20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Three years ago, an aerodrome was built at Pardoe near Devonport in my electorate. One runway, running parallel to the coast, and a few chains from the sea, was constructed. Owing to wind hazards on this runway, will the Minister ascertain whether it would be possible to have a new runway built, running at an angle to the present runway, which lies approximately east and west?
– I shall direct the. attention of my departmental advisers to the honorable member’s request.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is correct that his Government has arranged with the shipping lines which own Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to provide the- capital for the purchase of four or more long-range aeroplanes of American origin, with necessary spares for their maintenance, normally paid for in dollar currency? If the Government intends to provide the money, can he say what the total cost, in dollars, will be to the nation? As these American , planes have a range much greater- than is necessary for the longest internal service in Australia, is it intended that they shall be used to operate overseas or international services ? Can he say whether Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited is to be permitted to operate overseas services in competition with Qantas Empire Airways Limited, the government-owned airline now operating tq the United Kingdom, South Africa and Japan, and with T asm an Empire Airways Limited to New Zealand? If these are facts, is this the outcome of the act which provided for an agreement with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for rationalization of air services!
– Australian National. Airways Proprietary Limited immediately applied for and was granted permission to import a number of DC6’s, I think, two to begin with, and spares.
– Four in all.
– I am not sure. There were two in the first place. The company was given permission by the Dollar Control Committee to purchase these planes. It should bc remembered that whilst Trans-Australia Airlines has been able to import American planes-, such as Convairs, since . 1947, . Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was refused . dollars by the preceding Administration for any such purchases^ Therefore, the present allocation of dollars ‘ to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited somewhat equalizes the score. What Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited does with these; planes is a matter for determination by itself, but the company has not been given any authority to operate them on international routes.
– Is not that arrangement contrary to the agreement which was ratified by this Parliament, and which provides that facilities of that character be made available equally to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines?
– I know of nothing whatever contrary to .the agreement in the permission given. to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that the owner of the only aerial service which serves thousands of square miles in the Northers Territory has been refused a renewal of his pilot’s licence on the grounds of health ? In view of the fact that the loss of a pilot would now make it impossible for’ this man to carry on his service,’ which is recognized by this Parliament as essential and on which a subsidy is paid to assist him, will the Minister arrange for a reexamination of this man by a specialist, who may determine whether his claim that he is as fit as ever is correct or not?
– I do not know the pilot to whom the honorable member has referred, and, of course, he is not permitted to mention names. However, it’ he will give me particulars of the matter personally, I shall have it investigated. .
Mr. WHEELER. Can the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me whether greater efficiency in picking up waterside workers and allocating them to vessels has been achieved at a number of ports in Australia, including Melbourne, by a system of press ‘ advertisements and radio announcements advising waterside workers by their numbers of the ships that they are to work? . Is there any reason why the same system should not be introduced at the port at Sydney?
– It is true that, the new system has been operating successfully for a considerable time at Melbourne, Hobart and. several other Australian ports. It has the advantage that a waterside worker is able to go direct to the ship on ‘ which he is to work instead of having to go, first, to a pick-up centre. He is thus able to arrive at work sooner and to save fares. In addition, the turn-round of ships . is speeded: The new system has undoubtedly worked to the advantage not only of the shipowners, who are able to get their vessels away from port more quickly,’ but also of the waterside workers, who find it a more convenient and ‘ less expensive way of getting their job done. ‘ There is no good reason of which I am aware why the system should not be introduced into the port of Sydney also. I believe that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and the employers have sought to have the system introduced by an agreement but so far, without success. I understand that a court application is being made in the absence of an agreement. I am afraid that the same influences which have prevented full co-operation on the waterfront in the past have exercised their sway on this particular matter. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, a court decision will dispose of the matter.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is correct that- the loading rate in the port of Bowen has increased from 13 tons to 19 tons per gang-hour ? If that is a fact, what altered circumstances have made this increase possible? Can an immediate reduction of freight rates be expected ?
– I understand that there has been a marked improvement in the loading rate at the port of Bowen in recent days. I shall endeavour to obtain the relevant figures for the honorable member. This week it has been possible to concentrate on sugar cargoes entirely, and I am advised that this is easing the pressure on storage for the time being. It is clear, however, -that a critical situation will continue at the port for some time, and it will be necessary to keep cargoes of sugar and meat moving regularly over the wharfs if the storage problem is not to become most acute again.
– Can the Minister for Supply inform the House whether investigation of the “Wessel Island bauxite deposits has been completed? If the preliminary investigation has ended with satisfactory results, will the Minister say whether his department intends to open up those deposits and so have them in readiness for the commencement of operations at the aluminium plant at Bell Bay?
– Surveys made on Wessel Island, off Arnhem Land, have disclosed very substantial deposits. We know now what we have got in the way of bauxite reserves on Wessel Island. But the matter does not end there. We have discovered that there are very encouraging bauxite prospects on the mainland of Arnhem Land. At the present time, we are discussing proposals to survey that area in more detail in order to see what deposits we have there. I cannot give the honorable member an answer in greater detail at the moment, but if it becomes possible in the future to give him further facts, I shall do so.
– As the Prime Minister is aware, there has been considerable ill-informed speculation about the future of the Commonwealth shipping line. Is the right honorable gentleman able to give a clear assurance that, whatever the future of this line may be, vital links will be fully and adequately maintained ? By vital links, I mean links with far-flung areas and States such as Tasmania, to which sea transport is of the utmost importance.
– I can assure the honorable member that in all the discussion we have had on this problem, the two points to which he has referred have been constantly before us. We attach enormous importance to each of them.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the PostmasterGeneral, with the remark that it was answered partly last week but the honorable gentleman, very adroitly, shuffled away from another part of it. I should like a direct answer to the question, because it relates to a very serious matter.
– The honorable member should ask the question. What he has said up to date is quite beside the point.
– Why were ballotpapers of the Sydney branch of the Boilermakers Society of Australia, .which were misplaced by the postal authorities, delivered to the branch secretary instead of to the returning officer, to whom they were addressed? Was that done by arrangement or by accident? Do the postal authorities intend to reimburse the society the expenditure of £600 that was incurred in re-opening the ballot and re-counting ballot-papers ?
– I explained very clearly last week that the arrangement in connexion with ballot-papers for an election held by the Boilermakers Society of Australia was made by the postmaster with, I think, the secretary or the returning officer.
– The secretary does not come into it.
– The arrangement was made with whoever was the proper person to receive the ballot-papers.
– He did not get them.
– The arrangement was made between the appropriate person, whoever that was, and the postmaster.
– No such thing.
– Order! The honorable member for “Watson is interjecting continually. He should listen to the answer to his question.
– An arrangement was made between the postmaster and the person to whom I have referred that, when the ballot-papers reached the Haymarket post office, they were to be put into the postmaster’s strongroom so that they would not go astray, and that the official would call from time to time to collect them. The postmaster agreed to accept that assignment. All of the ballotpapers, except one or two lots, were put in his strongroom. Unfortunately, one of the employees of the post office thought that the strongroom into which the ballotpapers should be put was the staff strongroom. Some of the papers were put in the staff strongroom instead of the postmaster’s strongroom. Unfortunately, that was not known by the postmaster, and when deliveries were made those ballotpapers were overlooked. When they were discovered in the staff strongroom, the returning officer was notified and they were delivered immediately. I shall look into the matter raised in the other part of the honorable member’s question, but I say now that the Postal Department does not accept financial responsibility for misdirection or non-delivery of mail. It handles mail with all possible care, but it does not accept responsibility for any consequences of mistakes.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral quote the words that were used by the honorable member for Melbourne at a convention of motion picture exhibitors held in Coolangatta recently?
– I rise to order. Has a speech made by the honorable member for Melbourne at a convention at Coolangatta anything to do with the administration of the Postal Department?
– Yesterday it appeared to have a lot to do with it.
– Does it have anything to do with it now?
– I think that it has.
– With your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, I shall repeat my question. Can the Postmaster-General quote the words that were used by the honorable member for Melbourne at the motion picture exhibitors’ convention that was held at Coolangatta recently? Did the honorable member for Melbourne at the same time and place make any important statement that he since regrets, and if so, what was it?
– Before the PostmasterGeneral answers, I wish to make it clear that anything in connexion with the character or conduct of a member of this House is always open to question in the House.
– Yesterday I promised to produce a copy of a report of the proceedings of the motion picture exhibitors’ annual convention at Coolangatta, which contains the remarks that were made at that convention by the honorable member for Melbourne, who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I shall quote from it. The report was published in the Tweed and South Coast Daily, which is a newspaper that circulates throughout the Coolangatta and south coast area of Queensland, in its issue of Friday, the 7th August, 1953. It is a two-column report headed “ Calwell Addresses Movie Men “. The honorable member for Melbourne referred to a number of things, but I cannot quote them all because that would take too long. The report reads -
Mr. Calwell told the convention that he would place before his leader, Dr. Evatt, and other members of Parliament, the industry’s case for relief from entertainment tax.
– Hear, hear!
– The report proceeds -
Mr. Calwell suggested;
– Order! The Minister should hot refer to an honorable member by his personal name.
– I am reading the newspaper report, Mr. Speaker. It continued -
Mr. Calwell suggested that Australia might well emulate New Zealand’s example in the field of entertainment tax. In New Zealand there was no tax on admission charges under 2s.
Of course there is a tax on all admission charges above 2s. We have abolished entertainment tax altogether. The report goes on -
There had been much speculation on what the new budget would give in tax relief, he continued. He said the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, had promised taxation relief during the Senate election campaign. If relief was to be given in all fields of taxation, the Government would need to give relief to the extent of ?200 million, and it was obvious that no government could give taxation relief to this amount.
The honorable member for Melbourne also commented on television. The relevant portion of the newspaper report - and honorable members may judge for themselves what it means - reads -
If Federal Labour were returned to power at the next elections it would scrap the TV Royal Commission and order a wider inquiry, Labour’s deputy leader, Mr. A. Calwell, said- at Coolangatta yesterday. Mr. Calwell was addressing the Motion Picture Exhibitors’ Association convention. He said the motion picture industry was not considered when the present TV Commission was set up. The industry had no members on the commission, although newspaper organizations were represented. He said the Royal Commission’s terms of reference were too narrow. It could take evidence only on programmes and on who should be licensed to broadcast TV. The terms of reference should be widened to take in the probable effects of TV on the national economy and on other industries. Mr. Calwell said Australia “ could not afford the luxury of television - there were too many other important things to do “.
That was a significant statement. If that does not mean the scrapping of television, I do not know the meaning of words.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether, in view of the announcement that the Government will throwopen an area in the Northern Territory for private uranium mining, consideration will be given to the promulgation of a long-range plan of development designed to ensure, first, that the uranium resources will not be mined to the point of exhaustion without thought of the future and, secondly, that they will be carefully conserved so as to prevent their quick exhaustion as a result of extravagance and misuse.
– I can give an immediate assurance to the honorable member on that point. In all the plans that we have formulated, and are putting into effect, the prime consideration lias been the maintenance of adequate reserves of uranium ore in Australia. There will be no departure from that policy during this Government’s term of office.
– I direct to the Minister acting for the Minister for Health a question regarding the distribution of free milk to school children in my electorate. Such distributions are not being made in parts of my electorate, including the Redcliffe Peninsula. The areas concerned are within 20 to 25 miles of the Brisbane General Post Office. The Queensland Government claims that the withholding of milk is due to the Commonwealth not having agreed to a price to be paid for milk supplies. Will the Minister inform the House whether or not that claim is correct, and whether the matter can be finalized at an early date so that, the school children in those areas may benefit from the generosity of the Australian Government?
– It is true that there is, so far, no distribution of free milk for school children in the Redcliffe area. The facts of the case are that tenders were called in July and that a number of tenders was received by the Commonwealth, through the medium of the State authorities, early in August. There were many undesirable and unacceptable features associated with them. It was not - a matter of price alone. For instance, there was one technical point concerning the size of the bottles. The milk companies have been used to bottling milk in half-pint bottles. The bottles required for distribution of free milk to school children contain one-third of a pint each. The Queensland Prices Commissioner suggested that the extra charge to be paid for bottling the milk in bottles containing a third of a pint should be 10d. a gallon. As the comparable charge in New South Wales was 3d. the Commonwealth thought that the discrepancy merited some consideration. We referred the matter back to the Queensland authorities some weeks ago and received a reply from them on, I believe, the 9th September. The negotiations are still proceeding and we hope to come to finality for the Redcliffe area in the very near future.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is true that the Bank of England has reduced its interest rate to per cent.? In view of the fact that the interest rate payable in Australia imposes considerable difficulties on home-seekers on industry and on economic life, will the Prime Minister take steps to reduce the current interest rate?
– I noticed that the bank rate had been altered in London and Paris. The only interest rate which is influenced by this Government is the interest rate on public loans. That interest rate and the conditions of issue of public loans are dealt with by the Australian Loan Council. On that council the Commonwealth has two votes and each State has one.
– The Prime Minister will believe that shortly.
– Does not the honorable member believe it? In that case I must continue, because I can see that some light may need to be thrown into dark places. As the Australian Loan Council is now constituted, five Labour Premiers are members of it. Therefore, they ha.ve between them a complete majority of voting power on the council and may make whatever determinations they choose about the rate of interest or the terms of issue.
– Is the Minister for the Interior prepared to investigate the possibility of arranging a pilgrimage to war graves in Australia, and in Papua and New Guinea, of mothers, fathers, wives, and others who were near and dear to those ex-service men and women who have been buried in war graves in such areas ? These relatives and friends would greatly appreciate such an action by any government.
– I believe that every honorable member in this House is in accord. with the sentiments underlying this suggestion. However, we all realize the very great difficulties that would attach to the organizing of a pilgrimage of that nature. Less than an hour ago I was discussing this matter with a representative of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. He informed me that the League itself had been endeavouring to arrange a similar sort of pilgrimage, or to make investigations with respect to one, and had encountered a number of insurmountable difficulties. I can give the honorable member no definite assurance about the matter, except to say that it might - and I want to emphasize the “ might “ so that no hopes may be raised which may be later dashed to the ground - be possible to arrange with one of the shipping companies to take such persons to New Guinea and Papua on a tourist rate basis. I do not know whether that can be done, and I specifically do not want to raise any hopes that may result in later disappointment. With regard to Government subsidy, one cannot distinguish between one grave and another. A grave in Britain, for instance, is just as important and sacred to one group of people as a grave in Melbourne is to another group. In any arrangement the Government would not be abie to distinguish between graves, and the amounts therefore involved in the pilgrimage would be very large. Therefore, with all the sympathy in the world, I cannot raise any hopes, but, as I have said, we may be able to arrange something through the shipping companies. Of course, if anything definite eventuates, we shall carry out our arrangements in conjunction with the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Whose yearnings for culture were responsible for the provision of thousands of pounds of Australian taxpayers’ money for the purpose pf touting around this country an exhibition of leprous rubbish known as the Contemporary French Art Exhibition? Apart from displaying the degeneracy of modern French culture and providing a field day for the charlatans who are employed as art critics by those princes of debasement, the rulers of the daily press, what value did the taxpayers get for the money thus expended?
– I do not know, but I shall find out.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Lawrence be appointed a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, in the place of Mr. McDonald, deceased.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 17th September (vide page 398), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £19,900”, be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved, by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by fi.
– At the outset, I wish to pay a tribute to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for the excellent budget which he has presented to the Parliament and the nation. It is a great achievement and a vindication of the economic policy which has been pursued by this Government during the last two years. When the right honorable gentleman was presenting the budget recently, it was evi dent that its contents threw honorable members opposite into utter confusion. That confusion was accentuated by the speech made to the committee last night by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament. He worked himself into a fury, in the course of which he made a despicable attack on the members of the Cabinet and the salaries and allowances which they receive for the work they do for the nation. It will . be ‘ remembered that, some time ago, a tribunal was appointed to determine the salaries and allowances that should be paid to the members of this Parliament. I should like to know whether, when the report of that tribunal was being discussed by the Parliament, the honorable member for Melbourne held the views which he expressed last night. If he did, why did he not then give expression to them? Since he supported the report of the tribunal and voted for the subsequent increases of salary, it can only be assumed that he lacked the courage to express his views at that time. I should also like to know what the honorable gentleman does to earn his salary and allowances. As I understand the position, he receives almost as much as does a member of the Cabinet. If his attack last night was genuine, I believe that he should declare that he is not worthy of the salary and allowances paid to him and offer to donate them to a charitable institution or to the age pensioners, about whom he had such a lot to say.
I propose now to reply to some comments made by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) about the development of the Northern Territory and the part that this Government has played in it. The honorable member’s criticism of the Government was in line with statements made recently by the Deputy Premier of Queensland on this subject. Unjust criticism of the kind indulged in by the honorable member and his colleague in the State Parliament is levelled at the Government solely for political party advantage. They should be honest and pay tribute to the Government for the wonderful work that it has done in the Northern Territory since it has been in office.
