20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., andread prayers.
– by leave - My attention has been drawn to the fact that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in the course of debate yesterday made a suggestion, or allegation, that there had been some leakage of information from the Government in respect of import licensing controls and he implied, quite directly, that the leakage had come from me and that it had proceeded to David Jones Limited, the head of that company, Sir Charles Lloyd Jones, as’ is well known, being a personal friend of mine. Normally, charges made from the source to which I have referred would warrant little attention in this House, although they get some publicity elsewhere; but I believe that it is very necessary when such a charge is made against the head of the Government that I should take the first opportunity to say - indeed, I would not need to Bay it to any other member of this House - that the states ment is entirely untrue.
Like many other honorable members, I have the pleasure of the friendship of Sir Charles Lloyd Jones, and I have great respect for him. He is a fine man. I do not think that I have had any conversation, or communication, with him directly, or indirectly, for some months. I certainly had no communication with him on this subject except, ironically enough,, one. It was on Thursday, the 6th March, on which day Cabinet after protracted sessions decided upon the import restriction controls and gave instructions there and then to the Commonwealth Rank that it should place an embargo upon the issue of any further letters of credit so that the new arrangement might bc put into force at once without undue gossip or warning. Immediately after that took place I left with the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown), as that honorable member will recall, on a long journey from Melbourne which involved considerable travelling in the country. I subsequently received from Sir Charles Lloyd J ones a letter which I have before me and which, apparently arrived in my office on the afternoon of the 6th March after the Cabinet’s decision had been taken. That letter, far from seeking information, set out to give me some because Sir Charles quite tersely offered a variety of reasons why it would be a great blunder to impose further import restrictions. He referred to a leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald, and told me that he agreed heartily with it, and disagreed just as heartily with the introduction of import licensing. That is curious conduct for a man who, as has been suggested by the honorable member for East Sydney, had already been given warning by me thathe had better “whip in “ and arrangehis letters of credit.
I have stated that this charge is completely false; but I am becoming weary of these charges. Therefore, I find it necessary to ask the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) whether he associates himself with this charge.
– What rot!
– Not at all! Let the honorable member for East Sydney stand up to it.
– I am asking whether the Leader of the Opposition associates himself with this charge - not that I believe that he does, but I am asking him because . if he does, then I shall appoint a Royal Commission on one condition, which I think, is not an unreasonalle one. It is that if there is to be a Royal Commission into the charge made against me, as there was once a Royal Commission appointed by a former Prime Minister, the late Mr. Curtin- to investigate allegations coming from the same source, then on this occasion we are not to have the spectacle of the -man who makes the charges and smears the dirt under cover of privilege, going before the Royal Commission and, in a cowardly fashion, pleading privilege for what he said here, and therefore getting himself let out of the obligation of going on oath and being cross-examined. I will have no such farcical proceedings before a
Royal Commission. If there is to he one - and there will be one if the Leader of the Opposition asks for one - then it will be on the strict condition that there will be a waiver of privilege by the man who has made this foul charge, and tha! he, like myself, will go into the box, take the oath, and submit himself to the judgment of the Court.
– by leave - I believe that I should say at once that I did not know, and I do not think that any other honorable member of the Opposition knew, what was to be said by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Any of his statements or criticisms were made entirely on his own responsibility. I accept the Prime Minister’s own assurances to the House, and what he said, as the completely correct version of the fact3. I would not question it for one moment. I do that without any reservation at all. The only point which occurred to me was that the remarks and the criticisms of the honorable member for East Sydney really have nothing to do with the Prime Minister, and possibly and probably, nothing to do with Cabinet. I refer to the suggestion that there was a pre-knowledge of what was to be done in connexion with the import cuts. I do not ask for the appointment of a Royal Commission into that matter, but I consider that it is proper that the Government’s investigators should make inquiries with a view to ascertaining whether there is any sub stratum or basis for it.
– The newspapers had been full of rumours about the introduction of import cuts.
– It is perfectly true that for six weeks before the actual day, statements were published in newspapers about the imposition of import restrictions. 1 knew nothing about the matters under discussion until I heard of them yesterday. Summing up my views, I believe, first, that the honorable member for East Sydney is entitled to make his criticism on any aspect of government administration. That is his responsibility. Secondly, he made his statement last night on his own responsibility. Thirdly, I accept, without qualification, the Prime Minister’s own statements of the position so far as he has outlined it, but I ask the Government to examine the circumstances - a letter was mentioned in the course of the speech - to ascertain whether there is any basis for inquiry by Commonwealth investigators or anything of that kind. I think that I should make those statements, and I do not think that I should be called upon to say any more.
- leave - I was not here when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) commenced his statement, but evidently, ‘ he has not read what I did say in the House. I made no specific charge against the Prime Minister at all in regard to this matter and the right honorable gentleman has avoided the real subject-matter of my speech. The important thing for the Australian public to know is whether such a letter was written on behalf of David Jones Limited to the Department of Trade and Customs in Sydney, and whether tbe information that was given to me and which I related to the House is accurate or otherwise. My information is that a letter was received in the Department of Trade and Customs in Sydney, signed by the Manager of the Bank of Australia and IsTew Zealand, addressed from the Martin Place office of the bank, advising that letters of credit - irrevocable letters of credit - had been arranged on behalf of David Jones Limited, to the extent of £200,000 a month, and amounting in all to £2,400,000, expiring on the 5th of March, 1953. I think that honorable members will recognize that it is not a usual practice for letters of credit to be arranged so far ahead by a company such as David Jones Limited, and that if this was a departure from normal practice, it does lead to the suspicion that there was some pre-knowledge of what the Government intended to do. I merely say that some investigation should be made to determine whether the letter was written, whether it still exists, and whether the circumstances by which David Jones Limited got this information warrant examination.
If import restrictions are to be imposed, they should be imposed equitably and all firms should be treated on the same basis. I do not care what form of investigation the Prime Minister suggests should be made. That is immaterialto me, but I do -know -that, in this country to-day, there is a grave suspicion that, in the advancemeaj; of credit, certain interests are toeing favoured to the detriment of others. “ That matter . should not be allowed to rest where it is, and I invite the Prime Minister to mate the closest and completest examination of the points thai I have raised. If he will read statements thatI made last night, he will find that all that 1 suggested was that the right honorable gentleman was a particularly close friend of Sir Charles lloyd Jones, that he imade a practice, on his visits to §ydney, of visiting Sir Charles Lloyd Jones, that he accommodates Sir Charles Lloyd Jongs at the lodge in Canberra when official functions are being held, that he reeommended Sir Charles Lloyd Jones for a title, and that Sir Charles Lloyd Jones reciprocated by giving the right honorable gentleman a nice party follgwing the 1949 elections. That is all that I said about the right honorable gentleman, and in hig statement this morning ha has admitted the accuracy of everything that I said, I invite him to make a close examination, of the statements that I have made.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs give any information to the House about the stage that has been reached in the Korean armistice negotiations ?
– An important stage lias been reached in the negotiations for a cease fire and armistice in Korea. For some time, three main issues have been <lis.cus.sed in the armistice negotiations. The first question is whether there should be any reference in the. armistice provisions to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of air-fields, the second relates to the membership of the neutral commission for the supervision of the armistice, and the third is the question of repatriation of prisoners of war. As efforts to resolve those issues separately had not been successful despite the most prolonged negotiations, the United States negotiator recently proposed an overall “package settlement of tha three issues. He indicated that the United Nations command would agree that there should be no reference in the armistice terms to -the reconstruction and rehabilitation of airfields and’ that the . neutral commission should consist of Poland and Czechoslovakia as nominees of the Communists, and of Sweden and Switzerland as nominees of the United Nations. Finally, he proposed that the United . Nations command should exchange for the 12,00f) JJaiited Nations prisoners in Communist bauds 70,00$ Communist prisoners of the United Nations. After careful cheeking and screening, it has been found by the United Nations that, of the i32,QW prisoners of war in their hands, 62,000 are so fearful of the consequences of it. return to North Korea or to China that they would forcibly resist repatriation. Normally, as the Leader of the Opposition is well aware, all prisoners of war are repatriated by both sides under the terms of an armistice settlement. However, in the present circumstances, I believe that the right honorable gentleman will agree that the overall proposal that has been submitted is reasonable and fair and represents the limit to which the United Nations should go. I believe that the proposal for voluntary repatriation is a humane nian that will appeal to everybody. Large numbers of these men have said, after they have been given a full explanation of all the facts, that they would resist by force of arms, if they could obtain arms, any attempt to repatriate them to Communist territory. In other words, they would fear for their lives if they were forcibly repatriated. For that reason, statements in the same sense as the reply that I am now making to the Leader of the Opposition are to be made to-day on behalf of the United States of America and Great Britain. T believe that honorable members will agree that, in the peculiar circumstances that I have described, humane considerations must prevail.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether this Government provides a portion of the finanoe that is required by the New South Wales Government for the acquisition of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen.
– This’Govevument does1 mo* ‘provide any money for: the. oetfusfi aequi^iSoH’ of properties fioav ttbep. settlement! of exr-servicemen. Tftat in omtirely- a m&tfteir for- the- State g»> utrmiaeiafe coiicemed!, fis-‘ ik the- flask- of seCtfoment1; also* This-“ Government’- merely comes* i«to> the picture’ with the- principal Siteufiesj, afv which ]Sfew> South Wales’ is onsj mi relation’ to> the? payment of living; adlowaneeS). tie witfog- cfcwn> of certain, costs; which; are agreed? upon between till© Giaminonwealth’ and those S’fiates, and (ibr writing- offi o£ any- fosses that’ may eceuE’ inn the* future’. I< repeat’ that- acqufsi’tibw and settlement are entirely State mattesK ,
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Government yet decided to-; ipiQCEed-. with the- legal action;, which Iras; beets pending/ for* some yearsy against Auatrafaai National Ainways; Proprristery EimdtedL. Ansett Airways: Proi- pHieta-ry Limited, and: other airline openadaffiStfoE-the! recovery? of air route’ fees or famSntg charges) at; sates pgascriBed’ By the. ©apaavtanen’t; of Civil AviaitioM1, which amount to more.! than £1,0O0>OO.O’? ti! it fee intended to abandon: tha Pongpending, legal, proceedings! fan the>. recovery of air route? feesior laoi’dingcchaEgesi which. ooBspazet favorably with- the changes made fox.” simdlac services and Eacilities; provided:, in othes eoiiffifaiss’, willi thej anmsr akeady paid: by Trans:AuotesUft Airlines-,, whack amount to approximately- £7>5jQ50.Q<lj, and? those) p-add by fibs? Department of Civil itaaafimu Ito suiaOer airline.! operators! bjg way o£ subsidy/ to< qow.qx thoaej changes),, be; refunded’.? I£ sQj, wheat will the payments; bes made?
Mr.ANTHONY.- It- is true tha* an action* warn instituted! ib. the High Court by Australian National Airways’ Pro1prietairy Limited’ iin which’ thai? company contested!’ the* rightf of- the1 Government to> levy air- ronste- charges. That action hass not yet been listed for hearing: As tihes honorable’ member” is doubtless aware, n^otiiaifiions! are- pKoeeedahgs’ between Australians Nationall Airways Ptqprieta<ry Liimdrlied’, Trans-Australia Arrtenes asnt the* (Erovernment with respect to? the asmtinudlry of the. existence- of-‘ both those-, ongairi^tions. Among- the matters Ksted for- consideration fn- those discns”-
Mbnsrajre-aHi’rcfuteeBarges-.. An announceHien* will bei made: when- a determination upon? those’ charges- has’ been- made as Hefweew alii interests1 in- the. airline industry.
Mr.GALVIN.- I ask. the Minister for. Civ.il A-siaiiaawhether,, in- mew of the had cmdatiuau of. tha- Parafield ai?.» ncmt, ilk South Australia,, and the ddsfeunce irwin Adelaide, of the.- Ga^wrks aerodrome; Lt, is; initended. tei hawe; the, new Adelaide aibpMt, at West Beach,, South Australia^ adtailahlfi for. use: as. an-, emexgency- aeradj:ome, imi. the. esent. o£ the; Parafield aii:port no* being-, available: through! had weather this, winter.., IS sa> wil3i he: say also what’ steps have been takem to comi- ; plete the, necessaBy work so- that, aircraft’ will Be aUile. to., use the: two runways?”
– I shall obtain fh* information! for- the; honorable! member and* shaffli supplty: him-, with sen aorawer:
– Residents oi Mil’duia’ and the: surrounding district are eeneenreJ’ and’ disturbed’ By current rumouTS- about; the immigrant1 holding centre- at-: Mildura.. Will the- Minister fwr linmigration- say whether- the camp is to he closed as an immigrant holding eeiEtre;? I£ it i& foi be closed^, wl! portion oi. tfe’ camp! be sets- asiide. f oi’1 the- purpose of-.hmisihg the:’ disttriict immigrant labour firocE that is sob necessary- irx that- area??As; tihe eampi isi un3.i-to-da4te! and itS! equip1menft good, could’ arrangements2 he made for i#. te. ba> oceupiedi By the Australian de^eacce; services^ The- campi shou’Id1 be maichi moue a”cceptables for ttiali pwrpose than isi Watsonia camp, and’ ite location is: advantageous from’ tike’ raewpoin<t: of (feceirtralizationv
– As the honorable member has said, Mildura camp is a very fine one. It was with very great regret that we decided that we were not able to use it completely for the purposes for which it was originally intended. The decision was made following a revision of the Government’s immigration programme. Under the revised programme, in order to relieve charges upon the Australian economy, we brought into this country single men or men without dependants rather than family groups. Consequently, it has not been practicable to make full use of the camp at Mildura as a holding centre for family groups. A portion of the camp is being retained in order to provide accommodation for approximately 200 immigrant workers, who will be available within the Mildura district. I have had some discussions upon this matter with the Minister for the Army, who is interested in acquiring a portion of the camp for service purposes. It is not proposed to dispose of the camp in any permanent sense, because we hope that at some future time it will be possible to resume the immigration of family groups.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware, first, that there is much discontent among British immigrants at the Williamstown hostel in Victoria; secondly, that the average tariff paid by a married man with a wife and two children is £10 14s. 6d. a week; thirdly, that the necessity to expend, say, an additional £3 a week upon fares and the purchase of meals outside the hostel renders the position of such men almost impossible; and fourthly, that the economic position of most of the families there is such that it is improbable that they will be able to leave the hostel for years to come?
– I should not be surprised if some discontent has been caused by an increase of charges at this hostel. That is a very natural reaction. I dealt with that matter in my reply to a question that was addressed to me earlier this week. I certainly challenge the average figure mentioned by the honorable member. Even when the wife herself is engaged in full-time employment, the figure, according to the information that has been presented to me, would not be as large as that. Many of the wives of British immigrants are engaged in full-time employment at good wages, as are their husbands. As far as the opportunity to save and move to quarters elsewhere is concerned, ail I can tell the honorable member is that a check that I made recently showed that the percentage rate of turnover was about 3 per cent, a fortnight for European immigrants and only about 1$ per cent, a fortnight for British immigrants. Those figures show either that European immigrants are proving to be more enterprising in finding alternative accommodation for themselves than are British immigrants, or that the quarters provided for the British immigrants have been so much superior to those provided for other immigrants that British immigrants have not been disposed to seek other accommodation. I assure the honorable gentleman that we are trying to provide fair and reasonable conditions for immigrants. Unbiased observers from other parts of the world are emphatic and unanimous in the view that Australia is doing more to assist new settlers than is any other country.
– Will the Minister for Supply say whether the Government has taken any steps to stimulate mica production in Australia, having regard to the importance of mica in our defence industries, especially those associated with electricity and radar? Is export of mica from Australia permitted and, if so, to what countries?
– The export of mica from Australia is prohibited, with the exception that a small quantity is exported to New Zealand. As honorable members are aware, that is the case in relation to several other commodities, because we consider that we have a longstanding obligation to, and a close relationship with, New Zealand which make it desirable for us to assist that country in certain respects. As regards the mica industry generally, the Government is investigating many Australian minerals with a view to stimulating production in the interests of the general economy of the country and in particular so as to increase our export income. Several of such minerals have been mentioned in the House recently. Mica is one of the minerals that are at present under examination by my department. It is produced mostly in the Harts Ranges in the Northern Territory but, as I think the honorable member is aware, some is also produced at Yinniethaara near the honorable member’s electorate. Almost all the mica produced in Australia is produced in these places and is marketed through a section of ray department that is known as the “ mica pool “. I am not completely satisfied that the present arrangements are the best way to achieve maximum production of the mineral, and so the whole matter of mica production is now under examination.
– -Is the Minister for Supply in a position to give to the House an indication of the arrangements that have been made with the United Kingdom and the United States of America for the exploitation of uranium deposits in Australia, and the extent to which our future national requirements of that matei’ial are safe-guarded
– I am not in a position to give detailed information about that matter. All that I can say at this stage is that following a visit by the representatives of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, arrangements were made by the Australian Government, the South Australian Government, and the commission for the development of uranium resources in Australia and the sale of certain uranium products. The arrangements which were made were highly beneficial to Australia. In making those arrangements the utmost care “was taken to ensure that there would be no unwise depletion of Australian uranium resources^ because this most valuable product may ultimately be of great assistance to Australia industrially.
– By way of explanation of a question which I desire to ask the Minister for Health I should like to state that in the Melbourne metropolitan area some hospital committees have threatened to make a charge to patients who enter their hospitals for treatment It has been contended that such a charge would not be valid and could not be enforced in view of existing Commonwealth legislation. Will the Minister offer an opinion as to the merits of the action that has been proposed and the contention that I have mentioned? Is the Minister in favour of increasing the amount of government contribution on behalf of patients in order that Victorian hospitals may not be further embarrassed ?
– -Last December this Parliament passed an act repealing the Hospital Benefits Act, and the amending legislation placed no restriction on the Victorian or any other government. It provided that, by executive action, agreements could be made between the Australian Government and the State governments. Two States have already signed such agreements. The Victorian Government was anxious to make an agreement early in the year because it found that if single men, for example, insured’ at a cost of a halfpenny a day they benefited to the amount of six guineas a week. During the last two years every one in Australia from the oldest man to the newest born babe has been saved 17s. 6d. a year by the provision of free life-saving drugs. Thus it would actually cost 4s. 6d. a year less than that amount to provide single men with hospital benefits amounting to six guineas a week which is less than the cost of providing the patient’s bed and board. At present patients are not charged for hospital treatment in public wards, and unless the present position is remedied there will be a complete collapse of hospital services throughout Australia. The Commonwealth has made an increased amount of 4s. a bed a day available to those State governments which desire to take action to help themselves by providing for this extra insurance benefit, for patients.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the New South Wales Government asked the Loan Council for the sum of £22,000,000 for the purpose of the Electricity Commission of New South Wales. Is the Treasurer aware -that approximately £3,5Qfl,QOO of this -meney was intended for the jra-nckasfl of a (private electricity company at Balmain, ‘Sydney, which is already (efficiently supplying -electricity to (the people ? WiOTiM it not he mone (economic . and (represent , a better -use ©f loan . moneys to leave this scompany -alone . and. spend the funds on the building -of isehools Dr ihosipitals of which Nsew fioutih Wales is so sadly an need i?
– Whether the ‘ITew SouitJh Wales ‘Government <ases the -moseys which . it receives from the . Loan Council wisely or ‘Otherwise is its umm responsibility.
– -I . ask ithe Minister for Ciommeirce amd AgrioultuTe -whether it is true ‘that the ^OksveritroeTLt has amnoumeed that ifowd ‘pi^duc’tikm anrs defence mw of prime and eqmafl inapioilfcanee. Lf that is so, how can t3ne Majnister reconcile the “fact that of total . advances <o’f !£ff44,©Ti>G,0<M9 made too all classes ‘of IresinesBes to fthe 31st ©eeenaber ‘last year hy f(Jhe Commonwealth Bank and private ‘banks, rural industries received . only £13S;00,O/@O®-; -also that defettce ^tocatioiis samounSied to ahsrat £2Ofl/9@O,000 in the last ‘budget, awd that ito my kMowiedige no specific allocation was raade in that (budget -for nural iproduction ? -What is the use <of having nasal jprodutftion *ar.gets waShwat afcqmate jKnedit provision -for vprinsrary producers)?
– The ‘Government Tias made it quite clear that ‘for a variety of -reasons it regards the development -of out agrieultuTa-l production and . our export industry <as ‘of the very higliest priority. In the policy of *6he ‘Government ^at was laid -Sown in l’^S’D, as it related to bank advances, it was made quite dear fh-at ^se-lufteTy no -effective limitation ‘whatsoever . has ‘been placed on the issue <of credit foT mral -purposes by the private trading hanks -or by the Commonwealth Bank which would inhibit either the purchase -of reasonable areas, of land or the maintenance and development of tihe (Operation -of mira! industries.
-J . ask <thait all! further questions he ^placed -on sfehe neitiefi-,paper.
Mr.James. - : I -rise ito ia point iof order.. Xo date it has hean the ipr.aotice ito sallow an hour . -for -questions without notice. Only three-‘qiuarfters <©£ an ikam mas devoted to quest-ions without notice yesterday, jand to-day the time (allotted has been , even less. That . has caused me gneat ‘ineomvenience, ibeeause £ar two days I itaKe Jxeen endeavouring ito task <a ques t-ion. I -fcake exception-
– Order ! It is nxrt a matter >of taking . esceptioin. “Tibe honorable memher . is speakh’jng to . a (poiraat of ojider.
– My ‘point of : order is ‘that the custom of this House is to allow an hour $or ‘questions without notiee, but that Stat time has %een eonsidera!bly reduced to-day. I ask the reason for that action.
– The lime allowed far answering questions without -notice is -a matter -entirely for -flte iGosrernanenit. Nothing is laid down in the -Standing Qaiders iahout the allotment -of ftime for questions without aiotice. The Govern- ment . simply (decides when it ‘will -piroceed with itiie business ‘of the day. The >GowennmesBit has <so decided to-day, xnad that is not a matter over which I Ifca’.ve any control.
– Vierj meH, Mr. ‘Speaker, but if there is . a . strike on the <coalfields the Government ream blame itsel£.
Debate resumed from ithe tfith May (vide ‘ja age 1-28^ on motion iby <Sir Arthur Fadden -
IThal . the . fallowing ; pa/per be printed:: -
JTinancial Statement rby the JRight Hanora’ble Sir Ar.thur Fadden, K.VMIG … TSO, Treasurer.
Upon -wliichMr.Calwell ‘had moved., “by way of amendment -
That all words a’fter ““That”’ ibe left out w9th -a -view -to ; insert ‘in lien thereof the following ‘words: - : “ithe jfinajiciaU (Statement presented iy the Ir.easur.er . conclusively establishes that the Government’s financial and economic -measures have ‘had and axe liav’ing disastrous effects and are still causing unnecessary hardship and avoidable suffering to the people of Australia, and ‘that the Government (possesses -the leanMence -neither of She Eariiameiitmor of theaiutioii “..
Mr.BRIMBLECOMBE . (Maranoa) [l1.9]. - It . -is jsegr-etta’b’le ibhat itike time of ithis House should have to the wasted
I wish; to; traverse briefly some of the firastra-ttoiiBi that; the primary/ industries of Australian have* suffered during, the years. I ref an’ first, to- the grain* sorghum industry in-. Queensland, and 7 io- not think that my references- will reflect to the credit of. a- previous Minister for Commerce, and Agriculture, the honorable memiber for Lai or (Mr.. PoUao-.d)-. Casting our- minds back to 19-47,. i(r will bet remembered that in that, year there was.- a» record! crop- of grain sorghum im Queensland., Because it could not be sold to advantage within the’ Commonwealth,- application- was- made to the Australian government of the d&y for an export licence. Because of the delay m granting such a licence, that valuable food had. to be held for twelve months, and many thousands of pounds were lost to the growers because of the depredations of mice, rat’s and weevils.. When the licence was- at least obtained! after a great’ deal’ of agitation, much difficulty was experienced in getting the sorghum? to the wharfs-. When- it reached: the wharfs trouble was- again experienced because of the- actions of some Communist wharf labourers. When- it was sought to load1 the grain- on to- a ship- a slopwork
The Government’ of Queensland^ which is ftttund. by the same, pledges aa is the Federal! Labour party, has embarked’ an a socialist enterprise at Peak Dowi’s in central Queensland!. L refer, to the activities, of the QueenslandrBrftish Ebod Corporation. I suggest that honorable- mieiaBersi opposite should) obtain a. copy of the. fourth repoa?.t of” the corporation and read” TS. If they dtr so- tiiey cannot fail’ to Be enlightened about their socialistic ideals.. Because, of floabributioast made by the Queensland Government; that project has cost- the taxpayers- more than £6”00’,0O0’ to the present time- Tie. losses incurred By it to date ha-vei been, more; than £3QO,0OQ. T7ha.t. is. another illustration; of the waste of money that is contributing, to. the economic, position of! Australia to-day. Cinder the Labour socialist Gb”temment the average worker was- asked to work 40 hours, a week,, but. the dairyman was called, upoiL to- woitk fox 56i hours a week. Price fhriing was a socialist; idea.
I shall refer now/ to the position! in relation, to hidesi and. tallo-w.. The Minister for. Commerce and Agriculture: (Mr. McEwen.) briefly reviewed the position yesterday and. g.ave the House a good explanation! of it.. Tallow i3 an important subject to the; producers, in Queensland. I wond’er what, story the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr., Bruce) and the honorable- member for Kennedy (iMr. Bioj’dan.) will tell their constituents about bides and tallow when, they go- to the cattle districts of North Queensland.. I hope that they tell them where the blame: lies. It’ does not lie with this Government but at the door of the price fixing authorities of the. States. The list of misdeeds, of the Labour administration, should be placed on- record’. I suggest to honorable members opposite that they appoint the honorable member for E’den-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser)” and the honorable member for Parkes’ (Mr. HaylenJ a committee to compile a history of those misdeeds and if their imagination is inadequate I suggest that they co-opt the assistance of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Honorable members have heard much about inflation. That is not peculiar to this country. It is happening all over the world. I am not going to suggest that the Labour party is wholly and solely to blame for it, but I think that at this point honorable members might be reminded of a statement by the late Mr. Chifley on this subject. In this Parliament in October, 1950, in practically his last reference to inflation, Mr. Chifley, as reported in the press, said -
I am really perturbed at the growing spiral of inflation in this country and, for that matter, in other countries. Neither this Menzies-Fadden Government nor any other government can be blamed for the inflationary elements. Every man in public life who has n sense of responsibility must give serious consideration to the country’s honour, economy, prestige and standing abroad and to the heritage of its future citizens. T hope the Government will do something to correct the present disturbed state of our economy whether such actions be popular or unpopular.
I commend those words to honorable members opposite. In a speech at Lithgow on 8th March, 1948, Mr. Chifley admitted the inflationary danger of the 40-hour week and said -
If the industrial production of Australia is not maintained and greatly improved one must expect economic disaster. Costs have necessarily risen following the 40-hour week and they will continue to rise.
How can honorable members opposite reconcile those statements by Mr. Chifley with the statements that have been made here in the past few days? The Opposition has submitted its amendment solely because of what happened at the recent meeting of the Loan Council. The State governments are solely responsible for the recent failure of Government loans. Responsibility for such failure cannot be sheeted home to this Government. The people are unwilling to lend money for State purposes because too often the States fritter away loan money on works that are unnecessary. If the States restricted the expenditure of loan moneys to essential works public loans would undoubtedly be filled without difficulty.
Honorable members opposite have made great play on the plight of what they describe as poor pensioners and other recipients of social services benefits. Yesterday we listened with amazement when the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) made a poor mouth about the difficulties of a taxpayer who had an income of £14,600 a year. Honorable members opposite cannot make up their minds where they stand in relation to taxation. .Some of them, by inference, have suggested that the rates of tax should be increased in order to provide funds for the payment of higher pensions and social services benefits; others, by inference, have suggested that the rates of taxes should be reduced in order to benefit wealthy people about whose interests the honorable member for Melbourne is solicitous solely for political purposes. The Opposition appears to be divided on this matter. I am satisfied that the Government is pursuing a sound economic and financial policy. I have not .been afraid to go out into my electorate and put to the people the case as presented by the Government. I represent a rural electorate, which is predominantly a wool growing area. At successive meetings confidence has been expressed by my electors in this Government and in the financial and economic policy that has been propounded by the Treasurer. There is only one solution of the problem that confronts us to-day. Only if we all do a little more work will be able to extricate ourselves from our difficulties. That is a matter about which members of the Opposition probably know very little.
– That may be so, but its truth is borne out by the remarks of the late Mr. Chifley which I have just quoted. Each person in the community must pull a little more weight. Members of the Opposition should have the courage to tell the people what the real problems are and the solutions of those problems of which they are, in fact, aware. If the Opposition co-operated -with the Government in that manner, we should soon overcome our present economic difficulties.
.- The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) asked me what reply I would make to the people of North Queensland in respect of the losses they have suffered as a result of the drought. I hope that he does not hold me responsible for the drought. However, I shall enlighten him on that subject. The following report appeared in a recent issue of a Melbourne newspaper : -
A gigantic military operation to save the Northern Territory from drought calamity may be urged on the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) next Thursday by a deputation of cattle breeders.
The idea proposed by the managing director if the Gulf Cattle Company, owners of the four million acre Brunette Downs station, Mr. J. S. White, envisages: (1) An organized army trucking operation to move starvation threatened cattle from the territory; and (2) A major army engineering operation to drive bores to save breeding stock which cannot be moved.
The fact that such a huge area of land was granted to a wealthy company which is linked with big meat exporters must excite comment. However, the point that I make is that that area was granted to that company on the understanding that, as it possessed great resources, it would be able to put down all the bores necessary to water the property and to. develop the area. That company has entirely failed to carry out its obligations and it now proposes to ask this Government to do the job. I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that when he receives its request he should say to the company, “ Yes, we will do the job. We will also pay you for the improvements that you have put on the station, and we will cut it up and hand it over to persons who will look after the land and ensure that it will be properly developed.” Already over 100,000 cattle have been lost and further losses are expected, mainly because that wealthy company, which had been given control of 4,000,000 acres of land, has failed to carry out its obligations. It would be hard to imagine any other instance in which such a great blow has been struck at primary production in this country.
As all of U3 realize the important part that primary production plays in our economy, the problem that confronts us to-day is to devise the best methods of increasing production. The Government has embarked upon frantic and foolish financial measures whereas the solution will be found in the exercise of everyday common sense. Common sense is a characteristic of most Scotsmen and is mainly responsible for their success in their world. I suggest that if the Treasurer had more Scotch blood in his veins Australia to-day would be enjoying a greater measure of prosperity.
Let us look at the cold, hard facts of this matter. Whilst electricity services have been made available to a. great number of dairy farmers in North. Queensland, many others who have not such services are still working under slave conditions that existed twenty years ago. The Queensland Labour Government advanced the sum of £110,000 to aid the tobacco growers and passed legislation to enable those growers to market their leaf on a co-operative basis. Thanks to such action on the part of that Government, that industry is now able to stand on its own feet and it is estimated that tobacco leaf production next year will be valued at £1,500,000. However, I recall that the industry was practically ruined in the past by a tory government in this Parliament. The sugar industry is in difficulties because of the heavy cost that it must incur in order to obtain requisite machinery for its mills. That is the reason for the discrepancy that now exists between the cost of production and the price that the grower is obtaining for his product. However, I shall not deal with that matter at length because the circumstances of the industry are now being investigated by a royal commission which is expected to present its report in the near future. I trust that that report will be favorable to the industry.
On numerous occasions I have placed before the Treasurer proposals designed to increase the output of tin. To-day, tin-mining companies are obliged to pay income tax in respect of their assets whereas they could treble their production iftheywere guaranteed apayable price . The timber industry finds itself in asimilar position. There areapproximately40 plywood mills in my -electorate.Manyofthose mills have beenobliged to dismiss hundreds of employees whoserved inthe armed forces during the recentwaror who lost brothers and : sons who helpedto defend Australia against the Japanese.Now, those menfind thatbecause this Government has allowed theJapanese to dumpplywood in this country they are being deniedthe opportunityto rehabilitate themselves in thetimber industry. Naturally, they feel their position most bitterly. Such treatment of Australians who fought in ‘the defence ‘of this countrywill discourage recruiting. The timberindustrywhich notso long ago wasflourishinghasbeen ‘practically crippledasaresult ‘ofthis Government’s policies. “Thesameobservation applies tothe pearlingand pearl-shellindustry. TheGovernmentis ‘doing ‘nothing to protectthosesourcesofwealth from exploitationbytheJapanese. Weknow that “inthelast war the mother -ships of Japanesepearlingfleets were used as mine ‘layers.
Thehonorable member ‘for Petrie (Mr. Hulme),whenhewas speaking yesterday, seemed tothinkthatthe Opposition’s amendment to the motion now bef ore theChairwasavote ‘of (censure upon the ‘QueenslandLabour Government. ThatGovernment isabovecensure orreproach. ‘Ithas been ‘createda dynastybythe people,and isthevoiceof the people.
Mr.Bowden. -It is a dead government.
