordinary run-of-the-mill Communists, but outstanding intellectuals who joined the Communist party after the Russian revolution in- 1917. They include the English poet, Stephen Spender; the French author, Gide ; the Austrian writer, Arthur Koestler ; and the Italian writer, Ignatius Silone. In that book, those outstanding intellectuals say that they turned to communism because of their rebellion against the social injustices that exist in our present social and economic system. Intellectually, they were driven to communism. Now, also intellectually, they have become disillusioned owing to the way in which socialism has been “ sold out “ by the tyranny that exists in Russia to-day. If honorable gentlemen opposite read that book, they will get an idea of the kind of things that make Communists and then might make a different approach to the problem of eradicating this evil, about which they have complained so much in the course of this debate.
I am glad to know that, in the field of industrial relations, the Government now recognizes the need for more conciliation and arbitration. Its attempts to attain this objective and to generate a better spirit between labour and management will be watched with interest by honorable members on this side of the House. The Labour party believes that a positive approach should be made to the problem of industrial relations. A New South Wales Labour conference recently launched a campaign for the strengthening of morale in industry, with the object of establishing a better spirit between workers and managements, and of educating the workers on the insidious nature of propaganda that is being spread amongst them by the emissaries of foreign powers. The Government’s approach to the problem appears to be a purely negative one. Red-baiting and the smashing of trade unions in the guise of a relentless campaign against communism will get us nowhere, and may even play into the hands of the Communists by driving moderate trade unionists to enter their ranks and join forces with them.
I have not sufficient time to deal with all aspects of the Governor-General’s Speech, but it is obvious that the whole of the Government’s programme, in rela-tion to both the internal and the external situation, is bound up with the problem of security. It is good to have the Government’s assurance that it will continue to pursue a policy of working through the United Nations, in relation to not only Korea and China, but also other danger spots in the world. In my opinion, collective security for the free nations is the only means of ultimately achieving peace throughout the world. We have ako been told that the Government will continue to co-operate in plans such as the SouthEast Asia or Colombo Plan. But that is only a step in the right direction. We must help the nations that arc covered by that plan to stand on their- own feet and to establish their own systems of social and economic security on the principle, enunciated by the late President Roosevelt, that poverty anywhere means insecurity everywhere. That is very important to us, as is also, having regard to our relative isolation, our restrictive immigration policy and our sparse population, the necessity to maintain the goodwill of the Asiatic countries. Pacific pacts and similar plans will be of no avail without goodwill towards the peoples of the East.
We have been told that the Government will introduce a comprehensive bill to deal with medical benefits, hospital accommodation and medical research. I look forward with interest to the introduction of that measure. Since the Chifley Government’s health legislation was scrapped, at the instigation of the British Medical Association, this Government has merely tinkered with the problem of national health. Facilities for the preservation of health and the prevention and cure of disease should be open to all, irrespective of means. It is a sad commentary on out social and economic system that we treat these matters on a purely monetary basis. It is sad that, when a member of a family is stricken with a dread malady, the bread-winner or the parents have to “ scrounge “ for the doctors’ fees. The first concern should be to secure proper attention for the patient. Like everything else, medical fees have risen. I do not blame the doctors for that, because they have to live. But the cost of living has increased considerably and the average wage-earner is just getting by. He is not able to meet sudden emergencies such as a member of his family becoming ill. Many people, because they have not much money, often postpone calling in a doctor until it is too late.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I associate myself with the fervent hope that has been expressed by other honorable members that it will be possible for Their Majesties the King and Queen, and Princess Margaret to visit this country next year. I hope that His Majesty’s health will be restored. I offer my congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker, upon your election once again to high office in this Parliament.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have criticized, not only the Governor-General’s Speech, but also the Government. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), and the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) said that, in their opinion, this Government did not, during the sixteen months of the life of the last Parliament, honour the promises that it made to the electors in 1949. They said also that they were disappointed that the Speech delivered by His Excellency held out very little hope for the future. ‘ This is neither the time nor the place for me to explain how, during the life of the last Parliament, this Government honoured the promises that it had made to the people. The record of the Government, is well known to the people who, if they needed any reminder, received it during the last weeks of the general election campaign. Bills were introduced in this House to give effect to the Government’s promises, but it was possible t« transform many of them into acts because of the frustrating tactics that were adopted by the Opposition in another place. Honorable members on this side of the House welcomed the recent general election in order that they might give effect to certain objectives which they considered to be for the good of Australia.
As has been truly said, there may not have been anything of a very new nature in His Excellency’s Speech. This was not necessary because the policy which the Government put before the people in 1949 and which honorable members on this side of the House believe to be a good policy was still the Government’s policy during the last general election. The Governor-General stated in a portion of his Speech -
My Government will also seek, in consultation with the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries which participated in the war against Japan, the earliest possible conclusion of a Japanese peace treaty. The Government recognizes that the occupation of Japan cannot be long continued and that Janan should be restored to the comity of nations.
I ask the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) to keep in mind the request that has been made by the ex-servicemen’s committee composed of Government supporters concerning the claims of exprisoners of war when the Japanese peace treaty is being negotiated. The Government has undertaken to seek reparations from Japan in all ways possible so that compensation may be given to our. prisoners of war for the suffering that they underwent.
I noticed with great pleasure the Governor-General’s reference to the Colombo plan and to the part that Australia will take in the implementation of that plan. What was once termed the “ far East “ is now to us the “ near north “. When one considers the improvements that the peoples of that area are trying to make in their national life and remembers the utterances of their leaders, especially those which affect the interests of Australia, it is gratifying to realize that it is one of the aims of the Government to assist the industrial development of these nations by economic means. It is to be hoped that they may improve their lot with our help and our guidance. I hope that in the very near future the Government will find it possible to complete a defence arrangement with the United States of America and New Zealand in relation to the Pacific area. I think that all honorable members will agree that if another war does occur it may not be possible for the forces of the United Kingdom to be deployed in the Pacific to the extent that they have been deployed on past occasions. As is well known, in a few months the national service scheme will come into operation, and a recruiting programme has already been put into effect. It would be foolish to fail to realize that the peace of the world is threatened only by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I agree with the suggestion that was made yesterday by the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm), that the Government should keep in mind the position in the Pacific area generally and not confine its attention to the territories of New Guinea and Papua. I do not agree with certain honorable members who have stated that the defence of Australia should be limited to its coastline. By the time enemy troops had reached our coastline it would be too late for us to do anything effective. The Australian coastline cannot be easily defended.
I support the proposal of the honorable member for Bowman that the Government should develop the territories of New Guinea and Papua as quickly as possible militarily and industrially so as to establish the necessary communication and transport facilities in those areas. It is not true that those honorable members who believe that Australia should be strongly armed in order to preserve the peace of the world are warmongers. Those countries which belong to the British Commonwealth of Nations and certain other nations endeavoured, in an idealistic way, to give a lead to the world in the years that succeeded the first world war when disarmament took place. There was then an idealistic belief that such a lead to the world would be followed by other nations and that the reduction of armaments would become the established policy of all nations. I can remember the part that Australia took in the disarmament programme. The old H.M.AJ3. Australia was towed outside Sydney Heads and sank. But even though that was a genuine gesture it did not have the results desired. Had it not been for what has been called the “phoney” period of World War II., during which Australia had time to prepare its defences, honorable members would not be able to take their places in this House to-day. I think that that is the answer to those critics who say that this is not the time to strengthen our armed services. It is only by showing that we have the necessary strength that we shall be able to take part with the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations in the preservation of the peace of the world.
While these threats exist from without, this country is threatened from within. Despite what some honorable members have said, the Government secured a mandate from the people at the last general election to implement three important items of its policy. Those items relate to defence preparedness, the industrial front, and social services plans.
In regard to the plans of the Government on the industrial front I shall relate a conversation that I had with one of my constituents a few weeks ago. He is an ex-serviceman of World War I. On returning to Australia he commenced a business of his own and during the hard years that followed found it difficult to become established. By perseverance and native ability he has become the owner of a large carrying business. He said that when he started he took pride in his achievement; he considered that he was building something for himself. But as the business grew and he employed more labour he realized that he was only a part of the organization. Now, as the managing director ot this large company he realizes that i3 still only a part, although an important part, of the concern. He said that, having built up the business, he had undertaken two main responsibilities; he had the responsibility of giving good service to his customers and he had a responsibility towards his employees. He realized that the business would continue after his retirement and death but that while he was with it he had to give service to the community and to see that his employees enjoyed reasonable conditions and received a fair wage. This story sums up our approach to industrial matters. Despite the criticism that has been levelled at us by members of the Opposition we believe, as a Government, in true trade unionism. We believe in the necessity to have active trade unions ; and the legislation forecast in the Governor-General’s Speech, which has been discussed on previous occasions, to institute secret ballots in connexion with the election of trade union officers is not, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) implied this afternoon, intended to bring the trade unions under the control of the Liberal party. Such a claim as he made in that regard is complete nonsense. The reason for the legislation is to give to the individual trade unionist control of the affairs of his own union.
– Mr. Speaker, I direct attention to the state of the House.
– I have counted the House, and I find that there are eighteen honorable members on the Government side and twelve on the Opposition side. Ring the bells!
– I rise on a matter of privilege.
-Order! There is no quorum, and the honorable member may not rise on anything. [Quorum formed.’]
– I rise on a matter of privilege. The Standing Orders, which I have not before me at the moment, provide that a quorum shall be present. What is a quorum is determined by the rules. The .Standing Orders further provide that any honorable member may direct attention to the state of the House.
– The honorable gentleman said that he was rising on a matter of privilege, but he is now discussing the Standing Orders.
– That is so.
-It is either a matter of privilege or a point of order. It cannot be both, and it cannot be a hybrid.
– I think that you will agree, if you will let me develop my remarks, that I am speaking on a matter of privilege which is connected with the fact that the Standing Orders provide the method by which a quorum may be maintained and by which an honorable member may direct attention to its absence. I ask you, on a matter of privilege, under what standing order-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not ask me anything when raising a matter of privilege. He must submit a motion.
– Well then, , I ask you on a point of order.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not ask me a question on a matter of privilege.
– Well, I ask you-
– Order !
– Then I ask you-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not ask me anything. He must submit a motion.
– I propose to do that.
-Order ! The honorable member may not speak now unless he intends to submit a motion. Standing Orders definitely provide that an honorable member who raises a matter of privilege must conclude with a motion.
– That is right, but I have not got to that stage yet. I shall submit a motion if you will inform me on what basis you have acted.
– Order ! It is not for me to do that. If the honorable member is speaking on a matter of privilege he must submit a motion.
– I am seeking’ to ascertain what practice, procedure or precedent enables you to count the House as you did.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not question me on a matter of privilege.
– Well then, on a point of order-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman rose to speak on a matter of privilege and he will submit a motion or resume his seat.
– I rise to a point of order. I take the point that you were not in order in announcing the number of honorable members on either side of the House at the time that a quorum was called for. I ask whether that is the usual procedure laid down in the Standing Orders, or whether there is any other reason why you took the opportunity to make that announcement which, to my mind, has not been done in the past when quorums were called for.
– Order! The honoraMe gentleman will realize that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) directed attention to the state of the House. I counted the House. There was not a quorum present. There were eighteen honorable members on my right and there were twelve, including one honorable member who belongs on my right, on the left-hand side, and I said so. If there is anything wrong with that, it is open to the judgment of the House, but it is open now and will not be in the future. I call on the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) to resume his speech.
– When I was interrupted I was answering the criticism made this afternoon by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, that if secret ballots for the election of trade union officers were instituted by law it would mean that the trade unions would come under the control of the Liberal party. That statement, of course, is complete nonsense. The reason for the introduction of the legislation is to give to the individual trade unionist the right to govern the affairs of his union. We believe it to be a right and democratic principle that election to what is, in effect, the highest association in the country, namely, this House, shall be by means of a secret ballot. I cannot understand the objections and the fears expressed by certain honorable members opposite about the same method of election being used in connexion with the offices of trade unions or other associations.
I mentioned earlier that the mandate which the Government received from the people covers its social services objectives. The Governor-General has informed us that the legislation necessary to attain these objectives will be brought forward by the Government. He said -
In the field of social services my Government is keeping all benefits under review, and will, in the Budget, put forward proposals which will have regard to current circumstances. It is constantly examining anomalies, with a view to their rectification.
I ask at this stage that the Governmentgive very serious consideration to the present state, not only of invalid and age pensioners, but also of people who are dependent for their existence on superannuation. During the last Parliament I had the honour of presenting to the then Minister for Social Services a suggestion that I think could be implemented by the Government. I realized when I put it, that it was by no means a perfect suggestion- -
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) adjourned.
– by leave - Since the last statement on foreign affairs was made to the House by my predecessor on the 14th March, there have been developments of consequence in areas that particularly affect Australia, on which honorable members will wish to be informed. Pressure continues to be exerted against the democratic countries by Russia, Communist China, and their satellites. The most obvious point of pressure is Korea, where twelve months ago aggression became direct instead of indirect. As soon as it was clear that the North Korean forces were likely to be defeated, Chinese Communist man-power and further Russian equipment were added to the scales. In spite of losses of equipment and very heavy Chinese ‘Communist casualties, there is no real evidence at present to support the view that Com,munist China will give up the struggle in Korea. I am sure that honorable members realize the significance of the United Nations action in Korea. For the first time since its establishment, the United Nations has effectively organized itself to deal with physical aggression. This has heartened all democratic peoples in the world at large, more particularly in the Pacific area and in East and SouthEast Asia. If South Korea had never been defended, or if the battle had been lost by United Nations forces, the effects in South-East Asia and in the countries bordering the Pacific might well have been catastrophic. It is not far-fetched imagination to suggest that by this time the position in Indo-China might have deteriorated seriously, that Communist influence in Burma and Malaya might have increased substantially and that important harmful effects might have been seen in Siam and even the Philippines. Whilst it is natural for the peoples of the democratic countries, including Australia, to be restive at the apparent stalemate in Korea, I believe that it is true to say that even the present situation in Korea can rightly be described as an important step towards the maintenance of the free world.
