20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Sydney “Daily Telegraph”
– I call the attention of the House to to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and to an article under the heading, “ P.M. on Senseless ‘ HouseRule “. The Prime Minister is alleged to have stated that certain decisions of the Joint House Committeeof the Senate and the House of Representatives are most senseless, illconsidered and provocative. If the Prime Minister made those statements about a committee of this House, they are a reflection upon the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, every member of the Joint House Committee and the two Houses of the Parliament, and I ask him to take appropriate action. If he did not make those statements, I suggest that he should take action against the newspaper which published them.
– by leave-~-My attention was directed to this publication just as I came in this morning. It purports to give a report, not of what I have said publicly, but of what I have said at the party meeting. I want to say at once that I do not admit any jurisdiction over a party meeting. I ann not prepared to concede that what honorable members say in a private party meeting, when they offer their views on matters which concern them, can be canvassed in this House. Apart from that, the report which proceeds from some garbled account given by somebody is inaccurate. It appeared in the press yesterday morning that the Joint House Committee had decided to prevent members of the press and ministerial staffs from securing meals in the parliamentary refreshment rooms. I attended a party meeting yesterday and I invited, very properly I think, our representatives on the Joint House Committee to tell us the ruling. That, I think, is the course that would be taken by the leader of any party represented on that committee.
– The leader of the Labour party did not take that course.
– Maybe not. We were then told that the recommendation would include a rule against the selling of bottled liquor to non-members. I think it is right to say that every one entirely agreed with that rule. That is the material respect in which the newspaper report to which reference has been made is false. I then offered my own view, which I am prepared to offer on any appropriate occasion, that to deprive ministerial staffs of the facilities for obtaining a meal in this building will be to make those staffs unworkable in this place, and that to exclude the members of the press from obtaining meals in this building and to turn them out in a place in which the nearest restaurant is a long distance away, will be to make their own work impossible. I venture to say that I had a perfect right to express those views at a meeting of my own party and, if the matter is presented to the House in a form in which we can deal with it, I shall offer them once more.
.i - In view of the statement that you have made, Mr. Speaker, and your prima facie view of the publication to which you have called attention-
– I rise to order. You, Mr. Speaker, asked the Prime Minister to state his views concerning a publication. In deference to you, the right honorable gentleman stated those views, I cannot see how the Leader of the Opposition can intervene except by leave of the House. The matter does not affect him in any way. You have not asked him for his opinion, and I suggest that he should ask the House for leave to make any statement that he wishes to make. The House, of course, will grant it to him.
– I make it plain, Mr. Speaker, that I rise on a matter of privilege and that I intend to conclude with a motion.
– That will be in order.
– In view of what you have said, Mr. Speaker, there is clearly a prima facie case of breach of privilege.
– That is my view.
– This is a matter, not of the Prime Minister’s views on the merits of the case, but of an open attack in a publication upon a committee that is representative of this House and the Senate. The point at issue is not whether the decision is right or wrong, just or unjust. There are constitutional ways of dealing with that question. The point is that, prima facie, there has been an open attack. It may be excusable and ii may be justified, but it is clearly within the competence of the House to refer it to the Committee of Privileges. Therefore, as a matter of privilege, I move -
That the statement in the newspaper be referred to the Committee of Privileges for report.
– Is the motion seconded ?
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I promised yester day to tell the honorable member for Bowman what decisions had been made by the Joint House Committee on Tuesday last. After mature deliberation, the committee decided to prohibit all sales of bottled liquor from the non-members bar immediately and to restrict the use of the parliamentary refreshment rooms to members and their guests and to the parliamentary staffs as from the last day of this year. A sub-committee was appointed to examine the functions of the parliamentary dining room and bar and to report to a full committee meeting at an early date.
– In view of the widespread dissatisfaction among members of the House with the rumoured decision, which has been borne out by your statement, Mr. Speaker, I ask whether it would be possible for you to have the matter reconsidered by the committee. If that is not possible, will you tell me how the matter may be raised for discussion in this House?
– The Joint House Committee has discussed this matter off and on since I became Speaker. It is not a catch decision; it is a mature decision of the committee and it was made unanimously. If any honorable member of the House wishes to take any action in relation to the decision he may do so by motion.
– I desire to ask the honorable member for Corangamite, who is the chairman of the Committee of Privileges, whether any substantial progress has been made in the investigation into certain charges which were published in the Sun newspaper regarding the inordinate purchasing of goods from the parliamentary refreshment rooms? Can the honorable gentleman inform me whether that committee is seized with the necessity for finalizing that matter as early as possible? Can he also state whether there are any prospects of the committee making an early report?
– I ask the honorable member for Dalley to possess his soul in patience until the report of the Committee of Privileges is before the House.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House shortly of the effect of the decision that was made at the recent Internationa] Materials Conference at Washington concerning the allocation of copper to Australia? Will that decision tend to divert Australia’s previous quota to countries like Japan? Will the Minister take steps to try to obtain a review of the decision in the interests of essential Australian industries, including particularly those that affect the defence programme ?
– A reply to the right honorable gentleman’s questions would take a longer time than perhaps should be occupied in answering a question without notice. Therefore, subject to the concurrence of the House, I shall ask for leave to make a statement at the conclusion of question time.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the International Materials Conference, which has been meeting in Washington, has made decisions upon the allocation of world supplies of copper to the western democracies? If that is so, was Australia represented at such conference, and, if so, by whom? Were there any Australian trade representatives present at the conference? Did the Government agree to the allocation of copper to Australia as decided by the conference ?
– The Minister for Supply has already indicated, in answer to a question, that he proposes to make a statement on that matter after question time.
– by leave - The Leader of the Opposition and several honorable members have asked me questions during the last few days about the allocation of copper to Australia, and, in those circumstances, and also having regard to the great importance of copper to secondary industries, I want to put the Jio use in possession of certain facts. The Australian output of refined copper is approximately 14,000 long tons a year, our consumption in 1950 was 35,000 ton; of refined copper, and the estimated requirements for 1951 are 41,000 tons. The difference, therefore, must be made up with imports.
Most of our imports of copper come from Africa, but some supplies are obtained from other places. Our allocation has been the subject of discussion at the International Materials Conference in Washington. It arises out of the fact that copper is scarce throughout the world, and, by agreement between the major powers, the allocation of supplies of that metal was the subject of discussion at Washington. Australia was represented at the last International Materials Conference by a distinguished panel, the leader of which was Mr. Frank Meere, who is the Assistant ComptrollerGeneral of Customs and who had extensive experience during the last war. An officer of the Department of Supply was also a member of that panel, and our representatives were under the jurisdiction of the Australian Ambassador to Washington.
On the matter of copper allocations, strong representations were made by Australia regarding its requirements for secondary industry for the remainder of this year and for the following year. We were not able to secure the full allocation of copper that we wanted, because if we had obtained our complete requirements, other nations would have gone short. We finally obtained for the last quarter of this year an allocation of 8,940 tons, wh ich, when multiplied by 4, is equivalent to 35,760 tons a year. There is no guarantee that that figure will be the rate next year, and, indeed, there is no guarantee that we shall be able to obtain that quantity of copper. It is the quantity which, by arrangement, the International Materials Conference has said we can consume, but, so far, Australian importers have had considerable difficulty in obtaining acceptors for their orders within that quota. The two main acceptors have been the Electrolytic Hefining and Smelting Company of Australia Proprietary Limited and Metal Manufacturers Limited.
I mention that matter because a few days ago an honorable member asked me to give him information about the arrangements for the importation of copper, and I shall do so now. The arrangements are that those two private firms, on behalf of all Australian industry, will import the copper not produced here. They obtain the necessary import licences from the Commonwealth and, when necessary, a dollar allocation. For the most part, dollars are not necessary, because most of the imported copper comes from Africa. So form of government control is exercised other than that arrangement. We are not able to say at present whether the International Materials Conference will increase our quota of copper for 1952, but I want to tell the House, because this matter is obviously in the minds of some honorable members, that we are making the very strongest possible representations on that subject. The representative of a newspaper came to me yesterday, and made the suggestion that we were agreeing or acquiescing in a weak sort of fashion to that allocation. I used a colloquialism to that pressman, which I repeat now, that at that conference we fought like tiger cats to get the highest possible allocation for Australia. I assure the House that we shall continue to do so, because of the obvious importance of copper to Australian industry.
– Who was the tiger?
– The honorable member for Watson would be the cat in such negotiations. I have not yet told the whole story. A senior representative of the Department of Supply is at present in London, where he has been having discussions with the British Ministry of Materials and the Ministry of Supply, and I was informed by cable yesterday that there are good prospects of obtaining something like 3,000- tons of refined bars from the Belgian Congo and 3,000 tons in cakes of copper from Canada. The British Ministry of Materials also will probably release for Australia between 8,000 and 12,000 additional tons of copper from Rhodesian sources.
I think that it should be said that working stocks in Australia are low. The problem of copper is rather comparable with that of tinplate. It is extremely important, because of the scarcity of copper throughout the world. At the same time as we are doing our utmost to get the highest possible allocation, we are also doing everything that we can through the Minister for National Development to increase the output of copper in Australia. I do not think that I can add anything more to my statement, other than to say that our activities are being vigorously conducted, and we shall continue to do all that we possibly can to obtain our requirements of copper, but it behoves industry and the Australian public to economize in the consumption of copper. It may well be, in the present situation, that the time will come when we shall not he able to afford the luxury of copper kettles and copper door knobs. That matter is under consideration at the moment.
– If the world situation permits Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh to visit Australia next year, will the Prime Minister ensure that those who plan the tour will not allow “brass hats politicians, leaders, sub-leaders, high dignitaries, lord mayors, and wearers of bowler hats, frock coats, top hats and spats to monopolize the time of the Royal couple, who are genuinely interested in the common people and who must see enough of the other kind ? Will the right honorable gentleman ensure that exservicemen and civilians in hospitals, aged people and children shall have opportunities to make personal contact with the Royal couple when they visit our cities and country areas?
– I read the first portion of the honorable gentleman’s question in the cables that were received from Canada this morning. On the whole, I agree with him. Perhaps he will allow me to make one minor correction. It does not take any longer to put on a top hat than it does to put on an ordinary felt hat.
– -Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a number of statements that have appeared in certain sections of the metropolitan press from time to time accompanied by large headlines which could not have any other effect than that of depreciating the value of the Royal’ visit to Canada? In view of the necessity of preserving in the public mind thecorrect relationship of the people of Australia to the Royal family, may I suggest that the Prime Minister consult some of those who control the press with a view,, at least, to ascertaining whether these ex parte statements are really a reflection, of a general state of affairs, or merely sensation-monger.ing at the expense of theRoyal family.
– I know nothing oi the arrangements that were made beforethe Royal -visit to Canada. I have read the reports to which the honorable member has referred, and I agree that all thoemphasis seems to have been placed oh. somebody’s dissatisfaction and none on the positive value of the visit. However.. I have no control over that matter. In. the case of the Royal visit to Australia, I think that the best guarantee that it will1 be satisfactory to all concerned is that the Commonwealth Government hasbeen represented at the making of the overall arrangements for the tour and that the local programme in each State has been worked out in consultation with the Premier and the Governor of the State. The whole programme was fully discussed with Their Majesties the King: and Queen originally. Certain modifications have been made in the programme since, which were also discussed with them and considered by Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh. I think it may be taken that the programme, as it finally emerges, will be entirely satisfactory to our Royal visitors and give them the opportunity that they most warmly desire of seeing Australia and’ of being seen by the Australian people.
– Recently I asked the Minister for Social Services whether the Government “would consider paying increased age pensions as from the first pensions pay day after the presentation of the budget, or, failing that, whether he would do everything possible to expeditethe passage of the relevant bill so that the increased pensions could be paid at the- earliest possible date. The Minister informed me that he would investigate the matter. I now ask him whether he has done so, and whether he can give any indication when age pensioners will receive the benefit of the increased pensions rates ?
– I have concentrated my attention upon securing the passage of the relevant legislation in order that payment of pensions at the increased rates may be made as early as possible. Age and invalid pensions will become due for payment at the new rates on the 1st November, and widows’ pensions on the 6th November. I understand that there will be a public holiday in Victoria on the 6th November because of a local horse race being held on that day. Widows’ pensions at the new rate will be paid in Victoria on the 5th November.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report of a committee that was appointed by the New South Wales Mines Department to consider means of conserving the Greta coal seam ? I understand that the committee has made recommendations in relation to a more efficient working of the seam and a reduction of the danger of fire as a result of spontaneous combustion. Will the Australian Government confer with the New South Wales Government in order to ascertain whether, in the interests of the nation, something can be done to preserve this valuable national asset and save millions of tons of coal that are now being lost?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I realize the importance of this matter. I shall discuss it with the Minister for National Development, who is in charge of the Commonwealth’s activities in connexion with coal, and I shall supply the honorable gentleman with an answer to his question later.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Having regard to the fact that it is physically impossible for us to meet our commitments under the International Wheat
Agreement, which were entered into by a Labour government and under which we are required to sell, annually 88,000,000 bushels of wheat at 4s. 5d. a bushel less than the current export parity price; and to another fact that any default will be a charge against the exporting country in a subsequent year or years, will the right honorable gentleman give urgent consideration to extricating this country from a situation that can bring only discredit and dishonour upon it? Will the Prime Minister inform the honorable member for Lalor, who was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture when Australia became a party to the agreement, that we are obliged, by kinship and geography, to sell about 10,000,000 bushels of wheat to our immediate neighbours, outside the agreement and in excess of our domestic requirements ?
– I am not personally familiar with all the details of the agreement, although I know of them in a general way. I shall have the matters raised by the honorable member examined promptly.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. By way of explanation, I notice that “the acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has announced a new wheat plan which will operate provided that the States agree to a price increase. In the announcement it was stated that the wheat industry will .benefit to the value of £8,000,000, £4,000,000 of which is te be found as a subsidy.
– Order I Is the honorable gentleman giving information or seeking it?
– I ask the Minister who will contribute the additional £4,000,000.
– Order ! This question seems to me to give rise to a rather complicated state of affairs. Owing to the fact that the Senate had not been sitting for a fortnight or so and that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was overseas, I have allowed a number of questions to be addressed to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture which normally I would not have allowed. Now, it has been asked whether the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who is overseas, can tell the honorable member something. The Minister acting for the Minister ‘for Commerce and Agriculture is a member of the Senate. I consider that such a question should be placed on the notice-paper and, from now on, I do not propose to allow any questions to be addressed to the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, except on notice.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that it is estimated that there will be a serious decline in wheat production in Australia during the coming season as a result of the fact, that about 2,000,000 fewer acres will be sown to wheat this year? If so, will he ask his colleagues who represent country constituencies to devote at least the same attention to urging wheat-growers to increase production as’ they have devoted to urging coal miners and workers in other industries to increase their output?
– I am aware of the fact that there has been a fall in the overall acreage sown to wheat, particularly in New South Wales. I do not propose to address the honorable member’s homily to my colleagues who represent wheat-growing areas, and I refuse to do so for very good reasons. It is well known that the acreage sown to wheat, particularly in New South Wales, has been affected, first, by great difficulties of transport; secondly, by shortages of vital materials, including cornsacks; and, thirdly, by the powerful competition exercised in present circumstances by the claims of wool -growing. Having regard to those three factors, it is not surprising that the acreage sown to wheat has fallen. I am confident that as transport improves, materials become more and more available, and stability is arrived at in the wool industry, wheat production will be increased. I am not a pessimist, nor am I one of those who believe that we are going out of the wheat industry in the next year or two.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Treasurer. By way of explanation I state that many people on small incomes were induced, when Australia was in difficulties, to purchase government bonds for small amounts. Some of those people, who are now age pensioners, are being forced, because of their personal economic difficulties, to sell their bonds, which government policy has deliberately depreciated in value. Will the Government redeem at face value bonds bought during the war by people who are now age pensioners, and thus prevent repudiation of governmental obligation to those people ?
– That proposal, and other proposals of a similar order, have been investigated several times by the Treasury, and in each case it has been found quite impracticable to adopt them. There are very good reasons for that. If the honorable member would be assisted by having these reasons set out I can readily arrange for a communication to be sent to him on behalf of the Treasurer.
-In view of the calamitous rioting in Egypt yesterday, which involved the loss of British lives, and of the apparent danger in Egypt to-day, to all foreigners, especially people of British Commonwealth countries, can the Minister for External Affairs say approximately how many Australian citizens are now in Egypt and whether any steps have been taken by the Government to ensure their safety?
– I have no figures regarding the number of Australians in Egypt, but I shall discover the number and advise the honorable gentleman of it. As I told the House yesterday, I have directed the Australian Minister in Cairo to approach the Egyptian Government by means of a formal note and remind it of its obligation under international lav to give adequate protection to Australian lives and property in Egypt.
– As confusion exists in the minds of pensioners and others about the extent of their rights under the Government’s free medical and pharmaceutical benefits scheme, can the Minister for Health inform mc in what instances a doctor may charge a pensioner patient and how much r,he Government allows the doctor to charge each time he prescribes for such a patient? Further, how much does a chemist receive for each prescription and is each prescription a separate charge when the same patients may receive two or more prescriptions at once? Is there any list of life-saving drugs or any other information that might be useful to pensioners and the general public in respect of the free medical and pharmaceutical services, [f not, will the Minister see whether something along these lines can be compiled for the information of the general public ?
– A list of the medicines that are available under the scheme is issued to the only people to whom it is of use. They are the doctors who operate the scheme and the chemists who fill the prescription. Such lists could be of no use to any one else, because the drugs contained in them are nearly all dangerous drugs and are available only by prescription. Insofar as the actual scope of the scheme is concerned, it has been agreed with the British Medical Association and the doctors who are operating the scheme that the doctors will give a full general practitioner service as far as medical attention is concerned. Provision has been made in relation to medicines whereby the patient is entitled under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme to a supply of free drugs. In addition, pensioners may obtain free of cost drugs which are contained in a special list known as the prescribers’ list, which covers practically all the average and ordinary diseases, and of any other drugs contained in the British Pharmacopoeia.
– “Will the Minister for Supply indicate the quota of steel that has been fixed for Queensland ? Has such quota been fixed on a population basis, and, if so, in the interests of Australia’s development of its natural resources, will the Minister consider placing it on a population area basis.
– The matter of steel production and allocation does not fall within the purview of my department, but I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the attention of the Minister for National Development, and later supply him with an answer.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by a reminder to him that last November at the first allAustralian local government body conference held in Melbourne, he stated that he would like the Commonwealth, the States and the local government authorities to confer on financial problems. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is the intention of the Government to convene an inquiry into drifting local government finances so that some action may be initiated in order to prevent a complete breakdown of the financial structure of municipal bodies throughout Australia ?
– The Commonwealth does not deal directly with local councils. They have been set up by the State parliaments and normally are dealt with directly by the State governments and not the Australian Government. I indicated on the occasion referred to by the honorable member that I myself would be very greatly assisted by a conference of the kind that he mentioned. So far, there has been some reluctance on the part of the State governments to arrange for such a conference. I do not make that statement critically, because the State governments prefer to deal with local authorities themselves rather than to consider relevant matters in a three-cornered discussion.
– Can the Minister for Defence Production inform me whether it is a fact that Sabre jet aircraft to be manufactured in Australia will not start to come off the production line for about two years from the time operations begin ? If that is so, is it not obvious that the aircraft that we shall ultimately make will be quite obsolete by the time that they are ready to take the air? Would it not be a sounder policy to buy the modern fighter planes that we need, for the Royal Australian Air Force from Britain or the United States of America and concentrate our aircraft manufacturing resources on other defence items?
– The honorable member’s statements are not quite correct. At the present time we are purchasing Sabre jet aircraft frames from the United States of America. Those frames are in short supply, and they cannot be made available in any great quantities outside the Unitedtates of America. We shall be assembling the aircraft here and we shall adapt them so that we can put them into the air at approximately the same time as such planes come oft the production lines in England. The Sabre jet is not an obsolete aircraft nor will it soon become so, because it seems to have been standardized for the next two or three years by America and the United Kingdom as an interceptorfighter. The United States has made representations to the United Kingdom to the effect that the latter Government might see fit to concentrate on the manufacture of Sabre jet aircraft frames.
– The Prime Minister, in dealing- with dismissals of public servants, pointed out that the dismissals were made, on the basis of a report that had been prepared by Mr. Fitzgerald and a departmental committee. Will the right honorable gentleman have that report printed and circulated for the benefit, of honorable members and for the guidance of future governments?
– The honorable member has fallen into a slight error in the earlier part of the question that he has just asked. I did not say that the retrenchment policy under which 10,000 public servants are to be dismissed was based on a report by the Fitzgerald committee. What I said was that last year, when we first dealt with the functions and set-up of departments, we were assisted by an investigation that was conducted by. a committee of which Mr. Fitzgerald was a member. That committee made its examinations and from time to time conferred with a sub-committee of Cabinet. The whole of the discussions were conducted orally upon the basis of certain material that had been accumulated. But there is nothing that can be described as a report. The whole matter was dealt with informally for the assistance of the sub-committee of Ministers. Later, the matter took on a more formal shape when it reached the Public Service Board in relation to the Government’s new proposal.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for National Development say whether many exservicemen who were specially trained under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme and encouraged by governmental financial assistance to set up their own enterprises and who have been successfully conducting those enterprises for some time, are now in danger of losing them because of the action of the National Security Resources Board in declaring their industries^ to be nonessential and by denying raw materials to them?
– If I understood the honorable gentleman correctly, I cannot in. any way link up the matter that he has raised with national development. If ho will regard his question as being on the notice-paper, I shall submit it to my colleague in another place and see that a reply is furnished in due course.
Mi-. TURNBULL- As statements have been made that the proposed special levy equal to 10 per cent, of assessed income tax will cause special hardships to persons in the medium and lower income groups,- whilst persons in the higher income group will be treated more favorably, can the Prime Minister say whether, because of the imposition of that levy, there will be any change in the proportion of tax that will be payable on the basis of income groups?
– I should think that the answer to the honorable member’s question would be “ No “, but I should be glad if he would raise the matter when the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill is being debated. I believe that the assumption that the honorable member has made is perfectly accurate, but I should like to verify it.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has received representations from the proprietors of small companies in which they complain that the new tax proposals discriminate unfairly against small businesses compared with large concerns? If such representations have been made, will the right honorable gentleman, in view of the necessity for extending the ownership of productive property to the fullest possible degree in the community, consider the advisability of granting relief to the small businessmen and the small proprietors on whose behalf those representations have been made ?
– I cannot answer for others, but I inform the honorable member for Yarra that I have not received any communications on the matter to which he has referred. Perhaps the Treasurer has received some representations on that subject, and if he has, I shall ask him to give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s proposal.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House of the results of the Native Welfare Conference that was held at Canberra on the 3rd and 4th September. The purpose of this conference, which took place at the invitation of the Australian Government, was to allow an exchange of information and a pooling of experience by those who are actively engaged in native administration in Australia, and to seek agreement among them on the objectives of native policy and the methods by which those objectives may best be served. The Governments of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia accepted the invitation to attend. The conference achieved its purpose to the full. A series of statements on outstanding problems were drawn up by the conference and accepted unanimously. These statements not only express the close identity of views among Australian and State governments concerned but also indicate the activities in which the various administrations are at present engaged on behalf of our native peoples.
Before reviewing the conclusions of the conference, however, I ask honorable members to look hack over the past century and a half in order that the present conference may be seen in its place in Australian history. Broadly speaking, the history of native administration in Australia falls into three periods. Initially, there was a brief period at the time of first settlement in the various colonies when the aboriginal inhabitants of this continent were regarded as having equality before the law with other British subjects and when the missionary purpose of bringing to them both civilization and Christianity was uppermost in men’s minds.
Then, after the inevitable clashes which followed the extension of settlement into tribal lands and after the discouraging failure of early attempts to convert and instruct the savage, there came a longer period when the aboriginal was regarded as being in a special class by himself, neither amenable to the law nor in practice able to enjoy the equality which had been accorded to him in British theory and Christian faith. Administration during this period was based on the idea of protecting the aborigines from the harmful effects of white settlement, either by placing them .apart in reservations or by making special laws and regulations to control the natives themselves and the actions of the white man towards them. During this period, the attitudes of white Australians were shaped chiefly by the fact that the primitive aboriginal and the detribalized aboriginal, who had learnt only a’ smattering of European ways, did not follow the same habits of life as the rest of the community, were not restrained by the same beliefs and customs as the white people but had beliefs and customs of their own, and could not look after themselves and earn their own living in the normal way. Therefore, the white people took measures to protect the native people from injury and to supply their wants, but did both on a lower scale than would have been thought fitting for the rest of the community.
During this period, there was considerable neglect of the aboriginal, due largely to the acceptance of the idea that his inevitable end was to live a low and primitive life until his race died out, and that, by his very nature, his own needs, and consequently his rights, were less than those of other people. Our actions during this period were redeemed by acts of kindness and compassion but not by any faith or hope, nor did they offer to the aboriginal of the future any place in life more attractive than that of being the dumb object of pity until he died. During the past half-century, however, this second period has been giving place to a. third period in which the idea of protection yields to the idea of the advancement of social welfare of the natives in order that they may live the best life of which they are capable and that they may eventually find a fitting place as members of the Australian community.
This change has been taking place slowly for at least half a century, and the conference recently held in Canberra was the culmination of the activities of many Australians, both official and private, who have been working for many years to bring about a new understanding of this great Australian social problem, and a clearer recognition of the claims of the aboriginal as an individual. The recent conference was, in a sense, the inheritor of a conference of officials which was held at Canberra in 1937, following discussion at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and of a further conference of Commonwealth and State officials held at Canberra in 1948 as a consequence of a move initiated at a ministerial conference in 1947 by the Minister for Native Affairs in Western Australia. The special significance of the recent meeting is to be found in the fact that it, was a conference of Ministers .and that the scope of its discussions and its conclusions were wider in range and more definite in purpose than at the earlier meetings.
Because there is a good deal of misrepresentation, both inside Australia and overseas, on the subject of Australian treatment of native peoples, I should like to remind honorable members that the genesis of this move for the advancement of native peoples and the foundations of our policy are distinctively Australian. The foundations of our policy are two principles which honorable members on both sides of the House will recognize a? abiding and treasured principles of outAustralian life. The first one is the principle of equality of opportunity. All of us in this chamber know Australia as the “land of opportunity”, and as the land of “ the fair go “, and, having ourselves benefited from the rule that a man should be able to live the most useful life for which his capacity fits him, we will also share in the idea that these phrases and these ideas should have a single meaning for all who dwell within our borders. The second great and abiding Australian principle which our grandfathers and fathers valued and handed on to us was that, in this country, there should be no division into classes but thai men should stand on their own worth. That, too, is a principle which leads to the logical conclusion that the coloured people who live in Australia should not he regarded as a class but as a part of the general community whenever and as soon as their advancement in civilization permits them to take their place on satisfactory terms as members of that community.
– All words!
– That remark is characteristic of those who have opposed progress and the amelioration of conditions throughout the centuries.
These two characteristic principles of Australian democracy are the foundation of Australian native policy and the justification of that policy. Some persons who advocate the cause of the natives will quote any source except an Australian source when they tell us about human rights. We do not have to learn these things in a strange accent. More that is fundamentally true in principle and well established in practice concerning human rights and liberties and humanitarian reform can be found in our national institutions and in our heritage of English law than in any of the wordy qualifications and vague aspirations of the various documents or pamphlets which are so freely quoted to-day. In placing before the House proposals for the advancement of native welfare, I base my case on the long-familiar British and Australian precepts and examples of kindness to the suffering, help for the weak and respect for the worth and dignity of the human person, I offer an Australian policy based on an Australian view that was shaped in freedom in this land. lt will be seen that the two principles to which I have briefly referred relate in part to the rights of the individual and in part to the general well-being of the community. On the one hand, we in Australia want to give the chance of a happy and a useful life to all our people; on the other hand, we want to build a society in which there shall be no minorities or special classes and in which the benefits yielded by society shall be accessible to all. Such an Australian society will not be completed until its advantages cover, too, our aboriginal people. While we state that as the ideal, however, we have to recognize that many years of slow and patient endeavour will be needed before the ideal can be realized. By various causes, large numbers of these people are not, in fact, in a condition today to enter into the full advantages of life in an Australian community. At the time of the coming of the white man, these isolated beings were a primitive people, a people still living at a level of material culture similar to that of the stone age in Europe, and we cannot expect them to leap in one generation across a great valley of technical change through which the rest of mankind has struggled slowly for thousands of years. Too frequently sympathizers with the aborigines, or advocates of their cause, are ignorant of or put aside the stark fact that large numbers of them are not at this moment capable of entering the general community at an acceptable level or of maintaining themselves in it. There are many coloured persons who have already learned from the white man how to live acceptably after the manner of other Australians and are in fact doing so, but there are many more who, by reason of ignorance and primitive habit, certainly could not do so at present.
One fact that is too often overlooked is the wide diversity in their condition. At one end of the scale is the primitive tribesman, a nomad who wanders naked in his tribal territory, hunting and gathering food, wholly bound by tribal custom and belief. Ascending the scale will be found people in all stages of contact with civilization and of progress in education. We can declare the same ideal for all of them but, if we are to be realistic, we will recognize that the rate of progress towards the attainment of that ideal will be very slow for many of them, that their immediate needs vary greatly according to their present condition and that the methods by which their interests will be best served must change from group to group and from period to period. The recent Native Welfare Conference agreed that assimilation is the objective of native welfare measures. Assimilation means, in practical terms, that, in the course of time, it is expected that all persons of aboriginal blood or mixed blood in Australia will live as do white Australians. The acceptance of this policy governs all other aspects of native affairs administration.
Because the policy of assimilation determines the shape of other administrative measures, it calls for close scrutiny. What are the other possible courses open to us? One alternative to a policy of assimilation is a policy of complete segregation of natives under conditions lower than those of the rest of the community. In examining this alternative, the first point to be recognized is that contact between the natives and the white people has now gone so far that in no part of this continent are we dealing with a virgin problem, and more than two-thirds of the natives are either de-tribalized or well on the way to losing their tribal life. In spite of the creation of large aboriginal reserves for the primitive tribes in North and Central Australia, contact with the remaining one-third is bound to increase at the volition of the natives, as well as through the activities of the missionary, the anthropologist and the official. Even if we wished to place the remnant of tribal natives in some sort of anthropological zoo in the isolated corners of the continent, it is extremely doubtful whether we could arrest the curiosity that is daily extending their knowledge of white ways.
The second point), and I make it without apology to eather the cynics- or the scientists, is that the. blessings of civilization ase- worth having. For many years pasty people have been Eather nervous of using phrases about carrying the blessings, of civilization to the savage for fear that they may be accused of cant and humbug. However, the world to-day is coming round again to the idea that inevitable change can be made- a change for the- better. We recognize now that the noble savage can benefit from measures taken to improve his* health and his nutrition, to’ teach him better cultivation, and to lead him into civilized ways of life. We know that culture is not static and that it either changes or dies. Wc know that the idea of progress, once so easily derided, has the germ of truth in it. Assimilation means not the suppression of the aboriginal culture but rather that, for generation after generation, cultural adjustment will take place. The native people will grow into the society in which, by force of history, they are bound to live. The third point is that the large body of natives who are already losing grip on their tribal life, or who have lost it altogether, will be left spiritually as well as materially dispossessed unless something satisfying is put in the place of their lost tribal custom. Thus, segregation at a lower level of civilization than that of the rest of the community is out of the question for two-thirds of the coloured people, and would be of only negative value, and possibly of temporary duration, for the remainder of their race.
Another alternative is segregation on standards which, in the course of time, may improve to a stage similar to that of the rest of the community. Such segregation could take place in settlements and missions solely occupied by natives. The objection to this policy is that, if it succeeds, we shall build up in Australia an ever-increasing body of people who belong to a separate caste, and who live in Australia but are not members of the Australian community. We shall create a series of minority groups who live in little bits of territory of their own. The more the method succeeds, the more awkward will it be, because it will result in the very situation in Australia which we have always sought to avoid. I mean the existence: of a separate racial group- which live, on its own. In pursuit of a policy of assimilation, the settlement and the mission station can be, used for the advancement of the native peoples and as a refuge for those of them who need protection during a transitional period. Some1 of those who cannot complete the transition may live and die on settlements, but those who have the. strength and capacity to- develop their abilities mare fully should have freedom to- enter into a larger life in the general community. This leads us to the major argument for a policy of assimilation. It is- a policy of opportunity. It gives to the aboriginal and to the person of mixed blood a chance to shape his own life. If he succeeds, it places no limit on his success but opens the door fully. Segregation of any kind opens the door into a peculiar and separate world for coloured people only.
I propose to lay on the table the report of the proceedings of the Native Welfare Conference. Therefore, I . shall not recapitulate here the various decisions that were made. The final decision of the conference was to establish a native welfare council composed of the Ministers of the Commonwealth and of State governments who are concerned with native welfare. Out of the discussions of this council we hope to see emerge practical and effective proposals for nation-wide action. The executive responsibility in native affairs remains with each of the governments in respect of its own territory. The council represents a bid for a better native policy and a bid for closer federal-State co-operation and mutual assistance in carrying out that policy.
In conclusion, I acknowledge the value of the contributions made to the recent conference by State representatives, the Honorable Olive Evatt from New South Wales, the Honorable W. M. Moore from Queensland, the Honorable Victor Doney from Western Australia, and Mr. W. R. Penhall from South Australia. I acknowledge also the contributions that were made by their advisers. The conference was a co-operative effort, which readily produced a plan for co-operative action.
I feel that I can express to honorable members the common thought of those who took part in the discussions, because I know their minds on this subject. We have set ourselves a humane task, we have founded our resolve on a faith in the capacity of human beings and we have shaped our plan on the best traditions of democratic life in Australia. We want all those who are trying to build a better Australia to join with us in this effort. We want to make sure that every one living in our country will be able to have a happy and a useful life, worthy of a human being.
I lay on the table the following papers ; -
Native Welfare - Report of Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held at Canberra, 3rd and 4th September, 1951, and
Native Welfare Conference - Ministerial Statement - and move -
That the papers be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Waa)) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
FORMAL Motion fob Adjournment.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The Government’s action in closing the shale oil works at Glen Davis.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– We live in incredible times. We live during the regime of an astonishing Government. Over the past few days we have heard, poured from the lips of right honorable gentlemen on the treasury bench, a spate of words about the importance of the international situation and of the need for us and for the people generally to rally our maximum strength so that the nation may be made secure and capable of withstanding any attack. But, whilst the Government claims to be so concerned about the defence of this country, it intends to destroy Australia’s only internal source of petrol. We have heard statements about the shortages of copper and other basic raw materials. We know how important an independent oil supply is to our defence in these days of mechanized warfare, and how essential it is for us to develop our own internal sources cif supply so that we shall not be dependent on outside sources. Yet the Government would destroy the shale oil industry at Glen Davis.
