20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to direct the attention of the House once again to the tendency of honorable members to ignore the provisions of the Standing Orders with respect to questions. Some of the questions that have been asked during the present sittings of the House have contained six separate questions. No Minister can he expected adequately to answer questions of that kind. Theyshould he placed on the notice-paper. Standing Order 150 limits questions with out notice to matters that require immediate attention. Very fow of the questions asked by honorable members conform to that requirement. I again ask Minis te rs to make their replies as short as possible. There is no necessity for the preamble “ In reply to the honorable member for so-and-so “ used by some Ministers. Questions and answers are rebroadcast and the people expect to hear the answers without unnecessary introduction. The people are intelligent; if they were not, none of us would be here.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a newspaper report on a submission that was made to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by a departmental officer, following his investigation of conditions on the Newcastle waterfront? Has the right honorable gentleman also read a published denial by Mr. Cahill, Minister for Works and Local Government in New South Wales, of some of the statements contained in the submission? As there is a serious conflict of opinion in this matter, and as it appears that the existing state of affairs at the port of Newcastle constitutes a danger to our national security, will the Prime Minister call into conference urgently Ministers whoso departments are involved, with a view to action being taken to rectify this national calamity?
– Order 1 Evidently the honorable member for Shortland has not taken heed of my words of only a couple of minutes ago. Already he hae asked four separate questions.
– The questions relate to a matter that requires immediate attention. Will the right honorable gentleman table the departmental report and inform the House of the action that the Government intends to take to have this matter dealt with quickly?
– I have” not seen either of the documents referred to by the honorable member for Shortland. However, I shall obtain them and look into the matter.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that Radio Moscow, commenting on the recent referendum, announced -
Over 2,000,000 Australian workers, farmers, and progressive intelligentsia voted in favour of the Communist party, and in so doing, expressed themselves as being against the participation of Australian forces in the Korean war and against a further armaments race..
Is’ it also a fact that Radio Moscow offered extravagant praise of the Leader of the Opposition, referring to him as a great man, described his activities as the chief reason for the .defeat of the referendum, and’ extolled his virtues as the protector of liberties for the Australian Communists?
– The words that the honorable gentleman attributed to Radic Moscow in the first of his questions are, as far as my memory serves’ me, almost precisely the same as those that 1 saw in a report of the broadcast to which he has referred’. I have not personally seen a report containing references to the Leader of tha Opposition in the terms used in the second of the honorable gentleman’s questions, but I have heard that an announcement in approximately those terms was broadcast by Moscow.
– Has it been brought to the Prime Minister’s attention that two of every three- members of the armed forces in Korea voted at the recent referendum in favour of the Government being given power to deal with Communists? Will he give the House an assurance that our fighting men. in Korea, who are risking their lives to fight the Communists, will receive the backing of the Government in the sense that every possible step will be taken by the Government to deal with Communists within the scope of the limited powers that it now has?
– I noticed, with great interest the fact referred to by the honorable member. Obviously the troops were uninfluenced by a mass of propaganda put out in Australia. As to the second part of the question, I entirely agree.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. The Postal Department has acquired two properties in the municipality of Preston. One of them was purchased for £2,530, and the other for £2,365; The rentalsobtained by the department for the properties are £3 5s. 9d. a week and £3 14s. 9d. a week respectively. No rates are being paid in respect of either of the properties, and neither is being reasonably maintained. Is the PostmasterGeneral prepared to ensure that the properties shall be property maintained and is the Postal Department willing topay rates in respect of them seeing that the tenants are enjoying all the amenities that the municipality is providing?
– If the honorable gentleman will supply me with particulars of the properties to which he has referred, I shall cause the matter to be investigated1 and shall supply him with- an answer to his question later.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether a public relations officer is. at present visiting school’s, in Canberra and in adjacent districts and is showing a film dealing with post officeactivities as part of a campaign to recruit staff for the Postmaster-General’s Department?
– I cannot say whether an officer is engaged at Canberra as the honorable member has suggested. However, a big organization such as the Postal Department, which employs approximately 80,000 persons, normally suffers wastage of staff which, generally speaking, would be of somewhat the same proportions as that which occurs in large private organizations. That wastage is very substantial to-day. If an officer of my department -is visiting the schools for the purpose that the honorable member has suggested - and the schools are the proper sphere in which to recruit young staff - I should fully endorse that arrangement.
_ Mr. DOWNER.- I direct the attention of the Minister for External Affairs to the announcement to-day that the Egyptian Government proposes to abrogate the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936. In view of Australia’s strategic interest in the Suez Canal, will the Minister strongly impress on the British Government, in the new situation that has arisen - partly one feels, by reason of its mishandling, of the Persian crisis - the desirability of maintaining British troops in Egypt in an effort to retain the last vestiges of British influence in the Middle East? Will the right honorable gentleman assure the British Government that, in the ultimate resort, Australia will take appropriate measures to co-operate with Great Britain in maintaining a line of communication that is vital to Imperial defence ?
– The Australian Government has not received any official information about the proposed abrogation by Egypt of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936. It was stated in a broadcast this morning that the Prime Minister of Egypt, Nahas Pasha, announced last night in the Egyptian Parliament that he proposed to introduce, or had introduced, a bill for that purpose. The Australian Government is in constant communication with the British Government on this matter, on lines not far removed from those suggested by the honorable gentleman.
- Mr. Speaker, at the commencement of question time to-day you made a statement. I direct your attention to the fact that the honorable member for Angas, in the guise of a question, made two slanderous attacks upon His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom. The honorable gentleman referred to the British Government’s “ mishandling of the Persian crisis “ and to “ the last vestiges of British influence in the Middle East “. Neither of those statements was dissented from by the Minister for External Affairs. Indeed the right honorable gentleman must have connived at them. I ask you to rule, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in order for an honorable member, in the guise of a question, to make slanderous attacks upon His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom?
– Order ! If that rule were to be invoked, there would be very few questions asked. In any event, it is not for me to express opinions concerning the matter.
– I rise to a point of ‘ order. I ask for a withdrawal by the Leader of .the .Opposition of the term “ slanderous “. I am not in the habit of making slanderous statements and I take strong exception to the right honorable gentleman’s ill-considered and intemperate statement.
– Order ! I call upon the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw.
– In deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw, but nonetheless I ask you to act in future in order to prevent questions of that kind from being asked.
– Order! I shall so act.
– I rise to order. I wish to ask a question supplementary-
– Order ! The honorable member cannot ask a question on a point of order on which a ruling has been given.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the Standing Orders do not contain directions concerning attacks on the Governor-General and other governments including State governments?
– Order ! I know of no standing order which provides that honorable members may not comment on another government outside this country, or even inside it.
– Will the Prime Minister make a statement to the Parliament with respect to the oil dispute at Abadan, Persia, in order to indicate how that dispute may affect the supply of petroleum products to this country? Can he say whether the Government has taken any step to reintroduce petrol rationing as the result of the curtailment of the supplies of petrol from Persia ?
– The answer to the second question the honorable member has asked is “ No “. With respect to his first question, I shall convey his request to my colleague who is dealing with the matter to see if he is in a position to make a statement on it.
– Will -the Treasurer cause an investigation to be made concerning the policy of the Commonwealth Bank with regard to the advancing of finance to co-operative building and housing societies ? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that restriction of financial assistance to those societies will have a serious effect upon the housing prospects of young married couples ? Will he also investigate the ‘claims submitted by the co-operative housing societies of the Footscray district for further accommodation from Commonwealth Bank funds ?
– Banting policy has been laid down by the Commonwealth Bank, after consultation with the trading banks, and is under the continuous and vigilant consideration of this Government. The aspects mentioned by the honorable member will be brought to the notice of the Commonwealth Bank a uthorities.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs lay on the table the text of any current treaty made with Japan to which Australia is a signatory or by which it is bound?
– From memory, I believe that the treaty in its present form, as signed at San Francisco, is already in the possession of the House. However, if there is any doubt about that matter, [ shall certainly do as the right, honorable gentleman asks. The treaty is not valid until it has been endorsed by an adequate number of the governments concerned. A bill will be introduced in this House for the purpose of endorsing the treaty.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer concerning the negotiations which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is conducting in order to secure from the United Kingdom increased prices for Australian primary products. [ understand that for the last eight months Great Britain had an adverse trade balance of £807.000,000. In view of the fact that Australia already has frozen sterling balances in Great Britain to the value of almost £900,000,000, can the Treasurer inform the House how the increased prices, which apparently the United Kingdom Government is prepared to pay, can be received in Australia in the form of goods?
– In the first place none of our funds are frozen in England. The funds that we hold there exist as a result of trade that has been carried on over the years. Money for payment on imports into this country will be made available through the ordinary trade channels and from the ordinary sources.
– In directing a question to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization I refer to recent statements that he has made to the effect that three senior officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization had voluntarily inoculated themselves with the myxomatosis virus in order to establish that it is harmless to human beings. Can the right honorable gentleman say who these officers are and give any particulars of their very gallant, experiment ?
– I am in communication with the three senior officers concerned in that matter in order to ascertain whether they will allow their names to be used publicly in connexion, with it. I have not yet received their assent to the request. I believe that it is in the public interest that their names should be known generally because their action was, as the honorable gentleman has described it, a very gallant experiment which was designed to ensure that the last vestige of doubt is removed from the public mind about the danger of human beings contracting myxomatosis. As soon as I have the necessary authority from the officers concerned I shall do as the honorable gentleman has suggested.
– Did the Minister for Health, during his recent extensive tour of the United States, glean any useful information regarding health services that might be helpful in enabling him to introduce further health facilities into this country? If so, will he make an early statement to the House on the subject?
– At the appropriate time I intend to make a full statement to the House regarding my visit to the United States.
– Will the Minister for the Army consider using national service trainees for road and bridge work? I refer to engineers in the Army who could do such work as part of their training and would thereby also contribute towards the carrying out of work of a national character, such as the repairing of our roads and bridges, particularly in country areas.
– The honorable gentleman wrote to me in connexion with this matter and I have replied to him saying that I am investigating it. At the moment my first consideration is that during the three and a half months that national trainees spend in camp they have to try to learn what the average regular soldier requires two years to learn. I have no hope at the moment, on my first consideration of the matter, that I shall be able to accede to the honorable gentleman’s request. The most important feature of national service is that trainees shall be given the opportunity to learn how to defend their country in the event of an emergency. However, I am giving consideration to the honorable gentleman’s representation.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether it is true that the call up of national service trainees has . been deferred, at the request of the Department of Labour and National Service and principals of universities and technical colleges, until the 10th December? If so, will the result of the deferment be that those called up will receive no Christmas vacation after their year’s study or their year’s work? Would it not be advisable to defer the call-up until the 10th January. 1952?
– It is not correct to say that there is to be a total deferment. Tn the case of certain prospective trainees, such as university students, technical students and others, we have agreed to split the term of service so that there shall be SS days this year and 88 days next year, with a similar arrangement for future periods of training. This decision was taken after very careful consideration, and after consultation with university and technical college authorities, and with the Minister for Labour and National Service, as well as departmental chiefs. The Government gave very careful consideration to calling these people up at a later date but, under all the circumstances, considered that the 10th December would be the best possible date.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs in connexion with a textile factory at Brunswick, Victoria, which manufactures’ tapestries and which because of unfair overseas competition has been forced to dismiss 40 employees out of about 100 that it employed. Furnishing Textiles Proprietary Limited and other companies have had before the Tariff Board since early 1950 claims for protection for their industry. Will the Minister secure early consideration of the claims of the industry with the object of obtaining a report as promptly a« possible ?
– The honorable member will be aware that 3 could not give him, at the moment,, a proper answer to his question, but I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to it and ensure that he receives a proper reply.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware of the fact that at the conclusion of the last war a considerable number of .310 cadet rifles which were used by the Volunteer Defence Corps were disposed of by the Army, principally to primary producers ? These rifles have been used to destroy vermin, particularly dogs and, in my district, foxes. Does the Minister know that recently it has not been possible to obtain .310 ammunition through the usual sources of supply? Can he inform the House where the ammunition is obtainable, and whether, having regard to its importance for the destruction of vermin, there is any prospect of increased supplies becoming available?
– The position is substantially as stated by the honorable member. A total of 27,500 Webley-Richards rifles were sold to members of the Volunteer Defence Corps and others. amd 12,5’QO’jOOO rounds, of ammunition for tha rifles’, were disposed of through, the. Department of Supply after the sale of the rifles. I have alreadyapproached my colleague, the Minister for Defence Production, to see whether it is possible, having regard to service requirements, to manufacture .310 ammunition in defence establishments, and I hope this will be done. I know from many representations made to me by honorable members on this side of the House,, and by the honorable, member for Kalgoorlie also, that -ammunition of .310 calibre is badly needed in order to deal with such vermin as dingoes and foxes which, because the rabbits are being killed off by myxamotosis,. are now running, short of native food. Dingoes and foxes have recently been coming close to the city areas and are attacking lambs, pigs, calves and poultry. I appreciate the problem and will be pleased to do all I can to, see if it is possible to accede to the request of the honorable member.
– In view of the recent big rise in the price of wool which will result in the Treasurer collecting moTe- revenue than he expected will he consider removing sales tax from the children’s lollies and ice cream?
– Consideration has already been given to that matter.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether it is correct that stocks of high octane fuel used by airline operators are extremely low, so that grave concern is being occasioned? Are stocks of high octane fuel for civil aviation purposes kept separate from defence requirements? What is being done to. maintain supplies and to keep stocks at a sufficient level to meet emergency demands by civil aviation companies during the Christmas season?
– Stocks of high octane fuel are diminishing and are now so low that some civil aviation services may have- to be curtailed. The present situation has occurred owing to the cutting off of supplies of Persian oil. Efforts are being made to- replace those supplies with oil from other parts of the world, but it has not been found’ easy to> do so. The Department of Civil Aviation- and other interested parties, are doing, their utmost to rectify the present situation. Civil aviation stocks of high octane fuel are independent of defence stocks.-
– Will the Prime Minister say whether he or any member of his. Ministry has discussed the future of Trans-Australia Airlines with representatives of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited or of any other private airline? If’ so, what was the nature of the discussions, and when will the right honorable gentleman place before the House the result of the investigation that the Government is now making into the future of Trans-Australia Airlines?
– Investigations have been made of the position of both the major airlines. Some of those investigations have been made by expert investigators, and I myself have had several discussions with representatives of both Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. although primarily the matter f nil’s within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Civil Aviation. It is not possible for- the Government to place before the House matters which are merely a matter of investigation. When the Cabinet, having all the material before it, addresses its mind to the questions of policy involved, and comes to any conclusion, it will take the earliest possible opportunity to- put the House in possession of its- views.
– When the Minister for Civil Aviation was requested to base a helicopter in the far north of Oueensland in addition to the one which he lias already established at Brisbane hp replied that the machine now located at Brisbane would he available to serve the northern area of the .State. As the distance between Brisbane and Cairns is about the same as that between Brisbane and Melbourne, will the Minister reconsider his decision and. establish a helicopter service in the far north?
– I am afraid the honorable member for Leichhardt has been misinformed. No helicopter has been stationed at Brisbane by the Department of Civil Aviation. If there is. a helicopter at Brisbane it must have been established there by one. of the Service departments. I. shall refer the honorable member’s question, to tho appropriate department.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation to state whether the overall passenger loadings of TransAustralia Airlines for .the year ended 30th June 1951, continued to be higher than those of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited notwithstanding that Trans-Australia Airlines is operating a number of developmental routes? Is’ it a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines has operated with ,a higher percentage’ loading than Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited for the same period although this company has charged lower fares than those of Trans-Australia Air-lines? If the Minister has not this information immediately available will he do ;is his predecessor did and obtain from his department a complete return of passenger loadings for each of the chief airline operators for the year 1950-51 and make the details available to the House so that honorable members and the public may be accurately informed on the merits of the airline passenger services rendered by Trans-Australia Airlines in comparison with its competitors?
– I shall give consideration to the request of the honorable member. I hope to be able to submit the annual report of Trans-Australia Airlines to the House very shortly and this, will provide full information concerning, the operations of that company.
– In view of recent developments in atomic research and in methods of conducting chemical and biological warfare will the Minister for Defence state whether full consideration is being given by the Government to plans for the decentralization of Australian defence potential and for civil defence organizations as an adjunct to Australian defence preparations? Has the Minister seen reports to the effect, that preparations of this nature are engaging the attention- of the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America ?
– I can assure the honorable’ member that full consideration is being given to the impact of atomic, chemical- and biological warfare on Australian defence and that preparations are being made to meet these threats.- The civil defence organization is under the aegis, of the Minister for the. Interior. However, I know from my experience when 1 held that, office, that representatives of the Commonwealth and the States have been sent to England to ascertain what civil defence measures are being taken there in order to enable us to adapt those measures to Australian conditions. I have seen the reports to which: the’ honorable member referred..
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether there has been a substantial decline in dairy herds in New South Wales and Queensland? Can the Minister supply any information on the extent and cause of this decline and whether it is being, arrested ?
– There has been a somewhat alarming decline in the number of dairy herds and registered dairies in New South Wales and Queensland. Those are the two States which have refused to dairy-farmers an increase inthe price of their butter. The number of dairy cows in Queensland has declined during the last year by 27,000- and in New South Wales, by 21,000. The number of registered dairies in New South Wales has fallen by more than 1,100 in the last three years. That is to say, 1,100 dairymen have relinquished’ or have not re-registered their dairies. This is a very serious situation. NewSouth Wales is not now self-sufficient in butter supplies. A cause of this is the fact that- the dairy-farmer has not been receiving sufficient for his product in comparison with returns, in other industries. If the two governments concerned would take the matter in hand and. increase the price of butter, as recommended, by the. Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee, we should he able to* do. something to arrest the decline.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state whether it is a fact that hostels and canteens that were previously under the control of his department have now been placed under the control of a registered company? If so, are all the directors of the company public servants and has the whole of its capital been provided by the Government? If that is so, I ask the Minister to indicate what advantage will be gained by the change of the method of control? Will the accounts of the company be subjected to the same close scrutiny by the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral as were the comparable accounts of his department? How will the profits of the company be distributed, and if losses are incurred, how will they be met? Is it not a fact that whenthe hostels and canteens were operated by the Department of Labour and National Service discrepancies aggregating hundreds of thousands of pounds were disclosed?
– I have already furnished some information on this matter. It is not a fact that all the directors of the company will be public servants. Of the six directors to be, three will be senior public servants who are connected with the work of administering the hostels, and the remaining three will be selected from outside the Public Service because of their special experience which we hope will be of value to us. I shall prepare for the honorable member, and for any other honorable member who is interested, a statement covering the other points on which the honorable member has sought detailed information. What we are doing follows very closely the course that has been adopted by the Governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America, where similar problems have arisen. Our design is to secure greater efficiency in management and lower operating costs.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. What was the approximate percentage increase in the price of beef for sale to the United Kingdom which was negotiated recently by the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture in London? Is the increased price for lamb additional to that which was included in the schedule five or six weeks ago?
– The increased price of beef which was negotiated by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in London recently represents 3d. per lb. for first-grade beef, with reducing amounts for beef of lower grades. The overall increase of the price of beef is approximately 27 per cent. The price of lamb has been increased by 171/2 per cent. Details of that increase were made public about five weeks ago when the schedule was appropriately amended. Any announcement that may have been made by the Minister of the 171/2 per cent. increase of the price of lamb would take into account the fact that the increased price was announced some weeks ago.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council introduced a new tariff schedule recently which included provision for an additional excise of l1/2d. a ton on coal produced in Australia, making the total levy 71/2d. a ton. The honorable- gentleman then stated that the additional revenue which would arise from the proposed increase was required to meet the increased cost of long-service leave to miners engaged in the coal industry. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether the additional revenue to be collected by means of the duty will be sufficient to meet the costs of providing an ambulance station also, as promised by the Joint Coal Board, to replace the station that was resumed by the New South Wales Government for educational purposes? If the additional revenue will not be sufficient for that purpose will the Government consider suitably increasing the duty to enable the station tobe provided ?
– I shall inquire into the matter raised by the honorable member and furnish him with a reply as soon as possible.
– Would the PostmasterGeneral supply the following information : - 1. What was the cost of the new public telephone kiosk and telephone exchange at Kiama ? 2. Was the work on these buildings done by contract or by day labour? 3. How much was paid in respect of overtime? 4. Was the cost of cbe buildings excessive? 5. Are the relevant industrial awards difficult to work under ? 6. Are the wage margins paid to overseers insufficient? 7. Was the direction of the work efficient and satisfactory?
– I should think that that is a question for the notice-paper.
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information requested by the honorable member. The matters he has referred to would come substantially within the jurisdiction of the Department of Works and Housing, which carries out postal contract work, but I *hall endeavour to get the information.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say what steps are being taken by his department to overcome the serious position that has developed in the andgate area of Queensland where further telephone installations have become impossible because of the overloading of existing exchange equipment? What chance is there of having an automatic telephone exchange installed in that area in place of the existing manual exchange?
– Considerable attention has been given to the position at the Sandgate telephone exchange following representations by the honorable member for Lilley. To relieve the present congestion, an effort is being made to provide a 600-line manually operated exchange. It is also intended to erect a prefabricated building, and orders have been placed for the manufacture of the necessary equipment, but for many reasons, of which the honorable member is no doubt aware, including a shortage of materials and insufficient labour, it will probably be two or three years before the automatic exchange that is planned can be completed.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether there is any justification for the opinion prevalent in New South Wales that the Australian Government is withholding shipping for the transport of salt from South Australia to
New South Wales ? If that is a fact, why is it so? If it is not a fact, will the Minister arrange for the immediate transport of salt to New South Wales, and thus mitigate the catering difficulties of New South Wales housewives?
– I have no personal knowledge of the Australian Government withholding salt from Mr. McGirr’s State, but I shall do my best to get the information asked for by the honorable member and I shall inform him of the result of my efforts. It is most unlikely that the Australian Government has anything to do with the shortage of salt or butter in New South Wales.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that country fire control authorities and related organizations are gravely concerned because a very dry summer in 1950-51, which was preceded by an unusually wet winter, has greatly aggravated fire risk in Victoria, western Queensland, and New South Wales? If these facts are known, should not all available assistance be given by government agencies to the fire-fighting instrumentalities to help them in their efforts to mitigate the fire peril? If that is admitted, why has an instruction been issued by the Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau that long-range weather reports to press, public and radio stations are to be discontinued?
– So far as 1 know, there has been no lack of information supplied by the Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau. Although firefighting is entirely a matter for the States, I can assure the honorable member that, if the Australian Government can assist the State authorities in any way whatsoever, it will do so.
– I have noted with pleasure that the Prime Minister has invited the West Indian cricketers to play a match at Canberra on next Monday week and also that he has invited several ex-Australian representative cricketers to participate in that match. Has the right honorable gentleman considered extending an invitation to Queenslander Bill Brown, who is a former Australian Test player, to participate in that match? If not, will he be good enough to do so ?
– If the team that is to play the West Indians becomes any stronger, I may get into trouble. However, I shall think about the matter.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. First, I point out thatage pensioners have been given to understand that all medical treatment which they may require will be made available free of cost to them. However, an age pensioner who was ill and who received treatment by a doctor at his home was advised by the doctor to call at his surgery for an X-ray examination. The pensioner attended at the surgery and subsequently he was sent to theRoyal Melbourne Hospital for another X-ray examination. He was not charged for the treatment that he received at home, but he received an account for £3 3s. in respect of the X-ray examination. If the Minister claims that age pensioners are entitled to free medical treatment should they be obliged to pay for an X-ray examination in circumstances such as I have mentioned? If so, will the Minister amend the relevant regulations to rectify that anomaly?
– Arrangements have been made to enable age pensioners to obtain free medical treatment at their home or at a doctor’s surgery. If the honorable gentleman desires to take up the matter of free hospital treatment of pensioners–
– The pensioner to whom I referred was charged for an X-ray examination at the doctor’s surgery.
– I am sure that the honorable member will find that the X-ray examination for which the pensioner was charged was the examination that was made at the hospital; and that is a matter that he should take up with the State Government.
– by leave - On Tuesday last the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) asked me a question concerning the instalment of pensions that will fall due for payment between Christmas and the New Year. I have looked into this matter and find that a fortnightly instalment of age and invalid pensions will fall due for payment on Thursday, the 27th December. As soon as the holidays to be observed in the various States are fixed, my department will collaborate with the Postal Department, and the arrangements for payment of pensions falling due during the holidays will be announced. I assure the House, however, that where the normal pay-day, Thursday, the 27th December will be a public holiday or a bank holiday, payment will be made before Christmas.