The course of the military campaign in Korea is generally well known, and I need not describe it in detail. Until the middle of April the United Nations forces were advancing slowly in the general area of the 38th parallel, consolidating their positions in expectation of a large-scale Chinese offensive. This offensive was opened late in April, and after heavy fighting in the course of which the United Nations forces made some withdrawals, it became clear that the attack had been first halted and then decisively repulsed. After a period of regrouping by the enemy, a second wave of attacks was launched in mid-May. The defeat of those attacks was followed by a general United Nations advance, which is now proceeding against stiffening resistance, in the area north of the 38th parallel. The decisive superiority which the United Nations forces have shown and the relatively light casualties which they have suffered are most encouraging. On the other hand, a terrible rate of casualties has been inflicted on the Chinese and North Korean forces - estimated to have been thirteen or fourteen times as great as those suffered by the United Nations forces.
Together with the forces of the Republic of Korea, it is the servicemen of our American allies who continue to bear the main burden, but the troops of the other nations contributing to the campaign have played their part. Our own troops have greatly distinguished themselves in the recent fighting, and all Australians must be proud of the tenacity and courage which they have shown. All the United Nations forces deserve high praise, but I should like to make particular mention of the troops of the United Kingdom. The splendid stand of the British Gloucesters in April has won world-wide recognition. The United States Secretary of State, Mr. Acheson, and also the United Nations Commander, General Ridgway, have highly commended the contribution made by the British forces to the defeat of the enemy offensive.
In addition to vigorous and sustained efforts in the field, the United Nations has sought, by the joint action of its members, to deprive the enemy of war materiel, through an embargo on the export to territories under the control of the Peking and North Korean governments of “ arms, ammunition and implements of war, atomic energy materials, petroleum, transportation materials of strategic value, and items useful in the production of arms, ammunition and implements of war “. In actual fact, a number of governments, including the Australian Government, had, for some considerable time, been applying the restrictions covered by this embargo. A ban was placed on exports from Australia to North Korea on the first outbreak of hostilities, and restrictions on the export of materials of military value were extended to Communist China as soon as the Chinese forces entered the war.
So much for what the United Nations had done to combat aggression in Korea. I turn now to the other constant preoccupation of the United Nations. That is a thorough exploration of all possible means of bringing the conflict to an end through a negotiated settlement. I shall not weary the House with any detailed account of these efforts to achieve a peaceful solution, other than to say that they have been constantly and sincerely pursued over a considerable period of time. The only response of the Chinese, however, has been in the intensification of their military efforts in Korea. Messages from the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations have been ignored. Continued pronouncements by Chinese Communist authorities grossly misrepresent the objectives of the United Nations and call for the expulsion of United Nations forces not merely from the area north of the 38th parallel but also from the Republic of Korea. Not once has the Peking regime shown interest in negotiations since, in January last, it made quite unacceptable demands as a prior condition for a cease-fire.
It is possible that the Chinese Communists believe that the repeated approaches to them for a peaceful settlement in Korea stem from weakness on the part of the democracies. If this is the case, then I believe that Communist China has gravely misinterpreted and misunderstood the present temper, strength and attitude of mind of the democracies. The Korean war has now been in progress for almost a year. Is there in sight an end of this costly and apparently inconclusive struggle? And is there a clear understanding of the objectives for which it is being waged? These are questions which many people are asking. To the first question, the only reply is that the responsibility for bringing hostilities to an end does not rest with the United Nations, which has constantly sought to achieve a peaceful settlement. The present situation gives us ground for hope, however, that, as the struggle continues, the Chinese Communists may be brought to realize that the losses which they are suffering are to no purpose, and that their continued aggression is doing great harm not only to the Korean people but also to their own interests. Until they do realize this fact, there is no alternative but to continue the military action with relentless determination. On the second question about the objectives of the United Nations, there has been much public discussion and it must be said at once that there is some public uncertainty. In the view of the Australian Government our objectives can be summarized as follows: - The first is effective resistance to aggression by the defeat of the aggressor’s forces. A second objective, which has now in effect been achieved, is that of freeing the territory of the Republic of Korea from the invaders and restoring its territorial integrity. This means, of course, that there must be satisfactory assurances that a further aggression will not be launched. A third and more general objective, which has been the aim of international action ever since 1945, is the unification of Korea and its establishment as an independent sovereign and democratic state. Finally, the United Nations is pledged to assist in the reconstruction of the Korean economy and the reparation of the terrible damage which the war has caused. This is an urgent and humanitarian task in which there is no reason why all nations of goodwill should not join immediately.
It is not our objective to threaten Communist China or legitimate Chinese interests, nor is it our objective to extend the conflict beyond Korea. I agree with a recent statement by Mr. Lester Pearson, the Canadian Minister for External Affairs, that proposals for the blockade of the Chinese mainland or for the bombing of Manchuria, about which there has recently been some discussion, must be judged in the light of the possibility of so extending the area of war. If the war is to be extended beyond Korea, the responsibility for doing so should not rest with us. This does not mean, of course, that we tie our hands if the enemy should force us to take counter-measures for our own protection - which we greatly hope will not be the case. So far as Australia is concerned we have at all times stressed publicly and in our private discussions with other Governments our desire to see a negotiated settlement which will attain these objectives. We have consistently stood against negotiations which abandoned the principles which brought the United Nations into its first collective action against aggression. For the future, it is impossible to hold out any assurance of an early or satisfactory solution. The situation is one which requires constant review. Consultation is taking place regularly among all countries with forces in Korea and, as far as Australia is concerned, discussions with the United States, United Kingdom and other members of the Commonwealth are continuous.
I come now to the matter of Japan, and of the peace settlement with that country. The need for an early peace settlement with Japan has been given added point by the course of events in Korea. The invasion of the Republic of Korea by the forces of the North Korean Communist regime and the continuing Chinese Communist aggression show that the Communists do not necessarily rely solely on internal subversion, but are prepared, if they think that they will succeed, to use force against neighbouring nonCommunist States. The position has in fact changed; in moving towards a peace settlement with Japan we now have to take into account, not only the security of Australia and our war-time allies against a revival of Japanese militarism, but also the security of Japan itself in the light of the threat revealed by the persistent Communist intervention in Korea.
In considering these two propositions, on the one hand the -possibility of a renewed Japanese aggression and on the other hand Japan’s ability to defend itself, it is necessary to review briefly the situation in Japan itself after, almost six years of military occupation. In the first place the Japanese Government has complied with the terms of surrender. Japan has been, and remains, effectively disarmed. Its armament factories have been substantially dismantled or converted to peaceful production. The Japanese armed forces, with the exception of a number of prisoners of war for the most part believed to be still in Soviet hands, have long been demobilized and absorbed into civilian life. The trial of Japanese war criminals has been completed and the sentences imposed have been or are in the process of being carried out. Working under the new constitution the Japanese Government has taken many steps towards removing undemocratic institutions and influences and establishing a framework of government and administration on the democratic model.
On the economic side the United States as the occupying power has assisted the Japanese in the task of trying to rebuild a solvent economy based on a sound financial structure. Land reforms have been carried out and the influence of the great monopoly groups diminished. Japan has, however, been heavily dependent on American assistance in its reconstruction efforts, and there seems every likelihood that it will remain dependent on American assistance and for a considerable period will be unable to build up reserves of materials for its peace-time industry, still less for warlike purposes. The fact that Japan has been deprived of its former overseas territories imposes most concrete and substantial limits on its war-making capacity, from the point of view both of military strategy and of economic strength. Korea, Manchuria, Formosa and the islands to the north of Japan have been removed from Japanese control. To the south, the Ryukyu, Volcano and Bonin Islands are under American administration, while the former mandated islands from which the Japanese attack on New Guinea was launched are under American strategic trusteeship.
It would, of course, be naive to assume that the reforms which have been initiated in Japan will necessarily be continued indefinitely. The Government certainly does not base its policy on any such assumption. But- the Japanese have had brought before them by the occupation authorities, and by the Allied Powers in the Far Eastern Commission, the whole range of democratic institutions, and have adopted them. Even if these have not yet taken root, there is some chance that a genuine democracy may evolve in Japan, although changes in the present pattern are to be expected and the final structure is likely to be peculiarly Japanese and not a mere replica of British or American models.
This, then, is the Japan with which it is proposed that a peace treaty shall shortly be concluded, and it may be convenient if I restate the broad objectives which the Government has had in view in the treaty negotiations which I shall describe. The general principles which have been consistently maintained by the Australian Government are known to honorable members from statements that were made by my predecessor. First, there must be appropriate safeguards against any resurgence of Japanese militarism. Secondly, Japan should be allowed to resume normal peaceful relationships within the comity of nations and in association with the democratic world. Thirdly, Japan should be given the opportunity, through the exploitation of its own resources and normal international trade, to establish a reasonable standard of living for its people. Fourthly, Japan must be kept secure against forces hostile to the democratic countries.
Australian views on the general approach to a treaty have been expressed fully and repeatedly to the American and United Kingdom Governments at each stage of the discussions on the Japanese settlement, and are still being pressed. I must, however, re-emphasize that if there is to be a peace treaty, Australia has to take into account at all times the attitude of other countries, and in particular that of the United Kingdom and of the United States of America. After all, the United States of America has carried by far the greatest part of the burden of occupation and Australia could not conceivably assume such responsibilities alone. This is particularly true in relation to the problem of restrictions on Japanese rearmament. The views of the
United States of America on this matter are well known, although the reasons for American policy and the factors involved are not so generally understood. The United Kingdom has been in sympathy with our objectives and approach, but any consideration of restrictions to be imposed on Japan must have regard to the plain fact that the United States of America is the only country which could in practice enforce them.
Since the last statement was made to the House on this subject, American and British views have crystallized in separate texts of a draft treaty which we have had the opportunity to consider’ and on which we have made detailed comments. American and British officials have also had conversations in Washington with the aim of producing an agreed upon joint draft. The special representative of the United States of America, Mr. John Foster Dulles, has recently had further discussions in London with the British Foreign Secretary and the British Foreign Office, as a result of which they have reached agreement on all outstanding points. At all stages the views of the Australian Government have been made known to both America and Great Britain, and the process of consultation is still going on between the countries whose armed forces participated in the war against Japan.
This procedure of negotiation through diplomatic channels has been adopted in the belief that it is the method best calculated to secure early agreement on the terms of a peace treaty. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has recently suggested that a general peace conference should be summoned for the drafting of the treaty. This, if taken at face value, is a plausible and, indeed, reasonable suggestion. But it must be remembered that the negotiation of a treaty has for over three years been delayed by the insistence of the Soviet Union that the treaty must be prepared by the Foreign Ministers of the Big Four Powers, namely, the Soviet Union, America, Great Britain and China. I am sure that it will be agreed that such a procedure could never be accepted bv an Australian Government. In its latest proposals the Soviet Government continues to insist that the treaty must be prepared in accordance with its own interpretation of the Potsdam Agreement. Even assuming that the Soviet leaders are prepared to enter a peace conference without preliminary Four Power agreement on Soviet terms, it is not to be expected that the Soviet Union is seriously prepared to accept majority decisions as to the content of the treaty. In all the circumstances, therefore, the Government believes that the procedure which has already led to substantial progress should be maintained. The Soviet Union will, of course, be free to participate in the diplomatic exchanges and in due course to sign the treaty.
The problem of participation by China in the preparation of the treaty has been difficult for other reasons. Whereas Australia, along with the United States of America and the majority of the members of the United Nations, still recognizes as the government of China the Nationalist Government with head-quarters in Formosa, the United Kingdom and a large number of countries, including several members of the British Commonwealth, recognize the Communist Government in Peking. It would seem to us that if any peace settlement is to be made with Japan the only course may be to proceed with a treaty without the participation of either of the governments claiming to represent China. This would not, of course, affect in any way the attitude of Australia or that of any other government on the question of recognition of either government as the legitimate government of China.
Let me remind the House of some of the more important matters to be dealt with in the treaty, and indicate the solutions that are likely to be acceptable to a majority of the Allies.
So far as territory is concerned Japan will be called upon to renounce all rights, titles and claims to Korea, Formosa, and the Pescadores, and Kuriles and South Sakhalin. It will also renounce all special rights and interests in China, will declare that it has no claims to Antarctic territory, and will accept American trusteeship over the Pacific islands formerly under mandate to Japan. In the field of economic activity Japan will declare its intention in public and private trade and commerce to conform to internationally accepted fair practices and will agree to revive any pre-war bilateral treaties at the option of any party to the peace treaty. It will agree to enter into negotiations for the conclusion of agreementsfor the regulation, conservation and development of high seas fisheries and for the conclusion of commercial treaties. Until such commercial agreements come into force Japan will agree to give most favoured nation treatment at the option of any party to the peace treaty on the basis of reciprocity.
The problem of reparations from Japan is rendered difficult by the fact that Japan does not possess the assets or surplus productive capacity from which the Allies can expect to get substantial compensation for the losses inflicted by Japanese aggression. Japan lacks the capacity to provide reparations in the form of plant and machinery or similar tangible property, and could only provide reparations from current production if the raw materials were provided by the countries entitled to reparations. Nevertheless, the Government has pressed the view that Japan can, without endangering the stability of its financial or industrial structure, make reparations payments from Japanese assets in neutral anu exenemy territories, and from the bullion which provided the backing for the Japanese currency and which has been held, since the surrender, by the United States of America. However, notwithstanding Australia’s special claim for compensation for the suffering of its prisoners of war at Japanese hands, there are other countries which suffered as much from Japanese aggression as did Australia. Another fact to be considered is that the United States claims to have a prior right to Japanese resources for repayment of the thousands of millions of dollars spent on the occupation of’ Japan and for relief and reconstruction there. I assure honorable members that the Government will continue to press for reasonable reparations, but I must state frankly that it should not be expected that we shall receive any large amount.