An examination of the details of expenditure discloses that, in the first 50 years of federation, from 1901 to 1950, a total amount of £4,273,677 was expended in the Northern Territory, and that between 1950 to 1953 the expenditure by this Government there amounted to £3,697,903. The Chifley Government during its last’ year of office expended £629,354 in the Northern Territory. These figures, which exclude defence expenditure, reveal the excellent record of this Government in the development of the Northern Territory and they constitute a very effective reply to the statements made by the honorable member for Kennedy.
The honorable member carefully evaded making more than a cursory reference to the defence expenditure incurred by the Government in the north of Australia. He referred only to the value of strategic roads for defence purposes. This Government has made large sums of money available for the development of northern Australia, including the Channel country, which is mainly in the electorate of the honorable member but extends to the electorate of Maranoa, and the Kimberleys. The allocation of funds for expenditure in Queensland for that purpose amounted to £975,500 and included £75,500 for roads and stock routes. Last year approximately £300,000 was expended for development in the area. This year an additional £435,000 will be expended on development and roads and stock routes mainly for the purpose of assisting the cattle industry. I do not contend that the funds provided are sufficient for the purpose, but at least that figure indicate that the Government has by no means neglected its responsibilities for the development of northern Australia as the honorable member for Kennedy would have us believe.
Opposition members have attacked the Government for its alleged failure to provide adequately for the defence of north Australia. They conveniently forget the tragic manner in which costly defence installations at Manus Island were allowed to be overrun by the jungle by the Labour Government after the war had ended. The defence of Australia does not necessarily mean the building of roads and communications inside this country.
– They can be very handy, however.
– I agree, but I believe that defence should be planned so that an enemy can be fought as. far as possible from our own shores. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who was at the time in control of the Department of External Affairs, is largely to blame for the tragedy of Manus Island. The Government of the United States of America was prepared to lease it and prepare its defences, but. the Labour Government of ,that time refused to conclude an arrangement and virtually kicked the Americans out of Manus. Australia, with its small population and limited resources, is not in a position to develop Manus Island fully as a defence base. It should be our first line of defence. The Deputy Premier of Queensland stated recently that the Australian Government was neglecting the north and would pay for it one day.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) would not be interested in the north. I congratulate the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) on his speech. He was the only honorable member on the Opposition side who made a useful contribution to the debate with regard to the necessity for increasing production and developing Australia. However, I cannot agree with his suggestion that the increase of primary production was due mainly to good seasons and the destruction of rabbits. He did not .pay any tribute to the men who are engaged in rural industries. The inference to be drawn from his statement is that the farmers do nothing at all. Many people seem to believe that a farmer simply has to take up a block of land and trust to luck. The people who have increased primary production did not work only 40 hours a week. In most cases they worked 60 hours a week. They do not, receive the credit that is due to them for their energy and initiative.
The honorable member for East, Sydney (Mr. Ward) described the income tax concession for educational expenses as a miserable allowance. He said that it was something to help the wealthy. I invite him to visit the out-back parts of my electorate to talk with some of the people who will welcome this concession. I have advocated it for many years, both inside and outside the Parliament. It will help to encourage people to live in the rural areas. I urge strongly that something should be done to give the country people better educational facilities. Australians are becoming increasingly aware of the value of education. This budget will enable people to make additional provision for the education of their children at secondary schools and universities. Hundreds of children who reside in the western areas of Queensland are brilliant students, and their parents would like them to complete their education at a secondary school or a university. The only way in which the parents can achieve that ambition is to forsake the land and take the children to the cities. This budget will help to keep families in the country districts. I have issued the warning in previous speeches that once children leave the rural areas in order to receive their education in the cities, very few of them return to their homes in the outback. I suppose we cannot blame them, because the many amenities available in the cities constitute an almost irresistible attraction to young people who have not been accustomed to them. The tax deduction allowed for expenses incurred in the education of children is an innovation. The Government introduced it last year, and the concession of £50 per annum granted a moderate measure of relief. This budget increases the allow- ance to £75 a year. I hope that the concession it will be increased in the future, because it will be of great value to the parents of children who live in the far western areas.
Much has been said in this chamber about the development of Australia. In the short time at my disposal this morning, I shall try to prove that this country needs not only development but also an increase of population and additional capital. Our population is not sufficiently large to provide enough revenue from taxation to enable Australia to be developed as it should be developed. The only course open to us is to encourage the investment in this country of capital from overseas, particularly from the United States of America. 1 recently visited the western coast of the United States of America, and talked to many Americans. When they learnt that I had come from Australia, they showed great interest in this country. I believe that if investors were sure that Australia had political stability and that their investments would not be endangered by the obnoxious nationalization policy that is advocated by the socialists, we could obtain from those overseas sources all the money that is necessary for the proper development of Australia. We have to give foreign investors encouragement, and a sense of security. This Government has already done something along those lines. Honorable members are aware that an agreement was made recently with the United States of America in regard to double taxation. That agreement has not yet been ratified, and I hope that this Parliament will endorse it at the earliest opportunity. It is only by offering encouragement to investors that we shall be able to obtain the foreign capital that we require for the development of Australia. What does it matter who invests the money provided it is invested on just terms ‘and under conditions advantageous to Australia? I do not think that any reasonable man would object to that. But any person in the United States of America who is prepared to invest in Australia first requires to be assured that such investment will not be jeopardized, possibly by the introduction of socialization which members of the Australian Labour party advocate. Reference has been made to the Government’s proposal to abolish the differential tax on income from property, such as rents, interest and dividends from companies. That is one of the most welcome of the budget proposals. The abolition of this tax will afford substantial relief to thousands of small investors.
The Prime Minister, in the course of his speech last evening, challenged members of the Opposition to say straight out whether they object to any of the concessions that are being made under this budget. I echo that challenge. Honorable members opposite have claimed that the concessions are not adequate, but they have practically confined their criticism to the proposed increases of pensions. Indeed, they have belaboured that aspect of the budget to such a degree that they themselves have become confused upon it. As the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) pointed out, if Labour is returned to office and gives effect to the promise that the. Leader of the Opposition made, in the course of his speech in this debate, it will, in fact, reduce the rates of pensions that will be payable under this budget. The pensioners cannot be warned too often of that fact. I commend the Government for its proposal to exempt from the payment of pay-roll tax 50,000 of the 90,000 employers who have hitherto paid that tax. This concession has been very well received in my electorate, which is mainly pastoral. I have always regarded the pay-roll tax as a sectional tax.
I repeat that this budget will not only afford substantial relief to taxpayers, but will also provide effective incentives to industrial activity and to the community as a whole. I am proud to be associated with this Government, which has had the courage to take unpopular measures in the past in order to serve the best interests of the nation, with the result that to-day it has succeeded in stabilizing our economy. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), in the course of his speech, quoted extracts from statements made by Mr. Chifley which confirmed the wisdom of the measures that this Government has taken since it assumed office. Mr. Chifley said on one occasion that whatever government was in office during the period through which we have just passed would have to take drastic measure? if it shouldered its responsibilities. In conclusion, I again pay tribute to the Treasurer and congratulate him on thi? budget. I am proud to be a member of the party which he leads in this House. The budget represents a wonderful achievement, and. like the Treasurer, I believe profoundly that, given the co-operation of the community, the incentives provided under the budget will prove to be most fruitful for the Australian people.
.- 1 have studied the budget with a great deal of interest and have listened attentively to the praise of Government supporters and to the replies that have been made from this side of the chamber. I am convinced that it is a good budget-
– Hear, hear!
– A very good budget for the rich, but a very poor one for those who are down and out! The impoverished have been ignored by the Government. For example, I notice that there is no provision in the budget to cover the needs of certain unfortunate people whose circumstances I have discussed in this chamber on various occasions, both during the life of the present Government and’ during the life of the former Labour Administration. They suffer from an anomaly in our social services legislation, which contains no provision for spinsters under the age of 60 years. An unmarried woman who is less than 85 per cent, incapacitated has no hope of obtaining any governmental assistance, no matter what her circumstances of living may be. I know of one woman, for instance, who dedicated her life to her family. Her mother died in childbirth, and she reared that child. Her father, who was a miner, was ultimately killed but, because the accident occurred outside a mine, his family received no compensation. The woman then reared the family unaided. She was not eligible for any form of social services benefit. Finally, most of her brothers and sisters reached adult estate, married and left her to care for one invalid sister. I know of other cases of a similar nature. No provision is made for such unfortunate citizens because laws generally are made for the many at the expense of the few. The few often suffer severe hardships.
The woman whom I have mentioned lived at Pelaw Main and remained without social services assistance until she was 56 years of age. She was ultimately declared to be 85 per cent, incapacitated so that she could claim an invalid pension. The decision to make her eligible for the pension was probably made by a sympathetic government medical officer. I have verbally chastised not only this Government but also the former Labour Government for its neglect of such persons. Although spinsters are disregarded, provision is made for de facto widows. A woman who can prove that a man was her de facto husband and maintained her for a continuous period of between three and five years prior to his death, is eligible for a widow’s pension. Let nobody think that I am decrying such persons, because that is not so. I have known many deserving women who come within that category. I know of a young girl who fell for the uniform of a soldier. The man misled her and told her that he was unmarried. She believed him and ultimately a certain event took place, whereupon he confessed that he could not marry her because he already had a wife. His wife would not divorce him, either because of a dog-in-the-manger attitude or because she had religious scruples against divorce. Many de facto wives are just as worthy members of the community as legal wives. The de facto wife is one of humanity’s self-made tragedies.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) said he was satisfied with the provisions of this budget relating to the exemption of property owned by pensioners. Over the years I have fought consistently for the complete exemption of non-revenue producing property in the assessment of pensions. In many instances property is merely an encumberance to a pensioner because rates have to be paid upon it although it does not produce any revenue. ‘ I know of an old gentleman at Wallsend who had 150 acres of land which was not worth the proverbial “ bumper “. It could not feed even a bandicoot. It was vacant land, but although it was virtually worthless, (.lie shire council collected rates on it. The owner could not get a pension because the improved capital value of the land was higher than the exemption. An assessor said that he would not give 2s. 6d. an acre for the land. That is a serious anomaly in our pensions legislation, and steps should be taken immediately to eliminate it. After all the whole basis of our taxation system is income and not property values. If a person does not receive any income from a property he is not taxed. Why, then, should a pension be reduced merely because a person owns property which has a certain nominal value? That is entirely wrong. Honorable members opposite are proud of the budget provisions relating to the taxation of income from property. Here is an opportunity for them to do something really worthwhile and provide some real assistance to the pensioners.
The arrangement under which one-fifth of profits earned from mining operations for prescribed metals and minerals between the 1st July, 1953, and the 30th June, 1960, should be free from income tax is to be continued. Why should those profits be free from income tax? Little consideration is being shown for poor people whose pensions are reduced because they own property, even although it produces no income, but the profits of mining companies are to be bolstered. On incomes of the year ended the 30th June, 1953, the rates of tax payable by public companies will be Gs. in the fi on the first £5,000 of taxable income and 7s. in the £1 on the balance of taxable income. The Treasurer has told us that as it is not proposed to re-enact the additional levy of 2s. in the £1 imposed in 1951-52 and 1952-53, the proposed rates represent in the generality of cases, a tax reduction of ls. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income and 2s. in the £1 on the balance of taxable income. An overall reduction of ls. in the £1 is proposed for private companies so that the rates for the financial year 1953-54 will be 4s. in the £1 on the first £5,000 of taxable income and 6s. in the £1 on the balance. Honorable members opposite should certainly be proud of the budget. It is most generous to their friends. But it penalizes the poor. There is no need for me to stress the miserliness of the pension increases of 2s. 6d. a week. Surely the pensioners deserve better treatment in the light of the magnanimous hand-outs that are being made to other sections of the community.
Another budget provision which merits criticism is the proposal to raise the statutory exemptions from estate duty. The present exemption in cases where the estate passes to the widow, children or grandchildren of the deceased, is £2,000. It is proposed to raise the exemption to £5,000. How many workers in your electorate, Mr. Chairman, have homes worth £5,000? How many workers anywhere have homes worth that sum? There are very few indeed. This too, therefore, is a hand-out to wealthy sections of the community. I do not wish merely to . offer destructive criticism of the budget. My criticism is designed to be helpful, and to show alternative courses that the Government could have adopted in framing its financial proposals for the forthcoming year. I have stressed the need to exclude non-revenue producing property when fixing pensions. At present, as I have pointed out, property is assessed at its improved capital value for pension purposes. I believe that the guiding factor should be its revenue producing capacity. That would be the just course to adopt.
I have tried for two days to ask a question of the Minister for Social Services, who is also acting for the Minister for Health, but the limitation of question time, sometimes to half an hour, has prevented me from so doing. I wanted to refer to the discontent that exists in the mining industry due to the new health scheme that is to be inflicted upon miners. The miners have built hospitals throughout the country with money provided by their industrial contributions. They have been paying industrial contributions for years, probably since before I was born. One of the first hospitals to be built with industrial contributions was the Kurri Kurri hospital. Then followed the hospitals at Cessnock, Lithgow and Wallsend. The hospital at Newcastle, with all the additions to it, has been financed from industrial contributions. The miners arc up in arms against the proposed health scheme, because they have always voluntarily conducted a scheme of their own. Although I am a member of Parliament, I am still a member of the miners’ federation and I still pay my industrial contributions to the Kurri Kurri hospital.
I want to ask whether the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has given consideration to a national insurance scheme embracing all aspects of national health, financed from social services contributions. A scheme of that type would cover everybody, including people who had never contributed to hospital schemes. But the coal-mining community and “the industrial workers of Newcastle have contributed voluntarily for many years, not only to a hospital scheme but also to a medical benefits scheme. There were five working members of my family - my father, my three brothers and myself. We all paid industrial contributions, and the whole of the family was covered. Wives were never charged, for confinements. Everything was covered by the scheme. My wife and I have gone into hospital, but we have never paid a bean for treatment, because my industrial contributions covered both of us. We can see why the miners are up in arms against a scheme that would embrace people who have been reluctant to contribute to a fund for the payment of medical and hospital expenses if they become ill or are injured in an accident. A lot of accidents occur in the coal-mining industry, and that is one of the reasons why coal-miners contribute to their own medical and hospital benefits scheme. The hospitals that they have built are the finest edifices in the coal-mining areas.
The Government has exhorted the miners to produce more coal. The cry has been, “ Produce, produce, produce ! “. They have produced coal, and now there is a stockpile of approximately 2,000,000 tons. But I read yesterday in the Newcastle Morning Herald that the Joint Coal Board proposes to cut down coal production because of over-production. If any honorable member takes a train trip to Newcastle and looks out of the right-hand side of the train towards Cockle Creek, he will see a huge stockpile of coal - a black mountain. Why are there huge stockpiles? Mr. Norman Mighell, who was appointed chairman of the Joint Coal Board by the Chifley Government, introduced a system of mixing coals of various grades. Coal from the Greta seam has a high gas content, oil content and calorific value. Coal from what we call the Borehole seam in the Newcastle end of my electorate, going towards and beyond Lake Macquarie, is good firing coal. All through the war, Mr. Mighell mixed that coal with coal from the Greta seam. The mixture was sold easily. Why cannot that be done now? This Government, which controls the Joint Coal Board, could insist upon a policy of blending or mixing coal in order to give work to the miners now that the board has said that it will cut down production. Some small mines have been closed already. I hope the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is listening to me. He took a great deal of interest in coal mines at one time. He went to a place which the boss picked for him and tried to fill a skip with coal. He said it was easy work.
– Very easy, indeed.
– The Minister was taken to a picked place.
– I thought I would take up coal-mining when I retired.
– The Minister was not taken to a place when miners were working up to their hips in water. Some men who had always worked at low seams have been transferred to mines with high seams. Until I came into the Parliament, I had never worked at anything but coal-mining. J know that miners become accustomed to a certain system of mining. I could never work at a low seam, because I became accustomed to working at high scams. I know that men who have worked at low seams suffer from a fear complex when they are put into a mine with seams IS feet to 20 feet high. In the Newcastle district, some of the seams are only 4 feet high. They are pretty low, at any rate to my mind. As I have said, men who are accustomed to low seams suffer from a fear complex when they are asked to work at high seams. If a miner has a fear complex, he may get something on his head. He may be knocked. Fear gets him, and he may bump into a prop and knock something down on him. However, what I really want to say is that if the system of mixing coal were introduced, the present stockpiles would disappear and miners would be more contented. They have asked the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and myself to arrange for a deputation of miners to meet the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to discuss this problem, but the right honorable gentleman has said that he is not prepared to meet a deputation because, if he did so, he would be running under the neck of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). But everybody recognizes that the Prime Minister would be the best man to see, because he could direct his Ministers about what should be done.
I have already pointed out that the jobs offered to some of the miners who worked in mines that have been closed will not be suitable for them. But there is another matter that should be considered. A remarkable feature of mining communities is that about 85 per cent, of the coalminers own their own houses. From the end of ny electorate to Cessnock is about 100 miles. Naturally the miners who are away from their homes all the week want to be with their wives and children as much as possible in the week-ends. As housing is not available for them in Cessnock they fear that they may be compelled to relinquish their present homes and establish new ones. It is unlikely that the estates of many of them will be worth £1,000, and consequently they will not qualify for the exemption from estate duty that I have mentioned. I should think that the estate of the average miner would be worth about £500. If estates of that value pass to widows and minor children they are exempt from estate duty, but the exemption does not apply if the estate passes to adults.
