20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from His Excellency the Administrator the following letter : -
I have your letter of the 18th October conveying the remarks of the right honorable the Prime Minister and the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition on the occasion of the death of the right honorable the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
I have forwarded your letter, Mr. Speaker, by air mail to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral of Pakistan.
– I ask the Prime Minister, through the Vice-President of the Executive Council, whether he will consider sending a ministerial envoy to North America and to Scandinavian countries with a view to negotiating for the purchase of softwood timbers, and for shipping space to bring the timber here? Will he also investigate the effect of the tariff on the importation of timber, builders’ hardware, baths and other fittings so. important to the home-builder ?
– I shall see that the honorable member’s question is placed before the Prime Minister who will, I am sure, make a suitable reply.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether rice-millers have already exhausted the supply allocated for the domestic market, and whether no rice will be available for the Australian public in the near future? Is it a fact that two of the largest co-operative rice mills in Australia - the mill operated by Creamota Limited, and the mill at Leeton, are failing to supply the open market, despite undertakings to do so, because they can get a higher price by exporting their products? What action can the Minister take to ensure that local consumers receive a reasonable proportion of the supply available?
– I understand that all the rice-millers in Australia, including those at Leeton, entered into an arrangement a little while ago that each would supply an agreed-upon proportion of the local market and of the export market. I should be surprised if that arrangement has broken down, but I shall make inquiries.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation been informed that the service conducted by Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited between Sydney and Nabiac has been reduced to one flight a week? . If not, will he inquire whether it is proposed to curtail or discontinue this service, and whether it would be possible to establish a seaplane service between those places?
– I have no knowledge of the matter that the honorable member has raised. I shall cause inquiries to be made into it, and I shall inform him of the result later.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation say what tests have been carried out in this country with the radio altimeter, which can be a great aid to safety in cloud flying? Can the honorable gentleman assure the House that every effort is being made to equip aircraft with it?
– A number of the larger types of aircraft have been equipped with radio altimeters. Inquiries are being made to ascertain whether the instrument can be installed in other aircraft.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation say what value the Government places on the training of air pilots by local aero clubs? Does the
Government still consider that the train* ing of pilots by aero clubs is in the national interest? If so, will he state why the Government is dilly-dallying about the renewal of agreements with aero clubs, thereby depriving the clubs of the subsidies to which they are entitled? Is the Minister aware that the Newcastle Aero Club has been without funds since June, last, that it has reached the limit of its overdraft with the bank, and that the Government owes it some thousands of pounds? If this important work of training the pilots of the future is to continue, will the Minister ratify the agreements with the aero clubs quickly and thus permit them to continue in force?
– The Government has a full appreciation of the value of the work that aero clubs are doing. Arrangements are being made to provide the requisite finance to enable that work to be continued on very much the same basis as those made last year. As costs have greatly increased the1 subsidy to be provided this year willsteed. -to .be .larger than that provided last year. As soon as the necessary arrangements have been made with the Treasury the grants will be made available to the aero clubs as usual.
-Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the House whether the report of TransAustralia Airlines for the last financial year will be produced during the budget debate or afterwards? Will he make available the balance-sheets of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, Airlines (Western Australia) Limited, Guinea Air Traders Limited, and Butler Air Transport Proprietary Limited, and other airline operating companies, to enable honorable members to compare the results of a government entity with those of private concerns?
– The annual report of Trans-Australia Airlines will be tabled during the current sessional period. I cannot say whether or not it will be presented during the budget debate. T do not intend to provide honorable members with the balance-sheets of the other companies mentioned, which are their own concern.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation give to the House and the country, and especially to the large personnel of Trans-Australia Airlines, an indication when the report of the airlines investigation committee, upon which the Government’s decision on the future of Trans- Australia Airlines will rest, will be available? Is it a fact that the airlines investigation committee has been inquiring into this matter for from four to six months? Can the inquiry be expedited, and is the Minister aware that a continuation of this war of nerves against Trans-Australia Airlines is having an unsettling and detrimental effect on the staff of Trans-Australia Airlines, which is a serious matter indeed in any airline that puts a premium on safety and efficiency?
– When the Government is ready to present its policy in respect of these matters it will do so. There is no need for Trans-Australia Airlines or Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited or any other organization to be upset until the time arrives when there is cause for it to be upset.
– Will the Minister for Air say whether members of the Royal Australian Air Force, armed with rifles and bayonets, who were taking part in an exercise near Canberra recently, halted and searched motor vehicles on the highway? Had those airmen been instructed by their officers to undertake the search? Were travelling motorists informed that they need not either halt or submit to a search of their vehicles? Will the Minister give the House an assurance that this silly business will not be repeated?
– I have no information about the occurrence to which the honorable member has referred ? I doubt very much whether it occurred under the circumstances that he has suggested. I shall cause inquiries to be made into the matter. If I find that unnecessary action was taken by members of the Royal Australian Air Force, I shall ensure that appropriate steps to prevent a repetition of the occurrence will be taken.
– Will the Minister for Air say whether arrangements for the establishment of permanent Royal Australian Air Force bands in Southern Command and Eastern Command have been finalized ? Has authority been given for the allocation of some bandsmen to Queensland in order that some band facilities may be available in that State? In view of the growing importance pf the Royal Australian Air Force stations in Queensland, will the Minister give consideration to the establishment of a permanent full-time Royal Australian Air Force baud for Queensland on a basis similar to that which obtains in the southern States?
– At the request of the honorable member for St. George, I have made arrangements for the establishment of two permanent Royal Australian Air Force bands, one in Southern Area and one in Eastern Area. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to establish them upon a permanent basis, because we have had to draw upon ordinary Air Force personnel for musicians. We are now enlisting musicians and cadet musicians for permanent band duties. Later, we shall appoint a director of music. I hope that we shall have two permanent full-time bands in the Royal Australian Air Force. I do not think the same arrangements can be made in Queensland. Probably a part-time band can be established at the Royal Australian Air Force station at Amberley. If the honorable gentleman will make official representations to me upon this matter, I shall ensure that they are dealt with satisfactorily.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that the Department of Air has served dismissal notices on large numbers of clerks who have been employed at the Laverton air station, many of them for a considerable number of years? Is it also a fact that these men reside at Laverton on Air Force property, and have been given only a week in which to vacate their homes? In view of the expansion of the air services of this country and also of the Royal Australian Air Force, is it necessary that the services of these men should be dispensed with at this particular juncture ?
– That is not the position as fat as I am aware, but I shall have inquiries made and let the honorable member have an answer. I take it that the honorable member is referring to civil and not Royal Australian Air Force personnel
– Early in this sessional period, I directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service a question concerning the control of hostels for which his department is responsible. The honorable gentleman promised to make a statement on the matter later. Will he indicate when the statement will be made?
– I regret that, owing to my absence last week, the honorable member was not furnished with a reply to his question then. While I was in bed last week, I signed a letter to him upon the matter. I hope there will be no unsatisfactory repercussions as a result of that. I think he will find that I have covered the position fairly fully in that letter.
– I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the Government has given any consideration to making Australian currency more freely convertible into dollars? Does the Government agree with the view of certain well-known economists that, if Australia followed the example of Canada and linked its currency with the dollar instead of with sterling, it would gain tremendous and far-reaching economic advantages?
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is asking for an expression of opinion. That may not be done in a question.
– I ask the Minister to reply to the first of my questions.
– I am not aware that any consideration has been given to the matter that the honorable gentleman has raised. His question will be brought to the attention of the Treasurer and of the Prime Minister. A reply to it will be given later.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shippingand Transport whether he will discuss with his colleague the desperate position of the sugar industry in Queensland as the result of the shortage of ships to lift sugar stored in the mills and on the wharfs. Having regard to the seriousness of the situation, will the Minister give immediate and intelligent consideration to the making of arrangements with the Australian Shipping Board to provide ships to lift the sugar as soon as possible?
– I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Shipping and Transport who, I am sure, will do what he can to relieve the situation. I point out, however, that it will not be possible for the Australian Shipping Board to provide ships if ships are not available.
– I desire to address a question, either to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture
– Order ! I ruled last week that questions of that kind should be placed on the notice-paper. because a Minister in this House cannot be expected to know what a Minister in another House is doing.
– I address the question to the Vice-President of the Executive Council as the leader of the House. Will the Government push on vigorously with its discussions with the States on the price of feed wheat? I point out that supplies of feed wheat and wheatmeal to the States have already been shockingly bad and that the proposed increase of the price of feed wheat is causing serious anxiety in the poultry industry.
– I am aware of the interest that the honorable member is taking in this matter. I give him an assurance that the Government will press on with its efforts to reach finality in its discussions with the States.
– I direct to the Minister for Health a question relative to the serious problem that has been caused by a timber pest, the sirex wasp, which is a subject that has been referred to a committee of investigation. “Will the right honorable gentleman say whether that committee has yet held any sittings, and when it is expected to have a report on the matter ready? Will he also say whether any arrangement or agreement has been made by the Government and the importers of certain timbers infested by sirex wasp, under which the infested timber has been, or will be, allowed to land in Australia pending the decision of the committee?
– The position in relation to the quarantining of the timber to which the honorable gentleman has referred, will hold until the inquiry is finished. I shall ascertain how far the inquiry has gone and let the honorable member know.
– I ask the Minister for the Army who represents in this House the Minister for Repatriation, whether he will discuss with that Minister, with a view to the holding of Cabinet discussions later, the desirability of widening the class of incapacitated ex-servicemen who are eligible for the provision of motor cars, so as to include, in addition to double amputees and paraplegic ex-servicemen, such exservicemen as may be completely confined to wheel-chairs as a result of spinal tuberculosis ?
– I shall be very pleased to discuss with the Minister for Repatriation the matter that the honorable member has raised, and obtain a reply for him.
– I have heard three questions addressed this afternoon to Ministers acting on behalf of Ministers in the Senate. The Senate is in session, and in future any question intended for a Minister in the other House must go on the notice-paper. Such questions are not properly questions without notice, and obviously cannot be answered here.
– As the cut in loan money available to the States will delay the completion of certain projects now almost finished, will the Minister for Defence investigate the urgency of such projects, and, if it is revealed that they warrant a high priority for defence, will he recommend to Cabinet that the Australian Government make possible their completion under the defence programme?
– A careful analysis of State works was made before the loan allocations were reduced but, if it is found that certain projects are being held up owing to lack of funds I shall have them examined and, if necessary, make appropriate recommendations to the Government.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that the recent increase of the basic wage indicates a continuing steep rise of the cost of living? If he is aware of that trend, will be recommend to Cabinet that a substantial increase of pensions be granted ?
– I am aware that, according to the Commonwealth Statisticians^ figures, there has been a substantial increase of the cost of living, but I have not had time to examine the matter closely. When an examination is made it will be necessary to take into consideration the statement made recently by Mr. Finnan, the New South Wales Minister in charge of prices administration that, in his opinion, the figures are not accurate.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Supply a question about the impossible task confronting many municipal councils of keeping roads in good order with the insufficient funds available to them. Is the Minister aware that many roads in the City of Greater Wollongong are dangerous because heavy industrial traffic is breaking up surfaces? Is it a fact that last year, revenue from the petrol tax totalled £23,000,000 of which New South Wales received a little more than £1,000,000 for road work? Will the Minister consider the advisability of allocating the total revenue from petrol tax to the construction and repair of roads?
– The matters raised by the honorable member are within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, hut I shall draw the Minister’s attention to the question and obtain a reply as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether any consideration has been given to the construction of a new road from Canberra to the Hume Highway via Brindabella and Tumut? I point out that such a road would make possible the development of thousands of acres of land, and also provide direct access from the south-west to the National Capital.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is, “ No “. However, I shall look into the matter.
– Can the Minister for the Army say whether there is any machinery whereby other ranks serving in the Australian Army in Korea may be promoted to commissioned rank and sent to officers’ training units because of qualifications of leadership that they had shown in the field ? If so, how many such promotions have been made? If no such machinery exists, will the Minister consider introducing such a scheme so that this traditional form of promotion in the Australian Army in time of war may be carried on in Korea ?
– I have pleasure in advising the honorable member that an officers’ training school has been established. It is hoped that as the result of an invitation that has been extended, many soldiers now serving in the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment in Korea will volunteer for this school. The latest information available to me is that we can expect from that battalion, from the permanent army in Australia, from Citizen Military Force, and from national service trainees, the number of trainees required for the first intake at the officer cadet school on the 7th January, 1952. Young men from civil life are also eligible to nominate.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Immigration to the fact that Army authorities approached a resident of Hobart and asked him to nominate his sister and her husband and daughter, living in Warwickshire, England, as immigrants to this country. The husband intended to join the Army. The Hobart resident agreed. The accommodation that was to be made available was inspected by the immigration authorities and by the Army authorities and references were obtained. After having gone to all this trouble, he was informed, on the 9 th October, that his sister had rheumatoid arthritis and that, therefore, the nomination had been refused by the immigration authorities in England. In view of all the trouble that is involved in finding nominators in Australia for immigrants of British stock, would it be possible to have British immigrants who desire to come to Australia medically examined before nominators are sought for them., As the Army is anxious to recruit men in England does the Minister consider it advisable to refuse permission for married couples to come to Australia because the wife is not 100 per cent, physically fit?
– This Government and the previous Government have both found it necessary to maintain a very high standard of health in intending immigrants. I think that that is a sound policy. I shall be glad if the honorable member will supply me with the details of the case that he has raised in order that I may ascertain exactly what happened. I shall inquire to what extent intending immigrants are examined in England while their nomination is being considered in Australia with a view to determining whether action can be taken to avoid this type of occurrence.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that there are no telephone facilities north of Carnarvon in Western Australia and that the only means of communication with the southern part of that State is by telegraph? Is it a fact that because of the cost of constructing a trunk line it Ls proposed to service this huge area by radio telephone to Carnarvon md thence by ordinary lines to other places in the area? If so, will the Minister give this work high priority in view of its defence importance and the isolation of the residents of the area?
– The PostmasterGeneral’s Department 13 endeavouring to provide facilities in the outback areas to which the honorable member has referred by means of radio telephone services. The speed with which the department is able to supply those services is limited by its lack of equipment. However, when the equipment comes to hand it will be installed at Carnarvon and elsewhere as rapidly as possible.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council arrange to have prepared a statement setting out the price variations on which the basic wage was adjusted in August and those on which it will be adjusted again in November? Will the Minister lay this statement on the table of the House ?
– I shall have the honorable member’s question placed before the Prime Minister, who I have no doubt, will give the matter his attention.
– In view of the urgent need for increased production and the fact that many retired men desire to do casual work will the Minister for Labour and National Service consider having prepared a register of casual work avail- « bie so that those persons may know what work of a nature suitable to their age and health is offering?
– I . shall be very glad to examine the honorable member’s suggestion. I recognize that, particularly in these days when longer life can be anticipated, many people, after reaching the normal retiring age, desire to continue working, even if not for full time. If arrangements can be made on the lines suggested, I shall be glad to see that that is done.
– Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council inform me whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce, during the current sesional period, a bill to ratify the Japanese Peace Treaty?
– I cannot give the honorable member an affirmative answer at present. It is the intention of the Government to introduce such a bill, but I do not know when the measure will be brought forward. I shall draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the honorable member’s question.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been drawn to a statement by the honorable member for Wollondilly in the New South Wales Parliament about the land settlement of ex-servicemen? If so, will the Minister make a statement to this House on- the matter as soon as possible?
– I have not seen a report of the speech mentioned. In any event, it is not for me. in this House, to comment on a statement that has been made in the New South Wales Parliament. The method of resumption of land in New South Wales for the settlement of ex-servicemen is different from that in operation in the other States. The matter is receiving very serious consideration by this Government.
– Will the Minister for Health inform me what fee the Government pays to doctors for each time they prescribe for ‘pensioners? What fee is paid to a chemist for making up a prescription for a pensioner : Is a separate charge made in respect of each prescription when a patient has two or more prescriptions to be dispensed?
– I shall answer the last question first. The prescriptions that are given are paid for separately. One set of prescriptions may be provided for under the pharmaceutical benefits legislation and another under the agreement with the doctors in relation to pensioners. The fees differ. I have not the actual figures before me, but I can tell the honorable member the total amount that has been paid up to the present, and the total numbers of visits by pensioners to surgeries, and of visits by doctors to the homes of pensioners.
– I do not think that that question was asked.
– This is the only way that I can answer the honorable member’s question.
– The right honorable gentleman should not go beyond the scope of the question that was asked.
– I want to know the separate charges that the doctors make each time, and the chemists’ charges for making up the prescriptions.
– Mr. Speaker will not permit me to answer the question.
– Does the Minister for Health recollect that he stated during the life of the last Parliament that he proposed to issue to the members of this Parliament a list showing the names’ of the doctors who are participating in the free medical scheme for pensioners? If the Minister remembers that statement, has he yet made that list available? I have not yet received such a list, and I ask him to have one supplied to me.
– The honorable member has a very short memory.
– I certainly have not a list.
– The honorable member has a very short memory because what I said was that on account of the difficulty of keeping every honorable member informed as doctors names were added to the list, a list would be placed in the Library in a position where every honorable member could readily see it. I also said that the list would be kept up to date. The list is in the Library and the honorable member may see it there if he so desires.
– I address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. As there is some confusion in the public mind, in the minds of the press, and probably in the minds of a few honorable members about the exact duties and responsibilities of parliamentary standing committees, and joint statutory committees, will you, when time permits, prepare a statement for submission to the House, in order that the position may be clarified?
– I shall do so.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that television has now reached the experimental stage in Australia? If so, will he arrange for the Parliament to be the first assembly to be televised?
– I shall give very weighty consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– Is it a fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department has prohibited small parcels of tea from being sent in food parcels from Australia to the United Kingdom? If that is so. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that perhaps it would be possible to provide some means of allowing this commendable practice to continue as these small gifts of tea are very welcome to the recipients.
– I shall investigate the request of the honorable member and supply an answer to him.
– Will the Minister for Territories inform the House what stage has been reached in his campaign to improve the lot of the Australian aborigines in the Northern Territory? Will he also say what is being done through discussion with State governments, to help aborigines in the States, particularly New South Wales?
– As I informed the House last week, a conference on native welfare was held in Canberra on the 3rd and 4th September. The conclusions reached by that conference are in the hands of the governments of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, which governments participated in the conference. So far as the Australian Government is concerned, my officers are considering the proposals to ascertain which of them have been partly applied and which have not yet been applied at all, in order that we may take the necessary action. I assume that the other governments which participated in the conference are doing the same thing.
– There is a report current in industrial circles that it i3 the intention of the Minister for Labour and National Service to recommend to the Government that it be represented by counsel at the case to be heard before the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration upon the application of certain employing interests for the reintroduction of the 44-hour week. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether that report is correct. If it is correct that the Minister desires that the Government be represented, will such representation be for the purpose of supporting the employers’ claim for a 44-hour week?
– Does the honorable member refer to the case that will be heard on the 29th of October?
– The case will be heard shortly.
– I do not know what reports are current, but I know that they can only be speculative and founded on a very unsound premise. I have not yet had an opportunity to ascertain exactly what the employers have in mind. As I am advised, the registry of the court has listed for mention certain matters which have been before it for some considerable time. Matters which relate to the question of hours will be heard or mentioned on the 29th of this month. F expect that we shall then obtain some clarification of the intentions of those who are represented before the court on that occasion, and also clarification of their future intentions. The Government will not give consideration to the course which it will follow in the matter until it knows what line of action the employers propose to take before the court. When that is known, the Government will consider the policy which it should adopt in the matter, and a statement will be made at the appropriate time.
– In the absence of the Treasurer, I direct a question to the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Is the Minister able to state whether the Government has taken any special steps in order to restore the confidence of the people in this Government, following the failure of the thirteenth security loan by more than £7,000,000? Will the Minister inform the House what action the Government proposes to take in order to correct the lack of public faith and confidence which has arisen, very largely, from the unsatisfactory nature of the budget at present before the Parliament?
– The honorable member should appreciate that the results of the last general election and of the previous one proved that the people of Australia have unbounded confidence in this Government. That confidence will be continued. I shall see that the subject-matter of the second question asked by the honorable member is brought to the attention of the Treasurer.
– As all apprentices are due to be called up for military training, will the Minister for Labour and National Service consider the desirability of amending the provisions of the National Service Act so that all time spent by apprentices in military training shall be counted as time worked for the purpose of their apprenticeship agreements? Will the Minister give to the House an assurance that employers will be made to play their part in preparations for national defence as are other members of the community?
– I have approved of the draft reply to a similar question which the honorable member addressed to me on this matter a week or so ago. The information should be in his hands very shortly.
– by leave - I wish to place before honorable members a brief statement concerning ‘pay received by national service trainees. I consider that such a statement is desirable in order to correct a wrong impression which may have been created in the minds of honorable members and the general public by a statement attributed to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), which appeared in a section of the Melbourne press on Friday last. The right honorable gentleman is reported to have urged an increase of the pay of national service trainees. He is also reported to have stated that, while there have been several basie wage increases, there has been no adjustment of the payments made to national service trainees since the Government fixed the rates of pay. The position is that all national service trainees are paid on the same basis as “ Recruits - minor “ when entering upon their training. The active pay of a “ Recruit - minor “ in May, 1950, was 10s. lid. a day. Since then, there have been six pay adjustments and a further adjustment will be made next month as a result of a further increase of the cost of living. In September, 1950, the daily rate of pay under this category was adjusted to 12s. 6d. a day. Further adjustments were made as follows: -
It will be seen, therefore, that during the period from May, 1950, to August, 195.1, the rate of active pay for a “ Recruit - minor “ increased from 10s. lid. to 17s. 7d. a day. Increases were also made in the clothing allowance and in the rations and quarters allowance which raised the recruit’s total remuneration from 18s. 5d. a day to 26s. lOd. a day over that period. With the further adjustment to be made next month the total remuneration will increase to ^approximately 28s. 6d. a day. As a national service trainee receives free ration and clothing the additional allowances paid to recruits do not apply, but I mention them in order to show that increases have been granted of not only active pay rates but also of clothing, rations and quarters allowances. Honorable members will appreciate the fact that since the commencement of national service training in August of this year there has been no variation in the Australian pay structure until the more recent one which will become effective as from the first pay period in November. All national service trainees, as well as recruits, who are paid on the same basis, will receive the benefit of this further increase.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
National Service Trainees - Rates of Pay - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Mr.- MCDONALD.- As Chairman, I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed erection of a telephone exchange at Launceston, Tasmania.
Ordered to be printed.
