20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government _ has_ any information in its possession indicating the membership of the Communist party at the time the .ban was imposed upon it in 1940, and when the ban was lifted in 1942? If so, will the right honorable gentleman make that information available to the House? Secondly, when the ban on the Communist party was lifted, did the right honorable gentleman make any protest in this House against the decision by the then Government? If so, can he tell me on what page of Hansard his protest is printed as I have failed to find any record of such a protest?
– Unless I thought any such information worth the trouble to obtain, I shOuld certainly not bother about it.
– Is the Minister for Defence Production aware that1 storekeepers and farmers in country districts of Western Australia are experiencing considerable difficulty in obtaining supplies of .22 ammunition to destroy vermin? Can the Minister give any information to the House about the availability of this ammunition? Is the shortage due to inadequate output by the manufacturers? If so, what is the reason for that? Will the Minister take all possible steps to ensure that the needs of fanners for this ammunition will be met so that they may continue their constant battle -against destructive vermin?
– I understand that similar questions have been asked on several occasions.’ Apparently being a “new boy “ just back in this country, it is now being put to me. I can only reply in much the same terms as my predecessors did. The sole manufacturer of 22 ammunition is the Imperial Chemical Industries Limited organization. Government factories do not make it at all. I understand that the company has doubled production since 1939, hut that supplies still are not sufficient to meet the ever-increasing demand. The Commonwealth exercises no control whatever over the distribution of this ammunition, but I understand that the company distributes it on the basis of purchases in 1939. . As the demand is- increasing in all States, the company does not consider that an alteration of the quota basis would be advisable. The Government understands the difficulties of primary producers, but I assure, the honorable member that the present shortage of .22 ammunition is due solely to the fact that production still lags behind demand. Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, advises that it is giving constant attention to the matter and is attempting to devise ways and means of increasing its production. However, I shall examine the matter myself, and if there is any possible way of increasing production, the honorable member can be assured that I shall give it my attention.
– Has the Minister for Health been able to do anything to give effect to the intention that he expressed in this House during the last Parliament, that, following the provision of free medical attention for pensioners and their dependants, he would also make provision for the supply to them of free medicine other than life-saving drugs? Has he been able to have a special list prepared on which doctors and pharmaceutical chemists may operate, so that the pensioners will be able to get these drugs free?
– I am happy to be able to inform the honorable member that negotiations have been finally successful, and that in a very short time I shall be able to make an announcement about the actual date on which the provision of free medicines of the kind that he has mentioned will begin. I have so far refrained from making any statement on the matter before the necessary lists had been prepared and put in the hands of the doctors and. the chemists, so as to avoid disappointment to pensioners who might otherwise have applied for the drugs before they were, available free, of charge;
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question which relates to a statement in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that it is the Government’s intention to bring a port expert from abroad to advise Australia on the operation of port administration throughout the Commonwealth. If no selection of the expert has yet been made, will the Minister consider the desirability of bringing a port expert from Canada or the United States, in which countries free, enterprise operates ?’
– The decision to bring out a port expert was made by the Government some time ago; and an announcement has- already been made about the country from which the expert selected will come..
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that butter is almost unprocurable in ‘ Newcastle, and coal-fields and other- towns ‘ in New South Wales ! Does, he know that some families are- unable to obtain butter although it. is being sold on the black market for up to 6s. per lb. ? Does the Minister know that strikes, on the coal-fields caused by the shortage of butter have, already caused losses amounting to thousands of tons of coal) Is he aware that the coal-miners are considering holding weekly one-day stoppages in protest at their inability to obtain butter % Can he; inform- me- whether there is a domestic shortage in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and other States.?. In view of the fact. that, coal from New South Wales is compulso’rily exported to other States, while, the people of; New South. Wales are short of fuel and light,, “will the. Minister endeavour to persuade-, his Government to- institute, a uniform, system, of butter rationing throughout Australia to meet, present, and future; seasonal shortages, and to prevent further possible, industrial unrest 1;
– I do know that there is a shortage of butter. I also know that it is in no small degree the result of the inability of farmers to secure equipment for. their, farms such as corrugated iron for cowsheds, wire for fences, cement for the cementing of cowsheds, and so- on. I also know that frequently the explanation for these shortages is the lack of coal. I know- that if dairy-farmers in Victoria went on strike every time there was a shortage of coal because of a strike in New South Wales, the New South Wales coal-miners would never have any butter.
– I preface, a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture by stating that people living in industrial areas particularly are in difficulties because of the shortage of butter, which prevents them from taking cut lunches to work and from giving cut lunches to their children to take to school. In some of those areas there are also shortages of tea, milk,, salt, potatoes, onions, power and light. In addition, thousands of immigrants are arriving in the country to swell our population. In those circumstances, what steps are being taken to meet the insane deadlocks to which the honorable member for Shortland has referred and to avert the serious situation, that may develop if further serious breakdowns of transport, occur this winter?’
– The Government is planning, to take practical steps that are best calculated to increase dairy production, and also the production of certain essential agricultural products. In. order to. achieve that, objective an. adequate, return must be assured, to those, who are expected to expand their operations, and such, a programme will call foi the. co-operation of all the primary producers concerned. The Government is. not. indifferent to the position of those workers. who rely on cut lunches, but it cannot just conjure butter out of the- air. lt does net own or control-, the butter that is available. However, the Government has exercised its influence .in the matter, with, the result that at present 6,500 cases of butter are: being sent from Queensland to New. South Wales. Unfortunately, we cannot, expect that, any substantia! additional supplies, can. be made available) from, that quarter; I am also trying to arrange for relief supplies of butter to: be sent from Victoria to New South. Wales, but I. am afraid that, substantial supplies cannot be provided from that, quarter either. As it has already been announced that, the duty on New Zealand butter will be removed, merchants will be encouraged to import butter from that dominion if they can obtain supplies there-. I repeat that the final solution of this problem is the expansion of. production in the dairying industry.
– I -understand that, amongst its many activities the Commons wealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization carries out research work for many primary and secondary industries, which thereby derive considerable benefit. Will the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization inform me whether any payment is made by the members of those industries for such’ research work. If so, is the payment received considered adequate?
-It is true that besides carrying out fundamental, research the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has performed practical research work for a wide range of primary and secondary industries. It is, also true that, the amount of recompense received from those industries in general is quite inadequate. This does not apply to all industries,, but a number of industries which derive benefits as a result of research carried, out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, make only a nominal payment. I’ have had this matter, underconstant review during, the last, six months and I hope that it. will be possible, to bring about a more satisfactory state of affairs.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of the quantity and value of wool that, has been exported to the Soviet Union during the wool-selling period since
August, 1950, and what amount has been exported, during the same period to the countries generally recognized, as Soviet satellites ?:
– If the honorable member requires exact information, I shall be glad to procure- it for him. However, the approximate position is that since the resumption of auction selling the Soviet and the satellite countries have been purchasing in this market from 6 per cent, to 7 per cent, of the Australian clip. According to the last figures that I have, which were given to me a couple of months ago, the percentage of the clip bought by the Soviet and the satellite countries during the present wool-selling season was lower than the normal figure, being about 4 per cent, of the clip.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether, under the conditions of the proposed wool marketing plan, decisions binding on growers will be made by growers’ representatives or by the representatives of the governments concerned.
– If a plan is eventually established, two principal authorities, will be responsible for maintaining it. There will be one in Australia, known as the Australian Wool Organization, composed of ten voting members, of whom seven, a clear majority, will be representatives of the growers, and chosen by- themselves. The. other will be a central authority to be situated in London. It will be composed of ten members, three of whom will be representatives, of the United Kingdom Government and the remainder representatives of the three wool-growing dominions: The reserve price: for wool for the season under consideration, would be established byuniform decision of the four governments, upon the recommendation of the central committee, after acquainting, itself with the views of the dominion authority. On the first day that, representatives of the growers conferred with the Government about this matter they were told by the Prime Minister and me that, in any plan that, required- a government- guarantee the Government would’ reserve to itself the right to make the final determination of the reserve price. But. a reserve price can be established only if the Australian Government concurs. There is no question of majority voting among the governments concerned. The same remarks apply in regard to a decision on the reoffering of bought-in wool. That matter would finally be decided by the governments, acting unanimously, on the recommendation of the other authorities. The prime responsibility of the Australian organization would be to determine the annual levy, if there is to be an annual levy. That would not be for the purpose of adding to the necessary capital which lias already been raised in this year’s levy. There would be further levies, on the decision of the growers themselves, only for the purpose of replacing some of the capital in order that capital earlier raised could be paid back to the growers who had subscribed it. That would be done to establish the principle that those engaged in the industry should put up the capital for it.