Admittedly that industry may not have come up to expectations. No doubt it has its shortcomings. We are told that the cost of the petrol that it can produce is too high. But in view of the need for a self-reliant defence potential in petrol, the statements that have been made in this chamber about the position in Iran, and the statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) about the problems that beset us in the near north, surely it is necessary that the industry at Glen Davis should be not merely retained on its present basis but should also be developed so that it may make a worth-while contribution to defence, development and decentralization in this country. I appeal to honorable members opposite to raise this important matter in their party rooms. I also appeal to the Government to deal with the matter as one that is more than a narrow party issue.
It would allegedly cost this nation ?170,000 to keep the shale oil industry at Glen Davis going. Surely that amount of money is infinitesimal in comparison with the great benefits that we should derive from the development of our shale oil resources. The shale-bearing area in New South Wales begins on the southern New South Wales coast somewhere near Clyde and extends northwards, increasing in width, through Murrurundi up past Dunedoo. Shale occurs in other States ako. We know that there are great resources of shale at Latrobe in Tasmania. If the Government is really concerned about the present world situation, it must admit that the development of the shale oil industry is far more important than the expenditure of £170,000 a year. Competent authorities at Glen Davis have informed me that if the industry is granted the right to waive the interest rate on its capital borrowing and if an excise of one-tenth of a penny were levied to assist it, the industry could pay its way. I do not suggest that if should be asked to pay its way, because it is a national undertaking that is concerned with the defence of the country. After all, we do not ask the Navy to submit a balance-sheet at the end of each year so that we can see whether it has paid its way. We seek uo such information from the Air Force the Army or any defence organization. Yet where Glen Davis is concerned we find the Government crushing and slowly strangling out of existence an industry of defence importance.
The Government has made promises to meet various interested parties such as a citizen’s committee from Glen Davis and representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions in connexion with the closing down of the industry. As far as I know, up to to-day the citizens’ committee has not been given any useful information and I doubt whether the representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Government.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– I directed a question on the matter to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but I was not given a full answer. 1 sought information regarding the future of the villagers whose assets are sunk in the Capertee valley. No assurance has been given. The Government has disregarded completely not only the national importance of the shale oil industry at Glen Davis but also the human aspects of the matter, which are also entitled to some consideration. Technicians who have settled in Glen Davis have been disregarded and forgotten, yet they have given the best years of their lives, during which they might have been profitably employed elsewhere, in order to produce petrol for the nation during the days of war. Now they will have to try to rehabilitate themselves and find a niche for themselves elsewhere. I put ii to the House that there is an overwhelming case for retention of the industry. Surely the Government could approach this matter on a non-party basis. Surely the House could be given an opportunity to appoint an all-party parliamentary committee to examine the matter and to enlist the aid of experts with the object, not only of retaining Glen Davis as it stands, but also of expanding its activities. We know that the problem of oil supplies is becoming increasingly difficult. During a war we should require large stocks of aviation fuel. What a much greater problem it would be if oil supplies from the Middle East were to fail, and war should break out to our north, extending down towards Australia from China and Korea through Indonesia. We should not have a cupful of petrol to put towards keeping one aircraft in the sky.
The flow oil resources of the world anbeing used up. Plow oil is a wasting asset, and every gallon of oil that is taken out of the ground now is one gallon less5 than can be extracted from it later. Great wealth lies latent in Australia in our shale areas and its development is surely a challenge to our ingenuity and to the courage and patriotism of the Government. We receive reports from overseas about the development of the shale oil industry in Scotland. The reports of His Majesty’s Inspector of Mines for the Scottish Division year after year tell how the shale oil industry is being developed in Scotland. We also receive reports from the United States which tell of the great developments in. shale oil that are in progress in Colorado, Utah and other States, where an. amount of 30,000.000 dollars a year i3 being expended on development. We should remember that this development in the United States is being proceeded with although America has at present an abundant supply of flow oil. We have no internal supplies of flow oil yet the Government is prepared to disregard completely the need to develop our indigenous shale oil industry.
The greatest challenge of all, and “1 challenge the members of the Government to face it, lies in the actions of Russia in relation to shale oil. The Government and its supporters have voiced their concern about the intentions of the Soviet and its satellite countries behind the iron curtain. Here is a challenge from Estonia, where the shale oil industry is being greatly developed by the Soviet. The report from which I have taken mv information is entitled Newsletter from behind the Iron Curtain, and it deals in great detail with the matter. I ask for the leave of the House to incorporate it in Hansard.
-I have seen flip report, and in my view it is suitable to lv incorporated in Hansard.
Estonian Oil Shale Essential to Russia.
Al) the reports from Estonia stress the intensity wherewith the Soviets are rehabilitating and enlarging the Estonian oil shale industry. It is true that oil shale is the most important of the country’s natural resources. The investigated part of the oil shale strata in Eastern Estonia covers an area of 3,000 square kilometres with a capacity of 1.8-2.0 million tons of shale per square kilometre. The total oil shale deposits are estimated at 0,500 million tons. The Estonian oil shale is h. fossilized accumulation of algae of an Eosilurian sea. Its organic part consists of 71..7 per cent, carbon, 8.2 per cent, hydrogen, 19.0 per cent, oxygen and a small percentage of sulphur.
In its raw state oil shale may lie used as fuel. However, its relative importance as fuel declined with the increase of its use for oil production. Estonian oil shale is among the richest in oil. When distilled on an industrial scale, it yields 22-2fi per cent, of crude oil as compared to 9-11 per cent, in Scottish oil shale and 4-7 per cent, in German brown coal. The crude oil contains 65-75 per cent, of neutral oils and 25-35 per cent, of phenols. It can be refined into petrol (aviation and motor fuel ) , gasoline, lubricating oils, raw material for various chemical and explosives industries, pitch and asphalt. It yields 18-25 pe.r cent, of petrol which is equal or even superior to the petrol extracted from naphtha. Researches and experiments undertaken by the Germans in 1037 have proved that the heavy gasoline extracted from oil shale was the best gasoline for submarines. Taking the petrol yield of Estonian oil shale to lie 20 per cent., the Estonian oil reserves would total 1.1 milliard tons or approximately as much as the present reserves of the Caucasian oilfields.
During the period of Estonia’s independence the oilfields were exploited by six enterprises., whereof three worked with British, German and Swedish capital respectively. The mining for oil shale rose from 40 thousand tons in L920 to 1.7 million tons in 1039. Oil production had reached 179 thousand tons yearly by 1939 and petrol production 22.5 thousand tons. The greater part of the crude oil was exported, mainly to Germany, Latvia, Bulgaria, Sweden, Norway and Finland. The oil industry was booming and oil would undoubtedly have risen to be the main export article within the next years.
When the U.S.S.R. occupied Estonia in 1940. the Soviets devoted the greatest attention to the oil industry. The production plans drawn up for 1941 provided for the stepping up of oil shale mining to 2.1 million tons and of oil production to 300 thousand tons. The war with Germany frustrated these plans. On leaving Estonia the Soviets blew up most of the mines and refineries.
The Germans in their turn exihibited a lively interest in oil shale and the shale oil industry. As soon as the oil shale area, was occupied, a. special enterprise, the Ostland-Ool. began to rehabilitate the refineries.- As the Soviets in their hurry had not been very thorough in the work of destruction, the Germans managed to rehabilitate the mines in a comparatively short time and by 1943 thi’ refineries were more or less in working order. This rehabilitation work had unconditional priority before all other rehabilitations in the Baltic area. The Germans, too. had great plans for the enlargement of the oil shale industry. Only a small part of these was realized: one new mine was put in operation and’ the railways serving it finished before the Germans had to retreat from Estonia in 1944. Like the Russians in 1941, the Germans destroyed as much of the oil shale industry as they could manage. This time the damages were very grave indeed, some of the mines even being put under water. Hence the Russians were not able to begin the mining for shale oil on a large scale until 194fi while the rehabilitation of the refineries dragged on until 1947 despite the fact that even now the rehabilitation of the oil shale industry had absolute priority and two ministries - the Ministry for Oil Shale Industry and the Ministry for the Rehabilitation of the Oil Shale Industry - were founded specially for this purpose.
The best part of the sum appropriated for the rehabilitation of Estonia’s national economy ( cf . Newsletter No. 95 ) goes to the oil shale industry. According to the Soviet Estonian Prime Minister A. Veimer the production of oil shale is to rise to 8.4 million tons yearly by 1950 and the production of oil to 1.2 million tons. In practice this means that the bulk of the oil shale output is to be refined into oil. A. Veimer himself confirms this view when he says that an end is to be put to the use of oil shale as fuel and gas, petrol., lubricating oils, medicines, plastic mass and various other things produced from it instead (A. Veimer. Ov Stalin’s New Pir?
Year Plan for the Rehabilitation and Development of Rational Economy, Tallinn, 1946, p. 14). Five new mines are to be opened up and four new refineries built. An entirely new venture are several large gas factories. The mining villages are to grow into towns with many thousands of inhabitants.
Mr. Veimer does not tire of emphasizing the importance of oil shale for Estonia’s national economy. However, the plans for the utilization of the oil shale industry’s output are by no means in accord with his words. The plans do not once mention Estonia’s national economy. The oil shale industry is directly subordinated to the proper All-Union ministry which distributes its output in accordance with the interests of the U.S.S.R., disregarding Estonian interest entirely. The appropriations for its rehabilitation through the Estonian ministry for heavy industry is only a, tactical trick: if this sum would not figure on Estonia’s budget, the Soviet propagandists would be severely handicapped in their efforts to show how much the U.S.S.R. is doing for Estonia.
Estonian oil shale gas is not used for heating Estonian towns and the settlements in the mining area which constantly complain over the lack of fuel ; by means of a pipe-line more than 200 kilometres long it is directed to Leningrad to serve as fuel there. The first target for the completion of this pipe-line was the beginning of 1947, then the middle of summer and at last the anniversary of the October Revolution of the same year. Actually the first try-out of the line could be undertaken only in November, 1948. At present it is still unknown when the supplying of Leningrad with gas can be started in earnest.
Mr. Veimer also announced that the output of the shale oil refineries will serve as raw material for Russian chemical industries in the Leningrad district. Moreover, there is every reason to assume that the Soviets will use shale oil as submarine fuel. The large submarine base of Loksa is situated in the immediate vicinity of the oil shale mining area and, according to the latest information, connected withthe oil refineries by pipe-line. Estonian oil shale petrol will he of the greatest importance even in the coming war as Estonia would be the only petrol producer north of the Caspian, the oil refineries in the far north not having progressed beyond the project stage yet. With their planned output of 1.3-1.5 million tons of oil yielding 320-350 thousand tons of petrol, the Estonian oil fields would be of considerable military importance.
Last but not least, it may not be forgotten that according to the latest reports the Soviets have discovered uranium in the oil shale deposits (cf.Newsletter No. 74). That this report is fully reliable is confirmed by the manager of a one-time Estonian oil refinery working with Swedish capital. This gentleman, whois now working in the Swedish oil shale industry, states that uranium is to be found even in Swedish oil shale, though it is of inferior quality as compared to the Estonian one.
In view of the aforesaid it is not to be wondered at that the Soviets are in such a hurry to rehabilitate the Estonian oil shale industry. This hurry is so great that in addition to thousands of Estonian miners and 10,000 PWs working in the oil fields 40,000- 50,000 workers from Russia have been brought to Estonia to speed up the process.
Only very rarely the Soviet papers publish reports upon the activities of the courts. However, in RahvaHääl (the Tallinn organ of the Estonian Communist Party) of Sept. 17, 1948, we read under the title “The Acts of a Kulak Do not Remain Hidden”: “ In the beginnings September the case of Ann Kreekman, the kulak owner of the farm of Korvi in the Laukna village, Commune of Kullamaa, was on trial before the People’s Court of the Märjamaa District. Of the compulsory quotas to the state for 1947 Ann Kreekman had failed to deliver 23 kilogrammes of meat and 16 kilogrammes of hay and of those for the two first quarters of 1948 123 kilogrammes of milk. . . . “ Ann Kreekman tried to elude the charge in every fashion and to deceive the people’s court by means of various lies. . . . But the working peasantry of the Kullamaa Commune unmasked the true face of Ann Kreekman who has consistently refused to fulfil her obligations towards the Soviet state. The court sentenced Ann Kreekman to loss of freedom for18 months, the confiscation of all her property and suspension of suffrage for three years.”
The purge among the highest circles of the Polish Communist Party is now considered more or less at an end and the purge has spread to the lower strata all over the country. Politbureau member Zambrowski has demanded a special purge among the peasants who have joined the Communist Party “for the sake of profit “. Already in October so-called “ activist committees “ were ordered to be formed by the Party’s Central Committee all over the country. They are to undertake the exclusion of the untrustworthy members, especially the “ kulacks “. Everybody owning over ten hectares of land is to be viewed as a kulak.
The purge of ideologically unreliable Communist Party members has continued through the whole of November. The majority of the purged are responsible officials in the administration, industry and trade. They are arrested under the charge of having committed various minor crimes. The most frequently applied procedure is as follows : the secret police search the house of a suspect finding, e.g., a kilogramme of butter or a few bottles of wine in his cellar. Even very small stores of food may lead to a charge of accumulating reserves with the intent of speculation, despite that the law does not actually forbid the storing of food. The purges is arrested and kept in prison for several months before his case comes up for trial. It often happens that he is acquitted but his job has been given to another by that time and he is told that his services are no longer required. While in prison he has been excluded from the Party on the charge of criminal misdemeanour. These methods are employed against less prominent members who are considered unreliable or opportunistic.
However, the purge is by no means confined to the Communist Party only. The terror of thu secret police has intensified also with regard to non-political citizens. Like about two years ago, even now there are nightly arrests of people who to all appearance should he innocent of any crime against the regime. It is maintained that with these arrests the police wish to put fear and panic into the population. The arrested disappear to places unknown and no information about their fate or whereabouts is given to the families. It is believed that some, at any rate, are deported to Russia directly.
This view is supported by the fact that every month transports with prisoners leave for Russia by train and by boat from the overcrowded prisons at Wronki, Rawicz, Stutthof and Danzig. The number of prisoners per transport varies between 300 and 800. Some go to Latvia where they are employed at building coastal fortifications between Libau and Riga while others are taken to the Russian interior.
Regardless of all these measures opposition to the regime is still rife among the great masses of the Communist Party members, especially as regards the collectivization policy, and the purge is not improving matters. Wellinformed Poles maintain that abroad the importance of this spontaneous movement is underestimated and an unusually powerful wave of terror is to be expected in Poland in lie near future, directed against those political elements who collaborate with the Russians under certain conditions. The latest slogan of the regime is said to be that collaboration must be unconditional.
Since the second half of September the Society for Polish-Soviet friendship has been carrying on intense pro-Russian propaganda nil over the country. The general opinion is that the Polish nation is entirely immune to this kind of propaganda and hate for the Soviets is growing apace, especially in the countryside. The politically prudent circles and the underground organizations have the greatest difficulties to calm the masses in order to avoid open conflicts which might be interpreted as provocation. It is believed that the present oppositional attitude denotes the beginning rather than the end of a development and that the growing imminence of war may intensify the political line of the regime.
Analfabetism is Poland.
According to official sources there are about three million analfabets in present-day Poland. Before the war, with a population of 36 millions, Poland had about 750,000 . analfabets, mostly members of the older generation in the eastern provinces. There can be nodoubt whatever that this enormous increase of analfabetism is due to the settlement in. Poland of great multiudes of Soviet citizens from Asiatic regions of the U.S.S.R.
The Government has expressed the intention to arrange 15,000 special courses for analfabets in order to totally liquidate analfabetism by 1955.
Fugitives from Eastern Europe.
A thin stream of refugees from Eastern, Europe has been trickling to Sweden without interruption in the last years. Lately the largest number has come from Eastern Germany. The reasons which have prompted these people to make their escape are the same which are inducing them to flee to the Western zones of Germany: the intolerable political and economic conditions under Soviet rule.
The fugitives at present arriving in Southern Sweden belong to various nations, the first place being taken by Germans from Mecklenburg and Pommern who have been unable to stand the rigours of the Soviet regime. Second in number among the new arrivals ure the Poles, but there are even Latvians and now and then an Estonian.
The Poles come from their home country but their chances of flight are now decreasing steadily. Since the escape of Micolajczyk and his comrades the ports are watched most carefully and it is very difficult to creep on board of a foreign ship in Gdynia or Danzig. The foreign ships on which the fugitives usually hide, have also become more careful as the Polish authorities have shown themselves most ruthless in their treatment of foreign seamen suspected of helping Polish citizens to escape abroad. A number of Swedish seamen are sitting in Polish jails at this writing charged with arranging such escapes. The Poles now try to flee via the German coast where they are helped by the local population, but the price of this help has risen steeply of late: transport in a fishing boat often must be paid for in pure gold.
Germans from the neighbourhood of Kaliningrad (formerly Koenigsberg) -who have come to Sweden recently in small fishing boats tell of the sovietization of their tract. Kolkhoz peasants were brought to East Prussia from the Soviet Union in the autumn of 1946. They were received by Soviet officials at the stations, Germans being kept at a distance. The kolkhozniks arrived in goods carriages, several families packed into one. Their only luggage were a few wooden boxes. The new arrivals were settled into the farms from which the former German owners had been driven away.
One of the refugees, a German farmer, had stolen back to his farm and ascertained that a cow and a goat now lived in one of the rooms of his house. The floor was already half-rotten from their excrements but the glass in the windows was intact. In the other rooms there had been no furniture except for a table and a few chairs.
The first thing the new settlers build in their dwellings is a large brick stove, about 1.30 metres high and broad enough to allow four people to sleep on its top. Most of the winter they spend lying on that stove wrapped in rags and sheepskin furs. Their food is very poor, consisting of cabbage, potatoes and porridge.
The majority of the new settlers belong to some Mongol tribe and hardly speak any Russian. The former individual German farms are now banded together to form collective farms or kolkhozes and the peasants belonging to them get their pay in kind, never in money. However, the Mongols grow some vegetables on their garden plots, sell them on the Koenigsberg market and thus get some money.
Most of the German villages on the coast arc still abandoned and only 5 per cent of the arable land is cultivated in a primitive fashion. The former fertile fields are full of thistles and weeds. The larger trees in the coastal area have been cut down and carted away. Once upon a time they hud been planted on the wandering dunes to prevent the sand from blowing on the fertile land. With the disappearance of these trees this sand can resume its wanderings.
– I shall now turn to the world petrol situation as discussed in an article from World Petroleum, an American magazine. The article states, inter alia -
Any major interruption of supply from Tran, at this time when oil consumption and supply are running hand in hand, could have serious consequences all over the world. The prospect of rationing not only in Britain, but in the United States lias been discussed, although there is a belief that a settlement to continue Iranian oil production will result.
There has been no settlement. Petrol rationing is inevitable ‘ according to the people who produce this periodical and who are authorities on the subject. Dealing with this question, the Australian Coal Shipping Steel and the Harbour reports -
When any one says that the Commonwealth Government could save money by scrapping Glen Davis and importing petrol from countries where oil flows straight out of the ground, the answer is that isolated Australia cannot afford to be without at least the foundations of an oil industry. Bather must it be prepared to expand its synthetic oil industries as America is doing - and America has flow oil! Oil tankers cost close on £2.000,000 to build, and during the war scores were sunk. If the oil produced at Glen Davis resulted in diminishing the number by only one., that fact would justify the existence of the Glen Davis undertaking.
That comment did not appear in a Labour newspaper. It expresses the considered opinion of big business. Surely that will have some appeal for honorable members opposite. The sum of £170,000 which is needed to carry on the work at Glen Davis is a mere bagatelle. Surely the Government will not allow the expenditure of such a sum to influence its decision. What a misnomef is the title, Minister for National Development in this Government which would destroy such an industry ! The Minister for National Development would kill Australia’s only synthetic oil supply. It is a shocking scandal that in this year oi 1951, just as this country has emerged from two world wars, with full knowledge of the importance of this great industry, the Government should be so bereft of its sense of responsibility as to take such action as this.
I have a plan to put to the House foi the future of this industry. It is not my plan, but the plan of the people of Glen Davis, who know something about thi;industry. They suggest that the interest payable by the enterprise might be waived. They suggest that one-tenth of a penny a gallon should be levied as an excise duty on the petrol produced. They suggest that the long-wall system of mining should be adopted at Glen Davis. These recommendations are worthy of consideration. I ask the House to accept them and give the people of Glen Davis an opportunity to proceed with this work. I believe that, given this opportunity, they will not fail the nation. In a report that the Glen Davis Citizen’s Committee has prepared on this subject it has stated -
We urge, as loyal British subjects, a number of us ex-servicemen, that before the Govern ment determines the irrevocability of its deci sion, it should take into consideration the vital necessity of retaining Glen Davis for defence purposes. Most of us have watched the valley transformed from virgin country into a thriving industrial centre. More than all others, we, who have a personal stake in Glen Davis, realize that there is a far bigger issue involved. That is the establishment of u prosperous shale oil undertaking of value to tho Commonwealth in peace as well as war.
I support that contention. I trust that the House will deal with this matter on a reasonable basis and will not allow party prejudice and some pre-determined decision to sway their judgment. I ask them to support the proposals that I have put forward in the interests of defence, development and the decentralization of industry for the betterment of Australia. That is what concerns me and all honorable members of the Opposition. It undoubtedly concerns the people of my electorate and I am sure that the echo of r.his sentiment will be heard throughout, the land.
– The Government, is grateful for the opportunity that has l,een given to it by the motion of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) to put clearly and without heat or exaggeration the reasons that actuated it in making its decision concerning Glen Davis. The honorable member said that no opportunity had been given to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and chp. Glen Davis Citizens Committee to consult the Government on this matter, r was a member of a Cabinet subcommittee which met a deputation of from 15 to 20 trade union representatives, including representatives of tho Australian Council of Trades Unions and the coalmining unions, and members of the Glen Da vis Citizens Committee, We had a long rails on this subject. The fullest possible representations were made. We promised to give consideration to them and to report on them to the Government. That was done. If, as I understand, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has indicated that, at some later stage further representations will be received, that undertaking, having been given, will be honoured.
The honorable member made it the basis of his case that Australia should not bc dependent upon outside sources of oil supply. I think that my following remarks will demonstrate that under no possible circumstances, whether Glen Davis were in operation or not, could Australia be made independent of outside sources of supply. I believe that certain statements that were made by Senator Ashley in another place on the 25th June would be relevant to this debate.
-Order! Is the Minister referring to the 25th June of this year ?
-In that case, I am afraid that we are still in the same session.
– I am sorry that I cannot read these statements. Opposition members have acknowledged these facts from time to time. They have acknowledged that the Glen Davis project has had a very checkered and unsatisfactory career; that it has always operated at a great loss; that an initial blunder was made when the refinery and retorting plant were installed at Glen Davis; that the greatest difficulty has always been experienced in getting satisfactory labour there: and that the machinery installed by the previous Government in order to increase production was unsuitable. I do not criticize the previous Government unduly for that action. It accepted the advice of experts and these were proved to be wrong. The plant was quite unsuitable and great losses and delays occurred as a result.
– Was the plant ever tested?
– Of course it was. Senator Ashley, when a Minister, went to Glen Davis and warned the miners that because of the low output the existing position could not be permitted to continue and unless output was increased the operations at Glen Davis would have to cease. There is no difference between the opinions of the Opposition and those of the Government on that point. Opposition members ako have acknowledged that the utmost financial and technical assistance has always been given to this great venture. Glen Davis has always been a financial and an economic failure., The plant should probably never have been installed at Glen Davis. When this Government came to office it found that no proper survey had been made in order to ascertain whether sufficient shale deposits existed at Glen Davis to supply the plant for more than a few years to come. It may be that the retorts should have remained at Newnes. However, that is water under the bridge. The Government now has to face the administrative problem of what, to do with this great enterprise. The Government that established the venture at Glen Davis acted ou certain advice which turned out to be wrong. It was the same sort of advice that Senator Ashley received concerning suitable machinery and he admitted, subsequently, that it was wrong advice. The refinery itself might have been put on the sea-board and not in its present location. That suggestion has been advanced by very knowledgeable people. When the original committee reported on this matter in 1934 or 1935, it estimated that for the expenditure of £600,000 we should obtain 6,000,000 gallons of motor spirit and 16,000,000 gallons of crude oil. Instead of obtaining those quantities, experience has shown that for the expenditure of £4,500,000, not including depreciation and interest, we have obtained 2,750,000 gallons of petrol, or about two-thirds of what one tanker can carry.
The cause of the low petrol production at Glen Davis is the low output of shale. There is no doubt that the shale output is scandalously low. I do not want to use provocative words, because there are many contributory features to the situation at Glen Davis, but Senator Ashley himself was the first to say that the very low output of shale by the miners was one of the most important factors that had contributed to the failure of this plant. The man-hour output of shale has steadily become lower and lower. Industrial discipline has been deplorable, and that fact has been acknowledged by honorable members opposite as well as by honorable members on this side of the House. In 1949, when Senator Ashley issued his warning, the output of shale was 3 tons a manshift, and in the following year it had dropped to 2.8 tons a man-shift. I do not say what it is now, because the rumours of the closure of the enterprise have, no doubt, caused a further reduction of output. I have been told by the gentleman who managed the concern, and I should say from my own inspections and observations at Glen Davis, where I spent a day inspecting tunnels and other working places, that 50 per cent, more work could be done by the existing employees without straining or hurting any one.
– Then why is not the extra work done?
– The men will not do it.
– Why not give it a go ?
– Senator Ashley “gave it a go” for years. He begged, warned and threatened the men, but all that happened was that the production of shale became lower and lower. This enterprise has cost the Government £4,500,000, plus nearly £1,500,000 on account of interest and depreciation. The annual loss has been about £200,000, excluding depreciation and interest, and the trading loss since 1942 has been over £1,400,000- again excluding depreciation and interest. Unless the proposition is accepted, and 1 certainly do not accept it, that an industry that is owned by the Government must continue for ever and ever no matter how ruinous are the losses suffered by it, a stage must finally be reached when we must have a reckoning and decide what we are going to do. The 2,750,000 gallons of petrol that we obtained from Glen Davis cost the Government 5s. 3d. a gallon. It costs only ls. 3d. a gallon to land overseas petrol. Excluding interest, the Glen Davis petrol has cost us 4s. Id. a gallon as against ls. 3d. a gallon for imported petrol. It has been said that the. Government should expend another £120,000 on the introduction of long-wall mining. I do not know how much shale is left at Glen Davis, but I do know that what is left is good shale-
– It is very good shale.
– I know the type of shale much better than does the honorable member who interjected. It has been said that by this method of long-wall mining rubbish and low-grade shale can be excluded and the largest quantity of the best grade shale can be mined. That same proposition was put to Senator Ashley when he was Minister in control of Glen Davis, and he rejected it for the very good reason that the whole matter of long-wall mining was highly speculative, and that it would take eighteen months or two years to introduce it. Moreover, during that time another £200,000 would have been lost, and even if it were introduced the operations would still not be profitable.
The production of petrol has no defence significance for Australia. I do not like the idea of closing down a village community, because ho man with a heart in his body wants to destroy a living thing. However, the Government must consider economic facts. In private industry, if a company goes bankrupt, it must cease its operations. We are proposing to close down the Glen Davis plant not violently, not irregularly, but in an orderly fashion. We propose to pay compensation in proper cases and we are investigating the possibility of other industries and enterprises being established at Glen Davis so that the village community “may continue intact. All such matters are being carefully considered by the Government. A certain part of the production of the Glen Davis plant really has a defence value; that is, for the production of petroleum coke. The production of that substance has caused the Government to hesitate about closing down the Glen Davis enterprise. There can be no aluminium industry in Australia without a good supply of petroleum coke. At present we have in the making a large and expensive aluminium industry. Petroleum coke is not available to Australia anywhere else in the world. This substance is a by-product of the Glen Davis oil refinery. Therefore we do not propose to do anything that will reduce the supplies of this essential product. Whatever we do about Glen Davis we shall maintain the production of petroleum coke.
– Why did the Government sell Glen Davis?
– Will you please shut mp?
-Order ! I must ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting.
– Whatever we may do ;about Glen Davis, we shall ensure that the output of petroleum coke shall not be affected. The Government proposes to remove the Glen Davis refinery, ais distinct from the retorts, to Bell Bay, in Tasmania, where it can be used in conjunction with the great aluminium project in course of development there.
– But the Government is putting the plant up for sale by auction, is it not?
– We must go through the legal forms. I believe it to be of some importance to know what the Government is trying to do, particularly so far as Australia’s defence is concerned. It has been estimated that if, in this cracking plant, we refine crude oil which has been carried in tankers to Bell Bay, we shall get 16,000,000 gallons of motor spirit at a competitive market price. Honorable members should consider that matter in comparison with the price of 5s. 3d. a gallon that the Government has paid for 2,750,000 gallons of petrol from Glen Davis. Sixteen million gallons of petrol will fulfil almost all Tasmania’s requirements at a competitive market price, and that petrol will be obtained by refining virgin crude oil. The production of that quantity of petrol will produce as a by-product 8,000 tons of petroleum coke. Now 7,500 tons of petroleum coke will be needed for the aluminium plant at Bell Bay. Therefore, by refining the 16,000,000 gallons of petrol we shall obtain all the petroleum coke needed by our aluminium industry. We shall also get 2,000 tons of fuel oil, and 600,000 cubic feet of gas, a large proportion of which can be used for power production. It has been estimated that to set up at Bell Bay the plant that I have mentioned will cost about £300,000, but it may cost as much as £500,000 before the plant is ready to produce. As against that sum we shall save £215,000 worth of equipment which will not be needed for coal ash handling equipment and gas production in the- aluminium project at Bell Bay. Honorable members should remember that the aluminium project is a great national venture to make this country selfsufficient in aluminium ingot production in war as well as in peace. The project was started by the Government’s predecessor in office, but this Government also believes that Australia must be able to produce its own aluminium. It will be enormously beneficial to the aluminium enterprise to have certain plant transferred from Glen Davis to Bell Bay.
Under the Government’s proposal we shall not need to purchase £215,000 worth of plant overseas. Orders are lagging, and we should not get deliverey within the contract time, so that the construction of the aluminium plant would be held up. Under the proposal we shall also make a saving of £123,500 annually, the savings on the various items being: Capital charges, £16,000; plant maintenance, £6,000; labour, £’7,000; freight on petroleum coke from the mainland, £37,000; coal, £55,000; and ash handling, £2,500. * Extension of time granted.]* The timetable will also be accelerated because deliveries of equipment for the aluminium plant that we have ordered from Sweden and other countries will be slow. Consequently, the Government’s proposal will help to accelerate production. “We hope that most of the staff will be able to stay with us. We shall do our best to retain “.he technical staff and unavoidable dismissals will be made in an orderly and humane manner. We must proceed slowly in this matter. We were not successful in making arrangements with the NewSou th Wales Government to buy its debenture of £160,000. We thought that wc could effect a settlement in that respect, but we were unable to make an arrangement that would be satisfactory to us. That being so, the law had to take its course and, under the debenture, a receiver had to be put in. These things take time. Ordinary legal methods will have to be observed by advertising for tenders for the plant. At no time has the Government considered any suggestion that a private concern should take over Glen Davis, and the Government has no intention whatsoever of permitting any private concern to purchase that utility at a bargain price. Of course, we shall consider any offer to purchase the undertaking at a good price provided the purchasers can guarantee to produce an adequate quantity of petroleum coke. But that is another matter. Having regard to the state of the plant at Glen Davis, I do not think that we =hall be so lucky as to receive such an offer. Bearing in mind the economics of the matter, my personal forecast is that the Government will be able to secure the (“.racking plant and transfer it to Bell Bay in due course.
I have endeavoured to give all the facts. At present Glen Davis has no significance of any importance from a defence standpoint. The undertaking is producing annually only 2,750,000 gallons of petrol at the fabulous cost of 5s. 3d. a gallon. That quantity of petrol is less than three-quarters of the capacity of one tanker. As against that, we propose to produce 16,000,000 gallons of motor spirit at competitive market prices. It has been said that in the interests of our defence we should use indigenous material in preference to crude oil because if war broke out and we could not obtain crude oil we would be doomed. The fact remains that, under war-time conditions, a production of 2,750,000 gallons of petrol would not meet our requirements for more than a few days.
Now that the full story has been told, I hope that we shall receive the full co-operation of the unions concerned. Whilst, in any event, the Government will proceed with its proposal, at the same time, we desire to have the co-operation of those unions because we are trying to do what we consider to be best in the national interest. We urgently require aluminium and we hope to produce 13,000 tons of ingot annually. We can achieve that objective under the Government’s proposal. We shall obtain petroleum coke, whereas even if the Government reversed its decision and retained Glen Davis we could not obtain sufficient supplies. In addition, we shall obtain aluminium and also achieve a production of 16,000,000 gallons of motor spirit annually. That is the full story. It has not been told previously. We must face up to the economic facts. We are proceeding fairly and humanely. The Government will make provision for reasonable compensation and will endeavour to cushion the shock and reduce to a minimum the inconvenience that will bp caused to those concerned. The Government believes that it is acting in the national interest in proceeding with this proposal.
– I support the case that has been made out by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). If any one has ever put a case for the retention of an existing industry, the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has done so in the remarks that he has just made to the House. It is clear from what he said that under the Government’s proposal Australia will become still more dependent on imports in order to carry on another important industry. It is proposed to rely entirely upon imported crude oil for the purpose of producing aluminium in this country. What the Minister did not tell the House is that supplies of crude oil from the Middle East, where 17 per cent, of the world’s requirements is produced, are now denied to the democracies. Neither did he tell us that even in 1949, when the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was in full production and operating under normal conditions, and when the production of crude oil in the United States of America increased by 7 per cent., stocks available from all sources to the democracies decreased from S9 days’ supply to 73 days’ supply. Even under normal conditions the surplus of crude oil in producing countries that would have been available to democratic countries is falling alarmingly. The Government has paid no heed to what France, South Africa and other countries are doing in an endeavour to make themselves self-sufficient for their requirements of crude oil and petroleum products. Why does not the Government face up to realities? At the conclusion of the recent war, France immediately took steps to find oil in that country. With that object in view it imported American technicians and, to-day, S5 trained French artisans are engaged on that work.
– But France has not found oil.
– I invite the honorable member to study the facts. It is authoritatively estimated that within five years France will be selfsufficient for its requirements of crude oil. South Africa also has taken the initiative in this matter. Surely Australia will not “ dip its lid “ to a country like South Africa when the matter is one of national development. To-day that country is producing 200,000 barrels of shale oil a year.
-Order ! The honorable member is getting away from the terms of the motion, which deals with* the action of the Government in closing down the shale oil undertaking at Glen Davis.
– 1 am attempting to relate my remark.0 to the failure of the Government to recognize the progress that has been made in other countries in producing oil from shale.
– Order! That matter does not come within the scope of the motion.
– This Government is determined to close permanently the only works at which technicians can be trained in Australia in thiprocess of extracting oil from shale. 1 should like to know whether the Government has examined recent developments in South Africa, where a small plant has been established that produce* annually 200,000 barrels of oil from shale. It is estimated that, with the assistance of American technicians, the production of oil from coal commenced this year will meet 60 per cent, of South Africa’s oil requirements by 1955. American companies are interested in that project, and are installing great retorts and other machinery. When that plant is in full operation in 1955, South Africa will be able to produce sufficient oil from coal to satisfy 60 per cent, of its requirements of petroleum.