– As Chairman, 1 present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 18th October (vide page 957), 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 £1.
.- I support this budget for one reason, and one reason only. I believe that the financial proposals of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will help to a large degree to cure the ills of inflation which have been jo prevalent in this country since the end of World War II. Some Opposition members have referred to this budget as a horror budget. I can only conclude that, if their description of it is correct, Australia must be in a serious condition of inebriation, and I consider that if this budget will remedy that state and restore this country to sobriety, the budget will have proved worth while, and Australia will have joined Alcoholics Anonymous.
Opposition members have ridiculed the budget, hut their criticism has been completely destructive. I have not heard a member of the Labour party offer one word of constructive criticism of the Government’s financial proposals. It is easy for any one to condemn the deeds of other men, but it is not so easy to suggest alternatives. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and his supporters have not offered one word of constructive criticism of the budget. The right honorable gentleman said, in his speech, that the last Chifley Government had reduced taxation. I do not contradict that statement, but I point out that the Chifley Government, in the last budget which it introduced, provided only £5,000,000 for defence purposes. The present Government has budgeted for a defence expenditure of £181,000,000 during the current financial year. I believe that an amount of £5,000,000 for the defence of this country is a poor sort of insurance premium to pay for our well-being and security, particularly when Communist hordes in other parts of the world, whom people here protect and defend on the hustings, are willing and ready to invade Australia. Honorable members opposite have sheltered the Communists within Australis and have encouraged them to go ahead with their work of sabotage and disruption in industry, which has done much to cause inflation. The Labour Government left Australia wide open to attack with a paltry allocation of £5,000,000 for defence purposes. Australia would have been far better off if, the Chifley Government, instead of fishing for votes by budgeting for tax reductions had tried to make our defences secure. When .the present Government came into power, it found that every Army and Air Force camp in Australia had been thrown virtually on the scrap heap.. There was not even a caretaker garrison to maintain them. Pillagers were at liberty to loot their fittings and installations. This Government has had the responsibility of strengthening our defences by reestablishing our camps and instituting the national service training scheme. The Leader of the Opposition declared in his speech on the budget that the Labour party had saved Australia during the war. That is the most egotistical statement I have ever heard. Did he utter one word about the fighting men who defended this country and the sacrifices that they made ? No ! He said, in effect, “ We take full credit for the defence of Australia “. Members of the Labour Government sat in their padded chairs in this building while our men gave their lives, their energies, their sweat and their blood for. their country. Their sacrifices were not wasted, but I am incensed when I hear, supposedly responsible men like the Leader of the Opposition make such statements without granting the smallest measure of credit to those who really did “the job of defending Australia. I leave it to the people of Australia, particularly the ex-servicemen, to judge the right honorable gentleman and the remnants of the party that he leads in this chamber.
We hear a great deal of talk about inflation in Australia, and there is no doubt that it exists here just as it exists in every other country. Inflation is the result of full employment, lack of production and high wages. Full employment and high wages have my wholehearted support, but I maintain that we should improve our productivity. Economists - amongst whom I am not numbered - declare that there will be a certain degree of inflation for as long as money chases goods. During the economic depression, our situation was the reverse of that which exists to-day. Goods were chasing money then”, and we had unemployment and widespread misery. There were goods to be bought if only men could have found work and earned money with which to buy them. That state of affairs was undesirable in every way and, if I had to choose between inflation and depression, I should prefer inflation. A depression is an inflation in reverse. Honorable members opposite, in the Parliament and out of it, have defended certain Communist-dominated trade unions whose activities have done much to increase inflation. Acting under direct orders from Moscow, the leaders of those unions have done their utmost to retard production, and to cause discontent amongst the workers. I refer in particular to the leaders of the miners’ federation, and. to the institution of the darg, which limits the amount . of coal produced from a mine. Any school-boy could tell us that there is plenty of coal in Australia, and if one were to ask where it is, he would reply, “ In the ground “. There is no shortage of coal in Australia; there is only a shortage of coal production. If the darg for a mine is 1,000 tons a week, and the miners produce that quantity by Thursday night the mine closes, and they go home. There is a shortage of coal, not because the miners are unwilling to produce more, but because they are not allowed to do so. This year 1,000,000 tons of coal have been ordered from overseas, and the Commonwealth is paying a subsidy of £2 10s. a tori on all coal imported.’ Thus, £2,500,000 of Australian money will have to be sent overseas or, more properly, Australian goods to the equivalent value will have to be exported in order to pay for the coal. I suggest, as a method of increasing production in Australia, that the Government should pay £1 for every ton of coal produced from any mine over and above the darg. Thus, if the darg is 1,000 tons a week, and the miners produce 1,500 tons, the Government would pay to the management of that mine £500 to be distributed to the miners in addition to their ordinary wages. In that way, we should get more coal from our own mines, and the Government- would save 30s. on every ton that otherwise would have to be imported.
The introduction of incentive payments of that kind would help to break the
Communists’ hold on the trade unions, and would restore sane conditions under which men would be able to produce more and earn more. If by the payment of a subsidy of £1 a ton the Government could induce the miners to produce an extra 1,000,000 tons of coal it would save the taxpayers of Australia £1,500,000. I know that difficulties would be encountered in connexion with such a scheme. For instance, there is no darg in some mines although, unfortunately, they are few in number. However, I am confident that all difficulties could be resolved if the trade unions would cooperate honestly with the Government in this and other matters affecting production. It is morally wrong that we. should be importing coal at an extra cost of £2 10s. a ton to the taxpayers when there- is plenty of coal in Australia. I have always advocated incentive payments, and they could be extended to secondary industries, too. I know that members of the Opposition do not agreewith me. Their idea is that the lower they can keep the worker’s wage the more likely they are to retain his political allegiance..
I compliment the Minister for Social. Services (Mr. Townley) upon having increased pension rates. I do not say that the increase is adequate, or that it was ever intended to be adequate. However, within a period of a little more than twelve months, the present Government has granted two large increases of pension rates. The increases are greaterthan any ever made by any previous go,vernment. I hope that before long pension rates will be adjusted quarterly as is the basic wage.
I support the proposal of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), who for more than twelve months has been advocating the introduction of a contributory pensions scheme, similar to those superannuation schemes now in existence, so that every woman at the age of 60, and every man at the age of 65 would be entitled to receive a pension.. I am sure that no one would haggle over contributing a few miserable shillings if he knew that he would thereby be entitled, at the end of his working life, to enjoy a pension whether he had saved 5s. or £1,000 or £10,000. I do not believe in the means test, and never have believed in it. It discourages thrift and encourages extravagance. Many persons have said to me, “ Of what use is it to be thrifty and to save money? In my old age, my savings would prevent me from qualifying for a pension “. That is a very undesirable state of affairs. I believe that the scheme upon which the honorable member for Sturt has been working will be brought to finality within the next twelve months. I hope that effect will be given to it in the next budget.
I have a lot to do with blind people. Every week, I converse with many of them, and try to find out what their troubles are so that I can do something to make their lives a little happier. A blind person receives a pension of £3 a week. In Brisbane, there are dozens of young blind married couples who are striving to buy their own homes. A blind man and his wife receive a joint pension of £6 a week and are entitled to earn £10 a week between them without affecting their pensions. Blind people are very happy about that. Last Saturday morning, one blind man told me that, from his earnings and from his own and his wife’s pension, he could save up to £10 a week, but he said that he was prevented from accumulating a substantial sum of money because, after he and his wife had saved £218 between them, their pensions would be reduced as their bank balance increased. He told me that he was striving to buy a home. He said that in five or six years he could save £1,000, which he could use to pay a deposit on a house, but, under the present system, his pension would be reduced if he did so. Some blind people ask relatives or friends to buy a house for them, in a roundabout way, but they take the risk of the relatives or friends not being honest. I believe that blind people should be allowed to accumulate at least £1,000 before their pensions are reduced, in order that they may be able to pay a deposit upon a house in the ordinary way. That concession would be of benefit to this country generally, as well as to people wh’o are afflicted with blindness.
Blind people who own their own houses are penalized by their inability to do repairs or odd jobs in the house. Most of us can do odd jobs ourselves, but blind people, because of their affliction, must get tradesmen to do the jobs for them. They are not capable even of driving a nail into a wall properly, replacing a board or doing anything in their gardens. I cannot stress too strongly the desirability of granting this concession to a most deserving section of the community. I know that a similar plea could be made on’ behalf of age pensioners, but they have reached the stage of life at which they have either bought their own homes or have very little chance of doing so. We must bear in mind that many blind persons are in their early twenties, just starting out in life and want to buy their own homes so that they will have a stake in the country.
A lot has been said about public works. I am not an economist, for which I sometimes thank God, and I am open to correction upon this matter. I say that in times like those through which we are now passing surplus revenue should be salted away for use in days when this country needs it. I believe that as few public works as possible should be undertaken now, when we are short of labour, materials and everything but money. The Government, haying taken money from the people by way of taxation, should sa:ve some of the money for expenditure upon public works in times like the early 1930’s, when many people needed work and plenty of material was available. I realize that some public works must he undertaken now, but we can over-spend on public works at a time like this. Many works could be postponed until later.
– Which works would the honorable gentleman cut out?
– I shall ignore the rude interjector.
– Order ! The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) is entirely out of order.
– In the present circumstances, reasonably high taxes are necessary, but it would be far better to leave private individuals to spend their own money than it would be for the Government to take money from them and spend it indiscriminately, as did the previous
Government. I hope that this Government will not do that. I do not think that any government can spend money as judiciously and wisely as can private enterprise. There is an old saying that one’s capital never becomes any larger if other people handle it. That applies to governments also. By all means let the Government impose reasonably high - not excessive - taxes, but let it salt some of the money away for use should the country need it. I hope that that day will never come.
Taxation should never reach a level at which it stifles the expansion of industry or discourages individual effort. Every man should have the opportunity to start his own business, if he so desires, to make his own way in life and to do the things that he wants to do. Certain systems of taxation stifle industrial expansion and discourage individual effort. I do not say that we have reached that stage in this country, but if the present trend be allowed to continue not only will men be prevented from starting their own businesses but also existing businesses will be prevented from expanding. “When any business begins to stagnate or to cease to expand, it is bound to go backwards. A business must continue to go ahead if it is to remain successful.
In conclusion, I shall reply to what was said last week in this debate by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds). I am sorry that the honorable gentleman is not present now. He made a most malicious and unwarranted attack upon two honorable members on this side of the chamber. I do not believe that personal attacks should be made upon any individual, but to-day I shall make an exception to that rule. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden) cannot reply to what was said by the honorable member for Herbert, because they have already spoken in this debate. The honorable member for Herbert accused them of being fascists. That accusation incensed me greatly.
– Order ! _ That incident was dealt with at the time it occurred.
– The honorable gentlemen who were the victims of that malici ous attack fought against fascism and those who upheld a fascist regime. The honorable member for Lilley was in the siege of Tobruk, and knows what fighting is. Both the honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Lilley fought overseas to keep the honorable member for Herbert in a safe union organizer’s job in this country. The scant respect paid to ex-servicemen by the honorable member for Herbert and his colleagues is a standing disgrace to the Australian Labour party. Attacks such as this should not be allowed to go unpunished. The ex-servicemen’s organizations will protest against this malicious attack by an honorable member who, during the recent referendum campaign, spoke from public platforms in defence of Communists and communism.
– That is a lie.
– Order ! The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) must withdraw that accusation, which he knows is unparliamentary.
– I withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Herbert advocated a “ No “ vote at the referendum.
– All right; so did I.
– Then my statement that the honorable member defended Communists and communism on the public platform is not a lie. He has said that those who have fought for their country are not fit to be in this chamber, or words to that effect. He asked what was the background of the honorable member for Lilley and the honorable member for Swan that fitted them to become members of this Parliament. The only background that the honorable member for Herbert can claim has fitted him to become a member of this chamber is a trade union background. As a trade union organizer he sweated the workers in order to retain ‘ a lucrative position. It is not customary for me to make personal attacks upon other honorable members, but in this instance I make no apologies for having done so in the defence of my colleagues. I might add that the honorable member for Herbert only retained his seat at the 1949 general elections as a result of the distribution of Communist preferences.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I regret the circumstances that have prevented the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) from being present in the chamber during a great part of the debate on the budget. I wish him a speedy recovery from his illness, and I trust that he will soon be able to return to the chamber and reply to some of the matters raised by Opposition members during the debate. I also extend my sympathy to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who, I understand, is also indisposed to-day. The absence of both right honorable gentlemen brings home to us the strain that the cares of office place upon those who are entrusted with the burdens of ministerial responsibility.
Any criticism I may utter of the Treasurer during my discussion of the budget will be directed to him solely in his capacity as its author. There is a great deal in the budget that one may criticize without indulging in personalities. It will be a tragedy if the criticism and advice of the Opposition, and the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) seeking the withdrawal of the budget and its replacement by a more acceptable document, are not accepted by the Government. The Treasurer has claimed that this is a record budget. I have no doubt of that, but it is a record of which the right honorable gentleman can not be very proud. He is welcome to the doubtful honour that attaches to the author of a proposal to extract from the pockets of the people taxes amounting to astronomical figures, a considerable portion of which are totally unwarranted and unjustified.
The budget provides for the collection of revenues ten times greater than those provided for in the budget introduced by a former Treasurer, Mr. Spender, in 1940, in the second year of what was known as the hot or “ shooting “ war, to meet the exigencies of war as well as the ordinary purposes of administration. The present budget, introduced in the second year of the so-called “ cold “ war, has not left, the taxpayers cold. On the contrary, it has made them sweat profusely. They are in a fever about what it will mean to them, and all the life-saving drugs in the formulary of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) will be needed to enable the community to recover from that fever. The Prime Minister very properly described it as a “ horror “ budget before it was introduced, but the drastic measures and the sweeping taxes contained in it are neither necessary nor desirable. They are not desirable because they will have a demoralizing effect on the community at a time when the building up of morale in the community, particularly . in industry, is so essential if production is to be increased. As the result of these proposals the people are dispirited and all incentive to increase production has completely vanished. The presentation of a budget of such proportions is not necessary to meet the needs of defence and administration because the Treasurer has estimated that after expenditure on those items has been met he will have a surplus of at least £114,000,000. The actual surplus is likely to be even more than that amount. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that it might be approximately £250,000,000. Other authorities, such a”? Mr. Latham Withall, director of the Associated “ Chambers of Manufactures, has said that the surplus may amount to as much as £300,000,000. That estimate has also been made by financial writers in the newspapers, including the Sydney Morning Herald, who have taken into account the Government’s hidden reserves.
In budgeting for a surplus the Treasurer has said that it is necessary to draw off surplus spending power and to put it away in a place where it will do less harm than if it were left in the hands of the people. He proposes to do so without the consent of the taxpayers and in flagrant breach of a solemn promise that he made to the people during the general election campaign. Such a proposal is merely legal brigandage, and the language in which it was couched is reminiscent of that used by the highwaymen and the buccaneer.
– Order ! That is no way in which to refer to the budget.
– I am speaking purely in the metaphorical sense;
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw the words to which the Chair has taken exception.
– I withdraw them insofar as they apply to the Treasurer in a personal sense.
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to the budget in that way.
– I shall leave my description of the document to the imagination of honorable members. It is merely a strange coincidence that the language used by the Treasurer in explaining his proposal to draw off surplus spending power is similar to that used by persons of the type to which I have referred when fleecing their victims in days gone by. The Government will probably seek to cover up its misdeeds, as did those persons in days gone by, by distributing largesse to certain favoured sections of the community.
– The Kelly gang did that.
– Order ! I did not hear the interjection made by the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Davies), but I suspect that it was disorderly. I ask the honorable member to repeat it.
– I said that the Kelly gang did that.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– If that sort of language is again indulged in by an honorable member I shall deal with the offender in a more drastic way than I have dealt with the honorable member for Cunningham.
– I assure you, Mr. Chairman, that any assistance I may have received by way of interjection was unsolicited by me. The Government will endeavour to preserve an aura of respectability by throwing a few crumbs to the poorer sections of the community, but many others will be completely overlooked. In this budget the Treasurer has reversed the traditional practice of presenting a balanced budget followed by Treasurers of the past. I have always thought that in preparing their budgets Treasurers have sought to achieve a balance between estimated revenue and estimated expenditure. The budget on this occasion is completely out of balance. Through it the Government is seeking to establish a financial oligarchy which will arrogate to itself the right to make decisions on how the people’s savings shall be dealt with. We can imagine what would have happened under this Government had the people been persuaded to vote in favour of the recent referendum proposal.
Certain aspects of the budget bear a strong resemblance to some of the Treasurer’s previous proposals - for instance, his proposal in 1943 for the raising of compulsory loans to finance the war effort. His own leader, the present Prime Minister, rejected the proposal because he considered that it was not sound. The people also rejected it. All sorts of recriminations passed between the Treasurer and his leader at that time, but I shall not detail them now. But the leopard does not change his spots. The Treasurer is back in his lair, older, bolder, and perhaps more astute now than he was then. His present proposal is not to raise money by way of loans but to grab the lot, and what he grabs will not be paid back, in any way, to his victims. It is like a financial hold-up in which the people are being held to ransom.
It is admitted that this act of pure confiscation is not for the purpose of current administration, and that there will be no repayment of either capital or interest to the people who are to provide the money. Although I am not enamoured of the principle of compulsory loans I consider that it has’ more logic behind it than has the present proposal to mulct people of money for which they will never receive a return. I admit that the money that the Treasurer suggested in 1943 should be raised by means of compulsory loans was for destructive purposes, whereas the present proposal is to raise money to be used for developmental purposes. The money raised will therefore become represented by assets. The fact remains that the people who will reap the benefit from those assets will not. be the people who have paid for them. The Premier of Victoria, Mr. McDonald, has advocated that the logical way in; which to finance public works at the. present juncture is by compulsory loans. I do not accept that viewpoint, but, as I have indicated before, I consider that there is more to be said for such a proposal than there is for the present proposal to confiscate huge amounts and not repay them in any form. After all, compulsory loans would have the credit of the nation behind them. The money so raised would be expended on developmental works for the benefit of posterity, and posterity would be called upon to repay the capital cost and the interest. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) let the cat out of the bag a few days ago when he said that the money to be raised was for the purpose of developmental schemes. He said later, however, that later on there would be concessions to taxpayers. The people who are to provide the money will not get the benefit of the concessions, which will be extended to an entirely different lot of taxpayers. Later on, the Government may endeavour to restore its reputation and its financial respectability by making concessions to the people, which will be possible because of the huge surplus that it will have collected in taxes this year. So I am more in favour of compulsory ]0ans for the purposes of development than I am of a system of raising money from one set of taxpayers and granting concessions to a completely new set of taxpayers in the future.
The criticism that has been directed against the budget has come not only from members of the Opposition but also from many and varied interests outside. It is also well known that many Government supporters are unhappy about the budget. Of course they are stricken dumb, and their hands are tied, by the fact that they are Government supporters. Strong criticism of the budget has come from business people, sections of the press, housewives, shop girls, workers and others who have been shocked by the impact that it will have upon them. In addition there is the mute testimony of other sections of the press that supported the Government so wholeheartedly during the last general election but which, on this occasion, are very silent and say nothing for or against the budget which has been a complete shock to them. The community generally has been literally driven to drink by the budget proposals. The Government proposes to extract considerably increased amounts from the people by way of excise and other duties on beer, tobacco, spirits and other commodities. In the last financial year the amount raised from taxes on liquor, tobacco and such commodities was £90,000,000. This financial year it is proposed to raise £120,000,000 from the same sources. It is as if we were getting! back to the old rum currency days. 3 submit that a government which proposes to raise revenues in that manner, and relies for revenue on the increased consumption of beer, tobacco and the increased used of contraceptives, is getting perilously close to creating a position which, if allowed to continue, will ultimately turn this fair land into a modern Sodom and Gomorrah. If we are to build a strong and vigorous nation we shall not do it by encouraging greater use of alcohol and tobacco and the other articles to which I have referred. I am not a killjoy in regard to these matters, however.
The avowed object of the budget is to obtain greater production. The budget will have the reverse effect. While the Government relies on raising increased revenue from beer, tobacco and contraceptives it makes no counterbalancing effort to educate the people about the merits or demerits of those goods. The purveyors of those commodities will bfencouraged to continue to produce them because of tax concessions in respect of expenditure on advertising matter which will be designed to encourage the people to the greater use of them. The budget does not even make any provision for subsidizing Alcoholics Anonymous, the organization to which the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry) referred. In spite of all the protests made by so many sections of the community the Government and the Treasurer go merrily along their way, adamant in ‘their determination to have the budget accepted in its present form. The Treasurer himself made a statement to the press in which he said that he had no apology to make for the budget, and that he did not regard it as a “giggling” budget or as a “laughing matter”. It is no laughing matter so far as the taxpayers are concerned. The criticism directed against the budget from sections of the press which ardently supported the Government at the last general election include one voiced by the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 27th September under the headline -
Fadden goes through your pockets.
The article goes on to say -
The Federal Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) yesterday brought down an anti-inflationary budget which will increase the cost of living - at least that is how it will pan out for the average taxpayer. Most loyal citizens would have put up cheerfully with personal inconvenience for the sake of defence if the Treasurer’s facts and figures made economic sense - but they don’t.
That is the considered view of an antiLabour newspaper which fervently supported the Government at the last two election campaigns and also at the last referendum campaign. On the same day - the 27th September - another journal which previously had ardently supported the Government, the Sydney Morning Herald, published the following leading article on the front page: -
Yesterday’s budget has delivered a staggering blow to the nation. It will depress industry, lessen the incentive to work, undermine public confidence and help to raise costs to a pitch that may well cause sectional unemployment.
Shades of the 1930’s! We all know, of course, that, in some quarters, there is a suggestion that an effort is being made now to cause an artificial depression. The article continued -
The Government has reversed the principles which it put forward so forcibly when first asking the people for a mandate. It is now asserting that high taxation is a cure for all the ills that beset a community struggling to meet inflation. This will shock its most earnest supporters.
By stinging tax increases the Treasurer is building up his revenue to show an enormous surplus over current expenditure.
This surplus, estimated at £115,000,000, is vastly larger even than he admits.
What a challenge to the Treasurer’s honesty and integrity by a conservative newspaper! The article went on to analyse the budget. It pointed out that the Treasurer was stockpiling another £48,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund, and undertaking to pay £102,000,000 out of revenue for capital works and services, apart from defence works - a commitment which should rightly be met from loans or treasurybills because such works are based on the national credit. The article continued -
Thus taxation is to provide £260,000,000 mort: than current needs. The actual amount may be rather more. Last year the Government “ spent “ £57,000,000 on a reserve of strategic stores and equipment but it really got through no more than £9,000,000. The remaining £48,000,000 must be added to its 1950-51 surplus.
