20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. Archie Cameron), took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, relates to the credit policy of the Commonwealth Bank, acting in its capacity as a central hank. Will the right honorable gentleman say whether any changes have been made during the last few months in the instructions, directions or ‘suggestions issued by the Commonwealth Bank to the trading banks? Will he consider whether it will be possible to make known to honorable members the general nature of such instructions ?
– There has been no modifications of the instructions in relation to credit policy issued by the Commonwealth Bank to the trading banks, a copy of which I gave to th* right honorable gentleman some time ago I shall consider the extent to which T can make available to honorable members the information that he has requested be supplied to them.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that building workers employed at, the Bell Bay aluminium project are still on strike? The continuance of the strike may cause the commencement of production at the project to be delayed seriously. Will the honorable gentleman inform me of the cause of the strike and of the steps that have been taken to terminate it?
– Building workers employed at Bell Bay have been on strike for some time, but I have reason to believe that the strike is petering out and that the men are returning to work. The strike appears to have been ill-advised and unauthorized, and has been denounced by the federal secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation. Apparently, it was inspired by a man named Collis. I ha ve been told that he is a Communist. Bie is certainly not an official of the Builders Labourers Federation, except a self-appointed one. I am informed that he has even gone to the extent of printing his own union cards. His activities have been denounced by officials of the’ organization. I can describe the strike only as another Communist attempt to injure our defence industries.
-Order ! The Minister is indulging in comment.
– I have received a letter from the Western Australia Hardware Association, which contains the following passage : - .
If supplies of .303 ammunition arcs not made available, it is feared that the various pests to which the country people are subject will get beyond control, with resultant bad effect upon the economy of this State.
Will the Minister for Supply endeavour to improve the rate of production of this ammunition and use his influence to ensure that a proper quota is sent to Western Australia?
– I have this matter under review as Minister for Defence Production. I shall give it immediate consideration and I hope to be able to advise the honorable member on the situation at a later date.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House under what conditions new Australians who are under contract to the Commonwealth may join the armed forces? Do the contracts of new Australians in any way restrict or prejudice their enlistment?
– If a new Australian who has a contractual arrangement with the Commonwealth desires to join the forces and is accepted for service on a full-time basis, his contractual obligations do not prevent him from so serving. Any full time that he does so serve counts as part of the period of his contract.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether youths who have joined the Citizen Military Forces and are now serving with those forces, are liable to call-up as national service trainees ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is in the affirmative. All youths who reach the age of eighteen years after the prescribed dates are required to register for call-up. The only exemptions are those provided for in the legislation.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether young men attending university high schools and other colleges were given to understand when they joined cadet corps at their respective institution’s, that in view of the training they would undergo in such CorDS due allowance would be made with respect to their obligation to undergo training in accordance with the National Service Act? If so, will the Minister ensure that that undertaking shall be honoured ?
– I have made careful inquiries about the matter that the honorable member has raised, and so far as T have been able to ascertain no undertaking of the kind that he has mentioned was ever given. If those in charge of certain, cadet corps gave such an undertaking they had no authority to do so. It is proposed that every youth who serves in a cadet corps at a public school and who, subsequently, in the course of training under the National Service Act reveals ability as a leader and shows that he has profited by his cadet training, will be given the opportunity to undergo a special course in leadership, and on the basis of his performance during such course, will be eligible for promotion after qualifying at a competitive examination. They will then continue service in the Australian Military Forces in the rank to which they have been appointed.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National .Service aware that Laurence Short, leader of the Labour Industrial Group in the Federated Ironworkers Association was recently expelled from that union on the uncorroborated evidence of Walter George Bourne, a member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union? Is Walter George Bourne a suspected member of the Communist party and have the following convictions been recorded against him: - At Port Adelaide on the 17th February, 1931 - convicted on a charge of offensive behaviour and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment; at Port Adelaide on the 17th February, 1931 - convicted on a charge of contempt of court and sentenced to two weeks’ imprisonment; at Port Adelaide on the 25th August, 1942 - convicted on a charge of common assault and placed under bond to be of good behaviour for twelve months.
-Order! I think that the convictions that the honorable member has mentioned should be enough.
– If the answer to my question is in the affirmative, will the Minister take action to ensure that Short is given all the assistance to which he is entitled under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in order to protect himself against the treatment of which he has so obviously been a victim ?
– I understand that Mr. Short is at present engaged in some proceedings before the court which concern allegations of irregularities.- in connexion with the ballot which was conducted by the Federated Ironworkers Union. I am not able to deal with the matters that have been raised by the honorable member except to tell him that, as previously announced by’ the Government, legislation will be introduced during this session, which it is hoped will give the rank and file unionist the opportunity to ensure that they will be represented by people whom they regard as fit and proper persons to hold trade union positions.
– In explanation of a question which I desire to address to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture T should like to read to the House a telegram which I have received from Kempsey, New South Wales, concerning h conference of representatives of cooperative butter factories in that area. The telegram reads -
Conference Friday resolved if milk products get increase butter and cheese factories will switch manufacture; position serious; advise Minister.
I ask the Minister whether there is a sufficiently close liaison between the Australian Government and the State government departments responsible for the control of prices to ensure that an alteration in the price of processed milk products will not have serious repercussions on butter production?
– The honorable member was good enough to show me the text of this telegram before the proceedings opened to-day. Frankly, I do not clearly understand the purport of the telegram. The Government will make no decision about a price adjustment in reference to processed milk products that would have the result of . increasing the return for milk supplied for the manufacture of such products as against the return for milk supplied for the manufacture of butter and cheese. The State prices authorities have it within their competence to make a price adjustment in connexion with processed milk products or any other commodity for sale within Australia. My department has advised me that it can only believe that this matter refers to some adjustment of the price of processed milk products on the local market, which meets additional factory costs, such as for tinplate or other containers, or for labour. If that is so, then it should not have any bearing upon the capacity of the producers of processed milk topay a higher price to their suppliers as against the price paid to .people who supply milk to butter factories. There is liaison between the Australian Government and the State Prices Commissioners and I shall see that the implications of any price increase of the kind referred to are clearly understood by the State authorities.
– ls the Prime Minister aware that in a number of Australian capital cities, particularly in Canberra, butter distributors are rationing butter supplies and are supplying only housewives who they consider are regular customers? In so doing, they are depriving casual purchasers of the opportunity of securing butter supplies. Is the decision of the storekeepers to ration butter to regular customers in accordance with Government policy and at thu request of the Government? If not, will the Prime Minister take the necessary steps to ensure that all citizens requiring butter will have an equal opportunity of purchasing their requirements?
– This matter does not fall, for administrative purposes, within my own department. I shall treat the honorable member’s question as being on the notice-paper, and refer it to my appropriate colleague.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say how much of the 117,000,000 lb. of butter that was exported during the ten months ended the 30th April last was sent to the United Kingdom, and how much of -it was sent to foreign countries? Can he also advise the House what price per lb. was charged to the United Kingdom and what price was charged to foreign countries ?
– I shall obtain the information for which the honorable member has asked and advise him in due course.
– Did the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture see a report in the press last Sunday to the effect that 60,000 cases of butter, representing 3,360,000 lb. were held in cold storage in Sydney ? Will lie say whether he was aware that such a quantity of butter was in storage? Is it a fact that those supplies are being kept until a price rise of about ls. 8d. per lb. is granted? Can the Minister give me any information about the quantity of butter that is stored in Dark’s cold store, at Newcastle, and in other centres? Will the Government take action to ensure that butter will be released from cold storage for local consumption before an increase of price is granted, or does the Minister blame the miners for hoarding butter while the general public does without it?
– I was not aware of the quantity of butter which was held in cold store, but I presumed that some supplies of that commodity were so held in Sydney. Since the publication of the report in a Sunday newspaper to which the honorable member for Shortland has referred, I have had the figures checked. The newspaper stated that 60,000 cases of butter are held in store in Sydney. I have ascertained that about ten days or a fortnight ago, approximately 84,000 cases of butter were held in store, but the latest information given to me is that 71,000 cases are held in store. The purpose of holding such a quantity in store is to meet an anticipated shortage-
– And an anticipated increase in price.
– Order ! There must be no comment on a reply that a Minister is making to a question.
– The butter that is held in store will be released to the market regularly during the period of the shortage in New South Wales.
– At an increased price.
-Order! If honorable members are not prepared to listen to the reply, I shall ask the Minister to resume his seat.
– I make it quite clear, as a matter of public interest, that butter held by a butter factory or a wholesaler cannot benefit the factory or the wholesaler in the event of an increase of price. The advantages accruing from a price rise would be distributed by the process of equalization throughout the whole of the dairying industry, and no individual factory or trader would derive the advan tage from it. The only circumstance in which any one can gain a benefit from an increase of price is if an individual or a retailer is holding butter or, for that matter, boots, beer or any other commodity, the price of which is increased.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Health to the plight of diabetics and aged people owing to the butter shortage. As the right honorable gentleman is aware, diabetics must eat more butter than the average person. In view of this fact, will the Minister consider the advisability of issuing to diabetics and aged people special butter coupons, in order to relieve the anxiety that the shortage of butter is causing them?
– There is no doubt that, owing to the butter shortage., diabetics are in desperate straits. During the period when butter was rationed, they were supplied with special coupons that entitled them to purchase more butter than the average person. I shall examine the suggestion that has been made by the honorable gentleman.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question which arises from his ‘ statement that 71,000 cases of butter were being held in storage because of a possible fall in the production of butter. What method does the Minister propose to adopt to inform the Australian people, who find is impossible to buy butter except at black market prices, that 71,000 cases of butter are being stored to provide for the contingency of a shortage?
– I think that the Australian public, except for the honorable member, will understand that it would be very silly, in view of the fact that the shortage of butter is expected to last for another nine weeks, to release all that is held in store for the purpose of having one big binge after which it would be necessary to go without for the rest of the nine weeks.
– Can the Minister for Immigration state whether departmental investigations have been made into complaints about the unsatisfactory accommodation provided for immigrants on some immigrant ships? . If so, what was the result of the investigation? If such accommodation has been found to be unsatisfactory, what steps are being taken to prevent similar happenings in future?
– Officers of the Department of Immigration board all vessels carrying immigrants as they arrive in Australia. I gather that the honorable member is referring to vessels which have brought immigrants who have come to this country privately and not under a government scheme. I am at present awaiting a report in relation to the vessel Protea about which complaints were made recently. When the report is received I shall investigate what action is available to the Government to ensure that the accommodation and conditions provided on vessels bringing immigrants to this country- privately are such as we consider reasonable and satisfactory under all the circumstances. That may be a matter more directly under the control of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I- can assure the honorable member that this matter will be investigated and suitable action taken.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen reports of meetings of British immigrants in Sydney last Saturday at which complaints were made about the poor quality and quantity of food, bad accommodation, lack of diningroom accommodation, lack of heating in huts and disgraceful conditions in general at immigration centres and the proposal to increase tariff rates at such camps by 10s. a week ? Representatives of British immigrants from eight centres in the Sydney metropolitan area brought complaints of a similar nature to my notice at Bankstown yesterday. Will the Minister cause inquiries to be made about those complaints and inform the House of his findings? If he would like to know the names of the hostels concerned, I shall be pleased to supply the list to him.
– I have already arranged for inquiries to he made into the published reports, but I have no doubt that they have been either inspired or magnified as the result of a recent increase of the general tariff rate at immigrant centres. Honorable members should be aware that the tariff rates charged to British immigrants are based on the wish of the Government merely to recover actual operating costs. They compare favorably with the rates charged for board and lodging by private residential establishments. It is provided that a man, after paying charges in respect of himself, his wife and hi3 family, shall have at least £2 left to his nominal weekly wage. Under present circumstances a man can considerably augment his nominal weekly wage by working overtime, or at week-ends. The statements that appeared in the press recently were investigated immediately, not only by officers of the Department of Immigration but also by Mr. Austin, a member of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, who is well known to many honorable members as the secretary of the Air Force Association. Mr. Jones, a senior officer of the Department of Labour and National Service, and Mr. Austin made an unannounced visit to Bradfield Park. In their report, which reached me to-day, they said that they arrived unannounced at approximately 7.30 a.m., in time to see breakfast being served. The meal consisted of cereal, Oatmeal and chop and egg. Bread, butter, tea and jam were on the tables. They had a meal with the immigrants, and found it to be excellent, both in regard to quantity and quality. They said that a notice was posted which invited immigrants to ask for additional serves, if required. It is admitted that the food service is slow at the present time, but this hostel is being converted for use by British immigrants, and the work has not yet been completed. .
– The complaints that I have received come from eight hostels.
– I have some knowledge of the organization that has been established to feature these complaints. I am glad to be able to say that whenever publicity is given to complaints of this kind, other residents in the hostels concerned write to us assuring us that they dissociate themselves from the people who are causing the trouble and saying that they have a very real appreciation of what the Australian ‘Government and the Australian people are doing for them. No government in the world is doing more than is the Australian Government for new settlers. We are willing at all times to investigate speedily any complaints that are brought to our notice, but we want to make it clear that we consider that we are doing all that we can reasonably be expected to do to ensure the comfort and happiness of immigrants who arrive in this country. That is not always an easy task. One complaint that was made recently was that there was too much meat in the sausages that were served. English people who had become accustomed to sausages filled mainly with breadcrumbs, apparently found our sausages to be a little strong for them. I assure the House that we are trying to provide a reasonable service, and I think that the majority of immigrants are very appreciative of our efforts.
– Is the Treasurer aware that income tax is payable on the pay of members of the Citizen Military Forces? Will the Treasurer, when preparing his budget, consider making the Citizen Military Forces pay exempt from such tax?
– 1 shall give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion.
– Will the Treasurer state what progress has been made with the preparation of legislation to impose an excess profits tax, which he promised to introduce in the last Parliament? When is that legislation likely to come before the Parliament for discussion? Does the Government still intend to ma.ke it effective retrospectively to the commencement of this financial year ?
– Legislative proposals in relation to the taxation of all profits will be embodied in the budget.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he is aware that owing to scarcity of engine crews the carriage of goods by rail is being . severely restricted in New South Wales? As this position is fairly general in all the States, will the Minister consider setting up a special tribunal to examine conditions which apply to engine crews to ensure that they will be made sufficiently attractive for. us to develop this essential service quickly, at least as a component part of Australia’s national preparedness against the, possibility of war ?
– lt is a fact that the railways, in company with most other public utilities, are experiencing a very acute shortage of labour. In fact, wo have been advised that the overall requirements from immigration of Australian railway maintenance and construction staffs is about 15,000 persons, lt is impossible to provide anything like that number within a measureable space of time. I shall ascertain whether the specific proposal of the honorable member can be examined, but I can assure him that the Government is keeping in close touch with railway authorities, and is doing what it «an to relieve their staff shortages.
– Is the Minister “for Social Services aware that recently an announcement was made in the Sydney press intimating that age and invalid pensioners were entitled, during the winter months, to apply for a blanker, or rug through the agency of social services Would the Minister inform the House whether that announcement is correct, and whether this service Is to. be made available by the Australian Government through the Department of Social Services ?
– I am not aware of the press notices referred to by the honorable member for Mitchell, but under the Social Services Consolidation Act no provision is made for the supply of blankets or rugs to pensioners. However, under the legislation of all States blankets are made available in necessitous cases. In New South Wales the State department administering social services makes blankets available to people who need them.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether homes are exempt from pension, rate calculation only when they are occupied by a pensioner. Is the Minister aware that when homes are vacated by pensioner owners, thi valuation is calculated in the same way as it is in the case of other property and that valuation generally results in the cancellation of the pension? If it can be proved that such homes have been vacated because of the illness, age or infirmity of the pensioner owners and that they are not being used for profitproducing purposes, will the Minister consider waiving the process which now applies?
– I shall consider the matter that has been raised by the honorable member in conjunction with the review of pensions that is to be made.
– I ask the Minister for Health, who is in charge of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, whether he knows that there are serious recurrent outbreaks of a braxy-like disease among sheep in Western Australia, which is due largely to the fact that entero-toxaemia vaccine, the preventive serum, is not obtainable in that State in spite of the fact that a large quantity is on order from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories? Can the right honorable gentleman give any indication when those , orders will be met, and what action can be taken to speed up the supply of vaccine in order to prevent the ravages of the disease and reduce the serious losses being incurred at the present time.
– The vaccine for the braxy-like disease, entero-toxaemia, has been in short supply for some time. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have been making as much as is possible with their present equipment. However, this vaccine has had to be rationed. 1 understand that about the 10th or 11th June 176,000 doses were sent to Western Australia and I believe that before the end of the month a further similar quantity will be made available. Every effort is being made to ensure that the supply of vaccine is kept up to sheep-growers.
– Can the Minister for Territories inform the House whether a final decision has been made in respect of the Darwin town plan? I ask this question “because of the concern and inconvenience being caused to business people and other citizens in Darwin who hold short-term leases of their land, many of which leases are due bo expire next Saturday.
– Following consultations among interested departments, a decision was recently made regarding the Darwin town plan. The decision modified the earlier proposals chiefly in respect of the retention of the existing business area and the making of * provision for the widening of certain streets. As a consequence of that decision the Administrator has already been authorized to issue long-term leases in respect of land within the Darwin town area.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport able to say whether efforts to establish a regular service from Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney to central and northern Queensland ports are meeting with success? If such efforts are not succeeding, what are the most important factors that are operating against its inauguration ?
– I shall refer the question that the honorable member has asked to my colleague and obtain an answer for him as soon as possible.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, when replying to a question that was asked in the House last Friday, said that under the proposed wool marketing plan the Government would reserve the right to make the final decision with respect to the reserve price and also with respect to the re-selling of wool. Will the Minister inform me whether the Government has that power only when it is called upon to finance the plan, or irrespective of whether or not it supplies the finance ?
– The question which has been asked by the honorable member for Mallee refers to the contingency of a plan being in operation, and not to an actual state of affairs at the present time. Those persons who negotiated the plan for the industry have understood, from the first interview on the subject, that the Government, in return for giving a guarantee to the proposed organization that, if its own funds became exhausted in the purchasing of wool, Treasury funds would be made available for that purpose, would have the right to make the final decisions on the reserved price from the outset of the plan, and on the re-sale or re-offering policy at all stages during the operation of the plan.
– My question to the Minister for Supply is supplementary to one which I asked him last week about tinplate. In view of the urgent requirements of essential industries for supplies of tinplate, does the Government consider it an unsatisfactory arrangement for the allocation of tinplate to be made by a private committee, the prime consideration of which must obviously be the most profitable avenue? What action does the Government propose to take in order to ensure that essential industries shall get the first priority in the allocution of tinplate, since the manufacturing of containers is now in the hands of a monopoly established by a recent amalgamation of container firms to form one firm named Containers Limited, the major shareholders of which are British and American monopolists?
– The allocation of such tinplate as comes into Australia is at present made, not by the Government, but by a private committee which consists of a few individuals who are drawn from the tinplate using industry in this country. The Government has no direct control over the committee because it has no legal power to enforce control. For practical purposes, it may be described as a private committee. I certainly do not know where we could obtain the members of an efficient committee unless we drew them from persons who have a wide knowledge of the tinplate industry. The members of this committee have been criticized from time to time, and I have made investigations since I have been the responsible Minister. As the result of my inquiries, I have every reason to believe that the committee has acted fairly and objectively, even though its members are interested parties. I know that one member of the committee from Queensland, who was appointed recently as the result of a complaint that Queensland was not represented, has said that he is satisfied that the members of the committee* are acting fairly in the interests of the whole industry. There may be something in the nature of a monopoly of cannistermaking in Australia, but it is by no means a complete monopoly. I do not know how, under present conditions and without legal authority, the Government could do much about that. However, I have no reason to suppose that this group of manufacturers is acting against the public interest.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service received a request from representatives of the sugar industry for the allocation of additional labour for this year’s harvest? If so, can he tell me whether the request has been fulfilled in full or in part?
– I received such a request, and I had a discussion on it with representatives of the industry in Canberra recently. The Government has already indicated to the industry that some of the labour that will be brought on the last ships which will brins- displaced persons to Australia will be made available for the forthcoming sugar harvest. The Government also hopes that the Italian Parliament will soon ratify our agreement with the Italian Government so that new Italian settlers also will be available for the sugar harvest. If I can obtain precise figures on this subject for the honorable gentleman I shall do so.
– Did the PostmasterGeneral listen to the announcement that was made last Sunday night from broadcasting stations 2GB and 2UE that hostilities in Korea had ended ? Can he say how it came to be made? What steps are being taken to prevent a recurrence of the incident? It is obvious that proper care was not taken in checking the accuracy of the report.
– On Sunday night, commercial broadcasting stations 2U.E and 2GB announced that the Korean war had ended and that hostilities in Korea had ceased. When the announcement was brought to my notice, I caused inquiries to be made. A report has not yet been received from station 2GB. The manager of Station 2UE has informed me that on Sunday at approximately 6.55 p.m., a few minutes before the time at which the station normally makes its news broadcast, the officer in charge of the news room received a telephone call from a person who said that he was an officer stationed at Victoria Barracks. The caller informed the officer in charge of the news room, apparently in an authoritative manner, that, according to a flash from General Robertson, the Korean war had ended. Station 2UE broadcast the flash. Immediately afterwards, station officials telephoned to Victoria Barracks to confirm the report and to obtain further details. They were told that Victoria Barracks knew nothing at all about the matter. It is to be regretted that confirmation of the report was not sought before the broadcast was made. At 7.30 p.m., the station announced that the rumour was unconfirmed and that there was some doubt of its accuracy. At 10.30 p.m., having made further inquiries of Victoria Barracks and having found that there was no substance in the report, the station broadcast a flash in which it was stated that the report was undoubtedly a hoax. The fact that this false report was broadcast by two very reputable commercial broadcasting stations shows that it is necessary to take steps to prevent a repetition of the occurrence. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is now considering with the stations concerned and with others, the steps that should be taken.
– Is the Minister aware that Station 4BH Brisbane broadcast an announcement similar to that which was broadcast by Stations 2GB and 2UE ? If so, can he say whether the circumstances in which that announcement was made were similar to those in which the announcements were made by the Sydney stations ?
– I have heard that other broadcasting stations were involved. Apparently there was a well-organized plan to ensure that this false information was disseminated. We have our suspicions about the source from which the report emanated.
– Hear, hear !
– So has the honorable member who has interjected.
– Order ! The Minister must ignore interjections.
– It is impossible to ascertain who was responsible for the false report. We shall endeavour to ensure that there will be no recurrence of the incident.