Mr.BRUCE. - Onthe contrary,it is alive government, Whichhas been retained in officefor along time by the people. Thehonorable memberforPetrie isso soundly asleep that he does notknow that , ahuge industry isbeing established inhis ownelectorate with the assistance of the Queensland Government. He should not have said that not even ten miles of railway line have been constructed in Queensland during ‘thelast twenty years.Heprobably is not aware, and, theref ore, I informhim, that Mount Isawasconnectedbyrail with Duchess. Healso omittedto statethatQueensland hasa greaterrailwaymileageth anany other State.Labourgovernments shave been : inoffice in. ‘Queensland : since 1915, withonlyoneshortbreaktowardsthe endofthe1920’s. Ofcourse, airline companies are nowoperating servicesto manyremote places whichpreviously would have requiredrailservices.
The honorable member forPetrie also criticizedthe BurdekinValley development scheme,which, I “point out atthis stage, is not fully understood. The honorable gentleman said that the estimated costof the scheme hadrisenfrom £29,000,000 to£70,000,000. Weall know that the cost of materialshas increased in every partof the world, particularly in Australia. TheBurdekin scheme would be primarily for irrigationand flood preventionpurposes. Pastoral country wouldbe irrigated in theinitial stages,and ‘later, water wouldsupplied to the Charters Towersarea,where the finestcrops ofcitrus ‘fruits ‘and grapeshavebeen grown even with out irrigation. The provisionof an adequatewatersupplywould enable people toestablish -citrusorchards andvineyards thereon alarge scale. Oranges, whicharea mostimportant item.of diet,are probably the scarcestof any fruit in the markets. The Charters Towers area, if it were irrigated, would produce large -quantities -of citrus fruits. From Charters Towers down towardsthe BurdekinRiverdelta, vegetables, peanuts and various othercrops couldbegrown. In the Burdekinvalley itself, tobacco and vegetables could be produced. Provision is also made in the Burdekin scheme for hydro-electricpower.Mount Isa,which will produce in the near future nearly all the copper for the Australian market, would then be able to establish ; an electrolytic smelter, and copper wouldbe -readyfor rollinginto sheets orpiping for commercialuse. Every phase of theBurdekin scheme is designed to increase production. TheGovernment has appealedto workers and primaryproducersto increase output,butproductioncannot be stepped-up unless moneyis available for thepurchase of the necessary plant and equipment.
Ishallnow dealwith Callidecoal.I always like to give credit wherecredit is due. About a montb ago, tbe Government did a fine and intelligent thing. Last year, the little sugar boats were used for the transportation of Callide coal to southern ports. That was probably the reason why I had to direct attention to the shortage of shipping to lift sugar from the ports of northern QueenslandHowever, a few weeks ago our sugar boats, which carry 700 or 800 tons of coal, were replaced by the “ River “ class boats which carry approximately 8,000 tons of coal. Mr. Theiss, who is in charge at Callide, has guaranteed that, with the use of the larger vessels, Callide can supply Victoria with all the coal that it requires. The ships now go from Gladstone harbour to Victorian ports. For only onehalf the subsidy that is ‘paid on Indian coal, Victoria would get from Queensland at a reasonable cost all the coal that it requires, and everybody would be happy. Incidentally, I point out that coal from India is being brought to Australia in Japanese ships, which, after they have discharged their cargo, proceed to Newcastle, where they bunker for the return voyage to India. If the Government does not adopt my suggestion, the stage will be reached at which Victoria will import coal from India and Queensland will export coal to the Fast Large quantities of coal are available in Queensland and that State, if it cannot get a market in one quarter, must seek one in another quarter. Victoria should have Queensland coal in preference to [ndian coal. As the result of such a trading policy, production would be increased in Australia, employment would be provided for Australians, and huge sums of money would not have to be paid for imported coal.
Tbe Burdekin scheme warrants the the attention of the Government, because it can be extended considerably. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) described tobacco as one of the assets of Australia. I agree with that statement, but I point out that the Treasurer has refused to make money available for an irrigation scheme in the Mareeba-Dimbulah area, whereby hundreds of thousands of acres would -be made suitable for the growing of tobacco and other crops. Tobacco requires, noi rain, but only irrigation, and the Queensland Government, when it re-established the tobacco-growing industry, built a number of surface dams ja the area to which I have referred. But the Treasurer has refused to make money available for the necessary irrigation scheme. For some reason that is not known to me, he is antagonistic to it. Such projects were financed from loan moneys in the past, and sinking funds were established to repay the indebtedness over a period of years. The Treasurer hap also refused to finance fully a hydroelectric scheme that would, provide -power for the dairies. Yet milk production and tobacco growing are important primary industries. Irrigation and the establishment of the electrolytic smelter would give the Burdekin district a population of between 30,000 and 40,000,
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. –About a year ago, this Government secured a majority in both houses of the Parliament. Therefore, ite achievements must be measured from that date. During the previous ten years the Laboursocialists either governed this country or influenced its government by means pf a Senate majority. Jfot until April, J9&1, was the Menzies Government free of Labour interference- What condition was the country in after ten years of Labour rule or influence? Perhaps I can best illustrate that by relating what was told to me by a workman on a big undertaking in New South Wales. He said to me “ Mr. Bate, I am drawing £ 15 a week, but I am only earning £3 a week. This worries me a good deal, and it cannot go on. I am drawing the money, but I am not doing the work. There is no productivity in what I am doing. That is not my fault. I assure you that, like other Australian workmen, I want to produce more, but I cannot get the necessary materials “. The atmosphere in industry in those days was such that it was. not possible for any man to do the job that he wanted to. About the same time, union representations were being made to Mr, Galvin., a conciliation commissioner, for higher wages to meet increased living costs, but evidence wag brought to show that idling and go-slow tactics were rife in industry, and worse still, that pride of achievement was disappearing as a trait of the character of Australian workmen. Honorable members on both sides of the House know quite well that that was not the fault of the workmen themselves for the men simply did not have the machinery, equipment and material that they required to do a full day’s work. I think that Mr. Galvin said that if production was not being increased, the men had no case for higher wages. Increasing production costs were rebounding on working men because they were being forced to pay more for the necessaries of life. Production was decreasing instead of increasing. For instance, the cost of repairing ships rose out of all proportion, with the result that all commodities carried by sea became dearer to, the consuming public. Let me illustrate my point in another way. A few weeks ago I was privileged to inspect the Kiewa hydro-electric scheme in Victoria. In September of last year that undertaking was employing about 3,500 men, but, because cement supplies were inadequate the big cement mixing and laying machines engaged on the water races were idle. In fact, in an endeavour to keep the men busy, the management issued shovels and wheelbarrows and let the huge machines remain idle. When (Van money dried up, the diversion of abour from Kiewa to other projects began, and a month or so later the number of employees had fallen to 750. By (hat time, there was enough cement for the machines, and they were again put to work. A new atmosphere became evident throughout the valley, and men began to take an interest in their work. To-day, although the project is not yet back to full-scale operation, there is a different spirit abroad. The men are trying. The electricity and water that will make so much difference to a large part of Victoria will soon be available.
By July of last year horrifying trends in our economy had become apparent. Industry was slowing up and was on the verge of collapse. Personal incomes were high, but their purchasing power was low. Demands for labour and materials were mounting and the turn-over of labour in most industries was so rapid that few nien could settle down in their jobs. They were constantly being attracted away by wage-bargaining. Employers were offering more and more to their employees, but production was becoming less and less. The investment boom was at its height. Prices of stocks and shares were at record levels. Farmers were being induced to divert their capital from farm machinery, and equipment, to the stock market. Consequently, primary production was falling, while the flow of money to wasteful and nonessential industries continued unabated. People were attracted by the opportunity to make money on the stock exchange, and soaring share prices was the result. Inflation is the ally of socialism. In fact, it is part and parcel of socialism. The results of this alliance are most evident in. New South Wales where the intrusion of socialism into domestic affairs has continued for ten years under Labour administrations. We have seen the spectacle of the Premier of that State coming to Canberra to seek substantial allocations of loan funds, yet at least £13,000,000 of the revenue that the Government of New South Wales hopes to raise by way of loans will do nothing at all to increase the output of electricity. It is to be used to purchase the Balmain Electric Light Company’s undertaking and certain railway electricity establishments. Probably we shall never see the accounts of these transactions between government departments because railways accounts are always rather inaccessible. That is one instance of socialism’s alliance with inflation.
Returning to conditions that prevailed in this country in July of last year, I remind the House of the state of the building industry. The number of buildings under construction had increased from 39,000 to 63,000 in four years and building costs had soared enormously. I know of one house at Roseville which was bought for £1,200 in 1938. Last year, the owner was offered £7,000 for it. The building boom was then at its height. Public works had been greatly expanded. Because of this and because of private capital investment, the demand for labour and materials was excessive. The full effects of the 40-hour week which had been prematurely thrust upon the people by the McGirr Government in New South Wales were being felt. Mr. McGirr, of course, probably as the result of the worries of that period, relinquished office as Premier recently and, like certain other of his colleagues, has been appointed to a public office at a substantial salary. The full effects of the £1 increase of the basic wage were also being felt in July of last year. Workmen were saying, “ We do not want the basic wage to rise because the extra money is no good to us “. The immigration programme was placing pressure upon our economy. The population of this country was increasing at the rate of 3 per cent, per annum. Two-thirds of that was the natural increase which was a reflection of prosperity and confidence, and the remaining one-third was due to immigration. The lag in our productive effort was obvious to everybody. Our industrial concerns compared very unfavorably with those of the Americans, who are brilliant at getting the best from their men and their machines. ‘ The Communists had deliberately sabotaged our industries by pursuing their dangerous work in the key unions wherever they could. Defence preparations had to go ahead because we could not afford to be caught naked in the face of the advance of communism in Asia and other parts of the world. Export incomes had increased in a period of four years from £309,000,000 to £908,000,000. The cost of imports had increased enormously. Over a period of fourteen years, the annual cost of imports had multiplied three and a half times. The rate has increased slightly since then.
The Government first had a chance to tackle these problems on the 1st July, 1951. The Prime Minister organized a conference at Sydney, at which the situation was discussed with the Premiers and various other leaders. The task cnlled for tremendous courage. Some critics say that politicians are merely eager to ingratiate themselves with the electors. But this Government declared that it had an important nob to do a.nd that it would go ahead and do it regardless of criticism. Then it framed its anti-inflationary programme. I shall discuss in detail later in my speech the improvements that have been effected as a result of that programme. But first I am proud to acknowledge the courage of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and their colleagues in the Government who have pressed on with their work notwithstanding its unpopularity with Australians who previously had been enjoying high incomes and the benefits of boom conditions. The programme called for hard work, and many people resented it on that account. Those who are weak and craven and who lack faith in the future of Australia are the most critical of the Government to-day. But we are proud of what the Government has achieved in the last year.
The most important inflationary pres sure that developed during the period of Labour’s administration was caused by the reduction of primary production. That reduction was a direct result of other inflationary pressures, such as the 40-hour week and the building boom. Houses were built in the wrong places. They were erected, not adjacent to the coalfields and the steel-works, but in suburbs where values were high. Whenever a house was built in one of our cities, some young man on a farm was forced by circumstances to leave the country to live in that house and to seek a job at £15 or £20 for a 40-hour week. He could not be expected to live with his wife in a lean-to or in some other sub-standard accommodation when he could enjoy all “ mod. cons.” in a Housing Commission house. Primary production has been too unprofitable over the years, although the situation is now improving under this Government. Farmers have not been able to save much money, and therefore they have not been able to retire in their old age but have been obliged to stay on their properties. For this reason, young men have been obliged to leave the farms, and this drift has been accelerated by the inflationary pressure developed under socialistic rule. Splendid young Australians who could and would increase primary production have been driven to the cities, where they now belong to the trade unions which, by their militant activities, have succeeded in establishing conditions in industry that are attractive to hard-working poorly-paid farmers. This moyemerij; haj§ caused a, dangerous decline of primary production. Less wh.eat is being pjariled than formerly an$ the ou^ put of wool, which, is the great g-taadfey of Australia, has fallen by 12 per cent, this year. The situation in meajiproducin.* are.sj.s, is serious. Producers h^ve not been ajble to ajford to, sink bores in orderto provide water supplies in dry geasons, with the result that’ recent droughts have had devastating effects. Young men have left the dairying industry, in which (hey hud to wot’ hi) rd seven days a week, because conditions in secondary industries have been ma.de so attrarttvp.
I do, nojt y.jnic the trade unions for having secured such improvements. They are entitled in a free country to win. betterconditions of woi-‘k and higher rates of pay foe their mftmber-s. But the unionists and members oi- the Opposition now know that, as a result of’ their concentration upon seeondar-y industries to the neglect of’ palmary- industries during- Labour’s regime, a situation has. developed i-n which young mien are unwilling to engage i& puimary. production and1 want to work in secondary- ind-u-stri’es. Wo matter how liardi our unionists may work in the factories, we must- face a reduction of- the national- income- by perhaps as- m-uch as fljOQOjOOOjOOO a year-. Our social’ services, immigration-, defence and’ developmental’ programmes ‘ may- have to be severely curtailed: This situation has developed solely because our income from primary production has fallen disastrously as a. result of; nearly ten. years of. socialist rule. This- fact cannot be ignored. It is obvious to almost every member of the community-..
Fortunately, we are, able, tp boast of. a grea t improy.qmen-t, since , this Qflyernmeut has. been in office.. There, has^ been, a: reduction, qf the large v.qlume,. of; free* money that caused exgessiva demands few. consigner goods. T,h§ prpductianj of qoaJ: and steel has increased, and. there has beera a tremendous, i-mprqyemgnt, of our defences., The.. RgyaJ ^jis.tralian Aii;. Forge hasTbqenr,co.mpleteJy re.-fo.rmed,, andrefitted., and. v&e caji.bg, asj=iure4,nQW, tjiflt* under the nien wjio are in charge,, it conr sti$n.tes, a,, strong striking, force. I. hava not * (gfRtftA- tfte ISTayy, which. is.. always, qfSeie.ntj.o.i; thevarmySiw,kic&has been, able to. use national service, trainees/ tp gojodf account, although the Citwen Military F9rc.es. voluntary recruitment campaign has hgen disappointing. The Government has trigd. to maintain the immigration programme, because it believes that this developing country must be fully populated It has pressed on with vast water ceijserYStiou ajud electricity generation schemes. It is keeping the Snowy Mountains, scheme going f?om its own revenue and it has made prodigious efforts to provide financial help to enable the States to carry, on with developmental works. Not only has it vaeated the loan market in. favour of the States, but also it has agreed to provide as much money as possible from Commonwealth revenue for theassistance of the States. General criticism was levelled1 at the Government’sdecision to. provide- in the- budget for asurplus of £114,G0050GO. this- year, but ths decision has been justified because the surplus will enable, it to provide fund’s f or the States-. In- oaie- year- it has succeeded in convincing- the- tradje- unionsand the. press that the- maa on the- lum& is, the backbone of-“ th» couatr-y; Piiimar-y pnodiuc-tioit is- Australia’s best department-.
The. Government has. grodueed a situation in which the Communists axe- on- theirway out. That is- a magjiificent. achievement. Good, unionists; now know, that,, backed by tibe. strength of this-. Government, they Gaitj throw the- Communists; out of office. Furtheirmorej the Govor-nment hag established a> situation - in. which the- trade- unionists a-n.d’ their, families^, who are> the prin- c-ipa-1- consumers- of our- rural- products^. ha??e-. agi’veed to priges which-, had they been- introduced. a-; few- years; agoj. would! have- caused? gene-i’-aj, strikes- in industry; The unionists have accepted these, prices because they- know that: their own activities have led to, the. establishment of oQUditipns wjiich have enticed, men away from, the lan-d… Ifr they are. not. happy, they- ase a.t least acquiescent in the. Go.vernm.eut’.SLplanS’to make rural industries raore.atttactiy.e. to. young m,en-. That represents a. revolutionary change. I: hopetha.t these achiftvemauts of the* Governs rneut. will hear -fruit in. the. Bcstfew. years. I: pray. that, quv primary, industries’ will. fl.au.rjsh, he.caus.e in; their prosperity lies oiix only-hope, for thje,-future. .
Two or three matters are causing the members of the Government parties great concern. We appreciate that this Government, by its strength and courage, has produced a situation of which we are proud. We are aware also that our economy is most delicately balanced.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- It was very refreshing to listen to the attempt by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) to place the responsibility for the present conditions in this country, not upon the Government, but upon the Opposition. One or two of the statements that he made require to be corrected. He spoke of Laboursocialist inflationary action during the last ten years. I remind him that Labour was in office from 1941 to 1949 - a period of eight years only - and that at the end of World War II. Australia had the lowest price level in the world and was suffering from inflation to a lesser degree than was any of the other countries that had been associated with the democracies in that war. The existence of that state of affairs was due solely to the operation of controls. Those controls wore, in part, instituted by a government similar to this Government, hut they were substantially improved and made mors efficient, by Labour governments under the leadership of the late Mr. Curtin and the late Mr. Chifley. Between 1945 and 1949 there was an inflationary tendency throughout the world but, as a result of the continuance of the operation of controls in Australia, prices in this country increased to a lesser degree than in any other country. It is well to remember that controls are not necessary when the economy of a country is on an even keel and when conditions are normal, but immediately economic conditions in a country become abnormal, the safety of the economic life of the nation depends upon wise controls being instituted for the purpose of overcoming the difficulties caused’ by the presence of irregular conditions? in the economic system.
I support the amendment, because I believe that it expresses clearly and succinctly the present public feeling in this country. Honorable gentlemen opposite have complained1 in the course of the debate that the Opposition has not advanced constructive suggestions. It is not the function of the Opposition, when it has moved an amendment in which it expresses its lack of confidence in the Government, to advance constructive suggestions. In those circumstances, the function of the Opposition is to attempt to prove that the amendment is fully justified. Incidentally, I remind honorable gentlemen opposite that during th«* time that I have been a member of the Parliament the Opposition has, on many occasions, advanced constructive suggestions in respect both of Government policy and of legislation that has been introduced, but on every occasion our constructive suggestions have been rejected, frequently by the use of the gag. It is most peculiar that, when the Government has got itself into difficulties, it should expect the Opposition to suggest constructive means by which it can extricate itself from the difficulties that it has created.
This Government has been in office now for two years and four months. It assumed office under the best possible circumstances. It was returned with a workable majority, at a time when the national revenue was increasing, the Commonwealth Treasury was full, and good prices were being secured for our exports. There was a rising tide of immigration, which was alleviating our man-power difficulties. Financial and economic security was evident throughout the country. In addition, the rate of production was increasing. No other government has ever come into office in this country with greater opportunities. No other government has ever assumed office at a. time of greater promise, or as the result of making more promises.. But, after 28 months, we find that the healthy conditions that were evident in December, 1949, have been replaced by general instability and a complete lack of confidence. I can. summarize the position by stating that loans floated by theCommonwealth have failed, that in a period of 24 months prices have increased by 45 per cent., that developmental work has been slowed down, that overseas balances are dwindling rapidly, that productive forces are being thrown into confusion, that rural production is decreasing, that drastic credit restrictions have been imposed, that there has been a reduction of living standards and that the country has been financed by the issue of approximately £200,000,000 of additional treasury-bills.
In those circumstances, the natural question to ask is : In what way has Government policy been responsible for the conditions that now obtain? It can be said that those conditions have been caused by hesitant, anaemic and weak action by the Government. When honorable gentlemen opposite took office, they had several slogans. One was, “ Put value back into the £1 “, another was “ No controls “, and another was “ Reduce taxation “. Last, but not least, was their cry that they were going to use the resources of the community to increase production. I, like every other honorable member, believe that a policy of increasing production is a good one. But when we analyse the Government’s activities, we find that one of the great difficulties that besets it is a total inability to assess the reaction of the national economy to the steps that it takes from time to time in implementing its policy. One of the first tasks that faced this Government, and which had to be performed if the greatest advantage were to be derived from the conditions that then obtained in Australia, was to ensure that sufficient developmental work was done to enable the needs of an increasing population to be met. The honorable member for Macarthur has pointed out that, as a result of immigration and of natural increases, the population of Australia is increasing at a rate of 3 per cent, per annum. As our population is increasing at that astonishing rate, certain developmental work must be done. Otherwise, the best results cannot be secured from immigration. As our population increases, we need, for instance, greater supplies of electricity and water, more transport facilities and additional production. Our requirements in relation to hospitals, schools and roads have increased considerably. If the necessary developmental work is not done, we shall be unable to make full and effective use of the nation’s increased man-power. The Government has failed in every direction to provide increased facilities for an increased production. The Government’s actions in relation to the raising of loan moneys have completely destroyed confidence and made it almost impossible for money to be borrowed. Eirst of all, the Government took the totally unjustifiable action of issuing loan securities at a discount. Then it increased its interest rate with the result that there was general instability in the money market. The small investor who found it necessary to cash his Government securities became unable to get back all that he had invested. There are indications that if the Government had the confidence of the people it could now borrow more money than it borrowed during the last twelve months. But the Government’s policy has brought about such a lack of confidence in it that its financial policy has been disrupted.
On the 3rd October, 1951, the Prime Minister made a statement which clearly indicates that Government action and Government policy have been frequently in contradiction. He said -
We have deliberately, as a counterinflationary measure, encouraged the increased procurement of goods. Wo must, if we are to meet inflation and if we are to have a supply of goods equal to the supply of money, have a large inflow of goods coming into this country.
Then he endeavoured to demonstrate the soundness of his Government’s policy by stating that imports during the financial year 1948-49 amounted to £414,000,000, during 1949-50 to £536,000,000, and during. 1950-51 to £742,000,000. He concluded by saying that if imports continued to flow into the country at the then existing rate their value would reach £900,000,000 during the financial year. The obvious inference from the Prime Minister’s statement was that the shortage of goods was to be corrected by imports from other countries. At the same time, the Government put into operation a policy which inevitably had to have the effect of reducing production and increasing the quantity of imports. Increased production will only be possible if greater productive forces are made available to industry. In other words, there must be more buildings, more technological equipment and new machinery. Those productive forces cannot be acquired without capital resources. Credit restrictions and capital issues control make it more difficult for people to increase production. A policy of credit restriction together with au increase in imports must inevitably restrict industrial activity in Australia. The increasing quantity of imports from other countries must then steadily reduce Australia’s overseas balances. That is what has happened during the last twelve months.
The Government made the great mistake, when it instituted credit restrictions and capital issues control, of failing to take steps gradually to diminish the quantity of imports. After several months it found that bankruptcy was facing this country because of the depletion of overseas balances. Hurried action was taken and, consequently, the whole economic life of Australia has been thrown into confusion. The Government’s action is likely to have the gravest results. A substantial proportion of Australian production depends on the importation of basic raw material from overseas. The manufacture of tyres, for example, is impossible without the importation of large quantities of rubber. The manufacture of cotton goods depends upon substantial importations of cotton. One industry in my electorate has been making 95 per cent, of the high-speed tools that are used in engineering in Australia. That industry must close down unless it can secure high-speed steel from Canada or elsewhere. The linseed oil industry is in a similar position. If imports are to be reduced by hundreds of millions of pounds during the next twelve months many industries will be unable to continue to produce goods. They will have to restrict their activities and there will be wholesale unemployment.
Australia is approaching a grave crisis in industry. Rural production has been falling during the last two years and there is a lack of confidence and a feeling of insecurity in the community which is disastrous from an economic and a psychological point of view. The continuance in office of a government that has been guilty of these blunders and which has made possible the creation of the conditions that I have mentioned is not in the best interests of the people. Honorable members should express their complete disagreement with the Government’s policy and action by carrying the amendment. The people are entitled to protest. They are entitled to Government assistance in ‘ order to continue production and maintain the standard of living w hich is essential to the Australian way of life. I submit that conditions which now operate are reducing our standard of living. They will lead to wholesale unemployment and a general depreciation of assets and disaster for the people of Australia.
– If ever a person has a “bit both ways” it is the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). He endeavours to please every section of the community. He is opposed to import restrictions on the grounds that Australian industries need to be protected and that a heavy volume of imports would lead to unemployment in Australia; but, at the same time, he is in favour of the exact opposite, and wants us to import more, on the ground that unless imports enter Australia in great volume we shall not be able to continue with our national development at the desired rate. How could anybody discover either what the honorable gentleman means or what he wants? He wants to be the friend of everybody. In other words, he wants to get everybody’s vote by saying the exact opposite to opposing interests. That might go down in the electorate of Bendigo, but it will not go down in Australia as a whole, because what the people want to know of a party that is anxious to displace the existing government is what kind of policy that party has and what specific actions it would take if it gained office. If the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) becomes Prime Minister-
– Hear, hear !
– If the highly ambitious honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) becomes Treasurer of the Commonwealth, as he has widely announced he will become, what will his policy be and what kind of actions will his government take that would differ from the policy that this Government has enunciated ? It is becoming something of a laughing matter that every time the House meets for a new session or sessional period, the Opposition submits a motion of want of confidence or of censure. It criticizes everything that the Government has done during the recess, and claims that the country is going to the devil at an accelerating rate. At the same time, however, it is most careful to refrain from indicating what it would do to meet the position other than what the Government has done. I consider that the House and the country are entitled to some enlightenment about the prospective nature of the Opposition’s policy if it gained office. We have had honorable members opposite attacking us because of the flood of imports that was coming into the country a few months ago. They have said that it was leading to unemployment in the textile and other industries and that a damper ought to be put on it, but when the Government imposes import restrictions, the Opposition says the most frightful results could follow.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable gentleman says, “ Hear, hear ! “, but he cannot’ have it both ways and the country does not want it both ways. The people want to know what you mean, what you would do if you were in office, and whether you would allow a flood of imports to enter the country.
– Order! The Minister should address me.
– I know that you are fully informed on this matter, Mr. Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition urges, for example, the provision of greater social services benefits; yet he also advocates a reduction of taxes, because he considers that more money should be extracted from big business. But he opposes the abolition of the averaging system of taxation which applies only to primary producers who have incomes of more than £4,000 a year and which has given those primary producers a tax advantage over ordinary taxpayers that has amounted to about £100,000,000 in a short period of years. While opposing that proposal he contends that we have to increase govern mental revenues so that we can provide increased social services. He cannot have it both ways.
The truth is, of course, that the Opposition has no policy. In fact, it is impossible for it to have a policy at the moment because its policy is formulated, not by the members of the Labour party who have been elected to the Parliament, but by the federal executive of the Australian Labour party outside Parliament. Unfortunately, that federal executive exists only in part to-day, because its former president, Mr. J. A.Ferguson, has been removed from the political scene. He has been compelled to accept appointment as chairman of the Milk Board of New South Wales at a salary of £2,300 a year. He has, of course, made a great sacrifice in stepping down from the position of federal president of the Australian Labour party, which is now without a federal president. Until that body gives the Opposition its instructions the Opposition cannot say a darned thing about what it would do if it were in office. We have, however, some enlightenment on the matter. There is a gleam in the darkness which has been provided by the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party, of which the honorable member for Melbourne is, I have no doubt,a member if he has not been removed in the last purge. I know that his chief lieutenant, Mr.Kennelly,. has been removed, but he may still be there. I sympathize with him in the loss of Mr. Kennelly. The fact is that the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party has been the only official Labour voice which has in recent times enunciated a policy. That’ policy ‘ was . published in the press last July. It enunciated an eight-point plan which I wish honorable members to note because, as I have said, it is the only gleam of light we have on the Opposition’s policy. The first point of the plan is, “Freeze price levels before the basic wage increase becomes payable “. Would not that mean the pegging of wages?
– Has any honorable member on theOpposition side the courage at this stage to say that , he advocates such a procedure? I remind honorable members that the points I am stating are part of the allegedly constructive programme that the official voice of Labour, the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party, has submitted as an alternative to the Government’s policy. The next point of the plan is, “ Transfer prices powers from the States to the Commonwealth, or hold a referendum to amend the Constitution for that purpose”. For a policy in a time of crisis that just about takes the bun, because two referendums have already been held on that specific matter and the proposals to alter the Constitution were in both instances overwhelmingly rejected by the electors.
– No, they were carried by a simple majority.
– They were overwhelmingly rejected. It is therefore obvious that a feature of Labour’s policy is to do something that the Labour party as a government would not have the constitutional power to do, and which the people has denied it the power to do. The next point in the plan is, “ Control capital issues”. That is exactly what we are doing and what we have been criticized for doing. But this official voice ofthe Labour party goes a little bit further. It says, “ Control capital issues and direct investments to give production of necessities and consumer goods priority”. Will the honorable member for Melbourne, who, I understand, is a member of the Victorian Executive of the Australian Labour party-
– Not now.
– If he is not a member of it, then he is very lucky. What does “ control of investment “ mean? Does it mean taking oat of the hands of the private individual money that he may have in banks or on fixed deposits and using it as a socialistic government thought fit? If it does mean that, then how can such a policy be reconciled with thecontentions of honorable members opposite about the need to remove controls? We believe that the control of capital issues should be maintained, because we consider that people who wish to engage in the production of frivolous products, or what might be termed, in a well-known phrase, “milk bar” products, should not be given priority in the supply of cement, steel and other building materials over industries that can aid our national productivity. Consequently we shall retain capital issues control. The Leader of the Opposition has said that that was an iniquitous thing. Indeed the whole tenor of his argument was to the effect that the Government’s actions were iniquitous. The Opposition says that the Government should co-ordinate its plans and those of State governments to obtain the best results from available labour, and to speed-up developmental projects for power, fuel and water services.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– Honorable members opposite say “hear, hear”, and so do we. Therefore, about that important matter we are on common ground. All the measures of a financial and fiscal nature that we can adopt through the budget controls that can be imposed, are being taken by this Government. There is no alternative to the action of the Government except the Opposition’s offer of socialism.
– Order ! If honorable members wish to conduct dialogues they should retire to do so.
– I am giving honorable members some details of Labour’s policy as it has been enunciated by one of its official bodies, namely the State executive of the Australian Labour party in Victoria. Amendments such as that at present before the ‘House have been very frequent lately. In fact the Australian Labour party’s policy seems to be merely one of moan, moan, moan. A well known weekly journal recently published a cartoon showing the Leader of the Opposition as a frog perched on a pedestal saying, “ Croak, croak, croak”. That indicated exactly the role that has been assumed by the right honorable gentleman, but we must remember that he is the alternative Prime Minister of this country.
– The future Prime Minister.
– The alternative Prime Minister, certainly not the future Prime Minister.
– You will never be Prime Minister, that is a certainty.
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) must cease interjecting.
– If the Leader of the Opposition desires to secure the electoral support that would make him Prime Minister he must assume- his responsibility to the people at large to indicate in every respect where the Government has done the wrong thing. Then he should indicate what he would do if the Australian Labour party held office. If he were to do that, the people at large would have a choice of methods of dealing with our economic situation. All that the right honorable gentleman has done is to get his opinions into the newspapers every day, raise irrelevant matters in the House and generally behave like the frog depicted in the cartoon to which I have referred. It is with him a case of croak, croak, croak. The Australian Labour party should be judged not by what it says when in opposition but by what it does when it is in office.
There are several State Labour governments in Australia to-day. Time will not permit me to deal with the actions of all of them, but I shall deal with what has been done by the Labour Government in New South Wales. The Leader of the Opposition maintains that this Government has imposed too heavy a burden on primary producers. He says that taxation is too high, and he has tried to cash in on our enactments in relation to provisional tax, the abolition of the averaging system and so on. However, let us consider what his colleague in New South Wales has done for primary producers. Recently the New South. Wales Labour Government increased rail freights in New South Wales by no less than 166 per cent. Surely that is a heavy burden upon the primary producer. All produce that now comes into Sydney is burdened with enormously increased freights. In 1945 a bushel of wheat could be transported from Parkes to Sydney for 7d. Now it costs 2s. What has the New South Wales Labour Government done for the residents of Sydney? It has increased tram fares from about 2d. a section to about 4d. a section. In fact it costs about 6d. to travel almost anywhere in a train in Sydney to-day. That has been done by a Labour government, the supporters of which in this House say that no burdens should be placed on the primary producers or the people of Australia generally.
What did the Australian Labour party do when it held office in the Commonwealth sphere? I suggest that the people of Australia have good reason to remember what it did. During the regime of the last Labour government honorable members opposite used their authority in such an arbitrary and dictatorial way in respect of finance and most other matters that in 1949, when the people had an opportunity to pass judgment, they threw them out holus-bolus and left their party in the weakest condition that it had been in since 1931. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and others came back to this Parliament after the 1949 general election and said that it was all a ghastly mistake, and that their reverse was due to malicious propaganda because the people did not really understand what they were doing. However, when there was a double dissolution of the Parliament fifteen months later, the people had another opportunity of exercising their judgment. Again they refused to have a Labour government. Therefore, their action in 1949 was not a mistake at all, but was a matter of considered judgment.
Honorable members opposite are again trying to tell us that the people made another mistake. Surely they do not believe that the people have forgotten that Labour tried to nationalize the banking system. Do honorable members opposite believe that the people no longer remember that the Labour party wanted to supervise everybody’s banking account, and to abolish every bank except the one which it could completely control and, by that means, control the private affairs of every person in the country? People have not forgotten those things. Before they change the government they will want to know the specific items of policy that the Labour party will put into force if it once again should form a government. The people will want to know whether the Australian Labour party still stands for the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange. They will want to know whether, prior to the general election, every Labour candidate will have to sign a pledge to the effect that he will put that policy into operation at the first opportunity upon his return to power. Do honorable members imagine that the community has forgotten that before the last general election Labour candidates had to sign such a pledge?