By far the most important aspect of the settlement with Japan from the point of view of Australia is the problem of security. I have already referred to the significance in this connexion of the growth of Communist imperialism and the need to consider not only security against Japan but also the security of Japan. It is difficult to say which is the greater potential threat - that of a revived Japanese militarism, alone or in association with other aggresive forces, or ‘ of a Japan taken over by an aggressive power and incorporated in the Communist umpire. But clearly, Australian security requires that we should endeavour to avoid both of these dangers. Since it would be unrealistic to expect the United States of America to occupy and thus to protect a disarmed and defencless Japan for all time, or for a very long period, and since the United States of America has made it quite clear that it has no intention of doing so, Japan must be allowed to make some provision for its own defence. That is something which Australia must accept. The real issue has been whether, and, if so, to what extent, there should be written .into the peace treaty specific limitations on the size or types of armed forces which Japan should be allowed to maintain. The Australian Government lias sought to insist that there should be such limitations, at least as regards naval construction and long-range military and naval aircraft. The United States of America and other countries have, howover, ‘ advanced the contention that such limitations could only be effective by the consent of Japan because it would be impracticable to ensure their observance by force, and that the imposition of restrictions on Japanese sovereignty would make it more difficult to obtain the close association of Japan with the free world.
Notwithstanding these arguments, the Australian Government has continued to press the view which, however, is not shared by a majority of the countries which fought against Japan, that the treaty should contain limitations on armaments which might be used for purposes of aggression, and which would not be justified by the strict requirements of self-defence, in particular naval construction and long-range military and naval aircraft. Even if such limitations are not ‘ written into the treaty, there is a number of important factors and contingencies which would in practice reduce the likelihood of substantial
Japanese re-armament, even if it were subject to no limitations, or which would eliminate in practice the risk that Japan would again embark on aggression. Some of these have already been mentioned but a clearer picture may be given if I recapitulate them, for they are the background against which any consideration of the problem of security must take place. They may be summarized as follows: - The Japanese armed forces have been disbanded and, even taking into account the nucleus provided by the police reserve and coastguard, would take some time to reconstitute. The Japanese armaments industry has been largely eliminated and, in view of Japanese economic weakness and loss of territory, would take some time to rebuild. Under the treaty, as envisaged, Japan will have lost the military advantages of control over all its former territories outside th, home islands and adjacent minor islands. Without giving undue weight to the political and educational reforms which have been carried through in Japan, there i>some prospect of continuing opposition in Japan to large-scale re-armament. Finally, and this is most important, the Japanese Government has agreed to enter into an agreement with the United States of America under which United State? forces will continue to remain in Japan at least until stability and security have been established in the Pacific area. It may be taken as certain that there will be American forces not only in the former mandated islands but also in Okinawa and in the main Japanese islands. So lon;> as they remain there they will provide a. very tangible guarantee against any revival of Japanese power.
Let me now speak about a matter which is closely related to what I have been saying, but which also has a much wider significance, that is, the proposed security agreement between the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand. On the 19th April, 1951, the President of the United States of America made a most important announcement on the subject of the proposed Pacific Pact. The President, after referring to the American position in Japan and the Philippines, went on to say -
The Governments of Australia and New Zealand, in connexion with the re-establishment of peace with Japan, have suggested an arrangement between them and the United States, pursuant to Articles 51 and 52 of the United Nations Charter, which -would make clear that in the event of an armed attack upon any one of them in the Pacific, each of the three would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes; and which would establish consultation to strengthen security on the basis of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid.
Possibilities of such an arrangement wore fully explored by Mr. Dulles at Canberra, Australia, and Wellington, New Zealand, and have since been informally discussed with the appropriate sub-committees of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House.
I have now asked the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defence and Mr. Dulles, as my special representative in relation to the Japanese Peace Settlement and related matters, to pursue this matter further, concurrently with the prosecution of other negotiations necessary to bring the Japanese Peace Settlement to an early and satisfactory conclusion.
Following the President’s statement, there have been further exchanges of views between the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand on the text of the treaty to give effect to the broad principles already agreed upon between the three countries. Since his arrival in Washington to take up his post as Ambassador, Mr. Spender, in consultation with the New Zealand Ambassador, has discussed the draft treaty with Mr. Dulles, the President’s special representative, and with other American officials. I am in a position to inform the House that there is every reason to suppose that complete agreement on the text of the treaty can be reached at an earl;.date.
I should like at this juncture to pay a special tribute to the part played by Mr. Spender in the negotiation of this treaty. It was largely due to his initiative and energy that the idea of a security pact for the Pacific came to be accepted as a fundamental, not only of Australian security, but also of the collective effort to . establish security and stability in the Pacific area. He has, himself, on more than one occasion explained the concepts on which the proposed treaty is based. It is sufficient for me to add that the Government fully endorses his view. I may, however, emphasize a few results which will flow from the conclusion of the treaty.
In the first place,’ the treaty will place on a formal basis the already close association of Australia and New Zealand with the United States of America. In the second place, the treaty will commiteach of the three parties, in the event of an armed attack in the Pacific upon any one of them, to act to meet the common danger. This obligation of mutual assistance will apply not only in the event of renewed aggression by Japan but also should any other country launch an attack upon us. Thirdly, each of the parties, by having their safety enhanced, will individually and collectively be enabled to play an even more effective part in collective security arrangements within the framework of the Charter of the United Nations. It will strengthen our capacity to take our due share in wider tasks of global security.
Further, the treaty will not begin to operate only when an attack occurs. The council which it will establish will at once set to work and will provide a means for the closest consultation and planning on the basis of self-help and mutual aid. It is not envisaged that the council should develop the elaborate structure built up under the North Atlantic Treaty, but it will be so organized that the three countries can effectively co-ordinate their policies and dispositions in the Pacific area.
It was made clear at the time of the President’s announcement, but I should, perhaps, emphasize it again, that the proposed treaty will, of course, in no way affect, except to enhance, those special close and intimate relationships which we in Australia enjoy with other members of the British Commonwealth, and especially with our Mother Country, the United Kingdom.
Some press reports have implied that Australia and New Zealand agreed to enter into an arrangement with the United States without adequate consultation with the United Kingdom. I desire to make it quite clear that this is a complete misunderstanding of the actual position. Honorable members will be aware that the discussions between Mr. Dulles, Mr. Doidge and Mr. Spender in Canberra were exploratory only and that even now no formal agreement regarding the security pact has been signed between the United States, New Zealand and Australia. The United Kingdom Government was given the fullest possible information regarding the discussions in Canberra. During the many weeks which elapsed between Mr. Dulles’ departure from Canberra and the making of President Truman’s statement, various messages were exchanged between London and Canberra. I need only add that we received more than one assurance that the proposal for a three-power security pact along the lines discussed in Canberra had the approval and support of the United Kingdom Government.
I shall now deal with the Colombo plan. We, in Australia, like other democratic countries of the world, recognize that our future security and survival depend upon a growing and progressively closer association among the free nations. We have learned that neither prosperity, nor peace, can be enjoyed in isolation, and that we cannot afford to sit idly by while the peoples of some other nations suffer hunger, poverty and disease.
To Australia, the conditions of living and the political progress of the peoples of South and South-East Asia are of considerable significance and importance. The struggle to maintain and to strengthen democratic forces is not merely a political or a military one; the economic conditions in which such forces can prevail must also be stable and progressive. Assistance freely given, and consultation on economic and technical problems of common interest will do much to strengthen the bonds between the free nations of Asia and of what has come to be called the West. Recognizing this, the Australian Government has taken a leading part in the formulation, by the selfgoverning countries of the British Commonwealth, of the Colombo plan for cooperative economic development in South and South-East Asia. This programme was taken a further step forward when the United States of America decided this year to join in the discussions of the consultative committee, whose function it is to provide a common meeting ground for South and South-East Asian and other free nations concerned in the welfare and progress of the peoples of this region.
The Australian Government is convinced that this plan offers hope for great improvement in the development of South and South-East Asia and opportunities for better understanding among free peoples. The Government has already offered economic aid amounting to £6,500,000 to three of the participating countries - India, Pakistan and Ceylon - for the first year of the plan, commencing on the 1st July next. The Government has also made a substantial contribution to the technical assistance programme, and has sent agricultural and other specialists to the region to assist in developmental, educational, research and other projects. We have also offered facilities here in Australia, through the grant of free fellowships and scholarships, for Asian students to undergo special training related to their country’s needs. Other plans for technical assistance are in hand and some are near completion.
The closer understanding which we and our Asian neighbours are reaching on common economic and technical problems will be of value to us and to them. If this great co-operative enterprise receives the necessary support from all governments to enable it to be fully implemented, it will develop the sense of confidence and trust between Asian and western nations, and it will help to provide conditions in which stable democratic institutions in Asia can be maintained and more fully developed.
If I may introduce a slight personal note, I remind the House that I have had the privilege of living and working in what is now India and Pakistan, and I have some knowledge through personal contact and responsibility with their problems, which have not noticeably changed in the five years since I left India. This has left me with a sympathetic understanding of the problems of the peoples of India and of Pakistan and, I like to think, with many friends amongst them still. I believe that I am right when I say that Australia wishes them well and that we will do all in our power to help them in all ways that we can.
Honorable members will note that I rave refrained to-night from attempting to cover in detail all the main developments in the international situation - in every part of the world - since the House last met. I have done so deliberately, and for two reasons. In the first place, it is impossible to cover in one speech the wide ramifications of international affairs. I feel no doubt in my own mind that it is best to concentrate in a single speech upon a limited group of related or important current’ topics, with a view to clarifying the issues and focusing the debate on a few main and related themes. Secondly, it is my intention to make supplementary statements from time to time on particular aspects of foreign affairs so that the House may be kept informed of all important developments, not in one elongated speech, but in a series of speeches or statements.
If, therefore, I have made no specific mention to-night of such matters as the most unfortunate developments in Persia; of the long discussions - so far fruitless - which have taken place in Paris between the deputies of the foreign ministers seeking agreement upon an agenda for a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers; of the various activities of the United Nations in the economic and social field - except in relation to Korea - itis not because the Government regards these matters as unimportant. I am confident that honorable members will agree that the procedure that I am adopting is sound, and that it will be more effective and useful to deal in separate statements with topics such as these.
I scarcely need to remind the House that there is no easy road to the solution of international problems. First, we must ascertain the relevant facts. The issues must then be clarified and means of solving the problems found. I assure honorable members, particularly those who are opposite, that any suggestions they put forward to assist in this process will receive the most careful consideration. I earnestly commend to the House as a whole the desirability of our all making conscious efforts tu create a non-partisan Australian foreign policy which, in its broad outlines, will be based on the general support of all political parties. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 21st June, 1951. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 273).
.- As we pass this important milestone in our national progress, it is necessary for us to re-examine the basic conceptions that the fathers of federation postulated when they drafted the Australian Constitution. There is no doubt that they accepted the price doctrine that had been the governing influence for 500 years, that the price of anything was what could be got for it. This is the great capitalistic price doctrine, more commonly known as the law of supply and demand, which this Government is famous for upholding, allegedly the bulwark of our economy, claimed to be the inspiration of initiative and resource, and said to be the motive power and the main spring of business enterprise.
In the 50 years during which our Constitution has been in existence, this fundamental price doctrine has been challenged. The hulk of the wage-earners - a comprehensive term that includes professional and administrative personnel as well as skilled and unskilled manual workers - have rejected the idea that the price of their services is what they can get for them, and have adopted a new price doctrine, namely, that the price of their services shall be primarily related to the cost of their needs. Whether the fathers of federation were thinking in terms of this new price doctrine, I do not know ; but the interpretation of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in the famous Harvester judgment in 1907 first gave legal effect to the new price doctrine. The fact that millions of wage-earners since that time have accepted again and again judgments based on the idea that the price of the worker’s service shall be related to his needs indicates their general acceptance of and their loyalty to the new price doctrine over a considerable period. The fact that the law provides for practical measures which are agreeable to the character and temperament of such a large and important part of the population is cause indeed for satisfaction with that portion of the Constitution.
Farmers have traditionally been dependent upon the capitalistic price doctrine, namely, that the price of their crops is what they can get for them. But in the 50 years of federation, farmers also have shown increasing interest in a practical way in schemes and in plans for giving effect to the new price doctrine, the effect of which is that the price of their crops shall be related to their needs. In our time, a dairy produce marketing scheme, directly based on the new price doctrine, was established to the satisfaction of the farmers, until, unfortunately, it was discovered that . the scheme could not be sustained by constitutional law. The fact that repeated efforts have been made to alter the Constitution to provide for fixed homeconsumption prices is evidence of acceptance by the farmers of the more modern idea, and of their rejection of the capitalistic price doctrine. The number and variety of stabilization schemes, and the fact that they are being progressively renewed and extended, show the unmistakable popularity of the fixed price idea in every branch of farming. I think that it is clear that the farmers would be content to have fixed prices for their products, year in and year out, if those prices were properly related to their needs, costs, and general risks. If all occupations, whether professional, industrial or rural, are to be equally attractive from an economic point of view - and I believe that it is a democratic objective that that should be so - lit is necessary for fixed prices to be provided in all stabilization plans, including the wool plan that is now in contemplation. Failure to provide for such a relationship between the industries must result in those periodic flights from the unprofitable lines which have caused such widespread disturbances for hundreds of years, since the first days of enclosure, and one of which we now see so drastically affecting our production of butter. I believe that both farmers and wage-earners are severally agreed that there is more to be gained by adopting the principle that the price of their services or their goods shall be related to their needs than by adhering to the capitalistic price doctrine. The farmers and the wage-earners are integral parts of the community. They are dependent upon each other, and they form the bulk of the community. For those reasons, I cannot understand the association of the members of the Australian Country party with this Government. If they do not realize those facts, their electors very soon will do so. In fact, we have plenty of evidence to show that they are doing so already.