Is the Australian Government blind to the new turn of events in the Middle East? It insists that the plant at Glen Davis be transferred to Tasmania for the aluminium project, which will then rely completely upon the availability of imported oils. Yet the sources from which Australia draws its oil requirements are becoming restricted. Approximately 17 per cent, of the world’s crude oil is normally obtained from the Middle East. Supplies from the United States of America are not so plentiful as they were in the past. I know that Government supporters will point out to me that rich new oil fields are being developed in Canada. Are those honorable gentlemen aware that Canada will not become self-supporting in respect of oil before .1955?
-Order! The honorable gentleman must come back to Australia.
– I shall return immediately. This Government, instead of destroying the only works at which technicians can he trained in Australia in the process of extracting oil from shale, should adopt a policy similar to that being practised in South Africa. The quality of our coal is comparable with that of South African coal. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has budgeted for a surplus of approximately £114,000,000, yet the Government quibbles at a loss of £250,000 on operations at Glen Davis. It is all very well for the Minister for Supply to recall statements that have been made by Senator Ashley and other members of the Parliament about production at Glen Davis. He conveniently overlooks the fact that such statements were made when the international situation was not so confused as it is at the present time. This Government, when it rejects the important petroleum industry at Glen Davis, has no right to hold up its hands in holy horror about the policy of Dr. Mussadiq in Persia and King Farouk in Egypt. Its action in “ walking out “ on Glen Davis at this period of the world’s history is more traitorous to the Western democracies than is King Farouk’s action in the Middle East.’
– Order ! I do not believe that the honorable gentleman is permitted under the Standing Orders to refer to the actions of the Government as traitorous, unless he is prepared to move a substantive motion to that effect.
– T withdraw the word “ traitorous “ out of deference to you, Mr. Speaker, if you object to it; but I can not think of another word that so aptly expresses the severe condemnation of which this Government is deserving for having turned its back on a most important industry.
Mi-. Bland. - The miners themselves turned their backs on that industry.
– Supporters of this Government, during the recent general election campaign, told the people, in effect, “ We will make the workers produce, and increase production “. Yet they now snivel and complain that they cannot make the workers increase production. Let this Government make way for a Labour government that will do a good job. I urge the Government, even at this late hour, to study the importance of the Glen Davis works in the light of the present international situation, and to examine recent developments in South Africa in the production of oil from coal. This important national industry at Glen Davis must be preserved.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The impassioned address of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), and his lightning tour of the world, have not taken the House one yard farther in the discussion of this vexed question. If we could produce at Glen Davis a significant proportion of Australia’s requirements of petroleum products at a cost which would not absorb an undue proportion of the nation’s resources, I should be entirely in agreement with the honorable gentleman, but it is clearly not possible to do so. It would be dangerous and illusory to allow the people of Australia to depend upon Glen
Davis for any substantial assistance.
The shale oil industry at Glen Davis has a long and unhappy history. Since 1905, when operations were begun there by a London company various private companies, one after another, have entertained hopes of producing oil in payable quantities, but their hopes have led to nothing. Immediately before the outbreak of World War II., great hopes were entertained that new equipment then being installed would result in the production of oil in payable quantities, and a considerable amount of assistance was given by the Government to the industry in founding the town of Glen Davis, and establishing the new plant. The Curtin Government nationalized the industry as a war-time measure, and once again, hopes were entertained of producing a sizable quantity of petrol there. It was even expected that 30,000,000 gallons annually could be produced. That production, provided it could have been achieved with the expenditure of a reasonable proportion of the nation’s resources would have been worthwhile; but, unfortunately, that expectation has not been realized. The facts are that Glen Davis has never produced even 3,000,000 gallons of petrol a year, the output is declining, and the cost of that production has been out of all proportion to the value and the quantity of spirit produced. Glen Davis has produced a miserable quantity of petrol at a cost of 5s. 3d. a gallon. That figure includes interest on the capital expenditure but if that charge is disregarded, the cost is 4s. Id. a gallon. “When we consider that the cost of imported petrol, without tax, is ls. 3d. a gallon, the cost of producing spirit at Glen Davis may be seen in its proper light.
I agree with Opposition members when they say that Glen Davis is not merely a matter of money. Were the expenditure on the project the only factor involved, I should not be concerned about it; but the cost of production is the measure of the national resources involved in producing. When we consider that labour, plant and materials to the value of £4,500,000 have been put into Glen Davis, yet only an insignificant quantity of petrol has been produced, we see plainly that the nation cannot afford to continue such a costly and unfortunate experiment. I shall demonstrate to the House the actual cost in labour of producing that quantity of petrol.
There are, I believe, some 600 men engaged at Glen Davis in active production, yet the output is less than 3,000,000 gallons of spirit a year. Australia’s consumption of petrol at present is approximately 700,000,000 gallons a year. By the simple process of dividing the 3,000,000 gallons of petrol produced at Glen Davis into the 700,000,000 gallons of petrol consumed in Australia, and by multiplying the result by the 600 men employed there, I find that it would require about 140,000 men to produce the quantity of petrol used in Australia each year, assuming that the employees were producing with the same efficiency as has been shown at Glen Davis in the past. As fewer than 1,000,000 persons are employed in our total productive secondary industries, one man in every seven of the Australian working community would be engaged in producing petrol, if we had to produce by the methods used at
Glen Davis the quantity of petrol required in Australia annually. If ever there was an example of the cart trying to drag the horse, it is provided by Glen Davis trying to produce Australia’s requirements of petrol.
The Opposition’s objection to the decision of the Government to close the plant at Glen Davis is that any enterprise that produces petrol should be sustained when we live under the threat of a war in which the carriage of petrol to Australia might become extremely difficult. I agree with that general proposition, but when I consider that 600 men are employed at Glen Davis in the production of 2,750,000 gallons of petrol annually, I believe that the cost in labour alone is far more than Australia can afford. The quantity of petrol produced at Glen Davis is insignficant as a factor upon which reliance may be placed in war-time.
If ever the industry at Glen Davis had a chance of success - and I very much doubt whether it had - it was strangled by the very people who now complain about the decision of the Government to close it. -It is a notorious fact that the early attempts of private enterprise at Glen Davis were hampered and impeded in every possible direction by the Coal and Shale Employees Federation, for which the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) spoke earlier. Thi later operations of the nationalized industry at Glen Davis have been crippled bv a rigidly enforced darg, which has kept the retorts working at far less than their efficient maximum. That unfortunate fact is a repetition of a melancholy story often heard in Australian industry. Militant unions, obstinately refusing to recognize that the prosperity of their members depends upon the prosperity of the industry in which they work, have placed one obstruction after another in the way of efficient production. Then they complain when their industry goes to the wall. If ever the cry is heard in this House again for the nationalization of the deep coal mines on the ground of efficiency, I charge the House to remember the melancholy story of Glen Davis, because even that nationalized industry has been subject to the same restrictions and restraints from a militant union as was private enterprise before it. Personally, 1 am glad that the Government has had the courage to take th..step, which has inevitably exposed it to serious criticism. But too often in this country do we see nationalized enterprises carried on, with ruinous losses simply because their termination would be politically inconvenient. I have no hesitation in supporting the decision of r.he Government.
. - I congratulate the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) upon the manner in which he approached this subject. He made a real appeal to the people, and I shall follow his example. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is leaving she chamber, was a member of the Public Works Committee that investigated the Glen Davis project a few years ago. I should like him to hear my contribution to this debate to-day. I shall reply briefly to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) because my time is limited. He considers that Australia cannot be made independent of overseas sources of petrol. Surely we can try to make ourselves independent of them. It would be futile, in the event of an attack on this country, to have a powerful air force if the machines were grounded because petrol could not be obtained from overseas. The Labour Government nationalized the industry, and an American commission, which visited Australia in 1943, recommended that certain technical alterations he made not only at Glen Davis but also at Baerami. The Public Works Committee, of which the Vice-President of the Executive Council and I were members at that time, carried out an investigation as the result of which it made certain unanimous recommendations that were designed to put the industry at Glen Davis on an economic footing. That investigation was based upon the American commission’s recommendation that, in addition to increasing production at Glen Davis, the shale deposits at Baerami should be developed to produce over 37,000,000 gallons of crude oil annually. That output would have provided more than 22,000,000 gallons of petrol.
The Minister for Supply told us that the petrol output from Glen Davis was only 2,750,000 gallons annually. When I asked him by interjection whether the Renco retort system had been properly tried, he said that the Labour Government had installed machinery that had proved to be futile. I say that the machinery was never adequately tested.
– I was not talking about the Renco retort system.
– The Americans claimed that production could be vastly increased by the use of Renco retorts. The closing down of Glen Davis will be a tragedy for Australia, particularly in view of the warnings that have been issued by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The right honorable gentleman said a couple of years ago that there might be a war within three years, and the situation in the Middle East to-day is tense. Notwithstanding the insecurity of Australia’s position, the Government proposes to shut off our only local source of oil supply on the ground that its operations are too costly. Is it economical to manufacture guns, battleships and fighter aircraft? Of course not! But we still have them. In the event of war. Australia would be cut off from all sources of petrol supply merely because this Government has decided that the production of petrol in Australia is uneconomical. I appeal to it to reconsider its decision. The Minister for Supply said that he had spent a day at Glen Davis. I have spent weeks there al various times, chiefly when I was liaison officer for the coal industry. The Minister wrongly said that Senator Ashley had said that he did not favour the proposal to extract shale deposits by the long-wall system. The truth is that. I went to Glen Davis and persuaded the miners to extract pillars by machinery. That was the first occasion in Australian history on which machines were used for that purpose. The miners agreed to the plan in order to try to increase production.
I admit that there was trouble with the retorts that were used at Glen Davis. At a former member of the Public Works Committee, the Vice-President of the Executive Council knows that the committee was told that the old retorts were unsuitable because they did not have enough offtake?. The committee recommended that more offtakes be installed, and that recommendation was adopted with the result that output was increased. But theRenco retorts have never been properly tried, although the American commission recommended that they bo put into operation. Who will buy the equipment at Glen Davis if the project is closed down? The Renco system was tested on a small scale at Wallsend, but it was never given a full-scale trial at Glen Davis. How can it be honestly described as a failure?
– I did not say that the Renco retorts were futile. I was talking about the machinery in the mines.
– You know very little about that, either.
– Order ! The honorable member must address me.
– The Minister said, Mr. Speaker, that Senator Ashley had opposed the use of the long-wall system. That is not true. Senator Ashley had nothing to do with the long-wall system at that mine and certainly would not oppose it in any case. That story should be scotched. I admit that miners have always been hostile to the use of machinery for the extraction of pillars without proper precautions. Only this morning I asked the Prime Minister a question about the plan for the extraction of the Greta seam of coal by methods that would conserve that very rich deposit. Recommendations have been made in favour of the stowage system. The miners will never object to the extraction of coal by machinery provided there are adequate safeguards. There have been too many casualties in coal mines and shale mines. But nobody else flares. The only time the miners ever get a scrap of sympathy is when an explosion occurs and perhaps 100 or 200 men are killed. Government supporters show a little sympathy then. I appeal to them to have sympathy now. The miners of Glen Davis have used their life savings to build a township in that isolated place amongst the hills. But now the project is to be closed down and they will have to leave their homes. Glen Davis will become a township of empty houses. The situation reminds me of these lines in Goldsmith’s poem, “The Deserted Village “-
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.
That foreshadows the future of Glen Davis as far as this Government is concerned. I appeal to the Government and its supporters not to treat this matter merely as a party political issue. They should consider the suffering of the miners, the men whom they damn because of the propaganda of the newspapers which always are against the miners.I have been a miner all my life.
– Order ! The honorable rnember’s time has expired.
.- The approach of honorable members opposite to this problem is completely unrealistic The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has told a very sad story about the plight of the people who live at Glen Davis, but that is a matter entirely outside the scope of this discussion. This is a matter of national economics. First. I propose to reply to some of the statements that the honorable member made about theRenco process. I refer the House to the following passage from a letter that was written by the Managing Director of National Oil Proprietary Limited, Mr. Christie: -
It is true that until the close of 1945 the retorts in use at Glen Davis were relatively inefficient; but since their conversion early in 1946 to a modified “Fell” design they have consistently extracted85 per cent. of the oil contained in the shale, which yield is regarded as satisfactory.
Even if the Renco process proved ulti mately to be an unqualified success, the saving tobe effected by its use at Glen Davis could not justify the capital outlay requiredto effect the changeover.
Mr. Christie is well qualified to express an opinion on that subject. Honorable members opposite talk about the national emergency and relate it to the shale oil project at Glen Davis. It would be fantastic to imagine that the loss of 2,750,000 gallons of petrol annually from that source would affect our situation one iota in the event of war. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) made some astonishing remarks about oil production in the United States of America. He claimed that the output of that country was falling day by day. I refer him to the opinion of the United States National Petroleum Council, which should be a reliable authority. That organization has forecast a rapid and continuous increase of the availability of oil during the next four years. The output of oil throughout the free world, it asserts, is expected to rise to a total of between 13,900,000 and 16,000^000 barrels a day by 1955. That refutes the claim of the honorable member for Blaxland.
The problem that we are considering is one of economics, and there are various compelling economic reasons why the Glen Davis shale oil plant should be transferred to Bell Bay in Tasmania to be operated in conjunction with the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s project there. The use of three by-products of oil refining would help considerably in the process of making aluminium ingots. Waste gases and residual heavy fuel oil can be used to advantage and, more important still, petrolleum coke, which is not obtainable any where else in the world, is essential to the production of aluminium ingots. The other advantages of transferring the plant to Bell Bay are numerous. The transfer would eliminate the need to use coal in that undertaking. The present estimated coal requirement of the aluminium factory is 20,000 tons a year, which would have to be obtained from the Tasmanian coal industry at a cost of £55,000 a year. The transfer would assure the undertaking of an adequate supply of petroleum coke.
– But we have no guarantee that the plant will be transferred to Bell Bay.
– It should go there and, if it does, the results will be of immense value to the Australian people. The transfer would obviate the necessity to purchase equipment overseas. The plant has failed at its present site partly because of the restrictive darg that was placed on the mining of shale. As the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) stated earlier, Senator Ashley warned the miners that, unless they increased production, the Government could not afford to continue with the very costly experi ment at Glen Davis. The transfer of the equipment to Bell Bay would enable the aluminium industry, which is an essential defence undertaking, to save costs amounting to about £5 5s. on every ton of aluminium produced. A total of 7,500 tons of petroleum coke is needed to produce the target output of 13,000 tons of aluminum annually that has been selected for the Bell Bay undertaking. Operations at Bell Bay would yield 16,000,000 gallons of petroleum annually instead of 2,750,000 gallons, which was the quantity produced during the last year of operation at Glen Davis. As the Minister for Supply has said, that relatively small quantity was produced at the excessive cost of 5s. 3d. a gallon.
Several other important advantages would attach to the transfer. The plant should be preserved for the use of the Australian people and transferred to Bell Bay, which is one of the safest deep water ports in the whole of Australia. Another important consideration is that thetransfer would enable the aluminium: project to effect a saving of £37,000 a year in freight charges. The economic position of Glen Davis has been hopeless from the beginning. Approximately £4,000,000 has been invested in the project, but since 1946 there has been an annual net loss of over £400,000. In 1949, the loss was £474,000, or £7 a week for every man employed on the plant. The production target of 10,000,000 gallons of fuel a year has never been approached. The best year for production was 1947, when 4,000,000 gallons of fuel were produced. In 1948, only 2,750,000 gallons were produced. It is significant that in February, 1949, the production of shale at Glen Davis was at the rate of 590 tons a day, that in the first quarter of 1950 it was at the rate of 523 tons a day, and that at the end of 1950, due to go-slow methods that doubtless were directed by Communists,, it was at the rate of only 437 tons a day. If any people are to blame for the failure of Glen Davis, it is those who operate the plant.
The interests of the nation will be served best by establishing the industry at Bell Bay, Tasmania, where 16,000,000 gallons of fuel can be produced annually, and where it will be a valuable adjunct to an important aluminium industry. I support the decision of the Government.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Ma. Speaker - Hon. Archiecameron.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sittingsuspended from 1.2 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 17th October (vide page 790), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That a joint committee be appointed to consider such matters concerning foreign affairs as are referred to it by the Minister for External Affairs.
That twelve members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee.
That the Minister for External Affairs shall make available to the committee information within such categories or on such conditions as he may consider desirable.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of four or more of its members; and to refer to any such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine;
the committee or any sub-committee have power to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament;
the committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be secret;
seven members of the committee con stitute a quorum of the committee and three members of a subcommittee constitute a quorum of that sub-committee;
e ) the committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion when the committee forwards a report to the Minister, it shall inform the Parliament that it has so reported;
) the committee shall have no power to send for persons, papers or records without the concurrence of the Minister for External Affairs and all evidence submitted to the committee shall be regarded as confidential to the committee; and
a message he sent to the Senate requesting its concurrence and asking that seven members of the Senate be appointed to serve on such committee.
– Yesterday the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) submitted a motion for the purpose of establishing a foreign affairs committee of this Parliament. The proposed committee seems to me to be ideal for carrying out the duties that would be likely to be assigned to it and I was impressed with the arguments that were advanced by the Minister. Had I not been impressed by these arguments. I should certainly have had to give further consideration to my then formed opinions after I had listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who with an air of dewy-eyed simplicity, told the House that he thought that possibly the Minister was correct with regard to his assumption, and then moved a series of amendments. As soon as I saw the right honorable gentleman’s pose at the table I became suspicious, because I know that he is an excellent advocate. I immediately sensed that he was using all the arts of advocacy to try, as he has done on so many occasions of recent date, to confuse the issue. So I studied his amendments. I then saw no reason to withdraw the opinion that I had formed before I had studied the amendments. At the beginning of his speech the right honorable gentleman said in effect that everything would depend on whether the committee would work satisfactorily. I deduced from his suggested amendments that, in his opinion, the committee would never work satisfactorily unless the right honorable gentleman himself had the direction of its activities. In other words, ‘ he looked at the proposal to establish the committee and said to himself, “How far can I use this for party political advantages ? How far can I amend the proposal so thatI shall have the right to poke my nose into matters of Government policy? “ There is nothing new in such an attitude on the part of the right honorable gentle man, as I hope to prove to the House before I conclude my speech. The right honorable gentleman told the House that he considered that the committee must have some measure of autonomy and must not be merely an instrument of the Departmnt of External Affairs. The sincerity of the right honorable gentleman has been questioned before this.I shall not question it now. Instead, I shall give the House and the country some facts by which they may test his sincerity with regard to hie statement about autonomy for the committee. I remind the right honorable gentleman that when he was Minister for External Affairs in the Chifley Government, and that Government was considering its policy in connexion with the Japanese peace treaty, he brought into being an advisory committee to deal with the matter. He sent north, south, oast and west to every organization that he could find for representatives to sit on the committee. He even brought Sir Douglas Mawson, the famous explorer, back from Antarctica to be a member of it. I was one of the humble members of nhat committee myself.
I remind the right honorable gentleman that that committee was a fully representative one which was supposed to have been called together to advise the Government regarding Australia’s policy in relation to the Japanese peace treaty. [ also remind him that I asked the chairman of the committee whether the committee was empowered to pass resolutions and to make suggestions about the line the Government should take, or whether we were there purely as a “ talkietalkie” body and for no other purpose. The chairman told me that, according to the terms of reference, we were there to talk and for no other purpose. Now the right honorable gentleman has the affrontery to come into this House, and, with every semblance of sincerity, say that we should have a foreign affairs committee to deal with matters very similar to those which that advisory committee was called upon to deal with, and that it should have the right to inform the Government, pass resolutions and publicize reports - in fact, to do everything that will interfere with the policy of the Government and permit the right honorable gentleman to poke his nose into the Government’s affairs. I remember that the advisory committee to which I have referred was addressed by representatives of the Department of External Affairs, of which the right honorable gentleman himself was the ministerial head, on various matters associated with the Japanese peace treaty. In case the members of the committee should become too inquisitive, the old technique of the Public Service was imposed on the committee, and we had ream upon ream of papers and reports submitted to us. I still have a huge pile of them in my possession. It would have been physically impossible for any member of any committee to have read them all. Of course, the whole thing was designed for a purpose. Yet now the right honorable gentleman objects to the formation of a committee that is designed, not for that purpose, but purely for the purpose of becoming an educative body that can advise the Government and the Department of External Affairs regarding the matters that it has considered and on which it has made decisions As I have said, when I had heard the right honorable gentleman speak on the proposal I immediately studied his proposed amendments and asked myself wha.1 reasons were behind his action, why the amendments were framed and for what purpose were they designed? They are, of course, the action of a supreme egotist. In support of this view let me remind honorable members, of the record of the right honorable gentleman with regard to matters of international concern. I have already mentioned the Japanese peace treaty, and I shall now quote from a newspaper report cabled from London, which reads as follows: -
London, Weo. - The Daily Graphic says editorially to-day that the chief Soviet delegate to the Japanese Peace Treaty conference (Mr. Gromyko) “must have smiled” when he read the attack on the treaty by the Australian Opposition Leader (Dr. Evatt).
In Canberra on the 4th September last, the Leader of the Opposition termed the treaty “ an open and unashamed abandonment of all standards of international justice “. That report continued -
The Daily Graphic says it is difficult to understand why Dr. Evatts statement was made.
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) must be referred to as the right honorable member for Barton or as the Leader of the Opposition, but not by name.
-I was quoting from a newspaper. However, 3 shall read the quotation, substituting the words “Leader of the Opposition” for the words “Dr. Evatt”. The report continues -
From the Leader of the Opposition’s past experience in foreign affairs he must, it Bays, know his outburst will embarrass his country*? friends and cannot help Australia. “Not will the outburst do anything to pave the way for a wider Pacific settlement “ the paper adds.
That, as the House will readily appreciate, is following the record that the right honorable gentleman has of interfering with matters of government policy and attempting to wreck international arrangements by expressing his personal opinions. I have some extracts from diaries of the late United States Secretary for Defence, Mr. James Forrestal, which have just been published in book form in New York.
– What has this to do with the proposal to establish a foreign affairs committee ?
– If the honorable member cannot recognize that there is a definite significance in the Leader of the Opposition again attempting to poke his nose into Government policy matters that are not his concern, then, of course, he will not recognize anything. The extracts from the diaries appear in a report that was cabled from New York. The report reads in part -
The Australian Labour Leader, Dr. Evatt, is the target of much sharp criticism in the diaries of the late Defence Secretary, Mr. James Forrestal, just published in New York. The diaries claim that few people irritated leading members of the United States Administration more than Dr. Evatt.
– Because he stood up for Australia.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will resume his seat. It appears to me that the debate is getting completely out of hand. There are too many interjections at the moment, especially from my left. I think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) should soon relate some of the quotations that he is giving to the motion. I admit that the motion is a fairly wide one, but I do not wish to allow the scope of it to be widened too far, because, if the Vice-President of the Executive Council extends the boundaries of the debate then I cannot contract those boundaries in respect of any honorable member who may wish to reply to him.
– Then I shall limit my remarks in this regard, although I consider that they are relevant. I propose, subsequently, to link up the statements that I have made, with the amendments that the right honorable gentleman desires to move. I shall restrict to a very few my quotations in respect of the right honorable gentleman’s utterances and activities because the quotations are legion. The newspaper report continues -
On December 20, 1948, Forrestal records the Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Lovett, speaking to a Cabinet meeting about fighting in Indonesia-
– I rise to order. I do not mind there being a wide discussion on the motion, but surely what a member of the American Executive says about developments in Indonesia has nothing to do with the proposed establishment of a foreign affairs committee of this Parliament. Such a matter might be a proper subject of discussion for the committee when, and if, it is appointed, but surely a discussion of another person’s opinions on Indonesia has nothing to do at this stage with the question before the House.
– Order! I think that there is something in the honorable gentleman’s point of order, because the motion before me is concerned with the appointment of a foreign affairs committee. There are certain matters which have to be considered by the House, and I cannot allow the debate to develop into a debate on foreign affairs generally, or into an inquest into what has taken place in other countries during the last few years. So I think that we might get down to the terms of the motion that has been submitted by the Minister for External Affairs and the meaning of the amendments that have been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. The reason why I have made the statements that I have made in this regard, is that the proposed committee may be called upon to decide matters that are associated with general policy on foreign affairs. Indonesia will be one of those matters, and so will Japan and the United States of America.
– How does the VicePresident of the Executive Council know that? There is no guarantee that that will be the case..
– The honorable member says that there is no guarantee. I venture to suggest that a foreign affairs committee of the standing that we propose will have referred to it matters such as I have mentioned. We must examine very closely the terms of reference under which the committee will be appointed. When amendments are moved to the terms of reference laid down by the Government, then we have every right to analyse them closely to discover what they are designed to do. If we find that the mover of the amendments has some motive other than the motive that appears to be set out in the amendments, and that he seeks to clothe that motive by altering the terms of reference-
– I rise to order. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is imputing motives to the Leader of the Opposition. Standing orders provide that it is unparliamentary to impute motives to an honorable member. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is attempting to relate his implications to the functions of the proposed committee, and I object to his conduct.
– The imputation of motives to any honorable member, whether the Leader of the Opposition or not, is distinctly against the Standing Orders. I ask that it be not continued.
– I shall not so continue, Mr. Speaker. But it is competent for me to analyse the reasons that lie behind the right honorable member’s proposed amendments. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) spoke of motives. It may be that I could impute the highest of motives to the Leader of the Opposition. So if the honorable member objects to my imputing the highest motives to the Leader of the Opposition I shall not impute the highest motives to him in any way whatsoever. Paragraph (4), sub-paragraph (/) of the motion reads -
The committee shall have no power to send for persons, papers or records without the concurrence of the Minister for External Affairs and all evidence submitted to the committee shall be regarded as confidential to the committee.
That was designed for a purpose. The Government had in mind the fact that in the United States of America the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate has power to send for persons and papers. The Leader of the Opposition, in an endeavour to put this committee on a level with the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate of the United States of America, has indicated that he intends to propose that-
The committee shall have power to send for persons, papers or records.
Not very long ago the Foreign Affairs Committee of the American Senate sent for General Douglas MacArthur and examined him. Does the Leader of the Opposition, in suggesting this amendment, seek to establish in Australia a committee which would have power to bring before it any person that it may wish to call in order that it may question him and then direct that the whole of the evidence may be made public, including top secrets which it may have rung from high officers and which would be publicized to the world? If that is so it is in keeping with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition on the Japanese Peace Treaty which caused Mr. Gromyko to smile.
These are matters of high national importance and no opportunity should be given to the committee to bring Ministers, commanding generals and chiefs of staff before it in order to expose top level secrets which could be disseminated to our friends of the Soviet Union. The suggested amendment has been well designed by the right honorable gentleman to accomplish that purpose. Of course, it is quite possible that that is due purely to the egotism of the right honorable gentleman; but his proposal may have been designed in that way for a purpose. I would remind him that in 1945 Mr. Byrnes, the American Secretary of State, told a conference of the American State and War Department chiefs that Dr. Evatt wanted to run the whole world. It might be the supreme egotism of the right honorable gentleman that caused him to design amendments of this nature, or there may have been some other reason. The country will judge that. The proposed amendments have been designed, in my opinion, for a special purpose. They have been designed to give the control of the proposed committee on foreign affairs-
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has not done the Opposition any favours in making his observations. I should like to remind the House how there proposed amendments came to be put forward. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in a conciliatory mood, put forward a series of quite logical suggestions and indicated that the Opposition was
Dot opposed to the establishment of a foreign affairs committee of this Parliament. He said that the proposals that the Government had put forward were completely unacceptable to the Opposition and that his suggested amendments were designed to make the Government’s proposals acceptable. But the Government has rejected the proposed amendments out of hand. In the Governor-General’s Speech, made on the occasion of the opening of the Nineteenth Parliament, the following words were used : -
It is also proposed to establish a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs to give opportunities for full study and to serve as a source of information to Parliament.
The then Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender), in a statement that he made on international affairs in this Parliament on the 9th March, 1950, gave details of a proposal for the setting up of the committee.
– Order ! Honorable gentlemen on the front benches are disturbing their colleague.
– On that occasion the Minister said -
The Government therefore proposes to establish during this session a Standing Committeeon Foreign Affairs which can give constant attention to the broad issues of foreign policy.
That proposal differed very considerably from the proposal that has been put forward by the present Minister. The former Minister said - the Government intends that the committee should have a broad mandate to study external affairs in the widest sense.
With that principle the Opposition does not disagree. The Minister continued -
The committee should be authorized also to inquire into all matters referred to it by the Minister.
The original proposal was that the committee should examine every aspect of foreign affairs on its own initiative and, in addition, examine matters that had been referred to it by the Minister. Under the Government’s present proposals no matter could be considered by the committee unless it has been referred to it by the Minister. Therein lies the vital difference between what might be called the “ Casey plan “ and what might be called the “ Spender plan “. The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to formulate proposals that lay midway between those two plans. His proposals do not go as far as the Spender plan. It was because the Spender plan was watered down by Mr. Spender when he approached the Opposition on the subject of the committee that the Opposition rejected his proposals last year. His plan has been further debilitated by the plan of the present Minister and is completely unacceptable to the Opposition. On the 9th March, 1950, Mr. Spender said -
The committee will be able, because of its special studies and information, to give a lead to the House in debates on foreign affairs. . . .
That, I presume, would be the purpose of the committee. Under the Government’s proposals now before the House, the committee could only report to the Minister and tell the Parliament that it had furnished a report. It could not inform the Parliament of the nature of its. report. Mr. Spender said in regard to his proposal -
Its great value will lie in its ability to give detailed study to the great problems of the day and to pass on to the Parliament the expert knowledge which it will, in the course of time, acquire.
Under the present proposals the proceedings of the committee would be held in secret and all evidence submitted to the committee would be regarded as confidential to the committee. In those circumstances how can the ideal of the former Minister that the Parliament should be able to depend upon the expert knowledge of the committee for guidance be realized ?
When submitting his proposal the Minister said that the Government intended to do what had been done in other countries. On the 9th March, 1950, the former Minister said that for many years similar committees had existed in other countries and that Canada and New Zealand had adopted the idea since the war. The resolution under which the Canadian Committee functions stated -
That the Standing Committee of this House shall be empowered to examine and inquire into all such matters and opinions as may be referred to them by the House.
The first of the Opposition’s proposed amendments is that either Houses of the Parliament shall have powers to refer matters to the committee. The Canadian resolution continues - and to report, from time to time, observations and opinions thereon with power to send for persons, papers and records.
The present Minister has proposed that the committee the appointment of which is now under consideration shall have no power to do those things. The VicePresident of the Executive Council said that top secret information would be revealed to the nation’s enemies if the committee possessed this power. Has that happened as a result of the operation of such a committee in Canada? That is an insult to our Canadian friends. The observations of the Vice-President of the Executive Council apply with equal force to any committee that may have such powers in any country. In New Zealand the Parliament has a select committee on foreign affairs and the resolution under which it was set up reads as follows : -
A select committee shall be appointed consisting of nine members to consider such matters relating to external and Commonwealth affairs, with may be referred to it by the House or by the Government.
The New Zealand resolution resembles the Opposition’s first proposed amendment. The Opposition has added a proposal that the committee itself may decide when the House is not sitting, to initiate an investigation which the House would have initiated had it been in session. But the Government has dismissed that suggestion. The Vice-President of the Executive Council said that if a committee were set up according to the proposals originally put forward by Mr. Spender or in accordance with the suggestions of the Leader of the Opposition the whole committee would be dominated by the personality of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). Apparently the honorable member fears the personality of the Leader of the Opposition. And he has reason to fear it. He said that the committee that the Government has proposed would be an ideal committee. How did he view the proposal that Mr. Spender made about eighteen months ago? Would that have provided for the establishment of an ideal committee? The two proposals differ very considerably. The Leader of the Opposition would be only too happy to do what he did as a member of the Curtin and Chifley Governments, which was to put the best interests of Australia forward at all times and work for the uplift of humanity. As one of the founders of the United Nations organization and the only Australian who has ever been, or is ever likely to be, a president of the General Assembly of that body, he is a very distinguished aud famous world figure.
– The honorable member should read Forrestal’s diary.
– I am not interested in the diary of the late Mr. Forrestal, but I am interested to find the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) and Mr. Gromyko in agreement about their disagreement with the ideas of the Leader of the Opposition. Any committee would be worthless, according to the Minister’s argument, if the Leader of the Opposition were associated with it. Why then does the Government want to establish a committee at all? I think that the Government has some motive other than this almost pathological dislike of the Leader of the Opposition. We were asked for our reasons for framing our proposed amendments, which indeed do not go as far as the original proposal of Mr. Spender. The Leader of the Opposition’s contributions to debates on international affairs have at all times merited consideration, and although there might be disagreement with them they are the product of erudition, thought and a natural and fierce nationalistic desire to serve the best interests of Australia.
Other committees set up by this Parliament can do all the things that we want this proposed foreign affairs committee to be able to do. The Public Works” Committee can require the- presence of persons and papers, can examine financial contracts and do many other things. The war expenditure committees which were set up during the last war had wide powers, and the Australian Advisory War Council, which was set up by the former Menzies Government and consisted- of honorable members who now sit on both sides of this House, was, in part, a foreign affairs committee. All the members of that council had an opportunity of reading all the cables that came to Australia from overseas at that time, and they gave the benefit of their advice on all matters which affected the conduct of the war and our relations with other countries. Ultimately the members of that council who belonged to the non-Labour parties left the council, but that is another story. They were not asked to leave, and were certainly not told that they could not be trusted.
To-day the Government says, in effect, that the nineteen people who are to form the foreign affairs committee are in some way or other not to be trusted. The nineteen members, who probably will come from the Government parties of the Parliament will be just as trustworthy as the twenty Ministers who appoint them. In fact they may become a shadow cabinet behind the real cabinet, and finally take its place. The Leader of the Opposition set up special committees while he was Minister for External Affairs, and gave- those committees every facility to study, express’ opinions; and make reports; He took representatives of the then Opposition to San Francisco so that they might informthemselves that what was being done there was in Australia’s best interests. Members of all parties accompanied him so that he could get the best possible advice at that- historic conference at San Francisco. He also set up a special committee of members of the Parliament and distinguished people outside the Parliament to study the Japanese peace treaty proposals. During the term df office of the Leader of the Opposition as- Minister for External Affairs; the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) got so much information that apparently he could not absorb it all. I do not know whether he has yet absorbed it, but if he has not done so he should study it in his spare time because he obviously has not much to do as a Minister.
It should also be remembered that the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Minister for External Affairs, sent an all-party mission to Japan. The present Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) was” a member’ of that- mission. The members were not told that they must discuss in camera matters affecting their mission and make special reports only to the Minister. They were allowed to talk- with whom they wanted and say what they liked.
– Those statements are like the flowers that bloom in the spring. They have nothing to do with the matter under consideration.