– We hope they have-
– The honorable member hopes that they have! There is no doubt tha t he does.
-I was trying to say that we hope they havenot.
– The honorable member is making a serious mistake if he really thinks that the people have forgotten those things.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- Before the suspension of the sitting honorable members heard the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) make one of his frequent tirades of abuse. This time it was directed at the Labour Government of New South Wales, which he attacked because it has increased rail fares and freights. The honorable gentleman did not tell the House and the people of Australia why those increases became necessary. He knows perfectly well that they were necessary because this Government has starved the States of the Commonwealth of money with which to carry on vital public works. All honorable members are aware of the battering which our railways received during the war years. I suggest that the New South Wales Government had no other course than to increase fares and freights in order to keep its railways operating.
The Postmaster-General also failed to state that his department has increased postal charges by approximately £17,000.000 since this Government came to office. Wireless licences now cost £2 instead of £1 ; telephone rentals are much higher; letter-boxes cost 30s. a year whereas formerly they cost £1, and telegrams and registration fees have also increased. Almost every service rendered by his department has increased in price. He made no mention of the drastic curtailment of mail services in country districts. In one instance in my electorate, where there had been a daily mail service for the past 50 years there is now a service only’ three times a week. In another instance, a service which previously operated three times a week now operates only twice a week. The honorable gentleman did not tell us why thousands of Australians, and particularly primary producers, are unableto obtain telephones. People of my acquaintance who paid a deposit more than two years ago still have not been supplied with a telephone service.
During the debate in the House this morning, honorable members opposite made great play with the administration of the. Australian Labour party during the eight years it was in office. I suggest that during that time Australia was an oasis and the envy of the entire world. Nobody squealed when the Labour Government was in office. Let me give honorable members a precis of the political events which have occurred since the present coalition Government took office in 1949. The press and all thinking Australians are disturbed at the drift in Australia’s economy. Honorable members will recollect that in 1949 the Menzies Government inherited a balanced budget from the Chifley Government. Even the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has stated that the economy of the country was sound when he took office. There were buoyant overseas trade balances. There was a defence organization which planned to expend £50,000,000 a year for five years. A rocket range project had been established in conjunction with the United Kingdom Government. TransAustralia Airlines was an efficient and profitable organization. We controlled Qantas Empire Airways. We had a Commonwealth shipping line. A vast war-time secondary industry had been turned over to peace-time production, including the conversion of nitrogen plants to tlie production of sulphate of ammonia for agricultural purposes. We had a successfully working rehabilitation plan for ex-service men and women, and an effective Commonwealth and State housing agreement and soldiers’ settlement scheme. There was a highly profitable wool disposals organization, and a soundly based wheat-marketing stabilization plan. There was an international wheat agreement and there were long-term contract? with tbe United Kingdom for the sale of our primary products. There was a guaranteed price for wheat and other primary produce, a magnificent system of social services, a national university, and a generous post-war scholarship system. The Commonwealth Bank was controlled by the people. We had a splendid immigration plan. There were buoyant secondary industries and full employment The Snowy Mountains scheme had been commenced.
An important feature of Labour administration was its staunch and effective co-operation with the United Nations organization. We had a sound foreign policy which worked in co-operation with that of other countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations.. During those eight years three referendums were held at which the Government sought power to ensure peace-time stability and security. As all honorable members are aware, that power was denied to the Government, largely on advice given to the people by the supporters of the Liberal and Australian Country parties. The evil results of such advice are evident to all Australians to-day. So effective were Labour’s eight years of office that in 1949-
– It was thrown out of office!
– And the present Government’s turn is coming. So effective were Labour’s eight years of office that during the 1949 general election campaign the Australian Labour party found it unnecessary to make any definite election promises. Instead, the members of the Government merely said to the electors, “ We shall continue our good work and do whatever is necessary to promote the happiness and welfare of the people and to maintain our economy on a sound basis “. Sixteen months later, when the 19>51 general elections were imminent, it was necessary for the Australian Labour party to promise the people that it would do certain things if returned to office, because in that brief period the present Government had already severely dsintaged the sound economy that it had inherited from its; predecessor.. Despite the signs of deterioration which; were even then apparent, the people of Australia re-elected this Government. How they regret it to-day !
Our economic ills are so obvious that if a genera:! election were held to-morrow I consider that the Australian Labour party would sweep the Government from office. Of course, the Government hopes that the economic position will .right itself. That is a vain hope when it is considered in the light of lie results attained during two years of . unfettered control of the Parliament by a government which is already notorious for its broken promises. Limitation of time permits me to deal with only a few of these- promises. First, the Government said’ that it would put value back into the £L Honorable members may remember the full-page advertisement that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald under the heading, “ This is Our Policy ‘r. It bore a glamorous photo of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Government’s promises were printed underneath. All those promises have been repudiated’.
As honorable members are aware, the basic wage is adjusted quarterly in accordance with the variation in the price of basic commodities. When the Chifley ‘Government went out of office in 1949 the basic wage was £6 12s. a week. In March, 1950, it increased by 3s. to £6 15s. ; in June, 1950, by 3s. to £6 18s. ; in September, 1950, by 4s. to £7 2s. ; in December, 1950, by 23s. to- £8 5s.; iu March, 1951, by 8s. to £8 13s. ; in June-, 1951, by 7s. to’ £9; in September, 1951, by 13s. to £9 13s. ; in December, 1951, by 14s. to £10 7s. ; and in March, 1952, by 9s. to £10 16s. That was an unparalleled total rise of £4 4s. or 63.7 per cent, in two years. Value has not been put back into the £1 and people on fixed incomes underservedly have been thrown to the wolves in an economic sense. The architects of misery and depression on the Government side do not like to hear a recital <of their promises of the 1949 election campaign. I have referred to their promises to put value back into the £1 and to reduce taxation, particularly indirect taxation.. Let honorable members en the Government side go around th<3 country to-day and discover -what the people -of Australia think of them and theia- promises. They promised to provide a loan of £250,000,000 free of interest to local governing bodies throughout Australia .and to State governments for feeder roads, soil conservation, irrigation services and rural development generally. Within two years this coalition Government has repudiated every one of those promises. It certainly has not put value back into the £1. Instead it has allowed value to drain out of the £L It has not decreased taxation. Instead, it has lifted direct and indirect taxation to unprecedented heights. It has failed the farming community and Australia, and every member of the anti-Labour forces, whether he is a member of the Liberal party or the Australian Country party shares equally with the others the guilt and the blame for the harm that has been done by this Government.
If a general election were held now the Labour party would annihilate the present Administration. The figures for the Lyne by-election show a reduction in the Country party candidate’s majority from almost 12,000 to 6,558. Figures do not lie, and on that basis, taking Lyne, the most conservative area in New South “Wales, as a pointer, Labour would now be returned in this Parliament at a general election with a majority of 47.
– Then the honorable member would wake up.
– The electors have been fooled and tricked. The Government’s promises were false and were never intended to be fulfilled. Is there anybody inside this Parliament or outside who can say with truth that conditions are not worse now than they were when the Labour party was in power ? I am doubtful if one Australian would be foolish enough to claim that conditions have improved under the regime of this Government. Many -thousands of voters who helped to put the Chifley Government ®ut in 1949 now regret the votes that they cast then. Under Mr. Chifley, Australia’s credit balance in London grew to £451,000,000 and the total was continually growing. Neither the Prime Minister nor any of his Ministers had told honorable members that thanks to the Government’s policy, Australia will have an adverse trade -balance of £450,000,000 at the end of this year. I am reminded of the bad old days of the Bruce-Page Government. Unless the position is reversed by the end of the year, we shall have lost all our London balances which amounted to more than £700,000,000 at the end of last year. For that disaster we have to thank this Government, the spiritual successor to the Bruce-Page Government.
The last budget that was presented to the Parliament by this Government was a suicide budget which is gradually converting a prosperous Australia into a nation of bankrupts, dole queues and soup kitchens as it was when the LiberalCountry party bunglers condemned Australia to the depression blizzard in 1930. In my opinion it is a .Fadden budget only insofar as the Treasurer is the instrument through which the plan has been executed. It runs counter to nearly everything for which the Treasurer has stood iu public life. I remember him standing in this House and almost bursting the buttons from his shirt in an attack on the Government of the day for high taxation. The people whom the Treasurer is injuring through his financial policy include the graziers, the farmers, the country traders and the rural sections of the community, as well as every other section. I challenge the Government to go back to the people, who are its masters, on this issue. Had the coalition Government been honest with the people in April, 1951, and had it told them, what was in store for them in the budget; that so large a part of the Copland depression plan was to be adopted., it would have been annihilated. As soon as the budget speech was delivered, practical men, representative of employers and employees of primary industry as well as manufacturers, were almost unanimous in their condemnation of the injustices, the stupidity and the futility of the budget and its adverse affects on industry, business and employment. The last federal election campaign was the greatest propaganda fraud in Australia’s history. I can quite understand members of the graziers’ organiza- tion in some parts of New South Wales demanding the resignation of the Treasurer or his expulsion from the Australian Country party.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Listening to the speech of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) I was reminded of that oftquoted line, “Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing “. The Opposition’s attach on the Government’s economic policy, insofar as that policy has been attacked by honorable members opposite, has taken two forms. In the first place, the Opposition charged the Government with inconsistency. Honorable members opposite have accused us of following one course on one day and a totally opposite course on another. In its second form the attack has been directed to single acts of the Government. If we institute capital issues control the Opposition attacks us for so doing; if we institute import licensing, that policy is attacked; if at another time we decide to encourage imports, the Opposition again attacks us. Whatever we do, honorable members opposite attack us in an attempt to sustain their charge that the Government has acted inconsistently. An argument based upon those premises starts from the supposition that when a government assumes office and is faced, as every government must be faced, with many and varied circumstances, it should immediately evolve a master plan and thenceforth all its actions should proceed in orderly sequence, step by step, in accordance with that plan. Human experience tells us that events do not follow such an orderly course and that governments are called upon to deal, not with an orderly flow of events, but for the greater part of their terms of office with the contingent and the unforeseen. If the Government had adopted an inflexible policy, and did not modify its actions from time to time to meet such circumstances, there would have been some reason for criticism of its economic policy.
What has been the world position during the last ten or fifteen years? First, there was the world war, with all the destruction of material assets consequent upon such a conflict. Yesterday the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) implied that limitless financial resources were available to the Government. He askedwhether, during the war, any one thought the war would stop simply because the supply of money had run out. His argument was greeted with laughter by his supporters. Apparently this argument was so stupid that even members of the Labour party noticed it. Let me remind the House that that almost happened and would have happened but for the institution of lend-lease. Had it not been for this, Britain’s war effort would in fact have come to an end for lack of cash. War is paid for, not only in human suffering and material destruction, but also in hard cash. As a part of the aftermath of war, we are short of materials, our railway systems are run down and transport, shipping, ports and harbour installations are inefficient. War must be paid for in cash and to the uttermost farthing. It is completely unreal to suggest that limitless financial resources can be made available to the Government to remedy these ills. No government is responsible for the deficiencies that exist to-day ; they resulted from the war. It is as foolish to charge any government, irrespective of its political colour, with responsibility for their existence as it is to lay upon the shoulders of any body of persons responsibility for catastrophes such as the great depression. The paramount need of the world to-day is for goods of all kinds to repair the losses that were suffered by the nations that participated in the war. Since this Government took office its first great need has been the speedy supply of these goods. The Government, through its economic policy, obtained those goods quickly, by the only way in which they could be obtained, namely, by importation. It encouraged, and rightly so, the importation of goods. The encouragement of imports presupposes capacity on the part of the nation to pay for them. When, because of circumstances beyond the control of this Government or any other Government, our export income suddenly diminished, principally as a result of the tremendous fall in the price of wool, the Government took strong, positive, decisive and necessary action to meet the situation by restricting the issue of import licences.
Every government must take action of a positive and decisive kind when confronted by events of the kind that confronted us in recent months. I remind the House that our predecessors in office, who charge us with having taken sudden action, took equally precipitous action when the British fi was devalued. I do not intend to discuss the rights or wrongs of devaluation or revaluation of the Australian £1. I merely recall to the minds of honorable members that when the British £1 was devalued the Chifley Government took immediate action to devalue the Australian £1, a decision” which was farreaching and drastic in its consequences. When I say that the Government’s economic policy must be altered to meet varying circumstances arising from world events, I do not want it to be thought that I do not believe that there is a central principle to which the Government should adhere. The central principle of the Government’s economic policy must be increased production. It is no accident that the production of coal in Australia during the last three months exceeded by 1,000,000 tons the amount of coal produced during the comparable period last year. It is no accident that in the six months ended June, 1951, the labour force of the coal industry of New South Wales was increased by 656 men compared with a net annual intake of 46:1 during the preceding five years. It is no accident that during the twelve months ended March last Australian steel production was increased by 1,200,000 tons; or that during the two and a half years that the Government has been in office it has provided 40 per cent, of the total number of war service homes that have been provided since the War Service Homes Act was introduced 33 years ago; or that in one year this Government, thanks to its economic policy, . has been responsible for the construction of the record number of 70,000 houses. Those are facts. Under the Government’s economic policy attention is now being directed to the rehabilitation of the rural industries of Australia which previous administrations allowed to decline to their lowest ebb.
Supporters of the Government who have spoken in this debate have pointed out that honorable members opposite, whilst they have criticized the Government’s policy, have not offered any alternative to it. Whilst it is true that no member of the Opposition has presented any concrete alternative to that policy in this House, nevertheless, the fact remains that the Labour party has an alternative. That alternative is to be found in the Australian Labour party’s platform and is seared into the soul of every member of that party. That alternative is socializa tion and nationalization. Under Labour’s policy no industry, profession, business, bank, or any walk of life would be free from the pink of nationalization, if ever this country again had the misfortune of being governed by Labour. That fact was made clear by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) in the course of his remarks yesterday. He did not. envisage any expansion of national wealth or any fresh fields of human endeavour. On the contrary, he looked back to the days when food, petrol, clothing and other essentials were rationed; and, in doing so. he summed up Labour’s economic policy, which is to reduce the community to the soul-destroying level of mediocrity inherent in socialism. That is the alternative that Labour has to offer to this Government’s economic policy, and it is well that the people should remind themselves of that fact.
Australia is now faced with great difficulties. I have no doubt that, in meeting them, the Government will make some mistakes. It would be contrary to all human experience to expect otherwise. We must realize that import licensing controls, and other weapons that the. Government is using, or may have to iise in the future, to meet these difficulties are double-edged and will bring other difficulties in their train. We have no alternative but to rely upon such weapons. However, under the flexible policy of the Government they will be used with wisdom. But, whilst the Government is determined to resort to them only as temporary and expedient measures, and I use these words advisedly, no one need assume that the period for which it must employ them will be necessarily short. Having regard to present economic circumstances throughout the world, it is obvious that we shall require to use these weapons for a considerable time to come before our economy generally will be restored to normal. Nevertheless, the Government regards them as being only temporary and expedient. I again remind the House that the only alternative that presents itself to a free and liberal government is to place such weapons in the hands of a socialist administration which would use them to fasten restrictions forever round the necks of Australian citizens.
In order to solve our present problems we require a national outlook, a united purpose and-I do not indict any particular industry - harder work. We must recognize our present difficulties and realize that we must get out of them. We need free and abundant opportunity to create new wealth. We must shun the restrictions that the honorable member for Fremantle propounded - rationing and the darg - that are inherent in socialism. We need to give freedom of opportunity to initiative and enterprise. I have no doubt that under this Government’s policy every Australian will be given that opportunity and also that of enjoying the reward of initiative and enterprise. I am certain that the Australian people agree with me when I say that our difficulties cannot be overcome if we merely have recourse to the dull, levelling, soul-destroying doctrine of socialism.
– We have heard nothing new from the honorable member for Oxley (Br. Donald Cameron), who has just resumed his seat. He told the House once again that the Labour party believes in socialism and. that if Labour were returned to office the Australian people would get another dose of socialism. If that is what the Australian Labour party’s policy really involves, the majority of Australians, nevertheless, are waiting anxiously for a change from liberalism to socialism. But I remind the House that whilst the Australian Labour party has always made it clear that it believes that monopolies which exploit the people should be socialized and placed under the control and ownership of the people to be operated by the people for the benefit of the people as a whole and not for the benefit of a privileged few, Labour has, at the same time, made it equally clear that its policy with respect to socialism does not, and never will, envisage a form of socialism that aims at complete public ownership and control of all private property; nor has it ever done so. The Australian Labour party, in spite of the propagandists of the Liberal party, will never socialize forms of private ownership, such as that of homes, motor cars, small businesses, &c.
– Do not apologize.
– I am not apologizing; I am simply stating the facts. I challenge any supporter of the Government to produce any evidence that any authorized spokesman of the Australian Labour party has ever said that Labour intends to socialize every form of private property. What Labour’s policy means is that it will socialize all monopolies that are being used by the few to exploit the many. One of the most important monopolies in Australia, as it is in any other country, is that of finance, which the private banks have operated to their own advantage on previous occasions. If the Labour party has the opportunity, those financial institutions will never again have the right to do as they did during the financial depression of 1929-31. No one can gainsay the fact that the private trading banks, which are only one of many monopolies in this country that should be controlled by the people for the benefit of the people rather than for the benefit of a few privileged individuals, played a major role daring the depression. They acted, in & large measure, as a means of preventing the alleviation of the effects of the depression. Had the government of the day been in the position to control that finan- cial monopoly in the interests of the people rather than for the benefit ofthe shareholders of the banks, the unemployment problem would have beensolved; and today the Snowy Mountains hydro- electric scheme, instead of being in the initial stages, would have been almost complete and Australia would then have had no less than 3,000,000 kilowatts of power equivalent to 4,000,000 tons of the best black coal, which is in such short supply to-day. Had a socialist government been in power during the depression, it would have regarded as one of its first duties-
– A socialist government was in power during the depression.
– A Labour government was in power during the depression.
– The socialist government of the day had a majority of supporters in the House of Representatives, but its supporters were in a minority in the Senate. Everybody knows that that government was prevented from giving effect to its policy. The present Government is now under attack for its disastrous financial and economic policy, which has brought the country to its present straits. The Government can no longer blame the Senate for preventing it from giving effect to its policy, because it has a majority of supporters in that chamber as well as in the House of Representatives. The misdeeds of the Government can no longer be attributed to the Senate. Ministers must take full responsibility for all their misdeeds, and stand or fall in the opinion of the people on the results of their policy.
It is important for us to examine the policy of the Government, as expressed in its promises during the general election campaign in 1949. In order to obtain an idea of the policy that the Government promised to implement, I shall read some passages from an advertisement that was published on behalf of the Liberal party in the Australian Woman’s Weekly on the 3rd December, 1949, only seven days before the election. I mention, in passing, that at that election the people rejected the best Prime Minister - the late Mr. J. B. Chifley - that has ever graced this House. 1 shall read three of the pre-election promises oh the basis of which the Liberal party received from the people a mandate to govern. The advertisement, which occupies a full page of the magazine and cost the private trading banks approximately £265, because most of the Liberal party’s propaganda in that election was paid by that source-
– Order ! I point out to the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the subject of this debate is the financial statement presented by the Treasurer, and the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell).
– I am coming to them.
– .Order ! I have had to warn other honorable members not to digress. It is time the honorable gentleman addressed himself to the subject before the Chair.
– I am speaking to the financial statement, and the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne.
– -The honorable gentleman should discuss the amendment.
– Very well! The amendment directs attention to the economic condition of Australia. Had the Government implemented its pre-election promises to the people in 1949, the economic position of the nation would be entirely different from the present situation. Had the Government been true to its pre-election pledges, the plight of Australia would be as forecast in the advertisement in the Australian Woman’s Weekly. The first question that was asked in that advertisement was -
Will you be able to reduce the cost of living?
That question was pertinent to the economic position of the country, and the promise of the Liberal party was as follows : -
We regard that as one of our first responsibilities’ - to increase the purchasing value of the Australian pound; to increase production and thus bring prices down.
Referring to the amendment, as I notice that you, Mr. Speaker, are doing, I find that the Government has not increased the purchasing value of the £1. The amendment very properly directs attention to the fact that -
The financial statement presented by the Treasurer conclusively establishes that the Government’s financial and economic measures have had and are having disastrous effects and arc still causing unnecessary hardship and’ -avoidable suffering to the people of Australia, and that the Government possesses the confidence neither of the Parliament nor of the nation.
I contend, still pursuant to the amendment which I have read, that the Government does not possess the confidence of the people because it has broken the pre-election promises that it made in 1949. The people know perfectly well that those promises have not been honoured. The second promise, the breaking of which -
– Order ! I should like to know whether the honorable gentleman proposes to defy the Chair.
– Certainly not, Mr. Speaker.
– Then I ask the honorable gentleman to relate his remarks to the amendment.
– I am discussing the amendment, and I desire to. show you, sir, that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of the nation because the cost of living has increased enormously since it has been in office. Age and invalid pensioners, who have been referred to so frequently during this debate, have had good cause to lose confidence in the Government.
– Order ! Age and invalid pensioners have not been referred to frequently in this debate.
– I have heard that section referred to several times.
– Order ! I have been in the House much longer than has the honorable gentleman.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker, if you will not permit me to refer to the pensioners, how can I possibly speak to the amendment, which asks the House to declare that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of the nation ?
– Order ! I ask the honorable gentleman to resume his seat. I will not allow this to continue much longer. The honorable gentleman is perfectly well aware of the terms of the amendment ; he has just read them. They are based on the financial statement, which is the subject of this discussion. I am quite prepared to allow passing references, but the honorable gentleman appears to be basing the whole of his argument on certain other matters. I have directed the attention of other members to the necessity for confining their remarks to the subject under discussion.
– I am placed in some difficulty, Mr. Speaker, if I may not refer to the plight of age and invalid pensioners, but I must obey your ruling, or suffer the inevitable consequences. I do not feel disposed to suffer those consequences at this stage, and shall developmy argument by answering some of the submissions that have been advanced on behalf of the Government. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), whose speech was delivered without interruption of any kind, directed attention to the fact that the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour party carried a resolution last June advocating the re-introduction of prices control by the Commonwealth. If I may reply to the arguments that the Postmaster-General considered to be germane to the amendment, I point out that one of the main reasons why this Government has failed to improve the economic position of the country is that it has not supported a proper system of prices control. Had the Liberal party supported the referendum conducted by the Chifley Labour Government in 1948 with a view to giving to the Commonwealth proper and effective control of prices, the people would not now be experiencing the disastrous effects of the present Government’s financial policy, and the value of a £100 Commonwealth bond would not be less than £90, as it is at the present time. We would have seen a form of stability that disappeared immediately the Liberal party succeeded in persuading the people to reject the Labour Government’s proposal for Commonwealth prices control.
The Postmaster-General ridiculed the Labour party in Victoria for having included in its eight-point programme the retention of capital issues control. He sought to derive some kudos from the fact that this Government already exercises a measure of capital issues control; but what he did not tell the House was that this Government was responsible for removing the very control that it subsequently had to restore. It was the lifting of capital issues control by this Government that led to the over capitalizing of certain industries in the metropolitan areas and the consequent denudation of rural lands of labour essential for the production of foodstuffs. Unless something is done to increase food production, by the end of 1960 we shall be either importing food or starving. One of the most important answers to the Treasurer’s statement is that, instead of placing a blanket embargo on imports, some of which are badly needed in this country, the Government would have been better advised to do something effective to increase exports. We have assured markets overseas only for our primary products; but primary production will not be increased as long as this Government adheres to its present policy. It has done nothing to break up large estates, most of which to-day are not producing to anything like their fullcapacity. The lag in primary production is not the fault of the small farmers. I know well that you, Mr. Speaker, go home from this Parliament when its meetings end and work day and night on your property in an endeavour to increase production. The fault therefore does not lie with you or with other small farmers, but with the owners of large holdings who do not work them to their full capacity. Instead of assisting the small land-holder, this Government is doing everything possible to help the big man who is keeping land out of production. He is being given rebates of land tax whereas, in my opinion, the Government should be increasing land taxes. Thousands of land hungry ex-servicemen who are prepared to enter primary production and wish to be their own bosses are unable to obtain properties because of the attitude of land monopolists. If the Government really wants to increase primary production, it should not concern itself with the interests of property owners whose incomes are £30,000 or £40,000 a year. If tax rebates are to be made, let them be made to the men who actually work those large properties. I realize that the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) is a good farmer, but I am sure he will agree that encouragement is needed most by the men who work for him. Until the Government recognizes that the remedy for our present economic ills lies not in the restriction of imports, but in the expansion of exports, we shall continue to sink deeper and deeper into the mire.
I shall now make another attempt to quote from the Liberal party’s advertisement to which I have already referred, and I am sure you will let me proceed on this occasion, Mr. Speaker. The advertisement wa3 published on the 3rd November. 1949. It purports to show the questions that were being asked of the Liberal party in that election campaign. One question was -
Will you make further reductions in taxation ?
The answer given in the advertisement is as follows : -
Yes, the rates of tax will be steadily reduced, including the indirect taxes affecting the cost of living,’ housing and home fittings and furniture. There will be tax allowances for education costs.
What has the Government done towards fulfilling that promise? I remind honorable members that it was largely upon the undertaking to reduce taxes that the Government was elected in 1949. Far from indirect taxes being reduced, those impositions which include, of course, sales tax and customs duties have been substantially increased. In fact, receipts from the sales tax have increased by approximately £100,000,000 a year. How can the electors have any confidence in a party that makes such rash promises and does absolutely nothing to carry them out? Is it not about time that this Parliament carried out a motion of want of confidence and so forced the Government to face the electors? I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, would have little difficulty in retaining your seat at an early election, but many honorable members opposite ?ould no longer be in the Parliament. 1 f the Gawler by-election in South Australia is any indication of what is in the minds of the electors - Mr. Playford says that it is and that the people of Gawler voted not against him but against the Menzies and Fadden Administration - this Government will go out neck and crop at the next election.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have been pleased to hear some Government supporters refer to the Labour party’s policy. I disagree with those of my colleagues who say that Labour has no policy. It is true that Labour supporters do not like talking about their policy in this Parliament or elsewhere, but every one knows that Labour’s objective is the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange.
– I rise to order. I should like to know whether the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee have any relationship to thefinancial statement made by the Treasurer or by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne. If no such relationship exists, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule the honorable member’s remarks out of order.
– The honorable member for Mallee must come very soon to the subject-matter before the Chair. In the course of this debate several references have been made by honorable members on both sides of the House to the policies of the various parties. Those policies are not the subjectmatter of the motion or of the amendment, and it would be well for all honorable members to confine their attention to one or the other. As an old, experienced debater, I have no hesitation in saying that, in those matters, there is ample scope for any speaker.
– I very much appreciate that opinion. I was only making a passing reference which, I felt sure, would draw interjections or points of order.
– Order ! The honorable member should not be seeking interjections.
– It has been said that this Government was elected on a policy of banning communism, fighting inflation and reducing taxes. I heartily agree with that.
We should examine those three points. First, let us consider the proposal to ban communism.
– Order ! The subject of communism was not dealt with in the Treasurer’s financial statement.
– Then let us consider the plan to fight inflation. Inflation does not develop by degrees. It spreads like wildfire, and its general characteristics are very much likethose of a bush fire. Like a fire, it can be fought most effectively at the source. When a bush fire breaks out, the people who fight it as it spreads are not to be blamed for the damage it does. The fault is with those who allowed it to start. Similarly, the blame for inflation must be placed upon those who allowed it to start. I realize that perhaps the greatest factor that contributed to inflation was the vast expenditure of money during World War II. and that the situation was aggravated by the lack of production of civil goods during the war. We had plenty of money in the community but there were very few goods to be purchased with that money. 1 return to my analogy. As a bush fire sweeps across the land, the flames are fed by undergrowth and dead wood. The Labour party during its eight years of office allowed undergrowth and dead wood to accumulate in the economic field. This Government had to sweep away the debris before it could proceed with the rest of its programme to check inflation. Yet already it has reduced its dangerous progress. When the Labour Government was defeated, inflation was cantering and on the verge of breaking into a gallop. The forces that have spurred it since that date, notwithstanding the efforts of this Government, were released during the years of Labour administration when, perhaps, their potential power was not apparent. Unfortunately, those forces were given momentum as a result of the political folly of the Labour party. We have evidence that this Government has succeeded in restraining the pace of inflation. For example, members of the Opposition expected that the recent basic wage rise would amount to 10s. or 15s. a week. In fact, the rise was as low as 3s. a week in one State. Whenever the basic wage rises there is a tremendous outcry from the Labour party and the trade unions. What will happen when this Government halts the spiral and the cost of living begins to fall and brings the basic wage down with it in steps of 10s. or even 15s.? In my opinion, the Labour party will protest more loudly than ever as soon as the wage begins to recede towards a reasonable level.
The Opposition has also attacked the Government’s taxation policy. There can be not the slightest doubt that the Government’s programme provides for the eventual reduction of taxation. Does any honorable member who supports a football team expect that team to win each match in the first half of the game. Of course not ! The Government is paving the way for tax reductions. Nothing would give it greater pleasure than to be able to reduce taxation immediately if that were possible. It is a well-known fact that Labour can sometimes legislate with apparent good results, but its record proves beyond doubt that it cannot successfully legislate on a permanent basis. Its acts are mere expedients. The explanation of that weakness is that socialism breaks down the economic structure of the country. Thus, the Labour party, after it has held office briefly, is invariably compelled to hand the country back to the parties that are represented on this side of the chamber to be resuscitated like a half-drowned swimmer. This Government is now using every means at its disposal in order to restore vigour to our economy and, as soon as it has done so, it will reduce taxation. I have frequently spoken to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) about the possibility of reducing taxation because I believe that tax reductions will help to increase production. The Treasurer has always asked me to point out any means by which expenditure can be reduced in order to make a tax reduction possible. He has asked me, for instance, “Do you believe that defence expenditure should be curtailed ? “, and I have been obliged to answer in the negative.
I have often heard the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), a spokesman of the Labour party, express the opinion that expenditure on defence represents a great loss. All members of the Opposition may not subscribe to that view, but, as they have not said so, we must assume that they agree with the honorable member.
– The. honorable member for East Sydney has not made any such statement.
– He has said it on numerous occasions. He has protested time after time against the amount that the Government has set aside for expenditure on defence.
– Why did it set aside such a large amount?
– I am astonished to hear that interjection from the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). Defence expenditure is our best insurance for freedom. Any honorable member who objects to the Government’s defence programme should go home and cancel all insurance policies on his life, his house, his motor car and any other possessions that he may have insured. Australia, as a nation that loves freedom, cannot afford to do that. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) complained that we were not building enough ships in Australia. He said that Russia had more submarines to-day than Germany had in commission before. World War II., and that, if war broke out, Russia could destroy our merchant navy. The honorable member should be able to make a fairly good estimate of Russia’s armed strength because he must be aware that its submarine fleet is merely an adjunct to the rest of its forces. Another speaker who followed on the Opposition side of the House said that the Government should reduce its expenditure on defence. I am tired of hearing the honorable member for Fremantle and the honorable member for East Sydney talking about criminal negligence and dishonesty. Practical men become suspicious of those who continually utter such wild charges as they have made.
– I rise to order. I was the next speaker on this side of the House after the honorable member for Fremantle had spoken and I did not mention the subject of defence.
– The point of order is not apparent to me. I did not hear the honorable member for Burke mentioned.
– The point of order is that the honorable member for Mallee has attacked me for having made statements that I did not make.
– I did not hear the honorable member for Burke mentioned.
– I was referring to the honorable member for East Sydney. Members of the Opposition, who have spoken so often of dishonesty and criminal negligence, are not prepared to support the United Nations forces in Korea by appearing on public platforms to help the recruiting campaign. But they are quite happy to participate in peaceful negotiations, when they are in progress, as champions of the United Nations.
A report in to-day’s Melbourne Age of the speech that was delivered by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) yesterday contains the following passage : -
A grazier who had to pay £14,500 in tax on an income of £1.4,000 was mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell).
That is absolutely impossible. The income tax payable on an income of £14,600 is £9.0-73 13s. 4d. The problem that is harassing primary producers to-day is the payment of provisional tax. Some relief has been given, but a permanent solution is necessary. I believe it will be found. The provisional taxation system was introduced by the Labour party in 1944. Let me explain the manner in which it operates. If, in 1949-50, a man had a taxable income of £2,000, his provisional tax for 1950-51 was assessed on the basis of that income. If, in 1950-51, his taxable income due to rises in wool prices was £6,000, he was required to pay only £468 7s. provisionally notwithstanding that the tax payable upon an income of £6,000 was £2,755, or £2,286 13s. more than he was called upon to pay. If, in 195.1-52, due to wool values falling, the man has an income of £3,000, his provisional tax for that year will be based upon the income of £6,000 that he derived during the previous year. He will be required to pay £3,030 10s, plus £2,286 13s. in respect of the previous year, making a total of £5,317 3s. The tax that he really owes will be £2,286 13s. in respect of the previous year and the provisional tax of £1,021 4s. upon his income for 1951-52, making a total of £3,307 17s. If that sum be deducted from the £5,317 3s. that he will be required to pay, the remainder is £2,009 6s. Therefore, if he has an income of £3,000, in 1952-53 he will, after paying his tax for that year, receive a refund of £98S 2s. These figures do not take into account the effect of the averaging system.