This year’s estimate has been raised from £148,000,000 to £132,000,000. Will so much really be spent? ./. answer depends largely on the improvement of production from basic industries. This budget is calculated not to stimulate but to depress it. The true surplus may be £300,000,000.
That was the estimate made, too, by Mr. Latham Withall, the director, of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures. The leading article continued -
What good will it do? Sir Arthur Fadden speaks of drawing off a part of excess spending power and putting it for the time being where it can do least harm. But he is not true to his own theory.
It is clear that the Government has no understanding of the blow the budget must give to public confidence. Counter-inflationary action was certainly needed but this sort of shock treatment may well paralyse the patient.
Once again the Minister for Health will have to he called in. The entire article will make interesting reading at the next election. I am quoting it at length so that it may be recorded in Hansard. In addition, I shall put it in my scrapbook because I have no doubt that the Government hopes that it will be forgotten by the public. Another conservative newspaper, the Sydney Sun, had this to say in an editorial published on the 28th September -
The Federal Budget which has aroused almost nation-wide protest, has many faults, but probably the most fundamental of its defects is its complete lack of a single incentive to make anybody produce any more. Far from stimulating either- employers Qi employees to greater production, it will have the opposite effect. There are several ways by which the problem of national inflation can be tackled, and of these the most effective and certainly the most logical is to increase national production.
It is noteworthy that, in a recent broadcast, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) took the same point of view and appealed for increased production. Again [ quote from the leading article in the Sydney Sun -
This is just what such a Budget won’t and can’t do.
The academic theory of economists that inflation can be fought by the withdrawal of spending power overlooks the profoundly important factor of the human element.
Actually the excess volume of spending power which seems to alarm the Government so much is largely fictitious. Nobody needs to be an economist to know that prices arc so high to-day that the pound will purchase only a fraction of what it used to.
Digressing at this stage, I remind the committee that Mr. Latham Withall claimed recently that the budget would reduce the value of the Australian £1 to 6s. He said that, on the basis of pre-war purchasing power, the value of the £1 had already fallen to 8s. and that the higher sales tax, excise duties, and income tax levies provided for in the budget would reduce that figure possibly by another 2s. So much for the MenziesFadden £1.
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to other honorable members by name.
– So much for the Liberal party-Australian Country party 1. I am sure that thousands of people are praying for a return of the Chifley £1. The article in the Sun continued -
Not only are workers robbed by the Budget of any incentive to work harder . . .
– Order! Perhaps the honorable member had better withdraw that statement.
– I am quoting from the Sydney Sun - one of your own supporters, Mr. Chairman.
– The Chair know no supporters. It is impartial.
– The article continued - . . but employers, by increased Company taxation, find further difficulties, which in some cases will prove insurmountable, placed across the path to greater production.
This “suicidal” position - again I quote from a newspaper - was summed up clearly by the Federal President of the Taxpayers Associations who, when pointing out that the budget would not touch oven the fringe of the fundamental problem of over-production, said -
The severity of the new charges will further discourage the working of overtime, the planting of acres, the risking of capital in extending business or starting new ones. . . .
I wind up my summary of press criticism by quoting the following leading article published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on the 28th September: -
Sir Arthur Fadden’s inflationary Budget has drawn fierce, criticism from all points of the economic compass. The Treasurer apparently thought he had prepared a knockout blow against inflation. But all the private find public pointers indicate that he has merely thrown the switch for a fresh inflationary shock.
The basic wage increases announced last week have borne that out. The article further stated -
Sir Arthur has paid too much heed to the jiggerypokery of Treasury bureaucrats and forgotten the bookkeeping commonsense he learned as a Queensland Accountant. Sir Arthur, Accountant, knows that high taxation is bacl for business, hampers production, reduces initiative and encourages Government extravagance. He also knows that the law snaps down on accountants using other peoples’ trust funds for their own interest drawing investments.
He proposes to pluck £114,500,000 out of our pockets, not because he needs it to meet current expenses but because he thinks he can keep the money “ out of harm’s “ way. “ Out of harm’s way “ is a disarmingly fatuous phrase to cover what boils down to a neat, piece of political shenanigan. Sir Arthur proposes to invest some if not all this budgeting surplus in loans raised for Commonwealth or State purposes. Sir Arthur will do it for us - and collect the interest. At 3i per cent, the interest on £114,500,000 is £4,293,750 a yeara nice little nest egg.
In every country where Government spending ha« crept beyond 25 per cent, of national income, inflation has followed. Sir Arthur has allowed Canberra’s swivel chair economists to mislead bini if he thinks he can escape a similar fate here.
So much for the Government’s former press friends. I could quote many others but time will not permit. However, I should like to refer to headings which have appeared on other occasions. The Sydney Morning Herald has published articles under the following headings : On the 28th September, 1951, “ Budget error should be retraced “ ; on the 3rd October, 1951, “ Drastic budget revision is imperative “ ; on the 5th October, 1951, “ Higher taxes will not complete more works “. An article by the financial editor of the Daily Telegraph published in that newspaper on the 28th September, 1951, commenced as follows: -
The Budget Will Start Price Spiral Again
The Commonwealth Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has brought down one of the worst Budgets the Commonwealth has ever seen.
On the 5th October, 1951, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article a part of which stated -
Mr. Menzies makes a Case fob Budget Revision.
The Debate on the Budget so far has been noticeable for one thing, and one tiling alone. The Fadden Budget has been condemned out of the mouth of the Prime Minister. By strong implication he showed that at long last the Government has recognized that the defence programme and the high inflationary potential in the Australian economy forbid the pursuance of the present vast scale of development and immigration programmes.
– Is leave granted?
Government MEMBERS - No.
Leave not granted.
– I thought that it would be too much for Government supporters to take.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time ha3 expired.
– Unlike the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), I shall not have the advantage of using many newspaper clippings in making my speech.. Where the honorable member spoke ad lib. he made some brief reference ‘to -the impact of defence on the budget. As one who had the honour to be a -member of the Royal Australian Air Force during the war, the present state of that force seriously disturbs me. I have the highest -regard for the personnel of the Royal Australian Air ‘Force, both air crew and ground staff. Anything that I may say will not be intended as a reflection ou any of them. It is a tragedy that the Royal Australian Air Force is seriously deficient, both in aircraft and equipment. In a Lincoln squadron of which I have knowledge, air crew who have been in the squadron for many months have not yet received their own flying helmets or flying boots and have not even their own uniforms. That is a serious position.
What aircraft has the Royal Australian Air Force? It has Lincolns, Mosquitoes, one Canberra bomber and a few jet fighters. That, literally, comprises Australia’s Air Force. I hope that no honorable member will forget that Japan was defeated in the recent war by air power and that Germany was crippled by air power. I hope that no honorable member will overlook the fact that the first and fundamental battle to be won in any war is the air battle. If Australia, with its small population, attempted to compete with a potential enemy such as Russia with ground forces it would back a loser. Australia could not possibly compete against Russia with ground forces. If it attempted to do so. such a war would be decisive for Russia. Let us examine another point. Would naval power constitute a threat to Russia ? I suggest that it would not. Therefore, the defence of Australia must devolve ultimately on the Royal Australian Air Force. Any war that may come will be a quick war. There will be no breathing space such as we have had in previous wars and there will be no margin for error in whatever policy is being pursued at the time. It is necessary for the Government to decide now what its policy in relation to its defence forces is to be.
The most important principle to be observed is that the first line of defence for this country must be its air force. It is probably over-simplifying the position to say that immediately enemy forces were to land in this country the war, for us, would, be lost, hut it would.be wishful thinking to imagine that we in this country could compete with any invading force. It is essential to keep that fact in mind. There are two important segments of air defence and offence. First, there is the strategic force, a longrange force which is independent to a degree. Secondly, there is the tactical force for close support which may be called the air artillery. It is often forgotten that the Air Force can now provide air artillery. The Gloucester Meteor, the jet aircraft which has been produced recently by the United Kingdom, has sixteen rocket projectiles and can produce as much fire power as the broadside of a modern cruiser. That is a significant fact. I made some criticism of the state of the Royal Australian Air Force. I shall quote briefly the comments of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park, who is well known throughout the world for his activities in the Battle of Britain and the Siege of Malta. Referring to the Royal Australian Air Force and to our defence system generally, he stated -
You are building an expensive naval air arm instead of land-based air forces. . . Aircraft carriers are for strike adventures with a task force far into enemy territory. Land-based planes should come first. Your policy of a naval air arm first is taking money and resources you should be concentrating in the1 Bovill Australian Air Force. The Royal Australian Air Force has done remarkably well’ to hang together as it has done in the last five years.
I should also like to quote briefly from one whom we all recognize as an expert in these matters. I refer to General George H. Kenney, who is well known to us here in Australia. He stated -
If war came to-morrow, Australia would be caught with a “ T-model” air force. . . The brutal truth is that Australia has allowed its air force to run- down to a dangerously low level.
– Who is- responsible for that?
– I am not attempting to say that one government or any other has been immediately responsible. I am concerned more with the fact that we should have an adequate air force, irrespective of the- political colour of the government that provides it.
It was a major mistake to lump together the portfolios of Air and Navy. It has become very well known that those two services are not compatible, mainly, as I’ understand the position, because the Navy sees its real future in its air arm. I believe that it will’ operate along- those lines, to the detriment of the Air1 Force. I believe that Sir Keith Park, who is far more knowledgeable than I am, was right when he said that we should not unduly concentrate on the naval air arm to the detriment of the air force arm.
We have just heard of the appointment of Air Vice-Marshal Hardman, a Royal Air Force serving officer, as Chief of Air Staff. I do not wish to criticize the appointment on the ground that he is an officer of the Royal Air Force, as I have the highest regard for that service. However, an Australian, in the person of Air Marshal Bennett, would have accepted the position if it had been offered to him. I had the honour to serve under him during the war, and I have a tremendous regard for him. With very few exceptions, he was probably the most brilliant airman in the last war. Not because he is an Australian, but because of his outstanding brilliance, I think it is a great shame that he was not appointed to command the Royal Australian AiT Force.
I have said that if an enemy landed here, so far as we are concerned the war would be lost. It must be obvious to all honorable members that in Australia we have an enormous perimeter to defend. Therefore we must have the highest form of mobility in order to be able to concentrate what forces we have at the earliest - moment. Therefore it is logical that we should concentrate on developing our air forces. I am perhaps overstating the position when I say I am out to pick a bona with the Navy about this matter. Although we are building still more naval ships, we ate not building appreciably more aircraft in’ this country. . In view of the economics,’ the realities, and the practicabilities, We should build more aircraft than naval ships, on the grounds’ of time of buildinginvolved,, lower cost,, and fewer- men involved. We should also bear in mind’ the relatively more effective result that is achieved by aircraft than, by naval, ships..
During thi3 debate the- honorable mem- ber for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) referred’ to local production of aircraft”, and imported aircraft: He anticipated’ my words when he said that we would do well toconcentrate on producing a jet bomber. which has a longer service life than a tighter. It is a mistake for us to produce fighters, which rapidly become obsolescent.
I noted from a press report that the newly appointed Chief of the Air Staff had something to say about the establishment of a royal reserve of Air Force personnel in this country. It has been my contention over a number of years that it is of no use having only a paper reserve, that is a lot of names on a sheet of paper. That literally means nothing. The Air Force Reserve is no better now than it was several years ago, through no fault of the Air Force reservists themselves. In my humble opinion it would not be possible to obtain better types of men than they are. They are not given the equipment to provide the incentive to keep themselves completely up to date and effective. The Minister should direct his attention to that most important matter very quickly. I remember making a suggestion about three or four years ago that there should be a touring squadron to carry out the simple job of visiting the main centres in Australia to provide practice training on the spot. That would obviate the necessity for personnel to travel long distances in order to receive such training. In many instances it is impossible for men in remote centres to receive practical training at present. In Tasmania, which admittedly is ‘not a large State, there is no practicable training ground for reservists other than for Tiger Moth training at aerodromes. An announcement was made recently that part of the Melbourne Citizens Air Force Squadron would go across to Launceston and be available there for a short time. J hor-e that I am not being too parochial when I say that that is not good enough Many reservists are willing and eager to keen themselves un to date and to continue their training. It is not unnatural thai those people should lose interest in view of the present state of affairs.
I have emphasized that the Air Force must be our predominant force. There has been considerable fallacious thinking in this country about balanced forces, that is, three equal services. We talk about equal appropriations. I remember that in the 194,3 budget the appropriations for the Royal Australian .Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy were similar.
What kind of crazy reasoning is that? A country such as Australia, large in area but with a small population, must decide to concentrate on one arm of its defence force. I suggest that in our case I have clearly demonstrated that that arm must be the Royal Australian Air Force. I should not be so foolish as to suggest that the Army and the Royal Australian Navy have no functions in our scheme of defence; they certainly have very important functions. However, it is most important that we should concentrate most of our effort on one real force, which should be the one most able to defend the country. That is certainly the Air Force. I hope that honorable members will not consider my remarks too personal when I say that when I went into the Royal Australian Air Force as a young man, it was a young service. There are not many traditions as yet in the Royal Australian Air Force, but those that exist are good. However, since 1045 those traditions have been largely forgotten. During the last war squadrons such as 460 Squadron, 452 Squadron and 3 Squadron became famous. Men like Truscott and others became national figures Why has there not been an attempt to perpetuate the memory of such men and to retain the numbers of such squadrons? A young service such as the Royal Australian Air Force must maintain its traditions. Surely it would not be difficult to name one of our new squadrons Squadron 460 or Squadron 3, and maintain those famous names. Such an action would have good effect on morale because it is such things that matter in the building of morale.
Another important matter to which J wish to direct attention is the great amount of time wasted by persons in the Royal Australian Air Force who are engaged in what are known as A. and S. D. I suggest that there could be an exhaustive examination into that timewastage. I am not attempting to treat such people as sitting shots merely because they perform such functions in the Royal Australian Air Force, but I dosuggest that too much time is wasted on form work. Time is also wasted in correspondence, in arranging promotions and in paying money to instructors and’ other people. Such time wastage is- getting beyond all reason. Some real clean up should be made of that section of the Royal Australian Air Force. I have the privilege of commanding the Air Training Corps in Tasmania. There are two instructors under my direction whose duties are nominal but are important and are voluntarily given. They have not been paid, for eighteen months. Surely it may be asked what kind of organization is the Royal Australian Air Force to allow that sort of thing to happen? I hope that the Minister for Air will do something constructive about this matter quickly, because such waste of time makes difficulties for persons who have to do the operational jobs in the Royal Australian Air Force.
Another matter that has been before this cb amber once or twice, and has been mentioned often in the press, is the future of Trans-Australia Airlines. I, personally, shall completely oppose any proposition to liquidate this airline. I believe in free competition -
– Does the honorable member believe in free enterprise?
– I believe in free competition and I consider that TransAustralia Airlines should have it. There could be a. little wider distribution of government preference.
– But for TransAustralia Airlines, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited would have a monopoly.
Mir. FALKINDER. - I believe that at the moment Trans-Australia Airlines has certain preferences that it should not have. If the point of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) about Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is that it would be unwise if that airline alone operated, then I agree with him. Some honorable members on this side of the chamber certainly do not believe in monopolies. I for one am strongly against them. I believe that Trans-Australia Airlines has given excellent service to this country. I hope that the Government will take note of what I have said and will realize that unless we build up the Royal Australian Air Force to what it should be we shall be providing no effective defence for Australia.
.- I must pay tribute to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) for his excellent contribution to the debate on the budget now before the committee. His moderate language and knowledge of Air Force defence should make his contribution acceptable not only to the Parliament but also to the country. During this debate I have listened with great interest to speeches made by honorable members who are still in their political napkins. I have also heard speeches made by honorable members whose teeth have grown long in the political service of the country, but who, on this occasion, have spoken with their tongues in their cheeks.
I believe that the time is long overdue for the Government to give honest service to the people of Australia. The Government should stop playing what has been referred to by no less a person than the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) as the “ diabolical game of party politics “. No government in the history of Australia has played a more diabolical game of party politics than has the present Government. I remind the Government of its 1949 promises to the people. I remind it of its promises to reduce taxation, to halt inflation and to extend public works for the national good and the defence of the country. I ask the Government to say why it is budgeting for a surplus of £i:i.4,000,000. I suggest that that is just another party political trick so that just prior to the next general election the Government will have enough money in hand to make vote-catching promises to the most unfortunate section of our people in order that it may be returned to the treasury bench.
– It will be!
– That is what the honorable member thinks. I believe in national defence because I am an Australian and also an ex-digger. However, the co-operation of the people is necessary in any plan for the adequate defence of the country. This Government does not enjoy the co-operation of the people. How can it expect to win co-operation when it is taxing the people out of existence? In addition a state of inflation exists. Notwithstanding all the increases of wages that have occurred, the value of wages is still going down. In that connexion I wish to quote a report that appeared recently in a Melbourne newspaper. The report is headed, “ Taxes going to the dogs “ and continues, “ New sales tax schedules impose a 50 per cent, tax on baby powder, but exempt dog flea powder “. It is obvious that whoever drafted those schedules has more regard for the poodles, the tin-hare dogs, the flea bags of this country, than he has for Australian babies. Taxation officials in Melbourne stated that they do not know why dogs are better treated than babies. Even baby oil has been subjected to a 50 per Cent, sales tax, whilst training oil for dogs is tax free. Similarly, baby soap is taxed, whilst soap for dogs is exempt from sales tax. As if to discourage the birth of babies or the maintenance of family life in this country, bassinets, babies’ baths, feeders, babies’ mattresses, high chairs and dummies have all been subjected to sales tax.
– What, dummies?
– Yes. The honorable member probably sucked one himself. I remind honorable members that when the budget proposals are passed by this Parliament taxes will be higher than they were when the country was in the throes of war, when it was maintaining approximately 800,000 men and women in the defence services, and expanding repatriation and rehabilitation services. I again ask : How can this Government gain the confidence of the people when it persists in the introduction of repressive legislation ? Practically all the legislation which has been placed upon the statute-book since the Government came to office has been of a repressive character.
– Including the Communist Party Dissolution Act?
– Including that. This is not a government of the people for the people; it is a one-man band, led by a man who does not want political opposition of any shape or form. Like Hitler, he demands unquestioned obedience.
– Is the honorable member referring to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) ?
– No, to the Prime Minister.
– The Prime Minister does not want slave labour !
– When the right honorable gentleman returned from overseas in 1938, in an address to the members of the Constitutional Club in Sydney he stated frankly that he had the greatest admiration for Hitler and for his leadership.
– That is a lot of roti
– It is not. It is completely true.
– The honorable member’s quotation is incomplete.
– I only mention that matter in order to show the people of Australia what is in the mind of the right honorable gentleman who leads the Government. That was also the reason why I referred earlier to repressive legislation and to the fact that the right honorable gentleman demands unquestioned obedience.
Many dangers are involved in the defence preparations legislation that was passed by the Government. In preparing for the defence of this country the Government has not had the courage to implement direct control of manpower but is applying economic pressure instead. Because of authority delegated in pursuance of regulations made under the Defence Preparations Act, certain industries will be permitted to continue operations while others will be forced to shut down. For instance, I may be interested in an industry and sufficiently fortunate to be friendly with some one in authority. Because of that friendship, my industry will be allowed to continue its operations, whether or not it is essential to defence. On the other hand, if the person in authority does not like the colour of the hair or the tie of a man who is interested in another industry, that industry will be obliged to shut down, whether or not it is essential. If the Government wishes to do the job properly, it should directly control manpower instead of bringing economic pressure to bear upon the workers and turning them out of employment in certain industries on the mere say-so of an individual.
An honorable member opposite has referred to the Communist Party Dissolution Act. I remind him that the highest tribunal in the land, the High Court of Australia, ruled that legislation to be invalid. The Prime Minister was not content to abide by the considered decision of the court but came in through the back door and asked the people to upset it. However, the people, in their wisdom, thought fit to agree with the High Court. As I stated when that legislation was being debated in the Parliament, it would have been completely ineffective in attempting to control communism in this country.
M.r. Freeth. - The honorable member voted for the passage of the legislation by this House.
– Had the Government been wise enough to let the industrial movement deal with the Communists, they would have been finally removed from industry. The Communist Party Dissolution Act did not attempt to deal in any way with the international agents in this country. It was aimed solely at industrial workers. Action such as that will not instill confidence in the people, nor will it earn for this Government co-operation in the carrying out of a plan for the adequate defence of the country.
The individual States of the Commonwealth cannot effectively control prices. On many occasions the Government has been pressed to hold a referendum in order that the people may decide whether or not the Australian Government should be given power to control prices and thereby bring stability to the economy, but it has refused to do so.
– The honorable member did not agree to the holding of a certain referendum recently.
– Excessive taxation will not tend to check inflation. The solution of that problem must depend upon the measure of confidence that the people have in the Government and the efforts that they are prepared to make to increase production. The Government does not possess the confidence of the people who, therefore, are not inspired by its guidance. Production will not increase so long as the workers are so hea vily taxed as they are at present. How will it be possible to develop the country in the interests of defence when the Go: vernment is curtailing public works programmes? How can the people expect improved telephone services to be provided when the Postal Department is dismissing thousands of its employees? No hope can be held out for the future under the pseudo-leadership of the Government. That leadership is far too expensive. Whereas the sum of £8,500 was allocated for the purpose, an expenditure of £19,760 was incurred on the three-months’ visit that the Prime Minister made last year to Great Britain, Europe and the United States of America. On the other hand, the expenditure that was incurred on the three-months’ visit that the late Mr. Chifley made overseas when he was Prime Minister was less than £4,000. Those figures do not afford a comparison of the abilities of the two gentlemen whom I have mentioned, but simply show that the leadership of the Prime Minister is nearly five times more expensive to the nation than was that of the late Mr. Chifley. And in the field of national expenditure the leadership of the Prime Minister is proving to he even more expensive proportionately to the taxpayers.