The third group, which consists of merchants, agents, importers and most manufacturers, has never shown any interest in anything other than the capitalistic price doctrine. Manufacturers alone have been interested in tariff protection and in price maintenance agreements in order that they may be protected from the vicious price cutting of their blood brothers, the chain store proprietors. But even the manufacturers do not seem to be particularly wedded to such ideas when good profits are otherwise available. Those whose interest in the capitalistic price doctrine is governed by grossly selfish interests deserve no special consideration, and the wage-earners and the farmers need have no hesitation in supporting any move for the alteration of our Constitution so as to provide the Government with power to fix prices in the interests of the whole community. But for those who offer a genuinely conservative argument, we need to examine the history of our Commonwealth, which is now fifty years old.
Since we have not yet developed the United Nations organization to the stage at which it can generally take charge of world commerce, the general laws of supply and demand - the capitalistic price doctrine - must be the governing influence in all our dealings with countries outside Australia, with a consequent dictatorship of price levels within Australia by the economic cross-winds that blow from every country in every part of the world, including, as President Truman recently pointed out, the designs for economic aggression which may be employed by any country that may care to make use of them. We, in Australia, were subjected to economic aggression by the Japanese before World War II. Aided by the capitalistic price doctrine, it was easy for them to fill our stores and markets with millions of tons of cheap Japanese textiles and other goods made under slave conditions, which retarded our industries and threw our men out of work. By .the operation of the same capitalistic price doctrine it was easy for them to induce agents to procure and forward scrap iron to Japan to be made into shells and bullets and fired back at our men. To those who are forever telling us that the unrestricted movement of prices is the heritage of freedom I say that they should remember that the Japanese were able to call for a settlement of their account, not in money, but in blood and suffering.
Can it be supposed for a moment that those masters of organization, the Communists, lack the perception or the resources to exploit this weakness of our Constitution? They are known to be past masters at the art of destroying organizations by white-anting any one of the essential requirements of organization. We may be sure that, in due course, our adherence to the capitalistic price doctrine will be chosen as a weakness of control to be used as a weapon for the complete destruction of our democracy. Indeed, there is ample evidence that the process has already started. All Communist activity within our country to-day appears to be directed towards diverting the workers from the proper settlement of their claims in the Arbitration Court to the exploitation of the capitalistic price doctrine by going for all they can get. The Govern- inent’s adherence to the capitalistic price doctrine encourages such activity by giving it, from the worker’s point of view, an air of consistency. The workers have logical brains and, if they have come to the conclusion that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, their reasoning is easy to follow. The capitalistic price doctrine is a tool which the Communists will use against us. But it also has another most important and harmful effect in our community. Inflation, like depression, may be described as the very spawn of the capitalistic price doctrine. Compelled to accept the price levels of other countries, whether we liked them or not, we were led into one of the greatest depressions of all time in 1930. Pot ten years, all our efforts to rise out of it were subject to the difficulties, the circumstances, the struggles and the designs of every other country. For a comparatively short time during World War II., we completely abandoned the capitalistic price doctrine. Our industry expanded, our production increased, we won the war, and the people prepared to enjoy the fruits of peace, but during the last few years we reverted to the capitalistic price doctrine, and were forthwith compelled to accept price levels imposed on us by other countries. That is the prime cause of the inflation which now afflicts us, imposing as it does hardships on the wage-earners, their wives and families. It is responsible also for the bitterness that has been engendered in the hearts of the thrifty, and for the grief and sense of frustration experienced by reputable people who, having saved all their lives in order to enjoy economic security, now find themselves cheated of half their savings in a matter of months. Those who put their savings into insurance have been disillusioned, and those honorable members opposite who suggest that people should contribute 3s. 6d. a week until they are 65 years of age in order to be entitled to a pension will have a hard job to convince the public of the soundness of the proposal.
We note from the Speech of the GovernorGeneral that the Government has prepared a variety of anti-inflationary measures to be applied like poultices to the inflationary eruptions when they appear. When the full effect of those measures is felt the sufferings of the community will be as great as those caused by the hottest poultice on the biggest blister ever known. The root cause of the disease of inflation is the capitalistic price doctrine under which price fluctuations are endemic. The framers of the Constitution thought deeply on the development of the country when they were drawing up that document. The economic system which they supported was suitable for a country with an unbalanced economy in which primary production was so over-emphasized that the community was dependent upon other countries for practically all secondary products. However, by the direction of Providence I believe, the framers of the Constitution planted in it the seed of a new price doctrine more suitable to the needs of an established nation. I hope it may be said in years to come that in this the Jubilee year of our nationhood, the seed then sown had developed into a strongly growing plant for all to see. Surely our most important work is to clear away the undergrowth so that the plant may become a tree that will shelter the whole nation.
.- I shall not attempt to follow the arguments of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), who has just sat down. He covered a very wide range of subjects, and I am not at all clear where I should find myself if I were to follow his lead. We have before us a Speech by the GovernorGeneral which itself covers a wide range, and if we are to keep within the allotted time we must be content to stick to matters of paramount importance.
We are a very fortunate people. It is well to start on this optimistic note because there are people - and the honorable member for Ballarat appears to be one of them - who speak as though we were outside the munificent state of affairs in which we live. Australia has been settled by Britain for 170 years, and never for one day during the whole of that time have we been able to defend the country. That in itself is a significant comment to make in a world which has been stricken with disasters of various kinds, including wars. Let us ask ourselves how this has comeabout. For 150 years, more or less, we sheltered snugly under the wing of Great Britain.
Some people have a good deal to say about peace and its manifold blessings, although their own example makes us doubt whether peace is as much desired or as widely distributed as we might wish. As I have said, the people of Australia have been here for 170 years, during all of which time no enemy has ever set foot on these shores. We have spoken bravely. The whole world has heard us. At times we have, as the children would say, put on an act that would suggest that we are one of the great powers of the world. 1 remind honorable members that this country is quite unable to defend itself against a major enemy. Never for a day has it been in a position to do so. All that we possess to-day in the way of liberty and security we owe to the fact that we are an integral part of what used to be called the British Empire, and ls now known as the British Commonwealth of Nations, bound together by no pact or treaty, yet so firmly united that neither the shocks of war nor the disintegrating strains of peace have weakened its unity. We are, as I have said, a fortunate people. We have taken part in every one of Great Britain’s wars during the last 50 years. We have demeaned ourselves not unworthily. Our soldiers wrote the name of Anzac in letters of fire across the skies. They won for themselves the respect and admiration of the world, and for Australia a place in the family of nations. Spokesmen for Australia do not hesitate to tell the world all about it, although many of them, as I say, preach the blessings of peace while being themselves the apostles of unrest. At the present moment, when Australians like the people of the other nations of the world are taking their lives in their hands, some of our spokesmen still talk about peace, and the blessings that come to those who profess peace, although they do not practise peace.
What is the position of this country? It is evident that it has everything to gain by peace and nothing to gain by war. Yet it has never been so inadequately defended as it is to-day. I have been a member of the Commonwealth Parliament since its inception. I was in office during the first world war. In these days, we hear a great deal about lino. the United Nations Organization and about pacts and treaties to preserve peace and ensure our security. There is no pact or treaty binding us to Britain,, yet whenever we needed help it has rushed to our side. When, in turn, Britain has needed our help we have ranged ourselves at its side without a day’s delay. In 1914, Great Britain went to war over what the German leaders a generation before had called “ a scrap of paper “ or a treaty made for the defence of Belgium. We went to Great Britain’s side without inquiring into the merits of its cause. It was enough that Britain had called, and we arraigned ourselves at its side.
We now stand in a very different position. Sea power is no longer the dominant factor in war. We live in a different world. Air power and the United Nations organisation have changed everything. It is “well to remind ourselves that we are now in Korea, and have been there for some time, only because we were directed to go there by the United Nations. That is what it amounts to. The United Nations is a body clothed with authority, and when it calls upon a member nation it expects obedience. We ranged ourselves on the side of the United Nations, perhaps rather tardily and rather scantily. We have been in Korea for some time, and we are there now. I say with some hesitation that we are there now, because the war in Korea, even, though it be serious, actually and potentially is somewhat reminiscent of a comic opera. If honorable members cast their minds back to the reports of the Korean war that have been published in the press, they will remember reading one day that the “ reds “ were rushing victoriously and that the allies were in danger of defeat, and the next day or the day after that the allies were on the point of sweeping the “ reds “ into the sea. On Monday, the “ reds “ sweep along victoriously, and all is over bar the shouting; on Tuesday, there is a lull; and on Wednesday, we find the “ reds “, who were carrying all before them, are themselves flying for their lives. So it goes on. I have no doubt that eventually the rule of law will prevail, not only in Korea but also throughout the world, and that we shall be together like children, playing ring-a-roses, and shouting loud hosannahs. But at the present time there is no sign of that happening.
It is often said, with justice, that war is not inevitable. It is not. Nothing is inevitable but death. Strikes are not inevitable, but has there been a day during the last few years when a strike, either actual or potential, has not taken the front of the stage? If we cannot obtain industrial peace, how are we to achieve international peace? In this country, we all speak the same language, although not so well as we should do. We have common traditions, of which we are very proud. We have inherited from our forefathers a system of government that challenges comparison with any that has ever existed. It is as near democracy as it is possible to get. In this country where the law is made by all and nothing is done that Parliament has not sane tioned, we can fairly claim to have established a democracy. The philosophers used to tell us that democracy is the leasstable of all forms of government, but I think that I am living proof of the falsity of that doctrine. In war and in peace I have survived, perhaps having lost a few tail feathers, but still able to toddle.
The position in which we find ourselves to-day is one that should cause us great concern. All the world fears war, and all turn their eyes in one direction. There is no danger of war to the world except from Russia. There is no enemy that confronts us and other nations except communism. It is here in our midst. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has told us that communism is not an issue in this country. I do not know what the honorable gentleman calls an issue, but communism is certainly something that has caused much concern to both sides of this House. There is not a trade union in this country that is not. menaced by communism, or a Labour league which Communists have not infiltrated. Communism is the common enemy of democracy and of civilization, which rest on the rule of law. In its turn, the rule of law depends upon the force at the disposal of those who believe in the settlement of disputes by tribunals that are sanctioned by the Government. That is the outward and visible sign of civilized control - the settlement of disputes by appeal to legal tribunals, We are asked now to put our house in order. It sadly needs putting in order. I remind honorable members that this country has fought in two world wars and is now fighting in what may well prove to be the beginning of the third world war.
There is war in Korea. What is it all about? The North Koreans having attacked the South Koreans, the United Nations invited the member nations of its organization to send armed forces to Korea. Some nations sent troops, and some did not. The United States of America sent by far the largest contingent. It was an army. After months of more or less strenuous effort, we managed to send a battalion, which was composed very largely of Australian troops who were then serving in Japan. They have been fighting, and fighting well. Australians always fight well. They fought well on
Gallipoli; they fought gloriously in France, Flanders and Palestine; and we are here to-day because they fought and because they won. All the nations in the world to-day are where they are as the result either of victories won or of defeats suffered. The United Kingdom itself is where it is because Marlborough won the battle of Blenheim. If he had lost that battle we should not be here, nor would Britain be where’ it is. Sorely tried as are the people of Britain to-day, they are still holding their proud place among the nations of the world. The price of liberty is not only eternal vigilance ; the full price is vigilance, plus the readiness to fight. That means that we must raise and maintain adequate land, sea and air forces, effectively -armed, trained and disciplined to defend our liberties and our country.
A fact that never ceases to appeal to me is that we have held this country, which has a rapidly increasing population, for 170 years and no enemy has ever set foot on these shores. I have often said before, and I repeat now, that there never has been a day when we could repulse a firstclass power - and we cannot do it now. Let me remind the House that in 1904 I had the honour of placing on the Labour party’s platform compulsory military training for home defence. Because the Deakin Government was kept in office by Labour, compulsory military training became the law of the land. “When war broke out in 1914 and our population was less than 5,000,000, we had 89,000 trained men in the Citizen Military Forces. To-day, when our population is more than S,250,000, we have only 19,000 trained men. I repeat that we have only 19,000 trained soldiers to-day, although we had 89,000 in 1914. Our motto is “ Advance Australia “. That sounds well, and when we see those two words blazoned across the skies we think, “ “ These are the Anzacs ; these are the men who, in the darkest hour, never lost courage, never faltered, but went on and, in the end, helped to win the war and make Australia a nation “. But where do we .stand to-day? I believe that the price of liberty is not only eternal vigilance but also readiness to fight for . the country to which we owe our liberty. “We are here to-day by the grace of God and the valour, endurance and deathless spirit of the men who fought for us. They fought in two world wars. They may be called upon within a few years, or a few months, to fight again. The position in Persia is inflammatory and may burst into flames at any moment. At the back of all this we see Russia. “What is the cause of the industrial unrest in our .midst ? It is Russia - communism. Communism is Russia; Russia is communism. Let me remind honorable members that there are men amongst us who are working tirelessly for Russia and for communism. I had the honour of leading the Sydney wharf-labourers for twenty years. I established the “Waterside Workers Federation. Who is at the head of that body to-day? Mr. Healy - Mr. James Healy. God forbid that I should not give him all the titles to which he is justly entitled ! But what is that federation now ? There was a somewhat stormy procession of members of that organization through the streets of Sydney only recently, and I spoke to. one of those who took part in it. Some of the members of that organization have not forgotten that I was with them for twenty years. I said to this man, “ Why did you go out, Bill? “ He said, “If we had not gone we would have been marked men “. In other words, they were regimented by the Communists. The Communist has the industrial unions in his tentacles and is ceaselessly promoting strikes and dislocating industry. I do not say for a moment that the Sydney waterside workers are Communists. In fact, the opposite is the case. But they are regimented by the Communists. The union moves at the word of command. We may be called upon to fight. If we are, against what power shall we fight ? It may be Russia, it may be Japan. If you say to me, “ Which will you have for a foe?” I shall reply as the good Christian martyr did when he was asked by the pagan executioner, “ Will you be boiled or fried ? “, because that is what it amounts to. [Extension of time granted.] We have come far and done much. We have the right to be proud of our record. We came to this country 170 years ago when it was a camping ground of one. of the most primitive races in the world, and we have made of it a lovely and fruitful garden. We have been able to do that only because we have been a part of what used to be called the British Empire. I have always believed in compulsory military training for home defence. I hold myself very strongly to the opinion that it is the duty of men to defend the country to which they owe their livelihood. I am amazed that any one should oppose that idea. I am not speaking of sending men overseas. In 1914, 89,000 men had been trained as members of the Citizen Military Forces. but Australia sent 360,000 overseas, every one of whom was a volunteer. If they had not gone overseas and we had made a craven peace, such as some honorable gentlemen who were then on the opposite side of the House would have had, we should not be sitting here as free men tonight. The price of liberty is eternal readiness to fight - not merely the will to fight, but readiness to fight and that requires discipline and training. So I am in favour of compulsory military training for home defence. I have always ranged myself with those people who believe that the question of whether there should be overseas service should be left either to the people at large to decide as they think fit or to the individual. In 1914 Australia had fewer than 5,000,000 people, but sent 360,000 overseas. Those men fought so gloriously that Australia became a nation which was accepted among the family of nations. If we are to retain that position and hold our own we must be prepared to fight. At the present time we are not prepared to fight.