– -Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to inform the House when there will be a distribution of the profits from postwar sales of wool by the Joint Organization?
– The Government has decided to repay to growers who have left the wool-growing industry their share of the profits from the post-Joint Organization and it will at a very early date give consideration to the position of those growers who are still in the industry. An announcement concerning that matter will be made at an early date, but not immediately.
– Am I correct in inf erring from the reply that the Minister gave to the honorable member for Mallee that the annual levy under the proposed wool marketing plan will be determined by the Australian board of management? As I understand that the relevant legislation provides that the annual levy shall be reviewed by the Parliament, will the Minister elucidate this point?
– Legally, the making of an annual levy would be an act of taxation which could be implemented only by a decision of the Parliament. The plan provides that the Government will impose a levy, if it is recommended by the Australian organization, and the amount levied will be limited to that recommended by the organization. It also provides clearly that the proceeds of the levy shall not be used for the purpose of adding to the initial capital raised, but shall be used for the purpose of enabling repayments of earlier levies to be made to the wool-growers.
– In an effort to keep rural workers and farmers’ sons on theland, and to encourage primary producers to build better accommodation for their employees, will the Treasurer give serious consideration to the matter of altering the taxation law in order that farmers may be granted a tax concession on all expenditure of this nature? Continual representations about this matter have been made to me, and I believe that if such a concession were granted an impetus would be given not only to production but to the establishment of a better standard of rural housing.
– All the matters mentioned by the honorable member have been taken into consideration time and time again. The amount of income tax payable according to the law is based on all assessable income of a revenue nature less expenditure of a revenue nature. Items of a capital nature are taken into account in accordance with the act. No further concessions can be granted in the direction indicated.
– Has the Treasurer seen published reports to the effect that rates of sales tax are likely to be substantially increased in the near future? If such reports are correct, does the Government, propose to increase the sales tax on what it terms luxury items by as much as 66f per cent. ? Does it intend to increase the sales tax on such items to a degree that will conform to its policy of forcing labour from what it terms non-essential industries to essential industries?
– In view of the honorable member’s political experience, I am surprised that he should ask such a question. He knows that his question raises a matter of Government policy and that it is not customary to supply answers to questions of that kind. The matter will be considered when the budget is being framed.
– In view of the probability of Perth superseding Darwin as the port of entry to Australia for Qantas Aircraft from overseas, will the Minister for Civil Aviation arrange for Adelaide to be included as a stop in the flight from Perth to Melbourne? It has been stated that a direct flight from Perth to Melbourne is contemplated. If Adelaide is omitted as a stopping place inconvenience will be caused to travellers and freights alike whose destinations lie iri .South Australia.
– A survey of Cocos Island is being made at present, and it is proposed to construct an airfield there which will be capable of accommodating planes travelling from Australia. That may become a stopping place on a route from overseas alternative to the route through Darwin, or both may be used. No decision has yet been made. Everything is merely in the preliminary stages. It has not even been decided which company will operate the new route, or what the stopping places will be. When the matter is being finalized I shall give consideration to the points raised by the honorable member.
– Has the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council been drawn to an address circularized to all honorable members by Mr. L. West, the managing director of Australian Radio Production Limited, in which it is stated, first, that Australian publicity in England and in Europe is a disgrace; secondly, that Australia House is a shrine for political dignitaries but a tomb for the hopes of prospective immigrants ; and, thirdly, that the newspapers files of Australia House are dirty and dog-eared, its brochure racks are denuded of all but the most worthless material, and its waiting room is as dilapidated as a country railway station ? If the Minister’s attention has been drawn to this document can he say whether the comments in it are true, and if so, what has been done about the matter?’
– I have no doubt that the article to which the honorable member has referred was written before my arrival in England. I can assure him that Australia House is now one of the show places of London so far as dominion establishments are concerned. Every known facility has been made available to Australian visitors and, indeed, the new and complete set-up of Australia House has won the admiration of visitors, not only from Australia, but also from other countries.
– Is the Minister for Territories able to say whether it is the intention of the Government to encourage new settlement of Papua and New Guinea by residents of the Australian mainland ?
– The encouragement of settlement in New Guinea depends upon the availability of land. By the recent promulgation of a new lands ordinance steps are being taken to ensure that more land will be made available for settlement in New Guinea, regard always being paid to the interests of the native inhabitants.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that the number of beds available in public hospitals at the present time is inadequate, and that the cost of the cheapest bed in a private hospital is at least £18 a week, which is an increase of more than 300 per cent, during the last few years, despite the fact that wages have not increased more than 100 per cent.? Will the Minister initiate action to prevent such exploitation of the sick and to make available hospital accommodation at reasonable rates?
– I assure the honorable member that there is no exploitation of the sick, in either private or public hospitals. Public hospitals which provide private and intermediate accommodation are showing deficits in their accounts for those sections whilst many private hospitals have ceased to function because they are unable to pay their way.
– Will the Prime Minister discuss with the responsible Minister or Ministers the advisability of sending to the north-west of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, during the forthcoming recess, a parliamentary .delegation representing all sections of the Parliament ? Such a visit, in my opinion, would stimulate interest in those areas where development on a national basis is so urgently required.
– I shall discuss the suggestion of the honorable member with the Minister for Territories and with any other Minister who may be concerned.
– In view of the fallingoff in the flow of displaced European migrants to Australia, and of the . difficulties experienced by British migrants in obtaining housing accommodation here, which is retarding the flow of British migrants to this country, will the Minister for Immigration consider transposing the temporary settlements used by displaced person migrants for the benefit of British migrants as these settlements become available, or alternatively consider constructing emergency settlements for British migrants? Will the Minister give this proposal priority over any scheme to bring out en masse European migrants or migrants from Mediterranean countries ?
– Throughout the term of office of this Government, British migration has enjoyed top priority. Far from the flow of British migrants being retarded, we actually brought here a record number of British migrants last year, and this year we hope to exceed last year’s figures. In fact, the flow of British migrants for the first six months of this year has been greater than anything we have achieved in the past. In order to cope with that increased flow we have necessarily had to make use of much of the accommodation formerly occupied by displaced persons. In addition, we have constructed new hostels, and in some centres of strategic industrial importance, such as Port Kembla, government houses are being erected to encourage migrants to engage in coal and steel production. T assure the honorable member that British migration will continue to be encouraged as rapidly as accommodation will permit.
– In view of the fact that one of our largest drug houses has announced that it now has ample supplies of the important drug, Chloromycetin, available for use by the medical profession in Australia, whereas in fact doctors may prescribe it only with the permission of the Department of Health, will the Minister for Health inform the House whether supplies are really available, or can be made available for use?
– The drug to which the honorable member has referred is now produced in Australia. Arrangements have been made so that in future doctors may prescribe the -drug as long as they indicate that it is the only drug available for the purpose required.
– Is the Minister for Supply in a position to make a statement about the tinplate problem, particularly as it affects the paint manufacturing industry? Is it a fact that tinplate supplies to paint manufacturers have been cut by 50 per cent.? In view of the serious effect of this cut on the paint manufacturing industry and the consequent slowing-up of the housing programme and loss of employment in the industry, what action does the Government propose to take to ensure that adequate supplies of tinplate shall be made available for Australian industry?
– I have already made a number of statements in the House in answer to question relating to the matter raised by the honorable member. It is true that canister manufacturers have reduced the quota of cans allotted to users. I believe that the cut in deliveries is between 30 and 50 per cent. The cut was caused? not by the sudden drop of intake of from 30 to 50 per cent., but because there is an everincreasing demand and only a static supply, and because the United States Government recently indicated that it proposes to cut the Australian allocation of tinplate for the last two quarters of this year by 8,500 tons. To meet those two positions, the knowledgeable persons in the canning trade decided to cut back supplies to the quantity mentioned. I realize that paint manufacturers in common with others,, are suffering hardship as a result of the reduction, but I assure the honorable member that it is an extremely difficult problem. At this moment, high-level talks are taking place in “Washington with a view to ascertaining whether we can get back our 8,500 tons, and also obtain an increased allocation of tinplate. I shall take the opportunity, with the concurrence of the House, to make a statement on the matter when I am in a position to do so.