I turn now to the control and development of the port of Newcastle. As the result of floodings of the Hunter River and siltation in the harbour, this problem is agitating not only governmental authorities but also interested outside bodies. Each of the following State authorities independently exercises a measure of control of the harbour: - The Public Works Department, the Maritime Services Board, the Main Roads Department, the Railways Department and the Department of Agriculture. Obviously, it is impossible to operate the port efficiently when so many bodies have a voice in its control. It should he controlled by a single joint Commonwealth and State authority. The port is not being operated to its full capacity. Urgent measures must be taken to rectify this position. If Australia became involved in war. the port nf Newcastle in its present condition would seriously hamner the national waT effort. The Australian Government, as well as the State Government, has a vital interest in the efficient operation of the port because of its strategic value and the need to maintain the vital basic industries that are carried on in the district. Lack of efficient operation seriously hampers not only interstate hut also overseas commerce. Inefficient control of the port will retard defence preparations and actually imperil the safety of the country. The maintenance of efficient port facilities, involving the provision of the requisite finance, requires the closest cooperation between the Commonwealth and State governments. For that purpose the highest priority should be given in respect of labour and materials.
One wonders what will happen to the State shipyards at Newcastle and the floating dock if the harbour is permitted to continue to deteriorate. Many waterside workers are deserting the wharfs because opportunities for employment are decreasing as a result of the action of shipping companies in by-passing the port. All ships that now use the harbour arrive and leave only half-loaded because of the dangerous condition of the shipping channels. The waterside workers are not to blame in any way for the slow turn-round of vessels at the port. That deficiency is due entirely to the lack of modern equipment for the handling of cargo. All the equipment now in use at Lee wharf is obsolete. Table top trucks which might have been modern in the days of the Volga boatmen are still being used. On the uneven wharf surfaces it is impossible for one man to pull one of the trucks empty, let alone half-loaded. No modern equipment, such as fork loaders and mobile lorries, i3 available at Lee wharf. Lack of modern equipment contributes to the slow turn-round of ships. Yet, Newcastle waterside workers who, incidentally, have ejected Communists from the organization and who cannot be regarded as militants, are being blamed for the slow rate of handling vessels.
I was interested to hear the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon), when speaking in this debate last Thursday evening, praise the coal-miners because they had increased the annual production of coal from 12.000,000 tons in 1939 to approximately 15,000,000 tons last year. Whilst the Minister paid that tribute to the cOal-miners he forgot to tell tl«* committee that that increased production was due in substantial measure to the planning of the Chifley Labour Government in co-operation with the Labour Government of New South Wales. Nevertheless the Minister’s tribute to the coal-miners was a welcome relief from the abuse that Government supporters invariably level at the miners. I doubt whether many honorable members opposite have ever been down a mine. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) and I will be pleased to take any of them down modern mines and mines of the old type in order to give them an opportunity to learn at firsthand the conditions under which the miners work. If they accompany us on such an inspection, they will have a better appreciation of the hardships that the miner suffers, and the unenviable conditions under which he works in order to produce coal, which is the basic requirement of production not only in the Newcastle district, but also in every other industrial area in the Commonwealth.
I shall now refer briefly to social services. I am looking forward to the day when a comprehensive scheme of insurance will be introduced against ill health, age and unemployment. Until that day arrives the Government can do much more to help the aged and infirm than has been done to date. One matter that impresses me most strongly, as it may impress many other honorable members who represent constituencies in industrial areas, is the conditions under which some invalid and age pensioners exist. 1 speak of those persons who have no families to care for them, and live in rented rooms. The exorbitant cost of food and clothing, and high rents, emphasize the failure of governments in the past to erect suitable homes for the aged and infirm. This Government should accept that obligation, and should also build dwellings for aged couples in order that they may spend together the few years that remain to them in greater comfort than they have to-day.
I wonder why partially disabled exservicemen have not been granted an increase of pension similar to that given to totally and permanently disabled exservicemen. Surely the reason for that omission cannot be lack of money, because the Treasurer CSir Arthur
Fadden) has budgetted for a surplus of approximately £114,000,000. Government supporters, if they lived in industrial areas, would know as well as I know that partially disabled men, who have been granted a pension for a disability that is due to war service, lose many days’ employment as a result of their injuries. While I commend the increases of social services in general, I cannot understand why partially disabled ex-servicemen have been overlooked on this occasion.
Our attention is frequently directed to the international situation. Last week, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) submitted a motion for the appointment of a foreign affairs committee, but the functions that he wished to assign to that body were not acceptable to the Labour party. I remind the Government that, during World War II. when the situation was grim, the Labour Government summoned secret meetings of the Parliament, at which the Prime Minister of the day and other Ministers told honorable members, confidentially, news about the international situation, and forecast possible developments.
– Ministers also answered questions that honorable members put to them at those secret meetings.
– That is true. A Labour government in war time trusted every honorable member not to reveal information that he heard at secret meetings, and I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr Menzies) that secret meetings of the Parliament be held in future, so that honorable gentlemen may be given information about the international situation, as a result of which they will be in a better position to form conclusions.
The last matter that I wish to raise relates to the graves of Australian servicemen in Great Britain. I have here a pamphlet that was sent by the Directorate of War Graves Registration to the mother of an Australian airman who lies buried in Great Britain. That document reads, in part -
The Directorate of Graves Registration has been entrusted with the duty of permanently commemorating those members of His Majesty’s Australian Naval, Military and Air Forces who have died in the service of the Allied cause. The Directorate will consequently be responsible for marking and caring for the grave, or, in the case of those who have no known grave, of making provision for a suitable form of commemoration and also for the recording of all names in permanent Registers. This work will he carried out at the cost of the Directorate, whose funds arc provided by the Commonwealth Government. A memorial of some simple pattern will mark each grave. Every man, rich or poor, admiral or able seaman, general or private, Air Marshal or Aircraftsman, will be honoured in the same way.
The mother of the deceased airman to whom I referred received from the Department of Air a photograph of her son’s last resting place. It appeared to be of simple pattern, but was a well-kept grave. Other photographs that were taken by a friend of the deceased lad’s family a few years ago show the grave in a similar condition. Recently, however, another friend of the family, while he was visiting Great Britain, was asked by the mother to pay a tribute to the memory of her lad by placing some flowers upon his grave. Much to his disgust and horror, he found that the original neat headstone had been supplanted by a flat board that had been nailed in front of the grave, and bore the names of two other airmen as well as that of the lad.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- If any doubt had existed in the minds of honorable members about the Labour party’s position, it has been thoroughly dispelled by the remarks of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). Obviously, the Labour party is in Opposition in name and in truth, and does not intend to co-operate with the Government. During this debate honorable gentlemen opposite have not offered any constructive suggestions for improving our financial situation, and have indulged only in destructive criticism. It is evident that anything that the Government does will not have the support of the Labour party.
– Let the Government resign. The Labour party is prepared to govern.
– Exactly. The Labour party does not intend to assist Australia in any way while it is in Opposition. It will help the country only when it is in office. Such a spirit permeates the ranks of the Labour party from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) down to his most humble supporter. The right honorable gentleman makes no bones about the fact that he is opposed to, and will oppose, the Government, and will not assist it in any way. What is the reason for this cry of “ stinking fish “, if I may be permitted to use a common expression? Why does the Opposition claim that the country, and the Government, are in a deplorable condition? Let us examine various features of the budget that deserve close study. The Labour party claims that the Government’s taxation proposals will cripple industry.
– Will the honorable member read the views of the Sydney Morning Herald on the Government’s taxation proposals?
– No; but I shall tell the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) about the Government’s budget proposals. I shall make comparisons that the honorable member could make for himself if he would take the trouble to do so. The first relates to the taxes that are levied on a man with a wife and two children who has an income of £300 a year. In the United Kingdom, such a man pays £11 18s. In New Zealand, he pays £22 10s. In Australia, under the Chifley war-time regime, he paid £17 8s., but under this Government he is not taxed.
– What about sales tax?
– The comparison relates to income tax. Sales tax is levied in other’ countries just as it is levied in Australia. I have referred first to a man with an income of £300 a year because that appears to be the income level of a very large section of the population. The Archbishop of York, Dr. Garbett, said recently, in a broadcast over an Australian Broadcasting Commission network, that although 4.500,000 persons in Great Britain earned incomes of between £150 and £250 a year before World War II.; 9.000.000 of the total population of 50,000,000 to-day were in that income group. Obviously, therefore, the £300ayear group represents a large proportion of British taxpayers.
The next comparison relates to a man with a wife and two children who has an income of £500 a year. In Great Britain, he pays £24 18s. That levy includes social services contributions. In New Zealand, at the new reduced rate, a man in the same position pays £37 10s. In Australia, the war-time tax on that income was a slug of £80 16s., but to-day the tax amounts to only £9 lis. That is what the Opposition calls “ crippling taxation “ !
A taxpayer in the United Kingdom with the same number of dependants but with an income of £800 a year pays £102 18s. In New Zealand, he pays £108 5s. In Australia, he paid £199 7s. in war-time, but pays only £50 19s. to-day. Yet the Opposition dares to say that this Government’s taxes are retarding production! The truth is that honorable members opposite have not compared conditions in Australia with those in other countries. They have shut their eyes to the fact that, whereas this Government has increased the income tax levy by 10 per cent., the Government of Canada has increased the levy in that country by 20 per cent. Even the Government of the United States of America, which is supposed to be a prosperous nation, has found it necessary to increase tax rates by 12 per cent. So much for the cry that crippling taxation is holding back development and, in the words of the honorable member for Newcastle, is preventing the people from having confidence in the Government and helping the nation to throw off the effects of inflation !
The Archbishop of York made an astonishing statement in the broadcast to which I have referred. At first I thought that I had misunderstood him, and therefore I checked the figures that he used. He said that, in 1939, there were 7,000 persons in the United Kingdom who, after their taxes had been paid, had a net income of £6,000 or more but that now only 70 persons of a total population of 50,000,000 were in the same fortunate position. I decided to find out how many Australians had net incomes of £6,000 ot more. The latest figures that I could obtain were for 1946-47. In that year, 82 persons of a total population of only 8,000,000 were in that category. Yet the Opposition claims that Australians are being ground beneath the’ heel of an unsympathetic government ! That is just so much rubbish.
This is the jubilee year of our Commonwealth, and therefore an examination of the changes that have occurred during the last 50 years is appropriate to this occasion. How does our position to-day compare with our position 50 years ago? t have referred to some of the special Jubilee pamphlets that have been issued for this year of celebration in order to obtain the figures that I shall mention. In 1871, steak cost 4d. per lb., chops cost 3d. per lb., a pair of boots cost 6s, 6d., and a suit of clothes cost 30s. In the same year, the postmaster in a town to which I shall refer later, received £18 for his services. The clerk of the local council was paid £3 13s. Id. a month, and miners who were employed in that town received from £5 to £10 a month, or. even slightly more in some instances. Persons who complain that costs have soared overlook the fact that everything cost less in the old days than it costs now. Wages were lower but living costs generally were cheaper. Comparisons show that relative costs have not altered unreasonably. Does anybody want to return to the conditions of the old days? The honorable member for Newcastle complained that costs had risen steeply during the last twelve months. Statistics that were issued recently show that, although costs rose by 100 per cent, in the last year, wages increased by 140 per cent, over the same period. Is not the progress that we have made over the last 50 years something of which we should be proud? Have we no cause for pride in our country that, like honorable members opposite, we should cry “ stinking fish “ and say that the country is no good and that the Government is no good?
Australia’s population has increased by 250 per cent, during the last 50 years. The only unfortunate aspect of that increase has been the drift of population from the country to our cities. The blame for that deplorable state of affairs can be laid at the feet of various governments that have held office during the last decade. This country is, first and foremost, a primary-producing country and its development has not been given the impetus that it should have been given by decentralization and other means. Annual production and real capital in Australia are over three and one-half times as great to-day as at the time of federation. Secondary production and primary production represented 17 per cent, and 33 per cent., respectively, of our national effort 50 years ago, but the relationship has changed until secondary production represents 27 per cent, and primary production only 18 per cent, to-day. The general standard of living has improved by about 75 per cent, since federation. Productivity per man hour has been doubled, but the working week has been considerably reduced. We can claim to have full employment to-day, but un- fortunately we are not getting full production. If the people want more, leisure, it is their right to say, “ We will have more leisure “, but they must pay for it. The cost is measured in terms of decreased production, which is one of the main causes of the present inflationary economic condition. Every democracy has the right to decide whether it will have full employment with reduced production, reduced employment with full production, or full employment with full production. We want full employment with full production, but the Opposition has not suggested how we can bring about such a condition.
Social services have been greatly extended in recent years until, to-day, 4£ per cent, of national income is expended on such benefits for the people. Before federation, very little was done in that way. To-day, 3^ per cent, of the national income is expended on education and health services.
– Not enough.
– I agree. We all want social services to be improved, but it has taken us 50 years to get where we are now, and it is unreasonable to suggest that we should double pensions immediately. In the short period that the present Government has been in power it has accomplished much. I am sick and tired of hearing from honorablemembers opposite that the Government has not honoured its promises. Theleaders of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, made certain promises, and they have been honoured..
– What were they?
– One of the first was that petrol rationing would be abolished, and the Menzies Government was in power for a very short time only when rationing was in fact abolished. The Opposition had raised a great hue and cry about the danger to our economy, and said that there would be a grave shortage of petrol, but all their statements were proved to be just so much piffle. We said that we would raise a dollar loan with which to buy equipment not obtainable in this country. The Labour Government when in office had always rejected the idea of a dollar loan, but it was eventually raised, and the money was expended wisely, and to the profit of Australia.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when Leader of the Opposition, promised to investigate taxation, and if possible to reduce it. Honorable members opposite say that the Government has not honoured this promise, but they must admit that, by having restored the deduction system, it has effected what amounts to a considerable reduction of taxation. The Government combined the income tax and social services contribution in a single levy, and has simplified the method of assessing income tax so that, for the first time in years, the taxpayers can now understand their assessments. The Government has also raised the maximum age from eighteen to twenty years for students in respect of whom a deduction may be claimed. The allowance for medical expenses has been increased from £50 to £100, that for dental expenses from £10 to £20, and that for funeral expenses to £30. The allowable deduction for insurance premiums has been raised from £150 to £200. I believe that the increases that have been made this year in tax rates will not do much more than bring them back to what they were when this Government took office.
The increases provided for in the present budget were amply justified. No one should cavil at an increase by 10 per cent, of the income tax rate when the rate in the United States of America has been increased by 12$ per cent., and in Canada by 20 per cent. Of the four countries, the United States of America,
Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, the income tax rate in Australia is the lowest.
This Government abolished butter and tea rationing. It has provided for the payment of a sustenance allowance to sufferers from tubercusosis. It has increased war pensions, age and invalid pensions and widows pensions on two occasions, and the most recent increase is the greatest that has ever been made in the history of Australia. I do not propose to weary honorable members by detailing all the promises which the Government made and has honoured. The record is there for every one to read. Members of the Opposition do not wish to acknowledge what the Government has done. They prefer to keep on repeating that the Government has done nothing. Quite recently, I visited three towns in my electorate. I was very impressed by the performance- of the” people of the small town of Baradine. They wanted an aerodrome, and they raised £2,500 towards the cost. They bought the land, cleared it, put down landing strips and installed marker beacons. They put up the wind sock, and invited the Minister for Air to open the aerodrome, as they had already arranged for a service. I deputized for the Minister. Now, there is a service three times a week to that town. That is what can be done when people have confidence in themselves, in their town and in their country. In Dubbo, which I visited recently for a Jubilee celebration, the people have raised £20,000 for a civic centre and war memorial. They have confidence in their ability to do the job without asking for help from any one. The work is not yet actually done, but they have the money. More recently, I visited a town called Hill End, which once had a population of 30.000, but to-day the population is only about 300. At one time, it was second in size only to the city of Sydney. It was a gold-mining area, and at one time it influenced the economy of the State so much that the business interests of Sydney established the Stock Exchange there. From the district of Hill End, a total of 665,552 oz. of gold was won, and at present-day prices the value would be £10.316,000. The people of Hill End say that they are so proud of the past, and so confident of the future, that they propose to conduct celebrations for a week so that they may honour the founders of the town and district, and those who worked in that place in days gone by.
From the people of those towns we can learn the lesson that if we have confidence in ourselves and in our country we can win through. Members of the Opposition, unfortunately, will not give a lead. Do they ever go on to the wharfs and encourage the workers to do a little more, and so hasten the turn-round of ships ? Do they ever urge the coal miners to produce more coal? Production in Australia has been stagnant for many years for the want of a little push, and the people who can do the pushing are honorable members opposite.
– Say something about butter.
– Yes, I am glad to say something about butter. “When this Government tried to help the industry by assuring the growers a home-consumption price based on the cost of production, the Labour Government in New South Wales sat back on its haunches and said that it would not allow the producers to receive the price which they so well deserved. I remind honorable members that a hundred years ago the price of butter was ls. per lb., and yet the Government of New South Wales has declared that 2s. 8d. per lb. is enough to-day.
There is a lesson to he learned from our jubilee. It is that, given encouragement, the people will make good. Production must be increased, but it can be increased only if the leaders of industry and the leaders of the men give a lead. Some of the leaders of the men are in this chamber, but they have not raised their voices in support of the Government and its efforts to get us out of a mess. All that they are prepared to do is to oppose.
It is my conviction that, from the stand-point of defence, primary production is essential. Possibly it has not been given the stimulus by the Government that it should have been given, but the recent increase to 16s. Id. a bushel of the home-consumption price of wheat for stock feed will give a fillip to the wheat industry, which at present is in the dol drums. I do not like statistics as a rule, but I believe that the following table is important and should be placed on record : -
There has been but little improvement of wool and wheat production in this country during the last ten or twelve years. The production of mutton and lamb has decreased. It is obvious that, with our population increasing, primary production must be increased. It is disappointing that the production of wheat is low from the point of view not only of bushel return but also of actual cropping. In 1950 there were 11,600,000 acres under wheat. The figure for 1951 is approximately 10 per cent, less than that. It is 10,500,000 acres. Those figures are alarming. If primary production as a part of our defence plans does not receive greater consideration, in the event of war we shall be hard put to it to feed our own people and the troops stationed in this country. Primary production cannot be increased overnight. I urge the Government to make every effort to secure an increase, which would be one of the most important defence measures.
To improve the position of this country, more is required than the presentation of a budget and the implementation of governmental measures to combat inflation. The remedy for our present ills rests with the people themselves. Our problems will be solved only if the people have a real desire to help themselves and are encouraged by their leaders to get out of the ruck and really pull their weight.
.- Some extraordinary arguments have been advanced in defence of this depressing budget, especially by members of the Australian Country party. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) asked how the budget could be improved.
One way in which that could be done would be for the Government to honour some of the promises that it made during the 1949 general election campaign. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) in defending the budget, sought refuge in a miserable alibi. He said that the Government had been forced to present a budget of this kind because of the legacy .that it had inherited as a result of what he described as eight years of Labour misrule.
– That is right.
– As there appears to he a conflict of opinion upon this matter, I shall quote from an authority. Tie authority is a very conservative newspaper. Approximately two years ago, I spoke in this chamber in defence of a budget that a Labour government had presented. In the leading article of the Melbourne Age of the 8th September, 1949, a tribute was paid to that budget. If there had been years of Labour misrule previously, doubtless the Melbourne Age would have commented upon that fact. The article began as follows: -
In broad results, the Federal budget is a record of achievement, of sound, even conservative, management of huge resources, and of prudent foresight.
That statement was made three months before the general election of 1949.
Mr,- McLEOD. - It is an extract from a leading article that was published in the Melbourne Age, a very conservative newspaper. I advise the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to study the article, which contains the following passage: -
However composed, the enlarged new Parliament will at least find the country’s finances in good shape. It will inherit no legacies of profligacy and none of the problems of inadequate resources to cope with commitments that beset some other countries.
That was the position after eight years of Labour rule. Either this budget was not prepared by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), or the right honorable gentleman has turned a political somersault. Another extract from the leading article in the Melbourne Age that I am about to read reflects the view that he held two years ago. It is as follows : -
The government’s cautious view of borrowing in the U.S.A. and incurring liabilities that would be a first charge on our exports to America suggests a clear sight of what would be entailed. This reserve will be supported by all who recall the effects of excessive overseas borrowing when the “chickens came home to roost “ in the worst stage of inter-war depression.
Let honorable gentlemen opposite think that over. This is not a government of the people by the people for the people. It is a government of the people by the banks for the banks. The Government is receiving instructions from the banks and this budget is an instrument for the carrying out of one of those instructions.
Let us examine Labours record. In the four years after the war, the Chifley Government reduced taxes by £280,000,000. In 1949, the late Mr. Chifley reduced direct taxes by £36,000,000 and sales tax by £7,000,000 to £33,000,000. The present Treasurer proposes to increase the revenue from sales tax from £57,000,000 to £117,000,000. In 1949, the Chifley Government also made very large gifts to the United Kingdom and to Unrra. It is usually easy to borrow, but it is seldom easy to repay the loan. I remind honorable members that the ‘Chifley Government paid off overseas debts that had been incurred by non-Labour governments to the amount of £117,000,000. Despite the fact that that Government was in office during and immediately after the war it was able to provide for the rehabilitation of our ex-servicemen on a. scale second to none in the world. As the result of assistance granted by it no fewer than 12,000 young men were able to take university courses for which their parents could not meet the cost, and it increased the National Welfare Fund to £100,000,000.
Honorable members opposite have had a great deal to say about the defence commitments of the present Government. In 1949, the Chifley Government purchased the . aircraft carrier Sydney and commenced the construction of the guided weapons testing range at Woomera, both of which involved the expenditure of very large sums of money. Listening to honoarble members opposite one might think that the present Government has had to meet and overcome all the difficulties that have confronted us.
Let us consider for a moment some of the pre-election promises that were made by the Liberal party. In a pamphlet prefaced by a photograph of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) the Liberal party, in 1949, made a special appeal to the workers in which it promised them that if it were returned to office their lot would be made easier. How has the Government honoured that promise ?Far from having improved the lot of the workers it has made an all-round increase of sales tax, including the tax imposed on commodities necessary to the average worker and his family. In the pamphlet to which I have referred the electors were asked : “ Are you happy with labour taxation?” The appeal for their vote was couched in the following terms : -
As a Worker:
High Taxation reduces your standard of living, it means less money in your pay envelope, less veal money to spend on the things you want.
As a Producer:
Excessive Taxation restricts production, reduces earnings, kills incentive, breeds unemployment and paves the way for depression.
As aPrimary Producer:
Lowered Purchasing Power of the community means less demand for the goods you produce.
The Liberal party will Reduce All Forms of Taxation.