– I think that they have a good deal to do with it and if the Minister had read a little more when he was in opposition, particularly from the files that he spoke about, he would know more about’ this’ subject’. The Minister’ for External Affairs has’ more vetos in’ this’ proposal than have been exercised in the’ councils of the United Nations. The’ members of the committee will be able to do nothing at all unless the Minister is present in person, or has a representative there to fell them what they are to do and what they are not to do: Such a committee would be’ completely worthless. If the Government wants to set Up a worthwhile committee let it submit worthwhile proposals to the Parliament, and then the Opposition will consider them as it has considered these proposals. These proposals are completely unacceptable to the Opposition and completely worthless to the nation.
-^-“1 rise to- order, Mr. Speaker. I have been informed that the proposed amendments on which the Leader of the Opposition (.Dr. Evatt) spoke yesterday have not yet been formally moved. In order to expedite discussion I suggest, for the consideration of the Blouse, that at this stage the amendments formally should be moved on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition and that they should be seconded. I also suggest that when, that Ls done the debate be continued on both the motion and the amendments. 1 further suggest that the amendments be taken as a whole. They can be so considered without disadvantage to the Opposition.
– There seems to be some, doubt about whether the amendments have been moved and seconded. The notice-paper for to-day does not disclose that any amendments have been moved. It was not until just before the House met that I was able to get a copy of the amendments. My suggestion yesterday, was that the amendments should be moved and seconded in the normal way and that they should appear in print with the motion. On the matter of procedure raised by the right honorable gentleman, the business of the House is entirely a matter for the. House. If the House asks me to rule upon this matter, f shall do so; but if it desires to take the amendments in globo with one vote to cover them all, that is a matter entirely for it to decide ; it is not my business.
– The Opposition has no objection to the amendments being taken in globo.
– As there is no objection to that course it will he followed and there will, be one vote only on them.
Amendments (by Dr. Evatt, through Mr. Calwell) proposed -
That, in paragraph ( 1 ) , after the word’s “External Affairs”, the following words be added: - “ or by either House of the Parliament or as are decided upon by a majority of the committee “.
That, in paragraph (2), after the word “ committee”,, the following words be added: - “six to be Government supporters and six Opposition supporters “.
That, in paragraph (4), sub-paragraph (o), after the word “ secret “, the following words be added : - “ unless the committee or subcommittee otherwise orders”.
That, in paragraph (4), sub-paragraph (e), after the word “ reported “, the following words be. added : - “ and either House of Parliament may decide that the report be published “.
That, in paragraph (4), sub-paragraph (/). be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph: - “ (/) the committee shall have power to send for persons, papers or records “.
– I second the- amendments proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, if I notify you that I second these amendments and reserve the right to speak, I may do so later ? If I use my right to speak now, am I entirely in order ?
-The position is quite clear. To resolve any doubt about whether the amendments had been moved, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has now moved them on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who is temporarily absent from the House. The procedure with both the Ministry and the Opposition is for me to call upon and take notice of that Minister or member of the Opposition who, for the time being, is sitting at the table. On this occasion it happened to be the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). As he is sitting at the tabic he takes precedence over any member sitting on the front bench. The honorable member for Dalley has seconded the amendments and he has a perfect right to speak now or to reserve his speech until later.
– As I understand that an arrangement was made for an honorable member from the Government side to follow the honorable member for Melbourne, I shall reserve my right to speak.
.- At some stages this debate seems to have wandered far from the issues that it was designed to deal with. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has not helped by speaking with warmth and a certain degree of emotion. I think that it is necessary to study this matter in its proper prospective. This is a move on the part of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) primarily to bring some continuity into our foreign policy. We have not been blessed with such a continuity so far in this country. When we consider the great problems and dangers that face us it is apparent that there is an overwhelming case for setting up machinery which will bring about this most desirable result. It is necessary that Australia should be able to speak with a surer voice in world councils than has hitherto been possible. A small isolated country such as ours cannot afford to give the impression of disunity to the outside world. Instead of taking too much notice of the strong language of the honorable member for Melbourne, I hope that the Opposition will think well before it rejects the suggestion out of hand. Honorable members on this side of the House desire that despite the objections of the Labour party the Opposition will co-operate in establishing this joint committee. There are honorable members opposite who can contribute richly to the deliberations of such a body. I refer particularly to the Leader of the Opposition. A majority of the members of this House no doubt disagree profoundly with some of the principles of foreign policy adhered to by the right honorable gentleman, but one of the objectives of this committee is to bring members of both sides of the House together and through mutual discussion to hammer out some common line of approach towards basic matters of foreign policy.
The amendments advanced by the Opposition have not been very fully considered by honorable members opposite. Some of thom seem scarcely reasonable or expedient. For example, the Leader of the Opposition suggested in his second amendment that on this committee there should be equality of numbers.
– Only of members from this House.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not make that clear yesterday. I doubt whether if the Leader of the Opposition were Prime Minister, he would adopt the principle he, is now advancing. It is well known that every committee of this House, and indeed every committee of the House of Commons, observes the principle of a government majority thereon. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition is not sincere in putting forward an amendment of that nature. In this first amendment he advocates the reference of matters to the proposed joint committee by either House of the Parliament. There is surely a great danger in that. If such a proposal were accepted it would give a great opportunity to the opposition of the day, if it possessed a majority in another place, as in the last Parliament, to embarrass the government quite seriously by referring questions to this committee in order to obtain some party political advantage. However, I agree that there is some merit in the Opposition’s first amendment that the matters to be discussed by the proposed committee should be decided by a majority of the committee. Amendment No. 3 rather seeks to qualify the desire of the Minister for External Affairs to maintain secrecy, by inserting the proviso, “ unless the committee or sub-committee otherwise orders”. Surely, in times such as those in which we are living, that suggestion is extremely unwise. The whole conduct of investigations into foreign affairs must, inevitably, presuppose a degree of strict security; and it would be dangerous to make an exception to that rule.
Whatever the Opposition’s objections to the Minister’s motion may be, I appeal to it to co-operate with the Government and to give these proposals a fair trial. For the last eighteen months, the Opposition has been urging the Government to set up a joint committee on foreign affairs. Towards the close of last year, honorable members opposite criticized the Government for failing to set up such a committee. Now, when a concrete plan is put before them they say that they will have none of it and that, to use the words of the honorable member for Melbourne, “ it is completely unacceptable “. I hope that that is not the Opposition’s final word on this matter. I appeal to it to co-operate with the Government by giving the Minister’s proposal a trial. If, by the end of 1952, the deliberations of the committee do not appear to be fruitful, there will then be a chance for the committee as a whole to put forward suggestions to the Minister for improvements; and I am sure that in the light of experience those suggestions would be sympathetically considered.
.- I compliment the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) on the very temperate way in which they have put this proposal before the House. I am afraid that I cannot say the same about the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who appears to view with suspicion every suggestion that the Opposition puts forward. One wonders whether during his stay in London he spent most of his time in Baker-street where a famous man who worked and thrived on suspicions and clues is said to have lived. The proposal contained in the motion is unacceptable to the Opposition, because we believe that whilst it might be workable it would be thoroughly useless. What has been the practice of the Parliament in respect of the functions of other parliamentary committees? The Public Works Committee, for instance, investigates proposed public works and advises the appropriate Minister on the advisability of proceeding with such works. A number of other parliamentary committees have been appointed also for the purpose of informing the mind of the Minister, the Government, and of the House, with respect to the advisability of certain procedures. However, in certain circumstances, the proposal now before us could put members of the proposed committee in a rather invidious position.
First, the Opposition objects to paragraph (3) of the motion, in which it is proposed -
I should think that the function of a parliamentary committee would be to investigate and inform the Minister’s mind on matters which,, probably, he himself has not the time to investigate. That is the principal function of a parliamentary committee. Every honorable member is aware that a Minister may be precluded because of his multifarious duties from investigating the details of every problem with which he is called upon to deal. The purpose of this committee should be to investigate matters on which, probably, the Minister lias not had time to inform his mind and, perhaps, to report to h:m and assist him in making his decision. Apparently, however, the proposed joint committee on foreign affairs will deal only with problems in respect of which the Minister has sifted the wheat from the chaff. He will say, in effect, to the committee, “ You can look at this problem, but you cannot look at the other one, because that is a top secret “. If the Minister has had an opportunity to inform his own mind on a problem, there would be no need to refer it to a parliamentary committee. It would be an insult to the intelligence of the Parliament to ask it to appoint a committee to deal with the subject of foreign affairs in circumstances in which the Minister would, first of all, have a look through all his problems and then throw some matter to it, just as one might throw a well-chewed bone to a dog. Although in the nature of things such a matter would not be a top secret, the committee would probably be denied the right to report to the House any information that it might obtain in the course of its investigation. In such circumstances, the members of the committee would be placed in a. very invidious position if in subsequent debates on foreign affairs that take place in this House, they inadvertently used an argument, or a piece of information, that they might have obtained by reason of the fact that they were members of the committee.
– Not at all; whilst they could not use secret information they could express an attitude of mind on any subject.
– If they participated in a debate on foreign affairs, they would, first, have to state the problem and then say, in effect, “ This is my point of view “. They would not be able to say anything about matters that had been investigated by the committee.
– Not at all ; that is a complete misconception.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman will have an opportunity to reply to the debate.
– I remind the Minister for External Affairs that paragraph (3.) of the motion reads -
That the Minister for External Affairs 6hall make available to the committee information within such categories-
Mark those words : and these words which follow them - or on such conditions as he may consider desirable.
– Does the honorable member suggest that I am going to strangle my own child at birth ?
– I should hope that the Minister would do so.
– I shall certainly make the committee workable.
– By telling the committee that it can consider only problems that are put before it! The Minister will select the problems, the categories, and the conditions in respect of any investigation that he desires the committee to undertake. Then, subparagraph (c) of paragraph (4) of the motion provides - the committee and its sub-committees will sit in camera and their proceedings shall be in secret;
Any problem that is put before the committee shall remain a secret of the committee. Sub-paragraph (e) of paragraph (4) of the motion reads - the committee shall, for considerations of national security, in all cases forward its reports to the Minister for External Affairs, but on every occasion v’ien the committee forwards a report to the Minister, it shall inform the Parliament that it has so reported;
But it must not tell the Parliament what it has reported to the Minister. That is the point that I emphasize. “What -is the value to the Parliament of such a committee? There would be value in a proposal whereby a dozen honorable members were appointed to a committee to consider proposals that were placed before them if they had power to call for whatever evidence they required to inform their minds and come to a worthwhile decision and if they had power then to communicate their conclusions to the Parliament, or even to the Minister, and say, in effect, “We have considered this problem and it is our considered opinion that such-and-such is she case “. But this proposed committee is not to be empowered to do that. If by any chance a member of the committee participated in a debate in this House, and let anything slip out -he would not need to be recreant to his duty; he may have obtained his information from a source other than the committee - he would immediately be suspected of being a traitor to the committee by divulging something that he .was pledged not to divulge. Therefore, if the proposed committee is to be of any value to the Parliament it should have the right, when considering any problem that might be submitted to it, to gather all the information that it considers necessary to enable it to come to a decision. Then, its decision and the information on which it was based should be made available to members of the Parliament, whose minds thereby would be enriched to the same degree as the minds of the members of the committee had been enriched, under this proposal, however, the proposed committee might as well go to Timbuctoo for all the benefit that the Parliament would derive from its investigations.
– That is not so.
– The - honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) cannot have read the motion, which distinctly provides that the committee shall sit in camera and shall make its reports to the Minister. In such circumstances, the members of the committee would be permanently gagged. If the honorable member construes the motion to mean anything else, I should be pleased to hear his interpretation of it. Sub-paragraph (/) of paragraph (4) of the motion reads - the committee shall have no power to send for persons, papers or records without the concurrence of the Minister for External Affairs and all evidence submitted to the committee shall be regarded as confidential to the committee.
Thus, even if the committee should be asked to deal with a problem that the Minister decided to refer to it, it would have to obtain the concurrence of the Minister to gain access to sources of information from which to inform its mind. I have never heard of a more futile, wasteful or puerile proposition. All that it would do would be to add a little to the status of, perhaps, som’< ambitious members of the Parliament who have not had ministerial preferment. It would give them an opportunity to say at large, “ We are members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of the Commonwealth “. Will the people understand the significance of being members of that committee? The committee will be allowed to consider only those problems which are placed before it by the
Minister for External Affairs, and it may not call for records or summon persons unless the concurrence of the Minister has been received. After due consideration has been given to a problem, which may involve a waste of public time and money, members of the committee are to be permanently gagged, because they may not refer elsewhere to the problems which they have been discussing.
– I rise to speak to the amendments which have been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
– The Minister will be in order so long as he confines his remarks strictly to the amendments:
– The amendments are designed to alter certain proposals that I have made, or, at least, that is my inference from the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I rise to order. L do not desire to interrupt the Minister, but I believe that he may speak only once in this debate, except in reply to the motion. It is true that a Minister and other honorable members may speak to an amendment that has been moved in committee, but I believe that the Standing Orders specifically provide that an honorable member may speak only once in a second-reading debate or on a motion for the printing of a paper, except in reply to that debate, or to make a personal explanation. I ask for your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
– I think that it is provided that, when amendments are moved, even to a motion, a Minister or any honorable member may speak solely to them. I have informed the Minister that he must confine his remarks to the amendment.
– I submit with great respect to members of the Opposition, that the amendments which reflect their attitude to my ‘proposals arise from a misconception. I shall be very glad, Mr. Speaker, if you will permit me a slight latitude in order that I may develop the matter because it is essential that I give the background as I combat the rightness of those : amendments. The proposed foreign affairs committee is not intended to be a body to create policy. . The principal purpose of such a committee is to be an instrumentality through the working of which a relatively large number of honorable, members of all parties in this House may become better informed on international affairs. The business of reporting to a Minister, I should think, is of much less importance. The honorable member foi Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) said that such a committee might have the advantage of being able to inform the mind of the Minister for External Affairs on various international problems,” but, with great respect to him, I point out that I am able to inform my mind through any quarters that are available to me. I have the Department of External Affairs to inform me about various international matters, and that department, I believe, is an adequate piece of machinery for that purpose. Therefore, I do not need to rely upon this proposed committee to inform my mind. It is to be set up for the express and sincere purpose of creating an instrumentality to enable honorable members, who have not the advantage of everyday contacts with the Department of External Affairs, to inform their minds-
– I rise to order. The Minister, despite your ruling, Mr. Speaker, is discussing his own proposals for the establishment of a foreignaffairs committee. The amendments propose certain alterations of his motion^ but he is not addressing himself to them.
Mi-. SPEAKER. - The Minister must confine his remarks to- the amendments.
– I hoped that my remarks would not incur your wrath, Mr. Speaker. I have merely been giving background to the amendments. I have moved -
The Leader of the. Opposition, in his first amendment, seeks to add the words - or by either House of the Parliament or as are decided upon by a majority of. the committee.
This’ business of international affairs involves, many secrets which are not our
Australian secrets. I suppose that 90 per cent, of the material that comes from overseas to the Department of External Affairs is very secret information. It may be secret for only a short time, but >for a period, that material is completely secret. There will be subjects in future, as there have been in the past, which cannot possibly be considered with any advantage by a committee of the kind that I propose, because we should not be able to put before it the material that the members would require for their consideration. Let us consider the most recent instance, the story of affairs in the Middle East. The Government could not have put its information about that incident before the committee until the developments had reached -a certain stage because the matters which were being received by the department by cable were completely secret to the department and to the members of the Government, who were particularly concerned with that situation. ‘ Even if we had wanted to place that information before the foreign affairs committee, we could not have done so. The information that we could have given to the committee would have been largely that available to its members through the newspapers, and would not have been sufficiently complete. But when an overseas incident reached a certain stage, at which we were able to lay the information before a committee of this sort, we would most certainly do so.
As the originator, or, perhaps, I should say the one who has revived this proposal to establish a foreign affairs committee, want it to succeed. I assure the House, on behalf of the Government, that I would submit to the committee as many of the problems of the day as it was possible and profitable to put before it. I presume that such a committee would divide itself into a number of sub-committees, and that, possibly, two, three or four current problems on international affairs would be under consideration at the same time. But I submit, with great respect to the Opposition, that the Government should know how much of the information in its possession could be made available to the committee. It must be left to the judgment of the Government to decide the subjects that could and the subjects that could not be placed before the committee. That matter could not be left to other than the judgment of the Government, which, I suppose, means my judgment, because I am the Minister for External Affairs for the time. But am I likely to strangle my own child at birth? I want this committee to succeed, and, therefore, we shall put as many subjects of the day as possible before it. That is my reason for stating that we cannot accept the first amendment.
I have also moved -
The Leader of the Opposition has moved as an amendment the addition of the following words: - six to be Government supporters and six Opposition supporters.
That would be grossly unfair to the two political parties that compose the Government, and a great deal more than fair to the Opposition. There are fifteen or twenty countries of consequence in the world that have committees on international affairs, yet not one of them does other than compose its committee on the basis of the relative strengths of the political parties. I hardly think that the Leader of the Opposition will pursue that amendment very seriously.
I have also moved -
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
The Leader of the Opposition has moved that the following words be added : - unless the committee or sub-committee otherwise orders.
I revert to my argument that many matters on international affairs are highly secret, and are not Australian secrets at all. We would place ourselves at a great disadvantage in the eyes of other coun-tries if we accepted this amendment. We receive much secret information only because other countries know that the secrets are safe with us. If they were to have a suspicion that material from overseas, possibly of a highly secret nature. could be made available to a committee of the Parliament without the authority of the Government, we should be regarded with a great deal more suspicion than would be necessary. The Government would desire to give the proposed committee all the information that it could properly give to it, but there must be a limit in that respect. We must be the judges, in the interests of our own repute, of the material that could and could not be given to the committee. Such a decision could not be in hands other than those of the Government, but the House may be sure that we should give everything that we could possibly give to that committee.
I have also moved the following subparagraph to paragraph (4.) : -
The Leader of the Opposition has moved that the following words be added - and either House of Parliament may decide that the report be published.
There again, we come to the inherent nature of the functions of a foreign affairs committee. It will not, in fact, be appointed for the eventual value of the report that it will make. Its value will be in the fact that the mind of members of the committee will be better informed on international affairs.
– But they will not be able to discuss the matters that the committee has considered.
– In the course of a discussion, it will be made clear to the members of the committee that some matters are secret, and that other matters are not secret. Any member of the committee may broadly develop ideas about the attitude that we should adopt towards South-East Asia, Hongkong, the Philippines and perhaps 50 other places. He can develop ideas of his own, and expound them in the proper place, which is in this Parliament, at an appropriate time. He will not refer to secrets, of course, if he is a loyal Australian, as he will be. But if I may say so, with respect, it is entirely untrue to state that any information which a member may obtain while he is attending meetings of the committee must be bottled up permanently inside him. That statement is nonsense. Of course, he can use information that he gets. Some of that information may be secret, and he will know that he cannot use it, but there will be little of it. He will develop a general attitude of mind, and a particular approach to subjects that will be put forward, and he will be able to use the experience he will get as a member of the committee. His own common sense will tell him whether he can use certain information, and I venture to say that no difficulty will arise in that respect. The member will learn, if he does not already know, whether information is or is not secret.
I have also moved the following subparagraph to paragraph (4.) : -
The Leader of the Opposition has moved that sub-paragraph (f) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph : -
I think that my previous remarks provide a sufficient background-
– The Minister has said that all evidence that is taken by the committee will be confidential. How, then, will an honorable member be able to use it in the Parliament?
– I see that I must begin further back than I had thought. The committee will not have power to send for persons, papers or records. I do not desire to repeat ad nauseam the arguments that I have already used. I have explained why we must reject the amendment. Much of the information that wo receive on international affairs is highly secret, and those secrets are not our own Australian secrets. We must ensure the continued secrecy of those matters which are regarded as secrets by other countries. If we were to allow any persons or any papers to be called for, some of the secrets that are not our secrets might be revealed. We must take steps to prevent such an occurrence. The Government, and I, as the Minister for External Affairs, have to satisfy ourselves that the people and the material that “will be available to the committee are the proper people and the proper papers. While I am Minister for External Affairs I shall not concede that right, that duty, that obligation to anybody else. If I did so, I should be putting myself completely in the hands of the proposed committee, which, perhaps with the most proper motives, might call for certain papers and certain individuals. I could not allow that to be done. But that would not derogate in any way from the successful operation of the committee. In rejecting the amendments, as I am afraid I am bound to do, I appeal to the Opposition to consider this whole matter most carefully. The Government is not obliged to establish the proposed committee, but twenty or more civilized countries throughout the world have foreign affairs committees that are working satisfactorily, and it considers that the Parliament as a whole would benefit if we had better-informed debates on international affairs than we now have.
The Government will gain no political advantage from the appointment of this committee, but it must guard against the possibility of the committee being converted into a propaganda forum for the Opposition. That is not our purpose. The gaff was blown, if the expression may be excused, when the Leader of the Opposition said that the committee might take a view independent of the view of the Government and might wish to expose it. The Government says that’ the place for any such exposure is in this chamber in the light of day, not in a committee room. The committee should not be a vehicle for propaganda. If the right honorable gentleman wishes to indulge his lust for propaganda, this is the place for him to do so, and I venture to believe that he needs no instructions from me on the method of doing so. I remind the House that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during that fateful month of November, 1949, told the people that there should be an all-party parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs to act, not as the creator of policy, which is the privilege and responsibility of the government of the day, but as a source of information for the Parliament and the public.
– But the right honorable gentleman proposes that members of the committee shall not be allowed to reveal any information that they may acquire !
– Of course they will be able to do so. Surely it is not necessary for me to repeat my argument time and time again! Members of the proposed committee will not be able to retail secret facts of which they may become aware, but opinions on foreign affairs are not composed of secret facts, except in a small degree. They are composed of attitudes of mind, proposals for action, and approaches to various subjects. That is where the virtue of debates on international affairs lies, and, to the degree that members of the Opposition who may serve on the proposed committee use their brains, their resources and the information that they obtain to evolve new and, for Australia, profitable lines of attackupon such problems, the committee will serve a useful purpose. But I emphasize that it is not to become a propaganda forum for the Opposition or. for anybody else, as I suggest the Opposition is trying to make it. Therefore, I regret to say that the- Government cannot accept the amendment.
I appeal to the Opposition to have confidence in the sincerity of the Government, and perhaps even of myself. We believe that our proposal will work. Let us give it a trial for six months. I assure honorable members opposite that they will not lose in the process. Should the committee reveal weakness as a workable piece of machinery in that period, I shall be the first to grasp the opportunity to remedy its faults. I appeal to the Opposition not to approach the proposal in a party political spirit.
– After saying that we will use it as a propaganda forum!
– No, I have not said that. I have said that we must guard against the possibility of anybody using it as a propaganda forum. I appeal to the Opposition to accept this innovation in the spirit in which it has been proposed. Let us try it and prove its worth in practice.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- We are indebted to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) for having exposed the inefficiency and narrowness of the Government’s proposal for a foreign affairs committee. The right honorable gentleman said, with a wave of his hands, that all that would be needed by the members of the committee would be an attitude of mind, a broad outlook, and presumably a Homburg hat. The spectacle of so many little Caseys walking earnestly around the corridors of this House would overwhelm me ! The Minister’s statements have proved that all the strictures of the Opposition about the narrowness of the proposed committee are fully justified. Surely a committee on foreign affairs in this time of danger must have teeth ! All that the Opposition demands is that the committee shall be made strong enough to work. The Minister has admitted that, under the Government’s proposal, it will not be strong enough. The truth is that he does not want it to work. It is his darling child, but he would rather strangle it than let the Opposition have anything to do with it! In the circumstances, his first thought is the best one.
The Government has a very sorry record in relation to the great institution of parliamentary ‘committees. It has destroyed them one by one. This proposal is another footling plan that it does not want to work. The Broadcasting Committee, a statutory .body, does not function although the parent act has not been repealed. The Social ‘Security Committee was abandoned by the representatives of the present Government parties when they were in Opposition. They simply walked out of it. Other committees are strewn by the wayside, neglected by the Government and unwanted. The ‘whole system, which nourished under the administration of the. “Curtin Government and the Chifley Government, has crumbled and decayed. Committees have disappeared or become futile. From all the nonsense that has been uttered on the Government side of the House emerges the clear fact that the Government either wants a committee that will be ineffective or does not want one at all. The two Ministers who have already spoken have betrayed a divergence of opinion. Apparently the Minister for External Affairs was nudged aside so that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) could make some astounding statements about foreign .affairs and could say that, although the Parliament needs a committee, the Opposition must not poke its nose into it. The .honorable gentleman’s long sojourn in Mayfair has not improved his manners. He must have paid very little attention to the work of the parliamentary .committees of which he has been a member. That Minister widened the scope of this debate, .until you corrected him, Mr. Speaker, so that he could discuss extraneous matters. By referring to stacks of cuttings, which were hurriedly handed to him by his .secretary, he attempted to define the character of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in a most uncomplimentary way while pretending to seek his co-operation in establishing a foreign affairs committee representative of both Houses of the Parliament at the highest level. I have never witnessed conduct so cheap as that of the* Minister when he set out to make a personal attack on the Leader of the Opposition under cover of a discussion of what we consider to be fair and reasonable proposals which, if adopted, would make the committee a workable body instead of a mere infantile debating group. Everything that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has said can be substantiated. We do not intend that the Minister for External Affairs should abdicate his position in favour of the committee ‘and make secrets freely available to it. But the committee must have access to information if it is to work effectively. It must not be just an all-talkie festival at which honorable members imagine they are working for the good of the country whenever some official hands them a circular on which ‘he has hurriedly stamped the words “‘Top Secret”.
We should consider the position of members of this Parliament who, since it has been enlarged, have found difficulty in becoming intimately acquainted with its method of operation. Many of them may be destined to remain in the background throughout their political lives, but they should be given the opportunity to inform their minds fully on such subjects as international affairs. Parliamentary committees are ideal instruments for instructing honorable members. If a committee is strong, it is a very great privilege to belong to it; but, if it is only a nebulous organization set up in a moment of aberration by a Minister, we want to have nothing to do with it. Through no fault of his own, an honorable member can remain for years on the back benches on either side of the House without learning anything about the work of government. The future of the whole committee system must be considered. It is under test in this House to-day because the Minister for External Affairs has presented us with a footling proposal. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, who was a member of the committee that considered the form of the proposed Japanese peace treaty in the immediate post-war period, complained that, in that capacity, he was presented with reams and reams of paper. If those were documents relating to a subject that was both difficult and diffuse, he should have studied them with care instead of sneering at them for the sake of propaganda.
Several statements made in this debate need to be considered seriously by the Opposition when it is examining the bona fides of the Government’s proposal. The suggestion that propaganda value may be obtained from the proposed committee is utterly stupid. The idea that His Majesty’s Opposition should elect members to attend committee meetings merely for propaganda purposes is absolutely unfair. The fact that parliamentary committees have been in existence since federation without any political advantage having been gained from their activities should be sufficient indication of the lack of substance of the Government’s fear. The Minister appears to be driven back on every occa- sion to the belief that the proposed committee must, of its very nature, be ineffective. What, then, would be the use of appointing such a committee? There would be interminable babble without result. The Opposition’s proposals are not over-strong. They are designed simply to achieve certain good results. Surely, if all the proposals were accepted instead of rejected out of hand, half of them would never be brought into operation. The Minister has said that he will be able to authorize the committee to do everything that the Opposition asks. If he wants to nourish it and make it strong, why does he not accept our proposals so that the committee will be able to act clearly without having to depend on him for permission to do its job properly? Under the Government’s plan, the committee will be entirely without strength. There is no need to labour the question. The Opposition considers that it has not been offered a fair deal. The scheme is full of weaknesses, which become more obvious as every representative of the Government attempts to defend it. The Opposition has stated its minimum requirements. In view of the difficulties that face Australia to-day, tha situation in Korea, and the intangibles and imponderables of the Middle East, the Minister, no matter how strong he may be, should welcome some earnest workers beside him who are fully informed of the dangers and willing to co-operate with him in every way. If he wants a raft of schoolboys and “ Yes-men “, he will proceed with his own proposals. If he wants a strong working partnership he will accept the Opposition’s amendments and will have a foreign affairs committee worthy of the name.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the amendments (Dr. Evatt’s) (vide page901), be agreed to.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 894), be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative;
hi Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 17th October (‘vide page 829), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £16,400 be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved-, by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by fi.
.- T congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Government on having presented such a budget as this in times like these. Although everybody may not agree with everything in the budget it is pleasing .to have such a balanced document presented to the committee. Experience has shown that the most disconsolate and pathetic figures in history are calamity howlers, prophets of doom, wailers of woe and purveyors of gloom who have found that their dire predictions have come to nought. The recent utterances of honorable members opposite provide us with a glorious example of. that fact. Honorable members opposite speak not with one voice, but with many voices. Some say that the Treasurer is budgeting for an undisclosed surplus. Others say that there will be a deficit instead of a surplus. The truth is that honorable members opposite are all discomfited because the predictions that they made in 1949 when they faced the people at the polls have not been fulfilled. Instead of the country going into a depression, as they predicted, and tottering to its doom because of inflation - which I admit exists - it is in a condition of unparalleled prosperity. More men are employed and higher wages are being paid than has ever been the case before, despite the gloomy prophecies of the Labour party.
In 1949 the supporters of the Chifley Government, whose day was drawing to its close, told the people that if they returned an anti-Labour government to office all sorts of dreadful things would happen. In fact, one honorable gentleman opposite who became, famous for his negotiations with New Zealand in respect of a wheat agreement even said that, if the people elected an anti-Labour government, that Government would establish a pool1 of unemployed and the people would be scratching round for a living. It was referred to as Professor Hytten’s pool. .-But/the people were sick and tired of the Labour Government, and, despite the calamity howlers, put this Government into office.- When the Government took. office the number of people employed, in this country was 2,498,000. After a year of administration by the Government that was to introduce Professor Hytten’s pool of unemployment, the number of people employed in December, 1950, was 2,595,000, or 97,000 more than when the Government took office. I remember that, when we announced that our policy included the derationing of petrol, the calamity howlers wailed that there was not enough petrol to go round and that we were playing a tory trick that would compel working men to sell their cars at ridiculously low amounts whilst rich people would be able to obtain petrol on the black-market. But what has hap-‘ pened? We abolished petrol rationing, an action for which the people were duly thankful. What happened to the car position in this country ? In December, 1949, 702,000 cars were registered in Australia and in December, 1950, after petrol rationing had been abolished and despite all the woeful prophecies from honorable gentlemen opposite, there were 831,000 private motor vehicles registered, or 129,000 more than were registered when the Government took office.
Among the other predictions of the doom peddlers opposite was one that women would have to go short of household necessities because petrol derationing would cause a black-market in petrol and large numbers of commercial vehicles would go out of use, with the result that it would not be possible to move great quantities of freight which would otherwise be shifted round the country. But the figures disprove that prediction. In 1949, 477,000 commercial vehicles were registered in Australia. A year later, 52S,000 were registered - an increase of 51,000 after one year of office of an anti-Labour government. In December, 1949, the issue of building permits for the month numbered 5,101. In the following December, the number was 7,369, or 2,268 more. I remember very clearly, and the people themselves should never forget, that during the 1949 general election the question that the electors had to answer .was whether they should return a government that would respect the people’s- savings or a government that would confiscate those savings bv nationalizing private banking institutions. Our. political opponents of the socialist Labour party said that if it did not do something about banking the people would be left without any money in the bank. They issued warnings about the dreadful things that would happen to the people’s savings- bank deposits in the event of the return . of an anti-Labour government. When the Government came into office, savings bank deposits totalled £732,000,000. After it had been, in office for one year the figure had risen to £769,000,000, an increase of £37,000,000 which had been saved by people who use the savings banks. That was no mean feat for -any government after only one year in office.
– The savings banks are all government banks.
– That is so. Then I shall turn to the private banks and meet the honorable gentleman on his own ground. _ I believe that he was very glad at one time to use the security available in a private bank. [Quorum formed.’] Before the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) expressed the desire that more honorable members should hear my remarks, I was about to mention the private trading banks and the security that they offer. I am sorry that I cannot give to the honorable member the figures with regard to security deposits, but I can give the. weekly bank clearings of the. trading banks, which are a reflection of the buoyancy of the currency and the prosperity of the community. In December, 1949, the average weekly clearances of the trading banks amounted to £173,700,000. In December, 1950, the confidences of the people in the Government having been restored, the figure was £22S,400,000, which represented an increase in one year of £54,700,000. What would have been the average weekly bank clearances in 1950 had the Socialists obtained a mandate from the people in 1949 to nationalize the banks? Had they then retained the reins of government they would have determined how much money should be cleared. That will be the position should they regain the power that they formerly held. But 1949 happened to be a turning point. The country had reached the stage at which it ceased to go downhill and began the slow but sure climb to the standard of prosperity that we have now reached.
In 1949, the calamity howlers and wailers said that if the present Govern. ment was returned to office the wage and salary earners would have empty ?ay envelopes. What has happened? n December, 1949, the average total weekly wages paid amounted to £22,701,000. By December, 1950, the figure had risen to £26,911,000. In other words, the wages bill in Australia had risen by £4,210,000 in one year of sensible government. In December, 1949, the average weekly wage paid to individuals was £9.73. In December, 1950, it was £11.18, an increase of £1.45. So I say again to the calamity howlers and wailers that their predictions have gone to the wall and there is no cause for wonder in that they sit disconsolate and pathetic figures when the dire happenings that they desired have been thwarted by good government.
– What about prices and profits?
– I am coming to that subject. The calamity howlers said that the Government could not carry out its great programme of expansion of the telephone services. In the year 1948-49, 64,9S0 additional telephones were connected in Australia. During the year 1950-51, 81,850 additional telephones were connected. After two years of sane and just administration, the number of new installations in one year exceeded by 16,870 the figure for 194’8-49. There is nothing wrong with the record of this Government. It stands out vividly when contrasted with the puny efforts to socialize Australia’ of the Government that preceded it in 1949.
The people were told that if they returned an anti-abour Government it would erect slum dwellings and that people would almost have to live on the streets. The Government tackled this problem.
Opposition members interjecting,
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) has the right to be heard.
– I cannot feel very badly towards honorable members opposite because evidently my recital of these facts is annoying them. It annoys me to have my own words flung back in my, mouth. They made a song about the housing position before the general election, and said that if the parties that now constitute the Government were returned to office a number of dire things would happen to those who rented houses and to young people who wanted to buy houses. They claimed that only a Labour government could arrange for the building of houses. In 194S, 49,555 houses were built in Australia. In 1949, 54.320 houses were built. Then came the change of government, and the figure rose to the 63,429 houses that were completed and ready to be occupied in 1950. At the 31st March, 1949, 53,05S houses were under construction. At the end of the first quarter of 1950, 64,830 houses were under construction, an increase of 11,772. Once the Government bad really got into its stride the figure rose to 78,942. The people of Australia have not forgotten those facts. Very shortly afterwards, there was another general election. Not only did the people return this Government to rule in this place but they also gave it an overwhelming victory in another place.