– On the 14th March, I asked the Prime Minister, among other things, whether the Government intended to abolish the Joint Coal Board, and if it did not intend to do so, whether it intended to appoint a new member to fill the vacancy that was caused by the death of Mr. J ack. The Prime Minister promises that I should receive a reply the next day. As I have not yet received a reply and in view of the fact that the vacancy has existed for nine months, will the Prime Minister state when I am likely to receive a reply to that question ?
– If the answer that was promised has not yet been given I apologize. It should have been given. I know that this matter has been engaging the consideration of the Minister for National Development. I shall convey this further question to him and ask that a. statement be made immediately.
Mr.SHEEHAN.- Will the Post master-General inform the House why there has been a delay in introducing the benefits of television into Australia?
– There seems to be some question whether television is a benefit or not. However, a delegation was recently sent overseas to inquire into various aspects of television such as technical requirements, programmes and cost. That delegation consisted of Mr. Moses, representing the Australian Broadcasting Commission; a high technical officer of the Postmaster-General’s Department and an official of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Those gentlemen have only recently returned to Australia. As soon as their report has been received and studied a decision will be made.
– Early in the life of the last Parliament, I requested the Government to grant naval guards working in naval dockyards long service leave and other conditions of employment similar to those enjoyed by peace officers. I was informed then,, and on other occasions later, that those conditions would be made applicable to naval guards. Will the Minister acting for the Minister for the Navy expedite the taking of the requisite action and specify that any determination that is made shall have retrospective effect? If action is not taken soon, there will be no naval guards left.
– When the honorable gentleman asked the question to which he has referred, I was Minister for the Navy. I undertook to have the matter investigated. Those investigations have been completed. The conditions of naval guards have been improved considerably along the lines indicated by the honorable gentleman. I cannot state off-hand the improvements that have been made, but I shall furnish the honorable gentleman with details later.
– I ask the Prima Minister whether it is a fact, that because of a disagreement between the Australian Government and the Victorian Government concerning cost, the school children of Victoria have been deprived of free milk, if this is so, will the Government agree to the implementation of the original proposal, which provided that the Commonwealth should meet the entire cost of the scheme, so that Victorian children may obtain the undoubted benefits of it?
– This matter is within the administrative control of the Minister for Health. However, what appears to have been unacceptable in Victoria has been accepted by the Government of every other State in the Commonwealth.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that considerable hardship has been caused to pensioners all over
Australia by the failure of his department to implement a scheme for the provision1 of free medicine? Can the Minister announce any details of the scheme which he intends to introduce for the provision of free medicine, but which is evidently not now in operation? If he is not abta to supply details of the scheme, will he state when it will commence to operate so that pensioners will not have to spend any part of their meagre incomes on medicine ?
– The pensioners are in a very much better position than they were in when the honorable member’s party was in office. They are receiving free medical treatment and the Government has been taking action to ensure that when the free medicine scheme is introduced it will be permanent and satisfactory.
– No doubt the Minister for External Affairs, as Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, is aware that supplies of newsprint are scarce throughout the world, including Australia. Can the Minister inform the House whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has investigated the possibilities of using plant fibre instead of wood pulp for the manufacture of newsprint? If not, will the Minister recommend to the organization that it should conduct such an investigation in view of the fact that this shortage is likely to become worse than it is at present and that it is necessary, therefore, for Australia to manufacture its own supplies of newsprint?
– A good deal of work of the type that has been mentioned by the honorable member has been done in the Forest Products Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I am not aware of the details of that research, but I shall ascertain them and provide the honorble member with the information that he desires.
– In the last Parliament, the Prime Minister promised to make periodical reports on how the battle to restore value to the £1 was progressing. When does he expect to make his next statement on this subject ?
– As the question appears to be grossly incorrect, I should like it to be placed on the notice-paper.
– Will the Treasurer state whether it is a fact that instructions have been issued to hanking institutions by the Government that loans for housing purposes must be curtailed? Is it a fact that many co-operative building societies are short of money for building loans and that they have had to limit their advances for home building? In view of the fact that there are thousands of people who are homeless in this country will the Minister make money available at low interest rates for the purpose of encouraging home building?
– The honorable member’s question has been based on a false premise. The instructions that he mentioned have not emanated from the Government. This is entirely a banking matter which is under the control and jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Bank.
– by leave - On Friday last the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) asked whether I would make a statement to the House on the financial state of the country giving as clear a picture of it as I did recently at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The right honorable gentleman is as well aware as I am that the conference to which he refers was not a “ conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers “ in the usual sense of the term, but was a formal meeting of the Australian Loan Council called at the request of the States under the provisions of the Financial Agreement and held in camera by virtue of a very long-standing decision of the Loan Council itself. The right honorable gentleman is equally well aware that it would be most improper for me to repeat publicly in this chamber or elsewhere the text of a statement made to the Loan Council in my capacity as chairman of that body. I shall, however, at a time which the Government regards as appropriate, present to the House as full a statement as can be given of our financial affairs. In regard to the particular matters raised at the end of the right honorable gentleman’s inquiry, I am able to inform the House that the last Commonwealth loan, which was for a nominal amount of £40,000,000, resulted in cash subscriptions by the Australian public to the amount of £48,790,000. The loan was issued at a slight discount in order to make the effective yield to the investor approximately equal to the yield obtainable by investors from bonds of earlier issues purchased on the open market. The state of the market was such that the new loan opened at a slight disadvantage to the investor compared with the terms that he could obtain by purchasing comparable securities issued at an earlier date. Quotations of the new stock have opened at a discount slightly greater than that offered by the Government, and the whole experience seems to indicate that the Government could hardly have gauged the market possibilities more accurately.
– by leave - My question to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), which referred to his statement to the Australian Loan Council, was based entirely upon newspaper reports which purported to be verbatim extracts from the right honorable gentleman’s speech to that body. They were published in a number of newspapers. I submit to the House and to the right honorable gentleman, that members of this House are entitled to such information as the Government may give to the Loan Council if, at the same time, the Government, or the Treasurer, makes those statements available to the press.
– I did not make them available to the press.
– Well, they were in the press.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
Presentation to the GOVERNOR.GENERAL
-I inform the House that the Address-in-Reply will be presented to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, at Government House, at 5.15 p.m. to-morrow.- I shall be glad if the mover and seconder of it, together with as many other honorable members as can conveniently do so, will accompany me to present it.
SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1951-52. Second Reading.
Debate resumed from the 20th June (vide page 136), on motion by Sir ARTHUR Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I suggest that Supply Bill (No. 1) 1951-52, Supply (Works and Services) Bill (No. 1) 1951-52, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1950-51, Appropriation (Works and Services Bill) (No. 2) 1950-51, Loan Bill 1951, War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1951, Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1949-50, and Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1949-50, be treated as cognate bills for the purpose of debate.
– The Opposition offers no objection to that course if what the Vice-President of the Executive Council, intends is that honorable members shall have the right, in the course of the one speech that they will be entitled to make, to discuss all of the bills and then, at the time that the Government deems appropriate, a vote will be taken on each of the measures separately.
.- The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in introducing down the Supply bills and Appropriation bills, has opened the debate with a review of the financial position since the presentation of the last budget. He has indicated clearly to the Parliament and the country the truth of something that the Opposition has consistently pointed out, which is that costs are rising sharply from day to day. In each of his statements covering the various bills the Treasurer has pointed out that the difference between the estimated expenditure and the actual expenditure of the Government has been occasioned by the sharply increasing cost of living and by increases of the basic wage. We believe that that statement indicates once again that the Government is failing in its responsibility to the Parliament and the country. It is no answer to say that at the last general election the Government received a new mandate. The Government has a continuing responsibility to the Parliament and the country and, indeed, to posterity, to make sure that the present runaway inflation is checked. However,- neither in the past practice of this Government, nor in its policy so far as we can learn it, can we find anything to indicate that the Government is even aware of the problems that exist to-day although they are growing problems to which the Government is contributing by its actions.
The Treasurer has sought appropriations for Supply for four months after the 1950-51 budget funds have been exhausted. The Opposition is at a . grave disadvantage because there is, in fact, no financial policy for us to discuss in this House. There has been no indication from the Treasurer, who represents the Government, that the Government is aware of the present situation or that it contemplates taking any action about it. In previous debates, when the Labour party was in office, the then Treasurer, the late right honorable member for Macquarie, Mr. Chifley, was consistently criticized because his Estimates were falsified by the march of events. I say no more than we said on those occasions, which is that when the situation is changing from day to day, as it has been over recent years, it is almost impossible to make a correct estimate of budget income and expenditure. The papers presented by the Treasurer on this occasion justify fully the arguments used by us when we were in office. Estimates have been f fasified in the period covered by the last budget brought down by the Treasurer. Ho has failed also to estimate properly for expenditure. We demand a clear statement of financial policy from the Government. We and the people demand that the Government shall show some realization of popular concern about the present financial position, and for the future of this country when the present boom has passed, or perhaps broken.
In .reply .to a question asked by tha Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to-day, the Treasurer said that he would make a statement on the financial position of the country when the Government ‘regards it as ‘appropriate for such a statement to be made. We are approaching the end of this present sessional period. Inflation is mounting from day to day. Yet in that situation the Treasurer has so little appreciation of his responsibility, and apparently so little appreciation of the dangers that ‘confront this country, that in what is perhaps the last fortnight of this sessional period he stands in his place and says that when the Government considers the time appropriate “he will make a statement about the financial position of the country. That statement was due to the Opposition right at the beginning of this Parliament and, in fact, is absolutely necessary in order that an intelligent discussion shall take place upon this series of bills and upon the current .situation generally. We demand that the Government forthwith make -a statement on the financial position of this country, as well as a statement, at , least in broad outline, of how it intends to cope with Australia’s present and future problems. ‘The Treasurer said that he had made his statements to the Loan ‘Council. I .say that he dared not make them to .this Parliament. He said that the Loan Council is .a statutory creation and as the correct body to which such statements should be /made. However, the Loan Council is the creation of this Parliament and the State parliaments. But this Parliament is the supreme body because it is supported by the authority of the Australian people. To-day the Treasurer informed honorable members that the Parliament cannot be told the state of Australia’s finances, and that it cannot be told what measures the Government proposes to take to meet present and future contingencies. We are thereby informed that a body which has been created by the Parliament and which is less in stature than this Parliament, is to be given full information about the financial position of Australia and the measures the Government proposes to combat inflation, whereas the Parliament itself may not hear these things. That is an insult to the Parliament of
Australia. Furthermore, .it is an insult to democracy and to the .representatives who have been elected by the Australian people.
No intelligent discussion of our .present financial position can take place until the Parliament is given the complete facts as they were given in camera to the Loan Council. The Parliament must be told the full nature of the problem and the steps required, in the opinion of the Government, to solve it. The Treasurer said that the recent loan was issued at a discount because of certain facts. The Opposition has a view of the matter different from the Treasurer’s, and I propose to deal with this loan later in my speech. For its own benefit, and certainly for the benefit of the Parliament and the country, the Government, at the earliest possible time, must make a full statement to this Parliament of Australia’s financial position and the remedies which it considers should be -applied to meet the evil of inflation. The Opposition believes that like all other countries in the world Australia needs to apply some control to .its economy at the present time. We do not believe that controls should be introduced merely for the sake of control, but we think that in an economy such as our own., in which incomes are mounting from day to day and vast sums of the people’? money are piling up at call, there is an urgent need for some measure of control. The most urgent and vital measure at present needed is the control of prices. Moreover, it is the most immediately practicable and effective measure that could be taken. The Government has stubbornly refused to consider the Imposition of prices control. It is afraid to tell the State governments that prices control, as they operate it to-day, is ineffective; and it is afraid to make that control effective. The Government is not willing to eat the words that its members have uttered during recent years in condemnation of prices control.
The Opposition believes that prices control will ultimately be forced upon the Government because of our runaway inflation. The control necessary at present is one that may be exercised throughout Australia by a central authority, and the only such authority is the Australian Government. The. longer the Government refuses to recognize that fact the greater will be ‘its humiliation -when it is forced ito recognize it. Under a system of prices control operating uniformly throughout Australia, rising costs may be halted and the threat to our living standards and the cause of industrial un:rest removed. If prices are not controlled we -shall .build up a future heritage of ‘misery, ruin and degradation. During the life of ‘the last Parliament the Government .stated its belief in the necessity for a number of things to obviate the rising cost of living. It initiated measures to- increase the population of Australia and to improve its defences. We believe that a steady flow of immigrants is necessary if Australia is to -enlarge its population. It is -well to remember that our immigration programme was initiated by the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It was due to his drive, imagination and energy in overcoming shipping shortages that our immigration policy was given the impetus which has carried i’t on to the present time. The Opposition does not object to the principle of immigration. We say that immigration is vital, ‘but our immigration policy has in it a factor which contributes to our inflationary spiral. People are being brought to this country who are not entering the industries producing consumer goods. They are becoming consumers themselves, but -are not producing mora essential goods. Consequently they are aggravating our present state of inflation. If the Government is determined to per severe with its immigration policy, that fact lends more emphasis to the demand that some ‘effort should be made to halt our rising price levels. “We know that no deflationary measures in themselves can be completely effective, but a government which made the effort and failed would deserve some gratitude from the Parliament and the people whereas one which did not make any effort at all would deserve only condemnation. This Government is unwilling to make any effort, and is .unable to lay down an effective policy. Even if it has the ability, it lacks the courage to give effect to constructive measures to reduce the cost of living and to deal with the position shown to exist in the documents presented by the Treasurer to this House. During the life of the last Parliament the Prime Minister said, in effect, that cost of’ living rises would be first slowed down, then stopped, :and finally the price level would be pushed down. They were brave words, and they have been reiterated from time to time by various members of the Government. However, the Government has done nothing; nor has it proposed anything to give effect to the brave words so often uttered. Every measure proposed or introduced by the Government during the last Parliament has pushed higher the cost of living and made more likely a final economic collapse. The Government’s actions have made it more certain that the people on fixed incomes and those subject to quarterly adjustment of wages and salaries, will be placed in a position of increasing difficulty.
The Government said that the wool tax would be an effective measure to combat inflation. Whatever its merits in other directions, the wool tax, so far from combating inflation, has stimulated it. If the wool tax money had been left in the pockets of the wool-growers, some of it may have gone to inflate prices but some of it would certainly not have been spent. In the hands of the Government every penny of it is being spent. Therefore, as an anti-inflation weapon the wool tax was pitifully inadequate. In fact, it was another con’tribution towards the increased cost of living. The Government also brought. down certain sales tax proposals. When introducing the relevant legislation on that occasion, the Treasurer said -
I commend this measure to the House as a major weapon in the fight against inflation.
Inflation means a condition in ihe economy when prices are rising, not slowly, but steeply. However, after the Government implemented its sales tax proposals, prices generally jumped still higher practically over-night. The volume of buying did not decrease, but the cost of many classes of consumer goods was greatly increased as the result of the imposition :of sales tax on components used in the manufacture of such goods. Thus, it is clear that the Government does not really comprehend our presenteconomic situation. Indeed, the indications are that it ca-res little about the problem and its impact upon all sections of the community. Insofar as members of the Parliament can gauge government policy in the absence of statements on the subject by responsible Ministers, it would appear that the Government is not very concerned about the present degree of inflation or about the crash that must occur if inflationary trends are not arrested as soon as possible.
We are now told that the Government intends to introduce further proposals of the type that it introduced during the life of the Nineteenth Parliament. We can only speculate about them because we have met on this occasion in circumstances that are unique in the experience of honorable members. Although the Treasurer has failed to offer any explanation of the existing inflationary position, he told representatives of the States at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that was held last week that they must substantially reduce expenditure on public works; and at a meeting of the Loan Council that was held at the same time he informed the representatives of the States that they must do certain things because of Australia’s dire financial position of which dark portents were apparent. However, he has not vouchsafed to the Parliament one word about our present parlous economic position. We must rely for information on this subject upon press reports from which one gleans that the Government intends to increase the sales tax on motor vehicles and on a fairly wide range of non-consumer commodities which, how- ever, affect the cost of goods and services in industry and must ultimately cause the cost of living to rise still higher. We also learn from the newspapers that the Government intends to restrict hire purchase transactions. There may be some virtue in such a proposal, but I believe that it should be made the responsibility of an expanded Commonwealth Bank.
– The Commonwealth Bank engages in such transactions now.
– I said that that responsibility could well be entrusted to an expanded Commonwealth Bank. I suggest that control of hire purchase transactions cannot contribute in any way to a solution of the problem of inflation, because, in the main, it is not persons who have ample money available but persons who have not the ready cash to pay for essential goods and services, that do their buying on the hire purchase principle. If the Government intends to rely upon that proposal as a means of checking inflation it will have no hope of succeeding and it will simply deceive the Australian people. If such a proposal is implemented it will prevent persons with limited means, because of the rising cost of living, from procuring essential articles. Such action would be a hopeless attempt to halt present inflationary trends and it would not have any beneficial effect whatever upon our present economic situation.
Reports have also been published that the Government intends to implement a policy of more rigid credit control. Such policy will be effective, provided that it is made selective. In no circumstances should banks or financial institutions be prevented from making finance available for ordinary business purposes or for home seekers for the purchase or building, of houses. The Government should not merely implement an all-embracing policy of credit control. Selective interest rates should be prescribed in respect of finance that is made available for the purchase or construction of homes. However, the Government appears to be pushing into the realm of higher all-round interest rates. During the last few years big business and financial interests have been working for the introduction of higher interest rates. That is not new; but it is not progressive. It has been a feature of old-fashioned methods of finance. Supporters of such a policy contend that in a time of rising prices higher interest rates have the effect of tapering off the boom, because higher interest rates discourage borrowing. However, that theory has been disproved by our experience in a modern economy. All that such a policy does is to saddle with additional burdens businesses that are in need of money for normal expansion and home seekers who wish to build houses. It has failed completely to arrest inflationary trends. Indeed, at a time when home-building activities are abnormal, higher interest rates add considerably to the cost of houses and of furnishing them. Therefore, if the Government increases interest rates generally it will add a crushing weight to sections of the community that are already overburdened in their endeavours to meet their financial needs. In this respect I refer not only to those who desire to build houses but also to those engaged in businesses who are obliged to borrow money in order to finance their day-to-day activities or their capital operations.
The attitude the Government has adopted, particularly in respect of the flotation of the last security loan, indicates that it firmly intends to follow such a policy. That loan was issued at £99, or a discount of 1 per cent.; and it is the first loan that has been issued since the end of the recent war in respect of which such a course has been followed. That policy is wrong, and, already, it has had repercussions in respect of Australian securities, which are now quoted at as low as £96. In these circumstances, honorable members who in recent years urged the community generally to subscribe to government loans must now feel that they played false with the people. The people were assured that they would always be able to obtain £100 for each £100 that they invested in Commonwealth securities. Now, however, due to the action of the Government, investors in government loans will suffer a loss of £4 for every £100 of their investments should they desire to dispose of their holdings rather than retain them until they mature. That appears to be the situation at present. Why did the Government issue the last security loan at less than par? The Treasurer said that the reason was to provide a yield which was comparable with the yield on the open market, but the fact is that the last security loan was heavily supported in cash subscriptions, although I admit that the conversion was not so well supported.
– From what sources was the security loan oversubscribed?
– So far as we can ascertain, it was oversubscribed from all sources throughout Australia. The relevant statistics are not available to us, but it appears from the figures for the capital cities and the various divisions that each district oversubscribed the cash quota that had been allotted to it. Previous loans were also oversubscribed. In addition to that experience, a far greater volume of money is now at call in this country than ever before. Therefore, on the basis of the success of the recent loan, and on the amount of cash at call, a Commonwealth loan at par would have been filled, and perhaps oversubscribed.
– Nonsense !
– My statement is based on the evidence that is available to us. The loan was issued at £99, and was oversubscribed, in a brief period, by £8,700,000. Such a successful operation proves that had the loan been issued at par, and been allowed to remain open for a reasonable time, it would have been filled under the normal conditions that are applicable to Commonwealth loans. I believe that this departure from the normal practice is an indication to the people that the Government intends to give way to the continuing pressure upon it to raise interest rates. I can see no other explanation for the discount of Australian Government securities down to as low as £96.
– Local government bodies are offering £3 8s. 9d.
– I am aware of that fact, but I point out that ‘the securities of local government bodies are not comparable with those of the Australian Government. A large Sydney cash order business issued debentures during the week-end at approximately 4 per cent. If such a company can get its requirements on the money market to-day at tha t figure, there appears to be no evidence to support the move by this Government to issue loans at less than par.
The Australian Government is charged with a solemn responsibility. The rising cost of living is causing grave hardship. I do not think that any honorable member can understand how pensioners, with no other income, and without homes of their own, as many of them are, can exist at the present time. The growing inflationary situation is having serious effects upon every section of the community. But let us look beyond the present, when the concentration on preparations for defence and stock-piling will not be so intense, and when other nations will not be. buying, in fierce competition with one another, our staple commodities of wheat, wool and base metals. We can see clearly all the signs of economic trouble for this country. Yet the plans of the Government for combating such a situation are completely negative. Indeed, its economic policy is accentuating the inflationary conditions, with all their evils, and possible dire consequences. The only information that we have been able to wring from the Treasurer indicates that the Government has no comprehension of the magnitude of its task, and has very little interest in the possibilities of inflation, despite all its perils. The Opposition demands that the Government present to the Parliament a financial statement that contains, if not all the details, at least a comprehensive account of the submissions that were made to the State Premiers at the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council. The Opposition also demands that the Government state its policy to meet the present economic difficulties and to prepare for the future when the inflationary conditions have subsided. The Australian nation, and, indeed, all the democracies may be defeated, not on the battlefield, but in the economic field. If the inflationary conditions run unchecked and ultim.ate.lj subside into an economic depression, the democratic cause may be defeated without a single soldier having been put into the field and without a single shot having been fired. If the sufferings, miseries, losses and waste that accompany a depression are again experienced in the democratic countries, those persons who claim that Russia has evolved the best society will have ammunition with which to support their cause. For all the reasons that I have adduced, the Opposition demands and the country requires that this Government shall face its responsibilities, and realize that inflation must be cheeked and the dire consequences that can flow from it prevented by positive action.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) still preaches the doctrine of Commonwealth prices control. I remind’ him that it was the clearly defined wish of the Australian people, as expressed at the referendum in 1948, that prices control, should be; exercised,, not. by th& Commonwealth,, but by the States; The honorable member claimed that prices control, as managed by the. States, is ineffective. Probably his claim is. easy to understand, since he represents, an electorate in Western Australia, but I doubt: whether he- would make a similar statement if he represented an electorate in. New South Wales or Queensland. He claims that prices control should be exercised by the Commonwealth. Is. he also’ in favour of wage-pegging, which would ultimately be associated with Commonwealth prices control?