How has the Government honoured that promise? Despite the fact that it has not had to face the problems that beset theChifley Government it has increased all forms of taxation. A government of a political complexion similar to that of the present Government was dismissed from office fifteen years ago because it had failed to honour its promises to the people. That, too, will be the fate of the present Government because it, too, has forgotten its promises to the people. In a pamphlet that was issued in connexion with the Senate election in 1949 the Liberal and Australian Country parties appealed to the people in these terms -
Don’t surrender your three freedoms.
Freedom of the Worker:
To bargain for better wages and choose his job and place of living.
Freedom of the Producer:
To manage his own farm or business.
Freedom of the Customer:
To demand better goods at lower prices with better service.
Face the Issue. The Labour-Socialists stand for -
No mention was then made of the intention of the non-Labour parties, if they were successful in attaining office, to introduce a defence preparations bill which would permit the direction of labour to any chosen place. They said that they would abolish controls of all kinds but within a comparatively short time after they had assumed office controls were instituted on a greater scale than had been necessary even during the darkest days of the war. So much for the three freedoms about which honorable members spoke so glowingly in their preelection propaganda !
I come now to the policy speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party which is printed in a brochure that bears on its front page a photograph of a robust looking gentleman who is neither more nor less than a political huckster.
– It is a photograph of the Treasurer. Looking at it one can well imagine the right honorable gentleman at an agricultural show beating a drum as he harangues the crowd. Dealing with the subject of national development he had this to say -
We propose a gigantic and vigorous scheme of rural development. This will not be like the mirage of blueprints held before your eyes by the socialists as a remote antidote to some future depression caused by their policies It is a positive programme. It will be implemented here and now-
One could almost hear him beating the drum ! -
It will be implemented here and now to make Australia great and prosperous and replace present-day scarcities with an era of abundance.
For this, we will raise £250,000,000 by public loans. . . . The interest and sinking fund will be met by annual appropriations from the petrol tax. The Commonwealth will assume sole responsibility for financing the scheme which will be administered by a special Minister.
I do not know where the Minister is. I have not seen anything of him. The right honorable gentleman continued -
No repayments of national development loans will be required from any state or local authority for monies received or spent under, this scheme.
Dealing with the subject of roads, aerodromes and ports, the right honorable gentleman had this to say - fears of socialist rule, and continued raids for revenue purposes on the proceeds of the petrol tax, have led to grave deterioration in our road system. Under our national development plan, we will inaugurate a supplementary federal aid roads scheme by which local governing bodies will receive adequate funds - without obligation of repayment - to construct and maintain developmental roads, under their authority and vigilance.
How was that promise honoured? Under the heading, “ Road grants cut may raise rates”, the Hamilton Spectator, in its issue of the 13th October last, had this to say -
Cut rather more than 50 per cent, oil main roads maintenance allocation and 100 per cent, on Commonwealth aid grants for reconstruction, Hamilton City Council will approach the Country Roads Board to seek a revision of the schedule.
In the same issue of that journal was another news item, under the heading “ Road Finance Worries Shire Councillors “, that reads as follows : -
How to work on “ feeder “ roads with grant money cut off was one of the big worries facing Wannon Shire Councillors at their last meeting. Since no government money is coming in, it would seem that the Council faces the unenviable choice between letting these roads deteriorate and increasing the rate.
The Kaniva Times, an excellent journal that circulates in my electorate, published the following report on the subject of reduced allocations for road works: -
The Minister for Public Works, Mr. Byrnes, M.L.C., has announced that the Country Roads Hoard has completed the allocation of funds for expenditure by municipalities on the construction and maintenance of roads throughout the States.
The total amount allotted is £4,230,000, comprising £3,3S1,000 for the maintenance of main roads and £875,000 for commitments on unclassified roads.
The allocation is far short of requirements, but in view of the loan cut, coupled with inadequacy of revenue, no more could safely be allocated.
That is how the Government has honoured its promises to the electors !
In 1949, during the general election campaign, I warned the people that they could not trust the non-Labour parties to honour their promises. My warning was justified. The promises were repudiated, and every member and supporter of the Australian Country party must share in the blame for that repudiation because they keep the present Government in office. It is the duty of members of the Australian Country party to do everything possible to stimulate agricultural production in all its phases; but that party is composed very largely of merchants, middlemen and mercenary businessmen, who know little or nothing about the problems of the man on the land, and who have joined the party principally for what they can get out of it. It is all very well for them to talk about what the socialists have done. They cannot be proud of their own record.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Various local authorities have been waiting for the Government to honour the promise that the Treasurer made regarding the expenditure of £250,000,000 for development. But the promise has been completely repudiated, and roads throughout all the shires of my electorate are deteriorating. Although the authorities who have the responsibility of maintaining those roads are now receiving as much money, in terms of cash, as they received before the Government took office, they are in fact receiving only about half as much because, as a result of the inflation that has taken place under the administration of the Government, the money will buy only half as much labour and materials as it would have bought before. I have heard no protests from members of the Australian Country party about that. However, I hope that they will give me support in relation to another matter to which I shall turn in a moment or two. The roads in some shires are little more than pot-holes. Here is what the Kaniva Times had to say about the position in the shire of Kaniva -
Drastic reductions in necessary re-sheeting, reconstruction and extension of bituminous sealing will be involved, and there will be no fresh works on feeder roads.
Representations made to the Commonwealth Government for a more equitable distribution nf the Petrol Tax have .been unsuccessful. Although Victoria still contributes over £11,000,(100 of the money raised by this tax, only £2,700,000 is being refunded to this State by the Commonwealth.
T ask the Government to keep the promise that was made by the Treasurer, and I also ask members of the Austraiian Country party to co-operate with us in forcing it to do so. During the 1949 general election campaign honorable members opposite told the people to get rid of the socialist government and everything would be all right. The Government that they told the people to get rid of left this country in the soundest economic and financial position it had ever been in. In the short period of two years that has elapsed since that general election, the position has deteriorated to an alarming degree.
The honorable member for Lawson said that income tax had in fact been reduced by the Government. That is not so. One would have thought that members of the Australian Country party would put up a fight for the farmers and make the Government honour its promise to reduce all forms of taxation. They are not doing so. Despite that promise, this budget will accentuate inflation. In 1949, the anti-Labour parties promised to put value back into the fi. One of the first actions that they took when they gained office was to abolish the subsidy on superphosphate, an action which, of course, raised the cost of production of primary products and so raised the price t<v the consumers. The Government has also increased sales tax. The impact of that action has yet to be reflected in the next quarterly adjustment of the basic wage. Goodness knows where the inflationary spiral will end, because the Government is definitely doing nothing about it. Then there is the Government’s action in connexion with the amount of £45,000,000 that was collected from the wool-growers for the inauguration of a wool stabilization scheme. The Treasurer said m his budget speech -
It has already been announced that the £45,000,000 collected as part of the initial capital for a possible wool stabilization scheme will be repaid as soon as practicable, and I hope that the recipients will find it to their advantage to reinvest a major part of this large sum in Commonwealth loans.
That money does not belong to the Government, as it was collected in connexion with the proposed stabilization plan, and it should have been returned as soon as possible. So there is nothing very generous in the Government’s proposal to return it. The generosity of the Treasurer is exceeded only by his cupidity because while he will return to the woolgrowers £45,000,000 that belongs to them he intends to take away from the primary producers generally another £47,000,000 in the form of retrospectively imposed taxation. He will be able to do that as a result of the abolition of the averaging system of taxation, as it was formerly applied to the primary producers, in respect of incomes of more than £4,000 per annum. That amount of £47,000,000 is to be collected from one section of the community whereas the increase of 10 per cent, in income tax generally, which is to be imposed as from the beginning of this financial year, will apply to the whole community and will bring in an amount of only £25,000,000. That action savours of the Government’s attempted 20 per cent, wool tax grab. Wool-growers who sent in their income tax returns last July will have to recast their ideas about the amount of tax they will have to pay and about the financial results of their labour. The primary producers would not have argued about an increase of tax if it had been applied only to the current year, but the increase will, in effect, apply retrospectively. The primary producers have made their budgeting arrangements in relation to their financial affairs, and these will all be upset by the Government’s action. They will also have to make provision to meet provisional tax. It is quite obvious, from the prices now being received for primary products, that the . incomes of primary producers will be down by half during the current year, yet they will have to allow for provisional tax equal to the amount that they paid in the financial year 1950-51, plus an increase of 10 per cent. Why did not the Government adopt such a system in relation to big companies? It has not done so. The truth is that big business drew up this budget.
At election times honorable members opposite are interested in the primary producers but once they have been returned to office their treatment of them falls far short of their promises. Another item in the budget in which many farmers are interested relates to the Joint Organization fund the profits from which are now payable. When a Labour government was in office members of the Australian Country ‘ party went around the country areas telling the farmers that we would never pay them their dues out of the fund. In fact, the Labour Government made an interim payment to the farmers two years before it was due. This Government has made no definite promise that it will pay the farmers what the fund owes them, and probably it will find some means of filching the money from its rightful owners. Will such an action be tolerated by the Australian Country party, not one member of which in this chamber has had much to say about it except the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), who very gently chided the Government on it.
The Government is asking for more production by the primary producers. Not only men but also machinery is involved in an increase of rural production. The cost of that machinery is steadily going up because of inflationary conditions, and this trend will be accentuated by this budget* In addition, the primary producers are to be taxed more. The budget will cause a blight in this country.
I shall now touch briefly on another matter which is of serious moment. I wish to know where the Australian Country party stands in relation to its opposite numbers in Victoria as far as loan restrictions and their effects on primary production are concerned. Government supporters echo the parrot cry “ There must be greater production”. No one will argue that increased production is not necessary, but what contribution is the Government making towards that end? By restrictiong State loan allocations through its domination of the Loan Council, the Government has halted closer settlement and soldier land settlement schemes regardless of its promises to ex-servicemen. I have before me a list of estates in Victoria, the total area of which comprises 228,000 acres, that were to be resumed either compulsorily or with the acquiesence of the owners, for the settlement of ex-servicemen. Five hundred dairy farmers were to be settled on Crown lands, but work on that project has ceased. Where does the Australian Country party stand on that’ matter ? Its members are probably more guilty than are members of the Liberal party. What effect will the curtailment of the works programme have on the development of Victoria? Surely one of our most urgent problems to-day is that of increasing food production. Our secondary industries are being expanded rapidly with the result that our economy is being thrown completely out of balance, yet this Government is deliberately restricting the expansion of rural production. I challenge the Australian Country party to take action on this matter. Unless something is done, 500 dairymen will be unable to take up their holdings in Victoria. We all know, of course, that the private financial institutions of this country expended huge sums of money on securing the election of this Government. When their plan succeeded, they instructed the Prime Minister and Treasurer to restrict the issuing of credit by the Commonwealth Bank.
One election promise that honorable members opposite were only too eager to fulfil was their undertaking to restore the Commonwealth Bank to board control. That has been done, and once again the bank is in the hands of private interests whose object is to destroy it. The bani will no longer be a haven of refuge for farmers who find themselves in financial difficulties. We have the experience of the past to guide us. In the late 1920’s, farmers were encouraged by the banks to buy properties that they could not possibly pay for, with the result that in the ensuing depression many holdings found their way into the hands of those institutions. A similar plan is being followed to-day. We can all imagine what will happen when overseas prices for our primary products fall. There will be another recession. This budget is a deliberate attempt to accentuate that trend, but a recession will come soon enough through a fall in overseas prices without hastening the calamity. By the restriction of credit advances the Commonwealth Bank is being prevented from competing with private banks. In 1949 while Labour was in office, any person who had a block of land could use that as security on which to borrow enough money to build a home. To-day, any one who wishes to build a house has to put up almost half the total cost, with the result that many young married couples just have to forget about owning a home.
The CHAIRMAN” (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) is one of the most gloomy speakers I have ever heard. On the Opposition benches he is the outstanding purveyor of misery. To-night we have heard him iri excelsis. He did not add anything worth while to the discussion. In fact, he hardly discussed the budget at all. Instead, he endeavoured to make a speech which, in his opinion, would interest the electors of Wannon. In the course of that effort, he made many misleading and sometimes completely inaccurate statements, but I do not propose to waste time by referring to all his inaccuracies and miscalculations. However, I shall direct the attention of the committee to one or two statements that were completely misleading. The honorable member chided the Government with having refused to allocate to localgoverning authorities sufficient money to build and maintain roads. He must have a very short memory, otherwise he would know that this Government had done more than any previous administration in our history to assist local-governing authorities to carry out their road work. Indeed, the Commonwealth has provided so much money for this purpose that the States have been unable to spend their allocations in .the years in which they were made. During the last financial year of the Chifley Government’s term of office, £7,500,000 was made available out of the petrol tax for road work. Allocations, have increased in successive years since that time, and last year the figure exceeded £14,000,000. The estimate for the current financial year is £16,000,000. So much for the honorable member’s allegation of meanness on the part of this Government.
Towards the end of his dissertation he castigated the Government for having reduced loan allocations for State works.
If the honorable member knew anything about the Loan Council he would realize that it consists of eight members - the six State Premiers, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) - and that each member has one vote. Consequently when a proposal is being considered a decision rests with those members. On the occasion to which the honorable member for Wannon nas referred, the States submitted a loan programme which amounts to approximately £300,000,000. It was pointed out very effectively to them that, for various reasons, such a programme could not possibly he achieved. Consequently, alternatives were discussed. One Premier suggested that the programme be reduced from £300,000,000 to £225,000,000 on the understanding that the Commonwealth would underwrite the loans.. That proposal was supported by an overwhelming majority of members of the council.
– Which Premier made that suggestion?
– The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, made the proposal, and it was supported enthusiastically by the Premier of Victoria Mr. McDonald, who said it was the first occasion on which Victoria, had been given a reasonable share of available loan moneys. I make that observation to show how completely inaccurate were the remarks made by the honorable member for Wannon. A budget is a statement by a government of its operations during, the previous twelve months and its proposals for the ensuing twelve months. It is usual for honorable members on both sides of the chamber to give careful consideration to budget proposals. On this occasion, I am sorry to relate, the Opposition started off very badly. The Leader of .the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) made several references to what his predecessor, Mr. J. B. Chifley^ had done during his term of office as Prime Minister and Treasurer. I listened carefully to what the Leader of the Opposition said, and I have listened with great interest on many occasions to what the late. Mr. Chifley said as Treasurer of the Commonwealth. In my view, the references that were made by the Leader of the Opposition to the statements of: the late Mr. Chifley will make that gentleman turn in his grave with disgust at the fickle way in which this very important problem has been tackled by the right honorable gentleman.
Let us examine, briefly, some of the statements that were made by the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman said that this budget would cast a tremendous burden on the Australian people. I shall endeavour to establish that that burden is necessary. He also said that the basis of the budget, having regard to the present financial position of this country, is completely fallacious. If there was one thing that the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) failed to do it was to show that this budget has any fallacious basis. In fact, both honorable gentlemen succeeded in illustrating that the Treasurer had dealt too lightly with the question of taxation because their main complaint was that the Government had not spent sufficient on certain sections of the community. The honorable members referred to the record of the previous Government. They told the old story. They mentioned the “ sound national economy “ that was handed over to the present Government by the Chifley Government. They mentioned the state of the Commonwealth loan market and the healthy position of major works projects under the previous Government. Whatever the standard of administration of the Chifley regime may have been, during the latter portion of its term of office, at any rate, it worked under almost ideal conditions.
Despite references that have been made to the sound economic position in which the last Government left the country, when the present Treasurer came to office he found the coffers completely bare. Opposition members have alleged that there was a reserve in the National Welfare Fund and that further reserves existed for the payment of the war gratuity. Such funds did not exist. In the relevant accounts there was not cash but I O TJ in the form of treasury-bills which had to be redeemed. Honorable members opposite have spoken at great length of the success of the Labour Government in raising funds. That Government never put any real pressure on the loan market. Australian Government loans raised during the financial year 1946-47 amounted to £31,000,000; during 1947-48 they amounted to £45,000,000 ; and during 1948-49 to £59,000,000. That was the last complete year of office of the Chifley Government, which did not remain in office for the full financial year 1949-50, during which £82,000,000 of loan moneys was raised. During the last financial year loans amounting to £146,000,000 were raised. In respect of the current financial year it was decided to raise £225,000,000. It is perfectly ludicrous for Opposition members, who pose as great financiers, to allege that the market has no confidence in the Government. The market was never really tested by the previous Government. If it had been tested, that Government would never have achieved what the present Government has achieved.
The Leader of the Opposition made a most extraordinary statement when he said that the Government proposed to increase the rate of taxation beyond the bounds at which all initiative, enterprise and hope are most prejudicially affected. Apparently the right honorable gentleman does not indulge in introspection. He cannot have examined his own comments or he would have to smile and he would not be able to make statements of this character. If the Government’s proposals are accepted Australia will have one of the lowest rates of taxation in the British Dominions. Under the Government’s proposals an Australian without dependants who earns £500 a year, which is approximately the basic wage, will have to pay £39 9s. in taxation. In Great Britain, where a Labour government has been in office for the last six years, such a person would be called upon to pay £93 8s. In New Zealand the people recently elected a Liberal government which has reduced taxation to some extent, but a person without dependants who earn.- £500 a year in New Zealand has to pay £74 18s. 9d. in taxation, which is approximately double what such a man would have to pay in this country. The suggestion that taxation is destroying initiative is not true. The Leader of the Opposition has pretended to support the principle of providing incentives to produce but when any concrete proposals for the. provision of incentives have been put forward he and other honorable members opposite have not supported them. They have either opposed such suggestions or remained silent. Industrial organizations which have a great influence on Labour party policy have opposed such suggestions almost completely. Incentive systems which are operating very successfully in some industries are doing so in spite of trade union opposition and not with trade union support. The Australian Council of Trades Unions gave a miserable exhibition when it was faced with the problem for it deferred consideration of it for three years. Consequently this country will probably meet the greatest crisis in its history before that organization has made up its mind on this important matter.
The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the Australian Labour party is keenly interested in the defence provisions of the budget has not been supported by any other Opposition member. It is extraordinarily refreshing to find that Labour is interested in the subject of defence. I hope that the right honorable member’s statement may be taken as an indication that the Government will receive the co-operation of Labour in . connexion with this vital subject of defence in the future. It is a tragedy that, in spite of the dangers that threaten and in spite of what is being done by every other democratic country in the world, Australia has not been able to gain support from the Labour party for the Government’s defence proposals. I call attention to the fact that a completely different situation exists in Great Britain, Canada, the United States of America, New Zealand and in almost every other democratic country. Tn those countries, apparently, oppositions as well as governments recognize the importance of defence. Whatever differences they may have on other issues, they are almost in complete accord on defence measures. In Great Britain there is a Labour government of six years’ standing. I hope that its standing is over. Its proposals from time to time have been completely and whole-heartedly supported by the Opposition in the country.
– ‘Sensible proposals.
– I am very glad to hear that interjection, because it gives me hope that the Australian Labour warty will now support completely all that we are proposing in respect of defence. Our proposals are not in excess of what the British Government has proposed1. The same thing has happened in Canada. All political parties in that country are completely behind the Liberal Government’s defence proposals. The position is similar in the United States of America and New Zealand. I sincerely hope that there will be a change of heart by honorable members opposite, so that instead of this pin-pricking, bickering, and sniping the Opposition will support this Government’s proposals for defence, in the interests of democracy generally. I assure honorable members that what we are proposing is the very minimum that is due by this country to the common effort. There can be no doubt or difference of opinion about the need for defence preparations, and a vital and substantial increase of the preparations that are being made in this country.
– Who is going to invade us?
– Apparently the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is only going to fight the invader in this country. I hope that he is on his own, and that his views do not represent the opinion of the Opposition as a whole.
– Who will be sent overseas?
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor is consistently interjecting. If he does not cease, I shall name him.
– We believe, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has stated, that it is our duty, in season and out of season, to meet the enemy and resist him wherever he is found, and not wait until he arrives on the shores of Australia. I remind honorable members that every step that has been taken by this Government towards preparation for defence in this country has been consistently resisted by the Opposition. When we decided to institute national service the proposal was resisted right up to the point when it may have meant a reference to the people; then Labour’s resistance disappeared. When we suggested altering the terms of voluntary enlistment in the permanent forces and in the Citizen Military Forces the Opposition again opposed us. It said, in effect, “We will not assist you in any way in the recruiting campaign that you have undertaken”. I say without hesitation that while the recruiting campaign has not been up to expectations, I am perfectly satisfied that the statements that have been made by successive leaders and members of the Australian Labour party, have had a tremendous effect upon the campaign. The doubts that have been cast have raised some doubts in the minds of many of our young people. Our proposals are the very minimum necessary at present, and are nothing like what I expect will have to be faced up to by this country in the not far distant future.
– The Minister has been playing party politics from the day that he entered office.
– I like that from the Opposition ! Honorable members opposite have done little more than play party politics since they have been in opposition. Fortunately for us, they have not played very successfully.
– Or fairly!
– We do not expect that. This Government is the only Government for very many years that has had the courage to go to the people before its time on a vital issue. It was quite satisfied with its record, and obtained the endorsement of the people for a second time within eighteen months. I have no doubt that we will so administer the affairs of this country that when we have to go to the people on the next occasion we will get the same or even greater support.
– Five seats down at er cry election?
– If that would be satisfactory to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) it would be quite satisfactory to me, because he is skating on very thin ice. He certainly got a shock last time.
The Leader of the Opposition stated that the Opposition considers that the expenditure of £181,700,000 on defence will be inadequate. Although I was extraordinarily pleased to hear the right honorable gentleman say so, he should not overlook the fact that a very large portion of the loan expenditure that does not come into that amount has a direct defence significance. However, I am hopeful that that is the opinion of the Opposition as a whole. I am perfectly satisfied that whatever the figure is now - £181,000,000, £200,000,000, or any other amount - within the next three years it will have to be substantially greater. This Government believes that Australia has a part to play, and we are determined, so far as lies within our power, that Australia shall play its part. Great Britain, despite the many problems and grave difficulties confronting it, is asking its people to shoulder responsibilities which will amount, eventually, to about 13 per cent, of its national income. Honorable members should realize that this Government’s proposals will involve an expenditure on defence of less than 8 per cent, of our national income. People must realize that Great Britain is in a difficult economic position. It has to import, at high prices, 60 per cent, of its foodstuffs and a great deal of the raw materials used in its industries. In order to pay for the primary products and materials Great Britain is forced to export finished goods in great quantities. The industries that have been bulwarks of its economy through their great production of exportable goods will be directly affected by Great Britain’s war preparations programme. Consider the heavy industries
– We know all that.