– by leave - I consider that it is my duty to place in the records of the House an expression of the deep appreciation that members of the Opposition feel regarding the actions taken by all persons concerned in authorizing and directing the arrangements made for the recent .State funeral, for Mr. Joseph Benedict Chifley. Those arrangements involved a great deal of work, and were of immense assistance to honorable members on both sides of the House. First, I mention the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who, in the moment of greatest shock and stress, authorized all that was done, and saw that the arrangements were carried out. It is impossible for me to mention everybody who worked so hard on that sad occasion, but I consider that I should place on record our appreciation of the remarkable organization by the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, Mr. Allen S. Brown; the Assistant Secretary, Mr. McKenna; and Messrs. McKnight, Herde, Allen and Kenney, who worked untiringly over several days. Then, I place on record the thanks that we owe to the representatives of the three great services for their magnificent contribution, especially to the devoted’ guard of the remains of Mr. Chifley, and to the men who drove the special trains, flew the aircraft and drove the motor cars’ so that members of the Parliament, and others; could proceed to Bathurst to pay their last respects to Mr: Chifley. We are grateful, too, for the co-operation shown by his worship the Mayor of Bathurst, and the’ representative bodies of that, city who were associated with the arrangements. Finally, I mention the co-operation shown by you, Mr. Speaker, and the President of the Senate.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 17, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Mr. Bowden, Mr. Tom Burke, Mr. McDonald, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Thompson, and Mr. Watkins, to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
- by leave - I appreciate the honour, Mr. Speaker, of having been nominated a Temporary Chairman of Committees, but, with respect, I wish to decline it.
- by leave - I thank you, Mr. Speaker, but I regret that I am unable to act as a Temporary Chairman of Committees.
– by leave - With all due respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I regret that I must decline the nomination.
Debate resumed from the 21st June (vide page 300), on motion by Mr. Bland -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
Mat it please Yoon 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 know that it is customary to discuss a wide range of subjects in the AddressinReply debate. However, I propose to confine my remarks to a comparatively few subjects. First, I’ take the opportunity to say how interested I was in the speech of the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Bland). He believes, as many others no doubt believe, that the constitutional limitations and disabilities from which the people of Australia suffer to-day could be overcome by means of a convention to consider constitutional alterations. Uppermost in my mind when I refer to this matter is the fact that the Government which was led by the late John Curtin did call a convention in 1942 to discuss the problems of Constitution alteration. With the great foresight which was characteristic of him, John Curtin realized that Australia’s economy had expanded so greatly and had become so complex since federation, particularly daring World War II., that the people of Australia would suffer in the post-war years unless the Commonwealth’ Parliament were authorized to continue to exercise some of the powers that it was permitted to exercise as a special war measure. The right honorable gentleman showed sound perception and he explored the best means of devising a method of vesting certain essential powers in this Parliament after the cessation of hostilities when, after a period of transition, the courts inevitably would force the government which happened to be in power at the time to wind up its special war-time Activities. As the result, he called together in 1942 as representative a convention as could be assembled in Australia. Every State parliament was represented by its Premier and its Opposition leader. At that convention, which was held in this chamber, John Curtin outlined the nature of the problems that he considered to be likely to arise after the war. The assembled delegates, irrespective of their party political affiliations, agreed unanimously to return to their respective parliaments and refer to the Commonwealth, through those legislatures, for a period of five years, certain specific powers that were considered to be essential to the proper control of our economy. We all know the outcome. New South Wales and Queensland honoured the agreement in its entirety. South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria so tampered with and altered the draft agreement that it bore little resemblance to the original, and in some instances the State parliaments refused altogether to consent to the proposed transfer of powers. Having regard to that experience, I have come to the conclusion that it would be impossible to assemble a convention that could succeed in formulating proposals for the alteration of the Constitution which would be acceptable to all political parties or to the State parliaments.. Therefore we are thrown back to the only other method, which is to submit proposals to the people by way of referendum. The Labour Government repeatedly submitted such proposals.
– They were not very satisfactory, either.
– The parties which the honorable member supports opposed the transfer of powers out of sheer political bigotry. Had they not done so, and if the Commonwealth were now clothed with those powers, the Menzies-Fadden Government would be able to deal effectively with the problem of inflation and its associated evils. Now, the Government finds itself frustrated at every step in its attempts to deal with the situation. Members of the present Government, when in Opposition, condemned the Labour Government for adhering to economic controls, but it is now forced to re-impose those controls, although its power to do so is doubtful. Members have to admit that control of prices by the States has proved futile. They condemned capital issues control, but the Menzies Government has been compelled to re-impose that control, although its action is open to challenge in the High Court. During the 1949 election campaign, the present Government parties declared that if they were returned to power they would abolish capital issues control, and eventually, when they became the Government, they did so. Now that control has been re-imposed, and before a man can invest his own money he has to obtain the approval of the prescribed authorities, notwithstanding the horror professed by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party of -control by bureaucrats. I agree that capital issues should be controlled, but it is interesting to note that those Who so roundly condemned control only two years ago have now been compelled to resort to it again.
Many people are under the impression that the present shortage of butter in this country has been caused by decreased butter production. According to figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician, in the ten months ended April, 1951, Australia, exported 117,000,000 lb. of butter bo the United Kingdom and other countries. Therefore, it is clear that this Government, which could, if it so desired, effectively control butter exports, has acted negligently in failing to ensure that adequate supplies of butter are available for consumption by the Australian people. Recently I addressed a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in which I asked the honorable gentleman to say what action he had taken to ensure that there was retained in Australia a reserve of butter adequate to meet the reasonable needs of our people. He said that he had not taken any action to do that and had given no directions to the Australian Dairy Produce Board. For many years, the honorable gentleman criticized the actions of Labour governments that had acted on the basis that the interests of all the people of Australia were more important than those of any one section of the community. In every export control measure sponsored by those governments it was provided that the Australian Government had the right to intervene, if necessary, to protect the interests of the people. Owing to the view that is taken of this matter by the Minister and his supporters, we are now confronted with a serious position. Mothers and little children whose staple diet is bread and butter cannot get even an ounce of butter. The Minister, in his reply to the question to which I have referred, said that when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture I did not issue directions to the Australian Dairy Produce Board. It is true that I did not do so, but I made it my business to ascertain periodically the quantity of butter that was in store in Australia and to estimate, as far as possible, what quantities would be available in the future. While I was in office, Aus tralia enjoyed relatively good seasons and, despite some adverse criticism, the government of which I was a member retained butter rationing in this country in order to assist Great Britain. Therefore, we were always able to ensure that there was in store in this country enough butter to meet the reasonable needs of the Australian people. The Minister said that he had adopted the practice that I had adopted, and had not issued directions to the board, but he overlooked the fact that during my period of office as Minister there was no necessity to issue directions to the board in relation to its export licence policy. This Government, by allowing the country’s requirements to be determined by bureaucrats - I do not use the term in a derogatory sense as did the Minister when he was in Opposition - has done what its predecessor was criticized for doing, but its predecessor accepted, without hesitation, the principle of ministerial control and discharged its responsibility to the people of this country. The Minister has had to climb down. Who can forget the vicious, virulent and violent attacks that the present Minister made on the Chifley Administration for its allegedly bureaucratic control of the marketing of primary produce? Yet, as soon as the honorable gentleman became Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the succeeding anti-Labour Administration, he proceeded to act in the manner for which he criticized me so constantly when I was the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. He told the people, in effect, that in the marketing of any primary produce in which governmentmoney was involved he would exercise his authority as Minister to make the final decision, instead of permitting a particular advisory board to make the decision. Yet, knowing that declaration of policy, the Minister has admitted that in this all-important matter of the distribution of butter supplies he has refrained from exercising his authority over the Australian Dairy Produce Board. It is clear, therefore, that the Minister and his colleagues must accept the responsibility for the present shocking position in connexion with the distribution of that commodity. As an example of the Minister’s hypocrisy I shall read a passage, which refers specifically to the
Minister from the fifteenth annual report of the Australian Meat Board. That passage is as follows.: -
The Minister said it “was essential the Government should reserve the final right of decision in regard to two eventualities. The first was where a Treasury liability, actual or contingent, existed; for instance, in an industry which had a government guaranteed price-
The dairy industry is, of course, a typical example. The report goes on to state -
The second was where prior knowledge of price variation could be turned to commercial advantage by any of the interests represented by a marketing Board or industry consultants.