It is interesting to examine the attack, which has been launched by Opposition members upon our immigration policy. Recently, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), followed by thehonorable member for Perth, criticized that policy. The honorable member for East Sydney claimed that immigration should be terminated, and the honorable member for Perth declared that the flow of immigrants should be reduced. Both honorable members stated, as their reasons for expressing those views, the opinion that the present immigration policy caused inflation. Every one agrees that a short-range immigration policy must be inflationary in tendency, but we are nol working on a short-range programme, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, well knows. Our longrange immigration policy must have a stabilizing effect upon our economy.
If some of the promises made by the Labour party prior to the recent election had been given effect to, they would have accentuated the inflationary conditions. I mention this matter in order to answer some of the statements of the honorable member for Perth, who condemned the policy of the Government for combating inflation.. The Labour party stated, in its election manifesto, that, if elected to office, it would return to wool-growers the amount of £103,000,000 that had been collected by way of wool sales deduction. The release of such a substantia] amount into circulation would have had a great influence upon the inflationary situation. The Labour party also specifically promised to increase social services- benefits by an amount of approximately £100,000,000. Such a .large amount, if it had been put into circulation, would also have increased the inflationary pressures on. our economy.
The .honorable member for Perth has also said that the Opposition demands that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) make a statement upon the financial position of Australia. I remind the honorable gentleman that the information which ,he requires will become available when the budget is presented to the Parliament. The honorable member also asked that the submissions which were made by the Government to the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council be supplied to the House. As the Treasurer has stated such information was for the specific purposes of the Loan Council. The honorable gentleman referred at length to interest rates, and to the last security loan. He evidently overlooked the fact that the interest rate, and conditions applicable to Australian loans were fixed, not by the present Government, but hy the Australian Loan Council, three members of which are Labour Premiers.
World attention is focused -on Persia at present .because of its strategic and economic .value to both of the main opposing camps in the world. When we examine the map and see that Persia is bordered on .one side by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Afghanistan and Pakistan and on the other side by Iraq and Turkey, we realize the immediate .strategic implications of that country in the present international .situation. Furthermore, the economy of Persia is tied to oil production. Therefore, for both strategic and economic reasons that .country has .been the .centre of a .cold “war since the termination of World War II. !Oil concessions in Persia are of inestimable value to the British Commonwealth and the United States of America. Honorable members ;should realize .that Russia has a treaty of friendship with Persia, which was signed in 1921 and which allows Russia certain rights, so far unexercised, in certain areas of the .country. Russian influence is .being brought to bear very strongly in Persia at present and the situation is aggravated ‘.by the existence of the three ma jor problems of illiteracy, poverty !and disease amongst the local populace. For the time being, the flow of oil from Persia has virtually ceased :and there is a strong possibility that supplies from the Middle East generally will decrease seriously in the future. This great source of petroleum is essential to the British Commonwealth. Australians should not delude themselves on this issue. One method of solving the problem may be to revive the plan for an international .oil agreement, which was contemplated some years ago.
The problem of ‘the petroleum shortage spotlights the search for oil in Australia. I shall discuss briefly one or two aspects of this subject and commend certain facts to the attention of the Government. The search for oil in Australia has been conducted by three main groups - the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources, the State Departments of Minos and private enterprise. It has been in progress for a period of 40 years, and deposits have been located in areas close to Australia. Within the last few years, oilfields have been discovered in Dutch New Guinea and indications of the existence of petroleum have been found at four sites on the Australian mainland and at certain sites in Pa-pus. and New Guinea. When considering the possible value of the search for oil in Australia and adjacent territories, it is wise to keep in mind what has happened in other countries. We may use Canada’s experience as a guide. The search for oil in Canada was carried on unsuccessfully at .great expense for nearly 50 years. But success finally attended the efforts of the ‘experts, and the cost of exploration over that long period has been more -than recouped in the relatively brief period ‘since then. The same result may we’ll attend our efforts in Australia. The expenditure nf time, money and technical equipment could be readily recouped if oil were located in profitable quantities in any part of Australia or its adjacent territories. However, we must remember that the mere discovery of the existence -of oil is not sufficient. We -must find accumulations of oil on a scale that could be successfully exploited. Indications have :been found already in various parts .of Australia, ‘but -so far no accumulations of .oil have been located.
The original legislation -which governed the ‘search for oil «i-n Australia *«b3 “its territories was very rigid in its application, and this accounted for a lack of general co-ordination and discouraged interest in the subject. Prospecting and drilling rights were confined to strictly limited areas. Therefore, any organization that located oil in one place was prevented from examining areas at any great distance from that source. As honorable members may be aware, oil tends to migrate. Exploration parties may discover indications of oil at one site, but the main accumulation may be 50 or 100 miles distant. Unless prospectors have rights extending over large areas, they have little hope of discovering any fixed accumulation of oil. Thus, the search for oil was hampered by restrictive legislation, until the early ‘thirties. However, Commonwealth and State legislation was amended in 1939 and 1940 so as to allow organizations to acquire rights over suitably large areas. Since then, the search for oil in Australia and Australian territories has increased apace, and geological and geophysical survey work has progressed in many areas, including the Kimberley and Carnarvon regions of “Western Australia, an area to the south-west of Darwin, the Lakes Entrance district of Victoria, the south coast region of South Australia, an area to the north-west of Sydney, the south coast area of Tasmania, and central and southern Queensland. All of those districts have been examined at some time or other during the last 40 years. In adjacent territories, exploration has been carried out in Dutch New Guinea and New Guinea and Papua. One productive area has been located in Dutch New Guinea, and hopeful signs have been discovered in New Guinea, Papua and Queensland and the northern part of Western Australia. Reports that are available for examination indicate that there are very good prospects of the discovery of useful accumulations of oil in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. There is also some reason for optimism about the possibilities of the Roma district in southern Queensland, and there are very good prospects of success in the vicinity of the north coast of Papua and the south-eastern coastal arpa of New Guinea. Deep drilling in the Rollston and Comet survey areas in
Queensland was abandoned recently because indications at approximately the 4,000-feet level showed that there was no possibility of oil being located there.
We should not overlook Indonesian interest in Dutch New Guinea, which has some influence on the present situation in relation to oil supplies. Petroleum is of such importance to modern industry and civilization in general that we must ask ourselves, “ Where do we go from here ? “ After 40 years of exploration work, we are virtually no further ahead than we were originally. The best that we can say is that some indications of the existence of oil deposits have been found. But the expense of importing tremendous quantities of petroleum is very heavy, and our economic situation would take op an entirely different complexion if we could locate large accumulations of oil in Australia or its territories. Therefore, I recommend to the Government the wisdom of continuing the search for oil throughout the continent and the adjacent territories. There should be greater co-ordination between Commonwealth and State investigating authorities, and greater encouragement should be given to private enterprise by the granting to oil search organizations of rights limited only by the capacity of those organizations to conduct exploratory work. If necessary, instruments, drilling equipment and other plant for use in’ exclusive oil prospecting should be admitted to Australia free of duty.
Another industry which is vital to Australia but which has received very little consideration recently in this country is the rubber industry. Henry Ford em-, phasized the importance of the rubber industry a few years before his death when he said that we were living in a tin -can civilization which was running on rubber wheels. Rubber is indispensable in peace and in war. The report of the United States Rubber Survey Committee, which was released in 1942, is of great interest. I refer honorable members to the following passage : -
If we fail to ensure quickly. a large, new rubber supply, our war effort and our domestic economy both will collapse. The rubber situation gives rise to our most critical problem.
That stresses the importance of the rubber industry in wartime as well as in peacetime.
Last year, there was produced throughout the world, according to records, 1,852,500 tons of natural rubber and 534,424 tons of synthetic rubber. Some records relating to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are not available. During that period the consumption of rubber was 1,665,000 tons. At the present time consumption is almost equal to production, and it is difficult to say what the position will be during the next few years if the stockpiling of rubber continues. In June, 1950, the United States Congress passed a measure which extended for two years government ownership of the synthetic rubber plants that were built during the war and were idle after the war. By January of this year, all of the 28 synthetic rubber plants in that country were again working to full capacity. The- synthetic rubber industry cannot compete economically with the natural rubber industry, but the United States of America, realizing the implications of the present situation, re-opened its synthetic rubber plants in order to supplement the present supply of natural rubber with synthetic rubber.
We have only to examine the history of the rubber industry to see what progress can be made in suitable areas in a few years. Until 1876, the Amazon was the main source of the world’s supply of natural rubber. The para rubber tree is a native of that part of the world. In 1876, seeds of the tree were taken to England. They were germinated and planted in Ceylon, Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. Between 1876 and 1939 the industry in these areas expanded until, in 1939, 97 per cent, of the world’s supply of natural rubber was produced in the Far East whilst South America produced only 14 per cent. That fact indicates very clearly that good results in rubber production can be obtained in a very short period in areas where climatic, soil and other conditions are suitable. At the present time, Malaya is the principal producer of natural rubber, followed by Indonesia, Ceylon and Indo-China which are much lower on the list.
– How long does it take for a rubber tree to become productive ?
– From five to seven years. Certain areas on the Australian mainland and in Australian territories were used for experiments in rubber production during the early part of the last war. . Experiments were conducted with indigenous plants and with naturalized plants that were already in Australia, such as the caustic vine and figs of certain types. Those plants were found to be comparatively unsuitable for rubber production and, from the economic point of view, quite unsuitable. Experiments were also conducted with the naturalized Madagascar rubber vine, which had been imported into Australia in 1890. This plant was found to be hardy, vigorous and, what was of considerable interest to Australia, droughtresisting. Having regard to our labour problems, it has the advantage that it is suitable for mechanical harvesting and mechanical extraction of the latex. However, it was found that, under normal conditions, production from the plant was not an economic proposition.
Other experiments were conducted with what was known as the Russian dandelion. In 1931, Russia decided to make itself independent of imports of raw rubber, and in the short period from 1931 to the beginning of the last war it had, by the use of the Russian dandelion, virtually achieved that objective. The plant is a native of Russian territory. Mechanical methods are used for sowing, harvesting and cultivating it. Having regard to our labour problem, that fact is of interest to us. Another advantage of the Russian dandelion is that it produces rubber within six months of planting and is virtually self-sown. The para rubber tree does not begin to produce until from five to seven years after planting, and the guayule, another kind of rubber plant, until from three to four years after planting. The Russian dandelion could be grown in all temperate areas of Australia. Unfortunately, it gives a fairly low yield per acre, but it could be grown satisfactorily in some areas of this country that are not at present being used for other purposes. The net return is approximately £20 an acre. I suggest that experiments with this plant be continued.
Another plant with which experiments were conducted in this country is the guayule, or Mexican rubber plant. It could be grown satisfactorily in parts of
Western” Australia and’ South. Australia1,, where- rainfall and climatic conditions, are similar to those in southern California, where the plant is grown commercially. It begins to produce rubber in; from three to four years, and yields’ a considerable, quantity. Production costs are- comparable with those of para rubber, which is the main source of the- world’3’ rubber supply;
Para rubber could be grown satisfactorily in two areas on- the Australian mainland and in Australian territories. It is being grown quite satisfactorily at present in certain areas of Papua and New Guinea, and it could be grown satisfactorily in areas on the north-east coast of Queensland, The areas of Papua and New Guinea to which I have referred are already producing approximately 2,000 tons of rubber a year, although they have been under cultivation for that purpose, for only a few years. Production in those areas is supplemented by rubber obtained from a native rubber tree. The northeast coast of Queensland is most suitable for the production of para rubber. The only disadvantage of the area would be that the cost of labour for tapping the trees would be considerably higher than is the cost in Malaya and similar areas.. I understand that shortly there will be on the market a mechanical device for tapping, and its use would probably overcome the labour difficulty.
I recommend, to. the: Government. & further investigation by the. Commonwealth Scientific and. Industrial Research Organization, in. conjunction with State Departments of Agriculture, of the possibility of growing para rubber on the north-east, coast of- Queensland, an intensification of rubber planting in Papua and New Guinea;,, a fuller investigation of the, potentialities- in all States of the other, plants that I have mentioned,, and coordinated work by the Commonwealth Scientific, and Industrial Research. Organization, and State Departments of Agriculture. On, the experiments which i understand, are. still in progress.
Natural rubber is the largest single dollar earner in the sterling area. In 1948, Malaya, by its’ exports of rubber,, earned’ 14.7 per cent., of the total dollar earnings; of the sterling: area!. In. that year, Aus- tralia, by its exports of wool: earned only 7, per- cent., of the total. Doubtless, those percentages have altered’ to some’ extant: during the last’ few years, but those figures show, the: importance of rubber as a dollarearner. I say, in conclusion, that’ a rubber industry established in Australiawould be o£ great value in peace or in war:
’.- I direct, the attention of the Government to> the urgent need for an amendment of. the. Commonwealth Employees’ CompensationAct. The last amendment of that act, which was passed in 1948, made provision for substantial increases of the rates of compensation that prevailed before it’ was passed. In 194,6 the Victorian Government made1 considerable improvements of the workmen’s compensation legislation of Victoria and other State governments followed its’ example. It; was not until the States had done that that the Commonwealth dealt with its own workmen’s compensation legislation. The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 194S fixed £4 a week as the payment to be made to a temporarily incapacitated worker. At that time, the average basic wage for the Commonwealth was- £5 15s. a week-. Much- has happened between 1948 and 1951 as a result of which it isnecessary for the act to be reviewed and’ an amending- measure introduced into: theParliament.
I raised this matter in approximately the middle of last year in a question that I directed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and subsequently several members of the Opposition also asked questions upon it. The answers that were given were, to the effect that consideration was being given, to an amendment of the. legislation. The matter is now urgent, because present rates of compensation are quite out of proportion with wages, and workers injured while in the employment of the Commonwealth are not receiving adequate compensation. Victoria, because of changed conditions, recently amended its workmen’s compensation legislation and made substantial! improvements of the1 rates of compensation.. Lt is’ desirable that, at the earliest possible’ moment at least the rates now applicable in Victoria- should: be- made applicable tq- Commonwealth, employees. The Commonwealth, legislation is modelled, closely upon tha,!, of Victoria*
Let me give an illustration that will1 show how conditions have changed. In 19.48,. the average- basic wage in the six capital cities was- £.5 15s; a week,, and. at.present, it, is- £8. 1.6s. a week. In three, years, the average basic, wage has increased by 53 per cent., or by £.3 ls. a week. In Victoria, the rates, of compensation have been increased from £4 a. week to- £5 10s. a week; the allowance for a wife, from £1 a week, to £1 10s. a week ;. and the maximum compensation payable, from £6 to £8 a week. The maximumamount payable in respect of medical expenses has been increased from £75 to £125 ; that payable in cases ox death,, from £1,000 to” £1,400’; and that payable by weekly instalments in cases of total’ and’ permanent incapacity, from. £1,250 to- £1,750.
I suggest to the- Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that the amending of the Commonwealth legislation should receive the earnest and prompt consideration of the Government. Many persons who were injured in the past and are regarded as being totally and permanently incapacitated are receiving as compensation, the sums fixed by the 1948 act which, under present conditions, are totally inadequate. The longer the present compensation rates remain in operation the greater will be the decrease of their standard of living. These people are entitled to receive at least the same consideration as. has already been given to. pensioners and others. I hope that as a consequence of this matter having been raised the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act will be amended in order to make the conditions of compensation more consistent with present living costs and wages.
It is necessary for this House to give earnest consideration to the overhaul of the Constitution. This matter has been mentioned on several occasions in the course of debates in the last few weeks. It seems appropriate to raise the subject during the. jubilee year of the Commonwealth when we have had the opportunity >of testing the Constitution, by 50 years of operation, and of discovering whether or not it has frustrated governments and prevented- them from, being able: properlyto. car,ry out the duties. of. administration! I suppose that there. has. never been a, more spectacular improvement of conditions that affect human, beings than there has been in, the. last 50 years;. During, that ‘ time quite a number of countries! have passed from, an age of scarcity to an age of. plenty.. When conditions, change as- much as they have during that period; they must bring problems which could not have been foreseen at the end of thelast century. Referendums have been held in Australia by governments of the party to which I belong and by governments, of a type similar to that which is now in. control of the country. During the last 50 years the Parliament has expressed very clearly its opinion that the powers of the Constitution have not been sufficient tq enable the Government to govern as it. should.. The matter has become much, more clear and pressing as a result of the decisions given by the High Court during the last two or three years. Those decisions have indicated that the Government has not the power that it was thought to have.
Those who drafted the Constitution modelled it very largely upon the Constitution of the United States of America. They deliberately chose the federal, system and it was adopted at a referendum by the people qf Australia. Those who drafted the’ Constitution,, in my opinion, desired to vest in the Australian Government powers that were not clearly expressed in the. American. Constitution! As- a result, the Government has less power over very vital and important “matters than that which has been exercised very freely during the last 50 years in the United States of America. The proposal to. include in the Constitution the power to make laws in respect of- conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limit of any one State was very keenly fought at the convention which resulted in the adoption of the Constitution. It was believed that such power would bestow greater authority on the Australian Government with regard to the fixing of wages and working condi-tions than the American Government enjoyed under- the American Constitution, Fifty years of operation of our
Constitution have indicated very clearly that the powers of the Australian Government arc very limited. Yet the power possessed by the United States Congress under its Constitution, which makes no specific reference to industrial powers, is much greater than that which is possessed by the Australian Government. The powers’ of the Australian Government are limited to the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. In America, so long as trade and commerce are being conducted between the States, full power in respect of industrial and labour matters that relate to such trade and commerce is possessed by the United States Congress. Consequently it was possible for the United States Congress to pass a law which fixed minimum rates of wages throughout the United States of America and a law which fixed the maximum hours to be worked and which was essential for the efficient functioning of the economy of the United States. Such power does not reside in the Australian Parliament.
The fact that governments of both parties have found it desirable during the last 50 years to hold referendums in regard to the industrial powers of the Commonwealth indicates that a large body of thought believes that the power now possessed by the Government is not so great as it should be. Speaking as one who has had some experience of the industrial life of the Commonwealth I say that it is most important that the Australian Parliament should control all matters that relate to labour and industrial affairs. It will be impossible to have a national standard of living and uniform employment conditions throughout Australia unless such power is possessed by the Government. At present that power is divided between seven authorities - the six State governments and the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. As a result, frequent complaints have been made in every State concerning the impossibility of achieving uniformity of wages and conditions. Because the States have exercised their powers in one way and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has exercised its power in another, there has been general confusion in industry. As a result it is difficult to build up those better relationships between employers and employees of which so much was said during the Nineteenth Parliament and which have been mentioned on more than -one occasion in this session.
The limited powers conferred by the Constitution also prevent the Australian Government from carrying out obligations to the United Nations organization. The charter of the United Nations organization to which our country is a signatory ‘contains two Articles which throw grave responsibilities upon the signatories. Article 55 of the United Nations Charter reads as follows : -
With a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination o£ peoples, the United Nations shall promote: (a) Higher standards of living, full employment and conditions of economic progress and development; ( 6 ) Solutions of international economy, social health and related problems; (c) Universal respect for, and observance of human rights, and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language and religion.
Article 56 of the United Nations Charte provides that -
All members pledge themselves to joint, and separate action in co-operation -with the organization for the achievement of the purposes set forth in Article 55.
No matter how desirous an Australian Government may be of giving effect to the provisions of Article 55 of the United Nations Charter, it is very doubtful whether it has the power to do so under the Australian Constitution. The deficiencies of the Constitution have been frequently observed in connexion with the obligations of the Government in relation to decisions and conventions of the International Labour Organization. Those governments that are represented on the International Labour Organization are required to implement its decisions within their respective countries. Under its present industrial powers it is not possible for the Government of Australia to carry out such obligations. It is absurd that the Commonwealth Parliament should not have the necessary power to carry out the objectives of bodies of which it is a member - objectives to which it has agreed and which it believes to be necessary for the well-being of the people of this and other countries.
It-is.. necessary that other powers should be incorporated in the Constitution if this country is to have proper government. One such power concerns marketing. That power was the subject of a referendum during the 1920’s as a consequence of legislation that was introduced by a government of a type similar to that which is now in power. On other occasions the Labour party has put forward similar proposals for increasing the marketing powers of the Commonwealth. It is evident from the great difficulties which stand in the way of orderly marketing that the adoption of some more direct and expeditious method of dealing with this very important national matter should be within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament. As - the position stands to-day, as was pointed out within the last few days by the Minister for .Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), when an Australian marketing scheme is agreed upon it is necessary, before it can be put into operation, for the six State parliaments to pass legislation in identical terms and later for the Australian Parliament itself to pass similar legislation. All of them may agree that a particular measure is desirable and necessary in the interests of certain Australian producers, yet because of constitutional limitations they are unable to give effect to it except in the most roundabout manner which would be regarded as farcical if its impact on the power of self-government were not so tragic. One of the charges that have been made frequently against democracy is that it is slow to act. Because of that fact, totalitarian States are freely challenging the democratic system of government, proclaiming that it is decadent and unable to deal quickly with the problems of the people, and that it should be replaced by some other form of government. They can adduce, as evidence in support of their claim, the fact that it is necessary for seven governments in this country to pass complementary legislation before a measure which all of them admit to be desirable and necessary can be put into effect. It seems to me that marketing is one of the subjects that deserve to receive consideration on a non-party basis.
Another matter which I believe should be the subject of similar consideration is how we can overcome the difficulties that arise when a deadlock between the two Houses of this Parliament occurs. It is questionable whether the present method of overcoming such a deadlock is the best and most effective one. When a deadlock arises it should be readily determined and should not occasion either delay in the work of administration, excessive expense to the country, or a complete stoppage of the functions of government. The Constitution should be remodelled to- provide such quick and ready means of overcoming those deadlocks which, it has been suggested, arise because some people who have been elected to parliamentary office under one set of circumstances still retain their positions after another election has taken place in which other people are elected to such office in a different set of circumstances. Certainly the government in office should have the right to govern. It is entirely improper that a government that has been elected by the people should not have the right and the power to govern. A simpler means of solving a deadlock might be a meeting of both Houses, at which the question could be resolved by the combined vote of the Houses sitting together. This would enable the administration to be carried on without the conditions’ that are operating at the present time.
Other matters which I suggest might well be considered in this jubilee year as suitable fields for the exercise of Commonwealth power are prices, railway transport, and education. When all is said and done the object of federation is the development of national life. The idea behind Australian federation was the development of a national community with national aspirations. If that is to be done all things necessary for the development of national life should be controlled by this Parliament. That is why I suggest that railways, which are essential for the defence of this country, should be controlled by the Australian Parliament. It should also control education. Price levels have a great effect upon the economic life of the country, so prices also should be controlled by the National Parliament.