A fortnightly instalment of widows’ pensions, and a four-weekly instalment of child endowment will fall due for payment on Tuesday, the 1st January, which, of course, will be New Year’s Day. These payments will be made before that day. probably during the previous week.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that when TransAustralia Airlines conducted the air service to Woomera, special trips were arranged to transport employees engaged at the guided weapons testing range on their Christmas vacation? Is he also aware that representations have been made by those employees to Guinea Airways Limited, which now conducts the service to Woomera, to provide similar transport during ‘their vacation period next Christmas and that that company has refused the request? Will the Minister take up this matter with Guinea Airways Limited? If the company still refuses the request of the workers at Woomera, will he arrange with TransAustralia Airlines to provide a service similar to that which it provided last year when it transported approximately 180 employees from the range and thus enabled them to enjoy with their families’ the maximum time that was allowed to them?
-I believe that privately conducted civil airlines are only too willing to provide services, if they are remunerative. No one can expect any organization to conduct transport services at a loss. I have no doubt that if Guinea Airways Limited has received an offer for transportation from employees at the guided weapons testing range, and such an offer is on a reasonable basis, the airlines company will meet the requirements of that area.
– Can the Minister for Health say whether it is a fact that the tuberculosis control administration, which he promised, has been in operation for some time? If that is so, has his attention been drawn to the fact that the Government of New South Wales has not made any provision for official government clinics to carry out a survey of the citizens of that State and to enable them to benefit from the services that are provided by his department? In any event, will he communicate with the Government of New South Wales through the usual channels with a view to ensuring that such important work will be accelerated, and that the money which is made available by the Commonwealth for the detection and treatment of tuberculosis will be used to the fullest extent?
– The position is that certain States have passed a law which makes it compulsory for an X-ray examination of the chest to be made in order to ascertain whether a person is suffering from tuberculosis. The Parliament of New South Wales has not passed such legislation up to the present time, but I am loath to believe that the Government of that State is not doing something towards providing clinical investigations, because the money for that purpose is available to it. The arrangement is that all expenditure which is incurred in the treatment of tuberculosis, in excess of the amount in the base year 1947-48, will be borne by the Commonwealth. In addition to that, as I have already said in this House, provision exists for an X-ray examination to be made of a person’s chest free of charge. Many unions in New South Wales have already taken advantage of that fact.
– The Minister for Supply recently stated that the International Materials Conference has allocated 9,000 tons of copper and 13,000 tons of zinc to Australia for the fourth quarter of 1951. From what sources will those minerals be obtained and at what cost per ton will they be landed?
– I cannot say offhand where the minerals will be obtained nor can I say what the costs will be, but I shall have the matter investigated and will give the honorable member the best reply that I can provide.
– Will the Prime Minister give consideration to an increase of the rate of Commonwealth Literary Fund allowances? These payments are awards of merit that are given to outstanding Australian citizens. The rate has not been increased since 1947.
– This question arose some weeks ago in relation to a particular case, and I arranged yesterday for a meeting of the committee of the Commonwealth Literary Fund to be held in order that the proposal might be considered.
– The question that I wish to direct to the Minister for Air concerns a young man who had four years’ active service as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. and who recently rejoined the air force as an officer. During the war, a dependant’s allowance was paid to his mother, but he is now under the impression that no allowance is being paid to her. I ask the Minister to ascertain whether that is a fact or not.
– If the honorable member will provide me with the name of the officer, I shall have inquiries made, and will provide him with an answer.
– Is the Prime Minister able to give an estimate of the cost of the conference that was convened in Sydney some- time ago for the purpose of inquiring into the economic ills of the nation? When he is answering the question, will he also indicate whether any of the decisions that were made by the conference have been implemented by the Government, and, in fact, what was the precise purpose of the conference ?
– I shall be very happy to ascertain the cost of the conference and, so that the honorable member may be aware of the purpose of the conference and the full nature of the discussions, I shall provide him with a copy of the printed report of the proceedings as soon as it is available.
Mr. Curtin having asked a question,
– Order ! The honor able gentleman is asking a question which obviously cannot be answered in this House. Questions which cannot be answered in this House should be asked upon notice.
– Is the Treasurer in a position to state whether the Canadian Government has given permission to Canadian gold producers to sell gold on the free markets of the world? Has the right honorable gentleman any information to impart to the House concerning the attitude of the International Monetary Fund or that of the Government of the United States of America in connexion with increasing the price of gold?
SirARTHUR FADDEN. - During the course of the afternoon, I hope to be permitted to make a statement on the gold position and the views of the International Monetary Fund in that connexion.
– by leave - As a result of recent discussions by the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund, there has been a substantial change in the fund’s gold policy. This was announced by the managing director of the fund in a statement issued on the 29th September, in the following terms : -
In June, 1947, the fund issued a statement recommending to its members that they take effective action to prevent external transactions ingold at premium prices, because such transactions tend to undermine exchange stability and to impair monetary reserves.
From time to time the fund has reviewed its recommendations and the effectiveness of the action taken by its members.
Despite the improvement in the payments position of many members, sound gold and exchange policy of members continues to require that to the maximum extent practicable gold should be held in official reserves rather than go into private hoards. It is only as gold is held in official reserves that it can he used by the monetary authorities to maintain exchange rates and meet balance of payments needs.
However, the fund’s continuous study of the situation in gold producing and consuming countries shows that their positions vary so widely as to make it impracticable to expect all members to take uniform measures in order to achieve the objectives of the premium gold statement. Accordingly, while the fund reaffirms its belief in the economic principles involved and urges the members to support them, the fund leaves to its members the practical operating decisions involved in their implementation, subject to the provisions of Article IV., section 2, and other relevant articles of the articles of agreement of the I.M.F.
The fund will continue to collect full information about gold transactions, will watch carefully developments in this field and will be prepared, in consultation with members, to consider problems relating to exchange stability and any other problems which may arise.
The interpretation of this new statement is a matter of considerable importance but of some difficulty. Press sources have reported that the managing director of the fund has stated that member nations of the fund may now sell as much processed gold at premium prices as they wish, but that they should continue to guard against, private hoarding. It seems clear, at least, that while the fund has reaffirmed its belief in the economic principles involved in its gold policy, and continues to urge members to support those principles, it is now the responsibility of each member nation to judge how find to what extent it will implement the fund’s policy statement, so long as sales, are not designed to direct gold into private hoards. They will not be bound to any particular procedure, or limited to the sale of any specific amount of gold or to any particular proportion of their newly mined production.
It is understood that Canada has given its gold producers the right to sell nonmonetary gold of 22 carat or lower fineness in the premium markets, provided that the exporter can get an import licence from the country of destination, and provided also that payment is effected in hard currency. Producers who choose to sell gold in this way will forgo the subsidy assistance at present paid under the Canadian Emergency Gold Mining Assistance Act.. South Africa has for some time past been selling substantial quantities of gold in premium markets, and is expected to expand its current sales. Some other countries are also expected to follow suit. Unless, therefore, there is a substantial increase of the demand for gold in the world’s premium markets, it might be reasonable to suppose that the pressure of increased supply would force down the current premium.
During the period of acute shortage of dollars and other hard currency, when Australia was drawing heavily on the sterling area dollar pool, Australian gold production was acquired by the Commonwealth Bank and sold to the Bank of England. Nearly a year ago sales of currently produced gold to the Bank of England were suspended, and the new production has been going into the Australian gold reserve, which is required to underpin the Commonwealth’s credit in bard currency countries’ and to provide a reserve against any emergency demand for hard currency. The gold-mining industry of Australia has recently made representations urging the Commonwealth to support a higher world price for gold, and to subsidize Australian mines which are being adversely affected by the rapid rise of costs. The Commonwealth has, in fact, strongly represented the case for a higher world price, and will continue to do so. The question of subsidy is more difficult, particularly as certain forms of assistance which might commend themselves to the industry are inconsistent with the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund. Further discussions with representatives of the gold-mining industry are taking place, and the effect of thd fund’s decision on premium sales of gold will be thoroughly canvassed during those discussions. Honorable members may rest assured that the interests of Australia and of the gold-mining industry will continue to receive the very careful attention and interest of the Government.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Gold Policy - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– by leave - On the 28th June last, in response to a question asked by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) concerning the introduction into Australia in imported timbers of the wood pest known as sirex wasp, I outlined the complex problems involved and informed the House that I had written to the State Premiers seeking their co-operation in setting up a committee of inquiry. Although the State governments are. of course, primarily responsible for the major part of Australian forests, the matter was considered to be of such national importance that the Commonwealth suggested to the States that the conflicting evidence for and against the maintenance of quarantine services against sirex wasp should be thoroughly examined by an impartial tribunal. Some delay occurred before replies were received from the States, but all States have now indicated their agreement to the course of action proposed by the Commonwealth. Certain persons were suggested by each State for membership of the committee, from which the Commonwealth has selected the following: - Chairman, Sir David Rivett, formerly chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and now chairman of the Advisory Council of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization; Dr. H. G. Andre war tha. distinguished entomologist of the Waite Institute, Adelaide; and Mr. T. N. Stoate, Conservator of Forests in Western Australia. The terms of reference to the committee will be - “ To examine all matters related to the importation of soft wood timber infected, or likely to be infected, with sirex wood wasp, and to make recommendations to the Government regarding the desirability of intensifying, maintaining, or relaxing the quarantine precautions being taken to prevent this pest being established in Australia.” It is desired that the committee shall conduct a full inquiry into all aspects of the problem, and submit its report to the Government as soon as possible.
Motion (by Sir ARTHUR Fadden) . agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1930- 1950.
In Committee of Supply. Consideration resumed from the 4th October (vide page 384), on motion by Sir ARTHUR Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £10,400 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved, by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by fi.
.- I can conscientiously support this budget, because it represents a courageous and honest attempt by the Government to put the interests of the nation before party interests. It is designed to further the interests of the nation as a whole. Therefore, the fact that it is unpalatable to some sections of the community is of little consequence. I am sure that even the most severe critics of the budget, provided that they can subjugate their selfish interests, will very shortly be grateful to the Government for its patent honesty of purpose and its approach to the urgent problems that confront the nation. Before I comment upon certain aspects of the budget, 1 shall refer to the paucity of the arguments that have been advanced by honorable gentlemen opposite. From the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) downwards - perhaps I should say upwards - they have followed the party line entirely. Theirs has been a reckless partisanship, which has ignored the interests of the nation. Unlike the Government, which has put the nation above party, they have put their party before the nation. The Leader of the Opposition, in referring to the budget, used a string of adjectives.
He described it as “ stupid, futile, unjust, sinister, dangerous and reckless “. Those adjectives could well be used ‘in writing a pen portrait of the right honorable gentleman himself.
Tactics similar to those that were used by the Opposition and their fellow travellers in the last referendum campaign are being used now in an endeavour to make this budget unpopular with the nation. Such tactics are not in the best interests of the people of this country. During the referendum campaign, the vilest tactics were used. With reckless abandon the truth was completely distorted, I suppose it is too much to hope that a party which, on that occasion, placed party before nation will, on this occasion, put the nation first. The Leader of the Opposition is famous for his defence of communism. In a question that I directed to-day to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), I referred to the text of a broadcast from Moscow Radio. Apparently Moscow Radio believes that the Leader of the Opposition is the protector and the great liberator of Australian Communists. I think that it is quite right. The honorable gentleman is tunning true to form. He has always supported the attitude of the Communists.
– I rise to order. It is objectionable to me to hear the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) say the Leader of the Opposition has always supported the Communists.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).The honorable member for Bass has expressed an opinion. There is no point of order.
– I can understand why the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) does not feel happy, because I know that his views are not in conformity with those of his leader, who is consistently inconsistent. After the budget had been presented, the Leader of the Opposition demanded that a referendum should be held on it, but when a referendum on communism was foreshadowed he did not want a bar of it. That is typical of his approach to our political problems. He is the most adept political acrobat that this country has known. When he claimed that, as a result of this budget, taxation has become excessive, he was right off the hearn. He said that no section of the community would escape the increased taxes. In these days when we are preparing urgently needed defences and setting out positively to fight acute inflationary conditions that have existed for some years, why should any section of the community be allowed to shirk its responsibilities? The right honorable gentleman’s statement that no section of the community will escape increased taxation confirms that the burden has been distributed evenly throughout the community. Nothing could be fairer than that.
I deplore statements made by honorable gentlemen opposite about a depression psychology. If anything is unjust, sinister, dangerous and reckless it is this talk of a depression about to occur in this country. [Quorum formed.] The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government was planning depression through deflation. Perhaps he is one of those who believe that the problem of inflation should not be attacked. A depression could occur in this country only as a result of the go-slow policy that is being dictated by the Communists and their fellow travellers. I believe that Australia is enjoying an era of prosperity, and is likely to continue to do so for the next fifty years. We are paying to-day, not for the high cost of living but for the high cost of loafing. I wish to refer honor able members who speak of a depression to the position of the stock exchange to-day. Since this budget was introduced, practically all shares have risen substantially, while investors generally have demonstrated their confidence by a greater number of transactions. Savings bank deposits have also increased. Let us nail this lie about a depression by a review of the position of such deposits. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, they now stand at £848,500,000, which is’ an all-time record. In August last, the total deposits increased from £841,000,000 to £848,000,000, whereas in August, 1939, they were only £244,000,000. How can it be said that this budget foreshadows a depression? . Incidentally, the Commonwealth Statistician points out that in South Australia there is an average amount of £138 a head in .savings bank accounts. Obviously, under a Liberal government, the .people of South Australia have progressed considerably.
It has been claimed by the Opposition, and particularly by its leader, that too much attention has been given to defence expenditure at the expense of industrial development. I suggest that there would be no industry, let alone industrial development, if we did not make adequate provision for out defence. It surely cannot escape the notice of honorable members opposite that the situation in Korea has deteriorated during the last month or so. What appeared to be the approach of an armistice has now developed into the fiercest fighting of that campaign. Worse still, the greatest tension exists because of the Persian oil dispute. Yet the Leader of the Opposition says that the Government has devoted too much attention to defence expenditure. In view of the threat ‘to world peace to-day, I consider that it may be necessary to increase expenditure for defence purposes. The objection ‘ 0 tie right honorable gentleman to such expenditure runs parallel with his love of Russia.
It is very -significant that when the present Government assumed office it took over sadly depleted defence forces in aM branches and was faced with the problem of restoring such forces as quickly as possible to .something approaching adequacy. That meant added burdens for the budget to carry. The Government is facing up to its problems and is meeting them as best it can, in the interests of the nation as a whole. It has been claimed that the Chifley Government handed over to this Government a sound financial position, hut that was not so. It was discovered that instead of actual funds, a host of treasury-bills, or I O U’S had been issued for money that had been devoted to other heads of expenditure. I do not regard that as sound financial policy, and I am sure that not many honorable members could honestly say that it is. One of the major factors in the shortages that beset the Australian community to-day is the fact that for eight and a half years the Chifley Government carried- out a socialist programme which did more than anything else to retard this country. The Government is attempting to meet the problems arising from that programme, together with the problem of defence, that of the inflationary spiral and the Communist menace. The eight and a half years of socialist rule accentuated the difficulties which now confront the present Government. The Chifley regime contributed greatly towards bringing about many of the shortages that exist to-day because it allowed essential industries to suffer an enormous loss of labour.
It was the policy of that Government to build up the Public Service. Indeed, the Service grew fourfold during its term of office. Now, because this Government is honouring a pre-election promise to effect economies in the Service, there is a great outcry. It is said that the action of the Government is inhuman, monstrous and ruthless. Yet, during the term of office of the Chifley Government the Service grew from a strength of approximately 39,000 to almost 200,000. The members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties undertook to effect economies in the Service and to make available for more essential production labour which had been grasped by that great octopus. It is obviously a move which will be appreciated by the public at large. In any event, these mass dismissals, as they are called, represent a mere 10,000 members, or 5 per cent, of the Service, and I consider that there is room to make further retrenchments. I am not opposed to the legitimate public servant, the genuine officer who does. an efficient job. I have every sympathy for him. As I see the position, he suffers a great deal of frustration because of the overloading of certain departments and the inefficiency of the whole machine. I have no doubt that many genuine public servants would be glad to see still further dead wood cut away.
I have heard a great deal concerning the overtime that is being worked in the Service. We have been told that some of those who were retrenched worked overtime right up to the time of their dismissal. I rather think that overtime is a racket. Indeed, I treat it with a great deal of suspicion. I have been informed by a most reliable authority thai the working of overtime by public servants in Canberra has been a distinct racket. I have been informed, very re- liably, that it frequently happens that a public servant signs on to work overtime, goes away to the pictures, returns from the pictures and then signs off.
Opposition members interjecting,
– I believe also thai that practice is not infrequent in other parts of the Commonwealth. I agree that if there is any foundation for the statements made by the honorable member foi East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J”. R. Fraser) that publicservants who have had 20 or 30 years’ service, or who are about to reach the retiring age are being dismissed, the matter should be investigated ; but I treat those statements with a great deal of reserve. If they are true, I suggest that such action is a reflection upon the departmental heads who select the officers for retrenchment, because, all other things being equal, they should not be retrenched.
I am not at all happy that the power of retrenchment should rest with tinPublic Service Board.
Mr. Ward interjecting.
– The honorable member for East Sydney is not in his seat and is interjecting repeatedly.
– That is not unusual. I consider that the Public Service Board is not the appropriate body to supervise retrenchments. Indeed, I believe that Mr. Dunk is incapable of putting aside party prejudice. It seems to me that the only fair way in which to handle the matter is to appoint a panel of efficiency experts who are independent of the Public Service. Unless and until that is done, we cannot claim that we have effected all the economies that are necessary in that gigantic pool of labour. The important thing to remember is that the Government is not sacking people and throwing them on to the labour market. There are thousands of jobs available to the persons who are dismissed. It is merely a matter of common sense. The members of the Government are the custodians of the public purse and are endeavouring to protect the public interest, at the same time. making available a pool of labour which can be used for more essential purposes. I am sure that that is the reasonable approach to the matter and that m081 people will agree with that view. I strongly commend to the Government the appointment of a panel of efficiency experts to examine the whole of the Public Service, because I believe that by doing so it will obtain the best results at the least possible cost.
It is significant that honorable members opposite are not on all fours in regard to this matter, because while the Leader of the Opposition was making a song about mass dismissals in the Public Service his own party whip, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) had a question on the notice-paper the effect of which was to castigate the Government for not having carried out its promise to prune the Public Service. [Quorum formed.’] In fact, the policy of the Leader of the Opposition is inconsistent with that of his predecessor, because the late Mr. Chifley clearly advocated that in times of prosperity, whensurplus money is available, a government should budget for a surplus and develop financial reserves. Apparently that is not the policy of the present Leader of the Opposition. Honorable members opposite have voiced objections to that aspect of the Government’s policy which is designed to lead to an automatic attraction of labour from some classes of industry to others. I remind the committee that the former Leader of the Opposition would have gone a long way farther than we propose to go in that respect. Moreover, when the right honorable member for Barton was Deputy Loader of the Opposition he was one of the keenest advocates of the principle of direction of labour, whilst the late Mr. Chifley himself advocated the moving of entire towns if that step were necessary to meet the labour position. But the Government does not believe in compulsion or direction of labour. It espouses a policy that will place penalties on less essential production :.nd thereby cause the labour position to adjust itself automatically without harm to anybody. lt is clear that this country is living beyond its means. If an individual makes no attempt to reduce his overdraft then obviously he is not paying his way. The same principle applies to a nation. A country cannot go on for ever living on borrowed money. It is for that reason that the Government deems it necessary to cut reckless and unnecessary expenditure. ~No sane person would quarrel with that proposition.
One criticism of the sales tax provision that I have to make is in relation to item 12 of the Fourth Schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1951 which deals with -
Equipment, apparatus and accessories of a kind used exclusively or primarily and principally in indoor or outdoor sports and games, gymnastics, athletics and physical culture-
Perhaps the Government has overlooked the fact that organized sport, especially outdoor sport, is essential to the health of the nation and that the increase of sales tax on sporting equipment from 8 J per cent, to 33-J per cent, may place such materials out of the reach of junior football and cricket teams and tennis clubs. I am not so concerned about senior sporting bodies, because they are obviously well organized and will be able to meet the increases. The youth of the nation, however, should be considered in this matter, and I consider that this particular tax increase might well be reviewed.
I turn now -to the attitude of the States to the budget. It is apparently an old trick for State Ministers to blame the Commonwealth if they have not sufficient funds to carry out works. State governments can make spectacular promises, the honoring of which would involve enormous expenditure and then, when they cannot obtain the necessary funds, they blame the Commonwealth for their failure to do so.
I believe that the budget is sound economically. It is certainly courageous politically. One of its important aspects is that it places nation before party. It makes a definite attack on inflation by budgeting for a substantial surplus. It makes provision on a large scale for defence, the proposed expenditure, on ‘ which is expected to amount to £181,000,000, or about £21 a head of the population. “Where would honorable members opposite suggest that the funds to make that expenditure possible should come from, if not from revenue? Do they suggest that we should use central bank credit in these times of surplus money? That is the only alternative to financing the expenditure out of revenue.
The increases of taxes, proposed in the budget have been well distributed. Direct taxes have been increased by 10 per cent, only, which means that a person who now pays tax of 2s. 6d. in the £1 will pay 2s. 9d. in the £1, ‘ and a person who now pays 10s. in the £1 will pay lis. in the £1. I commend the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for the imposition of a flat increase of 10 per cent, over last year’s tax payments because administratively it is simpler to da that than it would be to replace the entire tax scales ; and, of course, it will be a simple matter to repeal the increases when the emergency that made them necessary has passed. The proposed increases compare favorably with the increases of taxes imposed by Canada, where the increase is 20 per cent., and by the United Kingdom and Hew Zealand where the increase is. considerably greater than ours is. The Government’s policy in regard to indirect taxation is obviously one of placing first things first. A distinction has been drawn between essential and. non-essential goods. It is significant that only two of the 156 food, clothing and other items included in the “ C “ series index which is used as a foundation for the basic wage, have been increased in price as. the. result of the budget. Those two are recreational equipment and tobacco products. All other increases of tax are on goods that are not included in the “ C “ series index and are, therefore, not regarded as essentials. There could not be a fairer distribution of tax between essential and non-essential goods,, although there may be some anomalies between what one party considers essential and nonessential and ‘ what another party thinks about it. My own opinion is that the incidence of indirect taxes will apply equitably. The major essentials of life are food, clothing and shelter. Aus. tralia is now facing a potential food shortage. It is a dreadful state of affairs that this country, which has been famed for long as a primary producing country, should have to face tha possibility that in a short time it may suffer from food shortages and be forced to import essential food items.. The budget is intended to prevent such a situation by penalizing non-essential production so as to divert labour from non-essential to essential production such as the production of food and housing. Labour will find its own level without direction because of the penalties imposed on nonessential goods. First things should come first. One of the unfortunate features of the present era is that employers, by outbidding one another for labour, are aggravating inflation. It is time that employers and members of chambers of commerce and manufactures got together, and came to an honorable agreement not to bid against one. another for labour.
– Does the honorable member believe, that the workers are getting too much?
– Wages and working conditions are fixed by arbitration courts and wages tribunals, and I am content to leave the matter to them. The Government is- deserving of commendation for what it has done for pensioners. The present increase of 10s. a week is the largest that has ever been granted in the history of the Commonwealth. I know that the increased cost of living has made things difficult for pensioners but it is our duty to look at the overall picture. I have the greatest admiration and respect for age pensioners. The fact that they have qualified for age pensions is itself an indication that they have contributed much to the development of the country. They are deserving of every possible consideration.
– Order ! _ The honorable member’s time has expired. .
.- It is clear that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) was continuing the smear campaign against, the Leader of the Opposition (Cr. Evatt) which was begun last week by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden), and in so doing treated us to one of the most disgusting exhibitions of hate which we have witnessed since the days of the fascist, Mussolini, and the Nazi, Hitler. The honorable member did not discuss the main aspects of the budget as one might have expected him to do, but dealt with a miscellaneous collection of odds and ends. I propose to answer some of his assertions before discussing the budget itself.. The honorable member referred to the dismissal of 10,000 public servants.
Every one knows that it is the proper function of a government, acting through the Public Service Board, to dispense with public servants who cannot be usefully employed, or to transfer them to other departments where there is work for them. That is the normal procedure, and it should have been followed by this Government, but evidently it was not. Then, eighteen months after it came into office, it -said, in effect : “ We have been asleep. There are 10,000 too many in the Public Service. Get rid of them!” The Government has competent advisers who could have told it that there were simple ways of reducing an excess number of public servants without hardship to any one. It is obvious that there is considerable wastage through retirements and sickness, amounting to many thousands in a single year. Had the rate of enlistment been reduced, and transfers made where necessary, the size of the Public Service could have been adjusted without hardship to any one, assuming that there were, in fact, too many public servants. Much nonsense has been talked by members of the Government merely for the sake of political window-dressing. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) wishes the people to believe that the Government by dismissing 10,000 public servants is making a great contribution to the economic recovery of Australia.