I do not “ belly ache “ in this chamber merely in order to ventilate grievances. I do so only after my attempts to have grievances remedied, by the asking of questions of Ministers during question time, and in other ways, have failed. On several occasions I have referred to ihe high rentals that British immigrants are required to pay for homes at Cessnock. On the last occasion that I raised this subject, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) informed me that that matter was within the control of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes). Old military huts have been subdivided in order to accommodate three families, each of which is charged a rental of £3 10s. a week, plus an additional 10s. a week for the use of the furniture. These rentals are much higher than the average rentals that are charged by the . owners of private property in the mining areas. It is tragic that the British immigrant miners at Cessnock will never own the furniture for the use of which they are required to pay 10s. a week. Although the quarters are called round huts, I prefer to think of them as round tanks. They are old Nissen huts, and are leaking badly. They were previously in use in England, but because they were an eyesore in that country they were sent to Australia. I should like the Minister to inspect .these premises with a view to reducing the rentals as much as possible. It is high time that these British immigrants were granted relief from the present exorbitant rentals. Even British immigrant miners who are living in hostels are being charged exorbitant tariffs fo.r their accommodation.
I come now to the subject of education. It is tragic that the provision of new schools and extensions to existing schools in New South Wales had to be curtailed because that State has insufficient money to go ahead with the work to which it is committed due to the financial restrictions placed on the States by this Government. Even in cold weather many children receive tuition in garages and on open verandahs. The schools in Canberra are modern and well equipped, but some of the schools in New South Wales look like barracks. I am convinced that the States would willingly relinquish their control of education in order to permit the Commonwealth to take over this activity in the interests of the children of the community.
From time to time reference is made in this chamber to congestion on the railways. I should like to know when it is expected that the construction of the Cockle Creek railway bridge, which was commenced about ten years ago, will be completed.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I think that most honorable members believe that it would be undesirable for the proceedings of this chamber to be televised, and I fancy that most listeners to the broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings would agree with that view, but occasionally it would be desirable if people outside the Parliament could see as well as hear some of its transactions. Such an occasion was when the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) was delivering his budget speech last Wednesday evening. It would have been very interesting to people outside to have bee* able to observe the demeanour of members of the Opposition, because they were distressed at the good things that the Treasurer announced. Every time that a reduction of taxation was announced they winced. The only time that they exhibited any jubilation was when they were able to say that the proposed increases of pensions were inadequate. It is very important that the country should realize that that is the general attitude of members of the Opposition, particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who could never be accused of being a good loser. To rejoice in the misfortunes of others, and to be sorry at their good fortune, are not commendable traits, but they are the traits which characterize the approach of the Opposition to the budget and to the economic events that preceded it. Now all that honorable members opposite can say is that the grapes are sour. No budget can be considered in isolation. A budget can be shaped only on the basis and foundation of its predecessors. When this Government first took office it was confronted with a situation of suppressed inflation, which had been kept in check only by the control of prices, but that system was quickly breaking down under that kind of corruption which characterizes certain sections of the Labour party, and in which certain sections of that party rejoice because they get their living from it. Those economic events could not be ignored. Prices rose, and control measures were necessary, but we did not perpetuate control measures. We introduced the kind of controls which would be self -liquidating, and which would lead to the economic event of this present budget, upon which I and. other honorable members on. this side of the chamber, as well as the majority of the electors, heartily congratulate the Treasurer. After all, it is the direction of the budget which is important. This budget does not give to anybody everything that he desires. No budget ever has done so; but it does give to most people in the community the things that they need most, and that will enable them to play their parts in the community in such a way that further remissions of taxation and further effective increases of pensions can be given. This is not merely a good budget in itself; it is a constructive budget, and one which lays the foundations of future development. In the past there have been unpalatable remedies for a’ situation such as the one that we had to face up’ to and could not ignore. These remedies have proved to be effective. Stability has been restored to the whole economy. Prices have been brought under control, and have been virtually stable for the last few months. Measured over the twelve months they have risen only 3 or 4 per cent., as is shown by the cost of living index. That is a great achievement, particularly when we realize that while we were bringing this stability to the’ economy the percentage of unemployment in Australia was lower than anywhere else in the world. That is a great and notable achievement, and one that I go so far as to hope honorable members opposite will generously recognize. I trust that instead of evincing a sour-grapes attitude, they will be glad with the Government for the progress the nation has made, is making and will make, as a result of the Government’s policy. We have created a position in which there can be an expansion of economic activity without inflation. We have, in fact, established the only sound basis for the expansion, progress and development in Australia. We congraulate the Treasurer on his courage in the past, and we are glad to be able to commemorate here the success of the policy he has advanced.
The budget provides for the greatest reductions of taxes that have yet been made in Australia. Income tax is to be reduced by 12£ per cent. The small income groups will benefit proportionately more than the higher income groups. Naturally, they will not benefit as much in total. How could they? They did not pay as much tax in total. To base conclusions on totals rather than proportions is entirely fallacious. Let us remember that reductions of income tax paid by individuals and companies will provide an incentive that will lead to higher employment, greater productivity and increased efficiency, and to expansion without inflation. We are providing better family and educational allowances. We have removed the property surcharge which applied, not to the high income groups, but to the middle income groups. The only persons who will genuinely deplore that action are accountants, because this move will not only give relief but will also immensely simplify the complexities of tax returns. I believe that, by encouraging thrift in this way, the Government is laying the foundations for the next move - the transfer of capital expenditure to revenue without the inflationary recourse to treasury-bills. We have provided for tax concessions to the aged. Companies, which are in many respects the most important component of our industrial production effort, have received relief that will give them new incentive to increase efficiency. The pay-roll tax has been removed from the small and middle income groups of taxpayers. Drastic reductions of sales tax have been made. The entertainments tax has been entirely removed. I, and no doubt other members also, have had a great deal of work to do in the past in making representations to the Treasurer on behalf of constituents who have had to pay entertainment tax in respect of charitable entertainments; and on behalf of club3, such as surf life-saving clubs, which perform a great service to the community. The entertainments tax has been a vexatious, tax. It has gone, and good riddance !
I wish to say a few words about the proposals in this budget in connexion with social service payments, which have been the target for a great deal of irresponsible and ill-informed criticism from honorable members opposite. Honorable members opposite have said that the increase provided for is insufficient. Measured by what we should like to do, it is insufficient, because we all would like to do more than we are doing. Measured, however, by the statistical yardstick, it is more than two and a half times sufficient to cover the increase of prices in the past twelve months. That is, perhaps, a short-term view. Let me compare the total increase of pensions granted by this Government since it took office in December, 1949, with the total increase of the cost of living in the same period. The “ 0 “ series index shows that prices have risen by a little less than 56 per cent, in that period.. A great proportion of that rise stems, of course; from past years. The increase in the last twelve months is negligible. When this Government took office in 1949 the pension rate paid by the .Chifley Government was £2 2s. 6d. a week. This budget will increase it to £3 10s. a week, which is an increase, over the Chifley rate, of about 64 per cent. If one were to adopt the purely statistical outlook, and restore only the real purchasing power of the Chifley pension of December, 1949, the pension would be reduced by about 4s. from the level at which it is to be fixed by this budget. In terms of money alone there has been an increase of real purchasing power to the pensioner during the period in which this Government has been in office. That, of course, is not the whole story, because, in addition to increased pensions the pensioners now have the benefit of free medical service and other services. Although it is difficult to measure the value of these services in money, the general consensus of opinion among pensioners would be that the new privileges that the Government has rightly and gladly given to them are worth in excess of 5s. a week to each pensioner. I am not supposing that any member of this chamber is satisfied with the present position regarding pensions. But let us recall that pensions, in terms of real purchasing power, must be valued on the basis of a sound economy. The pensioners, perhaps more than anybody else, have a vested interest in the stability which this Government has restored to the economy. I hope, personally, that, at the next general election, it will be possible to submit to the people a plan for the wholesale revision and improvement of the whole pensions scheme. It is noi merely an increase in rates that is called for. Other more fundamental changes are required and a new and more personal approach is necessary to the whole problem. I hope that the Government will be in a position to make such a move. I hope that when it makes that move it will find a new generosity of approach from the other side of the chamber and a real co-operation in the interests of pensioners. Whilst the present position is demonstrably a great improvement on the position that existed when the late Mr. Chifley left the Treasury, I am not satisfied with it and I do not believe that other honorable members on this side of the chamber are satisfied with it. But let us remember that everything cannot be done at once. The Treasurer has gladly done a little more than strict justice to the pensioners and he has been able to base his proposals upon a sound economy, which is the only basis for a further increase in the real standards of pensioners.
I consider that the Labour approach to this budget has been ungenerous, and the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) did not make sense. The Opposition has advocated that concessions should be made to various sectional interests, some of them secret as mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), and some of them open as revealed by the Leader of the Opposition. The remissions of taxation and the extra expenditure proposed by the Leader of the Opposition would involve an amount in excess of £100,000,000 a year. His was a time serving speech. Perhaps I might be allowed to characterize it as a contemptible speech because there wa3 no logic or consistency in it. Honorable members were told that this budget, which will reduce taxation by a record amount, would merely increase taxation. Have honorable members ever heard such nonsense? We were given a series of incomparables but there was one strain of logic running through the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. He called for over-full employment, with more jobs offering than men; he advocated an inflationary situation in which the Government would spend more than it collected and prices would tend to rise; he suggested applying a system of controls and clamping industry down again. Such a system of controls carries within itself, not merely the seeds of its own destruction, but the seeds of certain plants which some honorable members opposite and some people outside this House, who control the Opposition, would like to see grow.
Inflationary proposals such as those which were made by the Leader of the Opposition lead to all those rackets which make the Australian Labour party the “ Doyle Labour party “. Certain people in the Labour movement outside the parliament, and perhaps some honorable members opposite, would regard such a prospect with relish, just as they regard the cessation of such a system with regret. The real gravamen of the charge against this Government by some of the Labour racketeers, not necessarily honorable members in this House, has been that the racket has been spoilt. The system of controls which made the activities of Doyle possible, and which made fortunes for Labour racketeers who worked in with Doyle, has been broken by this Government, and stability has been restored to the economy. I do not accuse the Leader of the Opposition of always knowing the implications of what he is saying. But evidence of his desire for the return of inflation ran throughout his speech, which advocated those controls and opportunities which were used in the past by people in the Labour movement and which would become available to them again if Labour’s financial methods were reimposed.
I now wish to return to the main pattern of the budget, which has received very general approval throughout the electorates. Such a newspaper as the Melbourne Argus, which is in no sense a government organ, and which in some sense is secretly connected with ranking members of the Opposition, was constrained to publish the headine, “A Little Man’s Budget “. That is what it is. Not only did it provide for the little man to receive direct taxation concessions, but it provided for him to receive something which was more important.
Opposition members interjecting.
– Order ! The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is speaking.
– The policy of the present Government has lead to virtually stable prices. At the same time, the Government has been able to provide adequately for our defence needs, for which £200,000,000 has been provided in the Estimates. If it were not necessary to provide that money the Government could, for example, halve the rate of income tax. But every honorable member on this side of the chamber, and, T trust, every honorable member opposite, recognizes the paramount necessity for continuing that scale of defence preparedness. This budget will constructively attack the problem of financing capital expenditure by loan, because it will create the conditions under which the loan market will be able to provide the money required.
There have been opposition references to interest rates It is quite true that in the necessary and proper rise of interest rates that has taken place, some loan difficulties occurred; but let us now realize that we have reached the stage where the interest rate can take a downward turn, and that in so doing it will create a new incentive for investment in government stocks. Consequently, it seems to me, that in the next budget that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will place before the Parliament, capital amounts will be taken off the revenue side and put where they belong, and where they would be if the necessary loan moneys were available, that is, on the capital side. He will be able to make a further reduction of taxes of about another £100,000,000 a year. It is because the Treasurer is approaching this problem in a sound way, one step at a time, that in the last budget he was able to give significant reductions of taxes. In this budget he has made record reductions, and I believe that in the next budget he will make further reductions.
Nobody would pretend that there are no difficulties ahead of this country. Two of them are very important. The first is that the international situation is not good, but that is not due to the actions of this Government or the Opposition. It is something that we have to face together, and I hope that we shall face it as a united people. We have heavy commitments for defence, but they are inescapable. Secondly, our present rate of money wages in Australia is high compared with the rates prevailing in other parts of the world, and if we are to maintain our real standard of living, as I hope we shall, and, indeed, increase it, we must improve efficiency throughout all industry. I do not believe that that necessarily means that the individual man is to be required to work harder, because I consider, and I think that honorable members opposite will agree with me, that in the majority of cases men work honestly and well. However, we want more efficient organization and more effective deployment of our resources, so that from a given amount of work a greater amount of real goods and services will emerge. That problem has been tackled, so far as it lies within the power of the Government to tackle it. However, in a large sense it lies outside the power of the Government. So far as it lies within the power and sphere of any government to tackle that problem it has been tackled through this budget, upon which we must all congratulate the Treasurer.
.- I have listened intently to honorable members on the Government side, and I have come to the conclusion that they have all joined a mutual admiration society. There has been much back-slapping of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and that has caused me to believe that honorable members who support the Government are resigned to the fact that their Government is dying, and that they have decided that they will all die together. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), in one of his fanatical attacks, which are a feature of his speeches in this chamber, spoke of the Labour racketeers, the man Doyle and other persons. After hearing .that, I was fully expecting him to tell the committee about the Liberal Minister who was convicted of murder in London, and who only escaped the gallows by being certified insane.
– Order! The honorable member’s remark has no relation to the budget now before the committee.
– I rise to order. Oan you, Mr. Chairman, inform the committee why you should rule against the honorable member for Watson on this point, because you allowed the honorable member for Mackellar to attack all and sundry?
– The remarks of the honorable member for Mackellar referred to the Labour party in general, but the remarks of the honorable member for Watson apparently refer to . some person in England.
– I rise to order.
– Order ! I have given my ruling.
– I ask that you should extend your ruling. The honorable member for Mackellar attacked the Labour movement generally.’ In order to rebut that attack, the honorable member for Watson referred to the Liberal movement generally, and one of its members in particular.
– Order ! If the honorable member for Watson wishes to refer to the Liberal party he may do so, but a reference to some person in England who committed a murder and was later certified insane, has nothing to do with the budget.
– I’ do not suggest that the honorable member for Mackellar would have to commit a murder.
– Although I can think of a very good victim.
– A thallium victim apparently. Almost four years of Liberal-Australian Country party government has left a scar on the economic life of Australia that will be hard to erase. It is difficult to believe that so much damage could have been done to a country in such a short time. The Liberal-Australian Country party Government is said to be comprised of socalled businessmen. I always smile when I recall the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Menzies) references to businessmen. I compare the four years of LiberalAustralian Country party administration with business methods and think to myself that I am glad I am not a businessman. This Government will go down in history as one of the most incompetent, inefficient body of politicians that has ever graced the treasury bench of this Parliament, and I am happy to say that those gentlemen will not be occupying that bench for much longer.
In 1949, Australia was in the midst of plenty. Widespread prosperity had been created by the expert administration of the Chitley-Evatt Labour Government. That Government established something quite new to the Australian economy, that is, full employment, and it stabilized the basic wage. Its policy created buoyancy among the people, who were healthy, happy and contented. As economic problems arose they were dealt with in the typical Chifley fashion. He was a real administrator, a real business man, and, above all, a real Australian. The Australian people were living in an era of unprecedented economic security and freedom from want. Their savings had increased, that fact being reflected in the huge deposits with the various banks. The outlook was indeed bright. But a change came over the economic scene with the general election of December, 1949, when the calamitous Menzies Government came to office. The people of Australia have every reason to regret their costly mistake in electing the Liberal and Australian Country parties. However, that mistake will not be made a second time.
The rising tide of inflation is engulfing the nation. Members of the Government have tried to excuse their failure to arrest inflation by all kinds of means, including the quoting out of context of statements made by other people. They are given to referring to the remarks of union officials concerning the economic position. The fact remains that inflation is increasing rapidly, and the people do not need the judges of the High Court of Australia or the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to tell them that that is so. The mother in the kitchen is the best judge of the inflationary position, because she has to manage on the miserly £12 3s. a week which is called the basic wage and which has now been frozen. Food speculators, who are not satisfied with their present rake-off, avariciously, want more. When the Australian Labour party returns to office it will curb their activities in no uncertain manner.
This Government has failed dismally in every direction. The Ministers of the Crown are standing idle while the Australian economy plunges to disaster. The people of Australia are in a state of trepidation and become more apprehensive with each announcement that the basic wage has been increased. They know, from bitter experience, that every increase means a decrease of the purchasing power of the Menzies £1. Various so-called economists and university professors, at the behest of the Government, which, of course, pays them fine salaries for their efforts, frequently exhort an already overworked populace to produce more and more commodities. These selfstyled intellectuals have had no practical experience of economics. All their knowledge of the subject has been obtained from books.