– What about wages?
– I have already pointed out that the power to control wages is not vested in this Parliament, and I have also suggested that it should be. All industrial powers concerned with relations between employer and employee and with the development of a true federation should be under this Parliament’s control. I hope that the honorable gentleman will realize the strength of that argument and will, as occasion arise3, support any move so to enlarge the powers of this Parliament as to bring industrial relations and prices within its purview. I suggest that these matters should be investigated, not in the form of debate, but by an all-party committee appointed from the membership of both houses. After all, these matters affect our economic life and have a good deal to do with national standards and conditions. The only way in which they can be properly considered is by such a committee as could go into the whole subject on its merits with a view to making recommendations to the people about how the Constitution might be improved and be made more workable by the removal of inconsistencies which have their foundation on the difference between conditions nowadays and the conditions that operated at the end of thi last century, when the Constitution was drawn up. If that be done, I am confident that it will be in the interests of the nation. I hope that, as a result of the appoint un cf such a committee, some advantage «ill accrue to this country.
.- I believe that the Government should give immediate consideration to certain aspects of national health. Health is a comprehensive subject, but I propose to direct attention to only one particular phase of it, hospitalization. When the Government assumed office it took over a Commonwealth Department of Health that had been directed by the Chifley Labour Government. That Government had been endeavouring for eight years to launch a national health scheme which was designed, among other things, to overturn medical practice in order to forge one more link in the chain of the welfare state. The people were told that the
Labour Government would provide a free medical service, free pharmaceutical benefits and free hospitalization. The Labour Government endeavoured, with a few legislative acts, to put all three phases of that scheme into operation simultaneously. The result was that it met with complete failure. First of all, the relevant acts were ruled to be, in part, invalid, and later, those portions of thescheme that were not ruled invalid and which came into operation, lost the respect of the community. It was very obvious from the moment that the Chifley Government introduced its scheme that it was incompetent and unable to put it into operation, because it had very -little knowledge about how to inaugurate such a scheme. If it had, it would not have tried to bring into ‘operation simultaneously three very important aspects of a health scheme. After all, each of those three aspects is a specialized subject which requires the co-operation of organizations that have spent many years on work in connexion with it. Consequently, the scheme broke down, and no wonder ! The greatest damage done during thatblack period of federal health administration in this country, which I go so far as to describe as one of the worst periods of federal health administration during the last half-century, was that done to the hospitals of Australia. Although the number of hospital beds available in Australia was restricted at all times, the Chifley -Government abolished the means test as it applied to admission to public hospitals. Some States were -better equipped than others to carry the resultant extra burden. I nave in mind particularly Queensland, where a hospital scheme operates on the proceeds of lotteries, but all States are not so fortunately placed financially. The result of the lifting of the means test was that many people who could afford to pay for hospitalization in private hospitals began to use the charitable hospitals and deserted the small private hospitals. By small private hospitals I mean those that eater for ten or twenty patients. Such hospitals are now non-existent in some States.
– And a very good thing, too!
– That interjection shows the honorable member’s complete lack of knowledge of this subject, because when patients drifted towards the charitable hospitals they withdrew their support from the private hospitals and in some cases-
– What are “ charitable hospitals”?
– People who deserted private hospitals in some cases squeezed out patients who should legitimately have been in the charitable hospitals. Sometimes poor people were unable to gain admission to public hospitals because beds were occupied by people whose cases were probably not so urgent as theirs. In other words, the charitable hospital, which was brought into existence in order to provide accommodation for the lower income groups, was providing accommodation for people in the higher wage groups. Consequently, small private hospitals were unable to operate economically because of rising costs ;and ‘the lack of the financial support that they had previously received. To-day, in the metropolitan area of Victoria, we have few, if any, small private hospitals. Those hospitals served, in their own way, a very useful purpose, yet the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) interjected that it was a good thing that they had had to close down.
Mr. -Haylen. - They were mostly inefficient.
– The ‘honorable gentleman says that they were totally inefficient. I contest the truth of that statement.
– I said, “ mostly inefficient
– The .small private hospitals provided an excellent service for minor cases. They eased the strain in the main Victorian ‘base hospitals which was caused by , the hospital policy of the last Labour Government. To-day, small private hospitals have almost ceased to exist in Victoria. The battle for the hospital bed, as it is known in Victoria, is reaching a climax. The Victorian Government is rushing -round in & . frenzy, cOmpulsorily (acquiring private guest houses and expending large sums on their conversion into maternity homes. Much of that money will be wasted :because the guest houses, not having been originally designed as hospitals, will become unsuitable for that purpose in the future. Moreover, while guest houses are being converted into nursing homes, the people who lived in them are roaming the countryside looking for homes. We have changed these establishments from guest houses to nursing homes but have not provided accommodation for the guests so displaced.
I am glad to see the .Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) in the House at ‘the present time. When outlining this Government’s conception of a health scheme, he said that the matter would be tackled in two stages. He said that, first, the Government would deal with matters such as financial assistance to meet the high costs of medical, hospital and pharmaceutical .services and to provide for the nutrition of growing children. -With great respect to the Minister, I say that this stage already has been reached In fact a most ‘effective means of granting financial assistance to people has been provided by the life-saving drug scheme which is -operating so effectively to-day. Each part of the health plan has been treated as .a .separate entity and has been developed accordingly. The second part of the plan referred to by the Minister is more comprehensive. It relates to the capital cost involved in placing the whole of .the national health machinery in an effective and up-to-date condition. I recommend -that the Minister should advance to .the second stage immediately. Local organizations in many States are ready and anxious to raise money for their .own community hospitals. In some cases building plans have been approved by -local hospital and charitable ‘organizations. .A start has been made with the raising of money for various hospital projects. Now is the time for the Australian Government to encourage -civic-minded people who are prepared to help themselves during this acute hospital shortage. It would be proper for the Australian Governmen’t ‘to lay down a formula for participation in the federal health scheme in such urgent cases. Perhaps that could be done by the ‘Government offering £1 for each £1 raised by local ‘Organizations towards the capital cost -of the buildings. Help given now will encourage the. best traits of citizenship in people who themselves do not require assistance but are prepared to assist the country to obtain better hospitalization.
I commend this suggestion to the Minister, and ask that he give it immediate consideration so that he wil? be able to make an early announcement in relation to the second stage of his national health scheme, particularly with regard to capital costs. Hospital construction involves very complex problems associated with material shortages and rising costs. If the Australian Government is able to give some indication of its intentions to the organizations that I have mentioned, which are prepared to help themselves, it will materially assist the culmination of the second stage of the Minister’s scheme. State health departments are the Cinderellas of all State organizations. That is because they have never been granted sufficient money. If the Minister desires materially to assist the State governments, he should announce at the earliest moment what he is prepared to do to assist hospitalization and the construction of hospitals. The Minister told the House that he intended to encourage hospital insurance. Such a system would be incomplete and unbalanced unless it went side by side with an adequate hospital construction programme. Communities within States are ready and willing to act now to solve their hospital problems if they receive some encouragement, and some clear indication of policy, from the Australian Government. No health scheme is complete without adequate institutions to help the sick to recover. The provision of proper hospital facilities is one of the most important matters of our time, and closely bound up with the whole matter is the provision of money for the building of new hospitals and other institutions. I strongly recommend that the Minister give this matter his serious consideration, and act upon my suggestions. I assure him that by doing so he will help materially to solve the hospital problems in all States, especially in Victoria where private hospitals have gone out of existence and a tremendous strain is being thrown on base hospitals which are unable to cope with the demand on their services.
.- One could speak of many subjects during this Supply debate, but in common with most other honorable members I believe that one fundamental issue over-shadows all others. That is whether the world in our age and generation is to be servile or free. .
Government Supporters. - Hear, hear .’
– I expected to hear a few “ Hear, hears ! “ from honorable members on the Government side. They wrap their cloaks of righteousness around themselves when we say that the task which faces the world is that of preserving freedom. They act as did the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) who, .when asked at a meeting during the course of the last general election campaign what he intended to do about fighting communism, said that he would strongly support the efforts of the industrial groups of the Australian Labour party. The honorable members who said “ Hear, hear ! “ when I spoke of these fundamental issues, will stand on the sidelines wringing their hands in helplessness during the battle because they know that they cannot hope to cope with communism without the help of the industrial groups of the Australian Labour party. The only help they can give is to hope that the members of those industrial groups will win the greatest battle of our time.
The fundamental issue that is perplexing the hearts and minds of all men is that of “ democracy or communism “, but this Government, which has been so vociferous about trade unions and industrial relations, does not seem to have realized that there are any other facets of the struggle. Had it done so, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) would never have stopped thebroadcasts to South-East Asia by Radio Australia. Recently, Moscow eagerly joined in the South-East Asian propaganda war, and has taken Australia’s place in the beaming of broadcasts to Asiatic peoples.
– Moscow took over our channels.
– Yes. Those people who believe that they are lily-white opponents of communism are the very ones who have faltered- in the fight against it.
Almost as soon as this Government assumed office it put a further weapon into the hands of Moscow by stopping our broadcasts to South-East Asia. Wow, instead of being told of the free world’s message Asiatics are filled with Communist propaganda. “When I asked the Postmaster-General a number of questions about the reason why the broadcasts were stopped, he said that I obviously was a most innocent and simple person. He said that I did not know that in China and South-East Asia the poor coolies did not have enough money to buy radio sets and that therefore it would be a waste of time and money to broadcast them.. Apparently the people in charge of Communist policy do not believe that it is a waste of time to broadcast to Asiatics because they have been conducting intensive broadcasts for some time. Whilst it might be true that many of the poorer people of Asia cannot afford radio sets, the more educated people certainly have them. These are the people who are the leaders of the thought of the Asian masses, and therefore it is highly desirable that they should be given the point of view of the free world rather than that their views on international affairs should be moulded by Communist propaganda. I am glad that President Truman and the American people are now beginning to realize that wars, whether they be cold or hot, are won in the hearts and minds of men by means of a psychological attack.
I now desire to speak of the famine in India. I shall not say a great deal, because I hope later to have an opportunity to speak about it at greater length. In the name of all that is holy, if ever an opportunity was given to the people to show that Christian democracy means something and that our mouthings about the brotherhood of man are not idle propaganda, it was given by the Indian famine. I have read in the press many statements of Government policy on other matters, but the only statement abo.ut the Indian famine was made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). He said that we could not help because we had sold all our wheat. That was the solution of the Government. The Indian people were to starve because we had sold our wheat. During the course of the last general election cam- paign I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) suggesting that he and the leaders of the other parties in this House should join in saying to the people, “ Our brothers in India are in need, why should we not have one breadless day in every month so that even although we have sold our wheat we can still help the Indians “ ? I believe that to such a plea there would have been an overwhelming response by the Australian people. But this Government, which is so anxious to expend money for defence purposes, the need for which I do not deny, apparently thinks that when the Indian people ask for bread a lecture on anti-communism is sufficient to satisfy their hunger. I suggest that neither Australia nor other countries that are representative of the white race would probably need expend in the future half the amount upon defence that they will eventually have to expend if the Government had given a clear, spontaneous lead in response to the heartfelt wish of the Australian people that we should do something on a national scale to assist the Indian people in their dire distress. It is not sufficient for the Government merely to talk about communism in trade unions or about defence preparations. We shall not convince the Indian peasant or the coolie in Singapore, or Shanghai, that he must fight for his way of life because, most likely, he believes that his way of life could not be much worse and, therefore, will seek the solution that will best benefit himself. One of the greatest blows that could have been struck against communism in Asia and South-East Asia would have been spontaneous action by the Australian Government to assist the Indian people in the famine that occurred recently in their country.
The Government has also been deficient in having ignored the efforts of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions to organize the Asian workers. On the 28th May the confederation held a conference at Karachi with the object of helping in the organization of Asian workers. I emphasize that those workers will be the people who, ultimately, will decide- whether Asia will become red or in some parts stay red. However, the efforts of those people who. probably, cannot obtain sufficient to keep body and soul together were completely ignored By not only the. Government but also the press- of this country. When that conference was about to be held I wrote to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and the Postmaster-General suggesting that it would provide an avenue in which the Government of this country could very well interest itself. . I pointed out to those Ministers that the conference would be attended by 50 delegates who would represent trade unions in Asia and SouthEast Asia and that their main object would be to: consider how best they couldorganize Asian workers in the cause of freedom, in the cause for which we are expending so much money and about which the Government claims to be so concerned., But that conference did not even rate one line in the Australian daily press.. 1 suggested to the Postmaster-General that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should send a representative to cover the conference. I learned unofficially that the commission considered that proposition and went so far as to suggest to the newspapers that they meet a part of the cost of covering the conference. However, the newspapers, which devote, so much space to stories that emanate from the divorce court and reports about murders or any other sensational items, replied that they could not afford to make sufficient money available for that purpose. Unfortunately, because of the cost involved, the Government failed to act upon the suggestion. So far as the Australian people are concerned, and, indeed, in respect of the fundamental issues that confront our age, no event of greater importance has
Occurred in recent times than the holding of that conference at Karachi for the purpose of organizing the Asian workers in the cause of peace. Yet, that great event did not warrant the expenditure of one penny on the part of the Government or the publication of one line about it in the Australian, press.
The Government has been equally remiss in respect of a number of other matters in which it could have been actively interested. I understand that representations were made to the Government that it should take advantage of the presence in Australia of a large number of persons who had suffered in Soviet slave camps to arrange a series’ of broad:casts by such persons with a- view tq informing the Australian people of thetreatment that, they had experienced, at the hands-, of Soviet tyranny. That suggestion was referred to the talks section of the Australian Broadcasting Commission!. Eventually, the commission replied that it already, afforded’ sufficient opportunities on its. programmes for the discussion of international affairs-. It was pointed out to the commission that at least one of the persons whom it engaged to discuss international affairs had been prominent on every Communist platform in this country since his arival here. The. commission preferred not to. act in that matter.,, although such a series of broadcasts would, have struck an effective psychological blow for the cause- for- which the Government claims that it is> fighting., I turn now to another matter in. respect of which, the Government can take effective action. As it controls the importation of newsprint it is in a position to dictate to the newspapers and to .decide whether, in view of their failure to play their part in the struggle, they should be obliged to carry on with their present, supplies of newsprint or be given- additional supplies in order to enable them to make their enterprises more- profitable to their shareholders: The’ Melbourne Sun NewsPictorial, which I regard’ as- an organ of print paralysis, challenged me to- prove statements that I made on a previous occasion in- this- House to the effect that the Go,vernment had allocated additional dollars for the importation of newsprint because the newspapers had agreed to ease their advocacy that the Australian £1 should be revalued. The- Sun News-Pictorial offered, to- donate £10,000 to charity if I could prove that, the assertions that I then made, were, correct. I accepted that challenge on the condition that the.- newspaper would agree that the matter should be decided by an impartial third party.. Although that newspaper published a part of the first letter that I wrote to it, it suppressed all my subsequent correspondence in which I accepted its. challenge and finally declared “ Keon squibbed the issue “. “ The end of Keon.” Despite that newspaper’s, suppression of my letters and the lies that it told in. respect oft this; matter, I am still a member of the Parliament and.’. I hope: and believe that I shall remain in this House for a long time to. come.. Should the Sun NewsPictorial see fit. to issue any challenge to, me to prove any assertions’ that I may make in this, chamber in, the future, I now tell the. editor of that newspaper in advance that I am prepared’ to accept such a challenge.
During question-time to-day some concern was expressed about radio reportsthat the war in Korea had ended. I have read on a number of occasions newspaper reports from which I gained the impression that that conflict was likely to end and my first reaction was, “ Thank God, it is over “. I have no doubt that that was the reaction of the Australian people as a whole to such reports. The result, of course, when the reports prove false, is. that the people will be less- inclined to take up the burden of the conflict again. All of us realize that the first reaction of the Australian people to such reports would be one of thankfulness that the slaughter was over. However, the attitude that the press has adopted in this matter is not new. On the 17th April last,, the Sun NewsPictorial issued a poster which carried,, in foot-high letters, the words,. “ Korea reds seek peace “. My first reaction upon reading that poster was to say to myself, “‘Thank God, anything that will prevent the conflict from spreading will be welcome “. This newspaper carried headlines’ about offers to make peace in Korea. The public naturally believed such reports. The press apparently did: not worry about the effect upon the national morale if such statements were found to be untrue; On the day following that on which the Sun News-Pictorial issued’ that poster, that journal published an inconspicuous’ paragraph on its front page which read -
Earlier hopes that the latest North Korean message to, the United Nations was a new peace mo.ve were dissipated yesterday by the translation. It proved to be a virtual repetition of similar messages previously received from North Korean, authorities listing details of alleged atrocities committed by United Notions, forces in Korea.
My first comment- upon that message- is that whoever was responsible editorially for issuing that, poster on. the previous day in Melbourne’ acted very stupidly in view of the- newspaper’s own admission on the following day that it was issued before- the translation of the message upon which, it had. been based had been received1. Of course, that is nonsense. Is, it seriously suggested that no person attached to General MacArthur’s head.quarters could have translated that message accurately, or for that matter a message that might have been received in any language, five minutes after it was received ? The facts that I have cited areevidence, of the failure of newspaper proprietors to realize their obligation to assist, in. maintaining, the morale of the people.. I have no personal animus against the press- but, in many instances, the newsprint would be better used for wrapping sausages than as a medium of retailing stories from the divorce court and stories about rapes. I have- no antagonism towards those who earn their livelihood in the newspaper- publishing industry. Those employees aire not responsible for the newspapers’ policy. I am not antagonistic to the press as such.. All I say is that the press hasgreat power and great, responsibilities. I suppose that it is responsible- for the education! of nine-tenths, of the people- in. respect: of international- affairs and current, events; and1 should discharge- those responsibilities, particularly in relation, to the present world’ straggle. If it cannot give a fair go to the Labour party at least, it should impartially discharge its solemn obligations- when it publishesreports that- deal with international affairs and- should be prepared to playits part in maintaining, the morale of the people. It should be prepared to recognize, as- 1, said earlier, that wars, are won. in the minds and hearts of men, and that, if that- war between, freedom and tyranny is lost, as it well could be, it will be lost not because of the activities of Communists in trade unions, but because of those Communists: in p ro,fessorial and editorial chairs: and in positions’ in which the climate, of public opinion in which the Government and al’l of our- public administration operates is moulded. The climate of public opinion restricts’ the Labour party’s activities,, restricts the trade: unions, and also restricts the Government’s activities. The journalists of this country, its intellectuals and professors, and, unfortunately in some instances, representatives of religious denominations, have not played their part in ensuring the climate of public opinion in this country, which will bring home to the people the gravity of the present position. I am concerned mainly about those who are responsible for the publication of newspapers. I would like the press to tell the people why it refused to co-operate with the Government in sending a representative to cover the recent conference of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions that was held at Karachi. I should like to know why the Melbourne press in general and the Sun News-Pictorial in particular did not publish one line about the proceedings at that conference. Further, I should like to know why the press did not give any publicity whatever to authoritative reports that were issued recently by an international commission of former victims of Nazi concentration camps on Soviet slave labour camps. I remember reading about proceedings in a Paris court in which Communists sued a man named Rousset for libel as the result of reports that he published dealing with conditions in Russian slave labour camps.. When I wrote to the editor of the Sun News-Pictorial and complained that that journal had not mentioned those proceedings I received a reply in which he stated -
Your “ search of the Australian Press “ must have been most perfunctory.
It was so perfunctory that I was unable to find any report on this matter in the Sun News-Pictorial. The letter continued -
Your insinuation, of course, is that we are not democratically interested in slave labor cam ps.
Deeds speak louder than words. It seems strange to me that newspapers that devote as much space as they do to horse racing and turf form - most of it inaccurate - and to stories from the divorce courts should be so lacking in democratic outlook as to refuse even to mention the investigation by this commission and the evidence given in the libel trial on con- ditions that exist in slave labour camp* in the Soviet Union. The letter proceeded -
The Sun has published several columns of slave-labour stories in the past year, apart from passing references.
This is the interesting part -
Back in the days when we could afford newsprint usage and a magazine section, we ran a long series of articles of a Hungarian refugee- -
T’he operative section of that letter is - When we could afford newsprint usage-
Those newspapers that hector and harry trade unionists, and tell them that it is their responsibility to attend the meetings of their organizations, at which they run the risk of bashings and the rest of it, in order to combat communism, are prepared to play only a very small part in strengthening the morale of the Australian people in this fight - the fight of the age - against communism. Newspaper proprietors will take their stand on the side of freedom if it is profitable for them to do so; but until such time arrives, apparently, they will stand aside. Yet they are quite prepared to devote ample space, despite the shortage of dollars for the purchase of newsprint, to the publication of all the nonsense with which they principally fill their columns.
The Government deserves criticism for having failed to retain the system of broadcasts by Radio Australia to South-East, Asia, and for having virtually handed that avenue of propaganda to the forces of the enemy. The Government has completely failed to give to the Australian people the lead that it should have given to them in respect of the relief of famine in India. The Government has failed to utilize the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s talks section in the way that I have mentioned, so that victims of the Soviet system of tyranny could tell their stories to the Australian people. The Government failed to send representatives to the conference of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, held in Singapore, at which the Australian people would have been told that the Asian masses, instead of being on the side of the Communists, as is suggested by the Communists, are quite willing to play their part in this fight for freedom. The
Government has also failed to bring the newspaper barons to heel by using the shortage of newsprint to make them play their part in the fight against communism. The Government, before it makes another pronouncement in relation to communism in the trade unions, should tell the Parliament and the people more about its programme in respect of those matters that I have mentioned.
I do not think that I shall be accused of underrating the Communists in any way, and the opportunities that occur with Communists in the trade unions to inflict damage upon national economy. I scarcely think that I am likely to be accused of being a friend of the Communists. , However, I still contend that the Government, apparently because of its concentration on communism in the industrial field, fails to realize that psychological warfare is what will count, in the final analysis. The failure of the Government to recognize the importance of psychological warfare indicates, unfortunately, that its concentration upon communism in the industrial field springs, to a large degree, although not wholly - because I know that undoubtedly members of the Government are most eager to see that communism shall be put where it c: light to be- -from its one-sided view of the problem.. Ministers, having in mind the facts that I have given and the speeches that have been made in this House day after day and week after week about communism in the trade unions and elsewhere, cannot deny that the Government appears to have a most jaundiced outlook on the situation. I do not think that Ministers, if they are completely “ fair dinkum “ with themselves, will deny that the attitude of the Government has undoubtedly been influenced in many respects by party political considerations. Anyhow, that is my opinion of the matter.