It is clear that the Minister is a veritable Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Contrast the direction that he gave to the Australian Meat Board with the attitude that he has displayed towards the Australian Dairy Produce Board in the matter of better distribution. Incidentally, I point out that the act that established that board empowers the Minister to intervene and to make the final decision in any matter in which he considers that the public interest is involved. The Minister has admitted that he had not at any time intervened or issued any direction to the board in connexion with the distribution of butter. The desperate shortage of butter that we are experiencing at present is the outcome of the Minister’s failure to exert himself and to assert his authority. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to indulge in abuse of the workers of this country, and particularly of ‘the coal-miners, whom, they allege, go on strike in order to disorganize industry and the community. Consider for a moment the inconvenience and hardship occasioned to the community by the present Government’s failure to ensure that adequate supplies of such a basic commodity as butter are available to the people. Although members of the Parliament enjoy, in this building, many privileges and amenities that are denied to ordinary people, and particularly to the workers of this country, even they cannot obtain butter in the Parliamentary Refreshment Room. Last night I ordered toast and tea for my supper, and I was astonished when I was served with dry toast. I suggest that the absence of butter in the Parliamentary Refreshment Room indicates the deprivation which many people must be experiencing. If it is .difficult for the ‘Government, with all its resources, to obtain butter for Parliament House, how much more difficult must it be for, say, .the coal-miners and other sections of the community who engage in strenuous manual work to obtain that commodity? The responsibility for the present unsatisfactory state of affairs rests squarely on the shoulders of the members of this apologetic coalition Government.
Only the other day the Minister said that he would consult the members of any primary producers’ marketing board for advice if he believed that course to be necessary. Such a .statement sounds quite impressive, : but I remind the honorable gentleman that while I was administering the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, in the course of which, incidentally, I was constantly criticized by him, I invariably followed a similar policy. However, the difference between his conception of his duty and mine is that although I “regularly consulted the members of the various marketing boards, 1 did not hesitate to depart from their advice in any instance where I considered that the public interests required that I should do so. I shall cite two instances in which I intervened and followed a contrary course to that recommended by the appropriate advisory board. The first instance was in 1947 or 1948 when a contract was .signed with the United Kingdom for the supply of 80,000,000 bushels of wheat. When I .asked the Australian Wheat Board for advice on that matter it tendered certain advice concerning the contract that should be made with the Government of the United Kingdom. I remind honorable members that at that time all wheat that had been harvested was the property of the Government because it had been acquired by compulsory acquisition. The Chifley Administration had obtained authority from the Premiers of the various States to acquire compulsorily all wheat, and we did not hesitate to exercise our powers to intervene in the sales of that wheat in order to protect the interests not only of the wheat growers but also of the consumers of that commodity. They gave me certain advice which I did not take. Had I accepted their advice in respect of that year’s contract the Australian wheat-growers would have received £7,000,000 less than they did. Delays occurred in the delivery of our 1947-48 wheat to the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom Government claimed some concession. After sending an officer to the United Kingdom to conduct negotiations, the Australian Wheat Board agreed to a compromise arrangement which would have resulted in the wheatgrowers receiving £250,000 less than the amount originally due to them. I drew the attention of the hoard to the fact that the wheat had been sold by direction of the Australian .Government and that the only authority that could authorize an adjustment of the selling price was the government of the day. I then pointed out to the United Kingdom Government that late delivery was largely due to the fact that, for political, economic and humanitarian reasons, the wheat had been diverted to India in order to assist in relieving the famine there and I succeeded in recovering the £250,000. There were numerous other instances in which ministerial authority was exercised on behalf of the wheat-grower with success.
The Government has endeavoured to attribute shortages in the dairying industry entirely to some diminution in daily output. It is true that there has been some diminution this year. Seasonal conditions have prevented prospects in the dairying industry from being as bright as they might have been. The export of butter for the ten months ended the 30th April, 1951, amounted to 117,000,000 lb., “whereas 150,000,000 lb. were produced in the previous year. To say that a seasonal variation is the cause of the present local shortage is merely to camouflage the real reason for these deficiencies. Men who do hard physical work are being starved of butter. It is time that the Government and the Minister gave more attention to their duties by supervising the department in an efficient and effective manner. I cast no reflection on the Australian Dairy Produce Board because the majority of its members represent the primary producers and their duty is to do their best for the people whom they represent. The butter factories have a majority representation on the board, but the Minister must be dominant, and ensure that the interests of the people are safeguarded. It has been said that the diminution in output of dairy produce has been due to the operation of previous Labour governments. 1 shall quote a statement that was made to the late Mr. Chifley as Prime Minister. When the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation waited upon him, its representative said -
In submitting the principle of this resolution for your endorsement the dairying industry desires to frankly record its appreciation of the sympathetic treatment received since 1941 from the Commonwealth Government. More particularly, the Government’s policy for assistance to the industry since the 1st April, 1943, hae created a new outlook for those engaged in dairying. This pleasing result over the last two seasons has been due to the fact that, after .many years of inadequate prices, financial returns to dairy-farmers have been : based upon figures presented by the industry itself as representing reasonable costs of production.
During those years of inadequate prices the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) was a Minister. The statement continued -
Also it is beyond doubt that the level of financial returns established by the Government for these years has been an outstanding factor in maintaining dairy production at a reasonable level, despite the disabilities and handicaps imposed by war.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall not speak for very long, but it is appropriate that I should reply to some of the statements that have been made about the shortage’ of butter and the plight of the dairying industry generally by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government. The honorable gentleman sought to absolve himself of all responsibility for the present situation, but I contend that he is the guilty man. The electorate of Richmond which I represent includes some of the most important dairying land in New South Wales. About one-third of the butter produced in that State comes from the area between Grafton and the Tweed River. While the honorable member for Lalor was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I moved a number of motions for the adjournment of the House to discuss the crisis that was rapidly approaching in the dairying industry, and which, if not averted, would necessitate the importation of butter from New Zealand. When I said about three years ago that butter would one day have to be imported from New Zealand I was laughed at by supporters of the then Government. I was told that my statement was too ridiculous to be worthy of notice; but now, the present Government has found it necessary to remove the duty on New Zealand butter so that we may supplement our inadequate supplies from that country if possible. Honorable members opposite who laughed at the warnings given by representatives of the dairying industry only three years ago, and blandly assured the then Opposition that everything was well under control, now seek to absolve themselves of all responsibility for the present situation. In private life, Mr. Speaker, you are a farmer, and you know as well as every man of the land knows that it takes several years to increase production in the dairying industry. First the necessary stock must be bred. Repeatedly I drew the attention of the Chifley Government to the fact that because of the low price of butter, calves were being slaughtered in large numbers. A committee was set up by that Government to ascertain production costs in the dairying industry. The committee included representatives of the dairy-farmers and of certain government departments, including the Treasury and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, then under the administration of the honorable member for Lalor.
– Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House.
Mr. Speaker, having counted the House,
– I find that there are fifteen Government supporters and twelve Opposition members present. The bells will be rung.
– Only twelve Labour members present when the butter shortage is being debated !
– And fifteen Government members !
-Order ! There will be complete silence until a quorum has been formed.
– It is regrettable that the absence of Labour members particularly should deprive the House of a quorum when this important matter of the butter shortage is being debated. That shows the true degree of the interest of honorable members opposite in this problem. As I have said, when the honorable member for Lalor was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, a committee was appointed to determine a fair price to be paid to dairy-farmers for butter. The committee consisted of representatives of the dairying industry, appointed by the Government, and also representatives of the Treasury, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and, I think, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, also appointed by the Government. The committee made an exhaustive analysis of production costs, ft selected approximately 1,000 typical dairy farms, ascertained the number of cows being milked, the number of hours being worked by each dairy-farmer, and his capital investment. After many months of inquiries, the committee submitted its report to the Government. I propose to inform the House of some of the details of that report, and of the basis of the committee’s recommendation that dairy-farmers should be paid 2s. 1-Jd. per lb. for commerial butter. The committee decided that the dairy-farmer was entitled to only 3-J per cent, interest on his own capital investment, but that if money had been borrowed from a bank at say 5 per cent., he should be allowed 5 per cent, on that money. Then this committee appointed by a government which talked so much about the great advance that had been made by the introduction of a 40-hour week into industry, decided that the production costs of dairy-farmers should be calculated on the basis of a 56-hour week for 52. weeks in the year, without any provision for holidays. It was on those figures that the committee decided that the fair price for commercial butter was 2s. 1½d. per lb.
– That is not true.