.- The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) stated to-day that he was wondering when the new members on this side of the House would speak. He suggested that we were probably not anxious to do so because we should be told what to say and what not to say. Nobody has suggested to me what I am about to say. I am free to express any opinion I hold. I have not been anxious to speak in this chamber until to-night because I am conscious that, being a member of this House, I have some responsibilities. I think it would be foolish for any new member to push himself forward until he realized what- procedure must be observed in this chamber. I express my thanks to honorable members on both sides of the chamber and to the officers of this House who have welcomed me to this Parliament and made me feel at home since I came here.
The Governor-General’s Speech was somewhat of a disappointment to me. The electors in the division which I represent have been very much concerned about the menace of inflation. If they had not been I should not be in this chamber now. If something is not done quickly to stall and ultimately to break this menace the economy of the country will be ruined. It will then be too late to talk about communism because when the economy of this country collapses there will be a fertile breeding ground for some party such as the Communist party.
I am pleased that the Government intends to give some consideration to pensioners. I hope that it will give a lot of consideration to them and increase their pensions very greatly. The time has arrived when those people who have to depend on pensions, whether war, age or invalid, should receive at least 50 per cent, of the basic wage, and be in a position to provide the necessaries of life for themselves and to live under the same conditions as other people enjoy. The pensioner is feeling the pinch more than any other person in the community. During my election campaign I met an old-age pensioner, who informed me that her position had deteriorated to such an extent that she no longer could afford to purchase her daily newspaper. The Government should strain every effort to give to these people a pension adequate to meet their needs.
House-building is causing great concern to the people of Australia. I am pleased that the Government intends to review the war service homes scheme. A much larger amount of money must be made available to those people who desire to build homes for their families. In my electorate a number of people are housed in emergency homes. In November of last year many of them had made application to .purchase Housing Trust homes in South Australia. The price of those homes then ranged from £1,960 to £2,050. A deposit of about £300 was required at that time.
Most of these’ people optimistically believed, that in about twelve months a home would be made available to them and they were looking forward to establishing themselves and being in a position to have families and thus provide the best immigrants that this country could have. Prices have risen steadily and I understand that houses of the type sold in November last for £1,960 will, within the next month, be sold for approximately £2,500. Prospective purchasers are in this position: If they are eligible for assistance under the War Service Homes Act, the maximum advance that they will be able to obtain is £2,000. That means that they will have to find a deposit of £500 in addition to financing the purchase of furniture for their homes. Persons not eligible for assistance under the War Service Homes Act may apply to the Commonwealth Bank. They will find that the maximum advance available to them from that institution is £1,750, which will leave £800 to be provided by them, in addition, of course, to what they will require to purchase furniture. No worker in this country to-day is able to save that amount of money out of his wages. People who wish to buy their own homes have, been hit very hard indeed by the inflation which is crippling this country to-day. The problem cannot be solved merely by increasing the advances. It will be necessary also to reduce drastically the interest rates on housing loans. I understand that officials of the Commonwealth Bank who wish to build homes can obtain loans for that purpose at an interest rate of 2J per cent. I see no reason why loans should not be available to all members of the community at that figure. As I have shown, many people who were in a position to purchase homes in November last are now finding the task almost impossible. That is not their fault and I hope that the Government will do everything possible to improve the situation, particularly in the manner that I have indicated.
Assistance could be given also to those energetic young people who, being unable to pay a building contractor, are courageously attempting to build their own homes in their spare time. What I have in mind is a review of the sales tax. At present, if a person who is building his own home wishes’ to- buy a small concretemixer to make .bricks or to lay foundations, he has to pay sales tax on that machine. A building contractor however can. purchase the same article free of sales tax. Surely people who are courageous enough to tackle the job of building their . own homes could be given this small measure of assistance. I hope that the Government will give earnest consideration to this matter.
In my electorate there are two community hospitals which have been estatelished by the people of the districts that they serve. Realizing the need for hospital accommodation and apparently despairing of having hospitals built by the State authorities, the people took the matter into their own hands. Unfortunately both of those hospitals are finding it increasingly difficult to carry on. Because of their sales tax and income tax commitments they may be compelled to close their doors. I understand that the hospitals were built almost at the wish of the Minister for Health^. I suggest therefore, that relief be given to them by exempting them from sales tax and income tax so that they may continue to serve the community. Any small profit that they may make is urgently required to enlarge their premises and to purchase more up-to-date equipment.
Inflation seems to me to be the greatest economic evil in this country to-day, and I fear that it may lead to the destruction of our system of conciliation and arbitration. Workers come to me as an official of a union and urge that efforts be made to increase wages to keep pace with increasing prices. Try as I may, I am unable to convince them that the basic wage is supposed to be sufficient to meet the increasing costs of living. They cannot understand that if a trade union advocate went to an arbitration authority to seek an increased wage for members of his union, he would very soon be told that he would have to base such a claim on more than just the increasing cost of living. It is difficult to explain these things to the worker because all that he wants is more money in his pay envelope to enable him to purchase the necessaries of life, but when he realizes that the arbitration authorities are bound by principles and procedure he begins to doubt whether there is any justice in our arbitration system. That may lead to the destruction of that system. In the absence of Commonwealth control of prices, the basic wage has risen steadily, and will continue to rise at even greater speed. The basic wage, as everybody knows, always follows prices. It will never rise unless prices rise first, and I suggest that if we could control prices effectively we would immediately stabilize wages and once again get back on the way to a stable economy in this country.
I turn now to the vexed subject of the turn-round of shipping, which is causing great concern. I do not know what the position in that regard is outside South Australia, but I do know that in that State there are no Communists with any influence on the waterfront. I think that people are getting into the habit of always blaming somebody else instead of taking a share of the responsibility themselves. There are now fewer berths available at Port Adelaide than there were before the war. There are eighteen berths there now. Two of them are without the sheds necessary for the storage of certain goods and another is suitable only for small craft. There are five berths on the Birkenhead side of the port which are in such a state of disrepair that at times it is dangerous for ships to berth at them. There are also about six berths which have been demolished or have been in the throes of reconstruction: since before the war. So the position in Port Adelaide is that there are not sufficient berthing facilities to deal with the cargo which is arriving at the port. There are three controlling committees on the Port Adelaide waterfront - the allocation committee, composed of representatives of the employers, the “Waterside “Workers Federation and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board; the Harbours Board, which controls the wharfs; and the Priority Committee, representing the ship-owners, which determines the order in which labour is made available for the loading and unloading of ships. Many watersiders claim that ships with cargoes of timber which is urgently needed in this country are left lying at anchorage for days while coastal vessels, the loading and unloading of which is not urgently necessary, are brought into the berths to be worked. However the waterside workers have no representation on the Priority Committee. One berth at Port Adelaide is kept exclusively for the use of Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, and for two days in every week it is not used. It is not the fault of the “Waterside Workers Federation that that berth lies idle for that time.
I am pleased that the Government intends to establish a committee to deal with this important matter of the turnround of ships, and I suggest that the trade union representative who is elected or selected to be a member of the committee be a member of the Waterside Workers Federation who is familiar with the problems associated with the handling of shipping. The time has come when, instead of blaming the other fellow, we all should take our share of responsibility in getting back to a stable economy. Let us all show more tolerance for the cither fellow’s point of view. That goes for honorable members on both sides of the House. I am certain that the people are to-day awaiting good strong leadership, even if that leadership makes mistakes, but they will not tolerate the Government or any other authority shirking its responsibility and seeking to establish an alibi by always blaming somebody else.
.- I wish first to congratulate the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) on his maiden speech. I was greatly interested in all that he had to say, and I was particularly interested when he made that very revealing confession that it was the fear of inflation that had caused him to be elected to represent the Division of Kingston. If that be true, and who am I to doubt it, then I suggest to the honorable member that he is sitting on the wrong side of the House. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to recall that the policy that the Labour party announced during the recent general election campaign was that of taking immediate steps to inject no Jess a sum than £200,000,000 into the national economy and so aggravate inflation. Therefore, if the people of the Division of Kingston are fearful of inflation, and if they sent the honorable member for Kingston here to defend them against its effects, then he should reconsider his position, because as a member of the Labour party he is holding the seat of Kingston, to that degree, under false pretences.
I offer my sincere congratulations to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) who moved and seconded the motion for the adoption for the Address-in-Reply. As one who suffered the anguish of having to second a similar motion during the Nineteenth Parliament, all my sympathies went out to the honorable member for Maranoa, but he discharged his duties with credit to himself and the Australian Country party. I wish particularly to congratulate the honorable member for Warringah because what he had to say excited my admiration in a way that is extremely rare in this place. When he said that there was obviously an urgent need for some sort of convention to overhaul the Constitution, which is now 50 years old, I was with him all the way. It is becoming increasingly obvious that, no matter how excellent our Constitution may have been 50 years ago, and how splendidly it has served the people of Australia for that period, we have now reached a stage when some revision is necessary. I was pleased that the honorable member gave that matter the proper emphasis in the course of his speech. I was also pleased when he expressed what I may be permitted to describe as his fear at the ever-increasing number of Ministers of the Crown. That is a matter that had exercised my mind even before I entered the Parliament. There is a danger of establishing an exclusively ministerial party and of letting bureaucracy run riot, and I was pleased that so learned and distinguished a man as the honorable member took that view.
Referring specifically to His Excellency’s Speech, I should like to express not only my personal satisfaction but also the very great satisfaction of the constituents of Riverina of His Excellency’s remarks, made for the second time, about the intention of His Majesty the King and his Scottish wife to visit Australia next year. I know of no other person who has excited the admiration of the ordinary people to the same degree and to the same depth as have Their Most Gracious Majesties. Throughout their reign and, indeed, before, they have played the game of life according to the rules that have been laid down by ordinary men and women. Their visit will do a great deal to strengthen the ties that bind us to the Mother Country. It is most unfortunate that royal visits to Australia are not more frequent. In addition to bringing the people of this country closer to the Throne, they bring royalty into closer touch with us. I know that a very warm welcome’ will be extended to Their Majesties. God grant that they will have good health in order that they may enjoy their visit and will return home safely.
I consider the following to be the most important part of His Excellency’s Speech : -
This is the jubilee year of the Commonwealth et Australia, and we are, all over Australia, celebrating it in a variety of ways. We do so with thankfulness in our hearts for the achievements of great leaders and a great people in the past, and a clear determination that our next 50 years will be marked by growing strength an increased capacity for sustaining our historic responsibilities, the development of security not only for ourselves but for the other countries of the world; and an ever widening and deepening civilization.
In my opinion this epitomizes all the political intentions of the Government parties. It re-affirms in no uncertain manner the faith of this Government in our past, our present, and our future, so long as we continue to hold fast to our democratic systems and institutions. I believe that those sentiments are shared by many of our people, although doubtless many of them see in our past cause for reproach, whining and recrimination. However, I am convinced that, despite the faults of the past, more has been accomplished in a. shorter time in this country than in any other country since the dawn of human history. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) stated that this country is about 170 years old. There is not much wrong with a democratic system that, despite its faults, has brought us thus far in that relatively short period. I attach the utmost significance to the words “ and a clear determination that our next 50 years will be marked by growing strength “. I trust that that clear determination will be stared by every section of the community rather than by only a majority of the community. lt is our most urgent need. It may well be the .solution of all our difficulties and the end of all our fears. If we should fail, the fault will lie with us, with the Parliament, and with this age and generation. All that we need is a clear determination to discharge our responsibilities now and during the next 50 years with the same degree of application and faithfulness as has been exhibited during the last 50 years. His Excellency also said -
My advisers continue to be deeply concerned at the activities of subversive agents in Australia, and in particular at the destructive work of the Australian Communist party, its associates and adherents.
I believe that that is .true in fact. This observation should be considered in conjunction with the previous portion of His Excellency’s Speech to which I have referred. I have never been a pessimist. If I have a fault, and my colleagues tell me that I have many, it is that I am invariably an optimist, but I endeavour to apply myself to all problems with a degree of realism. The task of dealing with subversive elements in our midst is our most pressing problem. As honorable members are aware, in its attempt to deal with this problem the previous government underwent considerable travail.