– I am glad that that fact has sunk in the mind of the honorable member. At the present time, before this programme has been put into operation, heavy metal industries are exporting about 40 per cent, of their production. Under the previous defence programme only about 7 per cent, of the production of those industries was allocated to defence needs. Under the new defence programme the defence allocation will rise progressively until it becomes 27$ per cent, of the total output of the heavy industries. That will throw a tremendous strain on the British people. Therefore, compared with Great Britain the effort required of the Australian people is comparatively small. That is because Australia produces almost all the foodstuffs required by its people and consequently does not have to rely upon exports to obtain the exchange necessary to provide food and raw materials. Therefore, it seems that this country can well afford much greater impositions for defence purposes than it has ever before been called upon to bear. As our programme swings into operation and increases its demands on industry, I hope that we shall not have to endure any more sniping and criticism from honorable members opposite. It must be realized that in Australia, under its conditions of full employment, whatever is diverted for defence must be subtracted from our existing production. There is only one alternative to that process, and that is something which should receive careful consideration, not only by the Opposition, but also by the people. Unless people are prepared to work longer hours and achieve a greater output per man-hour, we must subtract our future defence production from our present general production. I believe that as our defence preparation measures gain impetus they will demand some 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, of our national production. That production will have to be subtracted from our present production.
While some lip service has been given to the necessity for increasing our defence production, all the efforts of the Opposition have been designed to prevent any such subtraction being made from our present production. Whenever it has been a matter of capital issues, banking policy, sales tax, or any other measure taken by the Government to increase our defence production, there has been no commendation from the Opposition. The attitude of the Opposition has been one of continual criticism.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- I listened with a great deal of attention to the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride). He made a remarkable charge against honorable members on this side of the House. He accused the Labour party of failing to co-operate with the Government on its defence policy. It should be remembered that the Minister was a member of a government which in 1941 was considered to be so incompetent to conduct the war effort of this country that two of its own supporters-
– Were bought by the Labour party.
– No, we certainly do not claim them. They were responsible men and realized that the country was going to ruin through the maladministration of a government of which the Minister for Defence was a member. They saw our servicemen going overseas ill-clad and ill-equipped.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I know you do not like that.
– Order ! The honorable member will address the Chair, and other honorable members will refrain from interjecting.
– The Minister has charged the Labour party with not cooperating with the Government. In 1941, the Government of which he was a member was forced off the treasury bench and Labour was placed in office to administer the country right throughout the war period and the post-war rehabilitation period until 1949.
– The honorable member should forget the past.
– The Minister for Defence has referred to the past, and I. say again that in the time of its greatest peril Australia called upon the Labour party to carry through a complete war effort. Therefore, it ill becomes the Minister to charge the Labour party to-day with lack of co-operation in defence preparations. We are not at war to-day but all we hear from the Government is war. If the Government were forbidden to talk about war and communism it would have nothing to talk about.
This is the most pessimistic budget that has been introduced during my lifetime. Yet it has been introduced by a government, which in 1949 tickled the ears of the Australian electors by promising reduced taxation. When the previous Labour Government reduced income tax by about £40,000,000 the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said that that was not sufficient and that he would have reduced it by another £30,000,000 or £40,000,000. In 1949, he promised the electors that if elected to office the Liberal and Australian Country parties would reduce taxation. Yet in this budget he is enormously increasing taxation. It is quite apparent that the Government achieved office by deceit and fraud. The budget not only does not provide for a reduction of taxation; it also even provides for the conscription of labour.
– Nonsense !
– The honorable member says “Nonsense!”. I ask the committee and the Australian people whether sacking 10,000 government employees and forcing them to take other employment is not conscription of labour.
– What nonsense !
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) knows only nonsense. I say that the Government has conscripted labour and has failed to honour a promise that it made to the Australian people. This is a pessimistic budget.
– Why does not the Opposition co-operate ?
– It has co-operated. Honorable members opposite belong to the same political parties as those which walked out of the Australian Advisory War Council when this country was in a desperate situation. That fact should be remembered when statements about co-operation are being made. The budget that has been presented to the Parliament has given rise to a lack of public confidence in the Government. It proposes to increase direct taxes by 10 per cent, and also to increase indirect taxes by providing that many additional items, including icecream, toys and sweets, shall be taxed. At the same time the Government is budgeting for a surplus of £114,500,000.
Government members interjecting.
– Order ! I ask honorable members to remain quiet.
– Honorable members on your right, Mr. Chairman’.
– Order ! Honor able members on my left will also be quiet. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) consistently interjects while 1 am on my feet, although he knows that it is an offence to do so. I will not be dictated to by the honorable member, and if he persists in .that conduct I shall deal with him. I shall also deal with honorable members on my right if they interject while I am on my feet. Unless order is maintained I shall take action, irrespective of which honorable member is concerned. The honorable member for Adelaide has the floor. I ask him to take less notice of interjections and in that way assist me to maintain order.
– I am not taking notice 4f them, Mr. Chairman.
– Order ! If the honorable member ignores interjections it will assist the Chair to keep order. J do not blame the honorable member for the interjections.
– The Australian economy, from being- the best economy in the world, which it was in 1948, has now become the worst in the world. I remind honorable members opposite that the people had far greater confidence in the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government than they have in the present Government. Although members of the Government claim that they enjoyed the confidence of the people at the general elections of 1949 and 1951, it seems to me .that the result of the recent referendum on communism demonstrated a complete lack of confidence on the part of the people. Week in and week out the activity of Communists has been offered as an excuse for the failure of the Government to honour its promises to the people. The members of the Opposition have listened to arrogant and impertinent statements in which they have been attacked and referred to as Communists. I remind honorable members opposite that it, was a Labour government which had the courage really to attack communism. It was a Labour government which introduced legislation, which was passed by this Parliament in 24 hours, for the purpose of attacking the Communists on the coal-fields of Australia. It is possible for me to look round this chamber Lonight and to see men who had the courage not only to stand up to the Communists and to attack communism in this Parliament, but also to go .to the coal-fields of New South Wales, -where they attacked the Communists and defeated them. I was on the coal-fields fc five weeks at that time and I did not see one member of the present Government parties there. Honorable members opposite must surely appreciate that every attack which attributes Communist sympathies to members of the Opposition is a reflection upon the 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 people who voted against the Government’s proposal at the recent referendum. Those people are not all Communists. Am I a Communist? With my colleagues on this side of the committee, I fight communism every hour of the day. I suggest that honorable members opposite should go to the coal-fields and do something concrete in the matter. It is easy for them to come to this Parliament and excuse themselves for their inactivity on the ground that Communist domination of trade unions prevented action from being taken. The Australian Labour party was able to govern without a Communist Party Dissolution Act.
– The people did not think so !
– The Australian Labour party was in office for eight years. When the Minister for Defence was speaking earlier in this debate, he said that the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government were in office during the easy years. I ask the committee and the Australian people whether the years between .1941 and 1945 were easy years. Mr. Curtin paid the supreme sacrifice. If ever a person laid down his life for his country, Mr. Curtin did so. With his death, the responsibility of leadership was thrust onto the shoulders of the late Mr. Chifley, who carried on from the time that Mr. Curtin died until the Labour Government was defeated in 1949. Mr. Chifley was in office during three post-war years. He was a war hero, if ever there was one. Those two men led the country during the most difficult period in the history of Australia. I predict that soon the Aus tralian people will indicate in no uncertain manner, their lack of confidence in this Government, which has done nothing to deserve public confidence.
A great deal has been heard about stemming inflation. During 1947 and 1948 hard headed business men from all parts of the world came to Canberra in the course of a survey of the world economic position. They invested their capital in Australia because they believed that this country enjoyed the best economy of any part of the world. Honorable members opposite should never forget, as the Australian people will not forget, that at that time we had a stable economy and that the Australian Government controlled prices. Honorable members opposite have always been hypocrites in their political life.
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to other honorable members as “hypocrites “.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but I point out that members of the Opposition have been often called worse things by honorable members opposite.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw uncon ditionally. !
– I withdraw. I remind the Australian people that inflation is rampant in this country to-day because the Government parties, as they had been endeavouring to do for a long time, succeeded in hoodwinking the community not only at the last general election, hut also at the referendum that was taken on the Chifley Government’s proposals to continue prices control on a nation-wide basis. During that referendum campaign, members of the present Government parties went throughout the length and breadth of the country and persuaded the people that there was no necessity to continue prices control on an Australia-wide basis.
– Hear, hear !
– Is the Minister for Defence prepared to ask the Australian housewives whether they are content to pay 5s. per lb. for tomatoes, 2s. 6d. per lb. for onions, or 3s. 6d. for 1 lb. of chops? Is he prepared to ask them whether they prefer the conditions thai exist to-day to those that existed during the term of office of the Chifley Government? Unfortunately, the people voted against the Chifley Government’s referendum proposals on prices control. Honorable members opposite have not the courage to submit similar proposals to the Australian people to-day. The Government has not the courage to accept control of prices along with other equally great responsibilities that the Chifley Government shouldered in the interests of the nation. This budget will do more to shake the confidence of the people in their national Government than any previous budget has done.
– Will the honorable member tell us what we should do?
– Yes; the honorable member and his colleagues should urge the Government to ask the people again to give power to the National Parliament to control prices on an Australiawide basis. However, honorable members opposite have not the courage to admit that they made a mistake when they urged the people to reject the Chifley Government’s proposals on that subject.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Aus-‘ tralian Government should, at the same time, be given power to control wages as well?
– I am confident that if the Government approached the Australian Council of Trades Unions on that subject, that body would readily cooperate with it.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I ask honorable members on both sides of the chamber to cease interjecting.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member for Adelaide persistently remains standing while you are speaking.
– I point out, Mr. Chairman, that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is one of the most persistent interjectors in the course of debates in this chamber.
– Order! The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– I deplore the callous and ruthless manner in which the Government has sacked 10,000 of its employees. It has made no public pronouncement to express its appreciation of the long and valued service that those employees have given to the country.
– They were paid for their services.
– Does the honorable member believe that that is sufficient appreciation of the good work that these employees have done in the interests of the people? Of course, the unfortunate public servants who have just been sacked were paid for the services that they rendered to the Government. But do not. their services entitle them to some recognition, however inadequate it might be? I could name more than a dozen of them who did not merely work 40 hours a week but gave of their utmost, working, in some instances, up to 70 hours a week. Yet, practically overnight, the Government has sacked 10,000 public servants. Why did it not express its appreciation of the work that those employees had done during one of the most difficult periods that nave yet confronted this country? The Government has acted most callously in this matter. Furthermore, while it never ceases to profess to be a friend of ex-, servicemen it included many ex-service personnel among these wholesale dis-“ missals. Those people will remember this Government-
– That is what the honorable member hopes.
– I hope that, not only in their own interests, but also in the interests of the people as a whole, they will remember this callous and ruthless act of the Government. I echo the view that was expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. If members of the Government parties are so confident that every one in the country is happy to-day, let them put their opinion to the test by submitting this budget as an issue at a general election. I have no doubt that if the Government took such action, the people would eject it from office..
.- I am prompted to ask whether there is a doctor in the House. If there were, I would ask him to be good enough to administer a wingeing powder to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers). The honorable member appeared to have been sidetracked by interjections. Consequently, it is difficult to discern what subject he really intended to discuss. He seems to live completely in the past. He devoted most of his time to trying to explain what a very good Minister he was in the Chifley Government. He hurled abuse at honorable members on this side of the chamber. Such behaviour on the part .of a former Minister was unedifying. Before he drifted from his moorings he made an attack upon the non-Labour Government that held office at the outbreak of World War II. He charged that Government with failing to prosecute the war effort effectively. Later, he referred in fitting terms to the record of the late John Curtin. It is not surprising that the honorable member, being a socialist, has a convenient memory. He conveniently forgot that the late John Curtin paid an unequivocal tribute to the Government that preceded his Administration in the early days of the recent conflict. On that occasion, Mr. Curtin said that his Government had inherited a well-oiled machine.
The honorable member also forgot that the committee is discussing the budget, t admit that this budget has evoked more criticism than any other budget that has yet been presented to the Parliament. At the same time, no previous opposition has produced, such feeble arguments against a budget as the Opposition in this chamber has done on this occasion. I listened in vain for the Leader of the Opposition to make a constructive approach, but, unfortunately, his speech revealed no alternative of value to the financial proposals of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and resolved itself into a personal attack upon the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, Professor Sir Douglas Copland, that dealer in intangibles across the Molonglo, whose opinion is as variable as the weather. I do not wish to speak disparagingly of the exponents of that unhappy and inaccurate science- economics - but I feel that this country in its pioneering days succeeded, and was much happier, because more time was devoted to the practical matters of life, and the theorists, if they existed then, had to live by the sweat of their brow and consequently, had less time to plague the people. To-day, we spend too much time listening to theory, and to the so-called experts who have the blueprint to solve all the problems of the nation. The application of economics to the Australian nation is, I believe, somewhat of a modern complaint. How men who have had very little or no practical experience - the experience of making mistakes and living by them - can have the temerity to say that they can determine the remedy for the nation’s economic ills by rules of theory outlined in a text-book, I really do not know.
If the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) now complains about the influence that the economists have over Australia, let him remember that their power grew during the eight years of socialism that preceded the election of this Government in December, 1949. Socialism was an expensive theory, not only to this country, but also to the Labour movement itself, because it was responsible for the Labour Government being cast into oblivion in 1949. The difficulty about theories is that their exponents need other theories to bolster them, and, consequently, the socialists were quite happy to bring the theories -of economists to their aid. I believe that the interpretation of economics rests with the individual. If I were to ask 100 economists to prepare a budget to meet the present financial situation, I should be presented with 100 different budgets. I confess that the present budget, in some respects, is not exactly the one which I personally should have liked, but I know that the Treasurer has received a good deal of skilled advice in the matter, and that he himself has given intensive thoughts to the problems. He at least has attacked those problems boldly, and many people are prepared to support him. and await the results.
– Hear, hear!
– Order ! The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) must return immediately to his place in the chamber, and apologize to the committee for having interjected from the gallery that is reserved for officials.
– Put him out!
– Order! The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) will be called upon to apologize after the Chair has dealt with the honorable member for Macarthur.
– I have returned to my seat, Mr. Chairman, and I apologize.
– I now call upon the honorable member for Perth to apologize to the Chair.
– I. apologize. I was merely trying to help.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to apologize unreservedly.
– I apologize, sir.
– The weakness of all the criticisms that have been levelled at the financial proposals of the Treasurer is that they are completely destructive. No constructive alternative has been offered that really grapples with the economic situation. Everybody agrees that action must be taken to combat inflation, but insists that the sacrifices be made by the other fellow. If anything which affects an individual personally is suggested, he can find a thousand reasons why such a proposal is not anti-inflationary, but inflationary. Such persons call loudly for sacrifice, but when the sacrifice is applied to them, it i« not acceptable. I believe that if a sacrifice has to be made in a time of emergency, it should be spread over those persons who are best equipped to bear the strain. The present budget encompasses at least that objective.
The honorable member for Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) describes this budget as a socialist budget, and I believe that there is some truth in his charge. That it is a socialist budget is inevitable. When the Labour Government was overthrown in 194:9, it left behind in the top Public Service positions a large corps of advisers who had been selected for their socialist tendencies as well as their own qualifications. So emboldened are some of those gentlemen that honorable members on this side of the chamber a little while ago were amazed to hear one of the top public servants boast openly that he was working for the downfall of this Government. But that may not be so easy to encompass as the inept Dr. Burton has discovered. That gentleman must realize that socialism was easier to practise within the shelter of a government department than to sell it to the electors. His exhibition as a socialist candidate for the division of Lowe was indeed a sorry one. It must be very disconcerting for that former head of the Department of External Affairs, to espouse the cause of the isolationist in the humble columns of the Canberra Times. I shall be interested to see whether the Leader of the Opposition will be so eager to use Dr. Burton’s talents in a political niche in his own organization, and to use him in the same manner as he used him when he was pushing his particular brand of socialism. Yet Dr. Burton is the only one who has departed from the Public Service. Many remain within the Service to thwart the purposes of the Government. The people of Australia swept the socialists from the treasury bench in 1949, and rejected them again earlier this year’; but, until the top bureaucrats are replaced by men whose mental processes have not been warped by socialist ideas, it will be most difficult indeed to get a really “ free-enterprise “ government. That will be a long process.
The charge which has been made by the Labour party that Professor Copland is the architect of the budget is, I believe, untrue, although he has agreed with many of its principles. As a private member, I am capable of making only a guess at those persons who assisted in formulating the budget, but if I had to nominate one man who would be disposed to recommend the line of socialism, I should be inclined to favour the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, Dr. Coombs, who was appointed to that position by the Chifley Labour Government. I sincerely trust that the newly appointed Commonwealth Bank Board will have some influence in restraining that gentleman from implementing within the Commonwealth Bank the ideas that prevailed when the Labour party was in office.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made his usual impassioned address to the chamber, which the older members knew by heart, but I was interested to note that he did not drag in references to the capitalist press, or the trading banks. Surely that was a serious reversal of form on the part of the honorable member. The fact that scathing references to the capitalist press were missing from his speech leads me to the conclusion that, if this budget has achieved nothing else, it has demonstrated the fallacy of the Labour party’s oftrepeated claim that there is such a thing as an anti-Labour press. Every one who has read the newspapers during the last few weeks must have come to the conclusion that there is an anti-Liberal press. Some newspapers have gone out of their way to an extraordinary degree to attack the present budget, and to depict it in the most unfavorable light possible. In fact, the reaction against the budget was largely inspired by the press. Nevertheless, the very severe measures for which the budget provides have been accorded a surprisingly good reception. After eight years of socialism, the people have realized that they must make certain sacrifices. They also accept th: fact that this Government is endeavouring to tackle its inherited problems courageously. Therefore, they are prepared to await results. I have no objection to the press adopting a violently antagonistic attitude to the Government and the budget. That dear old soul, “ Granny Herald “ of Sydney, is entitled to her views, but she could well have observed a little more of the traditional courtesy of the Victorian era by presenting them in a more equitable manner. My great objection is to the way in which the Opposition continues to howl about the allegedly unfair treatment that is meted out by the newspapers to the Labour party. In view of the privileged position that it actually occupies, its members at least should have the decency to thank the press instead of cursing it.
The Leader of the Opposition has had more publicity and more sympathetic reporting of his speeches in the last few months than has any other figure in Australia’s public life. Apparently his tactics have .paid off. Because he com plains continually of unfair treatment, the newspapers are bending over backwards in order to make sure that he shall have no further ground for complaint. The result is that the publicity that is accorded to him is out of all proportion to that which is given to the Government and its supporters. The right honorable gentleman is welcome to his position as the darling of the press - the glamour boy of the press gallery. All that he has been able to do in the last few months is to demonstrate how hopelessly incapable he would be of handling the nation’3 affairs if he were Prime Minister. He has clamoured at once for lower taxation and higher expenditure. He has criticized the Government both for the economies .that it proposes to make and for the taxes that it intends to levy. He cannot have it both ways. Only a few weeks ago he was screaming about inflation ; to-day he is crying “ depression “. It is bountifully evident that the great brain, of which his admirers boast so loudly, is confined to his law books. The economic problems of Australia cannot be solved by legal argument. That is a truism that should be taken to heart by all political parties. A little less law and a little more practical politics would he of great advantage to the nation.
This discussion of legal argument leads me to the subject of the so-called luxury trade and the firms that manufacture goods for that trade. I do not propose to canvass the desirability or otherwise of the action that has been directed against certain manufacturers of such goods. What may be luxuries to some persons are necessities to others. I cannot look upon a refrigerator or a washing machine as a luxury. In fact, if I had my way, there would be a refrigerator and a washing machine in every home in the division that I represent. However, if it be deemed expedient to restrict the production of luxury goods, the plant that has been employed in that class of manufacturing work should be converted to profitable use in the fight against inflation. The Government has other weapons against inflation than those for which the budget provides, and I wish that it would make use of them. Its policy is to divert to defence and essential industries some of the materials and labour that are now being used for the production of so-called luxury and semi-luxury goods. Every one should approve of this policy, but the fact is that manufacturers of luxury goods cannot obtain any advice from the bureaucrats about the best means of switching over their factories to essential production- I know of firms whose representatives have approached the Government with the object of learning how they may assist in defence production. I call readily to mind one big, wellequipped company that sought advice from Canberra over twelve months ago about the best means of preparing for defence production. It has not yet received any practical suggestions. That case is typical of many others. Manufacturers in the division that I represent have told me that they are prepared to assist the Government’s programme and that they have sought contracts without success. This sad state of affairs should receive the attention of the Government immediately. One disturbing feature of the situation is the lack of liaison between the Government and industry. The Department of Labour and National Service is controlled by a Minister who is eager at all times to bear the viewpoints of the trade union movement. He makes it his business to know what is taking place in trade union circles, and he is readily available for conferences with trade union leaders. At the same time, no Minister is so readily available to industrialists and manufacturers. Much can be gained if the Government adopts a more sympathetic and understanding attitude to the problems of manufacturers, and I suggest that it should seek to, establish a closer liaison with industry on the managerial level.
– The honorable member is wasting his time.
– At least I am wasting it to better purpose than was the honorable member this afternoon, when he read his speech almost entirely from newspaper articles.
The problems that arise from the budget are many and varied, but the principal difficulty that confronts us is the- tremendous problem of the increasing food shortage. We have been blessed with bountiful seasons, but I fear that soon we shall enter a cycle of lean years.
Drought could easily threaten the whole food supply of Australia. The reduced area of wheat planting is a threat that we cannot’ continue to ignore. The Government has taken a step towards overcoming it by raising the price of stock-feed wheat.
– Hear, hear!
– I make my position clear to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who represents a wheat-growing area. Provided that the stock-raiser receives proper compensation, through price or subsidy, this should be a satisfactory solution of the problem. It should bring about a revolutionary change in a great Australian rural industry - a change that is long overdue. It is time that we abandoned our suicidal policy of shipping all our wheat overseas. I look forward to the time when our entire wheat crop will be converted into meat, other animal products or flour before it is exported. Every shipload of wheat that we send overseas takes with it some of the fertility of our soil, and that precious fertility is lost forever. Many of Australia’s wheat districts are marching steadily towards the dust bowl under the present agricultural policy. We need some change of policy that will strike at the root of the food shortages and high prices that plague the housewife. My particular interest in this subject, of course, lies in the fact that the division that I represent is a large producer of dairy products, pig meats, poultry and eggs. Within a few months, New South Wales will certainly be threatened with an egg shortage that will add to all its other troubles. This is because we have exported too much of our wheat, and poultry flocks must be killed off so that they will not starve to death. The over-export of wheat is also having its effect upon the number of cattle and pigs.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain the quality of soil when it is used for one-crop farming such as is practised in many wheat districts. It is an elementary maxim of farming that a certain animal population is necessary if a proper routine is to be preserved. I draw attention to the following warning recently issued by Mr. W. Webster,.
