20th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron;) took the chair at -2.30 “p.m., and read prayers.
– My question, directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, relates to tie statement that the Government has agreed to refer to the International Court of Justice the question of Australian jurisdiction over fisheries .beyond territorial limits. In view of the vital ‘importance of. such. a decision in relation not only to fisheries hut also to defence, will the .Minister place the proposal before .the House before it is .finally adopted?
– What .proposal;?
– The proposal -to refer to the Court of International Justice the dispute between Australia and Japan in relation to Australia’s jurisdiction over fisheries beyond the territorial limits of Australia. I ask the Minister, or the Prime Minister, whether -the matter will be placed before .the House before a decision is made, because it may be an irrevocable step and .honorable members wish to see that Australia is adequately safeguarded.
– Australia subscribes to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. Normally, any country is at liberty to state a case to the court. Australia’s policy, to which I understand the Labour party subscribes as much as does the Government, would be to accept the jurisdiction of the International Court.
– But Japan never has.
– At the present time Japan has not complete access to the International Court of Justice. Japan has the right - I do not know the correct legal phrase - to state a case or a complaint, hut not the right to invoke the jurisdiction of the court. I have no doubt that in due course Japan will acquire the same rights as other nations. In those circumstances, if Australia were not willing now to accept the jurisdiction of the court, I am of the opinion that Japan would be free to invoke the full jurisdiction of the court at no distant date. The Government believes in the settlement of international disputes by this process of law. The Government hopes thatall the people of Australia believe in that principle as much as it does. Therefore, it does not seek to obstruct access to the court for thesettlement of this dispute.
– Will the Minister bring the matter before the House?
– The Japanese have said that they will accept the jurisdiction of the court in this case. We, for our part, have said as a Government that our willingness to facilitate the hearing of the dispute by the court has only one condition attached to it. That condition is that the Japanese, during the interregnum, will conform to the regulations governing the conservation of fisheries in Australian waters as is the policy of the Australian Government.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that recently the United States of America Atomic Energy Commission extended by four years the guaranteed price term for uranium purchases, to 1962 in place of 1958 ? Is it a fact that that action was taken in order to assure investors of a profitable return so that they would put in more plant and increase the output of uranium? If this is so, will the Minister consider a similar extension of the term of the guaranteed price for Australian producers from 1958 until 1962or thereabouts ?
– It is true that the American Atomic Energy Commission recently extended from 1958to 1963 the period during which the ‘Government of that country will buy uranium from producers at certain specified prices.. When Australia commenced the period of its guarantee, which continues to 1958, it copied very largely the action taken in the United States of Americain regard to the period of the guarantee.As America hassince extended the period of the guarantee, and other countries have done likewise, the Government is giving consideration to the extension of the guarantee period to some time after 1958.
– Does the Prime Minister agree that the recital of prayers in this House each day by Mr. Speaker adds prestige and dignity to the Parliament ? If the right honorable gentleman so agrees, can he advance any reason why State banquets and functions similar to the one held recently when the Government entertained the Vice-President of the United States of America should not be preceded by the recital of grace, instead of guests having to commence their meal one after another like Brown’s cows, as was the case a few weeks ago when many of the guests could not see whether the host and the guest of honour had commenced their meal.? Does the Prime Ministerknow that both the Government and the Opposition possess amongst their numbers members who could performsuch a duty with dignity, and can he say whether it is intended to have gracesaid on the occasions when Her Majesty the Queen is to be entertained next year?
– I think it should be, and we shall arrange it accordingly.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Opposition on a matterwhich concerns his present leadership of the Opposition in this House and his activities when he was Minister for External Affairs in a former government, when he sponsored the adoption by the General Assembly of the United Nations of the Declaration of Human Rights. Will the right honorable gentleman tell the House inplain termswhether or not he supports the introduction of compulsory unionism in any part of Australia?
– Order ! Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to answer the question?
– Yes. I am obliged to the honorable member for Evans for having asked this question. I answered a question on this matter on a previous occasion when I had no knowledge of the proposed legislation. I have not . yet seen the bill, and, indeed, the honorable member for Evans has not yet seen it, but I understand from press reports that it follows the lines of the Queensland legislation, which provides that any person who objects to union membership either on grounds of religion or conscience is not compelled to join a union. I do not know whether the New South Wales legislation contains a similar provision, but I point out to the honorable member for Evans, supplementary to my previous answer to a question on this subject, that the platform of the Liberal party of Queensland provides for compulsory membership of trade unions by that name. I suggest to the honorable gentleman that he should direct his question to his colleagues who represent electorates in Queensland, and to the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is the leader of the Government in the Senate, and who has answered a question on this important matter.
– Has the Minister for Territories anything to add to the reply which he gave in the House yesterday about the circumstances of the killing of a cadet patrol officer in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea? Has the honorable gentleman any further information about the fate of a gallant patrol officer who is reported missing? Is he satisfied that sufficient precautions are being taken when patrols are sent into uncontrolled areas of Papua and New Guinea? Is he also satisfied that thb officers who are sent on such expeditions are adequately trained, experienced and equipped for hazardous patrol, activities in new areas? When the Minister 13 making a statement on those matters, will he explain to the House the reasons for the urgency to make contact with primitive tribes in remote areas ? Is the carrying out of patrol activities of this kind the result of pressure from the United Nations Trusteeship Council? Finally, does he consider that it would be better, in the interests of the native peoples and Australia, to proceed with the speedy and more progressive policy of health, education and industrial activities for them?
– The honorable member for Macquarie has raised a wide variety of matters, and I shall attempt to deal with them in three sections. The first relates to the recent incidents west of Telefomin. I have received a little additional information to-day about them, although it does not add a great deal to the news that has already been communicated to the people of Australia, mainly through the press. Whether true or otherwise, the reported death of PatroOfficer Szarca is still not confirmed. Our District Commissioner in the Sepik area, Mr. Timperley, is engaged at the moment, on an expedition west of Telefomin with two other officers and a comparatively large party of native constables, medical assistants a.nd carriers in order to settle once and for all the actual happenings there. I cannot take the story of the incidents further than that at the present time. The honorable member for Macquarie has also asked a series of questions on the general subject of whether the sort of arrangements which were made by the officers of the Department of District Services were proper. I should like to say, first of all, without attempting in any way to shift the final responsibility, which must rest upon me as the Minister for Territories, that the actual conducting of patrols, and the carrying out of work of that type, in New Guinea are nor. matters in which Canberra customarily interferes. Such matters are under the direction of the Administrator and the Director of District Services, who is one of his senior officers. Prom all the information I have received, it seems that the procedures which have been followed on this occasion, the equipment which has been used, and the sort of activities which have been carried on, have been very similar to those carried on with a great deal of success by the Department of District Services for many years. I have no reason to believe that there was anything unusual in the arrangements made on this occasion. If, however, a fuller report from the Administrator discloses that there was some unusual feature, I shall mate it the subject of a further statement to the House. The third series of questions asked by the honorable mem. ber related to the wisdom or otherwise of the Government’s policy in bringing these areas under control. The honor- able gentleman asked whether the policy had been forced upon Australia by the United Nations or whether we had adopted the policy of our own volition. I should say first of all that it is a policy wholly within the discretion of the Australian Government and one which the Australian Government, as such, considers to be wise. Previous governments and the present Government have consistently attempted to extend the field of government influence gradually and to establish law and order throughout the territory. That is a necessary precursor to any other measures that may be taken for the advancement of the welfare of the native peoples. The first thing that we have to do is to make these people acquainted with the existence . of an administration and the general purposes and hopes of that administration. All our endeavours to bring these areas under control are a preliminary step to those other measures that will follow for promoting native welfare. If honorable members will consult the reports of the Department of Territories and the statements that are available to them from various sources, they will find that, over the last three years, the measures that we have taken to educate the natives and improve their health have been of a much more intensive kind, and a much more extensive kind, than those taken by any previous government. Far more is being done for the health and education of natives in New Guinea today than has been done at any other limp in the history of Australia. The Australian people and the Parliament can be assured that, within the limits of the money that this Parliament appropriates, we are doing a great deal to carry out our responsibility both in our sovereign territory and in the trust territory.
– Will the Minister for Territories say whether work is proceeding on the rebuilding of Rabaul on the existing site? Have the harbour facilities been improved? Are any salvage operations being undertaken on any of the ships that were sunk there during war-time operations? Are any additional factories or other industrial establishments being constructed at this centre ?
– The reconstruction of Rabaul on Simpson Harbour is proceeding. The Government has made funds available for the improvement of the harbour, and tenders have been called for the construction of a wharf. My colleague has just informed me that the contract has been let, and presumably, work is about to commence on the new wharf. As a result of the Government’s decision to re-build Rabaul on the old site, a good deal of private enterprise has already become apparent in the town, mainly in the construction of business premises and large stores. A large coco-nut oil factory has been established by Coconut Products Limited, and that was under construction even before the Government’s decision was made.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Some years ago, civil aviation authorities were responsible for giving notice of the compulsory acquisition of private lands adjacent to the Maryborough airfield in Queensland. Eight or ten of the areas are still the subject of compensation negotiations. Has the Minister or the Department of Civil Aviation yet reached a decision on a considered suggestion that most of these remaining areas do not present any threat to flying safety? If so, can the Minister make the decision available so that the information may be supplied to the landholders concerned ?
– Careful investigations of this matter have been made over a period of time. Representations have been made by land-owners, householders and others concerned to the effect that the buildings that are believed to obstruct flying in the vicinity of the aerodrome are not, in fact, obstructions. I have asked my officers to investigate these representations very carefully. The primary consideration is the safety of aircraft and passengers in the air and, if this land must be acquired in order to ensure safety, it will be acquired. However, if acquisition is not necessary, we shall not acquire the land.
– Is the Minister for “Works aware that between February and August of this year the staff of some sections of the Department of Works was reduced by 10 per cent.? Is he also aware that, owing to the large number of tradesmen retrenched, apprentices in the employ of the department are being advised to seek the assistance of their parents or guardians in making arrangements for private building contractors to take over their indentures and to employ them, because otherwise the department may be forced to cancel the indentures and terminate the employment of some of its apprentices during November?
– The temporary staff of the Department of Works has .been reduced, because most of the work for which the department is responsible is being done on firm contracts instead of by day labour. The reason for the change is that it is much more economical and efficient to work on the basis of firm contracts than to use day labour. Very early- in the piece, the department realized that the change might cause some difficulties in connexion with apprentice indentures. Apprentices employed by the department were informed that if they could make arrangements for their indentures to be taken over by other employers, they were free to do so. In cases where apprentices are unable to arrange for their indentures to be taken over by other employers, arrangements are being made by the Department of Works, through the apprenticeship boards in the States, for the indentures to be carried on so that the lads will, not suffer. I inquired into this matter’ only last. week. So far as I am. aware, no- indentures have been cancelled, and no. apprentice, has- been handicapped in any way as a result, of the change of policy to which I have referred.
– Recently, a constituent of mine purchased a postal note and, having taken the number, sent it through the post. The postal note went astray. He made representations to the Postmaster-General’s Department and was advised that the postal authorities are not now recording paid postal notes. Will the Postmaster-General say whether the postal authorities are not now recording paid postal notes, and that that procedure took effect from the 1st July, 1953? If that be so, what is the point of using postal notes, for which a charge is- made, as there is no means of tracing the notes if they go astray?
– The system of registering the numbers of postal notes was discontinued some time ago. It involved much labour and expense that was not warranted by the returns from the sale of postal notes. If anybody wants to ensure the safety of any article sent through the post, whether it be a postal note or. otherwise, the most effective method of doing so is by registration.
– In view of the refusal of the Commonwealth Bank to provide overdraft accommodation for many local government authorities which want to make urgently needed repairs to bridges in country districts throughout Australia, will the Treasurer say what action he proposes to take to ensure that such essential works shall be put’ in hand immediately, in the interests of public safety and community life?
– The question asked by the honorable member concerns the administration of the Commonwealth Bank, with which I shall not interfere in any way;
-! ask the Minister for Immigration whether there is any special agreement, in contemplation between the Australian Government and the Italian Government to bring immigrants to Australia from Italy and to establish them in what might be described as colonies in the north of Queensland. Is any such agreement contemplated with governments other than that of Italy?
– There is no such agreement in existence or in contemplation with the Italian Government or with any other government. The policy of this Government throughout, as far as immigration is concerned, has been to disperse people of various nationalities as far as practicable throughout the Commonwealth so that they may be more successfully absorbed into the Australian community life. That policy is not only recognized by the Italian Government but is also strongly supported by it. I understand that an impression created by some remarks of the Italian Vice-Consul in Queensland recently was a completely incorrect impression, and one which he has taken some trouble to correct. He has stated that the Italian Government does not wish to see little Italys developed in this country, and that it recognizes that the Italian people will be completely happy in Australia only if they become thoroughly assimilated into our community. As one who has had an opportunity of seeing for himself the results of some few generations of Italian settlement in certain parts of Queensland, I know that this process of assimilation has been carried out with remarkable success, and that there is now a very happy community life in those areas.
– Will the Minister f..r Health inform the House whether pensioners in country districts who need the services of eye specialists have great difficulty in obtaining medical treatment for their complaints because the medical entitlement card given to them does not make any provision for specialist treatment, even if a local doctor expresses an opinion that the case is one for a specialist? Will the right honorable gentleman favorably consider the advisability of making the services of specialists available to pensioners when such a course is recommended by local doctors?
– The policy du regard to specialist treatment during the period that the last Labour Government was in office, and during the regime of this Government, has been that pensioners shall have the right of free treatment at our great public hospitals. Eye specialists are in attendance at those hospitals.
– I ask the Min.ister for Health whether he will give consideration to incorporating in the proposed health legislation a pro-vision that -would enable the Government to supply fruit juices to school children, especially in those areas where fresh milk is not “readily available, particularly as the vitamin content of fruit juices is high and this action would a;;!=t the lagging berry-fruit industry?
– The Government is considerin g that ratter but has not yet reached a decision.
– My question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture concerns the manufacture and importation of margarine. A short time ago, the Minister informed the House that endeavours were being made to arrange a discussion with the .States about margarine. Is the Minister in a position to give any further information in regard to any such conference?
– A meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council will be held in Melbourne on the 30th November. The matter to which the honorable member has referred has been listed for discussion at that meeting. The Australian Agricultural Council is the best forum for discussion between the Commonwealth and the State governments about this matter.
Mi-. DALY.- Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state why the Government, which supposedly believes in competition, is endeavouring to restrict the production of margarine when, because of the policy that it has applied, butter has been priced beyond the means of the average wage-earner? I also ask the Minister whether, instead of restricting the production of margarine, he .will consider, as a more practical solution of the problem, increasing the butter subsidy paid to dairy-farmers and so make a contribution to the substantial reduction of the price of butter ?
– The consumer subsidy of butter under the administration of this Government has been at an alltime high level. Year after year the Government has set aside almost £17,000,000 to reduce the price of butter to the Australian consumer and to give to the Australian dairying industry a standard of living that it never enjoyed under the Labour Administration, which fixed the price of butter on the basis of a 56-hour week, yet came into this House mouthing sentiments about a 40-hour week. This Government is highly conscious of the interests of Australian consumers and has demonstrated that fact by its actions. It is also highly conscious of the interests of Australian producers and of the fact that unless the export industries of this country are sustained at a satisfactory level the general standard of living of the community cannot be sustained. It is not willing to sit idly by and watch a great Australian primary industry destroyed by an exotic industry. The line of thinking of the majority of the State governments is that with an increase of the price of margarine a quantitative limitation should be placed on the production of margarine. It is a matter for regret that the Labour Government of Queensland alone is breaking away seriously from the traditional practice in this country for many years of maintaining a reasonable quantitative limit on the production of margarine.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether any members of the Army, male or female, are now located in Japan. If so, what is the number of such personnel, what are their duties and in what area are they located ?
– There are many Australians still in Japan. They are engaged in activities such as lines of communication, supply, pay and allow ances, hospitalization, recent training and leave, and all activities associated with the forces that are serving in Korea. I am unable to state the number of persons who are there. I visited Japan some time ago and I issued instructions then that no person was to remain in Japan for longer than two years. That policy has been carried out and every man who lias been there for over two years has been returned to Australia. If it has been necessary to fill a vacancy, it has been filled by sending somebody from Australia.
– Where are they stationed ?
– In Kure and Ibisu in Japan.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs tell me whether there is any truth in the report that Japan proposes to raise its fighting force to approximately 250,000 men and to include aircraft-carriers in its navy and that such developments are to take place within the next year?
– .1 have read public references to figures and statements of the kind referred to by the honorable member, and even figures higher than those. The Australian Government has kept in close touch with this matter, because there is an understandable sensitiveness in Australia to any undue expansion of Japanese forces. Since those reports have become current, every effort has been made in Tokyo and elsewhere to discover the fact. There is no confirmation of the suggestion that Japan proposes to increase its forces to a figure approaching that mentioned by the honorable member, nor is there any confirmation of the suggestion that Japan desires to acquire or to build aircraft-carriers. This matter has been discussed many times since the ratification of the Japanese Peace Treaty and I think it is fully recognized that there is no immediate problem connected with security against Japan but that there is a considerable problem connected with the security of Japan. In other words, it is fairly well known that the first aim of’ the Communists in the Far East is against Japan itself. For that reason, I should think that the common-sense attitude for Australia to adopt is to welcome reasonable extension of Japanese armament, particularly ground armament, so that the Japanese C:111 defend themselves against any external menace. But the question of long-range aircraft and long-range vessels is something quite different. The Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, myself and others, have publicly and clearly stated the Australian point of view both in Tokyo and in Washington. I mention Washington because the American Government extended very great generosity to the Japanese during the period of occupation. America is still extending great help to the Japanese, and has a defence arrangement with Japan. I think that the American point of view would at least be listened to in Tokyo. I believe that Australia has nothing to fear from current proposals on. the part of Japan to expand its armed forces.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. Is the Minister satisfied that the auditing of accounts at Woomera is being carried out satisfactorily? Can he assure the House that there is no truth in the persistent rumour that large-scale discrepancies have occurred and that steps are now being taken to cover up serious unaccounted shortages in stores and other irregularities by means of a revaluation of certain assets? Is it true that large quantities of stores have been purchased without proper requisition and that the department has recently refused a request from Woomera for a requisition to cover certain stores already purchased ?
– I have a fairly detailed knowledge of the matters that occur in wy own department, but I can assure the honorable gentleman that I have no knowledge of the matters to which he refers. I think there was a comment in the press some time ago on the question of accounts but it related to another department. Perhaps the honorable gentleman is referring to that matter. However, I shall have the matter investigated. If there is any truth in those statements - and I do not believe there is - the matter will be corrected.
– Is it the intention of the Treasurer to introduce during the present session amendments of the Superannuation Act and the Common- wea.lr.li Employees’ Compensation Act that will liberalize payments and bring them into conformity with present-day costs?
– That matter is being considered by the Government. Action will be taken in due course and the House will he informed accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Can the Minister give the House information concerning the effectiveness or otherwise of this year’s attack on rabbits with the virus myxomatosis? Does the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization think that there is a danger of rabbits acquiring immunity to this virus?
– Over the two and a half years since the successful introduction of myxomatosis there has been a .progressive improvement in the results both in relation to the area affected and the percentage of kill. About six months ago there was a conference between the Common.wealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the State government departments concerned. That conference was of the opinion that in the eastern half of Australia myxomatosis had achieved very great success. In fact, it was believed that approximately an SO per cent, kill had been achieved, in most rabbit-infested areas in eastern Australia over the previous twelve months. The virus is most effective during summer, spring and early autumn. That conference was also of the opinion that the value of the increase of primary production over the previous twelve to eighteen months because of the effectiveness of myxomatosis was approximately £50,000,000. The prospects for the coming season, that is in the next four or five months, seem to be extremely good. The success of myxomatosis is dependent very largely on seasonal conditions. If at any time seasonal conditions become inappropriate for the spreading of myxomatosis, the kill will be considerably less and the country again will become very much dependent on the more orthodox means of rabbit destruction. During the last twelve months it has begun to become apparent that myxoma tosis is less effective in some areas as the result, of a proportion of rabbits developing tolerance to the virus. During the last twelve months Dr. Fenner, Sir Charles Burnett and their associates have been working on an altered or mutated virus against which the rabbits will not have tolerance. I believe that the myxomatosis campaign has been one of the most successful experiments in the last generation. In conjunction with the State authorities, we are doing everything possible to promote the campaign.
-Can the Minister for External Affairs indicate the nature of the research work that has been carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in relation to grasshopper control, particularly that which may be useful in controlling fresh hatchings of dangerous proportions which might be expected to occur in January and February?. Will the State authorities be supplied with the results of the research carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and. Industrial Research Organization so that they may apply the knowledge gained in controlling the pest which is a matter that comes under their jurisdiction?
– The Commonwealth, Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been working on the grasshopper and locust menace for a great many years. As long ago as about five or six years, the organization in conjunction with the State officers concerned, drew up a scheme for a concerted attack on the grasshopper problem when the grasshoppers were in the early stages of growth, before they were able to fly. The scheme was not acceptable to the State governments.. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization believes that if the problem is to be, economically attacked, the grasshoppers must be dealt with in the early stages of the growth before they develop to the mobile stage of locusts. I understand that the entomologists of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and of all the States are fully aware of the problem and howto deal with it. However, the States have not thought fit to deal with the hoppers in sufficient time to stop them from becoming a menace. I suspect, from the knowledge I have of the honorable member’s electorate, that it is somewhere near the principal source in north-central New South Wales where the grasshoppers develop and multiply because of favorable climatic conditions and suitable conditions of soil and herbage. These areas are well known as also are the probable tracts where the menace may move when the pest reaches the locust stage and is able to move a great many hundred miles from the hatching point. It is a matter of attacking the pest at the appropriate time. I do not think that there is any more that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization can do in regard to the matter, which is essentially one foT the States.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 17,. I lay on the table my warrant nominating Mr. Bowden, Mr. Tom Burke, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Watkins, Mr. McLeay and’ Mr. Timson to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of. Committees.
Motion (by Mr. ERIC J. Harrison.) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10 a.m.
Debate resumed from the 1.0th November (vide page 36), on motion by Mr. Downer -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General he agreed to: -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in’ Parliament assembled) desire- to express our loyalty to our1 Most Gracious Sovereign, and: to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- The motion for the Address-in-Reply to the Speech which His Excellency the Governor-General was pleased to- deliver to the Parliament might have included, a reference to the pride and satisfaction that we, as a Parliament, feel, in having as our Governor-General and representative of Her Majesty the Queen, a person such as1 Sir William. Slim, who has played such an excellent, gallant,., and notable part in securing the freedom of this great empire of ours, and who has continued, in the onerous duties that he assumed on becoming Governor-General, to play a still noble part in the history of this Empire, and in this particular part of the- Empire. I know that reference has. been made on formal social, occasions to -the distinguished record o£ His Excellency, but the Parliament, where the people are represented, could well express, in an official way, our respect for him.
– I rise to order. Some time ago, you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that no laudatory or disparaging reference may be made to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. Therefore, I submit that the honorable member for Moore has no right to introduce the name of His. Excellency into this debate.
-Order! I have not been listening intently to the speech of the honorable member for Moore. I shall now pay closer attention to it.
– I was referring to His Excellency the Governor-General, who delivered a Speech to honorable senators and honorable members in the Senate chamber yesterday. I do not see how we can avoid making personal references to His Excellency in this debate.