– It is true. I dealt with this matter fully when I moved the adjournment of the House to discuss conditions in the dairying industry. However, in spite of the committee’s recommendation of 2s. 1½d. per lb., based as it was on a 56-hour week, and 3f per cent, interest on the capital investment of dairy-farmers, the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture reduced the figure to 2s. per lb. Now he says “ I have no responsibility “. He reduced the basis of payment from 2s. 1-Jd. per lb. to 2s. per lb. ; but when I challenged him about it in the House by moving the adjournment, he said, “ Well, I have done so on the advice of the minority of members of the committee “. The dairy-farmers’ representatives were against what he did. He said that he had done it on the advice of the Government members, Treasury officials and others, on the committee. He added, “ I did it on their recommendation because they said that 3J per cent, interest was too high and that it ought’ to be reduced to 2i per cent.” The consequence of these actions has been the discouragement of dairy-farmers to such a degree that in ]ny district at present scarcely a young man remains in the dairying industry. Farmers’ sons find it far more profitable to get jobs driving bakers’ carts in the nearby towns at £9 or £10 a week or more on a 40-hour week basis, than to stay on a farm on an award wage which is a bare one. I have forgotten what it is now, but it was £6 15s. or £7 a week at the time that the declaration was made and it has advanced since. They have left the farms for the old folks to work, so that now the dairying industry is being carried on by people of middle and advancing age. Much of the responsibility for that position lies at the door of the previous Government because of the policy that it pursued. At a time when it pegged the dairy-farmer’s return down to ls. 9d. or 2s. per lb. for butter it was selling butter to Britain for about 2s. 9d. per lb. Australian. There was no warrant for the attitude that was then taken. The consequence of all these factors was that farmers, instead of breeding young heifer calves for the continuation and expansion of their dairy herds, preferred to sell heifers for meat. So now we have a shortage of butter. That shortage might have a salutary effect because it will bring a realization, to many people who for a long time have disregarded the man on the land, of the absolutely essential need to give the farmer protection and support. Many of us have been like voices in the wilderness for a long time about the position of the dairying industry, and now even the miners’ federation is saying that butter is an important item and that without it miners cannot hew coal. In many instances they cannot hew coal even when they have butter, so the lack of butter has not made much difference to coal production.
I merely rose as a result of the speech of the honorable member for Lalor to point out some facts that are apparently now forgotten by some people but which I, for one, do not forget because for many years the members of my party directed the attention of the Chifley Government and of its Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in particular, to the imminence of the situation that has now developed. We have been in office for only eighteen months. That is not enough time in which to rear one calf to help to restore the situation. But this process has gone on since 1940, and even further back than that. A certain degree of responsibility for it must be accepted also by governments previous to the Chifley Administration. I am not denying that antiLabour governments did not do everything they ought to have done for the dairying industry. Before the war the regulation of butter prices was completely in the hands of the dairy-farmers’ own organization. When the war broke out the then Government took advantage of its . defence powers to acquire all the butter produced and simply paid what it determined the price should be, which was less than the amount that the dairying industry would have been able to secure in the normal way. If the industry had been left to function as it had functioned before the war, and had been permitted to take advantage of overseas prices for butter in the same manner as the wool-growing industry is now permitted to do, the present problem would not exist. But during all these years in which the party now in opposition was in office it kept the return to the farmer down, although it knew that world values were far higher than the price that was being received by Australian dairyfarmers. That was done at a time when butter was being sold by Denmark for 3s. 6d. per lb., while the Australian producer received only ls. 9d. or 2s. per lb., when America was paying 5s. per lb. and when Canada was enjoying a somewhat similar price. The dairy-farmer was not afforded the opportunity to secure either world prices or a reasonable Australian price. On the one hand, he was forbidden to export butter except with, the authority of the Government, and the money gained by export was secured by the Government. On the other hand, the butter that he sold in Australia was sold at a pegged price that was deliberately kept low. That price is being deliberately kept low at the present time, not by this Government, but by the State Ministers in charge of prices administration under the chairmanship of the New South Wales Minister.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
-Order ! The honorable member for Lalor has already spoken in the debate. He should now remain silent.
– So now we have a situation in which the State Ministers, led by Mr. Finnan, have for the last two years consistently said that there is no warrant for an increase of the price of butter. They have said, “We have no evidence that it is necessary “. Well, they have the evidence now. If they want any more evidence they will have it when New Zealand butter starts to come on the market and to be retailed probably for not less than 3s. 6d. or 4s. per lb. For the last two years they have stalled and thought to themselves, “ The dairy-farmer cannot do anything else but milk his cows because if he fails to milk them they will go dry and he will be left without a livelihood. We have him in a cleft stick. He has to supply the community. We will keep his price down. Despite his clamour he will just have to work and carry on “. Well, the dairy-farmers and their sons have thought differently, and thousands of them have left the dairying industry and have taken up other occupations. They have also slaughtered thousands of head of stock for sale as meat. As a result, hundreds of thousands of stock have disappeared and it will be very many years before the situation, caused by the neglect of the industry by the Chifley Government will be rectified.
.- It is evident that I have been re-elected to this House at an appropriate time. When the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) was sitting in opposition during the regime of the preceding Labour Government, he constantly blamed Labour for the condition of the dairying industry, just as he now seeks to lay the blame for the shortage of butter at Labour’s doorstep. I remind the Minister that prior to Labour coming to office in 1941 only about 1 per’ cent, of dairy-farmers earned sufficient income to become liable for the payment of income tax. The Labour Government placed the dairyfarmers in this country on their feet for the first time in history.
– I rise to order. Mr. Speaker. I draw your attention to the conference that is taking place, on the Government side of the table.
– If I uphold the honorable member’s point of order, I shall be kept very busy.
– I agree with the contention of the honorable member for Lowe (Mr. McMahon) that it is the responsibility of the Government to face this problem. After exporting 50,000 tons of butter our own people are now going short.
– Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that these proceedings are being broadcast and that considerable mumbling is taking place on the Government side of the table.
-I ask the PostmasterGeneral and the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) to desist. I shall apply this rule to both sides of the House.
– It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that adequate butter is available to the people of this country. While I am not so much concerned about the wealthy people and members of Parliament, I point out that adequate supplies of this commodity should be available to the workers in industry. As honorable members know, we have exported considerable quantities of butter. Now we are endeavouring to import New Zealand butter. Irrespective of what the Minister has stated, the Government should maintain the same high standard in the dairying industry . that existed when Labour was in office.
I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) about the Constitution. Although the Commonwealth does not enjoy complete power, I point out that the people look to the National Parliament to resolve national problems. The current butter shortage is closely allied with the necessity to encourage further land settlement. Great developments have taken place in our big cities, but their enormous populations are locked. Although there has been a considerable expansion of secondary industry, a proper balance with the primary industries has not been maintained. In many instances farmers with large holdings are buying additional land. That is happening in my electorate, and I should not be surprised if the Minister himself were not seeking to acquire an additional area of land on which to grow bananas. I do not dispute the Minister’s contention that young men who should be employed in the dairying industry are accepting jobs as bakers’ carters. However, I am convinced that that is not by choice. Thousands of skilled farm workers would remain in rural industries if land were made available to them. I live in an area known locally as “the cabbage patch “. In that area there are vast tracts of country suitable for dairying.
– At prices that the bakers’ boys could not afford to pay.
– Bakers’ boys who have a knowledge of farming should be financed by the Commonwealth Bank to enable them to obtain farms. The Commonwealth has no jurisdiction over the purchase of land for closer settlement. I contend that unless suitable land is fully utilized for food production, shortages will become more acute. The honorable member for. Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), when sitting in Opposition during Labour’s term of office, constantly attacked the Government because farmers were unable to obtain cement and wirenetting. But he is now silent on this subject. I was told by a dairy inspector in my district that many young men would have been working in the dairying industry producing butter-fat this season if they had been able to obtain cement and other building materials. For their own part, they would have been prepared to live in tents, provided that they could erect suitable dairy premises. I emphasize that the present shortage of butter is due to the failure of the Government to maintain a proper balance between secondary and primary industries. An obligation now devolves upon the States to purchase land and make it available to young men who wish to follow dairying pursuits. It should be possible for the Commonwealth to assist financially. Big interests that honorable members opposite represent have recently been paying over £50 an acre for unimproved land, in areas where there is a good rainfall and good roads, and which are in close proximity to markets. Although honorable members opposite now complain about shortages I remind them that it was the opponents of Labour who advocated the lifting of control on land sales. It is a disgraceful state of affairs that although there are many young men in this country who are willing and anxious to go on the land to increase food production they are unable to do so because of their inability to pay the present high prices for suitable blocks. When Labour was in office steps were taken to ensure that cement and other commodities in short supply were made available first to essential users. To-day, however, cement is only within the reach of wealthy people. I understand that large quantities are available at £2 a bag. Although truck tyres are in short supply wealthy people are able to obtain them if they are prepared to pay the black market price, which is about three times the list price. More black markets exist to-day than when controls were in operation. The Government would be well advised to study the methods by which Labour maintained essential production in this country during war-time. We showed you how to do it during the war and we kept up production of this country.