When assessments have been adjusted and when refunds of tax are being made, the position will be very different from now. If this Government introduces the Canadian, system of self-assessment, anomalies to which the provisional taxation system gives rise will be rectified. As I have said, the provisional taxation system was imposed upon the people of this country by the Australian Labour party, but Labour speakers have tried to make political capital out of the present situation. They have said that men are required to pay £5,800 income tax on an income of £6,000. That is not the position at all. That amount of tax is paid in respect of an amount of £12,000. The anomalies to which the system gives rise are now appearing for the first time, owing to the high prices that were received for wool last year, but the Labour party is trying to add fuel to the fire by misrepresenting the position. I prophesy that next year we shall hear no more protests about taxation than we have heard this year about the wool sales deduction legislation except, of course, the contention that taxation must be reduced as soon as the economy permits.
The manner in which the wool sales deduction legislation was misrepresented was responsible for the return to this Parliament of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller). The honorable gentleman, in his speech in this debate, did not refer to deposits in the savings banks, although some years ago, whenever he made a speech in this House, he directed attention to those deposits and suggested that they were the yardstick with which to measure the financial stability of the country. Every honorable member knows that deposits in the savings bank have increased. During the last general election, the Labour party endeavoured to give the impression that the money collected from the wool-growers under the wool sales deduction scheme would never be seen again by them. But to-day the certificates that the wool-growers received are as good as gold, and they can pay their income tax with them. That establishes beyond doubt that the ideas that were then expressed by Labour speakers, both inside and outside the Parliament, were misleading in the highest degree. But for the misrepresentation of the wool sales deduction scheme, there would have been fewer Labour members on the benches opposite at the present time.
When- taxation anomalies are rectified, when the Government reduces taxation and when truth gets a hearing, the misleading statements of the Opposition will be shown in their true light and the policy of the parties which stand for the freedom, protection and financial stability of this country will be justified.
.- As I listened to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), my thoughts went back to an occasion not very long ago in this Parliament when the honorable gentleman was making a speech somewhat similar to that which he delivered a few moments ago, and when, in the course of it, one of the members of the Government parties moved, “ That the question be now put”. The honorable member for Mallee apparently thought so little of his comments that he voted for the gagging of the speech that he was in the course of making. The substance of the comments that the honorable gentleman made to-day is very much in keeping with the substance of those that he made on the occasion to which I have just referred. He supports blindly policies that he does not understand.
In the course of this debate, I could not help thinking how the views, policies, pronouncements and speeches of honorable members opposite, from the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) down to the back benchers, had changed in recent times. I thought, for instance, of the numerous promises that were made by the Government upon all aspects of economic and financial policy, controls, production and a dozen and one other things. I recalled the great number of pledges that the members of the Government parties made to the people. Then I compared the changed policies of this Government with the changed attitude of the Treasurer. Gone is that happy smiling fellow, the automatic adding machine of this Parliament, who spoke of Chifley Government surpluses and of how the Labour governments of those days should abolish controls, reduce taxation and give to the people of this country an incentive to produce by permitting them to retain more of the money that they earned. The picture now is very different. The right honorable gentleman comes into this chamber, having thrown overboard the cheery and optimistic approach to the future that he adopted when in opposition, and paints a gloomy picture of the bard financial road that the people of Australia must travel.
His supporters claim that the policy that the Government is now enunciating is the same as that which was followed by the Chifley Government and other Labour governments in times gone by. But honorable gentlemen opposite significantly omit to mention that they went on to the hustings throughout the length and breadth of this country and condemned every part of the policy of the Chifley Government as being socialistic and designed to undermine the freedom of Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who says “Hear, hear!”, now stands for controls, totalitarian methods and the implementation of a banking policy, in comparison with which the Chifley Government’s action appears to be insignificant. The point that I wish to make is that the economic policy enunciated by this Government was not the economic policy of the Chifley Government. That Government stood for full employment, but honorable gentlemen opposite who support this Government stand for a pool of unemployed. Unmistakably and without apology they make this policy known to the people at large. The Chifley financial policy, which brought economic stability to this nation, incorporating as it did capital issues control, certain essential controls on banking, and other measures, was Undermined by honorable members opposite when they persuaded the people in 1948 to defeat the prices referendum. Since the defeat of that referendum, for which honorablo members opposite are responsible, prices have skyrocketed. That defeat was. the first chink in the armour of the Chifley policy, because with the destruction of prices control on a federal basis the policy, which had been of such benefit to this nation in maintaining economic stability, was Undermined owing to the fact that it could not successfully be implemented without this power. As proof of iny contention let me remind honorable members that at that time the basic wage, was £0 2s. a week, We have seen it spiral since then Until to-day it is over £ll a week, almost double that figure. And now the Government comes before the people with a dilapidated and makeshift policy which shows that it does not know where it is going. Its policy cannot be compared with that of the Chifley Government. Labour policy as’ implemented by the Chifley Government, was the real basic reason why our prestige at home and abroad was at such a high standard in recent years. The Government to-day is asking people to subsoribe to government bonds, yet such bonds are being written down on the market to as low as £91 for a £100 bond. The Government is, in fact, asking people to subscribe £100 for something that is now worth only £91 or less because of the lack of confidence that the people have in the present Administration.
After two and a half years of this Government’s rule, we have the inglorious spectacle of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) going cap in hand to the smaller nations of the world asking, like beggars, for financial assistance for this country’ in which money should not be an obstacle to development. That state of affairs has existed for a limited time. What is the Government’s excuse for its existence? When the Government was first elected to office two and a half years ago its members blamed the Labour-dominated Senate, for frustrating its plans to implement a policy which, it was claimed, would be beneficial to the nation. The people succumbed to the Government’s false arguments and the Labour party lost control of the. Senate. What was the Government’s next excuse? According to it, the Communists were destroying the Liberal policy for producing economic security and bringing prices down. Evidently the Communists have disappeared, because the Treasurer did not mention them in his financial statement. Having been left to your own resources you are revealed starkly and unashamedly- -
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will address me.
– The members of the Government are revealed as being without a policy, without plans, and with no prospect of assuring economic stability in Australia. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer are trying to pass on to the States the responsibility for our economic difficulties, but the people of Australia will not long continue to be misled in that direction. If any indication of the opinion that the people have of the Government is required by the small number of honorable members who represent the remnants of the Australian Country party, then they should take note that in a blue-ribbon electorate, the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), who made his maiden speech last night, was lucky to be elected. His failure to secure a larger majority was due to the fact that the people in that constituency know that this Government is snatching at straws, is panic-stricken, and is without any stable policy for either the country or the city.
I was amazed last night to hear Government supporters sponsoring capital issues control, and other controls in the interests of the economy. Is not the Treasurer the man who abolished capital issues control when he took office? Is he not the man who in his first eighteen months of office allowed all kinds of industries in Australia to start operations with capital that should not have been expended for such purposes? Today, as a result of the Government’s incompetence in that respect and its policy on capital issues, we find that really essential industries in my electorate, as in other electorates, are clamouring for capital to the Capital Issues Board, which they should never have had to approach had the Government carried out a sound policy.
Control of capital issues is evidently carried on to-day on a quota basis. When capital issues have reached a certain figurethe board no doubt says “ reject “ to more request’s for capital, whether they come from essential or unessential industries. The capital issues control policy of the Government is completely tying up industryin a way that was never visualized by the Chifley Government or amy other Labour Government I speak with an intimate knowledge of the manner in which the policy is affecting industry. My constituency has industries of all kinds, and I took the trouble during recess to call on the controllers of those industries. I was welcomed’ by them, although I doubt whether many ofthem would normally support the Labour party,. I know that they would do anything to see the Labour party in office now, because they realize that their only prospect of survival is the defeat of the present Government. The Liberal party in my electorate is sending out circulars in an attempt to. gain financial assistance-
– Order! The honorable gentleman should come to the terms of either the motion or the amendment.
– No industrialist to-day will subscribe to the funds of the Liberal partyor the Australian Country party because he knows that that would be merely a way of subsidizing himself on the way to bankruptcy. In my constituency, as in other constituencies at present, men and women are clamouring for work, I can supply the Government with the names of firms in my electorate which are turning; job-seekers away horn their doors. As the. honorable member for East. Sydney (Mr. Ward) said last night,, there is now very little opportunity for am unskilled worker to obtain employment in New South Wales. The clear, undeniable policy of liberalism as we know it in. this country cannot be mistaken. That policy is that men should work for the lowest possible wages, that a 44-hour week should be implemented, so that later on we shall have a pool of unemployed, seeking work out side the factory gates. By that means we shall have the Liberal type of efficiency in this country. Many manufacturers have stored up on their shelves good’s that people are unable to buy because they have not the necessary purchasing power, having been forced out of work as a result of” the Government’s policy. The clear plan for an economic depression which has always been in the cupboard of Liberal governments, is to-day obvious to the Australian people, when plenty of goods are available and there is not enough money to buy them. We believe that this Government is deserving of the condemnation of the, people because of thatparticularfact, because to-day people are seeking jobs, and because industry itself is threatenedin a way that was never visualized! immediately after the beginningof the prosperous post-war era. I shall site a few industries that are showing the effects of theGovernment’s policy. Honorable members can visit textile factories in. my electorate,, or in other electorates, and will find in them dozens of idle machines and. greatly reduced staffs. That is an indication of the fact that this Government doesnotcare what happens to the workera s long as what it regards as that much-needed Liberal-type efficiency is brought to industry.. The textile; radio and boot trades are among our most essential industries; yet people are unable to find jobs in them although machines are standing idle. Many of our major industries will ultimately be forced out of production by the Government’s policy.
The Government: claims that it is impossible to raise the loan moneys that the. States require for their public works. Why not? The Chifley Government raised millions of pounds in loans from the people, and. not one loan that it launched was. under-subscribed.. Yet the Treasurer has. told us that, the loan market will yield only £50,000,000 for State public works.. He claims that- the loan money is not available on the market. Of course it is not - because the people haveno confidence in the Government or the Treasurer. I sincerely trust that, having voted unanimously, Liberal and Labour alike, art the Loan. Council, the
State Premiers will make the Government fulfil its responsibilities by accepting the verdict of the Loan Council, and providing the money that is needed. If the Commonwealth reduces its grants to the States with the result that the construction of public works is stopped, I would suggest that State governments should consider placing a notice on every such job stating that work had ceased because the Australian Liberal-Country party Government would not provide the money for it to continue. That would enable the people to realize the effect of the policy of the Government.
Last year the Government permitted all kinds of fantastic imports, necessary and unnecessary, to come into the country. As a result Australia is now stocked with goods which are not required, many of them inessential, while Australian industries go out of production. The people will have to pay the penalty for having a government which admitted goods to this country which were not needed while vital raw materials were still unobtainable. The policy of export and import control that the Government has enunciated shows that it has panicked. Last year honorable members were assured that all was well. The Labour party does not contend that a balanced economy is possible without some measure of control. But the Government was elected on a policy which provided for the complete abolition of controls and, after three years of office, never has this nation been more regimented by controls, banking and otherwise. At present, the Government’s supporters are in open rebellion against its policy. Honorable members opposite who have lacked the courage to vote against the Government because of fear of the party machine in this House have been walking out of divisions and slinking into the shadows of the party room, disgusted and too ashamed to support a government which has repudiated every promise that it has made. The Labour party believes, as the populace believes, that the only chance of survival for the nation is the defeat of the present Government. Throughout its term of office this Government has had a sorry and damning record. In the immediate future the economic chaos that faces the nation will bring a real awaken ing to honorable members opposite in the form of unemployment, lack of purchasing power and the closing down of developmental works.
I join with Opposition members in condemning without reservation an economic policy which has completely destroyed a stable Australia which was built up by Labour governments in past years. I sincerely trust that honorable members will vote for this amendment and destroy this Government. I hope that those independent thinking members of the’ Liberal party who say they can vote as they like, and are not tied to any party tag, will take advantage of this opportunity to act in accordance with what they have said outside this House and put Australia first instead of their seats in Parliament. I support the amendment and submit that the statements that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and other Opposition members are worthy of the support of all honorable members.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. At the beginning of his speech the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said that, not long ago, when I was in the middle of a speech an honorable member on the Government side of the House moved that the question be put. The circumstances surrounding that incident were that, unknown to me, an arrangement had been made between the Minister in charge of the House and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the debate should conclude at, I think, a quarter to eleven o’clock. Not knowing of that arrangement, I stood up to speak, but I had not commenced my speech when, in accordance with the arrangement, the Minister in charge of the House moved that the question be put. I was immediately advised of the arrangement by the Australian Country party Whip and I sat down. The honorable member for Grayndler said that I voted to gag myself. That statement was not any more true than was any other that he made during his speech. Unless I had walked out of the House, only two courses of action were open to me: I could accept what my party Whip had said or, alternatively, I could do something to which I object most strongly - vote with the socialists.
.- The amendment that is under discussion refers to the causing of “ unnecessary hardship “ and “ avoidable suffering “. I should have thought that honorable members of the Opposition who supported the amendment would endeavour to prove that, if hardship had been caused, it was unnecessary, and that if suffering, had resulted it was avoidable. During the debate it has frequently been suggested by honorable members on this side of the House that the Opposition has failed to suggest any alternative to the Government’s policy. Whilst I do not desire to labour that point, having very carefully considered the words of the amendment, I think that the honorable member who moved it, and those who have supported it, should have suggested some alternative to the Government’s policy. It was not until the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) had nearly finished his speech that I realized what was in the minds of Opposition members. He stated that the alternative was to reject the present Government, and return a Labour government. One may infer from that statement that hardship and suffering will be avoidable if the Labour government is returned in the place of the present Government. If we accept that view we are entitled and indeed compelled, to consider the qualities, capacity and intention of the prospective leaders. Since there has not been any suggestion by the Opposition of a definite economic plan or policy, we must accept what we know of their past actions and beliefs when considering the probable policy of a possible future Labour government under the leadership of those who now lead the Opposition.
– Not a possible, but a certain future government.
– I am afraid that the honorable member who interjected is repeating the words of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who has been wrong in his predictions so frequently in past years, that his accuracy as a prophet is not held iu high esteem in this country. It is not for me to discuss the capacity of the present Cabinet, because I think that the actions of that Cabinet speak for themselves, and indeed, the members of the Government are capable of speaking for themselves. I shall draw the attention of the House to the present leaders of the Opposition, and I shall try to show what they would do in the event of the Australian Labour party forming another government. It is admitted that the Prime Minister under those regrettable circumstances would be the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and a number of people in this country would accept that position, some with pleasure. The next position of importance would be that of Teasurer It has been suggested that the honorable member for Melbourne would hold that position. I do not agree with that suggestion, because a certain trend in events within the Australian Labour party during recent months can be traced. First, there was the transfer of Mr. McGirr, former Premier of New South Wales, to a position in the Public Service of New South Wales. Mr. Ferguson was appointed-
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member is now attempting to choose the next Labour cabinet. Surely that has nothing to do with the motion and amendment before the House.
– Several people have made the attempt to do that, but like the weather prophets and economists, they have generally been wrong. I think that the honorable member’s remarks should be directed more closely to the subject under discussion.
– I remember that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) confined his remarks to a description of certain activities outside this House. However, I shall not labour the point. It is sufficient to say that Mr. Ferguson has followed Mr. McGirr into an appointment within the Public Service of New South Wales. All this indicates a strong movement in the Australian Labour party from the right to the left. Therefore, I suggest that it is unlikely, in the event of Labour forming a government, that the honorable member for Melbourne would be Treasurer. It is rather more likely that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would be given that important position. There are few people in the community who would view that prospect with any greatpleasure. Whilst the honorable member for East Sydney has conducted his financial affairs in a somewhat unorthodox manner, he hasconducted them with considerable ingenuity, although not in a fashion that would gain theconfidence of a large section of the Australian community. We must consider such evidence as we have of the views of these gentlemen on financial policy. To that end I quote with respect various comments that were made by prominent membersof the Opposition during the last budget debate. It is reported in Hansard of the 3rd October, 1951, at page 287, that the honorable member for Melbourne said -
Whenthefinancial yearhasended, there willbe a deficit and not a surplus.
As reported in Hansard of the : 2nd October,19 51, at page . 208, the Leader of theOpposition said -
The surplus that 1 have calculated : by way of illustration is not £114,000,000 but £220,000,000,but Ithink the true figure is between £220,000,000 and£250,000,000 over and above thefigure specified by way of appropriation. .. . .
There is a differenceof about £250,000,000 between the estimatesof the Leader of the Opposition and of the honorable member for Melbourne. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), who isnot anundistinguished member ofthe Opposition, is reported in Hansard of the 2nd October, 1951, at page . 228 to have said -
Thepresent situation is one in which the Treasurer should not budgetfor a surplus.
The honorablemember forGrayndler (Mr. Daly), whose forecasts arecharacterized more by optimism than by accuracy, said during the course of the budget debate -
It mightwell becomea surplus of £300,000,000.
The difference between his estimate and that ofthe honorablemember for Melbourne is astronomical. Thoseare the opinions of fourof the leading representatives of this Opposition that hopes to become a government. Each put forward adifferent view about the very key-stone of our economy, (the national budget. Moreover,every opinion was wrong. That is some indicationthat they will have some difficulty in selecting a Treasurer from their ranks, andagain Idraw attention to the fact that their Treasurer mighteventually turn out to bethe honorable member for East Sydney.
– I riseto a point oforder. The honorable member is still tryingto select the members of the next Labour Cabinet. I raisedthis point before, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mr.hulme. - The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is jealous because the honorable member f or
Deakin (Mr. Davis) left him out of the prospectiveCabinet.
– No, I am not jealous because so far he has filledonly three vacancies out of twenty. I suggest that the honorable member is in conflict with the Speaker’s recent ruling.
-I ruleasMr. Speaker ruled,
– Iam addressing myself to the so-called avoidable hardship and unnecessary suffering mentioned in the amendment. In doing so it is obviously necessary to refer to the capacity of any prospective Labour government. However, I believe that the honorable member for Hindmarsh would do justice to any future Labour Cabinet. During the course of this debate it has been said that becausewe lack any definition of the views of the Australian Labour party, the only way that we can find out the intention of honorable members opposite is to accept their party objectives as an ‘honest statement of intention. In other words, their intention is the sociali zation of industry, production, distribution, and exchange. That would be the policy of any future Labour government.
– That will be after the next general election.
-I remember that the honorable member who interjected said on one occasion that he never interjected and did not expect others to interject while he was speaking.
Mr.Minogue. - Things are getting worse.
-The honorablemember is getting worse. Here is asituation wherea political party that is pledged to socialize- hopes- to obtain office. If it does; so it must then act in accordance with. that principle:
Let me now examine some of the suggestions that have been put forward to-day by Opposition speakers. The first of them is obviously that of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), who usually speaks: with far more logic, andcertainly a great deal more knowledge, than do most of his colleagues.
– Than all of them.
– I shall not quarrel with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). on that point. The honorable member for Bendigo to-day referred to the record! of the Chifley Administration, which, he said, had achieved a state of economic stability in this country: He also stated that there was then no unnecessary hardship’ and avoidable suffering, and he claimed that the present Government assumed office under the best possible conditions. Both he and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) referred to the subject of controls-. The honorable member for Grayndler also dealt with that matter somewhat vaguely.
When the Chifley Government left office it Bad drawn from the people of this country hundreds of millions of pounds by way of excess taxes and it had used that money to. redeem treasurybills issued during the war years. That was the financial position which the present Government faced on assuming office. The late Mr.. Chifley admitted in this House that that, was so. In effect, that action, on the part of the Chifley Government had merely banked up for three or four years some, hundreds of millions of pound’s worth of purchasing power. The purchasing power was not destroyed; it simply banked up.
I remind the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Hume that the, effect of controls is, first, to restrict demand, and secondly, to bank it up. Any reasonable person appreciates that when this. Government took office ait the end’ of 1949, in- addition to the inevitable,consequences of the financial policy of the. Labour Administration, it was also faced by the- greatestbanked up demand that: any country could face.
The honorable member for Hume, who displayed an amazing lack of knowledge of the responsibilities of this Government, spoke of the Postmaster-General’s Department. If’ the honorable gentleman knows anything; which I am inclined to doubt, hemust know that during ‘ the years of Labour administration the surplus fundsbanked’ up’ by the Government of the-. day were not paid to the credit-of the Postmaster-General’s Depart- ment orother departments but went into generalrevenue. When this Government found! itself faced by inflationary forces there, were noreserveson which to fall back.. I do not say that that was a wrong policy to pursue ; I merely point out that that was the position. I remind the honorable member for- Hume, however, that the Postmaster-General’s Department has been obliged to. increase charges because of circumstances not within the control of the. present Post- master-General (Mr. Anthony).
I wish particularly to refer to the statement of the honorable member for Grayndler that this Government sponsors controls. The honorable member for Melbourne, whom the honorable member for Grayndler must regard with some respect,, has said that we cannot unscramble the eggs-. Apparently- the honorable member for Grayndler- thinks that we could do so in the space of a few months. It is true that we have unscrambled some of the eggs which were scrambled by the honorable member for Melbourne and Ms colleagues, but it is a slow and difficult process. It is not made any easier by the state of world affairs and their impact on Australia.
.- If that great Australian, Alfred Deakin, had heard the contribution to the debate made by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis.).,. I fear that he would have hung his head in shame. The honorable member devoted twelve minutes, of valuable time almost, exclusively to the composition of a prospective cabinet. He did’ not deal at all with the subject before the House, which is a most important one. It is, in effect, a motion of censure of the present Government because of its failure to honour its pre-election promises, to promote a sound economy, and to endeavour to rectify the economic anomalies which to-day affect severely most Australians. Agreeable though the pursuit may be, honorable members do not want to be diverted by a discussion of who may or may not be the members of the Labour cabinet which is sure to function after the next general election. The members of the Opposition wish to hear, if possible, some justification of the -actions of the Government. To the present, no cogent justification of the work of the Government has been forthcoming. On the contrary, we have listened to a series of platitudes and confused thoughts which, far from shedding light upon the position, have merely obscured it. To elaborate that statement, let me refer to a statement made by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) during the course of the debate last evening. The honorable gentleman asked who, other than Opposition members, is complaining about the Government’s action. He stated that representatives of manufacturers throughout Australia have lauded the Government’s economic policy from the housetops, have described it as an act of genius, and have said that it is inspired. Those words were used by an allegedly responsible Minister of the Government.
My only thought concerning that contribution to the debate is that no doubt manufacturers have lauded from the housetops the economic policy of the Government because the waters of financial ruin have lapped so high on the foundations of our economy that the housetops are the last refuge. The honorable gentleman knows, as we know, that every chamber of commerce and every chamber of manufactures has, at one time or another, recorded a strong and emphatic protest against the lopsided, uneven and even ridiculous economic policy that this Government is pleased to call one of genius. I wish to refer to a statement which was made recently by the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, who, as honorable members know, is not a member of the Australian Labour party.
Mr.Wheeler. - We have heard all of this before.
Mr.CREMEAN. - The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) may have heard about it before, but I point out to him that repetition is sometimes necessary for the benefit of a stunted intellect. Mr. Playford stated -
He went on to say that the defiance displayed by the State Premiers indicated that probably an all-time low in Commonwealth and State financial relationships had been reached.
This Government contends that its economic programme has had certain beneficial results. I contend, as do other members of the Opposition, that if its economic policy is proving beneficial in the light of its pre-election promises, the signs should be fourfold in character. Its policy should have resulted in increased purchasing power of the £1. Taxation, both direct and indirect, should have been reduced. It should have restored the confidence that the Labour Government has been alleged to have destroyed. Have any of those results been achieved by this Government’s economic policy? Has value been restored to the £1 ? The barometer to measure the value of the currency is the extent to which it can be applied to the basic wage. As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has said, there has been a constant increase of the basic wage during the life of this Government because of the inflationary spiral, which the Government has proved incapable of controlling. In 1944, the basic wage was £4 17s. ; in 1945 it was £6 5s. ; in 1949, £7 13s., and to-day it is £11 17s. While the workers of Australia are concerned vitally with their hopeless chase after prices, inflation has had an equally deleterious effect on those who receive fixed incomes, including pensioners and others who have no ardent advocates in this Parliament except honorable members of the Opposition. The Government promised to reduce taxation. What has happened? During the regime of the Labour Government the average annual value of sales tax collections was £20,000,000. That was £3 a head of population. This Government, which was pledged to reduce taxation, is the benevolent recipient of £119,000,000 a year from sales tax, an average of £14 10s. a head of population. That is how it has kept its promise to the people of Australia who were gulled in 1949 and again in 1951. In the field of taxation in one year alone, this Government has received increased revenue to the tune of £472,000,000. Backbenchers on the Government side must have a sense of shame when they raise their voices on behalf of a government which has failed so miserably to carry out those two promises in its election programme.
When the Government parties sought the votes of the people in 1949 and 1951, they claimed that there was a lack of confidence in the Chifley and Curtin Labour administrations. That alleged lack of confidence was never expressed in the failure of the people to subscribe fully to the war and peace time loans that were floated by any of the Labour administrations. This Government, which was going to restore confidence in Australia’s future, has been confronted with the gloomy spectacle of failure to get its last three security loans fully subscribed. If that is not a barometer showing lack of public confidence, I invite any member on the Government side to produce a better indicator. Apart from that failure to fill the last three loans that have been floated by this Government, the people who invested their spare capital in war and peace time loans have seen the value of their assets diminish considerably because of this Government’s incompetence. Only yesterday, the Melbourne Herald reported in its stock exchange news under the heading “ Bond prices down “ -
Ten movements were recorded on the exchange to-day in Commonwealth bonds. Nine were falls and one was a rise.
That is how this Government has justified the confidence of the people! The Government knows that when the people get an opportunity to make their feelings known in a practical way, a government of a different political colour will occupy the treasury bench. By-elections in both the Federal and State arenas have shown that to be so.
– Order ! That has nothing to do with the subject before the Chair.
– It has been quoted throughout this debate, but I shall not continue in that vein.
The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) referred to unemployment in the textile industry. He is qualified to speak with authority on the subject because there are more textile mills in his electorate than there are in the electorate of any other member. He is in a position to know that there is a depression in the textile and clothing industries of Victoria and New South Wales. The unions that are associated with those industries have 7,000 men registered as unemployed. They include skilled workers who have devoted a life-time to those industries.
– But they are working somewhere else.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said that an indication of the unemployment position could be gained from the numbers of those who are registered with the Department of Labour and National Service. In statements which the Minister issued recently to the press, the phrases that he used included-
The number now receiving unemployment benefits has increased.
Further lay-offs of workers occurred during March.
Sackings in the clothing and textile industry were mostly in New South Wales and Victoria.
Seasonal unemployment in Queensland had swollen by 3,653.
Manufacturing firms cut employment in March by not replacing staff wastages.
The extent of the present slump in employment may be gathered from the fact that whereas, when the Labour Government went out of office, there were 257,000 vacant positions in Australia, to-day the number has been reduced to 82,000. Honorable members might ask whether those who have lost their employment in the textile trades cannot fill those vacancies. As has been pointed out by other honorable members in the course of this debate, many of those vacancies call not for unskilled labour but for men with special skill, and there are few men available in Australia who possess the requisite skill to fill them. These figures relating to vacancies are purely and simply quoted figures which do not represent material facts.
Time will not permit me to go into the details of the ramifications of the Loan Council, but again it can be said, as it was said in adebate in this House in August of last year, that in its working the Loan Council operates against the interests of the public works programmes of the States. As a Victorian, I register a protest in this House at the application of the Government’s economic policy to the public works programme of the State which I have the honour to represent. In Victoria necessary public works, includinghospitals, slum reclamation schemes and water conservation schemes are being curtailed because this Government has said that they are not essential for the national economy. There is not one Victorian member on either side of this House who could not justifythe applications that have been made to the Loan Council by ‘the Premier of Victoria.
– Here is one who wouldnot do so.
Mr.CREMEAN.- The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) looks at this matter with obscured vision. He knows as well as I dothat although an allocationofonly£40,000,000 was approved by theLoan Council tofinance the public works programme of Victoria, that State ‘is already contractually obligated to the amount of£41,000,000 for that purpose for thefinancial year 1952-53.
– Of which £12,000,000 is for the nationalization of the gas industry attherequest of ‘the Labour party.
– If . the Ministercan satisfactorily answer that criticism of theLoan Council’s decision he is even better than aCinquevalli.By all the laws of logic, ability and clear presentation of its case, the Opposition has proved conclusively that the terms of its amendment are justified and that by its economic policy theGovernment instead of remedying the economic position is plunging Australia further and further into the slough of despond.
Mr.ROBERTON(Riverina)[4.30] Irise tosupport the motion beforethe House and to oppose the amendment.I must confess to a sense of great disap pointment when, having had an opportunity to move an amendment of the kind now before the House, Her Majesty’s Opposition ‘did not advance proposals which would, in its ‘Opinion, benefit the community as a whole. During this debate we have listened to criticism by honorable members opposite which could never at any stage of the proceedings be described as valid. In the few minutes that I have at my disposal I propose to attempt to dissipate, as far asI am able to do so, some of the misapprehensions that are prevalent both here and ‘outside this House, and to refute some ofthe misrepresentations that have been made by Opposition members during this debate. Honorable members opposite have implied that the budget is the exclusive responsibility of the Treasurer and.Leader of the Australian Country party (Sir Arthur Fadden). Outside this House the budget is constantly being referred to as the “ Fadden budget “. I take this opportunity to correct that misapprehension. Every member ofthis House, whether he sits on this side or on the side of the Opposition,knows thatthe budget is not the exclusive responsibility of any one man. Every budget is first the responsibility of the Cabinet and the Government. It is entirely wrong to speak of the budget as being the exclusive responsibility of the Treasurer. As we all know, as soon as a government has been elected it must begin to think in terms of the budget which it must present to ‘the Parliament. Preparations for the budget areexclusive not to any one man but to the Cabinet as a whole. No oneoutside the members of the Cabinet knows what discussions take place in relation to the budget or in what form the budget is to be presented. Not a living person outside the members of the Cabinet knows what proposals will be included in it. “Despite that fact, in this chamber and outside it, attempts have been made to -characterize what I myself have described as a “tough budget “ as the responsibility of the Treasurer and of no other person. When the members of the Cabinet have completed the budget, at the appropriate time on ‘the appropriate day the members of the (Cabinet as a whole walk into this chamber. The Prime Minister andthe
Treasurer take their places at the table After preliminary business has been disposed of Mr. Speaker announces the receipt of messages from the GovernorGeneral transmitting estimates of revenue and expenditure for the ensuing financial year and recommending appropriations accordingly. The Estimates are ordered by the House to be printed and are referred to the Committee of Supply forthwith. In the Committee of Supply the Treasurer then delivers his budget speech. Not until he has done so are the Government’s budgetary proposals made known. Despite that fact an impression has been deliberately fostered by members of the Opposition that Government supporters are given an opportunity to discuss the Government’s budgetary proposals in advance of its introduction into the Parliament and to indicate what should be included in or excluded from the budget We know perfectly well that no private member has knowledge in advance of the contents of any budget that any government may present. If that were not so, procedure in relation to the budget would .lend itself to excesses, abuses and corruptions of a. kind that could easily destroy our democracy. The budget expresses not merely the views of one man; it presents the policy .of the Government as a whole. The budget expresses the intentions of the Government in relation to the nation’s financial and .economic situation. It is competent for any supporter of the Government in this House to oppose the budget either wholly or in part or to criticize it in any respect.
This Government had a twofold task, namely, to prepare and repair our defences in a way consistent with what is being done in every .other free and reputable country and, at the same time, to stem the rising tide of inflation. Therefore, only criticism that Delates to defence expenditure or the Government’s attempt to cheek intiation is relevant to this debate. However, members of the Opposition have ignored that fact. No honorable member has suggested that our defence expenditure, which is estimated to amount to £181,200,00,0, is too high a price to pay for .the privilege of living in this rich, blessed country which is so dearly loved by all (truly democratic Australians. No honorable member has contended with any degree of sincerity that the Government should repudiate the sacred obligations that were entered into by its predecessors in respect of war services and repatriation. Expenditure on such commitments will cost £107,-100,000 this year. No honorable member has said that the Government should reduce its payments into the National Welfare Fund which is used to finance social services benefits of all kinds. Our expenditure under that heading now amounts to £184,800,000 and constitutes the largest single item of expenditure in the budget. I could conceive of an honorable member, after he had carefully examined the Government’s financial and economic position, arriving at the conclusion that that expenditure imposes an intolerable burden upon the community. But no honorable member has voiced that opinion.