Australia’s name was not very good overseas in 1949. That fact was reflected in the volume of our imports and exports. For the month of December, 1949, our imports were worth £44,560,000. In December, 1950, there was an increase of £4,981,000 to £49,541,000. In 1949 our exports were worth £5i,66S,000. In 1950, due to the confidence which the people overseas had in this Government, the value rose by £20,650,000 to £72,318,000. Since. 1949 the average of the unemployment figures has fallen until it is now negligible.
One of the most momentous happenings that followed the change of government concerned dollar credits. For the eleven months ended May, 1950, Australia had a deficit of £6,000,000 worth of dollars. For the eleven months ended December, 1950, it had a credit of £84,000,000 worth of dollars. There was a very good reason for the changed position. If there was one country in the world that distrusted the previous socialist Government with very good cause it was the United States of America. In that country Australia was regarded very slightingly. Certain people have told me that there were many secrets with which this country could have been entrusted but that the United States Government did not trust the Australian Government; in particular, it did not trust the Minister for External Affairs in that Government, Dr. Evatt.
– It does not trust the present Government.
– It is to the credit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that because of his personal following in the United States of America and the solidarity of his Government he was able to do what Labour governments had not been able to do. He was able to win the confidence of the people of the United States and to obtain a 100,000,000 dollar loan. The Labour government could never raise such a loan in the United States because the United States did not trust it, particularly after the right honorable gentleman who is now Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for East Sydney chased the Americans out of their base on Manns Island and made a breach in Australia’s defences that we shall probably have to pay for in cold blood some day. Now there is a government in this country which the United States Government can trust, a fact that is reflected in the cold, hard figures of our financial relations with that country.
– ‘Tell us why the last loan failed.
– Honorable members of the Opposition can noV see that they were wrong in their calamity howling. Although the value of the currency is inflated, there is no depression. We are living in days of unparalleled prosperity and with wise government we shall pass through the danger of inflation into days of further unparalleled prosperity, with only one menace facing us. That is the danger of communism inside and outside of Australia. The efforts of our enemies, the Communists, have had the greatest effect on the inflationary spiral, not only in A,ustralia. but also throughout the whole world.
Any honorable member who regards this as a peace-time budget is making a grave error because we have been at war with the Communists - whether or not it has been a cold war does not matter - for the last four or five years. They have been waging a cold war on the economy of this country and of all other countries. I am particularly disturbed because, whilst we acknowledge the existence of Communists in key places in this country, we have not realized that communism is a national menace. During the early ‘thirties, High Court justices directed attention to the menace of communism in Australia. One justice, delivering his judgment in the High Court of Australia in 1932, said -
There is much in the matters averred and printed to suggest that the Communist party advocates that the whole Parliamentary machine must he completely changed - transformed - revolutionized, in order that a monopoly of political power shall be given to the working class, and that owners of private industries, property and wealth shall be dispossessed without compensation; further, that it is highly probable that so great a change, whether or not it is approved by the majority or ordained by law, will not be acquiesced in without resort to force on the part of those dispossessed, that in this sense, a violent civil upheaval will, almost certainly, accompany the proposed transformation of society and that actual civil violence and disturbance will accompany the attempted socialization of industry.
I am in complete agreement with those sentiments because I believe that they express the aims of the Communist. Even if they were not expressed in a judgment given by a member of the High Court Bench I should still agree that they were the Communists’ aims. Evidently that statement reflects the personal opinions of the High Court justice who wrote it. He continued -
In the ultimate ideal of the classless society, the Communist movement has much in common with the Socialist and working-class movement throughout the world.
– What has all this to do with the budget?
– If the honorable member did not understand it, I shall read it for him again -
In the ultimate ideal of the classless society, the Communist movement has much in common with the Socialist and working-class movement throughout the world.
It should be remembered that honorable members opposite claim to represent a working-class movement, and do not deny that they also represent a movement which aims at socialization of industry. I now inform them that the man who said that - actual civil violence and disturbance will accompany the attempted socialization of industry, subsequently stepped down from the High Court Bench and is now the Leader of the Opposition in this House.
Honorable members interjecting,
– It is all here in black and white, and I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman believes what he then said. Soon after he had made this statement he began to take a leading part in the Labour party. He has now become the leader of a working-class movement that has much in common with the Communist movement, and he is admittedly working for the socialization of industry throughout Australia. We must beware of this man.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! There are too many interjections. The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald) must come to order.
– We must beware of the man who made such statements, which reflectedhis personal opinions, at a time when the rest of the world looked on communism as a minor matter. The right honorable gentleman has continued to hold his opinions down through the years. We jeered when Sir Stafford Cripps said that his party was working for the liquidation of the British Empire. But since that time the Empire has been liquidated by the wretched government that is now in power in the United Kingdom. In the High Court case from which I have quoted, the right honorable gentleman said that the Communist movement had much in common with the socialist movement throughout the world. Now he has led his supporters and the blind followers of the Labour party into a position from which they are prepared to bring about the civil violence and disturbance which he believes will accompany the socialization of industry. All honorable members should be warned now of the seriousness of following men such as the Leader of the Opposition, because to-morrow may be too late for warnings to be effective. I shall read further remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition when he was a justice of the High Court. He said -
The history of the attempts and failures of Communism to gain control of other political movements of the working classes may tend, upon close analysis, to show that, to turn the phrase, Communism illustrates the gradualness, the extreme gradualness, of inevitability.
In the light of that statement I say that the honorable member who interjected has no business to sit behind bis leader, because if he had the courage of his convictions he would continue the efforts that he commenced last year to dethrone the then right honorable member for Barton when he returned from his successful advocacy of the Communists’ case in the High Court.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is out of order.
– I remind honorable members that the expression “ Communism illustrates . . . the extreme gradualness of inevitability “ was written in 1932, and is now imperishably enshrined in the Commonwealth Law Reports. It can never be erased from those reports, and to-day the same sort of thing may be read in any piece of Communist propaganda that may be picked up in the streets.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is not possible in thirty minutes to deal with every facet of the budget, but in the time at my disposal I intend to deal with one of its most important aspects. That is its failure to take any adequate measures against the inflationary state of our economy. Instead of remedying inflation this budget will make it worse. It will do that because through higher sales tax it will increase the cost of. goods and raise the cost of living while leaving untouched the profits of big vested interests. Big. business, in fact, is further encouraged to make even greater profits. Such profits can be earned only by charging higher prices to the people and by taking advantage of the Government’s failure to place a limit on them. Had the Government carried out its promise to impose an excess profits tax on companies it would have discouraged large companies from making exorbitant profits. When one considers how enormous have been the profits made by companies in
Australia, one realizes the necessity for the introduction of some means of reducing them.
I shall refer honorable members to one company in order to illustrate the size of the profits that are being made to-day at the expense of the people. Austin Distributors Limited has a paid-up capital of £187,500. Last year that company made a profit of £1,315,993. After taxation had been paid and depreciation allowed for, the net profit of the company was £241,846. I remind honorable members that that profit was made on a paid-up capital of £187,500 and represented 159.06 per cent, on capital. In that company the £1 preference shares have a tangible support of £25 10s. lOd. and the os. ordinary shares have a tangible support of 29s. 5d. If that is not a case of first-class robbery I do not know what is. It is the duty of the Government to. impose a tax on profits that will prevent companies from imposing upon the community the terrific prices that have enabled them to make such enormous profits. On the 11th October, just after the budget had been presented, Johnson’s Investment Digest published the following:
An examination of Hie [budget] proposals shows that whilst the small public companies will suffer, companies generally have not been so severely dealt with as was expected. . . . It is the small company, an important cog in the national economy, which will bear the greatest incidence of the new tax proposals. . . . The budget places an unreasonable burden on the small companies.
Then there was an article headed “ Budget pointers for investors “. That article reads, in part -
Company tax increases should not unduly affect profits. . . . Sales tax increases, although heavy on some lines, should not greatly retard the majority of businesses: . . Add to those points the firming in wool prices and it all indicates a firm share market at least ‘for the immediate future.
What does all this indicate to the rank and file members of the Government parties who are not tied to vested interests as are some of the Ministers? They should join with me in a demand that the Government shall recast the budget and give relief to the people they are supposed to represent.
Recently it has come to my notice that there was a secret, meeting on the 9th August, in Melbourne, between the Prime
Minister (Mr. Menzies) and representatives of the private banks. In answering a question that I asked, the Prime Minister admitted that he attended such a meeting and stated that he did not take with him the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, but had a discussion with representatives of the private banks in order to obtain any first-hand and practical suggestions that they might desire to make with respect to the operation of the present banking system, and in particular the credit policy that now operates. We should know what part the Commonwealth Bank is playing in the Government’s economic plans and why we were told that the Commonwealth Bank Board was set up to help the small income earners of Australia. If we read some of the publications which represent the views of the big financial interests in Australia we soon get a better insight into the real intention of the Government in setting up that board. I recently read an issue of the Australasian Insurance and Banking Record. In its publication of the annual report of the Bank of New South Wales the following paragraph appeared : -
In effect the legislation [Commonwealth Bank Board] is intended to establish the independence of the Commonwealth Bank, in both its Central and trading bank functions, and to free it from the possibility of political direction by the Federal Treasurer.
That is an admission that the intention of the Government was to take away from this Parliament of the elected representatives of the people the right to determine the policy of the Commonwealth Bank in regard to central and trading bank functions, and to place it in the hands of the board whose members are not answerable to the people.
Let us now consider the board and how its members are connected with industrial, commercial and financial interests, and, last but not least, the big newspaper monopolies in Australia. Four of tha five outside members of the Commonwealth Bank Board are directly associated with these vested interests, and are mem- bers of a clique of 30 men who between them, control a group of 123 interlocking companies, the value of whose assets is £1,832,000.000. The names of these four men are W. L. Sanderson, J. W. Fletcher, A. E. Symons and G. H. Grimwade..
Those gentlemen are not well known to the public, but let us look at some of the exclusive publications that are issued for the benefit of bankers, company promoters and stock-brokers and we shall see who they really are and what they really do.
Mr. T. E. Barr Smith is also associated with Adelaide Steamship Company Limited and Cellulose Australia Limited and, is linked with Sir W. Lennon Raws on the directorate of Elder Smith and Company Limited.
Sir W, Lennon Raws is also a director of Howard Smith and Company Limited, Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, Caledonian Collieries Limited, Trustees Executors and Agency Company Limited, Metal Manufacturers Limited, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Wallaroo Mount Lyell Fertilisers Limited, and Australian Iron and Steel Limited. On the directorate of those three lastnamed companies he is associated with Sir Walter Duncan.
Sir Walter Duncan is also a director of Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, Goldsbrough Mort and Company Limited and Bagots Executor and Trustee Company Limited.
Mr. A. E. Hamilton is associated with Sir Walter Duncan as a director of Bagots Executor and Trustee Company Limited and Goldsbrough Mort and Company Limited. He is also a director of South Australian Brewing Company Limited, Onkaparinga Woollen Company Limited and, in association with Sir James Gosse, the Bank of Adelaide, which comes into the picture as the first of the private banks that the Government assured the Parliament would in no way exercise any influence with the Commonwealth Bank Board.
Sir James Gosse is a director also of the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited. J. and A. Brown and Abermain Sea- ham Collieries Limited, G. and R. Wills and Company Limited, and South Australian Portland Cement Company Limited; and, with Sir Lavington Bonython, he sits on the directorate of the Executor Trustee and Agency Company of South Australia Limited.
Sir Lavington Bonython is a director also of Bennett and Fisher Limited, Scottish Union and National Insurance Company, and Advertiser Newspapers Limited. In the last-named organization he is a co-director with Mr. H. D. Giddy.
Mr. Giddy is a director also of Herald and Weekly Times Limited, Australian Newsprint Mills Limited, and Tweedside Manufacturing Company Limited; and, on the directorate of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, he is associated with Mr. L. Darling and Sir Olive McPherson. That is the second of the private banks that are linked with the interests that dominate the Commonwealth Bank Board.
Mr. L. Darling is a director also of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Australian Iron and Steel Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited and John Darling and Son Limited.
I come now to Sir Olive McPherson, who was a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board from 1940 to 1944. He is a director of the National Bank of Australasia Limited and Younghusband Limited; and, as a director of Union Trustee Company of Australia Limited he is associated with Mr. J. W. Fletcher.
Mr. Fletcher is the second of the four persons whom I mentioned who have been appointed to the resurrected Commonwealth Bank Board. Let U3 see to what degree he represents the interests of the small man, the worker and the small farmer. He is a director . also of Bonus Downs Pastoral Company and Queensland Primary Producers Cooperative Association Limited; and, with’ Mr. C. H. Hoskins, is a director of the Australian Mutual Provident Society.’ Some time ago, he was fined for having’ failed to provide proper accommodation for his employees. He was a member of the Queensland Parliament for some years until the electors sacked him after he had made the absurd statement that 120 per cent. of the stock population of that State had perished as the result of drought.
Mr. Hoskins is also a director of Southern Portland Cement Company and is associated with Mr. C. Y. Syme as a director of Australian Iron and Steel Limited.
Mr. Syme is a director also of Broken Hill Proprietary Company . Limited, and Goldsbrough Mort and Company Limited; and, on the directorate of Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and “New Zealand, he is associated with Sir Alexander Stewart.
Sir Alexander Stewart is also a director of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, Broken Hill South Limited, Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited, Dunlop Rubber Australia Limited, Emu Bay Railway Company Limited, Commonwealth Industrial Gases Limited, Metal Manufactures Limited, and Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Limited ; and he is associated with Sir Leslie Morshead as a director of Trustee, Executors and Agency Company Limited.
Sir Leslie Morshead is an important personage in any connexion that he may have with the interests that are represented on the Commonwealth Bank Board, because he is a director of the Bank of New South Wales. That is the third of the private banks to emerge in this chain that I am now forging. Sir Leslie is a director also of Sydney Exchange Company, on the directorate of which company one of his colleagues is Mr. E. R. Knox.
We come now to the fourth of the private banks to appear in this interlocking of vested interests because Mr. Knox is a director also of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited, as well as of Colonial Sugar Refinery Company Limited and United Insurance Company Limited; and he is associated with the Honorable T. A. J. Playfair, M.L.C., as a director of Perpetual Trustee Company Limited.
Mr. Playfair is a director also of Australian Mutual Provident Society and New South Wales Fresh Food and Ice Company Limited; and he is associated with Mr. A. E. Symons as a director of Waters Trading Company Limited.
Mr. Symons is one of the four representatives of vested interests whom the Government has appointed to the present Commonwealth Bank Board. I remind honorable members again that the other three appointees are Mr. W. L. Sanderson, Mr. J. W. Fletcher, and Mr. G.H. Grimwade.
Where does Mr. Grimwade fit into this chain of vested interests ? He is a director of Lincoln Stuart and Company Proprietary Limited, Felton, Grimwade and Duerdins Proprietary Limited, J. Bosisto and Company Proprietary Limited, Carba Dry Ice (Australia) Limited, Drug Houses of Australia Limited, Perpetual General Insurance and Guarantee Company Limited, Victoria Insurance Company Limited, Australian Mutual Provident Society, Courtaulds (Australia) Limited, and other companies; and he is associated on the directorate of Commonwealth Industrial Gases Limited with Sir Sydney Snow.
Sir Sydney Snow is a director also of Sydney Snow Proprietary Limited, Broken Hill South Limited, General Industries Limited, Snows Men’s Wear Limited, California Productions Limited, and H. B. Dickie Limited ; and, with Sir Harry Lawson and Sir G. Dalziel Kelly, is a director of Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Company Limited.
Sir Harry Lawson is a director also of Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited, Hartleys Limited, Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited, Permewan Wright Limited, Robert Harper and Company Limited, and Union Assurance Society Limited; and, on the directorates of Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited, and Perpetual Executors and Trustees Association of Australia Limited, he is associated with Sir Dalziel Kelly, or Sir George Kelly, as he sometimes calls himself.
Sir Dalziel Kelly is a director also of Haliburton Investments (Australia) Limited, Australian Foundation Investment Company Limited, Bradford Cotton Mills Limited, Brenton Investment Company (Australia) Limited, Capel Court Investment Company (Australia) Limited, Chevron Limited. H. C. Sleigh Limited, Jason Investments (Australia) Limited,. Lombard Investments (Australia) Limited, National Reliance Investment Company Limited, Repco Limited, and Clonmore Investments (Australia) Limited; and, with Sir Lloyd Dumas, is a director of Herald and Weekly Times Limited.
Sir Lloyd Dumas is no mean personage either. He is a director also of Elder Smith and Company Limited, Advertiser Newspapers Limited and Australian Associated Press; and, on the directorate of Australian Newsprint Mills Limited, one of his fellow directors is Sir John Butters.
Sir John Butters is a director also of Associated Newspapers Limited, Bitumen and Oil Refineries (Australia) Limited, General Motors-Holdens Limited, Hadfields Steel Works Limited, Hetton Bellbird Collieries Limited, Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company Limited, and North Shore Gas Company Limited ; and, on the directorate of Australian Newsprint Mills Limited, he is associated with Sir Keith Murdoch.
Sir Keith Murdoch is a director of News Limited, and, with Sir Dalziel Kelly, is a director of Herald and Weekly Times Limited.
Sir Dalziel Kelly whose other associations I have mentioned, is associated with Mr. W. J. Byrne on the directorates of Australian Foundation Investment Company Limited, Brenton Investment Company (Australia) Limited, Capel Court Investment Company (Australia) Limited, Jason Investments (Australia) Limited, Lombard Investments (Australia) Limited, and National Reliance Investment Company Limited.
We come now to the fifth of the private banks in the chain. Mr. Byrne is a director also of the Commercial Bank of Australia Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Consolidated Fibre Products Limited, and Ready-Mixed Concrete Limited, and, on the directorate of Atlas Insurance Company Limited, he is associated with Sir Walter MassyGreene.
Sir Walter Massy-Greene, who, at one time, was being’ groomed by the Liberals for the Prime Ministership, is a director of Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited, Australian Knitting Mills Limited, Bradford Cotton Mills Limited, Dunlop. Rubber Aus- tralia Limited, Emu Bay Railway Company Limited, Felt and Textiles of Australia Limited, Metal Manufactures Limited, North Broken Hill Limited, Overseas Corporation Limited, Thomas Owen and Company (Australia) Limited, Yarra Falls Limited, Goldmines of Kalgoorlie Limited, Kalgoorlie Southern Goldmines No Liability, New Broken Hill Consolidated Limited, and Western Mining Corporation Limited; whilst, on the directorates of Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited and Zinc Investments Limited, he is associated with Mr. G. Cohen.
According to the latest information at my disposal, Mr. Cohen is a director also of Carlton and United Breweries Limited, Carlton Brewery Limited, Elastic Webbing Industries Limited, Foster Brewing Company Limited, Glazebrooks Paints Australia Limited, Shamrock Brewing Company Limited, Standard Mutual Building Society, Swan Brewery Company Limited, and Union Assurance Society Limited; and, on the directorate of Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, he is associated with Mr. J. R. Govett.
Mr. J. R. Govett is a director also of New Broken Hill Consolidated Limited, Consolidated Zinc Corporation Limited, and Imperial Smelting Corporation Limited, on the directorate of each of which companies, as well as that of Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, he is associated with Sir Olive Ballieu. Mr. Govett is also a director of Broken Hill Corporation Limited.
Sir Olive Ballieu brings the sixth of the private banks into the picture because he is a director of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited. He is also on the directorates of Dunlop Rubber Australia Limited, New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company Limited, and Standard Trust Limited.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. I submit that the honorable member is not in order in reading his speech and that he is also infringing the Standing Orders by indulging in tedious repetition. In addition, I submit that the list of names of companies that he is reading is irrelevent to the question- before the Chair.
– It has been the practice of the Chair to allow honorable members to read particulars of the kind that the honorable member is reading.
– The details that I have given to the committee reveal the connexions that exist between vested interests in this country and the four gentlemen whom the Government claims that it appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board to represent the worker, the small business man and the small farmer. Let us see what the Australasian Banking and Insurance Record had to say about the appointment of Mr. Sanderson to the board. It said -
Satisfaction was expressed in financial circles in Adelaide at the inclusion of Mr. W. L. Sanderson, general manager of Elder Smith and Company Limited, Adelaide, on the new Commonwealth Bank Board of ten men announced in Canberra on August 21.
Whatever may have been the feeling in financial circles, I am certain that the workers and the small business men and farmers would not accept Mr. Sanderson as their representative on the Commonwealth Bank Board. Neither would they accept the appointment of Mr. G. H. Grimwade as that of a suitable person to represent them on the board. Mr. Grimwade was, until recently, chairman of the editorial committee of the Institute of Public Affairs, and in that capacity he told a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne on the 27th July last that unemployment “was a promoter of energetic endeavour and respect for authority, whether benign or malign “.
The budget clearly discloses that the real cause of inflation in this country is that large companies are permitted to charge exorbitant prices for their products. The Government has done nothing to prevent costs from rising. Indeed, it is doing everything to protect big companies. For instance, it does not now intend to impose a tax on undistributed profits. Let us see just what that means. The paid up capital of 117 of the 123 companies I have just mentioned amounted last year to £186,327,314, whilst the net assets of those companies amounted to £335,439,856. As no tax is to be imposed on share values, those values will rise considerably because a person who has more money than he can spend will not be much concerned about whether his wealth is in the form of money or is represented by script. Yet nothing is being done to impose suitably severe taxes on that form of income which those people are able to get through the manipulation of business, and through the direct and indirect connexions that they have with this Government.
I now direct attention to a practice that is going on in public companies to-day, by quoting from the annual report of the Broken Hill South Limited for the year ended the 30th June, 1950. The report sets out the shares that are held by that company in other companies and states -
These large shareholdings are conservatively valued and include listed securities in the books at about £520,000 which have a market value in excess of that figure of approximately £700.000.
The company itself has made that admission. Another important aspect of the activities of companies is the influence that they exercise over public opinion through their control of newspapers. I have already stated that Mr. Giddy, Sir Lloyd Dumas and several other persons control the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, which prints the Melbourne Herald, the Sun News-Pictorial, Weekly Times, Sporting Globe, Wild Life, Listener-in, Home Beautiful and Aircraft. Sir John Butters is a director of Associated Newspapers Limited, and controls the publication of the Sydney Sun, Sunday Sun and Guardian, World News, Woman, Pix, People, Sporting Life, Radio and Hobbies and Pocket Book Weekly. The Adelaide News and the Adelaide Advertiser are also controlled by this powerful clique of 30 men whom I have mentioned. Is there any wonder, therefore, that the Advertiser, the News and many other newspapers are starting to praise this Government’s budget, and to say that it has some good features, that it is not so bad as it had been painted at the outset, and that the people should be pleased to have a government with sufficient courage to deal with the problems of the day? I should like the Government to explain its financial policy. Will it allow those big companies to continue to make exhorbitant profits without placing any restriction upon them? Will it permit big monopolies to retain their grasp on many Australian industries without taking any action to save the people from the consequences ?
I shall now deal with Drug Houses of Australia Limited, which is one of the companies that is controlled by Mr. Grimwade whom this Government appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board. The company was formed in 1927 to bring under centralized control a group of long established druggists. In the intervening years other similar businesses have been absorbed. Those businesses include -
Elliotts and Australian Drug Proprietary Limited, Sydney and Newcastle.
Felton, Grimwade and Bickford Proprietary Limited, Perth, Fremantle and Kalgoorlie.
Felton, Grimwade and Duerdons Proprietary Limited, Melbourne.
Felton, Grimwade Dental Company Proprietary Limited, Melbourne.
Hudson’s Eumenthol Chemical Company Proprietary Limited, Sydney.
Taylors, Elliotts Proprietary Limited, Brisbane, Rockhampton and Townsville.
Sandas Proprietary Limited, Sydney and Melbourne.
Oan there now be any wonder that the Chifley Labour Government was not able to introduce its free medicine scheme? Honorable members opposite are laughing prematurely. I shall read an extract from the report of Drug Houses of Australia Limited that refers directly to the free medicine scheme. Mr. Grimwade, addressing the shareholders said -
I informed you last year that the effect of the scheme then on the statute-book was not feared by your directors, and I can again say that we have no reason to believe that the latest effort by the Federal Government will be dam aging to our interests.
The interests of the people received no consideration. The only concern of Mr. Grimwade and the directors of Drug Houses of Australia Limited was for their own interests and those of the shareholders of the companies that they have in their grasp.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Davies) negatived -
That the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) be granted au extension of time.
.- I propose to take advantage of this opportunity to refer to the budget, and in doing so I shall be different from the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who hardly mentioned the budget in his speech. When I was listening to him, I recalled the action of Mr. Speaker last Tuesday in directing the attention of honorable members to the standing order that forbids tedious repetition. I estimate that 25 minutes of the half -hour that was available to the honorable member for Hindmarsh was occupied in denouncing members of the Commonwealth Bank Board, who are men of repute.
– They are a lot of crooks.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) said that the men whose names were read out by the honorable member for Hindmarsh were a set of crooks. I do not think that the honorable gentleman should be permitted to make such a statement about men who have no opportunity to defend themselves in this chamber.
– The honorable member for Watson will withdraw that remark, and apologize for having made it.
– Mr. Chairman-
– Order! I am giving a ruling. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) must remain seated while I am on my feet. The honorable member for Watson will withdraw that remark, and apologize for having made it.
– Apologize for what ?
– Will the honorable member apologize for having made that remark ?
– What remark?
– Will the honorable member withdraw that statement, and apologize for having made it?
– What statement?
– The honorable member for Watson is aware of the statement that he has been asked to withdraw.
– May 1 substitute other words ?
– Order ! If the honorable gentleman does .not obey the Chair without any qualification, he will be named.
– I withdraw.
– And apologize.
– I apologize.
– I now rise to order. 1 submit that I should have been permitted by the Chair to take this point of order earlier. The Chair ordered the honorable member for Watson to withdraw a certain remark. My point of order is that a reference by the honorable gentleman to people outside this chamber should not be adjudged as a misdemeanour, and that, therefore, the Chair was not entitled to ask him to withdraw that remark.
– Order! The honorable member for Dalley-
– I have not yet completed my point of order, and I am still on my feet. I have been a member of this chamber for a long time, and this is the first occasion on which I have heard a Chairman of Committees, or a Speaker, ask, at the request of a Minister, for the withdrawal of a statement about persons outside the Parliament. It is true that protection is granted to Royalty and to His Excellency the Governor-General, but no protection is afforded to private citizens, although an honorable member who criticizes them must accept the responsibility that accompanies his criticism. But the Chair has no right to ask for the withdrawal of any statement about any person other than those who are specifically mentioned in the Standing Orders.
– I did not hear the statement that was made by the honorable member for Watson, and was not aware of it until my attention was directed to it by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes). The honorable member for Dalley, who has raised a point of order, was the Speaker of the House of Representatives for a number of years. If he can classify the words that were used by the honorable member for Watson as parliamentary, he is able to stretch his imagination a vast distance. He is well aware that those words are not parliamentary. For that reason, the Chair asked th-3 honorable member for Watson to withdraw them, and to apologize for having used them.
– It is regrettable tha? certain honorable members do not reflect any credit upon the intelligence of the people who elected them to the Parliament. The honorable member for Hindmarsh criticized Mr. W. L. Sanderson, who is the general maam in South Australia for Elder Smith and Company Limited. I inform honorable gentlemen that Mr. Sanderson is well and favorably known to me. All members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in this chamber will be pleased to know that Mr. Sanderson served with great distinction in World War I. and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross. It behoves every honorable member who represents an electorate in South Australia to defend a man who is highly regarded by the citizens of that State. He has given his services in the City of Adelaide io a-neals for funds for cancer research and for the Flying Doctor Service, and has worked hard on preparations for the forthcoming Royal visit to Australia. He has been associated with many of the activities in the life of South Australia and his honorable services generally to the community reflect very great credit upon him.
It may be a good thing if I now deal with the budget, because, in doing so, I shall set an example that certain honorable members will do well to follow. When we read in the press and listened to broadcasts about the comments that were attributed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) before the introduction of the budget, most honorable members and other thinking people experienced feelings of grave concern about its impact upon the lives of Australians. The Premier of a certain State did not assist to allay those feelings of grave concern when he criticized the allocation that had bee., made bv the Australian Loan Council for the public works’ programme of his government. Then the Treasurer presented his budget to the Parliament, and a majority of the people, with the exception of those who protest against the increases of sales tax upon such items as shaving cream, razor blades, lipstick and popcorn, believe that the financial proposals represent a genuine effort on the part of the Government to put the brake on inflation. I believe that the budget will have the support, not only of members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party, but also of a large majority of the decent, loyal, British trade unionists who work throughout Australia.
The criticism in my electorate ha3 centred largely on the falling value of Australian bonds, and the inability to fill the recent Security Loan. Much of the blame for that position has been placed upon the shoulders of the Australian Government, whereas it should have been laid at the door of the Australian Loan Council. I believe that this Government will be well advised to consider at an early date the advisability of restoring to the States the authority to impose income tax. If such a power were returned to them, they would share the odium that is borne by all the taxing authorities in the Commonwealth of raising the revenues that they expend. I am indebted to the Treasurer for the re”1” that he has given to a question about the Australian Loan Council, as follows : -
The Loan Council in which the Commonwealth Government is a partner with the States, the six States each having a vote and the Commonwealth having two votes determines the rate of interest, the terms of maturity and the general conditions of all loan raising.
The loan raisings are decided by the Loan Council, and the Commonwealth Government acts as the agent or trustee for the States in raising of various loans. The Australian Government and the Loan Council undertake to poy a prescribed rate of interest for the determined period of time, and that rate of interest will in future be paid, and has always been paid during the currency of the loan. Loans have been paid upon maturity at their par value.
I feel that, in the interests of the people in my electorate, that information should be emphasized, because I have not read it in the press. I. shall take the first opportunity that is presented to bring the facts to the notice of my electors, so that they will be more correctly informed about, the responsibilities, and activities of the Loan Council.
I now wish to deal with a problem that is arousing considerable anxiety in the minds of many people. I refer to a statement by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr; Atlee, about living costs in Australia. The following report appeared in the press recently : -
Mr. A.ttlee. in an election speech, told his audience that the Conservative victory in the last Australian elections resulted, in a steep rise- in- the cost of living.
The Prime Minister; who was speaking at Buxton. (Derbyshire), was comparing British living costs with, costs- when, the Conservatives were in power.
Mr. Attlee said: “Fortunately, this country resisted the temptation to put the Conservatives back in 1950. “ Unfortunately for Australia and New Zealand they were not. so wise. “ The immediate result in those countries has been a steep rise in the cost of living.”
When a heckler shouted : “ And wages,” Mr. Attlee said: “Oh, no, I have watched wages for many years. They always keep a respectful distance behind prices “.
I now refer to the report of a statement that was made by a very honorable member of the Labour party upon his return to Australia from overseas recently. He said that, although it was difficult to compare. Australian living conditions with those in some countries such as India, the cost of living in Australia was really no higher than it was abroad. That statement was made by Senator 0’Flaherty. and I believe it to be perfectly true.
A word may now be opportune about some of the experiences that I had during my recent visit abroad. “While I was in the Old Country, I took the opportunity to make contacts with many people from every walk of life. In common with other honorable members, I have a high regard for the integrity, courage and tenacity of the British people. We Australians can be justifiably proud of our association with the people of Great Britain. Although they took an enormous gruelling, during the war and have suffered greater hardships since the war than even our defeated enemies, they are setting an example that Aus1tralians might well emulate. I was inquisitive” about the cost of living in Great Britain and, during my stay at Bournemouth, I compared the prices of various commodities with those that rule in Australia. I shall cite some of the figures for the information of honorable members who may be interested. Bondman tobacco cost 64s. per lb. in England, but it may be bought in Bundle-street, Adelaide, after exchange, trading profits, freight charges and duty have been added, for 39s. per lb.
– That is due to the heavy tax in the United Kingdom.
– Exactly ! That is what I am trying to point out for the benefit of the honorable member. Cigarettes cost 4s. 10£d. for twenty in England, but Australians may buy 40 for the same price. Cigars cost 4s. 5d. in England, but only ls. 9d. in Australia. Whisky costs 4s. sterling a nip in England, but only ls. 2d. in Australia. Gin costs 4s. a nip in England and ls. in Australia. Sherry costs as much as 4s. a drink in England, but only 6d. in Australia. Beer costs ls. 4d. a pint in England and ls. 3d. in Australia. ]for the benefit of teetotallers, who may not be impressed by those comparisons, t shall refer to other costs that should interest all honorable members. The entertainment of the working man provides a good example. A man who takes a young lady to the moving pictures in England pays for seats in the stalls, the middle-class part of the theatre where I always sit in preference to the more elaborate sections, at the rate of 2s. 3d. admission charge and 2s. 3d. tax for each seat. The comparable charge in Australia is made up of 2s. 5d. plus 7d. tax. I have referred only to the costs of items with which most honorable members are familiar. I do not poke my nose into the affairs of women, but I assure the committee that the prices of cosmetics, clothing and all the other goods that make life pleasant for women are considerably higher in Great Britain than they are in Australia. I emphasize the fact that those high prices are levied under the administration of a socialist government in a country where the standard working week consists of 44 hours*.
In order to obtain first-hand knowledge of conditions in Great Britain, I decided to make contact with men employed in the tramway organization at Bournemouth. They work 44 hours a week and, under the award that applies to them by agreement between employers and employees, they receive £6 a week. In Adelaide, the same class of employee works 40 hours a week and is paid an award rate of £10 4s. a week. That represents a fair comparison of general standards. For the purpose of making a comparison of income tax charges, I have taken the situation of taxpayers who earn £300 a year. A man who earns that income in Great Britain pays £41 8s. a year. His Australian counterpart pays £12 16s.
In view of all these facts, I have great difficulty in placing any credence in the statement that was made by the Prime. Minister of Great Britain. Wherever I went in the United Kingdom I mixed with men who worked on the roads, cut the beautiful hedges of England, swept the streets, and drove the lorries. Those men have a very high regard for Australia, but they are completely ignorant of our living standards. Statements such as that made by Mr. Attlee should be refuted at once because they do irreparable damage to Australia by fostering a false impression of the living conditions of our workers. At the place where I stayed at Bournemouth, I was able to buy only one bottle of whisky, one bottle of gin and one bottle of soda water throughout my sojourn there. The bill amounted to £7 14s. I have brought back the receipt as a souvenir.
Having moved round England, Scotland and South Wales, and seen evidence of the sufferings of the people during the war and their inability to recapture the position that they had occupied in the more glorious past, I have come to the conclusion that Australians are too forgetful of the great part that they play in the British Commonwealth of Nations. They are our kin and .we, as a nation, owe them a great debt. I hope that the authorities that are responsible for negotiating agreements for the sale of Australian meat, wheat, wool and other primary products will not grind the last penny out of the British people as the Argentine Government has tried to do.
During my trip - for which, by the way, I myself paid - I called on Major J. G. Lockhart, O.B.E., of the Empire Parliamentary Association, and I am deeply indebted to him for his courtesy to me while I was in London. Every one connected with the association was most helpful and hospitable. I had the privilege of sitting in the House of Commons, and of listening to Mr. Churchill, Mr. Attlee, Mr. Aneurin Bevan, and others who are only names to us. I also listened to some of the debates in the House of Lords. I suggest that any honorable member who visits the United Kingdom should make a point of getting in touch with the Empire Parliamentary Association.