The principal event in Australia in the next twelve months will be the visit of Her Majesty the Queen. I presume, Mr. Speaker, that I shall be in order in referring, to Her Most Gracious Majesty.. Inevitably, almost every speech that will be delivered in this debate will contain some reference to the Royal visit. Many suggestions’ have been published in the press; or have been made by various- organiza tions and individuals’ outside the Parliament, in connexion with the1 visit’ of Her Majesty. Undoubtedly, Australia will right nobly display its loyalty to Her Majesty in the way that Australians usually’ do, but I suggest’ that an expression of loyalty is not confined to flag1 wagging on the side rails, to cheering, as the Royal procession passes, or to mere word’s, which, when all is said and. done, are hollow things.
Our loyalty may be expressed to Her Majesty as the Crowned Head, and also to the lovely person who is our Queen. Our loyalty should’ be a tribute and a. compliment to her, and should be expressed’ in the same way a3 we show common courtesy to a guest at our table. On such an occasion, it is not customary for the host and hostess to pass uncomplimentary remarks about the food’ placed before the guest: I believe that, on the occasion of Her Majesty’s visit, Australians should express their loyalty to her by declaring a political truce. An Opposition member has already referred to this matter, but I consider that we may go even further than that, and agree on an industrial truce while Her Majesty is in Australia. When I make that statement, I do not overlook- the fact that, during the period this Government’ has been in office, Australia has enjoyed an era of industrial peace unequalled in the history of the Commonwealth, but I suggest that employers and employees might agree on the occasion of Her Majesty’s visit, to a period of industrial peace. In addition, Australian citizens, without surrendering the right of liberty of expression, should agree to outlaw the nasty political exchanges that occur so frequently in this country. Perhaps the Australian newspapers could also tone down their headlines of scare and scandal during the Royal visit. Let us present to Her. Majesty the country that we should like her to see. In those ways, we can pay a tribute to. Her Majesty and offer a real expression of our loyalty and love; Such an effort would, involve little or no sacrifice on our part, but Her Majesty would, see the true Australia, and would return to Great Britain with a highly, favorable: impression of us.
I was interested in the reference1 of His Excellency to the support’ that has been extended by Australia to the United Nations. I separate the United Nations into two distinct parts. One part is the organization that has specialized interests. The other part embraces the General Assembly and the Security Council. Quite frankly, I do not believe that people have much confidence in the ability of the General Assembly and the Security Council to guarantee the maintenance of peace. Australia and its friends must continue to battle for the cause of peace, which may be secured only by strengthening our defences, so as to discourage a potential aggressor. The Security Council, which, by the way, is a complete misnomer, has a sorry history. One of the principal members of the council has engaged in hostilities, contrary to the wishes of the other members. Do not let us blink our eyes to that fact. What hope can we place in the Security Council as a means of ensuring the maintenance of peace when such a condition exists?
Some people contend that we should have faith in the United Nations. Do those people believe that because a police force is provided for their protection, the need no longer exists to have banks, vaults, safe deposits or the like for the safe keeping of their valuables? Do those people consider that it is no longer necessary for them to bolt their doors and lock their windows at night? I suggest that the people who urge us to place our reliance in the United Nations as the means of maintaining peace, show that they have no faith in the ability of the police force to protect them because they securely bar their doors and bolt their windows at night. Let us apply the example that they give in their personal affairs to the national and international spheres.
However, the specialized agencies of the United Nations are doing excellent work, particularly in respect of health matters. Substantial assistance is being given to Asian countries. The Colombo plan was initiated by the Menzies Government for their assistance. Nevertheless, we should be very careful in these matters to see that the tremendous expenditure and obligations which Australia is incurring, by its attempt to assist the Asian countries, will not be nega- tived. It is easy for an event, slight in itself, to disturb the good relations that may be established with Asian countries as a result of our generosity. Frankly, I do not believe that one wins friends by giving anything away. If we raise the standards of the Asian peoples, and assist them to help themselves, we shall achieve much more than can be achieved with cash or kind.
It is easy for a small event to cause disharmony among nations. An illustration of the truth of that statement is provided in Europe at the present time. What better friend has Italy ever had than the British Empire? What nation has Italy turned on more quickly in a tune of trouble than Great Britain ? Italy has not had a more loyal friend than Great Britain throughout its history. There are elements in the East Asian countries that are determined to sabotage our efforts to raise the standard of living of the peoples of those countries, to remove them from the danger of communism, to make them contented, to provide them with some of the good things of life that fortune has provided for us, and to enable them to help us in return. These elements intend to wreck our plans, and ve must make sure that our efforts will not, in. the end, be in vain. In fact, one need not go outside Australia in order to find disruptive elements of that kind. Bless my soul, we enjoy conditions that are unequalled elsewhere in the world I But there are men who roam about the country and try to stir up strife and dissatisfaction merely for political purposes. If saboteurs operate here, where conditions are excellent, how much more likely is it that they are active amongst the less fortunate peoples whose interests we have at heart and whom we are determined to assist? We wish to maintain close friendship with Asian nations, not only as a protection against, war, but also as a means of mutual benefit. My chief concern is that we should have in neighbouring countries peoples who are friendly towards us, not because they are afraid of war, but because they wish to live at peace with us and to trade with us. My hope is that we shall be able to trade with the countries of Asia on a fairly level basis as we raise their standards closer to our own standards. There is much that we can do for these peoples, but we should not fail to make sure that our expenditure of goods, cash, sympathy and good fellowship will not be wasted.
The reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to the Government’s intention to proceed with its voluntary medical benefits insurance scheme must be welcomed by everybody. I am sure that it will be welcomed particularly by honorable members opposite, because they have frequently expressed their concern for the welfare of the people for whose advantage this plan has been devised. However, I. regret that I have heard some members of the Opposition ask when they will learn something about this scheme and when it will operate. Such honorable members completely ignore two facts. The first is that, in the previous session of this Parliament, the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) presented to the House a bill which embodied all the details of the scheme. Obviously, therefore, the details are not unknown to u3. If honorable members opposite have carried out their parliamentary duties properly, they must have examined that bill and learned of the Government’s intentions. The new bill to be presented by the Minister for Health may contain some minor alterations, but its provisions will be similar in substance to those of the previous measure. There has been very little criticism of the scheme that the right honorable gentleman outlined in his second-reading speech during the last session. Evidently, therefore, the scheme is acceptable to the Opposition. The few honorable members who have asked for details of the plan merely confess that they have failed in their duty by neglecting to study the particulars of the scheme that were supplied to them.
The second fact is that the scheme is already in operation and has received the blessing of tens of thousands of Australians. Those honorable members opposite who have suggested that the scheme is not in existence and is never likely to come into operation have engaged in party politics merely for their own advantage. The scheme is working successfully and has been welcomed with satisfaction by many people. One of the most noteworthy features of the plan is that it is abreast of the times and of modern practices. Originally, medicine was of a curative nature only. Modern medicine is both preventive and curative. The Minister for Health has adopted the modern idea and has announced that his prime purpose is to treat medical benefits on a preventive basis. Formerly, many citizens could not afford to protect themselves against ill health. They waited until they were struck down by illness, and then they had to incur the expense of consultations with doctors and of hospital treatment. To-day, the medical benefits scheme enables them to provide, when they are well, against the day when they may become ill. The object of the scheme is to prevent ill health if possible and, in the event of ill health occurring, to provide a measure of financial relief for the victim. The provision of free milk for school children is an initial preventive measure designed to promote the health of young Australians. The free drug scheme provides for the supply of drugs of a preventive nature. The tuberculosis campaign has been designed to prevent the development of this disease if possible. That campaign in itself is a tribute to the work of the present Minister for Health. It is a remarkable fact that the average man, who does not hesitate to pay a jeweller £3 to repair his watch, hesitates when he is ill to pay a guinea or two guineas to a doctor in order to repair his body or prevent further damage to it. This represents a peculiar outlook on life, but it is nevertheless a fact. The medical benefits scheme has been designed to change this outlook so that the average man will look after his physical well-being as carefully as he looks after his goods and chattels. Obviously, it is cheaper and more satisfactory in every way to prevent ill health than to cure sickness after it develops. If the Minister for Health achieves that change of outlook on the part of the people, he will establish a monument to himself as noteworthy as any of the other monuments that already mark the road of his parliamentary progress.
– He has some monuments near Grafton.
– If the record of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr.
Edmonds) were a fraction as good as that of the Minister for Health, he would have something to crow about from the top of the flagstaff above Parliament House.
I am pleased that the Government proposes to enable the Tariff Board to conduct its inquiries more speedily. I direct the attention of the Government to one matter in relation to the tariff which requires action. We have heard a great deal of talk recently of the need for efficiency in industry and we have had more than a surfeit in recent years of propaganda to the effect that primary producers should become more efficient in order to reduce their costs. I agree that primary producers, no less than others in the community, should be efficient. However, they are being denied the opportunity to make their methods of production wholly efficient because the tariff policy of this country prevents them from importing modern agricultural machinery and implements that are far more efficient than equipment at present available in Australia. Doubtless it will astonish many honorable members to learn that the last inquiry made by the Tariff Board into the protection that should be given to Australian industries producing agricultural machinery and implements was conducted in 1934, nearly twenty years ago. At that time, Australian, agricultural machinery was more efficient than that of any other country, but since then vast strides forward have been made by manufacturers overseas. As a result of our tariff policy, the primary producers of this country are compelled now to use machines which, in view of developments that have taken place overseas, are of obsolete and outdated design. Our primary industries are in an unfortunate position. The time has come when a complete examination should be made of the production of agricultural machinery and implements in this country. The inquiry should be concerned, not so much with costs and prices, about which there should be no difficulty, as with the question whether the agricultural machinery available to Australian primary producers is, from the viewpoint of efficiency, comparable with that available to primary producers overseas.
Farmers in Western Australia are clamouring for agricultural machines produced overseas which, in efficiency and general value, are far ahead of comparaable Australian products. I do not intend to belittle the Australian agricultural machinery industry when I say that, with minor exceptions, we are where we were twenty years ago, whilst .other countries have taken great strides forward. Australian farmers cannot get modern agricultural machinery because our tariff policy is such as to make the cost of imported- machines prohibitive.
I urge the Government to instruct the Tariff Board to conduct an inquiry into the production of agricultural machinery and implements in Australia and to consider, ‘not only whether the prices of Australian machines are competitive with the prices of overseas machines, hut also whether Australian products, judged on the basis of sturdiness, efficiency and general quality, are comparable with the products of other countries. I am satisfied that such an inquiry would reveal that an unjust and unfair burden is being imposed upon the primary producers cif this country. It is a burden that must be removed from their shoulders, not only in the interests of the people engaged in Australian primary industries, but also in the interests of Australia as a whole. Our primary producers are being urged constantly to produce more, and to use efficient methods. They are as efficient to-day as it is humanly possible for them to be, but the machinery available to them is limiting their efficiency. I am inundated by inquiries from farmers who want agricultural machines from overseas because they are much more efficient than those obtainable in Australia, but they are not available. I hope the Government will give attention to this matter immediately.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The Speech of the Governor-General contained many interesting features, but there were a few significant omissions. I was astonished that no mention was made of a problem that is assuming great proportions in this country. I refer to the marked deterioration of our road systems.
A possible reason for that omission is that in the Speech delivered by the Governor-General in 1950 a promise was made that the Government would initiate a programme of national development. It was .stated that the major part of the programme would be concerned with roads, that the cost would be £250,000,000 and that interest and sinking-fund charges would be met from petrol tax revenue. I remember that, in the debate that took place in this chamber subsequently, members of the Government parties rose one after another and, with paeans of adulation, said, in effect, that the Government had proposed a statesmanlike programme which, if put into operation, would largely solve the problem of the deterioration of our road systems. Although four years have elapsed since that promise was made, nothing has been done to honour it. Therefore, it is quite understandable that the Government, in view of its barren record in regard to roads, was not prepared to include in the Speech of the Governor-General any reference to that subject.
The need for the maintenance and development of our road systems requires no emphasis. Owing to a shortage of finance, the lack of developmental and maintenance work on our roads has resulted in an alarming position, in a period when vehicular traffic has changed, not only in type but also in concentration. It is far beyond the scope of the municipalities of this country to undertake, to the satisfaction of all concerned, the road works of every description that are required to be done. I venture to suggest that the alarming deterioration of our road systems will eventually force the Australian Government, irrespective of the party in power at the time, to recognize that the petrol tax is a road tax, and should be used as such. As I see it, the petrol tax is a pay-as-you-use tax. It is the fairest method of collecting finance for road construction and maintenance. The Government anticipates that during the present financial year revenue from the tax will be no less than £27,000,000, but, under the formula, the States will receive only £15,500,000. The Commonwealth will take unto itself about £11,500,000, which will be paid into Consolidated Revenue and will be expended upon projects far removed from road maintenance and construction. In my opinion, the States are being deprived of money that is rightly theirs. The tax is being paid by road users for road purposes.
I “believe some mention should have been made in the Governor-General’s Speech of another problem that confronts the States. Under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, the Commonwealth collects lOd. on every gallon of petrol that is imported into this country. The States receive 6d. of the lOd. for road purposes. An excise duty of 8-Jd. a gallon is imposed on locally refined petrol, of which the State receives 3£d. As every honorable member knows, the great bulk of the petrol used by motorists in Australia is imported petrol. But, fortunately for Australia generally, big oil companies have made arrangements to erect oil refineries here. I believe that in Victoria there is to be one at Corio and one at Altona. In Western Australia there is also to be one at Kwinana. In New South Wales there is to be one at Sydney. At least two of those refineries expect to commence operations within nine or ten months. When that occurs, the States will receive only 3£d. a gallon on petrol refined in this country, although they now receive 6d. a gallon on all petrol imported from overseas. Consequently, unless this Government is prepared quickly to alter the rate of payments to the States out of the petrol tax, they will receive only £9,000,000 instead of £15,500,000 a year on the present consumption of petrol. The Government should have realized that the revenue of the States would decrease when the petrol refineries started to operate, and it should have undertaken to legislate in this present session to enable the States to continue to receive 6d. a gallon on petrol that is refined locally. Apparently the Government is not prepared to make such an arrangement, and two refineries will be in operation for many months before it will be possible to give the States any relief at all. A direct ‘result of a reduction of this type of State revenue will be a further deterioration of State roads; and if our roads are allowed to deteriorate much further the disruption of our transport system will have a disastrous effect on the economic life of the country.
The Country Roads Board of Victoria has stated categorically that it cannot be expected to maintain its present road system unless it is allowed to expend £20,000,000 a year on the roads. At present the board is receiving £2,500,000 a year from the petrol tax, and £10,500,000 a year from other sources. Therefore, the roads of Victoria will deteriorate considerably unless the Country Roads Board’s financial position improves rapidly. In other States the appalling condition of secondary roads and the deterioration of main arteries, are a matter of grave concern to all road authorities. A time has now been reached when we must make desperate efforts to retain and improve our present roads, because all prospect of building new roads has disappeared. Yesterday the master plan of the Victorian Metropolitan Board of “Works was made public. That plan has recognized the chaotic traffic conditions in Melbourne and its suburbs, and has made provision for the building of new roads to carry the rapidly increasing number of motor vehicles in the Melbourne area. The plans have been made, but until State governments are allocated more money from the petrol tax it will be impossible for any Victorian government, no matter what its political colour might be, to build new roads to carry the increasing traffic of Melbourne.
I now desire to say a- few words about municipal authorities which have become the poor relations of the States and the Commonwealth. Under the Commonwealth legislation, up to 35 per cent, of the amount received by the States from the Commonwealth can be allocated to local government bodies for road construction or maintenance. I suggest that that sum is totally inadequate, at least in Victoria, because municipalities are now forced to depend more and more upon collections of their own rates to carry out their functions. Rates are practically at a maximum, because municipalities are limited by statute in the amount they can raise by way of rates, and, furthermore, ratepayers cannot be expected to pay more. That is another reason why the Commonwealth should make more money available to the States from the petrol tax. I recognize that all Australian governments have used the petrol tax to raise revenue for general purposes, but the time has now arrived when we must have a new deal for road construction and maintenance bodies, whether they be State, municipal or shire authorities.
During the last twenty years the Australian Government has collected about £242,000,000 from the petrol tax. Of that amount, only about £94,000,000, or 39 per cent., has been allocated to the States for road maintenance and development. I suggest that the sum so allocated to the States has not been nearly enough, and is totally inadequate in view of the present serious condition of most of our roads. I hope that the Government will take immediate steps to amend the relevent Commonwealth legislation to provide that the 3£d. that the States receive out of the 8 1/2d. a gallon excise on locally refined petrol is immediately raised to 6d. a gallon so that the States shall not suffer because petrol is refined locally. The Government should also recognize that the petrol tax is the fairest method of paying for road construction, because it is now quite clear that traffic wears out roads. At one time there was a theory that the weather destroyed roads, but investigations in a number of countries, including America, have disproved that theory. It is now recognized that 90 per cent, of the wear of roads is caused by traffic. Therefore, there is no fairer method of paying for the maintenance and development of our roads than by raising money from the users of the roads in proportion to the amount of use that they make of them. However, £11,500,000 provided by the motorists this year will be used for other purposes. I do not criticize this Government alone for that state of affairs, and I hope that all political parties will reorientate their thinking and decide that the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax should be devoted to road maintenance and construction.
The Governor-General, m his Speech, stated - . . My advisers have been able to increase the level of the migrant intake following the, reduction which they had reluctantly found necessary to apply during 1952. . . . in the present programme British immigration will continue to receive first- priority . . .
People throughout all the States have been rather alarmed at the proportionate increase of non-British immigrants. I am not at all opposed to non-British immigration, but I believe that we must ensure that a preponderance of British people should be encouraged to settle here. If the trend of the last six or eight years continues, we may find that the influx of non-British persons is affecting our standards of living, and the British character of the Commonwealth. I recognize that Australia can learn from the culture of other nations, but our own culture should not be submerged. From January, 1947, to December, 1952, 293,000 non-British immigrants and 27S,000 British immigrants were admitted to Australia. That is a slight increase of non-British over British arrivals. The Australian News and Information Bureau, Department of the Interior, in Facts and Figures, No. 37, gave statistics which shows the various nationalities of immigrants for the period from October. lf>4?5, to December, 1952. Those statistics show that 49.9 per cent, were British immigrants and 50.1 per cent, were nonBritish immigrants. I should like to ser that proportion reversed. Of the 50.1 per cent, of the non-British immigrants there were 9.9 per cent. Polish, 9.8 per cent. Italian, 6.1 per cent. Dutch, 1 per cent, and 2 percent, of a number of smaller nationalities and Si per cent of a mixed group of very small nationalities. I hope that the Government will take every opportunity to encourage the entry of more British immigrants even at the expense of reducing the number of non-British immigrants. I know that a number of non-British immigrants have contributed towards the development of this country, but I think that as far as possible we should encourage the immigration of our own stock. If present proportions continue it will be found that the merging of those non-British stock with such diverse national backgrounds into the economic, social and cultural life of Australia will be an experimental assimilation of a magnitude and complexity that we have not yet known in this country. We hope that it will be successful. Probably somebody with views contrary to mine will say that it has proved successful in the United States of America. Australia need not worry about the assimilation of British immigrants because they adapt themselves very easily to our way of life and have caused no trouble over the years. But the inflow of nonBritish immigrants to the degree that I. have mentioned presents a different problem altogether. It must be realized that, if these people remained in Australia and if immigration were to cease immediately, in I960 about one in nine of our population would be foreign-born or the first generation born of foreign-born people. The task that faces Australia is the assimilation of approximately 300,000 non-British settlers into our way of life.
– Does the honorable gentleman say it would be one in nine in six years’ time?
– I have worked out the figures for only seven years. No difficulty will be found with British immigrants and I hope the Government will adopt every means to increase the intake of British stock. I think we have a duty to white civilization to maintain this portion of the Pacific area as a British bastion. As far as I am concerned, the Government will receive every encouragement if it attempts to accelerate the intake of British immigrants.
I refer now to a problem that has been mentioned frequently over the past few months by the respective State Ministers in charge of immigration. All honorable members agree that the immigration policy has worked remarkably well, but the State governments have found that the influx of immigrants has meant investment in new and large community services. The major defect in the scheme has been the lack of effective co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth in relation to immigration targets. Under present conditions the States must provide schools, roads, transport, water, hospitals, power for fac- tories and other utility services, and must ensure that those many service* are expanded proportionately to the intake of immigrants. The provision of those services is causing financial difficulty to the States concerned. In the early days of immigration the problems of assimilation by the States were given less attention than the means of bringing out immigrants. The main concern was to bring out 100,000, 200,000, or 300,000 in a certain, period. The Com.monwealth was not concerned about what would follow, but the States have foundthat it has. been very costly to them. They are not objecting, but they think - at least the Victorian Government thinks - that they should be taken into the confidence of the Australian Government and that there should be frequent, conferences of the Commonwealth and State Ministers to discuss these immigration problems. I was pleased to hear from the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) recently that, such a conference had been held, but time will tell whether much good accrued from it.
The final matter I desire, to bring, to the attention of the Minister for Immigration is in relation to the type of immigrant. When, the vigorous immigra- tion policy of the Chifley Government was introduced, it, was intended that, primary industry would be the first, to benefit. It was contemplated that- immigrants would open, up new areas’ of food producing, land and that- the; shortage of labour in areas, already opened up would be relieved. I. was very disappointed, to learn that of permanent new arrivals from January,. 1946, to December, 1952, only 7 per cent, were rural workers - one in every fourteen. That is not very satisfactory when one- considers that the greatest problem confronting this country is the need to increase food production.. I hope that when the Government’s, agents overseas are recruiting immigrants they will make additional efforts to see that Australia, receives more immigrants’ who are prepared to go. on the land. If that is. so,. I think that some of the problems associated with primary production will, disappear. Australia will have to make land available to both native-born Australians and immigrants’ if they are prepared to go- one the land, but that is- a different problem. It must be realized that, when only 7 per cent, of Australia’s immigrants are rural workers, a lot of leeway has to be made. up’.
In the remaining few minutes at my disposal I desire to refer to the absence from the Governor-General’s Speech of any reference to the question of assisting people to purchase their own homes.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We have just listened, to: a very fair and reasoned dissertation by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) on problems associated, with country roads and the difficulty experienced by municipal authorities in financing road maintenance. The honorable member wants a new deal for roads and I support him wholeheartedly. [Quorum formed.]
I can understand the desire of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) to have a quorum present because it is not often that honorable members on this side of the House can praise a. speech, by an honorable member’ opposite. Doubtless he wanted some of his colleagues to hear what, was being said. The State governments, cannot escape blame in relation to the allocation of. funds for roads. Whilst I agree with the honorable: member for Batman when he says that a great deal more should be- done in the provision and maintenance, of country roads, State governments,, if. they are anything like the Tasmanian. Government, are not concerned about the state of the. roads.
The- honorable– member for Batman also made some; well-reasoned comments about, immigration-. I propose to deal with that, matter later. I was also pleased to hear him advocate homeownership. I think that in that, respect he– is probably out. of step with, his colleagues, but. it. is indeed refreshing to hear mem: bers, of the Labour party advocating homeownership, particularly in view of the fact that a. former Minister who was* a member of the. Labour party, Mr. Dedman, was quite open, in his criticism of home.-ownership and said that the Government, off which he> was then a member would not be interested in setting, up little capitalists to own their own homes.
The Governor-General, in his Speech, made a very glowing reference to the forthcoming Royal visit, lt served to remind honorable members, if indeed they needed reminding, of the loyalty and reverence shown throughout the British Commonwealth to the Throne and to our beloved Queen. Australians traditionally are proud of their British origin and I think that their already announced feelings of loyalty and devotion will reach even greater heights as a result of Her Majesty’s coming among her people.