During this debate references have been made repeatedly to the possibility of another world war. However, I am convinced that honorable members are divided in their views about the nearness, the inevitability, the imminence of war. Doubtless some believe that the possibility of war is remote. I consider that this country has been at war with its enemies for a considerable period of time and that, prior to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill being passed by the Nineteenth Parliament, we had lost every battle. I shall take this opportunity to refer to the battles that I consider have been lost in recent times, for which all members of this House must accept a share of responsibility. A part of the Communist Party Dissolution Act was declared invalid by the High Court of Australia, which considered that the Commonwealth had wrongly invoked its defence powers. There might have been a way out of that impasse through n simple declaration of war. It would hi difficult, because of our present poor state of defence preparedness, to find an enemy upon whom we could declare war with some prospect of victory. However, I facetiously suggest that if we had declared war on Tasmania or Lord Howe Island the legal difficulties inherent in the Communist Party Dissolution Act would have been circumvented. The act would then have been completely valid, and a great deal of the trouble that has occurred since the High Court’s judgment was delivered would have been avoided.
As a layman who knows nothing about the law, I was astonished to discover that after a formal declaration of war the Australian Government has constitutional powers to defend the country against its enemies, but has no power to defend the country against the subversive elements which are at present virtually making war on the country and are gradually bringing about its destruction. Therefore, I believe that active measures should be taken against the Communist party. I have no wish to dissolve that party fothe sake of mere dissolution, but I have a great desire to defend the faith and the people of Australia. If the dissolution or the Communist party will be an act of defence of the faith and the people of this country, then I have no hesitation in supporting such an action. We must defend the faith, the people and the country against our enemies. In order to do that we have organized defence forces and we have certain defence powers. We have a navy to defend our shores, when we can get men to man the ships, although at present we still have a navy by the grace of God and British recruits. We have an army to defend our land and an air force to defend our skies. But of what use are those forces if the enemy attacks us, not with -physical force, but with the force of corruption ? Attack by corruption has been going on year after year ever since certain credulous and uninformed people in the country were deluded into adopting the ideas of that poor old German Jew, Karl Marx. We have been under attack for some time by a most sinister and powerful enemy who uses the single overwhelming weapon of corruption. Op -to the present we have had no counter weapon.
I believe that we are now in a state of war. Let me refer to the battles of that war that have been lost during the years since our enemy became active and since, through the surrender of our -democratic ideals, we have become weak. Consider the battle for coal which has been often mentioned in this debate. We have already lost that battle. In Australia, particularly in the eastern States, there are rich deposits of coal. For many years those engaged in the coal-minim’ industry supplied coal in excess of tha needs of our country. That enabled us to build up a most valuable export trade in coal. To-day we have lost the battle for coal and we cannot provide for even the basic needs of our own people. If that is not a defeat, the word has no meaning. The coal is ready at hand, but because we have no clear determination on our industrial responsibilities we have lost the. battle for coal. What applies to coal applies also to other commodities. It used to be a comparatively simple thing for a democracy with any degree of selfrespect so to arrange its affairs that it could provide itself with all the power necessary for its needs. For many years Australia did that, but it does it no longer. In this age and generation our people, after having enjoyed the use of gas and electricity for many years, are now creeping about our cities and industrial areas with candles and hurricane lamps and such substitutes for electric light. We have lost the battle for power. Only a few years ago we prided ourselves on the quality and quantity of the steel we produced. We had even built up a most profitable export trade in steel. To-day it is utterly impossible for the steel industry to meet the needs of our own people. We have to. crawl all over the face of the earth begging like mendicants for steel wherever we find it. We are buying steel even from our recent enemies.
At one time we were able to secure all the machinery and equipment necessary f or the day-to-day needs of our industries. At present a condition of chronicscarcity of machinery and equipment has been deliberately created by our enemies. That is another ignominious and shameful defeat. Australia is an island continent and it should be a maritime nation. Those of us who are old enough can remember the enormous shipping activities that were carried on in this country 30 years ago. At present we are losing our ships much more rapidly than we can replace them. All the services connected with shipping have fallen into a state of obsolescence. We have lost the battle for shipping, because if the present state of our shipping industry does not signify defeat the word has no meaning.
My attention has been drawn to the fact that my time is almost exhausted, but I wish to refer to many other matters. I again draw the attention of the House to the paragraph from the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral that I previously quoted.
– Order ! Che honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to identify myself with the expressions of loyalty to the Crown that have been made by other honorable members. The peoples of the British Empire have : been fortunate in being able to maintain a limited monarchy system while many of the great nations of the world have failed to do so and have become subject to dictatorship. We were especially fortunate in two of our greatest monarchs, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. The fact that in the course of time our next ruler will be another Queen Elizabeth is a happy augury for the future of our system of government.
All honorable members have recently taken part in an election campaign during which many of them became heated in their endeavours to explain where they stood. However, the shouting and the tumult have now died and we are able to discuss dispassionately in this House those matters that were canvassed during that campaign. I should imagine, from my experience of Canberra, that everybody would remain cool, calm and collected while discussing questions in this Parliament. The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), in his early days, used to say, “ All you want is a slogan. Get a good slogan and nothing else matters. That is the way to win an election.” I suspect that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the occasion of the last general election campaign stole the thunder of the right honorable member for Bradfield. The slogan that the Prime Minister adopted was, “ The Australian Labour party is allied with the Communists. If you support us in the election we will deal with the Communists “. With the flow of eloquence for which he is noted, the right honorable gentleman spoke throughout Australia and that slogan was implied in all his speeches. I wish to impress on honorable members that the Prime Minister’s promise was to the effect that if returned to office the Government parties would deal with the Communists. After the election, the right honorable gentleman was reported in the newspapers, which I know are not always accurate, as saying that his Government had been given a mandate to deal with Communists in the trade unions, which was a distinct qualification of his statement that ho would deal with the Communist party.
I am definitely opposed to communism and I fully realize its danger to Australia. However, the Communists in trade unions would be merely the working bullocks for the Communist doctors, lawyers, university professors, school teachers and business people in the community. Has there been any suggestion that such people should be dealt with? The Government is to-day dealing with certain persons, and I suggest that action could have been taken without the necessity for the unwarranted raiding of trade union offices. Such action represents an attack not upon Communists but upon unionism as a whole. I suggest that those union offices would not be the repositories of secret papers of the Communist party. Is it not more likely that such documents would be held by Communist lawyers or deposited in bank vaults? I say, therefore, that the Prime Minister is already begging the question in stating that his Government has a mandate, not to deal with the Communists as a whole, but to deal with those in the trade unions.
There are 500 waterside workers at Cairns, which is in my electorate. Of those, probably ten or twelve are Com- munists. The remainder of them are solid, decent citizens of Australia. They are not interested in anything that may have happened in connexion with New Zealand ships but they resent the raiding of trade union offices. They have requested me to protest against those raids, and I am now voicing that protest on their behalf. I, myself, belong to a trade union, the Australian Workers Union, which has 50,000 or 60,000 members in Queensland alone. The authorities responsible for the carrying out of anti-Communist activities may go from one trade union to another and eventually create complete chaos in industry. The supporters of the Government, of course, endeavoured to associate all members of the Australian Labour party with the Communist party. I was a member of the State Parliament of Queensland for 27 years, and with the exception of three occasions, at each general election I had a Communist opponent. With one exception, all of my ‘Communist opponents lost their deposits because of the way in which I dealt with what they stood for. I maintain that if we are to deal effectively with the Communist party we must consider the party as a whole. It is well known that there are school teachers, university professors, business men, lawyers and medical men who are professed and avowed members of that party. If they are allowed to go free while Communists :n trade unions are attacked, the legislation will not be very effective in dealing with the Communist menace.
Referring now to the development of the Commonwealth, I note that a large sum of money has been placed on one side for defence purposes. It is difficult for Australians, who live a quiet and nonaggressive life, to understand how wars arise. The right honorable member for Bradfield has stated that Australia has never been able to defend itself. It is true that we have lived under the protection of Great Britain. However, it is equally true that but for the loss of man-power that we suffered in World War I. our population to-day would be approximately 20,000,000 compared with our actual population of 8,000,000. During that conflict the youth of Australia was decimated. The honorable member took pride in the number of our men who were ready to play their part in that war compared with the number of men of other countries who were similarly prepared. I emphasize that during World War I. Australia contributed on a per capita basis more troops than did any other country; and it again achieved that distinction in World War II. In addition, as honorable members know, Australian troops have always been used as shock troops. In the two world wars this country lost thousands of its young men who, had they survived, would have reared families and helped to make this nation as great as it should be made.
Australians are presented with great opportunities in the development of thi,« continent. In this respect I shall deal principally with the development of northern Queensland, of which I have first-hand knowledge. The sugar industry in that State is one of the best organized industries in not only Australia, but also the world. The first sugar agreement was made between the late Andrew Fisher, a Labour Prime Minister, and the late T. J. Ryan, a Labour Premier of Queensland. Since that time the growers, with the assistance of successive governments, have established a magnificent organization. In the early days of the industry there were associated with it interests which introduced kanakas with the object of obtaining cheap labour. I made the acquaintance of men who were engaged in the black-birding trade at that time and they informed me that kanakas were brought to Queensland under conditions that were worse than those that prevailed in the days when the slave trade was carried on between Africa and the United States of America. Later, not only the Labour party, but also other progressive organizations resolved to get rid of the kanakas, and, fortunately, for Australians to-day, they- succeeded in doing 90. If they had failed, northern Queensland would now be populated mainly by kanakas instead of by the thousands of virile white people who have made their homes in that part of Australia. Further, had the kanakas been allowed to remain in northern Queensland, the Japanese could have virtually walked into this country without opposition during the recent war. That chapter of our history shows how some interests merely in the hope of obtaining cheap labour are prepared to endanger the safety of the nation.
During the last half-century many large and prosperous towns have been established as the result of the development of the sugar industry. Nevertheless, thai industry has not received treatment as favorable as that which has been accorded to many other primary industries. In these circumstances, the Government should give careful consideration to the claim that the sugar industry is now making for an increase of the price of sugar. That request has been placed before the Prime Minister and I trust that he will accede to it. The sugar industry makes available by way of subsidy approximately £200,000 a year to the jam manufacturing industry and at present credits under this heading amount to £1,000,000. The sugar industry now asks that the price of sugar be increased by ltd. per lb. and that payments to the jam manufacturing industry be suspended until that fund is reduced to £500,000. If those requests are granted the industry will be enabled to carry on. I remind honorable members that when we were obliged during World War I. to import sugar we had to pay as much as £80 a ton for it. That fact emphasizes the value of the industry to this nation.
At a conference of scientists that was held recently in Brisbane the view was expressed that Australia was capable of carrying a population of only 20,000,000. I do not know whether that estimate was made on a scientific basis but those who made it displayed a lack of knowledge of the potentialities of this country. In addition to the sugar industry, the tobacco industry has now been successfuly established in Northern Queensland. Legislation passed by the State Government provides for the organization of the latter industry on a co-operative basis and in order to enable it to finance the provision of storage for tobacco leaf, which takes two years to mature, and also grading facilities, the State Government made available by way of loan the sum of £110,000 to the industry. Last year the production of the industry was valued at £500,000 and the growers have already reduced the principal of the.’ loan to. £29,000. Those facts justify the belief that the tobacco industry -will become asfirmly and as economically established as is the sugar industry. It is estimated that within the next ten years it will be able to supply the whole of Australia’s requirements of tobacco leaf. I am now referring to the industry as a whole, including the tobacco-growing areas in other States besides Queensland. Although the soil at Dimbulah and Mareeba is not rich it can be made ideally suitable for tobacco growing by irrigation. The average rainfall in those districts is only 20 inches annually, but in a comparatively dry climate the leaf is protected from diseases such as blue mould and other parasites. If a dam were constructed at the junction of the Walsh and Katherine Rivers, which have a big watershed, thousands of additional acres could be made available for close settlement. That country is lightly timbered and is suitable for tobacco growing. I point out that an area of 4 or 5 acres will yield on the average up to £2,000 worth of tobacco leaf, but the land must, be intensively cultivated. The industry could be extended further south if the project known as the Burdekin Valley scheme were undertaken. However, differences of opinion exist in ministerial quarters regarding the economics of that proposal. I suggest that those who are opposed to it fail to take account of all the relevant factors. Such a scheme would provide, irrigation in pastoral areas and bring to fertility land that is suitable for the growing of citrus fruits and tobacco..
The waters of the Burdekin could be harnessed to provide hydro-electric power. The Mount Isa Company which is the biggest mining company in Queensland, is prepared to expend up to £2,000,000 on the establishment of smelters in that area on a scale that would enable it to complete the processing of copper, zinc and lead ores. For instance, copper could be produced in a form in which it could be drawn into wire or rolled into sheets. The. company is. prepared to expend that amount of money when adequate electric power is made available. In the hinterland of Cooktown there are very rich mineral areas which were partly developed in the early years when Cook- town was served, by. a regular- shipping service. With the decline in the priceof metals development in the area gradually declined with the. result; that to-day Cooktown is almost an isolated village. The rich hinterland contains some magnificent stands of timber and rich agricultural and pastoral land as well as deposits of base metals. In the early days goldwas mined there in the old fashioned manner but the industry declined when the low price of gold rendered the diggings unprofitable. With the existing high price of gold, mining by modern methods could well be recommenced there if adequate outlets to Cooktown were available. As the Minister responsible for main roads in the Queensland Government I was responsible for the commencement of the construction of a road from the area to Cooktown. Unfortunately the demands of the war prevented it from being completed. Despite what has been said by scientists and others who advise the Commonwealth, 5,000,000 persons could be settled in that area alone. I am well aware of the vast potentialities of the other States for closer settlement and development. When people talk of our being able to increase our population to a maximum of only 20,000,000 I do not think they know very much about the subject. The Atherton Tableland is a very rich dairying area. During the war 100,000 soldiers were quartered there. Honorable members who served in the army know the main item of diet of the troops is stew, yet one single farmer on the Atherton Tableland supplied the whole of the carrots required by the troops in that area, the yield of carrots amounted to not less than. 20 tons to the acre. At the end of the war, when the troops left the tableland, the market for his product disappeared and now he supplies only the people of Cairns and other adjacent centres. That illustrates the extraordinary productivity of the area. Hydroelectric power is already being supplied to the area from the Barron Falls and additional hydro-electric power will be provided from the Tully Falls. In the early years: dairy-farmers there milked their cows by hand, and. lived under primitive conditions ; now they have electric milking machines on their farms and electric light in their homes. All governments .should undertake the provision of such facilities. The Queensland Government has undertaken the work in a small way. It should be undertaken on a national basis because it is the responsibility of governments to provide the people with all the facilities that they require.