I regret that I cannot pay the same kind of tribute to some officials at Australia House. I was carrying a letter of credence from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and I believed it to be my duty to present it. I went to Australia House, and tried to make contact with the official concerned. I met a young lady and asked for him, but was told that he was in conference, and was too busy to see me. I left my address and telephone number, and made it clear that I should like to pay my respects as soon as that might be convenient. Again, I regret to say that, during the whole of my stay in London, I heard nothing on the matter from Australia House. A letter of credence from the Prime Minister of Australia should command some respect from officials at Australia House. Unless there is an improvement under the new High Commissioner, I suggest that it would be better for the Prime Minister to refrain from providing travellers with letters of credence to Australia House. The treatment which the bearers of such letters have received hitherto has caused much dissatisfaction. I believe it to be my duty to direct attention to what I regard as a weakness in administration at Australia House. I trust that, the new High Commissioner, Mr. White, having taken charge, there will be a noticeable improvement in administration and general conduct. It seems to me that there was a great deal of overlapping in the operations of Australia House and of the offices of the various States Agents-General. When I was in London I heard that delegations were there from certain States, local authorities, railway departments and tramways corporations seeking immigrants in order to overcome the labour shortage in Australia. Surely that work should be done through the Australian Government, and some of the enormous expenditure, now incurred by the Commonwealth and the States on representation in London could be avoided.
As I have said on previous occasions, war widows are entitled to better treatment than they are receiving under the War ‘Service Homes Act. In South Australia, there are 1,7S8 war widows of both wars, who are eligible under the. War Service Homes Act to be provided with houses for themselves and their dependants, and it is disturbing to me that only 43 of them have survived the test applied under section 2S of the act. The Government has an obligation to the dependants of those killed in action. It should either increase war pensions, or see that war widows shall no longer suffer anxiety about accommodation. Hitherto, governments have been too ready to shelter behind section 28 of the act so as to escape their obligations to war widows, leaving them to the care of the States and to charitable organizations. I knew many of those who were killed in the war, and I know that they would have wished me to remind the Government of its obligation to those whom they left behind. In many instances, when an ex-serviceman died after becoming the occupier of a war service home, his widow was allowed to remain in occupation upon the payment of a nominal rent of ls. a week. The practice is to be commended. But there is also an obligation to the dependants of the men who were killed in action. The law says that the Avar widow is entitled to a house, but those who administer the law have the right to say that she is a bad risk, and to refuse her application on that ground. I hope that an effort will be made to remove this injustice, and to discharge our obligation to a deserving section of the community.
The South Australian Housing Trust, which is presided over by a chairman was appointed by the State Government, has entered into an arrangement with the “War Service Homes Division under which 575 houses have been built more cheaply than the department could have done the work. By a recent amendment of the act, arrangements of this kind will henceforth be forbidden. I understand that the Premier of South Australia is making representations on the subject, and I trust that they will be favorably received.
.- Che honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) accused the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) of having failed to discuss the budget during the course of his speech, yet on a grand tour through England, Scotland and Wales, on which he conducted honorable members, he himself made very little reference to the budget. The information he gave to honorable members was very interesting, particularly to those who sit on this side of the chamber, most or whom will never have an opportunity to follow in his footsteps.
The honorable member also spoke of the price of beer and whisky, and then added, “ Now we shall talk about something which the workers enjoy”. Does he believe that the worker is not entitled to whisky and beer, and should be satisfied to take his girl or wife to the middle stalls at the pictures at a cost of 2s. 5d. a seat? Whatever may have been the sins of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, no one will deny that the honorable member for Boothby did not deal with the budget. It may be that he was afraid to do so because honorable members have been warned that they will be asked to resume their seats if they indulge in repetition. 1. suppose that repetition, whether it be tedious or not, is inevitable when dealing with the budget. Perhaps I am indulging in repetition when I say that honorable gentlemen opposite appear to believe that this budget is wonderful whereas honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber appear to be quite certain that it is awful. If an honorable member who says that the budget is either good or bad is being repetitious, I do not know what on earth we can talk about if we want to deal with it.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) made one of his usual contributions to a debate. Some one told me recently that, having heard the honorable gentleman make his first election speech, he believes that he has not yet finished it. The honorable member for Capricornia made a tour of the western parts of Queensland recently. When I visited Clermont after he had spoken there, the people of that town were still in a state of panic. They did not know where they were. The honorable gentleman had told them at a meeting that, if the referendum on communism were defeated, they would have their fingernails and toe-nails torn out, and Communists would run round with shillelaghs whacking their heads as they walked on the footpaths. Therefore, I was not astonished at some of the statements that the honorable gentleman made this afternoon.
He told us that, within twelve months of this Government having assumed office, there were as a result of its activities S00,000 more motor cars on the roads than there were when the socialists were defeated in 1949. He did not take the trouble to find out how many of those cars are owned by ordinary working men and working women. He did not mention that, in the period during which they were purchased, inflation was becoming worse in this country and working people were finding it extremely difficult to make end3 meet. Despite increases of the basic wage and of wages generally, after this Government had been in office for twelve months the value of money was less than it was in 1949, when the Chifley Government was defeated.
The honorable gentleman said that a great number of houses had been built by this Government for the Australian people. If he ceased to read the law books that have been given to him and studied the Constitution of this country, as it is his bounden duty to do, he would discover that the Commonwealth is not permitted to build any houses, except war service homes. He said, speaking as vaguely as he spoke in Clermont, when he referred to the pulling out of toenails and finer-nails by the Communists, that “ they “ would keep the people in hovels or huts. Surely he was not referring to members of the Opposition when he used the word “ they “. Honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber are intelligent. They know that the Constitution prevents the Commonwealth from building houses. “When the honorable gentleman used the word “ they 1 did not know to whom he was referring, and I am certain that he himself did not know. When he said that the present Government had provided additional houses for the people of Australia, he either knew that to be a complete untruth or he is ignorant of the provisions of the Constitution.
He went on and on. He is the best “Aunt Sally” builder that I know. Willy Furnell would describe him as the perfect “Aunt Sally” knocker down. The honorable gentleman put up “Aunt Sally’s “ and then, with great gusto, rushed in and knocked them over. He may be all right in Clermont or Emerald, but he cannot put such stuff over in this chamber and expect to be believed. Perhaps we should not try to deprive him of the pleasure that he gets from the making of wild and untruthful statements, because there is no chance that he will be a member of this Parliament after the next general elections.
– Will the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) tell the committee why Mr. Gair would not debate butter prices with me?
– Am I to understand that the honorable gentleman, in his conceit, asked the Acting Premier of Queensland to debate butter prices with him? Such an invitation would be so fantastic that probably Mr. Gair would cast it aside as having been issued by a lunatic in the community. He may have been right.
– What about the budget?
– The honorable member for Capricornia quoted from a law book statements that were made in 1932. They had no relation to the budget. The honorable member for Boothby was not dealing with the budget when he took us through England, Scotland and Wales.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I now propose to say something about the behaviour of members of the Government and their supporters in this chamber.
– Good Lord !
– The right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) says “ Good Lord “ ! The people of Australia are also saying “Good Lord”! The behaviour of the members of the Government - and I do not exclude the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) - while the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was leading the debate on the budget on behalf of the Opposition was the most disgraceful and discourteous exhibition that has ever been witnessed in this chamber. I do not know whether members of the Government are aware, that the Leader of the Opposition represents in this Parliament a political party that has the support of 49 per cent, of the electors. If they are aware of the fact 1 am satisfied that they have no regard for it.
No one will deny that this is an extraordinary’ budget. Indeed, Sir Douglas Copland, who championed it, so described it.
– “ Courageous “ was the term Sir Douglas used.
– Do honorable members opposite expect that a budget such as this is should be permitted to go through this chamber without criticism ? Do they think that the Opposition has no right to criticize it? When the Leader of the Opposition rose to lead the debate on behalf of the Opposition a concerted and deliberate attempt was made to prevent him from being heard. It is common knowledge not only among members of the Parliament but also among the community generally, that the Government parties had planned to do their utmost to discredit the Leader of the Opposition in the eyes of the Australian people.
– He is already discredited.
– That is only the honorable member’s opinion. The result of the recent referendum did not suggest that he was discredited in the eyes of the people. If the referendum proposals had been carried the plan of obstruction to which I have referred would not have been put into operation as strenuously as it is was on that occasion. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to the same courtesy as members of the Opposition extend to the Prime Minister. £ do not object to interjections while I am addressing the chamber, but the leader of a political party is in quite a different category. Whatever attitude honorable members opposite may adopt towards rank and file members of the Labour party, in the name of Heaven let them at least be courteous to the Leader of the Opposition and thus uphold the dignity and prestige of this Parliament.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Chair did not accord proper protection to the Leader of the Opposition?
– I have no desire to reflect on the Chair. I point out, however, that honorable members have been dealt with by the Chair for having committed offences that were far less grave than those committed by members of the Government and their supporters on the occasion to which I have referred. When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) was walking around the chamber conducting conversations with various honorable members and moving from the ministerial bench to the table and back again, with the air of a very ‘bored man. He should know what it is to be bored because on every occasion on which he addresses us, he bores us as he must bore himself. He, at least, cannot complain on the score of boredom.
Government supporters interjecting,
– It will be observed that honorable members opposite are still putting the plan into operation. That does not matter to me because I, like the most guilty men opposite, am only a back-bencher. It is high time that the Prime Minister took stock of the position and issued a direction to his followers to treat the Leader of the Opposition with the same courtesy as members of the
Opposition accord to the Leader of their party. When the Treasurer presented the budget he, too, was given a silent hearing. Recently a member of the Government complained that a pressman sent to his newspaper an article that was likely to lower the dignity and prestige of this Parliament. I remind members of the Government that their behaviour in this chamber does more to lower the prestige of this Parliament than anything that is ever written in the press could do. If honorable members opposite wish pressmen .to uphold the dignity of this Parliament they should give them a lead in circumspection.
I want to refer in particular to the speeches of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden), two young, inexperienced men who made most vicious and vile reflections on the Leader of the Opposition. I observe that the honorable member for Swan is sneering. I realize that such conduct is also a part of the plan. Will any honorable member, irrespective of his personal opinion of the Leader of the Opposition, contend that the right honorable gentleman is not recognized throughout the world as an outstanding statesman, and a man not to be sneered at, particularly by young and inexperienced honorable members such as the honorable member for Lilley and the honorable member for Swan? Yet, those two babes in the wood came into this chamber and made the most vicious statements about the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Grayden interjecting,
– The honorable member for Swan spoke about stink, stench and . smell. One would have thought that he was moving a motion.
– Order! That matter was dealt with by the Chair when, it happened.
– I rise to order. I ask that the remarks used by the honorable member be withdrawn.
– Order! What were the remarks of which the honorable member complains?
– I referred in my speech to the “ stench of treason “ and did not use the words that the honorable gentleman has attempted to put into my mouth.
– Order ! The honorable member for Swan has asked that the honorable member for Herbertwithdraw the words that he used, as being offensive to him. I ask the honorable member for Herbert to withdraw them.
– I withdraw them, because I, for one, do not wish to say anything that would he offensive to any person in this chamber.
– The honorable member is in no position to do so.
– I should advise the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) to keep religiously quiet, because perhaps he will be sorry if he does not do so.
– The honorable member will be very sorry if he goes on like that.
– Order ! The honorable member for Henty is not only interjecting, but is doing so while he is not in his proper place.
– -If the honorable member for Henty wishes to come into it, I invite him to do so. The honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Lilley have come into this chamber with no other qualification to act as members of Parliament except that they possess fascist tendencies. That is the only qualification either of them has. Neither of them has one iota of background, or any qualification or right to attack a man who is so widely respected and revered as is the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask that the honorable member withdraw the charge that t have fascist tendencies.
– Order! The honorable member for Swan objects to the term “ fascist tendencies,” and I ask the honorable member for Herbert to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the term “ fascist tendencies “. I shall substitute for the word “ fascist “ the word “ reactionary “. I do not think that the honorable member can take exception to that word, because although he claims that he is not a fascist he cannot possibly claim that he is not a reactionary. I say that those two inexperienced young men, who know nothing of the political history of this country, before they attack any members of this Parliament, let alone the Leader of the Opposition, should consider exactly what they intend to say and where it will lead them. I also put it to the Prime Minister and to the VicePresident of the Executive Council, who is sitting on the front bench in his usual airy way, that if they believe that democracy is worth while and that a political party which represents 49 per cent, of the Australian people is .to be heard properly, they will see that this business is stopped straight away. I am sorry that I have found it necessary to waste so much of my time discussing those matters, but I- feel that I should have failed in my duty not only to the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour party, but also to the Australian people, if I had not brought this matter to the notice of the people.
I turn now to the Government’s promises in relation to development in Queensland, and I refer my remarks particularly to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), as he represents the Queensland electorate. I ask him and other honorable members who represent Queensland electorates what they are prepared to do about the Government’s inactivity in respect of the development of Queensland. During the course of his policy speech on the 17th November, 1949, the Treasurer said -
Our plans for national development will enable ve to co-operate with Queensland for the development of the Channel Country and we will proceed with the Burdekin scheme immediately and not keep it pigeon-holed as a blueprint for depression.
I want to know, and I am sure that the people of Queensland also want to know, when the Treasurer and the Government are going to do something about this promised development in Queensland. I have asked several questions of the Treasurer about what the Government proposes to do to put into effect the agreement arrived at between the late Mr. Chifley and Mr. Hanlon, the Premier of Queensland, in connexion with the development of the Burdekin Valley. I have been told on each occasion that the scheme is not economically sound. The people of Queensland, and in particular the people of north Queensland, are up in arms and want to know whether the Treasurer is ever going to fulfil his election promise. That is a promise that he has definitely repudiated. I recall one occasion when a bank manager who supported the Australian Country party and opposed the Australian Labour party at the 1949 election, asked the Treasurer through the columns of a newspaper what he proposed to do about keeping the promise. The answer he got was that if the Chifley Government had not been defeated in 1949, far from the Burdekin Valley scheme being proceeded with the manager would have been thrown into the Burdekin. The bank manager replied that the Treasurer should realize that if it had not been for him, the staff of his bank and his wife and children, the other bank managers and their wives and children and staffs, the Treasurer would probably not have been in office.
I suggest that the Treasurer made that promise in 1949 not thinking for one moment that he would be elected, because he knew that he did not deserve to be elected. But the unfortunate and sorry fact is that he was elected. The people of Queensland are now waiting to hear something from honorable members opposite who represent Queensland electorates about what is going to be done by the Government towards development in their State. [ challenge any honorable member opposite who represents a Queensland electorate to say truthfully that on any one occasion he has advocated that some assistance be given by the Government in relation to the development of Queensland. The honorable member for Capricornia–
Mr. Wight interjecting,
– I shall say something about the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) in a moment. The honorable member for Capricornia, raised the subject of coal from Callide, but only for the purpose of “knocking” it. The honorable member knew that this Government was paying £8 7s. Id. a ton subsidy for coal that was imported from South Africa and India, when it could get coal from Callide by paying a subsidy of £2 a ton. Yet he rose in his place in this chamber and “ knocked “ Callide coal.
Mr. Pearce interjecting,
– The honorable member will have to make his answer to the electors of Capricornia.
– I did that on the 28th April last. That is why I am here.
– As I said this afternoon, the honorable member had better -make the best of his time here because he will not be here after the next general election.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– We have listened for some time to tho eloquent and, at times, unusually emotional outburst of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds). He asked what the Government’s plans were to develop Queensland. If the honorable member cares to examine the history of the two successive Ministers for National Development in the Menzies Government, first, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and later Senator Spooner, he would realize that those two men have done more to examine the potentialities of Queensland than was done in the eight years of Labour mismanagement. If the honorable member wants evidence of what the people of Queensland think, or of the way in which they react to what governments do for them, or of the faith that they have in the present Government, all he has to do is to examine the voting figures in Queensland electorates at the last general election. Government supporters who now represent Queensland electorates were returned with overwhelming majorities. He could also look at “ Yes “ votes polled in Queensland at the referen- dum, which gave an overwhelming majority in favour of giving the Government power to deal with Communists and communism. If he wishes to know what the Government intends to do about plana for development in Queensland, let him have a little patience. Over and over again the honorable member has put to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) the question “what has been done about development in Queensland “, and over and over again an answer has been supplied. I do not know why the honorable member continues to pester us with this subject during this important debate. I do know that the Minister for National Development ‘ (Senator Spooner) was recently in Queensland examining the potentialities of that State and that he has returned convinced that the Blair Athol coal-fields about which the honorable member for Capricornia has spoken so often in this chamber, are among the best in this country. He has badgered me to provide shipping to carry that coal to southern ports, but, of course, I do not provide that kind of shipping. I provide gunboats. Nevertheless, the honorable gentleman was one of the first people to appreciate the possibilities of Blair Athol and one of the first to endeavour, in a practical way, to get from those fields the coal that is so desperately needed in this country. Again, in a reference to something that had been said by the honorable member for Capricornia, the honorable member for Herbert mentioned the provision of money for housing. Surely the honorable member realizes that nothing can be bought in this world without funds. No one can go into a shop and buy food unless he has the necessary money.
– The honorable member for Capricornia said that the Commonwealth had built houses.
– And so we have, indirectly. This Government has provided for housing, which is truly a State responsibility, loan funds which have totalled £25,000,000. In addition, £26,500,000 has been provided for war service homes, and £4,000,000 for war service land settlement. That total of more than £55,000,000 does not seem to me to be trivial. Is there any wonder that the honorable member for Capricornia said that the Australian Government had provided the State governments with the wherewithal to build houses for the Australian people.
Much as I dislike speaking on a personal plane. I must mention the criticism of the honorable member for Herbert of the conduct of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when theLeader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was speaking. It is unlike the honorable member for Herbert to speak in personal terms of another honorable member, and I think that his remarks warrant a reply.
– I rise to order. I takeobjection to the Minister’s statement that I referred in personal terms to the PrimeMinister.
– There is no point of order.
– I take exception to the Minister’s remarks, and I ask that they be withdrawn. I understand, that underthe Standing Orders, you have no alternative but to instruct the Minister to comply with my request.
– The terms used’ by the Minister were not unparliamentary-
– But they were objectionable to me, and according to my understanding of the Standing Orders,, when an honorable member takes objection to words used by another honorablemember, he can ask that they be withdrawn, and the presiding officer has noalternative but to demand the withdrawal of them.
– Only if the wordsto which objection is taken are unparliamentary. If the Minister has made astatement with which the honorable member for Herbert disagrees, his remedy lies in making a reply at the appropriatetime.
– The honorablemember for Herbert said, referring to the Prime Minister, that he had never seen such disgraceful conduct. I sympathizewith the Prime Minister. If the honorable member for Herbert were compelled’ to sit on this side of the chamber and look at the Opposition benches, I am sure that he, too, would not want to stay herefor very long. I sympathize with all honorable members on this side of the chamber who have to sit and watch theconduct in which some honorable members opposite occasionally indulge.
The amendment before the committee ispeculiar. Its terms are that the first item of the Estimates be reduced by £1. Surely that reveals a strange inconsistency in the- attitude of honorable members opposite, because the Government is constantly being urged by them to embark upon a policy of profligacy. They want the Government to increase expenditure on all kinds of services to a degree unknown in our history. The inconsistency of the Opposition is obvious.- In one breath it demands, in the terms of the amendment, that expenditure should be reduced, and in the next, that expenditure on State works and other items shall be increased. Quite frankly I am beginning to wonder whether any member of the Opposition has a. true conception of what the budget is really about.
In this debate, Opposition speakers have employed the same tactics as they have pursued for many years. They have dealt in misery and complete misrepresentation. They have harked back to the suffering of the depression years which has been long forgotten by every forward thinking person. The Leader of the Opposition said in plain words, “ If you continue with these budget proposals you will drive this country into a depression “. The truth is that all we can see in front of us at present is over-employment and continued prosperity for the Australian people. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) so frequently says, there is a streak of self-pity and self-delusion in everything that Labour says. I do not know whether honorable members opposite will ever escape from this cobweb of their own weaving, but the sooner they endeavour to do so the better it will be for this country.
There has not been one word of confidence in the speeches of honorable members opposite. Not a single reference has been made to the outstanding developments that have taken place in this country in the last four years. Admittedly since 1949, our development has been rather patchy, but there have been some extraordinary advances to which the attention of the committee should be drawn. Not one Opposition speaker has mentioned the achievements of the coal-miners, yet developments on the coal-fields have been . outstanding. Notwithstanding the increase of our population by 20 per cent., the provision of most basic commodities, chief among them being black coal, has increased substantially. The output of black coal which stood at 12,200,000 tons in 1949 was 15,500,000 tons in 1951, an increase of 27 per cent., due largely to the efforts of this Government. I have no doubt that this progress will continue. Is it not strange that not one word of praise has come from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) or from honorable members who represent the coal-fields of New South Wales, about the achievements of the miners ?
Criticism of this budget has not been lacking. We have been told by the arm-chair critics that to budget for a surplus is wrong. They should realize that the Government is dealing with a somewhat intractable set of facts which cannot be twisted to suit fixed economic theories. We have had to steer a completely different course and adjust the theories to suit the facts. Not one of the theories advanced by newspapers or learned periodicals was overlooked by Cabinet. They were all explained to us, when necessary, by the Government’s best advisers. Therefore, my reply to the armchair critics is, “ We knew what you were going to say before you said it. We gave your theories every consideration, but unfortunately the facts were too intractable to be fitted into the theories in the manner suggested by you “. A budget of this kind must not be regarded as existing in a vacuum but must be considered against the circumstances in which it has been introduced. Honorable members of the Opposition in examining the Government’s proposals, have isolated an item such as sales tax and stated How it will affect the purchase of children’s toys. They have not examined the Government’s proposals in the light of circumstances at present .existing in this country. They have not endeavoured to acquaint themselves with the problems of the Government. They have not given the Government credit for confronting conditions that are worse than those which have been experienced by any other government in our history.
The overriding consideration now is undoubtedly defence. The Government was very unfortunate when it came to office in that between 1945 and 1949 Australia’s defences became practically nonexistent. This Government, therefore, inherited an awful legacy. It found it necessary to prepare the country’s defences so that in the event of a crisis we should be able to defend ourselves. It is that fact that dominates the budget proposals. The Prime Minister has made it clear that during the course of the next few years the Government will have to spend up to £700,000,000 on defence. I should not be surprised if, in two years, it became necessary to budget for about £250,000,000 for defence alone. This legacy was left by the former Government, which had never once been able to put the country in a position to defend itself and give support to our allies - whether through the League of Nations or the United Nations. The Government faced exactly the same position in 1949 as it faced in 1939. A great - tribute was paid by the late leader of the Labour party, Mr. Curtin, when he freely admitted that- the Menzies Government had prepared this country’s defences during the period 1939 to 1941. Now the Government is faced with what appears to be an almost insupportable task in again preparing this country’s defences. It has been said by democratic leaders that we probably have until the end of 1953 to do this. Consequently, our plans must be directed to ensuring that by 1953 this country is ready to defend itself and that, if it has not to defend itself, it will be ready to play its part with its allies in the western world.
Inflation is the second great influence on the budget. I have heard it said that, because of the fact that there has been a drop of about 40 per cent, in the price of wool compared with prices which ruled at the closing sales of last year and a consequent fall of up to £250,000,000 in the value of the wool clip, there would be a period of price recession and a depression. I do not like to forecast but if inflation does not continue to increase throughout next year I shall need to reconsider my statistics. The last increase that was granted iD the basic wage in New South Wales amounted to 14s. The basic wage has risen more this year than it did last year although the increase for last year was a record. There are inflationary tendencies all over the world and it would be wrong to say that the Government is able to control the inflationary tendencies in this country at the present time. But we have adopted practical methods to make certain that inflation does not increase more than is necessary. It is not within the power of any government to stop inflation. The best that a government can do is to use practical, sensible methods to see that prices do not rise too rapidly. I venture to suggest that, if the Government had not taken the steps that it has taken, inflation would have hit the roof and gone through it.
– Has it not gone through the roof already?
– I wish that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) would go through the roof. The Government also had the problem of providing finance for the States. The Government, in effect, has incorporated three major proposals in its budget. They are a 10 per cent, increase in income tax, an increase in sales tax of from 8 per cent, to 12£ per cent, on the general rate, and an increase in the rates of company taxation. Those measures seem to me to be mild palliatives. I do not consider them to be an unbearable burden on the shoulders of the average taxpayer. What are the main principles guiding the Government ? What did the Government have in mind when it decided to bring forward these proposals? I should like honorable members to bear these principles in mind because later I shall attempt to compare the Government’s principles with those that have been adopted by the Opposition. The Government considered it wise to pay for defence expenditure out of current revenue. In order to deal with the problem of inflation, the Government considered it necessary to budget for a surplus. Admittedly, it has been estimated that there will be a national surplus of £114,000,000, but that surplus may have to be used in order to underwrite the State loans which the Commonwealth has guaranteed to the amount of £225,000,000. The Government decided that treasury-bill finance must not be used because that system of finance is the worst possible inflationary force that can be generated. “ Inflationary “ is a mild term for treasury-bill issues in a time of over-full employment. The Government was confronted with the task of transferring man-power and materials from what are called the inessential industries to the basic industries. Or perhaps it may be said that it was necessary to switch man-power and resources from non-basic industries to basic industries such as those concerned with power, coal and transport. The Government decided that it was necessary to reduce inessential public works. There were other principles behind the Government’s proposals, but I cannot deal with them at present in great detail.
In examining any budget proposals it is essential to focus attention on those items that it is possible to control and, if possible, ignore those which cannot be subjected to control. The Treasurer, in his budget speech, drew attention to three items that are subject to control. The first was administrative expenditure. The Government removed a number of its employees from non-productive activities and attempted to divert them into production. It took action substantially to reduce subsidies. It took certain action in relation to Commonwealth and State public works. If honorable members examine the budget closely they will realize that the Australian .Government is neither more nor less than a common debt collector for the State government. This is a state of affairs that the Government cannot permit to continue for very long. It has been proposed that the State governments should be provided with £161, 000,000 from current revenue. It has been proposed that £225,000,000 should be raised in loan funds and that £95,000.000 should be spent on State and local government works, £25,000,000 on war service homes and £4,000,000 on war service land settlement. In other words, the States have had the sum of £510,000,000 made available to them in direct payments and guaranteed loan funds. This sum amounts to nearly 50 per cent, of the estimated revenue and loan collections for the current financial year. The very important point that I want to make is that, all told, the Commonwealth and the States are expending £426,000,000 on public works. It is a well-known economic principle that the savings of the community must equal the investment.
As a derivative of this it can be said that in times of over full employment State and Commonwealth capital and public works expenditure should not exceed the amount that can be raised on the loan market, in terms of the open market funds. This year we are attempting to expend an estimated £426,000,000 on public works. Estimates are usually hazardous. This year the total loan funds probably will not exceed £150,000,000, or a maximum of £200,000,000. We are therefore trying to expend £426,000,000 out of £150,000,000 of loan funds. As I have said before, when it is found that proposed loan expenditure exceeds available funds, inflationary tendencies are engendered. That is one of the biggest inflationary forces in this country to-day and it is one that we shall conquer. Next year State public works must be reduced by from £150,000,000 to £200,000,000 if we are to have sanity and realism in our loan financing in this country. Up till the present time the Loan Council meetings have been held after the beginning of the financial year, and consequently the States made their loan demands after the year had commenced and orders placed. This year, therefore, the Commonwealth was not able to limit the borrowing and expenditure programmes of the States. Next year the Loan Council meeting will be held in January or February, and that will put an effective brake on the expenditure of the States. I make it perfectly clear that if next year the States attempt to overspend the loan market, they will receive a rude and shattering awakening, because funds will not be available to them.
I have already mentioned the principles on which the Government based its budget proposals. I now ask the committee to consider the principles on which the Australian Labour party has based its opposition to the proposals. The first is a policy of drift. Every constructive suggestion that the Government put up was knocked down. In effect, they said “ Let us drift along “. Secondly, as the Prime Minister has well shown, the Opposition’s policy is one of profligacy. In effect, honorable members opposite said “ Let us spend a little more “. Although they did not openly advocate reducing social services commitments, the implication of everything they have said is that social services payments should be reduced, or that the. Government should finance its programme by means of treasury-bills, which have a violently inflationary effect. Thirdly, the policy is based upon destruction. The Government tried to combat the menace of communism, and. but for the policy of the Opposition, its efforts would have succeeded. Honorable members opposite were prepared to let the red ants come in to destroy the foundations of our community. When the Government tried to build the sound, foundations of a new world, they opposed its proposals. I now leave it to the committee and to my colleagues to judge which of the two proposals they prefer.
– I shall leave any reply to the contentions of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) for the “ sweeping up “ without _ question on my part, because of the limitation of half an hour on my speech. In order to discuss the budget directly, I shall cast my mind back to the various pictures that have been conjured up from both sides since the budget was introduced by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). A persistent picture created by the debate is that of the Treasurer as a greedy schoolboy, his pockets full of popcorns, taking a lick at every ice cream as the children file out of the tuck-shop. Others prefer the spectacle of the Treasurer taking his “shout” out of every glass of beer and nip of whisky when the citizens pop in for a “ quick one “. He is a companionable man ! Under the sales tas schedule or the excise provisions, he joins the citizen in a quiet cigar after a good dinner - if one is available - or if the citizen prefers a cigarette, his is the hand that takes two for after. He peers over a man’s shoulder into the mirror in the shaving cabinet and begs a razor blade from every packet, because the Australian Country party is now completely barefaced. Beards are out, and budgets are in! That is the only laugh one can get out of this budget. But to change the metaphors a little, we can still chuckle over the picture of the Australian Country party leader trying to get that noxious weed, the “ Copland curse “, out of the Treasury. As a matter of fact the Treasurer has sold out to the planners.
Blue prints are very thin material for the sort of economic weather that the measure has forecast. The Treasurer’s folly, of course, has been the action he took of throwing in his lot with the “ treat ‘em rough “ economists, as we know them to-day. Any Commonwealth Treasurer, on assuming office, has two fights on his hands. He has to prevent the planners selling him a blue print, and he has to fight the tough “boys” of the Treasury from taking charge of his job. The right honorable member for McPherson has lost both fights on a technical knockout, and the budget is punch-drunk as a consequence. We prefer the picture that is familiar to us of the Treasurer nattering away at his budgeta ry adding machine, painstaking, if not inspiring. The times call for that sort of down-to-earth common sense, rather than dangerous flights into jetpropelled economics which fly so fast that they miss the targets. Thus we worry about new economics and new theories.
In a frank speech on the budget to the Junior Chamber of. Commerce in Sydney, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) said “ The theory of the budget may be all right, but theories have a bad habit of confounding the theorists “. That is exactly our contention. The Government has no conception of what flesh and blood can endure. After two years of doing nothing this Government now rushes in and attempts to deal with everything at once. The Government made all sorts of promises to the people including the promise to put value back in the £1. If it had attempted ,to honour its promises we would have had some respect for it. But it has been dithering about with reds and pinks and other pastel colours, but has not made a true blue attack on the problem of inflation. If the Government had laid down in the budget a plan to halt inflation, the Opposition would admire it for having the intestinal fortitude to at least grapple with the problem, but the Government has done nothing of the sort.
The fallacy of relying on planners has been demonstrated by greater economists than our Ministers. Stuart Chase, a considerable economist himself, has detailed fifteen great occasions when the economists and planners guessed wrongly. The people, and indeed the newspapers, indicate that they have again guessed wrongly in this national emergency. If the nation is Id place its complete faith in the planners, it should consider the bad guesses which have been made in the past. First, following the almost universal prompting of leading bankers, financial experts and economists, Britain returned to the gold standard in 1925- after World War I. These experts were confident that such an action would restore Britain’s economic position in the world. It did nothing of the kind. After six years of steadily accumulating financial difficulties, in 1931 Britain abandoned the gold standard, probably forever. The planners were wrong. Secondly, when Russia proposed its first five-year plan in 1927, it was laughed out of court by experts in London, Paris and New York. Russia was bankrupt, they said, and where would it raise 60,000,000,000 roubles to invest in capital assets? Where would the money come from? At the end of five years the factories, power dams, railroads, transmission towers, schools, housing developments and steel plants, were all there, solid and substantial. Where did the money come from? Echo answers, “ Where “ ? Unless the blue print had gone red. Thirdly, after the stock market collapse in 1929 few financial experts would admit that it was more than a little swerve - and a healthy one at that. Prosperity, we were assured, was just round the corner. The great depression was upon us.. Sir Otto and Guggenheimer struck. Fourthly, when Hitler proposed to rearm Germany, the cry went up from the highest authorities “ Germany is bankrupt, and cannot even pay reparations; Hitler has no gold or foreign exchange; where will the money come from?” So people breathed more easily to think of ragged, bankrupt Hitler. Twelve million men died before that error was corrected. Fifthly, in the autumn of 1941 a flood of articles and newspaper stories assured us that Japan presented no real danger. The long years of war in China had exhausted its resources ; Japan had no gold and was economically nothing but a hollow shell. Pearl Harbour came as these pronouncements were at their height. The rising sun blotted out the economic star-gazers.
Turning now to prices control, the Government said in effect that if price controls were permanently discontinued, the production of goods would mount rapidly, and, through competition, prices would quickly adjust themselves to levels that consumers were willing to pay. Then as production got rolling again, supply would catch up with demand and prices would become fair and reasonable to all. The Labour -party, as has been indicated, .contested this most vigorously. The Labour paTty does not believe that our economy is a totally automatic mechanism which cannot be adjusted, controlled or regulated to prevent or minimize the effects of inflation. The Treasurer contends that high prices are a natural uncontrollable consequence o£ demand, and that demand is a natural uncontrollable consequence of purchasing power. Therefore, he says, the only real solution to our inflationary problems is to drain off consumer purchasing power by taxation ; in other words, by taxing those least able to pay and permitting those with the greatest taxpaying ability to retain their excessive profits for so-called expansion and investment.
– Who wrote that?
– If the honorable member had been here as long as I have he would know that I write as well as I talk.
That theory is not only false but terribly dangerous. It is the egregious error of the Liberal-Australian Country party economists, and galloping inflation in this country got its first start with the rejection of the Chifley prices referendum of 1948. From that date our economy became . unbalanced and our troubles began. The Treasurer plunges on, oblivious of the fact patent to the man in the street, that the only way to stop the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - which bears the modern term “ inflation “ - is to peg prices and profits. There is no need to adjust wages because the
Arbitration Court does that. If the prices of goods within the “ C “ series index remain constant the basic wage cannot rise. Yet the planners rant of wages and hours, both of which carry a peg, while prices and profits continue at flood level. Until the Treasurer realizes these facts there will be no hope of better times in this country.