The honorable member for Bass discussed savings bank deposits. The’ amount of such deposits is high because of currency inflation, and also because many married women are now in employment in order to add to the family income. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has his eye on savings bank deposits, and he has resolved to take away the people’s savings.
The Opposition does not object to meeting defence expenditure out of revenue. It is legitimate to raise revenue by taxation for defence purposes, but the Leader of the Opposition rightly pointed out that the Government did not expend anything like the total defence allocation last year, and it was unlikely that it would spend all of this year’s allocation. It is dear, therefore, that the Government proposes to raise by taxation more revenue than will be necessary.
The honorable member for Bass charged the workers of Australia with going slow, and not producing enough. Obviously, he has not studied the most recent issue of the Monthly Review of Business Statistics, because in that publication it is stated that the average monthly production of black coal in 1950-51 was 1,368,000 tons, compared with 1,243,000 tons during 1949-50. The monthly production of pig iron increased from 91,500 tons in 1949-50 to 110,400 tons in 1950-51, and that of ingot steel from 101,100 tons to 117,700 tons. There was also a record production of readymixed paint, lacquers and enamel, cooking stoves, boots, shoes and shirts. I ask honorable members to consider whether that is an indication that the workers are going slow. Obviously they are doing a good job, and are doing their share to place the economy of the country on a sound footing.
In preparing his budget, the Treasurer deliberately ignored certain methods which were available to him to correct the economic ills of the country. In effect, he placed himself in a financial strait-jacket before he brought down his budget. I have in mind particularly the control of prices, which could have played an important part in the fight against inflation. It has been used in time of war and has been found very satisfactory for keeping prices on a sound basis, . as may be observed from the graphs in the front of the publication to which I have referred. It has also been used by the United Kingdom and the United States of America, where it is recognized as an important means of securing a degree of control. The Treasurer said, in his budget speech -
Experience has established two main facts about price control - first, that it has little value to any one unless applied to all the main commodities-
That is quite true. The Treasurer continued - second, that unless costs and, in particular, wages are also controlled,, price control can do little more than record cost increases.
That is not true. The Treasurer has no idea of how to implement prices control. He would be well advised to read some of the numerous books on the subject in the library, particularly Federal Price
Control, by Julia Emily Johnsen. Every member of cbe Government who has spoken on the budget has mentioned prices control. It keeps obtruding into the discussion because it cannot be kept out. Later in his speech, the Treasurer said -
The notion that prices could be held donn by paying subsidies to offset cost increases belongs to the order of ideas which sees a cure for inflation in price and cost controls. As a general policy, the Government rejects both ideas together and it has, therefore, made u review of existing subsidies in the light of the financial position.
That review has resulted in a decision to remove the subsidy from wool, which will greatly increase the cost of woollen goods. It is quite clear that the Treasurer has rejected prices control without having given any sound reason for having done so. Honorable members can only assume that some persons behind the scenes have said that they do not want prices control and that, therefore, the Treasurer will do without it.
The second form of control which the Treasurer rejected was capital issues control, which had been enforced by the previous Government. The present Government discarded it immediately it came into office on the ground that it was not wanted. The present Government intended to do without controls. That is the cause of the great trouble that the Government is facing at the present time. Immediately there was a rush to invest funds in private enterprise. As the Prime Minister has stated, wherever money flows, labour flows also. Labour flowed after the capital which was invested in all sorts of enterprises, including what bad been called the luxury trades. I do not consider that any trade is a luxury trade, because everything has a use for somebody and what the Australian people want is very much dependent on their temperament. That is a part of democracy. Money began to flow into various other industries, many of which started in the hope of making profits. They did make huge profits. Now the Government has re-instituted capital issues control on a scale that has not existed in this country before. It is endeavouring to make amends for the mistake that it made earlier. The Treasurer has said, in effect, “ The Government has made a mistake in allowing these industries to become estab- lished and so it will put a 66$ per cent, sales tax upon their goods in order to cu<t down their sales and ruin their business This policy is supposed to lead men to other industries where they will be more useful. Let us consider the case of a diamond setter who has followed his trade from boyhood. If his business is taken away what can he turn his hand to?
A treasurer may sometimes correct financial instability by means of government spending. There is no doubt that this is a very useful measure at certain times, but whilst public spending may be increased during a depression in order to stimulate trade and provide jobs there are times when the Government cannot stop spending money. It is not possible for the Government to stop spending at the present time. It has to provide millions of pounds for defence which is a legitimate expenditure. The Government is obliged to spend that money and cannot withhold it in order to reduce the amount of money in circulation. Some of the means of correcting economic maladjustments are not always open to the Government. In those circumstances, the amount of government expenditure cannot be controlled by the Treasurer and he should have remembered that fact when casting his budget.. It is absolutely essential that the Government should have a sound loan market on which to float its loans but, at the present time, government loans have been sabotaged. I noticed the change that took place in the market for government bonds immediately the present Government took office. I know a farmer who sold his property for £15,000 a couple of years ago. Because the Labour Government had been in office a very substantial demand had developed for government loans which were then gilt-edged. This farmer decided to invest his £15,000 in government loans while seeking another farm, thinking that when he found a suitable property he would be able to cash the bonds, the interest from which would pay for his brokerage and leave him a little profit. By the time he found another farm the present Government had come to office and when he sold his bonds he was dismayed to find that he did not receive £15,000 for them. The market had started to weaken because there had been no control of capital issues. There was a flow of capital to private enterprise away from government loans. This state of affairs should have made the Government think but it still refused to institute capital issues control and so the drift continued. Mr. Staniforth Ricketson, the chairman of the Australian Foundation Investment Company Limited, when addressing the twentythird annual meeting of the company, said - . . on 18th June last of the text of “ a frank warning “ given by the Commonwealth Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, .to the Loan Council, to the effect that support for Government Loans was declining.
Sir Arthur was reported to have said that Australian governments would find it extremely difficult, perhaps completely impossible, to obtain the new loans in prospect for the coming year’s programme. Hu was further reported to have said that a “ new approach to the problem of providing the new capital that Australian governments require for essential purposes will have to he worked out”, and to have gone on to refer to the decline in bond prices, immediate slump in prices of Commonwealth securities being implied.
Whilst this “ warning “ resulted in an immediate slump in prices of Commonwealth loans on the Stock Exchange, its full significance was not recognized at the time. Indeed, there was a feeling in some quarters that the publication of the statement was more or less accidental. Subsequent events, however, proved that it was premediated and that it was a prelude to a radical change of financial policy. This view was later supported by the announcement of the new and greatly increased rate of 3) per cent, for the Commonwealth loan to bc launched in August.
It was most unfortunate that this rate became known during the currency of the £0,000,000 loan at 3 J per cent, which was being offered by the Stale Electricity Commission of Victoria. The premature disclosure of the new Commonwealth rate inevitably resulted in torpedoing “ the S.E.C. Loan, after vigorous requests from the Premier of Victoria for permission to increase the rate on the latter issue bad fallen on deaf ears.
The announcement of the new Commonwealth loan rate served to create great dissatisfaction amongst investors who had subscribed to recent Commonwealth loans and to the S.E.C. Loan. This was only natural, as it involved them in an immediate’ paper depreciation of from £7 to £S per cent, on their holdings. It had the further serious effect of creating grave uncertainty as to the future trend of interest rates, thus promoting the deterioration in confidence to which I have already referred. This feeling was further accentuated when it became known that even the 3$ per cent, rate had not been sufficiently attractive to ensure the success of the Thirteenth Security Loan of £40.000.000 which closed on the 12th September, and which, according to a statement by the Commonwealth
Treasurer, was undersubscribed by £7,700,000. . . Though considerable harm has already been done as a result of recent developments, it is even now not too late to retrieve the situation. Nevertheless, the process of restoring confidence will demand bold and courageous steps under the initiative of the Commonwealth Government.
Mr. Staniforth Ricketson’s report illustrates the point that business people generally believe that the Treasurer destroyed the confidence of the investing public in the loan market. Mr. Staniforth Ricketson is a very competent observer who has kept to his subject. His views are also borne out by the following statement made by the Treasurer in his budget speech : - lt is impossible at this stage to forecast what amount will be raised by public loans during the financial year, but it would seem that even the reduced programme of £225,000,000 is substantially in excess of the capacity of the loan market. To the extent that loan raisings fall short of the approved programme the Commonwealth will need to finance the balance from its own resources.
The right honorable gentleman is afraid that he will not be able to get the money he needs because he knows the state of the loan market for which he is responsible. He continued -
The requirements for redemptions which may. arise out of the maturing of £72,000,000 of Commonwealth and Statu debt in November, 1051, arid April, 1952, cannot as yet be estimated.
There is no reason why the Treasurer should be in this sorry state of uncertainty about the future. One grain of sense in his budget speech was the statement that the budget is a most useful means of remedying the difficulties of the times through which we are passing. Of course it is, but no one has told the right honorable gentleman how he should essay the task. It is obvious that he has destroyed the confidence of the people in the loan market by a process of bolstering investment in private enterprise. In the absence of capital issues control, private enterprise has been able to attract the bulk . of investment money. The huge profits made by private enterprise have caused money to flow away from government loans. Mr. Staniforth Ricketson gave an analysis of the market-
– Who is he?
– He is a -well-known financial authority who has underwritten many Commonwealth loans,, including the last one. It is perfectly clear that the Treasurer in the budget had a most useful means of restoring confidence in Commonwealth loans. He should have imposed appropriate rates of income tax on dividends received by the holders of preference and ordinary shares - on those enormous dividends that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) referred to last week which have attracted the investing public and destroyed their confidence in Commonwealth loans. Is there any virtue in investing your money in private enterprise when the Commonwealth is languishing for funds to meet its legitimate loan expenditure, amongst other things to meet the cost of providing war service homes for ex-servicemen? Capital expenditure on war service homes should be provided entirely from loans, but the Government proposes to provide it from revenue because it is afraid, that it will not be able to raise the requisite money by loans. A national obligation rests upon the people to ensure that government projects shall be adequately financed. Great national projects such as ike Kiewa and Snowy Mountains, hydroelectric schemes the undertakings of the Joint Coal Board which, have assisted us to achieve record coal production, and other national projects should not languish for want of funds. As the Prime Minister said in answer to a question last week the prospects of future development are even brighter than he had hoped. Money should be made available for these projects without delay. These ventures should be financed by government loans. Insurance; companies, trustee companies and other investors are interested only in the yield which they receive from their investments. By imposing proper taxes on the yield from investments in private enterprise the Government could make government loans more attractive to investors. That policy was followed by the Labour Government but it has been rejected by the present Government which, afraid of failure on the loan market, is endeavouring to raise its capital requirements by imposing additional taxes on the workers. I fore shadowed the present state of affairs not long ago when I discussed the proposal for the appointment of a Commonwealth Bank Board. The softening-up process is now being, employed and in future those who lend money will undoubtedly receive even higher returns than they have received in the past.
A Melbourne . newspaper commenting on the budget recently had this to say -
Bad and all as it is, we have to put up with the budget.
It admitted that the budget is a bad one. The most important task that confronts us is to restore a sound market for Commonwealth loans. In the budget the Treasurer has at hand a useful economic weapon with which to combat the present inflationary state.
.- It is amazing to- note what an unholy mess the Opposition is making of this budget debate. Possibly we can understand it when we realize that Opposition members generally are forced to take their cue from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who. made such an appalling: mess of his speech on the budget, that his followers feel that they must bolster his speech in an attempt to show there was really something in it. Honorable members have just listened to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) who was said to have been a bank manager before he entered politics. I suggest that if he was a bank manager he must have used a lot of influence to get the job, or that during the whole of his speech he was talking with his tongue in his cheek as far as he could push it. He said that the Government, during the preceding twelve months, had not spent its defence allocation.
– That is true.
– -Yes: it is true. The reason why it is true is that instructions were given to trade unions throughout the democratic world that every endeavour was to be made to- sabotage their governments’ defence preparations. Sabotage of defence preparations was not peculiar to Australia. Nor is it peculiar that within the parliaments of all the democratic nations may be found people who are prepared to sell their birthright and support Communists who are known to be traitors. It is well to remember that a member of the Canadian Parliament named Fred Rose supported Communists against his own Government, and sold to a foreign power certain details of uranium 235. It has been stated that this Parliament represents a complete cross-section of the Australian people. That may be so. However, it cannot be denied that a certain number of our people are members of the Communist party. To the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), who has interjected, I say that it cannot be denied that a certain unfortunate section of the community can be classified as simple-minded and moronic. The whole speech of the honorable member for Ballarat seemed to be directed to an advocacy of a return to the system of controls in vogue during the war years. In 1949, the last Labour Government was thrown out of office because of its continued advocacy of economic controls. The controls imposed by Labour governments had grown to such fantastic proportions that the people feared to allow the Labour party to remain any longer in power. That is the reason why the Labour party now occupies the Opposition benches as a mere divided mob. Honorable members opposite are at present divided into three or more factions.
The Leader of the Opposition, aware of this, has made a maudlin attempt to gain the sympathy of the people and of the various factions of the Labour party by riding on the back of his departed leader. He has been trying to obtain a loyalty which he will never get because he is distrusted not only by the members of the parliamentary Labour party, but also by the rank and file of the Labour party. It is a danger to this country that a man who is distrusted by his own colleagues in the Parliament as well as by the rank and file of his party should be allowed to continue as leader. It is high time that the rank and file of the Labour party asserted itself again as it recently did during the debate on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. At that time a decree went forth from the rank and file which forced the Labour politicians in the Parliament to change their views completely and support the bill. In his speech on the budget the Leader of the Opposi tion made great play of the fallacy that this budget will eventually cause a depression in Australia. Only twice in Australia’s history has the economy been so distorted as to cause concern, and on both occasions the Australian Labour party was in control.
– When was that ?
– At the end of the third decade and the beginning of the fourth decade of this century Australia was undergoing a depression. At that time the Scullin Government was in power.
– How old is the honorable member ?
– I was old enough at that time to tramp the streets looking for a job which I was unable to find because a Labour government was in control of the country. At that time I could not obtain a job which would have afforded me three meals a day. Only twice in our history has the economy of the country been so distorted, and on both occasions it was because a Labour government could not control our financial structure. There will never be another depression until the Labour party regains control of the treasury-bench. During the last depression a Labour government was unable to control our economic affairs, and it was thrown out of office by the people. Then the Lyons Government was elected to restore the economy of the country to a sound basis.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Honorable members must not interject while the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) is making his speech.
– The honorable member for Ballarat will not acknowledge what I say because he must bend to the iron will of his leader; but he knows that it takes years to restore an unbalanced economy. As soon as the Lyons Government assumed office depression conditions began to be ameliorated, and gradually they became a memory. That happened because the treasurer of the day had sufficient knowledge to produce inflationary pressures which ultimately cancelled out the deflationary pressures. He eventually brought our economy back to a sound basis. Unfortunately, a Labour government eventually regained control of the country and, unable to cope with mounting inflationary pressures, allowed them to develop until to-day Australia has reached a stage of supreme inflation. When the Menzies Government was elected to office in 1949 it was unable to do anything about inflation because of the existence of a hostile Senate. The Scullin Government also had a hostile Senate, but the difference between that Government and the Menzies Government is that the latter government had the courage to go to the people and ask them to take control of the Senate out of the hands of the Opposition. This is the first budget to be brought down after this Government gained control of both Houses, and it is a genuine attempt to destroy the inflationary pressures which now exist in the community.
Since the honorable member for Watson has appeared to be very eager to interject, I shall explain the objects of the Government in language so simple that even he should be able to understand them. I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition is not here also to hear what I am about to say. In his speech in this debate the Leader of the Opposition based his argument on the story of a motor car. He said that if less petrol is put into a motor car it will travel a shorter distance and it will go more slowly. He meant that if the speed of money could be regulated it would have no retarding effect on inflation. Inflation is a superfluity of money and an inadequate supply of goods existing in the one community. The superfluous money is used to bargain for the goods. When the “ volume “ of money is spoken of, we do not mean merely the quantity of money, as the honorable member for Ballarat should know. The volume of money means the quantity of money in a community multiplied by its velocity. For example if there were £1,000,000 in Australia and that sum were to change hands only once a year in the purchase of goods, then only £1,000,000 would have been spent. Therefore, the volume of money in Australia under those conditions would be only £1,000,000. If the £1,000,000 should change hands 50 times in the year then the volume of money at large would be £50,000,000.
At present in this country there is a large quantity of money moving at a high velocity. Therefore, it can be said that we have a large volume of money in Australia. It is well known that there is an inadequate volume of goods to meet the demand, and this Government has beer charged with the responsibility of bringing those two volumes, one of money and one of goods, into a state of balance. Apparently the honorable member for Watson is having difficulty in understanding me because he appears to be asking the honorable member sitting behind him to enlighten him. For his benefit, I shall proceed in even simpler terms. I suggest that honorable members should picture in their minds a chemist’s balance having on one side a large cube representing the volume of money, and on the other side a small cube representing the volume of goods. In order to bring the economy into a state of balance it is necessary to reduce the size of the large cube and increase the smaller one. We intend to obtain that state of equilibrium by means of this budget. We intend to employ antiinflationary pressures which will cause a shrinking of the volume of money by braking the velocity of money. Let us take a practicable example of that. The velocity of money will be slowed by increasing taxes on non-essential goods. A man who goes into a shop to buy a luxury article may hesitate to do so because it has increased in price, and may eventually put his money back into his pocket. By so doing he will be preventing his money from competing for the limited quantity of goods that are available.
Opposition members interjecting,
– If honorable members opposite are finding difficulty in following my reasoning, that may be because they are sadly lacking in intelligence. 1 am sure that most members of the committee are quite, capable of understanding my remarks. When customers are deterred from making purchases because of the increased taxes on non-essential goods, those goods will remain on the retailor’s shelves. The retailer in turn, will refrain from placing further orders with the wholesaler for similar articles. Even honorable members opposite agree that Austraiian economy may be described as a milk-bar economy because so much capital, plant, equipment, and electrical power are used for the production of nonessential goods. Their former Leader, Mr. Chifley, himself said that it might be necessary to introduce conscription of man-power so that men could be transferred by bureaucratic order from one industry to another. That would be a rather crude method of overcoming our economic difficulties. This budget will achieve the same result without destroying or restricting individualism. It will retard the velocity of money and rims decrease the amount of money that is available to purchase non-essential commodities. There will be an immediate reaction in industries engaged in the production of those commodities. The amount of capital available for investment in those industries will be curtailed. There will no longer be such a great demand for their products, and so the drain on electrical power will be reduced and labour, plant, and buildings will become available for the production of other more essential goods. In other words, there will be an automatic transfer of industrial capacity from the production of non-essential goods to the production of essential goods. “We shall accomplish that transfer by means of the budget proposals now under consideration.
– Who is meant by the term “we”?
– When I say “we” I mean the Government and the people of Australia - the people who have confidence in the Government but no confidence in the Labour socialists who, on two occasions so distorted Australia’s economy that the electors had to call in antiLabour governments to restore equilibrium. By transferring industrial capacity from luxury industries to the production of essential goods, the Government will be increasing the size of the cube which represents the volume of those goods, and thus gradually balancing the economy and fulfilling its election promise to put value back into the £1. Just as certain economic, pressures have to be exerted to overcome a depression, so other pressures have to be exerted to overcome inflation. The process is not without some danger, but because the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) understands the pressures that he is exerting, he is able to control them. However, no one can be oblivious of the fact that the political pendulum swings sometimes to the right and sometimes to the left; it is a reasonable assumption that, in the federal sphere, the pendulum will, at some future date, swing again to the left, but let us hope that that swing will not occur while the Australian Labour party has its present leader and deputy leader in this chamber. The Leader of the Opposition showed clearly by the manner in which he addressed himself to this debate, that he has no knowledge of finance and economics, and would be quite incapable of controlling the finances of this nation while the pressures of which I have spoken are being exerted. Unless those pressures are permitted to elapse once our economy has returned to a state of balance, we shall have another depression, but I cannot see why there should be another depression in this country for many years. In fact, there is no reason why we should ever have another depression unless it is brought about by the ignorance so amply demonstrated this afternoon by members of the Labour party.
In the light of the international situation all possible steps must be taken to hasten our defence preparations. Unfortunately, we have been seriously handicapped by the activities of the Communist, party. Members of the Labour party in this Parliament will not admit that, although it has been readily conceded by leading Labour men outside the Parliament. We can hardly expect honorable members of the Opposition to agree with us when their own leader, and his brother, Mr. Olive Evatt, have championed the Communists throughout their history. It was the present Leader of the Opposition who appointed a certain eminent bishop as his special adviser at the Third Assembly of the United Nations held at Paris, although the reverend gentleman was at that time patron of the AustraliaRussia Society. I am speaking of Bishop Burgmann. At that time, although certain members of the Labour party in the New South Wales Parliament stated emphatically that the Australia-Russia
Society was a Communist organization, that was denied by Mr. Olive Evatt. However, the Australian Labour party appointed a special committee to investigate the society, and the finding of that committee was that it was a Communist organization. Once again we saw the spectacle of a member of the Evatt family championing the cause of the Communists. It is a serious matter that we should allow that state of affairs to continue. The supporters of the Leader of the Opposition know only too well that they have no confidence in him and that he would sell out the Labour party as quickly as he would sell out the Communist party, and I believe he would sell out Australia. If honorable members opposite ridicule that suggestion, let them explain why, at a caucus meeting, they moved a motion of no confidence in the right ‘ honorable gentleman and his colleagues on the parliamentary executive of the party because of their pro-Communist activities. Members of the Opposition remain quiet when I make that charge because they know it to be true. “With the possibility of a swing of the political pendulum from right to left, Australia will be in constant danger for as long as the present Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues remain in control of this so-called Labour socialist party, because, should the right honorable gentleman ever become Prime Minister, he would sell out not only the Labour party, but also Australia should he see some personal advantage in .so doing. I believe that when he goes to bed he dreams of the day when he will be Commissar Evatt, appointed’ with the approval of Joe Stalin.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I sincerely believe that to be true, Mr. Chairman.
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw the words “ Commissar Evatt
– Very well. I withdraw.
– The honorable member is a fascist.
– I am not a Communist. I did not go on the hust ings and barrack for them as the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) did; and I shall never do so because I know that communism is an international conspiracy to destroy democratic government. Yet like a hypocrite the honorable member went on the hustings and supported the Communist cause.
I strongly commend this budget because it provides a weapon to overcome inflation,, which is the only factor upon which members of the Australian Labour party, socialists and Communists prosper. They wish to see serious unrest develop in this country as a result of inflation. The budget is designed to overcome inflation. For that reason every member of the Government parties supports it whilst all honorable members opposite oppose it because they do not wish to see the Government overcome inflation.
.- The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) has just indulged in one of the most vicious speeches that I have yet heard in this chamber. Statements of the kind that he. has made will do more than anything else to cause class warfare in this country. From the outset .of his speech he attacked the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Then he attacked Bishop Burgmann. He said that we members of the Opposition are in an amazing mess because we follow the directions that our leader gives to us. The Leader of the Opposition will be remembered long after the honorable member “himself has been forgotten. I remind the committee of the brilliant record of the Leader of the Opposition as a barrister, as a Justice of the High Court, and as a member of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I also recall his victory as leader of the Australian Labour party in the recent referendum campaign against the fascist measure-
– Order ! The honorable member may not reflect upon measures that have been passed by the Parliament. He must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. The Leader of the Opposition won a victory at the recent referendum when he led the people to reject a measure which wc regarded as being undemocratic. It is clear that the people endorsed the Australian Labour party’s view that that measure was undemocratic. The Leader of the Opposition will have his greatest victory at the next general election when he will be returned as Prime Minister despite all attacks that may be made upon him by persons like the honorable member for Lilley. All that that honorable member did when he addressed the committee was to attack the Australian Labour party and to indulge in smear tactics against not only members of that party but also prominent clergymen in this country. He would not be game to repeat outside the Parliament the remarks that he has just made about Bishop Burgmann.
– I am prepared to repeat those statements at any time.
– The honorable member, when he attacks the Australian Labour party, should remember that there were 250,000 unemployed in this country when Labour last assumed office during the depression in the late ‘thirties. He spoke about the Government honouring its pledge to put value back into the £1. I am astonished that he is not ashamed to make such a statement because this Government’s record is one of broken promises. The budget now before us is another instalment of that record. The Government has failed to honour any of the promises that it made at the general elections in 1949 and 1951.
– Let the honorable member prove that statement.
– Order ! If honorable members on both sides do not cease making an uproar I shall deal with interjectors.
– The people of Australia will deal with honorable members opposite at the first opportunity. In an advertisement that was published in the Australian Women’s Weekly of the 10th December, 1949, and which was sponsored by the present Government parties, the following statement was attributed to the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), whose photograph, incidentally, appeared over it -
While encouraging production to the full our Government will hold itself ready to pay price subsidies in appropriate cases; par ticularly in respect of items affecting the cost of Jiving of basic wage-earners.