The next largest item of expenditure in the budget is ;in amount of £166,200,000, which represents tax reimbursements to the States under the uniform tax system. Last year, that item amounted to £128,000,000. However, the Government has recognized that this year the States ar,e shouldering greater .responsibilities than previously, and it has of its own volition increased that amount, which incidentally was ,a record, to £161,200,000. Yet it is said on .every hand, both in the Parliament and .outside, that the Government has reduced its payments to the States. The figures that I have given cannot be disputed. Would any honorable member contend that paymentof tax reimbursements to the States should be reduced? However, an honorable member who considered that he was justified in urging that such, a reduction should be made would at least have presented legitimate criticism of the Government in respect of its financial policy. No honorable member has said that expenditure that has been allocated for public works .should be substantially reduced .or that current expenditure on works of such national importance and magnitude as the ‘Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme should be reduced. The Government is providing a total sum of £101,700,00.0 for capital works. Under the heading of subsidies, it is providing the sum of ?32,900,000, whilst expenditure under other headings totals ?S4,800,000. These items involve ihe Government in a total expenditure of ?927,000,000, which is a gigantic commitment for a country with our small population. 1 deplore the machinations in recent years of the majority of representatives on the Loan Council. After the council was established in 1924 it operated to serve the parliaments and the people of this country until two years ago when less scrupulous representatives of the States saw an opportunity to use the council as a medium of heaping blame and odium upon the Australian Government. Previously, such a temptation had been resisted. Therefore, it is significant that since the present Government assumed office the majority of members of the Loan Council have used it as a vehicle to attack the Commonwealth. Last year, while the Government was in the process of preparing its budget for the next financial year, the Loan Council met and the States’ representatives made a demand for no less a sum than ?300,000,000 of loan money for their public works programmes. The States made that demand upon themselves because the council is composed of representatives of the six States each of which has one vote, and representatives of the Commonwealth which has two votes and a casting vote. The representatives of the Commonwealth on the council knew that in existing circumstances it would be impossible to raise that amount on the loan market. They realized that if that amount had to be provided, the Commonwealth would have to resort to central bank credit as every government must do in order to meet a grave national emergency such as war. But this Government said clearly that the use of central reserve bank credit in a time of peace constitutes inflation, naked and unashamed, and for that reason it refused to resort to that method of raising finance in order to meet the demands of the States. The Premiers did not suggest at that time, or, indeed, at any other time, that this Government should use central reserve bank credit. The Premiers could see the absurdity of the fabulous nature of their demands, and reduced their original programme from ?300,000,000 to ?225,000,000. Every person who has even an elementary knowledge of the potentialities and capacity of the Australian loan market knows that it is impossible for it to yield ?225,000,000 in any one year. At that point, this Government suffered for its own honesty, integrity and innocence by coming to the assistance of the States in the way that it did. The representatives of the Commonwealth said to the Premiers, in effect, “Since the loan market cannot yield ?225,000,000, we shall take the unprecedented action of underwriting loans for the States, surrender our own claim to loan money; we shall finance our public works and defence expenditure out of revenue; and we will make adequate provision for the States by budgeting for a surplus of approximately ?114,000,000 “. When that amount of ?1.14,000,000 was added to the budget of ?927,000,000 the total became ?1,041,000,000. This Government came to the assistance of the States with the full knowledge that, by so doing, it would incur odium, and tbat the budget surplus would be unpopular. Yet it made those arrangements in order to serve the purposes of the States.
Some persons criticized the budget without understanding the true purpose of. it even in the first place or the last place. Although I have described it as a tough budget, it is wrong to suppose that income tax rates have been increased in any appreciable way. Yet such a suggestion has been made by Opposition speakers. Indeed, it is a delusion, particularly of those engaged in primary industries, that income tax rates have risen to fantastic levels. The rates are described as vicious and vindictive by the uninformed. It requires only a cursory examination of income tax rates, measured against the rates that have applied in the past, to demonstrate that this Government, faithful, to its pre-election promises to the people, reduced income tax rates last year to the lowest level for eleven years.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The financial statement which was read by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) last Tuesday was a dismal document, a confession of failure, and an admission of the incapacity of the Government to govern. The Treasurer has pleaded guilty to the destruction of the Australian economy. This Government has done more damage in twelve months than any other administration has caused in the long history of federation. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), not unlike most Government supporters, including the federal president of the Liberal party, officers of the federated chambers of commerce and chambers of manufactures, graziers’ associations and other bodies which, in the ordinary course, support the Government, has disowned the Treasurer. He does not accept any responsibility for the tough budget. He has said that the budget is tough, and has disowned the man who introduced it. He considers that the budget is the private responsibility of the Treasurer and is not the responsibility of the Government. We can easily understand the manoeuvres that are taking place in the councils of the Australian Country party, and of the Liberal party, because the responsibility for the chaos and disorder in, and the unhappy plight of, Australia. They want the odium to be borne by the Treasurer, who has failed this country so badly. But such an attitude is wrong. Members of the Government and their supporters stand jointly and severally guilty, because they have aided and abetted the Treasurer by their votes in this chamber for the adoption of the budget proposals. It is not the responsibility of the House or of the Government to accept a pig in a poke, and it is to the credit of the Labour party that its members vigorously opposed the budget. We pointed out its shortcomings, and warned the people of the repercussions. The honorable member for Riverina is eager to save his political skin, but I am sure that’ his apologia this afternoon will not save him from, the wrath of his electors. I recall an extraordinary and scandalous statement which he made at a certain conference in Sydney, when he said -
Australia, once described as one of the world’s most self-reliant and resourceful nations, is crawling around the world’s markets begging for goods and services that we are too darned lazy or too socially stupid to provide for ourselves.
– Who made that statement ?
– I did.
– The honorable member for Riverina hopes to retain the support of a majority of his electors, although he has said that the Australian people “ are too darned lazy or too socially stupid “ to do anything for themselves and that Australia “is crawling around the world’s markets “. His outburst was prompted by the fact that the preceding Labour Government, which fought for thu interests of country people, declared that our primary products, when they were sold overseas, should be disposed of at world prices. If the farmer is to pay world parity for his machinery and various imported goods, it is proper that his exports should be sold at world parity. Because the Labour Government adopted that policy, the honorable member declared that Australia was crawling around the markets of the world.
The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) has described this Government as a two-phase government. A more appropriate description is a twofaced government. On the one hand, we have the government that pours forth its story from the hustings to country people in the hope of securing votes, and, on the other, we have the government which adopts an entirely different attitude in this chamber. Its nominal leader is the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but the deciding voice in questions affecting our future prosperity is that of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). He stands at the head of a group of narrow people who, if they ever did represent country interests, have long since deserted them for the sake of portfolios. I shall quote from an authoritative publication Cabinet Government, by Jennings. Commenting upon the function of an opposition, this learned authority states that the duty of an opposition to oppose is the major check provided by the Constitution on corruption and defective administration. The present Opposition in this Parliament is endeavouring to exercise such a check. As I have said, the Government has no friends. Probably this
House is the only place in Australia where it can obtain a vote of confidence. Certainly it cannot obtain such a vote, in the party rooms, or even in other select quarters to which an anti-Labour administration can usually look for support. According to to-day’s press, the federal president of the Liberal party believes that semi-socialism has infiltrated into tbe Liberal party and he is very much concerned about it. The Chamber of Commerce, too, is concerned. We on this side of the chamber should like to know whether Government supporters are prepared to stand up to their pledges to the people or whether they are prepared to admit, as the Treasurer himself has ad’mitted in his doleful financial statement, the incapacity of the present Government to administer this country. The right honorable gentleman said -
During the latter months of last year, the Government brought down a series of important measures, culminating in the budget, to deal with the serious situation that had developed during 1D50-D1. -A number of major economic changes have occurred since then.
It was quite unnecessary for the Treasurer to tell us that a number of economic changes have occurred. Tbe whole nation, to its sorrow, knows that that is true. One of the greatest tragedies in the presentday economic situation is that of all the people who have lost confidence in the Government, members of the investing public stand out as a classical example. How can any government hope to proceed with any policy unless it has the support of the investing public? Since I have been a member of this chamber, the Government has floated three loans. One small loan succeeded, but two- big loans failed. Is it any wonder that the people of Australia will not lend their money to this Administration ? How can the State Premiers have any hope of obtaining even portion of the money that they require se urgently for essential developmental works so long as this Government pursues its present policy? Those works include water conservation and electricity production and reticulation. They are of national importance, yet apparently the Prime Minister and the Treasurer expected the Premiers humbly to accept the crumbs that were offered to them at the Loan Council meeting. Because they protested, they were accused of disrup- tion and disloyalty, and have been subjected to criticism from the Government benches.
I throw the gauntlet down to the Government. Have the days of federalism passed? Has our federation ceased to exist? To Government members and supporters who come from Western Australia where Mr. Mclarty is Premier, from South Australia, where Mr. Playford has been Premier for so long, and from Victoria, where Mr. McDonald is Premier, I say, “Do you stand for federalism or do you stand for financial tyranny from Canberra ? “ Honorable members opposite never failed during the rule of Labour governments to criticize Labour’s alleged unification plans. We ware frequently reminded of the sacred rights of the sovereign States. But now, when the States wish to undertake works that will be of benefit not only to the States themselves, but also to Australia as a nation, the Premiers are accused of attempting to do something that is very wrong. My only criticism of the attitude of the Premiers is perhaps that they are rather unrealistic in expecting the public to invest large sums of money while this Government remains in office.
What is the object of those who condemn the idea that the Commonwealth should bolster the loan market so that investors will be able to receive 20s. in the £1 in return for their investment? I have had some experience of the plight of certain organizations that have invested money in war loans. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, for instance, invested £10,000 in government bonds. Members of that organization fought and bled for Australia. Upon their return to this country, they responded patriotically to war loan appeals. The leaguealso invested its funds. It was confident that the nation would not let it down. To-day it needs that money toestablish a club-room, but is unable to obtain the full sum simply because thereis in office in the Commonwealth sphere a government which has so depressed theloan market and so lost the confidence of all sections of the people, that thepublic will not invest in loans. In a fi;antic endeavour to induce people to invest in Commonwealth bonds the Government has increased interest rates. This trend towards the raising of interest rates is having a damaging effect. If the Government were courageous enough, it would say straight out, “ This money was invested for a special purpose. We shall see that these ex-servicemen receive 20s. in the £1 “. Just imagine Australia letting those boys down! That is what this Government has done. I know of a church body that invested money from an organ fund and I know of various sporting bodies, social clubs and business organizations that are suffering in a similar way. The Government should revise its policy on this issue, if on no other, and be fair to the investors. But it has a warped idea of finance and is not likely to take the honest course of action.
Unfortunately, unless money can be attracted to government loans, we have very little chance of developing the country. Water conservation, irrigation and other public works are vital to Australia. If a war occurred to-morrow, national credit would be required in order that such works could be undertaken immediately. The nation would have to bestir itself. This Government, which boasts that it is doing a mighty job for Australia, is, in fact, leaving us weak and unprepared. It is doing nothing to develop water conservation and irrigation projects. Roads in our country areas are in a bad state of repair and new roads are needed, but the Government is doing nothing about that situation. Houses should be built in rural districts, but the Government is neglecting that need also. The Northern Territory has vast resources of untapped wealth. Uranium is there for anybody who cares to go and take it. What is to stop anybody from doing so? The Government has no policv in relation to that wealth, and while it, continues along the road of financial folly such rich prizes will be dangled temptingly before the eyes of world adventurers. I ask the House to compare the actions of this Government with those of the former Labour Government. Under Labour’s rearirne during World War II., no less than £2,000,000.000 was raised in loans because the people had confidence in their government. They will not regain that lost confidence until they are given the opportunity to record their votes at another general election. When they are given that opportunity they will throw this Government out of office. We invite the Government to provide that opportunity and to do so speedily. It has failed the people dismally and I suggest that it seek the advice of the Governor-General and resign so that the people may elect a stable government which will restore confidence and a high level of prosperity, such as was maintained by the Labour Administration throughout the years of World War II. In addition to the £2,000,000,000 that was raised in loans during Labour’s term of office, an amount of £114,000,000 was provided to redeem loans that had matured. Labour also made tgenerous outright gifts to the United Kingdom.
Credit is urgently needed in Australia. We must increase food production, but we are not likely to be able to do so while this Government, dominated by the socalled Australian Country party, remains in office.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Opposition has had a very easy task in this debate; but, with great respect and without wishing to indulge in political invective. I submit that it has made a mess of it. Admittedly the nation is in a period of economic difficulty and, in that situation, members of the Opposition with any resource of mind should be able to flail the Government. Honorable members opposite are not in the habit of sticking narrowly and strictly to the truth. By taking advantage of a certain flexibility of conscience, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and his colleagues, of various grades, should have been able to enjoy a political picnic. But they have missed their chance. I do not regard politics as a game. I believe that it is a very serious business of public affairs. However, I know that there are certain honorablegentlemen in Her Majesty’s Opposition who do look upon, politics as a game. They are willing to pretend that they do not know certain facts that are known to- almost every child in the country. They ride over 90 per cent, of the facts that are common knowledge and produce arguments with which they tickle the ears of uninformed voters in an effort to win political credit. That is merely playing at politics, and it is against the best interests of the Australian people.
This is one of the occasions on which honorable members opposite have played at politics. I am sure that listeners to the parliamentary broadcast, if they have been resolute enough to stand up to the torrent of talk that has flooded from this chamber, will wonder what it is all about because the Opposition has not made any points of real consequence during the course of the debate. Its members have indulged in distortion of the facts and, if the view of the recent Loan Council meeting expressed by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) is the average view of his colleagues on that subject - and there is reason to believe that it is - then I say, “ God save this country if Labour ever gains power again “. I could not imagine a more childish version of events at that meeting than was presented by the honorable member. Every debate leaves its aftertaste in the minds of those who hear it and, having listened to honorable members opposite on this occasion, I wonder and shudder when I speculate upon the identity of the shadow treasurer in the shadow cabinet on the south side of the House. I believe that thousands of other Australians who are equally interested will shudder by their firesides as they think of the subject. I am reminded of what Wellington is supposed to have said after he had inspected a batch of recruits. He is reported to have remarked, “I do not know what effect they will have on the enemy, but they frightened me to death”.
The fact is that this Government, in December, 1949, inherited some devil’s eggs from its predecessor. It inherited a dangerous inflationary economic situation. It inherited active communism in the trade unions. It inherited an empty treasury. It also inherited a condition of public morale which, temporarily at any rate, had been grievously damaged by the attitude of mind of members of the former Labour Government. The idea had been fostered that any man was within his rights in getting the utmost that he possibly could and in giving the minimum in return. I know that that idea was not general in Australia, but it was widespread among certain sections of the Australian community.
– Among members of the Melbourne Club?
– I have made an offer to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in respect of the Melbourne Club, but he has not yet accepted it. I have offered to put him up for honorary membership. Honorable gentlemen opposite, including the honorable member for Melbourne, who has greatly disappointed me, could view, with a great deal of equanimity, almost unlimited calamity and disaster facing this country in the future if, as a result, this Government were discredited and their party gained political advantage. I do not think that that is an unfair thing to say of the speeches that we have heard from honorable gentlemen opposite.
– I did not say that.
– Not in so many words, but the honorable gentleman is a master of inference and innuendo. Let me try to review, without passion and without playing politics, the situation in which Australians as a whole find themselves at this time. I am sure that what I am about to say is well known to every reasonably intelligent Australian. Our economic situation is a part of the world economic situation. I believe that in every country of the world the demand for goods and services exceeds the supply of goods “ and services. Lately, I have been in a great many countries. In Indonesia, Burma, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Italy, Prance, Great Britain, America and other countries, the demand for goods and services is greater than the supply. That situation’ exists in different countries for different reasons, but, broadly, it is due to three causes. All the countries of the world have a tremendous rearmament programme. In each country, the enormous demands of the programme divert from the civil population goods and services that are required to build up military, naval and air strength. Every country is making an effort to achieve higher living standards for its people. The under-developed countries in particular are making efforts to improve their means of production and their living standards. Therefore, there is in the world to-day, without exception of any country, more money than goods. That has created an inflationary situation. In all the countries that I have mentioned the cost of living is extremely high, and, in nearly all of them, it is still rising steeply.
Australia is remote from other countries. In the ordinary course of events, we do not meet a great many people from, other countries, unless they take particular trouble to travel here. Generally speaking, people do not travel through Australia to another country. Therefore, we do not normally, as a people, have much contact with people from other countries and do not learn from them the situation in their countries. I venture to tell the House that the conditions that exist in Australia to-day exist also, to a greater or lesser degree, in every other country. The variation is only a matter of degree.
Reference has been made by honorable gentlemen opposite to the situation in the early 1930’s. In those days there was a superfluity of goods and of the means of producing them, but there was hot enough purchasing power in the hands of the people to enable them to buy those goods and use. them. The present position is precisely the reverse of that. We are faced with the problem of having too much money and too few goods. There is only one sound method of solving that problem. It is to reduce the volume of purchasing power and at the same time increase the volume of goods. We must, in other words, close the gap between supply and demand. I suppose that in the minds of all human beings there is a desire to find an easy way out of any difficulty. The world has had a good deal of experience of inflation over the years. Inflationary conditions have by no means been confined to the last five years. There is a temptation to believe that there is some quick, easy and painless way out of our difficulties. There is a temptation to pin our faith to devices that mask the real cause of our troubles. Devices such as prices control, profit freezing and subsidies in various forms do not get to the root of our troubles, although they may hide them for a little while. If a new overcoat is worn over a dirty suit the wearer will look clean, but the trouble will be there all the time.
I believe that, within-reason, it is quite legitimate to borrow from overseas to meet a period of emergency, such as that in. which we are at the present time. There is a temptation to create more money, but one of the causes of our present troubles is that there is too much money in comparison with the goods available and the rate of production. One of the. quick and easy ways out of our difficulties that has been suggested is the creation of more money. We might be able to alleviate a dreadful position such as that which existed in the early 1930’s if we bought our way out by creating credit, within safe limits, but we certainly could not buy our way out of the present situation. To pour more money, derived from central bank credit, into the Australian economy in its present condition would have precisely the same effect as pouring petrol upon a fire. It would give us a relief for a very short time, but it would encourage the continued and progressive growth of the fire that we are trying to extinguish. I believe that the sound, solid and honest way in which the Government is tackling the problem is the proper way to tackle it.
The Opposition has not produced an alternative plan. I do not suggest that normally one looks to any opposition to produce a constructive plan of which a government might avail itself. Unfortunately, in modern-day politics, that is not considered to be playing the political game. But I remind honorable gentlemen opposite that they have not advanced a single constructive idea, either in contravention of what the Government is doing in respect to something that Labour believes should be done. We have got to do all we can - and, Heaven knows, we are trying to do it - to decrease the volume of purchasing power through taxation, properly adjusted to meet the needs of the various sections of the community. So far as it is humanly possible to avoid the creation of more central bank credit we must avoid it. We must prevent the people from believing that there is a quick, easy and dramatic way out of our difficulties.
This country is still in the developmental stage. National development involves the transfer of resources from certain avenues of current production to the establishment of long-term productive facilities. Even in our present economic difficulties, we must, to a considerable degree, deny ourselves certain current production in order to create productive facilities in the years that lie ahead. If we do not do so now, we shall suffer for our neglect in a few years time. Recently I attended an industrial fair in Karachi at which a number of countries, including Communist countries, were very well represented. In the Czechoslovakian exhibit there was a large placard, 10 feet square, which contained what purported to be figures relating to public finance in that country. It was alleged that Czechoslovakia was putting back into constructive developmental facilities for the future, about 50 per cent, of its current, income. I am not certain of the exact figure, but I am correct to within 1 or 2 per cent. Now if that even begins to be true it shows the importance that those Communist countries put on developing their productive capacity to meet future needs. I should like to know whether that percentage were true or not, beeause I do not think that the com parable percentage in other .countries of the world would approach it. It is unfortunately true that relatively few people realize the great changes that have taken place, .and are taking place, in the world. Too many of us in Australia are inclined to believe that we can live to ourselves in this country and- let the rest of the world go by. We tend to believe that our economy is a ‘dosed economy which we can control by ourselves no matter what is happening to the economy of the great “world outside our shores. ‘Of course, nothing could possibly be further from the truth. The simple fact is that most other countries are (striving .a great deal harder than we are in Australia. I do not know how the lesson of the disparity between the efforts that Australians make and the efforts that the people of other countries make can be brought home to the mind of the average Australian, but I believe that it should be one of the bounden duties of all political parties to bring it home to the people, because the solution of our national problems is not a party political matter. It is easy to dodge the issue by asking why people should work harder for the boss. But it is not a case of working harder for the boss, it is a case of working harder for the nation. An opposition which can put such an argument to the people is merely playing politics, and of course the Opposition is ready to play politics at the drop of a hat. No amount of political abuse or double-talk such as we have heard in the last few days from honorable members opposite is of any use to the Australian people. The country in these times is looking to all political parties to help the Government and not hinder it in its stupendous efforts to get us out, of our current economic difficulties.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) 5. 27]. - We might have expected the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) to endeavour to dispel some of the misapprehensions from which he alleges the Opposition suffers. All I can say is that he has not afforded us any enlightenment whatever on the subject. He ‘has told us of what he has learned from visits to other countries, and apparently what he has learned there has made him regard Australia as a backward country compared with other countries. If we are nor, already a backward country we shall certainly become one as a result of the policy of this Government and the Opposition is not prepared to allow that policy to stand unchallenged. As far as I can see, honorable members opposite have .so far done nothing but apologize for the Government’s failures. That is a difficult task to perform and some of the Government’s supporters must be completely stumped by the fact that the promises by which they, as well as the electors, wen1 deluded prior to the last two general elections, have not been fulfilled and, as is evident from the record of two and a half years of office of this Government, will never be fulfilled. The Government’s record is ail - that can be expected of a hybrid government in which two different parties with two different sets of ideas are working against each other. All such a government could produce is a hybrid policy based ‘on gimcrack ideas to deal with a problem that ought to be tackled on the basis of long-term planning. I can assure honorable gentlemen opposite that the Labour party is not playing politics. The Labour party realizes that the real interests of Australia are to be served only by sound economic government. An ever-increasing number of people, who are both able and intelligent, now say that they consider that the country is- on the down grade. The Government has spent a great deal of its time explaining the difficulties that face it, instead of tackling them. In fact, the Treasurer’s statement which we are now debating is really nothing but explanation. All that Government members have been doing is to explain why they are not able to fulfil their promise to put value back into the £1. I know that that is a hackneyed phrase, but the people ha-ve been waiting for value to be put back into the £1 and have been disappointed.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) began his speech by saying that he was disappointed with the views that had been expressed by members of the Opposition. Every time a matter of this kind has been before us he has expressed similar sentiments. It is .understandable that a conservative gentleman like he is would feel like that, because he is quite unacquainted with democratic ideas. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) entered the chamber immediately .after the debate was resumed yesterday by the. honorable member for Melbourne .(Mr.. Calwell) and said, “ We do not believe in controls “. Honorable members opposite certainly made such a statement to the electors when they worked to defeat the prices referendum. Australia, is in its present position because the Menzies-Fadden .combination, which was not then in office, was determined to defeat that referendum. From the moment the referendum was defeated we lost control, largely because it was said that the States, with their sovereign powers, could control prices just as well as the Commonwealth could. The fact is that the States have not controlled prices just as well as the Commonwealth did, because prices cannot be controlled by the States with differing ideas as efficiently as they can be controlled by the Commonwealth. Yet we need effective controls in order to give us an economy that will enable us to prepare soundly to meet the future. Our proposals were defeated at the referendum, and we accepted the people’s verdict.
I know that many of my colleague^ watched with interest the result of the taking over of prices control by the States. The resultant state of affairs has been shocking and has been alluded to in terms of derision by newspapers that, normally support the Government parties. Those newspapers advert rightly to the continuing rise in prices that has gone on ever since the Government took office. But the Government does not appear to be even tackling the problem. Any one can excuse a government which does its hest and fails, but when a government does not even tackle a critical problem then it is failing the people in general. I think that most people who have had experience of politics over a period of years will admit that it is not contended that all governments are bad in every respect; but it is contended that when a government has done nothing, as this Government has done after two and a half years of opportunity, and has failed to effect even a semblance of cure of our economic ills, such a government should be charged with dismal failure. As the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) has said, the Government has failed dismally in practically almost every respect.
I now refer to a matter that was mentioned earlier in the debate and I shall cite some figures in relation to the increase of the basic wage level that has occurred after prices control powers ceased to be exercised by .the Chifley Government as a residt of pressures that were exerted very largely by manufacturers and other producers, and even by people in rural areas and the trade unions themselves. I do not wish to absolve anybody from a due share -of blame in tbe matter. Yielding to tbat pressure the Chifley Government decided r.o unpeg wages and prices. Mr. Chifley warned that an increase of the cost of living would result, and stated that we should seek, by referendum, power for this Parliament to control prices. The parties now in office opposed the Chifley Government’s referendum proposals. Their members went on the hustings and said, “ It is time controls disappeared altogether “. Of course, they did disappear. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) referred to the level of the basic wage when the Chifley Government took office, although I do not think he used figures for the same years as those I propose to cite. In 1946, when controls were being exercised, the basic wage rose by 2s. in the first three quarters of the year. In the December quarter an interim increase of 7s. was granted by the court. The relevant figures, which give a comparison with die present wage are as follows : - In January, 1950, the basic wage rose by an average of 4s. to £6 14s. a week. In April, 1950, it rose to £6 17s. a week, in July, to £7 a week, and in October to £7 3s. a week. In October an additional amount of 19s. a week was also added to the basic wage by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in recognition of the fact that the workers were not receiving a reasonable basic wage. In January, 1951, there was an increase of 8s. There was an increase of 7s. in March, 1951; of 12s. in July; of 10s. in October; and of lis. in January, 1952. The last average increase in the basic wage was 7s. Yet the Government has had the audacity to claim that its deflationary policy has begun to take effect. The basic wage increase in Victoria was 3s. on the last occasion and there was a good deal of dissatisfaction with it, particularly on the part of housewives. The basic wage in New South Wales is now over £11 a week. In Victoria it is also very substantial. It is the duty of the Government to try to keep down the prices which cause the basic wage to rise. Honorable members opposite frequently state that wages go up and prices follow. No economist in Australia would be prepared to agree with that con- tention. All economists say that wagesrise as a consequence of price increases.
The Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) said yesterday that the Government did not want controls. The Labour party does not believe in the control of every phase of activity but it does believe in enabling the economy of a country to function properly instead of permitting a continual state of anxiety to exist in the community. During the last two years the basic wage has risen by £3 19s. a week, yet the Government has claimed that its policy will put the economy of the country on an even keel. That claim has been proved to be false. During the course of his speech the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) simply went over the ground that he has been covering since he became Treasurer. He put. forward nothing but excuses and apologies which have been echoed by honorable members opposite. Of course each honorable member has only had twenty minutes at his disposal and it is useless to try to make apologies for this Government in less than three or four hours. There has been a breakaway in the economic field and the horse is still bolting. It is futile to suggest that the recent increase of 7s. a week in the basic wage is a sign that the Government’s policy is having a deflationary effect. The people of Australia are not likely to believe that.
The Labour party is devoted to the interests of the great mass of the people. It is not concerned about the interests which provide the funds for honorable members opposite to win elections. The Government has to please those interests. The people will remember the glamorous promises that were made by the Government during the election of 1949, no one of which has been fulfilled. Micawberlike, honorable members opposite have been waiting for something to turn up and they are still waiting. What has the Government produced as a remedy for the existing state of affairs? Nothing! This Government cannot produce anything of value. The forces which support it will not permit it to do so. It is like all coalition governments. Like the Government which preceded the first Curtin Government it is falling to pieces and the only encouraging signs are those which indicate that it has nearly reached the end of its tether. Of course, it will hang on as long as it can. In canvassing for opinions I have not been able to find anybody who will admit having voted for the Menzies Government. People to whom I have spoken on this subject have all said to me, “ Will we be able to have an election? We did not vote for the Government “. The Government came to office under false pretences which are now like chickens coming home to roost and Ministers do not know which way to turn in order to meet the situation.
One Opposition member who is a wellqualified economist - the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) - devoted the whole of his speech to explaining alternatives that could be used by the Government. Not one reference has been made to those alternatives by Government supporters. I know of a widow who invested . £1,500 in Commonwealth loans. When she sold them she lost £8 on each £100 that she had invested. That was a cruel experience. Is it any wonder that people leave their money in the savings banks? Some honorable members opposite had the audacity to suggest that the fact that the Commonwealth Savings Bank held greater deposits than it had ever held before was an indication of the confidence of the people in the Government. If the people had confidence in the ‘Government they would draw their money out of the savings banks and invest it in government loans. But they will not buy government bonds despite the fact that bonds carry a higher rate of interest than do saving bank deposits. The workers know that if they put their money into the savings banks instead of into government loans it will be protected and that they will get back at least as much as they put into the bank.
The Government has committed many sins. It is uneasy because of its failure to honour its promises to the people. It has dishonoured its promises and has brought the Parliament into disrepute because, having deceived the people, it is preventing the Parliament from doing the things which will put this country on a sound financial footing. When posterity assesses the results achieved by the
Menzies Government, and the actions of the Government to preserve the sound economy that it inherited from the Labour Government in 1949, the verdict will be heavily against this hybrid Administration which has no plans to solve our economic problems and, indeed, does not even possess a clue. We all want to cure our economic troubles, and if there is any way in which the Opposition can assist the Government it will assist it. There is no desire on our part to use this amendment for political purposes, but we must say that the Government is not even attempting to remedy the distress that exists to-day and which could be alleviated if sane politics were applied to the problem. The Government should alter the policy which some of its supporters are ashamed to support outside of this House on the hustings and in the electorates.
Mr. Turnbull interjecting,
– Apparently a few Government supporters are suffering from myxomatosis-
– Order! The honorable member is almost crossing the line of propriety.
– I was not referring to any Government supporter in particular, but if my remarks have offended anybody then I shall willingly withdraw them. The credit policy of the country at the present time is not creditable, and I think that it will be impossible for the Government to restore the confidence of the people. The policy of this Government will go down in history as the most miserable policy of any government since the inception of federation. It cannot be too often emphasized that although there may be capable individuals among the Government members there is not much hope for the future when the Australian Country party is associated with the Liberal party for both are reactionary bodies and both are pulling in different directions. I hope that the Government will either reconsider its policy or resign and let a government with a constructive policy take office and correct our economic troubles.
– The House and the country are being treated to one of the noisy attacks, barren of any constructive thought, that are launched by the Opposition against the Government from rime to time. It is interesting to note that the ideas of honorable members opposite have not changed very much during the time that such attacks have been made. I have listened with a good deal of interest to the points that have been made by the members of the Opposition. We find the same old catchcries and canards being resurrected from time to time and used by them in their futile efforts to discredit the Government. On every occasion that the Government comes in for criticism, honorable members opposite commence on the basis of the 1949 policy speech, which in my opinion was one of the grandest policy speeches ever delivered by a member of this Parliament. So satisfying was it to the public of the day that they returned the Government with an overwhelming majority. Unfortunately, owing to the wangling and gerrymandering that had taken place, although the Government enjoyed a substantial majority in this House, the same position did not apply in the Senate. Finding that it was impossible to govern and to carry out our policy under those conditions, we did what no Labour government has ever done in this country. We appealed to the people for a mandate before our term of office had expired.
Over the years I have heard a great deal about the inability of a Labour government to govern the country between 1929 and 1931, but on no occasion before the expiration of its term of office did that government show any inclination to appear before its masters. Eventually it was forced to go to the country by dissident elements in its own ranks. On the other hand, we were so satisfied with our record that as soon as an opportunity occurred - and I suggest that the most surprised people in this House were the members of the Opposition when the opportunity did occur - we went to the country and appealed to the people on exactly the same premises as we had appealed to them in 1949, with our record to that date clear for every member of the public to see and to judge. On that occasion we came back to office with a majority in both Houses of the Parliament.
The Government is very proud indeed of the degree to which its policy has been already implemented, not under conditions that existed or were envisaged in 1949, but under conditions entirely different from those. Honorable members opposite should appreciate that conditions have substantially changed since then. They should be fair enough to acknowledge that the whole atmosphere, the whole economy and, indeed, the activities of the world have changed since that time. Because of their failure to recognize it or to acknowledge it, I imagine that honorable members opposite do not appreciate that we are again fighting for the freedom of democracy, an ideal that we cherish. They do not realize that when we voluntarily met obligations that were undertaken by the previous Government, and which I do not cavil at in any way, a tremendous burden was thrown on the economy of the country. It accentuated the difficulties of the government in office at that time. I wish to relate briefly the sequence of events because it is as well that we should get the picture clear and appreciate the matters that are impeding the recovery and progress of the country.