-Order ! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– During the general election campaign in 1949 supporters of the Government promised the people that if returned to office they would reduce taxation and put value back into the £1. However, one of their first actions after coming to office was to abolish .the subsidy on superphosphate. If the Government is sincere in its desire to achieve increased production in the dairying industry it should restore the subsidy, at least in respect of fertilizers used in connexion with the dairying industry. The removal of the subsidy resulted in an increased cost of living to age pensioners who had to pay more for their purchases of dairy products. Young men engaged in the dairying industry cannot afford to pay the current price of £13 a ton for superphosphate in country areas. Members of the Australian Country party are well aware of the importance of superphosphate to the dairy-farmers. I am convinced that more young men would be encouraged to enter the dairying industry if my suggestion were adopted.
Another matter that I desire to mention concerns both the wool industry and our constitutional disabilities. It is my belief that every man in business should tell the truth about the product that he is trying to sell. I mentioned the same matter in this House about ten years ago when. I found that in America there were strict laws relating to the labelling of goods. I suggested that a measure to ensure the reliable labelling of goods should be placed upon our statute-book. Upon making inquiries I found that there were constitutional difficulties in the way of the Australian Government initiating legislation for the protection of consumers inside Australia. Actually that was a matter for the States. I am referring particularly to the bad effect on both wool-growers and consumers of the great mass of shoddy material that is sold as new wool. About two years ago a bill to deal with this matter was passed by the Australian Parliament, but it has not yet been implemented. Honorable members would be astounded if they knew the quantity of wool obtained from worn out suits and old rags that is sold as new wool. People buy that material in good faith and are charged the price of the new product. That is a shameful racket, and legislation to protect the consumers should be implemented. But of course there are great interests making enormous profits from this racket, and their power is difficult to break.
Not only is the consumer suffering^, but the reputation of Australian wool is in jeopardy. I ask again why the laws relating to the labelling of products nave not been implemented. The selling of old worn out wool for new is just as serious a matter as the selling of adulterated foods. I say to all traders in shoddy, “ Certainly you can sell your shoddy product, but you must brand it as shoddy”. Surely that is a reasonable suggestion. This shoddy material is so treated that only a chemist can detect it, but after it has been used for a very short while it becomes useless. The fibres of the wool are broken and the value is not in it. I earnestly ask the Government to investigate this matter. Of course, the State governments must deal with the product sold inside Australia, but there is much that can be done by the Australian Government.
One of the greatest evils facing this nation to-day is inflation. We shall all become victims of rampant inflation, except a few wealthy and privileged groups who will emerge from the period of inflation more wealthy than ever. Farmers, businessmen and workers will be badly hit, and only the great financial institutions will escape. The signs and portents of this depression are to be seen every day. If the Government really desires to take some action to halt inflation it should adopt the financial measures advocated in Labour policy. Honorable members on the Government side could easily introduce those measures, if their masters would allow them to do so. The first thing that the Government should do is to control those interests which pour out enormous sums of money for the election expenses of the Liberal and Australian Country parties. They are the great financial institutions. His Excellency mentioned the Commonwealth Bank. That is again to be put under the control of private interests. About every third decade we have a period of depression and hardship, and in 1944-45 the Labour party drew up a blue-print of a method of combating depressions. The cardinal principle of that plan was that in order to prevent slumps we must prevent booms. Unfortunately it is too late to prevent our present boom, but the Government could still take some action. At the 1948 referendum on prices the Labour party made it clear that a depression was coming, and that plans should be made to meet it. Farmers have been buying land worth £8 or £10 an acre and paying up to £30 an acre for it. When the next depression comes they will be ruined. I do not know whether the Government will appreciate the £1. If that is done, incomes will be cut drastically and there will be a tightening of the money market. If the Government’s plans succeed, when that happens the Commonwealth Bank will not be in a position to expand credit while other financial institutions are restricting it. I base what I am saying on my own experience, and those who will not learn by experience are certainly blind.
To-day many young people do not understand the implications of the future, and they will be the victims of the depression, and will have to learn the hard way. There is nothing in His Excellency’s Speech to indicate that the Government is preparing to cope with the consequences which will follow our present boom. The last Labour Government had prepared to meet a slump. It had so arranged matters that it could keep every man in work, and adjust the internal economy to meet a slump in overseas prices. This Government will not do those things. Interest rates will remain as they are now, and young men who have bought homes for, say, £3,000, and who are paying their £3 a week interest with their present-day earnings of £12 or £14 a week, will lose the homes when their incomes drop to perhaps £7 a week. That is quite apparent because there will certainly be no reduction in interest rates. During the last depression the small farmers went out of business but the big men remained. The Government knows what will probably happen. The Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General contains nothing to indicate that any steps will be taken towards combating inflation, although it is obvious that we must prepare against eventualities. If a. farmer considers that there may be a period of dry years, he will conserve water and fodder supplies. Unlike the farmer, this Government is doing nothing.
Profiteering is blatantly open to-day. Every man is out for himself, and there is no control over the making of excess profits. When the Liberal and Australian Country parties were returned to office in 1949 some people stated that they had thus regained their freedom. Those people did not appreciate that it was really the financial institutions which had gained their freedom to exploit the people of this country. Because of the inflationary trend to-day, if a man gets into debt he finds himself working to pay the interest on it for the remainder of his days. The farmers of Australia should know something about that. It is true that many farmers have been able to pay off their debts during recent years, but it must be remembered that the young men starting out are required to shoulder heavy liabilities. We do not wish to see a repetition of the depression of the 1930’s. This Government has its job in front of it. I do not expect a great deal from it because the interests which finance it make certain that the people always suffer.
– Having listened to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) , I find it difficult to believe that he represents a party that recently lost a general election. From the manner in which the honorable member spoke one might be pardoned for thinking that he was a member of a party that had just won an election. This is perhaps a convenient time to review briefly the general election which recently returned the Menzies Government to this Parliament. From the point of view of the Government, it has been a highly satisfactory result. The Government has broken the Senate deadlock and is back in this House with a substantial majority. It is worthwhile remarking that in some respects luck was against us, because of the seats that were won by a majority of less than 1,000, no less than eight went to the Australian Labour party and only one to the Government parties. The election result was therefore rather more satisfactory for the Government parties than the numbers in the House would indicate. When one looks at the overall picture of the States one comes to the conclusion that the Government improved its position in Queensland.
New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania, and that the Opposition improved its position in Victoria and South Australia. The swing in each case was not big, but it was sufficient to show that the Government enjoys an increasing support. When one discounts the seats that have been won by small margins, and when both the Senate and the House of Representatives voting figures are considered, it will be seen that as far as tha Government parties are concerned the result of the general election is a satisfactory one to us.
What were the factors that swayed the election ? Let us take the two main issues on which the Government parties lost votes. They lost votes because of a reaction to the wool tax which was shamelesssly but effectively exploited by the Opposition. I consider that they also lost votes in connexion with social services. This arose from a matter which some people would consider to be reprehensible, although I do not find it so myself, because in that connexion the Australian Labour party policy was more definite than that put forward by the Government parties. However, I think that that is a factor out of which the Labour party has now screwed the last drop of juice, because the pensioners and those affected by the means test will find that although the promises made by the supporters of the Government were not as definite as those made by members of the Opposition, our performances will not be unsatisfactory. The factor which perhaps gave the Australian Labour party a little advantage at the last election will therefore be in our favour at coming elections because the people will see that even though we do not promise specifically we perform satisfactorily. On the other side of the picture, the Australian Labour party lost favour because of its undoubted involvement with the Communist party and its policy. The Opposition also lost support because of its unreasonable attitude towards the provision of clean ballots in trade unions and because of the fact that its then deputy leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) was so much tarred with the red brush. When one looks at the results, particularly in New South Wales, that is clearly reflected.