Yet the Government now refuses .to increase the .subsidy payable on dairy products and thus obviate a further increase of the price of butter although the necessary increase will involve an addition of 2s. to the basic wage. On the contrary, the Government has declared that it intends to withdraw price stabilization subsidies. The proposed increases of the sales tax will have the effect of robbing the kiddies of this country-
– Order! The honorable member may not impute such a motive to the Treasurer or to any other honorable member. He must withdraw the term “robbing”.
– I withdraw it. The proposed increase of the sales tax will mean that the children of this country will be obliged to go without Christmas stockings and ice-cream. I admit that the budget contains some worthwhile proposals for which, in fairness, one must give credit to the Government. In this respect I refer to the abolition of the sales tax on goods that are normally purchased by community hospitals. Such action, however, is long overdue. This concession will enable community hospitals to carry on the services that they are rendering to the sick. They will thus avert the necessity to close their doors. I urge the Government to abolish the pay-roll tax in respect of employees of community hospitals. Such action would not involve it in substantial financial loss. One hospital in my electorate pays £250 annually in pay-roll tax.
– The honorable member’s party introduced the pay-roll tax.
– Never mind which party introduced it. Let us do what is right for a change. If the Government exempted community hospitals from the payment of the pay-roll tax, the hospital to which I refer would be able to install urgently needed equipment and would thus be able to provide better service.
I urge the Government to consider certain aspects of loans to ex-service personnel for the construction of war service homes.- The proposal now placed before us in this respect will mean that loans will not be made available by the
War Service Homes Division for the purchase of what are known as existing houses. The South Australian Housing Trust built approximately 800 homes last year and of that number, 600 were purchased by ex-service personnel with the help of loans that were made available to them by the War Service Homes Division. However, in the future, houses that are erected by the Housing Trust in South Australia will be classified as existing houses. The result will be that, henceforth, the purchasers of those houses, if this proposal is not reviewed, will have to seek loans elsewhere. Already, the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, has approached the Prime Minister on that subject, and I sincerely trust that all the representatives of South Australia in this chamber will join with me in urging the Government to make it possible for ex-servicemen in that State to obtain loans through the War Service Homes Division, instead of being compelled to look elsewhere for such financial accommodation. All those dwellings are new. The Government appears to have overlooked the fact that the houses exist, and that the proposed legislation will prohibit exservicemen from borrowing money with which to purchase them.
The proposed increases of social services benefits, although they will be accepted with great satisfaction by the recipients, are still inadequate, in view of the high cost of living. Sooner or later an Australian government, regardless of its political opinions, will be forced to accept the obligation to pay pensioners 50 per cent, of the basic wage. This Government should at least continue to pay to them approximately the same percentage of the basic wage as was paid by the Chifley Government.
The increases of sales tax ruthlessly attack the people of Australia. The higher sales tax on popcorn and ice cream will extract another penny from a child who purchases those sweets. The new proposals are harsh and unjust. The Government will levy sales tax at the rate of 66$ per cent, on knives and forks, yet Rolls-Royce motor cars will be subject to a tax of only 20 per cent.
– It is about time the honorable member went to school. He does not understand the position.
– The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) may be able to afford the increases of sales tax, but the little people, the family men, will be hit hard by such proposals.
– Oh !
– The honorable gentleman cannot dismiss such matters so lightly. I am stating facts. The Treasure^ (Sir Arthur Fadden) has increased the sales tax on various kinds of cosmetics, and in order that he shall not be accused of discriminating against the womenfolk, he has also increased the sales tax on razor blades and hair oils. I have been wondering ever since the right honorable gentleman presented his budget to the Parliament whether he and his supporters, when they were children, speculated on what Father Christmas would bring to them, and had their eyes on particular toys. Because some parents, unfortunately, were unable to buy expensive toys for their kiddies, the story had to be invented that Father Christmas simply did not have sufficient of them to satisfy the demand. Next Christmas, parents will be able to inform their children with a scrupulous regard for the truth, not that Father Christmas has not sufficient toys for all, but that the Treasurer had deprived them of the money with which to make the purchases.
The Government seems to have gone completely berserk since the defeat of its referendum proposals last month, and is dismissing many public servants. Honorable members opposite formerly made great play of the fact that ex-servicemen would be protected when staffs were being retrenched in various departments. Two or three weeks ago, I brought to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) the fact that in South Australia ex-servicemen with dependants, who were employed in the transmission section of the General Post Office, were being dismissed, while new Australians were being retained in employment. I do not assert that new Australians should not have jobs. Indeed, I believe it to be our duty to ensure that they shall have employment. But I also believe that the Government should honour the promise that was made to ex-servicemen, particularly as it constantly boasts about what it intends to do for them. The PostmasterGeneral investigated my complaint, and although I have not yet received a reply from him, I understand that all the notices of dismissal that were issued to those exservicemen in the Postal Department have been withdrawn. I refer to that matter now, because the circumstances show clearly that the Government is ordering dismissals of staff without giving serious thought to the categories of men who are affected by them. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said that departmental heads, when they recommended the retrenchment of officers, would regard efficiency as the principal consideration. The issue of notices of dismissal to ex-servicemen indicates that departmental heads are taking it for granted that efficiency is the measuring stick. .Some ex-servicemen have had a rough time, and cannot possibly be so efficient as are some of their fellow employees. Because of .the Ministerial direction on efficiency, new Australians are being retained in employment, and exservicemen are being dismissed.
A few weeks ago, 98 technicians in the Postmaster-General’s Department in South Australia, whose sole function was to install telephones for subscribers, were dismissed. They had ample work to occupy them, and were, in fact, working overtime. Yet, on the water, coming here from England, are immigrants who have been engaged by the Government under contract for two years, to do the ‘same class of work was done by those 98 technicians who have been dismissed. The contracts under which those immigrants will be employed here specify that, after the expiration of two years, they will be engaged as permanent members of the Public Service, or if they are not satisfied with conditions here, their families and themselves may return to England at the expense of the Government. The whole idea seems cockeyed to me. The Government is dismissing technicians, and yet is bringing immigrants here as technicians to do similar work. Obviously, the Government is making a token gesture in an effort to convince the people that it is fulfilling its pre-election promise to streamline the Public Service. That is about the only pre-election promise that the Government has even attempted to honour.
The Government should exempt from sales tax goods that are purchased by national fitness councils in the various States. At present, the Government makes a grant for national fitness with one hand, but takes away a part of it with the other hand through the medium of the sales tax. All sporting goods are subject to that imposition, and persons who take part in activities that are associated with national fitness are penalized. ‘The Government should investigate that anomalous situation.
In South Australia, and probably in other States, nurses who are employed by the District and Bush Nursing Society are doing a magnificient job, but, unfortunately, that organization is extremely short of funds. A big appeal is now in progress in South Australia for money to enable that body to carry out its work. For the twelve months ended the 30th June last, 116,479 visits were made by those nurses to persons who, in the main, would have been admitted to hospitals, had beds been available for them. Those people have to be treated at home by district nurses because there is no hospital accommodation for them. The Government would have to contribute towards their treatment if they were in hospitals, and it is being saved expense because there are not enough hospitals in the country. Therefore, I consider that it should earmark a sum of money to be paid as a grant to the society. It would be well advised to consider the proposal favorably.
The Treasurer warned the Australian people to expect a shock when the provisions of the budget were disclosed. The warning was not unwarranted. The Government has failed dismally to fulfil the promises that were made in 1949. It pleaded for a fair go in 1951 so that it could honour the undertakings that it had given to the electors. It was given a fair go, but we are still waiting for it to produce the results that it promised to achieve.
– It will pauperize the people.
– There will not be many people left in Australia if it continues to inflict on them such severe taxes as those for which this budget provides. Last week I met, in the electorate that I represent, a woman who had never voted for Labour in her life but who had learned her lesson from the actions of this Government. She changed her political views over the issue that Government supporters seem to treat so lightly - the heavy taxing of children’s toys, razor blades and other everyday items. Originally she objected to the increased sales tax on such so-called luxury goods as cosmetics, and she became even more indignant when, she heard of the Government’s proposal to raise the tax on razor blades. Does the Government expect all the men in Australia to grow beards?
– These are big national problems !
– It is all very well for Government supporters and the people whom they represent to brush aside the expenditure of an extra 6d., 9d. or ls., but, if they had to exist on the basic wage or on incomes slightly higher than the basic wage, as do many thousands of Australians, they would be very concerned about any increase of their personal expenditure by pennies, twopences and threepences.
– Now the Government is taxing the basic wage.
– Yes, it wants to make a double profit. It has refused to increase the subsidy on butter so that the retail price will be increased. The result will be that the basic wage will be increased also, and the worker who is earning only the basic wage will be obliged to pay a higher rate of income tax. The Government wants to get it both ways.
– Get on with the speech.
– At least I do not intend to indulge in abuse of the Prime Minister. I am not like honorable members opposite, who constantly attack the Leader of the Opposition. Such attacks, of course, afford conclusive proof to all hut the hopelessly biased that the Labour party in this Parliament has the most capable and able leader that it possibly could have. Abuse by Govern ment supporters is merely a tribute to the efficiency of the right honorable gentleman.
– The late Leader of the Opposition was abused in the same way.
– Yes. Government supporters tried to smear the reputation of our late leader day after day. The newspapers attempted to besmirch his name right up to the day before his death. Now the attack has been turned upon the present Leader of the Opposition. But such campaigns are of no avail. The people of Australia rejected the advice of the Prime Minister when they recorded their votes. on the 22nd September. They refused to be hoodwinked again, and they accepted the advice of the Leader of the Opposition. Now they are waiting for an opportunity to vote in the same way again and elect a Labour government.
– They will not have to wait for long.
– The Government parties will hang on grimly as long as possible. They may not he in power much longer, but they will be in office too long for the good of the people. While they remain in their present position the people are becoming poorer and poorer. The Government should reconsider the budget. I appeal to the Treasurer not to let it be said of him by future generations that he was the man who begrudged the children their Christmas stockings at the ‘ festive season and their ice-creams during the hot summer days.
.- I support the budget because I believe that such a budget is essential in view of the present unsettled international situation and the unbalanced condition of our national economy. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) declared earlier in this debate that the Chifley Government had left Australia with a sound economy when it went out of office. That sounded well, but the truth is that the economy was not sound; it was in an extremely unbalanced condition, and the present Government is trying to restore its balance. The production of essential commodities was neglected during the Labour regime. The result is that Australia’s markets are flooded with luxury goods to-day. Labour, materials and capital are devoted largely to luxury production, and goods that are essential to the proper development of the country are in seriously short supply. Notwithstanding the fact that we are importing millions of pounds worth of iron, cement, steel and other such commodities, we are not producing to the limit of our capacity the goods that we need.
– Yes, we are.
– To the limit that the Communist party of Australia will permit! We are producing steel only at the rate of 60 pea* cent, of our capacity to do so.
– The rate of steel production is an all-time record.
– I appreciate the honorable member’s attempt to help me; but, after having listened to his contribution to this debate, I do not think that he is capable of judging whether steel production is at a record level or not.
The statement by the Leader of the Opposition that the Labour Government had left Australia with a sound national economy was totally incorrect. He complained that this Government had not fulfilled its promise to reduce taxation and put value back into the £1. He repeated all the hackneyed catch-cries that we have heard in this, chamber so often during the last two years. He completely ignored the serious change in the international situation. He forgot, apparently, that Australian servicemen are fighting in Korea. He did not mention the fact, even if he had not forgotten it, that the Russian army has swollen to enormous proportions. There are about 6,000,000 Russians under arms to-day, well equipped with aircraft, tanks and thousands of submarines. Perhaps he has forgotten that there are 5,000,000 Chinese under arms.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– I am very sorry that the honorable member appears to be unable even to read the newspapers. However, I am sure that he will be much better after he has had shock treatment. The Leader of the Opposition - I almost said the nominal Leader of the Opposition - completely ignored the interna tional situation. At the expense of this country he has had a very wide international training and experience. However, he has not taken into account that the previous budget was recast quite a number of times because of changes of the international situation. It is reasonable to assume that when the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) was preparing the 1950 budget he had in mind reducing taxation. But what happened? In the middle of the preparation news was received of the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. We were then awakened to the fact that the international situation was deadly serious. Yet the right honorable member for Barton completely ignored the seriousness of the matter in his very important speech on the budget. It is a matter for amazement that, when he was Minister for External Affairs in the former Labour Government, the right honorable gentleman completely ignored the defence requirements of this country by refusing to allow the Americans to use Manus Island”. As a result, this country was left completely defenceless to the north. In effect, we chased away a good friend, and allowed the jungle to creep back and over-run a well-developed bac”. One can be pardoned for wondering what was in the back of the right honorable gentleman’s mind when he made such a futile speech on the budget, and why he should be so irresponsible.
To-day, many people are complaining about the proposals in the budget. However, as this debate proceeds, more are being convinced that it is a good budget. Even the newspapers that severely criticized the Treasurer when the budget was introduced are now coming round to the view that it is a good budget. Many people would not have growled about it if the Opposition had accepted its responsibility. But when the leader of a once great political party makes irresponsible and untrue statements in this chamber the people become confused. I contend that in times of national crisis the Opposition should join with the Government in informing the people of the seriousness of the situation.
When speaking on the budget, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) indulged in a number of quotations. Although he used a very long adjective to describe the budget, I am convinced that he did not know what that word meant. However, some of the newspapers have come to his assistance and explained that it means “seeing things ‘’. Therefore, it is evident that the honorable member was seeing things.
– That is not unusual.
– It is unfortunate that he did not see the golden opportunity he had, after the Leader of the Opposition had fallen down on his job and let his side down, to show that he was capable of leadership. But, instead, he played the clown.
– He followed the leader;
– I do not think that he did follow the leader, because whilst the Leader #of the Opposition was pathetic, the honorable member for” Melbourne tried to be funny. By coming here at such a serious period in our history and trying to play the clown, the honorable member for Melbourne has shown how totally irresponsible he can be. The honorable member quoted the words of Disraeli in 1S45. So that he would not make a mistake, he quoted them from notes. I should like to quote a statement by Oliver Cromwell that was made about 300 years earlier. That great leader and author said -
Times of loud arguments and weak convictions. . . .
To-day, the convictions of honorable members opposite are very weak. They know that this is a good budget. They know, as well as we know, the danger that faces this country to-day, and the necessity for re-establishing our economy, but they will not admit it. On a number of occasions honorable members opposite have issued challenges to other honorable members to repeat outside the Parliament what they have said in this chamber. Reversing that procedure, I now challenge the honorable member for Melbourne to say in this chamber what he has said privately outside it. I know that he is a man with a sense of responsibility, and that he says privately to people outside the Parliament what he would not dare to say in this chamber. He has expressed the opinion privately that this country is in danger.
– What did he say?
– The honorable member for Melbourne repeated practically word for word my contention during the debate on the Defence Preparations Bill, that this country was liable to be overrun.
– Is that a breach of confidence ?
– No, it is not a breach of confidence. Again I challenge the honorable member for Melbourne to say in this chamber the things that he has been saying outside. It is his duty to tell the people of this country of the position that we are in. We should then have complete co-operation, because the people would understand the budget and appreciate the necessity for it.
We hear a lot about incentives. What greater incentive could there be for any nation than that of self-preservation ? If every one would, realize that this Government is endeavouring to strengthen our economy and our defences for the preservation and security of our people, we should not hear such clap-trap as has been heard in this chamber during the last fortnight.
– Does the honorable member believe in the 40-hour week?
– I believe that there should be an educational test for aspirants to public positions. The honorable member for Melbourne referred to the suggestion that the Government should do something for the people who paid its election expenses. I should like him to inform the committee of the source of the funds that were expended in the “ No “ campaign prior to the recent referendum. It was freely rumoured that the Communist party paid the Labour party’s expenses of that campaign. I have been reliably informed that a conservative estimate of the cost of that campaign was £300,000. I should be glad if the honorable member for Melbourne would tell us where that money came from.
Adverting for a moment to what I said previously about the irresponsibility of the members of the Opposition, I shall refer to the honorable member for
Grayndler (Mr. Daly). In his speech on the budget, the honorable member stated -
Thu most amazing circumstance connected with this budget is that honorable members opposite, who boast of their independence, w<;i’<; not informed of its full details until about half an hour before it was presented to the Parliament.
What a scandalous statement! We were not informed of the details of this budget until it was brought down in the Parliament. The honorable member for Grayndler, who is the Opposition Whip and has had a long experience in the Parliament, was a very close friend of tho late Labour leader, Mr. Chifley. Prom his statement it would appear to people outside the Parliament that it is customary for honorable members to be given pre-knowledge of budget proposals. I do not believe for a moment that that was Mr. Chifley’s practice, but the complaint, if I may so describe it, of the honorable member for Grayndler that members of the present Government parties were not informed of the full details of this budget until about half an hour before it was presented to the Parliament may cause people outside the Parliament to believe that members of the Australian Labour party received advance information about budgets from Labour Treasurers. Having .regard to the fact that many members of the Opposition are wealthy, the Australian people could not be blamed if they came to the conclusion that those honorable gentleman accumulated their wealth by making use of information of that kind. I do not believe that to be correct, but the grossly irresponsible statement that was made by the honorable member for Grayndler could have the effect of discrediting the memory of the man who was his friend and the party of which he is a member.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) made some very rash statements. He said that the Government’s claim that there is a threat of war is only a pretext to enable it to condition people to higher taxes. What an irresponsible statement! Everybody in this country must be made to understand that there is a threat of war and that the Government has a duty to establish our defences upon a proper basis, yet an honorable member who, in a previous parliament, was Chairman of Committees and Deputy Speaker, has tried to raise doubts about that in the minds of the people. The Opposition should accept its responsibility in this matter and should join with the Government in informing the Australian people of our internal position in this country and of the international situation.
Much has been said about a reduction of the strength of the Public Service. As far as I can judge, the general public is not opposed to a reduction; but some people fear that injustice may be done to public servants who are within a few years of retirement. I am certain that the Government does not intend to treat any public servants unjustly, and that if any instance of injustice is brought to its notice it will be dealt with. I urge Ministers to ensure that public servants who have nearly reached retiring age shall not be dismissed from their employment because the strength of the Public Service is being reduced. The reduction should be effected now, when public servants who are dismissed can obtain other employment. We should not wait until there is a recession and jobs are difficult to get. Recently the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) issued a challenge to the Opposition to cite instances of public servants who had been dismissed and who had been unable to find other jobs, but that challenge has not been accepted.
The Leader of the Opposition, in the course of his speech on the budget, said that other members of the party would amplify some of his statements, but they have not yet done so. It has been stated that the increases of pensions rates are not large enough. They are substantial. Having regard to the benefits that age and invalid pensioners are enjoying to-day, the increases are much greater than those that were made by previous governments. Although some honorable members opposite talked about the relation of pensions to the basic wage, they made no reference to the fact that pensioners now enjoy many privileges that they did not enjoy previously.
– What are they?
– They receive free medical attention and enjoy other benefits.
Some sales tax anomalies have been removed. All materials used by institutions for the blind have been exempted from sales tax. Those institutions tried for some time to secure the abolition of the tax upon Braille watches, talking books and things of that kind. This Government has acceded to their requests. I believe that the case for exemption was not presented properly in the past, because no government would willingly impose a tax upon articles used by blind people. It has been said that the incidence of sales tax is causing the cost of living to increase, but an examination of the schedules reveals that practically no necessary article is subject to the tax. A number of honorable gentlemen opposite have complained about the effects of sales tax upon kiddies. When a man cannot advance a valid argument, it is by no means unusual for him to hidebehind the children. The Nazis pushed French children before them when they were advancing through France. The members of the Opposition are doing much the same thing in relation to this budget. During the last general election campaign, they pushed the women in front of them. Now they are pushing the children in front of them, and crying over ice-cream and toys. More ice-cream is eaten by adults than is eaten by children. Honorable gentlemen opposite are using the children only as a screen. They have talked about Father Christmas, but it was a Labour Minister, Mr. Dedman, who killed Father Christmas. He took the pink icing from the Christmas cake, but I have not heard the Opposition say much about that.
If we are to prove ourselves worthy, to occupy this country and to maintain our present standard of living, we must be prepared to make sacrifices. The Government recognizes that to he so. The sooner the Opposition accepts its responsibility in the matter and supports the Government, the sooner shall we get the co-operation of the Australian people in the struggle to combat inflation. In the international sphere, we have a job to do and we must pull our weight. We have negotiated a defence pact with the United States of America but, having done so, we cannot, as it were, just sit down and say that everything will be right because America is pledged to help us. We must be prepared to accept our responsibilities under that pact. The sooner honorable gentlemen opposite realize that we must do so, the better will it be, but they continue to ask trivial questions about leave for youths who will be in military training camps for three months, or who will be in camp during the Christmas or other holidays.
– What is wrong with that?
– Questions of that kind reveal a lack of knowledge of the position. The hides of honorable gentlemen opposite are in as much danger as are ours. I recall the days before the battle of the Coral Sea, when the Government that was then in power believed that the Japanese would land on our coast, and said .that if they did so we should put a scorched earth policy into effect. We should have been pleased to make sacrifices of that kind then. We should have been willing to burn our houses and other buildings in order to assist the defence of this country.
– Who said that?
– I was willing to do so. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) may not have been. The people who lived in the areas in which the Japanese might have landed were willing to do everything that was asked of them. I believe that once we can convince the people that the’ position is serious they will be prepared to do everything that they are asked to do and that we shall receive complete co-operation from them. When that time arrives, Australia will be the country that it should be.
Mr. GORDON ANDERSON (Kingsford Smith) [5.50J. - After listening to the debate this afternoon, I sincerely hope that the majority of the Australian people have not been listening to the broadcast of the proceedings. If they have been, I am sure that they will wonder why they have sent representatives to this Parliament. It is very well to have a joke now and again, but on an occasion such as this, when the national budget is being debated, honorable members should endeavour to do more than merely criticize the statements that were made by the speakers who preceded them. The Australian people, in common with people all over the world, are not sure of just where they are going. Civilization to-day is at the crossroads. While we are fiddling, as Nero fiddled in Borne many years ago, our civilization is burning because we are not prepared to give to it the attention that it deserves. The members of this Parliament should endeavour to lift this debate to a much higher level.
Throughout the world the ordinary men and women are losing confidence in their leaders, and have every reason for doing so. In consequence, they are changing their forms of government. The reaction of the average Australian, when called upon to support a budget such as that presented by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is to ask himself how sincere are this Government and Parliament. If he has listened to the broadcast of the proceedings to-day, I shudder to think what his verdict will be. We have had the spectacle of members of the Government claiming, and endeavouring to support the claim by means of figures, that in a time of buoyant revenue expenditure should be reduced, and that a time of depression is the appropriate time to increase expenditure in order to strengthen the morale of the people and the economic stability of the country. Some honorable members are sufficiently advanced in years to remember that earlier in our history private enterprise failed the nation. At that time, decent Australians, through no fault of their own, could not find employment. The political predecessors of this Government were in control of this Parliament. Men and women were allowed to starve. Yet, the workers of to-day are being asked by this Government to regard it as. being sincere when it suggests that in times of depression governments should use national credit to expand the economy.
A statement has been circulating recently which draws a comparison between the income tax payable now and that payable during World War II. The income figure cited is £500, on which income tax of £39 is now payable. During the war it was £136. What the statement does not point out, and what any one who understands figures will appreciate, is that £500 to-day has only the same value as £250 had during World War II. The basic wage at that time was less than £5 a week, on which sum the worker paid income tax of approximately £36. I suggest that this wonderful statement is, therefore, merely evidence of the antiworking class, nature of this Government. It is obviously a rich man’s Government.
Government supporters interjecting,
– I appreciate the interjections that have been made. Whilst I have not been a member of this Parliament for very long, I have dealt with many of the people whom honorable members opposite represent, and I know that as soon as one touches upon something which interferes with their profits or the profits of the banking institutions, those honorable members try to howl one down, not only by means of direct interjections and statements in newspapers, but also by means of broadcasts from the radio stations which those whom they represent control. Many young honorable members opposite have not been out in industry and know nothing of the men who work in transport undertakings, in factories and in workshops but they do their job in this Parliament as paid representatives of big commercial enterprises.
It was of some small comfort to me when the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) asked that sympathy be shown to those old members of the Public Service who have given a lifetime of service to the people of this country, and that they be not cast aside. Some honorable members opposite, however, who have become representatives during recent years, never fail to miss an opportunity to decry the Public Service. For many years I was an employee of the New South Wales Department of Railways and I also spent a considerable number of years in the Commonwealth Public Service. I ask any Minister to tell me how far he would go if it were not for the well-informed and experienced public servants who supply to him information concerning everything with which he deals. Many members of the Government are not prepared to admit that the Public Service is worth anything at all. They forget that in years gone by many public servants sacrificed a great deal during the depression when the ground was cut from under their feet. They stuck to the Service because it was their career, and they hoped that they would be dealt with decently by the people of Australia. Accordingly they declined offers of higher positions. I remind honorable members opposite that in order to become a public servant it is necessary to attain a certain educational and intellectual standard. Having seen and heard the conduct of some honorable members opposite during this debate, I am confident that many of them could not attain that standard. I suggest that they are envious of the public servants and demonstrate their vindictiveness when they speak of sacking 10.000 of them. What a fine administrative stroke is the dismissal of those 10,000 public servants ! With a budget which provides for the expenditure of almost £1,000,000,000, the Government has decided that £5,000,000 “hall be saved by the dismissal of 10,000 employees. I contend that that decision is a reflection upon the intelligence and the administrative ability of the Government.