– To whom is the honorable member referring?
– Like the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), they think that the only solution of our economic problems is for the workers to work harder. Recently, sensational charges have been made to the effect that in our’ rural communities farmers are already exploiting immigrants and are attempting to revert to the conditions of the old days, when farm labourers were paid 10s. a week and their keep. Those charges have been substantiated by the Melbourne Argus. The favorite technique of the professors, who deliberately set out to delude the people with masses of figures, is to foster the belief that high production costs are the direct result of the system of quarterly increases of the basic wage. That, of course, is absurd. The true position is exactly the reverse.
The Prime Minister, during his speech to the committee last night, referred to the black market that existed during the term of office of the Chifley Government. I suggest that the so-called black market of that time is now a white market which has the blessing of this Government. The prices of many commodities, including foodstuffs, have run riot. For instance, petrol cost only 2s. 3d. a gallon in the days of the Chifley Government.
– But it could not be obtained then.
– There was plenty for everybody. Under this Government, petrol now costs an average of 3s. 6d, a gallon. The American supporters of the Government are making almost 100 per cent, rake-off because the Government abolished petrol rationing, thereby imposing a great strain on the dollar pool. Consequently, for the first time, Australia has become deeply involved as far as dollars are concerned. The Chifley Government could always manage to buy sufficient dollars. That Government never borrowed outside Australia, but the present Government has placed us in pawn to the American dollar, whether deliberately or otherwise I am not prepared to say.
Because of the spiralling cost of living, the basic wage earner has been placed at such a disadvantage that he 13 struggling hopelessly in an effort to exist. I know that that struggle exists because I live close to the scene of it. I shall illustrate my point by selecting some of the essential everyday commodities and stating the number of hours which a basic wage earner must work in order to purchase them. At the present time, the basic wage in New South Wales is £12 3s. for a 40-hour week, or approximately 6s. an hour. If we take rent at an average of £2 2s. a week, which is comparatively low, it will be seen that a basic wage earner must work seven hours in order to pay his weekly rent. With bread at ls. a loaf, he must work one and one-sixth hours a week to earn a loaf of bread a day. The price of butter at 4s. per lb. is higher than ever before. If the worker wishes to purchase 1^ lb. a week he must work one hour in order to do so. Eggs cost between 5s. 6d. and 6s. a dozen, so that he must work another hour to provide one dozen eggs for the family. If his family consumes 1 pint of milk a day, the cost will be approximately 6s. a week, which will take him one hour to earn. If he wishes to purchase 4 lb. of sugar at 9d. per lb.,, and i lb. of tea at 2s. 6d., he must work another hour. If his family wants to indulge in the luxury of coffee at 10s. per lb., ho must work one and a half hours in order to provide it. Honorable members opposite may laugh, but I assure them that this is no laughing matter. On the contrary, it demonstrates the deliberate attempt that has been made by this Government to enslave the workers. Jam, at the average price of 3s. a tin, would involve a half -hour’s work.
– Money for jam !
– No one knows these things better than does a mother who is trying to feed three or four children on the basic wage. Until a Labour government assumes office the prices of necessary commodities will not be lowered. The mothers of young families who slave in their kitchens day after day worry themselves almost to death over these things. Theirs is indeed a gloomy outlook. In order to provide the wherewithal for those very few grocery lines that I have mentioned, which are purchased every week by every housewife, the wage-earner has to work for more than seven hours.
Let us pass on to consider the meat requirements of a small family. With steak at 4s. 6d. per lb., the purchase of 2 lb. of steak a week would involve one and a half hours’ work. A 3-lb. joint of lamb, at 4s. per lb, would involve two hours’ work ; and 4 lb. of beef, at 3s. per lb., would involve two hours’ work.
Fruit, which is so essential in families were there are small children, has now gone into the luxury class. The purchase of oranges at 6s. a dozen, apples at 5s. a dozen and bananas at ls. 6d. per lb., would involve an outlay of approximately 15s. a week, or two and a half hours’ work. With the humble potato at lOd. per lb., peas at 2s. 3d., tomatoes at ls. 9d., and onions at ls., on a very conservative estimate the cost of vegetables every week would be 12s., which would represent two hours’ work.
It is also essential, as every one will agree, that the basic wage earner and his wife and children must wear clothing. I am sure that the learned gentlemen who adjudicate in the Arbitration Court in relation to the basic wage do not believe that a basic wage worker and his family need to wear clothing. “ Tut, tut ! “, they would say, “ It is terrible to think that young children should need warm clothing and shoes so that they may be warmly clad in the winter-time when they go to school “. The exorbitant cost of clothing is one of the scandals of our every-day life, especially the cost of school uniforms which form such an important item of expenditure for those with young children.
The basic wage worker needs a new suit once a year. At a very conservative estimate a suit costs at least £20. In addition, he has to buy working clothes and accessories - a hat, shirts, underwear, shoes and socks and clothing for his wife and children which would, at the very least, cost him approximately £76 a year. That means that he must work for five hours every week in order to pay for clothing. A very moderate estimate of the transport costs paid by the average worker would be 6s. a week, or one hour’s work. Thus, on the very conservative estimates I have used, in order to meet the cost of the family requirements, he would have to work 30 of the 40 hours he works each week, which would leave ten hours’ work, at 6s. an hour, or £3 a week, out of which the basic wage earner has to pay taxation, insurances, including medical and hospital benefits contributions, time payment instalments, gas and electric light accounts, the cost of toilet requisites, union dues - honorable members opposite would not know much about that matter because they do not believe in unions - and a dozen and one other incidentals peculiar to the general household.
Sitting suspended from 12.1$ to 2.15 p.m.
– After all the necessities of life have been bought for a family, practically nothing is left in the pay envelope of a basic wage earner for entertainments, a Sunday at the beach for the children, beer, cigarettes, newspapers and similar small luxuries. Those who are closest to the people as I am are best fitted to present the picture of the effect of the basic wage. The people on that level merely exist. They are the real producers but they do not live in a manner befitting their worth to the community. I invite honorable members to study the juggled statistics that are prepared by those on a higher standard of living to create a false picture. Big business interests do not try to improve the lot of the basic wage earners but to deceive them with false promises. Professors and highly paid writers are employed to deceive the workers on the one hand while, on the other hand they exhort them to produce more. They throw a Union Jack about their shoulders and think that they have the right to preach patriotism to the people. Sometimes they drive their mes sage home by high-pressure means, but the people are awake to the deceit that has been practised by this Government during the past three years.
The Government should concentrate upon advancing the well-being of family life. The children should be our first consideration. Big business, aided and abetted by this Government, is concerned only with bigger and better profits, to the detriment of the basic wage earners who produce the real wealth in the community. Big business tries to create the impression that it is indispensable, but we can easily do without big business. The supporters of big business discredit socialism for the workers, who in most cases do not take a close interest in politics, but at the same time they practise monopoly socialism to crush those they are trying to deceive. They are trying to reduce the standard of living of the workers of Australia to that of the people of the Far East. The ultimate aim of big business is to get back to the feudal system.
If the Liberal-Australian Country party Government were really concerned with the welfare of the people of Australia it would make a thorough investigation of the incidence of high profits that are being earned by the big monopolies. I challenge the Government to set up a committee to decide whether the profits that are earned are greater than they should be, and whether this country can afford a higher basic wage. A basic wage of £20 a week would not meet all the costs of an average family. I remind the people, and particularly those on fixed incomes, that they have been deceived by this Government during the past three years. I hope that they will not be gulled by false promises such as those which were uttered by the leaders of this Government in 1949. The most famous of those promises was the one to put value back into the £1. It will become a legend. The Prime Minister promised that he would restore value to the £1, but when he was returned to office, he deliberately set about reducing purchasing power. He is a master of deception.
Next year there will be a general election. The people of Australia have been” waiting for the day. I warn them not to be misled again by the master of deception, but to kick this Government out of office and return a Labour government which pledges itself to raise the living standards of the average man and woman. It will not work for the overseas bondholders and shareholders but for the real Australians, the true producers. The servicemen who fought in the recent wars have a right to a better order. When big business was in danger from the yellow peril in the north, it promised everything if it could be saved. To-day ex-servicemen are told that they must wait fourteen months for a war service home.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Honorable members have been entertained by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), who has described the conditions that existed during the socialist golden age in 1948-49. Some of the features of that golden age that he failed to mention were controls, general industrial unrest, coal strikes, chaos on the waterfront, rationing of sugar, butter, tea, meat and petrol, black markets, inflation, shortage of essential materials, Communists in control of trade unions and the direction of labour. I concluded, from the general tenor of his remarks, that he was trying to convince us of the necessity for the introduction of a longer working week and a reduction of prices. If the honorable member was proposing a reduction of prices, I suggest that he should send a report of his observations to the Labour Premier of New South Wales. The honorable member represents an electorate in that State, and the New South Wales Government controls prices within its borders. But if the honorable member was proposing the introduction of a longer working week in order to cope with the problems he has raised, I suggest that he should confer with counsel who appeared on behalf of the trade unions recently in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
It has become obvious to those of us who have listened attentively to this debate that the Opposition is anxiously looking round for a new propaganda line. I have been told that the publicists of the Labour party have been asked to think up a new story for honorable members opposite to tell the electors. Evidently, the publicists have not yet found a story, because it has not been told in this debate. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and his colleagues have known for some months’ that time has been against them. As each day passes, more and more people realize that the Opposition’s talk of depression and disaster, with which we have been inundated by the right honorable gentleman and his followers, has been entirely wrong. The people now recognize the wisdom of the long-range policy and sound economic judgment of this Government.
The facts show that, under the leadership of this Government, the nation has recovered its economic stability, from the disaster into which it was thrown by socialism, far more quickly than was ever imagined by the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and their colleagues. I should like to know what is the policy of the Labour party. Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to criticize certain features of this budget - the best budget that has been brought before the people of Australia - and they have failed dismally. I had hoped that Opposition members would give an indication of their attitude on several matters, especially the policy of the Labour party. I have read in recent weeks reports that quite a number of persons have resigned from the Labour party, because they have objected strongly to the actions of that body. I find that certain movements have been formed, known as “ breakaway movements “. One is the Official Labour Movement, and some former members of the party have formed the Progressive Labour party. To which one of those parties do the honorable member for Watson, the honorable member for East Syqdney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) belong? Indeed, which one of those parties does the Leader of the Opposition profess to lead? Or does he, in his usual manner and with his usual ability, support the causes of the whole three? Does he lead one party, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition another party and the honorable member for
East Sydney a third party? Those matters have not been mentioned by Opposition members in this chamber. Surely we are entitled to know what the policy of the Labour party, or parties, is, or is to be.
– The honorable member would not understand, even if he was told.
– I have not been told. There is nothing for the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) to gibber and gibe about, because no member of the Opposition has referred to this matter.
Honorable members on this side of the chamber have been looking forward to the great advantages of this budget. I feel that I should remind the committee, and the great number of people who have taken an interest in this budget, what prominent persons in various walks of life think about it. Passages have already been quoted from the submissions made by counsel for the trade unions to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in connexion with the basic wage case recently. I shall not repeat those quotations, but shall content myself with reminding honorable members that counsel for the trade unions, before the Treasurer presented his budget to the Parliament, referred to the great prosperity prevailing in our land, rising employment, and the restoration of economic stability. I shall now read a passage from the journal of a well-known bank, which also was published before the introduction of the budget. It is as follows : -
After a period of marked changes the Australian economy seems to have moved into a position of greater balance than could have been reasonably anticipated even six months ago . . . National reserves of oversea funds have built up steadily to over £50,000,000 . . Unemployment is now at a low level. At the same time suitable labour can be more readily obtained in industry and commerce than a few years ago - a factor which should help considerably in raising the general level of efficiency . . . The immigration programme with its careful preference for the selected tradesmen has probably played a significant part . . .
An opinion which was expressed shortly after the presentation of the budget reads as follows: -
This budget may also be regarded as the climax to a courageous financial policy. Two years ago, Australia faced an unhealthy boom containing all the germs of unbridled inflation. The Government took the view that, however unpopular it might be politically, the evil had to be cured. It can well be said that this budget, on the revenue side, will carry benefits into every home and into every business.
The president of the Melbourne Chamber of Manufactures, who represents another section of the community, has said -
It is a wonderful budget. These are the greatest concessions which have ever been made. It is the beginning of a new era of stability.
Honorable members doubtless will be interested in the opinion of the president of the New South Wales Taxpayers Association, who represents a reasonable cross section of the community. He has stated -
This is really a splendid budget.
The director of the Institute of Public Affairs has said that the budget is both imaginative and realistic. In view of all those favorable expressions about the budget, is there any wonder that members of the Opposition are floundering as they try to criticize it effectively? We all know that production has increased in many industries, particularly in the basic industries of coal and steel. Costs and prices are becoming stabilized. I have before me some figures which show that in 1951-52, before the policy of this Government had an appreciable effect, retail prices in the six capital cities had increased on an average by 20 per cent. In the last financial year, the increase was only 4 per cent. Wholsale prices of goods, principally those home-produced, rose only 6 per cent, in the last financial year compared with an increase of 23 per cent, in 1951-52. Apart from the financial measures, some ways in which Government policy has helped to make these improvements possible are by fighting communism and curbing industrial unrest, easing the labour shortage and helping to overcome coal and power shortages. We on this side of the chamber are proud to say that we are Liberals, and while not believing in the unbridled capitalism that existed in the last century, we know and believe that too much State interference in the economy and in the lives of the people, which is the socialism that honorable members opposite have advocated for so long and are pledged to support, deadens the people and deadens and flattens our economy. We are, therefore, fighters for free enterprise, because we believe that i9 the best system that has yet been evolved as a true basis of human society. This budget will encourage free enterprise and provide opportunities to individuals to use their own ability, not only for their own benefit, but also in the interests of their fellow citizens. Under it, welcome reductions will be made in income tax, both personal and company. Together with other measures, this relief is designed to encourage private enterprise still further and to increase production in both primary and secondary industries.
The concessions announced in this budget are but the final instalment of a three-years’ programme, upon which the Government embarked to increase the national wealth, combat inflation and rising prices and to reduce taxes, particularly those payable by persons on moderate and fixed incomes. Those facts are well known to honorable members generally. I need give only a few examples to illustrate the effect of the concessions contained in this budget. In each instance, the figures I shall cite apply in the case of a man with a dependent wife and two children. In 1948-49, under the Chifley Government, such a man with a taxable income of £500 paid tax amounting to £21 9s., whereas in 1952-53, under this Government, he paid £8 14s. in tax, whilst for the current financial year he will pay only £5 6s. in tax. On an income of £600, which is reasonably close to the present basic wage in New South Wales, he paid £38 lis. in tax in 1948-49 and £18 16s. in tax in 1952-53, a reduction of almost £20, whilst for the current year he will pay only £13 ls. in tax; and on an income of £1,000 he paid £129 6s. in tax in 1948-49 and £83 4s. in 1952-53, whilst for the current year he will pay £66 16s. in tax. In addition, the Government, under this budget, proposes to remove what might be called nuisance taxes. Last year, it abolished the land tax, and it now proposes to abolish entertainments tax. I agree with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that supporters of the Government have been making constant representations to the Treasurer on behalf of groups, such as ex-servicemen’s leagues, surf lifesaving clubs and similar organizations, which are rendering valuable service to the community, and have found the entertainments tax to be not only a nuisance but, in many instances, a hardship. The Government also proposes to liberalize still further all. of the allowances for income tax purposes.
I turn now to the budget proposals in respect of social services. I remind the committee of the increases of benefits which the Government provided in preceding years, when prices of essential commodities were rising and persons on fixed moderate incomes, such as pensioners and superannuated officers, found it difficult to meet inflated costs that were attributable mainly to the maladministration of the Labour Government from 1946 to 1949. During that period, the Australian economy should have been converted into one of the soundest in the world, but that Government lost its opportunities to achieve that end because of its leanings towards socialism. The consequence was that when the present Government assumed office it had no option but to give the country a jolt in order to restore our economy to a sound basis. However, whilst it was engaged in doing so costs continued to rise. Before the effects of the Government’s programme were really felt, it made generous additional provision to pensioners and recipients of social services benefits in order to enable them to meet such costs. For instance, in 1950, the Government increased the rate of age pension by 7s. 6d. a week to £2 10s., and in 1951 by 10s., bringing the rate to £3 a week, whilst last year it further increased the rate by 7s. 6d., bringing the pension to £3 7s*. 6d. Under this budget it is making provision for a further increase of 2s. 6d., which will bring the full rate of pension to £3 10s. a week. I point out that, in relation to the cost of living, the proposed increase of 2s. 6d. is proportionately greater than the increases that were granted previously. However, that increase is not the only additional assistance which pensioners will derive under this budget, because, at the same time, the Government proposes to lift the level of the means test and thus a far greater number of persons will become eligible to receive pensions and other social services benefits. In some instances, the increase of pension will be as much as 12s. 6d. a week. As the persons to whom I refer received little benefit last year, I am glad that under this budget the Government has been able to give generous additional assistance to them.