Director of the Division of Animal Husbandry in the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock : -
It has been pointed out by specialists, who view Australian agriculture broadly, that the continued export of agricultural products must seriously affect the chemical and physical properties of Australian soils. It has been recommended that to prevent this state pf affairs continuing, and to protect the fertility and structure of the soils, stock .should be used in association with agriculture and that export should be in the form of animal products rather than the agricultural products to be consumed by animals in other countries.
Of course, we have obligations to the nations overseas which depend upon us for part of their food supply, but it would he far better for them if we turned our wheat into meat and eggs and dairy products before we sent it overseas. Those foods contain the precious proteins which are lacking in the diet of many peoples, and they are far more valuable than wheat.
We are signatories to a wheat agreement which calls for the export of a large quantity of grain, and while that agreement remains in force it would be difficult to apply the policy which I have suggested, although I do not think that it would be impossible. In any case, the agreement as it operates at present is proving detrimental even to the wheat industry. Flour mills, for instance, have often been forced to work part time because not sufficient wheat is available, and the wheat is not available because too much has been exported. Moreover, the export of wheat deprives us of the bran and pollard which are an essential part of the diet of some animals. Under the wheat agreement, we may export either wheat or flour, and I believe that we should insist upon exporting as much flour as our mills can produce over and above our own requirements.
It may be asked why, if there are so many advantages in treating or consuming wheat locally, we have continued for so long to export most of it as grain. The answer is easily given, although the remedy is not so easy to apply. Up to now wheat exports have been controlled by a board dominated by wheat-growers who are concerned, naturally, with getting the largest possible return for their crop. The fact that wheat for home consumption has to he sold at a lower price than export wheat naturally inclines the board to export as much wheat as possible. This is one of the anomalies which will have to be tackled if we are to have a proper wheat export policy. The present is one of those crazy situations which always arise when a government has to fix prices. At the present time, some wheat-growers are able to sell wheat ti the board at a high price, and then huy it back at a special, low price, in order to feed to animals on their own farms.
The remedy is not easy to apply, but there is one elementary step which we should take. We should ensure that whatever body decides how much wheat is to be exported is representative of the consumers as well as of the growers. In particular, it should have on it representatives of the great stock-producing industries such as dairying and poultryfarming, which use so much wheat and which could, to the nation’s advantage, use so much more.
I speak of these matters because, in the long-run, it is production which will bring prosperity to Australia. Without increased production no Treasurer can solve our economic problems. 1 have no doubt, also, that if we can break the anti-production front of Communists and left-wing union officials, and get the co-operation of the workers in a concerted drive for more goods, the threat of inflation will disappear. This is so important that the defeat of the referendum proposals seems more unfortunate every time one thinks of it. The Government’s plans for a new industrial deal for Australia have been halted at the very first stage.
Therefore, for the time being, the Treasurer must follow the unpleasant and unsatisfactory path of high taxation in order to curb inflation. But it must not be followed for long: Cynics say that taxation, once imposed, is never removed. The Government is going to tackle the Communists, and if the public, including the workers, will co-operate with it in this, and in the production drive, we shall soonhave no need of budgets like the present one.
– -Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The budget has been described by supporters of the Government as an anti-inflationary budget, and as a defence budget. On the other hand, it has been condemned by members of the Opposition in very strong terms. It is not my intention to cover the ground which has been so often traversed by other speakers, but I propose to touch on some defence aspects of the budget, particularly its effect upon the Northern Territory, and so upon the defence of Australia as a whole. From a defence point of view the budget does not measure up to the requirements of the times. Any budget that fails to provide adequately for the development of the Northern Territory and of New Guinea must be regarded as unsatisfactory. I make that statement deliberately and after having studied the budget. Far from restricting the development of the territories the Government should be doing everything possible to promote their development. In a time of severe international tension the Government is restricting its developmental activity in the territories. It should, on the contrary, be working feverishly to make secure those areas which are so vital to the defence of Australia as a whole.
One would have thought that the Government, having set up a department to administer all the territories, with the exception of the Australian Capital Territory, would make a really serious effort to develop them in the interests of the territories themselves, and of Australia generally, particularly since they lie right across the path of any possible aggressor. The new department, which is known as the Department of Territories, should be a vast improvement over the old method of administration which it superseded. The eyes of the people in the territories are fixed upon it, but it seems that the Government, having planted a very promising tree, is now intent on destroying it. The Northern Territory, and New Guinea also, have been treated infinitely worse in the present budget than in that of the previous year. Australia is again repeating the tragic mistakes of the past in trusting to luck, and, on this occasion, to the Pacific Pact, that an aggressor, when it strikes again - I emphasize the word “ when “ - will somehow or other be prevented from occupying this country and destroying the Australian nation. It is seldom the good f ortune of men or nations to make the same mistake twice and get away with it. The view of the Government was expressed by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in the budget speech. The right honorable gentleman said -
Plainly the occasion calls for the most drastic and thoroughgoing review of public expenditure to determine what is irreducible and what is not. There ought to be a much better public understanding of this subject. Ou a number of occasions I have pointed out that a very large part of Commonwealth expenditure is irreducible because it is determined either by standing contracts as in the case of debt or by moral obligations to people who have served the country in war or who are in need of social aid. Nevertheless, as 1 have also said before, there are some areas of expenditure in which important savings can be made or in which, despite rising costs, expenditure can at least be prevented from increasing.
The Government has given special attention to three items. One is capital works and services. Like the States, the Commonwealth has a very large programme of works, some of which are of fundamental importance and each of which can in its own field be regarded as desirable. They include postal and telegraph facilities, civil aviation, the Snowy Mountains scheme, housing, and development in the territories.
In the opinion of the Treasurer, developmental works in the territories are not in the same category of importance as other works. That statement by the Treasurer is a national tragedy. The Government is acting in this way at a time when the Prime Minister is telling the Australian people that we have, at the outside, three years in which to prepare for possible war. Australia is being organized for war. That was the aim of the Defence Preparations Bill, which waa rushed through the Parliament during the last sessional period. The Government is going to tell the Parliament that defence is a matter only of guns and bullets. I disagree with that point of view.
I am certain that the aggressors that the Prime Minister has in mind are all to the north of Australia. If the right honorable gentleman’s appreciation of the situation be accurate, why is this Government not redoubling its efforts to create a bulwark of population in the north of Australia? To my mind, the Government’s policy does not make sense. We can assume that when the Prime Minister issued his warning he had in mind Russia, acting either alone or in conjunction with Communist China. As those powers are Asian powers, it would be natural to assume that they would constitute a threat in the Pacific and, therefore, a threat to Australia. In any event, we would have to depend largely upon our own resources for our defence. I have no faith in Japan as an ally. On the contrary, I feel that the rearming of Japan has added to the risks that we must face in the Pacific. Will Australia be so fortunate next time an aggressor knocks at its door? If we have only three years’ breathing space, what is being done to strengthen our naval and air forces along our northern coastline and in the islands to the north of Australia? In Darwin, there is only one Lincoln bomber and a single Dakota to patrol over 3,000 miles of coastline.
– It is like 1941.
– Yes. That is the position at a time when there are identified as well as unidentified vessels on the prowl in our northern waters. Only a few weeks ago a Japanese vessel was intercepted in the vicinity of Manus Island.
Is anything being done to strengthen the naval station at Darwin? A motor vessel was stationed there and was used to patrol the coast. It has since been taken away. I do not know whether it has been taken away only temporarily, but I feel that, in the circumstances, another vessel should have been sent in its place. It is useless for the Government to say that all the installations are there, ready to be manned at a moment’s notice. The facilities are not there. In an emergency, adequate wharfage accommodation would not be available for the Navy, and the position would be hopeless. A new wharf at Darwin was the subject of an inquiry by the Public Works Committee in 1948. On page 10 of the report that the committee presented to the Parliament, the following passage appears : -
Defence Requirements. - It is recognized that Darwin has been used extensively for defence purposes, and, having a fine harbour which is the only suitable one for many purposes in that part of Australia, its value must be preserved for the future. A great amount of money has been spent on Naval installations in Darwin, and the Boom Depot, developed during the war, will continue to be an essential establishment to be maintained. Naval authorities desire wharfage facilities at Darwin, and have indicated the necessity for a modern wharf which will be constructed in such a way that it will be of use for Naval craft using the harbour from time to time.
A military force will always be required in Darwin and its supplies will have to be brought mainly by boat to the port. Although the original figures of the personnel to be established in Darwin have been considerably reduced, the presence of troops in the area is essential, and they will form part of a defence service which is regarded as important at thic point. It is important from a defence point of view, therefore, that a serviceable wharf shall be available.
Condition of Present Wharfs. - Probably the most important reason which makes a new wharf necessary is the state of the present wharfs in Darwin. The town jetty, repaired after the Japanese bombing, has been maintained to cater for the ships which have to use the port, but it will not last many more years. Use of this wharf at the present time is* also made dangerous by the presence of the wreck of the Neptuna only a few feet away from the head of the pier where ships have to berth. There is also a lack of handling facilities on the wharf, and this is stated to aggravate the position and add to the time taken in discharging cargoes.
The timber jetty is badly damaged by th, ravages of marine organisms, and it is estimated that it will not last more than approximately another two years. This jetty is being repaired, as well as it is possible to do 30, with the object of using it while the proposed new wharf is being constructed.
The engineers take a very serious view of the position and state that the existing wharfs are deteriorating rapidly and cannot remain serviceable much longer, while further delay could well result in the port facilities becoming inoperable before the new wharf can be completed.
The Committee is convinced, therefore, that a new wharf is essential and should be constructed as soon as possible.
– What is the Government doing?
– It has shelved the project, which was considered to be urgent before the present tension in international relations became apparent. There was no war in Korea at that time and Japan had not been handed back its guns, loaded. If that work was then considered to be urgent, how much more urgent must it be to-day? Yet we learn that the Government has shelved the proposal indefinitely on the score of economy and that it intends to patch up the old timber wharf that was condemned in no uncertain terms by the Public Works
– The Government is not sincere.
– I agree with the honorable member. If it were sincere it would not allow the expenditure of a few pounds to prevent it from improving port facilities at Darwin as a defence measure.
Let us consider some other aspects of the budget. The total vote for the Northern Territory is £2,091,000, or £344,752 greater than the expenditure for 1950-51. In statement No. 4, which was referred to by the Treasurer in his budget speech, the following notation regarding estimated expenditure in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory appears : -
This expenditure relates to. the general works, health and miscellaneous services in Northern Territory and in the Australian Capital Territory. The increased expenditure for Northern Territory is due to higher salary and wage costs, higher costs of supplies and some, extension of activities.
Because of increased costs there will be little, if any, extension of activities in the Northern Territory above the level of the previous year. From time to time during the last two years the Government has issued statements that would lead one to believe that it was about to embark upon extensive agricultural schemes in the northern areas of the territory that were certain of success and had been given the blessing of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. If production of tobacco, rice, peanuts and cotton were undertaken in selected areas, satisfactory results would be assured from a defence, as well as an economic, point of view. It appears, however, that these projects are jeopardized, because the Government will not make available the requisite money to assure their success.
– It is spending the money on the big cities.
– That is so. We have been told that, as the result of the meat agreement recently concluded with the United Kingdom by the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) the meat industry in the Northern Territory is to be expanded. In the explanatory notes included in statement No. 4, under the heading “ Encouragement of meat production “, the following statements appear: -
In order to increase exports of meat to the United Kingdom, the Government is pressing on with measures designed to stimulate the development of the pastoral industry in Northern Australia. The provision of new and improved facilities for the movement of cattle both by road and stock route is proceeding in the Northern Territory, in the Channel country of south-west Queensland and in the area serving the meat works at Wyndham, in Western Australia. The Governments of Queensland and Western Australia are responsible for the constructional work within their respective States and Commonwealth financial assistance is being afforded to them in accordance with the States Grants (Encouragement of Meat Production) Act 1949. Payments under the act are estimated nt £310,000 in 1951-52 as compared With £315,000 in 1950-51.
Here again less money is to be made available this year than was provided last year. That fact, coupled with rising costs, must mean that substantially less work will be done this year than was done last year. I ask honorable members to visualize how far an amount of £310,000 will go in the construction of roads and the provision of stock route facilities over an area of 500,000 square miles. If any worthwhile expansion of the meat industry is to take place, the Government will have to build railways. There is no substitute for railways in areas such as the Barkly Tableland, which I regard as one of the best cattle-raising areas in Australia. Likewise, the north-west area of the Northern Territory will not be developed until rail transport -has been made available. Railways, together with small holdings, will eventually enable meat production to be lifted to worthwhile levels. While roads might meet present demands they do not provide the answer to the problem of shifting large numbers of cattle over long distances to treatment works and fattening areas in other centres.”
While on the subject of railways I ask the Government to make special efforts to bring the existing railways in the Northern Territory to a state of efficiency. The central Australia railway and the north Australia railway which play :an important part in our economy are in a bad state. The permanent way and rolling-stock, especially locomotives, are far from efficient. Rail and shipping freights in the Northern Territory arc causing concern, and it is believed that if action is not taken to stabilize them by the payment of subsidy the cost of living in the Territory will be so high that people will be forced to go back to the cities. I am aware that certain freight subsidies are being paid at present. For instance, I understand that £500,000 is being set aside to subsidize the haulage of coal from Leigh Creek to Adelaide. I ask the Government to extend a similar concession ,to rail and shipping freights on basic commodities in the Northern Territory so that the people of the north may be placed on a footing comparable to that of the people of the south.
I also appeal to the Treasurer to apply to pensions paid to residents of north Australia the principle that applies to income tax levied on them. During the regime of the Chifley Government the zone system was introduced for income tax purposes. Zones A and B were established by that Government which recognized the fact that people living in those zones were at a disadvantage compared with those who live in other areas. As that principle has been recognized in relation to income tax it should be extended to cover pensions paid to- residents of north Australia. Men .and women who have given the best years of their lives in ‘pioneering Australia’s frontiers should not be placed at a disadvantage compared with pensioners who live in the south. The adoption of the principle that I have outlined would be one way of overcoming that disadvantage. [ conclude by warning the Government that, by neglecting those opportunities in the north, it is imperilling the future of Australia.
.- Notwithstanding that this is an excellent budget and is recognized as such by an ever-increasing number of responsible people, and also that it is a “budget of many parts, it is still not possible for one to discuss it at this late stage of the debate without being open to the accusation that one is indulging in tedious repetition. I propose, therefore, to skirt round it and to deal with certain factors associated with it.
In this debate, Government supporters have actually reversed all the accepted principles of defence in that they are defending vigorously something that has not been effectively attacked. That might he described as a magnanimous gesture on the part of the Government, in that it is thereby giving to the Opposition an opportunity .to re-establish the prestige that it. lost during a recent campaign in this country. We are pretending that there is a case to answer. All honorable members will agree that the statements of members of the Opposition during this debate have shown that they do not appreciate that act of generosity. A budget of £1,000,000,000 must have been designed to accomplish certain purposes. Among those are the halting of the inflationary trend, putting value back into the £1, and restoring the economy to that stability which is essential if we are to get the benefit of the present prosperity. The position was aptly put by a world traveller who recently returned to Australia when he said that Australia had an “ inflation complex “ ; that Australians had the jitters about something that does not exist with anything like the severity that distinguishes it in other -countries of the world.
The increase of sales tax is regarded by people who never look below the surface as being inflationary rather than deflationary in effect. The system of inoculation against disease is well known to all soldiers and world travellers, who are inoculated with a mild form of the. disease against which protection is re: quired. In like manner this budget is designed to condition the country for the cure. I repeat that an ever-increasing number of responsible people who know what they are talking about have had a second look at the budget and are now saying that it will halt the upward trend of inflation.
– How soon?
– A little too soon for the honorable gentleman. If .such, a programme is to benefit all it must -of necessity hurt somebody. Because it is hot in human nature for any person to view such, matters dispassionately and to detach his thinking from his personal interests, the people naturally look to the Opposition for a critical examination of the budget, designed to prove that it is unnecessarily harsh - designed to prove, in effect, that it is possible to eat a cake and still have it. The most charitable view that we can take of the Opposition’s conduct of this debate is that it has been an inglorious failure. Honorable members opposite damn the budget with faint praise because they can see in it something almost as severe as was visualized by the late Mr. Chifley last year when he condemned the Government’s efforts to halt inflation as piffling and lacking in courage. At that time he envisaged something more severe than this budget as being needed to meet the position. Heaven knows what the budget would have been like had he had the handling of the financial affairs of the country now. From the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) down to his humblest, unhappy follower have come speeches during this debate that have been singularly lacking in realism and that were completely off the trail. The only exception was the speech of the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who tried to be critical and to follow the Labour party pattern, but was unable to do so. Something prevented him. Possibly he was a little too honest. He actually gave the budget his blessing. He said, in effect, that no government worth its salt could have done other than the Government has done. He intimated that what the Government has done should have been done before.
– No, he did not.
– Later, I shall tell the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) a little about what he himself said, and he may not relish it much. The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) was the most realistic of all honorable members opposite whom I have heard in this debate. His speech was the most acceptable as far as constructive criticism was concerned.
The Leader of the Opposition began his speech by characterizing the budget as a blue-print for depression. I hope he will never suffer a physical depression equal to the mental depression that I suffered while listening to him. Perhaps he has forgotten that there are 160,000 jobs waiting to be filled and that there is now more money in this country than there has been ever before in its history. His speech was clearly designed to cause panic and, in my view, was an ignoble, dishonest attempt to mislead the people. His effort was no doubt inspired by a recent success that he gained by using similar tactics of mass deception and the lowest possible kind of political chicanery. In his speech he did not put the issues before the people, but indulged in party politics clear and unashamed.
But the Opposition is nothing if not versatile. The next Opposition speaker who followed the right honorable gentleman was the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), who took a diametrically opposite view to that of his leader. His speech, in effect, cancelled his leader’s speech. He said, in effect, that the budget was a blue-print for inflation, and anybody who was listening to him in the chamber would have noticed that he was so distressed at the thought of the lid blowing off while hewas speaking that it would probably take him a week to recover. I am pleased to note that he is convalescing and is back on the job again. Those points of view were poles apart and were so utterly fantastic that the public sought for the mean between the two extremes. That mean is in the budget, which has not so far been challenged effectively in any of the speeches that I have heard. The Opposition has evinced so far a wholesome fear that the budget will accomplish the purpose for which it has been designed. Their theme song about putting value back into the £1 will be lost to them, and their political sands will recede still further into the remote distance of the future. So, with their usual versatility, they have another theme song in the making, the burden of which concerns popcorn, beer and “ robbing the kids “. The last reference is to the increase of sales tax on ice cream. It is difficult to believe that a budget that involves more than £1,000,000,000 can evoke no stronger condemnation from a parliamentary Opposition than its possible effect on popcorn. Have honorable members opposite who harp so much upon the effect that this budget will have on the price of icecream and beer ever studied the factors that, caused the decline of dairying and the consequent severe butter shortage? Do they know that since the record butter production of the year 1939-40, when the output reached 211,000 tons, no less than 100,000,000 additional gallons of milk are going each year into the manufacture of ice-cream and other side lines? If this Government could do nothing more than re-divert one-third or one-quarter of that quantity of milk back to butter production, it would do much to arrest the decline of the output of this very necessary food.
We are threatened with a new evil. It has been mentioned by two or three honorable members opposite. The latestauthority to warn us about it is Mr. Colin Clark, a noted economist with a worldwide reputation. Mr. Clark said recently that we were “ faced with hunger ahead “. This country was threatened by a food shortage because secondary industries were being expanded at the cost of primary industries, and we were about to pay the price. Mr. Clark suggested that if men could be diverted from secondary industries back to primary production avc should be on the road to recovery. That is not the answer. The trouble is much too deeply rooted to yield to such a simple remedy. It may be possible to get men away from secondary industries but, to get them back into primary industries would be another problem altogeher.
I shall endeavour to give to the committee an idea of the real economic disease from which we are suffering. One of the delegates to the recent economic conference held in Sydney was a certain Dr. Ryan, who, whan asked to state his opinion of the proceedings, summed up the conference by saying that he was astounded by the spirit of co-operation that had been shown at the meeting and the willingness of everybody to do everything possible to help - so long as somebody else had to make the sacrifices. That sums up very well the disease from which we are suffering - selfishness to a degree never before reached in this country or perhaps in the whole world. This condition has been brought about by several factors, the chief of which is the effect of the war years on the young generation then growing up. For six years or more thousands of young men did not even have to think for themselves. That was done for them, and unfortunately it was done frequently by men who were le3.= capable of thinking than they themselves were. Members of that generation were completely ruined. To-day, they lack initiative and the push necessary to develop a competence for themselves. They depend on the “ gimme “ approach, which of course, is the approach favoured by honorable members opposite. Recently I read an article in the press which stated that Australia had a “gimme” complex. There is certainly no lack of advocates of the “ gimme “ technique in this Parliament. The theme that has run through the speeches of honorable members opposite in this debate has been that of “ gimme more of everything”; yet they have sought to condemn the Government because of the size of the budget! The problem is psychological rather than physical. It is a matter of changing the attitude of the’ Australian people and not merely of diverting workers to employment that they do not want. We must endeavour to engender a new national consciousness and to recapture the co-operative spirit for the greater good of all.
There are obstacles in the way of such an achievement. The first is the false and unsavoury doctrine of communism which enjoys the patronage and protection of the Australian Labour party. Secondly, there is the equally false and unsavoury doctrine of socialism which is embraced by the Australian Labour party, and ‘which has brought, the Mother Country and the Empire practically to their knees; and thirdly, there is the attitude of the Labour party itself. Honorable members opposite consistently propagate the belief that State ownership of everything will usher in their conception of the Millennium, that blissful state in which nobody will accept responsibility for anything that goes wrong but will immediately blame somebody else. That is the socialist heaven that the Australian Labour party hopes to inflict on this country at some future date. Those three obstacles prevent us’ from getting the co-operation that is so necessary if we are to avert the catastrophe envisaged by Mr. Colin Clark. The Communists, the Socialists, and members of the Labour party all support the triple evil of go-slowism, a darg which is a limitation of output, and the doctrine of class hatred.