Australian Country party members interjecting,
– The attitude of members of the Australian Country party in relation to the famine in India may be expressed thus : “ “We have the wheat, and we will get our price for it, or the people of India will starve “.
– The honorable member is becoming personal.
– It ill-becomes members of the Australian Country party, who are more responsible for the situation than is anybody else because of their influence upon the Government, to criticize my statements about its lopsided programme. With their characteristic bovine mentality, members of the Australian Country party believe that this particular problem-
– The honorable member is insulting.
– I am not insulting. I am being truthful.
– Order ! The House is getting out of order.
– I withdraw my reference to the bovine intelligence of members of the .Australian Country party if such a remark hurts their feelings, but I believe that they should examine their consciences very seriously on this matter. The attitude of the Australian Country party towards the famine in India, as reflected in the statements by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, is, in effect, “ We have our wheat. It is ours to do what we like with, and we shall get our price for it “.
– How does the honorable member know that his statement is true?
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) will have his opportunity during this debate to explain to the House what the Australian Country party is prepared to do towards relieving the famine in India. The reactions that my words are provoking from members of the Australian Country party seem to indicate that they have hit home. I shall be satisfied with any explanation that a spokesman for the Australian Country party chooses to offer me, provided the Government will get on with the job. I am not concerned about what members of the Australian Country party say, but I am concerned about the effect of the Government’s lack of policy and leadership in relation to the relief of the famine in India.
– The honorable member will be given that explanation.
– At least, my friend, I am honestly and sincerely concerned about the fate of the people of India, and whether or not you .like it-
– Order ! Will the honorable member address the Chair?
– I am also honestly and sincerely disappointed that the Prime Minister did not adopt the suggestion that was made to him by many persons, including myself, that Tie give a lead in this matter, and appeal to the Australian people to accept their responsibility. I shall be gratified if my .statements can be refuted, but I believe that it was the objections of the Australian Country party to the sale of wheat to India that undoubtedly circumscribed the Prime Minister and some other Ministers, who were willing to give the lead that should have been given to the Australian people. Had they gone to the leader of the Labour party at that time, and said, “Here is an opportunity for Australia to make real friends among the people of Asia by assisting to relieve the famine in India “, there would have been no lack of response on our part.
However,, T do not wish .to be led too far away from my principal .subject by the famine in India. The main theme that I rose to develop was the lop-sided campaign that the Government was conducting in relation to communism, and its failure to realize the necessity for psychological warfare and propaganda. I have cited a few instances in which the Government has failed lamentably to maintain the morale of the Australian people in that .respect.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The references that have been made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) to the activities of the Government against communism come strangely from him. Doubtless honorable members noted that his remarks were confined to the campaign which, in his opinion, the Government .should conduct against communism outside Australia. In my view., it is more fitting that the Government should start at home to deal with the enemies of this country. The honorable member ¥or Yarara has not lent the Go vernment any assistance in its efforts to prevent the enemies of Australia from curtailing national production. He originally voted against the Communist Party Dissolution Bill last year, but later changed his mind and voted for it. Apparently, ie did not know his own mind, or, perhaps, he put party political affiliations before the interests of his country. We are led to believe that he is in favour of some of the actions that the Government has taken against the Communists, but he has never had the courage to declare his .support for them on the floor of the House. Why should not the Government deal first with the Communist menace at home, instead of devoting some of its attention to so-called conferences which are held overseas, ostensibly for the purpose of discussing methods of combating communism, to be represented at which it evidently has not received an invitation?
The honorable member has attacked the Government on the ground that it has not given sufficient quantities of wheat, to India, or to other countries that are in need of it. I remind him that it was a Labour Government that committed Australia to the International Wheat Agreement, and that this country is bound to provide wheat in accordance with that contract. The honorable gentleman clearly does not know what he is talking about. Of course, he is a notorious hater of primary producers. He uses a term of opprobium, namely “ cockies “, to describe them. Whilst he is always criticizing them, he conveniently overlooks the fact that they make a greater contribution to the production of this country than is ‘made by his constituents. If he wishes to stimulate production, so that Australia may assist such countries as India, he should utter a word of rebuke to those persons who are curtailing production, and are holding up ships in our ports, including vessels that were to have taken the wheat which the Government was prepared to make available to the starving people of India. Such ships would have been delayed for two months because of the slow turn-round in Australian ports, and the Government was unable to obtain ^vessels to transport wheat to India. I throw that charge . back into the mouth of the honorable member for
Yarra, and suggest to him that, he place upon the right shoulders the blame for the situation that he has described.
I have no more’ time to-deal with that, matter because I must proceed with tha various- subjects that I wish to. bringbefore the House. As the Chairman of Committees, I shall not have another opportunity to refer to them. I wish, particularly to discuss the land settlement of ex-servicemen. When I was the honorable member for Maranoa, the acquisition of land in the Wandoan and Taroom districts was brought to my notice. Six years have elapsed since that land was “ frozen “ by the Government of Queensland, yet the owners are still in. the unfortunate position of being unable to do anything about it. The Queensland Government, under the agreement with the Commonwealth in respect of. land settlement of ex-servicemen, is a. principal. T pref ace my .remarks on this matter on behalf of those who are in difficulty by saying that they wish me to state that they are not opposed to land settlement of ex-servicemen, or to closer settlement in the general sense of the term.
– So long as the land belongs to somebody else.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) does not know anything about land settlement. The blocks or allotments in his electorate are so small that they really represent the state of his mind. The folk to whom I refer in the old Maranoa electorate are suffering an unfair penalty. They pioneered that land, and fulfilled the residential and other conditions that, were imposed by the Queensland Government. Now, they are being disturbed by that Government, and are being told that their holdings are in excess of what was once termed a living area. Their land is being subdivided. They do not complain about that, if the areas that are to be made available to ex-servicemen are, in reality, living areas. But it will not be satisfactory to the Government, to those settlers, and to the ex-servicemen concerned if such areas prove too small in the dry seasons that are experienced in that district. The compensation of approximately £2 an acre that is offered by the Queensland Government is less than one-half of present day values. The best of that land could be - sold on a free market at £9 an acre. That price is less than was actually paid by some of the settlers for their land in the first place twenty yea-rs ago. I. do. not want to be unfair or unnecessarily critical I merely want to iron this matter out. to the satisfaction of all concerned. The Australian Government should have some of these anomalies corrected. On the one hand, if the price of £2 an acre be accepted as the proper value of that land, the area of 1,200 acres that is supposed to be sufficient to provide a settler with a livelihood is obviously inadequate. Land that is worth only £2 an acre to-day must be so inferior that it could never provide for the support of a family. On the other hand, if 1,200 acres be sufficient for a living area, the price of £2 must be inadequate. The State government ought to toe the line and pay reasonable compensation to the displaced settlers. It is all very well to say that there is an Appeal Board, but, if the Government would fix valuations on a fair and reasonable basis, most of the settlers would accept the prices that were offered to them. Many of them struggled to establish themselves for- many years, and they should not be placed in a position which obliges them to- appeal to the law for redress of their wrongs. Everybody knows how costs are heaped upon any appellant who is forced to resort to legal processes.
In effect, the State government is applying the 1942 valuations of the land, although the law no longer provides that those valuations must be accepted. The upshot is that settlers who are forced off their holdings in order to provide for the settlement of ex-servicemen will not be able to re-establish themselves in any other part of Queensland because the compensation paid to them will not enable them to buy comparable properties elsewhere. Prices generally have soared beyond the valuations that have been fixed arbitrarily by tile Queensland Government. It is contended that ex-servicemen settlers should be placed on land not farther than 16 miles from the nearest railway. That is fair. But is it imperative that the Government select land for ex-servicemen settlers within 15 miles of existing railways ? Would it not be more economical to extend railway lines into other districts where plenty of land which would offer better prospects of success to new settlers is readily available? Some owners, who have 20,000 or 30,000 acres under their control, would scarcely miss the small areas that would be acquired for exservice settlers. Such a scheme would be far superior to the present system, under which ex-servicemen are being squeezed into already closely settled districts where the landholders have no areas in excess of living holdings. The blocks in the closely settled districts were originally laid out to provide only sufficient space to enable settlers to win a livelihood. The Queensland Government has built only a few miles of railways since 1932. Let it now extend lines into districts where plenty of land better than that which is now being offered to ex-servicemen is available.
The State government is paying no regard to the welfare even of the exservicemen who took up land in the Wandoan and Taroom districts after World War I. They are being penalized equally with the other men who pioneered the area. Furthermore, partners in what may be termed tenants-in-common arrangements are being dealt with most unjustly. I know of at least four partnerships in which one partner went to the war while the other remained behind to work the land. In every such instance, the partnership has been treated as a single unit. For instance, where a father and his ex-serviceman son are in partnership, the son is not allowed to obtain an area as an ex-serviceman settler but is obliged to continue to work with his father on a single living area. They are not allowed to retain more than 1,200 acres between them. They are not accorded the right to live separately, and the son, in the eyes of the State Government, apparently is not entitled to have a living area for himself. The Government will not acknowledge his right to marry and rear a family on his own property. Furthermore, a son in such circumstancesis not permitted by the State Government to settle elsewhere under its scheme for ex-servicemen. This unjust restriction applies also to brothers in partnership.
Men who fulfilled the residential conditions when they took up the land 20 or 30 years ago and paid all the instalments that were due to the State Government are now required to submit to controlled conditions again, and, if they wish to stay on their bare living areas, they must qualify once more by remaining in residence for periods that vary from three to five years. Those are conditions of slavery indeed ! In the first instance, they voluntarily agreed to live on their properties for five years. Later, when World War II. broke out, they were obliged to submit to controlled conditions and were prevented from selling their properties without the consent of the State Government. The land was frozen for six years. Furthermore, the State Government refused to permit any transfers of free land adjacent to the settlement area, with the result that it was impossible to ascertain comparative values. Yet farmers are asked to increase production for the sake of the nation’s economy ! The Queensland Government’s record in relation to the land settlement of ex-servicemen is not good, notwithstanding its boasts. According to statistics that have been supplied to me by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), the numbers of holdings that had been allotted by the State governments and were ready for occupation at the 31st March last were as follows: - New South Wales, 1,574; Victoria, 1,464; Queensland, 313; Western Australia, 440; South Australia, 286; Tasmania, 61. Although Western Australia has a smaller overall fertile area than has Queensland, the Government of that State had far exceeded Queensland’s total.
The Australian Government claims that it is not responsible for the mistakes that have been made in Queensland and that it cannot rectify the anomalies because the State Government chose, in the first instance, to be a principal in the settlement scheme. That is partly true. The Queensland Government has the right to acquire land whether the Australian Government objects or not. However, the latter must provide the money for the purchase of the land that is finally approved as being suitable for settlement purposes. Should the price at which land is acquired exceed the charge which is made to the ex-serviceman settler, it must find the difference. Therefore, I submit that it should exercise its rights and insist upon rectification of the anomalies that I have mentioned. It could refuse to foot the bill unless its wishes were met. The Director-General of Land Settlement visited the Wandoan and Taroom district, and the settlers interviewed him through a deputation. The reports that they made to me and to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) proved that they were dissatisfied with the result of the interview. In their own words, they “gave him away “. They had arrived at the conclusion that he was acting in collusion with State officers, whom he was seeking to please instead of trying to be fair to the settlers and ex-servicemen. We should try to satisfy the wants of the men whom we ask to produce more food.
Settlers in the Wandoan and Taroom district should be paid just compensation for their land. Ample living areas should be provided, allowing for adverse seasons when returns will not be so good as they have been during the last two or three years. Failure to provide for such seasonal contingencies has accounted for the bankruptcy of many ex-servicemen settlers in the past. There is plenty of land available for settlement in Queensland, and the State government could make it available merely by building a few additional miles of railway lines. The rights of both parties to a partnership should be properly recognized. Men who stayed at home to work properties held under partnerships should be allowed to have proper living areas, and exservicemen partners should not be debarred from the right to acquire land elsewhere. That would be nothing more than common justice. The Australian Government should insist upon the rectification of the anomalies in the Queensland system. Most of the land that has been chosen in the Wandoan and Taroom district has been approved for settlement by the Australian Government, but final decisions have not been made in relation to the remaining blocks. The Australian Government should not allow those areas to be acquired and allotted on unfair terms. I make this appeal, not in a spirit of criticism, but for the sake of justice and equity. The settlers are entitled to expect civility instead of discourtesy from the Director-General of Land Settlement. He should explain the conditions of the settlement scheme to them and should not treat them as individuals who have no rights. They carved their homes out of the wilderness with the object of spending their lives there. Now, because the State government refuses to open up new areas where plenty of land is available for settlement, they are being driven from their homes in the eventide of their lives. The State authorities claim that governments have sovereign rights. I say that, in this country, individuals have sovereign rights and I seek to defend those rights. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Mr. Rowland James made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the Division of Hunter, New South Wales.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The provisions of this bill are identical with those of the two Commonwealth Bank bills that furnished the grounds upon which His Excellency the GovernorGeneral in March last granted a double dissolution under section 57 of the Constitution. The purpose of this measure is to give effect to the banking proposals for which the Government obtained a clear mandate at the 1949 general election. For reasons which are well known to honorable members, the Government was obstructed and frustrated in its endeavour to give effect to those proposals in the last Parliament. However, the people assessed at their true worth, the tactics employed by the Opposition, and, after the election through which we sought to resolve the deadlock that .had arisen on this legislation, we weise returned with power to implement our policy fully -and completely. Thus, there cannot be a shadow of doubt concerning the washes of the- people in regard to th: s measure. The clear mandate given in 1949 has been re-affirmed in a definite and most unmistakable manner. The provisions of this bill have been debated at length in this House on -two occasions. An explanation of the policy <of the Government has been given in detail and is recorded in Mansard. I am sure honorable .members “will agree that to traverse again the individual clauses of the bill would occupy the time .of the House to no useful purpose. Therefore- 1 propose to confine myself to a fairly short exposition of its main purposes.
Provision is made in the bill for the repeal .of the Banking Act 1947, which sought to nationalize the private trading banks. The High Court and the Privy Council have declared major provisions of this act to be invalid, and little more need be said concerning its repeal. The system of control of the Commonwealth Bank has been the central issue on which it has not been possible to reach agreement with honorable members opposite. The importance of monetary policy is a factor in the ‘economic development and welfare of the country is such that we are convinced that the determination of this policy should not be made by one man in either the bank or the Government. Accordingly, provision has been made in the bill for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board under the chairmanship of the Governor. The bill makes the board fully responsible to the Parliament, thereby restoring to the elected representatives of the people the ultimate responsibility for monetary, and banking policy.
The legislation provides that the bank shall keep the Government informed of its monetary and banking policy. If the Government and the bank differ on a policy issue, the Treasurer and the board must endeavour to reach agreement. If the Treasurer and the board are unable to reach agreement, the board will be required to furnish a statement of its views. The Treasurer may then submit a recommendation to the
Governor-General who, acting upon the advice of £he Feder,al Executive Council, may by order determine the policy to be .adopted by the bank. This procedure will ensure that any submission to the- GovernorGeneral on such issues will be made after full consideration by the Government. The bill directs that where, in such circumstances, the ‘Government becomes responsible for the policy to be adopted hy the bank, the Treasurer shall inform the bank accordingly, and have a statement of the policy, together with a statement of the views of the Government and of the bank, laid before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting day3 after the policy has been communicated to the bank. The relevant provisions of the bill are framed to give effect to the principle that great financial issues should be the ultimate responsibility’ of the elected representatives of the people.
Tn supporting continuation of the present system of one-man control, honorable members opposite have attacked the policy adopted at different times by the previous bank board, especially that followed in the great depression. In March, 1950, when this legislation was first introduced, I outlined the gradual development of the technique of central banking in Australia. “When the original bank board was established in 1924, even the older central banks in Europe had not developed fully an efficient central hanking technique. On looking back, it is possible to see how the work of the board could at times have been improved. Notwithstanding this, the development of central banking in Australia made great progress during the period of board control. It should be remembered that the tremendous responsibilities of war-time finance, undertaken by the -bank in the period from 1939 to 1945, were discharged with outstanding success under board management. The plain fact is that, by the time the board was abolished in 1945, it had developed into an efficient and effective instrument of central bank control. The confidence of the public is essential to the successful functioning of a central bank. The Government is convinced that a central bank controlled by a board composed of men appropriately chosen for their, integrity, ability and knowledge will command greater public confidence titan control by any single person.
In his recentlypublished book The Growth ofa Central Bank, the late Professor L.F. Giblin, who was closely associated with the Commonwealth Bank for a considerable period, supported the Government’s policy of control by a board. Although Professor Giblin did not hesitate to criticize certain phases of the board’s work in its earlier years, his final opinion was definitely in. favour of control by a board. He concluded his book with the following words: -
By the middlethirties, the technical equipment of the bank was getting into good shape, and among the bank staff interest in and understanding of central banking were becoming more widely diffused. The Banking Commission gave a very useful stimulus in 1936 and 1937. When the war came, banking problems took a new interest and urgency, and at the same time the increasing co-operation with Government added realism to the board’s deliberations. There was steady improvement in the quality of the board’s work from the middle thirties on, and when it expired in 1945 it had become a reasonably satisfactory instrument for its purpose. There is little doubt that, had it been continued, it would have soon reached a high level of efficiency.
From ageneral point of view the abolition of theboard is a matter for regret. For many years the problems of government have become too complicated for any but the most general overall supervision by Parliament and Ministers and Parliaments have become, perhaps, less qualified to deal with them. One escape is to throw decision moreand more into the hands of the permanent public servant; and in spite of the popular clamour against “ bureaucracy “, this devolution is often necessary and wise. The other escape is through the setting up of boards and commissions, which are given a task in broad terms and left free to carry it out and be judged by the results. Much experiment in this procedure is required before its usefulness can beproperly judged. The bank board was an interesting experiment of this kind which was stopped before its final achievements could be properly appraised.
The bill also provides a means for the board to add to thecapital resources of the General Banking Division, the Rural Credits Department, the Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department, up to a total of £5,000,000. These additional resources will enable the bank more effectively to meet growing demands for finance, especially for housing and primary production.
In conclusion, I again direct attention to the following main features of the bill, which were mentioned when I first introduced the legislation in March of last year : -
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 411).
.-I have claimed that just compensation should be paid to persons from whom land is taken for the purposes of land settlement of ex-servicemen. I wish to place on record a resolution that was passed by the Wandoan-Taroom Landholders Defence Group. I believe that the organization is labouring under a misapprehension. The resolution is as follows: -
That the Commonwealth Treasurer be approached and requested that the Queensland State government be reimbursed from repatriation funds any loss incurred by them from soldier land settlement thus allowing the State to pay a higher and fairer price for land resumed for soldier settlement.
In support of that resolution the secretary stated that his group had been told that the State government desired to obtain the land as cheaply as possible because the Australian Government would not reimburse it for any loss sustained. That statement is totally incorrect because the Commonwealth will reimburse the State government for the cost of resuming the land. I have the assent of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on that point and I should like to clarify the position so that the settlers will not be under a misapprehension and so that they will not be prevented from obtaining full compensation. The fault in this matter lies with the valuation that has been made by the State government.
It is important that adequate areas be given to ex-servicemen settlers. When the original selections were made by the settlers in the district to which I have referred it was found that the areas were not satisfactory. They were enlarged by the State governments, which recognized that they were not living areas. Now, the same ‘State government has told the men that they have too much1 land and that it intends to take some of it from them. It is a crying shame that those men, after having been placed on that land, should be driven from it. Exservicemen should be settled in districts where ample good land is available. Instead of bringing the settlement to the railway, the railway should be taken to the settlement. The Queensland Government is approaching this matter from the wrong direction. It should build a few miles of railway and take land from large holdings. That would result in new land being opened up whilst those who are already on the land and those who will share the burden with them will not be starved.
The Australian Government should revise the agreement with the Queensland Government and take any action that it may consider desirable even if it may involve withholding the money necessary for the resumption of these lands until anomalies have been corrected. Regard should be had for the rights of ex-servicemen partners and tenantsincommon who have been forbidden to apply for land that has been set aside for the settlement of ex-servicemen and are thus prevented from operating independently of their partners.
– It is my honour to represent in this Parliament the 20,000 residents in the Australian Capital Territory. This is not a large electorate, but it is one to which the attention of the Commonwealth is directed while this Parliament is in session. The Australian Capital Territory is known intimately to a few members of the Parliament. To many others whose time here is limited to the days on which the Parliament is in session, it is known largely only from the impressions gained on the drive from the aerodrome to the hotel, the walk from the hotel to this House, or the car drive from this House to one or other of the embassies or legations.
The electorate is an unusual one and the capital city, Canberra, is vastly different from all other Australian communities. The people of this Territory live in the most governed community in Australia, and yet in that Government they have no effective voice. Living and working at the very seat of government, democratic government, and engaged to a greater or less degree in the administration of the laws of government, they have been denied any part in government up to the present. There is no form of municipal government here. There is, of course, no elective body which handles administration at the level of State government. The member for the Australian Capital Territory, although he may participate in debates and make his views known in this House, is at present denied the ultimate right to support his representations with a vote in this chamber. It is my view, and the view of the Labour party in this Territory, that the people of the Territory must be given the right that is enjoyed without question in every other Australian community of governing themselves in local affairs. This is a right which is exercised in the very smallest village in every Stateof the Commonwealth. It is a right that is exercised by every adult in every electorate represented in this chamber with the exception of the Australian Capital Territory and, to a degree, the Northern Territory.
Moves have been made, during past years, for the establishment of local government in the Territory. Less than two years ago a report which was prepared by Mr. Cole, the town clerk of Hobart, at the request of a former administration, advocated some form of self-government in the Australian Capital Territory. “With all the views that were expressed by Mr. -Cole, I do not agree, but 1 assert it to be the right of the people of Canberra to govern themselves in local affairs. What form that government should take - whether it should be at the municipal level or at the State legislative level- I believe is a matter for the people themselves to decide. Personally, I favour administration at the municipal level. The people of the Territory should be given the right to elect their own civic council and that council should be given control of matters which are normally the functions of a municipal or citycouncil. The achievement of this right need not increase the proportion of cost which residents of the Territory at present contribute to the maintenance of services in the area.