In time of war few men demur if they are obliged to forgo a great many of their advantages and freedoms. I remind honorable members opposite that a Liberal-Australian Country party Government was in power when the last war broke out. I also remind them that the government of the day did not hesitate to do certain things which normally such a government would never undertake. Price fixing and other controls necessary in time of war were imposed. It will therefore be understood that when conditions demand it we are not slow to change our general attitude. We acknowledge that under certain conditions unusual action may have to be taken. The measures which we then instituted were carried on practically unaltered by succeeding governments. I suggest that that, at any rate, demonstrates their suitability. lt is a fact that during that period a great backlog of demand was created in this country. For instance, people had to do without houses and many commodities that are deemed necessary in times of peace. There was also a great backlog of maintenance, replacement of capital equipment, and other facilities which are usual and necessary in a modern community. It was expected that with the cessation of hostilities and the removal of restrictions Australia would again move forward in the way that it had been developing prior to the outbreak of war. Unfortunately, however, the progress made after the war, while a Labour government was in office, waB unutterably slow. Australia showed up badly in comparison with other countries of the British community. Every other British country, when freed from the obligations of war, immediately and energetically undertook comprehensive rehabilitation programmes. When the Labour Government went out of office in 1949, in most avenues of activity we had not irecovered to the 1939 level of production. That was the inheritance of the. Menzies Government when it came to office.
It is perfectly clear that the inflationary pressures created and intensified in the post-war period gave rise to a problem that had to be energetically tackled. This Government undertook to do so. As I have already said, even greater progress would have been made in the application of its policy had not another intrusion been made into out activities. I refer to the outbreak of war in Korea. The real cure for an inflationary pressure is not prices control or wage pegging but increased production. That Ls the positive approach. Honorable members opposite speak glibly of prices control and many other controls that are the very antithesis of progress. In themselves they never do anything but prevent progress being achieved. ‘Consequently, we undertook a dynamic and .active policy to encourage production in this country. We not only created good relations with the unions and .officials of the unions, but also supplemented their efforts by -the importation of goods that normally we would never attempt ito import. The Government had no hesitation in encouraging the inward flow of vital materials and commodities. Baring that period, no criticism came from the Opposition about the flow of imports. A cry went up for houses. The Government subsidized the importation of houses and I heard no criticism at that time, although on the other hand it was frequently said that insufficient houses were being built. More houses have been erected since this Government has been in power than during the years that a Labour government was in office.
Much criticism has been levelled at the Minister who has had charge of the war service homes programme. The record of the Government in that respect is impeccable. Since war service homes construction was started about 27 years ago, 85,000 homes have been built’ Of that number, 35,000 have been built since this Government was returned to the treasury bench. Honorable members can study one item, after another and find the same result. The trend of production in coal, steel and all the things that are needed to reduce inflationary pressure has been upward. In the meantime, not one word of commendation, nor one offer of real assistance, has come from the Opposition.
I admit that, much to my surprise, I heard the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) make thi’ extraordinary statement towards the close of his speech in this debate that the Opposition was not entirely critical and that it really wanted to help the Government get on with the job of rehabilitation. Perhaps the honorable member wanted to fill in time, but I am pleased to know that there is at least one honorable member on the Opposition side who has some realization of the needs of the country. Apart from that utterance, he did not. put forward one constructive suggestion and I am still waiting to hear one from any member of the Opposition.
The great need of this country is production. During -a difficult period when all countries ha”ve been confronted, in some degree, with the same problem the Government has been able to arrange the .affairs of Australia in such a way that full employment has been maintained. In such conditions any intrusion on ordinary national activities means a call for extra effort. I remind the country that because of the threat of war, which has been admitted and assessed by all democratic countries, part of the Australian effort had to be transferred from reconstruction and productive effort to defence preparation. While this has thrown a strain on the economy and has caused the diversion of resources and equipment from civil needs to defence production, the call upon the people, even for such an important part of the Government’s policy, has been relatively small. It has represented about 10 per cent. of the economy. I suggest confidently to honorable members that if is not beyond the capacity of the Australian people to give that 10 per cent. extra effort without denying themselves any of the things that they are now enjoying. The only alternative is to impinge on civil activity. To that degree, our civil progress, including catching up with the lag in housing and other amenities, will be retarded.
It is of no use for the Opposition to howl calamity, to talk about unemployment, or to dilate on individual cases in which inconvenience and perhaps hard- ship are being experienced and for them then to suggest that that is indicative of the general condition of the country. On the contrary, the people generally have never been better off than they are now, and it is not too much to ask the people to give of their best to enable the Government not only to encompass the civil programme, but also the defence programme that the Government has in hand. I assure honorable members that this Government and a great number of the people of Australia are entirely satisfied with the policy that has been followed by it. I know that we have heard the old canard about putting value back into the £1 shouted from the house-tops by honorable members opposite, but as sure as anything is done to achieve that end, they go into reverse and charge the Government with causing a depression and bringing about unemployment and suffering. They cannot have it both ways. They must make up their minds what they want. I assure the people of Australia that price fixing and other palliatives will not meet either the inflationary pressure or the defence needs of Australia. There is only one solution and that is production. The Government declares, therefore, that its policy is the correct one and it will be happy at the expiration of its term to go before the-: electors.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I desireto make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented ?
– Yes. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) misrepresented me when he said that I had claimed to be the only person who had made any effort to help to rehabilitate the country.. What I said was that the Opposition was willing to assist the Government in giving effect to any sane economic policy that was designed to rehabilitate the country, but that it is making no honest attempt to formulate such a policy.
.- The contribution to this debate by the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) has been of a similar pattern to that made by other members of the Government during the last two days. It was a complete evasion of the charges that have been made in what amounts to a motion of censure which has been couched in the form of an amendment to the motion for the printing of the financial statement presented by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). In all cases there has been a whining invitation from the Government benches for the Opposition to co-operate with the Government which admits, by inference at least, that it is completely defeated, that it has failed to implement some sort of botch potch economic policy, and that it fears the honest anger of the people outside. The Government is unwilling to measure up to the challenges that have been made by the Opposition. It is nauseating to have to repeat again and again the charges made in the amendment, but we have no alternative. Being a theological student, Mr. Speaker, you will recall that St. Augustine was once ordered by his august Master to empty the ocean with a spoon. To give an honorable member a mere twenty minutes to recount, even categorically, the misdeeds of this Government is to set a task almost as impossible to perform as was the task assigned to St. Augustine. However, I shall essay it to the best of my ability in the time allowed to me. The Opposition has launched its attack on definite counts that are well known to the people of this country, and it supports that attack by a series of charges that the Government has made mistakes that are dangerous to the nation and to its economy, and to the peace of mind of its people. We demand in this House that those mistakes be rectified. If they are incapable of correction, the Government should get out.
The Government’s first mistake was in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank Board when it appointed business men to the board to replace the so-called bureaucrats who had at least a scientific knowledge of money and economics. It put in their place men who were subservient to the Treasurer’s decisions and, as a result, credit restrictions were imposed upon the community. That was the first mistake. The second mistake was in relation to capital issues. It was a most grevious mistake in which the Treasurer applied the technique of Finnigan, the guard - off again, on again. Factories which were manufacturing anything from dolls’ eyes to diapers were given unlimited credit facilities while those engaged in essentia] industries were denied them. Classic instances of that are recorded in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph, which reports that Taubmans Limited, a concern which operates in my electorate and employs many of my electors, asked the Capital Issues Board for approval to raise an additional £:”>00,000 capital and was fobbed off, possibly with £150,000, and that a general store organization with many branches in the city and country centres had asked for approval to raise £750,000 and’ had got nothing and was told that it may get nothing. During the days when capital issues were freely allowed and the Government harboured the hallucination that it was really governing the country, although, in fact, it had lost the thread of government, it failed to take appropriate measures and by its subsequent actions it brought the country face to face with a depression. At least the people were on short commons.
The next mistake was to regard taxation as an answer to inflation. Despite the airy fairy nonsense of the Treasurer about how much he was creaming from the community, he admits in this statement that his wonderful surplus budget will be not a surplus budget but a deficit, budget. How much surplus money has the right honorable gentleman creamed from the community? None at all, because it is not there to be taken, and so he has had to present this supplementary statement to the House as his apology for the failure of his plan.
The next mistake made by the Government was the disgraceful way in which it allowed public confidence in the loan market to be so worsened that it was impossible to fill a loan. When the Chifley Government occupied the treasury bench over-subscription of public loans was the order of the .day. To-day, there is the sad and humble admission by the Government that its loan of £70,000,000 has been under-subscribed by approximately £15,000,000. The Government fears that the position in relation to the next loan will be even worse. Yet honorable members prate from the other side of the. House that everything is all right and everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds. I warn the Treasurer and his colleagues to take this matter seriously because the people outside are taking it very seriously indeed.
Another mistake, and, perhaps, the most dangerous of . those of which the Government has been guilty, was the atrocious way in which, it allowed our balance of payments to be squandered. Perhaps for the first time in our history we have no financial resources in London because they have been dissipated by the Government on worthless commodities.
The next mistake was the persistent statement by Government spokesmen that we were not getting full production because as the result of full employment the workers are not working as well they should do. As the result of the Government’s employment policy we hear the technological terms “stability of employment “, “ disemployment “ and “ employment changes “. The cold fact is that in the building, light engineering and textile industries there is sharp and grievous unemployment or disemployment if honorable members want to give it a euphonic or semantic name. Behind the plans of this Government is an intention to get back co the Hytten plan. A pool of unemployed outside the factory gates is an integral part of its plan for disciplining the workers so that we shall get the increased production about which we hear so much. The group of experts on the Commonwealth Bank Board was dispersed and a group of amateurs came in to pass judgment on the credit of this country. Capita] issues then became free for all; later they became free for none. On the loan market there is “complete public distrust of the Government. Despite the fact that the savings banks are bulging with the savings of the people no one is -so silly as to trust this Government. The gilt-edged security is only gilt-edged at the time of maturity and not at any intermediate stage. The balance of payments debacle, the tragic and awful mistake of tinkering with the plan of full employment, the nonsense about the budget surplus, the imposition of import cuts which were too great and too sudden, the mistakes of the Government at the meeting of the Loan Council when the courtesies of ordinary debate were’ thrown overboard by Commonwealth representatives in their wrangle with the * States when all that the States were asking, for was that they might keep men in work and keep their public works going - all these mistakes can be laid at the door of the Government. At the meeting, of the Loan Council the Prime Minister and the Treasurer made the representatives of the States appear as if they were children asking for something that they could not- be given, when, in fact, they were asking only for sufficient funds to provide employment for their citizens and. to prevent the onset of another depression or’ the. beginnings of a- recession which would be equally disastrous; to this: country in its present economic circumstances.. That is only a limited list of the tragic things that the Government has, done;, but now,, its supporters, mealy mouthed, call upon the Opposition for its support for alternative plans..
The final disaster that has befallen tha Government has been to believe in its own propaganda. It believes that it is still acceptable to the people. As Government supporters are so fond of Gallup polls, let them take a poll on that point to-morrow morning. They would be shocked at the result. In the face of this record, the Treasurer asks- what the Opposition would do in the present circumstances if it were in office. Is it not. an admission by supporters of the Government of its incompetence when one after another they lean over and breathe on our necks and ask, “What would you do ? “ We can answer that question, because there is: established precedent for what Labour would do. The record of the Curtin and Chifley Governments provides a. token of what can he done to meet our present problems.. That record, muddied though it might be by Liberal propagandists, shows: that during Labour’s regime Australia, in truth, experienced a golden age. At that time a. man who lost a. job knew that he could find another ; and the workers; knew that prices would not rise so high in proportion, to their wages as to deny them many of the- necessaries- of life. The Chifley Government embarked upon a reconstruction programme which involved the undertaking of great public works, such as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme, that had been pigeon-holed during years of Liberal dozing and dreaming. The Labour Government achieved dramatic results in that respect. Thereforej when Government supporters ask what alternative the Opposition has to- offer, we are able to answer them. We do not need to indulge in negative criticism: we shall offer plenty of constructive criticism. So much of the Government’s legislation as- is useful has been borrowed from the Labour party;’ but the Government still believes in laisser faire and lets things rip. It forgets much that it should have- learnt from the experience of the past. The Leader of the Liberal party in Victoria has said that the- Liberal party - I do not know whether it is the left or right wing of the Government coalition - is going too far to the socialist side. The controls and emergency measures upon which it now relies have been copied from preceding Labour governments. It has not tampered with such legislation but is using it to buttress the shambles it has created. When we are asked what alternative Labour has to offer to its old conservatism we reply that it is to return to sound government, to restore our economy, to put value back into the £1 and to follow the example of the Chifley Government, during whose regime this country was acknowledged to have a most progressive economy and a bettor chance of surmounting post-war difficulties than had any of the other democracies. I base this contention on a statement which appeared in the London Economist
The Australian Country party, this rail-sitting monstrosity which attaches itself to the Liberal party in the present coalition, has not only attempted to destroy the country, but has succeeded in practically destroying itself. Everything that has been done to injure the man who normally supported the Australian Country party is the responsibility of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who is the leader of that party. The grazier and the wheat-grower now have no time for the Australian Country party: and it will be only a matter of time before the small farmer who, misguidedly, supported the Australian Country party in the past, will be sharpening the axe on his grindstone with which to deal with it. The Australian Country party stands arraigned as the architect of the primary producers’ troubles. For it, in this House, it is a case of “ sink or swim “.
One of the most grievous things which this country now has to face is the result that has flowed from the Government’s action in respect of our balance of payments overseas. As the Treasurer spoke for over an hour, and as honorable members are limited to only twenty minutes, I shall not have an opportunity to analyse all that he said. But his story about the balance of payments was weak and futile, and, in many ways, most misleading. It was a tragic story. Our London balance was accumulated through the blood, sweat and tears of the British people. We are not unmindful of the fact that Australia would not have had that balance had it not been for the fact that Great Britain paid us for goods for which it was not able during the war to send us goods in return because it was engaged in a life-and-death struggle. But those balances which we should have treasured have been dissipated - dissipated on “ Gew-gaws “ and “ Shoddy “. Surely there was one man in the ship of state who could have kept a look-out to ensure that imports would not be allowed to flood this country as has happened recently. But, apparently, over cocktails, the Government accepted the importers’ advice to let the goods in and to wait and see what might happen. I repeat that those balances had been built up by the blood and sweat of the British people. They were accumulated through the purchase of goods for which the British people paid. The Government’s action in allowing them to be dissipated was a complete dereliction of duty. Any one who read the newspapers was aware that a trade collapse had occurred in Canada with the result that imports into that country declined. The same thing happened in South Africa, and, because of the military situation in the Middle East, Great Britain could not sell rauch of its exports there. But some one whispered in the ears of the British manufacturer that he had a rich uncle in Australia where the wool-grower and the wheat-grower were receiving high prices for their products. The result is that, to-day, Australians who cannot procure many of the necessaries of life see in abundance in the stores cuckooclocks, bed warmers, beer mugs and men’a pyjamas at 14 guineas a pair, which must surely have been spun by fairy fingers. Those luxury articles are obtainable in’ unlimited quantities, but Australian citizens are unable to obtain bricks, tiles, timber and cement for the building of houses, and the farmer cannot obtain his requirements of piping, galvanized iron, wire netting, tractors, and agricultural machinery. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) pointed out, Australians to-day, as the result of the Government’s policy, cannot obtain the essential materials they requirein order to increase production for which the Government is constantly asking, but, at the same time, they see available unlimited quantities of Russian caviare, salmon, sturgeon roe, and perfumes and scents priced at from £5 5s. to £10 10s. a bottle. The Australian housewife is unable to obtain adequate supplies of bread, butter, sugar, and tea, but has flaunted before her eyes imported luxury goods of all kinds that she cannot afford to buy. The Government still speaks of the need to increase production, but it has dissipated our overseas balances, which could have been used to purchase essential machinery, in the importation of pate de foie gras, Russian salmon, German sauerkraut, pheasant in aspic, and truffles.
That is the measure of the dynamic statesmanship of this Government. That is the story of its administration. The Government has failed to put value back into the £1. The Australian housewife is offered unlimited supplies of imported luxury goods of the kind that I have mentioned, but is unable to purchase many necessaries. I am reminded of the words of Marie Antoinette, who lost her head, as this Government will lose its head. When her courtiers told her that the poor of Paris had no bread, she replied, “Give them cake”. Similarly, the Government says that whilst it has no money for the purchase of vital machinery that is required to increase production of food, it has plenty to make available for the importation of such luxuries as pheasants in aspic. The Government stands arraigned on its many mistakes. I have merely mentioned a few of them. We know of its disastrous foreign policy and of the Japanese peace treaty.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– The Government stands arraigned on its internal policy as a result of which the people have completely lost their faith in it. To-day, in this country, there is no stability of mind about the future. On the contrary, grave anxiety exists because there is unemployment in the building, light machinery and textile trades. Widespread fear exists regarding our general financial structure. In these circumstances - although members of the Labour party would be the last to raise such a matter - there could arise a fear of the possibility of a distastrous depression. The Opposition has moved its amendment to the motion now before the House in order to draw attention to these things. I conclude by saying that this problem is not one that the Government can take lightly or be whimsical about, or regard complacently, as most of its supporters unfortunately regard them, because the people who elect all governments and sustain all democracies are afraid that this Government lacks statesmanship and an understanding of our difficulties. If the Government still asks for an alternative plan, the Prime Minister may be able to trade a suggestion with me. If the Government must have some one to advise it, we shall be prepared to do so upon certain terms that I shall be able to recommend to the Leader of the Labour party.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has asked us to take seriously the amendment that has been submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) on behalf of the Opposition. But the Government cannot take the amendment seriously, because the honorable member for Melbourne indulged in a clowning act and the honorable member for Parkes in buffoonery. Instead of addressing themselves to the financial statement in a serious manner, they spoke a lot of airy nonsense. The honorable member for Parkes revealed his journalistic training when he spoke in headlines. His remarks were without substance. As Opposition members have criticized Government policy during this debate, I expected that some of them would offer constructive alternative proposals, so that the people could judge whether the Government had discharged its obligations satisfactorily. But when we ask Opposition speakers to define their alternative policy, they become silent. They offer no constructive criticism. We have also asked them to explain how they would equip this nation to defend itself adequately, and again they have been silent. The history of the Labour party in respect of defence explains their silence. Is it not a fact that the Labour party opposed the introduction of the national service training scheme? Did not the Labour party oppose the Empire Air Training Scheme during World War II.? Has not the Labour party always been opposed to measures for the adequate defence of Australia? Opposition members take no interest in the recruiting campaign for the Citizen Military Forces, and, indeed, set their faces deliberately against it. They have tried to sabotage defence measures which are so important to Australia.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the House is considering the national service training scheme or the financial statement presented to the House by the Treasurer (Sir’ Arthur Fadden) on Tuesday evening?
– Order ! Defence was definitely dealt with in the financial statement.
– Opposition members may try to prevent the criticism that they deserve by taking points of order, but their efforts will be in vain. They have taken almost every government department to task in this debate. These pseudo-administrators and alleged financiers seek to propound a policy that will satisfy the people, but, in fact, they have no constructive proposals to offer, and merely indulge in clowning and buffoonery. It may be convenient for them to forget a most significant statement that was made by their former leader, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, about the problem of inflation. They are usually eager to quote his remarks and cite action that he took in accordance with the policy of the Labour party. But they have not referred to his statements about inflation, and the reason for their silence is obvious. During the last general election campaign, Mr. Chifley said -
Labour, if elected, might have to do some unpopular things to arrest inflation.
– We still say so.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) does not know what the late Mr.
Chifley has said about inflation. Opposition members speak with a multiplicity of voices. Mr. Chifley continued -
It would require a number of measures to cure - some drastic and some politically unpopular.
What does the Opposition seek to do? In the teeth of the observation of their late leader that unpopular measures would have to be taken in order to check inflation, they seek to make party political capital out of the Government’s antiinflationary policy that has been formulated for the well-being of the country. I cite an instance of the unreasonable and irresponsible statements that have been made by responsible leaders of this Opposition of bits and pieces. The honorable member for Melbourne, who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, became vociferous on the subject of taxation, and sought to convince himself that his statements on that matter were correct. But let us examine some of the utterances which he has made in the past upon that subject. Last year he actually proposed that taxes should be increased, because he declared at a meeting at Frankston, in Victoria, on the 20th March, 1951, that the Labour party, if it were returned to office, would repeal the wool sales deduction legislation, and that the special levy on wool-growers would be spread over the whole community. The honorable gentleman, considered that he held in his hand a really ripe political plum. He thought that he could make valuable party political capital out of his proposal, particularly among woolgrowers. What would have been the result of such a policy ? The proceeds from the wool sales deduction amounted to approximately £103,000,000. Had the whole community been required to contribute that amount, income tax rates would have been increased by 33 per cent. Yet the honorable gentleman has had the temerity to criticize the latest modest increase of tax. which is about one-half of the tax remission granted in the previous year. The level of taxation in Australia is lower than that in any other British-speaking country.
The honorable member for Melbourne also endeavoured to make political capital out of other matters.For instance, he said that controls in war-time were less severe than they are to-day. Such a statement was nonsense and poppycock. Had the Labour party had its way, the greatest economic control of all time would have been imposed upon the Australian people. We know perfectly well what a Labour government would attempt to do, and, fortunately, the people also are alive to the danger. The preceding Labour Government tried to impose the greatest form of totalitarian and fascist control when, behind the backs of the people and without a mandate from them, it sought to rob them of their savings, strangle private enterprise and reduce every Australian to the status of a Russian peasant by nationalizing the banking system. Yet Opposition members had the audacity to criticize our financial policy. How can they do so with any degree of sincerity when they sought, by one act, to nationalize the whole banking structure, and take complete control not only of the finances of the country, but also of every industry that required financial accommodation for its development. By a strange coincidence, that paramount control - a nationalized banking system - is in line with the best Communist principles, because Lenin told the Bolshevik congress in 1917 -
We are all agreed that the fundamental first step . . . must he Treasures for the nationalization of the banks.
Is it not significant that, because of the infiltration of communism into the Labour party during the period of which I speak, a Communist principle is embodied in its constitution?
– Order! Communism is completely outside the scope of this debate.
– I do not propose to discuss communism. Opposition members are so steeped in it that further elaboration by me is not necessary. I was referring to the banking policy of the Labour party and to the strange coincidence that it should fall into line with Marxian doctrine. What was the position when this Government assumed office? The country had been subject to the dictation to which I have alluded. That had a vital effect not only upon industry but also upon production, with the result that the national finances were affected. Industrial unrest, which extended even to the ranks of the Australian Labour party itself, and was aggravated by the attitude of the Labour Government, was a potent force which violently affected the financial structure of this country. Production decreased alarmingly mainly because one State Labour administration introduced a shorter working week. That, too, had a violent effect on our financial structure and, in fact, from it have stemmed many of our economic troubles. I do not know whether any mention has been made in this debate of the security of the Pacific region, but that is a most important defence consideration. After the sorry story of Manus Island, it was necessary for the Liberal Government to devote considerable attention and energy to the defence of this country.
– Order! This is not a discussion of Pacific defence, and I cannot permit the Minister to continue to discuss that matter.
– I do not propose to do that, Mr. Speaker, but I do intend to deal with the defence of this country. The security of Australia has been jeopardized, and it has fallen to the lot of this Government to retrieve the ground that was lost through the inaction of the Labour Administration. I consider that the pact between the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand is the greatest diplomatic achievement of any Australian government. When this Government assumed office, it was confronted by a rapidly deteriorating economy, due mainly to the problem of inflation over which the Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, admitted he had no control. We had to devise financial measures to rectify the economic situation. What did we do? Time will not permit, me to go into details of the various measures that we adopted, but I shall mention one which had a marked effect on our economic structure. I refer to the steps that were taken by the Government to give to trade unionists the right to control their own destinies.
– Order ! I remind the Minister that we are now debating a certain motion and an amendment to it. The motion is for the printing of a financial statement made by the Treasurer, and the amendment is virtually a motion of no confidence based on that statement. Within those limits there is ample scope for debate, and I ask the Minister to keep within the terms of the ‘Government’s own proposition.
– I shall endeavour to do that, Mr. Speaker, but the fact remains that Opposition speakers in this debate have sought to encompass the entire administration of this Government. They have dealt with all matters that affect the economy of this country. I contend that labour conditions are of vital importance to our economy because it is from the labour shortage that many of our economic problems stem. I was endeavouring to draw the attention of honorable members to the action taken by the Government to stabilize the economy by reducing industrial disputation. However, you have ruled that line of argument out of order, and I shall not proceed any further on it. I shall return to the subject of defence which, I consider, as Minister for Defence Production, has come in for unnecessary criticism. At the end of the war, the Labour Government divested this country almost completely of its munitions potential. Equipment worth many millions of pounds was sold at bargain prices. Now we have to endeavour to retrieve the position; yet when the Government budgets for defence expenditure of £181,000,000 it is criticized by the Opposition. That money cannot be drawn out of thin air. It must be obtained through taxation, and there again the Government has come in for criticism.
Let us see what the Government has clone to improve our defences. Honorable members opposite are aware that the Korean force has been increased. They know too that an Australian fighter wing has been made available for service in the Middle East. The nucleus of a substantial armaments industry has been established in private enterprise in accordance with the Government’s plan for national defence. The initial financial allocation for this purpose is £250,000. The Government has approved the prin cipal of the establishment of central tool rooms to provide industry with an assured supply of special tools and has authorized a total expenditure of £1,286,000 on the provision of precision machine tools and the establishment of production technique. In the field of munitions production, expenditure totalling £4,500,000 has been authorized. An Australian-built fighter aircraft whichwill be superior to any fighter or intercepter plane in the world will be in production early next year. Plans are well advanced also for the production of what is regarded as the best medium bomber in the world to-day. The Government has done those things in fulfilment of its obligation to the nation. In addition, as I have said, we. have had to restore to our defence production fabric the equipment that the Labour Government sold at the end of the war; yet honorable members opposite have the temerity to criticize the Government’s defence effort and to move an amendment in completely irresponsible terms that will not stand up even to the test of debate.
Opposition speakers have said a lot about inflation. Let us examine the Government’s anti-inflationary measures. Surely the problem of inflation is sufficiently important to warrant the cooperation of the best intellects of all political parties. Surely the ravages of inflation are such that the problem should not be the subject of carping criticism by honorable members opposite. Surely a. solution of the problem is so vital to the well-being of this country that all honorable members should bend their energies towards making constructive proposals instead of indulging only in destructive criticism ; yet not one honorable member opposite has made a single constructive proposal. The Government’s principal weapon in the fight against inflation is the 1951 budget. It is true that the budget was subjected to criticism when it was introduced, but it is no longer criticized. Throughout the length and breadth of Australia those who formerly criticized the budget are now admitting that it was wise and courageous, and that its benefits are now becoming apparent. The latest quarterly basic wage adjustments reveal a tendency towards greater stability in industry and vindicate the 1951 budget proposals. Honorable members opposite are silent when they realize that the economic stability for which the Government has worked so earnestly is now becoming apparent. Perhaps that is why they have moved the amendment. They are taking advantage of the last opportunity that they are likely to have to criticize the Government’s financial and economic policy because soon the results of that policy will be so evident that there will be no ground for criticism. An important feature of our changing economy is increased production. For instance, the monthly production of black coal increased from 1,179,000 tons between July and December, 1949, to 1,648,000 tons between July and December, 1951.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired. Before I call the Leader of the Opposition I warn the House, which has been rather disorderly for the past twenty minutes, that I propose to ensure that the Leader of the Opposition and subsequent speakers shall be accorded a fair hearing. There has been considerable interruption from my left-
– And from your right as well very often, Mr. Speaker.
– Order! If the honorable gentleman wishes to argue with the Chair-
– It is a fact.
– I call upon the honorable member to apologize for having argued with the Chair.
– I apologize for having stated a fact.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will apologize unreservedly.
– I apologize unreservedly.
– I do not propose to cover the wide range of the harangue delivered by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) because I intend to refer to only two important matters. The honorable gentleman, of course, took the same line as other Government supporters took by claiming that the present inflationary situation was caused by Labour governments. I have not time to deal with the history of this situation and therefore 1 shall content myself with reading two brief extracts from the press of Australia with reference to the last budget of Mr. Chifley, which was introduced in September, 1949. The Melbourne Age commented -
In broad results, the federal budget is a record of achievement, of sound management, of huge resources and of prudent foresight.
The Melbourne Argus of the same date stated -
Mr. Chifley has produced a lower cost of living budget. He has resisted the tendency of making spectacular eleventh hour concessions in an election year. The budget is a sound one designed to underpin the social service programme, to maintain full employment and economic development.
They were the independent opinions of independent newspapers. Everybody who fairly assesses the facts must come to the same conclusion. Of course, the present Government parties, which were then in opposition, later made a series of election promises of the kind that were condemned by implication in the second article from which I quoted. Need 1. discuss them now? Honorable members recall them clearly.
The promises, in general terms, were to reduce thecost of living, or, in other words, to put value back into the £1; to remove controls; and to reduce taxes progressively. Circumstances that have arisen since then may explain why those promises have not been honoured but, in some instances, the action that has been taken has been the reverse of that which was promised. It is absurd for the VicePresident of the Executive Council and his colleagues to make wild statements unless they can produce supporting facts. One might be led to imagine, from the honorable gentleman’s comments about defence, that Labour governments had not done a good job. But everybody who knows the history of Labour’s administration is aware of the efficiency with which Australia’s war effort was directed and realizes that, in the postwar period, Labour adopted, on the recommendation of the Australian Chiefs of Staff, a defence plan that involved a total expenditure of £295,000,000 in five years. That plan provided for the establishment of a naval task force and for the sort of industrial and developmental effort that is essential to adequate defence. It also provided for scientific research in such fields as the testing of guided missiles. The nation’s defence preparations had to be intensified later, of course, because of the deterioration of the international situation, but the Labour Government’s defence plan was not criticized in those days.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) also made a wild speech earlier in the debate. He criticized the Government of New South Wales because that State is not completely independent and actually is guilty of importing foodstuffs from other States. What a dreadful offence! The Minister apparently would like all potatoes to be consumed in Tasmania, all footwear to be confined to Victoria, all cattle to be retained in Queensland, and, presumably, all steel to be used exclusively in New South Wales. The honorable gentleman seems to know nothing of the movement of trade between the States. His speech developed into a tirade of abuse directed against New .South Wales because he was annoyed with the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, who had outlined a positive programme for increasing food production and had expressed criticism of the Commonwealth Minister. The State Minister advocated an easing of restrictions on bank credit in relation to primary production and the granting of tax concessions to primary producers. In fact, this Government has now given effect to many of his suggestions. That is the sort of unfair criticism that has been expressed by Ministers and their supporters during this debate.
The long financial statement made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) dealt with many matters, and it would be impossible for me to discuss all of them in the course of my remarks. The right honorable gentleman gave no indication anywhere in his statement that he was convinced of the correctness or the wisdom of his policies. He said, in effect, “ Well, everything may turn out satisfactorily. We regarded imports as being essential to our campaign against inflation. Then we restricted imports because we had to do so. Who can foretell the future? Some people fear that there will be unemployment”. There is already some degree of unemployment, especially amongst unskilled workers and certain skilled workers, such as building tradesmen. The statement has proved that the Treasurer lacks any assurance that he has a remedy for inflation at- -hand in what he has described as “ the measures of the Government”. That is a good expression. It indicates that the Government has done only one thing at a time. The Government lacks a general policy, and there are constant shifts in its plans. Its views on the subject of economic policy are frequently changed.
I shall concentrate my attention now upon two important matters. One relates to the decisions of the Loan Council at its recent meeting and the other to the recent sudden application of import restrictions by arbitrary methods which have involved unavoidable breaches of, perhaps, tens of thousands of contracts between British sellers and Australian buyers. I shall discuss, first, the importance of the public works of the States. They have always been essential to the physical development of the nation. Without fuel, power, transport, irrigation, schools, hospitals and the like, the adequate development of Australia and the absorption of population increases would be impossible. Statistics show that public works represent about 30 per cent, of total investments, both public and private, in Australia. However, their significance is far greater than that proportion would suggest because, without the basic works that are financed by means of public investment, nearly all private investment in Australia would be held up. Public investment in that sense is the keystone of the development of Australia, In our view, any substantial reduction of public works should be avoided. At the Loan Council meeting, the States were unanimous. The Commonwealth was the only dissentient to the decisions that were made. The State Premiers did not represent a political party group. They represented all political parties. !In my view; they took a far more realistic view of the economic situation than: did the Commonwealth. The State Premiers’ figure of £247,500,000 for State works is justified. Some people believe that it represents’ an increase of public works, but in fact it represents a lower volume than did the figure for last year, which was £225,000,000, because costs of construction have risen by at least 20 per cent. The appropriate figure for the same physical volume of work as last year would be £270,000,000. The lower figure which the Loan Council adopted as a result of - a vote of the State Premiers involves a physical reduction of works by “early 10 per cent. Despite that effective physieal reduction, the Commonwealth insisted that the figure of £247,500,000 was too large and put forward the counter proposal that the figure should be £180,000,000, which would involve a physical reduction of public works by 30 per cent. I say that the State Premiers were right. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford-
– He is a Liberal.
– He is not a Labour supporter, but an opponent of Labour. In a broadcast last night, he said that the figure upon which the Commonwealth insisted would reduce the rate of development, impede private investment, and cause unemployment on a large scale. It was the desire of the Premiers to avoid that dangerous situation which caused them to take the business of the Loan Council out of the hands of the Commonwealth for the time being.