A great deal is heard in this Parliament concerning the failure of the various State transport systems, hut not so much was heard of that matter during World War II. At that time, the equipment of State undertakings such as railways, water, sewerage and drainage, and main roads was co-opted by the Australian Government for defence purposes. Not only in Australia was such equipment used on important works, such as the building of a road from north to south of the continent, but it was also successfully used on large construction works throughout the Pacific area. The State governments thus helped to defend the property of those who had investments in this country. To-day, those people feel safe. Regardless of the war talk indulged in by members of the Government, I suggest that they appreciate that no nation could land in Austraia a sufficiently large number of. troops to cause great damage to us at the moment. For that reason they begin to knock down the undertakings which served them well in previous years.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I have figures relating to the basic wage as far back as 1907, which prove my contention that the workers are to be more heavily taxed than they were in the war years. I shall not go as far back as that date however. In May, 1943, the basic wage in New South Wales was £4 16s. A man who earned that amount of money then paid £36 14s. in tax annually. By May of this year the basic wage had risen to £8 16s. a week. Under the latest tax schedule a man who earns that amount will have to pay £33 in direct tax in addition to the increased amounts that he will have to pay in indirect taxes. The incidence of indirect taxation is such that it falls most heavily on the family man who has to spend about 99 per cent, of his earnings on foodstuffs, clothing, rent and other articles that are subject to sales tax and excise.
Several speakers on the Government side have referred to the transport position, particularly in States in which Labour governments are in office. During the war State utilities, particularly railways, were used to a great degree by the Australian Government for the purposes of war. Because of that use the rollingstock and other equipment of the various railways systems of the Commonwealth deteriorated. It could not be replaced during the war and now the burden of replacing it has been foisted on the States. I do not suggest that the rolling-stock should not have been used for defence purposes during the war, but cognizance should be taken of these facts when criticism is levelled at the transportauthorities of the States. We hear a lot about how badly the State departments of transport do their job. I shall not admit that any private transport undertaking is doing its job any better than the State transport authorities are doing theirs. I know that a harbour ferry company in Sydney, which had been making huge profits for a large number of years, had to get out of business because of the increasing difficulties associated with transport undertakings nowadays. It handed the baby over to the New South Wales Government. That has always been the case so far as transport is concerned.
Many years ago I was employed in a railways branch, the main purpose of which was accounting and collating statistical information. In order to offset criticism of the New South “Wales railways such as we have heard in this chamber to-day, we had occasion to discover why our critics could cite the great profits made by private railway systems in Canada and the United States of America. Investigation proved that, whilst these private companies were making profits, in that their working expenses were less than their revenues, much of the revenues came, not from their transport activities, but from assets that had been given to them by governments in the past in order to encourage them to build railways out .through great unexploited territories. The companies later made huge profits from the sale of timber and. mineral rights on those properties and also from the sale of portions of the properties. They were thus able to increase their revenues and to show profits that were gained quite apart from their transport activities. We also found that American and Canadian governments of the past had involved themselves for many years ahead in huge mail contracts which were given to private railway companies to make their initial expenditure outlay of capital a more attractive investment. There is, therefore, a marked difference between the private railway system of North America and the State-owned systems of Australia.
Before Australian railways were built large tracts of land in the Commonwealth had been given by the British Government to certain individuals as grants. Later on with the development of railway transport money had to be borrowed to buy land for the railway systems to pass over. As a result land which had been cheap increased in value overnight and the owners received large amounts of unearned increment. That is one of the reasons why to-day the State-owned railways of Australia cannot show the same bright financial results as privatelyowned railways elsewhere can show. I have been associated with railways during my whole working life and I have found that they are staffed by decent Australians who arc ready to sacrifice a great deal for this country. But all that those decent men get from young fellows who have been elected to sit in this chamber and who have neither the ability nor the intelligence to run a railway system is criticism of a kind that I should like to throw back in the teeth of those who voiced it. I should not like to see what would happen to the railways if they had control of them. A Government supporter who represents a Western Australian electorate said to-day that myxomatosis was killing off rabbits in such numbers that dingoes and foxes could find no native food in the bush and were being forced to come into the town areas in his electorate where they ate poultry and domestic refuse. I think that some dingoes have penetrated into Canberra, to judge from the howls and yowls that I have heard and also from the lack of intelligence of many of the remarks that I have noted.
This afternoon we had an outrageous attack by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) on the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who was not in the chamber at the time. That attack was not confined to the Leader of the Opposition, but was extended to cover his family, including his brother, his nephew, and others. The evidence that was produced about the alleged association of the brother of the Leader of the Opposition with Communists and Communistcontrolled organizations could only have come from the brain of a man whose intellect is so warped by totalitarianism that he knows no better than to make such an attack. That honorable member applied insulting adjectives to the Leader of the Opposition, who has played his part in our judiciary and in the political world, and has also represented Australia internationally for a. number of years at the United Nations. I do not think that we should have to suffer such insults hurled by men who were unknown until they were accidentally elected to this Parliament two years ago. It seems remarkable to me that older men on the front Government benches, and members and ex-members of the Cabinet, some of whom have been honoured with titles from the King, should listen without protest to one of their younger colleagues insulting a man of such acknowledged reputation as the Leader of the Opposition.
– Order ! The honorable member must refer to other members of the committee as honorable members.
– I hope they still are honorable men, but their behaviour does not suggest it. This talk about communism just rolls off me. I have spent a good deal of my life fighting communism in my own State, as any one who knows anything about me is well aware. I congratulate the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) on his maiden speech. It was a very fine effort, and my only objection to it is that it followed closely the old conservative pattern. For instance, he asked what hardship would be inflicted by shifting a man from one job to another. Perhaps it would not matter much to a professional man or business man, but it could mean a great deal to a public servant who had spent many years equipping himself for a particular job in the Service. The transferring of that man to another job, perhaps in another town or State, would mean loss of promotion for him, and separation for him and for his wife and family from the friends and associations they had formed. It might also mean giving up a home from which he was reluctant to part. Thus, it can be a real hardship to a working man, even though he be a mere public servant, to force him to change jobs, and it. cannot be justified merely because the Government wishes to save a paltry £5,000,000 on a £1,000,000,000 budget. When a man asks what hardship can it inflict on a worker to have to give up his job he reveals his outlook and background. The asking of such a question indicates all too clearly what the workers could expect if some honorable members opposite were in complete control of the economy of the country.
The working man is entitled to consideration, but he has received very little from the framers of the budget, as is shown by just one item, the licence-fee on radios. Hitherto, the licence-fee was £1 for the first radio receiving set, and 10s. for every additional set owned by a householder. The extra 10s. did not worry the average working man, who was lucky if he could afford one set. Now, the fee for a single receiving set has been increased to £2, and no extra fee is charged for additional sets. I suppose -most Government supporters have a big receiving set in the home, a set in the oar, and if there is a family, a couple of mantel models as well, yet the total licence-fee payable by them is £2, the same as the worker pays. That provision is an example of class bias.
The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) was at least honest. I give him credit for honesty when he told us that in his opinion currency inflation was the result of the 40-hour week. That is the opinion to which we wish to pin the Government. We know that the Government is opposed to the 40-hour week. During the last sessional period, the Government brought in three bills, the purpose of which was to weaken the trade unions so that the workers would not be in a position to resist an attack on their working conditions. I thank the honorable member for Lyne for being honest enough to tell us what is in the mind of the Government.
The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) said that he did not like inflation, but that, after all, immigration was a form of inflation, and that we had to put up with the inconvenience of inflation in order to get immigrants. Well, why not put up with a little more inflation so that the workers may get a fair deal? If inflation may be accepted as an unavoidable result of immigration, it may also be accepted as an unavoidable condition of improving the lot of the worker.
The Government should consider increasing the unemployment and sickness benefit, which has not increased by Id. since it was first instituted. Until I entered this Parliament I had been associated with the administration of the unemployment and sickness benefit in a large district, and I know that the most deserving people sometimes have to accept sickness benefit. Of course, in these times of full employment, there is little call upon the unemployment benefit fund. The law provides that a man who qualifies for sickness benefit may receive 25s. a week. If he is married he may receive an additional £1 a week in respect of his wife, and 5s. for the first child, making a total of £2 10b. a week. When we consider that the Treasurer is budgeting for a surplus of £114,000,000, surely it is not too much to ask that a few million pounds be made available for the granting of increased assistance to a most deserving class. To do so would not cause as much inflation as will the use of millions of pounds by the Government to underwrite public loans which remain under-subscribed because of lack of confidence among the investing public. Never during the.- regime of the Chifley Administration was it necessary to use concealed or misnamed surpluses in order to fill undersubscribed public loans.
I support the proposal that the budget be reduced by £1 as an indication to the Government that it should be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that the burden of taxation should be borne by those best able to do so. This purpose should be effected by increasing the graduated tax on higher income, rather than by placing additional burdens on the working people.
.- A budget debate offers a wonderful opportunity to members of the Opposition to criticize the Government. A budget, like Christmas, comes but once a year, and when it come3 it brings good cheer - to the Opposition. Members of the Opposition then have great fun and games. The democratic system, as I understand it, entails action by the Government and criticism by the Opposition. A budget may contain 100 proposals for precise action in various fields of governmental activity. The proposals of the Government are there for every one to see, and there is an equivalent number of opportunities for members of the Opposition to moisten their lips, clear their throats and set to, and they embrace the opportunity with varying degrees of success. One will take up the subject of pensions, and admit that they have been raised, but not raised enough. Another will say that taxation, instead of being increased, should be reduced. That raises a cheer from certain honorable members. Another will say that the relationship between direct and indirect taxation is wrong and that the Government is grievously to blame. >
I think that the Australian public does not take a vast deal of notice of criticism of the budget unless it is accompanied by a broad and statesmanlike presentation of some alternative proposition designed to achieve the same end. Individual honorable members of the Opposition do not bother about finesse. They attack a specific proposal, perhaps in relation to pensions or taxation, and their criticism finds a response in the breast of some section of the community which appreciates the knowledge that somebody in a responsible position in the Parliament has the same views as they have. So the budget is an unexampled opportunity for the exercise of the skill of the honorable gentlemen in Opposition.
However, there is one honorable member of the Opposition who does not have an opportunity to enjoy that type of Roman holiday and that individual, in the opinion of the Australian people, is the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). He cannot merely concern himself with individual items. The people, and I think I may say the honorable gentlemen who support him, look to him with adoring eyes for a statesmanlike examination of the budget. Not for him these facile criticisms of little items. He must provide a balanced picture. He must peer into the mists of the future and show how the whole structure of the budget is false. He must look beyond the present into the days and years beyond when the budget will be proved to be complete nonsense and he must bring forward arguments to establish his point. If he is to retain the confidence of his own supporters and the public he will do those things. He has to show that the budget is ill-conceived and ill-begotten and that the whole structure and framework has been wrongly prepared. If he values his reputation he must provide a logical approach to these problems. If he says that more money should be spent he is in honour bound to suggest where that money will come from. If he says that less should be spent he is in honour bound to give the broad outline of how economies can be effected. If he says that the Government proposes to spend too much on defence he must establish in the mind of the Australian public the fact that the Government has made a grievous over-estimate of the risk of war. I consider that the right honorable gentleman did none of these things.
It is of no vise merely to criticize the minutiae of a budget without providing alternative proposals. It serves no purpose to offer a series of contradictory propositions as a criticism of the Government’s proposals. The Leader of the Opposition opposed a decrease in departmental expenditure and apparently, from his remarks, he wishes that expenditure to be increased. He wants no increase in taxation. He wants no increase in State works. He wants no increase in the interest rate on public loans. After a careful reading of the right honorable gentleman’s speech, it may be seen that those are his main criticisms of the budget. He put forward a series of completely self-contradictory propositions. I shall suggest directions in which the right honorable gentleman might have made constructive proposals. I do not think that honorable members on this side of the chamber would support the propositions that I shall put forward, but they would all be tenable propositions if advanced by honorable gentlemen opposite.
If the Leader of the Opposition had said that he advocated a substantial increase in the interest rate on government loans it would have made sense. He might have said that that was the only way to attract £200,000,000 or £300,000,000 more loan money from the Australian investing public. He could have said that the interest rate should be increased to the extent necessary to attract £200,000,000 or £300,000,000 more loan money which would have obviated the necessity for any increase of taxation and have given the States and the Government all the loan money that they legitimately needed for essential purposes. Such a proposition would have made sense, but he did not advance it. . As an alternative, the right honorable gentleman could have suggested the commencement of a moderate overseas borrowing programme in order to obviate .the necessity for increases in taxation. The Government would not have accepted that suggestion but it would have been a tenable proposition.
– The Minister is preparing the way.
– No. I am merely trying to remake the speech of the
Leader of the Opposition and to make it more tenable. He might have said that £50,000,000 worth of expenditure could be eliminated from the budget as another alternative to taxation. Had he said so he would at least have had to give the broad lines along which economies could have been made. Or he could have said, “ Let those wretched States stew in their own juice “.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! Honorable members must let the Minister make his own speech.
– The Leader of the Opposition might have said, “ Let the States get along on the loan money that the Australian investors will provide “. The Government would not have accepted that proposition, but it would have been tenable. All those suggestions would have represented a constructive and critical approach to this budget, but the right honorable member did not make any of them. He only presented a series of contradictory propositions.
A budget is a reflection of all of a country’s problems expressed in financial terms. Any honorable member could solve a few of those problems if he had only a few to solve. He could solve the pensions problem, the Northern Territory problem, or perhaps a half dozen other problems if they were the only ones with which lie had to deal. But if, as the Government has to do, he had to solve a hundred problems at the same time and find the necessary money he would be subject to a test of statesmanship. If that is the test of statesmanship on the part of the Government, the test of statesmanship on the part of the Leader of the Opposition is to demonstrate how much better the job might be done.
The right honorable gentleman also said that the budget represents a blueprint for a coming depression. Again I shall try to pierce the mists that cloud the right honorable gentleman’s mind. Assuming that the statement was an honest expression of his belief and was not made for political purposes, I believe that he must have based it on the temporary catastrophic fall in the price of wool and the assumption that there would be a short harvest in wheat and sugar. It is true that the price of wool did fall for a short period during the opening sales but it rose again and has since continued to rise. It is also true that after a magnificent succession of wonderful harvests the production of wheat and sugar dropped slightly, but the drop will not be anything approaching what the right honorable gentleman would have wished to support his argument. Bargain sales in a few city stores probably led him to believe that merchants and the big stores were throwing their merchandise out in the belief that the purchasing power of the people would diminish overnight. There was also a temporary fall in share quotations on the stock exchange but prices revived almost immediately after the budget was presented. These matters must haN occupied the right honorable gentleman’s mind to make him say the rather dreadful things he said in the course of his speech, unless, of course, they were said solely for political propaganda purposes.
In case any person may believe his statement that this budget is a blueprint for a. depression let me canvass briefly the factors that militate .against its truth. I do not believe that many persons, outside my mythical individual, would absorb such propaganda. What are the factors that militate against the truth of the right honorable gentleman’s statement? The first is the enormous increase in the incomes of individuals throughout Australia which, in 1950-51, amounted to £S00,000,000 more than in the preceding year. That enormous increase in the incomes of individuals is still working through the Australian economy and has by no means yet worked itself out. That factor alone operates against the likelihood of a recession of even a moderate kind.
The next factor is the volume of defence expenditure which is very considerable and is constantly increasing and is likely still further to increase in the years immediately ahead. Thirdly, despite appreciable cuts in loan raisings, the Commonwealth and the States have in hand enormous works programmes which [ believe are larger now than ever before in our history. Fourthly, rearmament programmes are proceeding at a terrific pace in friendly overseas countries, particularly in the Mother Country and the United States of America, and they will carry with them equivalent demands for raw materials and foodstuffs for as far ahead as any one can see. Lastly, there is the constant and large annual increase of the Australian population which results in a continual increase in the demand for goods and services. I do not think that the right honorable gentleman seriously believes that the Australian people will agree with him that the budget is a blueprint for a depression.
Mir. Curtin. - The people believed him on the 22nd September when they voted on the referendum proposals.
– It is said that a sucker is born every minute. When this budget is considered without political prejudice Australians with their cold common sense will concede that it demonstrates the belief of the Government that there is no prospect of a financial or economic depression. I do not think that I need do otherwise than give the Leader of the Opposition credit for sharing that belief.
Australia, in common with other democratic countries, is experiencing an inflationary trend which gives pause to every thoughtful Australian apart from its effect upon his pocket and upon his well-being. The budget is one of the many instruments that the Government is employing to counter the evil of inflation. In those days the main accent of the Government’s activities is on measures to counter inflation. In the democracies inflation is not only anti-social in its effects but is also a weapon of war on the side of international communism. It is the worst enemy of defence preparations. Accordingly, every individual in the community, irrespective of his political party affiliations, should endeavour to combat it. What weapons have we to employ, and how are we using them to cope with inflation? First, we have selective credit restriction, through the banking system, which lias the twofold purpose of halting inflation and diverting men, money and materials from non-essential to essentia] industries. Secondly, we have adopted selective curtailment of capital issues for the same purpose.
– What about selective curtailment of credit?
– I have already mentioned that.
– And does the Minister think that it is a good weapon ?
– Yes. Mr. Clyde Cameron. - What about its effect upon the building of houses ?
– I have not the time to deal with the honorable member’s interjections, in detail. Thirdly, we have imposed selective tax increases, both direct and indirect, not in a haphazard way, but as far as it is practicable to do so, on a scientific basis. These are also designed to counter inflation and to divert men, money and materials from non-useful to useful purposes. Fourthly, as a counter inflationary measure the Government has been at great pains to encourage imports. The use of the weapon of imports is an inherent feature of the budget. Direct importations for the Government’s own purposes will involve an expenditure of no less than £105,000,000. Provision has also been made for indirect imports, which also arise out of the budget, to the value - it is difficult to be precise about these things - of approximately £20,000,000. So, imports valued at approximately £125,000,000 will be brought to Australia as the result of this budget. Lastly, the Treasurer has budgeted for a surplus. Nobody likes having to pay taxes in excess of the amount required by the Government for the immediate purpose of carrying on its business, except in a time of inflation, when it is the accepted economic and financial practice to budget for a surplus. In this instance the Treasurer has budgeted for a surplus as a means of drawing off purchasing power on the inflationary spiral.
On the production side, as we know, during the last twelve months the Government has borrowed 100,000,000 dollars from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to finance large-scale importations of developmental equipment from the United States of America. These are merely some of the weapons that the Government is using to counter inflation. Another matter which, as far as I know, has not attracted a great deal of attention from either side of the chamber, is a proposal to expend £9,906,000 on various forms of international relief. Such relief is a new matter in the public affairs of the world.
– I suggest that the Government should give more attention to age pensioners? relief.
– I think that by that remark the honorable member has put himself in the category of people about whom I spoke a little earlier. I desire to address honorable members about this relatively new item in Australian budgets. If one casts one’s mind back to the pre-war period, one will realize that at that time international relief was quite unknown. It was unknown for one country to give equipment, goods or money to another country without a quid pro quo, because governments were inherently selfish at that time and looked only to the. interests of their own citizens.
– The Minister apparently does not remember that a Labour government gave £45,000,000 to Great Britain and £30,000,000 to the United Nations.
– That occurred during the last war when the international situation was quite different from what it was before the war. Inspired by that great human beings President Roosevelt, the institution of lend-lease was beginning in the international sphere, but that was purely for war and survival purposes. After the war lend-lease gave way to Unrra, a most eleemosynary form of international relief, which absorbed much money supplied mainly by the American taxpayer. After that came the Marshall plan which was largely for the relief and rehabilitation of the devastated parts of Europe. Therefore, one can say that our friends in the United States were in a very practical fashion the initiators of this new factor in the world’s thought and in the relationship between economically strong countries and economically less strong countries. The American money, in terms of dollars, that has been expended on civil and military relief has reached astronomical proportions. I do not know how many millions of dollars the American Government has expended in such relief, but all that money has come from the hides of the American people. And so we return to this proposed sum for international relief which is the largest of its kind ever to be found in an Australian budget. ‘I do not criticize the last Labour Government, because it was not oblivious to the needs of other countries-
– It was infinitely more generous than is this Government.
– I do not think that that is so. This amount of about £10,000,000, which it it proposed to give to the countries of South and South-East Asia, is a unique item in any Australian budget. The total sum is made up as follows : -
Economic development under the Colombo plan, £8,750,000.
Relief on the technical side of the plan, at least £200,000.
United Nations technical assistance £50,000.
United Nations children’s relief £250,000.
International relief for Korea £500,000. Palestine relief £156,000.
Those sums total £9,906,000, which is to be applied largely to the countries immediately to the north and north-west of Australia. That is, to countries that have an immediate geographical, and so political, and so defence, relationship with Australia to-day, and will have those relationships with us in the future. They are countries in which the people have very low standards of living. Unless these low standards are raised, they will tend to foster subversion and communism.
The Government is doing its best to combat the tendency to subversive action by raising the standards of living among the people of South and South-East Asia. The United States has given the world a great lead in this regard. Other countries, such as Canada, are making great efforts in the field of international relief. The percentage of the national income that the United States, Canada, Australia, France and others are devoting to international relief can be calculated. The United States is devoting about 2£ per cent, of its national income to relief, both civil and defence. That is a total that we, with our small resources, cannot hope to equal.
However, within the limits of our wealth we are doing quite well for our friends to the north. I have not time to describe in detail how our money is to be allocated to different countries, or to particular activities, other than to say that we are putting into operation the various parts of the Colombo plan, both economic and technical, with all the vigour of which we are capable.
I seek new forms of initiative, and I invite the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to tell me either in public or in private any directions of which he is aware in which we can exercise further initiative and help our friends of South and South-East Asia towards mutually beneficial ends. On some other occasion I shall take an opportunity to describe in detail what we have been doing in the past. The .Colombo plan has been in existence for only three or four months; nevertheless, we have anticipated the commencement of the plan and have already made relatively large gifts of wheat, flour, equipment and technical assistance to all the countries that are parties to the plan and to some other countries which have not formally joined it, but which I hope will later be able to join. I speak of Indonesia, IndoChina, Thailand and other countries to our immediate north. They are all nations that mean something to us because of our geographical propinquity.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The very curious speech just made by’ the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), in which he has succeeded in voicing a number of criticisms of his own Government’s budget by placing them in the form of an imaginary speech from the Opposition side of the chamber, makes it proper to examine some of the defences that the Government has put forward of its budget proposals. To the question: What crime have the people committed that they must be punished so heavily in this budget? the Government answers that it must take the money from the people because the people cannot be trusted with it. In other words, the Government cannot trust the people. Here is irony indeed, for it was only in the recent election campaign that Government leaders were begging the people to trust them. They asked the people to trust them, as the servants of the people, to carry out the people’s wishes, to reduce taxes, lower prices, and abolish controls. How swiftly the mask is dropped once its purpose is served and power and the treasury bench have been gained .’ Now the Government turns on the people and says, “ We are not your servants ; we are your masters. You gave us your trust, but we shall not trust you. We shall break every pledge that we made to you. We shall raise taxes, not reduce them; we shall increase prices, not lower them; we shall not abolish controls, we shall intensify them”.
The statement has been published that the Government back-benchers are drawing some small comfort from the fact that letters of protest against this budget from their constituents are not so numerous as might have been expected, but is that not really a sign which a conscientious member of the Parliament should view with some concern? People will write quickly enough to an honorable member in whom they have confidence, but when they lose confidence in an honorable member, they do not write to him because they consider that it would be a waste of time to do so. Regardless of the merits or demerits of this budget, it is such a glaring breach of solemn pledges made to the people only a few weeks ago, that it has undermined popular confidence in statements of public men and by so doing, it has played right into the. hands of those wretched forces that would destroy our British parliamentary system, a prospect which, to some Government’ supporters, I believe, is not entirely displeasing. They are fascist in tendency and sympathy, and have no real desire to see our British parliamentary system maintained.