There are two aspects - of Canberra. First, it. is the National Capital, the seat of the Federal Government. Secondly, it is the home town of about 18,000 people v/ho live within the city boundaries. The development of Canberra as the National Capital is something for which the whole of Australia has a responsibility and to that development national funds are quite properly directed. However, in all rents which are charged for government leases and government homes in this Territory, there is included a “ rate proportion “ which is calculated to cover the costs of normal civic services and administration. I believe that a council should be elected by the people and be entrusted with ad ministration at this level. It should be financed by an annual vote of the Parliament which could be equivalent or nearly equivalent to the present “ rate propor-1 tion “, bearing in mind that the very design of Canberra as a national capital increases the cost of both establishing and maintaining normal services.
A suggestion has been made that a Parliamentary Select Commitee should be set. up to examine the needs of the Australian Capital Territory, to hear evidence from interested organizations and individuals and to frame recommendations to this Parliament for the establishment of a proper form of local government within this Territory. I commend this suggestion to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) and I hope that within the life of this Parliament he will put it into effect. The people of Canberra must no longer be denied the right of governing their own affairs. It is my belief that in the near future, as the enrolment in this electorate increases, the member for the Australian Capital Territory must be given full voting rights in this House.
One of the greatest problems, not only in the Australian Capital Territory but also throughout Australia, is that of housing. Canberra, however, has a problem which is distinct from those that are faced by other communities. This Territory exists only as the seat of government’ of the Commonwealth, lt was set aside for this purpose and the city itself was created solely for the purpose of government and to house and service the people who are connected with and employed by the Government. Here, Mr. Speaker, is a unique position in that not only is the Commonwealth the owner of the land, but it is also the builder, the employer and the landlord to the thousands who occupy government homes. There has been established and perpetuated in this community a distinction between those who work for the Commonwealth in any capacity and those whose services are given in private enterprise. Formerly it was impossible for any one in private employment to secure a governmentbuilt house until the needs of all government employees had been met. As the number of government employees increased with the transfer of departments to Canberra, the person who was not a government; employee had practically no chance of securing a government house. Several years’ ago- this practice was varied so that one house in every twelve erected by the Government should be available to non-government employees. More recently, this proportion was increased to one in eight. I believe that this distinction is still too great. I am not making a plea on behalf of wealthy companies or organizations which have had the opportunity to provide for their own needs in past years. I speak for the many people who are employed in capacities that are essential to the community and who are constantly frustrated in their desire to secure a house. I refer to the shop assistants,, garage, factory and timber-mill workers, bread carters, milk vendors, taxi drivers, and the one hundred and one other categories of people who are essential to the continued existence of the community. At present a government employee who registers for a house has to wait for from two to two and a half years to secure a two-bedroom house. If he desires a three-bedroom house the wait extends to more than three years.; A person who is not an employee of the government has to wait for anything from three and a half to four years. I recognize, of course, that the Government has a prime responsibility, in a community such as this, to house its own employees, but I believe also that, as it is elected by the community at large, it has also a responsibility to that community. I shall ask the Minister for the Interior, who, I regret to learn, had to leave Canberra to-day through ill health, as a first step to increase substantially the proportion of houses made available to people not in government employment, and to abolish soon the separate housing lists, so that all citizens of this community shall, have an equal opportunity to secure houses built by government funds. I point out that, through the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Commonwealth plays a large part in the provision of houses in the States, and that those are available to all people for registration and ballot, irrespective of the nature of their employment. Further, so that essential services may be maintained in this community, I shall also suggest to the Minister that- he1 extend the- practice, already adopted in a limited sphere, of making houses immediately available to people engaged in services essential to the community.
I commend a decision recently taken on advice from the Advisory Council to reduce the rents of newly constructed houses in the Australian Capital Territory. It is my hope that the Minister will take further steps to effect rent reductions, particularly for the- benefit of young people who are starting out in married life in Canberra. I am assured that one of the greatest factors in increasing costs of building in the Territory is the continuance of the cost-plus system. This method of contracting contributes to the extravagant use, or misuse, not only of materials but also of man-power, as it encourages a contractor to retain inefficient tradesmen. The statement has been made by officers of the Department of Works and Housing who are in touch with all building operations in Canberra, that building on day labour conditions has proved not only quicker, but also more economical than by other methods in the Australian Capital Territory, and I believe this system could be extended with advantage.
Industrial matters’ will be important in this Territory while there continues a great building programme with thousands of workmen engaged on various construction jobs. One cause, for dissatisfaction in the Australian Capital Territory is the inadequacy of workmen’s compensation provisions. I am pleased to know that the ordinance that covers workmen in nongovernment employment has now been brought into line with the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. Previously, workmen who came under the provisions of the ordinance, and who suffered incapacity, received only £3 a week as compensation, while workmen covered by the act received £4 a week as compensation. That anomaly has been removed in recent months, and again the Minister acted on the advice of the Advisory Council. However, the act itself is now completely out of date, as is shown by comparison of it with the recently amended acts that operate in New South Wales and Victoria, the States from which our labour force here is largely drawn. I urge upon the Government the need for revision of the Commonwealth act to bring it into line at least with the acts that operate in the adjoining States. Further, I suggest that the Government seek to establish throughout the Commonwealth uniform legislation for workers’ compensation so that no matter where or in what job a man may be injured he will know to what compensation he is entitled. There is need also to insert in the act, and in the ordinance, provisions for the quarterly adjustment of compensation rates in concert with increases made in the basic wage. Often the basic wage increases and an injured worker receiving a fixed rate of compensation is penalized. “While I have the opportunity to do so I commend the decision of the Government which resulted in portfolios of Interior and of Works and Housing being placed in the hands of one Minister. These portfolios vitally affect the welfare of people in the Australian Capital Territory, and it should be to the advantage of those people that they will be administered by the same man. They place a heavy responsibility on the Minister, but my present belief is that they are in capable and just hands.
I should like to disabuse the minds of any Ministers or members who believe that residents of Canberra are coddled or spoon-fed. Too often one hears such opinions expressed by people who live outside the Territory. Whilst it is true that government here assumes many responsibilities, it also imposes many irritations and vexations. The despotism of departmental control in this city - whatever may have been its concept - is not benevolent despotism. Too often the ordinary man or woman who cannot secure some support comes up against a blank wall of official negation. Too often the tendency for departmental officers has been to say “ No “ to applicants, and then to find reasons to support the refusal, rather than to seek means to help the applicants. The belief that residents in the Australian Capital Territory are coddled and spoon-fed cannot be too strenuously denied, because the spread of such a belief may influence the Government’s policy in relation to the Territory. Certainly the housewife who has to make a long journey by an infrequent, although efficient bus service, to stand in a crowded butcher’s shop waiting to secure scarce cuts of meat at greatly inflated prices, is not being, coddled, and does not feel that she is being coddled or spoon-fed. Young people who establish homes in any of the outer suburbs that are not served by buses and that are without footpaths, and whose homes are surrounded by mud, are not being coddled or spoon-fed. I remind people to whom Canberra is not so intimately known as it is to me, that it does not consist entirely of tree-shaded lanes and of gracious homes set in spacious gardens ; nor does it consist entirely of the view from Red Hill. It consists also of the depressed areas, the departmentally neglected residents of the suburb of Westlake, which, of course, is never shown to tourists; it consists of the people who live in somewhat similar conditions at the Causeway and in the prefabricated homes section of Narrabundah. I should like that to he perfectly clear, because the people of this Territory are far from being coddled and spoon-fed.
I believe most fervently that the people of Canberra are just as eager to help themselves as are the people of any other community in Australia. Too often their efforts to help themselves are frustrated by the blank refusals that I have mentioned. I believe that every encouragement should be given to community movements and to the establishment of the right of the people to a full share in their own government.
Before I close, Mr. Speaker, I commend the suggestion made from both sides of the House recently for a wider tolerance and understanding of .opposing points of view. It should always be remembered - and as a new member I make this statement quite humbly - that this place is a parliament and not merely a government. Members on this side of the House, equally with those on the Government side, are the representatives of the people of this country. The fact that political thought from time to time may place one party, or one group of parties, in a majority, should not preclude proper regard being given to the views and representations of the minority. It is true, of course, that it is the duty of the King’s Ministers to govern. It is equally true that it is the duty of His Majesty’s Opposition to oppose. But on many matters there must be common ground. In my view, when an honorable member on the Government side, with wide experience of t farming, speaks on matters pertaining to the land, he should be heard with attention and respect. Similarly, when an honorable member from this side of the House, with years of experience of trade unionism, speaks of industrial affairs, he should be accorded an attentive hearing. Too often such speeches from this side are greeted with jeering comments or derisive calls from members on the Government side who have no real knowledge of industrial affairs. I remind the House that, although some current shortages may be partly due to disruptive elements in some trade unions, all the facilities and services we enjoy are made possible only by the skill and strength of trade unionists. The great trade union movement of Australia, is the most vital factor in the whole political economy of the country.
.- The measure before the House will enable the Government to carry on with the work that it started last year to maintain and increase the prosperity of this nation, particularly after the experiences of socialist rule that we had in the eight and a half years previous to its assumption of office. The funds that the Government is seeking will enable it to further the improvements that have been made in the last eighteen months. It is rather a paradox that, in the midst of the prosperity that Australia is enjoying now, we have tremendous worries, particularly on the financial side. When we consider the economic condition of the country to-day we find that the wage level is higher than it has ever been. Never before have the people earned higher wages and never before have so many people been employed. Working conditions are also better than they ever were before. Moreover, solely because of the efforts of this Government the social services rendered to those unfortunate members of the community who need them, cover a wider field and are greater in value than ever before. The financial measures before the House will provide further generous subsidies. The basic necessities of life will be made available to the people at much cheaper rates than those at which they could otherwise be purchased, because of these widespread subsidies. Subsidies are to be paid on butter, tea, woollen goods and other articles, not on the miserable skimping scale of the last Labour Government, but on a freer and more generous scale. This Government also deserves much credit for the reduction of duties on house building materials and the elimination of duties entirely on others.
– Tell the House what the benefits have amounted to.
– They have amounted to much more than was conceded by the last Labour Government.
– Order !
– This Government has been able to restore to the people the benefit of subsidies which was taken from them in a fit of pique by the last Labour Government when it discovered that it was not able to carry out its scheme of complete socialization. Our wage levels are high, subsidies are being paid, unemployment is at a minimum and the potential wealth of the country has never been greater. Recently, great quantities of economically important minerals have been discovered in Australia and modern science is rapidly making available the means to extract them from the earth. In Queensland coal is produced at a ridiculously cheap cost from the great open cuts’ at Callide and Blair Athol. So abundant is the supply of coal in Queensland that the unfortunate people who do not live in that State will hardly believe me when I say that at one town in my electorate the authority responsible for the production and sale of electricity has been able to erect a neon sign 30 feet high exhibiting the injunction to “ use more electricity, it costs less “. There is an abundant supply of tin in Queensland and it can be easily won. Many questions have been asked in this House about the shortage of tinplate in Australia. The tin of Queensland, if mined and used, would enable us to produce the cheapest tinplate in the world. Unfortunately, the Queensland Government, being of the colour that it is, will not allow the tin to be freely mined. Never before has the dairy-farmer had so many machines to make easier the cultivation of his fields and the milking of his cows. However, there is room for much greater production of wheat, sorghum and sheep. But for certain factors that production would be obtained and the farmers would be able to get still more amenities. Machinery is available which will pick cotton for 2½d. perlb. If machines were used to the extent that they could be used, we should have no need to worry about importing cotton to Australia. In the sugar cane industry, where men used to hack the cane down with knives, great harvesters are now employed. With all this prosperity and with all the amenities that we have, we are faced with the threat of inflation. The prices spiral is rising higher every day. Why should this be in a country like Australia ?
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I must ask the House to maintain order. A few minutes ago the House listened to a very eloquent discourse on the need for tolerance. The lessons of that discourse appear to have been lost on everybody but myself.
– In the light of the details of our prosperity, and our potentially much greater prosperity, it might be asked, “ What is wrong with Australia? “ The answer is that in ‘ Australia there is a gang of people who owe allegiance to a foreign power. They are seeking to disrupt our industry, ruin our. financial structure and bring us down in chaos. Through their sabotage the Australian community is being injured. Queensland feels deeply the actions of these men, who are nothing but Communist spies. Why are not the dairyfarmers getting the benefit of all the machinery and methods of production made available by modern science? The main reason is that the basic materials, steel, iron and coal, are in short supply because the unions whose members work in the industries that produce those materials are under Communist domination. Communist influence may be found in mines, foundries and factories. Because of that evil influence machinery cannot be made available to farmers throughout Australia in the required quantities. That applies particularly to the dairy-farmers in Queensland. Moreover, the shortage of coal and steel means that machinery to produce and transport more coal cannot be made.. If machinery is imported its delivery is further held up because Healy and his band of spies and wreckers will not allow it to be handled on the wharfs of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. The importation of machinery is also delayed because the ships themselves sail not according to the wishes of their owners, but by the grace of the men who are ruled by Communist leaders who are following the Communist plan. A few days ago in this House a statement was made by an honorable member, who presumably represents a coal-mining electorate, to the effect that butter was short in his electorate and that miners might strike on that account. I remind him that in Queensland and in other States men, women and children are living in conditions that belong to the nineteenth rather than the twentieth century because of the failure of the members of the Communist-dominated unions to provide roofing iron, iron for tanks and troughs and wire-netting for fencing. Primary products are to-day being made available to the people of Australia by the sacrifices of the men and women on the land, and in spite of the activities of the Communist thugs in our community.
Following the mandate received at the last general election I believe that the Government will, in the near future, come to grips with the enemy within. However, in the short life that this Parliament has had, honorable members opposite, despite the lesson taught them at the last general election, have swung more, if possible, to the left. Those honorable members have a great responsibility. They wield great power in the trade union movement. It is regrettable that the Labour party is swinging more to the left each day. Examples of the leftist tendency of the Opposition were given at the recently held election of party executives. Men who had held office were replaced by men who have at least a pinkish tinge. An honorable member was elected to leadership of the Labour party who in this House defended Communists with all the eloquence that he could muster, and later appeared before the High Court and again used all his eloquence to defend the Communists. All honorable members opposite are responsible for the leader that they have chosen, and undoubtedly will follow the lead that he gives. There is no doubt that his attitude in the future will not be different from his past attitude. He will not mend his ways. I greatly regret that the Labour party is continuing to spread the gospel of class consciousness and is trying to split the people and to cause dissension between those who work for wages and those, who pay ,wages. Honorable members opposite are attempting to cause dissension and strife, with the idea not of helping Australia, but merely of wrecking this Government. In doing that they do not seem to care whether they wreck the country at the same time.
– “Who is governing the country?
– That question is welltimed. Pleas have been made for tolerance, and we have been asked to meet on common ground. What common ground can there be with those who give their support to Communist-inspired and Communist-led trade unions? The Government’s experience during the brief period it has been in office indicates that it can expect very little co-operation from the Opposition and, as time goes by, the Opposition, probably, will swing more and more towards the left and more and more towards the “ reds “. Last week, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), when speaking in this chamber, provided an example that was typical of the filthy Communist technique by making violent attacks upon certain other members of the Parliament. We may expect that such ‘tactics will be repeated. In those circumstances, I urge honorable members opposite who are genuinely opposed to the enemies of the King and influence they can exert in their own party councils to ensure that the Parliament as a whole shall remain resolutely opposed to the enemies of the King and that we shall work together with the object of making Australia the greatest nation on earth. We have the power and the potentialities that can enable us to do that. Further, we must safeguard the
God-given right that is the heritage of every man, woman and child in this country to live their lives in freedom and to enjoy in full measure the bounty with which Providence has blessed this nation. However, we are now confronted with troubles that have resulted from the attempts of the Opposition to wreck the Government even if such an event should spell disaster for Australia. I appeal to each honorable member to use his influence in his electorate and to make whatever sacrifices that may be necessary to ensure that every man who is able to work shall do so- for the good of Australia. It has been said that having regard to events overseas and to the violent threat that they present to this country, all Australians should be fighting mad; but I say that all Australians at this time should be working mad. It is time we closed down the mad circus of the last’ few years and got down to hard work because only by hard and valiant labour can we make Australia safe for Australians and their children. Therefore, I again appeal to every honorable member to do his best to ensure that Australia shall be kept safe for his own children and for mine.
– As this is the first occasion upon which I have addressed the House, I take the opportunity to thank my constituents for the great honour that they have bestowed upon me in having chosen me to be their representative in the National Parliament. I consider my election to be a very great honour, particularly as I succeed the Right Honorable E. J. Holloway, who served the Parliament with honour and distinction for over twenty years.
We are now considering several financial measures of. the kind that are annually introduced in the Parliament. At the outset I shall repeat what the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said when he was moving the second reading of the Supply Bill that is now before us. The right honorable gentleman said -
Honorable members will however appreciate that under present-day conditions of rising costs for wages and materials, it is no longer practicable to limit the provision to the rate ot expenditure provided for in the 1950-51 Estimates. The amounts included in the bill are accordingly based on current rates of expenditure.
That statement high-lights what most members of the Opposition have been suggesting, namely, that the Government itself is caught up at the moment in the battle that is going on in the community between rising prices on the one hand and the attempts of wage-earners on the other hand to catch up with rising costs: Some honorable members opposite appear to argue the reverse in that they contendthat if wages were pegged the rise of prices would automatically be halted. But we know that the situation in Australia at present is the obverse of that, inasmuch as the wages of seven of every eight Australians are determined by either the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or State arbitration courts and wages tribunals. For the most part, the basic wage and its margins, as they are fixed by the arbitration courts, determine the standard of living that is enjoyed from time to time by the great majority of Australians. In this year in which we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the Commonwealth “of Australia we should take stock of certain assumptions that are supposed to be fundamental to the determination of this important problem.
I direct the attention, of honorable members to the statement, “ National Income and Expenditure “, presented by the Treasurer in October of last year. That document contains a table that gives an estimate of the national income of the Australian community and shows how that income is distributed among the various sections of the community. It may be all very well for honorable members, opposite to talk about the need to ‘increase the productivity of the community, but it is equally important, even should that productivity be increased, to consider how the total productivity is shared among the various sections of the community. That involves a matter of social justice, of quality as well as of quantity. The table to which I have referred presents a careful analysis of the distribution of the national income among the various categories that compose the community. It shows how much of the total personal income is represented by “ wages, salaries, pay of members of forces, &c.” which, for the most part, represents the income of the wage-earning sections of the community. The interesting feature of the figures given under that heading is that they show that from 1945-46 to 1949-50 the relative share of the national income which the wageearning section of the community received has declined. The base period in respect of which these figures are given is 1938-39, that is, the year that immedately preceded the outbreak of the recent war. In that year the personal national income amounted to £74S,000,000, of which £444,000,000 was distributed to the category that I have mentioned, the proportion of the total income paid to that category of recipients in that year having been 59.4 per cent. When we remember that that proportion is shared among those who, as a class, constitute over 80 per cent, of the copulation it will be admitted that that distribution does not represent a substantial measure of social justice. In the year 1945-46 when our war economy was at its peak and when much abused but, nevertheless, essential economic controls were in operation the national income had increased to £1,297,000,000, of which those in the category that I have mentioned received £789,000,000, or 60.9 per cent, of the total. In that year there was a fairer distribution of the national income than was the case in 1938-39 and that was due to the fact that some attempt was made at that time to establish social priorities and to ensure that the wageearning section of the community should receive a just share of that income. However, although the national income since 1945-46 has increased in the aggregate, owing mainly to inflationary factors, the proportion of it that has been received by the wage-earning section of the community has declined from 60.9 per cent, in that year to 54.4 per cent, in 1949-50. That fact indicates, as members of the Opposition submit, that wages are not winning the battle against rising prices but that prices are in the ascendency and that, consequently, certain sections of the community are receiving a greater proportionate share of the national income at the expense of the majority of the people.
In view of those facts we should carefully review the machinery that we have at, our disposal for dealing with this important problem. The weekly wage of the individual wage-earner is the most important single consideration in his life ‘ because it determines what share of the productivity of the community he shall receive for not only himself but also his family and his dependants. For the most part the determination of that matter resides within the province of the Arbitration Court. In this respect it is interesting to have a look at the important document known as the 40-hour week judgment that the court delivered in August, 1947, and to examine certain remarks that were made by Chief Judge DrakeBrockman when that judgment was given about the powers which, it seemed, had haphazardly gravitated to the Arbitration Court. Only a small part of that peculiar document which we know as the Constitution deals with the important subject of industrial relations. Under the Constitution the Commonwealth Arbitration ‘Court has power to adjudicate in respect of industrial matters only when a dispute actually occurs and when it extends beyond the limits of any one State. A casual study of the Constitution shows that to be the only provision that it makes for determining this matter. However, by a strange process - and there ure many other examples of the process in our constitutional framework - substantial changes have taken place in the interpretation of the Commonwealth’s powers in respect of industrial matters. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which, ostensibly, was set up under the limited powers conferred upon the Commonwealth in respect of industrial matters, has come to assume powers which, originally, it was never intended to possess. The judges of the court itself have recognized that fact. I quote the following passage from the judgment of the late Chief Judge DrakeBrockman in August, 1947, as reported in the Industrial Information Bulletin issued by the Department of Labour and National Service : -
The evolution of this Court from an industrial tribunal limited to the particular task in each case, to an institution having in effect wide legislative powers, is an interesting one which some one will one day explore. This legislative power is so great indeed as to occupy a field from which the Federal Parliament is excluded; so paramount as to override in appropriate cases the State legislation, and so- vital as to make the law for Australians in that realm -which touches them most closely and intimately, viz., their industrial relations filling half the waking hours of their working days. It is a matter of striking comment that in a democracy so much responsibility and so much legislative power should be imposed on and trusted to three men appointed for life and beyond the reach of the popular will.
Much has been said in this House during the last few days about what is vaguely referred to as bureaucracy; In a community like ours, which can be broadly described as a welfare state, we must have a certain number of officials but in this respect the test is not the number of officials but to whom are they responsible. Bureaucracy, to my mind, occurs when such a situation as that arises. The words were spoken not by an industrial agitator but coldly and soberly by a judge. His -Honour said, in effect. “ We have power away beyond the reach of the popular will, and we are appointed for life “. When such a vast degree of power resides in a body, the position borders on bureaucracy. I suggest that the court did not want to assume that power, but no one has stepped in to fill the vacuum, and the court must adjudicate for the time being.
The suggestion has frequently been made that a convention should be summoned to consider the Commonwealth Constitution. I believe that some sifting of the Constitution is required for the purpose of ascertaining the fundamental problems that confront our federation at the present time. The matter to which I have referred is the central problem, because, as the judges. say, the problem of determining the’ weekly wage of the workers is the one that most intimately affects the majority of the people. It is useless to leave the matter to an empirical solution. We have to intervene and, if necessary, establish new machinery. It is all very well to say that we abide by the principles of arbitration. So we do ! But such a tribunal as the Arbitration Court cannot be overloaded and made to function as it was not intended to function. That court is being asked to do something which, for the most part, it recognizes itself as incompetent to decide.