In view of all this, surely laisser-faire “capitalism is as dead as the dodo, and burning Australian Country party horsefeathers under its nose will do nothing to revive it. The Australian Government will not accept price control as a corrective of inflation because it is a socialist measure. Yet the goggling corpse of capitalism is stressed and buttressed by socialist correctives on every side, even in sections of this budget - the useful sections, such as those which grant improved social services and other advantages to the people. In fact, the tories opposite occasionally, shamefully and surreptitiously, use socialist measures to keep their legislation alive. The Labour party invites them to use such measures more openly, because now there is no danger of the members of the Government being declared Marxists under’ their own defunct “ red “ act.
The Prime Minister has claimed that the Opposition is negative and that it offers no alternatives to the budget. Honorable members on this side of the committee have shown the Government -grievous errors in the budget. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has shown the futility of the sales tax as a check on inflation. He has pointed out that the late Sir Maynard Keynes, one economist who kept his feet on the ground, proved that it was not a general tax but a buck-passing trick on the public and the consumer which added to, rather than subtracted from, inflation. Yet this sales tax is a star turn in the budget. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) showed the chamber that the company tax was graduated in reverse, and that .it hits the small business and allowed the big business to get off lightly. The percentage of impost was in the wrong ratio to chance of survival. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) tore thu budget surplus to shreds, showed it to be just “ something for after “, prepared by a Treasurer not sure of the way he is going. It is an under-the-counter deal, a plan for hoarding £1 notes under the hearth-stone, and a completely ineffective move against inflation.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) talked at the budget for an hour and a quarter, but was careful not to come to grips with it and its obvious insanities. The right honorable gentleman defended the huge surplus provided for in the budget. He invented propositions of his own and then knocked them over with great skill and agility.
I understand that the Prime Minister has arranged a cricket match with the West Indies cricket team. That should be a happy diversion, but I wish that thePrime Minister, this Bradman of the big build-up, would come into this House and hit a political sixer now and again. His form has been well below test standard. I understand that he was out to a “No ball “ less than a month ago.
During his speech on the budget, the right honorable gentleman asked, “ Is it suggested that in times of inflation the Government should budget for a deficit “. Then, with a sweep of the hand, he demolished the idea. But, is it as simple as that ? The Treasurer is not sure whether he will draw off £114,000,000, the expected surplus, or £250,000,000 as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. In any case it is a jagged piece of blood-letting. Incomes are not all at the same level and the weaker patients could die under this kind of operation which bears the euphonious title of “ drawing off surplus spending”.
The proposed flat rate tax of 10 per cent, on assessed incomes is a cruel and clumsy device to extract money from the people. The man on a small income will lose 10 per cent, of the little he has, while the big fellow laughs it off or passes it on. The Australian Labour party has never believed in a flat rate tax. A graduated tax rests more lightly on those least able to bear it and “ soaks the big fellow “, who has the spare spending money in any event.
Even the Treasurer’s incursions into the_ loan market have been disastrous. This barometer of public confidence has fallen to the extent of £7,000,000. The Prime Minister says, in defence of the Treasurer, that the Government wants the big surplus in order to underwrite loans which are expected to fail. What a shocking confession of incompetence ! Especially is it so when one remembers the success of the Chifley Government on the local loan market. Its every loan was over-subscribed and public investors asked for more. That is the complete answer to the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon), who has now withdrawn and disappeared in search of cover over the horizon.
Honorable members opposite have praised this budget for its courage. [ suggest that they are whistling as they pass their own political cemetery when they talk of this being a courageous budget. Is the Treasurer prepared to talk of courage or surplus spending to the housewife, the white-collar worker and the men and women with young families whom inflation hits hardest? Is he prepared to speak of either to the man on a fixed income, or the 10,000 public servants who have been sacked? The mistake that the. Treasurer makes is to look at Australia as a great amorphous mass of money. That picture is far too general. While there is big money in the possession of a few people in the community other sections, such as the workers, the middle class, superannuated public servants and those living on small investments, are on the breadline. The 10,000 sackings is not politics. It is more like comic opera. The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has told us of the young lady who was sacked from one section of the Postal Department and who went two doors along and obtained a job at a higher salary in the same department. I call that rehabilitation on the highest level !
With 40,000 outstanding applications for telephones in New South Wales, over 300 linemen have been sacked. Yet not SOO yards from my home new Australians are being trained as linemen. They are happily going down cable pits or climbing poles with test telephones, apparently talking to each other in divers tongues of the wonderful works of the Treasurer. A number of cable jointers have been sacked. Yet at the present moment there is a shipload of them surging across the vasty ocean on the way from England, under contract to joint cables. We have dismissed our own men and are apparently importing others, in the same way as we import our Army and Air Force chiefs.
Instead of nudging the girls away from the glamour bars in our great departmental stores by taxing lipsticks and face powder, the Treasurer should go after the real criminals in this community. I refer to the spivs, the racketeers, the keymoney gangsters, the boodlers, the booze barons, the forestallers, the food manipulators, the tycoons and the 10 per centers. Those shady capitalists are like icebergs in the shipping lanes of finance. Only one-third of them is above water, which is the taxable one-third. The two-thirds under water mean financial shipwreck for this country. The one-third are the people who do the luxury spending, not the poor little women with the string bags about whom the Prime Minister wept during the 1949 election campaign. Now he is behind them with the whip cracking, and he is crying, ‘ Faster, faster ! More taxes ! “ The one-third are the people who are making it impossible for the little man to live, and they are the people with whom the Government must deal. They are the financial fifth column which the Government does not touch with this budget. How stupid it is to talk to the decent people of the nation about more sacrifices, pulling in the belt another notch, and shouldering the burden manfully while the underground capitalist goes free! Is it that the system is incapable of catching him, or is it that he has too many friends higher up ?
We are entitled to ask the Treasurer: What kind of an economy is it which says, “ Work hard and prosper. Then you will have too much money and it will be no good to you because it will buy nothing. That will be inflation”? What kind of an economy is it which says, “ You have worked too hard and produced too much. You must get more money to buy goods or you will starve. That will be depression “ ? When we are not fighting wars, we stagger between the alternatives of money and no goods, or goods and no money.
Instead of putting another tax on cowbells and kazoos, instead of taxing baby powder and allowing flea powder for dogs to go free, why does not the Treasurer go after the underground capitalists, the manipulators and defaulters? Why does he not seek out the man who pays tax on a small business while a whole ghost industry under his control does not pay tax at all; or the frock shop proprietor who employs twenty sales girls’, but only eighteen sales books go every night; or the “ under-the-counter-Johnnie “ ; or the taxation “ shrewdie “ who “ knows, a bloke who knows a bloke “ ? Why does not the Treasurer go after that, hot money? If he did so the whole nation would be behind him. What has become of the scheme to change the currency and to give the nation a new note issue ? Let us have a run on pickle jar banks in suburban back yards, as well as on the vast catacombs of hot money. A government prepared to do that would not have to pinch popcorn from the children or tax partially edible cake covering - a curious item which appears in the sales tax schedule of this budget?
The Treasurer says there is. too much money in the community. That may be true, but what will the available money buy? The standard of living was never lower if one considers the shortages and the goods obtainable. In New South Wales there are shortages of potatoes, butter, matches, and salt. Bacon is 7s. 6d. per lb, and ham 12s. per lb. That is this week’s current misery. Any housewife could supply another list, which would be a much longer one, together with some supplementary advice to all of us in Canberra if honorable members opposite cared to knock on any door; That is where1 the too much money and not enough goods theory breaks down. It’ is a confused theory and the Treasurer does not see it clearly:
He prates of our great overseas balances from sales of our primary products, but export quotas are needed in order to keep some of that food in Australia, which to-day gets only the second best. The beefsteak of old Aussie, in all its’ juicy succulence, is’ being enjoyed by the select black market few, while a piece of something about a 16th of an inch thick, and looking strangely like some of the rubber reserve that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) boasted about in his budget speech is. placed on our plates. All the Government’s adjurations, pleas and incantations amount to this, “ Speed up brother, because if you do not work we do not live “.. The blame for existing shortages must be laid at the door of the Government, because its supporters do not realize the need to reintroduce prices control on a nation-wide basis. In the absence of such control, black markets are flourishing. Investors have lost, faith in the loan market because some one has been juggling with the interest rate. There is no faith in the investment market, because over £100,000,000 of hot money has been sent from overseas to this country where it is being, held in anticipation that the Government will revalue the Australian £1.
Turning to defence we find that the Government’s plans are not proving effecttive. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) alleged that, the Labour party has no defence plans. He is such a. novice in the Parliament tha.t he has not. even read back numbers of. Ilansard. If he did so he would find that in 1947, as the result of a conference, between British and American defence authorities, the Chifley Labour Government devised plans that involved an expenditure of £276,000,000 over a period of five years. Let. the Government have its cry that it is imperative to undertake defence: preparations. Let it have its arguments that such preparations, will cost a great deal. But at the same time, let. it produce results. However, out of a huge allocation for defence it has expended up to the present only £9,000,000. The. remainder of the allocation, of course, is merely to be drawn off the purchasing power of the community. Millions of money is hidden in stockpiling accounts. Yet 160,000 base rate war pensioners are not to receive any increase at all in their pensions under this budget, the argument of the Government being that such provision would be inflationary in character. I refer to ex-servicemen who are not completely incapacitated but whose efficiency has deteriorated as the result of war service.
What sort of a response does the Government expect to get to its recruiting campaign when it refuses to meet the just claims of the great majority of exservicemen? The Government’s refusal to make provision for increases of base rate war pensions is a curious way to encourage recruiting.
This is not a budget; it is merely a scheme of which the Defence Preparations Bill, which amounts to industrial conscription by indirection, was the first instalment. The budget will cause unemployment by design ; and by malice aforethought it is intended to be a means of disciplining the worker. The Government and its planners have misled the people. Supporters of the Government are always harping about “ high levels of employment “, but that is merely their way of saying, euphemistically, that ten workers ‘ in . every hundred should be on the dole or hunting for a job. They desire that 10 per cent, of the workers should be flapping about looking for jobs while the National Security Resources Board determines which factories it will close and which it will allow to remain open, and which national project shall be proceeded with and which shall be discarded. The Government is not planning in respect of the weeks that those who will be affected by the transition will be out of work. In fact, its proposals are not a plan but merely a means of disciplining the workers. Because the Government has not been able to make up its mind whether it should revalue the Australian £1, and because it has been dithering for nearly two years with the problem of inflation and, consequently, has failed to put value back into the £1, it has annoyed its influential friends. The Prime Minister has not been able to discipline the trade unions by- means of the Government’s red bill and, therefore, his old alibi about the Communists is no longer valid. Having regard to the volume of production of coal up to date, the miners look like achieving a record production of 13,000,000 tons of coal this year. Therefore, the Government’s old cry for more and more production has a hollow ring. Shorn of its alibis, the reluctant dragon of Liberalism has been obliged to go to work. The fire and brimstone in the budget is an indication of how it hates the job and what a mess it is making of it. After doing nothing for nearly two years it is taking it out on the public when, in fact, its present plight is due to its own incompetence.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in the course of his 70- minute address, demonstrated that the Opposition is not prepared to co-operate with the Government in its efforts to check inflation and stabilize the economy. That attitude on the part of honorable members opposite is not astonishing because if they co-operated with the Government they would violate the plank of the platform of the Australian Labour party which requires that its members shall work for the nationalization and socialization of industry and the means of production, distribution and exchange. Members of the Opposition are pledged to support that policy. Naturally, they do not advertise it too much, because they realize that the people know only too well what such a policy involves. I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the manner in which he has presented the budget to the House. He has told the people honestly and bluntly what the Government expects of them, and I am confident that Australians as a whole, knowing the position in which this country is placed today, will be prepared to make the sacrifices that the Government now calls upon them to make.
Of the proposals in the budget, I shall refer first to the abolition of the averaging system of assessing income tax in respect of primary producers with an income in excess of £4,000 a year. I believe that the retention of that system would in the long run react to the detriment of primary producers, because it is obvious that the high prices now ruling for primary products will not continue indefinitely. At the same time, however, I draw attention to the harsh effect that the abolition of the averaging system will have upon primary producers, particularly graziers, in Queensland as the result of serious bush fires and drought in that State. Those producers took it for granted that the averaging system would be continued and, consequently, they balanced their books as at the 30th June last on that assumption, after making provision for income tax under the averaging system and for other commitments. Any one who knows the conditions that exist in Queensland to-day will realize that the sudden abolition of that system will cause confusion among those producers. The disasters that have befallen them have involved them in substantial unforeseen expenditure. Those graziers have been called upon to pay for agistment and to purchase fodder in order to keep their stock alive during drought periods. In view of those facts, I ask the Treasurer to consider granting relief to them. Many serious cases of distress could be brought to his notice. I make that plea because it is the duty of the Government to ensure that the efficiency of all primary producers shall be maintained. I trust that he will give sympathetic consideration to my request. [ appreciate the fact that the payment of provisional tax could be delayed; but such a concession would not afford sufficient alleviation in many cases.
With respect to the increases of sales tax on sporting goods, I shall mention a number of items which, whilst they may not seem to be important in the eyes of certain persons, are of importance to people in country districts. I refer, for instance, to tennis balls and cricket balls. The Government should not do anything that would discourage sporting activities in country districts. Allowing for the proposed increase of sales tax, tennis bails will cost between 4s. lOd. and 5s. each in certain country areas. This is a most popular sport in the country, and the players are principally persons who work on properties within easy reach of the courts. Apart from the enjoyment that they derive .from the game, they make the tennis club a community centre at the week-end. The gathering is more in the nature of a picnic party than a sportive group. People of all ages gather at the courts to enjoy one another’s company as well as the game. Near where I live there are some tennis courts that were made by the people of the district, and nearly every one who lives in the neighbourhood goes to them every Sunday. Before the courts were built, the people had no place at which they could meet one another. At the tennis club, they get to know one another, and talk about each other’s problems. Such gatherings should be encouraged. As I stated, most of those people are members of the working class in the district, and if they have to pa exorbitant prices for their sporting materials, the game will become expensive foi them, and they will not take their recrea– tion so often as they have done to date. The result will be that country life will revert to the old monotonous state of years ago. I urge the Treasurer to examine that matter. The country people to whom I refer are generous. They realize the seriousness of the economic position of the country, and 1 believe that they are prepared to pay the increased sales tax upon such sporting equipment as tennis rackets and cricket bats, which can be used for a considerable time. But tennis balls wear out’ quickly, and cannot be repaired. They must be replaced. Heavy sales tax on them will he a burden on players.
It is gratifying to know that the Government has decided to make gifts to community hospitals in country districts an allowable deduction for income tas purposes. I believe that the Treasurer should go a step further, and make gifts to country women’s hostels, which have been built for the purpose of accommodating country children in the larger rural towns, an allowable deduction for income tax purposes. Country people are becoming increasingly aware of the advantages of education, and there is no reason why their children should not have the same opportunities as are enjoyed by children who live in the large cities. The majority of those hostels in the country are conducted by the Country Women’s Association on a non-profit-making basis. If more of them were erected, the children could obtain in the country towns the education that is so vitally necessary foi them to have in later life. The making of such gifts an allowable deduction for income tax purposes would not. establish a. precedent, because at the present time gifts to the university colleges are an allowable deduction. I should like the Treasurer to examine that matter with a view to granting some relief in that respect. 1 turn to what the majority of thinking people consider is the most important problem of the country. That is the need to increase primary production. The importance of that subject has been mentioned in passing by various honorable members, particularly those on tins side of the chamber, but it has not received the attention that it deserves. The importance of primary production, particularly of basic foods, cannot be overstressed. Statistics prove that if action be not taken to increase production before many years have elapsed we shall be hard-pressed to supply our own needs, let alone maintain our exports. Pood production in relation to the ever-increasing population of the world is alarming, and it is the duty of this Government to devote more time and attention to that matter. The population of the world is now approximately 2,380,000,000, and it is estimated that more than two-thirds of the people are underfed. It is true that a great number never get enough of the right kinds of food to enable them to live healthy lives. During the last 50 years the population of the world has increased by 825,000,000. That is a startling revelation. It is generally recognized that most people get sufficient of what is called energy food, such as wheat, rice and other grains, but they do not get sufficient of what are termed the protective foods which provide the proteins, vitamins and minerals that are recognized as essential to establish the right physiological balance, give health and vigor, and, above all, increase the nutritional efficiency of other foods. The most important of those protective foods are dairy produce, eggs, meat, and fruit and vegetables, all of which are perishable products that require careful processing and handling. Apart from fruit and vegetables, the protective foods are of animal origin and are the most expensive to produce. Consequently, they enter more fully into the diet of people who enjoy a high standard of living and are conspicuous by their absence from the diet of the people who are on a low standard of living.
The world’s future requirements of food have been estima’ted as follows: - 50 per cent, more cereals, 90 per cent, more meat, 125 per cent, more milk, dairy pro duce and vegetable oils, and 300 per cent, more vegetables. The population of the world has increased at a rapid rate, and it is estimated that 80 per cent., of the people are undernourished. That fact indicates to us that Australia may proceed wholeheartedly, and without fear of overproduction, to produce foods, especially those of animal origin. Australia can also rest assured that export markets for meat, dairy produce and eggs will remain strong, and provide us with opportunities for our surplus production. Australia is most fortunate in having all the conditions that are suitable for raising livestock. The assured market for our primary commodities, and the suitability of conditions for production, are factors that will serve to make Australia’s agriculture permanent, and enable us to use to the limit the resources of the country for our pastoral industries.
I have dealt with the nutritional needs of the world. The people must also be clothed. Australia is making a major contribution to that end through its great wool industry. The task of food production is a huge one, and if Australia is to preserve itself from the prolific populations of its crowded neighbours to the north, we must use to full advantage our serviceable land and increase our population. Nobody denies the desirability of developing our secondary industries, not only to provide for our immediate needs but also to make assured the well-being of the nation in the future. Enthusiasm for the development of secondary industries is forgivable if the incentive be great and the necessity strong. But it would be a fatal mistake to ignore the importance of our great primary industries and to relegate their needs to the background.
The most valuable contribution to the national economy is that made by the primary producer. The industrial worker depends upon the agricultural groups for his existence and his prosperity. The significance of this fact is too often overlooked. As the Parliament has been warned previously, Australia is not preparing adequately to meet the needs of its ever-increasing population. We must produce additional quantities of essential basic foodstuffs. particularly animal products such as dairy produce and meat. Before World War II., the normal annual consumption of meat per capita in Australia was 250 lb. That quantity was reduced because of rationing during the war, and high prices since the end of the war have exerted a restraining influence. Average consumption to-day is about 230 lb. per capita annually. In 1949, our total production of carcass meat was 1,050,000 tons and we exported 235,000 tons, which represented our surplus. If our population increases at the estimated rate, and if the average rate of consumption is unchanged, we shall require an additional 31,000 tons of meat each year for home consumption. Honorable members will realize, therefore, that in seven or eight years’ time, at the present rate of population increase, our meat production will satisfy only our local demand unless we increase our output, reduce our consumption, or both. Present indications are that production is not increasing sufficiently to enable us to continue to satisfy both our local needs and out export requirements. We must realize that the process of increasing herds and flocks for meat and dairy production is a slow one. Milk production depends on cows; meat production depends on cattle, sheep and pigs. Replacement equipment in those industries is represented by young breeding stock and changes must be made well in advance of our requirements or we shall be unable to meet our commitments.
Too much attention has been paid to the industrial side of Australia’s economy with the result that our cities and towns have become overswollen. We must shake off our complacent industrial self-satisfaction and realize that our rural industries constitute the basis of our economy. The size of the exportable surpluses of our wool and other primary products determines the welfare of the nation. Therefore, the development of our primary industries should be a matter of vital interest to every Australian. Dr. Callaghan, the Director of Agriculture in South Australia, has placed on record what he considers to be the vital principles of rural development that must be observed if Australia is to prosper. I agree with him, and I lay emphasis on those principles in the hope that honorable members will take them to heart.
– Order ! There is too much audible conversation.
– First, we should put to proper agricultural or pastoral use all suitable areas of satisfactory soil and rainfall consistent with proper land use and economic development. Secondly, we must maintain, wherever possible, the increase of productivity of areas that are already in production, a process that involves the revitalization of eroded pastoral and agricultural land. Thirdly, we must make full use of our limited irrigation resources in the few river systems that arc suitable for the purpose, both to encourage new production and to stabilize existing agricultural and live-stock production where possible. Fourthly, we must make a courageous national effort to expand and consolidate the full pastoral potentialities of the northern areas of the continent. Finally, we must make a determined effort to make life in the country permanently attractive and satisfying by giving special recognition to the needs of women and to the importance of educating children.
The whole task of increasing rural production should be tackled from an educational standpoint. By that I mean that we must provide, not only for the more scientific education of Australians who are engaged in our primary industries, but also for the education of city dwellers. The people in our cities should be made to realize how greatly they depend for their welfare on rural production. In future, Australia will undoubtedly become more and more a factory, but it will remain essentially a farm.
– Order ! I have heard the honorable member for Watson Mr. Curtin) talking continuously. I ask him to keep quiet. I have warned him more than once to-day.
– I was not talking.
– I could hear the honorable member talking.
– We are becoming more and more a race of citydwellers instead of farmers. Three of every five Australians live in our six capital cities. We must shoulder our responsibilities of citizenship with courage and resourcefulness. Plain hard work is what is needed. Every section of the community is guilty of neglect because it refuses to accept that fundamental ingredient of progress. Unless we -wake up to ourselves very soon, we shall revert to the conditions of the dark days of the early ‘thirties, and hunger, hardship and chaos will he our lot.- The budget represents an honest and courageous attempt to halt the inflationary spiral. I am not happy about the budget, but I believe that its provisions have been made necessary by prevailing conditions. Inflation is a legacy that has been bequeathed to us as a result of eight years of Labour mismanagement, ihe budget will have my whole-hearted support because I know that our presenteconomic circumstances demand action along the lines which it proposes shall be followed. I believe that the people of Australia will stand four-square behind the Government in its attempt to place the nation on a sound footing.
.- Tonight I could be described as a new old member of the Parliament. Having served in this place for six years, and having suffered defeat in 1949 in one of the most vicious and fraudulent campaigns
– Order J That is an unparliamentary expression and I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– Very well, I withdraw it. I was narrowly defeated in one of the most vicious election campaigns ever conducted in this country. Only one sub-division of the Hume electorate brought about my defeat. In that subdivision, a majority of 981 votes was recorded against me whereas only an additional 393 of the total number of votes cast in the electorate would have brought victory to me. I accepted the defeat like a true Australian. I am always able to accept- defeat, whether it be in politics or in the field of sport. I gave my opponents and the electorate to understand that I would again contest the division of Hume. Little did I think that only sixteen months hence I should he called upon to make good that promise. When the election took place, the area in which there had been a majority of 981 against me, and reversed the verdict, and gave a majority of 230 in my favour. Mine was the only victory for the Labour party in the whole of New South Wales, and it was a victory of which the Labour movement is proud.
The Government has recently suffered three severe reverses. It put before the wool-growers the proposal that a levy of li per cent, should be made on the proceeds of wool sales. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in a nation-wide broadcast, appealed to the wool-growers to support the proposal, but when the poll was taken they answered with an emphatic “ No “. The Government’s next set-back was in connexion with the thirteenth security loan. By the time it was opened the people had lost confidence in the Government, with the result that it was under subscribed by almost £S,000,000. Finally, the Government put its Communist Party Dissolution Act before the people for approval at a referendum, and the people rejected it. It is true that, at the general election which followed the double dissolution of the Parliament on the banking issue, the Government was returned to power by virtue of the many promises it made, not one of which it has honoured. Perhaps honorable members opposite have forgotten about those promises. I gave them plenty of publicity in my electorate, and I believe that I won the election on the strength of the non-fulfilment of them. I have here a page of the Sydney Morning Herald which was published on the day before the poll. It contains a full-page advertisement inserted by the Government parties, and along the top of the page is a heading in letters large enough to be read from the other side of the chamber. The heading is, “ Thi3 is our policy”, and the first item is a promise to reduce taxation. I leave it to the Australian public to decide just how well that promise has been kept. In the advertisement, there is a. further promise to remove the means test. All that the Government has done in this direction is to liberalize the property provision by increasing the amount from £750 to £1,000, which is of no real benefit whatever. Another promise is stated in these words -
Reduce living costs, and increase living standards.
The Prime Minister also said that he would put more shillings into the £1. Not one of those promises has been fulfilled. He appealed to the womenfolk of Australia by promising to “End shortages and black marketing”. I should say that black marketing is more rampant in Australia now than it ever was before. During the election campaign in April last, I tried to buy a couple of tyres for my car, size 16 x 600. I canvassed the whole of the Hume electorate, but it took me six months to get the tyres. However, by paying £15 or £16 each for them, I could have got as many as I cared to buy in the electorate of the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn). The same situation obtains in regard to motor car3. A person who tried to buy a Holden car at the list price would not be in the race, but by paying £400 or £500 extra he could get as many of them as he wished to purchase. And this is the Government that was going to end black marketing! Members of the Government should hang their heads in shame.
The Government also promised in this pre-election advertisement to reduce prices, so that the public could buy £l’s worth of goods for every £1 spent. I am in business, and I know what prices are charged. After I was defeated in the election of 1949, I went back into my mercery business. I found that the price of a line of trousers which had been sold at 59s. lid. was shortly afterwards increased to 69s. lid., then to 79s. lid., then to 82s. 6d., and then to 85s. To-day it is over 100s. I have here a piece of double- weft cloth which is made up into a pro prietary line called “ Elasto-strap “ trousers, one of the best of their kind in the country. There is no doubt about that. The price in 1939 was 27s. 6d. a pair, but to-day it is £6 a pair. These increases have occurred during the term of office of a government that was going to correct the inflationary spiral. Flannel shirts that I used to sell across the counter at 6s. 1.1 d. each are now nearly 30s. Knitted woollen sox that we used to sell for 2s. 6d a pair are now 10s. 6d. Pelaco shirts that used to sell at 9s. lid. each are now almost £2.
Obviously, the Government has failed, and should be removed from office. It should accept the challenge of the Opposition to test the feeling of the country in regard to the budget.- If it did, I have no doubt of whawould happen. I make it a practice as 1 go about my electorate to talk with business men, and with people in the street. Every one knows that the rot has set in. Goods are lying unsold in the 3hop fixtures. Money is becoming ti “lit. The Government is resolved to drain the last penny from the public. It will never be satisfied until it has grabbed everything that the people were able to save during eight years of Labour government.
The greatest propaganda fraud eve perpetrated was the Government’s promise to reduce the cost of living. In every newspaper in Australia, in every city and in every country town, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party published advertisements which promised that they would restore the value of the £1. Indeed, they said that they had a plan to achieve this. Their publicity cost them hundreds of thousands of pounds. They spent more money in one subdivision of my electorate than I was able to spend in the whole of the electorate.
– They had the banks behind them.
– Of course, and they had the bank employees working for them, too, not because these persons wanted to do so, but because their labour was conscripted by vested interests. In the full-page advertisement to which T previously referred, there is printed under a glamour picture of the Prime Minister, these words -
We regard the reduction of the cost of living as one of our first responsibilities, to increase the purchasing value of the Australian pound, to increase production - and thus bring prices down.
I advise the business community of this country to be very wary. I have given the instruction in my business that there shall be no buying at all. I recollect what occurred in the last depression, and [ do not intend to be trapped again. Businessmen sold their wares then for a third of their real value. The Government in power in those days was of the same kidney as this Government. But the cost of commodities has continued to increase. Costs rose steeply when, under the influence of a similar propaganda campaign, the public accepted the advice of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party to end federal prices control. The cry of those parties then was “ No more power to the bureaucrats. No more power to Canberra. No more pushing round.’ Let the States do it”. Those and similar slogans were rammed into the minds of the electors. Even without controls the Chifley Government, acting with a firm hand, was able to dampen price rises a little, but in the incompetent hands of the present Prime Minister and the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) the position became worse and it is deteriorating still. The people, by fraud, were seduced into casting their votes, not for the safe and solid Chifley Government but for the gambling Liberal party.
When Labour was in power, its policies kept prices lower in this country than they were in any other country that had participated in World War II. Australia was the envy of the entire world. By judiciously combining prices control with, the use of subsidies, the Chifley Government maintained the prices of commodities at a reasonable level, but since the Liberal party’s “ Stop pushing us round “ campaign before the 194S referendum and since the election of this Government, inflation has really got into its stride. Whatever were the hardships which the people suffered under prices control and rationing, they were as nothing compared with the hardships that they will suffer under the present Liberal-Australian Country party system of letting private industry run wild. When Labour was in power there was stability and confidence. The present combination is rapidly tearing down a safe and sound structure, and now we face economic chaos. When this Government was elected, every Australian newspaper admitted, as did the present Prime
Minister and the present Treasurer, that the Chifley Government had left behind it a sound financial structure. But the position to-day, after a comparatively few months of this Government’s administration, is entirely different. Under the test of practical government, the Prime Minister’s policy has been proved to be a dud. Every day more and more people look forward to the time when they will be able to place a Labour government in control of the destinies of this country.
The women of Australia know perfectly well now that at the 1949 general election they were the victims of a mean confidence trick. It was backed by most extravagant propaganda, upon which was expended a much greater sum than had ever before been expended upon an election campaign in Australia. They were the victims of a modern political version of the three-card trick. I refer to the Liberal party and the Australian Country party and their disappearing promises. Promise after promise that they made has disappeared. Promises were repudiated and denied almost from the moment that this Government assumed office. The women of Australia now have a perfecunderstanding of what a Minister of the present Government meant when he said in Melbourne not very long ago that the Government was the victim of its own propaganda. I agreed with my late leader, Mr. Chifley, when he said in this chamber just before the last Parliament was dissolved, that the galloping horse of inflation was galloping faster day by day.
The Prime Minister has failed to put value back into the £1, to reduce living costs, to increase living standards, and to remove the injustices that the means test imposes upon aged and infirm people. He has refused to reduce taxes. What would have been the fate of the Government parties at the last general election if the right honorable gentleman had told the people then that there would be a huge increase of taxes, that postal and telegraph charges would be increased by £12,000,000 a year, that 10,000 publicservants would be sacked, that Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited would be sold behind the back of the people and of the Parliament, and that the Defence Preparations Bill would be introduced ? Under the Defence Preparations Act, the Government can close any industry. Doubtless it will close some and permit this country to be flooded with cheap goods from Japan.
Let me refer the committee to an article that was published in the Wagga Daily Advertiser. That widely read journal is owned and controlled by the Sydney Morning Herald and is not tied up with the Labour party in any way. It circulates through the whole of the Riverina. On the 29th January, 1951, it published the following article: -
The action of the United States Government in pegging prices and wages must be followed by the Australian Government, lt can no longer lie disputed that the Liberals backed a loser when they urged the people to vote against the continuance of economic controls in the 1948 referendum. Since the day the’ referendum was lost, Australia’s economy has slipped from reasonable stability into chaos.
The attitude of those who oppose price control is that such a measure alone would not prevent inflation, and that it would lead to blackmarketing. The answer to the first objection is that it would help greatly in stabilizing the economy. . . . The second argument needs little answer - unless it be a suggestion to note the terrific amount of blackmarketing rampant to-day in everything from cars to bottled beer. Price controls could hardly make it worse.
Despite all opposition there might be from Liberal members and Liberal voters, the Government must take this step soon if itis to save Australia from ruin. The famous “ value in the £1 “ promise is now nothing but a mockery; but there is still some time to save the pound from disintegration if the Government will only act in some positive manner instead of continuing the negative approach of words without action.
The majority of people feel that Mr. Menzies made a mistake in his 1948 attitude to price control, and some people feel that stubbornness alone is preventing him from admitting that mistake. But if he did, and agreed to price control at least for a limited period, he would gain, rather than lose, political prestige.
The situation calls for statesmanship. The onus is on Mr. Menzies to act immediately.
The Prime Minister will not act because he realizes that the higher prices rise the greater will be the profits of the class that he represents in this Parliament.
I come now to another important matter that concerns not only my constituents but also those of every honorable member in this chamber. Honorable members opposite had a great deal to say about defence preparations. I should have thought that roads would be one of our first lines of defence. I shall not be foolish enough to claim that when Labour governments were in office they allocated the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax to road purposes. I do say, however, that in those years when honorable members who now support the Government were in Opposition they pressed for the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax to be made available for the maintenance and construction of roads; Recently, when I asked the Treasurer whether the proceeds of the tax would be so used his reply was an emphatic “ No “. Later, when I asked him to grant to local governing bodies a loan of £20,000,000 for that purpose, he again emphatically answered “ No “. Apparently honorable members opposite believe that bad roads constitute our first line of defence - to prevent an enemy from advancing on our centres of population. I propose to quote from another leading article that was published in the Wagga Daily Advertiser.
– I like to quote from that journal.
– Order! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– The Daily Advertiser invariably publishes fair comment on public issues. I have always regarded it as impartial, and I speak with some knowledge for I have been in the political arena in the Hume electorate since 1919. This is what that journal had to say on the subject of the petrol tax -
The refusal of the Federal Government to allot the entire petrol tax to road works is in strange contrast to the claims of the Government that it is interested in. the development of this nation, and of ite defence, potential.
For years now governments of both political colors have been holding out on the roadusers by withholding a Targe portion of the petrol tax and socking it away into consolidated revenue. The tax, of course, was imposed years ago for the express purpose of improving and repairing roads, and its use for any other purpose cannot be condoned upon any grounds.
The Government has placed great emphasis on the defence needs of Australia, but of what use are defence preparations if they do not include the provision of good trafficable roads ? For how long could Australia continue to wage a war while its main highways remained in their present dilapidated condition ? Of what use would be the greatest army in the world if it could not be moved swiftly from point to point? The excuses made by the Prime Minister for continuing to filch a portion of the proceeds of the petrol tax are weak in the extreme. The money thus diverted from its proper use could not possibly assist the Government in its efforts to combat inflation or to develop the resources of the nation. It is. high time the Prime Minister realized that a tax imposed on one section of the community should be used in the interests of that section as well as of the nation. Motor car owners, transport companies and the like continue to pay the petrol tax in the hope that it will be used for the maintenance and repair of roads, and it is not difficult to conjure up the strong language used by all road users to condemn the Government for refusing so to use it. The roads of Australia are in a deplorable condition and unless remedial work is carried out in the near future they will be beyond repair. No one knows better than I do how bad they are because I am now serving my fourth term as a shire councillor. Their repair and maintenance are beyond the capacity of local governing authorities.
Mr. Fairbairn interjecting,
– I know that the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) is well aware of their unsatisfactory condition. In another leading article the Wagga Daily Advertiser had this to say on the subject -
It is now doubtful whether the petrol tax is sufficient for bare necessary repairs of the roads, and the time is fast approaching when, not only will the Government have to allocate ;all of it for the purpose for which it was struck, but will have to augment the tax from consolidated revenue.
It is high time the Government realized “the part that roads play in the defence of this country. If a major war broke out now traffic on the Hume Highway would be bogged down over almost the whole of its length from Melbourne to Sydney because of its dangerous and unsatisfactory condition. Almost all roads throughout Australia are in the same state of disrepair yet the Government will do nothing to improve them.