As leader of the Australian Labour party, and as Prime Minister, the late Mr. Chifley set himself against making glittering promises to the. people which could not be honoured. That may have been a substantial factor in the defeat of his Government, but, if it lost public office for Labour, at least it held public respect for Labour leadership. When the cheapjack and the confidence trickster move into town and get the people’s money by false claims for their brummagem, the honest merchant is tempted to follow suit; but, if he sticks to his policy, in due course the customers will return to his shop. Out of evil cometh good, and if there be any value in the melancholy events in which the Government has been concerned, it may be that the electors have become tired of being fooled and rightly suspicious of the showy cheapjacks and plausible tricksters of the political trade. That will be shown at the next election.
– Order ! Is the honorable member making imputations against the Government?
– I am not, making imputations at all. In the meantime, the task of the Labour party, while rightly assailing this unjust budget, is to avoid pretending to the people that benefits can be provided for them without payment; that taxes can be substantially reduced while expenditure is substantially increased; or that there is any road to national prosperity except the path of hard work and united effort. Any government that had to face the dreadful economic mess into which this country has been permitted to drift in the last two years, would have had to introduce an unpopular budget at this stage - but not this budget. The very defences of this budget which the Government now puts forward constitute a most damning indictment of the Government’s own record. The Government declares that budgeting for a surplus of £100,000,000 or £200,000,000 is essential to counter inflation. If that be true now, it was also true last year when the inflationary storm was mounting, and surely that was the time to counter it, before its full injury could be wreaked on the community.
If surplus budgeting now can defeat the full fury of inflation, it would more surely have warded off the mounting inflation last year and would have saved us from our present troubles, yet the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) last year produced a budget exactly the opposite of this one. He made no attempt to draw off surplus purchasing power from the community as a whole. He made no attack on the excess incomes and record profits that were general in business and commerce at that time. Instead, he deliberately budgeted, not for a surplus at all, but for a deficit of more than £90,000,000 which he made up by grabbing from a few thousand woolgrowers a levy which represented, at the best, taxes that they were not due to pay until this year. From the general community he took £90,000,000 less than he spent, and, on his own argument to-day, that deficit budget of 1950-51 must have been the most powerful single factor in intensifying the inflationary storm from which we are now suffering. But if last year’s budget be inexcusable in the light of the economic doctrines advanced by the Treasurer on this occasion, how much less excuse can be found for the policy on which the Government fought the election as recently as April of this year when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), with the support of the Treasurer and of all his Ministers, declared that the issues were exactly the same as they had been in L949 - reduced taxes, lower prices, and the abolition of controls? The Bourbon kings are credited with having learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Ministers of this Government differ from the Bourbons in that if they learned anything, at least they were determined to keep it secret until after the election ; but they did agree in accepting the dictum of Madame Pompadour to Louis XV., quoted by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) last week, “After us, the deluge “. The leaders of this Government may escape the deluge, as, indeed, I believe they will, to the sanctuary of the High Court bench and the security of ambassadorial positions overseas, but for the rank and file of their deluded parliamentary followers their awaits only the wrath to come.
Another defence of this budget is that the heavy tax exactions which it proposes are needed for arms, and to prepare this country for entry into another world war by .1953. According to the Sunday Herald, Ministers are counting on an outbreak of war before the next election to divert the people’s attention from the injustices of this budget. If that be correct, it is a dreadful attitude indeed. Whatever Ministers may want, the people of Australia want peace, and they want their Government to pursue the path of peace and friendship with all other peoples of the earth. They know the lesson of history that the piling of armaments inevitably produces the very war which it is supposed to avert. The strength and security of Australia cannot repose in guns, tanks, aircraft and bombs. The future of Australia must repose in its families, in its children, in the growth of its population, in the development of its resources, and in its industry and transport systems. This budget, which purports to be for defence, strikes hard at every one of those things. It discourages the family, it makes harder the task of rearing children, it slows down development of resources, it will destroy a number of industries, and it neglects the maintenance of our transport system which has so deteriorated as to represent our gravest weakness in defence to-day.
Our roads and our railways are the foundations on which our whole defence system must rest. Yet they were never in so parlous a condition as they are at present. In the recent war the railways performed a magnificent service for Australia, which has since been everywhere acknowledged. But they could not repeat that service if they were called upon to do so to-day.
– Because the Commonwealth has so used overriding priorities that the railways are short of steel, cement, bricks and rolling-stock. The condition of railway tracks has become so bad that it is stated on expert authority to be already unsafe in some sections. For instance, whereas 40 men should be employed on maintenance and bridge repair work between Canberra and Cooma only ten men are employed on that section, whilst at times the number has fallen as low as eight. Even on the Commonwealth’s own line, the small section between Canberra and Queanbeyan, the condition of the track is well below accepted standards. The roads of Australia are in an even worse condition. They could not stand up to the requirements of defence in war. The surface is worn away, and patching and grading cannot replace it. An example which could be multiplied many times is the section from tie Hume Highway turnoff to Moss Vale. That is a recognized alternative route to a main defence highway, hut it is now entirely incapable of carrying heavy traffic. These are defence tasks to which the Commonwealth should be giving first priority. Otherwise, much else that is being done is in vain. The Commonwealth should be co-operating with the States in a giant attack on the problems of our transport system. By doing so it would promote the peaceful development of Australia, and at the same time place the nation in a state of readiness to meet a possible invasion.
Another defence of this budget that Government members have advanced frequently in this debate is that an immense surplus must he accumulated by levying taxes on the people in order to finance State public works programmes to the degree that the loan market will fail to supply the year’s programme of £225,000,000. I shall deal with that argument. It must be accepted that there is very little chance of investors subscribing that amount to Commonwealth loans during the present year. But why should this be so? In previous years the people of Australia, over and over again, filled the security loans in response to government appeals. There has been no failure so far on the part of the Australian people in this respect. There is not a town hall, or the tiniest our. back shire office, which does not proudly display the pennons awarded in recognition of unfailing loan achievements. This is the first government since the beginning of the recent war that has been obliged to admit that it cannot persuade the people to fill its loan quotas. That is an indictment not of the people who have never failed in this task before, but of a government that has so destroyed public confidence and enjoys so little public support, that even at a time of bounding surplus purchasing power, to use the Treasurer’s own words, it cannot carry out a loan programme. The causes of the Government’s failure are not far to seek. It has destroyed confidence by breaking its pledges to the people. It has permitted inflation to develop until the people have lost faith in the future value of their savings in government bonds. It has juggled interest rates in such a way as to cause heavy loss to all those who even in the last year or so continued loyally to support its loans. And it has failed to amend the social services means test even in terms of present money purchasing values, and so has dealt a most deadly penalizing blow at all who would practise care and thrift and save for their retirement.
The so-called liberalizing of the property means test in this budget is entirely illusory. It merely extends the upward limit to accord with the new money terms in which the age pension is expressed. The pension at £3 will purchase no more than it did at £2 10s. twelve months ago, and, similarly, the upward property limit of £1,000 will enable a pensioner to hold property of no more value to him than £750 did previously. But while this nominal readjustment is made at the top of the means test scale no readjustment at all is made at the bottom. The pensioner still loses exactly as much pension because he possesses, say, £150 as he did when £150 was worth twice what it is worth to-day. Similarly, with respect to the permissible income test, the Government has utterly failed the pensioner, and has betrayed every trust that was placed in its promises to ameliorate the means test. Even if the Government would not ameliorate the income means test at least it had an elementary duty to re-express the permissible income figures in terms of present-day purchasing power. On whatever other ground the Government may be defended, the fact that it has not performed even this act of common justice for people who have provided a few pounds towards the cost of their own maintenance in retirement is an eternal reproach to the Government.
During the terms of office of the Curtin and Chifley Governments, the Australian Labour party progressively increased the permissible income of a single pensioner from 12s. 6d. a week to £1 a week, and later, to 30s. a week. That was a real increase that was made at a time when there was some stability in money values. But far from continuing the process of increase with the ultimate objective of abolishing the means test, the present Government, at a time when prices have continued to increase during the last two years, has allowed the permissible income to remain at 30s. although 30s. will now buy far less than it did then. The result is1 that the Government has undone what the Labour Government did towards abolishing the means test, and the test to-day, in terms of money values, is more rigid and harsh than it has been at any time since the pension system was established. Is it any wonder that people are not prepared to save towards their old age? Is it any wonder that they are no longer willing to invest their savings in Commonwealth bonds? In showing itself to be the enemy of thrift the Government is injuring the nation.
However, the defence that the Government puts forward that it is correctly using the budget as an instrument of economic policy to draw off surplus purchasing power is the most interesting defence of all. Despite its contradiction of the previous policy of the Government’s leaders, and the incredible somersault, worthy of any circus acrobats, that they have had to perform to take up their new positions, this economic theory which they now expound with the newfound enthusiasm of the convert, is at least respectable economic theory. No thoughtful man will lightly toss aside the idea that credit restriction, high taxation and surplus budgeting are good weapons against inflation. It is endorsed by a number of recognized economists, though not by all of them. Indeed, until he brought down this budget, the Treasurer himself was one of its doughtiest opponents over the years. But let us not dwell on the melancholy past. . It is never too late to- mend, and -
While the light holds out to burn
The vilest sinner may return.
If, even at this late hour, Ministers have truly seen the error of their economic ways, and are eager to retrace their steps, let us not turn away from them. Instead, brethren’, let us lend them a helping hand and give them an encouraging word along the path of enlightenment. Those over-late professions of a more enlightened economic faith would be welcome if they constituted a sincere repentance. However, the budget itself is proof that the Government is still unregenerate, that its deeds do not match its words. For example, the Treasurer declares in his speech that it is a vital corollary of credit expansion and deficit budgeting in a financial depression that, in a period of boom, or inflation, the reverse measures of credit restriction and budgeting for a surplus should be applied!.
I am most interested to learn that the right honorable gentleman accepts that economic theory which was put forward by the Labour party for so many years. Now in retrospect, he accepts it as having been the correct measure in a financial depression. But he says that the vital corollary of it is that in a period of boom, or inflation, the reverse measures of credit restriction and budgeting for a surplus should be applied. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, this does not necessarily follow automatically. The Treasurer may have adopted a good theory, but to base it merely on the assumption that in a period of inflation we do the reverse of what we should do in a financial depression is fallacious.
– Prove, that.
– I shall be glad to do- so. Because, in certain health conditions, doctors find it correct to give the patient a blood transfusion, they do not therefore argue that it must be correct in other circumstances to take blood away from him. In fact, such treatment belongs to the dark ages of medicine.
Similarly, many economic factors must be considered in the application of the policy of credit restriction and budgeting for a surplus. Those factors include the discouragement of workers, the destruction of incentives, and the restriction of production. The Treasurer himself recognized’ such factors most clearly until a few weeks ago, when he read Professor Sir Douglas Copland’s book. He then presented this budget, which may very well be called “ Malice in Coperland “.
Let us assume, however, that the policy is a good one in a condition in which too much money is chasing too few goods; let us take it on the basis which the Treasurer himself presents in his budget speech. Then it follows unquestionably that the first thing to discover is who has too much money, and the second thing to discover is the method by which to draw some of it away, if I may use again the Treasurer’s own soothing phrase. There is no difficulty at all in ascertaining who has too much money to-day. Yet the Treasurer is not drawing it away from those persons. Instead, he is drawing it away from., or rather is gouging it out of, every one else.
This budget certainly follows the injunction -
To him that hath shall be given, and from bini that hath not shall be taken away, even that which he hath.
The cruellest feature of inflation, as we all have learned in the past two years, is that while it enriches a section, it impoverishes most people. It increases inequalities in the distribution of wealth. It tends to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer. As the value of the £1 has declined, so all those who have to live on a fixed number of pounds have become progressively worse off. This budget makes their plight still worse. In this number are included all those persons on fixed salaries and incomes, the great mass of salary and. wage earners, and pensioners, whose rates are subject to some adjustment but only after prices have already risen.
At the other end of the scale, inflation in Australia has meant new wealth and greater wealth - in some instances colossal wealth - to a section of people.
The section adversely affected by the budget includes the man in receipt of a small income, who is desperate at the progressive shrinking of his purchasing power, -the housewife, who is at her wit’s end to buy food and clothing for her children, and the pensioner, who is already suffering real physical hardship.
The other section includes those who benefit from such matters as record company profits, soaring dividends, repeated bonus issues, brazen profiteering, black marketing, huge bets on the racecourse, £5,000 paid for a yearling, money poured out in night club celebrations, frocks at 150 guineas each, and shoes at 25 guineas a pair. The average Australian families, which constitute the great majority of the people, are entirely separated from that world. They know it only from the advertisements, the stories and the pictures in the Sunday papers. It is the hard pressed family that the Treasurer should protect and assist whilst from those who have gained immense wealth by inflation he should draw off the surplus spending power. Yet not one proposal in this budget is aimed specifically at that section. Indeed, every measure which arises from it is aimed directly at the average family.
That the Government should wish to protect the wealthy . interests which it so faithfully represents is natural enough. But by what strange and inverted logic does it reach the conclusions that are embodied in its new tax proposals? I summarize them, as follows: - (1) That every one, rich and poor alike, can afford exactly the same percentage income tax increase; (2) that special taxes should be aimed at the family by heavy sales tax imposts even on toys and ice-cream and the sweets that children buy; (3) that the mother must be punished by new and heavy imposts if she dares endeavour to obtain a refrigerator or a washing machine, or any of the labour-saving devices that can lighten her work in rearing a family; (4) that excess purchasing power is drawn off fairly if an extra £10 a year is taken by excise from the worker on the beer and tobacco, which are his modest pleasures, and exactly the same amount a year in excise from the man who has 100 times that worker’s income; (5) that it is proper to impose new heavy taxes on the beers consumed at the corner pub, yet to exempt the champagne and the sparkling wine of the night club celebration from any new tax at all.
– Order! The honorablemember’s time has expired.
.- In common with other members of the Opposition, the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has almost persuaded me that this is a purely Labour-socialist budget. Many factors tend to support such a suggestion. When the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) presented the budget to this chamber, Opposition members were given a great lead in the attack upon the Government by certain sections of the press, and I think that many members of the public were awaiting with a certain gloating anticipation the devastating onslaught that would be unleashed upon us. But the Labour party has launched a rather confused and disordered kind of attack. In . one breath, honorable gentlemen opposite praise the Treasurer for having budgeted for a surplus, as a Labour government would have done had it been in office, and, in the next breath they suggest that there are many ways in which the budget could be improved, such as by expending more money here and economizing there. This idea is supported by a study of United Kingdom budgets of the last few years. As honorable members know, the Labour socialists in Great Britain use their budgets for two purposes apart from the primary purpose of providing hard cash for the ordinary business of government. They use their budgets, first, for a social purpose. Over a period of years they have deliberately set out to destroy accumulated fortunes, to break up large estates, and to redistribute the wealth of the community. They use them, secondly, for the purpose of achieving some sort of economic stability.
In Australia, when we find that our Government produces exactly the same sort of budget as has been produced in the United Kingdom, there is some danger of confusing the two objectives. When the honorable member for Eden-Monaro says that this Government taxes only the common family man and pays no attention to the rich and the enormously high prices that are paid for certain classes of goods, he seems to overlook completely such articles as furs and jewellery, which are subject to sales tax at the rate of 66§ per cent. That is one of the indirect taxes that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has attacked so vigorously, and it is applied to such goods according to a steeply graduated scale. By levying such severe taxes on luxury goods, is this Government following in the footsteps of the’ Labour socialists in the United Kingdom, who even now are on the hustings with their rallying-cry of “ Soak the rich “ I believe that many people in Australia are ready to attack the Government on account of this budget, not because it is a Liberal budget, but because it discloses certain tendencies that are reflected in Labour socialist budgets. For that reason, it is important to em phasize the value of the budget as a means of achieving economic stability. When one studies the speeches of Sir Stafford Cripps on the budgets that he has introduced in the United Kingdom Parliament, one might well imagine the same words being uttered by the Australian Treasurer. For example, in his budget speech for 1949-50, Sir Stafford Cripps said-
Last year it was our avowed objective to counter any existing inflationary pressure as to which there was no doubt, and bring about a comfortable and more excessive degree of disinflation.
This I think we have succeeded in doing largely as a result of the considerable budget surplus which wa9 planned last year and has been realized in the last three months . . . The main object of the budget surplus last year was to raise enough revenue to cover not only Government current expenditure but also that part of the- investment programme which could not be safely left to be financed by private savings.
An exactly parallel situation has arisen in Australia.
Honorable members opposite have attacked the Government for having budgeted for a surplus. That has been the consistent aim of the Labour Government in the United Kingdom in recent years as the evidence clearly shows. In 1947-48, the United Kingdom Treasury achieved a budget surplus of £636,000,000. In 1948- 49, the surplus was £684,000,000, in 1949- 50 it was £518,000,000, and in 1950- 51 it was £441,000,000. The budget for the current financial year, with a new Treasurer in office, provides for a surplus of a mere £224,000,000. Those figures represent a total surplus, deliberately planned over a period of years, amounting to £2,504,000,000. Honorable members opposite apparently do not believe us, and therefore I refer them to the views on budget surpluses that have been expressed by Sir Stafford Cripps.
– We do not believe him, either.
– I am pleased to hear that. I do not think that the English people will believe him any longer. This is what he said -
Some restatement of our general economic policy as affecting the budget is therefore necessary especially this year when we have recently passed through a general election.
It is our unquestionable duty to avoid the twin evils of inflation and deflation. This we can only do by maintaining a balance between the amount of goods and services the nation seeks to buy and the amount which can be produced when the labour force is at present fully employed. Excessive demand produces inflation, and inadequate demand results in deflation.
The fiscal policy of the Government is the most important single instrument for maintaining that balance.
On the one hand Government spending swells the total of national expenditure, both directly through current purchases of goods and services, and indirectly through social security payments and the like by adding to the incomes and spending power of private individuals’.
On the other hand taxation by drawing off part of the incomes of persons and business firms reduces their spending power and therefore the total of private expenditure. The difference between Government revenue and expenditure - i.e., the budget surplus or deficit - gives an indication of the direction in which fiscal policy is influencing the level of total demand.
The problem may alternatively be looked at from a more technical standpoint - that of investment and savings. If total demand is not to be excessive then not only must Government expenditure be covered by revenue, hut also the nation must be willing to hold back from spending on consumption an amount equal to that which it proposes to spend as investment.
In other words, spending on capital account must be balanced by savings on income account. If the voluntary savings of individuals and firms are insufficient, then the Government must itself make up the deficiency in the nation’s savings by accumulating a budget surplus, which in effect helps to pay for capital development.
Clearly since saving is the opposite of spending to say that a budget surplus is necessary to remedy a deficiency in saving is simply to restate the earlier proposition that a surplus is necessary to curb excessive spending.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) apparently believes that this Government has budgeted for an excessive surplus. Using his imagination to the fullest degree - and, after listening to his speeches in the recent referendum campaign, we must agree that he has a very fertile and vivid imagination - he managed to calculate by some means that we might have a budget surplus -of between £300,000,000 and £350,000,000 this year. That was a most interesting calculation because, not very long afterwards, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, told the committee with an air of great assurance that the Government’s anticipated surplus would vanish by next June. Honorable members opposite, had they been in office at this time, would have introduced exactly the same kind of budget as the Treasurer has introduced. Therefore, they experience difficulty in finding a precise and detailed method of criticizing the Government’s plans.
I agreed with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro on one matter that he raised, and that was about the only common ground that I could find. The honorable member declared that a budget such as the one that we are now considering should have been introduced last year, when the inflationary pressure was about as severe as it is now. As honorable members are fully aware, Labour had a numerical majority in the Senate at the time. It would have used every possible means to embarrass this Government, to the point of rejecting a budget, if its members thought that they would have the slightest chance of achieving electoral success. Had we introduced a budget of this kind, and had the present Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite used their imagination to the same degree as they did recently, it is quite possible that Labour would have been returned to office. Had that happened, Labour would not have dared to budget for a surplus this year after objecting to a budget envisaging a surplus last year. ‘ In any event, we can agree that it would have been quite impossible for either political party to budget for a surplus last year. Although the premises of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro were sound, he must not lose sight of the political difficulties that were present on that occasion.
I have stated that this budget has many ingredients of a socialist budget. I would hate to think that people who have previously supported this Government would prefer to support an outright Labour socialist in future, simply because they objected, as ultra conservatives, to the socialist ingredients of this budget. That would be tantamount to expressing a preference for a habitual drunkard against a teetotaller who consumed half a bottle of whisky in the belief that it was good medicine. I do not believe that many people, while protesting at the present policy of the Government, would adopt that line of reasoning. The Labour party has challenged us to face the people on this budget. One would have thought that if honorable members opposite were prepared to face the electors on this subject, they would prepare some general line of policy, some pleasant alternative that would be attractive to the people of this country. Let us consider their alternatives, as we have heard them so far. First, they want higher pensions. That is an amazing proposition by a party which, when in office, increased pensions on five consecutive occasions by only 6d. ; a party which has as its record a refusal to grant child endowment for the first child, yet when this Government was endeavouring to carry out its promise in relation to child endowment had the blatant hide to advocate, from the Opposition side of the chamber, an increase of the proposed endowment of the first child under the age of sixteen years from 5s. to 10s. a week; a party which as recently as last April, promised 10s. a week increase to pensioners, yet now contends that they should be given more.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) is again indulging in bellowing.
– Should not the pensioners get more?
– I think that the honorable member for Watson is trying to impress his constituents as the. great interjector. He has been compared by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) to a fly in amber. Not to be too hard on him, I shall merely quote the biblical paragraph -
Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise.
We have heard from honorable members opposite, and .particularly from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro recently, about the effect of incentives as a stimulus to production, and of the things which socialists have in the past neglected. Their attacks on this budget are based on those factors. I emphasize that this budget has some ingredients of a Labour-socialist budget. However, I do not think it can be truly said that it is in all details a socialist budget. It has endeavoured to spread inevitable increases of government costs and the inevitable need to find further money, equitably over the whole community, not by a “ soak the rich “ policy. The approval of such a policy by the Opposition is very difficult to understand, because if ten men gang up on an ordinary individual in our land and say, “ We are taking your money”, they will find themselves subsequently in a court of justice, and receive a gaol sentence. If they gang up on him through the ballot-box, and vote to take his money for no precise reason other than that they should have it, that is apparently a democratic process. We have adopted a policy of taxing sections of the community that can best- afford to finance the increased expenditure with which the Government is faced, and the sections of the community that are the least useful and which are contributing most to our present distorted economic position. The highest sales tax increases will be on furs and jewellery, goods which are relatively less essential, and on agricultural incomes in excess of £4,000 a year. I scarcely think that the Opposition will be loud in its protest at that. Smaller increases will be imposed in respect of things that are relatively less necessary in one’s life. Even beer and tobacco are relatively less necessary than bread, jam and butter. I join issue with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), who contends that nothing is a luxury, but that every commodity mentioned in the budget is a necessity. No doubt the honorable member would agree that there is a relative basis for all those things. Even a refrigerator is hardly as necessary as a roof over one’s head. A washing machine is hardly more essential than a laundry in which to put it. If honorable members opposite were to abandon all this talk about so-called luxuries, and so-called essential goods, and get down to a real comparison between what is more necessary and what is less necessary, they would have a better understanding of the purposes of this budget.
The honorable member for Fremantle attacked the budget on the basis that it increases taxes most unfairly and that it will put up prices. He contended that it is an inflationary budget. He reminds me of a man who picks up a stick from the ground, bends it, and proceeds to demonstrate to his audience that the stick is bent. Did anybody imagine that increases of sales tax upon refrigerators, furs and jewellery would not make the prices of those things higher? The precise purpose of the increase is to cause the prices to rise. If the prices rise, a consumer resistance will occur which will discourage the production of those things. Then, we hope - and we can only hope, because there is no certainty in these matters - that man-power and capital that is now being devoted to the production of refrigerators, furs and jewellery will be diverted to the production of basic and more essential things. The honorable member for Fremantle, in his selfsatisfied way, overlooked the possibility that this new approach to the matter may tend to change demands.
We heard some very interesting mathematics from the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Gordon Anderson), who apparently believes that the advantage in respect of years that he has over some honorable members on this side of the chamber invests him with a special mathematical authority. He advanced a peculiar proposition. He said that a man with an ‘ income of £500 a year now corresponded to a man who had an income of £250 a year during the war years. I do not think that we can argue about that. Then he said that a man with an income of £250 a year during the war years who paid £36 a year in tax was better off than a man who has an income of £500 a year now and pays £38 a year in tax. If the honorable gentleman reduces an income of £500 a year at the present time to the corresponding income during the war years, why does he not do the same in relation to the taxes paid and reduce the £38 to £18 or £19? Surely that would be sound mathematics. It was a most remarkable proposition which, at first sight, seemed to have some attraction but which, upon examination, was found to be completely false.
– That is a legal interpretation.