The test that the court ultimately uses to fix the wage is something which it vaguely calls “ the economic capacity of industry to pay “. Yet Their Honours admitted, in the judgment to which I have referred, that the Court has no satisfactory machinery to enable it to deterin inc the economic capacity of industry to pay. If that judgment be taken to its logical conclusion, it will be found that Their Honours are really incompetent to adjudicate upon the matter that they are supposed to decide. Yet, so far, no one has intervened to establish a more Satisfactory machine. I suggest that, when we are considering the Constitution this year, we should examine that important matter. It has been suggested that some kind of economic bureau should bc. attached to the court, and such .an organization would at least enable the tribunal to sift information; but whilst Their Honours are all right in their place in interpreting legal matters, I do not admit that a judge is the person who is best fitted to sift economic information and to determine the wage that is to be paid to a vast section of the community. That problem confronts us this year. In the past, we have not faced it as we should have faced it.
There is another vital matter that should he considered if we are to retain our federal system of government. That matter will be examined in greater detail with in the next few days, when the House deals with legislation to grant an amount of approximately £15,000,000 to the States. The important problem that has to be solved is how to establish satisfactory machinery to determine what share of the revenue that is collected by the Commonwealth shall be returned to the States. That problem has become accentuated in the last five years for a particular reason. Honorable members, if they will examine the financial records of the Australian Parliament, will note that in the base year 1938-39, the total revenue required by the Commonwealth was approximately £75,000,000. The annual budget of the Commonwealth is now approximately £500,000,000. However, there is a significant difference between the position in 1938-39, and that in 1950-51, not in respect of the total amount of money that is collected, but in the source from which it is collected. In 1938-39, the Commonwealth relied principally upon indirect methods of taxation, such as customs duties and excise, for its revenues. Such moneys were collected from the people, not according to their capacity to pay, but according to their consumption of particular articles. But the most socially desirable form of taxation, because it is the most socially equitable, is the progressive income tax, which is levied on individuals according to their capacity to pay. A Labour government was the first administration in Australia to recognize that there were certain desirable social principles to be followed in the levying of taxes. A Labour government was the first administration in this country to impose income tax; and that form of direct taxation on individuals and companies is the principal source of Commonwealth revenue at the present time. We know, as the result of lessons that we have learnt from experience, that it is possible, by the use of that taxation instrument, to redistribute the national income, taking money from people according to their capacity to pay and redistributing it according to various categories of social need. One important administrative difficulty about an income tax is that it is best administered from a central source. It is difficult to divide the field between the Commonwealth and the States, if each uses the same basis, namely, the actual income of the individual. Because of that administrative difficulty, it is desirable from the standpoint of the individual taxpayer to have only one return to bother about. Another principle of the uniform income tax is that individuals with similar incomes pay the same amount of .tax, irrespective of where they live in Australia. In that way, there is justice from the standpoint of individuals.
The problem that must be satisfactorily solved, if we are to preserve our federal institutions, is how to redistribute among the various levels of the community the revenues that have been collected. That fundamental financial problem faces the federal system of government, not only in Australia, but also in the United States of America and Canada. To those honorable members who are interested in the matter, I commend a booklet entitled Federal Financial Relations in Canada and Australia. It is a report that was prepared for and published by the Government of Tasmania, and was written by K. J. Binns, M.A., B.Com. I understand that Mr. Binns is an official of *he Tasmanian Treasury. He has made an examination of the way in which this problem has been faced in Canada and Australia. At this stage, I direct the attention of honorable members to a footnote on page 22 of the publication, in which Mr. Binns sets out the. circumstances in Canada. He writes -
The Dominion Government documents all phases of any Dominion-Provincial negotiations in a most complete manner. In addition to the official record of proceedings, the various data papers and other submissions are generally printed. This is a most desirable practice for it ensures that a complete record of all proposals and counter-proposals is always available. This, unfortunately, is not the case in Australia. Even at this stage it would be extremely difficult for any one to write a complete history of Federal-State Financial Relations since 1942, - without considerable help from persons who actually took part in the various negotiations.
At this juncture, I wish only to indicate that this problem exists, and there are certain deficiencies of which we saw evidence this evening, when the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) refused to reveal to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) certain matters that occurred at the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council. That body forms only a pari of the problem of Commonwealth and State relations. Its deliberations, instead of taking place in the open, -are held behind closed doors. That practice, to my mind, is not a. way in which to preserve our federal system. Such investigations should ,be open to the fullest scrutiny. Every document or every deposition should be available to any one who wishes to write about or investigate the problem. To-night, I merely indicate that such a problem exists, and that its solution is vital to the preservation of our present system of Government. I recommend to the House that the problem should receive greater consideration, not only from this Parliament, but also from the State parliaments. Such consideration will be facilitated if all negotiations take place at least a little more openly than they have done to date.
– On behalf of honorable members on this side of the chamber, I congratulate the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), upon their excellent maiden speeches. I assure them that, even though we on this side of the House disagree with their political views, we do not dislike them personally. We are glad that they are here, and that they have so ably negotiated their first hurdle in addressing the House.
In Persia, the Communists have succeeded in throwing the oil supplies available to Australia and to other countries into confusion. In the same way, for a number of years, the Communists have succeeded in throwing our industries into confusion. They have distorted the Australian economy, and have joined the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in declaring that any person who asks the trade unionists to work harder is a traitor. The Communists have also succeeded in placing emphasis upon non-essential industries. They have taken the drive out of coal-mining, steel production, power generation and butter production. They have drawn man-power and facilities away from those industries, and have thrown the economy into such a state that vital industries are not receiving adequate support.
– If there were not a few Communists in Australia, the honorable gentleman would not he a member of this House.
– That statement i? probably true, but who am I to object to the decision of the 25,000 or 26,000 persons who elected me to this chamber? They supported me, because the preceding Labour Government was not able to deal with the Communists. Regardless of what that Administration did, it was not able to check the influence of the Communists ih the unions. The majority of the people supported the Liberal party and the Australian Country party at the general elections of 1949 and 1951 and gave them a mandate to deal with the Communists. We shall remain in office while Opposition members are caught between two fires.
I am able to speak about the dairying industry with some authority. I have been engaged in it for many years, and my father is the chairman of the Producers Co-operative Distributing Society, which is probably the largest handler of butter in Australia. I should like, briefly, to trace what has happened in the butter producing industry, which is now in a serious condition. The price, which is the all-important factor, was decided between 1934 and 1942 by a body known as the Equalization Commitee, which consisted of the leaders of the dairying industry in all States, and the leaders in the marketing of dairy produce in all States with the exception of South Australia, in which only the cheese industry was represented. These men decided the price to be charged for butter. In doing so, they had regard for market conditions both overseas and in Australia. They were sensitive to the wishes of the consumers because they -knew that the consumers were all-important to them. As a result of their work, aided by State legislation which was necessary in order to overcome the difficulties that were presented by section 92 of the Constitution, they established a butter market which has finally resulted in Australians being the highest individual consumers of butter in the world, except for the people of New Zealand. They use 32 lb. per capita per annum. Furthermore, Australians are the most fastidious consumers because, until the period when quality began to decline, 99 per cent, of the butter on the home market was of the choicest quality. In 1941 or 1942, the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner came upon the scene and the subsidy was introduced. The object of paying a subsidy on butter was to prevent a sharp increase of the basic wage and, at the same time, provide a fair income for the dairy-farmer. I am informed that a rise of ls. per lb. would have caused the basic wage to rise by 7s. a week. Such an increase would have thrown the system of pegging prices and wages into confusion. At that time, the annual cost of the subsidy was £2,000,000. The present situation of the dairying industry was not foreseen. The cost of the subsidy during the current year will be about £18,000,000.
What happened after the subsidy was introduced? For some time the industry continued to operate contentedly under its own leaders, who were conscious of their responsibility to consumers both at home and overseas. But suddenly it was confronted, under a socialist Labour Government, by an economist by the name of Professor Copland in the office of Prices Commissioner. The farmers were then receiving ls. 7 1/2d. per lb. for butter. In May, 1945, they made a soundly based request for an increase of 4d. to ls. Hid. per lb. In August, 1945, Professor Copland signed a letter, which had probably been prepared by some of his assistant economists, which said that he could not agree to an increase at that crucial time. He made the remarkable statement, in justification of his decision, that there would be a flush season in the industry. Instead of forming his judgment on past events, he set out to foretell the future! I remind honorable members that this letter was dated the 24th August, 1945, only a few days after the termination of hostilities. Having that in mind, he said that, because of the end of the war, there would be adequate man-power in the industry, plenty of machinery and additional fertilizers, and that increased production was assured. He declared that Australia could not expect to maintain its existing returns from overseas sales because the United Kingdom was such a great user of margarine that he waa doubtful whether we could sell large quantities of more expensive butter on that market. For those reasons, he could not agree to increase the price. His decision was confirmed by the Labour government of the day and the industry lost the advantage of the proposed increase of 4d. per lb., which had been recommended by the responsible leaders who had controlled its affairs so successfully for a long period.
That loss cost it about £12,000,000 over the next two years. What happened at the end of the period of two years? A new body - the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee - was appointed. It consisted of five leaders of the industry and four representatives of government departments. Those gentlemen began an Australia-wide survey of the industry. They looked at 692 farms selected at random and finally arrived at an estimation of a composite or average farm. They submitted their reports as a committee in 1947 with two findings. The producer representatives, who had had long experience in dealing with the affairs of the industry, recommended that the Government fix a return of 2s. l£d. per lb. to the farmer. The gentlemen appointed by the Government from its departments said that the return to the producers should bc only 2s. per lb. In support of their argument they stated that the costs of production, which had been taken during the committee’s investigations, covered a run of bad years. This was a remarkable argument. In other words, those four members of the committee declared that, because production had been lower than usual over the period of investigation, the costs would appear to be higher than was normally the case and that therefore they could not accept those figures. The Government accepted the recommendation for a return of 2s. per lb. to the producer, although two years previously it had agreed to keep the price down to ls. 7-Jrd. per lb. instead of granting an increase to ls. 11-id. per lb. because Professor Copland had predicted that there would be a “flush season”. Thus, it made use of “two conflicting reasons at different times for keeping down the returns to the dairy-farmers. As the result of the recommendation of the departmental members of the committee, the producers lost,for a number of years, the advantage of an increase of l-£d. per lb. The basis for price-fixing in the industry had then been depressed so much that the committee probably became inclined to agree to an unreasonably low price for butter. The committee and the Government were, in fact, butchering the dairying industry. We are reaping the unhappy harvest to-day.
The dairying industry is a long-term industry, and any trend in its affairs takes months, or even years, to make its effects apparent in the economy. . It is a loyal industry. It wanted to contribute to the well-being of the country by supplying a Choice article at a very low price, and it wanted to help the United Kingdom as well by producing an adequate surplus for export. But what happened to it? It was murdered because the men who were responsible for fixing, the price for butter would not agree to a fair and reasonable figure. In the first instance, in 1945, Professor Copland depressed the price by 4d. per lb. In the second instance, the Labour government of the day rejected the recommendation of the industry’s representatives and adopted the recommendation of its own departmental representatives for a lower price. Another survey of the industry was made about midway through the year 1949, six months before the general election of that year. A recommendation was made to the government of the day for an increased return of 2£d. per lb. to the farmers and £d. per lb. to the factories. This recommendation was the subject of argument for six months but, just before the election, the recommendation for a 2-&d. increase to the farmers was adopted. The co-operative factories, which were already making butter at a very low price and returning all profits to the farmers, were left swinging. As soon as the Menzies-Fadden Government came into’ power after the election, the recommended increase of 1/2d. per lb. was granted to the factories. A little later, another survey was made and a price of 2s. 6 1/4d. per lb. was recommended to the Government and was agreed to within a month. After a further survey in December, 1950, a new price was recommended to the Government in March, 1951, and the increase was approved overnight. That illustrates the difference between the methods of the Labour Administration and those of- the present
We have no butter on our breakfast tables to-day because for four or five years the socialists, abetted by the economists, tried to make use of the butter industry in order to subsidize our economy, but succeeded only in depressing it. When the present Government parties came into power, they took over the guaranteed price system that had been established by the Labour Administration and granted as promptly as possible all the increases that were recommended. But it was too late then. The dairying industry had suffered tremendous harm as the result of the depredations of the Communists and the influence of the low prices that had been fixed upon the recommendations of the economists. Then the industry was struck by another disaster when the wool industry and certain unessential industries attracted men away from it. It became impossible for dairy farmers to get wire netting, piping, or adequate labour. The industry was in serious trouble.
About 68,000 dairy-farmers to-day are producing the same quantity of milk as was produced in 1939, which was a record year. The annual output is 1,235,0.00,000 gallons. - The shortage of butter has not been caused by any defection on the part of the farmers. It is due to the increased consumption of butter and whole-milk as the result of the expansion of our population at the rate of 350,000 a year. The men who have remained in the industry are doing their job well, working hard for long hours. The first essential step towards retrieving the situation must be to establish a fair price to be paid to the farmers. Everybody in the community agrees that this is necessary. Housewives are saying, “We will pay for the butter if we can get it. We cannot do without it”. We all agree with them, because butter is a high quality nutritious food. The farmer must receive a price that will enable him to meet his costs. It is an. astounding fact’ that the composite dairy farm, on which the Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee bases its calculations, yields 8,900 lb. of butter fat a year, which provides a return to the farmer of £1,300. From that amount, the farmer is expected to draw his own income and pay for transport, fertilizers and the many other requirements of his occupation. Obviously, his profit is not great. A price that will offer him some incentive to carry on with production must be provided. Everybody agrees on that. One way in which the Commonwealth could provide such a return to farmers, without price fixing powers, would be to finance the increase by means of a subsidy. That would raise the annual cost of the subsidy from about £16,000,000 to £30,000,000 or £40,000,000, which would be entering the realm of absurdity.. Therefore, the time has come for the State prices authorities to agree to an increased price for butter. Such a course of action is absolutely necessary.
At 2s. 2d. per lb., butter is undoubtedly too cheap. That price is only about 2£d. per lb. higher than the price of margarine, and, because of the slight difference, our small quota of margarine has not been used by the consumers. In fact, less than 25 per cent, of the quota has been exhausted simply because butter is too cheap. It is so cheap that people can fry fish in it or use it to grease their boots.
– Ha, ha!
– I assure the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that butter is a very high quality boot greaser. The honorable gentleman should know something about that subject. The fact is that butter is being wasted. When a commodity which costs the community 3s. 3Jd. per lb. indirectly can be bought across the grocery counter for only 2s. 2d. per lb., a false low value is placed upon it. Consumers do not realize its true cost. They will gladly pay 2s. 2d. per lb. for it and waste it. Obviously, in such circumstances, the price should be increased. We must end the guaranteed price system and discontinue the subsidy. I believe that an article should be sold at its true price. If it is subject to a subsidy, the ‘ price at which it is sold is a false one. This Government has continued the guarantee that was given to the dairy-farmers by the Chifley Government for a period of five years, which expires next year, and has itself promised a guarantee for a period of ten years.
For a long period, we have been exporting considerable quantities of butter, but we are now approaching the time when we shall have no butter available for export and when this highly nutritious product should, so to speak, stand on its own feet. The dairying industry has preached a doctrine of guarantee and stabilization, and there were many good ‘ reasons why it should have done so. Farmers can be ruined by speculators in a few months. But I believe that the time has come when we should consider telling the dairy-farmers, that they produce an article which in future will be consumed almost wholly in Australia and for which there will always be a great demand, and asking them to trust their own leaders to control the price of that article so that we can look forward to the withdrawal of the subsidy upon it.
It is anomalous that some dairyfarmers should be paid more than 5s. per lb. for commercial butter fat when sold as whole milk when the return to farmers for’ butter is as low as it is. The Joint Dairy Industry Advisory Committee has based its estimates of the cost of production of butter upon the average farmer in the centre of the range of costs and, therefore, has condemned to gradual extinction those farmers whose production costs are higher than that. We must reconcile ‘ourselves to either having insufficient butter to meet the needs of the Australian people or giving to dairy-farmers an incentive to increase production. In the short-range view, the State price-fixing authorities should accept their obligation and increase the price of butter considerably, or the Australian Government will have to honour the guarantee that has been given and expend more money than it is doing at present upon the butter subsidy. Taking the long-range view, those of us who believe in sturdy independence are sure that the time will come when the price of butter will be decontrolled and the butter subsidy abolished.
It will be necessary to do more than increase the price of butter. We must make available to dairy-farmers the materials that they need for the proper conduct of their farms. It is almost impossible to obtain wire’ netting, steel piping, roofing iron and other materials that farmers need urgently. It is difficult to secure adequate supplies of fertilizer. In regard to the transport of materials to farms and of farm produce to the cities, farmers are living from hand to mouth. Our roads are in a state of disrepair and our railways are hundreds of thousands of tons in arrears in the carriage of goods. We must encourage the production of butter and avoid butter rationing by devoting more attention than we have done in the past to water conservation, soil conservation and fodder conservation. If we have a dry period, butter production will be reduced almost immediately. Very little fodder has been conserved. After. a long period of wet seasons, the plant nutriment in our soil has drained away. We have had three or four wet years, during which there has been a tremendous growth of vegetation. I have been told that butter production for three months of this year was 20 per cent less than the figure for the corre- sponding period of last year. During the wet years, the demands made upon plant food in the soil were so great that at the present time the nutriment is insufficient. If we encountered a dry period, we should not be able to supply the people of this country with all the butter that they required. If that were to happen there would immediately be a cry for butter rationing, which would be an admission of failure. Let us secure all the butter that we require by giving dairy-farmers what is due to them. Let us make capital available for the young farmers who are leaving the industry because they cannot buy their own farms. Under the present credit policy, the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank will advance to a prospective buyer of a farm an amount equal to only 70 per cent, of the bank’s valuation of the property. At the present time, market values are outstripping the bank’s valuations to such a degree that 70 per cent, of a valuation is equal only to approximately one-half of the actual purchase price. A farmer who wishes to buy a property must first find one-half of the purchase price. Then he must find money for the purchase of stock, tractors and machinery. In those circumstances, it is almost impossible for young farmers to acquire their own farms. They are leaving the industry and taking other employment. Consequently, we are losing one of the industry’s most precious assets.
We must have food. The National Resources Board has stated that we must produce food, not only to feed our own people and assist in feeding the people of the United Kingdom, but also to enable us to establish an adequate defence system. The board has directed our attention to that problem, and we must face it.
.- I shall endeavour to establish a case for the development of the sparsely populated areas of this country. In doing so, I shall try to avoid being parochial, but I shall stress the necessity to develop the areas that I know best. The development of the unsettled areas of Australia is a task that this Government should tackle immediately. During the present jubilee celebrations, many fine speeches have been delivered and much has been said about what has been accomplished since federation. I believe that, every Australian has. a right to be proud of what ham been done since then, but there is; still much to do. In my opinion, we have concentrated too much upon developed areas.
In the back country there is ample scope- for development that would be to the advantage of Australia. If we do not begin to develop those areas, it is only reasonable to assume that other countries will consider that they have a right to do so. After the present Government was elected in 1949, the then Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) told the Australian people that the Government would endeavour to implement a policy of decentralization and would devote its energies largely to the undeveloped areas of Australia. It is about those areas that I intend to speak to-night. I hope that in my appeal to the Government to develop the back- country I shall receive the support of honorable gentlemen opposite.
I shall deal first with the northern part of Western Australia. I believe that the long undeveloped northern coastline of that State constitutes a menace to the security of this country. The land there is not without possibilities. If it were without possibilities, there would be some justification for the attitude that the Government has ad’opted in regard to it. I believe that, with proper encouragement and incentives, the population of the northern, parts of this country could be increased substantially in the very near future. I have known, that part of Australia for almost, the, whole of my life. Perhaps I knew it, too early in my youth, because I w,ent there when I should have ‘ been going- to school. I know it as well as: does any other man in this country. During the. last 25 or 30 years, there has been in the north-w.est of Australia, not a progressive- but. a retrogressive movement. Twenty-five or 30 years ago, many of the pastoral holdings, in the Gascoyne and Ashburton areas carried, at least twice as :many sheep, as they are carrying now. In 1918, 108,000 sheep were shorn at the Bedgemi station on- the Gascoyne River, but now the number- is only 25,000 or :3Q000. In 1911, I was: a shearer at Minderoo Station, on the* Ashburton River.
In that year,, over1 50^.000 sheep- went over the border,, but at tha- present time the station can muster hardly 25,000 sheep. The Gascoyne and Ashburton Rivers run through those: stations, which have a river frontage- of approximately 80 miles each. They then depended’ upon the rivers for their water supply. At one time, in those beautiful rivers there were permanent pools’ that provided an adequate water supply, but to-day those pools- do not exist and the once beautiful river flats are. dust bowls. The, reason is that stock was compelled to travel backwards and forwards to water, because no provision was made for a water supply in the hinterland, although there was abundant feed there. Professor Oliphant recently stated that’ the sheep were eating the guts out of Australia. This, if applied to the areas that I have referred to, would he virtually true.
The major troubles that beset the northwest of Western Australia are, like major troubles that beset the Northern Territory, man-made troubles. I realize that saying that will get us nowhere. These things have, happened, and it is for this Parliament and the people of this country to tackle the problem as it now exists. With governmental encouragement and assistance,, the north-west of Australia could be developed, its population in-
Greased and its pastoral properties improved. But there- must be proper supervision. It is high time that some authority was established by Western Australia and the Commonwealth to supervise the conduct of pastoral properties. It is not right that properties should be overstocked,, to the detriment of the. future prosperity of this- country. Some authority should be established to prevent the: pollution of our rivers and the destruction of our permanent pools by failure. to> make necessary improvements.
Last week a deputation of pastoralists visited Canberra. It was led by the Acting Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Watts, and the then. Leader of the State Labour Opposition, Mr: Wise, who has joist been appointed Administrator of the Northern Territory. That deputation submitted to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden.) the, proposal that all incomes north of the- 26 th parallel should be tax free*. I. am prepared to- support that pro, p.08al provided, that a-, substantial, portion of the income earned shall be re-invested in the properties upon improvements such as the provision of water supplies, pastures, and fencing, carried out so as to give that country a real chance of recovery. The wool barons of the northwest have been largely responsible for the state of the pastoral properties in that area. A repetition of what has happened in the past will not benefit this country.