As an honorable member who increased his majority by approximately 1,000 votes, I can here speak with satisfaction. The two seats which were so significantly lost on the figures in New South Wales were, of course, Barton and East Sydney. The result in Barton is particularly interesting. In 1943, the present incumbent had a majority of approximately 35,000. By 1946, the people had started to find him out, although they did not have much opportunity because he resided very little in his electorate, but his majority shrunk from 35,000 to approximately 25,000. In 1949, with only half of his electorate left, because it had been split, his majority had been reduced to approximately 2,700, whilst in 1951 it was reduced still further to the magnificent figures of 243.
– But he is still here!
– That is admitted. The right honorable gentleman was one of the lucky ones.
– Is not the honorable member himself lucky to be here?
– What is the reason for that tremendous loss of votes by the right honorable gentleman? I suggest that it is because he involved himself with the Communist party, because he sponsored Communist policies, and because the people were finding him out little by little. I think that the right honorable gentleman might be described as a man with a mind like a corkscrew - penetrating but twisted. Perhaps the electors of Barton are beginning to realize what Dr. “ Shifty-Twisty “ is really’ like. The other electorate to which I refer is that of East Sydney, in which the Labour candidate suffered a tremendous loss that was out of all proportion to the general trend of voting throughout New South Wales. In that instance, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) obtained over 2,000 votes fewer than were recorded in his favour at the preceding election, whilst the total vote cast in favour of the Liberal party candidate increased by approximately that number. I admit that at the preceding general election an independent candidate stood in East Sydney. However, in spite of the fact that there was a straight-out contest between the Labour party candidate and the Liberal party candidate at the recent election, the total vote recorded for the honorable member for East Sydney decreased by over 2,000 votes. That was not due in any way to the electors finding out progressively about the honorable member, because they have known him for quite a long time. It was due to another reason. The electorate of East Sydney happens to include the State electorate of Darlinghurst, and, owing to the fraud that was practised in that State seat by Mr. Finnan-
– I rise to order. The honorable member has stated that fraud was practised in the State electorate of Darlinghurst. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that such language is unparliamentary. 1 wish to inform honorable members who may not be aware of the fact that at a judicial inquiry the allegations he has repeated were proved to be incorrect.
-The honorable member for Mackellar is entitled to say anything that he likes to say about anybody who is not a member of this House:
– In view of what the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) has just said, I shall recite the facts. Owing to a technical flaw in the law, the judge who conducted the inquiry- - and I do not criticize him in any way - found that he was unable to investigate these matters fully. Consequently, they were not aired in court. However, the truth is that before the last State election the Labour party organization in the Darlinghurst electorate sent out a number of “ return to sender “ envelopes and was thus enabled to ascertain the names on the roll of persons who would not be able to cast their votes in the electorate itself. Secondly, it is obvious from the fact that most of the fraudulent votes were cast at certain booths which an unusually large number of cars visited that those votes were recorded as absentee votes. Having regard to those circumstances, it is fair to say that the significant decrease of the total vote cast at a later date for the honorable member for East Sydney was due to the fact that precautions had been taken to exclude the “ cemetery “ vote. The cleaning up of the roll in the State seat of
Darlinghurst reduced the “cemetery” vote that was cast at the last election in the electorate of East Sydney.
– But the honorable member for East Sydney gained a majority of the living vote.
– As I have already said, the total valid vote cast for the honorable member for East Sydney was reduced by a number that was out of all proportion to the normal trend of voting throughout New South Wales.
Since the last general election there has been a notable swing towards the left in the Labour Opposition. Before the lamented death of Mr. Chifley, the two members of that party who contested the deputy leadership were the two honorable members whom I have mentioned, the right honorable member for Barton and the honorable member for East Sydney. Since Mr. Chifley died, the right honorable member for Barton has been elected, temporarily at any rate, Leader of the Opposition. Those facts reveal a swing to the left throughout the Labour party. The opinion has been expressed, and I believe rightly, that the present Leader of the Opposition may occupy his position only temporarily. I direct the attention of honorable members to clause 9 of the federal constitution of the Australian Labour par’ity which reads -
On all questions affecting members of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party the decisions of the Federal Conference shall be final. Pending consideration by the Federal Conference, the ruling of the Federal Executive shall be binding.
That means, of course, that the Leader of the Opposition in this House occupies that position not by a majority vote of the Labour caucus, but by permission of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party. It is remarkable how even those members of the Labour party, such as the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce), who gained election on the distribution of the Communist party’s preferences, are still able to say in this House, “We are opposed to Communism “. What does the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), for example, think about this matter? He is not a Communist. I believe that he is a sincere opponent of communism.
But he holds his seat in this House by grace of the Communist vote. His position must be very embarrassing to him and I offer him my sincere condolences. What about the New South Wales Labour Government, which is in power by grace of the single vote of Mr. Finnan, who’ gained election because, owing to a technical flaw in the law, the casting of fraudulent votes in his favour could not be investigated by the appropriate tribunal? Even allowing for those fraudulent, votes, Mr. Finnan still had to rely on the Communist party candidate’s preferences in order to secure election and thus give to McGirr his present control of the Parliament of New South Wales. Is not that situation very embarrassing even for honorable members opposite who are sincere opponents of communism ?
Having dealt with those events of the past, I shall now say something about the future. I refer to the suggestions that have been made in this House about the necessity to overhaul the Constitution. I agree with them because I believe that things have happened that have rendered the Constitution outmoded in many respects. Therefore, we should not delay in appointing a committee, which, I suggest, should be representative of the Parliament and, possibly, of State Parliaments, to review the Constitution in order to assist us in the consideration of a scheme that must ultimately be submitted to the final judgment of the electorate. However, I regret that in this matter all the emphasis has been placed upon the need to overhaul the relationship between the Commonwealth and the State governments. Whilst I agree that such action should be taken, I believe that it is not the sole, or even the most important, thing that requires to be done. Many honorable members of this House come from families that have played a notable part, in the history of Australia but there is, I should think, no one who can speak with greater weight of tradition than I can with regard to the position of the State parliaments. I do not attempt to minimize the validity, or importance, of what has been said in that respect by other honorable members, but I believe that there are more important matters that we should first consider. They arise from the fact that in this country and in other countries we have seen introduced practices that would have been incredible 50 years ago. I refer, first, to the necessity to protect the High Court against packing, and secondly, to the necessity to prevent gerrymandering in the election of members of the Parliament. It is not widely realized that the Australian Parliament has the power of its own choosing without reference to the people, to appoint an unlimited number of justices to the High Court. Any Australian government that wished to twist the Constitution could achieve its objective in that way. If the High Court can be controlled in that way - and it has not been controlled in the past - no institution established under the Constitution will be safe, because every such institution depends for its existence upon the interpretation of the Constitution by the High Court. We must protect the court from that kind of possible attack. It is not often realized that this Parliament has almost unlimited power to gerrymander seats. There is no necessity in law for us to make electorates of equal size numerically or to make the number of members elected for each seat equal. There are many other technical points in this category to which consideration must be given, and all loop-holes should be closed without delay.
This Government can be trusted not to abuse its opportunities, but it will not be in power for ever. While it remains in power let it ensure that all loopholes shall be closed against possible unscrupulous acts. If the Labour party is honest, it will co-operate with the Government in this work. It would be impracticable to have a referendum on all these quasiadministrative matters, on every redistribution of seats and on every appointment to the High Court. Let us insert in the Constitution, if the people will allow us to do so by their vote, a provision that certain kinds of laws, particularly those that relate to- the High Court and to the method of election of members of this Parliament, shall not be valid unless they have first been passed by the Parliament and then re-passed by the Parliament after a general election. A provision of that character would give to the people, the just and final arbiters, power to prevent any government that had introduced a “ cooked “ electoral or High Court law from deriving benefit from it until after the people had spoken upon it. Technical difficulties would undoubtedly arise in affording a protection of that character and the subject needs further exploration, but I believe that that should be the road of approach to our greatest constitutional danger. These are not the only steps that should be taken. We should close known loopholes in the Constitution and insert in it a provision that certain laws in definite categories shall not be valid unless they have been passed by the Parliament and re-passed after a general election. A provision of that kind would give us some protection from and some remedy against totalitarianism.