A number of important subjects are dealt with in the Governor-General’s Speech, not. the least of which is the proposed health legislation. A detailed debate on that matter will be. more appropriate when that bill is brought down. At this stage it is sufficient to say that the proposed bill is. one of the most important measures to come before, this House.. It will provide benefits that will be accepted gladly by the. majority of Australian, people.
Reference was made- to. Australia’s prosperity and the opportunity for national, development. That prosperity is due in no small measure to the industrial peace experienced by this country since this Government assumed office. It was always claimed by Labour supporters that only a Labour government could maintain industrial peace, but facts speak louder than the: Labour propagandists* The fact is that over the last four years Australia has had the’ best record of industrial peace that this country has ever experienced. As a result we have increased productivity over a wide range of commodities.
However, I desire to direct the attention of the House to a very sinister threat which could easily upset the productivity of this country. I refer to the current move in. New South Wales to introduce compulsory unionismCompulsory unionism is inimical to the best interests of Australian workers. It is a snide method of compelling members of unions to subscribe to the political funds of the Australian Labour party. All fair-minded people-, irrespective of their’ political views,, will vigorously oppose compulsory unionism because it at once attacks the freedom of the individual and, consequently, the very foundations of democracy. It is an abrogation of the principles contained in the Declaration of Human Rights which was signed by the United Nations in 1948”. I should be very interested to know exactly where the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) stands on this matter, bearing in mind that he once described the Declaration of Human Rights as a modern Magna. Carta.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) says, “ Hear, hear I “ Perhaps that is a good description, but the question that arises is whether the Leader of the Opposition will support the official platform of the Australian Labour party, which advocates, compulsory unionism, or the principles contained in the Declaration of Human Rights of which he was such a great champion. He. cannot have it both ways, notwithstanding the fact that he and his colleagues opposite very often like to do so.. It is well known that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is all-out for compulsory unionism.. So, once again, there is a diversity of opinion between the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy. Indeed, their disagreements- have become a feature of modern federal Labour politics. Unionism in itself is a. good thing. We,, on this side of the House, advocate good, healthy, clean unionism, provided that, it is free unionism and not unionism by compulsion. The right of the individual to determine whether or not he shall join a union must always be preserved. That is the point at which compulsory unionism cuts right across the principle of freedom of association contained in the Declaration of Human Rights. No man’s job should be made conditional upon membership of a union. Such a principle would lead to complete regimentation and control of the individual, would destroy all initiative and would be detrimental to good industrial relations. Already, without compulsory unionism,, we witness, abuses of power by certain trade unions. Members’ of some unions who dare to raise their voice against the policy of the executive are held up to ridicule to such a degree that they dare not raise their voice again. That is an example of the ruthless exercise of power by certain trade unions. But when we have compulsory unionism that abuse of power will become absolute and we shall have absolute corruption. A member of a union who does not please his union bosses could be summarily expelled from his union and under compulsory unionism could be denied employment in his chosen avocation. Every avenue in that field would be closed to him. He could be prevented from securing employment in any other avocation because with compulsory unionism the executive of each union would have a tie-up with the others to prevent a disciplined worker from obtaining membership. Once a man quarrelled with the executives of his union he could be blackballed by every other union. Compulsory unionism would give union executives power to withhold employment and the voice of the individual would disappear for ever. [Quorum formed.] Obviously Opposition members do not like to be reminded of the threat to the workmen of Australia that is contained in. the proposal for compulsory unionism, but they will have to face up to the proposal because it has been endorsed by the federal conference of the Australian Labour party. Compulsory unionism is neither more nor less than a work permit system. It is, in other words, job control. Our friends opposite love controls of all kinds. The more controls imposed, the happier they are. Compulsory unionism will eventually lead to a one-party State. That is absolute totalitarianism. Earlier I said that it was quite unreasonable to impose upon all members of trade unions, irrespective of their political beliefs, a levy which they must pay under the unions’ rules into the funds of . the Australian Labour party. Opposition members welcome that aspect of this matter but it is typical of the totalitarian attitude of compulsion in union matters. Membership of employers’ organizations is not compulsory. I commend that principle to members of employees’ organizations. Finally, compulsory unionism is wholly unjust, un-British and untenable. It should be recognized as the sinister threat it is to society as a whole, to good industrial relations and to the interests of the individual worker. It. should be resisted with the utmost vigour and determination. I am sure that every honorable member on this side of theHouse will express similar views on this subject.
I congratulate the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), who has made his maiden speech in the House in this debate, on the manner in which he presented his address. Unfortunately he was misinformed on the subject of pensions. I propose to reply to his remarks merely to correct his misstatements regarding social services benefits. He made all sorts of claims that were completely erroneous. I do not blame him personally for having done so because his matter on this subject was obviously prepared by the Labour propaganda machine. The Labour party would do well to remain silent on the subject of social services benefits because of its deplorable record in that connexion. In his last year of office Mr. Chifley refused to grant any increase of the rate of age and invalid pensions despite the fact that in that year there was the greatest addition, to the cost of living that we have ever witnessed. The Chifley Government quite shamelessly turned the claims of the pensioners aside. In 1950 this Government increased the pension rate by 7s. 6d. a week. In 1951 we increased it by 10s. a week. In 1952 we increased it still further by 7s. 6d. a week. The current budget provides for a further increase of 2s. 6d. a week. A comparison of the record of the Labour governments with that of this Government in this connexion shows how insincere are Opposition members when they deal with this subject.
The honorable member for Lang also referred to marriage loans. Such a proposal is by no means novel. I propose to cite figures which will prove quite clearly that marriage loans would not help the people nearly as much as do the social services benefits provided by this Government. The Chifley Government considered a proposal for the payment of marriage loans but rejected it on the ground of excessive cost. If a Labour government were elected next year Wouk it give effect to the proposal of the honorable member for Lang that marriage loans of £500 should be provided ? Would the Labour party, after having declared that it could not afford to meet the cost of such a scheme, contend that it could do so now? If so, that is a tacit admission that financial stability has returned to this country as a result of the policies applied by this Government. Marriage loans would not benefit the individual to anything like the extent that existing social services payments benefit him to-day. Under this Government’s child endowment scheme a family of four children receives a total of £1,456, not as a loan which has to be repaid with interest, but as a straight-out endowment with no strings attached to it. If child endowment were withdrawn and were replaced by a system of marriage loans, a family of four children would receive £600 instead of £1,456. Thus the family would lose £S56, plus interest. If the proposal of the honorable member is that marriage loans are to be additional to child endowment, I should like to know whether it is intended by the Opposition to ask the tax-payer to provide an additional £50,000,000 for that purpose?
– Let us be quite clear about the matter. The cost would be not £50,000,000, but £56.000,000.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the taxpayers should be asked for an additional £56,000,000 for this purpose? An increase of income tax by £50,000,000 would represent an additional 13 per cent, on present rates. If honorable members opposite propose to sell that proposal to the electors, I should be glad to hear about it.
The honorable member for Lang also advocated home-ownership. Again, I compliment him, because we on this side of the House have consistently advocated throughout our political careers that people should be encouraged to own their homes. But that advocacy is completely out of step with the socialist policy of the Labour party. I do not question the sincerity of the honorable member for Lang in this matter, because I believe that he was perfectly sincere when he made that statement, but I point out that he is obviously not in agreement with the socialist objective of the Labour party.
Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to immigration. I note with pleasure that the intake of immigrants from Great Britain is to be increased. It is most satisfactory indeed that emphasis is to be placed on the provision of opportunities for British families to settle in Australia. In the past, it has not been possible to encourage whole families to come here, because of difficulties in respect of sponsorship. The immigration policy is of the utmost importance, and wo recognize the urgent need to increase our population. Population has an important bearing on national defence. Unless we have sufficient people to develop and defend Australia, we may well encounter difficult . times in the future. I favour the stepping up of the inflow of immigrants from Great Britain, compatible with our general economic circumstances, but I also recommend as very desirable settlers both Dutch and German people. Our experience in Tasmania of these new settlers has been outstandingly good. They are extremely efficient workers. In fact, they have often been able to show some Australian workers how to work. The Dutch and German immigrants make excellent citizens. They are eager to seek naturalization at the earliest possible moment, and many of them seek to serve in the defence forces. Those facts provide irrefutable evidence of their intention to become good Australian citizens.
The immigration policy of this Government has been most successful. It is true that the policy was initiated by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), when he was the Minister for Immigration, but the fact that this Government has had such success with its policy redounds to its credit. That the flow of immigrants can be increased at this stage is evidence that the economy has become not only stabilized, but also most prosperous. The Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service, who, incidentally, is not a politician, and does not make political statements, has expressed the view that Australia will soon experience a shortage of labour.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– For the first time probably in the history of this Parliament, all honorable members are in complete agreement on one subject. I refer, of course, to the forthcoming visit of Her Majesty the Queen. I do not need to dwell on this matter, because His Excellency the Governor-General has admirably expressed in his Speech the devotion and loyalty felt by members of all political parties for the Throne. Before I leave this subject, I wish to direct attention to one important matter. Recently, I read in the New South Wales press that Her Majesty will be expected to travel thousands of miles and will have 44^ hours of actual appearances at public functions in the course of six days. I suggest to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is in charge of the Royal Tour, that he should examine that itinerary. I fear that if Her Majesty is called upon to travel such a vast distance in such, a short time, a severe strain will be placed upon her. A strong Australian woman who was accustomed to our trying climate in the months of January and February could hardly endure the fatigue caused by such extensive travel in such a short time, let alone appear at public functions for 44J hours.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) is most concerned about a number of matters. I thought that he would have taken advantage of the opportunity afforded by the Addressin.Reply to criticize the Government for its failure to indicate in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech its policy in respect of the Australian shipping line. When all is said and done, the honorable member for Bass should be vitally concerned with the policy of the Government on this matter. If he is not, his electors will call him to account next year for his lack of interest.
The honorable gentleman displays colossal ignorance when he speaks of compulsory unionism. Such ignorance ill becomes a member of this National Parliament. He claims that the purpose for which compulsory unionism is to be introduced in New South Wales is to swell the funds of the Australian Labour party.
– ‘Of course, it is.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) also displays his ignorance of the true position. Compulsory unionism is supported by the Liberal party in Queensland and the Liberal Government in New Zealand. Indeed, spokesmen for the Liberal party in New Zealand gave electors the assurance that, if returned to office, it would continue the policy of compulsory unionism.
– Does the honorable member agree with the policy of compulsory unionism?
– The honorable member for Bass claims that the purpose for which compulsory unionism is to be introduced in New South Wales is to augment the funds of the Australian Labour party. I am delighted to inform the honorable gentleman, because he is obviously unaware of the fact, that the Industrial Arbitration Act of that State imposes a prohibition on the allocation of moneys to a political fund from the general funds of a trade union. Any subscriptions to a political fund must be made voluntarily. The law prohibits the use of compulsion in that matter.
– Nonsense !
– What about the affiliation fees payable in Western Australia?
– I should know the position. When I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament, I was instrumental in drafting the provisions of the Industrial Arbitration Act. The honorable member for Bass has displayed an ignorance of the true position that ill becomes a member of the National Parliament. Before he attacks the New South Wales bill, let him attack the principles. Does not the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) approach the leaders of a trade union when he is seeking a solution of an industrial dispute? He does not approach non-unionists or the unfinancial members of the union concerned in the matter. How can the leaders of a trade union enforce an agreement reached between the Government and their organization unless they control the men engaged in the industry -concerned? Honorable members opposite proudly assert that Australia, is enjoying, as the result of the policy of this Government, a period of industrial peace unequalled at any time previously in our history. How is industrial peace made possible? The explanation was given yesterday by a Government supporter. I congratulate him on his speech, which, I know, was criticized by some of his colleagues. However, the explanation is that the Minister for Labour and National Service has extended to trade unionism a recognition that has never been shown in the past by a Liberal Minister. But he has not run to nonunionists and to unfinancial unionists for co-operation in order to achieve industrial peace.
I have had considerable experience of industrial matters in war-time. I recall that the union which I had the honour to represent, encountered some difficulty over a non-unionist employed at the Enfield depot. He appeared to desire to hold up the transport of troops. He was not a member of the union, and, consequently, the Commissioner of Railways and the union had to come to an agreement as to what was to be done about him. Had that man been a member of the union, he would have done as he was told in the interests of industrial peace in war-time. Of course, Government supporters, do not understand that position..
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order !. I ask the honorable member for Blaxland to resume his seat for a moment. He is attempting to address the’ House but there are too many interjections and too much conversation among honorable members. I ask that the honorable member for Blaxland be heard in silence.
– I thank you for your assistance, Mr. Speaker: I shall now discuss some of the subjects mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, with particular reference to- national development and defence: His Excellency stated -
My Government, believing that Australian development can be materially assisted by the investment! of’ overseas’ capital, in suitable industries in Australia,, has examined the means by which taxation obstacles to the investment’ of such capital can be removed’.
That is the only reference in His Excellency’s Speech to national, development. It leaves me cold. Obviously the Government has no policy for national development. His Excellency also stated -
My Government’s defence policy has been directed to building up and maintaining the strength of the forces in order to sustain our part in the collective defence of the free world.
An Australian government, regardless of its political views, has the important responsibility to ensure the proper defence of the country. A government that neglects to maintain our internal defences may jeopardize our ability to hold this bastion in the southern Pacific defence scheme. The Government has not attempted to improve the internal transport system in. which serious difficulties and shortcomings were revealed during World War II. Such failure merely confirms my view that the Government has no policy in relation to national development. The Government should take precautions to ensure that, in the event of an outbreak of war in the future, transport facilities will be adequate for the movement of troops and. equipment. I mention, in passing, that I know that the honorable member for Bass agrees with the Phillips report. He believes that the time has arrived when passenger services should be abolished. He may be excused for holding that view, because he had no experience of transport problems on the mainland in war-time. He did not witness the movement on a vast scale of troops’ and equipment from southern to northern Australia.
– I wish to make & personal, explanation.
-Order ! The honorable member may not do so at this stage.
– The honorable member has no conception of the organization involved in. a great troop movement. If he had,, he and his colleagues would rise at the’ first opportunity to demand that something realistic be done to provide, for the defence of northern Australia and the construction of a railway line from Townsville to Darwin so that there could be effective movement of troops, if necessary, in order to protect those areas where uranium and other valuable minerals have been discovered. Uranium can bring great wealth to Australia, but its presence involves us in tremendous responsibilities in northern Australia. I was fortunate to witness during “World War II. the complex organization necessary for the efficient movement of troops. I say to honorable members from Tasmania on the Government side of the House that nobody knows when or how World War III. will begin. The situation would be chaotic if the southern States threw away their railway passenger organizations and if it became necessary, in time of war, for the National Government to move to Tasmania. Those honorable members who advocate the discontinuance of passenger services on the railways should be required to state their attitude towards the adequate defence of Australia. The need for efficient rail services is just as urgent in the north as it is in the south. We need a government that will provide a rail link between Townsville and Darwin and a standard gauge line from Brisbane to Perth. Honorable members opposite should not boast that the Government has undertaken national development projects that are related to defence until it undertakes that task.
Now I refer to what I consider to be a notable omission from the GovernorGeneral’s speech. During the last few weeks, great controversy has raged throughout Australia regarding the future of our economy, our wage levels and our working conditions. We all know that costs have risen steeply since this Government assumed office. Even the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) said last night that the cost of producing canned fruits, for example, was so great that we could not sell them outside Australia. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court has suspended automatic adjustments of the basic wage. I remind you, Mr. Speaker, lest there should be any doubt in your mind, that the decision of the court is not subject to appeal and that, therefore, this matter is not sub judice. The court’s ruling is now a feature of our industrial code. I cannot imagine why the Government has not given any thought to the results that will flow from the decision of the court. No reference was made in the GovernorGeneral’s speech to any intention by the Government to provide a national incentive to increase production. The pegging of wages at any time must be regarded as a dangerous experiment. But the pegging of wages without the pegging of prices, profits, dividends and interest rates can only kill individual incentive, perhaps irrevocably, unless some form of national incentive is devised to replace the regular adjustment of wages. In the reasons that it supplied in support of its finding, the court stated -
On the subject of saving time in future inquiries, it is also desirable that we repeat, that it is to the wage-paying capacity of industry as a whole, in all its primary, secondary and ancillary forms, that the court, will pay regard when exercising the powers conferred by Section 25.
I emphasize the fact that, in future, the court will consider only the wage-paying capacity of industry when it establishes the level of the basic wage.
When it announced this decision, the court placed on the Australian Government the tremendous responsibility of safeguarding our productive capacity. The court has deliberately destroyed the incentive to produce. It has told the workers of Australia that the basic wage is pegged regardless of the quantity of goods or services that they produce. Even if the workers went ahead, because of their sense of loyalty, and increased production by 10 per cent., the court would refuse to take the increase into account in assessing their wages.
– Production is related to the capacity of industry to pay wages.
– That is not so, as I shall demonstrate. I shall show to the House that the decision of the court is unbalanced. Let us consider the price of wool. In 1927-28, the average price of greasy wool was approximately 19d. per lb. The C series index figure at that time was 1010. To-day the index figure is 2260. If the index still retained the relationship to the price of wool that it had in 1927-28, the price of wool to-day would be 43 1/2d. per lb. But the price of greasy wool to-day is 81d. per lb. Should the price of wool fall by 50 per cent., the employers will be entitled to ask for a 50 per cent, reduction of the basic wage, regardless of production, because the court has held that it will fix the basic wage according to the capacity of industry to pay. Thus, the court has completely destroyed the incentive for Australian workers to produce, and a tremendous responsibility is placed upon this Government. The abandonment of a system that has applied for 30 years, without the introduction of a new system to take its place, means, first, that real wages have been reduced. This alone will destroy incentive. In the event of a recession, the court intends to reduce wages without regard for the national economy or the effect of the reduction on family life. How can we persuade workers to produce to the best of their ability when they know that, at the first chill breath of economic depression, their wages and working conditions will be reduced regardless of their social requirements?
Something must be done about the situation. I realize, of course, that this Government does not know what to do. I appeal to honorable members on the Government side of the House not to talk in idle terms of the masters and the employees working out incentive schemes amongst themselves in order to increase production because, if they say that the salvation of Australia lies in such action, they must condemn completely the attitude that the court adopted when it issued its judgment. The court cannot provide an incentive scheme because it lacks the power to do so. Therefore, this Parliament has the grave responsibility of devising an incentive plan to promote production on a national scale. I may be talking over the heads of many Government supporters-
– The honorable member could not talk over anybody’s head.
– I realize that I cannot impress the honorable member for Bass-
– Order! These exchanges have no real influence on the debate.
– You must excuse me, Mr. Speaker, if I reply in my humble way when I am provoked.
The Government should not allow the present session of this Parliament to conclude before it has introduced legislation to provide for the establishment of a statistical authority to measure production over the whole field of Australian industry. I refer, of course, to the whole field of industry that has been nominated by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Where else is reliable information about the productive capacity of the nation to be gathered? Does anybody suggest that, whenever a trade union applies to the court for wage increases in the future, it must produce evidence in relation to the entire Australian economy? The court has said that it will require such evidence. The Government can take it from me that, unless it takes action to remedy this situation, it will suffer the fate of other governments that have dared to meddle with arbitration in Australia and will be thrown ignominiously out of office next May. It has tried to draw a red herring across the trail by talking of compulsory unionism instead of facing up to. the issues that are of vital importance to the economic welfare of Australia. Its failure to safeguard industrial production of all kinds will be the rock upon which the Government will perish.
The Labour party will have to come to the salvation of the Australian worker and the manufacturer. The decision of the court has destroyed the incentive to produce, both for workers and for management. The workers always had an incentive before the court gave its recent decision. They knew that, if prices rose, the basic wage would be increased when the next quarterly adjustment was made. They knew also that, if they increased production, they would have the chance to apply for and obtain wage increases. This system has been destroyed. The court has taken unto itself powers that previously resided with conciliation commissioners. Anybody who understands industrial arbitration knows that its decision has done more to set back the industrial clock in Australia than any other event in the history of arbitration in Australia. I warn the Government that, unless it acts promptly to rectify the situation, it will witness industrial unrest on a scale that has been unknown hitherto in Australia and that the .blame will rest, not at the door of the trade unions and the Opposition, but squarely upon its own shoulders. Its incapacity to do anything on a national or industrial level will be clearly revealed unless it heeds my warning.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said in his speech that I had supported the Phillips report on the Tasmanian railways insofar as that report advocated the transfer of rail passenger services to the roads. That is not true. I did not support the report, and, in fact, I do not believe that the time is propitious to transfer rail passenger services to Toads because the Government of Tasmania has allowed the roads of that State to fall into such a condition that millions of pounds would be required to put them in order. I object to this malicious and deliberate attempt at misrepresentation.
– Order !
Mr. GULLETT (Henty) “4.59]..- I echo the sentiment expressed by other honorable members who have taken part in this debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. “We are extremely fortunate to have so eminent a man as the present Governor-General in the position that he holds. I suppose that we have never had a more distinguished occupant of that office. The speech itself was, of course, as honorable members know, something of a mixed grill. It covered a very wide range of subjects, such as superphosphate, coal and immigration. But, whatever one may have thought of various aspects of the speech, there is no doubt that every honorable member approved of the sentiments expressed in one of the early paragraphs. The Governor-General referred to our thankfulness that the struggle in Korea is now over, at any rate so far as we can see. On this day particularly it is fitting to bear in mind the debt of gratitude that everybody in this country owes to our young men who fought in Korea and to those who, before them, fought to defend Australia. “We are, in a sense, a rather curious people. We have all kinds of public heroes. I suppose nearly every one in the community could tell ,us who was the captain of the test cricket team,, or which horse Tv.on the Melbourne Cup ; but I venture to say that very few people could tell us the name of the man who took the Royal Australian Regiment to Korea .and died of wounds there. If we are to have proper standards in this country, we must give credit where credit is due. Our servicemen, not our politicians, tennis players or cricketers, are the real defenders of this country. They are the people who hara put Australia ion the international map. If wc, as a responsible body, recognize that fact, there is some hope that in due course the great majority of the Australian people also will do so.
Reference was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the Colombo plan. The speech dealt, I thought somewhat colourlessly, with activities under the plan. There was a description of the economic aid that is being extended to our less fortunate neighbours, if I may so describe them. I am all for the Colomboplan; but, quite obviously, it is not sufficient by itself. It is not enough to offer people, rather indifferently, a certain amount of economic aid. If we want to achieve any kind of mutual understanding between ourselves and our neighbours, we must not only help them, keeping quite a distance between us, as we always do, hut also offer them as much friendship and understanding as is possible. To be more particular, let me refer to the large numbers of students who come to Australia from Asian countries. That is a good thing, but it will be useless to bring them here unless we, not only teach them something but also send them home with the best possible impression of ourselves as a people. I cannot help thinking that the scheme for bringing Asian students to Australia was put into operation before we were in a position to look after the students. One hears them say quite frequently that they feel lost here. They are not looked after, and their accommodation has not been arranged. I am certain they will not be the good ambassadors for Australia which, with ia little assistance, w.e could make them.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. .E. James Harrison) referred to the urgent need for economic and industrial development in this country. Every honorable member realizes that we must increase our population and provide housing and work for all the people who come here. This country is crying out for development of every kind. “We see all round us works of tremendous importance, competing with each other for man-power, money and machinery. It is unfortunate that at the present time we cannot afford to do all the developmental work that is required. I want to say something about the cost of majorpublic works in this country. The lamentable fact is that we have reached a stage when we are almost incapable of paying for the works it is necessary to undertake, not only to develop this country, but also to keep it in a proper state of maintenance. It is true to say that the great work that was done in this country on the construction of roads and railways, the development of ports and the building of cities was carried out when we had a population one-half or one-third the size of our present population. With costs at their present level, it seems that the Snowy Mountains scheme -will never be completed. I do not say that is due entirely to labour costs, because other important factors are involved. But there is no doubt in my mind or, I think, in the mind of any responsible member of this House, that labour costs play a predominant part in the cost of developmental works.