– I believe that mathematicians would support my view. If I “nave one fault to find with the budget, it is that one statement by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) revealed a dangerous socialist tendency. The right honorable gentleman said that the proceeds of the Joint Organization wool scheme would be paid back to the wool-growers over a period of several years, because it would be in their own interests to do so. I agree that it may be in the interests of Australia to pay that money back over a number of years, but it is dangerous for a federal Treasurer to follow the line of reasoning that it will be in the interests of the wool-growers to do so. It is wrong to adopt the attitude that that money belongs to the Government and that it will be given back to the farmers only as a generous gesture. It is the farmers’ money. If the only factor to be considered is the farmers’ welfare, the matter should be left to their individual choice. Each farmer should be asked whether he wants his share of the proceeds of the Joint Organization wool scheme now, or whether he prefers to have it paid back to him individually over a number of years. If the Government believes that the requirements of the country make it dangerous to pay all of the money back at once, it should say so. In my opinion, either the money should be paid back to the farmers or they should be paid interest upon it at the rate applicable to government loans. If it be withheld from them, they will be making a contribution to the amount of money that is available for investment in this country. Therefore, they should be paid interest upon it.
Apart from that matter, I do not think the budget can be attacked. It is designed to achieve an economic purpose. When we get down to pure economics, we find that Labour governments and Liberal governments are compelled to adopt the same measures. I do not know whether honorable members opposite suggest that public works programmes should be curtailed. I have not heard them suggest that yet. I do not know whether they want taxes to be increased in order to pay the increased pensions that they have suggested should be paid. I have not heard them make that suggestion yet. If the Government pays out larger sums, it must either increase taxes or reduce expenditure. Honorable gentlemen opposite must bear that in mind when they are criticizing the budget. I regret that no political party has yet devised a method of avoiding the necessity for fiscal controls or, let us say, a system of fiscal persuasion for directing industry, money, investment and savings into certain channels. It has been the policy of both Liberal and Labour governments to rely upon fiscal measures to direct the industry of a country, to control the volume of savings and to try to achieve financial stability. Doubtless honorable members opposite will agree with that proposition. In addition, it has been a feature of Labour’s policy that there should be what we may call direct physical controls. Labour has not hesitated to impose, when necessary, prices restrictions and restrictions on production. On occasions, it has even advocated the direction of manpower. Although we differ from honorable gentlemen opposite on that ground, we are doing the same thing by indirect fiscal means. The reason is that in the monetary system of any country to-day there tends to be an automatic acceleration of any process. If there be inflation, there is a widespread feeling of confidence and a tremendous demand for investment, speculation or anything which will lead to the accumulation of wealth. If there be a suggestion of a recession, deflation occurs equally quickly. Almost overnight there can be a panic and a withdrawal of investment. That can occur in either a socialist or a capitalist economy. Physical controls such as the honorable member for Fremantle advocated cannot overcome that difficulty. The honorable gentleman must be aware that price fixing has failed in the States and was failing under Commonwealth administration. It has failed even when there has been complete unanimity among the States as to the measures that should be adopted.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Now that the tumult and the shouting to some extent has died, I think that it will be possible to form some kind of an adequate assessment of the impact of this budget upon the community and upon the common man. Recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) indulged in a witticism at the expense of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The right honorable gentleman stated that the Leader of the Opposition reasoned somewhat on the following lines : - “ I do not like Professor Copland. Professor Copland supports this budget. Therefore, I oppose the budget”. That was the reasoning put into the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition by the Prime Minister. I wish to put to honorable members what I consider to be the reasoning of the man in the street with regard to this budget. He is the man whose opinion we must seek and at whose hands ultimately we must seek a decision. The syllogism of the common man, the ordinary worker, the man who has to think and solve his problems from day to day is this : “ I neither like nor trust this Government. The Government has introduced this budget. Therefore, I fear and dislike this budget”.
– The honorable member has had his leg pulled.
– Perhaps I have had, but the ordinary man in the street has an intuition or a feeling that ultimately turns out to be correct. It brings him close to the kernel of things. That intuition tells him that this budget is the first step towards something that may be disastrous to him and which may be a perpetual threat over his head. All the signs are on the horizon. There are restriction of credit, diversion of labour, control of industry, and restriction of State public works programmes. There is a spirit of unease abroad. There are definitely trepidation and fear in this community. The kind of utterances made during the debate this evening, and particularly those made by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), contribute in no small measure to that uneasiness. Honorable members may have noticed that the only point at which the honorable member for Forrest turned and became a critic of this budget was when he showed that chronic, innate, material and sordid self-consciousness which is characteristic of those whose interests are touched. The honorable member criticized his leader and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) because they have had the temerity to suggest that, in the national interest, something should .be done to withdraw from this community the abnormal increment that is self-evident in the very high prices reigning for wool. No one can convince me that the basis of our civilization to-day is altruism. It is self-interest all the time. Vivid examples of it are given in this Parliament night after night when men reason from the region of their sciatic nerves, from their hip pockets.
What section of the community is being continually called upon to sacrifice something for the common good ? I think that the answer to my proposition is selfevident, and that this budget is typical of it. The proposals contained in the budget represent indirect taxation at its worst. Such taxation places a colossal burden on those least able to bear it and neglects altogether that fruitful reservoir in the community which, over the years and particularly during World War II., reached great heights because of unbounded and unprecedented prosperity.
In introducing this budget, it is obvious that the Government has been guided to some extent by the expert in the background, Professor Copland. I have a profound mistrust of experts. In my youth I did eagerly frequent doctor and sage land heard great argument. I remember (he experts who came to Australia, such as Niemeyer, and the experts resident in Australia, such as Gibson, and those other persons who had their dogmatic say-so in this community. I remember the experts who stultified the fiduciary issue which was proposed by a statesman who was ahead of his time. I refer to the late Mr. E. G. Theodore. The example set by this Government, and every argument advanced by honorable members opposite during the debate this afternoon, support his proposition, which was also that of the Australian Labour party, that in times of deflation governments should budget in such a way that they utilize bank credit and treasury-bills, and budget for a deficit. The members of the Australian Labour party have no reason to love the experts. I venture to say that some of those so-called experts who have now passed on are sitting in limbo listening to the mistakes that they made because events have turned round and disturbed the utterances that were supposed to be accepted in their day. Let the cobbler stick to his last..
– The honorable member should not carry that too far !
– I suggest that if I were to carry it far enough the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) would stick to the farmyard fence. The university professors, the pundits, such as Professor Copland, are the modern Delphic oracles. It is possible to point to 100 professors, the net result of whose pronouncements is a Babel “ full of sound and fury, signifying nothing “. There are professors for and professors against. Are not we, the elected representatives of the people, competent to make a decision in these matters? I think that we are and it is our duty to do so. The professors who want to dominate, direct and influence, to some degree, the life of this community, should seek election to parliament and not attempt to do so from the distant heights of the National University at Canberra.
Prom our boyhood days we have heard that sacrifice is excellent for the other fellow. The supporters of the Australian Country party say, “ Touch not my wool, nor my wheat. Let the price go to the sky, but let the worker tighten his belt. Let him pay more. Let him make his contribution to the financial recovery of the community, but do not ask us to make a sacrifice “. Deep down .in their hearts honorable members opposite know that this budget is letting the rich down very lightly. If a barometer is required to gauge the truth of that statement, what is wrong with taking the stock exchange quotations ? An honorable member opposite has quoted the stock exchange reaction to the budget. I contend that there is nothing wrong with that. It is an invaluable guide to the reaction of the business community of Australia to this budget. The significant fact is that immediately the budget was presented, the key stocks and shares of Australia rose. That is indicative of the satisfaction of the business community with the budget that their friends have brought down for them. It strikes me that to-day the main thing to do in Australia is to succeed. In the old days the classic was “From Log Cabin to White House”. To-day, if a man wants to be put on a pedestal and to be spoken of in terms of adulation, it is necessary for him to make a quick progress from water joey to millionaire and to disregard in the process the intrinsic welfare of the community. If there are two things that come closest to the heart of this community they are the housing problem and the need to maintain family life. Do not forget that the activities of the Victorian Housing Commission, guaranteed and financed by this Government, have been circumscribed because of the reduction of the housing loan to Victoria from £16,000,000 to £9,000,000. That reduction is indefensible and shameful. Is that a counter-inflationary measure? Is that something that will make for peace, serenity, harmony and prosperity in this community? Does it not strike at the very vitals on which our civilization depends? That is one item, at any rate, in this attempted restriction which is indefensible by the most stony-hearted honorable member who ever had a callous disregard for the feelings of others.
While I am on my feet, I wish to advance a plea to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) on behalf of Victoria, a garden State whose submissions to the Loan Council embodied public works programmes to the tune of £76,000,000, an amount that was reduced, in the atmosphere that then prevailed and of which this budget is symptomatic, to £56,000,000, contractual arrangements for the expenditure abroad of £47,000,000 of which had already been made, leaving only £9,000,000 for works and labour on the site. Hence the dismissals of staff from Victorian public works programmes! Hence the frustration of the Kiewa power project and the stultification of Yallourn ! Hence the setback to everything progressive in the State of Victoria. Does the Government defend that? Have those projects no relation to defence? Is the rural development of Victoria so unimportant that the activities at Kiewa and Yallourn must stop? Where do th( members of the Australian Country party stand on this matter? What do they think of the crimp that has been put in the operations of the State Electricity Commission, which has projects for the supply of power and light for country districts? All these must stop under the stress and the tightening of the belt that is to come. Operation Phoenix! The Victorian development was the brainchild of the Minister for the Interior as a State Minister. A stroke of genius ! I. admire it. A beautiful thing! Now the question is, is the phoenix going to arise from its ashes or will it he submerged for ever? The honorable gentleman is credited with having led a palace revolt. Will he now stand up for his own offspring? No parent wantonly and callously disregards ill-treatment of his child. An amount of £9,500,000 was to be expended on rolling-stock for the Victorian railways. That statesmanlike gesture was made by the Minister for the Interior, who went abroad and, having in mind the future of his State and his country, produced that plan.
– It was suffocated by gas nationalization, which took all the money needed for it.
– There was another operation - “ Operation Snail “. But the snail has lost its momentum. One thousand railway workers were to come to Australia, every worker with a home on his back. The Minister will have to put salt on the tail of that snail. Surely he will not permit the present drift to continue! He was always a democratic and progressive Minister in Victoria. He should turn on these reactionaries and rend them asunder ! Lead this revolt! Why should you stand for it, Mr. Minister ?
I apply one touchstone, which is the only one that ultimately has to be applied to all such things. What is the yardstick by which we judge our foreign policy and by which we measure the extraordinary contributions - I say it correctly and justly - made by the Leader of the Labour party to world recovery generally in South-East Asia and elsewhere? The yard-stick to be applied in all such conceptions is, simply, how far does any measure or act or project or proposition contribute to the peace, serenity and happiness of the people whom it affects?
– “What about protection?
– Protection, if the honorable member likes. How far does this budget contribute to the peace, happiness and serenity of the ordinary man, his wife and family? If that test is applied there must be qualms of conscience somewhere. Look at the enormous field of taxation in which the Government could have operated, and operated correctly. Has it never heard of excess profits? Has it never heard of that magical proposition, bonus shares? By come miracle of skulduggery and financial wizardry £250 turns into £1,000 overnight. What a beautiful field for taxation that is ! Has the Government not the classic examples of company balance-sheets that proclaim themselves to the world as a field in which any government could legitimately operate to draw off secret and hidden reserves and thus stop this bare-faced, brazen exploitation of the community and act in defence ultimately of the general good of the people? Applying that touchstone, this budget fails. It fails to protect the common man. It protects, by means of a flat rate of direct taxation, those whom the Government could afford to attack by a graduated scale. It offends all ideas of decency by taxing, in a magnificent and stupendous way, in the field of indirect taxation, an action which will add to the cost of living and impose a harsh burden on those in the community who are least able to bear it. It puts a premium on selfishness and rottenness, which are the characteristics of those who wish to defend the citadel of their pelf and their gain. It protects the exploiter and the profiteer. It is the first instalment of something that will be disastrous in its i.m pact on Australia. It will make cynics of our people and cause them to be fearful of the future. Above all, it will engender absolute distrust of the Government.
.- During this debate I have heard from the Opposition benches statements that are farther from the truth than were any other statements that I have heard for a long time. I propose to deal with a few of them before turning to the budget itself. The honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens) said that the housing loan for Victoria has been cut from £16,000,000 to £9,000,000. At the same time we heard in an undertone from the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), “What about war service land settlement ? “ Let us look at the loan programme. Statement No. 5 on page 12 of the printed statements that accompanied the budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) shows that last year the actual expenditure on advances to the States for housing was £21,640.000, and the estimated expenditure for this year is £26,547,000 - an increase of £4,907,000. Actual expenditure last year on war service land settlement was £3,861,577. Estimated expenditure for that purpose this year is £4,125,000. The honorable member for Gellibrand may not know that the decision to reduce the loan programme from £300,000,000, which was what the States had asked for, to £225,000,000, was taken by the Loan Council, upon which the States had six votes against the two votes exercisable by the Commonwealth. Therefore, the States themselves must accept a large share of the responsibility for the decision to reduce loan raisings. It is a pity that the minutes of Loan Council meetings are not available to honorable members so that they could read for themselves just what happens at the meetings. The Premiers who attended the last meeting of the Loan Council realized that it would be very difficult to raise even £225,000,000 this year, even after the Commonwealth had agreed to vacate the loan field altogether.
– The States do not get a fair proportion of income tax revenue.
– The State Premiers knew what the position was when they agreed to the loan programme. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said that the Treasurer had budgeted last year for a deficit of £90,000,000. I have before me a copy of the 1950-51 budget, and I note that the Treasurer budgeted for a surplus of £400,000. I am astonished that the honorable member, with his experience, should have made the statement that he did.
– “What about the woolgrowers ?
– We have not heard so much from the Opposition lately about the poor little wool-growers. They found that they were backing the wrong horse when they opposed last year the Government’s legislation in respect of the incomes of wool-growers. Their old colleague from Queensland let the cat out of the bag. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that there should be a home-consumption price for wool, whereupon the honorable member for Eden-Monaro made one of the best Country party speeches I have ever heard.
Speaking on the budget to-night, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that public loans were not being filled because the people lacked confidence in the Government. The honorable member for Gellibrand pointed out that the stock exchange served as a financial barometer, and it is clear that a great deal of money is being invested in industry at the present time because investors are confident that this Government will make no stupid moves in the direction of socialization such as the Labour Government made.
We have heard during this debate some outspoken remarks on the recent referendum campaign. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) said that the Government’s proposals for the alteration of the Constitution were undemocratic. I seem to remember that during the campaign itself those proposals were described as the “ negation of democracy “. If the proposals for the banning of the Communist party were the negation of democracy during the referendum campaign, surely they must also have been undemocratic when the Communist Party Dissolution Bill was before the Parliament. We remember that, when the motion for the second reading of that bill was put in the House of Representatives, the silence of the Opposition was staggering. The bill was rejected in the Senate, and in due course it came back to this chamber, where it was again passed. When it was returned to the Senate, the Australian Labour party federal executive directed Labour senators that they must withdraw their opposition to it. What sort of people are they to represent the workers when they were prepared to abandon their democratic principles at the dictation of a few outsiders? Honorable members opposite should not boast about their democratic outlook when Australian troops fighting in Korea voted by a two to one majority in favour of “ Yes “ on the referendum proposal. I would hang my head in shame if I had voted to protect Communists in this country while our men are suffering wounds and death in the battle against communism in Korea. Honorable members opposite show, by their actions, that they are prepared to give protection to Communists in Australia who would smash this country.
I support the budget as a courageous attempt to halt inflation. It will not harm working men. unless a small increase of the excise duty upon beer and tobacco will harm them. I like both of those commodities, but I have never found them essential, and neither does any other sensible Australian. The honorable member for Kingston said that the Government was placing a tax on knives, forks and spoons. I invite him to read the sales tax schedule, in which is set forth a list of goods upon which the rate of tax is 66f per cent., and I direct his attention to the words, “ but not including knives, forks, spoons and other cutlery”. The honorable member’s statement was made with the deliberate purpose of deceiving listeners to these proceedings into the belief that the Government was unfairly taxing ordinary men and women. There is no tax on goods in the basic wage regimen, except beer and tobacco. Sales tax increases are directed against those who can best afford to pay them. Those who buy the taxed articles must expect to pay for them, and the effect of the tax will be to divert labour and materials from the manufacture of non-essential articles into other and more useful channels.
– What channels?
– The manufacture of articles more necessary to the economic welfare of the country. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) was heard in silence, as is the custom, when he made his maiden speech. It was a good speech except for some inaccuracies, and I do not blame him for them, because he may not have had an opportunity to learn the facts. He eulogized the late Leader of the Opposition. I agree with much of what he said in that regard. I never said anything against the late Leader of the Opposition when he was alive and I do not intend to say it now.
The honorable member for Macquarie criticized the Government for allegedly having failed to make sufficient money available to local authorities for road construction and maintenance. He endeavoured to create the impression that the Government had done nothing in that respect. When a deputation waited on the late Leader of the Opposition on the 6th August, 1948, he said-
The petrol tax is not imposed solely for this purpose and although for many years substantial roads grants have been made to the States the major portion of this tax has been required to meet the expenditure of the Commonwealth for general purposes and in particular, the heavy commitments for war and post-war purposes. The tax is primarily a revenue impost, in common with those imposed on many other items, such as beer, tobacco and matches. About 90 per cent, of the petrol consumed in Australia for Civil purposes is used for commercial and industrial purposes. To a great extent the cost is passed on to the general community in transportation and delivery charges. Since the greater portion of the tax is not finally borne by the users of petrol but by the general community, it is inappropriate to contend that the whole of the proceeds should be used for road purposes.
The Government has made a greater contribution for road purposes than was made by any previous government.
The honorable member for Macquarie also said that there is a difference of opinion between the Treasurer and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in respect of the appreciation of the Australian £1. On the 6th October, 1950, the Prime Minister in a speech to the nation said without equivocation that the Government had decided that the exchange rate should not be altered. It has been said by honorable members of the Opposition that the Government has proposed the imposition of higher taxation in order to condition the people for war. If those honorable members believe that to be so, how do they explain the fact that the Labour Government in the United Kingdom has proposed defence expenditure to an amount of £4,500,000,000 during the next three years? Honorable members opposite do not state that Mr. Attlee, Mr. Morrison and Mr. Gaitskell are warmongers. I agree that the Government has proposed to increase taxation by a very minor amount for the purpose of improving Australia’s defence preparedness. Any government that failed to take such precautions would be recreant to its trust. Nobody will deny that there is the danger of war and that the only way to prevent it is to strengthen our forces as quickly as possible. If we can do that, in concert with the other democratic nations, there will be no war for some years to come.
An honorable member of the Opposition suggested that the Government should obtain another and a larger dollar loan. It was not until the present Government came to power that Australia obtained a dollar loan, and it has been of very great assistance. If it could be increased, that would be so much the better. The honorable member for Kingston said that the Government proposed to rob the kiddies of their icecream and toys. I have heard honorable members of the Opposition from New South Wales and Queensland complain during the last few weeks of a scarcity of butter in their States and of a repudiation of promises by the Government. Apparently they have not examined the real causes of the scarcity of butter in their States. I wonder how many honorable members of the Opposition fully realize how much milk is used in the manufacture of ice-cream and chocolate. If they were to ask confectionery manufacturers, they would learn that the bulk of the ice-cream manufactured is sold to delicatessens in the cities and is consumed by adults. The sooner the Government can encourage the flow of milk into the manufacture of butter, cheese and processed milk, the sooner shall we cease to hear complaints from honorable members from New South Wales and Queensland who have asked honorable members from Western Australia to bring them a few pounds of butter from that State. I personally have brought a few pounds of butter here for some of my friends and I charged them no more than the fixed price.
Honorable members of the Opposition have complained about the increased sales tax on toys. In these days of inflation mothers have to put toys on the layby in January in order to pay for them by the following Christmas. Plastic works that will be required for the manufacture of essential goods are at present producing expensive toys. I favour the importation of toys from Japan.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Honorable members will have to stop their larrikinism or I shall need to have some one put out.
– It would be better to use labour and materials in essential industries in order to produce such commodities as corrugated iron and steel rather than import them from Japan and so help that country to develop its heavy industries, which could be used against ns in the future. Let us buy toys and non-essential products from Japan and use our labour and material in essential industry so as to develop the nation on solid foundations.
An Opposition member has complained that the Government is restricting the purchase of war service homes by ex-servicemen. That is not true. Ex-servicemen may still obtain a maximum loan of £2,000 for the purchase of an existing dwelling or £2,750 for the construction of a new dwelling. The only restriction that the Government has imposed, and rightly so, relates to the clearing of mortgages, which has been discontinued. It realizes that the purchase of an existing dwelling by an ex-serviceman will not ease the housing shortage. I should like the purchase of existing dwellings to be discouraged and the building of new war service homes to be fostered as a means of overtaking the housing shortage.
A great deal has been said by Opposition members in support of their contention that this budget penalizes the ordinary man in the street. I invite them to re-examine the budget in order to assess its real effect upon the average Australian. They, in their skirmish with the Government on the budget proposals, hide behind kiddies’ toys and ice-creams because they well know that indirect taxes have not been increased on any items included in the basic wage regimen.
– The Government has increased sales tax on sporting equipment.
– I regret that aspect of the budgetary proposals. I subscribe to the old adage that all work and no play makes Jack a .dull boy, but although, unfortunately, I am now only a bowler, I think that the sportsmen of this country, having regard to the tense international situation, might well forgo temporarily the purchase of sporting requisites in the knowledge that the increased sales tax on sporting items has been imposed to meet an emergency and will not apply for all time.
What effect will the increase of direct taxation outlined in the budget have upon the ordinary man in the street? A taxpayer without dependants, who is in receipt of an income of £400 a year, will pay in income tax an amount of £24 15s. compared with £22 10s. last year. For such a taxpayer the increase will amount to only £2 5s. a year.
– I remind the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) that the increase represents only 10½d. a week.
– That is not correct.
– I am citing from tables that were prepared by the Treasurer. Very few Australians, if any, would not be prepared to pay an additional 10£d. a week to enable the Government to strengthen our defences. A taxpayer without dependants in receipt of £500 a year will pay only an additional ls. 5d. a week.
– That is not true.
– I invite the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) to make the calculation for himself. During the war a taxpayer without dependants in receipt of £400 a year paid in direct tax no less than £95 8s. a year. I do not need to remind Opposition members that we are now not very far removed from a state of war and that we may well be embroiled in another conflict if we do not take adequate steps to prepare our defences. Let us compare the amounts of income tax paid by Australians with those paid by taxpayers in other parts of the world. In the United Kingdom a taxpayer without dependants in receipt of £400 a year pays £63 8s. .
– Under the regime of a Socialist government, too !
– That is so. In New Zealand a similar taxpayer pays £53 9s. It has been proposed that the impost on such a taxpayer shall be reduced to £43 7s. 6d. Even if that reduction is made the amount paid by the New Zealand taxpayer will be almost double that paid by the Australian taxpayer. In Canada direct taxes have been increased by 20 per cent.
– Who wants to live in Canada ?
– The Canadians probably would not have the honorable member. If he wants to continue to live in Australia under the conditions that he now enjoys he should not complain about these slight increases of taxes. As Winston Churchill truly said years ago, “ It is better to be prepared and not wanted, than to be wanted and not pre-, pared’”.
When the Treasurer introduced the budget the Sydney Morning Herald described it in large headlines as “ a panic budget “. What does that great organ of the press care about the plight of the ordinary man in the street? What do the wealthy and influential owners of that journal, the Fairfax family, care about the rights and sufferings of the common man? Opposition members have repeatedly stated that press statements are inaccurate and cannot be relied on. The pages of Hansard disclose that year after year, when in office and out of office, the Labour party has consistently told us that we cannot believe what we read in the press, yet honorable members opposite have based their attack on this budget upon what they have read in the Sydney Morning Herald. If that journal had agreed to a more equitable distribution of available newsprint other newspapers would have obtained a greater share upon which to print accurate items of news. Notwithstanding that the Sydney Morning Herald insisted on the maintenance of its quota of newsprint and increased the price of its publication and the cost of advertising, it claims that it is “ going broke “ : I should not base my arguments upon statements that are published in that journal.
I observe that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is present in the chamber. I am glad of that because I wish to make some observations-
– Order ! The honorable’ member’s time has expired.