The position, constitutionally and legally, is that the Commonwealth must accept the decision of the Loan Council, because decisions of that body have supreme force in this country, but it has almost openly repudiated the decision by attacks made on the State Premiers. Recently the Treasurer made a most unseemly attnck upon the State governments. The criticisms of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) have been far more subtle than those of the Treasurer. But what the two right honorable gentlemen have said represents, in substance, an unwillingness to carry out the decisions of the Loan Council. That is plain from the statement of the Treasurer, in which the right honorable’ gentleman gives all kinds of reasons why, in has opinion,, the Loan Council should not have acted in the way it did, and in which he’ offers to do something that the Loan Council rejected. The Commonwealth is. bound to do what the Lean Council decided should be done, and I assume that it will do so.
Owing to the Government’s failure to control inflation, and its administration of bank credit policy in too harsh a manner, the market for Government loans became demoralized and private enterprise became embarrassed in its own developmental plans. The Government now wants to adjust those plans and the rate of private investment to this deplorable situation. It will not approve of the continued full employment of the labour and resources that are available for development and the maintenance of living standards in Australia. In essence, the Treasurer is now saying that we should adopt the policy of a contracting economy instead of any expanding economy. That disastrous policy was adopted during the depression of the 1930’s. I think it is now admitted thar development then proceeded at far too slow a pace, with the result that a large portion of the workers of this country were unemployed.
I turn to import restrictions. The Government, having delayed action to control the volume of imports, eventtially had to impose drastic and arbitrary cuts. One possible effect of the cuts has not been sufficiently emphasized. It is possible that imports of equipment and capital goods which are urgently required by the States for the development of basic public works will be reduced. The magnitude of the import cuts is without precedent in Australia, either in time of war or in time of peace. It is doubtful whether, after a few months, available supplies of equipment and capital goods will be sufficient to sustain developmental projects. That constitutes a serious threat to the level of investment and employment, possibly even greater than the threat presented by the shortage of capital internally in this country. It was on that shortage of capital internally that, before the Loan Council, the Commonwealth based its argument that there would be a heavy percentage reduction of public investment. Many millions of pounds worth of overseas equipment is involved in the import cuts. At the Loan Council meeting, the Government put on one side the tremendous obstacle to investment that is involved in a policy of continued import restrictions, and placed many vital projects at the arbitrary discretion of the Commonwealth, adopting a critical attitude towards the whole programme.
The import restrictions take an extravagant form in that all existing contracts cannot be performed. Professedly, they have been instituted to hold a situation that should not have been allowed to deteriorate so seriously. The Government had the information on this matter. It was in close touch with all developments. Therefore, it is astonishing that action was not taken previously on the basis of the facts as they now appear. Those facts were not revealed to the Parliament a few months ago. While the Parliament was sitting, no hint of the import restrictions was given, but the day after the Parliament adjourned the cuts were imposed. I say that, by the restrictions, the Government delivered a severe blow at the trading and financial relations between this country and the United Kingdom. It did so at a time when the sterling area was facing special difficulties, and when the United Kingdom itself was battling with a serious problem of its own and looking for help within the Commonwealth to sustain the position of sterling for the benefit of us all.
The restrictions have been conceived and carried out with no regard for local developmental plans. I ask the Government, through the Treasurer or some other Minister, to inform the House of the value of orders placed by the States for public works that were waiting supply from abroad when the restrictions were imposed, and the value of similar Commonwealth orders for defence and civil needs. I ask also for information about the plans that are being made to ensure that those supplies will be obtained. In some public works, the proportion of essential capital equipment that has to be imported is, I believe, as high as 30 per cent. My view is that at the Loan
Council meeting the State Premiers, having abandoned their first proposal, came to a reasonable decision. I believe that they acted correctly. The Commonwealth is bound to carry out the decisions of the council, and it should do so with the maximum of goodwill.
The problem of the security loans of this country is involved in this matter. The last two loans were failures, for varying reasons. One reason was that uncertainty about rates of interest affected investors. Rates of interest upon Commonwealth loans should be firm. The rate of interest upon one loan was Si per cent. It is true that the next loan was issued at that rate of interest, but it was issued at a discount. Finally, the rate of interest was increased sharply. That action reduced the market value of previous securities by a considerable percentage, at a time when it is fair to assume the market for Commonwealth securities was being supported by the Commonwealth. That is a severe loss in many instances and I consider that if the bases of the loan could be made secure it would then be quite proper for all parties and the States, and all parties in the States’ - because the States represent all the political parties in Australia, including the Liberal party; the Labour party and the Australian Country party - to join in a campaign to help to raise the approved amount.
Without dealing in further detail with the matter of import cuts I point out to the House that it is important to ascertain, if the House can ascertain it, exactly what is proposed to be done in relation to the policy of import restrictions. That policy is said to be temporary. What does that mean? Does the Prime Minister propose to deal with the subject of import restrictions during his mission abroad? Is the policy to be reviewed? What is happening to Australian industry, not only importing interests but also our manufacturing interests? * Extension of time granted.]* Australian industry is affected because the cuts accentuate the difficulty of obtaining not only raw materials for manufacture here but also partly made articles. That is happening in many instances to which other honorable members have referred. Australian industry and commerce are both affected and the whole situation requires review.
In summing up the arguments as they have been developed by my colleagues, and certain views that I have expressed, I would suggest that the following matters be considered by the House : - First, that in future the Parliament should accept a greater responsibility’ for the nation’s financial and economic policy. One can see from the questions that have been asked in the House during the last few days how difficult it is to obtain full information on the financial position. Such information should be available in some convenient form to the House. At present honorable members have little information about financial matters and have an opportunity to deal with these great questions, such as import restrictions, to give one illustration, only after the events have taken place and it is practically impossible to restore the situation. .Secondly, there should be an immediate review of the administration of the present bank credit restriction policy, which Was laid down a considerable time ago. The administration of it is in the hands of the Government, nominally through the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks, but under the relevant statute the responsibility rests with the Government. I submit that a review of the heads of policy is required. The Prime Minister pointed out during last session that imports can be financed without the necessity to apply restrictions that might be applied to other forms of business activity. Above all, the procedure under which the banking system has the duty of deciding Government policy on whether a particular industry is, essential or not requires review, because such decisions are of great importance. Thirdly, a system of administrative and impartial review should be applied to important decisions both in respect of capital issues and the refusal of bank credit on the basis of the Government’s advances policy. In such cases I say that the judgment of the Capital Issues Board or the bank concerned could be reviewed with advantage in order to guarantee uniformity and justice. There is no uniformity in that respect to-day. One bank may decide one way and another bank may decide another way in relation to similar matters. In cases where advances are made by banks after due consideration there should not be any administrative review unless there are some special features associated with the matter. Fourthly, an immediate review should be made of import licensing restrictions to ascertain whether temporary arrangements can be made with the United Kingdom Government to mitigate the harshness of their application. My fifth suggestion refers to one important aspect of our production problem, namely, the position of the skilled worker to-day. His wage has gone down and down in the last five years in comparison with the wage of the unskilled worker. I suggest that the wages of skilled workers be fixed in proportion to the value of the particular skills concerned. That contention was rejected in the Galvin judgment on the ground that the award of the margins claimed, might increase the inflationary trend. As a matter of fact, it was simply as a. result of the inflationary trend that the claim for the margins was made.
In primary industry, both the owner or share farmer and the employee should be entitled to a fair return. In making that statement I am simply restating the policy that Labour governments attempted to apply. That policy should be applied on the basis of just terms, having regard to market prices and the necessity to maintain and expand food production. Above all, liberal credit facilities should be available to encourage the sons of Australian farmers to engage in all forms of primary production.
The proposals of the Premiers in respect of loans for works programmes should be accepted by the Commonwealth and a vigorous attempt should be made to put them into effect. For this purpose a stable loan rate is absolutely essential but, above all and more important than the rate, public confidence is required. An immediate investigation should also be undertaken to meet all cases of injustice in which investors, particularly small investors, have been -deprived of the market value of their 1 holdings in government loans because of subsequent increases of interest rates. I submit that the fundamental principle in respect of public developmental works producing capital assets for the Commonwealth or the States must be that no works judged essential should be terminated or suspended merely because of alleged financial reasons. When we have the physical means, then I submit that mere financial reasonsare not sufficient to justify the closing down of works to the extent proposed.
The economic position of people who arc in receipt of fixed incomes calls for an urgent review in the light of still increasing prices. In any consideration of the prices problem we should not concentrate so much on the aspect of wages, because stabilization of prices is an essential preliminary condition to stabilization of wages. Some people contend that the quarterly adjustments of the basic wage have been the cause of inflation. If prices were stabilized those quarterly increases of the wage would not occur. The first thing to tackle is prices, although I admit that price freezing by itself is not the remedy.
The problem of production in both its primary and secondary aspects is a difficult one and I shall not attempt to deal with it in the few minutes at my disposal, or elaborate upon the arguments of my colleagues. However, the Parliament should have more opportunity to study these matters and obtain the information about them that it requires. At the last Loan Council meeting the State Premiers asked for the right to consult the Government’s economic advisers, the representatives of the Commonwealth Bank and the associated banks, in order to obtain their point of view and have possession of the facts upon which decisions could be based. I submit that we in this Parliament should have the right, whether we are in opposition or in office, to obtain assistance of that kind before final decisions are made, and not simply be put in the position of seeing economic policy chopping and changing as it has done under this Government. The policy expressed in the budget is quite different from the policy of import restrictions. The Prime Min ister emphasized in his New Year’s Day broadcast that imports were an essential part of his programme to combat inflation. The chairman of the Commonwealth Bank also made a similar statement in December. In November or December a total of £62,000,000 Australian was actually invested in British Government securities, the whole assumption being that imports would continue to flow in. Then something happened. I still do not know from the Treasurer’s statement whether the import restrictions that have been imposed by the Government were authorized by the conference of Commonwealth finance Ministers. I assume that they were not authorized by that conference. Judging from the broadcast which the Treasurer made after the conference I should have thought that the primary decision to which the finance Ministers came was to economize in the use of non-sterling currencies. Instead, there was an abrupt discontinuance of an enormous amount of trade between two important sterling countries, Britain and Australia, to the detriment of both of them. That step represented a turning back in the policy of the Government.
I think that the criticism which the Opposition made of the budget when it was introduced has been justified by events. The Government has retreated on the taxation front in respect of primary industry and the inflationary aspect of the budget proposals concerning taxation has become apparent. The more rigorous administration of bank credits has produced a chaotic position. The failure of the loan programme evidenced that the people of this country bad no confidence in the economic and financial policy of the Government.
– Order ! The right honorable member’s extended time, has expired..
– It would be hard for anybody who has been listening to the proceedings of the House to believe that we are debating an- amendment which seeks to express a lack of confidence in the Government. Such a debate is supposed to produce a political crisis. It is true that the motion was not moved by the
Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), but by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who made an extremely entertaining speech which I did not have the pleasure of hearing but which I have read with undiluted enjoyment. The Leader of the Opposition, having lurked in his tent, has now decided that he should lend his own authority to the motion. He has made what is even for him one of the gloomiest speeches that has been delivered on such an occasion as this. Gloomy though the speech was, it did not, like so many gloomy speeches, bed itself down on unpleasant facts, because the honorable member cast himself adrift from the facts. He floated around in a gloom of his own and there were no facts to be seen - no land or sky or sea.
I should like to refer to one or two facts, if this would not be regarded as an impertinence by the right honorable gentleman. It appears that he thinks that the Government has fallen down in tackling the problem of inflation. He did not make it quite clear, but I thought that there was a vague hint that he was opposed to inflation. But if he is opposed to inflation his remedy is indeed most curious because, in his peroration, he made it relatively clear that he considered that the remedy was to be found in more credit, in higher prices, in higher wages and in the financing of the State works programmes from central bank credit. The right honorable gentleman will live long enough to be a curiosity in the world of political economy, because never until to-night have I heard a responsible leader who, if this amendment is carried, will be Prime Minister to-morrow morning or, at the latest, to-morrow afternoon, launch an attack and indicate, in effect, that those are his remedies for inflation. If I were not referring to such a distinguished gentleman I would say that it was childish nonsense but, as I am referring to the right honorable gentleman I can say no more than I have already said.
The right honorable and learned gentleman gave particular attention to two problems. I shall not bother about the rest of the negative insinuations that have been made by the Opposition in the course of the debate. The right honor- able gentleman referred, first of all, to the decisions of the Loan Council. He put forward a very astonishing proposition which he, I hope, will live to regret. He stated that the duty of the Commonwealth, when the six State Premiers vote for a certain programme at a meeting of the Loan Council, is to find the money for that programme. If his proposition did not mean that it meant even less than I thought it meant. In effect, the right honorable gentleman said that, as the six Premiers finally decided on a programme requiring the expenditure of £247,500,000, it was the duty of the Commonwealth to obey the decision of the Loan Council and find that £247,500,000. It must be singularly fortunate that thu Loan Council did not pass the resolution a couple of hours earlier, because the motion put forward then had been in respect of a programme of £351,000,000. I suppose that if the six Premiers had voted for the raising of £351,000,000, then the Commonwealth would have been bound to find that sum of money. It is a Catchpenny argument to say that the Commonwealth is bound to find the money which the Loan Council decides should be raised. The function of the Loan Council is to decide how much money can be raised on reasonable terms and conditions. That is what it was established for and those are the words that are used in the Financial Agreement. The Commonwealth has a duty to the people of Australia to offer its own view at the Loan Council meeting and to decline to be associated with financial programmes which, in its judgment, are not capable of being fulfilled by borrowing money from the public on reasonable terms and conditions.
I remind the House that, in respect of the current financial year, the Loan Council, in agreement with the Commonwealth, decided to raise £225,000,000. At the time that it was agreed to raise that amount the Commonwealth stated that it was most improbable that the loan market would yield more than £125,000,000 during the financial year 1951-52. Bui because the Government believed in development and because we wanted to have works carried out we did something that no government that the right honorable gentleman ever belonged to, or any of its predecessors, ever thought of doing. We undertook to find the money that was required. That guarantee, which has made possible 70 per cent. of the works programmes of all the States of Australia during the last ten months, will cost the Australian Government £155,000,000. In other words, it has produced the greatest financial difficulty in one year that any Australian Government has had to confront. The right honorable gentleman has made light of that difficulty. He would not do so if he were in office. At the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council, at which the programme for the forthcoming financial year was discussed, we said that we could not find £155,000,000, and for a very good reason. In the last financial year we were budgetting for a surplus and we at least had some surplus to work on. We are not anticipating that we shall have a surplus of that kind at the end of the next financial year. It is very interesting to recall and I mention it to the House, that with all the hullabaloo that has taken place about increased taxes from the other side of the House, the total yield to the Commonwealth of increased taxes in this country in this current financial year is of the order of £155,000,000. Every1d. of that sum will be called on to pay for works done by the States. I want to make it perfectly clear that so far as we are concerned we are not going on indefinitely laying burdens on the people, for which we are responsible, in order to confer benefits on States for which so far we have not had a hap’orth of thanks.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order !
– I have not finished yet, I am only at the first stage of my speech. Therefore, this year we said that the Commonwealth would find, apart from tax reimbursement for special grants and purely in respect of the loan programme, £125,000,000 - a magnificent offer.
Mr.J. R. Fraser. - How kind!
– Of course the honorable member who interjected would be able at once to tell us how to finance public works, and how to avoid inflation and increased taxation at the same time, but as he has never had any responsibility for doing any of those things I pay little attention to his views. We have undertaken to find £125,000,000, and the Leader of the Opposition says that we should have undertaken to find £247,500,000 because that is what the Premiers voted for. As the best estimate of the market yield made by any Premier at the Australian Loan Council meeting did not exceed £100,000,000, the result is that, on that view, making the best estimate and adopting the right honorable member’s principle, we would have to find £150,000,000 this financial year. It is at that point that the right honorable member at last has to face up to a hurdle. At that point he must make his election. Assume that he is in charge of the country’s finances-
– He will be.
– God forbid! And let us assume that he has said to the Premiers at the Australian Loan Council, “ We shall find £150,000,000 “. Let honorable members opposite ask themselves how that money is to be raised? They might fill in a fruitful hour or two asking themselves that question. Would it be found by reducing social services payments; would it be found by reducing defence expenditure; would it be found by reducing repatriation expenditure? Let honorable members opposite go through the list of Government obligations and ask themselves how they would find £150,000,000. Indeed, the money required would be £200,000,000, in our view, because we do not share the Premiers’ optimistic view of the loan market. The Leader of the Opposition says, “ That is all right, you need never talk about money”. But if he were Treasurer he would have to give a passing thought, to the subject of money every now and again, and he would have to face up to the realization before long that what he is telling this House and the country is that at a time of inflationbecause it is a time of inflation and he has complained about that - he would finance the works programmes of the country either by increasing taxation - and if that is what he means he should say so - or by going to tbe Commonwealth Rank and saying, “ Create me a couple of hundred million pounds of new money “.
I suggest that that is to-night’s great thought for the Opposition’, and I leave it with them. Let them be ready to answer for their faith the next time that they stand up to speak in this House. Are they for increased taxation? Because if so they should say so ; or are they taking the view that at this time of inflation the works programmes of Australia should be carried out, to any extent that the States may determine, by the use of central bank credit? I say no more about that matter because I want to leave only a few facts to rumble around in the minds of the Leader of the Opposition and his followers.
I turn now to the matter of import restrictions. I believe that the nimbleness with which the right honorable gentleman skips on to every passing bandwagon is really remarkable. Something happens that seems to be unpopular and immediately he hops on to it and says, “ There you are, the Government is wrong again “. But he cannot be right all the time if he pursues that eccentric course. He: has chosen to attack us, or at least I think that he has, about import restrictions. Therefore, it is legitimate for us to ask what he would have done? Did he object to our policy of encouraging imports? Did he disagree with our view that if you make more goods available to the public there will be an antiinflationary pressure and the rise of the price level will tend to be arrested? I do not remember him saying much about that. If he had been in our position and had discovered that for various reasons the volume of imports, instead of diminishing a few months after the fall of the price of wool, was actually showing a disposition to rise, would he have folded his hands and done nothing? He drops a few crocodile tears about the troubles of the people in the United Kingdom - and his expressions of sympathy in that quarter are no less welcome because they are novel - but what would he have done ?’ If he had done nothing he would have found this country reaching a point when it could not pay for its imports! This Go- vernment will not allow itself to be forced into the position of allowing, the trade balance and the currency balance of Australia to reach a point where we will be faced by a form of international bankruptcy. We are not a control-minded government, and we were not eager to institute controls. We imposed them when we found - and we were greatly illuminated on that matter by tbe discussions which occurred at the January conference in London - that unless we imposed controls the overseas currency balance of this country would before long reach a dangerously low level. The right honorable gentleman says, “ I have yet to learn whether this is in line with the conference that took place in London”. I assure him that it is, because in London the conference, which was presided over by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, clearly and unanimously laid down that, among other things, each country in the sterling area should bring itself and its overseas trade into the overall balance. It considered ways and means by which that might be done. It said that it might be done by means of overseas borrowing. This Government has done more than its predecessors in endeavouring to secure overseas borrowings. But overseas borrowing is not the answer to a problem of such magnitude. I only wish that it were. Delegates to the .conference said that it might be done by increasing what they called “ deflation “ inside their own countries. I have not heard the right honorable gentleman advocate such a course. On the contrary, he has challenged it. They said it might be done by means of import restrictions. What other means were there? We adopted import restrictions because it became necessary quickly to bring into control a situation which otherwise would have tended to exhaust our overseas balances by the end of this calendar year.
The right honorable gentleman has been so quick to read some of the articles of criticism and to seize upon them that he now permits himself to say,’” ”-‘You should have taken action earlier”, to which I retort, “What action?’”- It .”is an interesting question. Is his complaint that we ‘should have had’ import control three months before? Is the argument of the right honorable gentleman not one about the existence of control but merely one concerning its timetable? If that is the position he has not said so. He has not let us know whether he would have introduced import controls in October of last year. We introduced them at what we believed to be the right time. [Extension of time granted.] I am indebted to the House for extending my time. I do not propose to trespass on its patience for very much longer because I had almost reached the end of the second matter with which I wished to deal. I had been dealing with import restrictions, and the first question I had posed was, “ Does the rigfit honorable gentleman complain that we did not institute import licensing early enough ? “ It will be interesting to know the answer to that question.
The second point raised by the right honorable gentleman - and it was the only other material matter - was that we had imposed our import restrictions in a non-discriminating way. He said that we should have concentrated them on the non-sterling countries and that we should not have imposed them on the United Kingdom at all. Of all the abysmally ignorant statements I have heard in this House, that takes the bun. The right honorable gentleman was the legal adviser for years and years - they seemed longer to me than they did to him - in a government which claimed among its achievements a general agreement on tariffs and trade, now referred to as GATT or the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs and which subsequently participated in the Havana Conference to develop the Havana Charter. That government boasted that one of its great achievements was that it had entered into a world organization, under the shadow of the United Nations, the essence of which was non-discrimination. The very words of the agreement are to the effect that if a country wants to impose restrictions on imports from any member country of GATT it must impose them on all. That is the essence of non-discrimination. Let it now be recorded that in order to secure a debat ing point the right honorable gentleman shrugs off his shoulders what he has always told us were the profound convictions of eight years. The great exponent of non-discrimination comes along and says, “You should have discriminated. You should have knocked out these European countries and you should have done nothing about imports from the United Kingdom.”
If the right honorable gentleman had taken the trouble to look at the figures he would know that if we had completely prohibited imports from every nonsterling and non-dollar country in the world, we still would not have got balance into our payments. Our balances simply cannot be brought into line in order to preserve our overseas funds at a reasonably small limit of, say, £300,000,000 unless imports from the United Kingdom are reduced in the most substantial fashion. Apparently the light honorable gentleman would have cast aside his views, turned down GATT, turned down the Havana Charter and all the fine pretensions of the last seven or eight years and made a great good fellow of himself. At the same time he would have made every European country hostile to Australia, and in the end he still would have had to cut down on imports from the United Kingdom. If that is what we are to understand as the new statesmanship, Heaven forbid that we should suffer from it in my lifetime.
– That is a gross misrepresentation.
– I shall arrange for the department to send the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard”) the figures. If he reads them he will perhaps apologize for his reference to misrepresentation.
The last deadly answer I wish to make to the right honorable gentleman is that apart altogether from the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs - the Geneva Agreement - and apart altogether from whatever contractual obligations we may have - and I have my own views about the validity and usefulness of some of them - this country depends upon one export more than on all the others put together. I refer to the export of wool. I suppose that I am right in saying that wool accounts for at least two-thirds of our export income. On the continent of Europe we happen to have as customers for our wool, and therefore as important contributors to our export income, several countries whose balance of trade with us is, from their point of view, completely adverse. For instance, it will be found that the balance of trade with Italy, France and Belgium is entirely and overwhelmingly in our favour.
Much as I love the United Kingdom, and much as I desire in my discussions with representatives of the United Kingdom Government to be able to find some way to mitigate the rigours of this unhappy business, I am still bound to say that this country is in no position to snap its fingers at customers who are of great importance to us, of old standing, with whom we have had long association, and who have presented us with our only favorable balance of trade. With one or two casual exceptions, for a long time our balance of trade with the dollar world, and also with the sterling world, has tended to be an adverse one. The right honorable gentleman asks. “ What does it matter about that ? What does it matter what our transactions are with such countries? Cut them all off and then proceed to cut off from the United Kingdom what is left.” We have honoured our obligations, as we always propose to do until they have been suitably changed by appropriate means. We found ourselves under obligations of a non-discriminatory character, and we stood up to them. Having had import restrictions upon dollar goods and Japanese goods for a considerable time, this country has now placed restrictions, without discrimination, upon goods arriving from all other sources. The supreme object of that action is to render the country internationally solvent so that in due course - and the sooner the better - we may get rid of these wretched restrictions and resume our normal intercourse with the world.
.- If the problems that confront this country could be resolved by magnificent speeches, no doubt they would have been solved long ago. As usual, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has delivered a magnificent oration, but he is sadly lacking in the translation of such speeches into action. To-night the right honorable gentleman was guilty of scandalous misrepresentation. In the course of his speech., he deliberately misrepresented the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). He began by saying that the Leader of the Opposition had advocated more credit, more wages, and the financing of State works from bank credit. Each of those statements is, in full effect, completely false. The only one of those points to which the Leader of the Opposition referred was the marginal wage claims of the engineers and the metal trade workers. He said that as the recent award on their claims did not accord them justice, the economy of this country might suffer and, in truth, that may be so. The Leader of the Opposition said that the credit policy should be regularly examined. Is not that the sensible thing to do? Should not credit policy be examined from time to time? Better still, should it not be constantly under review? If the Government does not do that, it will fail to honour its mandate from the people or fulfil its trust to the nation. Honorable members surely will concede that the Leader of the Opposition was right in advocating that credit policy should be overhauled regularly. Where it works badly, it should be altered. Where it causes hardship, it should be amended. Where it is not sufficiently selective it should be made more elastic in its effect. That is what the Leader of the Opposition advocated.
On a twisted and misrepresented version of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister built more than half of his eloquent speech. Bereft of argument, devoid of any reasons to justify the policy of his Government, and unable to stand up to the statements that have been made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), the Prime Minister resorted to scandalous misrepresentation and used the lowest tricks in debate. He descended to the most miserable behaviour that could be imagined in any Parliament in the world.
The Prime Minister reviewed the part of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition that dealt with the flood of imports and the import restrictions that this Government had imposed. In another spectacular misrepresentation, the right honorable gentleman said that the Leader of the Opposition had advocated discrimination among the nations. What the Leader of the Opposition did say was that the Government had imposed savage import restrictions which had done grave harm to the countries concerned. He said, moreover, that the restrictions had done great harm to our kinsfolk in Britain, with whom we have worked and fought and who in fact provide our best market for primary products at this time and will do so for as far ahead as we can see. That statement was misrepresented savagely by the Prime Minister, who claimed that the Leader of the Opposition had said that Australia should pursue a discriminatory policy. in conflict with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. On those two items the Prime Minister based the whole of an oratorical effort which was designed to impress the people. But the Australian people are a little tired of the eloquent speeches that fall from the lips of the Prime Ministers. They are demanding that something more than eloquence should be our shield in Australia’s hour of crisis. The Opposition again invites the Prime Minister to use his great gift of oratory on the public platforms of Australia. We challenge him to repeat from those platforms the story that he has told the Parliament to-night. If he will use his oratory again in that way, he will discover how little the Australian electors are impressed to-day by the type of speech that he has delivered to-night.
The Prime Minister asked what the Labour party would do in the face of a. flood of imports. Would it have acted earlier or before the tide flowed so strongly ? That is what any sensible people would do. According to the right honorable gentleman, action should not be taken until the point of bankruptcy is reached. He suggested that one should not move to alleviate a forthcoming bankruptcy. In his view, when the creditors stand at the doors demanding payment for their goods, then and only then can the Government take any action to protect the Australian people, develop this country and provide for the security of its future.
While the Prime Minister made one of his usual fine oratorical efforts, he devoted more than half of his speech to a deliberate misrepresentation of the Leader of the Opposition, on which he based the whole of his case. For that reason his case falls completely to the ground. I have not only my hearing to substantiate my charge. I read from the notes of the Leader of the Opposition as follows : -
The Premiers’ proposals as to loans for works programmes should be accepted by the Commonwealth and a vigorous attempt made to carry them out.
The Premiers, as members of the governments closest to the Australian people, and with a clear realization of the works that require to be done immediately for development and defence, submitted a proposition to the Loan Council. After some discussion, they adjusted their requests downwards, not because they could not use the money or because there were not works to be undertaken, but because they accepted the view that was put forward by the Australian Government that they should cut the demands that they were making as far as they could cut them. That is what the Leader of the Opposition said in effect. The Government should take the adjusted programme that the Premiers suggested as the basis for the works that they want to be done, and which they would be capable of doing. The Leader of the Opposition put the position clearly when he said -
For this purpose a stable loan rate is absolutely essential, but above all and more important than the rate, public confidence is required.
By the fullest implication, he stated that the Australian loan market could yield, by normal process of dealing, the money that is required if this Government will only bring about some measure of confidence. In my view it has deliberately destroyed confidence.
I believe that the Prime Minister’s effort was a scandalous one. I wish that he had remained in the chamber to hear these remarks. There is no justification for the speech that he has just delivered. Itmight well be classed as sabotage of the State governments. An arrogant gentleman, such as the Prime Minister is, would perhaps rather see the States fail in their effort than see his judgment proved wrong when appeals are made to the country. So he has said to the electors in effect, “ The Loan Council was wrong. The Premiers of Australia were wrong. Only I, the Prime Minister, residing in the magnificent seclusion of the guarded Lodge in Canberra, can tell you what you want and what you ought to do”. Possibly it was a deliberate attempt to ensure that the States do not get what they believe to be essential. By misrepresenting the facts, the Prime Minister has endeavoured to counter the attack that has been launched upon his Government by the Opposition. He has said that an amendment of the kind now before the House is usually supposed to precipitate a crisis. The Opposition has submitted its amendment because events in Australia are rapidly moving towards an actual crisis. In the brief space of time that this Government has been in office it has ruined the Australian overseas funds position, it has made a sorry mess of our financial position at home, it has wrecked the Australian loan market and caused untold losses of money to thousands of small investors throughout the country, and it has rendered futile the work of organizations, such as the Loan Council. Worse still, it has brought the Australian people into a state of complete confusion. Erstwhile supporters of the Government in the community say quite frankly that they would gladly make additional sacrifices if the Government would only make a definite and clear pronouncement on its financial policy. Business men who voted for Government candidates at the last election say that because they do not know where the Government is going they will not again vote for it.
When the Government was elected to office it made two decisions from which many of our troubles flow. It discussed openly the proposal to appreciate the Australian £1 in relation to sterling. The result that any intelligent person would have expected followed those discussions.
A flood of investment money poured into this country. Later, the fall in wool prices and the need to make heavy imports forced the Government to abandon that proposal, and overseas investors realized that there was no prospect of the realization of their expectations. The Australian economy quickly went haywire and overseas investors rapidly repatriated their money to save themselves from loss. This movement, added to the deficit on trade, caused the near-crisis.
Next, the Government openly discussed the possibility of increasing interest rates. It is an old outworn economic theory that increases of the rate of interest tend to reduce the borrowings of governments, corporations and municipal and other public authorities. Again, the inevitable happened. Many small investors who trusted the Government because they had experienced the wise administration of Labour governments during the critical days of the war, still continued to invest their money in government bonds ; but wiser investors, who had interpreted the signs, refused to do so because they knew that if interest rates were raised their investments in government loans would depreciate. The Treasurer, deliberately inspired by his wealthy backers, and no doubt urged on by his colleagues, decided to force the issue. Using as an excuse the apparent weakening of government securities on the loan market, he issued a loan of 3 per cent. at £99, clearly indicating to wise investors that the Government contemplated an increase of the rates of interest on future loans. The loan was over-subscribed. The interest rate for the following loan was increased to 3¾ per cent., an action that brought about a situation for which the Treasurer and the Government might well be impeached. The right honorable gentleman urged investors to convert their holdings in an earlier loan to the new loan which carried the lower rate of interest. Many did so, believing that the Government would protect the value of their securities. Now we learn from press reports that Commonwealth representatives at the meeting of the Loan Council had discussed the fixing of a still higher rate of interest. This would depreciate the value of investments in the loan that had just been issued. My charge against the Government of having deliberately forced up the rate of interest is supported by the statement which is reported to have been made by a Government spokesman - that mysterious person who emerges when Ministers who make pronouncements on behalf of the Government are unwilling to disclose their names - that the loan that’ had been issued at 3¾ per cent. was merely designed to test the market. Is it a matter for wonder that the loan was under-subscribed? No one but an inmate of a mental institution would think of investing his savings in a government loan if at the time of its issue the Government was obviously considering a further increase of the interest rate. The latest loan was the crowning folly of the Government. The loan was issued at a time when imports were being restricted and business was disorganized, when the British Chancellor of the Exchequer had reduced sharply the bank rate of interest, and when there was uncertainty about the Government’s financial policy. In spite of these circumstances the Government floated the largest loan for which subscriptions have been invited for many years. It was not a small loan to test the market. It was the largest loan that has been floated in Australia for a long time.
– The six State Premiers decided that matter.
– Here we have an almost Gilbertian situation. The Prime Minister has told us not to take notice of what the State Premiers have said about the discussions that took place in the Loan Council when the six Premiers outvoted the Commonwealth representatives on all vital matters. Now the Minister tells us that the States alone must accept responsibility for the decisions of the council. When people were being invited to subscribe to the new loan I listened to a broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Sydney in which the adviser of the Government, Sir Douglas Copland, speaking at an important conference, said that we were facing an economic crisis. He went on to say that there were two ways to solvethe problem, the first was by raising interest rates. Earlier the Treasurer had said that the decision to increase the rate of interest to 3¾ per cent. had been made, not because the Government feared that the investing public would not subscribe to a loan floated at a lower rate of interest, but because the higher interest rate would act as a. check oh inflation by discouraging borrowing.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) waxed vehement in his attempt to defend the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). He charged the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) with deliberately misrepresenting the statements of the Leader of the Opposisition. The charge of misrepresentation can be more appropriately levelled against the honorable member himself, because, when he said that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) had raised the interest to3¾ per cent., he knew from his experience with respectto government financial matters that suchaction can be takenonly by the Loan Council. The honorable member must be well aware of that fact. Furthermore, in reply to his remarks about the conversion loan, I remind him that the terms and covenant of that loan were determined by the States and that most of the money that was to be derived through it was to be used for State purposes. [Quorum formed.] The honorable member also said that the Government had wrecked the loan market. I point out that the loan market is controlled not by the Government, but by the Loan Council. Next, he said that the Government had dissipated our overseas balances, whereas thefact is that the Government has done everything in its power to preserve them.