I have never been one to decry the trade unions. There is no advantage to any of us in such a policy. I recognize that the working people of this country enjoy the present standards of wages and working conditions, not through the benevolence of the employers, but because their trade unions won them. But the unions have gone too far. Too much emphasis is placed on higher wages and better conditions, and not enough on higher output. The time has come when a compromise must be reached. We all know that in the American economy the emphasis is almost entirely on output. In America, a factory exists to produce a good article cheaply, and working conditions are a secondary consideration. But I am afraid we have reached the stage in this country when we say that an industrial undertaking of any kind exists solely for the benefit of those who are working in it. No consideration is given to output, or to the cost to the community of raising the standards of the workers in an organization. I believe there must be a compromise. As a result of the policy of constantly increasing labour costs and, in many instances, reducing output, we have costed the ordinary working man in Australia out of his ability to purchase his own house. There can be no doubt about that. Honorable members opposite know that that is so, because, one after another, they get up and say that the Government should make available marriage loans and housing loans, and .should increase child endowment, pensions, and other payments. They know .very well that the worker can no longer, by his efforts and from his savings, provide a decent home for himself and his family and make provision for his old age. That is a very serious situation. It is one for which the trade unions and honorable gentlemen opposite must accept a great part of the responsibility. We have costed ourselves out of our ability to house our people. We have very nearly costed ourselves out of our ability to carry on with major public works. Let me cite the Snowy Mountains scheme. We all know that probably that scheme will never be completed. Not long ago, a leading American engineer said there was not enough money in the world to complete the scheme at the rate and cost at which we were carrying on with it. Pursued to a logical conclusion, increased labour costs will finally cost the worker out of his job. Labour costs are of the utmost importance to the standard of living of our people and the development of our country.
I want to deal with compulsory unionism. As has been pointed out by members of the Opposition, we on thisside of the House are, generally speaking, not very expert in such matters. But it is easy to understand the principles that .are at stake in a matter of this kind. We must realize that the trade unionsof this country are not craft unions or trade unions in the proper sense of the term. They are political unions. Their control is political.
– What rot!
– Let me deal with that interjection. The Federated Ironworkers Association subscribes money to the Australian Labour party. That is a political action. I do not complain about it, but that is the position. The “Waterside Workers Federation subscribed money to support a strike by waterside workers in New Zealand. That was a political action. Because the trade unions are political unions, the control that they exercise over their members must have a strong political flavour. It would be idle to deny that. Let me cite an example that has come to my notice of bow compulsory unionism could work. A friend of mine - for obvious reasons, I do not propose to ‘divulge his name - is a returned soldier who was on active service in both world wars. He has not been particularly fortunate in life. Recently, he secured quite a humble job ou the waterfront. After he had been in the job for a week, he was told that he would have to join the union. He said, “ I shall be only too pleased to join the union. I want a job. I want the right to work in the country that I have fought to defend.” He went to the officers of the union, but they told him that he could not be accepted as a member because they had closed their books. What kind of a situation is that? This man wants to work. He cannot work if he does not join the appropriate union, but the union will not take him. I put it to honorable members opposite very seriously that that is the kind of thing we are fighting against. They say that we oppose compulsory unionism. If that is compulsory unionism, we do oppose it.
Let me refer the House to some remarks on this subject that were made by a great Labour leader - a man who, in season and out of season, has done more for the working men of this country than any honorable member opposite has done or is likely to do. I refer to Mr. J. T. Lang, a champion of the Labour movement. Mr. Lang ought to know something about unionism, because it is a horse that he has ridden for a very long time.
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order! I ask the House to come to order. There are too many interjections, and there is too much levity. We are dealing with a rather serious matter.
- Mr. Lang said-
The principle of the closed shop, achieved by union action and policed by the unions themselves, is very different to a conscript shop in which the union has no real control. Under compulsory unionism, the employer will have control of the membership. Every one will belong to the union. So it will not bc long before the more unscrupulous employers will realize that they can achieve a complete state of company unionism. … If we are to avoid the evils of company unionism, we must resist compulsory unionism. If we believe in freedom of association and in democracy, we must fight industrial conscription. If we oppose communism, then we must reject the Communist concept of slave unions. Compulsory unionism should be anathema to every one who believes in the principles of the Australian Labour movement.
No one can say that Mr. Lang does not, know what he is talking about in this connexion. Where do honorable members opposite stand on this matter? We hear one voice saying one thing and another voice saying another thing. The Opposition has as many policies as it has members. It has very nearly as many leaders as it has members. Honorable gentlemen opposite take their orders from all kinds of different organizations. They take orders from trade unions of differing political complexions. They remind us continually that a general election will be held soon. There is no need for them to remind us of that. It is about time they put their own house in order and produced a few policies. It is not enough to get up in this place and say they will increase child endowment, provide marriage loans and housing loans, and do this, that and the other thing. Not one of them has told us where the money to do those things would come from. Some members of the Opposition say that taxation should be increased, and others say that larger loans should be raised. It is the same old story. The Opposition is rent, divided and distracted on nearly every public question. It is obvious that honorable members opposite will rush in every direction to pick up votes from this or that section of the community, in a hopeless attempt to reconcile their public policies with their private fortunes. That is the true situation in a great many cases. Will they say here and now where they stand in regard to compulsory unionism?
Let me deal with some less contentious matters. Developmental works have been referred to. I think it is time that the mandatory clause, as it is generally known, in the charter of the Public Works Committee was restored. The Public Works Committee now functions under a limited charter. Although it is saving millions of pounds for the taxpayers it examines only the works referred to it by the Department of Works. The committee cannot decide that any particular matter needs investigation and then proceed to investigate it, because all matters that it deals with” must be referred to it. Obviously the Department of Works will not refer to the Public Works Committee any matters which arc likely to produce anything of great interest to the public. Therefore, it is time that the committee was allowed to return to the system under which it operated previously, and be entitled automatically to investigate any public work that is likely to cost more than £25,000. In 1940, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that he would restore this power to the Public Works Committee when the time was opportune, and I suggest that the present time is opportune.
While I am speaking of committees, I wish to pay a tribute to the Public Accounts Committee, because although it has apparently been trying to do too rauch in too short a time, nevertheless it has provided some interesting and valuable information for the Parliament and the people. It has also pointed the way to certain reforms which will be very much welcomed by us all. The great strength of the Public Accounts Committee is that it is entitled to investigate any public activity that it considers worth investigating, and I believe that the Public Works Committee should be able to operate on the same basis.
I now suggest that there should be some form of inquiry into the Public Service. Those of us who have certain duties in Canberra, and those of us who have spent much time in this city, know how far from the truth is the public’s conception of the Public Service. I am sure that the Public Service is regarded with some degree of cynicism and distrust by many people, but we know that in every government department there are officers, particularly the heads of the departments, who give marvellous service to the Government. They are officers in the very front rank of ability, and they work very hard for comparatively very little remuneration. At the ,same time there is a certain feeling in the public mind that all is not well with the Public Service, and that being so it is time that an investigation was conducted so that all such charges can be proved or disproved, and the Public Service obtain the recognition, the confidence and the backing of the public.
I express my complete opposition to any form of compulsory unionism for the reasons that I have stated, and I am sure honorable members will agree that nothing constructive or important abou this matter has been put forward by honorable members opposite in the course of this debate. It is about time that the Opposition informed the House where it stands on the matter of compulsory unionism., and what it proposes to do if by any ill fortune it should find itself on the Government side of the House about this time next year.
.- The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) will soon learn where I stand in regard to compulsory unionism. A most important feature of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was his announcement of the visit of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to this country next year. Although rauch could be said about this visit, I believe that I can do no better than repeat the words of His Excellency -
The devotion of Australians to the Throne is both deep and warm. It has been shown by word and deed in both peace and war. It is not the special prerogative of any political party or of any creed or of any section of the Australian people.
When Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive in Australia next year, it will become quite apparent that the words of the Governor-General were well chosen.
I was grateful to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick), for the first time that I can remember, for introducing the matters of the suspension of the quarterly adjustment of the basic wage, and compulsory unionism. As the matters have now been freely canvassed in the debate I have no hesitation in mentioning them again myself. Both the honorable member for Bass and the honorable member for Henty asked honorable members of the Opposition to make up their minds where they stand on the matter of compulsory unionism. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) also asked whether the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) favoured compulsory unionism. Although the Leader of the Opposition is quite capable of answering the Vice-President of the Executive Council for himself, I propose to make it very clear where I stand on the matter of compulsory unionism. I. say quite definitely, and without any apology, that I am completely and utterly in favour of compulsory unionism. The VicePresident of the Executive Council desires to know where the members of the Labour party stand on the matter of compulsory unionism, but I ask where do the members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties stand? Moreover, where do the Queensland supporters of the Government stand on the matter? During the last Queensland general election campaign, Mr. Hiley, who is the Leader of the Liberal party in Queensland, and Mr. Nicklin, who is the Country party leader, made it quite clear that they stood foursquare for compulsory unionism. Indeed, they indicated that in their policy speeches. Perhaps the Vice-President of the Executive Council will say that the Queensland Liberal party is not his Liberal party, and the supporters of the Australian Country party in this House may say that the Queensland Country party is not their Country party: If they should say that, they should also indicate whether there are half a dozen Liberal parties in Australia and half a dozen Country parties, or only one Liberal party and one Country party. That is my retort to the charge that the members of the Opposition do not know where they stand.
Apparently the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) has found himself a new baby to cart around the country.
That. is the Declaration of Human Rights. The honorable member for. Bass had probably never heard of the Declaration of Human Rights until, it was mentioned by the honorable member for Evans,, but nevertheless he had something to say about the conflict of compulsory unionism, with that declaration. Although I may be open to correction in any of my remarks about affairs outside the State of Queensland, I believe that I am fairly well versed in political matters inside that State. The wool-growers and canegrowers of Queensland subscribe to their respective unions, but they do not see even the colour of the money that they so subscribe because their dues are taken out of their wool and cane cheques before they receive them. Is that compulsory unionism, or is it not? Let the honorable member for Evans,, the honorable member for Bass and any other honorable member who wants to keep on pushing forward the Declaration of Human Rights, look at their own professional organizations to see whether they conflict with the Declaration of Human Rights. I have been told by one of my colleagues, who is a legal practitioner, that there is a system of compulsory membership of the bar association, which is a “ hifalutin “ show and very much different from the unions subscribed to by cane-cutters, shearers or construction workers.
– That is not true.
– -If that is not so, the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) can tell the House, at the proper time, .why it is not true.
-. - The bar association is not a. political organization.
– The honorable member for Henty has been well supported by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), but neither of them would tell honorable members the real reason for the Government’s opposition to compulsory unionism. That is that the Government is afraid that the trade unions will he able to obtain more money and would be in a position to provide further assistance to the Labour party in order to carry on the fight against toryism in this country.
– What about exservicemen’s preference.?
– Compulsory unionism has been in force in Queensland for more than 25 years.If an ex-serviceman does not choose to be a member of a trade union, he can remain outside. He cannot be compelled to be a member of a union, but, to my knowledge, not one ex-serviceman has refused to join simply because he is an ex-serviceman.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) must remain silent.
– If the supporters of the Government are so concerned about the Declaration of Human Rights, there is one aspect of it which they could consider, but which they have not considered since the Government assumed office in 1949. I am indebted to my colleague the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Greenup), who handed me a pamphlet which contains an extract from Article 55, Chapter 9, of the United Nations Charter. It is as follows: -
With a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and the self-determination of peoples, the United Nations shall promote - (o) higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development.
That is an aspect of the Charter to which honorable members opposite could give consideration without all this hypocrisy, and all these crocodile tears, over compulsory unionism. The Vice-President of the Executive Council wants to know where the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia stands in connexion with compulsory unionism. One of the senior Ministers of his own Government stated very clearly that he was impressed with the position in Queensland, where the law has provided for compulsory unionism for many years, and he was quite convinced that, if every other State were in the same position as Queensland, there would be nothing about which to worry.
– Where does the Leader of the Opposition stand?
– If the right honorable gentleman wants to know where we stand, first of all let him ascertain where Government supporters stand.
– But where does your leader stand?
– Order !
– I now wish to deal with the position that has arisen as a result of the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to abolish quarterly basic wage adjustments. Members on this side of the House do not know where they stand, and they do not know where they stand because the Government has not known where it stood since the court commenced its hearing. Where do the unions stand in this matter? Honorable members know that the court has merely said, “ We have decided again to make our decisions and determinations in accordance with capacity to pay “. What does that mean to the unionists ? What does that mean to the millions of people who are covered by industrial awards, and whose only redress can be obtained through the court? Nothing has been said by the court, and nothing has been said by any member of the Government, about the future position. Is there to be an annual review of the basic wage? Must trade unions lodge an application and present their cases to the court before any redress can be obtained ?
The honorable member for Henty said that honorable members on his side of the House were not very conversant with industrial matters. They need not be very conversant with industrial matters to know what will follow the decision of the court unless a further declaration is made. It costs the unions a colossal amount of money to get their cases before the court. When it is noted that the hearing of an application by the trade union movement for a variation of the basic wage occupied a period of two years, it can be imagined what it cost the movement to fight that case. Apparently, that position is to be restored, and in the absence of any other declaration it must be accepted. I may have my views, but it is not my business to tell the court what it should do. I do not think any person, either inside or outside this House, should tell the court how to conduct its own business, but I do say that, if the position is to be as I have suggested, this Government has a heavy responsibility in relation to the act governing the activities of the court.
The point I make this afternoon is made with the utmost respect to anybody to whom I may refer. I say at once that I think the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act should be streamlined, and should be streamlined very quickly. I may seem parochial when I say that for years I was a trade union official in Queensland, and that my activities were governed by the Queensland Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is my honest opinion that the Queensland Conciliation and Arbitration Act is the best piece of industrial legislation in any part of the world. To suggest in Queensland that the hearing of an application for a variation of the basic wage would take two years would immediately start a riot. To suggest two months would do the same. I should like to see the Commonwealth act brought more into line with the Queensland act.
Many of the delays in hearings before the federal court are caused by a great array . of legal representatives. I think that industrial matters should be dealt with on a basis of equity and good conscience, and that legal technicalities should not be introduced. The Queensland act debars legal representatives from appearing before the court except by arrangement between both parties. 3 should like to see that provision in the Commonwealth act. I do not say that all the delays have been caused by the appearance of legal representatives. I know - and I must be honest - that many of the delays are caused by the pin-pricking tactics of union representatives themselves. If this Government introduced legislation prohibiting the appearance of members of the legal profession, I am satisfied that the hearings and decisions of the Commonwealth court would be expedited.
– That has not been the experience in any other jurisdiction in Australia.
– If the employers think that they will not get effective representation, they may dismiss the thought at once. I say this with the utmost respect to members of the legal profession, but the experience in Queens land has shown’ that where legal representatives have appeared they have not been very successful. The employers have nothing to lose, because industrial advocates, whether they are advocates for employers or employees, are well versed in industrial law. Their only responsibility and their only duty is to study the industrial laws, prepare and present their cases to the court, whereas a member of the legal profession half the time is concerned with murder, rape, sodomy or something of that kind, and has forgotten all the aspects of equity and good conscience. I agree that members of the legal profession are like dentists and castor oil ; they are necessary evils. The community must have them, but let us not have them in the arbitration courts.
– Would the honorable gentleman agree with the appointment of legal men to the bench?
– I should like to see the Commonwealth Arbitration Court constituted like the Queensland court. I suggest the appointment to the bench of a judge who would be capable of dealing with all legal technicalities that might arise during hearing of a case. In Queensland, the judge is the only member of the court who was appointed from the legal profession. The remainder of the court is constituted of people from outside the legal profession, and those who present the cases to the court also are outside the legal profession. If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court were constituted in the same way, many of the delays that have occurred, and which will continue to occur under the present system, would be avoided. This is important because, despite the Government’s claim that inflation has been arrested, living costs continue to rise while basic wage adjustments have been suspended.
Since this Government has been in office it has failed, and failed miserably, to do those things which it was elected to do in accordance with the promises it made. The budget and the court’s judgment dovetail, and they operate on the basis that stability has been restored. This Government has failed the Australian people, and it will be left once again to a Labour government to restore stability to the economy. It will be a Labour government that will restore happiness and contentment to the hearts and minds and homes of the Australian people.
.- I regard it as a privilege to support the AddressinReply to the Speech delivered by the Governor-General yesterday afternoon. [ regard it as a privilege, because to all honorable members is now given this opportunity of reaffirming their loyalty and affection and devotion to Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, as a parliament and not as any particular party. As has been mentioned on more than one occasion during this debate, honorable members are of one mind in their loyalty and devotion to the Throne.
I think it is well, on occasions such as this, that we should be reminded of those great traditions that are part and parcel of our heritage, the traditions that have linked us with other members of the British Commonwealth from generation to generation, and which have enabled us to play our part in the world. There have been changes and alterations, but basically the British Commonwealth remains the same. We are still one people joined together by one throne. There are occasions when we think so much of tradition that we live too much in,the past, and fail to achieve -something in the present to hand on to the future, but I think it is well that we should think of those glories of the past, and of those traditions, so that we may realize that much has been given us, and so appreciate the responsibilities that are ours in this day and generation.
I have been disappointed on occasions to see this debate descend to a political level, because although supporters of the Government expect criticism from honorable members opposite^ I thought that surely this was one occasion when that criticism could have been couched in the tone of the Governor-General’s Speech. His Excellency referred to the assistance given by this Government by way of research and development in connexion with primary products. Because I represent a great pastoral community his statements were of great interest to me. It was with pride that I recalled how much had been done by this
Government in an endeavour to place primary production on a sound footing. Earlier this year the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) referred to my pastoral experience. I admit that my pastoral experience in one sphere has been of much longer duration than has my pastoral experience in another sphere. My experience in the sphere to which the honorable member referred was of great advantage to me in looking after the sheep who had been fleeced by members of the profession to which the honorable member for Werriwa belongs. The comparatively short pastoral experience I have had in another sphere of activity, as the representative of the Lyne electorate, has taught me that the north coast of New South Wales is an area the potentialities of which have as yet been virtually untapped. With the indulgence of the House I shall cite a few figures relative to industries and activities in the electorate of Lyne. In a period of twelve months petrol sales amounted to approximately 4,528,000 gallons, which indicates the degree to which the people rely upon road transport, not only for pleasure, but also for business purposes connected with farming or the timber industry and other industries established there. In the same period the quantity of timber carried amounted to 4,528,000 super, feet. The timber industry is a very important industry in the Lyne electorate. The electorate also embraces a very large farming community. No fewer than 29,599,508 gallons of milk were transported over the roads in the same period. Sufficient cream was carried over the roads to produce 4,094,954 lb. of butter. The electorate of Lyne, which it is my privilege to represent in this Parliament, forms only a part of the north coast area of New South Wales. It was formerly included in the electorate of Cowper, which is represented by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). If the potentialities of the north coast area were fully developed a great contribution would be made to the economy of the country through food production and the timber and building industries.
That brings me to a problem which we shall have to tackle from a national point of view if we are to progress. I refer to the problem of road construction and maintenance. In the north coast area, large tonnages of timber, milk and other products are carried by road. If the New South Wales railways could cope with the traffic offering the roads position would be quite different. Unfortunately the railways are unable to handle the transport requirements of the State, particularly in the north coast area. I do not place the blame for that state of affairs on the Railways Commissioners or their staffs. The New South Wales railways are unable to cope with the traffic offering because of the inadequacy of rail communications and the run-down state of rolling-stock and other equipment necessary for the maintenance of an adequate rail transport system. Because of that fact we must approach the problem of road transport from a national point of view. One of the difficulties that faces us in this connexion is caused by the number of bodies that are interested in this problem. First the Australian Government makes certain allocations of money to the States for road purposes. Control of expenditure of these funds is exercised by the State governments and through them by the local governing .bodies. This division of authority detracts from the efficient operation of our road transport system. Another aspect of the matter that must be given careful consideration is the defence value of good roads. During the war the railways did a tremendous amount of work in the transportation of troops and supplies, but only one line served the north coast area. It would not be difficult for an enemy to put the line out of action. Consequently, good roads are essential for defence purposes. Money should be provided from the defence vote to bring our roads up to modern standards so that if it were necessary troops and supplies may be transported by road from -place to place with speed and efficiency. That problem must be tackled. Australia is a young country which has a vast expanse of territory and a small population and it has to face developmental problems which do not confront older countries with much larger populations. The problems associated with the development of roads and transport system are far greater in Australia than they are in the United States of
America but we can profit ,by the experience of older countries. We have at our disposal the most modern roadmaking plants produced in the world and if we treat this as a national problem we can solve it.
A suggestion has been made to me by one of my constituents that, to mark the memory of the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Australia next year, an Australian order, to be known as the Order of the Southern Cross, should be instituted. It is suggested by my constituent that the ribbon associated with the order should be blue, to represent the sky, bordered with yellow, to represent our glorious Australian sunshine. I do not know whether the suggested colour scheme would commend itself to the representatives of Victorian constituencies who might regard grey as more suitably representing the colour of the skies over Melbourne during the last six or seven days.
His Excellency in hia Speech referred to the international situation and to the part which this country has played in the improvement of international relations. We have taken an important part in the Colombo plan. We have faced up to our responsibility to give assistance to Asian countries by training students who in turn will train the peoples of their homeland. We have fully supported the work of the United Nations. I believe that there are two dangers associated with our view of the United Nations. We are inclined to sit back and allow the United Nations to do everything to preserve the peace of the world, believing that the very existence of the United Nations is, in itself, an assurance that all international difficulties will be solved. The second danger is that we may become pessimistic about the work of the United Nations because we fear that the world is reverting to the old system of power politics and rearmament. There is a danger that we may be led to believe that the United Nations should be abolished because it has become as great a failure as was the League of Nations. I believe that the proper view to take is the middle view. We must realize the limitations of the United Nations and admit that it was intended to be, not a super world government which would dictate world policy, but an organization in which its member nations could discuss world problems and attempt to solve them. We should realize that the open discussion of international differences in the councils of the United Nations, even if they do not result in successful solutions, focus the attention of the people upon them and thus make their solution easier. The achievements of the United Nations are proof of its efficacy. We cannot expect to move from one phase of world history to another without having to face difficulties associated with such a movement. The United Nations is endeavouring to evolve a formula which will enable our civilization to progress towards the goal of world peace.
There is another respect in which, the United Nations is playing an important role in the history of the world. I refer to the cultural and educational organizations and organizations that have been established to investigate the best means of fighting disease. All of these organizations play a great part in the progress of humanity and civilization. If we realize the real functions of the United Nations and play our part in helping that world body to achieve its objectives, not expecting too much from it, but not being too pessimistic about the results of its labours, we shall play our part in the pursuit of the goal of world peace and a better world generally. In all these matters this Government is playing an important role.
Sitting suspended fr.om 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– I now wish to deal briefly with two other matters - the basic wage and compulsory unionism. All reasonable people will agree that automatic adjustments of the basic wage have only assisted inflation, and in that respect have been detrimental to the best interests of the whole community. The majority of the people realize that their standard of living suffers when money is losing its purchasing power. The decision of the Government not to interfere with the determination of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has been criticized, but is completely justified. If a government was responsible for fixing wages, the whole situation would become chaotic.