One of the most valuable forms of assistance that can be given to persons on moderate and fixed incomes, such as pensioners and superannuated officers, is to enable them to purchase goods at reasonable prices. Any increase that might be given- to them would be useless if costs rose to a corresponding degree. Under this budget, together with the two previous budgets, the Government has succeeded, in stabilizing the economy. Therefore, the increases to be made available on this occasion will be most beneficial to those who will receive them. The primary producers, like other sections of the community, will share in the concessions that are to be made under this budget. Last year, the Government made provision for a period of five years for a special depreciation allowance on farm plant at the rate of 10 per cent. As I have said, it abolished land tax and introduced a system of optional self-assessment of income tax. Those decisions have proved to be of great advantage to primary producers. Under this budget, the primary producers will share with the community as a whole the general concessions made under this budget; and, in addition, the Government, by lifting the exemption level for the payment of pay-roll tax from £20 to £80 will exempt the great majority of farmers from payment of that tax. Every sections of the community will benefit from the concessions that are to be made on this occasion.
I have no doubt that as a result of the confidence that this budget will inspire in the community, this Government will again be returned to office next year. At this time, therefore, we should look forward to the proposals which it can be expected to embody in its next budget. Having advanced to the stage which we have now reached, it should henceforth endeavour to establish the right atmo sphere in order to effect more efficiency in the distribution of production throughout the community. We can give a lead, perhaps, by examining the Public Service. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) dealt with this subject earlier in the debate, and it has been discussed widely by public figures outside the Parliament in recent months. The newspapers this morning reported the comments of an expert who said that it would be beneficial to the Public Service, and to the community as a whole, if royal commissions were appointed from, time to time to investigate the Public Service. This practice has been adopted in the United Kingdom with good results. Such criticism as I offer is not directed against individual members of the Public Service. In fact, in my experience, officers of the service are invariably courteous and helpful. However, I know, from my personal contact with public servants, how their efforts to help the community and individual citizens are frustrated by the unwieldy system that governs their activities. The Public Service became swollen and clumsy under the former Labour Administration, largely as a result of the introduction of socialist controls and restrictions.
I could cite numerous examples of the ponderous processes that the system involves, but I shall refer to one case only in order to illustrate my point. A citizen of New South Wales wished to sell a. block of land to the Postal Department as a site for a new post office in the town where he lives. This man is a good and useful member of the community. I wish there were more like him. He told the department that he was willing to accept, less than the market value of the land because he realized that it would provide the most suitable site in the town for a post office building. The officer who received the offer agreed that the Commonwealth should buy the block and did everything in his power to assist the transaction. The original offer was made to the Commonwealth in the latter pa.Tt of 1952. As nothing eventuated, I, as the local member of Parliament, was asked at the beginning of February to assist the prospective vendor. I wroteto the department on the 6th February, and my letter was acknowledged on the 12th February in a letter that informed me that the matter would be discussed with the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs. On the 1st April, I was informed that investigations were proceeding. On the 21st May, I was notified that the land could be used by the department and that arrangements had been made for officers of the department to visit the town and discuss the purchase of the property. I again wrote to the department on the 2nd July, and informed it that the vendor considered the block to be the best available for a new post office and that, as he proposed to extend his business, it would be of assistance to him to be informed of the department’s intention. The vendor had explained to me that, because of circumstances beyond his control, it would be necessary for him to sell the block as soon as possible. Later, he told me that he had received a definite offer from another source but would hold the block in the hope that I would be able to obtain a decision from the department.
Therefore, on the 3rd August, I sent a telegram to the department to notify it that the vendor proposed to accept the alternative offer on the following day. I suggested that it should contact him immediately and conclude the deal for itself. As a result, the departmental officer who had been dealing with the matter telephoned the owner of the property. He was eager to obtain the block for the department, but all he could do was to ask the owner not to dispose of the block until the end of that week. The department did not buy the land. Some time later I received a letter from it to inform me that inquiries had revealed that the owner had sold the block to another buyer. That is only one of many illustrations that I could cite to show the cumbersome methods of dealing with public business that developed under the socialist administration of the Labour party. This sort of thing causes frustration, both to the community and to the officers of the Public Service, and is of no advantage to Australia. This Parliament was responsible for the development of the system, and it has a responsibility now to streamline it. Therefore, I suggest the appointment of a committee of members of this Parliament and officers of the Public Service to consider methods of simplifying and accelerating Public Service procedure.
This budget will cure our economic ills and will foster an atmosphere of prosperity and general optimism in which individual initiative will flourish. Private enterprise will be encouraged to increase production further and thus raise our standard of living. With these thoughts, I offer my warmest congratulations to the Treasurer upon the courage that he has shown during the last two years and to the Government upon the record of successful administration that it has compiled.
– The somewhat frustrated honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) either forgot or omitted to say in his speech whether he considered the increase of 2s. 6d. a week that is to be granted to age, invalid, civilian widow and war widow pensioners, to be sufficient. The horrible and shocking feature of this budget is the most unfair treatment that it provides for those who, because of age, invalidity or bereavement, are dependent upon pensions. They will receive an extra 2s. 6d. a week each. They will gain no benefit from the vaunted reductions of income tax. They can expect no help from the remissions of company tax. The sales tax reductions will not make their daily requirements of food and clothing any cheaper because those items will remain subject to the unaltered general rate of 12£ per cent. The withdrawal of the Commonwealth subsidy on prices control is not designed to help them, and the abolition of entertainments tax, of which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and his supporters have boasted, may provide the pensioners with the only cause for amusement that they will find in the budget.
Let the people realize that the Treasurer has his tongue in his cheek when he says that the abolition of the entertainments tax will confer a benefit upon them, just as he had last year when he boasted about the abolition of federal land tax. This Government has maintained consistently that it intends to hand taxation rights back to the States and, it knows that, when it vacates the field of entertainments tax, the States, which it has starved of money, will be forced to enter the field. In fact, two States have already announced their intention to do so. Thus, the people will continue to pay entertainments tax. Let the Government take no unction from its decision. Let it not try to fool the people in that way and imagine that the pensioners will gain any benefit from its actions. The only electorates where the people will benefit from the abolition of the entertainments tax are the Australian Capital Territory, which I am proud to represent, and the Northern Territory. I suggest that we, as a nation, should clarify our thinking about the problems of the aged particularly. Care of the aged, the infirm, and the otherwise unfortunate is a national responsibility. This Parliament has assumed that responsibility and it should face up to it properly. We are inclined to delude ourselves about the problems and the conditions of those members of the community who have committed the crime of growing old and being no longer able to work. We tend either to shut them out of our minds or to delude ourselves with the belief that we are doing oar utmost for the aged and that they are constantly in our thoughts. We produce calendars with beautiful pictures of dear old ladies in shawls and mobcaps, plump and rosy cheeked, placidly knitting iia delightful garden settings in front of neat little rose-covered cottages. We have charming Darby and Joan pictures of old couples sitting hand in hand before glowing fires in well equipped and comfortable kitchens. We have all seen such pictures. They are in many homes; but whom are we fooling? Even the booklet on social services produced by the Department of Social Services - with the text of It I have no argument at all because it is very well prepared indeed - contains on page 18 a picture of a comfortably situated couple enjoying either a holiday at the seaside or a day at the beach. The old man is well clothed and well equipped with fishing gear. Obviously they are having a pleasant time. But the picture is not true of the great bulk of pensioners in this country. Not one of those pictures is absolutely true or anywhere near the truth of the pensioners, the aged and infirm. Many pensioners live in drab little rooms, apartments, shacks and shanties.
– What did Labour do for the pensioners when it was in office? It did not even increase pensions in its last budget.
– If the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) will possess his soul in patience he will hear and he will learn. At least I shall endeavour to convince him. Pensioners, to-day are facing daily problems of buying enough food and being able to afford sufficient power or fuel to provide themselves with the warmth they must have. That is the true picture. They cannot afford to buy fruit. Only the cheapest root vegetables are within their means. They cannot properly sustain themselves on the money provided for them. I know of an elderly woman in my electorate who occupies a single room in a shopping arcade in this city. It is a small modest room. It does not have a fireplace. She has only the minimum of cooking facilities. There is a small electric stove, an electric jug and an electric radiator. In addition to the charges she has to meet for rent, food and clothing, she has just received a quarterly electricity account for £7 7s. 5d., which works out at ls. 7½d. a day, or slightly more than lis. a week. She has to find that money somehow. To do so she will have to reduce other expenses. She has been forced to discontinue using the electric radiator. So let us see the picture a little more clearly than it has been painted by honorable members opposite.
The pensioners were deceived by this Government and they will continue to be deceived by it if they believe what is being said by Government supporters about the budget. In 1949, the then joint opposition parties produced their policy speech. The booklet containing the speech had on its cover a magnificent picture of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It really was a magnificent picture. Human kindness and sincerity seemed to shine from the right honorable gentleman’s countenance. But they must have been the products .of the photographer’s art, because they have not been reflected in the treatment of the pensioners by the Government that the right honorable gentleman leads. We recall the words of the Liberal leader at the 1949 electons - the words given as a pledge to this community and accepted by every candidate who stood under the Liberal party and Australian Country party banner. We need not look at the record to refresh our memories. We all know the words. The right honorable gentleman said -
The pensioners can rely on us for justice. . . This great human problem will have our earnest attention.
Those were the words of our present Prime Minister, uttered with unction and seeming sincerity, but now completely dishonoured. His other words on this subject were -
We will at least maintain the existing rates of pensions. Wo will increase their true value b increasing their purchasing power.
The value of pensions has not been maintained, far less increased, under this Government’s administration. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) used some strange and devious arithmetic in an endeavour to show by relation to cost of living figures prepared from the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, that pensions under this Government were higher than they would have been had Labour continued in office. The Prime Minister praised him for his speech, but he ignored the upward adjustments made to the basic wage by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court apart from- the quarterly adjustments and the comparison he made, therefore, was false. The plain fact is that at the time of the last pension adjustment made by the Chifley Government in 1948, the pension rate was 35.71 per cent, of the then basic wage. Pensions were not tied to the basic wage and it is not suggested that they should be so tied. But the basic wage, which is prescribed as the mere subsistence wage of a worker, is the only universal measuring stick of values that we have. In 1948-49 the age pension was 35.71 per’ cent, of the basic wage. Under this Government, the value of the pension in relation to the basic wage has consistently fallen. Even with the 2s. 6d. a week increase proposed under this budget, the age pension will be only 29 per cent, of the present needs basic wage. To restore to the age pension the value it had under the Chifley Government in 1948, it would be necessary to increase the rate to £4 2s. 6d. a week, and to increase the permissible income level to £2 15s. a week al; least.
The Menzies Government has completely dishonoured its 1949 pledge to the pensioners. No one doubts that. Not even honorable members opposite doubt it. They know their pledges have been dishonoured and they share the responsibility for that. Those who joined the Vice-President of the Executive Council in his cheering and paper-waving on the night of the presentation of the budget must share the blame. They know that the Government’s promise has been dishonoured. Let them face the pensioners in their electorates with that knowledge. If the Menzies Government had sought to honour its solemn undertaking to the aged and infirm, it would have increased pensions to at least £4 a week and raised the permissible income level to- £2 15s. a week at least. That would be necessary merely to honour the 1949 promise. As the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said, the incomingLabour Government will redeem the Menzies-Fadden promise. It is a matter of history that what Labour promises, Labour will do. ‘ In my view pension rates and social services generally should not be the plaything of Treasuryofficials or statisticians. They are the responsibility of this Parliament. The Parliament should assess what is adequate for the aged and infirm, the widowed and the unfortunate in the community. Benefits should then be fixed at those levels and the Parliament should say to the people frankly, “ This is our duty.. This is the right and proper thing to do “. The Parliament should then impose taxes at levels necessary to provide the finance required. It is -my belief that the community will not shirk its responsibilities; if the Parliament faces them fairly.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), in a somewhat hesitant defence of the Treasurer’s proposals, sought tobelittle the record of the Labour party in the field of social services legislation. Let us have a look at that record. TheCurtin Government came into power in 1941. For 23 of the 25 years prior tothat, anti-Labour governments were in control of the Parliament. During the other two years, there was a Labour government, frustrated by an anti-Labour Senate. So for the whole of that quarter of a century the anti-Labour parties were in control of the Parliament. When the Curtin Government came into office in 1941, the only social services benefits provided by the Commonwealth were age and invalid pensions, then paid at a maximum rate of £1 ls. 6d. a week; the maternity allowance, subject to a means test, paid at a rate ranging from £4 10s. to £7 10s.; and child endowment, which had been in force for only a few months - honorable members will recall that it was introduced by an anti-Labour government under threat - at the rate of 5s. a week. In a period of eight years, which included the war years and the years of reconstruction, Labour governments under Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley practically doubled the rates of age and invalid pensions by increasing them from £1 ls. 6d. to £2 2s. 6d. a week, with a considerable easing of the means test; more than trebled the initial amount of the maternity allowance by increasing it from £4 10s. to £15, abolishing the means test in relation to that benefit ; and doubled the amount of child endowment by increasing it from 5s. to- 10s. a week. In addition, they introduced many new social services benefits. They introduced the widows’ pension, aud thereby accepted federal responsibility for the payment of pensions to widows for the first time. They introduced unemployment and sickness benefits, special benefits for sufferers from tuberculosis and their dependants, allowances for the wives and children of invalid pensioners, and funeral benefits for age and invalid pensioners.
It is now a matter of history that the Labour governments of those days also introduced hospital benefits legislation and made a valiant attempt to put into force a pharmaceutical benefits scheme that would have been of immense value to the country had it not been thwarted by the British Medical Association. In addition, they eased substantially the operation of the means test for age and invalid pensioners by permitting earnings of up to £1 10s. a week and raising the property bar to £750. Those provisions remained unaltered by this Government until the presentation of this budget. Let those who sit on the Government benches realize that the promises made by their leaders to the pensioners of this country have been completely dishonoured. On that basis alone, the budget stands condemned.
It is proper that, as the representative of the Australian Capital Territory in this Parliament, I should refer to aspects of the budget that particularly affect that Territory. The budget fails to provide sufficient money for the proper and continuing development of our National Capital. It is time that the Parliament acted properly to develop the National Capital. It should be built as a responsibility of the country. Governments should say frankly to the people that this is their National Capital, and should obtain the finance that is necessary to build it properly. Let me refer to the need for increased housing in the Australian Capital Territory, in which the Government is the largest landlord. In this community, housing allocations are made on a fair and equitable basis. Any one who takes up residence” in the Australian Capital Territory registers for a house with the housing and accommodation branch of the Department of the Interior, and when his name comes to the top of the list he secures a house. He does not have to participate in a ballot. He does not have to trust to luck. When his name comes to the top of the list by the effluxion of time, he gets a house. There is a considerable waiting list for houses in the Australian Capital Territory. To-day, over 2,500 genuine applicants are waiting for houses. The time between registration and receipt of a house was reduced recently to about two years as a result of the increased rate at which completed houses were handed over to the Department of the Interior. But now the rate of building and the rate of handing over has fallen off, and the waiting time has been extended to something between 26. and 27 months.
People who are on the housing list must accommodate themselves somewhere during that time. They know that after 26 or 27 months they will get a house, but in the meantime they must accommodate themselves in government hostels, private boarding houses, shared rooms or garages. The Commonwealth accepts a financial responsibility in this connexion, because it pays allowances to married men whom it transfers from other cities and who are accommodated in government hostels here. If the Government is correct in saying that we have achieved stability in this country, and if production has increased to the degree suggested by the honorable member for Robertson, there is no reason why any one should wait for a house in this community. Is it a matter of men, money and materials? “We have been told that all are available. Within the next few years, when the new administrative block facing Parliament House has been completed, thousands of public servants will be transferred to Canberra from Melbourne and other centres. They will be required to leave their established homes in the suburbs and communities that they know and to take up residence in Canberra. There is no earthly reason why houses should not be waiting for them when they come here. To meet the needs, not only of those people who are on the waiting list at present, but also of the thousands of public servants who will be transferred to here, it is essential that the Government should make provision for the construction of at least 1,000 homes a year in Canberra during the next five years. That would necessitate an expenditure of approximately £4,000,000 a year, but repayment of the money would begin immediately tenants occupied the houses. There is no doubt that houses built in this growing community will be occupied. The present rate of construction of departmental houses in Canberra is about 500 a year. At that rate, the present waiting time will never be reduced. It will be extended, and even doubled, unless the rate of building is increased. The policy of the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Australian Labour party is to press for the construction of at least 1,000 houses a year in this city during the next five years so that the waiting time and all evils associated with it can be abolished.