Time will not permit me to deal as fully as I should like with the recent referendum. I conducted no fewer than 23 meetings in the Hume electorate in a vigorous campaign against the referendum proposal because I realized that .if it were carried the Government would place a totalitarian blot on the Constitution of the Commonwealth. If the Government sincerely wished to deal with the Communists it could do so tomorrow under the provisions of the Crimes Act. When Labour was in office it did not fail, to protect the community from the activities of our enemies. When a certain gentleman said that if the Russians came to Australia in pursuit of an aggressor they would be welcomed, the Labour Government, promptly invoked the provisions of the Crimes Act and laid a charge against him. He was subsequently tried by the court, found guilty and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. What action would have been taken against him had the present. Government been in office? During the referendum campaign, Government spokesmen hurled insults of the worst kind at me and at every other member of the Labour movement who campaigned against its referendum proposal. I wonder whether they would describe our servicemen in Korea who voted against the proposal as Communist sympathizers because they exercised their democratic right to insist on the observance of a fundamental principle of British justice. Let us recall the kind of propaganda that was disseminated by the Australian Country party during the last general election campaign. A fullpage advertisement published under the authority of the Australian Country party reads as follows : -
Only those who want to protect the Communists will vote “No” at the coming referendum.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not think that anybody in this chamber or out of it will have any doubt about why the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) lost his seat in 1949. If the honorable member is at all concerned about his absence from this chamber during that time, I can inform him now that he and the other electors of Hume were very ably represented by a gentleman who was admired not only by this Parliament but also by the Government.
It is generally agreed that the budget imposes a heavy burden on the community, and in that respect we agree with the Opposition. We have no qualms about that. But we shall contest with anybody any suggestion that the burden imposed by the budget could have been avoided. We believe that what the budget sets out to do is in the interests of the country as a whole. The plain reason why the budget had to impose sacrifices on the people is that we are not prepared, as a people, to take action voluntarily against inflation but would prefer to be compelled to do so by a government. Consequently, we must accept the budget, knowing what it is intended to accomplish. The budget has been fashioned *o as to produce a revenue amounting to £1,041,500,000 in the current year. It also aims to combat inflation by means of increased taxes, both direct and indirect, and by providing for a surplus, over expenditure, of £114,500,000. Simultaneously with the provisions that have been made to meet inflation, other provisions had to be made to provide for expenditure on our defence, which is an absolute “ must “. Anybody who peruses the newspapers to-day will agree that the conditions that face this country in the field of foreign affairs have never been grimmer than they are now. We had also to provide for increased loan advances to the States, which are also absolutely essential, and for an increased expenditure on social services, similarly essential.
A compulsory change of habits is never easy or pleasant. A close analysis of the country’s financial position will reveal that the present inflationary tendency calls for stringent measures, however unpleasant they may be. I submit that, however unpleasant these measures may be, they are not so unpleasant, nor do they represent so great a sacrifice., as would have been the case had a socialistic government been returned to power in 1949. I would console the people b directing their attention to the present position in Great Britain, where the estimates in relation to that country’? national health services amount to abou £600,000,000 for the current year - a greater amount than ever before - of which no less than £346,000,000 has been allotted for the provision of free bottles of medicine, free dental plates, free optical services, free wigs and other free things. That costly socialistic experiment in Great Britain gives us some idea of what would have happened in this country if the Chifley Government had been allowed to continue in office. The heavy cost of the lavish social services that have been provided in Britain by the socialist government during the last few years gives one a considerable degree of concern when it is realized how serious is Britain’s fiscal position, particularly in relation to its adverse trade balance with the dollar area. We hope that the United Kingdom will change over from a socialistic to a non-socialistic government at the general election that will be held next week.
I turn now to the remarks of the honorable member for Hume about his late leader, Mr. Chifley. I am particularly interested in those remarks because he referred to a statement that Mr. Chifley made in this chamber about twelve months ago. Mr. Chifley made some remarkable statements, which were more remarkable in view of what was said only a few weeks ago by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), better known as the right honorable member for Barton. Dr. Evatt’s statement-
– Order! The honorable member must refer to the Leader of the Opposition as “ the right honorable member for Barton” or “the Leader of the Opposition “. but not by name.
– The Leader of the Opposition made a remarkable statement in this chamber during his budget speech when he said that he strongly disputed the contention of the Treasurer that it was a vital corollary of the principle that governments should provide spending power in times of depression- [Quorum formed.”]
– The Leader of the Opposition made no actual recommendations or suggestions during his speech on the budget about how the Government could meet the problems of the day, but he did state that he strongly disputed the contention of the Treasurer that it was a vital corollary of the principle that governments should provide spending power in times of depression that, in times of excessive demand and scarcity of labour, governments should draw away from the public in taxation and loans more than they expend for current purposes. That is a most remarkable statement, because it completely contradicts the statement that was made by Mr. Chifley just a year ago. Mr. Chifley then said, according to Hansard of the 24th October, 1950, at page 1263 -
My colleagues and I observed a simple principle of taxation, which was that when a country is prosperous it should pay its way and try to put something aside.
Now, the present Leader of the Opposition strongly denounces any suggestion that budgeting for a surplus is a good practice. Later Mr. Chifley not only confirmed the remarks that I have quoted, but also went a little further. He said -
I shall express the view of the Labour party and in doing so I shall not be in the least concerned about what people may think of it politically. I believe that when a country is in a prosperous condition it should pay its way and if possible provide an additional sum of money for capital works or for reserves. I make no bones about the attitude of the Labour party on that matter. That is the proper and businesslike method to adopt.
That is exactly what the Government is doing. It is budgeting for a surplus of £114,500,000 as a reserve against contingencies that may arise during the next twelve months; but the Leader of the Opposition says, “ I entirely dispute that this is the right thing to do “.
The principles of the budget have been upheld, not only by an eminent economist who is frequently quoted in this chamber, but also by the Dean of the the Faculty of Economics and Commerce at the University of Melbourne, who said that the budget was the biggest attempt yet seen in Australia to control inflation. The budget is courageous, and I am sure that if Mr. Chifley were here to-day he would differ from the present Leader of the
Opposition who has condemned it. Mr. Chifley’s approval of the accumulation of reserves was strongly supported by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) whose remarks on that occasion are well worth noting. He said -
Any person who looks at a budget from the standpoint of its being a device to arrest inflation recognizes that in a boom-time it is sound governmental practice to budget for a large surplus. Such a procedure skims off spending power and holds it in reserve so that it can bc expended later.
In the face of that statement how can the honorable member for Fremantle now say that this budget is inflationary and that the theory that a budget surplus should be sought to drain off surplus spending power is unsound? Apparently, some honorable members opposite at least have completely changed their minds about what is right and what is wrong. I should like to know whether the Labour party really has a fiscal policy, and if so, whether that policy has been changed since the right honorable member for Barton was elected to the position of Leader of the Opposition. Too often budgets show evidence of the trimming of the political sail to meet whatever breezes may be blowing from sectional interests. That has been avoided in this budget, which recognizes certain inescapable facts and then proceeds to deal wtih them seriatum. The chief of those is that too much money and manpower is flowing into non-essential industries. In times of extraordinary danger strong action is required. On this occasion the Government has shown courage and determination which far transcend any errors that it may have made in framing its budget proposals. I admit that there may be some errors in the budget, but they are few indeed, and I am confident that time will show that although the Government has made a record financial provision for national security, and simultaneously, for increased social services payments, there will be no depreciation of our national securities as a result of its proposals.
Let us look at some of the difficulties with which the Government is faced in providing for an expanding defence programme at a time when we are confronted by world-wide inflationary conditions. In August last, the Loan Council decided that the combined works programmes of the Commonwealth and the States should be reduced from £300,000,000 to £225,000,000, and Victoria’s quota was fixed at £56,000,000. The decision to reduce the total loan allocation was agreed tq by all but two of the Premiers and was reached after the CoordinatorGeneral of Works had explained the economic situation and the need to direct money to undertakings in which it was most needed. Among the Premiers who agreed to the reduction was the Premier of Victoria, Mr. J. P.. McDonald. In accepting the council’s decision, Mr. McDonald did not have to depend entirely upon his own judgment. He had his expert advisers with him. Victoria’s allocation of £56,000,000 compares more than favorably with the sum of £35,975,000 provided last year, being an increase of 55.6 per cent, on that figure. In addition, the Loan Council approved of semi-government borrowing to the amount of £95,500,000 and of this amount Victoria received the largest allocation- £43,290,000. This represented 45 per cent, of the total allocation.
Naturally, when Mr. MacDonald was in the precincts of this chamber he expressed complete approval of the manner in which he had been treated by the Loan Council. But after he had left Canberra and had returned to his own State he found that he was not so popular with the persons who are keeping him in power - Mr. Cain and the members of the Labour party. So he .gave vent to an outburst of criticism against the Australian Government, saying that he had been denied money for governmental works by that Government although it bad only two votes in the Loan Council and consequently was not in a position to stipulate how much Victoria should receive. Mr. MacDonald, himself, approved of the amount that had been allocated to him. One can only come to the conclusion that, by his dishonest criticism of the Loan Council, he lias endeavoured to divert attention from his own sins of omission and commission as Premier of Victoria. He has been guilty of many sins of omission and commission because of the manner in which he has wilfully wasted money on the nationalization of industries and in the purchase of private homes at exorbitant prices for conversion to hostels, some of which have not been brought into such use.
Only last year, £2,000,000 was allocated by the Victorian Government for the purpose of nationalizing the Metropolitan Gas Company and additional amounts running into millions of pounds will have to be found by that Government in the future in order to redeem the department that it incurred in the purchase of that company’s undertaking. In carrying out the programme laid down for him by the Labour party in Victoria, Mr. MacDonald has become the “ Dogsbody “ of that party. Naturally when he returned to Victoria he in obedience to the instructions he had received from the Labour party, commenced to moan about how unfavorably he had been treated by the Loan Council. It is extremely unfortunate that he has no self-respect whatsoever in regard to State politics and is quite prepared to obey the dictates of the Labour party. One has only to examine the history of this Premier who has elbowed his way on to the Government benches by devious means and who is kept in power with a minority party of thirteen-
– The honorable member himself was once a member of a minority government.
– Yes. But that. Government had the support of the whole House. If anybody is doing his best to destroy State politics and State government, particularly in Victoria, it is the Premier of Victoria. The increased allocation of funds for social services in this budget is one of the very welcome phases of it.
Mi-. Ward. - It is not enough.
– But it is infinitely more than was promised by the Labour party in 1949 because that party did not promise anything. During the last general election campaign, of course, it promised that if returned to power it would increase the pension only to the amount to which the Government now proposes to increase it. On that occasion the Government decided that it would be unwise to make any announcement concerning, pensions rates, lt merely said that it would look after the interests of pensioners. The Government has recognized that those who are most in need of social services are the totally and permanently disabled people such as the war widows, the old, the invalid and the blind. We Government supporters agree that the amount proposed to be paid as pensions is not sufficient. We believe that the means test should, be abolished as has been suggested by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) and other Government supporters. We shall not rest until the means test has been abolished and I believe that it will be abolished in the not-far-distant future.
Honorable members of the Opposition have shown during this debate, that they are still applying the thinking of 1929 to the problems of 1951. Inflation is a new and unfamiliar phenomenon in Australia. It will not be countered by sectional organizations which make criticisms in accordance with a policy that they have crystallized over the years. The prime need is to think in terms of the present, not in terms of the past as Opposition members appear to have done during this debate. The budget proposals are a series of financial measures which cover taxation, tariff and other subjects which will help to stem the tide of inflation.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– While honorable members are discussing the 1951-52 budget I have no doubt that housewives all over the Commonwealth are discussing their budgets, too. Honorable members will have read in the newspapers this morning that the basic wage has been increased by 14s. a week. The Minister for the Navy and Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) said that this was a good budget and that the amount provided for in the budget next year and in the following year will probably be at least three or four times more than is provided for in the present budget. It seems to me that the Minister may be the Treasurer when the next budget is presented. While the Government continues to speak with two voices, there can be no real progress in this country. Although members of the Liberal party have acted as spokesmen for the Government, the Australian Country party makes the decisions. Only infrequently since the budget was brought down have members of the Australian Country party taken part in this debate. Supporters of that party appear to be satisfied -with the Government’s proposals in relation to wool because, as a result of the wool sales deductions legislation that was introduced last year, the wool-growers will not fee] the full impact of this budget. There will be given to the friends of the Government a tax concession that will not be enjoyed by the rank and file of the people of this country.
Almost every speaker to-night has directed his remarks to the probable effects of the budget on people in his electorate. I assure the committee that the electors of the Division of West Sydney do not produce wool or wheat. Yet in the long run they will pay the most tax as a result of the Government’s proposals. Before we contemplate increased budgets in the years to come we should get down to fundamentals and consider the effect that this budget will have on Australia’s economy. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has budgeted for a surplus of £114,500,000. The two sections of the community that will be hard hit are children, in relation to toys and ice cream, and age pensioners who are existing on a pittance of £2 10s. a week. Under the new sales tax schedule there will be no escape for the working man on a low income. However, I am sure that when the balance-sheets of big trading companies, which are the friends of the Government, are published next year even larger profits than have been made this year will be shown, and increased dividends will be paid to the shareholders. Although the woolgrowers will have plenty of money left after paying their taxes, I doubt very much whether the workers will have any money left. Sales tax on many commodities, including confectionery, novelties, crystallized fruit, ice cream, and children’s toys is to be increased. That is a wicked shame.
Last week the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) contended chat the people who were engaged in manufacturing toys should be employed on more useful work, and that we should import toys from Japan. In that country persons engaged in making toys work 56 hours a week for a wage of £3 10s. I regret that the honorable member for Canning is not present in the chamber to-night, because it is contrary to my policy to speak behind any one’s back. Evidently what the honorable member for Canning has stated is the policy of the Liberal party. It is not long since- the Japanese were our enemies. Many of our exservicemen who fought the Japanese are now able to undertake only light work, such as toy-making. Why should they not be able to continue in that vocation? This Government has signed the Peace Treaty with Japan, and according to a newspaper report, before next January 30 ship-loads of Japanese merchandise will arrive in Sydney. If that is not a shame and wrongful to .our soldiers who fought in the last war, and who will be required to fight in any future war, I do not know what is British justice.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) has referred to promises that have not been kept by this Government. During the campaign prior to the general election in 1949 the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated - .
Except in relation to the Territories and War Service homes, the direct responsibility for housing is with the State governments. But the Commonwealth must accept large obligations of assistance. There is already a Commonwealth-States Housing Agreement. We will seek its amendment so as to permit and aid “little capitalists” to own their own homes.
I particularly direct the attention of honorable members to the last sentence of that statement by the Prime Minister. During the same election campaign Mr. Lyle Moore, who was then president of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales, and is now the president of the Liberal party, stated -
Put the Labour Government out of office, do away with controls, and everybody wanting a home will be able to buy one at ValuerGeneral’s valuation.
But Mr. Moore has changed his tune. He now believes that the only solution of the housing problem is for the workers to revert to a 44-hour week. Various statements have been made about the 40-hour week. The gentleman who was the previous president of the Liberal party in New South Wales has advocated a 56-hour working week. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) intends to intervene in the application to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for a 44- hour week. The Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament has said that he will not attempt to have the 40-hour week altered. All honorable members must realize that Australians will never give up what they have fought so hard to obtain, and return to a working week longer than 40 hours. This Government has been in office for only about two years, yet it has already instructed the Commonwealth Bank to curtail credit to home-builders and to co-operative building societies. The committee was informed to-day by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) that thousands upon thousands of houses had been built by the Government. In that connexion I direct the attention of honorable members to an article that appeared in the Daily Telegraph of the 3rd October, which reads inter alia: -
A conference of the Association of Cooperative Building Societies at Newcastle on Monday decided to protest against restrictions on credit for home building. “ If the people don’t get homes the Government won’t get the production it needs for defence “, insisted Mr. D. Stewart Fraser, director of the Building Industry Congress.
Mr. Fraser is quite right, and the Commonwealth Government had no justification whatever for making home building harder foi ordinary citizens.
Men can grow beards and dispense with highly taxed shaving gear if the sales tax bears too heavily upon them, and no doubt if our defence needs become pressing, women may submit to looking dowdy because of the high cost of cosmetics; but even the humble taxpayers need roofs over their heads, and unless the Government energetically tackles the disastrous back-log of 300,000 houses a large section of our working people will have to take to the bush. Even if they try to camp in the bush they will still have difficulty in escaping from rent racketeers and key-money experts who will try to mobilize the camp sites. When the war ended in 1945 Australia needed 250,000 houses. Mr. Wallace Pooley, the general secretary of the Building Societies organization, says that in the last few years the number has increased by 50,000 or 60,000 houses to a grand- total of about 300,000.
The Government .is bringing immigrants to this country and keeping them in hostels for periods of perhaps two years. During that time they are able to save money, and when they finally go out into ordinary life our own Australians cannot compete with them for housing accommodation. Every Monday morning dozens of young men and women, most of them ex-service people, call to see me about accommodation. Many of them have two or three children aged from three to eight years. They all are living under deplorable conditions. In spite of all that misery, the Government tells the people that the provision of housing and other amenities must be deferred because of our preparations for war. Is there any wonder then, that some people are asking whether there is anything left in this country worth fighting for? After a man has offered his life for his country surely he is entitled to a home in that country.
Recently 10,000 public servants were sacked by the Government. The Sydney General Post Office is in the centre of my electorate and I consequently have received perhaps more complaints about sackings than has any other honorable member. These people cannot appeal to other honorable members in neighbouring electorates because those electorates returned Liberal members who are supporters of the Government that has authorized the dismissals. Among the men dismissed by the Government are 300 telephone linemen, yet I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of new telephone installations that have been made in my electorate in the last two years. There are more than 250 outstanding applications for telephones by people in my electorate, excluding 20 or 30 from people in the part of it that was formerly in East Sydney. Among the applicants for telephones are many exservicemen conducting all kinds of businesses. The department told me that tele phones would be installed within ten or twelve months, but at the end of thai time the installations have been just as far off as ever. The waiting time for a telephone is a Kathleen Mavourneen business - it may’ be for years and it may be forever. I suggest that it is waste of time and public money for the department to write to people and tell them that they may get telephones at some time in the future, because if the Liberal Governmenremains in office for another ten yearsI am sure that not more than ten more telephones will be installed in my electorate.
I shall now turn to the plight of the pensioners. An honorable member told us to-day with some pride that the Government had granted a 10s. increase to the pensioners. The following figures may be of interest to honorable members : - In 1941 the basic wage was £4 os. a week and the age pension £1 ls. 6d. a week, or 25 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1941 the Curtin Government increased the pension. The basic wage then was £4 7s. a week and the pension £1 3s. 6d., or 27 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1945. when the basic wage was £4 16s., the pension was £1 12s. 6d., or 33 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1948, when the basic wage was £5 6s., the pension wa? £2 2s. 6d., or 36 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1950, when the basic wage wa.f £7 7s., the pension was £2 10s., or 31 per cent, of the basic wage. To-day, when the basic wage is £10 7s.. and the pension is £3. the pension is only 29 per cent, of the basic wage. The pensioner is obliged to wait twelve months before he can hope for an increase of pension rates. If thi? Government remains in office it is certain that there will be four increases of the basic wane in that time, because, while this Government -is in power there will bc inflation. I suggest that, each of those rises in the basic wage will be at least 14s.. which will mean that the basic wage will be- increased by approximately £3 a week and will then be about £13 7s. 8 week. The pensioners will still be receiving their present rate of pension. Such a state of affairs is shameful and a disgrace to the Liberal party which pretends that it desires to do something for the pensioners of this country. When I mention the plight of the pensioners to members of the Government, they say to me, “You are after their votes”. I am not suspicious, and I am lucky enough to enjoy a majority of 13,000 in my electorate. There is probably no need for me. to speak on behalf of pensioners, but nevertheless I like to see justice done. Last year, when the budget was about to be presented, the pensioners of West Sydney asked me what they could expect to receive in the way of pension increases. I told them, “ Do not expect much from the Liberal party”. My words proved to be correct, because on that occasion they received an increase of only 7s. 6d. a week.
I suggest that, as this is jubilee year, it behoves the Government to do something for the pioneers of this country. During the jubilee celebrations, lavish entertainments have been held. But what has been done to better the conditions of the deserving members of the community? The people of my electorate, and of Sydney generally, do not intend to sit down and remain content with the inactivity of the Government. Under the patronage of the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Sydney, and with assistance from that great philanthropist, Mr. Hallstrom, they have arranged for an entertainment to be held in the Sydney Town Hall on next Saturday night, from 8 to 12 o’clock. The cost of admission will be 2s. 6d. I hope that the people of Sydney are listening to my speech to-night and that the town hall will be too small to hold all the people who will attend. Last year a similar function provided £300, and I shall be a bad judge if, on this occasion, that amount is not doubled. The people of Sydney are in that way making a contribution to the needy, an obligation which this Government has failed to honour, despite the fact that it expects to have a .surplus of £114.000,000 this year. I have no doubt that the wool-growers, the wheat-growers and others who are enjoying the bounty of their products to-day would not be in that fortunate position had it not been for the pioneers who came to this country in the early days.
I do not think that any member of the Government would contend that I have ever over-stepped the mark in making requests of him or that I have ever asked that action be taken which I did not con- sider just or fair. Last July I asked a question in this House on behalf of the Victoria ‘Cross winners of World War I. and World War II. My question referred to air travel for such men, in order that they might attend jubilee celebrations. If a plane trip cannot be arranged for those who offered their lives for their country and who gained the highest award for bravery’ it is a sorry state of affairs. I point out that it is common to read in the newspapers that race-horses and racing dogs have been transported by plane from one State to another. Yet our Victoria Cross winners are not able to obtain a pass for air travel. I do not contend that they should be provided with a pass which entitles them to travel for 365 days of the year, but I consider that the winner of a Victoria Cross during either world war should be entitled to a pass entitling him to travel at least one day of the .year. I have asked the Government on two occasions to grant that concession, and on the last occasion, I was informed that the Government had considered the matter and had decided that the concession could not be granted. How can it expect recruiting to prosper? The Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) has stated to-night that we are prepared to expend £700,000,000 during three years on preparations for defence. Yet the -Government refuses to grant a plane trip to the Victoria Cross winners of this country.
Mr. Gullett interjecting
– On each occasion when the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has spoken in this House I have refrained from interrupting him. I doubt whether I have ever interrupted any other speaker. I recall that when I first came to the Parliament I asked a colleague of the .honorable member who he was. His colleague replied, “ That is the black swan “. I then asked another honorable member what was meant by the term “ black .swan “, and he replied, “ He is never happy unless he is in a wet atmosphere’”. On the -last occasion on which the honorable member contradicted me concerning Irish Victoria Cross winners in the last war, I was able to inform him that of the .36 or 37 men who had won the Victoria Cross while members of the Australian forces, at least one was an Irishman. I refer to Richard Kelliher. Yet the Irish are scorned. Some one even asked me to-day, “ Why are you wearing a red tie? Are you not going over to the Irish Embassy “.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Some days ago I directed a question to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) seeking information regarding a matter that had been brought to my attention. Having been supplied with such information, I naturally thought that it was only proper that I should give to the Minister an opportunity to let me and the House know whether there was any basis for it. For that reason, I asked the Minister whether he had any association with the firm of Lewis Berger and Sons (Australia) Proprietary Limited, paint manufacturers, and whether that firm had any contracts with the Government. I also asked whether the Minister was actually receiving any payment of any kind from the company and, if so, exactly for what service was it being paid. That was the general purport of the question that I asked. The Minister replied that he had no knowledge of any contracts that that firm had with the Government. He added -
As for my professional relationship with the firm, it is a fact, that, as a barrister, I have acted for it.
I followed up that question a few days later by asking the Minister whether he would inquire and let me know if this firm had any contracts with the Government, and whether he would advise me in what legal capacity he had acted on behalf of the company since he became a Minister. I also asked -
Is it a fact that he receives from the company an amount annually, and, if so, will he state the amount and the period for which he has been in receipt of it?
The Minister replied that he had made inquiries and had found that the company had contracts of the value of approximately £30,000with the Government but that none of the contracts had come to his notice in his capacity as Minister, but had been dealt with by the Contract Board. Regarding his relationship with the firm, he said that these were of a professional character, that they were his own concern and his own business and that he did not propose to deal with them.
I press the matter because the information furnished to me is that the Minister has since he became a Minister - and I am only concerned at present about the period since he became a Minister - performed no legal work for the company; and I am also informed that the Minister receives £1,000 a year from the firm, which is marked on the books of the company as being a retainer. When that information came to my notice, I was unable to vouch for it being accurate and, therefore, did not mention the figure. I asked the Minister what his associations were with the firm and when he said that they were professional associations I asked what work he had done for the company. When I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to make inquiries to ascertain what payment had been made to the Minister, for what period it had operated and, also, with respect to retainers, what was the practice in making such payments to members of the legal profession, the Prime Minister replied that “ He had no views hostile to legal members of a government holding a retainer “. The right honorable gentleman added -
There is a very great misapprehension about retainers. Many people read novels and get the idea that persons who hold retainers at the bar thereby receive thousands of pounds.
As honorable members will recollect, he went on to say that if I wanted to engage his services for the rest of our joint lives I could do so on payment of a fee of £11s. A few days later he made the figure £5 5s.; so, evidently, value was oozing out of the £1 very rapidly. Then I asked the Prime Minister to have inquiries made to ascertain what legal work had been undertaken by the Minister for the firm, because the Minister said that he had acted in a legal capacity for it, and also who was his instructing solicitor. The Minister, being a King’s Counsellor will admit that he can undertake legal work on behalf of anybody only on the instructions of a solicitor. The information furnished to me was that the Minister had performed no legal work for it since he became a Minister. If he did give advice, I take it that the matter would have had to go through a solicitor. I have taken the trouble to ascertain what the position is with respect to retainers to members of the legal profession. Although I am not a member of the New South Wales Bar, I have my way of finding out its decisions and rulings. I discovered that in a document issued in 1947, by the Council of the New .South Wales Bar Association, the following paragraph appears under the heading of “Rules and Rulings”–
A General Retainer shall remain in force for one year.
The Minister, as a member of the New South Wales Bar, would be in possession of these Rules and Rulings and he can correct me if I am not stating them correctly. Paragraph (10) of those “ Rules and Rulings “ reads -
A Special Retainer cannot be given until after the commencement of an action for other proceedings.
Paragraph (17) reads -
The fee for each General Retainer shall be £5 5s.
Provision is made for the renewal of such a retainer each year. Paragraph (18) of those “ Rules and Rulings “ reads -
The fee for Special Retainers shall be in Equity, £2 2s. In all other jurisdictions, fi ls.
So, as I said originally, the retainers were paid to a set scale of charges and were merely nominal amounts. If the Minister is not in receipt of the sum that I am advised he is receiving, one would have expected him to deny my statement immediately. That is what he should have done in the first instance, if the statement were untrue. But as I was obliged to ask the Minister two questions, and the Prime Minister two questions on the subject without obtaining the information I am seeking and as I was gagged when I attempted to raise the matter on the motion for the adjournment, I decided that that was an unsatisfactory way to leave the matter. I think that every honorable member will agree with that view.
The reluctance of the Prime Minister to deal with the legal earnings of members of the Government is in strange contrast to the great alacrity with which he agreed to secure plied information regarding fees that were paid to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for appearing in a case on behalf of a number of trade unions. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) asked the Prime Minister if he would ascertain what fees were paid to the Leader of the Opposition in that case, because, as he said, he wanted to find Ou whether the Leader of the Opposition performed that task “ for love or money “. On that occasion, the Prime Minister did not say, as in this case, that he would nol waste his time making inquiries into thilegal earnings of honorable members. He instead replied that he did not know whether the information that the honorable member for Capricornia sought was to hand, but that he would ascertain the position and let the honorable member know as early as possible. The Prime Minister’s attitude is rather inconsistent. On the one hand, when a question was asked by an honorable member on the Government side, he agreed to make investigations into the fees payable to the Leader of the Opposition as a member of the legal profession but, on the other hand, when I ask him whether a member of the Government is receiving money’:from a firm which he says are for services rendered for it in a professional capacity - and I accept that - and I ask in what way he has acted for the firm - -
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. James) negatived -
That the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) be granted an extension of time.
.- One thing should be cleared up at the outset. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was not gagged last night to prevent him from speaking on this matter. He was informed last night that he could speak on this subject at an earlier stage, but the gag was moved because he broke an undertaking that had been made between the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is the leader of the House, and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that there would be no speeches on the adjournment. So let us be clear about that. The honorable gentleman was also subsequently told that if he wanted to raise this matter to-night, or at any other time, he could do so. The late lamented Adolph Hitler and Dr. Goebbels developed a technique the effect of which was that the bigger the falsehood, the louder it was uttered and the more often it was repeated, the more likely it was that somebody might be misled and come to believe it. I think that from the external evidence of the performance of the honorable member, he has been closely studying the technique of those two late lamented gentlemen.
I propose to-night to give the House just a few facts about this matter that the honorable member for East Sydney has raised, to indicate how wantonly, wilfully and scandalously false his innuendoes are. Quite obviously they have been made not out of any great warm public spirited purpose, but in the well-known “ Ed-wardian “ technique of trying to smear the reputation of some honorable members. I shall now give the facts. I inform the honorable member for East Sydney that I have not been receiving £1,000 a year from Lewis Berger and Sons (Australia) Proprietary Limited, or anything like that amount, ft is a. matter of great regret that that admirable and entirely reputable firm lias not contributed to my income to that degree. If the honorable member is troubled by the thought that I have been getting that amount of money from the company, and that seems to be filling his heart with spleen or jealousy, I reassure him that I have not been receiving anything like that sum.
For 25 years of my life I have been a working barrister, in the course of which I have had an uncounted number of clients. They paid me for my services, and that is all there is about it. That has been the way in which I have been earning my living.
Mr. Curtin interjecting.
– The honorable member who has just interjected has not Ye learned that it is a cardinal rule with both sides of this House that when a man’s honour and reputation are attacked here, he is entitled to be heard in decent, fair silence, whether his remarks meet with the agreement of some honorable gentlemen or not.
– And the Chair should insist upon his being heard in silence.
-Order! The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) must not reflect upon the Chair.
M.r. BEALE. - The honorable member who interjected earlier, bawled out a remark this week about bribery. I tell him that if he is not careful he will be called before the Committee of Privileges to substantiate it, and if he fails to do so he may find himself outside this House.
– Bunkum! Tell us how much you got out of the company.
– For 25 years I have been a barrister and the practice of my profession has brought me into relationships with a vast number of clients who have paid me for my services. My relations with Lewis Berger and Sons (Australia) Proprietary Limited, like the other clients whom I have mentioned,, including corporations, individuals and associations, have also involved payment for services. There was no doubt about that and there is no secret about it. The record of the payments is in the books of the company, but no doubt not in the cockeyed form that the honorable gentleman’s nosey-parker has apparently told him. There is no doubt about it. The payment is included in my tax returns. It is not a matter in respect of which I find it necessary to have a secret safe deposit box.
And now comes a cardinal fact which destroys entirely the innuendoes of the honorable gentleman. The professional relationship which was established by me with Lewis Berger and Sons (Australia) Proprietary Limited was established a long time ago - years before I became Minister. It is not of recent origin. It is, therefore, not a matter in respect of which any inference can be made that it was established for any improper purpose. That professional relationship has been in existence for years, and that fact disposes, entirely of any suggestion that, somehow or other,, there is something wrong when a barrister, who happens to be a member of this House and a Minis,ter, is paid for his services.
When this matter was first raised in the House I said that I did not know anything about any contract between the company and the Government and that I was quite sure that I had never seen the name of the company on any contract that had come before me as the Minister for Supply. Having said that, I walked out of the chamber and sent a teleprint, message to Melbourne in which I asked for the facts. The information as disclosed is that Lewis Berger and Sons (Australia) Proprietary Limited, which is a very large company, with branches in all States, has, since January, 1950, had. something like £33,000 worth of contracts with one or another of the government departments - I think chiefly with the Department of the Navy, but I do not know. From January, 1950, which, incidentally, was three months before I became Minister for Supply, over the ensuing- period of 21 months, that company had approximately £33,000 worth of contracts with Commonwealth departments. I emphasize that the company has branches throughout Australia and that it is only with the New South Wales branch that my professional relationship exists. Not a single one of those contracts ever came before me, as the Minister, in any shape or form. In the very nature of things such contracts could not come to me. They were not of the importance or the size that, under the existing rules, would have been brought to the notice of the Minister. They were dealt with by the officers of the Contract Board in the various States. If that point is established - and it is established - what do all the questions that the honorable member for East Sydney has asked amount to? They amount to nothing more than an insolent poking of his nose into another person’s private and professional business, and not even for the purpose of a prurient curiosity of something of that sort. They have merely been asked for the purpose of trying to smear some one by making an innuendo. Those contracts are decided by the Contract Board, which is a statutory body consisting of eminent civil servants from various departments.
– Appointed by the Minister.
– No, in existence long before I became the Minister.
– They were finally determined by the Minister.
– They were not.
– By a Minister.
– Not by any Minister in this case and here is another fact. In all eases with the exception of two or three,, in which something has occurred, such as. a failure to comply with specifications,, or time for delivery, every tender submitted by Lewis Berger and Sons (Australia) Proprietary Limited, was. the lowest. It is also established that before I became Minister the tenders of the company had, in some previous years,been two or three times larger than they have been since. I have been the Minister. All this makes a complete and absolute answer to anything that the honorable member for East Sydney has. said. The relationship between the company and myself was established years ago before I became the Minister. None of the contracts of that company, which were only trivial, having regard to- its size and to its Australian-wide activities, came before me, and, for what it is worth, although the figures fluctuate, the1 amounts .of the contracts of the company are much less, than they were before I became the Minister.
There is only one rule which must guide a Minister in this place as it guides a trustee under the law. He must not put himself in a position where his duty and his interest conflict. I have established, I suggest, beyond all shadow of a possibility of doubt, that I have never done that. I hope that this is. the end of the matter; if it is not, the honorable member for East Sydney may be very sorry because, of all people who have been members of this House in 50’ years, he is most certainly the most vulnerable in such matters. If he wants his dirty past raked out, well, O.K., we will have it out at some time. I do not want to conduct this discussion on that basis. I am prepared to close the incident now, having proved that the innuendoes are utterly without foundation. Not at any time have duty and interest conflicted during my occupancy of my present ministerial position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Banking Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 112.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 109.
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 111.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 115.
Egg Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 113.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 1.14.
Public Service Act -
Appointment - Department of Supply - I. R. Harrowfield.
Regulations- Statutory Rules 1951, No. 110.
War Crimes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1951, No. 116.
The following answer to a question was circulated: -
Will the Prime Minister lay on the table the report of the Co-ordinator-General of Works and Housing, Mr. Price, concerning applications by the States of the Commonwealth for loan accommodation to enable them to carry out their housing programmes?
This matter has been investigated and I find that the report of the CoordinatorGeneral of Works on loan programmes is a confidential document, the property of the Loan Council and may not be made public without the consent of the Loan Council. Some time ago the Loan Council decided that the Co-ordinator-General’s report should not be released for public information.
House adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 October 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511018_reps_20_214/>.