During a general election campaign, the government of the day might promise that, if returned to office, it would increase the basic wage to £20, £30 or £40 a week, and the opposition of the day might allege that its political opponents, if they were returned to office, would reduce the basic wage to £3 or £4 a week. The present Government has wisely resolved not to interfere with the decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said, in effect, “ We have appointed an umpire, and we shall abide by his decision”. Every right-thinking Australian will agree with that view. Unfortunately some governments or groups have from time to time accepted the decision of an industrial tribunal when the determination has suited them, and have violently opposed the determination when it has not suited them. Such a policy of “heads I win, tails you lose “ is bad for the country.
I expect a supporter of the Labour party to advocate the introduction of compulsory unionism. I may differ wholeheartedly from such a policy, but I admit that it would be natural for a supporter of the Labour party to be in favour of the principle, because an increase of the membership of trade unions would automatically mean an increase of union funds that could be used for the advancement and propagation of the policy of the Labour party. So, it is perfectly understandable that a member of the Labour party would be in favour of a- move that would produce greater financial support for it. However, I believe that certain features of compulsory unionism are most unfair. For example, a person who was not a supporter of the Labour party might be forced to become a member of a union, and would contribute indirectly to the support of that party. For that reason, the principle of compulsory unionism is unreasonable. Another matter that gives rise to concern is that the introduction of compulsory unionism may affect the principle of preference in employment to ex-servicemen. I do not say that members of the Labour party are not sincere when they contend that compulsory unionism will not have that result ; but I am afraid that they are wrong. I regret that these two matters have been introduced into the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I consider that the policy in relation to the basic wage and compulsory unionism should be divorced from party politics, and should be examined from the stand-point of the welfare of Australia and Australians.
I regard it as a privilege to speak in the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I sincerely hope that the high standard, which a debate of this kind deserves, will be maintained.
.- I join with honorable members on both sides of the House who have offered their congratulations to His Excellency the Governor-General on that part of his Speech which deals with the forthcoming visit of Her Majesty the Queen. I sincerely hope that Her Majesty will not find her tour too exhausting, and that her visit will further strengthen the ties that bind the Motherland and the dominions.
This Speech is prepared by the Government for the Queen’s representative to read to the Parliament, and contains an announcement of -the Government’s policy for the time being. I confess that that I have not been able to discover anything substantial in it. I am keenly disappointed that the big things, the worrying things and the tortuous problems of the day, have been by-passed. The Speech may best be described as a necklace of negatives, and will bring this Government to disaster just as surely as would a millstone hung round its neck. # The Speech does not contain anything to encourage the citizens of Australia or members of the Opposition. It is a dreary recital of. little things which were left lying about from the last sessional period of the Parliament, and which have been gathered up in some sort of goulash to be served up to the House.
His Excellency the Governor-Genera] is a field marshal who was one of the heroes of World War II. The Government should have prepared for him a speech that was worthy of the man. Unfortunately the Speech does not arrive at any decision. From start to finish, it is a dreary meandering from one subject to another, and reaches no conclusion. When this debate ends, the Speech will quickly he forgotten as a thing of no importance, because it does not encourage us to believe that the Government intends to grapple with any of the vital and grievous problems that affect this country.
I hoped that the Governor-General’s Speech would make extensive reference to national development, and uranium. It is true that the House is promised that legislation will be introduced for a national health plan. However, we understand that bill to be a hotchpotch, conglomeration and aggregation of previous legislation with nothing new to highlight it. Once again, the Minister is to tramp along the conventional road. We may glean, by a series of glimpses, the knowledge that the Government hopes to do something here, and something there; but the unattractive words force us to resist the whole implications of the Speech, because it does not mean very much. It has no dynamics and no purpose.
The Government claims that Australia is now well along the road to economic recovery. What does that mean? Australia, in truth, is recovering from the mistakes that the Government has made. Should everybody cheer because the country is recovering from the effects of the Government’s own political misdemeanours? Such an announcement is certainly not encouraging. I turn now to the future. In a few words, we are told what the Government may or may not do in regard to uranium. Finance is dismissed in three or four sentences, with a few standard comparisons and figures to the effect that expenditure is in better balance than previously. It is almost laughable, because it is so ridiculous. The comparison is not valid and the statistics are not deep enough or sincere enough to be impressive. Indeed, the Opposition can find little on which to congratulate the Government. References made in the Governor-General’s Speech to tax gathering, and the interest rate are touched upon with a very light brush. I feel that this speech is not meant to have any real value. Therefore, one must examine the implications rather than the Speech itself.
I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), whose maiden speech last night was reasoned, sensible and manly, and carried a note of optimism and courage. It bore evidence of the recognition by a young man of his responsibilities to this nation. I found it quite heartening. The honorable member for Lang discussed a number of items of interest, and referred particularly to marriage loans. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Kekwick) took this subject between his finger and thumb, as it were, and twiddled it as if it were of no importance. He then began to read the inevitable figures supplied by the Treasury on the cost of a scheme for the provision of marriage loans. If hundreds of thousands of people are brought to Australia - worthy citizens as they may be - we must arrest the decline of the birth-rate in our country to balance the population. Marriage loans are the only reasonable social service that can be introduced for this purpose. The matter cannot be neglected. Careful consideration must be given to it. The federal conference of the Australian Labour party has decided that marriage loans must be made in the future, but no particular time is specified. A marriage loan is required by the young couple while they are giving Australia the highly desirable third child to preserve the balance between the nativeborn and the immigrant population. Financial assistance must be given to married couples in the years when they ure producing the wealth that is best, because children are above any material wealth for the nation. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) raised the matter of marriage loans in the debate on the motion for the adoption of the address-in-reply in 1943, and the Labour party has been slowly and assiduously conducting researches into the matter.
– “ Slowly “ is the right word.
– A Labour government was in office for nearly nine years. Why did it not introduce marriage loans?
– The task was assigned to me, while I was abroad on a migration mission, to investigate the provision of marriage loans in the Scandinavian coun tries. The Chifley Labour Government was- considering the whole matter at the time it vacated office, so there was no real delay. I forecast that all governments, sooner or later, will be obliged to consider the introduction of marriage loans as an integral part of social services. The mechanics of the loan were explained by the honorable member for Lang and are simplicity itself. Australia has an ageing population. Immigrants are surging into the country. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has announced that the target figure for this year has been raised by 10,000 compared with last year. Consequently, a balance must be preserved between old Australians and new Australians. The young Australians are paying for the ageing population. Marriage loans are logical and sensible, and eventually will become a part of our social services. I was gratified that the honorable member for Lang discussed the matter so intelligently. I regret that my remarks on this subject are greeted with guffaws by Government supporters. Although they try to pretend otherwise, they are opposed to social services as a general practice. Of course,’ they must trim their sails to the prevailing wind. .
– Did the honorable member discover that marriage loans had produced an increase of the birth-rate in any country ?
– Yes, in China.
– Honorable members opposite should display some common sense when they are considering this important matter. Perhaps some of them dined too long and too well. The provision of marriage loans has been an outstanding success in socialist Scandinavia. This social service has increased the birth-rate and has improved standards in “Norway, Sweden and Denmark. I have the statistics to prove it, if it could be proved to Government supporters who are not prepared to believe. I support the principle of a marriage allowance because that is Labour policy, and I thank the honorable member for Lang for having raised the subject for attention in the future. I appeal to Government supporters, who give only lip-service to immigration, to view this matter seriously. This is a majestic problem, which involves the deployment of people from other parts of the world. We must, have planning from both sides of the Parliament. This should not be a matter of winning votes by talking of developing our resources but not giving anybody access to them. It is a human problem, and it should be dealt with accordingly.
I noticed that some Government supporters, wearied by the weak-kneed Speech that they had to discuss, went crusading in other fields. They discussed at some length, for example, a matter that is essentially the business of the New South Wales Government - compulsory unionism. They arrived at some odd conclusions until they were stopped in their tracks by a lion in the path in the person of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who told them exactly what they did not know. The honorable member quelled these honorable gentlemen, including the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), when he reminded them that compulsory unionism has prevailed in Queensland for a quarter of a century or longer and has won the unanimous approval of Liberal groups in that State. I understand that they are only splinter groups,, but they represent some remnant of. thought in the north. They have gone on, record, in their election literature as being in support of compulsory unionism. The honorable member for Herbert also drew attention to the fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan), who is the Leader of the Government in the Senate, is not dismayed by propaganda in the newspapers against compulsory unionism, but has said publicly that the system has been efficient and satisfactory in Queensland. It is not a nightmare to him. He has said that it keeps a balance in industry and that, under compulsory unionism, there have been no industrial disturbances of a grievous nature;
The Vice-President of the Executive Council has asked us where we are going. I now ask him to state the Liberal party’s policy on compulsory unionism. Does he reject out of hand the statements of the Minister for Trade and Customs, for one ? Has he repudiated his colleague? Has he- called him into the star chamber and brought pressure to bear on him, or is he afraid to deal with him on this issue? In fact, has the Minister for Trade and Customs hit the truth so sharply and fairly that the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who can gag this House but apparently not his own colleagues, is not prepared to say anything about it? The simple fact is that one of the top men of the political organization to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council belongs, a man who leads the Government, forces in the senior chamber of this Parliament, has said that there is nothing wrong with compulsory unionism. It is all to the good, he has said, and it does not keep him awake o’ nights. The honorable member for Herbert drove the final nails in the coffin of the controversy when he said that the Liberal groups in Queensland had decided that compulsory unionism should be a part of their policy. I notice the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) shrinking in his seat. I am sure that he would be a violent opponent of compulsory unionism but for the fact that he cannot find in his own mind anything wrong with this feature of a Labour government’s administration. In fact, he cannot honestly find fault with anything that is produced by the Labour party. On the simple evidence of those members of the Opposition who have spoken previously, the Government and its supporters must regret that they imported the controversy on compulsory unionism into this debate. They have not brought forward anything worthy of consideration, except perhaps some windy vapourings about liberty and the Charter of Human Rights. Apparently everybody on the Government side of the House has bought himself a copy of the charter.
The basic principles of that charter are that the conditions of underprivileged people shall be improved, that the starving shall be fed, that those who are too weak to organize themselves shall be organized, and that those who are vulnerable shall be protected. That is also the basis of trade unionism. Surely no member of this House will deny that fact. What objection can there be if the recalcitrant worker is made to join a trade union for his own good? If Government supporters say that, this is a negation of all liberty and suggest that the dynamic and progressive State of Queensland has been living in heathen darkness for 30 years, the record is against them. Compulsory unionism is progressive in the highest sense. The only evidence that we can accept is the living evidence of practical experience, and such evidence is available to us in that northern State. It proves that Government supporters have been talking a lot of poppycock. They run around uttering slogans of liberty when they do not care a hoot about liberty if they can find some propaganda with which to boot the Opposition. This time, however, they have been thrust back in their tracks by the logical remarks of the honorable member for Herbert, which are incontrovertible in every respect. He has simply reminded us that Queensland is the only part of Australia in which compulsory unionism applies and has asked us to analyse its effects and examine the results. The results are that industry is contented, that there is a minimum of industrial strife, and that both political factions approve of the system. In these circumstances, why should there be this cry to high heaven from Government supporters? Why have these honorable members suddenly become crusaders on the barricades of liberty? It is only propaganda, and, as such, it has been thrust down the mouths of those who have uttered it.
The next subject that I wish to discuss, the arbitration freeze, was also raised by a Government supporter. The Governor-Generals’ Speech at the opening of a parliamentary session is an utterance of considerable importance, and I expected that reference would be made on this occasion to wages and the working conditions of Australians. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court recently gave a judgment which froze automatic adjustments of the basic wage. This was a mechanism, niggardly enough in all conscience, that was designed to enable the wage to catch >up with rising costs. The court, I suggest in all humility, knows its own business, but government certainly is not its business. If we look for the causes of inflation, we find them in this House on the Government side of the table. There they sit in the persons of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). What an intolerable decision the court issued. Now we may truly invoke the declaration of human rights. A very vulnerable section of the community that cannot hit back has been victimized. The man on the irreducible minimum standard has been told that his wage is frozen. But costs will go careering on and on until this country gathers itself together. The situation is intolerable and unjustifiable. Nobody who considers the matter from an objective point of view can excuse it. I should like to have a full debate on this issue because it is open to argument both from a legal point of view, which I am not competent to discuss, and also from a humanitarian point of view, on which I take my stand.
Injustice has been done to the man with the pick and shovel, the fellow who does not receive even 6d. a week above the basic wage. It is fashionable to say today that every worker receives a margin above the basic wage, but statistics prove that the reverse is true. Thousands of people recei ve the bare basic wage. In any case, if that were not so, the basic wage represents the basis upon which margins are erected. Thus, it is an important feature of our economy and should not be tinkered with in this way. I am intrigued by the legislative twist that was given to the court’s decision. I have read the sixty closely typed pages that were handed down by the court and have followed the workings of the judicial mind in this matter. Although the decision may be very satisfactory from a legal point of view, it has left out of account an element which man’s laws should obey, an element that is based on human and social justice. That element is absent, no matter how much the Government and its supporters may seek to bolster the decision with legal rhetoric and vamp it up with political slogans. The fact is that, in an attempt to save Australia from inflation, the weakest members of the community are to be made to carry the heaviest load. That ia not democracy and it is not plain common sense. If we combat inflation by reducing spending power at the grass roots of the community, we shall have deflation even more dangerous than the inflation from which we are now suffering and which we have some slight prospects of controlling eventually. The arbitration freeze is a serious matter, and I fully expected it to be discussed in the Governor-General’s Speech. It is a subject that we should be allowed to get our teeth into. Its importance would justify us remaining in this House until Chrismas Eve, if necessary, in order to decide what legislative action we can take to help the nation in this crisis.
After many months of waiting, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has taken the easiest way out. The man who cannot stand the strain is now asked to take a heavier load upon his shoulders. It cannot be done. We should have a wider opportunity to debate this issue. Perhaps it may come to us when legislation arising from the court’s decision is introduced. We should have a chance to analyse the court’s decision. At present, it appears only as a willy-nilly decision in which some conclusions have been reached but not taken to their logical finality. As a result, a section of the community that lacks the economic strength to withstand adversity will receive a severe blow. We know, notwithstanding the silk hats, morning coats, and cravats that have recently flowered in certain parts of this country, that Australia is a working man’s country. Ninety-eight per cent, of the men and women of this community work for a living, and most of them work hard. Even without the threatened reduction of the standards of the workers, the situation would require the attention of this Parliament. We shall have to consider very soon whether the workers are not carrying too heavy a burden already. Are the growing costs of local government bodies, State governments and the Australian Government too burdensome upon the people? We are not doing much in this Parliament to help the workers to brace themselves to take the strain, although they are the first to bear the brunt of any economic disaster. The cost of living presents the average Australian with a night and day problem from which he is never free. Yet members of this Parliament have done nothing except bleat about the need for production. We have not been fair to the workers. There must be two sides to the picture. In the process of deciding what the community should bear in the way of wage costs, surely we should take other factors into account as well. Is it not obvious even to the novice that costs in industry to-day are out of hand? Manufacturers prospered during the war. They still remember the advantages that they gained from the cost-plus system. In computing their costs, they include their homes at Palm Beach, their motor cars, and their dinners at the Hotel Australia, all of which are extraneous to the costs of industry. Such costs were never a charge on industry in normal times. It is unfair to place this burden on the people. It is all very well to say that the main costs in industry are the workers’ wages. Most of the profits of the” bosses come from the workers’ wages, so that conies out nearly square. We should try to establish whether all the costs charged against industry are valid. Arc we to continue to send Australians running to the Tariff Board for help? I understand that we are to have two tariff boards operating from daylight till dark. Perhaps, like the night courts for parking offenders, these instrumentalities will work both day and night, to adjudicate upon new applications from Australian industries that need to be buttressed. It is not fair to say to the worker, if industry is to be allowed to go free, that the present basic wage is all that industry can bear and that the suspension of quarterly adjustments is essential to the survival of the nation in a solvent state. Government supporters utter a lot of well-meaning phrases about the responsibilities of industry, but none of them come down to tin tacks or produce statistics. Industry to-day is earning a profit of about 8 per cent. The proportion varies, but that is the average. In view of the fact that industry is making a profit of £8 on every £100 invested, is it suggested that the post-dated cheque given to the workers and due to be paid in the first week of November should have been dishonoured? If honorable members seek the opinion of economists, who know more about these matters than I do, they will realize that there has not been a bad deal all round. There will be serious trouble in the industrial field if we discontinue quarterly adjustments of the basic wage, which will penalize the workers, without looking at, the profits made by the other side of industry.
.- We have listened to a bad speech by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). In abusing the comparatively short Speech delivered to members of both Houses of the Parliament by the Governor-General yesterday, he indulged in his usual kind of journalistic rhetoric. He abused the Speech mainly because it outlined only a short legislative programme. I appreciate why honorable members opposite want to forget that this is the second section of a legislative programme which commenced six or eight weeks ago. It will be remembered that sit the end of the last session the Government announced that taxes would be reduced by £118,000,000 a year, and by approximately; £S3,000,000 in the remainder of this financial year. I am not surprised that honorable members opposite desire to forget those facts. If the social services programme suggested by the Opposition were put into operation, the people would be denied the benefit of any reduction of taxes. We heard a most extraordinary statement by the honorable member for Parkes. Apparently he desires that £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 shall be added to the present annual expenditure. He does not want taxation to be reduced, or even to be kept at its present level. He wants it to be increased.
My main purpose in rising to-night is to deal with a matter that was referred to by the honorable member for Parkes but was raised first by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who suggested that the Liberal party in Queensland believed in compulsory unionism and had made that belief a part of its platform. The matter was taken further by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), who said that during the last general election for the Queensland Parliament the leader of the Liberal party and the leader of the Country party in that State had gone up and down the country advocating compulsory unionism. In my opinion, there was an almost complete disregard of the truth in the statements on this matter made by the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Herbert and the honorable member for Parkes.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Honorable members opposite may interject as much as they like, but I propose to explain the attitude of the Liberal party in Queensland to this matter. There is provision in the platform of the party for accepting compulsory unionism, subject to certain interesting and important provisos, to which honorable members opposite have not referred. The provisos are, first, that there shall be a proper audit of the accounts of unions, secondly, that the accounts of unions shall be published, and thirdly, that funds of unions shall not be used for political purposes. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Parkes assert that compulsory unionism in Queensland and what it had accomplished there during the last 30 years had received the unanimous approval of the members of the Liberal party. I now ask the members of the Opposition, whether they support our view that compulsory unionism should be enforced only if the accounts of unions are subjected to proper audit, if the accounts are published, and if funds of the unions are not used for political purposes. If honorable members opposite do not accept those qualifications, it is obvious that what we mean by compulsory unionism is not what they mean. I cannot see why there should be any objection to a compulsory audit of the accounts of any trade union. The Labour Government of Queensland, which introduced compulsory unionism in that State, was responsible for legislation which requires that trust accounts shall be audited by practising and authorized accountants. If the funds of a trade union are not trust funds held on behalf of its members, I do not know what they are.
– The accounts of unions are audited by accountants.
– I say they should be audited by competent and properly authorized persons.
Opposition members interjecting, Mr. SPEAKER- Order ! I ask for a cessation of interjections. Two of the worst offenders are honorable members who have already spoken.
– I am surprised that honorable members opposite do not listen to my remarks in silence and learn something about a matter which they have raised and in respect of which they have criticized the Liberal party in Queensland. I do not see that any objection could properly be raised to a requirement that the accounts of trade unions be audited by competent and properly authorized persons. Let us consider the question of publication of accounts. Surely it is reasonable to suggest that the members of a trade union should be informed of the income of the union, the expenditure of the union and, what is more important, the purposes of the expenditure. If unions have nothing to hide, no objection should be taken to the publication of their accounts, but it is a strange fact that the accounts of trade unions in Queensland are not published.
– They are published.
– It is remarkable that one can raise the ire of honorable members opposite so easily. The accounts of trade unions in Queensland are not published and are not made available to the public or to members of the unions. Let me deal with the suggestion that the funds of trade unions should not be used for political purposes. I say emphatically that the trouble with trade unionism in Australia to-day is that it is a political movement. The Government parties are in power because they have the support of a large number of trade unionists. I know that honorable members opposite disagree with that statement. The trade unionists who vote for us object strongly to a part of the money that they pay to their unions being used by a political party to fight against the principles in which they believe.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– That is the kind of interjection for which I have been hoping. A few minutes ago, the honorable member for Parkes said that 98 per cent, of the Australian people were working people. In Queensland, all working people are trade unionists, because there is compulsory unionism in that State. Therefore, as fourteen of the eighteen Queensland seats in this House are held by members of the Government parties, we must have received a very large number of votes from trade unionists in Queensland. The use of union funds for political purposes is the main reason why the Liberal party in Queensland objects to the legislation for compulsory unionism that is in force in that State. I go further and say it is a complete negation of the principles of political freedom. We know that a part of the funds of trade unions goes to the Labour party and to another political party. It is not long since the press published the news that in an election campaign the Federated Ironworkers Association had made a contribution to the funds of the Labour party and also to those of the Communist party. Those donations were made by the executive of the union, but I am certain that the action of the executive did not receive the support of the majority of the members. In view of the feeling of trade unionists in this matter, I believe it to be undesirable that the executives of unions should have the right to donate union funds to the Labour party or any other political party. If it is necessary to have a Labour party-
– It is. not.
– From what I have seen in this House, during the last four years-, I do not believe many people think there is any necessity for the Labour party.. So far as Queensland is concerned, the majority of the people do not want the Labour party in office. It is there only-
– Only for 30 years.
– An ex-Minister of the Crown in Queensland says that the Labour party has been in office in that State for 30 years. He should know, better than any one else, how the State electorates in Queensland are gerrymandered. If the Labour party is necessary, it should be financed on a voluntary basis. If people want to contribute to its funds, such contributions should be voluntary acts on their part. Nobody should be forced to contribute to the funds of the Labour party by being compelled to pay union fees, part of which are paid to the Labour party for political purposes. It is time that we gave political freedom to the members of trade unions .in Queensland. That would be of considerable benefit to the trade unionists themselves, because their union fees could be reduced substantially if the unions ceased to make donations to political parties. It would be possible then for the executives of the unions to serve their members better by doing what trade unions were formed to do, that is, to improve the conditions, amenities and standards of living of workers, and also - this is very important but, unfortunately, it is often forgotten by honorable members opposite - to improve the standard of the work done by trade unionists. I believe that, under such circumstances, Queensland would be in a much more satisfactory condition industrially than it is now.
.- The debate on the Governor-General’s Speech presents an opportunity to honorable members to discuss many subjects, particularly those that relate to national affairs. Before reviewing certain aspects of the Governor-General’s Speech I propose to place on record my appreciation for his expressions of loyalty on behalf of the people of this country and the members of the Parliament. After hearing the Speech delivered I carefully studied its details and I am afraid that I must say that the only section of it that meets with my approval is that which expresses loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen, because, undoubtedly, the Speech itself must go on record as one of the most empty addresses that has ever been written by the Queen’s advisers in this nation.
The opening of the parliamentary session by the Governor-General was important for two reasons. It was the first session to be opened by our new Governor-General, and during the first day of the session the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) delivered his maiden speech. The honorable member for Lang delivered an outstanding speech yesterday, and although he is the youngest member of the Parliament, he proved that he is a very capable one. I believe, with other1 honorable members of the
Opposition, that he is destined to play an important part in our parliamentary and political affairs for the many years that he will remain the honorable member for Lang.