Ultimately Australia might well become the centre of the British Empire. “With the development of modern weapons, Britain, which formerly stood as the bastion of the Empire against the world, has now become most vulnerable to’ attack by European countries. Here, in the wide open spaces of Australia, we need not fear attack by a hostile power. “With the facilities that we can provide and with the type of men available as the result of the high standard of education enjoyed by Australians generally we might so develop this country as to make it one of the great nations of the world. Irrespective of the political complexion of the government in office we should all strive to enhance the greatness of this country, so that it may quickly achieve its destiny.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– One matter which I believe will meet with the general approbation of members of this Parliament and the Australian people was the reference in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the impending visit of Their .Majesties the King and Queen next year. Every Australian sincerely hopes that His Majesty’s health will permit him to undertake the journey.
May I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, upon your re-election to the office of Speaker of this House. I also extend my congratulations to the Chairman of Committees, the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), upon his re-election to that office. To-night we listened to an historic speech by the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes), who is the only member of this Parliament who sat in the first Commonwealth Parliament. The right honorable gentleman is also the oldest member in this cham ber. As its youngest member, may I .say that it was a privilege to mc to listen to his speech to-night. I join with all Australians in expressing my sorrow at the passing of the former Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Chifley. Although we differed politically. I shall always remember his courtesy to me and I shall ever be grateful for it.
Defence, and particularly the role of the Air Force, will constitute the main theme of this speech. I am one of those who, with some bias perhaps, believes that in the future the Air Force will be the strongest arm of our three services. I do not believe that the Air Force itself will ever win a war in our time, but I believe that it must be a dominant factor in a successful war. In a country like Australia an adequate air force is of paramount importance. “When I consider the practical defence problems that face us I realize that its predominant role in any future war must be obvious to everybody. “We have a small population and a tremendous coastline, and it is obvious that our first line of defence must consist of a mobile force which is capable of concentrating its efforts at any particular spot in the shortest possible time. That is why I believe that the accent must be placed fundamentally on the Air Force. Alexander de Seversky, in an article entitled “Maginot Line thinking”, has suggested that unless we abandon the view that what was good defence policy in the last’ war will be good enough in a future war, if there is one, we are failing in out duty to protect our country. I entirely agree with those sentiments. I consider that his thesis, to the effect that the idea of having bases in Europe is fundamentally unsound, is correct, as he states it. I refer now to the world plane. We cannot possibly hope, as a unified force of the United Nations, to maintain thos? bases in the event of an onslaught. We must conceded at this time that our ground forces are certainly inferior to those which might be opposed to them. The implication is that, in the event of an attack from Soviet Russia, we must lose those bases for operations by the Air Force. That matter should not be overlooked.
We are apt to be a little old-fashioned, and to think of the strategic picture of the world in terms of defence along the lines of Mercator’s Projection, which gives a false view of the real position. If we centralize our map in the Behring Sea, we get an entirely different perspective of the actual picture as between two possible or potential opposing nations or forces. Therefore, I agree thoroughly with the contention that it is within the countries of certain members of the United Nations, particularly in America and in Canada, that we should establish the bases from which air forces may operate. We are tending to become so old-fashioned in our views, up to a point, in thinking that we can defend the Rhine frontier. T have already referred to the superiority of the ground forces of a potential enemy.
Having made those general observations, I point out that unless we, as a nation, strengthen our Air Force we shall fail in our obligation to defend this country. It seems to me to be a simple proposition that if an enemy once lands in this country, the war so far as we are concerned will be completely lost. That consideration should be the fundamental basis of our thinking. Therefore, our only course is to develop strength to enable us to stop an offensive movement outside our own country. As I see the position, the only two ways in which that may be done is by means of the Air Force and the Navy. I have no doubt that many people will disagree with me, probably with great reason, when I say that I believe that the Navy is a very restricted arm of the three services, and is lessening in importance and in actual effectiveness in war. It was demonstrated in the latter part of the last war, and it has again been demonstrated in the actions in Korean waters, that even if the days« of the Navy are not necessarily . numbered, its role is most decidedly restricted. We need no further illustration of that point than the sinking of Prince of Wales and Repulse by Japanese aircraft off Malaya in World War II. to convince us that the day of the battle-wagon has gone to a large degree. The true function of the Navy in future will be as an escor1; group, and possibly as a protective force with aircraft carriers. The first line of defence for this country must be the Air Force.
I make these comments’ in an endeavour to bring about a greater awareness of the need for us to concentrate on strengthening our Air Force to a greater degree than we are doing at present. We cannot fight wars, if we must fight them, with obsolete aircraft. An examination of our Air Force from the standpoint of strength and numbers reveals, that it has been allowed to deteriorate in the post-war years. When I make that statement, I do not refer to any particular government, although I believe that a particular government has a great responsibility for that position. Our jet fighter force is almost nonexistent. That is a fact. The other aircraft that we have are largely out of date. When we speak of jet aircraft, we should remember the experience in Korea where the Thunder-jet, which is supposedly the best machine that the United States of America can produce, has been outclassed in terms of speed by Russian aircraft such as the M.I.G. and the L.A. The Soviet has developed those machines with the aid of German scientists, who are among the foremost in the world in the production of jet aircraft. Great Britain’s Sapphire Meteor, which has been removed from the secret list, can climb to an altitude of 40,000 feet in three minutes. The jet aircraft that we have in Australia are really outdated. I am not saying that the Government is unaware of that position, because it has taken quite substantial steps to correct that obsolescence in our Air Force. The most noticeable step is represented in the Canberra bomber, which is, without question, the most outstanding medium bomber in the world to-day. It is even being produced in the United States of America, and I understand that it will be manufactured in Australia. But I should like to see greater, concentration upon the newer type of jet fighter, and I believe that that matter is actually in hand. Greater importance should also be placed upon the four-engined bomber for our Air Force, because it is capable of carrying the war farthest from our front door. That comes ‘back to the proposition that, once the enemy lands here, the war so far as we are concerned is lost.
Those people who say that the war in Korea has proved that the Air
Force is not so effective as it was earlier thought to be should examine their claim a little more closely. The fundamentals of the striking power of an air force include, first, a tactical force, and, secondly, a strategic force. But only the tactical force is operating in Korea. There is no strategic force. Perhaps I should explain that the function of the strategic force is to reduce the capacity of the enemy to produce and to take offensive action against the opposition. That method of attack has not been carried out in Korea. One realizes the implications of the operations of a. strategic air force if it were used in that conflict. Manchuria and China would have to be bombed. I am not advocating that action. We realize the kind of position that such operations would produce. But I point out to those people who say that the Air Force has not yet completely proved itself that the strategic air force, which is the second arm of an air offensive, is not being employed in that conflict.
I refer now to more precise matters affecting the Air Force. I believe very sincerely that exchanges of personnel between the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Air Force ought to be extended considerably. The present system is conducted on far too restricted a scale. I firmly hold the view, with which many other honorable members will agree, that the United Kingdom leads the world clearly in several fields of aviation. This is notably so, of course, in relation to the fundamental activity of producing improved jet engines. An extremely important subsidiary aspect of aviation in which the United Kingdom is supreme is that of radar. Radar is a small word, but it covers an enormous field and the leadership of the United Kingdom in the development of new types of such equipment is unchallenged. Therefore, Australia ought to engage in a very comprehensive scheme for the exchange of Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Air Force personnel so that our experts may be brought fully up to date with the advances that are being made in Great Britain. I reduce the issue now to a smaller scale and say also that we should engage in the system of exchange of Air Training Corps cadets that at present operates between the United Kingdom and the United States of America and Canada. Our young cadets are the men of the future in the service, and they should be able to take advantage of the great opportunities that are now made available to their contemporaries in Great Britain, the United States and Canada. Another important consideration which arises from this subject relates to our national service training scheme. In Australia we have the Air Training Corps, the Army cadets, and a very restricted sort of training group for the Navy. The national training scheme of the United Kingdom includes what is called a combined cadet force. Under that system, all youths between the ages of fourteen years and eighteen years enter the combined cadet force and this obviates the unfortunate results that arise from the jealousies and different traditional practices of schools and other institutions where bands of such young men are formed. All members of the combined force are trained within the organization for two years. At the end of that period they may select the service that they wish to enter. That system has great merit and could well be adopted in association with our new national service training scheme.
The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) expressed his pleasure ar the reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to the Government’s intention to enact legislation for the protection of official secrets. I echo his approval, because we have become aware recently of numerous instances in other nations of the disclosure of highly vital secrets. The Government’s proposed action is extremely important and long overdue. I commend it upon its decision.
I address myself now to matters of lesser degree than those which I have already discussed but which nevertheless are of importance to those whom they affect. The first of these relates to war service homes. I have always contended that interest rates on advances for war service homes should be reduced and that the permissible amount of advances should be increased. I sincerely believe that we ought to take a bold step to remedy the situation instead of continuing, as it were, to make and mend from year to year. The Government should increase the permissible amount of advances for war service homes from £2,000 to £3,000 and, at the same time, should, reduce the interest charge from 3’f per cent, to 2 per cent. Another matter which calls for attention affects, the man who, four or five years ago, paid a deposit for the construction of a war service home, but who has not been able to have it built and now is faced with the necessity for providing a far larger deposit. This problem should be handled realistically. The amount of deposit required should be reduced. I know of numbers of men who have had to pay out sums of £300 and £400. In fact, I know of one instance in which the deposit required was £900. The nien who build houses under the war service homes scheme do so usually because they are in fairly restricted financial circumstances. Therefore, I consider that they deserve sympathetic consideration and I submit my suggestions in the belief that the Government ought to enunciate a bold policy on the issue.
I have already directed the attention of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) to the unfortunate situation of sufferers from poliomyelitis. The existing social services system provides generous, or at least adequate, allowances for persons who suffer from tuberculosis. I contend that adults, particularly married men with dependants, who suffer from poliomyelitis are in exactly the same position when undergoing treatment as are tuberculosis sufferers. Therefore, they should receive- equal benefits. I refer now to another1 matter which I consider1 to be of great importance although it is somewhat of a local matter in Hobart. The repatriation hospital in that city has an extremely competent and willing staff, but the numbers are small and the accommodation in the building is seriously limited. Members- of the staff are working under the most difficult conditions, and I ask the Govern, ment to give earnest consideration to increasing the staff and the space avail, able., I believe that it will do so. From my personal experience I know that the members of the staff are suffering from great disabilities.
All Tasmanian members of both Houses of this Parliament; discussed with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) this morning a serious handicap that affects our island State. Although the opposing political parties in this Parliament are constantly in a state of disagreement, at least the representatives of Tasmania can agree on fundamental issues. We are small in numbers, but we are very stout in heart when we defend the interestsof our small island.
– Well, I am proud to be parochial in this instance. We are faced with the fact that there is literally no means of regular communication by sea between Hobart and the larger island, of Australia.. Because of the laying-up of the vessel Taroona each year, there is no regular shipping service to the mainland for periods that vary from four to six months. I do not lay the responsibility for this state of affairs at the door of any individual Minister or any particular government. However, the disability can be remedied only if we adopt an outlook which has some- futurism about it. An additional ship must be put into service so that the problem will not continue to recur. Honorable members who live in other States enjoy the great advantage of having railway services which connect all parts of the mainland. We who live in Tasmania must depend entirely upon sea transport and air transport. A good many people, including some members of this Parliament, do not care to fly. I do not say that in any derogatory sense, but merely to emphasize the disability under which the people, of Tasmania suffer because there is at present’ no communication by sea between Tasmania and the mainland.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of the Public Works Committee: Senator Henty; Senator O’Byrne and Senator Reid.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I direct the attention of the Government to a matter of public importance, namely, the extreme scarcity of refined sugar in Victoria. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) reminded us that representations had been made to the Government to increase the price of sugar. It is the duty of the Government to ensure that available supplies of refined sugar shall be distributed equitably. In Victoria, there is plently of raw sugar, but there is a grave scarcity of refined sugar. In New South Wales and Queensland there appears to be a sufficiency of refined sugar. I appreciate the difficulties of the sugar-refining industry, but I do not believe those difficulties are responsible for the mal-distribution of the refined product, particularly to Victoria. In spite of the shortage refined sugar can be bought at £80 a ton in Victoria, whereas the standard price is about £40 a ton. This black-market sugar comes from the northern States, and agents are prepared to book orders at that price. Thus, while there is a scarcity of refined sugar obtainable from legitimate sources, there is, apparently, no scarcity in the northern States. Supplies of refined sugar are rationed in all States at various times, but Victoria seems to be. suffering more severely at present than are the other States. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, which is the sole producer of refined sugar, recognizes only a limited number of distributors. Therefore, it should not be difficult to check the black-market operators, and consumers should be protected against them.