There is one other aspect of developmen in the Australian Capital Territory in respect of which there is a very serious lag. I refer to the construction of schools. There is no reason why additional schools should not be constructed. Men, money and materials are available. The schoolsshould be built because the influx of new population when the new. administrativeblock has been completed will impose am increased strain upon accommodation -fear school children. A start should be made immediately on the Griffith primaryschool. It is useless for anybody to suggest that that cannot be done. That school should be built this year, because’, it would enable the overflow from Telopea Park school to be absorbed in a suburb from which the children come. That project has been removed from the Government’s programme for this year. It should’ be restored to the programme and the school should be built. In addition these is need for extensions of the Canberra High School, and the provision of a domestic science block at the TelopeaPark School, which will itself become a secondary school on completion of the new school a<t Griffith. The construction of a primary school at Turner, another suburb of Canberra, should be proceeded with, and there is need also for the construction of a school at Yarralumla. We cannot afford to lag behind in the construction of schools in Canberra. We should make available the necessary money, and proceed with the construction of homes and essential school’ facilities in the Australian Capital Territory. Our technical college is doing a magnificent job. About 1,100 students reattending its classes. I was present recently at its annual prize giving, which was a most impressive function. The college is housed in temporary structures, and to date the Government has not decided to build a permanent technical college in the Federal Capital. It should do so without delay. I hope that the Minister for the Interior Mr. Kent Hughes) will reconsider the decision toremove the Griffith school from the programme of works for this year. This project should be restored to that programme,, and the work should be placed in hand without delay. There are too many delays in connexion with the preparation of plans and bills of quantities. These things could be hurried along if the Government made up its mind to go ahead determinedly with the development of this capital city in the way tha* lit should he developed. It should see that adequate houses, schools, aud community facilities are provided as soon as’ ^possible.
.- E take this early opportunity to congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the very good budget speech that he delivered in this chamber on Wednesday night. I have noticed that I am not alone in my congratulations. Apart from the congratulations that have been offered by honorable members, a prominent Labour newspaper, the Mel.bourne Argus, has published a congratulatory article on its front page. It was headed in big red letters, in the way that ils typical of the Bartholomew group, “ A ‘Little Man’s Budget”. The Argus admitted that the budget would also benefit big business. It is axiomatic that if big business receives a benefit, in turn farther employment is provided for the little man of the community who, in the long run, will be more satisfied. I have wondered why no member of the Opposition has referred to the article in the Argus, because in the past honorable members opposite have been prone to quote from that newspaper frequently.
– I rise to order! Would I be in order, Mr. Temporary Chairman, in. asking the honorable member for Canning to read an extract from the leading article of the Daily Mirror ?
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) will resume his seat.
– The Daily Mirror is published in Sydney. I am referring to the Melbourne Argus, which was truthful for once when it stated that this is a little man’s budget. It is so good that honorable members opposite *re able to harp on only one aspect of it, which I shall deal with in a moment. They are absolutely bankrupt of constructive criticism. I was amazed yesterday to hear the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) hark back to the days of the coal strike in 1949. He accused the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer of not assistins: the then Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, to overcome that trouble.
I shall relate some of the history of the events at that time for the information of newcomers to this chamber and young people who will have an opportunity to record votes for the first time at the next general election. On the 21st June, 1949, after only one question had been asked and answered at the commencement of the day’s proceedings in this chamber, the right honorable member for Kooyong, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, was granted leave to make a statement about coal. After dealing with various aspects of the crisis that then existed in the coal industry, including references to the activities of the Joint Coal Board, the right honorable gentleman, as reported in Hansard, volume 202, at page 1181, stated -
I say, on behalf of the Opposition, that if it should turn out to be true - and the position should disclose itself very quickly - that further legislative powers ought to be taken by joint action of the same kind, then, by all means in our power, we shall facilitate the introduction of any necessary legislation, and also facilitate its discussion.
The right honorable gentleman pointed out that, although he was not prepared to abrogate his powers as Leader of the Opposition, he was prepared to help the Prime Minister of the day to pass legislation expeditiously through the Parliament. Nine days afterwards, when the position on the coal-fields was becoming worse, the right honorable gentleman asked the then Prime Minister the following question:-
In view of the fact that this Parliament, by consent of all parties, has passed emergency legislation to deal with the strike, and also in view of the fact that there is no difference of opinion among the parties in this House on the merits of the strike, will the Prime Minister consider a suggestion that he, together with the Leader of the Australian Country party, and myself as Leader of the Liberal party, should go to the coal-fields to express to the miners the views of all members of the Parliament. I may add that the Leader of the Australia Country party concurs in this suggestion.
As reported in Hansard, volume 203, at page 1802, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, replied -
The matter of delivering* addresses to the miners on the coal-fields has been already considered by the Government. It is felt that, at the moment, there is not a full realization by the miners of the foolishness of their action in voting in favour of the hold-up, which is causing such great hardship throughout Australia; but it is doubtful, in the light of previous experience, whether anything is to bc gained by addresses to miners.
He turned down flat the offer of the then Leader of the Opposition, who is now Prime Minister, to go with the present Treasurer to the coal-fields and speak to the miners. Subsequently, the then Prime Minister went away on his own and tried to do things. Great inconvenience was suffered at that time by thousands of people whose continued employment depended on the maintenance of the supply of coal, and thousands of men were thrown out of work.
The honorable member for Perth seemed to be at a loss to criticize this budget, because its provisions are se good. He stated that this Government had caused inflation. The late leader of the Labour party, Mr. Chifley, when speaking to the motion for the second reading of the Supply Bill (No. 2) 1953 on the 17th October, 1950, which was one of the last speeches that he delivered in the Parliament, as reported in Hansard, volume 209, at page 890, stated -
Neither this Government nor any other government can be blamed for the inflationary elements. World prices and various other factors have caused the situation that the government of every country has to face.
The right honorable gentleman went on to refer to the unpopular measures that had to be taken. Therefore, it is of no use for honorable members opposite to delve into history and to run away from this budget, which has been acclaimed by a newspaper that is sympathetic to the Australian Labour party. Honorable members opposite have criticized and condemned the budgetary proposals in relation to pensions. I have not heard one of them, from the Leader of the Opposition downwards, explain fully to the people the real meaning of the social services legislation that will implement the budget provisions. Instead of explaining the facts honorable gentlemen opposite have harped on one aspect and one aspect only-the increase of 2s. 6d. in the general pension rate. .That increase is better than the increase made in the last year of the Labour Government, which was an increase of precisely nil.
– Rubbish !
– The honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) says “ “ Rubbish “. The records will show whether my statement is rubbish or not. We have heard the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) claim that we could abolish the means test in one year. Why did not the Government of which he was a member do so during the so-called “golden age” in 1947 when the cost would have been only £47,000,000 as against the £100,000,000 it would cost to abolish the means test now? Is it the policy of honorable members opposite, in order merely to gain political advantage for themselves, to deprive pensioners of the benefits they will gain under this budget? Have they told the people that 120,000 out of 375,000 pensioners will receive increases of from 12s. 6d. to 32s. 6d. a week under our proposals? Have they told age pensioners that they may have insurance policies with a surrender value of £750 without affectingtheir rate of pension? Have they told them that under our proposals an agepensioner couple may have an income of £11 a week without affecting their rate of pension? Have they told them they can also have £319 in the bank and property worth £2,500 before they would be ineligible for pensions? They have not said one word about these things, but are intent on putting all sorts of snide ideas into the minds of the people. They are offering the pensioners, who form a considerable proportion of the community, the shadow for the substance. The Leader of the Opposition said that a Labour government’ would return the pension rate to the 1949 basis. As the honorable member for Sturt (MrWilson) and the Prime Minister pointed out last night, that would mean that, adjusted to cost of living increases since 1949, pensions would be £3 8s. 3d. a week instead of £3 10s. a week as the Government proposes.
Do honorable members opposite really mean the words that they have mouthed in this chamber during the last few days? If they do not mean them, then do they mean that they will increase the pension to £4 a week by legislation as the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable .member for Melbourne and other honorable members have said they will do if elected to office, and allow the pensioners to have a permissible income of £2 15s. a week? That would mean that an age pensioner couple who could earn would be able to receive £.13 10s. a week, when the basic wage itself is only £12. What will honorable members opposite then do about the basic wage-earner, who will be bringing less money into his home than an age pensioner couple will be receiving? When the Prime Minister was saying last night that age pensioners would be exempt from taxation up to an income of £750, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) interjected, and one of his colleagues said to him “Pipe down “. The honorable member foi Shortland said “ The Government taxes the basic wage earner “. Yet honorable gentlemen opposite allow their leader and others of their colleagues to utter in this House false proposals to allow a pensioner to have a permissible income of £2 15s. a week in addition to a pension rate of £4 a week which, as I have pointed out, would allow an age pensioner couple who were able to work to have an income amounting to £1 lUs. a week more than the basic wage-earner would receive. Then the honorable member for Melbourne, who is deputy Leader of the Opposition, said that the Opposition would return the position to the 1949 basis so that pensioners would receive 35 per cent, of the basic wage. It is time that honorable members opposite attempted to unify their views on this issue. I am certain that self-respecting aged people in the community will not be tricked by the balderdash uttered by honorable members opposite.
– We are trying to help the pensioners.
– By interjections and otherwise in this chamber, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) has attempted to convey the impression that he is somewhat of a mathematician. He is a man with an educational background. But he did not give the full facts regarding the Government’s pension proposals. He harped on the same old theme. When he was speaking a few moments ago, did he inform the age pensioners, or the people generally, of the benefits they would derive indirectly as a result of the proposed reduction of pay-roll tax, sales tax and income tax? By next April the pensioners will realize that, although tha increase of the general rate of pension is nominally 2s. 6d., in effect it will bc the equivalent of 7s. 6d., as a result of the decrease of prices that will follow the budget provisions. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory claimed that the Government had dishonoured its promises. He should inform himself more fully about the benefits that the Government has made available to pensioners since it took office and carried out the job of correcting the anomalies that were so apparent under the Labour Administration. Whilst concentrating their attention on the increase of 2s. 6d. of the general rate of pension, honorable members opposite say not one word about the increase of 10s. to be made to the pensions of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, and not a word about the exemption of blind people from taxes. They speak about the 2s. 6d. increase as though it applied to all pensions. They will not tell the real story.
– What about war widows?
– I know something about war widows because my daughter is one, but I shall not allow the honorable member to put me off the track. Members of the Opposition have spoken about the Government’s record in relation to repatriation benefits. I have said in this chamber before, and the statement will stand repetition, that I hope, when the enabling legislation is before the Parliament, honorable members on this side of the chamber will not do as honorable members opposite did in 1947, when we fought them regarding the means test on war pensions. I could name the honorable members who spoke one way and voted the other, but I shall keep that tit-bit in pickle until the legislation is introduced. The records of the House, which will show how the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and a few more honorable members opposite acted on that occasion, are available. There was also the occasion when honorable gentlemen opposite promised ex-servicemen who were paralysed below the hips free motor cars. In the result, those ex-servicemen got nothing from the honorable gentlemen but talk about free motor cars. Then there was the refusal of honorable gentlemen opposite, when in office, to pay a pension allowance in respect of the wives and children of disabled ex-servicemen of World War I., who had remained unmarried until after 1931. This Government has adjusted that matter. I could go on enumerating the failures and broken promises of honorable members opposite, but I am now merely giving them a foretaste of what lies ahead of them when the enabling legislation comes before us. I hope that all my colleagues will study this matter closely, so that when the legislation is being debated they will be able to remind honorable members opposite of Labour’s failures.
– We shall move generous amendments to the legislation.
– Honorable members opposite will have the opportunity to do that. Yesterday, when the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) spoke in the debate, I could not. distinguish clearly what he really meant, but I understood him to mean that the Government was not giving any incentive to the workers to increase production. This Government, as the Argus states, says that there are incentives for the working man in this budget. I ask honorable members opposite one question. What organizations in this country have stopped incentives from being given to the workers? The answer is, the Labour party and the trade unions. Even to-day’s newspapers publish reports of the argument between left wing and right wing of the Labour movement about incentive payments. Members of the executive of the Labour party recently said that the Government was not giving any incentive to the working man. It is the trade unions that are failing to give any incentive. The Government is glad to provide incentive.
Almost every member of the Opposition has claimed that the yardstick of the budget is the basic wage. I shall accept that statement. I shall ask Opposition members to examine the payments to the States by way of tax reimbursements, special grants and loans. They will then see that every payment made to the States since the financial year 1949-50 has been more than double what it was in that year.
The Government has been asking theStates to list their works in some order of priority. It has considered that instead of doing a little work on manyprojects, a State government should finish, its most important project first and theo, proceed to the next in order of importance. Is there any businessman, farmer. or even basic wage earner, working about his home, who does not plan his work and do each job in its order of importance? Of course not.
– What will thehonorable member be doing next weekend?
– I shall be opening; a fete at York for the war veterans and I shall then be going home to cultivate my ground. The Treasurer (SirArthur Fadden) has announced that thegrant to Western Australia in respect of” the financial year 1953-54 will be- £9,590,000, compared with £3,807,000: that was granted to that State in 1947-48- and £4,495,000 that was granted in 1948-49. The special grants for Western> Australia have doubled since 1947-48.. Opposition members have alleged that Labour governments are good governments. Last year, Western Australia, under a Liberal government, ‘ received’ £10,854,000 by way of tax reimbursements and supplementary grants and it will! receive £11,297,000 in this way for the current financial year. The first man tocreate unemployment in Western Australia since 1946 was Jack Tonkin, theDeputy Premier in the Labour Government, who dismissed 200 men while thePremier was absent in the United Kingdom. I hope that the Government willtransfer taxing powers back to the States. I am confident that the States will never have the best government until the menwho govern them shoulder some of theresponsibility of collecting the money that they require to carry out their work. Just as a son will not care how he spends money as long as he can obtain it freely from his father, so the States will spend money irresponsibly as long as they cam get it from the Commonwealth.
We have not heard any member of theLabour party discredit the Government’s proposal to exempt from pay-roll tax all’ pay-rolls under £4,160. Does the Opposition oppose that proposal?
– It is only a crumb.
– Then what about the average reduction in income tax of 12£ per cent.? The man on the small wage will have his taxation reduced by up to 27 per cent.
– And more for big companies.
– The reduction in company taxation will enable companies to keep men in employment. I think a lot of Opposition members would like to have more unemployment in this country than there is because they like to see people suffering. Was the man on the basic wage taxed by the Chifley Government ? No ! And he will not be taxed by this Government.
– Will he not pay sales tax ?
– The Opposition has been complaining about the income tax, The average basic wage in this country is £12 a week, or approximately £600 a year. A married man with one child in receipt of £600 a year will be allowed a deduction of £130 from his income for income tax purposes in respect of his wife and he will be allowed £78 on account of his child. That is a total deduction of £208 which leaves a taxable income of about £400. Under the Treasurer’s proposals a married man with one child on a taxable income of £400 will pay only £2 7s. a year in taxation which is less than ls. a week. But where is the man with a wife and child who could not claim an additional deduction of £50 on account of insurance, medical or dental payments? Nowhere! Consequently the man on the basic wage with a wife and one child will not have to pay tax to this Government.
– The honorable member is compiling his own figures.
– The honorable member can check them if he wishes. The man on the basic wage with a wife and two children will claim a deduction of £130 for his wife, £78 for the first child and £52 for the second. That is a total of £260 that he will be allowed without adding deductions on account of medical expenses and insurance so that his taxable income will be reduced to £340. With a taxable income of £340 he would not be liable for the payment of any tax and the tax on £350 is only 16s. a year, which is a fraction over 3d. a week. If this man could not claim deductions amounting to another couple of pounds he would be very lucky, because his family would have no medical expenses.
When the present Government came into office the country was beseiged with black markets, and shortages of all kinds. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) said that there was full and plenty in this land at that time. In that case it must have been all under the counter because ordinary citizens could never get what they wanted. Goods did not become freely available until this Government came to office. This Government has cleared our decks for action, it has helped the unions to get rid of their Communist controllers and it has abundantly increased production. At present the man on the land can buy Australian wire, piping and galvanized iron, whereas under the last Labour government he had to pay much higher prices for the imported products. In the short time of less than four years we have cleared our decks. Now, under this incentive budget, as it was called by the Argus, let us go forward and grasp our opportunities and take our rightful place in this world. If we take advantage of this budget between now and the next general election, our economic condition will be such that every voter in Australia will take a partin putting this Government back into power.
.- The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has travelled many trails during his speech, but I do not intend to follow him, however much I might be tempted to do so. I desire to address myself principally to the Government’s claim that equilibrium has been restored to our finances, and that because of its efforts the Australian economy is now stable. Since the conclusion of World War II., inflation, as well as affecting Australia, has plagued many countries of Europe, America and Asia. However, most of those countries have tackled the evil according to their own views on its proper cure. We, in Australia, have had to face the problem in the same way as the people of other countries and, indeed, the present Government was elected largely because it. promised that it would arrest inflation, prevent prices from rising and put greater purchasing power into the £1. I do not doubt that when the supporters of the Government made those promises they believed that, because of their political philosophy, they could honour them. They forgot that if the philosophy should prove to be wrong then, obviously, they would fail to carry out their promises. I suggest that whatever difficulties have arisen during the last three years and nine months have arisen because the Government has lacked a positive policy towards inflation, and because it has erred in judgment when it has endeavoured to deal with inflation in a piecemeal manner. Because of the inability of the Government to understand the economic problems caused by inflation and to take the necessary steps to solve them, we have experienced an unprecedented example of galloping inflation in this country. From the 1st January, 1950 to the 30th June, 1953, Australian retail prices increased by 56.4 per cent., ‘ and wholesale prices by 57 per cent. Never before in the history of Australia have we had such an unbridled increase of prices, an increase which, of course, has brought it all sorts of difficulties.