I listened with interest to the criticisms of compulsory unionism, and other matters put forward by Government supporters, but I noticed that they refrained from showing up the Government’s record in its proper light. On the other hand, they have taken every opportunity to attempt to distract the minds of the people from the Government’s incompetence. A short time ago, honorable members listened to a speech by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme). He is usually a cheerful speaker, but to-night he appeared as the chief mourner for the loss of the freedom of the people under a system of compulsory unionism. There is no need to ask where I stand on the matter of compulsory unionism. I believe that it is right that we should ensure that men and women who have received the benefits of trade unionism shall make some contribution, in a practical way for the benefits that they have received.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) mentioned the once mighty J. T. Lang. There is no doubt that the political wheel has now revolved a full turn, because I remember the time when Mr. Lang said, “ The day that the Liberals praise me, that day I shall cease to be a Labour man “. However, in view of what members of non-Labour parties have said down through the years about Mr. Lang, I am delighted to know that the honorable member for Henty has joined the ranks of his. admirers and now believes that he is right. Perhaps the honorable member for Henty believes that Mr. Lang is now right only because he is saying the same things that the Liberal party is saying. The honorable member for Henty and the honorable member for Petrie have said that they want the trade unions to remain free. To-day the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) asked the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) a question about compulsory unionism, and was given such a good answer that I believe it is worth repeating. The Leader of the Opposition told him that compulsory unionism was a plank of the Liberal party policy in Queensland. Apparently Government supporters’ objections to compulsory unionism may be described as geographical objections. If they are members of the Liberal party in Queensland they support compulsory unionism, but if they are members of the Liberal parties in New South Wales or Victoria they oppose it. Section 87g of the creed, objectives and platform of the Liberal party of Australia, Queensland Division, published in June, 1952, states -
As an indispensable adjunct to the effective functioning of the system of conciliation and arbitration, compulsory membership of trades organizations, both of employers and employees, provision being made for the full and free democratic control nf such organizations by their members.
That section also mentions a number of safeguards to compulsory unionism, but most of the safeguards are already contained in the legislative enactments of this country on trade unionism. The honorable member for Evans, with his tongue in his cheek, informed honorable members that he was opposed to compulsory unionism, but he is merely like, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and other supporters of the Government who wish to divert public attention from the damning record of this Government. He well knows that to ask people to join trade unions is to ask them to make a contribution in respect of the benefits that they have received from trade unions.
The honorable member for Evans said that compulsory- unionism was an infringement of the Declaration of Human Rights. In view of that statement, I ask him why he submits to compulsory voting at parliamentary elections, whether he favours compulsory, free education and compulsory health schemes, and why he submits to compulsory taxation. I could also ask him why he pays fares on trams and other forms of transport. Throughout the history of the democratic nations people have been forced to do many things because they are in the public interest. Because we ask people to vote at election time in order to protect their democratic rights, surely we can tell the same people to join trade unions because the rights of individuals are involved and the general welfare of the community is at stake. The Minister for Labour and National Service criticized compulsory unionism, but be is like an absentee landlord. Most of the time he is in the Isle of Capri or somewhere overseas, but now and again he drops back into the Parliament and tells us all about the terrors of compulsory unionism, and generally checks up on his tenants. He is so often absent that he is not aware of the activities of his department that are associated with trade unionism, and he would be better advised to study carefully the Queensland legislation to see how it has worked there instead of offering ill-timed objections to compulsory unionism. I recently visited New Zealand and learned that compulsory trade unionism was established there in 1936 by a. Labour government. The present non-Labour Government of New Zealand assumed office pledged to repeal the compulsory unionism legislation. It introduced, a measure into the New Zealand Parliament, but withdrew it at the request of the employers and employees who said that compulsory unionism was working in the general interests of New Zealand and its people. In other words, every one knows that the Government’s opposition to compulsory unionism is merely a. way of diverting public attention from its disgraceful record. I wonder if honorable members of the Australian Country party, such as the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Grayden) and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. .Brimblecombe), ever spoke of human rights when people were working 60 hours a week, when wages were a couple of pounds a week and when there was no long-service leave or annual holidays. I am sure they did not do it then, and this is no time for them to start doing it merely to divert attention from the Government’s record. There are more badges on the coat of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) than there are trade unionists among Government members, but to-day all honorable members on the Government side should realize that, not only is compulsory unionism a safeguard against communism, but it is a general protection to all trade unionists. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) showed in an outstanding speech that the legal profession and the medical profession are all banded together in compulsory organizations. Moreover, I wonder whether the honorable member for Mallee could carry on as an auctioneer if he were not a member of the auctioneers’ association. The honorable member for Petrie is registered as an accountant. No doubt he could not carry on his business of accountancy if he were not a member of his professional organization. If this Government is sincere in its protestations, it would be in agreement with the leader of the Government in the Senate, who said -
In fairness to the Labour Government in Queensland, I point out that compulsory unionism has operated in that State for many years and that it has not worked to the disadvantage of either ex-servicemen, whose rights are fully preserved, or employers as a whole. Compulsory unionism in that State seems to have worked quite satisfactorily; and it has not the terrors for me that it might appear to have for some of my colleagues.
The honorable member for Petrie would be well advised to read statements such as that because they express the sentiments of the members of the Labour movement on this important matter. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that he is prepared to be judged on. his record. Consequently, I desire briefly to review the Government’s record. This Government assumed office in 1949 pledged to repeal all controls and to give effect to a financial policy which would restore stability to this country. It was pledged to reduce the cost of living also, but the cost of basic commodities has increased. Indeed, costs to-day are so high that the Government is endeavouring to restrict the manufacture of margarine because the price of butter has forced it beyond the means of the workers who have now turned to margarine. The Government has withdrawn subsidies on butter, tea and sugar, and by so forcing up their prices it has reduced the standard” of living of the people to an all-time low level. Ear. from reducing taxation as promised and far from removing controls the Government has virtually increased taxation and has retained many controls. The Government promised to introduce an adequate medical and hospital scheme, but for the last three or four years we have been trying to obtain a clear explanation of his health scheme from the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). I hope that when he introduces his new scheme into the Parliament to-morrow we shall be able to understand it, because we have been waiting for a long time for the Government to fulfil its promises in regard to health services. ‘ The Government promised to reduce the cost of living, but it brought in a horror budget designed to take away the purchasing power of the Australian people. The Government reimposed control of capital issues and imposed credit restrictions. Those actions were responsible for such a curtailment of employment and expansion in this country that to-day, even according to the inaccurate figures given to the people by the Government, over 40,000 people are unable to obtain employment and are receiving a miserable pittance of unemployment benefit. At the time when those pledges were made and this Government was elected to office, in spite of any reasons that may be advanced by the Government, not one man or woman in Australia who was able to work was unemployed at the time the Chifley Government was defeated. That is a damning indictment of a government that pledges itself to support the Declaration of Human Eights. I remind the Government that, although the principle of full employment is incorporated in the Declaration of Human Eights, this Government stands condemned as one that has repudiated that fundamental principle.
I invite honorable members to consider further the promises made by the Government. The inflationary spiral has not been halted. Basic wage increases have been continued with little benefit to the average worker or family, simply because the Government refused to subsidize basic goods and commodities and maintain the purchasing value of the £1. The present Government, far from having made available additional subsidies, has pegged wages and has called upon the average wage-earner to bear the full weight of the cost of living. In spite of any attitude that State governments or other people might adopt in respect of the basic wage, the full responsibility for the pegging of wages lies at the door of the Liberal and Australian Country parties whose policy it is to peg wages and allow exploiters and profiteers to take advantage of the workers. The Government has been responsible for the pegging of wages, but it has not controlled profits or introduced an excess profits tax as promised.
I am quite prepared to let the record of this Government be judged by the Australian electors. Costs have never been higher, inflation has never been greater, and the savings of the people in real value have never been lower at any time in our history. Every man and woman should remember that, because of the financial policy of this Government, every £100 they had in the bank in 1949, when Labour was defeated, is to-day worth no more than £25. The savings and the retiring allowances of the people, whether they are wealthy or are small wageearners, have been so reduced that their purchasing power is less than 50 per cent, of what it was when the Chifley Government was defeated.
Honorable members have witnessed also the selling by the Government of the people’s assets, thus paying off the wealthy supporters who put the Government into office. The Commonwealth Shipping Line is to be sold to the highest bidder. The highest bidder will be the combines, because no one else can pay. Honorable members have seen Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited practically given away. The services of TransAustralia Airlines have been rationalized because the Government, fearing the anger of the Australian people at the giving away of their assets, at the last moment decided not to sell the airline. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the people’s asset and a national asset in times of peace and war, has been practically given away to wealthy oil interests. As honorable members look through the list of such assets established over the years by Labour governments, they will see that they have been given away by this Government as a sop and a pay-off to the wealthy interests which it represents in this Parliament.
Amendment of the banking legislation for the first time since 1945 has placed the Australian people, body and soul, under the domination of the banking interests in a manner similar to that which existed in the 1930’s. Banking interests, and private banks in particular, have ruined the Commonwealth Bank by their influence. I am in agreement with the statement of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) when he says, “ We do not interfere in banking policy “. He has no need to interfere. The hanks carry out the policy of liberalism. They put profits above the welfare of the people generally.
– Drivel !
– The honorable member for Mitchell says “ Drivel ! “ The honorable member sits in this Parliament for the wealthy interests. The policy of his Government is to protect those who have wealth and power and influence instead of the smaller people in the community. Fortunately, his electors have to wait only until the next election to get a good member. I have dealt in the time at my disposal with the record of this Government. The Government has sold national assets, it has permitted inflation, .it has destroyed stability in this country, it has increased prices and has reduced the value of the people’s savings. The whole record of the Government is one of repudiation and incompetence. If the Prime Minister is prepared to be judged on that record, honorable members on this side of the House are prepared to leave it to the electors to judge. The Opposition knows that the Government’s record of incompetence and broken promises and its failure to give effect to policies in the interests of the people generally will receive their reward at the next election when the Government will be overwhelmingly defeated by people who expect governments to have political integrity, to carry out the promises on which they were elected, and to implement effective policies in the interest of the people generally.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) made some references to badges that I am wearing and from the manner in which those remarks were made it is possible that an incorrect interpretation might be placed on them. I prefer to have the record in order. The honorable member suggested that the badges I was wearing might be associated with some organizations such as trade unions. I wish to have it plainly on the record that they are badges that are either awarded or obtainable only as a result of active service to the country.
– 1 rise to make a personal explanation. I made no reflection on the type of badges that the, honorable member was wearing. I could not see exactly what badges they were. I do know that he was wearing more badges on his coat, no matter what they were for, than there are unionists among the supporters of the Government.
– Order ! That is not a personal explanation.
Mr. WENTWORTH (Mackellar) 1 9.11]. - I was unimpressed by the spate of words spoken by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) in defence of compulsory unionism except that I was impressed and perhaps other members on this side of the House might have been impressed, by the gloating tone that he employed when he used the word “ compulsory “.
The Governor-General and members of this House have made reference to the honour conferred on this country by the proposed visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. It will be a redletter year in the history of Australia. I suggest that it is desirable for Australia to take special steps to commemorate that year. I think it would be well if Her Majesty’s visit were commemorated by some special project. The project I suggest is one that has been mentioned earlier in this debate and also in other debates. I refer to the standardization of the Australian railway gauges. It is important from the point of view of defence. I shall not discuss that, because I think honorable members on both sides of the House concede it. The question relates also to transport costs. I point out to honorable members that transport costs are perhaps the most important component in the whole cost structure and that anything which reduces transport costs helps the whole structure of costs throughout Australia. Transport facilities are the main component in the development of the whole of Australia. Those are facts that are admitted.
A new importance attaches to the standardization of railway gauges because of the introduction of new techniques, particularly those in connexion with diesel-electric locomotives which have reduced the actual haulage component in railway costs quite dramatically, and which have made it more desirable than ever that the railways be made an efficient means of long distance haulage. Honorable members will know that in the Trans-Australia Railway service the introduction of the diesel-electric locomotive has divided the haulage costs by a factor of approximately 6. I agree that conditions which obtain on the Trans-Australia Railway do not necessarily obtain on other railway systems. The factor of 6 may not be attained in other systems, but it remains true that this new technique has reduced the haulage costs very dramatically for all systems. That reduction makes it desirable for this Government to find a means of overcoming the break in the gauges which adds to the haulage costs between the capita] cities. Honorable members will be familiar with the 1945 report on the standardization of railway gauges, known as the Clapp report, but they will all be dissatisfied with it and will be of the opinion that . it has its deficiencies. First, it was too ambitious and because it was too ambitious it . could not be implemented. Secondly, it did not make provision for the organic growth of standardization. Although that report has many excellent features and is full of useful information, it cannot be applied as it stands. Neither this Government nor the previous Government has been able to implement it. In place of that report we need a new conception. We need a plan of limited standardization for the first phase. We need a plan that lies within the range of our present resources and particularly do we need a plan which can be implemented on a small scale, and which, having been implemented, will form the framework upon which standardization can grow economically until it takes over all of the systems concerned and achieves the result envisaged in the Clapp report. I think it is possible to devise such a plan. I think it is possible to devise a plan for the provision of approximately 1,000 miles of standard gauge railway to he laid in parallel with existing gauges, which would overcome approximately 90 per cent, of the standardization difficulties, and which at the same time would not interfere in any way with the efficient functioning of the integral State systems. Instead of trying to convert systems, one lays on the main trunk line, parallel with the existing line, a separate standard gauge line. That having been done it is then possible, gradually, and without economic loss, to convert sections of the old line to the standard gauge, and thus, finally, to reach full standardization without at any time facing the economic loss and disorganization which is inherent in a plan such as that envisaged in the Clapp report. I suggest that the following four lines, which aggregate approximately 1,000 miles, should be regarded as -being of first priority. I do not necessarily state them in their relative order of importance. I merely regard them as of high priority. The first is the standard gauge line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie, a distance of approximately 253 miles. The second is the standard gauge line from Albury to Melbourne, a distance of approximately 190 miles. The third is the line from Port Pirie to Adelaide, a distance of 135 miles. Finally, there is the standard gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, a distance of approximately 420 miles, The total distance covered by the four lines is approximately 998 miles or, say, 1,000 miles. If those lines were converted without interfering with the existing State systems, whatever they may be, it would be possible to reach all mainland capital cities on standard gauge lines. Let me- consider the four lines that I have suggested. The conversion of the line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie would enable the standard gauge TransAustralian Railway to be connected with the standard gauge system in New South “Wales, and with the new standard gauge system which is being pushed up towards Leigh Creek and Marree. The installation of a standard gauge line from Albury to Melbourne, parallel with the existing 5-ft. 3-in. line, and not interfering with it, which carries the heaviest railway traffic in Australia, would enable trains to run straight through from Brisbane to Melbourne. It would enable the Melbourne express to leave Sydney at night and arrive in Melbourne, without changing gauge, in time for breakfast. More importantly, it would permit perishable and other goods to be transported from Brisbane or Sydney to Melbourne or vice versa without loss and delay at Albury. The conversion- of the line from Port Pirie to Adelaide would give direct standard gauge access from both the TransAustralian Railway and the Central Australian Railway to Adelaide, would link Adelaide to the 4-ft. 8^-in. line to Sydney and Brisbane and give improved direct access from the long-range weapons testing establishment at Woomera to the Salisbury works near Adelaide. Lastly, the conversion of the line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle - the longest of them all - would give facility for running directly across the continent to all other places without change of gauge. My proposal would involve approximately only 1,000 miles of new construction, but it would give 90 per cent, of the benefit of full standardization and, furthermore, would make possible economic conversion by the standardization of one section after another without disorganization and loss. It would not only give an immediate benefit but it would also provide the framework upon which the whole railway system could be rationalized. Over the whole 1,000 miles of line there is not one structure or engineering work of any consequence. The proposal covers the construction of 1,000 miles of line over virtually flat country. I know that there are some ranges to be traversed, but they are only minor ones. Those who have travelled over the route as I have, and have examined the situation in detail, will agree that it does not require one important rail structure. Furthermore, no waste would be involved in my plan. Some honorable members may ask why we should provide an additional line when a line is already provided. I answer that criticism in advance by saying that the railway systems of New South Wales and the other States have been made inefficient by an improper dependence upon a single track where double tracks are necessary and where the provision of double tracks would make possible an operating economy that would far outweigh the capital cost involved.
I want to try to explain certain principles which operate in regard to the standardization of gauges that I recommend. After having submitted a concrete proposition I trust that the House will bear with me if I now refer to certain principles upon which the proposition is based. Everybody knows, for example, that there is a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge line in Victoria ; a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge line in South Australia, with sonic 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line; a, 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge line in New South Wales; a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line in Queensland, with the exception of a small section south of Brisbane, which is of standard 4-ft. 84-ill. gauge; and a 3-ft. 6’-in. gauge line in Western Australia. H one seeks to widen a narrow gauge line one meets great difficulties. The sleepers are not long enough; the structures are not wide enough; and there is insufficient clearance and the minimum radius of curvature is much greater in a wider gauge than is necessary in the narrower gauge. Thus when we seek to widen a narrow gauge we are met with considerable engineering difficulties. Those difficulties do not occur when we narrow a gauge, as would be the case if we reduced the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge in Victoria and South Australia to 4 feet 8^ inches, which is the standard gauge that has been adopted in Australia . In narrowing a rail gauge no track difficulties arise. Generally speaking, the same sleepers can be used, and there is no need to re-locate the track because it is not necessary to increase the radius of curvature or vary the grade. Honorable members will know that the, gauge of railway lines was narrowed successfully in Great Britain, and that certain American railway systems narrowed their tracks at the rate of some hundreds of miles a day. The narrowing of the gauge mainly affects rolling-stock. If the task is undertaken slowly and progressively little cost is involved, because the gauge of rollingstock is reduced as it comes in for repair. Very little extra cost is involved, particularly since all modern stock in Victoria and South Australia, both locomotive and rolling, has been designed to be easily adaptable to conversion to the 4J-f t. 8^-in. gauge. If, therefore, we are able to lay down the framework, we can convert gauges one by one in accordance with their dependence on that framework, almost without additional cost. Of course, if we try to do the work quickly we shall have to provide all sorts of additional facilities in the workshops to carry out the conversion rapidly.
In regard to duplication of rail tracks, there is economy in duplication to an extent not often realized. Those who have seen working diagrams of the line from Junee to Albury will realize the immense economic loss caused by having to hold trains at sidings while others travelling in the opposite direction pass through. The duplication of a main line is a tremendous forward step. Furthermore, if we have to maintain continuity of operation of the line during any gauge conversion operations, as would be the case on the Broken Hill to Port Pirie line or the Albury to Melbourne line, the changing of the gauge would be a very difficult and expensive project, whereas if we construct a new line it can be done at comparatively economic cost. The principle to be adopted would depend, of course, upon the type of country through which the line passes and the existence or otherwise of heavy engineering and other structures. As I have said, over the 1,000 miles of line I have described no significant structures or engineering works need to be constructed.
In regard to the mixture of gauges, as the House well knows, it is possible to mix a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge with a 4-ft. 8-J-in. or a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge by running a third rail. Such a rail was in fact provided in England when the Great Western railway had mixed gauges. But it is not practical in any sense to mix a 5-ft. 3-in. gauge with a 4-ft. S-J-in. gauge because there is insufficient clearance between the rails to allow the proper engineering criteria to be observed, particularly at points.
– What about the sleepers ?
– If the existing sleepers are in good condition, they will suffice in cases where the third rail involves narrowing of the gauge. They would not suffice, of course, where widening of the gauge was involved.
The same sleepers will carry the two outside rails and the third rail to give the narrow gauge provided there is sufficient clearance between the two rails. In Queensland and Western Australia, where there are considerable stretches of 3-ft 6-in. gauge line, that gauge would have to be maintained at least for the present. Perhaps we might extend it bit by bit by putting in mixed gauges, constructing limited sections to 4-ft. 8^-in. standards and then running the 3-ft. 6-in. gauge as a third rail with it. We would not think of tackling that job immediately or regard it as of the same priority as the first 1,000 miles of rail which I have described.
I was asked by interjection about the cost of the proposal which I have submitted. Between 1880 and 1890 Australia laid 6,000 miles of new rails. They were laid at a time when our working population was about one-third of what it is to-day, when we had no steelworks and all the rails had to be imported, and wo had no earth-moving equipment or efficient excavating machinery. If one thinks of this 1,000 miles of railway as a part of a three-year programme - 330 miles a year - one sees it in perspective. Surely we can do half as much to-day as they averaged over the whole of the ten-years period between 1880 and 1890.
What of the cost? Well, the actual bed will cost about £12,000 per running mile, that is, the sleepers, rails and the laying of the ballast. The cost of the structures would be extra. If one puts the cost at £25,000 a mile over this relatively flat country I have described, the estimate is reasonable although of course a detailed survey would be necessary before a firm and final figure could be given. The expenditure would be £25,000,000 over three years, or approximately £8,000,000 a year. That is not much when the economic advantages that would accrue are taken into account. I consider that this work should have such a high priority that it. should be squeezed into a three or four years’ programme-. The extra 1,000 miles of rail would get rid of 90 per cent, of all our standardization difficulties, and make it.’ possible gradually to get rid of the other 10 per cent, of them without much additional cost. The work can he done. About 150,000 tons of steel and 2,500,000 sleepers are needed. I have looked at both the industries concerned, and I believe that these materials could be provided.
The Commonwealth, under its defence power, has the authority to do this work, and I think that it has the power to say to the States, “ This project will be done as a part of a defence scheme “. Regarding the allocation of cost, it may be that we should use the complicated formula that was employed in connexion with the extension of the railway line from the north coast of New South Wales to Brisbane. I, personally, think that the Commonwealth might as well forget that complicated formula and undertake the work, and talk to the States about the matter later.
We need some sense of proportion in this matter. The amount of money I have mentioned is small. Some honorable members may say that we cannot afford to do the work. I believe that we cannot afford not to do it. It will pay dividends. It would be a great thing if this work could be done to mark the visit, of Her Majesty next year. And since Her Majesty will visit Broken Hill, she. might be prevailed upon to do Australia the honour of driving there the first spike that will inaugurate the programme.
– I desire to associate myself with the expressions of loyalty and pleasure that have been uttered by previous speakers on both sides of the House at the forthcoming visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Australia. I congratulate the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) on his excellent speech on the vexed ques-tion of the standardization of railway gauges. His suggestions should be carefully considered by the Government, and early action should be taken to ensure that this work, which is vital to the defence of Australia, shall be put into operation.
I regret that the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General did not deal with the economic position- of Australia as fully as is warranted by the difficult’ times: through which we are passing. I particularly regret that no reference is made in the Speech to what we regard as one of the most important decisions ever made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It may even prove to be a revolutionary decision. I refer to the decision which, in effect, removes from the wage-fixing system the. principle of the
Adjustment of wages in accordance with fluctuations of the cost of living. This principle has been in operation in Aus. tralia for nearly 35 years, although it has only been used by the court as a method of adjusting wages quarterly since 1922. Prior to that year, many trade unions, including the organization of which I was the secretary,, had. made agreements with the employers to overcome the difficulties resulting from rapidly rising prices and inflationary conditions generally after World War I. Many of those agreements contained a provision for the adjustment of wages every six months in accordance with the rise or fall of the cost of living as indicated by the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures. In short, the system has been in operation, first, as the result of voluntary agreement between the parties, and, secondly, as a result of a decision of the court, because it is essential to safeguard the standard of living and prevent industrial unrest. The omission from the Governor-General’s Speech of any reference to such an epoch-making decision indicates, in my opinion, a failure on the part of the Government to realize the effects that decision will have on the Australian economy. The principle has proved so satisfactory that other nations have followed it. Many trade unions have made such agreements, by their system of collective bargaining, with employers in the United States of America and Canada. The system of the adjustment of wages in accordance with fluctuations in the retail prices of commodities has also been adopted in Israel.
M.r. Holt. - Why did the Queensland Government, break away from the system ?