.- I propose to raise a. matter which I believe to be of very great importance to certain members of the Public Service. I refer to the need to amend the Commonwealth
Employees” Compensation Act to provide for increased weekly compensation payments. Under the last amendment of the. act in 19.48, the weekly rates of payment were increased to £4 for a single man, with an additional £1 5s; for a wife and 10s. for a child. Thus, a man with a wife and one child receives £5 15s. a week. In 1948, the basic wage payable to Commonwealth public servants was £5 18s. a week, so that the weekly compensation rate was roughly the same as the basic wage. Since then, the basic wage has increased by approximately 48 per cent., but no corresponding increase has taken place in the compensation rate. It should not be necessary to point out that when a man is laid aside through injury sustained in the course of his work, and is on compensation, his living expenses are increased because of his injury. The Amalgamated Postal Workers Union made representations to the Government on this subject some time ago, and I understand that a promise was given on behalf of the Government that the rates would be reviewed. I raise the matter now because as every week passes an additional loss is suffered by those unfortunate persons who are depending upon compensation payments to support them. In view of the rapid rise of the cost of living, the Government should bring down an amending bill during the present sittings of the Parliament. I understand that the sessional period will be short, but the amending bill would be short, too, and I have no doubt that it would be supported by every honorable member. If the bill is not introduced until after the sittings are resumed in September next, a man on compensation will have to wait for many monthsbefore getting relief. I further suggest that because we are now passing through a time of currency inflation, there should be. inserted in the act another amendment to provide for a quarterly adjustment of the rate of compensation payment similar to the provision in a number of State compensation acts. That would mean that automatic adjustments would be made in accordance with rises or falls of the cost of living. It would not, necessitate frequent amendments of the legislation. We could then be assured that members of the Public Service who are injured while working would receive reasonable rates of compensation. I ask the Government to give urgent consideration to those two matters and to consider whether it is possible to introduce the bill to. which I have referred before the end of the present sessional period.
.- The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) referred to the shortage of sugar in the southern States. There aro many areas in my electorate in which sugar cane is produced. Therefore, I am interested in the matter that he raised. The honorable gentleman said that, having regard to the fact that an application had been made for an increase of the price of sugar in order to give sugar cane-growers a better opportunity to make ends meet, the time was opportune to request th». Government to take what steps it could take to get to the bottom of the black market in sugar or, for that matter, of black markets in any commodity. 1 support the request that he made. All honorable members will agree, first, that there is a shortage of sugar in the southern States, and secondly, that sugar can be obtained by any one who can afford or is willing to pay black-market prices for it. The same is true of butter, salt, tinned fruits and other commodities that are in short supply in the southern States. The point that I make is that it is unfair to connect the application that has been made by the Queensland sugar-grower? for an increase of the price of sugar with shortages of sugar in the southern States or anywhere else. More sugar has been taken from Queensland during this year than was taken during a corresponding period for many years past. If, as is undoubtedly the case, there is a shortage of sugar in the southern States, the Government should do what it challenged the Chifley Government to do when there were shortages of commodities and black marketing was occurring. Let it ascertain what persons are responsible for the black marketing that is occurring and take action against them. No blame can be attached to the sugar cane-growers or to any body associated with the production of sugar in Queensland for present shortages and black marketing.
I ask the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), who is now in charge of the House, to inquire of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) why telephone calls between Townsville and Magnetic Island, a distance of approximately five miles, are charged for at trunk-line rates. Magnetic Island is included in the subdivision of Townsville. Telephone calls between Townsville and some places or,five miles away from the city are charged for at the rates applicable to local calls. I have received a request from the Townsville City Council and other bodies to raise this matter with the Postmaster-General. It is suggested that telephone calls between Townsville and Magnetic Island should be charged for on the same basis as are calls between Townsville and other places that are farther from Townsville than is the island.
.- I return to a matter that I raised during the adjournment debate yesterday. I am eager to know when the Government proposes to break its silence upon it. We have heard a great deal of talk about the dangers of war and the need to prevent the leakage of official secrets. Therefore, I expected the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric ‘ J. Harrison)/ who was in charge of the House last night, to volunteer this evening the information for which I asked then, if he was unable to give it at that time. A newspaper article, written in a positive way, indicated that, just prior to the outbreak of hostilities with Japan in the last war, certain notables attended a function arranged by the then representative of Japan, Dr. Kawai, and that some of those notables, when under the influence of intoxicating liquor,, spoke in a manner that was not for the good of their country and divulged important information. Obviously when the writer of the article which appeared in the Sydney Daily Mirror, referred to “ notables he referred to people in authority who had information to divulge. If the Government does not cause a complete investigation to be made of the allegation, at least it should instruct a member of the security service to interrogate the author of the article. He did not say that he was stating what he had been told. He said that he attended the function and that he knew that certain notables were under the influence of drink and had divulged important information that was of value to the Japanese.
Does the Government regard this matter as being of no importance at all? It appears to me that the Government is attempting to cover up because some of its members were involved in the incident. If they were not involved in it, one would expect the Government to exhibit great readiness to have it investigated. If it is true that certain notables - and I have been informed that the notables included some members of the present -Government - became so intoxicated that they divulged information that was of value to the enemy, a complete and thorough investigation ought to be made of the matter.
– Who were the notables ?
– A person has been named. I want the Government to clear the matter up, if only in fairness to the man whose name has been mentioned to me. Members of the Government attended the function and, unless the matter is cleared up, suspicion will rest upon each of them who attended it. I invite the Government to cause the allegation to be thoroughly investigated and to make the whole of the facts available to the Parliament.
I shall refer now to the callous treatment by the Government of the relatives of a deceased airman. The late Flying Officer Kevin Edwards was killed in an accident in a jet fighter aircraft at the Laverton air station not very long ago. On behalf of his relatives, I inquired why the Government refused to have his body sent to Western Australia for burial. I was informed that the decision had been made in accordance with a policy that had been reviewed and adopted in 1947 by the then Labour Government. However, the circumstances of this cas(. are entirely different from those of the type of case envisaged by the departmental policy, and it ought to have been given special consideration. The fact is that the late Flying Officer Kevin Edwards was actually stationed in Wes tern Australia and was brought to an eastern State to carry out a special test flight of a jet fighter plane of the type that are being made in Australia m order to ascertain why those aircraft have been involved in so many fatal accidents. Subsequently he was killed in the course of his duty. His aged parents, because of ill health, were unable to go to Melbourne to attend his funeral, and could not afford the cost of bringing his body to Western Australia for burial. They were therefore obliged to agree to a suggestion made by the Government that their son should be buried in Melbourne. The father of the deceased is aged 71 years, and his mother, who is in her 68th year, suffers from heart trouble. Because of their age and infirmity they were unable to travel by air to Melbourne, and when the Government insisted on burying their son in Melbourne they asked only that air transport should be provided to enable their daughter and a friend to attend the funeral in Melbourne. After I had raised the matter with the former Minister for Air, Mr. White, I received a letter from him which contained a number of statements that are not in accordance with the facts. The letter read, in part, as follows: -
Mr. and Mrs. Edwards agreed to the arrangements for the burial of their son in a cemetery near Melbourne and requested that arrangements be made for their daughter and a friend to be provided with air passages from Sydney at the public expense to enable them to represent the parents at the funeral.
The fact is that the parents at no time expressed a wish that their deceased son should be buried in Melbourne. They wanted his body taken to Western Australia, but they could not afford the expense of transporting it to that State. When they were informed of the Government’s decision they thought that the best thing they could do was to accept it. However, a friend of the late airman came forward and stated that he was prepared to defray the cost of transporting the body to Western Australia, and the arrangements for the burial were then altered, and his remains were flown to Western Australia to be interred in a cemetery near the home of his parents. The Government has now refused to refund to this gentleman the expenditure that he incurred in carrying out a task that should have been undertaken by the Government as a duty in the first place. I realize that in time of war difficulties of all kinds frequently arise in connexion with the disposition of the bodies of deceased servicemen. However, I remind the Government that we are not at war now. Free transportation was provided by the Government for many people to come to Canberra for the Commonwealth jubilee celebrations, and no difficulties were placed in their way. Since the Government was able to provide the funds to bring these non-producers here for its celebrations, surely it could have refunded the expenses incurred in connexion with the transportation of the body of the deceased airman to “Western Australia, whither it was taken so that it could be buried near the home of his parents and in accordance with their wish. I say, therefore, that the Government is merely hiding behind the policy decision that was reviewed in 1947. The circumstances of this case are, as I have already pointed out, entirely different from those of the type of case envisaged in that decision, and it should have been treated a3 a special case, more particularly since the former officer was stationed in “Western Australia and had been brought from hig station in that State to Victoria to carry out a special mission. I was unable to persuade the former Minister for Air to alter his decision, and I realize that the present Minister for Air (Mr. McBride) is absent overseas. However, the matter is of such importance that the Government should deal with it in the absence of the Minister. In view of the circumstances of the case, I hope that the Government will give early attention to the matter and will reach a decision that will be favorable to the friend of the unfortunate airman.
– The matters that have been raised by various honorable members and which are proper for examination by various departments, will be brought to the notice of the Ministers concerned, who will, no doubt, deal with them in due course. In accordance with an undertaking that I gave to the House yesterday, I shall refer very briefly to the matter that was mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). He asked me whether I had any information concerning certain statements that had appeared in the press regarding the activities of a so-called “ Black Hand “ gang in Australia. I have made some official inquiries through the Department of Immigration, and I believe that the statements that have appeared in the press recently to the effect that members of the “Black Hand “ gang and Italians with bad criminal records had gained admission to Australia on forged or falsified papers have aroused some apprehension in the minds of many members of the public. I assure the House and the public generally that investigations made by the police and the Department of Immigration have not so far brought to light any cases in which my department could take action. However, these investigations are being continued, and should they reveal that any undesirable Italian has been admitted to Australia, or that there has been any attempt to secure entry by means of forgery or the falsification of documents, appropriate action will be taken to punish the offenders.
Unfortunately, my inquiries have revealed one serious matter which should, I think, be brought before honorable members. It has been ascertained that two temporary employees - and I stress the word “ temporary “ - who were working in the Melbourne office of my department, had committed irregularities in connexion with the despatch of landing permits that had been issued in favour of a small number of Italians. At this stage I want to make it clear that neither of the employees was engaged on work connected with the grant of landing permits, and that neither had any authority whatever to decide applications for such permits. Their duties were purely of a routine character, and were associated with the despatch of mail. The irregularities occurred in the course of the despatch of landing permits which had already been issued or of notices that approval had been given for the grant of permits. It appears that once decisions to issue landing permits had been made by more responsible officers of the department, the duty of the subordinate officers concerned was to despatch the permits. One of the men abstracted permits, and in return for some consideration that he received from an Italian of his acquaintance, he passed the permits over to him, so that the Italian would, presumably, be able to go along to the successful nominator and purport to have exercised some influence with the department. Later he would produce the permit that had already been issued by the department. The actions of these two employees, although most reprehensible, had no relationship what-‘ soever to the decisions reached in granting the permits, which had been previously made by senior officers in accordance with the policy laid down by , the department.
One of the temporary employees admitted that, instead of posting the permits and notices to the nominators, in some instances he handed them over to two Italians, from whom he received money. The object of those two Italians in obtaining the permits and advices was, I gather, to extort money from the nominators. The temporary employee concerned is no longer employed by the department, and the question of prosecuting him for the part that he played has been referred to the Crown Solicitor for consideration. The matter of whether charges would lie against the two Italians will also be considered. In the event of advice being received that prosecutions would be likely to be successful they will be launched.
The irregularity committed by the second temporary employee, although quite reprehensible, was less serious. What he did was to go to the office, at the request of the first employee, and receive and bring back some papers which the latter had replaced in his overcoat pocket. This second employee has admitted that he knew that in doing this he was acting contrary to official instructions. There is r:o evidence that he benefited financially from this transaction. He, too, has been dismissed from his employment
These two cases are the first instances since the Department of Immigration was established in 1945 ‘by my prede cessor, the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in which it has been found that an officer or temporary employee of the department has been guilty of improper conduct in connexion with the entry of immigrants. Since more than 550,000 immigrants have been admitted to Australia since the end of the war, and as many thousands of applications have been considered during that period, I consider that that is a record of which the department can well be proud. It is to be deplored that this record should have been sullied by the actions of the two temporary employees to whom I have referred. I can assure the House that so long as I remain Minister for Immigration no effort will be spared to see that the reputation which the department has built up shall be maintained at the highest level, and that any dereliction of duty on the part of officers or employees shall be suitably punished.
– Will the Minister say how many permits were involved?
– I understand that there was not a great number, but I am notable to speak with precision on that point. I understand that the police are continuing their investigations and I may hear more in due course.
– Can the Minister recollect whether this gang is the one that was concerned in the Agostini affair ?
– I do not think that any one would be justified in saying that a gang was operating in this connexion. On the advice of responsible officers and respected members of the Italian community, I say that these references to the operations of some sinister gang have been grossly exaggerated. Until I have some very much more concrete information than I have at the present time, I should recommend that too much reliance should not be placed upon rather highly coloured press reports of that character.
– Do the allegations relate to the same gang?
– I have nothing to suggest that. The only information before the department relates to two individuals.
– The department has some good types!
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has been more active than anybody else in this Parliament in making representations to me concerning what I call “ borderline cases “.
– Will the Minister produce evidence of those cases?
– I shall produce it if the honorable member so desires. It is not my practice to produce papers on private representations.
– That is a deliberate lie.
-Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that the Minister’s statement was a deliberate lie. His remark is completely unparliamentary and he must withdraw it and apologize for having made it.
– I withdraw and apologize.
– An honorable member has attacked my administration for bringing in what I call “ borderline cases “ and at the same time has produced more of such cases than anybody else in Parliament
– Will the Minister produce the files?
– The honorable member can see the files whenever he wants to do so. I endeavour to deal as justly with him as with any one else in this Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
l asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers : - 1. (o) Two thousand approximately, (ft) Nil. (c) Approximately 20 houses mainly by overseas manufacturing organizations as prototypes. 2. (a) One thousand three hundred and fifty houses delivered up to the 31st May, 1951, and subject to no further deterioration in the shipping position 5,000 more houses are expected to be delivered in period the 1st June, 1951, to the 31st December, 1951. (ft) One thousand and thirty-five houses delivered up to the 31st May, 1951, and subject to no further deterioration in the shipping position 1,800 more houses are expected to be delivered in period the 1st June, 1951, to the 31st December, 1951. (o) Only two orders of any size are known to have been placed by other than Government sponsored organizations and the total houses involved is 270. To date 36 houses under the?e orders have been delivered and it is possible that a further 00 may. be delivered by the end of the year.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 June 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19510621_reps_20_213/>.