– I had hoped that when the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) addressed the committee I should hear a representative of a Western Australian constituency explain how this budget will assist the people. But I was sorely disappointed. We have repeatedly heard of the wonderful state of affairs that exists in Western Australia and I had looked to the honorable member to give us a glimmering of hope that as a result of this budget some of the good things that are said to be enjoyed by the residents of that State might be made available to Australians generally. Yet all we got from the honorable member was an expression of the wish that the Government would hasten the importation to Australia of Japanese toys. That wish brands the honorable member as one who is prepared to sell out to the cheapest bidder, even though he is an Asiatic and a former enemy. I do not propose to use my time in dealing with the illogical meanderings of the honorable member, who wasted 30 minutes in an endeavour to show what beneficial results will flow from this budget. My opposition to the budget is not based on idle chatter or on newspaper reports; it falls under five specific headings. First, the plan envisaged in the budget, instead of dampening the inflationary spiral will accelerate it and intensify our present economic conditions. Secondly, the plan will destroy incentive to produce at a time when increased production is so urgently needed in this country. Thirdly, it will impose unnecessary hardship upon the people at a time when they should be encouraged. Fourthly, it will leave the road and rail transport system of
Australia neglected and uncared for at a time when urgent action is essential if wilful waste is to be avoided and a war effort worthy of this nation’s potential power is to be undertaken. Fifthly, it will hamper the States in their attempts to improve production and it leaves unanswered the question of how their reduced public works programmes are to be financed.
I shall deal now with the first point. The honorable member for Canning need not have launched his bitter attack only upon the Sydney Morning Herald, because every section of the Sydney press followed the lead of that newspaper in setting forth the detrimental effect that this budget will have upon the basic wage. Moreover, no honorable member on the Government side can say that sales tax does not have inflationary effects in all directions. An increase of sales tax may be likened to a stone being thrown into a pond. It sets up a . wave of increased costs in all directions. The sales tax will ultimately increase the basic wage which in turn will accelerate the inflationary spiral. The honorable member for Canning lost sight of the fact that as from next Monday the price of shoes will be increased in accordance with the new tax. Shoes are included in the basic wage regimen and, therefore, the increase of sales tax will directly raise the basic wage. Again, the wearer of a new suit,, for which, perhaps, he has not yet paid, will have to provide an extra guinea when he does pay for it. That is another direct consequence of the increased sales tax. These effects were made public by every section of the press on the day after the budget was introduced.
Consider now the radio industry. That industry has asked why it has been singled out for heavy taxation. It would be an understatement to say that the radio industry is extremely disappointed because the Government has seen fit to demote its products in the essentiality scale by imposing on them a rate of tax that is applicable to mouth organs and jews’ harps. The radio industry says that surely it is unnecessary for such an organization to remind this Government that Australia cannot fight a war with musical instruments, whereas it cannot fight a war, or even prepare for defence, without extensively availing itself of the products of this industry. The Government should remember that the radio industry, which produced radio sets for the working man’s home, also produces highly technical equipment for the defence services.
This budget is so unbalanced that it causes one to wonder who drew up the sales tax programme. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said much about importing goods for the purpose of combating inflation. But the Government has dealt with this matter as it deals with all matters, from the wrong end. For instance, this morning on the Sydney waterfront, because of the import policy of the Government, 32 ships were lying idle. Their idleness was due directly to lack of wharf space, yet it is certain that some honorable member on the Government side will claim that it was the fault of the McGirr Government.
– Or the Communists!
– I shall leave the Communists out of this matter because, as honorable members on both sides of the chamber have so frequently stressed, if they continue to sow the wind as they are doing, in the end they are sure to reap the whirl-wind. The 32 ships that I mentioned were brought here at the instigation of the Government, but there were no wharf facilities for them. Not only are those ships being delayed through the action of the Government, but, in addition, with each hour of delay the transport costs on the goods that they are carrying are piling up and that, in turn, will increase their price to the public. That has been caused by the impractical way in which the Government is approaching the problem of inflation in general and of importing goods in particular.
I was astounded to learn that this Government had decided not to maintain the price subsidy policy. I have seen quite a lot of government somersaulting on different matters but never so much as has been indulged in by this Government about price subsidies. Let us consider what was said by the Treasurer when he was speaking in the 1948-49 budget debate. He then said -
In view of the increased cost of living, and the trend towards inflation which is due to the Government’s policy, its decision to withdraw subsidies is unwise and unwarranted.
Yet every day since the Parliament resumed its sittings we have heard attack after attack on the McGirr Government of New South “Wales because of its refusal to lend itself to a further increase of the basic wage and a consequent further undermining of the economic structure of Australia by agreeing to the price of butter being raised. No grocery item causes the basic wage to rise more quickly than does butter. In the light of those facts, why should this Government alter the price subsidy policy? The plan laid down by the Government if carried out will completely nullify its efforts to combat inflation.
– Does not the honorable member believe that industry should receive for its product a price based on the cost of production?
– One Harrison does not take much notice of another. Dealing now with my second point, I divide producers into three groups: first, the average wage-earner, who is the productive unit ; secondly, the business man who runs his company or firm in a small way; and thirdly, the pensioners. I shall now analyse those divisions.
The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) spoke unconvincingly in defence of the proposed increase of income tax by 10 per cent. Percentages do not mean much; what really counts is the actual physical payments that workers will be called upon to make. The truth is that under the budget proposals, a basic wage earner in receipt of £501 a year - I noticed that the honorable member for Canning mentioned a figure £2 a week below the basic wage - will be called upon to contribute £39 9s. a year in income tax, although in the gravest war years the highest annual payment that a basic wage earner had to make was £37. Should an average basic wage earner work one day a week overtime, his tax liability under the proposed rates will increase by £20 a year. I cannot think of a better way to destroy incentive.
I come now to the second group, the businessmen. It may be unusual for an honorable member on this side of the chamber to say something on behalf of companies, but I should like to educate Government supporters. The selection of £5,000 as the commencing point for the staggering new scale of taxes will do nothing more than play right into the hands of black marketeers and backyard sweatshops. Small companies, which are doing magnificent work to-day, will be deprived completely of their incentive and initia-ti ve. They will be caught in both ways. Investors in small companies invest for profit and insist on getting something for their money. In that way, production is stimulated. Investment in large companies is made largely for a secured income and does not give incentive to produce. I refer, for instance, to the holding by Mr. Resch of 640,000 £1 shares in Tooth & Company Limited. The budget proposals will rob hundreds of small companies which have been established since the war of their incentive to expand production.
I come now to the third group that 1 mentioned, namely the pensioners. 1 never thought that I should be a member of a parliament which, at a time when increased production was so vital to the nation, failed to allow pensioners to earn the equivalent of the basic wage without suffering a reduction of their pension. No mention is made in the budget of any proposal to increase the permissible income limit which was fixed by the Chifley Government in 1948 at £78 a year when the basic wage was £5 16s. a week, and a married couple in receipt of a combined pension of £4 5s. a week could earn an additional £78 a year, bringing their total weekly payment to £7 5s. To-day the basic wage is almost double what it was in 1948, yet the permissible income has not «been increased. This failure on the part of the Government to give old people some incentive to work shows in its true light the hypocritical talk of honorable members opposite about the desirability of increasing production.
The claim by Government supporters that loafing is the cause of most of our economic trembles is deplorable. “We are told constantly that overtime could be substantially reduced if workers did not loaf during the day; but, in my opinion, the way to increase production is to give to the people of this country more confidence in the future. Unless the workers are given a stake in the country production will fall still further. For instance, a happier community could be produced if the Government were to do something tangible to improve the housebuilding programme. A contented home life is basic to the true welfare of any people,, but the housing of many workers in this country to-day is of such a deplorable standard that the breadwinner does not care very much whether he is able to get to his home after his ordinary working day, or has to work overtime. Many men work overtime because they have nothing to go home to. They have no real family life and, therefore, no real incentive to better themselves. I had hoped that the budget would contain some concrete proposals to speed up the building of houses, but what do we find? We find that less money than ever will be available for this urgent work. Building societies are unable to meet the demands that are being made upon them for finance. Honorable members opposite will ask, “ What is the use of money when materials are scarce ? “ My answer to that is that unless the workers are given an opportunity to secure adequate housing for themselves and their families, they will not be interested in producing greater quantities of materials. The Government should cease talking drivel about loafers causing our economic troubles and should endeavour to give to the workers of this country the incentive and the opportunity to make something more of their lives. Money at a low rate of interest should be made available for home-building purposes. It is of no use for the Government to say that money cannot be provided for this purpose. Every one knows that workers’ homes are a gilt-edged security. Treasurybills could be issued at an interest rate as low as 1 per cent. Such a policy would be much more sensible than the stupid proposal to tax engagement rings and many of the articles that a newly married couple require in a home. Because of the Government’s negative attitude towards the housing programme, it does not deserve any greater production than it is getting at present from the Australian worker.
My fourth objection to the budget is that it makes no provision to restore road and rail transport services to a normal standard of efficiency. This failure is aggravated at a time when the restoration of efficient transport systems is essential to proper defence preparations. The Government has failed so miserably in this respect that I am amazed that members of the Australian Country party are prepared to sit back and accept its inaction without protest. We cannot adequately prepare our defences without first providing an efficient road and rail transport system. Hitler taught the world that no government could make an effective war effort unless it had a first-class road system, and the Americans established the importance of an efficient rail transport system for the same purpose.
A survey that was conducted recently in New South Wales for the purpose of assessing the corrective measures and the work that would be involved in order to provide for the adequate development of the main roads system in that State disclosed that an additional revenue of £29,000,000 would be required for that purpose. That survey also showed that the greater part of that work would need to be done in country areas. Such work must be governed by the finance available. The Department of Main Roads in New South Wales is expending money at a rate slightly greater than that at which revenue is made available to it for that purpose. The balance in the main roads fund of the County of Cumberland was reduced by almost £200,000 during 1950-51, and at the 30th June last it represented a little more than the normal expenditure for a period of four weeks. That is no more than a working balance, and, if costs continued to increase, it will become less. The cash balance in the Country Main Roads Fund at the 30th June last was approximately £424,000, or about three weeks’ normal expenditure. That balance included an amount of £300,000 which was provided from Consolidated Revenue during 1950-51 to enable the Department of Main Roads to avoid the necessity of retrenching staff and disbanding country road organizations. Members of this Government talk about retrenching public servants, yet the Railways Department of New South Wales expended last year the sum of £3,000,000 in respect of overtime. It is sheer stupidity for the Government to talk about defence preparations unless it takes steps to restore our road and rail transport systems to a basis of normal efficiency.
My fifth objection to the budget is that it does not give adequate help to the States to enable them to encourage production. After all, the responsibility falls upon the States to provide efficient rail transport for the conveyance of essential commodities such as coal and primary products. Unless the States receive a fairer deal from this Government, our transport systems will become chaotic. The Prime Minister has said that sales tax will yield a revenue of £60,000,000 during the current financial year and that the difference between the estimated cost of public works and loan raisings will be £75,000,000. At the same time, the Government proposes to meet the cost of defence preparations from Consolidated Revenue. The Government cannot have it both ways. The financing of public works from collections of sales tax will not affect the diversion of man-power and materials to essential undertakings. However, it is essential that the Government shall achieve that objective. It should approach this problem realistically and should realize that it can do so only by instituting a system of straight-out control of materials for essential production, both civilian and governmental. All taxes that affect producers, including wage-earners, rural producers and companies in the lower ranges of income, must be reduced as an incentive to them to increase production. No penal taxation should be imposed on earnings derived from overtime work. The Government should remove the sales tax from every item the cost of which is reflected in the basic wage. It should return to the States sufficient revenue to enable them to plan their economy according to their respective needs and circumstances. It should regard home-building for the workers as a gilt-edged investment and should finance home-building by the use of treasury-bills through co-operative homebuilding societies or government sponsored societies at nominal rates of interest. Next, the Government should make available to the States all the revenue that it derives from the petrol tax in order to enable them to restore Australia’s transport systems as a whole to a normal standard of efficiency. Finally - and I believe that it will be obliged to follow this course within the next two years - it should assume complete control of prices. For those reasons, I submit that the budget must be redrafted if it is to be made really worthwhile.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take this opportunity to direct the attention of the Government to the inhuman treatment that has been meted out to an ex-serviceman and his widowed mother. Although eleven months have elapsed since I first endeavoured to have this matter rectified, I have not made any progress. The ex-serviceman to whom 1 refer was a war neurosis case. As a lad he committed an act for which he was arrested. The circumstances of the case are set out in the following extract which I quote from the Newcastle Sun of the 24th November, 1950 : -
A 32-year-old returned soldier, who told a doctor he heard voices telling him to knock people down, was found unfit to plead to a charge in Newcastle Quarter Sessions to-day.
Edgar Winston Woods was charged with having maliciously wounded George William Swanborough at Hexham on September 25.
Woods was in receipt of a full war pension because he was mentally ill as a result of his war service, Mr. J. M. Williams (for Woods) told Judge O’Sullivan.
Detective E. Healey told the jury that Woods had told him that he had not known Swanborough when he allegedly attacked him with a mattock at Hexham on September 25.
Mr. W. G. Cannington, solicitor, said that he had been present this week at Dr. I. Morgan’s interview with Woods, when Woods said that he heard voices, without anybody being present, which told him to knock people down.
Woods will be kept in strict custody in a State penitentiary until the provisions of the Lunacy Act are implemented.
When I took up this matter, I wrote to Mr. Carswell, a deputy commissioner for repatriation, and pointed out this soldier’s disability.
On the 7 th December, I communicated with Mr. Carswell, as follows : -
I am writing direct to you to make representations on behalf of Edgar Winston Woods, aged 32 years, Shamrock Street, Hexham, and would ask you to treat this matter as one of urgency because of this man’s mental and physical condition. I might say, Sir, that it would appear to me that this case warrants special consideration for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding it.
Mr. Woods had five years military service. He spent two and a half years in the Islands and served at Milne Bay and a number of other places. He was discharged from the Army medically unfit and was suffering from war neurosis.
Although Mr. Woods has been declared a 100 per cent, disability case, he is only in receipt of 27s. (id. pension per week. He has not worked since he was discharged from the Army, and has spent more than two years in the Morisset Asylum. I understand his mother, whom he had been supporting prior to the war and to whom he made an allotment during the war, has not received anything since his discharge. I foul this should also be investigated.
I pointed out that he had injured a man, and that the doctors had certified that he was unfit to work, and unfit to plead in the court. Although I informed Mr. Carswell of those facts on the 7th December last, this lad was left rotting for months in Long Bay gaol. The court did not deal with his case because an interpretation of the New South Wales Lunacy Act was awaited. On the 15th December, I received a reply from Mr. Carswell which stated -
With reference to your communication dated 7th December, 1.950, relating to the war pension payable to the abovenamed exsoldier, I wish to advise that his War Pension was reduced to 50% rate, as from 14th April, 1940, following a medical examination and information that he was engaged in poultry farming and had lost no time from work during the previous twelve months.
Your representations are being treated as an application for increased rate of pension on the member’s behalf and it has been ascertained that he is al present confined to the Long Bay Gaol. The Governor of the Gaol has been requested to arrange for a medical examination and report by the Gaol Medical Officer. On receipt of this report the case will be submitted to the Repatriation Board for consideration and I shall advise you of the decision.
It is also advised that a claim for War Pension has not been lodged by the mother of the member and, in view of your representations, the necessary forms are being forwarded to her for completion to enable her to make a claim.
I waited for some months, after the expiration of which I again wrote to Mr. Carswell. I pointed out the injustice of keeping in gaol a young man who had given five and a half of the best years of his life in the defence of his country. He was kept rotting in Long Bay gaol with murderers, plunderers and other criminals. On the 16th March I received another letter, which stated -
With reference to your communication dated 9th March, 1951, I desire to append a copy of my letter to you dated 17th January, 1951 : “ Further to your communication dated 7th December, 1950, and my reply of 15th December, 1950. I wish to advise that the War Pension payable to the abovenamed ex-soldier has now been increased to the Temporary Totally Incapacitated rate of £14 per fortnight as from 21st November, 1950. Pension payments will be paid to his War Pension Trust Account.
The Officer-in-charge of the Newcastle Office of this Department has been requested to interview the ex-soldier’s mother concerning her financial circumstances and on receipt of his report, consideration will be given to the payment of an allowance from the ex-soldier’s War Pension Trust Fund”.
Adverting to paragraph 2 of the appended letter, it is advised that Mrs. Alma H. Woods, the mother of the abovenamed, was interviewed by the Officer-in-charge of the Newcastle Office and it was ascertained that she wished to be granted a War Pension and not an Allowance from the ex-soldier’s War Pension Trust Fund.
In my letter of 15th December, 1950, yon were advised that the necessary forms had been forwarded to the mother for completion, but these forme were not returned. A communication was addressed to her on 14th March. 1951, requesting her to advise as to whether she intended to proceed with her claim for a War Pension.
The mother, who was a widow, and dependent on her son, lived in an ordinary little home somewhere about Hexham Swamp. The department proposed to grant her a pension from the War Pensions Trust Fund. I wrote again to Mr. Carswell on the 20th March, and pointed out to him the urgency of the matter, as follows : -
Following my letter to you of the 7th December, 1050, when I first made my representations on behalf of this soldier and his mother, you wrote to Mrs. Woods on the 15th December, CX.0OS45: FJE.DW, requesting her to fill in and return certain papers to you. Mrs Woods failed to complete and return these papers due to a number of reasons, namely, her son’s trouble and a daughter becoming ill and who dies. Also the fact that Mr. Kitching had asked her to call and see him, which she did made Mrs. Woods think that her visit to Mr. Kitching was for the same reason as were the papers she received from you. However, I nave had the papers completed and now enclose them- along with this letter.
On the 20th June, I received another letter from the Deputy Commissioner, which read -
With reference to your personal representations on behalf of Mrs. A. H. Woods and further to my letter of 2.4.51, it is now desired to inform you that the investigation in this ease is still incomplete.
This is due to the fact that Mrs. Woods was, on 5.4.51, requested to forward to this office her marriage certificate and certain other documents, but no reply was received to my request and a suitable reminder was forwarded to her on 1(5.5.51.
I understand that Mrs. Woods was unable to find her marriage certificate) which had been lost in floods some time earlier. The letter continues -
Your representations of 20.3.51 are noted inasmuch that you stress a note of urgency in this case but no further action can be taken by the Department unless and until such time as Mrs. Woods supplies the information as requested from her on 5.4.51.
Mrs. Woods duly forwarded that information, and on the 10th July I received another communication from the Repatriation Department, as follows: -
With reference to your personal representations on behalf of Mrs.- Alma H. Woods and further to my letter of the 1st June, 1951, itis desired to inform you that the investigation in this case has been completed.
Approval was given on 9.7.1951 for Mrs. Woods to receive a war pension at the rate of £1. 19s. 3d. per fortnight with effect as from 8.12.1950.
The pension payable was assessed in accordance with Mrs. Woods’ financial circumstances as recently disclosed.
I emphasize that- the family is destitute. It is living under awful conditions. Any honorable member who has a knowledge of Hexham is aware that the people who live there have no financial means. On the 1st July, Mrs. Woods wrote to me, as follows: -
I hereby wish to lodge a complaint against the Repatriation Commission regarding their attitude and treatment of my ex-soldier son (Pte. Woods, Edgar Winston, NX135847) now being a patient of the Parramatta Mental Home.
I would like to have his case reviewed, and his removal to the Yarralla, or some such hospital where he could receive treatment under the repatriation scheme.
I also wish to point out that his condition has deteriorated under the present treatment he has been receiving, and his case needs immediate attention.
I then wrote to the Minister for Repatriation, and pointed out to him the circumstances of the case. On the 4th October, he wrote to me as follows : -
As promised, I have made inquiries following your personal representations on behalf of Mrs. Alma H. Woods, of 7 Shamrock-street,. Hexham, N.S.W., whose son, Edgar Winston Woods, is an in-patient of Parramatta Mental Hospital.
I note that on 10th July, 1951, the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation, Sydney, advised you that war pension had been granted toMrs. Woods at the rate of £1 19s. 3d. per fortnight, in respect of her son’s incapacity.
Mr. Woods’ nervous condition has been> accepted as due to war service, and the Deputy Commissioner, Sydney, has assured trusteeship of his war pension in accordance with the relevant provision of the Repatriation Act. The ex-servicemen’s war pension has been paid at Temporarily Totally Incapacitated rate- (£14 per fortnight) since 21st November, 1950, and ray Department has accepted responsibility for Mr. Woods’ maintenance at Parramatta Mental Hospital. [Extension of time granted.’]
I thank honorable members for their indulgence. The Minister’s reply to me continued -
I am advised that the matter of Mr. Woods’ treatment is beyond the control of my Department at present. The ex-serviceman is being detained under the provisions of the legislation of N.S.W., and the Repatriation Commission has no jurisdiction over his person.
If Mr. Woods were discharged from State Government care and were fit to be released from certification under the Lunacy Laws of the State, my Department” could undertake treatment. If the State authorities were willing, Mr. Woods could, although certified, be managed at the Repatriation Cottages, Callan Park Mental Hospital.
The Minister has admitted that if the Government of New South Wales were prepared to release Woods to the care of the repatriation authorities, they could treat him. I contend that it is the responsibility of this Government, or of theRepatriation Department, to ensure that a man who has given some of the best years of his life in the service of his country shall not be treated any longer in the way in which Woods has been treated. It will be a positive shame, and a disgrace to our system of society, if such treatment is permitted to continue. Yet many months have elapsed, and no finality has been reached. I ask the Minister in charge of the House to call for the relevant papers, and to order a complete examination of the circumstances in the interests of not only the son but also the mother. I omitted to inform the House previously that the brother of this man even bought poultry in order to establish the family on a small farm at Hexham in the hope that his brother would recover there from the neurotic condition from which he was suffering. Because of that action, the department reduced the pension in the first place on the ground that the mother’s financial position did not warrant her receiving a greater pension than £1 19s. 3d. a fortnight. I appeal to the Government to take this matter up and do something to help the young man, who has done such a good job for the nation, and also his mother.
– As the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) in this House, I shall be pleased to bring to the notice of my colleague the case that the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) has stated. Apparently the point at issue arises from the fact that certain legislation of the State of New South Wales seems to clash with Commonwealth legislation in such a way as to prevent the Repatriation Department from doing all that we might like it to do for the man whose case the honorable member has raised. I shall make sure that the Minister for Repatriation is acquainted with the matter and will obtain a reply for the honorable member as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act - Twenty-second General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land, &c, acquired for-
Defence purposes - Wodonga, Victoria. Department of Social Services purposes - Jordanville, Victoria. Postal purposes - Carlton, Victoria. Eudunda, South Australia. Glenferrie, Victoria. Mornington, Victoria. Tullamarine, Victoria.
Nauru - Ordinance - 1951 - No. 1 - Capitation
Public Service Act - Appointments - PostmasterGeneral’s Department - R. A. Blackman, F. A. Fraser. Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1951 - No. 85 - Australian Workers’ Union. Nos. 86-90 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service. No. 91 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association, Printing Industry Employees’ Union of Australia and others.
No. 92 - Amalgamated Engineering Union (Australian Section) and Sheet Metal Working Agricultural Implement and Stovemaking Industrial Union of Australia.
No. 93 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 94 - Transport Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 95 - Customs Officers’ Association of Australia (Fourth Division) .
House adjourned at 11.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the cost of advertising the recent Thirteenth Security Loan (a) in the press, (b) on the radio, (c) in posters, and (d) in pamphlets ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
There are still several accounts to be received, but the approximate cost will be - (<j) f 40,800, (6) £2,500, (c) £1,500, (d) Nil.
z asked the Minister for Immigration. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. It has been decided not to develop the Henderson Naval Base at Cockburn Sound.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
You will, no doubt, recall placing a question on notice in the House on tie 13th July regarding the present position in connexion with the payment of certain salary increases which have recently been accorded to members of the technical staff employed in the Postal Department. I am informed that the new salaries arose out of an agreement reached between the Public Service Board, the department and the unions concerned. The terms of the agreement are, of course, being strictly observed by the department and the higher rates are being paid in full, with retrospective effect from the 20th December, 1040. Inquiries disclose that, at this stage, payment of the increased salaries has been completed in all States with the exception of New South Wales, where payments are to commence on the 26th July, 105.1. It is intended to make payments initially to some 500 employees and an approximately similar number will receive the new rates on succeeding pay days. Under this arrangement, it is expected that payments will be completed in New South Wales within the next three or four pay periods. I am advised that, in addition to introducing new salary rates, retrospective adjustments are also to be effected in the rates of allowance payable to officers occupying positions above their normal classification. Moreover, it appears that variations are to be made in the way of increasing past payments such as those for overtime, Sunday, holiday and shift duty. In some of the States, it has been found practicable to make arrangements which will permit of higher duties allowance and extraneous payments being fully adjusted on next pay day or the pay day immediately following. While, due to the greater number of officers involved, it will not be possible to complete payments in the larger States over the same period, special steps have been taken in an’ endeavour to bring adjustments to finality within an additional one or two pay periods. As you may .perhaps be aware, the salaries of most postal employees, in common with the salaries of other Commonwealth Public Service employees, have been subject to frequent variation in recent months. Consequently, the salary staff of the personnel and . accounts branches of the department have been working under extremely heavy pressure for some considerable time. Every effort is being made, however, to dispose of the adjustments work as expeditiously as possible and you may be assured that members of the technical staff will receive their increased payments at the earliest practicable date.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 October 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511009_reps_20_214/>.