– Queensland has not broken away from the system of the adjustment of wages in accordance with fluctuations of prices. Wages are adjusted in that State at longer intervals than the period adopted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The system followed by the Queensland Industrial Court, has been, mentioned in this debate. The basic wage is regularly reviewed, and if evidence shows that prices have increased, wages are increased. At times, when the evidence has shown a decline in prices, wages have been reduced.
– In the 1930’s.
– Have they been reduced in the last four years ?
– What reductions in wages have taken place since the time of wage-pegging during World War II.?
– In Queensland.
– On one occasion, wages were reduced by ls. under the system of automatic adjustments, when prices control was still in operation. Queensland has declined to accept, as a guide to the State industrial tribunal, the decision made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. This Parliament has to consider the matter from the standpoint of the effect of the decision of the court on the standards and economic life of the community. One thing is certain. The figures which were released by “the Commonwealth Statistician in regard to the adjustment which normally would have taken place in November, indicate that increases in wages, varying from 2s. to 10s. a week, would have been announced. So, at the time the decision was made, the figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician clearly showed that the purchasing power of the workers’ wages had declined. The first result of the court’s decision is that wage increases of from 2s. to 10s. a week are denied the workers covered by federal awards. This is bound to lead, as time passes, to a deterioration of the standard of living.
The House should also bear in mind that the decision to freeze wages will not of itself prevent increases of prices. If the reduction of the purchasing power of the basic wage continues, it is probable that employment and production will be affected. Production will certainly be affected, because the people will not be able to buy their requirements; and if production begins to decline, employment is bound to be affected. Consequently, the economic consequences of this decision mav be very great. I also point out that prices will be increased in the near future by legislation passed by this Parliament u few weeks ago. The Wheat Marketing Act, which increases the price of wheat, will affect the prices of bread, eggs and pigmeats. As the prices of those commodities rise, the cost of living is bound to be affected. Yet the workers will bc denied any relief as the result of the decision of the court. After the conclusion of World War I., Australia experienced rapidly rising prices for two years, but wages remained static during that period, and a good deal of industrial unrest occurred.
As the result of the court’s decision, a good deal of confusion is beginning to manifest itself in the community. The Queensland Government is not prepared to accept the decision of the court, and provision is to be made in that State for the adjustment of wages from time to time. The Victorian and Western Australian Governments are introducing legislation to authorize the continuance of the system of cost-of-living adjustments. The New South Wales Government was not prepared to be a party to a variation of the award covering railway employees with the object of abolishing cost-of-living adjustments. So, certain States are pursuing a policy which indicates that they are not prepared to tolerate a reduction of standards of the workers in consequence of the decision of the court. The Menzies Government, however, has indicated that it is prepared to apply the determination of the court to its employees, so that the salaries of public servants will no longer be subject to costofliving adjustments. However, at least two, and possibly five, States appear to be prepared to pay their employees costofliving adjustments. Their attitude is perfectly justified. Governments are not bound to follow the decision of the court. The court has merely decided that henceforth an employer will not be compelled to adjust wages of his employees in accordance with variations in the cost of living. But, if an employer wishes to increase wages, he is perfectly free to do so, just as he is perfectly free to pay more than award rates if -he considers that circumstances warrant such action. The situation that has arisen from the court’s decision points clearly to theabsurdity of the division of industrial powers between the Commonwealth and the States, a state of affairs which theLabour party, at any rate, has tried on many occasions to correct. As long ago as 1911, the Labour party unsuccessfully put to the people a proposal that full power to deal with industrial relations,, conditions of employment and all other matters affecting labour should be placed in the hands of the Commonwealth. Other efforts have been made on several occasions since then with equal lack of. success. The present Government parties and their former political counterparts have invariably opposed such proposals.
Nothing could be more national in character than the living standards and working conditions of those who are actively engaged in industry throughout Australia. My greatest objection to the decision of the court, and to the attitude of the Government, is that the decision throws upon the workers the whole burden of the task of trying to restore economic stability. This is not the first occasion on which the community has experienced economic difficulties and on which governments, being either unable or unwilling to control the situation, have thrust upon the workers the job of righting the nation’s economic position. That happened in 1930 and 1931 when, because of the deflation that occurred when falling prices reduced the purchasing power of the primary producers, the wages of workers were cut by 10 per cent. That was regarded as the only way of saving the community from utter economic disaster. The situation to-day is reversed. The community is much more prosperous than it was in 1930 and 1931. Production is increasing, but, because prices are rising and this Government apparently is not prepared to take the steps necessary to check that rise, the proposal is, as a result of the court’s decision and two years of intensive newspaper propaganda, that the real producers are to have their wages frozen in the hope that stability will be restored to prices. If the effect of this process is to reduce purchasing power while prices continue to rise, the ultimate result may be the same as we experienced following the fall of prices for primary products in 1929, 1.930 and 1931. The reduced purchasing power of the primary producers on that occasion rapidly precipitated an economic crisis.
Some people seem to have the idea that the suspension of automatic wage adjustments will stop the inflationary spiral. They imagine that, when the .basic wage is frozen, prices will no longer continue to rise. Those who have expresssed that view apparently have no idea of the reasons why the system of basic wage adjustments came into operation. They are not acquainted with the history of wages and prices. The simple fact is that, under the system, of automatic adjustments, wages cannot rise until prices have risen. Wages merely follow prices under that system. Only when there is a sharp increase of wages as a result of an automatic adjustment is there any possibility of that adjustment in turn causing a further slight increase of prices. However, all the information supplied by statistics indicates that such increases of prices have a tendency to level out in nine or twelve months. Anybody who suggests that inflation can be stopped merely by pegging wages has failed to appraise the economic situation to-day. I recall .periods of inflation in the past when prices fell while wages rose. We had that experience in 1921 during the minor economic depression that followed World War I. We had the same experience again at the end of 1929 and the beginning of 1930 when prices fell substantially as wages were rising. Every country has had similar experiences. Unless the worker is able to maintain his standard of living, whether prices rise or fall, the difficulties that beset the economy and disturb the purchasing power of the community are severe indeed.
Reference should have been made to this problem in the Governor-General’s speech. The Government should have announced its policy in relation to the workers. Their right to the continuance of their standards should have been made clear. The Government should be strongly condemned because, when the Commonwealth Arbitration Court apparently determined to become an economic planning authority, the Government, which is the only government able to exer cise some sort of control over the national economy as a whole, failed to rise to the occasion and give a lead to the people. Had it fully appreciated the situation it would have taken steps immediately to deal with it. I remind the House that the present Government parties in 1949, and also in 1951, told the people of Australia that, if they were elected to power, they would immediately take steps to put value back into the £1. The fulfilment of thar. promise entailed, first, the prevention of further price increases, and, secondly, action to enable the people to buy more goods with their money than they had been able to buy up to that time. One would have expected the Government to regard the announcement of the court’s decision as an occasion to give a lead to the nation and to take action that would have prevented the full effect of the court’s attempt to stabilize economic conditions from falling upon one section of the community. One would have expected the Government to say, “ This is the ideal time for us, as a government, to act on behalf of all the people of Australia and persuade the State governments to act in unison to prevent prices from rising further “. It was an occasion for dynamic action. One can only say, however, that the Government, by its utterances and actions since the court’s decision was announced, has clearly shown that it has no positive policy and has ideas of only a negative character. It has failed to give the lead that the people expected.
There is no reason why the Government should not have called an immediate conference of State Premiers in order to make sure that, while wages were pegged, the strongest possible controls would be exercised over prices. Even suggestions made by some prominent employers, after the court had given its decision, that prices should be allowed to go unchecked and to find their own level were not condemned by the Government. No suggestion was made that profits as well as wages should be pegged. Excessive profits, interest rates and all the other factors that affect the cost structure should have been reviewed. Failure to control such factors may prevent stability from being achieved, even though wages have been pegged. Apparently the Government failed to recognize this opportunity for action, or it was unprepared and had no constructive ideas. The result of its inaction is that confusion is arising in every State. The State governments are adopting policies that are in conflict with the policy of this Government, and the whole community is being thrown into turmoil. This Government has played a sorry role and has displayed a lack of initiative and resource for which it deserves to be condemned.
– In supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, which was so ably moved by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) and seconded by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), I associate myself with the remarks of honorable members on both sides of the House who have expressed loyalty to Her Majesty- Queen Elizabeth the Second. I am particularly pleased that the people of Australia will have an opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to Her Majesty when she visits this country next year. We have heard many speeches by members of the Opposition in this debate, but I shall refer to only two of them in particular. One of them was made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and the other by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). The honorable member for Grayndler based his speech on the theme that he usually discusses when he speaks in this chamber. He condemned the Government and produced old theories that we have heard time after time. The criticisms uttered by these honorable gentlemen may be adequately answered by reference to comments made by Mr. Eggleston, Q.C., when he appeared on behalf of the Australian Council of Trades Unions before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The comments of the learned gentleman support the policy of this Government in its efforts to restore Australia to a sound economic position. This is what he said : -
Inflationary pressure has virtually disappeared. Exports are expanding and overseas funds increasing. Employment “is rising. The current economic outlook is favorable. Productivity is increasing.
Those submissions as to the growing strength of our national economy were accepted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That is an adequate answer to the critics on the other side of the House of the stability of our economy.
One of the bills to be discussed during, the present session is the National Health Bill. I do not intend to say much about that measure now, because it will be discussed thoroughly later. All I want to say is that I believe the majority of thepeople of this country support the government’s health scheme which, in the opinion of most medical authorities, has been very successful.
The Governor-General referred to the Colombo Plan, which, as honorable members are aware, was initiated by this Government. I have some experience of the good work that has been done under the plan, because I have been associated with Asian students who have come to Australia, especially those who are being trained in agricultural subjects. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has said that it would be far better for Australia if these students were made more welcome in this country. I ‘ support that view. I have invited to my home students from Pakistan, India and Ceylon who are studying agricultural subjects. They are very interested in this country. I hope that, as a result of the little that I and others have been able to do to show that we are friendly and prepared to help them, they will be good ambassadors for this country when they return to their homes.
The Governor-General referred to the fact that in 1952-53 Australian international reserves increased from £362,000,000 to £548,000,000. The increase was due mainly to increased returns from exports of our primary products, especially wool. It should not be forgotten by anybody in this country that we are still riding on the sheep’s back, and that wool is the basis of our economy. One shudders to think what would happen to our economy if the wool market collapsed. We must do everything in our power to ensure that the prosperity of the wool industry will be maintained, but we must not lose sight of the fact that the wool market might collapse. I do not think it will do so, and all the authorities appear to believe that high wool prices will be maintained, but we should be preparing to protect ourselves against a collapse of the wool market by placing some of our other industries on a sounder basis. No country can survive if its economy is based on only one industry. This Government is doing a good job in placing other industries on a firm basis. Money is being made available for scientific investigations of all branches of our rural industries. I should like the expenditure to be increased and the scope of the investigations widened.
During the last few months, we have heard a lot about the need to encourage people to go on the land and to increase our rural production. I agree that we should push on with land settlement. This Government is doing everything in its power to assist the States in that field of activity, but, unfortunately, in some States returned servicemen and people with agricultural experience who desire to go on the land are not receiving much encouragement. In my electorate there is a lot of land that is ready for settlement. Many young fellows are prepared to take blocks and pioneer them. They are not looking for a feather-bed existence. Many of them have enough money to enable them to take a small block. Within a few miles of where I live, 100 blocks have been set aside for soldier settlement. If a ballot were held, young men would go on. this land straight away and do the hard work required to make it fully productive, but they are sick and. tired of waiting for the Queensland Government to get on with the job of. making blocks available. I have come to the conclusion that the reason why the Queensland Government is not pushing on with that work is that every man who is settled on the land is a potential anti-Labour voter. I congratulate the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) on his maiden speech, in the course of which he said that everybody desired a proprietary interest in this country. That means ownership. When a. man becomes the owner of a piece of land, in nine cases out of ten he becomes an anti-Labour voter. The Labour party knows that, and it has been stated by Amalgamated Workers Union organizers in Queensland.
If we wish to retain our overseas markets, we must improve the quality of our exports. That is more essential to-day than ever before. Recently, a shipment of grain sorghum sent to Bombay was rejected because there was datura in the grain. I do not suppose honorable members opposite know what this is. The grain market is no longer a seller’s market. It is becoming a buyer’s market. Buyers are becoming more selective. It was reported the other day that New Zealand told the Australian wheat-growers that they would have to send better products to New Zealand if they wanted to retain their market for wheat there. When I was in Canada recently, I visited some of the wheat grain elevators in Winnipeg. The policy of the elevator companies is to pay only for decent products. When wheat is delivered at the elevators, it is graded immediately. The growers are not paid for rubbish. They are paid only for good wheat. It is ‘ time we introduced such a system in this country.
– Does the honorable member want to abolish the f.a.q. standard ?
– If the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) knows anything about wheat, he knows that in time the f.a.q. standard will have to go. The remarks that I have made are applicable to most of the primary products that we export. Competition is becoming keener every day. If we wish to retain our overseas markets, we must improve the quality of our exports and make them more attractive.
The Governor-General referred to the necessity to encourage overseas investment in this country. I tried to develop that theme during my speech on the budget, and I am pleased that I appear to be thinking along the same lines as His Excellency. The Government is encouraging overseas investment in Australia. It has made an agreement with the United States of America and the United Kingdom with regard to dual taxation and death duties. That is a move in the right direction, but I hope that we shall be able to go further.. When overseas investment in this country is mentioned, the usual cry of the Labour party is that the country is being mortgaged, but there is no substance in that allegation because if is quite easy to protect the interests nf the Australian people. Time is short. Of the £,000,000 people in this country, only 3,500,000 are taxpayers. In the limp available to us, we cannot raise by taxation the money that we need to develop this country. In view of the threat presented by the teeming millions of Asia, we must do something to develop the northern parts of Australia. I believe the only way in which we can do so is to encourage overseas investment. But we shall never attract overseas capital unless we have political stability. People will not invest in Australia if there is a risk that the concern in which they invest will be nationalized or socialized. Honorable members opposite have spoken continually during this debate of the so-called sell-out of the Government line of ships and other government business concerns. Our shipping line is paying, so why can we not sell it? The reason it is difficult to sell is that people are afraid that any activity in this country may be nationalized. I do not believe that the socialists will occupy the government benches in this Parliament next year, but the people are still afraid of socialization and nationalization and their fears have not been assuaged by the speeches of nearly every honorable member of the Labour party who has spoken in this debate.
– Socialization is a plank of the Labour party’s platform.
– Of course it is. While I was overseas recently I paid some attention to our immigration organization. I read the beautiful pamphlets that have been issued by Australia in European -countries, and I formed the opinion that they give a good picture of Australia. However, they do not reveal one important matter which should be printed on the front page of every pamphlet handed to immigrants; that is that nothing worthwhile can be attained in Australia without hard work. People overseas who have no idea of the natural features of our country, and of our vast distances, are inclined to be disillusioned after they arrive here because they have never been told that hard work is essential to success in Australia. 1 believe that the people of this country will remember the benefits that they have received during the time that this Government has been in office, and will return it to the treasury bench at the next general election.
.- I fully agree with the sentiments expressed in the Governor-General’s Speech about our loyalty to the Queen, and I believe that loyalty is npt the perogative of any political party, any creed or any section of the Australian people. It will be a great honour and privilege to me to be a member of this Parliament when the Queen opens its next session. Now I desire to mention one or two relevant aspects of Australia’s future that were omitted from the Governor-General’s Speech. The most important matter that must be dealt with, and one that has been recognized by most Australians although not by the Government, is our high cost of production. In the very near future, and even now, we must devote attention to reducing industrial costs, because the cost spiral is still growing. Unless it is arrested, we shall not be able to continue our development, employment will fall and certain industries will be crippled. In that connexion I shall refer to the Tariff Board’s report for the year ended the 30th June, 1953. On page 4 the board drew attention to the inflationary tendencies in our economy, and stated that the tendencies are not quite as severe as they were previously, but that the rate of price increase is still too high for comfort and certainly too high for security. The report drew attention to the danger facing our export industries, and the industries supplying the home market which are dependent upon a certain degree of protection. It also drew a relevant comparison between our price levels and their trend over the past few years in relation to those of Great Britain. Of course, Great Britain is our most important customer, and, moreover, we must compete against imports from that country. Accordingly, when our inflation becomes so much greater than Great Britain’s, some difficulties must arise in our home industries.
Let us realize that no industry is free from the problems raised by the cost spiral, which has continued unchecked during the regime of this Government. The Tariff Board report also stated that unless the present rising trend of costs was arrested or reversed, the outlook for greater food production would he in jeopardy. Not even our primary industries, which are so vitally important, can remain unaffected by rising prices. Although the Government has failed so far to do so, honorable members must note that the Tariff Board has stated that it can give only temporary relief and protection to Australian industries. Some measures other than tariff protection must be taken, and the point that I wish to make is that it is incumbent upon the Government to recognize the danger of cost inflation and not to side step its responsibilities in that respect as it has done in the past three and a half years, because its attitude during that period has contributed to our present difficulties. The time has come when the Government must adopt a sensible national approach to the matter, and must realize, as the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) seems to realize, that we are perched precariously on the top of an inflationary spiral and. that we are almost totally dependent for a continuation of prosperity on continued high wool prices. However, we have no control over world wool prices, and we have no assurance that they will remain sufficiently high in the foreseeable future to guarantee stability to the home market. We must also take into account the fact that we shall possibly have bad seasons in our primary industries, and that a slump in our wool prices may occur. Above all we must realize that our secondary industries must compete in the future with the secondary industries of other nations, particularly those of Great Britain. Moreover, a tendency has recently been evinced in Great Britain towards a reduction of certain costs. The effect of this on Australian industry should also be carefully considered. We cannot depend entirely upon tariff protection and so we must consider other ways ‘to meet the imminent threat to our economy and our standard of living. How shall we solve the problem of rising industrial costs? The Government has shown that it has no policy in this respect, and the Governor-General’s Speech stated -
In according reasonable and adequate protection to efficiently conducted Australian industries, either by way of tariffs or by other methods, my Government will rely upon the Tariff Board for advice.
The only advice that the Tariff Board has given is to the effect that a cost problem exists, that certain efficient industries will be able to survive and that certain temporary protection can be given to other industries. But it advises that tariff protection should be the last resort. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court has removed the right of workers to the cost of living, adjustments which were given to them to maintain their standards of living, and also in order that they might get their full share of the national income. The Government has been content to accept the court’s verdict, and has decided to do nothing to protect the purchasing power of the workers. It has made no pronouncement to the effect that other sections of the community ought to take some share of the burden. Therefore, it is clear that the Government will do nothing to apportion the burden or to seek a constructive solution to our cost problems. However, in recent legislation the Government has taken certain action to assist another section of the community - the big companies of Australia. Therefore, a government which will not attempt to ease the burden on the workers has proceeded with measures to give back £33,000,000 out of taxation to the companies of Australia. We must evaluate the Government’s policy against that background, and decide what we can expect from it in the future. Will the Government adopt a constructive policy, or will it readily accept the decision of any tribunal that will hurt the workers but will not hurt the Government’s friends - particularly the financial interests in this country?
The viewpoint of the Labour party is that all should share in prosperity, and that if certain restrictions should be imposed all should share in them. We believe that if the workers should be called upon to forego their cost-of-living adjustments, then the interest rate and the level of profits available to private enterprise should also be reduced. We call for an apportionment throughout the community of all economic burdens, and certainly not the acceptance of an imposition on the workers while there is an encouragement to maintain high interest rates and glory in the profits earned by companies.
The Tariff Board has taken a viewpoint different from that of the Government, and in this respect the Government should at least accept the Board’s advice as was indicated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. On page 8 of the Tariff Board report it is stated that a relatively small reduction of all the elements in the price of commodities is all that is needed to reverse current tendencies and to create a stable basis for further effort. Above all, it referred not only to the need for effort from the workers, but also to the excessive overhead costs of businesses, the necessity for a concentrated effort by management and the need for a reduced profit target. Business in general does not- willingly reduce profit targets, but the Government should realize that the burden of more difficult times should be shared throughout the community and that if wages fall, profits should fall. The Government should take some notice of the Tariff Board’s report, because the report states that the board considers that industries requiring high protection, and working under a system of high costs, should not be given an opportunity of increasing the cost to consumers by making high profits. Apparently the Government does not share that viewpoint. The board also said -
The Board believes that in the current period of re-adjustment the maintenance of a desirable level of Australian industry in the face of world competition requires that industrialists place a limit on targets for distributable profits. A contribution must be made by all parties; any benefits accruing from greater effort by labour and management, and from rigid control of costs will be stultified if these efforts are not accompanied by a close supervision and limitation of profit levels.
Honorable members on this side of the House ask the Government to take action, before it is too late, on a major problem that confronts our economy. It is a matter of social justice all round. Thereport of the Tariff Board continues -
It is true that continued deterioration in the cost position in many industries could result in very serious consequences.
-Order! There is too much loud conversation.
– Put them out.
-If I had to put out everybody who is conversing, the House would have to adjourn.
– It is imperative that the Government, which now has no policy,, should formulate one and make it known to the people of Australia. The decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has not absolved the Government from the responsibility of having a policy of its own and it is certainly not relieved of the duty to spread equitably throughout the whole community any burdens as well as any prosperity that come to the community. Someindustries will be hurt. That is not my own statement but a .statement of the Tariff Board. It is encumbent upon this Government to take notice of that fact and to formulate some policy that will avoid the danger of hurting industries and depriving people of their employment. After all, employment is their means of livelihood. The report- also states as follows: -
There are some worthwhile industries that will experience some shocks when they meet the blast of overseas competition, particularly if that blast has behind it the full reserve of competitive strength which the Board believes exists in some industries in the United Kingdom.
Most of our imports come from the United Kingdom, and they are the goods that compete with those of our own home industries. The report indicates that those worthwhile industries - there is no definition of what a worthwhile industry is - will need added protection. It states also that there are some well-established economic industries which produce a great portion of our income that will be able to battle through, but it states most significantly that there are other industries, in its opinion not so worthwhile, that will not survive. I suggest that, if in the opinion of the Tariff Board there are industries in Australia that will not survive, this Government should take note of that fact. The Government, however, is content to allow things to drift as they have been drifting.
I draw particular attention to what occurred in 1951. In that year the Government was quite prepared ruthlessly to encourage imports to this country irrespective of the fact that tens of thousands of workers were forced out of industry and that certain industries were forced out of existence. If that was the attitude of the Government then, honorable members on this side of the House see an equally unhealthy attitude now in the Government’s refusal to face the issue. The Opposition must ask, “What are these industries that the Tariff Board does not regard as worthwhile ? Are they some of the industries that commenced during the life of the present Government when it was not prepared to continue capital issues control ? “ Continuation of industry in this country means employment for our people. The standard of living of Australia’s people depends, first, on their having jobs and, secondly, on their having purchasing power iri their wages. If the court is prepared to take away some of that purchasing power, that is no reason why this Government should close it? eyes to the possibility of employment itself being taken away. What is needed is an attitude of justice to all. There is no reason why the court should require a sacrifice of some and why those who live on profits and those who draw interest should be left untouched. Any future burden must be equitably apportioned, but if the Government were to frame a constructive policy it should be possible to avoid the necessity of apportioning such a burden. However, interest and profit cannot be left out of consideration.
When honorable members consider the question of trade .policy, they are entitled to look to the Government for a policy that will ensure the continuation of production in Australia. Efficient production does not flow from idle resources, whether of man-power or materials or equipment. There is still time for Australia’s economy to be adjusted internally to meet the blast of competition from overseas, but there is no justice in exposing industry, and conse quently the people, to the withering blast of overseas competition which is felt so severely in Australia simply because of inflation during three and a half years of maladministration by this Government. So far the Government has been willing to hope for the best. It seems that, where the cost problem is concerned, the Government is prepared to let happen what will happen and is not taking any steps to see that the workers in this country, and indeed its own employees, receive justice.