Last week I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether he would give favorable consideration to a proposal that a delegation from this Parliament, representing all parties, should visit the northwest of Australia and the Northern Territory. Such a visit would do much to publicize the possibilities that exist there and honorable members who are interested in national development would be able to view the position in those areas. It is essential that honorable members who are interested in the national welfare .should have a first-hand knowledge of the position in northern Australia and the Northern Territory. I do not mean that they should go on a luxury trip on a boat. A DC3 aeroplane should be made available to enable them to land at all the inland centres. The local governing bodies would arrange for them to make a survey of the country adjacent to the landing ground, which would be an extensive area, if time permitted. That would arouse an interest in the country and give to the members of all sections of the Parliament an opportunity of examining it. The people of the eastern States know too little of our northern areas. That might be said also of a great proportion of the people who live in the south of “Western Australia. Consequently, when one talks to . them about the possibilities of the northwest of Australia one receives a similar response to ‘that which is used in reply to an appeal for production in the Northern Territory. Because of a continual campaign the Northern Territory was known, at least until a few years ago, as “ the dead heart of Australia “.
There are great possibilities in the northern portion of this continent. The area adjacent to the Fitzroy and Ord Rivers with their fertile flats is equal to any’ land in the Commonwealth. It compares favorably with any land in the northern parts of New South Wales and the northern parts of Queensland. Why has it not been developed? All governments must take the blame for the fact that it has been neglected. This is a national problem and it should be tackled as a national undertaking. The delegation which has been suggested would not do any harm and would not involve any great expense. The DC3 aeroplane would be able to land at such places as Wittenoon Gorge and Fitzroy Crossing. The people of the north-west would provide motor transport in order to give honorable members an opportunity to see th? adjacent country.
In addition to the pastoral and agricultural possibilities of this area there are valuable mineral deposits which await development.- Yampi Sound and Wittenoon Gorge have been developed under the most extreme difficulties. Yet they are well-established little towns which have all the necessary amenities and they are in a flourishing state of production.. A long, weary battle took place in connexion with both of these projects. Only recently the Anglo-Westralian Mining: Company advised me that it had decidedto spend a sum of £320,000 in the development of a lead and zinc project at Ragged Hills, which is north of MarbleBar. That area is well known as a large base metal area. It extends from theMarble Bar district to the Ashburton River and, as a result of pioneering prospecting, it is known to contain bigdeposits of very valuable minerals. The Anglo-Westralian -Mining Company hasalready established itself. It has been, suggested by those who are in a position to know that the company will be succesful and it may well be that many otherprojects will be developed in this area.
I am violently opposed to the decision of the Government of Western Australia to close the Marble Bar to Port Hedland1 railway. That is a most retrograde step. Statistics show that during the last twoyears that railway has paid its working expenses. Even if the closure of the railway could otherwise be supported, the psychological effect upon the development of the area would be bad. A fortnight ago in this House I requested that the Minister for National’ Development (Senator Spooner) should confer with the State Government in’ order to try to- prevent this happening. The Marble Bar to Port Hedland railway is only 120 miles long. The alternative proposal is that an all-weather road should be constructed. Anybody who knows the Marble Bar to Port Hedland area will realize that an all-weather road would be a costly proposition. Because of the rivers and creeks that it would have to cross, which are flooded in wet weather, it would not be of a permanent character. I appeal to the Australian Government and to the Western Australian Government, if that is worth while, to stay their hands because of the urgent necessity for development in that area and because of the wretched psychological effect that the closing of the railway would have. Although it has decided to close this railway, the Western Australian Government lias asked for a remission of taxation for the wool barons. I would give some encouragement and support to honorable members on the Government benches in regard to this matter because the undeveloped north is a national menace to this country. The sooner it is developed and populated the better will it be for the whole of Australia, so it cannot be claimed that I am adopting a parochial attitude in relation to this matter.
In addition to the pastoral and mining possibilities of north-western Australia and the Northern Territory it is possible that oil may be discovered there. Experts from oil-bearing countries have already reported very favorably on the areas that are now under investigation both in the Kimberleys and in the Exmouth Gulf district. The operations of the CarcaryFerny Oil Company were suspended following the outbreak of World War II., and the organization of the company was disrupted for a considerable period. However, the company has returned to the task and has persevered with its drilling operations under great difficulties and at immense cost. The company is optimistic that eventually it and Australia will be rewarded by the discovery of oil in that area. Surely an enterprising company such as that merits support _ from the Government in its search for oil, particularly at this time ! I understand that some discussion has already taken place between the company and’ the Western Australian Government and federal Min isters. In the present troubled state of the world, and now that a crisis has’ developed over Persian oil, any expenditure which has prospects of resulting in the discovery of oil in Australia could be eventually justified. That is not the only oil company operating in the west; another company is operating in the Exmouth Gulf area. It is the responsibility of the Government to offer every encouragement to those companies, to get behind them in whatever way it can constitutionally do so, to make available to them the assistance, advice and facilities of the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Research, and, if necessary, support them with finance in an effort to develop the Exmouth and Kimberley areas.
I turn now to the gold-mining industry. I cannot say much about that subject that I have not already said in this House on many occasions. I have reminded the Prime Minister time after time of the undertaking that he gave in 1949 to the gold-mining industry when he said that if the anti-Labour parties were elected to office they would offer some real and beneficial assistance to the industry. The industry has been waiting for some effect to be given to that undertaking, but up to now it has waited in vain. The goldmining industry is of great economic importance to Western Australia, and persons engaged in it are showing every patience. They know that other countries are selling gold on the free market and that Canada has made certain provisions outside the International Monetary Agreement, so it is only natural that they are wondering what is happening to them and are asking for some real move to be made. With the ever-increasing costs of production, coupled with a static price for gold, they are wondering when the Prime Minister’s promise that he gave in 1949 will be made good.
I have endeavoured to refrain from dealing with any parochial matters. I have said what I have said because I believe that the development of the areas that I have referred to, particularly the north of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, are essential. I leave any other representations on behalf of the Northern Territory to the honor-able member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), who knows more about that area than I do. The Chifley Government made certain plans which provided for a reduction in size of the extensive leases held in the Northern Territory by big companies. It had certain conditions Written into agreements ‘ with those companies which provided that the land held by the companies must be improved if they were to be allowed to retain the whole of their properties. I hope that this Government will continue with that agreement, which was reached after a series of conferences. The agreement compelled the big companies to surrender portions of their properties, which would be sold to new tenants, if they did not improve the land. I have already told the House to-night of the dust-bowls that have been created in the western part of this Commonwealth. I referred to Minderoo station on the Ashburton ‘ River, and to Bedgemi station on the Gascoyne River. I was speaking on a matter that I knew something about. What are those stations to-day? Dustbowls Yet previously rich saltbush, 3 feet high, grew on them. It is not fair to the rising generation of this country that we should allow such destruction. Soil erosion has become one of our national problems and the sooner some authority is established by this or some other Parliament to prevent the overstocking
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- We have been listening to a discourse on the development of a part of Australia, and generally I agree with what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) has said. There is no doubt that this Parliament should pay very great attention to matters of national importance such as the development of Australia at this particular period of its’ history. I suppose that the most important matter which calls for the attention of this Parliament and, indeed, for the attention of all the parliaments in Australia and of the people, too, is the production of the fundamental commodity that wneed for our development - coal. It is not overstating the position to say that, unless we solve our problem of coal production satisfactorily, we shall be’ merely talking idly about achieving the aim of our defence programme and expending about £500,000,000 a year on it and the other programmes that we have on hand to make this a great young nation. All the things for which we in this country stand, the whole of our democracy, and. indeed, our right and ability to hold this country, depend fundamentally on coal production. .
Coal production is particularly important in Australia because, unlike most other countries, we have a very sparse supply of water and therefore we cannot rely on hydro-electric power for the development of our country. Do not imagine for one moment that I am attempting to depreciate’ the need for hydro-electric power, because it would be of great assistance to us. But we have very little water, and notwithstanding the efforts that are being made in parts of Australia, we have not yet found any natural supplies of oil. Therefore, for the purposes of production of power and of the means to develop this country, we must depend on coal. It is a fact that most governments of the past have realized that fundamental truth, and that much has been done by various governments to find a solution of the knotty problem of coal production. We can go back over the years and find that commissions have investigated coal production in Australia. In 1929 and 1930 a coinmission in New South Wales investigated the matter and made certain recommendations. Mr. Justice Davidson also extensively examined coal production at the direction of the Chifley Government in 1945, and made certain recommendations. It is unfortunate, however, that most of his recommendations were not adopted. We had the Coal Production (War-time) Act in 1944, and later the Coal Industry Act, under which the Joint Coal Board, which operates in New South Wales and for the Commonwealth, is at present working. By virtue of that aci and of the operations of the Joint Coal Board, the Commonwealth has its only toehold in relation to coal production. Yet the public at large throughout Australia has been taught to believe that thi’ Australian Government is the Govern ment mainly responsible for coal production. That is not so.
– The honorable member is blaming the Chifley Government, but that Government inaugurated the Joint Coal Board.
– I am not blaming any government. I am trying to avoid any particular party argument and to speak in a national way for the good of the country.
– It is good practice for the honorable member.
– Order !
– It is a fact that in 1939, before the advent of any form of government control over coal production, there were ample supplies of coal in Australia. As a matter of fact, there were more than ample supplies. Sufficient coal was being mined, not only on a quantitative basis as at present, but also on a qualitative basis. There is a deep significance in that fact, because the great power authorities and other instrumentalities which needed certain classes of coal, were able at that time to purchase coal to their specifications. In that way greater efficiency was obtained. But the Australian Government took over the direction of coal production in 1941 and from then on we have had a pretty raw deal in regard to that commodity. It is very strange that from the moment in 1941 when the Government took over control of coal, to the present moment, all the people who have so badly needed coal of a certain quality have not been able to get either the necessary quality or quantity. As an instance of that, in 1941 the Sydney County Council, which has the biggest power-generating authority in the City of Sydney, had a reserve of 250,00.0 tons of coal installed beside the Bunnerong power station. All that coal was dissipated by the direction of the government commission which took over control of coal during the war. It is also strange that from then until the Government took control, there was a serious diminution of output from mines and a great increase of absenteeism and the number of strikes that have so seriously affected production. From 1935 to 1945 the quantity of coal mechanically filled in New South “Wales rose from 13,692 tons to 2,168,000 tons; yet in ‘the same period- [Quorum formed.’] . From 1935 until 1945 in New South Wales the quantity of coal mechanically filled increased from 13,692 tons to 2,168,000 tons. In the same period the number of employees increased from 13,337 to 17,420. In spite of this increase the output a man fell from 3.3 tons a day to 2.98 tons a day. The number of days lost because of strikes increased from 11.7 to 36.2 a year. When those figures are compared with the figure*, for the mines of Great Britain over a comparable period, it will be seen that this country shows very poorly by the comparison. In 1942 in New South Wales the days lost by each employee were 13.3 and in Great Britain each employee lost 1.8 days. The figures continue in somewhat the same proportion until 1945, when absenteeism from New South Wales mines was 36.2 days an employee against .9 days an employee in Great Britain. In seeking the causes of these disproportionate losses of time, it is interesting to consider the report of Mr. Justice Davidson. He reported that most stoppages were not based on genuine grievances or disputes with owners or managements. Then, he stated certain things about discipline that I do not wish to detail at the present time. However, it is a fact that government control since 1941 in the field of coal-mining has completely failed. In this connexion it is interesting to read some remarks of the late John Curtin when he introduced his 1944 bill to control the industry. He then said -
The only justification for the exercise of control surely must be that control would result in greater production. I venture to say however, that the men who go on strike under the present management of the mines, would go on strike under any other kind of management. Therefore, strikes must be stamped out. I say to the union that it will be destroyed if it cannot exercise discipline over its workers, and I accept also as logical the fact that the Government will be destroyed unless it also can enforce discipline.
They are words of very great wisdom from a very great man. Unfortunately, all the effort that has been put into attempts to increase production of coal have failed. It is proper that we should at this time face frankly up to the position. The Joint Coal Board has been operating in New South Wales, and a great deal of investigation has been made into coal production. The country has spent millions of pounds on this work. At the present time the Joint Coal Board’s figures show that £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 has been spent by this Government in connexion with the board’s activities, and yet during the period that it has been in existence not one extra ton of coal has been produced from underground mines, nor has there been an increase in the number of operatives in the coal-mining industry. That indicates clearly that we must take stock of our position, because unless we quickly do so we shall soon be in a serious industrial position in Australia. When it is considered that the need for black co’al in Australia to-day is about 20,000,000 tons ;t . year, and our production at present falls short of that amount by approximately 5,000,000 tons a year, a” clear indication is given of the importance of the matter. It is important to assess the great economic loss in pounds shilling and pence which has been suffered by Australia. It is safe to say that in recent years that loss has been of the order of hundreds of millions of pounds. The people of Australia, I fear, sometimes do not stop to think of the losses that they suffer because our coal production has not been increased. But perhaps more important than the monetary loss is the time which has been lost in the development of this young country. That time can never be recovered, but we must try to do something to prevent any further loss of time.
Last week the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when addressing the State Premiers, stressed the need for the economic use of our resources. I do not know whether he was thinking of coal when he spoke, but it is an unfortunate fact that in the coal mining industry because of certain factors that I propose to mention later, we are spending a lot of money uneconomically. No one can deny that in New South Wales there exists some of the finest coal in the world, of the quality that is needed by every State in Australia. No one can blame the Victorian people because they have spent a lot of money in the development of their brown coal deposits in an attempt to make themselves independent of New South, Wales coal. Yet the spending of that money was economic waste, because the type of coal that they are mining would not have to be mined at this time if New South Wales were in a position to deliver the coal that Victoria needs. Those remarks apply to South Australia, and perhaps to a lesser extent to Western Australia. They may not apply to Queensland in which there are great coal deposits. In New South Wales the best quality coal is ready at hand, it is near transport, and all the facilities for its economic mining and distribution throughout Australia are available. But we should not only be providing sufficient coal for the economic growth of Australia and its States, we should also be supplying the magnificent export market for the New South Wales coal that is available. Instead of doing so, we are spending millions of pounds in the purchase of oil to supplement the heating qualities of the poor coal that we are getting instead of the good quality coal that we should be able to get. One Sydney organization with which I am connected is spending £1,250,000 a year on oil. That is another tremendous economic waste, because there is a great present shortage of oil, and even at this moment we are thinking about our future supplies. We all know what is happening in other countries with regard to oil.
What is causing all this insanity about coal because surely it may be said that the position of the coal-mining industry is insane? We know that as a matter of deliberate policy the coal-miners have decided in recent years that they would keep the production of coal to a minimum. In other words, they have decided to keep a stranglehold on Australia. That has been done by the operatives in the coal-mining industry, and it is time that we took stock of the position. I do not want honorable members to infer from my remarks that I am attacking the coalminers. I am not. I admit that some psychological reason may exist for tha position to which I have referred. Indeed, when one studies the history of the industry, one can well understand the attitude that some miners adopt. As far back as 1928-29, particularly on the western coalfields, many miners were unable to obtain a full week’s work in the industry. Official records show that many of them could not obtain engagement for more than n few days in a week. As the result of these experiences, bitterness entered the hearts of many of them. But it is most unfortunate that when we have the opportunity to increase the production of coal, thu Communists should be allowed to exploit the resentment of men who come within that category as well as that of miners who retain the traditional world-wide attitude of coal-miners. The history of coal-mining is not too savoury. That is the fundamental cause of the difficulties that exist in the industry at present. The Government must recognize that fact and rectify the position as soon as possible. It must act, first, with the object of ridding tintrade unions associated with the industry of Communist influence and it can do that by restoring to the rank-and-file unionists power to control the affairs of their organizations. I believe that the majority of the miners would respond to proper treatment.
A t the same time, however, the elimina-tion of communism will not of itself solve the problems that confront the industry. The Government must do more than that. It must educate the coal-miners as a whole’ in respect of the nation’s need of coal. The coal-miners must be given security in their employment. In view of our urgent need to increase the production of coal, if this country is to be properly developed, the Government ‘should guarantee to find a market for, or purchase at a reasonable price, all of the production of the industry. In every respect, coal is far more important in our economy than are other basic products, such as wheat, wool or butter, and the Government should deal with coal at least as favorably as it deals with those products. I can see no reason why it should not guarantee a market or purchase the full production of the industry, regardless of the tonnage that might be produced. Furthermore, the ]OVvernment does not seem to realize as fully as it should do the implications of the conflict that exists between the Joint Coal Board and the State Coal Authority in New South Wales. Although the Government of that State is a full-blooded partner with the Commonwealth in the activities of the Joint Coal Board, I am afraid that the former is not playing the game. On the contrary, it is to some degree sabotaging the endeavours of the Joint Coal Board to increase the production of coal to the maximum. I can cite many instances in support of that statement. I refer to the State Coal ‘ Authority’s attitude towards coal production in the Burragorang Valley, where 1,500,000 tons of coal could now be produced annually if it were not for the Government of New South Wales. I also point to the extraordinary position that exists in respect of the Hartley Main colliery, where a mining company owns the freehold of the surface land, but is denied any rights whatever in respect of the coal underground. A similar position exists in other centres. I repeat that tho Joint Coal Board is being impeded by the activities of the State Coal Authority in New South Wales. The latter authority is under the control of Mr. Baddeley, but, at present, his whereabouts are unknown. The truth is that New South Wales has let Australia down so f aT as coal production is concerned. I can present facts to substantiate that statement.
– The honorable member would lose the argument with respect to the Burragorang Valley.
– No; the State Government’s handling of coal production in that area is the most disgraceful that I have ever known. The problem of coal production, because of its national implications, is as much the responsibility of the Opposition as it is that of the Government, and the Opposition has the obligation to assist the Government to do everything in its power to increase production. This problem should be lifted above party political considerations. The time has arrived when the Parliament should deal with it in a national way instead of throwing up its hands, as it were, in surrender. The time is opportune for the Government to call together, on a nonparty political basis, a national conference to consider the problem. Representatives of the Government and Opposition parties in this Parliament and in all the. State parliaments, as well as of the coal-miners and coal-owners and of utilities directly concerned in the matter should be invited to attend such a conference. Many of the problems that confront the industry could be settled if they were dealt with on a nation-wide basis. I again urge the Government to guarantee the purchase of the whole of our production of coal in order to provide security of employment in the industry. Next, steps should be taken to free the industry of some of the controls that now tend to retard production. I reiterate that the problem should bo considered on a national basis with a view to evolving a permanent plan for the production of coal. Why can the Government not arrange a’ round-table conference with a view to obviating petty disputes of the kind that now occur from time to time in the industry? Furthermore, a shortterm policy should be evolved with a view to giving an impetus to open-cut mining. However, whilst the intensive development of open-cut mines may offer an immediate means of increasing production, it by no means offers a permanent remedy of the problem. We must recognize that the life of an open-cut mine is relatively limited and the quality of the coal in such mines is not of the standard required for power production and other purposes. Australia is one of the richest countries in coal deposits. The quantity of coal available in New South Wales and Queensland is almost unlimited. Authorities have made an estimate of the extent of the deposits in Queensland, but they have no real idea of the quantity. In this Parliament, we talk of carrying out all kinds of developmental works without attempting in any way to develop to the utmost the resources upon which our defence and national development programmes depend. I urge the Government to summon a national conference on the matter. The coal situation should be considered outside the ambit of party politics. We should invite those who are working in the coal-mining industry to be present at that conference, so that they may express their views. When a proper basis for the development of the coal-mining industry is reached, discipline must be imposed upon all those who work in it. As the late Mr. John Curtin truly said, we cannot expect to develop this industry or any other industry in Australia unless we have discipline among those who are engaged in it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Daly) adjourned.
Mas. and Master Chapple: TRANSPORT to the United States of AMERICA
Motion (by Mr. ERIC J. Harbison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I seek the co-operation of the Government in respect of a matter which, I believe all honorable members will agree, is non-political. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is in charge of the House, for co-operation in the provision of air transport to the United States of America for a young Australian lad, Richard Chapple, aged seven years, and hi3 mother. The lad is suffering from Loueffler’s disease. Australian doctors give him only a few years to live. In the district in which I reside, and throughout the Sydney metropolitan area, appeals of various kinds have been launched to raise money to pay the passage of this lad and his mother to the United States of America. I understand that this matter comes within the purview of several Ministers. I have raised it with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) who has said that it possibly concerns also the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) and the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). With that possibility in mind, I raise the matter now in the hope that the Minister who is in charge of the House may be able to confer with me with a view to devising a formula whereby the Government may assist this unfortunate lad. I have received a lengthy communication from the persons in charge of the appeal, which reads, in part, as follows: -
This boy is suffering from Loueffler’s disease and has for some time been under the medical care of various leading specialists of this city. The lad’s parents have just about exhausted their financial resources in trying to have him cured. The father of the boy has now been advised that the only chance of a complete cure is for him to be taken to the Boston Children’s Hospital in America.
I understand that until recently Dr. M. Stenning has been handling the case and the Australian Red Cross has also been interested in it. You will gather from the above information it will require quite a consider-, able amount oi money to have this ‘boy taken to America with his mother for an effective cure. At present a committee is actively raising money and we request you to contact the Federal Government with a view to arranging for air passages for these two people to reach America and return.
Miss Riach of the Australian Red Cross informs me that on reaching America the American Red Cross will handle any transportation that is necessary.
It is possible that fear of establishing a precedent in a case of this kind may worry members of the Government. In a matter of such importance, affecting as it does the life of a young Australian led, such a consideration should not enter into the decision. 1 appeal to the Minister in charge of the House to give me an opportunity to discuss this case with him in the hope that means might be devised by the Government to assist the worthy people who are conducting raffles and using various other means of raising money to send this lad to America.
– in reply - I understand that the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald) has already discussed this matter with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony).
– I have mentioned it to him.
– I suggest that the honorable member should discuss it officially with the Minister. If. the facts are set out clearly, I am sure that the case will be given the most careful consideration by the Ministers concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were (presented : -
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Health - B. A. Collins, A. Davison, J. H. Taylor.
Supply- 6. E. Mawer, C. G. Quigg Works and Housing - C. A. Baker, J. G. Baring.
House adjourned at 10.66 p.m.
The following answer to a question was circulated: -
What was the quantity of vegetable seed imported last year from (a) South Africa, (6) United States of America
Imports of vegetable seeds (except oil seeds) from Union of South Africa and United States’ of America during the ‘ financial year 1949-50 are as under: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 June 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19510626_reps_20_213/>.