We must also devise some method of preventing irreversible socialism - the tail-feathers that cannot be put back on the bird - without reference to the people. We must devise some way of preventing that kind of abuse of power that was characterized by the Labour party’s attack on the financial system in its proposed banking monopoly and nationalization legislation of four years ago. These matters need urgent attention. In my opinion they are of greater urgency than is a review of the relations between tho Commonwealth and the States. -I do not in any way try to avoid the conclusion that Commonwealth and State relations must be reviewed, particularly on the financial side. Honorable members may recall that in this House some months ago I submitted a proposition that the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States could be best adjusted if we allowed the Commonwealth to retain its. primary taxing power, perhaps at a lower level, and gave to each State power to levy income tax on the untaxed balance remaining in the hands of the taxpayers after the Commonwealth impost had been taken from them. That simple device would do much to remove those causes of unsatisfactory State administration to which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) has drawn such cogent attention. I do not think for one moment that the constitutional questions of which I have spoken can be solved in a matter of months. They will need lengthy consideration.
Finally, we should act quickly against the Communists. If the States do not give us the power we need to deal with communism nothing must be allowed to stand in the way of a referendum of the people to obtain it.
– I desire to say something-
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question bc now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative. presentation of ADDRESS-IN-REPLY.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I direct attention to the unsatisfactory way in which the Government’s muchvaunted free medical scheme for pensioners is operating. In actual fact, it is not free, because we discover that, after an unfortunate pensioner has made a most extensive search to find a doctor who will prescribe for him under the scheme, members of the medical profession in many instances, will not prescribe unless the pensioner pays a special fee.I ask the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) to inform me whether such practices are an infringement of the existing law, and whether action can be taken to correct this abuse of the position of those unfortunate persons.
I also ask the Minister to tell me how he can classify his scheme as free when the pensioner after he has obtained a prescription for which, in many instances, he has paid, is obliged to pay the chemist for the medicine. Many of those unfortunate persons have had to go without medical service because they are unable to meet those expenses. I should also like the right honorable gentleman to state whether certain medical practitioners in the vicinity of homes in which those old people are housed, have refused to come under the scheme, because they say that, if they were to do so, they would be deluged with applications for treatment by the occupants. Therefore, it is obvious that this much vaunted free medical scheme is not functioning for a large number of those unfortunate persons. I hope that the Minister will be able to inform the House whether action has been taken by the Government to clear up those particular abuses.
In the last Parliament, we were told that the Government contemplated the introduction of an excess profits tax. We did not hear anything about it during the last election campaign ; we have not heard anything about it since; and we have not seen any reference to it in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I should like to know whether the Government still intends to introduce an excess profits tax. When we questioned the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) about the matter in the last Parliament, he informed us that certain difficulties were being encountered in the preparation of the necessary legislation. He assured us that we need not feel concerned about the delay, because the operation of the tax would be made retrospective to the commencement of the present financial year. That, of course, will expire at the end of this month. The excess profits tax appears to be another item that is to be added to the Government’s long list of unfulfilled promises. The original promise was made during the last Parliament as a sop to the industrial workers, who were continually directing attention, through their representatives in the Parliament, to the exorbitant profits that were being earned by great manufacturing and business concerns. The Government knew that the people were paying close attention to the published details of the enormous profits that were being made by those undertakings, and the Treasurer, in order to try to appease the agitation for action, made a promise to the Parliament, which he has not yet fulfilled, to introduce an excess profits tax. From present indications, he does not intend to fulfil it. I ask the Government whether it is a fact that it no longer intends to proceed with the proposal to tax excess profits. If the Government intends to introduce such a tax, when shall we be furnished with details about it? I should also like to know whether the Government proposes to adhere to its previous decision to make the operation of the tax retrospective to the commencement of the present financial year.
– My door is always open to any honorable member, to whom
I extend the most courteous treatment, if he wishes to direct my attention to various matters under the free medical scheme. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has made some general statements about the operation of that scheme, but he has not made specific accusations. His proper course, if he wishes to obtain redress for the pensioners to whom he has referred, is to take the action that I have suggested.
– I have written to the Minister repeatedly about the matter, and have not received any satisfaction.
– The honorable gentleman simply wishes to make party political capital out of this matter. That is the only reason why he has raised it to-day.
– You are an old humbug.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– Order ! The honorable member must also apologize for having made it. I will not tolerate that kind of language here.
– I apologize.
– I have not heard the honorable member for East Sydney apologize.
– You need to clean your ears out.
– Order! The honorable member will not use such terms here. He will withdraw and apologize to the House.
– I withdraw. I am satisfied that the honorable gentleman has cleaned his ears out:
-Order ! The honorable gentleman will withdraw that statement, too.
– I did.
– He must withdraw the second statement.
– I withdraw it.
– If any further statements like that are made I shall adjourn the House without putting the question.
– As I informed an honorable member yesterday, about 75 per cent, of general medical practitioners have offered to co-operate in providing the concessional service for pensioners throughout Australia. One member of the Opposition came to me yesterday and said that he understood that every doctor in the electorate which he represented in Melbourne was serving the pensioners under the concessional scheme. I have seen the statistics in relation to many Sydney suburbs, and the same position applies in those districts. I have visited many country towns during the last eight weeks and most of the doctors in those centres have volunteered to act under the scheme. The exceptions are mainly aged doctors who are not disposed to go out at night. It is true, of course, that some variation of the scheme will have to be provided in the districts where there are tremendous numbers of pensioners. Naturally, a few doctors will not be able to look after 2,000 or 3,000 agc pensioners congregated in homes near their surgeries, and, at the same time, continue to carry on their general practices. Nobody would ask them to do so. Most doctors at present are working for many hours each day, and far into the night as well. They are not working a mere 40-hour week, or even less, as many persons engaged in other pursuits are doing. For that reason, I cannot understand why the honorable member for East Sydney has chosen the method of attack that he has employed. In relation to medicines-
– Is it permissible for doctors to charge pensioners for their prescriptions ?
– Not if they have offered their services under the terms of the agreement that has been made with the British Medical Association. Any doctor who has not done so is in the same position as anybody else who has not agreed to give his professional or trade services.
– That is why the doctors will not come into the scheme.
– That is pure nonsense ! The truth is that most of the doctors of Australia have given their services gratuitously to age pensioners for many years. I fling back that accusation in the honorable member’s face.
It is a damnable accusation against men who for years and years have been doing a magnificentjob of work.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. We are being rather proper with our language to-day and I want to know why the Minister has been allowed to proceed after having accused an honorable member of having made a damnable accusation.
– I did not hear the word “ damnable “.
– I withdraw the remark if it is unparliamentary. Surely some recognition should be accorded for the many years of service that most doctors have given to pensioners.
In relation to medicines, the Government has attempted to bring into operation a system that will work smoothly and efficiently. The Labour Government prepared an unworkable plan to provide free medicine for the people. Only about 150 of the 7,000 doctors in Australia were willing to work under that scheme. This Government has succeeded in arranging for every chemist in Australia and the doctors whom I have mentioned to provide a free health service for pensioners.. Furthermore, as I said in reply to a question earlier to-day, negotiations have reached a stage which will ensure that, in the very near future, medicines apart from the life-saving drugs that are already supplied free of charge will be available under the same conditions. From the letters that I have received from hundreds of age pensioners throughout Australia and the advice that has been given to me by many members of this Parliament, I am convinced that most pensioners are satisfied and pleased with the scheme, which enables them to obtain the service that they receive from the doctors merely upon the presentation of their entitlement cards. A similar system in relation to medicines outside the category of life-saving drugs willsoon come into force. I am convinced that, within three months - well in advance of the next election, which the honorable member for East Sydney had in mind when he raised this issue - this will be found to be one of the most satisfactory services in Australia. I am glad that the honorable member made his attack, because it has enabled me to nail the accusation immediately. I am sure that, within three months, nobody in Australia will give it the slightest-
– The right honorable gentleman said that last year.
– -And what happened when we went to the country? The Labour party was defeated not only in the House of Representatives campaign but also in the Senate campaign. The people gave an emphatic verdict in favour of the Government’s policies in relation to the issues which were the main features of the campaign and also in relation to medical services. There can be no doubt about that. I am satisfied that the situation will continue to improve.
– Is it true that a patient must pay 15s. for a doctor’s certificate in order to obtain 2s. worth of heroin?
– Order ! The honorable member has interjected too frequently.
– I am glad to have had the opportunity to reply to the honorable member for East Sydney.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Bask Act - Appointment Certificate - A. H. McNaughtan.
Lands Acquisition Act-Land acquired for Banking purposes - North Stayne, New South Wales.
Immigration purposes - Cessnock, New South Wales.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - M. Georgouras.
Supply- -W.Craick, C. G. B. Stokes.
House adjourned at 1.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 June 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19510622_reps_20_213/>.