No government oan claim that stability exists on the crest of a wave of inflation. No government can claim that stability exists at a time when its cost structure is out of line, and is moving further out of line, with those of other countries. The time has come for the Government, instead of sitting idly by and hoping for the best, to produce a policy and let the Parliament know what it is.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– In the course of the last session of the Parliament some queries were raised regarding a Chinaman, Ung Chan Bunn. I told the Parliament that as soon as certain inquiries had been made I would report developments. I arranged for this case to be put into the hands of the Commonwealth Investigation Service as I felt that as the propriety of the action taken by the Department of Immigration had been called into question in certain sections of the press it was only fair to the department that a full inquiry should be conducted by persons who were not themselves directly connected with the department. I now have the report of the Commonwealth Investigation Service which does not disclose any aspect of substance that was not formerly related by me to the House. It was my own desire to make this report available for examination by any honorable member who might be interested in it. I discussed this point with the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) and it was pointed out to me that it has never been the practice of any government to make public the contents of reports of our Commonwealth investigation officers and that there are substantial reasons why such reports should not be made public. The officer of the Commonwealth security service makes his report confidentially and on the assumption that it will be examined only by the officers of the Attorney-General’s Department. It was suggested to me that the investigation officers might feel inhibited in making comments and recommendations if their confidential reports were to be made public. However, the AttorneyGeneral concurred in my suggestion thai I should make the report available to thu Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) or the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in order that they may confirm my statement that there is nothing of substance in this report which was not disclosed by me to the House in the course of my earlier comments.
The report states that the entry of Ung Chan Bunn into Australia was authorized in accordance with existing immigration policy. It states that there was no improper action relating to the authorizing of his entry into Australia so far as the Department of Immigration was concerned and that there was no improper action or undue haste in effecting the deportation of Ung Chan Bunn. The deportation action was taken in accordance with normal departmental procedure. Ung Chan Bunn changed his employment without authority and did not return to his approved employment when instructed to do so. He failed to observe the conditions of residence and this resulted in his exemption certificate under the Immigration Act being cancelled. The report states that there is no evidence to suggest that any officer of the Department of Immigration acted improperly in this case. It adds that the case of Ung Chan Bunn has no relationship to the obtaining of aliens’ registration certificates which is the subject of another inquiry by the Commonwealth Investigation Service. The point which particularly attracted the attention of the Parliament in relation to this matter was that a payment had been made in Australia in relation to Ung Chan Bunn. It was suggested that this payment was related to his admission to this country and that the payment was, therefore, improperly made. But, the claim has been stoutly made by some of those directly concerned that this payment was made for a share in a particular market garden. I have retained my own mental reservations on the acceptance of this latter statement. The conclusion of the Commonwealth Investigation Service is to the effect that no’ approach was made by an officer of the Department of Immigration to the Consul-General or any other person in connexion with the repayment of £500 to Ung Chan Bunn. The department’s connexion with the return of this sum arose through the instruction of the Minister who was acting for the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Beale) that the money should be paid by an officer to Ung Chan Bunn in order to ensure that he received it before his deportation was proceeded with. The report commented that no evidence had been found to support legal action against any person or persons involved in the inquiry. The case has been investigated by the Commonwealth Investigation Service as fully as possible and I am afraid that even the sleuthing activities, of Mr. Ezra Norton have not been able to permit a satisfactory conclusion to be reached. I think that we should need a Charlie Chan to get to the bottom of the matter. I shall quote the concluding comments of the Director of the Commonwealth Investigation Service in order to indicate the degree of difficulty that can be experienced in cases of this nature. The comments are as follows : -
The Ung Chan Bunn enquiry has been a difficult one because of the reticence and equivocation of most of the Chinese concerned; the distrust of certain elements of the Chinese community one with another; and the wall of silence or “ no understanding “ that is raised by Chinese generally in any matter of investigation into their circumstances of exempt residence.
While the object of the enquiry has been to clear up the circumstances connected with Ung Chan Bunn, it has raised various questions applicable more or less directly to other investigations dealing with Chinese presently being reviewed by this service. The observations made in this particular case will, therefore, of necessity, be included, at least in part, in the general recommendation covering the other investigations when they have been brought to finality.
Those other investigations are proceeding and will be dealt with by me at soon as I receive a report on them. A highly coloured treatment has been given to these matters in a section of the press. I shall therefore deal with allegations that were made in the press last Sunday to the effect that missing files relate to the entry into Australia of not fewer than 200 or 300 Chinese. So far as I am aware, the only missing documents are two completed forms. I have here samples of these forms which can be obtained at any immigration office or money order post office in the Commonwealth. These forms are used for notifying change of abode under the aliens legislation or change of occupation or employment under that legislation. Hundreds of such forms are lodged by aliens with my department every week. In the last few years the Sydney office of the Department of Immigration has handled 300,000 files dealing with aliens and, as far as is known, these are the only two forms that are missing in connexion with inquiries now in progress. There is no substance in the statement that files relating to 200 or 300 Chinese have been lost.
.- 1. am not so. sure that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has been able to clear up the mystery regarding the ku try into Australia of the Chinese, Eng Oh an Bunn, and the circumstances associated with his departure from Australia. The Minister commenced his speech by saying that the report of the investigating officers would not be made available to honorable members generally, but that it would be made available to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), as Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I should like to know from the Minister why any honorable member should be denied an opportunity to examine the report. The honorable gentleman has said that there is nothing in the report that was not already known to the department and which had not been mentioned during the discussion of this matter in the House. If that is so, there appears to be no reason why the report should not be made available to honorable members generally. It is rather interesting to note that the Minister did not refer to the fact that the investigating officers could not conduct a complete investigation of the matter because the principal witness had left the country. Was any statement obtained from Ung Chan Bunn before he left Australia? Has any effort been made to locate him since the investigation commenced? I recall that the Minister who was acting for the Minister for Immigration told us that Ung Chan Bunn had been short paid £125 when his money was returned to him and that departmental officers would try to locate the nian in order to make good the short payment. Payment was made by Ung Chan Bunn in sterling, but he was repaid in Australian currency. Surely the Minister has some explanation to offer of the part played by the Chinese Consul in this matter. At some stage he knew a lot about the matter. It would be interesting to know the” facts because he has failed to answer questions directed to him by representatives of the Australian press. All that the Minister has said, in effect, is that he has received a report, that it does not contain anything new and that the House must be satisfied that there is nothing wrong. I am. far from satisfied.
– Let me make the position clear to the honorable member. I have made a copy of the report available to the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy. After they have read it, if they think that any aspect of it should be ventilated in the House I shall be happy to answer any observations they may make in regard to it.
– When an honorable member raises a matter in the House which is made the subject of a report, it is customary for the Minister concerned to make a copy of the report available to that member. The Minister has not extended such an invitation to me.
– I extend that invitation to the honorable member now.
– I shall take the opportunity to peruse the report. The Minister has said that normal procedure has been followed in this case.
– I invite the honorable member to wait until he has read the report before he proceeds further.
– The Minister did not give me prior notice of his intention to raise this matter to-night. He merely rose in his .place and dealt with it, hoping that no effective reply could be made to his remarks. He has said that normal procedure was followed in regard to the entry of this man into Australia. I do not dispute that. But what about .his departure? What about the complaint that the man made that he was not paid award wages? The Government did not intervene after the complaint had been made and the man had left his employment. What has the Government done in connexion with the complaint regarding the non-payment of award rates of wages and the fact that, according to Ung Chan Bunn, £500 was paid to secure his entry into Australia? The Minister admits that he does not accept the explanation that the payment was made to secure a share in a market garden. I also do not accept that explanation. Why was the money paid if not for the purpose declared by the Chinese? Is it not obvious that some one is unwilling to give a satisfactory explanation of the reason why the money was paid?
Let us consider the circumstances in which the principal witness left this country. The Government was asked to hold him in Australia until the charges he had made had been properly investigated. It should have done so, but instead it released him from Long Bay gaol, where he had been detained, and bustled him out of the country. As far as I am aware, it has not since located him in order to obtain a statement from him. In the absence of the principal witness the Minister arranged for an investigation to be carried out. He expects us to regard that investigation as satisfactory. I do not so regard it. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), as Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration, hurried this Chinese out of the country. Let me remind honorable members that the Minister for Supply, in his acting capacity as Minister for Immigration, agreed that if certain conditions were observed the Chinese could secure his freedom to take legal action to obtain the money which he had claimed had been paid to secure his admission to Australia. The conditions were that £500 had to be deposited and he had to produce evidence that he had approached legal advisers to institute legal proceedings for the recovery of the money. He complied with the conditions laid down, but immediately things began to move, the Chinese Consul came into the picture. Somebody paid the £500 but the Minister has not told us who did so. In the first instance it was’ denied that any money had been paid at all. When Ung Chan Bunn took legal proceedings to recover the money, he was hurriedly repaid £500 in Australian currency, which was £125 short of the amount which had originally been paid. Immediately after Bunn’s release from Long Bay gaol had been ordered the Minister countermanded the instructions concerning his release. The man was put aboard a ship the day after and sent out of the country. I appealed to the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration not to cancel the deportation order but to defer the deportation until proper investigations could be made into the matter. The Minister has not explained away the mysterious circumstances associated with the case.
I come now to the missing file. The Minister has said in regard to other cases that no files but only two forms were missing. He endeavoured to imply that a newspaper had suddenly got the idea that a file was missing. He should examine the Hansard report of his speech on the matter which contains his admission that a file was missing and that investigations were being carried out to ascertain what had become of it. He cannot dispose of the matter merely by saying that only two forms are missing. He must admit that recently on a considerable number of occasions when Chinese have been brought before the courts the presiding magistrates have made no secret of the fact that the Chinese had forged permits which, according to the evidence given to the court, had been issued by an officer of his department. Why does not he tell us the result of the investigation of this matter? Has the Government been able to discover the officer who was responsible for issuing these forged documents? Those are matters about which the House desires information. I am not satisfied, and I shall personally accept the invitation of the Minister to examine, at the earliest possible moment, the file which he has offered to make available.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to protest against the decision which was taken recently to close the cafeteria in the administrative block known in Canberra as West Block. That decision has imposed hardship on some hundreds of public servants who work in that building and its vicinity. It has worsened the conditions under which they are employed. The cafeteria was opened in May, 1948. During the five and a half years of its operations it provided very good service to some 600 employees of the Commonwealth in the West Block build- ing, and its services were also available to other public servants in the adjacent area. The meals were cheap and good. The cafeteria provided a three-course hot meal in the middle of the day and, in addition, sandwiches and a canteen service to the employees in the building. I understand that approximately eighteen months or two years ago it was decided that the space occupied by the cafeteria in the Department of External Affairs would be required for other departmental purposes. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) strongly supported a proposal that a separate building should be provided to house the cafeteria and the canteen. Plans were prepared for the erection of the building. The proposal was also supported by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes).
A decision was made that the building should be constructed, and tenders were to be called on the 15th August of this year. Then the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury intervened, and tenders were not called. After consultations, it was decided not to proceed with the erection of the building. I think that that was a bad decision. As I have said on a former occasion, it represents a snub to two senior Ministers of this Government. I believe that a decision such as that should be made not by an official but by the Cabinet. In my opinion, the decision of the Cabinet should be to proceed with the construction of the building and the provision of cafeteria services to government employees.
During the five and a half years of its operations the cafeteria and canteen made a steady profit. For the last twelve months that profit was £140, and the overall profit for the five and a half years exceeded £100, taking into account stock on hand. The decision to close the cafeteria affects most harshly the lowerpaid employees in the West Block and adjacent offices. It means that instead of being able to obtain a meal at the site of their labours, they have now to travel by bus service to one or other of the shopping centres, the nearest of which is Civic Centre. The fare to Civic Centre is 7d., and, of course, it costs another 7d. to make the return journey, which adds ls. 2d. to the cost of the meal. In addition, the meal itself costs much more than it cost in the cafeteria. As I have said, the decision affects most adversely the lowerpaid employees who are required to sign off and on when they go away to obtain a meal and return from it. The senior officers of the department are not required to sign off and on and are able to take their meal at their homes, at the Hotel Canberra or at the Royal Canberra Golf Club. In my opinion, the decision should be reversed. This Government professes great admiration for private enterprise and its efficiency. I suggest that private enterprise could provide the Government with many examples of the provision of facilities of this kind for employees. Indeed, the Government can easily ascertain that the amenities provided in the capital cities in the States are far in advance of the conditions provided here in the National Capital. The Department of External Affairs controlled the cafeteria of which I am speaking, and the overseas offices of that department provide far better facilities for employees than those which are provided at the head office in Canberra. The amenities provided by other governments should not be unknown to some of the Ministers who have travelled abroad. The Minister for
Immigration (Mr. Holt), for instance, may be aware that the United Kingdom Government provides, in its secretariats, facilities of this kind for employees. So do the governments of the United States of America and the Dominion of Canada. If we are to take private enterprise as an example in this respect, we can do no better than refer to an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 27th October last. T.t was in the following terms : -
The most modern staff amenities building erected in Australia is nearly finished at the Shell Company of Australia’s new oil refinery at Geelong, Victoria.
The building cost £180,000 and took 18 months to build.
More than 500 people will use the L-shaped block when the refinery starts production in April next year.
The block comprises dining, recreation and changing areas, with a modern first-aid section.
There arc four dining rooms. The main one, adjoining the kitchen on the ground floor, will work on the cafeteria system.
Upstairs, there is another large dining room which will be staffed. Workmen will have the choice of eating in the glass walled rooms or on a first-floor open sundeck overlooking landscaped gardens.
Two other smaller dining rooms on the first floor will be for use by company executives.
Food will be brought up from the kitchen by a fast ger very lift. The kitchen will have the latest equipment, including a deep freeze refrigerator and a large multiple pressure cooker. The most modern dish-washing machine will be installed.
Employees will be able to relax after their meals on another sundeck at the back of thu building, overlooking the refinery’s distillation unit and Corio Bay.
No two walls’ of the dining rooms are the same colour. Each is treated with a different pastel shade in the advanced American “ colour psychology “ method of inducing harmony and relaxation by means of colour variations. Colours used are pink, green, cream and blue.
For washing, the company has installed a series of circular spraying fountains, controlled by a foot bar.
Two large tanks in the block will hold boiling water, brought from the main refinery furnaces- The building will be heated with steam from the same source. A special room is set aside for drying clothes. It is lined with heated copper pipes.
That is the kind of thing which private enterprise provides. The Shell Company of Australia building to which I have referred will cost £180,000 and will serve 500 people. The proposal for the construction of a separate cafeteria in Canberra to serve 600 people employed in West Block and approximately 200 people employed in East Block envisaged the expenditure of approximately £6,000. Although the Minister for the Interior supported the proposal, and although ‘ plans and specifications were prepared and tenders were to be called, the Secretary of the Treasury stepped in over the heads of two senior Ministers of the Government and said that that £6,000 would not be available. Because the Government and the Ministers concerned have accepted dictation from an official of the Treasury, the conditions of government employees in Canberra will be worsened immeasurably instead of being improved.
There is room for many other improvements in the administrative blocks of this capital city. Representations have been made to the Minister for External Affairs in connexion with this matter by myself and representatives of the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association. A letter which I have received from one of my constituents, and which refers to the conditions at West Block and the need for the restoration of the cafeteria, states -
In West Block we have practically no amenities of any kind., excepting the External Affairs canteen.
That has now been closed. The letter continues : -
Even essential things like toilets are well below the minimum standards laid down by the Public Service Board itself.
The chairman of the Public Service Board has made numerous trips abroad, and I know that he has some knowledge of the conditions in other countries. Those conditions should apply here.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has been good enough to mention my name in this debate so, at the risk of wearying the House, I propose to reply briefly to him. The honorable gentleman, dredging down deep into the cloaca maxima which he is pleased to call his mind, has made some imputations against my colleague and me in respect of the famous case of Ung Chan Bunn. As usual, the honorable member has conveniently ignored some of the facts. The first fact is that this Chinese came into Australia quite regularly. He made an application in the normal way-
– The honorable member for East Sydney said so.
– We said so, but the honorable member for East Sydney rather suggested that it was not so. Ung Chan Bunn caine into this country quite regularly. He was employed under the terms of his entry. He broke the terms, of his employment, and in accordance with the practice that has been followed almost for time immemorial, by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), when he was the Minister for Immigration, and by his predecessors, an order was signed for the deportation of the Chinese. I, as the Minister acting for the Minister for lui migration, signed that order on the 22nd May of this year. After I had signed the order, representations were made to1 me by a firm of solicitors who suggested that this Chinese, or somebody on his behalf, had paid a sum of money, £500, which was owing to him and that an opportunity should be afforded to Ung Chan Bunn to recover it. Neither the Chinese himself nor the legal advisers alleged that this money had been illegally paid in connexion with his entry. All they were prepared to assert was that the money had been paid on his behalf, and that the immediate deportation of Ung Chan Bunn would deprive him of the opportunity to get his money back. I was dealing with a person of the kind that the author, Bret Harte, described as “ the wily Chinee “, and I might have been pardoned for taking a somewhat cynical view of this matter, and bundling him out of the country straightaway.
– That would have been inhuman.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) has a human heart, because T also have a human heart. It seemed to me that if there was something in this story, the Chinese should be given a workable opportunity to get his money back. So, I gave him the opportunity. I have the misfortune, or otherwise, to be a lawyer, and it occurred to me that if the man was sent out of the country, although theoretically he would have the legal right to recover his money by proceedings de bene ouse, as the lawyers call it, or in other ways, he would, in practice, have little hope of doing so. He would be in Hong Kong and the action would have to be taken in Sydney, in accordance with our legal procedure. I therefore said, “ I will let this man stay to give him the opportunity to recover the money, if the money is owing to him “. I wrote -
I am willing to give him a brief and final opportunity to get his money back if he can, notwithstanding that he himself has taken no steps in that direction for several months. It must be understood that these arrangements are not for the purpose of enabling him to avoid deportation. As indicated, it is only to give him a chance to recover his money.
I minuted papers to that effect. The solicitors, Mervyn Finlay and Company, were advised, and they took action under the terms which I laid down, and issued a Supreme Court writ. When the writ was issued, the money was, in fact, repaid.
– It was £125 short.
– It is a funny thing that the Chinese himself did not object to the short payment. He seems to have conducted himself in a very disinterested way about the whole matter. He did not seem to worry whether he was paid in sterling or in Australian currency. The ‘ fact is that the money, £500, was repaid. The deportation order had not been cancelled. It was only suspended for the purpose of giving Ung Chan Bunn the chance to get his money back. The deportation order then became operative in accordance with the conditions that I had laid down, and the Chinese left a day or two later on Taiping. One point about proceeding promptly with the deportation of Ung Chan Bunn was that the ship was about to sail, and that that gentleman had a reentry permit into Hong Kong, which was about to expire. If he had been held in this country indefinitely, his re-entry permit into Hong Kong would have expired and he might have found himself between the devil and the deep blue sea. That is to say, he might have been excluded from Australia and might also have been unable to re-enter Hong Kong. At any rate, he was returned to his country.
It is crystal clear in this case that this man broke our laws, and the only people who wanted him to stay in Australia were the Communists and the honorable member for East Sydney - much the same thing. The Communists took up his case, aided and nobly abetted by the honorable member. I said, as the Minister acting for the Minister for Immigration, that the Chinese was not to stay in Australia. He had broken the terms of his entry permit. I said that if money was owed to him, we should give him the chance to recover it. He had got his money back, and, therefore, he was deported. As far as we are concerned, that is the end of the matter.
– The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) told me a little while ago that he intended to make a statement on this matter, on the motion for the adjournment of the House to-night. I was glad to hear him say that he would make the relevant file available to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), myself, and later, to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), if any of us desired to peruse it. I should like to peruse it, because of the issues which have t been raised. I do not wish to say too much about Ung Chan Bunn at this stage, because I do not know enough about the matter, in spite of all that has been said and written about it, but I think that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has not improved the position by his speech tonight. He admits that this man paid £500 in sterling-
– No, I did not say so.
– -I think that the Minister said so.
– No, I said that somebody had paid it.
– Order ! I insist that one honorable member be heard at a time. If I have to take action in this matter, it will not be taken under Standing Order 303. The offender will be named, and will not be permitted to return to the chamber for 24 hours.
– Somebody paid £500 in sterling for this unfortunate man. When he was deported, he was paid £500 in Australian currency, so that somebody in Australia has £125 Australian which should have been repaid to Ung Chan Bunn or somebody else. Somebody is making a profit out of the actions of that person after he came into this country. 1 think that the Minister for Supply has said, in the famous correspondence that he has had with the honorable member for East Sydney, that he had been trying to find the address of Ung Chan Bunn so that he could see that the money was sent on to him at a later stage.
– I did not say that. Somebody else made that statement.
– The Government should clarify the matter and the money should be refunded. In the second place, I do not believe that the Communists were any more interested in the case of Ung Chan Bunn, who was deported by this Government, than they were in the Chinese whom I had to deport when I was the Minister for Immigration in the Labour Government. On that occasion, church leaders of all denominations and members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party joined with the Communists in condemning the action that I took. The attempt by the Minister for Supply to make some point of Communist activity in this matter falls to the ground. The Communists will exploit all similar cases because they are completely opposed to the immigration restriction laws.
The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) has referred to the work of the departmental officers. I was pleased to bear his statement that although forms are missing from the files, they number only two forms in the 300,000 cases that have been dealt with in the Sydney office of the Department of Immigration. That is . a creditable record for the departmental officers in Sydney and Canberra. I did not believe that any officer now serving in the department was in any way responsible for anything that may have happened.. It may not have beenan officer of the department who extracted the information from the files so there is no reflection upon the officers. I am pleased about that. Dishonest people occasionally crop up in one department or another and some examples have been brought to light in recent years. Officers of the departments and members of the Parliament have been put to much trouble and placed in great difficulty because of the criminal or near-criminal activities of a few. persons. As I was responsible for the appointment of the present head of the Department of Immigration and most of the departmental officers, I was most pleased to know that, as I expected, there was no reflection upon any of them. In due course, I should like to see the file to which reference has been made. The honorable member for East Sydney would like to sec it also. The next chapter of the story of Ung Chan Bunn will be related at a later sitting.
.-I wish to refer briefly to a question that was addressed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to-day by the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths). The honorable member asked the Prime Minister whether official meal functions in the Parliament could be started with grace. The practice of reciting grace at the opening of official functions has not been observed while I have been a member of the Parliament and’ so far as I know it has never been observed. I should like to support strongly the suggestion that was made by the honorable member for Shortland. I particularly commend his suggestion that grace should be said at official meal functions when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, visits Australia next year. Tie Prime Minister’s reply was very brief, but it was to the point. He said that arrangements would be made for the saying of grace. I wish to record my pleasure at the decision that was reached by the Prime Minister so promptly. Last year, when I was a member ofthe parliamentary delegation that visited Canada, I attended 81 receptions in. five weeks. At all the luncheons and dinners that were held during that time, the function was opened with grace.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) . put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act- Finance - Supplementary Report of the Auditor-General upon other accounts for the year 1952-53.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes - Surrey Hills, Victoria. Postal purposes - Benalla, Victoria.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of National Development- J. H. Lord, D. A. White.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determination - 1953 - No.69 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union and others.
House adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
The following answers to questions ‘ were circulated: -
N asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s . questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 November 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19531111_reps_20_hor2/>.