Because of our parlous economic condition, the present budget has been placed before us and, indeed, its balancing is contingent on the continuance of inflation. T suggest that the budget is based on inflation, tax reductions - such as they are - and finance by inflation. Now inflationary conditions are abnormal ; and as such they require abnormal remedies to keep them under control. It has been frequently said in this Parliament that our cost level is becoming too high, that prices in the United States of America, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand are considerably less than ours and that the whole of the difficulties under which we are labouring have been caused by our inability to produce more and produce.it more cheaply. The difficulties that we have suffered have been experienced by other countries also, but the United States of America, Canada and Great Britain, through the effective exercise of controls, have been able to stabilize prices, and have kept them stable for the past two years. On the other hand, our price level has continued to rise. In 1946, and again in 1948, the Chifley Government, realizing the difficulties into which the Australian economy was rapidly drifting because of inflation, sought to procure the amendment of the Constitution to enable inflation to be effectively fought. But on both occasions the forces against Labour, under the leadership of those who support the Government, defeated the referendums.
The members of the present Government threw their weight behind all efforts to prevent the Constitution from being amended to enable this Parliament effectively to control the dangerous tendency for prices to get out of hand. Their policy was to allow prices to find their own level. If that policy had been followed in Great Britain, that country, instead of being the great and powerful nation that it is to-day, would probably have been reduced to a second or third class power. Had the United States of America followed the same principles, instead of being able to re-establish itself it would have found itself in great difficulties. But because Canada, the United States of America and Great Britain followed certain recognized lines of control in regard to inflation, they have been able to stabilize prices and keep down the cost of living.
This Government has taken many actions during the past three years or so which the people were told were designed to bring equilibrium to the economy of the country. I propose to detail some of those steps in order to establish their effect on the economy so that the Government and the people may see where errors were made and what those errors have cost Australia. One of the first acts of this Government was to abolish capital issues control. The Government did that at a time when it was essential that whatever capital was available should be diverted into channels which would enable essential materials to be produced, in order to stimulate our economy to the fullest possible extent. Because capital issues control was abolished, capital was not made available for the production of basic raw material for the development of the nation, but was diverted into non-essential industries. Then, like a bolt from the blue, the Government announced that it intended to dismiss 10,000 public servants. No reason was given why 10,000 should be dismissed, and at the same time as the Government decided to do that it decided to increase the cost of postal and telegraph services. Although obviously the Government required greater efficiency from the Postal Department, 5,000 of the 10,000 public servants dismissed were taken from that department, thus preventing it from giving proper service to the people of Australia. The sole result of the dismissals was that State governments, which were short of labour, were able to take over the displaced Commonwealth public servants. State instrumentalities were thus enabled to function a little more effectively.
Tha Government then suddenly decided to re-institute capital issues control, and industries were divided into three categories: essential, less essential and nonessential. Credit restrictions were then enforced in accordance with the three arbitrary divisions of our national life. Those restrictions attacked the economiclife of the community in a way which probably was never intended by the Government. The consequence was that events which the Government had not foreseen commenced to happen with startling rapidity. Retailers who were classed as non-essential could not obtain credit. But, of course, retailers function only because they are able to purchase goods from manufacturers. The manufacturers of essential materials found that they could not sell the goods that they were manufacturing, and immediately there was a tendency for unemployment to increase. A classic example of that train of events was the textile industry, from which many employees were dismissed because wholesalers and retailers were not able to purchase the goods being manufactured, although those goods were in short supply and required by the community. The effect of the restrictions upon the building of houses was disastrous. Credit for co-operative housing schemes and builders generally was severely restricted. Despite the fact that our population was growing, with many thousands of people being brought here from overseas, housing activity was retarded and commenced to decline. The result was that unemployment in the housing industry began to increase.
The Government did not stop at that point, however. For a reason which does not appear satisfactory to me, it decided that the interest rate should be increased. The result of that action was even more disastrous to the economy than was the restriction of credit. The increasing of the interest rate led to depreciation of the capital value of bonds, so that investors became shy of investing their funds. In consequence, public loans could not be filled, which meant that essential development work had to be slowed down. In my electorate, the construction of the Cairn-Curren Reservoir, on which several hundred men were employed, had to cease. The employees were dismissed, although the project was designed to provide additional water supplies and thus increase primary production. . Similar events occurred in every State of the Commonwealth. Unemployment was rapidly growing, not because the demand for labour was lacking, or because there was no work on which labour could be usefully and profitably employed, but because of the mistake which the Government made in increasing the interest rate. The investing public became timid and were not prepared to put their money into Commonwealth loans. Public confidence gradually waned.
In addition to the events to which I have just referred, the wool boom of 1951 brought many hundreds of millions of pounds into the country, a fact which gave all of us cause to rejoice. However, the Government failed to recognize the very grave responsibility cast upon its shoulders by the enormous consequential increase of our London funds. Statesmen, wise and prudent administrators, would have foreseen that, with such a tremendous increase in our overseas balances, it would be necessary to keep a tight hand on imports into this country; otherwise, it would bo relatively easy for our overseas balances to be destroyed. However, the members of this
Government displayed no such foresight. I remember, in October, 1951, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) addressing this House upon the budget of that year. The right honorable gentleman claimed great credit for the Government because it was encouraging,, to the greatest degree possible, the importation of goods from other countries in order to overcome shortages that were said to exist here. Approximately five months after that speech, on the Sth March, 1952, the dramatic announcement was made that our overseas funds had shrunk almost to vanishing point and that the harshest and most ruthless restrictions of imports ever known in this country would be put into operation.
Those restrictions affected manufacturers and importers alike. Manufacturers whose raw materials came from overseas, and those who imported goods for commercial purposes, were equally adversely affected. The result was that general confusion became evident. Unemployment and lack of public confidence were to be seen everywhere. Perhaps the conditions that then existed may best be described in the following words: -
A year aero, relatively few people were disposed to look ahead, to guard against economic dangers, or to encourage steps to steady down the inflationary boom. To-day, there are hundreds of thousands who have become apprehensive of the future.
That statement was made by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) when introducing the budget in August,” 1952. It indicates the degree of bewilderment that existed amongst Australians everywhere, and the chaos that had been caused by the actions of this Government.
How did the workers, the producers in the community, fare as a result of these events? From the end of “World War II. until 1951 we had witnessed the constant growth of employment of civilians in the Commonwealth. There was no unemployment. More important, each year we were able to add to our work force people in excess of those who dropped out due to natural wastage consequent on persons dying, becoming too old to work, or retiring because of invalidity. Each year, from June, 1945, when our total civilian work force was 1,913,000, that force substantially increased. In 1948, its number had risen ifr. Clarey. to 2.374,000, and in 1950 to 2,546,000. In 1951, before the full effect of the Government’s actions in its presumed fight against inflation had been felt by the community, the work force had increased to 2,630,000. But since then, in spite of the fact that we have been bringing immigrants into Australia in large numbers - in one year we brought no fewer than 150,000 - and that the population is constantly being added to by natural increase, our work force has gradually dwindled. In 1952, the number of workers had fallen to 2,587,000. According to the latest figures available to me from the Commonwealth Statistician, by May, 1953, our work force had fallen to 2,559,000. These figures, however, do not tell the whole story. Each year approximately 30,000 young people leave school and commence work. So, in the two years, from 1951 to 1953, no fewer than 60,000 additional persons were available for absorption into industry. In addition 80,000 immigrants were brought t<# Australia, who were also eligible and desired to join the work force. Thus, 210,000 additional persons were available for employment in that period ; but employment declined by approximately 70,000 persons compared with the number employed in 1951. It is not my intention to argue about the number of persons who are unemployed in Australia to-day. I merely point out to the committee that 210,000 additional persons were available to join the work force of the community, but 70,000 fewer persons were employed by comparison with 1951. Jobs for 270,000 persons, less the normal wastage that takes place in industry each year, would have been made available had our economy been directed on right lines during the last two years. I suggest that this trend is directly attributable to the failure of the Government to apply the best means for combating inflation as has been done in Canada, the United States of America and Great Britain. Worse still is the fact that these conditions have brought with them consequences which may very well lead to the most tragic depression that has ever been inflicted upon our people.
We all agree that increased production is necessary. The trade union movement, the Australian Labour party and the members of the parties which constitute and support the Government in this chamber have all agreed that increased production is essential if we are to secure the best results from our natural heritage, improve our standard of living and make available to other parts of the world the foodstuffs and other commodities that are so badly needed. We cannot achieve these desirable objectives unless we provide the means by which production may be increased. I need scarcely point out that twenty men working with the fury of desperation cannot move in twelve hours as much as a bulldozer can move in a single hour. Our great problem is the shortage of capital equipment. I shall cite some figures to indicate the extent of the problem. In Australia to-day the average value of plant, land, buildings and machinery to each employee engaged in industry is £535. If we exclude electricity and gas generation the figure is £475. In the United States of America the average is approximately £2,500 expressed in Australian currency. We can increase our production only by the constant improvement of techniques, the installation of the most up-to-date plant and the utilization of labour-saving devices. The Chifley Government endeavoured to encourage increased production by granting an initial depreciation allowance in respect of new machinery for taxation purposes. Such increased production as has been achieved during the last three or four years was made possible as the result of the encouragement and incentive given to manufacturers and producers by the Labour Government to bring their plants up to date and to utilize the latest laboursaving devices. Unfortunately, this Government which has done little but talk of the necessity to increase production, wiped out the initial depreciation allowance and thus discouraged producers.
When this Government assumed office it was given an opportunity that comes only once in a century to the government of any country, but it failed to grasp it. During the period when there was a rising tide of inflation in other countries it should have taken advantage of A Lol; ilia’s position as a COUntry - with the lowest price level in the world. Had we been able to retain the price levels that prevailed after the termination of World War II. we should have been able to develop our primary and secondary industries to such an extent that they would be able to hold their own in the markets of the world against the sharp impact of competitive world prices. Instead, it allowed inflation in Australia to run on unchecked until to-day many of our industries which manufacture commodities such as processed milk and canned goods are unable to hold their own in the world’s market. Our great fruit canning concerns, which have installed the best machinery available in the world, are able to hold their own only because of shortages of dollars in Great Britain. The cost of producing a bushel of wheat has risen to lis. lid., and of a pound of butter to 4s. 3d. If there should be a fall in world prices our primary producers would face a state of chaos similar to that which existed during the depression period in the ‘thirties.
The difficulties that confront Australia to-day, whatever they may be, are solely due to the indecision, hesitation, bungling and muddling of this Government, and as a consequence we may yet witness the onset’ of another depression should there be a drop in world prices.
.- Honorable members have listened to a thoughtful analysis of the economic situation by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). There are some strange contradictions in his speech, but he made a good case as he sees it. However, he did not go far enough. Many factors that he has detailed to the committee have been outside the control of this Government. They are factors which can be controlled only after the elapse of time. The honorable member for Bendigo is a well-known figure in the trade union movement and I direct his attention to submissions that were made bv the counsel for the trade unions in the wages and hours case before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. They said that the period of inflation was over. The way has been hard, but through the efforts of this Government, we have reached the end of thic- leng and arduous period. I remind the honorable member for
Bendigo that the continuous pressure for increased wages by the trade unions, when those increases cannot mean a rise in the standard of living, is primarily responsible for the rise in costs and intiation. I refer the honorable member to a judgment of Judge Poster, who stated in 1950-
I shall be concerned with the fact that an increase in the basic wage which will eventually permeate the whole wage structure will increase prices and so add its modicum of inflationary’ pressure, but inflation and its control are matters for the Government.
Honorable members on the Opposition side seem to believe that by some abracadabra, the Government can pass a law and kill inflation overnight. To do that takes time and sacrifice. “We are reaching the end of that journey now and the time has come to give some relief to the Australian people. The honorable member for Bendigo has said that Australia faces the loss of overseas markets because of inability to compete on the basis of cost of production, both in primary and secondary industries. He said that the depreciation allowance on machinery restored an impetus to the mechanization of industry and that if we were to compete with other countries, we could do so only with the help of such measures. In the next breath he said that although the food-canning industry of Australia was equipped with the most modern machinery, we were still losing our markets. Obviously there is another factor in the problem to which the honorable member understandably did not want to refer. That factor is the rate of manhour production. “While the so-called responsible heads of Australian trade unions still advocate more pay for less work, this country will continue to suffer the ill-effect3 of inflation, and only the beneficient work of this Government can relieve the situation.
I direct the attention of the committee now to the somewhat painful speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who expressed the opinions of the Opposition on this budget. The right honorable gentleman is deserving .of sympathy because he had the distasteful task of taking a magnificent economic document and trying to wring from it as much grief as possible. It must be obnoxious to him to peddle to the people not an objectiveanalysis of the budget, but a propaganda line which cannot even have the virtue of being based on fact if it is to have any influence in boosting the newly depressed fortunes of his followers. It must be done in the sacred name of the party and with one eye on the treasury bench which, like a mirage, recedes as the Australian Labour party reaches for it.
Honorable members have heard fromthe Leader of the Opposition variations of the old Labour socialist theme. They cry, “ Down with business “ a3 though this young country could get along without business, industry and commerce. The Leader of the Opposition selected for his attacks the one company in Australia that is capable of earning a gross profit of £8,000,000 a year. By extraordinary mental efforts, he attempted to compareit with the fortunes of an age pensioner, who is to receive 2s. 6d. more each week,, not as the full benefit of this Government’s provisions, but as the mere start of its social services benefits. The honorable member for Bendigo claimed that the investment of £475 of somebody’s savings or earnings in land, plant and machinery was needed to provide a job for a worker. I question the honorable member’s figure. The correct figure is considerably higher. It requires somebody’s investment in industry to provide a job. Does the honorable member not understand that profits invariably find their way back to industry and create more and more profitable jobs for the people? Australia’s ability to compete in the world’s markets depends largely on the amount of capital that is available to Australian industry. Fortunately, we live under a Liberal democratic government; which encourages the investment of money in industry and not under a miserable socialist system, as the Opposition would have us. We must undo thedamage done by the Labour party which constantly creates an unfortunate atmosphere in which it condemns the earning, of profits from industry as though there were something immoral about profits.
– The workers producethem.
– They would not doso but for the fact that somebody has- invested capital in tools and machinery and other means of production. Profits from industry are nothing more than payment for the use of those tools of production. Success appears to be a crime in the eyes of the Australian Labour party. The greatest contributions to social services benefits are made from the profits of industry to which honorable members opposite object. If there were no profits in Australian industry, there would be no social services. The Opposition has taken the most superficial view of the budget. Finding little to criticize, it has concentrated its attack on the social services provisions of the budget. Honorable members opposite speak of the increase of 2s. 6d. in the pensions rate as though it were the be all and end all of benefits to pensioners. The plain fact is that they have had to distort the picture in an endeavour to curry a little favour with those who are genuinely concerned about the welfare of pensioners. There is nobody on either side of this chamber who would not gladly double the scale of pensions if it were possible. The Leader of the Opposition has no illusions about that, and he was very careful not to promise too much himself. He hedged as usual. In the policy speech he delivered during the recent Senate election campaign, the right honorable gentleman said -
I wish to speak very frankly to the pensioners. It may not lie possible for a Labour government, when it comes to office, to make the pension rate as much as it would desire.
The Government cannot pay as high a pension as it would desire for reasons to which I shall refer. The quotation continues -
What is possible will have to be decided in the light of the financial position and in the light of the total commitments necessary in the field of social services.
Obviously, the Leader of the Opposition holds out no great hope that he will satisfy every requirement of the pensioner. The real fact is that the payment of social benefits can only come from production. Once again, the Leader of the Opposition has no illusions about this matter. He is anr intelligent man, and the unfortunate peddling of this miserable case, in which he himself does not believe, is the price that he has to pay for his uncertain leadership of the Labour party. The right honorable gentleman also said -
Social services cannot safely be provided either from national credit or from credit, but must be provided for .from current production.
Taxation, if it is inhibiting production - and nobody can doubt that it is - may readily dry up the funds from which social services benefits alone can come. It would be the most short-sighted policy that would have the effect of drying up the source of benefits. It would be only killing the goose which lays the golden egg. Making provision for the continued payment of social services by looking after the health of our production and profit-earning industries is one of the wisest and most long-sighted policies that this Government can adopt. If the Government did otherwise a. major disservice would be done to the Australian economy.
This budget also, adds £18,500,000 to the cost of the welfare State, and brings the total figure up to £184,000,000. The welfare State will absorb almost 20 per cent, of the national expenditure. Thoughtful people are already concerned about the growing cost of the welfare State in Australia. We have seen the development overseas, where the welfare State threatens to take control of national economies. I assert, with a full sense of responsibility, that no responsible government can let this matter get out of hand. Some semblance of balance must be retained between the various items in its budget. I offer no opinion on the expansion of the welfare State. I have no objection to it if the economy can stand the strain. But the costs of welfare in Australia will inevitably rise. If provision for welfare can only come out of production, the only intelligent course for this Government to follow 13 to encourage production as a condition of maintaining social services. Of course, the Government has done so in the most forthright fashion in this budget. This is the most direct kind of protection for those who now, or who will in the future, depend on social benefits.