Australians are naturally co-operative and unwilling to recognize class distinctions, but as long as one major political body in this country depends for its success at elections on widening the gulf of class distinction and class hatred, we shall never have the co-operation that is necessary to raise food production or even to provide the materials that are necessary for the production of food. The Communists make no pretence of being other than what the world knows them to be. They have a straightforward policy which they make no attempt to hide. Their aim is’ to destroy the economy of every country in which they work, and they acknowledge no responsibility to any government or any nation that harbours them. But at least there is some honesty in them. We all know what they are and what we have to look for in them.
It is idle for the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) to boast ‘ that only the Labour party has tackled communism. The Labour party has never touched the Communists. What remedy did the Labour Government seek when it was challenged by the Communists during the big coal strike in 1949 ? Labour’s remedy was to operate the open-cut mines with Army and Navy labour and to leave the “Commos” alone. The “ Commos “ were still at liberty and free to carry on their disruptive work when the coalminers went back to work. It is true that certain Communists were gaoled by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but that was not the work of the Labour Government. The continued reiteration of Labour’s claim to have dealt with the Communists makes people sick. The
Labour Government released the Communists from the bondage into which they had been placed by a previous Administration, and let them remain at liberty to continue their nefarious work.
The- Communists are incurring all the odium while they act as the spearhead of the Socialists attack on society as we know it. If that is borne in mind one will understand the activities of the Leader of the Opposition. As long as the Communists do the Socialists’ job the Labour party will keep its hands off them. As a result of the activities of the Labour party the Communists are still free to disrupt industry, destroy defence and halt all forma of production and progress in this country. I congratulate the Communists, not on their victory but on their power and the initiative that they showed in selecting the supine tools that they used to achieve their victory. By the use of political chicanery those tools induced the Australian people to vote at the recent referendum politically against the Menzies Government and not against communism. That is why the Communists are still free to do as they will. The hypocritical talk by Opposition members concerning what they have done to oppose communism makes people tired.
The Australian Labour party is not averse to causing a panic, if, by doing so, it can derive benefit therefrom. The answer to the allegations of Opposition members concerning government borrowing is that this year it has been proposed to raise £225,000,000 in loan moneys for the States compared with £169,000,000 that was raised last year. The fact that it has been considered likely that it will be beyond the capacity of the loan market to provide all the funds required by the Government is responsible for the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) having budgeted for a surplus of £114,500,000.. That amount is intended to meet so much of the loan requirements as cannot be met by the loan market. There has been loose talk by irresponsible people concerning the lack of confidence of- the loan market in the Government. People have never enjoyed the prosperity that they enjoy to-day. The comparisons that have been made of the present loan raisings with the amount of money borrowed by the Chifley Government are no less odious than were other comparisons that I have heard made by honorable -members of the Opposition. During the term of office of the Chifley Government not one loan was fully subscribed. Each loan was filled by the use of bank credit because the Government did not dare to disclose the fact that loans were not fully subscribed. As it was war-time the then Opposition approved of that procedure. “While the Chifley Government was in office there was no other outlet for the investment of money than government loans. There was no confidence in the prospects of industry. People never knew when the blighting hand of communism would take toll of them in the same way as the Socialists endeavoured to force municipal councils to hank where instructed.
The honorable member for East Sydney characterized the recent treaty with Japan as treacherous to Australia. This statement was in accord with the timedishonoured practice of ascribing to other people that of which we ourselves are guilty. He reiterated that no soldier should leave Australia and he reiterated his .abhorrence of universal training. Any man who, “knowing of the devastation that has been wrought in countries that have been a battleground, says that no man should be allowed to try to divert such a catastrophe from his country, is a traitor to his country. The honorable member’s speech bordered on the seditious and traitorous. He voiced a contention which other honorable members have foolishly supported concerning the rearmament of Japan. I favour Japan’s arming to the hilt internally to defend itself.
– That is because the honorable member is a traitor to Australia.
– I am not a traitor to Australia. I am answering potential traitors. If Japan were refused the- right to rearm and was attacked by “ red “ aggressors, Australia and its allies would be obliged to go to its defence and would have the humiliation of seeing their manpower and equipment smashed to pieces in the process. If the honorable member for East Sydney had his way, the
Japanese would .be left without any means of defending themselves against -the Communists.
– I should not give them the opportunity to renew their attack on Australia.
– ‘Order-! There are too many interjections.
– I believe that Japan should be prevented from re-establishing its navy and huge maritime forces but I consider that it should be allowed to have every means of defending itself on the land. The Japanese should be enabled to defend ‘themselves. We do not want to have to do that for them.
There are several other aspects of this subject on which I should like to speak but I think that I could deal with them more effectively on another occasion. The Government is not building up the country’s armed forces for war. It is building them up if or defence against the “reds” who want war. Why do Opposition members oppose universal training? Because the only possible enemy is the “ red “ enemy. Any man who, by opposing national service training, invites an enemy to come here and make a battleground of Australia, is a traitor to this country.
– I was astounded at the concluding remarks of ‘the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). He implied that the Labour party would not support the sending of troops outside Australia in order to defend this country. I remind the committee that the only Australian government that has ever directed men to go beyond our shores in order to defend Australia was the Curtin Labour Government. The honorable member for Gippsland referred to the islands to the north of Australia. The Curtin Government extended to those islands thearea in which a man could he directed to serve.
– Those who went know better than does the honorable member for Port Adelaide.
– I strongly supported Mr. Curtin’s action. Neither the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) nor the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who succeeded the right honorable member for Kooyong as Prime Minister in 1941, had the courage to compel the Militia to serve outside the Australian mainland. Therefore honorable members opposite should not try to make the people believe that they are the most concerned about the defence of this country. The honorable member for Gippsland stated that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was trying to put something over the people of this country, and he endeavoured to link the Australian Labour party with the Australian Communist party. I realize that this was done extensively by honorable members on the Government side during the general election campaign and, although not accepted by the workers generally, some people, no doubt, belived that totally untrue statement.
The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) referred to the Government’s promise to reduce taxation and stated that it had, in fact, done so. I shall not bandy words, but’ shall compare the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for 1951-52, with actual revenue and expenditure in 1950-51. In 1950-51 individuals paid income tax amounting to £177,463,682. It is estimated that in this financial year the revenue from this source will aggregate £419,500,000.
– On bigger incomes;
– I shall deal with that aspect of the matter in a minute. Actual revenue from company taxation in 1950-51 was £90,535,659, compared with estimated revenue this financial year from this source of £135,000,000. In order to present this matter in its true perspective I point out that the estimated revenue for 195.1-52 from the social services contribution will be £7,500,000, compared with actual revenue in 1950-51 from this source of £73,958,472. Therefore, the net increase of taxes on .individuals will be about £178,000,000. A moment ago an honorable member implied by interjection that increased taxes would he paid by individuals in this financial year because bigger incomes are being received. However, I point out that the wool-growers received higher prices for their clip last year than are being received this year. Although supporters of the Government claim that it has in fact reduced taxes, from the figures that I have cited it is apparent that the estimated revenue from income tax in 1951-52 is more than double the actual revenue from that source in 1950-51.
At the commencement of this debate several honorable members outlined what they considered a budget should do. T consider that the first essential is that the Government should prepare a statement of the expenditure estimated to be necessary to carry on the affairs of the country for the financial year. The second essential is that it should determine how the revenue necessary to .meet that expenditure can be obtained equitably from the people of the country. Expenditure falls under two main heads, namely, administration, and defence. The Treasurer has stated that the Government proposes to increase income tax by 30 per cent. One after another, honorable members opposite have sought to justify the proposed increase by comparing the taxes that will be payable by an individual in this country in receipt of an income of £500 a year with the taxes payable by persons in receipt of a similiar income in Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand. I do not believe that the Government has fully considered the incidence of income tax in this country. In the past it has been generally conceded that a family man in receipt of the basic wage should be exempt from the payment of income tax. Although the basic wage has risen considerably during the last two years, the basic starting point for the payment of income tax has not been altered. The result is that the basic wage earner is now taxed more heavily than he was formerly.
I shall refer honorable members to the figures contained in comparative statements of income tax and social services contribution- that have been circulated. For the purpose of illustration I shall refer to a person without dependants who received an income last financial year of £400, or slightly less than £8 a week. Owing to the increased cost of living, that person would now be receiving probably more than £10 a week. However, on an income . of £400 last financial year he paid combined income tax and social ser.vies contribution of £22 10s. The proposed tax and contribution payable by such a person without dependants, in receipt of £500 a year, is £39 9s., because of the 10 per cent, increase and the increase of the basic wage by approximately £2 a week. Consider a man without dependants who works, in a boilermaker’s shop or a carpenter’s shop and is paid a few pounds more than the basic wage. If his income last year waa £500 he would have paid £35 17s. in income tax and social services contribution. With the increase of the basic wage by approximately £2 a week, under the present taxation proposals, instead of paying that sum he will he required to pay £56 16s.
The impact of the increase of the cost of living has been felt by a man with dependants more than by a man without dependants. The Government has not made provision for that fact in its taxation proposals. A man with a wife and two children whose income last year was £400 and whose income has been increased this year through basic wage rises approximately to £500 will pay income tax of £9 Ils. as against £2 8s. last year. A tradesman with a wife and two children who got £500 last year and paid £8 14s. in income tax will pay this year on the £600 to which his income has been raised by the £2 a week basic wage increase £20 14s. Therefore, it will be clearly seen that as the number of a man’s dependants increases so does his income tax increase. I hope that the Taxation Branch will take note of my criticism because the past practice, at least while a Labour government was in office, was to graduate taxation so that it should bear less heavily on married men with dependent children than on others who had lighter burdens to bear. The net taxation impost has been increased by 100 per cent, and the bulk of that increase will have to he paid by taxpayers with dependants.
I am not much concerned about arguing the case of the taxpayers who receive large incomes because they have their own taxpayers associations and taxation experts who can argue for them. I am more concerned with the lower in come earners who have nobody to speak for them. However, consider now the case of a taxpayer whose income was £2,000 last year and will be £4,000 this year. Last year he paid £426 in income tax and this year he will pay £1,550. This means that £1,124 of the additional £2,000 will be taken from him in extra tax. I shall leave that to Government supporters to deal with because in general they represent such taxpayers. The men who elected me to the Parliament do noi earn £4,000 a year; they earn £400 or £500. They are the ones that I am most concerned about. These taxation proposals place an undue burden on the family man.
I turn now to indirect taxation. The matter of increased sales tax on ice cream and popcorn has been treated with some levity. I know that a lot of ice cream is bought by people who will not miss the amount charged to cover the tax, but many people will not be able to buy ice cream and popcorn because they will not have the money to do so. Many a child who looks forward to ice cream as a great treat will have to go without it. However, I shall not deal with that matter. I am more concerned about sales tax on more important items. When the present members of the Government were sitting on this side of the chamber, they were the strongest opponents of indirect taxation. On every possible occasion they advocated its reduction. I remember when the late Mr. Chifley decreased direct taxation. At that time honorable members now on the Government side asked, “ What is the Government going to do a.bout indirect, taxation?”. The budget of to-day indicates an approach which is the direct opposite of the Government parties’ approach to this matter when they were, in opposition. Before this Government achieved office, its members were continually asking the Labour Government to do something about what they called “hidden taxation”, which they said was immoral and wrong. To-day we heard, from an honorable member on the Government side that the Government had done a praise-worthy thing when it had introduced a simplified system of taxation by means of which the taxpayer could calculate his own tax. We were not told that the Government, after taking that forward step, had taken a backward step through its indirect taxation. Recently I read reports in the press that the United States of America intended to adopt a form of indirect taxation similar to that in force in Australia. Yet in the past members of the Government have argued that that is the wrong method to adopt and that a different system should be used.
The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) recently spoke in this chamber on the subject of pensions. I am disappointed with the action taken by this Government in connexion with amelioration of the means test. One honorable member opposite has stated that within the next twelve months he hopes to see a certain scheme brought forward. I know that several honorable members opposite believe that a contributory scheme should be in operation. I remind them that in 1937 a Liberal government introduced in this Parliament legislation designed to give effect to a scheme of national insurance. That legislation was passed by the Parliament, and the Government of the day then had an opportunity to introduce such a scheme, but it lacked the courage to do so. I have heard honorable members opposite state that the Opposition of that time was opposed to the legislation, but I point out that the Government had the necessary voting strength to ensure its passage and that, although the necessary legislation was enacted, the act was never put into operation. In 1949 the members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party said to the people, “Return us to office and we will ease the means test, so that every one in the community will receive a fair deal “. Practically nothing has been done since that time to ameliorate the means test.
During the recent debate on the Social Services Consolidation Bill, I pointed out that the proposal to permit a. person to own £1,000 worth of property without being disqualified from pension rights -merely follows other increases of pensions that have been made. When payment of pensions first commenced, the property limitation was £400.
The Australian Labour party raised that amount to £650, because of the enhanced values of properties. The Government has failed to amend the provision that an applicant for a pension may have £100 which is not taken into consideration. The Australian Labour party raised the amount from £50 to £100 and I contend that when the present Government increased, the property limitation from £750 to £1,000 the figure of £100 should have been increased also. If the Government wishes progressively to ease the means test and thereby to help old people who have been trying to put aside something for their old age, I suggest that the figure of £100 should be raised to £500, or to £200 if it is not possible to raise it to £500. I also suggest that instead of deducting £2 for every £10 of capital in excess of £450 the deduction should be £1 for every £10. I have received letters from people in the various States of the Commonwealth informing me that although they are not supporters of the Australian Labour party, and in fact vote for the Liberal party, they believe that the proposals I have previously made in this Parliament coincide with their views. The honorable member for Gippsland spoke to-night of class consciousness and claimed that members of the Australian Labour party sought to raise the matter of class in the minds of the people. I am pleading, not for those who are right down at the bottom and have no money at all but for those who are affected by the application of the means test. If the Government wishes to honour the promise that it made concerning the means test, it should not let the position drift.
The honorable member for Gippsland also referred to the estimated revenue envisaged in the budget proposals and to government loans. I remind honorable members, opposite that if the Government wishes to remain in office it should look after the people who elected it to office. I suggest that they are not members of the Liberal party or of the Australian Country party but are the 10 per cent., of the voting population which owes no definite allegiance to any political party. They support one party or another when they consider that they should swing away from the party in office. I remind’ honorable members opposite that that 10 per cent, is gradually diminishing and that if the Government is not prepared to do something to relieve the plight of the pensioners the Australian Labour party will be left to do it.
Some time ago many people invested in Commonwealth loans at 3 J per cent, interest and were informed, by means of advertisements, that they could always cash their bonds. Recently I was in a banch of the Savings Bank at Port Adelaide and discussed with the manager the subject of loans. He told me .that people were going to the bank and wanting to cash £100 bonds. They had said to him, “ We were told that we could always cash these bonds for face value if we wanted to do so “. He informed me that he did not seem able to make them understand that they could get only what somebody else would pay for the bonds. All honorable members no doubt appreciate that people who have money to invest thoroughly investigate the value over the whole period and not just at the moment of the security that they propose to purchase. This Government is losing the support of many people who thought that they could depend upon it. I trust that any government will always be able to secure the amount of loan money that it requires, but if this Government wishes to do so it must pull its sox up. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) himself has told us that he does not believe that the Government will be able to obtain all the loan money that it will require this year. He has said that £250.000,000 will” be required and that £100,000,000 will be taken from revenue from taxes. Just twelve months ago the right honorable gentleman said that instead of taking money from the revenue of the country to make it available for war service homes, such money would be raised by means of loans, which was the correct method to adopt. He criticized the Chifley Government for having obtained such money from revenue. Now he has gone in the opposite direction and has said, in effect, “ We shall do what Mr.
Chifley did. What we require for war service homes will be taken from the people by means of taxes and will not be raised by way of loans, because we want the loan money for other purposes “.
I now wish to refer to capital issues control. Here again the Government rejected the Chifley Government’s controls but has now returned to that procedure.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I direct the Government’s attention to conditions that have arisen at the Repatriation Hospital at Dawes-road, Springbank, as a result of the retrenchment of a number of the staff at that institution. During last week-end an ex-patient of the hospital approached me and made several allegations concerning the curtailment of services at that hospital. Yesterday, accompanied by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), 1 visited the hospital and spoke to many of the patients, who asked me to urge the Government to inquire into the conditions to which I have referred. They pointed out that prior to the dismissal of a number of orderlies, patients were served with a cup of tea at 5.45 o’clock each morning. That service has been stopped, because one orderly is now obliged to look after two wards whereas, previously, one orderly was available to look after each ward. I trust that I shall not be told that, that morning tea service has been discontinued on the ground that it is not desirable to disturb patients at such an hour. Such a reply would not he convincing, because patients have been disturbed at an even earlier hour for the purpose of having their temperature taken.
Prior to the recent dismissal of staff, patients who were bedridden always had a bowl of water placed on the table alongside their bed to enable them to rinse their hands and wash their faces before having breakfast. Now, only two bowls of water are taken to each ward, with the result that many of the patients are denied that facility. One patient, who is bedridden and is unable to obtain water for himself, told me that he had been able to rinse his hands and wash his face before breakfast on only one occasion during the last six days. I make it clear that the routine sponge-down is still carried out at a later hour each day.
The third complaint made to me was that many patients have been deprived of the opportunity to learn handicrafts such as doll-making, leatherware, basketwork, &c, because, as a result of the dismissals that were made recently, the occupational therapy section, known as O.T.2, has been closed down. The staff of that section, which consisted of five skilled women, including an ex-servicewoman, has been dismissed. It is intended that in future occupational therapy shall be confined to tuberculosis patients, psychiatric cases and patients who are expected to be inmates for an unusually long period. As a result of the dismissal of that staff a large number of patients is now denied occupational therapy treatment. These have expressed keen disappointment at the discontinuance of the treatment, and the wish that the treatment be restored. Approximately fifteen orderlies have received notices of dismissal. They include a number of ex-servicemen, one of whom is a veteran of two world wars. At the same time, the services of new Australians on the staff have been retained. Whilst a typist on the office staff, who is an ex- Wren, received notice of dismissal, a new Australian typist was retained.
I wish to make it perfectly clear that I am not criticizing the staff of the hospital. In fact, the whole of the hospital personnnel, including doctors, nurses, and members of general staffs, are deserving of praise for the work that they have done in the past. They canpride themselves on the fact that in the past they provided a service at the Dawes-road Hospital that was not excelled at any other repatriation hospital. However, following the recent dismissals, the remaining staff is overworked. I urge the Government not to cause suffer ing and discomfort to patients at that hospital because of the dismissal of staff. Those who have been retrenched should be re-engaged immediately in order to give to inmates the standard of treatment that they enjoyed in the past. The Government should, first, restore the early morning tea service to each patient; secondly, supply a bowl of water to each patient to enable him to rinse his hands and wash his face before breakfast ; and, thirdly, re-open the occupational therapy section that has been closed. Surely, that is not too much to ask the Government to do in the interests of exservice personnel who were prepared to give their all in the defence of this country. All the patients at that hospital are very much concerned about these matters. They expressed confidence that once these complaints had been brought to the notice of the Parliament, honorable members as a whole would support the requests that I have just made on their behalf.
– in reply - The matters that the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) has raised are of great importance to the patients on whose behalf he has made his representations. I am not in a position to comment upon those matters. I shall bring them to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who, I haveno doubt, will ascertain the facts and advise the honorable member of the result of his investigation.
Question resolved in the affirmative
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes -
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Eagle Farm, Queensland.
Papua and New Guinea Act - Ordinance- 1951 - No. 30 - Arms, Liquor and Opium Prohibition (Papua).
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department
Repatriation - E. A. Philips.
Supply - L. H. Norton.
Works and Housing - F. J. Allen, J. D. Edwards, G. E. Parlett.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Art - Canberra University College - Report for 1950.
War Service Homes Act - Annual Report for year 1950-51.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
How many ships operated in the Australian whaling industry during the season just concluding?
What personnel was engaged?
What was the initial cost of establishing the industry?
How many whales were caught in the season just concluding!
What will be the total income from the catch?
Six. These comprised three catcher boats operated by the Australian Whaling Commission and three by Nor-West Whaling Company Limited.
Total personnel (including sea-going, shore and administrative staffs) employed by the Australian Whaling Commission was 195. The Nor-West Whaling Company Limited is a private organization, details of whose personnel are not known by the Commonwealth Government.
The total cost of establishing the shore station at Babbage Island (near Carnarvon), Western Australia, purchase of catcher boats, it,., for the Australian Whaling Commission, is approximately £1,000,000. The Commonwealth has no direct knowledge of the costs incurred by the Nor-West Whaling Company Limited in establishing its venture at Point Cloates, Western Australia.
The Australian Whaling Commission caught its full quota for the season of 650 whales; the Nor-West Whaling Company Limited had caught 574 whales up to the 13th October, and it is understood ceased operations on the 15th October, but the final catch is not yet available.
Estimated gross income for the season by Australian Whaling Commission, £950,000. The Commonwealth has no knowledge of the estimated income of the Nor-West Whaling Company Limited. postal Department.
When does the lease of the unofficial post office at Yamba, New South Wales, expire?
Has the Government the right to terminate the lease at an earlier date; if so, under what conditions?
Has the owner of the land and building, Mr. S. J. Brown, been given any financial assistance by the Government in the construction of the building?
Is the post office business conducted by Mr. Brown; if so, under what conditions?
The 1st August, 1954.
What is the number of public servants retrenched from the Postmaster-General’s Department to the 30th September, in Brisbane and Queensland respectively in the following categories: - (a) Line staff; (b) Technical staff ; (c) Postal officers; (d) Postal assistants (mail) and postal assistants; (e) Cleaning staff; (f) Telephonists; (g) Temporary clerks, assistants, typists and account machine operators and (h) tradesmen?
Will be give consideration to the question of devising means, with appropriate safeguards on rc-sale, by which motor cars purchased for genuine use as hire cars by the Canberra Hire Car Proprietors ‘Association and other operators can bc placed on the 12) per cent, sales tax rate which applies to other vehicles used as a means of livelihood, including utilities used as taxi trucks?
It would not bc practicable to consider a reduction of the rate of sales tax on motor ears for use as hire cars or taxi-cabs without giving equal consideration to the claims of persons such as commercial travellers, photographers, architects and other business or professional men who find it necessary to use motor cars either wholly or in gome degree for the purposes of their businesses or professions. If a reduced rate of tax were applied in all such cases, the effect on revenue would be considerable and the difficulties of policing would be very great. In these circumstances, I can hold out no hope of any reduction, at the present time, of the rate of tax payable in respect of motor cars for the purposes mentioned.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 October 1951, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511023_reps_20_214/>.