Although the honorable member said that the Prime Minister had misrepresented the statements of the Leader of the Opposition with respect to bank credit restrictions, every member of the Opposition who has spoken in this debate has contended that those restrictions should be eased. In fact,they indulged in wholesale criticism of the private banksandof the Government’s action in freezing certain deposits that are held by the Commonwealth Bank. . Their statements in that respect closely resembled the views that are expressed in tbe leading article in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph. That journal claimed, in effect, that every application that was made to the Capital Issues Board, regardless of the kind of business for which credit was required, should be granted. However, the purpose and duty of the board, acting on behalf of the Government and within Government policy, is to ensure that advances are made in respect of essential industries only. The Leader of the Opposition said that if prices were stabilized, wages would not continue to rise. I point out that the prices of all primary products are fixed only after all the costs pertaining to their production have been taken into consideration, that is, after crops have been grown and harvested. 0nder the present system the primary producer is the last to receive his rightful due. He is not compensated until considerably later in respect of the quarterly increases of wages that he incurs in harvesting his crops. The Leader of the Opposition was again advocating Labour’s policy of cheap food for city dwellers at the expense of primary producers. That is one reason why Australia is now short of foodstuffs.
Members of the Opposition have claimed that the poor response to recent loans has revealed a lack of confidence on the part of investors in the Government. This Government is the only one of the seven governments in this country that has lived within its revenue ‘ and has not gone on the loan market to raise money for its own purposes. Indeed, it has been so generous as to agree that all loan raisings should be made available to the States. Therefore, if there is any lack of confidence on the part of investors in government loans it is due to the policies of the States as they have been revealed in the purposes for which the States expend such moneys. One cannot wonder at the outlook of the investor in that respect. The Queensland Government is using portion of the loan moneys it obtains to promote socialistic enterprises such as that at Peak Downs, whilst the New South “Wales Government proposes to expend £3,500,000 for the purpose of nationalizing the Balmain electricity undertaking. Similarly, the Victorian Government is expending millions in nationalizing certain undertakings. Honorable members opposite, instead of indulging in misrepresentation of this Government for party political purposes, could more appropriately apply their criticism to the financial policies of the States which, in fact, are the cause of any lack of confidence on the part of the investing public in government loans.
This Government, has treated the States most generously in its endeavours to help them to obtain their financial requirements. Repeatedly, the Premier of Queensland and the ex-Premier of New South Wales have made statements, knowing them to be untrue, to the effect that the Commonwealth has restricted advances to the States. The Commonwealth makes advances to the States under three heads. Last year, this Government increased loan allocations to the States by £60,000,000, advances to the States from Commonwealth revenue by £31,000,000 and advances to the States under the Federal Aid Works and Roads Agreement by £7,000,000. This year, the States will receive from the Commonwealth under all headings approximately £100,000,000 more than they received from it last year. In order to help the States to obtain their financial requirements, the Australian Government bore the ignominy of increasing taxes, because it realized that the States had to undertake certain essential works. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Commonwealth should agree to the proposal of the States for the raising of £247,000,000 on the loan market for State works. The Government has told the States, in effect, “ The loan money for which you have asked is not available, but we shall help you to the limit of our ability toobtain your requirements. The whole of the loan moneys raised .during the next financial year will be allotted to you Where are the States to raise all the moneys for which they have asked ? That question was pertinently directed by the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters. Let them answer Lt. Do they expect the Government to increase taxes in order to meet the requirements of the States? Do they advocate the issue of central bank credit, despite the resultant aggravation of the inflationary conditions?
Can we have any confidence in the State governments after the way in which they have handled this matter? The Premiers, who have repaid the generosity of this Government with lying abuse, have not used all the loan funds that have been made available to them during this financial year. The Leader of the Opposition in the Queensland Parliament has stated that, during the last four years, the Queensland Government has underspent its loan allocations by £12,000,000. That fact is evidence that the loan allocations made to Queensland have been most generous. An amount of £23,000,000 was allotted to it in this financial year, find less than £13,000,000 was spent in the first eight months. However, the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair, has closed the electrical works ostensibly because of lack of funds, but really for the purposes of party political propaganda. He has made a lying statement in that respect, because he has ample loan money available. In fact, he has more than £12,000,000 of the £23,000,000 that has been allocated to Queensland in the current financial year. He has criticized this Government on the ground that it has restricted the loan allocations of the States. I contend that the States should face up to their responsibilities. That remark prompts me to say that government without the responsibility for imposing taxes is farcical. That statement is not necessarily a reflection of the Government’s opinion. If the present system is to be preserved under which State governments are not responsible to the electors for the imposition of taxes and the expenditure of their revenues, the sooner the State Governments are abolished the better it will be; failing that, the Commonwealth should return to the States the power to impose income tax, and let them bear the odium of levying taxes.
The Queensland Government, which has received a generous allocation of loan funds, is not co-operating with the Com- monwealth to increase the production of essential goods and commodities. All honorable members in this House agree that increased production would be a counter to the present inflationary conditions, but, unfortunately, the Commonwealth is not receiving the co-operation of the Queensland Government and of certain other State governments in its anti-inflationary campaign. The responsibility for production rests primarily with the States, because they administer their various departments of agriculture, land and transport. I believe -that the House will agree with me when I say that the best way in which to obtain increased production is to establish more farms and put more farmers on the land. The Lands Departments of the States are responsible for making additional land available for production. Ample land is available in Queensland for that purpose, yet the State Government has purchased huge stations, which are suitable for subdivision for closer settlement, and has engaged in a socialist Enterprise upon which approximately £600,000 has been lost to date. In the process, no appreciable additional quantities of food have been produced. It is said that the socialist enterprise is to go out of existence, and, of course, the taxpayers would be called upon to bear the loss. Is it not preferable to have 20, 50 or 100 farms conducted on a profitable basis rather than to persist in such socialist enterprises? All that the Queensland Government has to show for its expenditure is a socialist failure. I put that challenge to the Queensland Government. I do not advocate that land should be resumed from the present holders, or recommend a repetition of the resumption of land by State governments at the values which ruled in 1942. The States should proceed with land settlement in a common sense way and, by mutual arrangement with the owners, they should purchase suitable lands, subdivide them and make them available to land-hungry people. “Whenever a ballot is held for land in Queensland, approximately 600 persons participate in it. Queensland is responsible, as a State, for making land available to prospective settlers, and, as I have stated, more farms and more farmers provide the best way in which to increase production.
The State Departments of Agriculture, which have important responsibilities, are doing a good job. It is their duty to induce primary producers to grow the proper commodities. I have no particular criticism to voice of the Queensland Department of Agriculture. Transport is another matter. The transport systems of Queensland and New South Wales have many deficiencies. When a crop of reasonable size is grown, the railways are unable to move it to the markets. Queensland has railway rolling stock of 1914 vintage, and the wheat harvest cannot be transported to the market in a satisfactory time. This Government has endeavoured to improve the transport position in the States by increasing their allocations under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act.
The decision whether to support the motion, or the amendment to it, whilst it is a responsible one, is easy to make, because this Government, by its actions, will establish confidence throughout the country, as every section of the community recognizes that its rights will be fully preserved for the future and, in consequence, the value of its assets will be enhanced. I believe that this Government has adopted a wise course. It is taking measures which mark it as a Government of courage, because it is an act of courage to face resolutely the responsibilities that now confront it. We have a choice between a government of courage and a party without the stamina to declare its attitude on this economic crisis. We have a government of action and of principle versus a party of irresponsibility and misrepresentation. We have a government that has a policy of moderate financial restriction, in accordance with which finance is directed into the more essential industries versus a party that stands for the nationalization of banking. We have a government df freedom and of free living versus a party that advocates socialization and State controls. We have a government that ‘believes in the admission of imports which are urgently required for the strengthening of the national economy versus a party that is indeterminate in its decisions. One day, the Opposition opposes import restrictions, and another clay it advocates a reduction of imports.
I support the financial statement of the Treasurer most heartily.- I certainly cannot support the policy of the Opposition, as enunciated by the honorable member for Fremantle, who advocates the continuation of economic controls and the re-introduction of the rationing of petrol, butter, tea and other commodities. The honorable gentleman believes in the Colin Clark negative policy. Clark advocates that Australians should eat less so that we may export more. Such a policy is a purely negative approach to our problems. Finally, I desire to correct the statement of the honorable member for Fremantle about the importation of machinery foi productive purposes. He said that Australia has not obtained from England a satisfactory proportion of machinery compared with other imports. Obviously, the honorable gentleman has no knowledge of the kind of machinery required for productive purposes in this country because we have secured from England all the machinery of the right type that was available-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It requires no fulminations from the Opposition to express the present Government’s failure. An admission of failure has characterized every ministerial speech from the dismal diatribe of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) about the long, hard road ahead, to tbe statement of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) about the sorry economic plight in which Ave find ourselves to-day. However, regardless of anything that may be said in this House, the facts speak for themselves. What are the facts? The Menzies Administration has, been in office for two and a half years. The Fifteenth Security Loan closed only fourteen days ago, yet to-day, £100 bonds issued in connexion with it are quoted at £96 10s. Yet the Government is asking how money can be provided ! Obviously no government in which the people have lost confidence to such a degree that £100 bonds issued fourteen days ago are now worth £96 10s. can possibly hope to raise adequate funds. In fact, it is going to be most difficult to carry out even the moderate loan programme agreed to by the Loan Council. Therefore, the first indictment of the Government, and the most telling of all, is that it has lost the confidence of the investing public, ‘ and no more crushing condemnation could be made of any government.
I come now to the position of industry and commerce. To-day the industrial and commercial world is so plagued by uncertainty and distracted by controls and violent fluctuations of policy, that it is impossible for the directors of any organization to plan ahead with any degree of confidence. On one day we have floods of imports, encouraged by the Government, and on the next, we have rigid import restrictions. How can business organizations and the general public be expected to have confidence in the Government when panic action of this kind is taken 1 The second indictment of the Government, therefore, is that industry and commerce, as well as the investing public, have lost confidence in it. What is the position of the wageearner? His purchasing power is vanishing. He is caught up in the never ending wage-prices spiral which even honorable members opposite must admit has increased tremendously since this Government took office. With diminishing opportunities, overtime earnings have dropped, and, in addition, many working men have round their necks a heavy loan of time payment commitments for houses, furniture, &c, that they cannot possibly hope to meet. Let us look now at the developmental aspect of the situation. Irrigation projects have been held up or abandoned entirely. Vital hydro-electric undertakings are not being proceeded with or are being continued at a restricted pace because money is not available or because the States cannot obtain the necessary resources.
Then we come to the most important activity of all, the production of the basic wealth of the Commonwealth. I refer, of course, to primary production, upon which we depend so much for our export trade. What is the position there? The output o’f most primary products per capita of the population is at the lowest ebb in history. Production must be measured on a population basis. One Minister cited certain pre-war production figures and showed that present-day totals were higher, but unless such figures are related to the population, a true picture is not obtained. On a population basis, since this Government took office two and a half years ago, there has been a catastrophic decline in the output of almost every primary industry. That, I believe, is a most serious indictment of the Government because, provided that basic wealth is being produced, particularly from the soil, even a government as bad as that now in- office must find great difficulty in messing up the economy. Unfortunately, since the advent of the Menzies Administration, the farming community has been hectored, distracted, badgered, lectured, controlled, taxed and given no encouragement by the Government. The result is the present crisis. What is the Government’s answer to this problem? The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture called a meeting of the Australian Agricultural. Council, fixed a five-year production target and gave us to understand that the whole problem had been solved merely because certain figures have been written down. Everybody knows, of course, that basic agricultural requirements are being neglected. It is clear, then, that amongst investors, industrialists, business people, wage-earners and primary producers confidence in this Government is completely lacking. The Chifley Government relinquished office in 1949 leaving a nation that was stable, confident, optimistic, and looking forward to the most important developmental period in its history. Now, in 1952, we find a nation that is uncertain, pessimistic, assailed by fears, frustrated in all its attempts to make the progress that was thought possible only a few years ago, and dishonoured both at home and abroad by repudiated promises.
Time does not permit me to go fully into the details of the misdeeds of the Government, but let me turn to one matter that waa mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he took a few minutes off from abusing the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Apparently the right honorable gentleman believed that if he could abuse the Leader of the Opposition sufficiently, that would be an adequate answer to the. indictments that have been levelled against the Government. He made no attempt to deal with one of the most crucial problems now confronting this country, which is our declining overseas balances. The Treasurer stated that, on the 30th June last, Australia’s international reserves stood at £S40,000,000. Because, they were likely to be less than £300,000,000 by the 30th June next, panic import restrictions were imposed. At any time prior to 1942, if our overseas balances amounted to £50,000,000 we considered ourselves to be well off. In fact, in some years we had adverse overseas balances. Only in the last few years have our overseas credits exceeded £100,000,000. Yet, merely because there was a likelihood that the total would be reduced to £300,000,000, which, prior to the contribution made by last year’s wool cheque, would always have been considered a handsome total, the Government panicked and introduced import restrictions without taking into account the importance of certain imports to our economy. Had it not been for the tremendous increase of wool prices which knocked our wool income up from £200,000,000 to £600,000,000, our overseas balances would now have totalled only £4.00,000,000. I do not know what the Government would have done in that event. It seems to me quite obvious that the restrictions were imposed as the result of a direction or an invitation - whichever way one likes to put it - from the conference of British Commonwealth finance Ministers held in London in January of this year, and attended by the Treasurer of this country. “We had an exact repetition of the events that took place after Sir Otto Niemeyer and company had told Australians on another occasion that they must tighten their belts.
Overseas reserves amounting to £300,000,000 have always been considered to be ample for Australia’s _ requirements for any foreseeable period,
Nevertheless savage import restrictions such as have never been imposed previously, either in war or in peace, were suddenly clamped upon the Australian people. I have no doubt whatever that now, as in the past, Australia has been made the whipping boy for the sterling bloc. Just as we are expected to provide cheap meat, butter and other foods under contract, so now we are expected to suffer these import restrictions in order to help the sterling bloc. They have not been imposed in the interests of the Australian people. “We should do our best to assist the sterling bloc, and Great Britain in particular, but we are entitled to demand that any action the Government contemplates in order to provide such assistance shall be referred to the Parliament and debated here with all the facts available to every honorable member so that we may understand exactly what we are asked to do. Although the Treasurer has been asked on many occasions to state frankly whether he was invited at the finance Ministers’ conference to impose the import restrictions, he carefully skirted the question in his statement. He neither denied nor affirmed that such an invitation had been issued. But any intelligent person who is aware that Australia’s overseas balances amount to £300,000,000 must come to the conclusion that these vicious cuts, which will have a severe effect on our economy, must have been imposed for reasons other than those that were mentioned by the Treasurer. The clear truth is that the Australian economy has been called upon once more to make special sacrifices in the interests of the sterling bloc.
If the Prime Minister were to ask the members of the Australian Labour party what they would do in the situation that has been outlined, the answer obviously would be that they would consider Australia’s interests first and that, if they had to restrict imports, the restrictions would not be of the savage, unexpected overall nature of those that this Government has enforced. A Labour government would impose restrictions, for example, on some of the trash that is imported into this country, such as rubbishy so-called comics. Perhaps it would tell the newspaper proprietors that they must use a great deal less newsprint than they now use in order to assault the intelligence of the community. A Labour government would not restrict imports of a kind that would provide for the further development of our economy. Hut this Government has made no distinction between commodities that would help us to increase our export trade and assist our primary industries and the sort of rubbish that is imported at a cost of millions of pounds annually. Anybody who wants further information about the policy that a Labour government would pursue in the present situation should study the record of Labour on previous occasions when controls were necessary. Such controls were instituted only after all relevant circumstances had been carefully examined. Essential goods were always permitted to enter the country and only non-essential goods were restricted or banned.
Having dealt with the one matter that was discussed by the Prime Minister, I have only sufficient time left to enable me to deal briefly with some of the excuses that were advanced by Ministers after they had admitted that the Australian economy was in an unholy mess. Their first excuse was that the Labour Government had left the economy in such an appalling state that nothing else could be expected. They spoke as though they had assumed office only yesterday. They apparently ignored the fact that they had been in power for two and a half years ; that, had a double dissolution not intervened, the Government’s normal term of office would have expired in August of this year; and that, in that event, they and their colleagues would have been forced to go to the people at a general election and render an account of their stewardship. Ministers have spoken as though they have had no opportunity to do anything about the decline in production or the waning confidence of the investing public in Government loans. The statements that they have made about the condition in which the Labour Government left the country are not true because the bond market, for instance, was extremely buoyant when the change of government occurred. Every government loan had been over-subscribed up to that date. But, even if their statements were true, surely it would not be unreasonable to expect that, after two and a half years in office, they would have been able to effect some improvement of the economic situation. “What is the present situation? In respect of finance, it is becoming worse daily. In respect of taxation, it is becoming worse with every budget. In respect of industry, commerce and primary production, it is becoming worse all the time. When we turn to those developmental projects that the Labour Government either had started or had planned, we find that progress is being made at a much slower pace than formerly if, indeed any progress at all is being made. Thus, although this Government has been in power for a complete term, it cannot show how it has improved the economic situation in any way.
The other excuse that Ministers have offered is that everything would have been all right but for the outbreak of war in Korea. Apparently they do not realize that, when the Labour party was in office, there was war in Indo-China and Malaya and that there had been many threatening international incidents, such as that which led to the Berlin air lift. “ Uncle Joe “ did not worry them until hostilities commenced in Korea, but he was a bad boy long before then. The international situation was just as dangerous when Labour was in office as it is to-day. There were wars all over the globe. Nobody who could claim the right to govern the nation could honestly suggest that he did not appreciate the necessity for costly defence preparations at the time when this Government took office. Yet, even if we accepted the Government’s excuses on that score, the loss of confidence by the investing public remains unexplained. Usually when we are at war, or when international danger involves the nation in severe defence commitments, the patriotism of the people outweighs all other considerations and loans are generously over-subscribed. But that has not happened, and therefore the Government cannot advance a defence excuse in relation to finance. Likewise such an excuse does not apply to the introduction of import restrictions. I should like to hear how defence requirements could possibly necessitate such controls because they have been imposed upon items that are vital to defence with the same impartiality as they have been applied to raspberries in champagne and other expensive luxuries that we have seen in the shops of Melbourne and Sydney in recent months. No reasonable person would suggest that defence requirements could have affected in any but a minor way the Government’s decision to restrict imports. Can any honorable member on the Government side of the chamber explain how the military programme, through the calling up of trainees or otherwise, has been responsible for the catastrophic decline of primary production since this Government took office? Could such an excuse hold water? Of course not!
On the admission of the Government, the nation to-day finds itself in a sorry economic condition, plagued by doubts and uncertainty for the future. But the only excuses that it has been able to offer for having allowed this serious situation to develop are, first, that the Labour Government left the country in a state of economic disorder; and, secondly, that defence requirements have overshadowed all other considerations. Both of these excuses fall to the ground under examination. Therefore, I was not astonished when only anaemic “ hear, hears “ applauded the Prime Minister when he ended his speech to-night. They were vastly different from the “ heils “ of the crusaders for free enterprise that greeted the “ f uhrer “ when he first entered this House after the defeat of the Labour Government. I do not wonder that the Government’s supporters are sick at heart as, day after day, they have to betray the principles that they espoused in order to gain power for the Liberal party. They sit unhappily in this chamber knowing full well that they are spurning the ideals that originally led them to join the Liberal party. No matter where their bodies may be when the vote is taken at the close of this debate, their hearts and minds will be with the Opposition in its declaration of lack of confidence in the present Government.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) referred to contracts with Great Britain into which Australia has entered, under which the British people are obtaining food at less than the cost of production in this country. Those contracts were made by the Chifley Government. Therefore, the honorable gentleman should address his criticism to the Labour party caucus.
– What about the meat contract that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has just signed ?
– It will be found that that is on a payable basis. The contracts with respect to eggs, butter, dried fruits and other commodities were made by a Labour government. The honorable gentleman said that everybody knew before the Korean war occurred that we should have a lot of trouble with Russia. If that be so, why did the Chifley Government disarm Australia, sell all our munitions and defence equipment, and leave the country practically defenceless?
– We did nothing of the kind.
– The country had practically no defences theft.
– That is a lie.
– Order! An honorable member used the word “ lie “. It must be withdrawn.
– It was a fair description, but I withdraw the word.
– The honorable member for Yarra referred to a (decrease of the value of Commonwealth bonds.I remind the honorable gentleman that the greatest decrease of the value of Commonwealth bonds occurred when the Scullin Government and the Lang Government were in existence. At that time the value of £100 bonds dropped to £50.
The honorable gentleman referred also to fierce cuts in imports. What is being done at the present time is being done in a reasoned and proper manner. It cannot be compared with the embargoes and super-duties that were imposed by the Scullin Government, an administration which increased unemployment in this country every second during which it was in office. The Scullin Government was dismissed by the people of this country at the first opportunity. There was an insurrection amongst its followers.
The Labour party is like St. Simeon Stylites, who sat on his pinnacle in the desert, looking at himself and evolving his philosophy of mankind. The Labour party looks only inside Australia, and blames everything that happens in this country entirely upon Australian conditions, but every intelligent person knows that at the present time the whole of the free world is facing a great financial crisis, which has been paused by a combination of inflation and the necessity to rearm. It is one of the greatest crises that has ever faced the world. Defeat in this fight would be just as deadly for us as defeat in World War II. would have been. The Labour party is playing the game that I have seen it play for 32 years. It is trying to capitalize the misery of the people of Great Britain, the people of Australia and the people of the rest of the world. Immediately honorable gentlemen opposite see misery, they try to capitalize it. They feel that that is the only means by which they can possibly regain power in this Parliament.
The free world is faced with the twin problems of inflation and defence. The democratic nations feel that if they do not develop their defences they will be unable to prevent a third world war. They have decided that if they arm themselves to such a degree that Bussia will be deterred from taking aggressive action -‘against theim, we may be saved all the horrors of another world war. If we can avert that war, we shall again be able to devote ourselves to the arts of peace, as we did during the early 1920’s, and double the production of this country and the value of every man’s wages-.
The problems to which I have referred are inextricably associated with internal problems. There is Communist sabotage of our industrial activities. At the present time, Communist sabotage is preventing the despatch overseas of 500,000 cases of Tasmanian apples, 30,000 of which are destined for Sweden, which is a hard currency area. But we hear no words of protest about that from members of the Labour party. All that they do is to criticize what the Government is doing. There is no doubt that the effect of Labour policy has been to diminish production in this country. That has had an adverse affect upon our international trading and financial relationships. In the course of this debate, I have not heard the honorable gentlemen opposite say a word about, what they propose should be done to develop our resources and to solve the problems with which we are confronted.
– Let us get rid of this Government.
– That is easy to say, but it will be very hard to do. Before the double dissolution of the Parliament, honorable gentlemen opposite said a lot about getting rid of this Government, but we were returned with a majority in both Houses. Apparently the Opposition is opposed to the expenditure of enormous sums upon defence, but the British Labour party took the nettle in its hands and decided to strengthen the defences of Britain because it considered that that was indispensable to the safety of the free world. A Labour government in Great Britain began the campaign to build up the defences of the democracies, in which we have joined. Great Britain is now expending approximately £4,800,000,000 in three years upon armaments.
The British Government has asked us to discuss with it the problem of maintaining the solvency of the sterling bloc. That is of the utmost importance to every Australian, because Britain is the market in which we sell practically the whole of our exports of primary products. Britain buys practically all of our exports of butter, meat, raisins and eggs’, and -a- considerable portion of our exports of- wheat and wool. The sale of those products to Groat Britain helps the small primary producers of this country. If the sterling area were to break down, and if Britain were to become bankrupt, we should lose an invaluable, solid market for our exports and should find it difficult to discover another. “Worst of all, the world would lose the advantage of the wonderful leadership that Great Britain has been able to give to the nations for hundreds of years. The honorable member for Yarra said that we should not do anything about this matter. He said, in effect, “ Let the British people starve. We must not sell to them at less than the cost of production “.
– I rise to order.I object to the gross misrepresentation by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) of the statement of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). It is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Does the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) claim to have been misrepresented ?
– I claim that the honorable member for Yarra has been misrepresented. The Minister for Health stated that the honorable member had said that we should let the British pepole starve. He said nothing of the kind.
– Order ! If that was not said, the Minister should withdraw his remark.
– It was not said in those words. What the honorable member for Yarra said, in effect, was-
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman must withdraw his remark.
– The honorable member for Yarra said that we should not sell food to the British people at less than the cost of production.
– The right honorable gentleman must withdraw the statement to which objection has been taken.
– I withdraw the statement.
– A Minister has made such a statement.
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor must withdraw that remark.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has made such a statement repeatedly in this chamber and in the press.
– Order ! I have not heard it or read it. The honorable gentleman is not entitled to address the House at the moment. He must withdraw the interjection.
– I withdraw it.
– Up to the present the Opposition has not presented us with any concrete proposals about how the position should be met. The present situation is not one that affects Australia alone but is a world-wide situation. That statement is supported by a leading article that appeared only five days ago in a Sydney newspaper under the heading, “ Irresponsible Labour Leadership The article read -
There is a clear obligation upon the ‘Opposition in a democratic Parliament to be constructive, not merely destructive, in its criticisms of the Government, for it exists as a potential alternative Administration. Dr. Evatt, as leader of the Labour Party, has consistently ignored this duty. His attack on Mr. Menzies’s review of his Government’s performance since the last election is a depressing reminder of how little he and his henchmen have had to offer towards a solution of the country’s problems. The community has a right to expect more from him than the “ Woe, woe! “ of a male Cassandra hurling political halfbricks at the “ class enemy “. . . . He attacks the Government’s so-called “ overstimulation of imports “, but the public will look in vain for evidence that the Opposition was alarmed at any stage before the March revelation of rapidly falling London funds. Dr. Evatt criticises the sudden and drastic cuts then imposed, but he says no word of a possible alternative to such action.
Nothing, however, in the whole of Dr. Evatt’s latest attack on the Government so betrays his complete lack of political scruple as his charge that, under the Menzies-Fadden coalition “Australia is tending to become a mere satellite of the United States”.
The truth is that the Labour Administration in which Dr. Evatt was a perpetually itinerant Foreign Minister did great damage to our relations with America, and that this harmful discordance has been transformed into a mutually beneficial alliance by the present Government.
That is the position as seen by people outside this Parliament “who have waited in vain during this debate for any result from that particular statement. Unfortunately they have not obtained a result. The position in Australia at the present time, and indeed the world position, is such that we should eschew the carping criticism that has been uttered in connexion with this matter and see whether we can pull together in an endeavour to get the whole of the free world out of its difficulties, because, as I have said, the bankruptcy of the sterling area or of Great Britain would have a tremendous effect not only on Australia but also on the whole world. So I appeal for constructive co-operation by the Opposition, by all the governments of Australia and, in fact, by all parties, organizations and sections of the community, such as we had during the last war. An examination of the budget shows that the amount that we are raising out of revenue to pay for defence services is £20,000,000 more than the highest amount that we raised out of revenue for any defence works or defence activities during the worst days of the war in 1942 and 1943. We also find that to-day this Government, as a result of the action that the Labour Government took when it was in office in connexion with uniform taxation, has had to budget for an expenditure of about £469,000,000 in order to cover £155,000,000 worth of State works for which, the States cannot raise themselves loans, £120,000,000 for Commonwealth works and £187,000,000 for defence commitments. Those sums are in addition to tax reimbursements amounting to about £120,000,000 that were paid to the States under the uniform taxation formula. We are raising out of revenue for these purposes practically as much as we were raising. by both revenue and loans for our defence commitments in the worst days of the war.
So I repeat that the time has come for us to pull together and use the machinery for co-operation that we have created in this” country, such as the Loan Council, and the Australian Agricultural Council, which are the envy of practically every other federation in the world, because of the smoothness that they bring to the handling of national problems. Honorable members opposite may laugh at that statement, but visitors from India have spoken to me on this matter in terms of envy. Canada established a royal commission to investigate the introduction of similar systems as the Loan Council. However, the Opposition of the provincial governments of Canada defeated the proposal. The Bruce-Page Government established the Loan Council despite the opposition of the Labour party. It went to the people on the matter by way of referendum, and its proposals were carried by a majority of four to one in every State. Even when the people had made their wishes known by referendum the Labour Opposition tried to prevent the passage of the enabling bill. We should make certain that the Loan Council is able to work as it did about ten years ago, when the representatives of the various governments that form the council dealt with matters of finance without bitterness or heat. The present position has developed as a result of the uniform taxation policy, which relieves the States of the responsibility for raising a great part of the revenues that they expend. We have got to the stage now at which the Australian Government has to raise tremendous sums of money to enable the public works of this country to be carried on. We cannot continue to raise out of revenue amounts of £400,000,000 or £500,000,000 to carry out capital works that will be of value to the people of Australia for at least a whole generation.
The whole world is sick, and Australia is sick with it, just as any part of a body is sick when other parts of it are sick. Unfortunately, post-war inflation, which is one of our main causes of distress, has been aggravated by the necessity to divert a large proportion of our resources to defence, that necessity having arisen as a result of mistakes that were made by Labour administrations, which have prevented us from having the nation now in the desired state of preparedness. I well remember that in the 1920’s the Labour party made continual attacks in this Parliament against our immigration policy at a time when we had an opportunity to bring in hundreds of thousands of British immigrants. We did, however, succeed in bringing in 1,000,000 British immigrants during that period. We had to meet, not only active resistance against our immigration policy by the Labour party in this Parliament, but also passive resistance from many trade unions. We lost the chance then to bring in huge numbers of immigrants. Now we have another chance to develop our population so that we shall be strong enough to face our potential enemies, but are prevented from carrying out much of our defence policy because of the actions of Labour governments in the past. The first thing that the Scullin Labour Government did when it came into office was to abolish the development and immigration agreement that we had with Great Britain under which we were to receive a loan of £34,000,000 from Great Britain at a time when we were lamentably short of funds. The British Government was to pay half the interest on that loan, the Commonwealth and the States to be responsible for the other half for the first ten years, after which the States were to assume the whole responsibility. Because of that action of the Scullin Government several big undertakings which would have been as valuable as the Wyangala Dam had to be abandoned in face of the remonstrances of the British Government.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Calwell’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the following paper be printed: -
Financial statement by theRight Honorable Sir Arthur Fadden, K.C.M.G., M.P., Treasurer.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 90
A number of Government supporters h aving crossed to the “ No “ side,
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I sincerely regret being compelled to speak at this late hour, but it is necessary for me to do so, because question time was reduced to only 25 minutes to-day. For two days I have been in possession of an urgent telegram whichI have received from the Kearsley Shire Council concerning the closing down of a clothing factory conducted by David Jones Limited in the drill hall at Kurri Kurri. The factory has been manufacturing essential clothing for mine workers. The Department of the Army has now given the company notice to leave the drill hall immediately. Some time ago I suggested to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) that two blocks of army huts at Greta camp, which is now partially under the control of the Department of. Immigration, should be used for military training rather than that the company should be evicted from the drill hall. I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) whether it is a fact that the. company has been asked to move and, if so, whether it is not possible to allow it to remain.
– I wish to make it plain to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that David Jones Limited have agreed to vacate the drill hall. Because they have done so I have no doubt that they will be able to provide from some other location all the clothing which the coal-miners in that district require. I remind the honorable gentleman that a considerable time ago, during the term of office of a previous government, the drill hall at Kurri Kurri was not required for army purposes and was made available for the manufacture of clothing.We are to-day substantially expandingthe Army in order to meet the difficult international situation. In doing so it is imperative ‘that we get back into use drill halls which previously had been diverted to other uses. The drill hall at Kurri Kurri is urgently required for the expansion of the Army, for the use of the Commonwealth Military Forces and also for the use of national service trainees who have completed their three and a half months’ basic training and who are allotted to army units in that district. If we are to carry out the policy of the Government to defend this country we must endeavour to build up mobile forces before D-day.
– What about Greta camp?
– I have caused investigation to be made on several occasionsand it has been found that Greta camp is entirely unsuitable for drill hall purposes. I regret that I can hold out no hope to the honorable mem ber that any change will bemade in the matter. It should be remembered that clothing can be manufactured in many other places in New South Wales. I am satisfied that this drill hall must beused for the purposes to which I have referred, and I repeat that the company willingly agreed to vacate it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented: -
Broadcasting Act - Third Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, for year 1950-51.
House adjourned at 11.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.EricJ.Harrison. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 May 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520508_reps_20_217/>.