I now direct my attention -to the social services benefits section of the budget. Opposition members have spoken- as if an increase of the payment by 2s. 6d. a week is the limit of the benefit, whereas, in fact, it is only the beginning. The greatest benefit is the relaxation of the means test, which is one step towards what I hope will be the complete abolition of the means test. As the result of the relaxation of the means test, pensions which have been paid in part will become full pensions, and no fewer than 120,000 persons will.receive increments, not of 2s. 6d. a week, but of from 12s. 6d. to 32s. 6d. a week each. It is also interesting to note that an additional 10,000 persons will become eligible for benefits, not only in cash, but also through their participation in the free doctor and free medicine schemes, which are the invention and pride of this Government.
It is not to be supposed that those who are relying on social services benefits will receive no additional benefits from the general provisions of the budget. Comparisons between the provisions made by preceding governments may be misleading, and I am not one who quotes what has happened in the past and claims, without qualification, that a valid comparison can be made, because inevitably the background of these matters changes. However, I point out that in the last four years of the Labour Government’s administration, age pensioners received a total increment of 10s. a week, or an average of 2s. 6d. a week. In the four years of this Government’s administration, age pensioners have received benefits amounting to 27s. 6d. a week, plus the free doctor and free medicine services.
– That money is paid to them now in Menzies currency.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) may make any point from this comparison that he chooses; but the plain fact is that for the last twelve months, retail costs rose by only 4 per cent., whereas in the last year of the administration of the Chifley Labour Government, retail costs were rising by 12 per cent, per annum. The Chifley Government bequeathed this legacy to the Menzies Government and we have been struggling with it ever since.
The heartening aspect of the budget is the broad front of its attack on taxa tion. It is a long time since this country has had a government with the ability and courage to abolish some taxes. The abolition of the entertainments tax so soon after the abolition of the land tax is the best augury for the people of more to come. I am most gratified with the reductions of the sales tax. The substitution of two scales for four scales is an advantage, and the reduction in the higher rate of tax is most satisfactory. I make no secret of my own view that I could never justify, on moral grounds, the higher rates of sales tax which were applied under the previous budget. Therefore, the reductions that will be made this year are doubly welcome to me. The most important point about the reduction in the number of scales, and the simplification of the sales tax, is the relief that will be given to industry and commerce, which has had to administer and police the regulations, and collect the tax as the unpaid agents of the Government. Commerce and industry will appreciate to the full the benefits which this section of the budget grants to them.
I shall refer briefly to the pay-roll tax, because the Government’s decision in this respect is one of the most constructive that has been taken. I realize, in view of the reductions that have been given in the budget, that it is not possible to abolish the pay-roll tax, although I still do not regard it as sound. I am sure that the Government shares my view. The plain fact is that the increase of the exemption from £20 to £S0 a week will exempt from the tax 50,000 small business men who are at once the backbone of the economy, and the seed bed from which future industries will spring under private enterprise. The proposal in respect of the pay-roll tax will relieve those businessmen of the duty to prepare returns which, to most of them, is almost as painful as paying the tax itself. Although revenue will lose £5,000.000 by the granting of this exemption, Australian consumers may well benefit by £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 because of a reduction of retail costs.
I a,m particularly gratified to see the cancellation from our expenditure of the comparatively small sum of £1.000.000, which has been paid for some years to State governments by way of a. subsidy for the maintenance of prices control. I make that statement because I believe that prices control has no part in a free enterprise economy, for which this Government stands. If anybody wants to have a new appreciation of what prices control can do in a negative sort of way, he has only to look at the picture of New South Wales, where rent control, as administered by a socialist government, has almost destroyed investment building and contributed largely to the continuance of the housing difficulty in that State. The cancellation of the differential rates of tax on income from property is also a step in the right direction, and will encourage additional investment in productive industry. As the honorable’ member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) said, the rising cost structure in industry has cast the shadow of crisis over this country. Under this budget, the Government is making a most constructive frontal attack upon that problem. When the benefits of the budget begin to flow their effect will become apparent in an expanding economy and further taxation relief in future years.
This is an adventurous budget. The Government’s dependence upon an expanding economy to support its courageous budgeting is evidence of its faith in private enterprise. The confidence of Government supporters in this country’s future contrasts strangely with the fear and foreboding which members of the Australian Labour party sought to foster, but unsuccessfully, in the minds of the Australian people during the recent election campaign for the Senate. They prophesied unemployment and the almost utter collapse of our economy. Either the Leader of the Opposition was completely misled and misjudged the situation, or his party endeavoured to perpetrate a most wicked and cruel deception on the people, who, if they have not already formed their own conclusions, will be interested to learn the Australian Labour party’s explanation for the attitude that it adopted during the course of that campaign. The Opposition may criticize whatever provisions of the budget they wish ; but, having regard to the number and extent of the concessions that are being made, such criticism is merely carping criticism. The undeniable fact is that, under this budget, everybody in this country will pay less tax, whilst there is every prospect of the Government being able to afford still further relief to them. Obviously, honorable members opposite find themselves in a dilemma. If, during the recent election campaign for the Senate, they genuinely believed that our economy was unsound and that unemployment threatened to increase, they cannot now deny to this Government the credit for having brought about a magnificent and speedy recovery. If they deny that credit to the Government, then they stand guilty of having practised a wicked and cruel deception on the people. I do not believe that the Australian people will be taken in by that sort of clap trap in the future.
The Leader of the Opposition described this budget as a panic budget, but events in this chamber during the last few days clearly show that he could have applied that term more appropriately to the reactions of his own followers to the budget. He accused the Government of making concessions to appease its electoral supporters. That, of course, would not be a new technique and, certainly, it would not be exclusive to the Government parties. However, the right honorable gentleman produced no evidence to support that charge. If he has not altogether lost all sense of the fitness of things, he will recall somewhat wistfully his own pleasure in watching the Government sponsor unpopular legislation in order to retrieve and restore an economy that had already been shattered when it assumed office. Surely, he would not deny to the Government some pleasure from the fact that it has survived its weary journey and now finds itself in a position in which it is able to reward the Australian people with the fruits of their own economic sacrifice. The improvement that the Government has effected can best be judged by comparing the state of our economy in 1949 with conditions that exist to-day, and in that respect I direct the attention of the committee to the submissions that counsel for the trade unions made to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the wages and hours case, the hearing of which has just been completed. That gentleman submitted that the correct comparison to be made in this respect was not between the conditions that existed in 1950 and those existing to-day, but between the conditions that existed in 1949 and those that exist to-day. Honorable members will be well aware that in 1949, when this Government assumed office, a situation existed in which transport was in the doldrums, the shortage of electric power was effectively rationing productive effort, and shortages of steel and coal and of almost every basic raw material of industry, both primary and secondary, were effectively braking the economy. Over-full employment had all but destroyed industrial discipline. However, the position, to-day, is dramatically different; and that difference was clearly expressed by the trade unions’ advocate in the recent wages and hours case when, presenting his argument to the court, he sa id -
It is submitted that the capacity of the economy to sustain a high level of real wages is better than in 1049-50. Productivity has greatly increased not only because labour and material shortages have been almost eliminated but also because of the high rate of, capital investment in recent years. Primary production is flourishing, exports have expanded and overseas funds are rising (with a current account surplus), retail trade is improving, employment is rising, available supplies are higher and the economy is better balanced. The difference between earnings and award wages is higher than in 1949-50 and profits have continued to rise despite difficult trading conditions due to overstocking and restrictions of credit. Inflationary pressure has virtually disappeared. Overseas investment in Australian industry has continued at a high level.
That is the picture in Australia at present, and it is that picture which this budget will translate into benefits to the Australian taxpayers on a scale unprecedented in the history of this country. This budget is the product of good government and sound administration. Honorable members on this side of the House wholeheartedly support it and are confident that it will be received with satisfaction by everybody in the community with the exception, of course, of honorable members opposite, to whom, alone, it is unfair.
.- The only point on which I find myself in agreement with the honorable member for
Paterson (Mr. Fairhall) was in respect of his laudatory reference to certain remarks which were made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). I am sure that the committee is grateful to the honorable member for Bendigo for the analysis that he made of our present economic position. I concur in his comment on the persistent bungling and indecision that has marked the economic career of this Government. I do not for one moment agree with Government supporters that this budget is the last word in budgets, or that it is anything like the greatest budget that has ever been presented to any parliament in the world. That was the impression that one might lave gained from the remarks of the honorable member for Paterson and his colleagues. The inconsistency of the Government’s policy has been thrown into sharp relief in the budget now before us. I cite, for instance, its handling of problems related to our internal and external trade. First, it restricted imports and then relaxed them ; and, later, it again restricted them, and again relaxed them with the result that industry generally has been thrown into confusion and is now on the verge of despair. One of the boasts of Government supporters is that the Government is again relaxing imports. During August, as a result of such a policy, we had an adverse trade balance. Unfortunately, I am forced to the conclusion that that is an indication of things to come. That unfavorable situation has arisen as a result of the uncertain and dilatory, methods of the Government in dealing, not only with our trade, but also with our other economic problems. The relaxation of import restrictions is now apparently to become the guiding principle of this Government’s policy. That fact is indicated by the following statement which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made to the press : -
Quotas for imports from the general group of countries excluding the dollar countries and Japan will be increased by a further percentage on the base year. An extensive list of essential items at present under administrative control will bc licensed without restriction, subject only to the production of evidence that the goods can be imported within one month from the date of the issue of the licence.
The right honorable gentleman referred, of course, to imports from J Japan. So the
Australian community faces the prospect of a Japanese Christmas. Our children will probably find Japanese toys in their Christmas .stockings, and our stores will be filled with Japanese goods of all sorts. That policy can do only harm to a number of important Australian manufacturing industries. A persistent rumour is circulating in Parliament House to the effect that certain senior Ministers are seriously considering the devaluation of the Australian £1. If the Government wishes to deny the story, it should make a public statement immediately, because many Australians fear that it plans to make such a move in the immediate future.
– Whom will the Government tell first?
– That is a point to be considered.
Government supporters have quoted laudatory references to the budget, but they have carefully avoided any mention of the criticisms that have been expressed by thousands of people who belong to the most deserving classes in the- community. Let us acknowledge the good features of the budget, but let us also consider the bad ones. I am prepared to concede that the budget has been hailed with approval by such bodies as the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Manufactures, the Employers Federation, the Retail Jewellers Association, the Graziers Federal Council, the National Farmers Union, the Australian Council of - Retailers, the Taxpayers Association, and the Master Drapers Association. All these bodies, and others like them, have united in a chorus of approval. But none of them represents the wage-earners, the invalid and age pensioners, or the war pensioners. There is a reverse side to the bright picture that Government supporters have painted. Perhaps those honorable members will be interested to hear some of the critical comments that have been made by prominent members of the community. They are the comments upon which the Opposition has based its attack on the budget. The Federal Secretary of the Limbless Soldiers Association, Mr. C. R. Laraghy, said -
The miserable increase of 2s. fid. on the 100 per cent, base rate of war pension will mean that a limbless soldier with an amputated leg or arm will receive an additional 1b. 10½d. a week.
So a limbless ex-serviceman is to receive the benefit of an additional 3d. a day! Sir George Holland, federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, made the following comment on the much vaunted budget:-
The meagre war service pension increases were a slap in the face to men and women who had suffered in the war.
Mr. J. L. Neylon, the acting president of the War Widows Guild, has not joined with Government supporters in the chorus of praise. This is his view of the budget -
War widows will be disgusted by the 2s. 6d. increase in their pensions. This shows more than ever that war widows are a forgotten race.
Certainly they have been neglected by this Government, and, therefore, it is the duty of the Opposition to speak for them. We point to the defects in the budget, not for the purpose of wringing a reluctant tear from the Treasurer, but in order that the people will know the truth about this miserable document. I shall quote only two further comments about it. Mr. N. D. Wilson, president of the Victorian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, said -
The increases in the budget are a public insult to men and women who have served their country.
Mr. W. Yeo, president of the New South Wales branch of the league, said -
I am dumbfounded to hear of such paltry concessions to war invalid pensioners. I am also astounded that many of the ex-servicemen on the Government side of the House should have allowed the Treasurer to get away with it
The Opposition, too, is astonished that the Treasurer should be able to get away with such niggardly concessions while his supine followers try to prove to the people of Australia that the budget is a benevolent one. The truth is that it is a two-and-sixpenny budget which offers only the most meagre concessions to the most needy and deserving members of the community. Every civilized government has a duty to care for the sick, the distressed and the necessitous. There are so many such citizens in Australia, in the ranks of pensioners and other recipients of social services benefits, that the budget clearly is anything but benevolent. It may astonish honorable members on the Government side of the chamber to learn that, even excluding persons who receive child endowment, the tuberculosis allowance, and unemployment and sickness benefits, there are over 1,000,000 persons in the community who receive some sort of continuous government assistance. The details are as follows: -
I point out, in passing, that the 18,000 dependants of invalid pensioners will receive nothing extra under the terms of the budget. With the exception of a few special instances, to which I shall refer later, the remaining persons in that list will receive a paltry 2s. 6d. a week. This increase will not restore war, invalid or age pensions to the proportion of the basic wage that prevailed during the final years of the Labour Government’s administration. When the Chifley Government went out of office, the basic wage was 116s. a week and the rate of pension was 42s. 6d. a week. Notwithstanding the arguments of Government supporters about the “ C “ series index, the only true indicator of purchasing power in the Commonwealth is the basic wage. That is why I make this comparison. The proportion of the pension rate to the basic wage at that time was 36.6 per cent. This benevolent Government has reduced the proportion since it has been in office. In 1950, it was 30 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1951 it was 31 per cent., and in 1952, 28.5 per cent. Even with the half-crown rise announced in the budget, which will bring the pension to 70s. a week, it will be only 29.3 per cent, of the basic wage, which now stands at 235s. a week. That is the lowest figure that the pension has reached in the last ten years, with the exception of 1952. That is how justice is being done to age and invalid pensioners.
Let us have a look now at the pension payable to class A widows. This pension was established by the Labour Government in 1942, and during Labour’s term of office it was never less than 331/3 per cent, of the basic wage. By the time Labour relinquished office, the class A widows’ pension had reached 41 per cent, of the basic wage. To-day, even with the proposed increase of 2s. 6d. a week, which will bring the pension to 75s. a week, it will be only 31 per cent, of the basic wage. If only the average payment made by Labour during its term of office were to operate to-day, the widows’ pension would be not £3 15s. a week but £4 9s. a week, or 38 per cent, of the basic wage. If the ratio which existed at the time Labour relinquished office was in operation now, the age or invalid pension would be £4 6s. a week. Yet, this Government talks of justice, and says that it is spreading its benevolent mantle over all classes in the community! Figures that I and other members of the Opposition have given clearly disprove that claim. We are not trying to squeeze out a reluctant tear over something that does not exist. We are merely pointing out that, although this budget does give some concessions, it does practically nothing for 1,000,000 members of thecommunity who receive continuous social services payments.
The story is the same in other fields. We are told that sales tax has now reached reasonable levels. It is undeniable that in the years since this Government has been in office sales tax collections have reached inordinate figures which are out of all proportion to justice and necessity. In the nineteen years of the existence of sales tax between 1931 and 1949, £404,000,000 was collected by the various governments that held office. The average was £21,000,000 a year. In the four years of office of this Government collections from sales tax have averaged £80,000,000 a year. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; progress reported.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Telegraphs Agreement -
Commonwealth Telecommunications Board - Second General Report for 1952, and Statement of Accounts to 31st March, 1952.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1953 -
No. 58- - Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists’ Union.
No. 59- Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 60 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act Canberra University College Ordinance - - Canberra University College - Report for 1952.
House adjourned at 5.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
With reference to the death of two scientists attached to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in a tragic air accident on the 27th October, 1952, whilst engaged in research connected with their official duties, will he state what amount of compensation is to be paid to the widows and families of the deceased officersand when it is expected that payment will he made.
Mr. MENZIES. - On the 27th July, 1953, the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization wrote to the honorable member inreply to his question, as follows: -
The amount of compensation for which the wives and families are eligible under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act is, in the case of Mrs. Styles and family £1,575, and in the case of Mrs. Campbell and family £1,650. It is a pre-requisite to any payment being made under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act that a claim be submitted by the dependants. Mrs. Styles and Mrs. Campbell have been informed of this requirement but so far no claim has been made. A payment cannot be made until this requirement is fulfilled.
In addition, the wives and families of both officers will be eligible to receive an ex gratia payment of £2,000 since Messrs. Styles and Campbell were killed in an air accident. This ex gratia payment would be made on the approval of the Treasurer. No action has been taken in regard to such payment pending the receipt of the claims for payment under the” Compensation Act mentioned above.
However, as Mrs. Styles and Mrs. Campbell have served writs on the Commonwealth, each claiming for compensation of £20,000, no action can be taken in regard to cither of the above payments until the outcome of the court proceedings is known.
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19530918_reps_20_hor1/>.